Exposing Moving Water: How long is too long?

After going through all my Waterfall Photographs I began to wonder how long is too long when it comes to long exposures of moving water. What is the right shutter speed to use? Well, there actually is no correct answer to that one, it is all up to the individuals preference. Yes, there is a base time frame you need to achieve to get that smooth look, but i learned the size of the body of water you are photographing also has a great deal of influence on that decision.

As an afternoon group activity, we hit up Seven Tubs recreational area out in Wilkes Barre, PA earlier in the summer.  A small little hike in which the water has carved out its own path through the rocks. The swimming holes are littered about and some of them contain enough room on the run ins to be used as a slide. That is if you are brave and skilled enough to avoid the jagged edges.

This was the most photogenic area of the afternoon for me, but it was littered with people. I set up shop and waited for a few to leave. The last family saw what I was doing and were kind enough to step back and let me do my thing for a few minutes.

I came across this little stream that dumps into a pond/wading area and decided it would be the perfect place to try my little experiment that came to mind when I was shooting the waterfalls a few days earlier.  What do varying shutter speeds look like with rapidly moving water. The first photo is a ten second exposure. Nice, but lacking personality. Way too long in my opinion. 

The next photo is four seconds, a little more appealing, but still too long for my liking. 

Two Seconds.  More of the same. 

One Second. Close, but still doesn’t fit. Some shape is starting to emerge, but still lost in translation. 

Half a second. This is where it started to get interesting. The wisps and swirls of water become pronounced.

Quarter of a second. This is my favorite. I needed to catch up to everyone so I did not go any shorter. 

What amazed me was the big difference between 0.5 seconds and 0.25 seconds.  I bet 0.125 would have looked even better. Beyond that though I would have my doubts. I loved how the layers of water started to come out and you can actually see the different directions of movement it was taking.  Experiment, learn, adapt.

I have yet to get into true long exposures, hopefully sometime soon.  Not my thing, but always good to understand.

Thanks for stopping by!


The Dark Queen and the Woodland Princess

I had not used an outdoor setting to do creative portraits very much until recently and it figures I would wait until it got cold out to start. Inspired by the creations of a truly masterful artist, I enlisted the help of two of my favorite subjects and set about traversing a woodsy area across the street from my home.


I immediately encountered two problems, one, it was cold and two I started about an hour too early to achieve the light I was looking for. Away from the comfort of my studio lights, I was utilizing a few speedlites to try to capture the look and feeling of the images I had in my head. By the time that light, I should say lack of light, presented itself we were all freezing and ready for some Hot Chocolate.

It was a great learning experience for me as far as light placement for direction, power and gel color. I guess I would add timing to that list as well. I was worried about running out of light and we had just the opposite to deal with. In the woods no less. Go figure. Once spring arrives we will give it another go, unless of course I find subjects as crazy as I am over the next few months that love to play in a little snow. There is still one image I am after that has a snowy setting so we shall see.

And even though my vision didn’t come to fruition, we did obtain some really cool stuff to build upon for future endeavors.

A few individual captures

And together

And in the end everyone gets along just like old friends.


Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…..




The Yard Sale Editorial

A town wide yard sale, a bunch of old dance clothes and our daughters curious friend. These elements came into play for a spur of the moment, off the cuff shoot entitled “The Yard Sale Editorial”.

While we were going through a few years of dance costumes our daughters friend found great interest in some of the outfits. Being a normal teenager she decided to try a few things on in a not so normal fashion. A tutu skirt donned as a hat set my mind adrift in photographic opportunity.  While not my normal style, I thought it may be fun to experiment a bit and see what transpired.


I do believe she thought I was a bit crazy, and I am positive she had no idea what was in store when she agreed to a quick shoot. It was already 10:30 pm, so we were all a bit tired. So, my stylist and trusted second pair of eyes joined me in producing the following selections.

I certainly would like to create some more images of this nature. Probably should plan ahead next time, but these spur of the moment sessions are lots of fun. You never know what will happen when you have old dance costumes hanging around.

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time!

Cheering some 12,800 iso…

Cheering some 12,800 iso...

Killing time after my sparkplug performed, decided to see exactly what an iso of 12800 would look like. f4, 1/640, 24-105 at 50mm.

And included in the fun, going in reverse order, a shot at 6400, f4, 1/400, 95mm

CheerComp_PShepherd-52As long as I do not have to print anything and all things considered not to bad to look at….just do not zoom in….

See ya soon!



A Winter’s Growth

For almost a week I have been documenting the bloom of an Amaryllis we received as a gift. The main reason I did this was to gain confidence when utilizing a high iso on my 7D. This camera is not know for it’s high iso capability so for the past year with that fact in my head I was guilty of underexposing images due to the fact that I was scared to go above a setting of 1600. Many times I am unable to use flash and find myself fighting for light.

