Monday, 25 April 2011

Beyond the Lens - In the Bag

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

Photographers, we love to talk about our equipment and the bags we keep them in.  To me a camera bag should be like your personal assistant, ready with your gear at your finger tips. We all have our preferences when it comes to bags and what we want them to do, the most important thing being to protect our gear. I’ve bought a lot of bags over the years, and they’ve all done a pretty good job at protecting my gear. I must say though that not all bags are created equal; and you usually get what you pay for. I’ve bought cheap bags that look really cool and that I was excited about only to be let down when it starts coming apart and zippers break. That said I’ve also had an expensive name brand bag come apart on me as well. I tried to contact them about it as the bag was still fairly new and they didn’t want to know about it. Needless to say I’ve not bought any more of their products.

The above bag which I’m holding and showing off my Olympus kit is the Lowepro Fastpack 200. This was my second Lowepro bag. The first one was the first series of their SlingShot bags. I really loved that bag and how I could swing it around and have easy access to my gear without having to set my bag down. Sadly I had a shoulder injury and was advised by the doctor not to use sling bags anymore, but to use backpacks to evenly distribute the weight. That’s why I got the bag above, same sort of system but as a backpack. Love these bags, nice and sturdy with loads of pockets. I especially love the tiny pockets for memory cards and small things you are constantly looking for, all at your fingertips.

As for customer service with Lowepro? Well I’ve never had a problem with their bags so I’ve not contacted them with a problem. I have talked to a few of their representatives and they’ve always been more than helpful. A friend of mine did have a problem with one of their bags though, the zipper broke on it. He contacted them to ask about repairing it as he loved the bag, not expecting them to replace it or anything as it was a well used bag. Well they did replace it and they replaced it with the latest design of the same range. Now that is good customer service!

Recently I reviewed one of their bags for them, the Pro Roller Attaché x50
 I’m in love with this bag; it’s like having my own personal assistant!  You can read my review here on my blog: TammyLynn Blogs: The Lowepro Pro Roller Attaché x50. I also had a bit of fun with this bag and made a very short stop motion animation video with it. You can see this on YouTube here: TammyLynnPhotog: Lowepro Pro Roller Attaché x50. My little video was also featured on the Lowepro Blog, you can read about it here: Lowepro>Products> An Animated View.

When you find a good camera bag that’s just right for you, it’s like having a best friend look after your gear. J

Here's the video: 

Friday, 28 January 2011

Beyond the Lens - A Simple Portrait

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or a huge studio to make a nice portrait; just some lovely light and a camera. Having a lovely model doesn’t hurt either. The above photo of Lorca was taken in a local coffee shop with just a hand held camera; with very little post processing done on the image; no extra lighting or equipment was used.

The scene for the above photograph....I’m sitting in a local coffee house enjoying a morning coffee with a friend. It was a cloudy overcast morning down in the Stroud Valley and we were sitting by some nice large windows. This combination acts like a huge soft box for diffusing the light, making it nice and soft. There was sufficient light bouncing around the room to add some fill light on the right side of her face.

The only photographic equipment I used was a DSLR, Canon 30D, with a nifty fifty lens. (50mm f/1.8 prime lens) This is a favourite lens among photographers because it’s small, light and cheap but is very clear, sharp and fast. Not fast as in auto focusing, this can be a bit slow at times. When you hear a photographer refer to a lens as fast what they are actually talking about is how large the maximum aperture is. The larger the aperture, the more light that gets through, the faster your shutter speed can be. So having a fast lens means that you can use faster shutter speeds in lower light situations. It also means that you’ll have a much shallower Depth of Field (DOF) when set to the larger apertures which can make for a pleasing out of focus background.

Now that the scene is set, what camera settings did I use? Well it wasn’t particularly bright in the coffee shop, though in the image it looks lovely and bright. How did I achieve this? This is down to my camera settings. With camera in manual mode, ISO set to 800 (for low light), an exposure of 1/200th of a second (shutter speed) and an f stop of 2.5. F stop refers to how large the aperture is, as discussed above. The smaller the number the larger the opening, the more light gets in, the shallower the DOF. The larger the number the smaller the opening, lesser light gets in, the greater the DOF. I was using the camera’s internal light meter to help me decide which settings to use for this situation. I could have easily used different settings to achieve pretty much the same photograph.

We mustn’t forget about composition, as that can make or break a photograph. As you can see in the above photograph I positioned most of her face in the upper right third of the images. This is within following the photographer’s golden rule of thirds. Putting your subject on the third makes for a much more pleasing image than placing it smack dab in the centre. Well most of the time it does, there are situations where putting your subject in the dead centre just works.

Another little rule for photographs is the left to right rule. As we read from left to right then most compositions work better if they pull your eye from left to right in the photograph. We do this mostly with lead in lines or with light. My portrait above doesn’t exactly follow that rule, as it is much brighter on the left than the right your eye is pulled right to left. If you have a strong image you can sometimes get away with that. In the case above, her eyes are strong enough to hold your attention.

