Sunday, December 4, 2011

More Ice Hockey with Speedlights

I must tip my hat and acknowledge that Dave Black ( has been a large inspiration to my current foray into capturing the perfect ice hockey image.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

You see, when I first found Dave's site, I was blown away with the wealth of knowledge that he was sharing regarding arena strobes.  I was soon hooked on his monthly updates.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

My problem was I didn't have several thousand dollars worth of arena strobes.  Also, I didn't want to lug around the many pounds of gear that is several thousand dollars worth of arena strobes.  But, he did plant a seed in my head.  "Why not several speedlights"?

With the advent of digital and iTTL and eTTL technology there are a whole bunch of flashes out there that don't provide Auto exposure with today's cameras.  They still put out great light, you just need to be able to and want to deal with manual exposure.  Soon eBay became my friend.  I picked up 4 Nikon SB-26s for less than I payed for my single SB-900.  That is the fun part.

My early efforts were very low cost.  A pair of SB26s and a SB800 clamped in the rafters with plastic wood clamps.  Not enough light, back to eBay.  I now own four SB26s, a pair of SB800s and a SB900 and I still keep looking for that 8th flash.

Dave's site then got even more interesting to me when he went speedlight, when he started producing amazing images with these awesome little lights.  Dave is backed by some pretty major sponsors, so he has all the latest in technology.  My approach is slightly different.  But, it was nice to see that I wasn't crazy and that this is doable.  Or I am getting closer anyway.

Don't you dare click his link yet!

In my previous post regarding hockey you can see long shadows falling off the players and the background is slightly underexposed.  This is the result of trying to light from just one side of the rink.  Physics dictates that light intensity will diminish with distance.  The Inverse Square Law.  Also, as hard as I tried by getting the lights up high and separated from each other and the camera, I still ended up with that criss cross shadow.  There are no catwalks at our local rink.

So, I took my problem to the Flickr Strobist group.  Surely, somebody else has tried this and will help me out.  Welcome to the land of the Flickr Pro.  What a joke!  Anyway, after fending off a couple real jerks, plus a rather questionable forum moderator, a fine gentleman from Quebec joins into the dialogue and offers some of his experience with small rinks. Even goes so far as to send my a private email.  What  impressed me was this guy weighs into a somewhat hostile thread with limited English skills.  All hope in humanity has not been lost, there still are good people out there.

Anyway, after discussing my approach, he convinced me to try bouncing my flash off the silver insulation covering the ceiling.  Then, after taking another look around the rink with a different mindset, I found that this offered me a chance to do some cross lighting and hopefully get rid of those ugly shadows.  I may loose a bit of overall light intensity, but the quality of light should be better.

And here are the results of Week 1 of light bouncing...

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th, f/6.3, WB 5250ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 800, 1/250th, f/7.1, WB 5550ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 400, 1/250th, f/6.3, WB 5600ºK

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, ISO 800, 1/250th, f/7.1, WB 5300ºK

Now, I am not going to pretend that all is perfect.  That last shot has some soft spots that I would attribute to ghosting.  

The quest continues...

Go take a look at Dave Black's website now.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Unigirls Behind the Scenes Video

Back in August I was selected from a casting call to perform a shoot for Unigirl Canada (  The whole time that I was there, there was a pair of videographers capturing all of the aspects of the shoot.

Here it is.  All cleaned up and put to music.

Sadly, I did not get much face time.  Those girls are such camera hogs! hahaha

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Speedlight Ice Hockey

What's the difference between this...

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, WB6100ºK, +1.85EV added in raw conversion
and this...

Nikon D3, AF-S 300mm, f/3.2, 1/640s, ISO 1600, WB 3850ºK

Those who have tried their hand at photographing ice hockey will spot the difference immediately.

Wow, the depth of field, the lack of noise, the rich colours, the sharpness.

Why???  It's the same camera.  It's the same arena.  To make things even more confusing.  The first image was taken from the penalty box with no glass to shoot through.  The second image was taken through the glass.

What's the difference?  It's the light.  In this case, 7 of them.  I brought my collection of Speedlights and clamped them up in the rafters and fired them remotely with Pocket Wizard Plus II radio triggers.

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, WB5700ºK, +2.45EV added in raw conversion
Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, WB5650ºK, +2.65EV added in raw conversion

Nikon D3, AF-S 70-200mm, f/8, 1/250s, ISO 200, WB6200ºK, +2.55EV added in raw conversion

The red team is my daughter's novice house league team and I will be shooting them a fair bit this winter.

More posts to come...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Birds of Prey

Sometimes the weather just won't cooperate.

I have been waiting for this past weekend to come for, well... a lunar cycle.  You see I have been dying to get out and shoot some time lapse movies with stars passing over some interesting landscape (I am not telling yet).  But, we have been covered in clouds for at least the past week.  Saturday afternoon was starting to show potential for the evening. So, I gave Ethan (, who lives closer to my photo location a call.  His weather observation was the same as what I was seeing, still partly cloudy.  Just not good enough.

While I am on the phone with Ethan, he says that he and Craig Blair are heading out on Sunday to shoot some captive birds of prey and asks if I wanted to come too.  So, I am thinking why not.  I am in.  

Not long after confirming, my cell phone starts buzzing.  It's a post on my facebook page from Craig.  Craig owns Lens Rentals Canada (  It says, "You want any glass tomorrow"?  "Yes please"! was my reply.  Bring me something BIG!!!