For those who do not know what iso is, it is an integral part of the exposure triangle which allows more light to reach the cameras sensor. The main drawback is an image that turns out dirty. By this I mean it may have noise or grain showing. Until recently consumer model cameras were incapable of producing acceptable images if the iso was raised. I have been shooting a lot of studio stuff the past few months and dance season is right around the corner. I need to try and establish some further confidence when I need a shutter speed of 1/500 and the only way I can get there is with an iso of 2500+.

So, I set my iso to 2500, aperture to f4 on the trusty 24-105 and varied the shutter speed based on lighting conditions. The only constant light I had was the heating lamp pointing into the dragon tank. Indirect at best. Normally I would turn on the room light, and sometimes the sun came in through the windows.

We had the plant almost three weeks before it began blooming and once it started it was quite cool watching it open. The first hint appeared on Dec 23. I tried to capture an image every 12 hours or so.

12/23 09:18
12/23 09:18 1/40th
12/24 09:35
12/24 09:35 1/80
12/25 10:39
12/25 10:39 1/30
12/25 23:00
12/25 23:00 1/40

During the 26th growth was rapid!

12/26 13:11
12/26 13:11 f8, 1/13
12/26 17:40
12/26 17:40 f8, 1/160
12/26 21:25
12/26 21:25 f8, 1/10
12/26 23:11
12/26 23:11 1/800
12/27 13:28
12/27 13:28 1/200
12/28 00:21
12/28 00:21 1/8th
12/28 19:12
12/28 19:12 1/30
12/29 21:14
12/29 21:14 1/20

LR4 Noise reduction was used to clean them up a bit, but overall I am very happy with the results. If this is any indication then I have been missing out on some very good captures exposure wise. I remember one thing from my boy scout days,sitting around a fire repeating these words until it was figured it out…


Mr. 7D you have restored my faith, if you need to raise the iso to get a good exposure, go for it. It’s OK……I should have listened to Jared Polin a long time ago….

Happy New Year!

Thanks for stopping by! Till next time….

Looking from a Different Perspective…

It is amazing what turns out when things do not work out like you want. Bordering on the magikal. This past weekend I was experimenting with a bit of a high key, beauty look with two lovely young ladies who are close friends of our family. My influence behind this shoot came from a Lindsey Adler presentation on Creative Live. The premise is to shoot lights into angled V flats to create a wrap around dreamy look.  Had to do a bit of improvising with the materials as I do not have the V flats yet. A bit difficult to transport 4×8 sheets of foamcore in our vehicles right now. I just utilized a couple of reflectors positioned at 45 degrees on either side and had one speedlite pointing into each one. I also played with a light from above through a 12″ softbox.

One of the resulting images:


This set up worked great with this young lady but I could not reproduce this effect with her older sister. I thought this to be quite odd and attributed it to the fact that her hair was darker. I changed exposures and positioning of the lights and reflectors to no avail. We did get some very awesome material out of it though.

After presenting the final images to mom I went back and looked at the ones that did not make the cut. After reviewing them again I was wondering what my deciding factor in not selecting them the first time was. Little things that bothered me perhaps, a few were too hot or uneven. Maybe I was just being stubborn because they did not turn out like I had visioned. And this is where the Magik kicks in…

After some more reviewing and different edits I think I actually came up with images that trump most of the ones that I had initially presented. Got to hate when that happens… Again, good friends, second family, party buddies… makes it all easier to present a second set of shots.

First one of the shots that made the final cut..I think if I had the full V going I would have been able to achieve what I was initially looking for although I really like this image.

EmilyHK_pSp-44And a few of the ones that did not, but after re-edits should have.

Em_PhilShepherdPhotography-5 Em_PhilShepherdPhotography Em_PhilShepherdPhotography-2 Em_PhilShepherdPhotography-3

This style is very different for me, but it is one I am going to be expanding on and get dialed in. My main focus will always be head shots,  but I will be doing some more with the beaty/glamour style of shooting and see how I like it. And as I have been told before, never get rid of the images you do not like, for one day you may look at them in a different way and something magical will happen.

Lots of dancing to come in the next three weeks, recital and then nationals!

Thanks for stopping by, Till next time…     

A Little Change of Pace

About a year ago when this whole adventure began, I had purchase a very inexpensive set of Fotodix extension tubes to see if I would like Macro photography. I had never really experimented with them for one reason or another so for a little change of pace I decided to put them on and see what I could come up with. The set comes with three interchangeable length tubes for varying magnification levels. All together you get an adapter ring, 7mm, 14mm and 28mm tubes which you can use separately or all together.  As the name states, these are just tubes, cylindrical  hollow pieces of aluminum. No mirrors, no electronics. Focusing is done manually though a combination of moving back and forth and using the manual focus adjustment on your lens.

For $14.95, I think they are worth it if you are just starting out or you, like me, want to see what Macro Photography is like without investing in a true macro lens. For these experiments I use the full set of tubes and an 85mm lens.