Speaking of eyes, when taking portraits of people or animals the eyes are the most important part of the photograph. The eyes must be sharp, so make sure you focus on those.

So to recap, what’s making the above a nice portrait? The large natural diffused light source, the composition on the thirds, the shallow DOF with nice out of focus background and the eyes nice and sharp and bright. Oh, and a pretty smile. J

Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Lowepro Pro Roller Attaché x50

I recently received the new Lowepro Pro Roller Attaché x50. When I first saw it I had my doubts. At first I thought, my word that's small, will I get all my gear in there? It's a lot bigger than it seems, I can tell ya! And if you need a bit more room for gear you can always take the soft bag out of the roller case and either carry it or slip it over the pulling handle of the other bag.
It's nice and sturdy and has lots of pockets, it even has a pocket for a small 14inch laptop. Sadly my laptop is too large for this, but I don't think I'd want to carry a laptop around with my camera gear anyway. Though if I had a small one I probably would.

My Canon 5D II with 24-70mm 2.8L lens attached, wrist strap and a tripod foot attached fit nicely in the bag along with an extra large lens (or two smaller lenses) a flash gun (or two), triggers and remotes, mini reflectors and colour charts and lots of other bits and bobs all fit nicely in the bag. All the stuff I usually take with me on assignment. I can even squeeze in a back up body with no lens attached.
They have really thought of everything with this bag, though a few tiny pockets for cards and batteries wouldn't go amiss. I really love how it opens up like a drawer with instant access to all your gear. You don't have to hunt for a place to put your bag down or try and fiddle with stuff or worry about your gear falling out. Makes quick lens changes a breeze!
Above is a quick photo I took to show the bag in use on a job. I really love how I can quickly attach a flash gun to the handle and use the bag as a light stand. A light stand with built in counter weight and wheels! It was so easy to move the bag and flash gun around to get the shot I wanted, even quickly wheeled it outside no problem! Of course I had to be careful, I didn't want to knock the flashgun and break it off, but it honestly wasn't any trouble at all to move around with all attached. It's like having an assistant along with you!
This bag is perfect for travelling with. Take the inside bag out and use as a lovely top loading shoulder bag for your gear. It's made to slip over the handle of the outer bag if you happen to need more space. It can also be use as a suit case for your clothes and travel needs. It's suppose to be airline approved for carry on luggage, though I've not actually travelled with it myself. I would think that if the roller bag didn't pass you could take the inner bag out and carry that on and let the roller bag go in the hold. I hope to be travelling with it soon, so I'll let you know. :-)
This bag definitely gets my seal of approval. I've been dragging it around with me everywhere. Really saves my back and keeps all my gear right at my finger tips. It's much much more than a camera bag, it's my new personal assistant. :-)

Below is a little stop motion movie I made with the bag down at the studio yesterday. (Saturday 22, January 2011) I was in a bit of a rush but I wanted to see if I could do it, had the idea swimming around in my head awhile now. I put my camera on a tripod, but my bag in the middle of the infinity cove. Turned on 4 flash heads, aimed two at the background, only using the modelling lights. I didn't set off the flash. I took 144 images moving the bag a bit between takes. Then went home and swore at the computer for a while until I finally managed to put this together.
Can you tell I like this camera bag? :-D

All of the images above including the ones in the video, were taken by myself, TammyLynn. With the exception of the photo taken at Morrisons, all of the photos above were taken at The London Road Studio in Gloucester.

UPDATE: Lowepro have seen my little video and have featured it on their blog! Lowepro Blog link

Lowepro said this on their Facebook and Twitter post about the movie:
You've got to spend 56 seconds to watch this animated film made by TammyLynn featuring a Pro Roller Attache x50. It's fun.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Beyond the Lens - Expecting

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

There is nothing like the expected arrival of your first baby, or any baby for that matter. A lot of expecting mums choose to record the beauty of this time in their lives with a professional photo shoot either in a studio like the image I created above or with an environmental shoot like the one I shot below.

I think it’s wonderful that they are doing this, not only because I’m a photographer but because I’m a mother. 21 years ago, when I was a first time mother-to-be, I’d never heard of a special photo shoot for expectant mothers, whereas today it’s common place. I think that Annie Leibovitz’s Vanity Fair cover photo of Demi Moore might have something to do with this.

I do often wish I’d taken more photos of myself when I was pregnant now. Photographers have for a long time offered baby packages for young mothers to record the milestones of their babies’ growth. These days these packages start before the baby is born. I like to call it their first family portrait. J

...a moment in time to treasure forever...

