Friday, July 25, 2008

Home Sweet Home

For those of you who know me, I just recently moved out of my old house into a new town home that I bought a few months back (yes... it took me about 4 months to move in). Why so long? Well I took a long time to decorate the new place and but mostly it was just sheer laziness. Anyways... I've been taking photos of the new place from almost day 1 (I forgot to take pictures of it before we repainted it... just think egg shell white everywhere... eeewww). So anyways, I've been posting the pictures on Picasa Web ( in reverse chronological order. It has been a real interesting experience trying to decorate a whole new place from scratch... trying to decide what the area rug should be like... then matching that with the wall color... then furniture color and style... and finally decorations to put around. Overall, I think it turned out well, granted I spent many many weekends shopping and just planning things.

I'll just call out a few pictures here from the album... all taken last weekend when I was bored.

This is the photo of my dining room with our dinnerware set on display. For the most part, I think I like the composition, I like the touch of green on the left hand side of the frame), adding that green to me adds a quite a bit to the image. I also wanted it to be back lit and just blowout the window completely. With the deep color of the dishes and the bright window, leaving the camera to meter was actually perfectly fine (at first I thought I needed to go - 1/3 EV to compensate for the deep brown of the dishes). This particular shot was actually + 1/3 because I felt I was loosing a bit too much detail in the shadows of the bowl. I wanted to keep the texture of the dishes since thats one of the main reasons why I bought them! The main thing about the composition that I'm not sure about is if the camera should have been higher or lower... this is almost level, but I wanted it to be slightly above so you get a glimpse into the bowl and everything. The other part is just framing it, i.e. how much of the place mat, silverware, the mug, and other dishes to include. This one is my favorite out of the 8 or 9 that I took.

I continued to photograph the table and the dinnerware:

Then I got the idea to play with my strobes (I brought them downstairs intending to set up the umbrella to balance the bright sunlight coming in through the windows). But instead of just setting up umbrella for fill light, I wanted to do something different.

This was one of the earlier attempts. I set the camera's white balance to tungsten, this is what turned natural sunlight blue... it just made everything look... cool (temperature). Well, if everything was blue, it wouldn't look so hot would it? So I slapped on a couple of CTO (color temperature orange) gels on the flash, 1 + 1/4 to be exact. 1 CTO will convert the flash from daylight to tungsten, but I wanted it to be more than just "white", I wanted it even warmer so I slapped on another layer (1/4). For me, this created the nice warm contrast on the bowls from the cool ambient light (and the table). Unfortunately I was still using a reflector umbrella so the light spilled just about everywhere, especially in the foreground. To help compensate for this, I took it off the umbrella and put a long rectangular cardboard box (the box for my flash, the 430 EX ironically) around it as a snoot to confine the light coming from the flash. In reality, I should probably make a real snoot and use some gaffer tape, etc etc, well that or buy one (they really aren't that expensive). For example, the HonlPhoto snoot for $25 ... really pretty cheap. You can get a nice grid spot from there for 25 bucks as well...

So anyways, Here is the shot final shot:

The light is much more restricted on the first dinnerware set (just the bowl to be exact). It does spill onto the bowl in the back but its much better than the umbrella version. One thing I do want to call out is the shadow on the right side of the frame... see how its darker? That is actually after me cropping it... I was using the cheap ebay flash triggers Cactus V2 to fire the flash remotely, apparently it's highest sync speed is only 1/200 secs and I shot at 1/250 sec, the highest sync speed of my flash. So this is what happens when your shutter speed is faster than your sync speed on Canon cameras :). Either way, I'm still totally new to this strobist stuff, just trying to experiment and see what works and what doesn't work. Any comments or critiques welcome.

Just one more picture, this one from the living room.

This is mostly ambient light, though I do have a flash going off maybe 8 feet away camera right on an umbrella. As a friend said, I could have added more fill light so there isn't all the shadow above the fireplace. Maybe instead of having the umbrella, I should have just slapped a diffuser on it and point it straight up. Another thing to try next time is to have hard bare flash coming in to create interesting shadows. Oh well, maybe next time :)