First up on the hit list is a roll of funky colored duct tape. Good job catching the interwoven patterns.

Duct Tape

From the cave to the living area I went, pausing at my daughter’s eye

Britt eye

One of the first things I noticed is that there is an incredibly narrow focus point. Incredibly narrow as in if you are off by the width of a hair, you go blurry. Very little wiggle room. Since there are no electronics you have to rely on shutter speed and iso to control exposure.

Off to the great outdoors we go and since the weather is getting nicer things are beginning to grow. First up the roses. And it looks like the insects are already building a home.

Rose Bud

While there are many plants beginning to show growth, the weeds are already grown…I am really liking how it captured the little spiral thingy’s on this dandelion. Even the most annoying things can be interesting.


I have no idea what this little fellow is called. I doubt I even would have noticed this if I was not looking for small subjects.

weed of no name

A positive outcome so far, my only gripe is the difficulty focusing but the results are decent. Static objects are doable with these tubes. Back to the cave for the next series of tests. A bowl of water, a gelled flash and a colorful garment to put underneath said bowl of water.

Well, that difficulty focusing was magnified ten fold trying to capture water drops. Almost impossible handheld and even difficult with a tripod.This next image is from my set up testing shots. Not nearly in focus but I really like the reflections and the colors from it.


And one of the handful I had enough patience with to find a sweet spot with.


The red and white dish towel was replaced with a funky summer shirt


I then increased the height of the drop, hoping to get a bigger splash. Even though I was not able to find a decent focus point I did manage to get another really cool reflection/color shot. A bit artsy even.


So with static objects the extension tubes provide a good but narrow understanding of Macro photography. I may experiment with each size and a couple of different lenses as the flowers start to bud and bloom. But no more water drops. At least not until I can get my hands on a true Macro Lens.

Thanks for stopping by, till next time!

Return of the Crystal Skull

Indiana had his adventures with a Crystal Skull and I have been eyeing up the one my wife received for Christmas, just waiting for it to be emptied of its tasty contents. I have been wanting to see how light reflects through it when it is empty as well as when it is full of liquid. A little experiment to satisfy my curiosity and to help me understand the effect of water as a diffusion device. It has been empty for a couple of weeks now, just waiting for me to make my move on it wondering what I had in store.

The Crystal Skull. Empty, its contents consumed by worthy adults.


I finally decided to try my experiment out but it took motivation from another object to really get me going with this. A little get together, a nice fire and a warm house prompted  our guest to remove an article of clothing………… a sheer, fashionable scarf. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!  While it was being folded I noticed it was see through……ding, ding, ding…diffusion device! Grabbed the camera, the scarf in between my lens and a vase of roses, SHABANG! Yes, I stole that word from a head shot photographer I follow. Seem to fit though. So, today the skull, my wife’s purple scarf (with black skulls on it no less) and I became acquainted.

Before we get to carried away, the original intent of this little project was to measure light refraction through glass, with and without water. The set up for these shots – an 85 1.8,  a glass end table, glossy black wrapping paper with a cut out of the base of the skull, a speedlite set at 1/4 power and zoomed to 105 mm and the Rogue Grid with the 45 degree head on. I also used some gels for added effect. The flash was placed on the ground, underneath the table and pointed of course, straight up.

I was not liking the look with the cap on so I removed it to decrease the bounce and to eliminate over cooking the top. So here is the empty skull without cap and a view of the cut out…..whoops.


And full of water:


For overall appearance, I think I am liking the empty version better. The water does bring out certain facial features in the mouth and chin area and picks up the purple gel more but it dulls the top. It also carries the light through the hole in the top which is why I took the cap off. I bet a couple of drops of red food coloring would have been cool. Save that for another day.

Time to break out the scarf…..hung up on a stand about 8  inches in front of the skull. One more speedlite, through a 12″ octobox, was added overhead to assist in lighting the scarf. The skull was still full of water.

Scarf camera Close

Good stuff. The water gets dumped, changed the gel to red and I do not remember what prompted me to try it with the cap on. The scarf was moved closer to the skull so I could get more…..skulls in the shot.

Red cap on

And with the cap off, I also moved up.

Red cap off

I think it is very interesting the way the gel is coming through. Looks like it is bouncing all over and not quite sure what little crevice to fill. I did the red gel a couple of days after  we got this, lots of liquid still in it and it filled the entire skull up. The difference in that shot is that is was straight through a glass base and not directed by a cut out.

My final shot in the sequence with the scarf was placing the scarf against my lens hood – very interesting results. Had to focus manually as well.

against hood off A very interesting and enlightening time with the scarf and the skull. And…..possibly feeling the effects of this crystal skull too much, I decided to change colors one more time and see if I could make a happy skull. Believe it or not, this is a Pink gel……

Pink Gell

Pretty in Pink?  Whoa, Flashback……whatever happened to Molly Ringwald?

I hoped you enjoyed my little experiments. Thanks for stopping by!

Till next time….