Portraits, events, commercial, promotional, fantasy and fun. Bump to baby, home to office. Family Portraits, Special Occasions.  Create an image or capture a moment to treasure.
For Studio hire - The London Road Studio
For more information:
TammyLynn Photography
Tamara (Tammy) Kwan 
Mobile: +44 (0) 7983 826508 (preferred)
Phone: +44 (0) 1453 766029

Friday, 14 January 2011

Beyond the Lens - Fun with Alice

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

Curious Dream

A couple of years ago I mentioned to my daughter that I’d like to do a fantasy photo shoot with the Alice in Wonderland theme. Next think I know she’s telling me “OK Mom, we have our costumes ready, when’s the shoot?” Her and her friends had got together, decided who was going to be who and made their own costumes! How could I refuse?! Also I couldn’t keep this all to myself so I organized a photographer’s meet and invited a few fellow photographers to join me. We had great fun shooting this crew, they were wonderful!

I hired Rodborough Hall and we started the shoot in there, with studio lighting and backgrounds. Then we moved up onto Rodborough Common with a few props.  This was back in September of 2009. In the photo above my daughter Alyssa is playing Alice. From left to right is Gemma as the Dormouse, Rosie as the Queen of Hearts, Steph as the March Hare, Noah as the Mad Hatter, Merry as the Cheshire Cat and Will as the White Rabbit.

 You're Late!

The photos above and below were taken at the hall with a green background that I’d brought along. We also had a white background set up but I preferred the green for some reason. Aren’t their costumes fantastic?! 

Back in the Teapot!

Check out the Mad Hatter’s Hat. He made that all himself from scratch. I wonder who’s missing two decks of cards now?

Very Tall Alice

This next image, Very Tall Alice, was taken with my Canon 30D and Sigma 10-20 lens at 10mm. There were a number of camera flash guns set up around the tree; the key light here is a flash with soft box on camera left. I got down low for the shot and the distortion from the 10mm lens made her look tall. The tree helps with this perspective as well. The tiny cows in the background probably don’t hurt either. I entered this image in a Photo Competition: Tall on The Telegraph’s website judged and ran by Kate Day. It was one of the winners. 


This last image was also taken on the green background with studio lights. It was the right shade of green to work like a green screen and I easily cut the gang out and added them to this card from an old deck of cards I had. Well I didn’t actually add them to the card but to a digital scan of the card.  

These kids are awesome and it was a pleasure to get to work with them on this and a few other occasions. I’m truly blessed to know them....and be the Mother of one of them. 

Friday, 7 January 2011

Beyond the Lens - Chasing Rainbows

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

I woke up to a lovely rainbow over Stroud Wednesday morning. I was out the door with my camera before I’d had my morning coffee, breakfast or had even gotten dressed! It was such a beautiful bright day that the rainbow seemed out of place. The above photo was one of the last images I captured of the rainbow just as the sky was getting dark and just before the rain came. By this time I was upstairs hanging out my bedroom window. That’s Whiteshill near Stroud you see there in the distance.

I really wanted to capture the whole rainbow in one photo but I didn’t have a wide enough lens. So I took several photos and combined them to make one large photo. Not a stitch up but just the images overlapping, like this:  

There, now you can see how big the rainbow was. And you can just make out the second rainbow. Yep, it’s a “Double Rainbow all the way across the sky!” ... I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. That’s a reference to a viral video on YouTube that’s been making the rounds. It’s even been turned into a song by the Auto-Tune the News schmoyoho guys. I love their stuff.

These photos were really just quick grab shots. I didn’t set up a tripod and I didn’t put a lot of thought into the settings on my camera. I pushed the dial over to AV priority put the ISO down to 200 and left the aperture set to f7.1 letting the camera do the rest. A lot of the time I take photos just for fun; this was one of those times. J

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Beyond the Lens - A White Christmas

Written by Tamara Kwan of TammyLynn Photography

This past Christmas was my first ever White Christmas. It was also my first Christmas without any of my children at home. Well they aren’t exactly children anymore, but they will always be my matter how old they get. So what do you do when your children aren’t home for Christmas? Well you sleep in, have a long lazy morning, cook a big breakfast with homemade blueberry pancakes, pack a lunch and go for a lovely long walk with your husband.

What is a ‘White Christmas’? For most I think a ‘White Christmas’ means a covering of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. Ideally snowing on the day as well. But if you are placing bets on a ‘White Christmas’ down at the local betting shop, then it means something else. To win a bet on it being a ‘White Christmas’ then a single snowflake has to be officially observed falling in the 24 hour period of the 25th of December. I’m not a betting person, so I enjoyed my first ‘White Christmas’. J

The above photograph was taken this past Christmas Day and is a view over the frozen Stradford Park Lake in Stroud. The tempature this day was around -3c and had been below freezing for quite some time. Camera used was a Canon 5D II with a 24-70 2.8 L lens. Camera settings were set to Aperture Priority, F/9, ISO 200 with a shutter speed of 1/80th of a second, hand held.

Here’s another photo taken down by the lake a few minutes later:

Sledging on Christmas Day....It doesn’t get much better than this.