Instead of shooting stars, I went and played some hockey Saturday night and guess what???  The clouds cleared and the stars were awesome.

Birds of Prey.

I met Ethan and Craig in Arthur and the three of us drove down to the Mountsberg Conservation Area together.  We are to join the Brampton Photo Group ( for a club shoot.  Shooting in large groups has its perils, but I can say this was a pleasant group to shoot with.  There may have been 9 or 10 of us all together.

The agenda for the day was to meet at the Raptor Centre where one of their bird handlers will provide us access to their birds for a couple hours.  We may have pushed that time allotment a little ;-)

We got to shoot Screech, Barn and Great Horned owls, American Kestrels, a Merlin, a Peregrine falcon, a Red-Tailed hawk, a Turkey vulture and a juvenile Bald eagle.  All the time, I am enjoying using the biggest glass that I have ever used.

Everybody loves owls, myself included.  What shocked me on this day was the colours that the falcons possess.  I have never got a chance to study them at such close range before.  Not only are they impressive in flight, but they are also quite beautiful birds.  I have had the pleasure of being around Bald eagles at close range before and every time they startle me with their size.  Even as juveniles, these are truly powerful birds!

Here are some 'selects' from over 500 images taken on the day:

American Kestrel
Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm w/TC17eII, SB-900, ISO 200, f/6.7, 1/40th, Ambient -1/3stop, WB adjusted to 5200K.

Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm w/TC17eII, SB-900, ISO 200, f/6.7, 1/60th, Ambient -1 stop, WB adjusted to 5400K.

Great Horned Owl
Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm, SB-900, ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/250th, Ambient -2/3stop, WB adjusted to 5600K.


I can't help myself.  Here are some more shots.

Red-tailed Hawk
Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm, SB-900, ISO 200, f/13, 1/250th, Ambient -2 stop, WB adjusted to 5700K.

Great Horned Owl
Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm, SB-900, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/250th, Ambient -2/3 stop, WB adjusted to 5600K.

Bald Eagle (juvenile)
Nikon D3, AF-S 500mm, SB-900, ISO 200, f/7.1, 1/125th, Ambient -2/3 stop, WB adjusted to 5400K.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Unigirl Canada

In keeping with the theme that my photography interests are highly varied...

One of the photography websites that I am a frequent visitor at is designed to be a networking site for photographers, models, make-up artists, clothing designers, etc.  As well as having forum sections to discuss subjects relevant to the different groups, there is a casting call section.  To make a long story short, Unigirl Canada was in need of a photographer and I was selected from the respondents.

I know some of you are thinking, he shoots fish, birds, flowers, deer, rocks, trees, waterfalls, lightning, hockey, golf, baseball, kiteboarding and... young women in bikinis?

The thing that I like about working with models is that it is one of the rare times that I get to focus more on creating a scene, rather than capturing a moment (blah, blah, blah... young women in bikinis).  With just about everything else that I photograph, I do my best to record an interesting/pleasing account of what occurs naturally.  For once, I get to choose my background, control my lighting and actually describe to the subject how I want them to stand (blah, blah, blah... young women in bikinis).

I have a hard time buying that story myself.  What can I say, it is what I do.

--- --- ---

My assignment:

Unigirl Canada ( shoots regional calendars across Canada of university women, including alumni, in their swimwear to raise money for charity (  It's not extremely original, but it's a brilliant concept just the same.  I wish I was the idea guy and not just the photographer.

What I had waiting for me was a half dozen models in full make-up with their hair all professionally done.  And almost as many assistants to hold reflectors, help the girls with posing, to move hair and to adjust bikinis.  A limo to take us to our location, which just so happened to be a 54' Sea Ray. All I had to do was shoot.  The whole time a couple videographers were working in the background capturing Behind the Scene video.

I know, I still hear it too (blah, blah, blah... young women in bikinis).

© Unigirl Canada 

© Unigirl Canada - photo by Ian Brooks
© Unigirl Canada - photo by Ian Brooks
© Unigirl Canada - photo by Ian Brooks

© Unigirl Canada - photo by Ian Brooks

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


As my bio suggests, my photography interests are widely varied.  But, there is always one thing that will get me to lift a camera lens and that is fast action sports.  There are so many individual moments in sport that the mind can't isolate them as a single moment and they all run together to become a sequence.  I really enjoy the challenge of isolating that one particular instance that tells the story, that shares the feeling, that captures the mood.  That is what sport photography is all about.

So, a couple weekends ago, my buddy Ethan Meleg ( calls me up and says that he has an assignment to get some kiteboarding shots.  He has a rider lined up and was wondering if I was interested in joining him.  He needed some Behind The Scene (BTS) shots and then I was free to cut loose.  I AM IN!!!

Ethan Meleg, Hayden Stewart
Ethan Meleg, Hayden Stewart
Our location was Oliphant, Ontario on the shores of Lake Huron.  Oliphant is a kiteboarding hotspot for the reason that it harbours some amazing flatwater, even when the winds are howling.  As you can see in my BTS shots, the water is barely knee deep.  For the kiteboarder, that means easy recovery should they fall in.  Just stand up, grab your gear and start over.  Great for beginners and pros alike.  For Ethan and I, shooting in Oliphant means we can wade out and shoot amongst all the action.  We can leave those big telephotos at home.  In Oliphant, it is time to 'get in close and go wide!'

Our hired rider was Hayden Stewart provided to us after contacting Kitesup Canada (  A total joy to be around.  He seemed very motivated in assisting us in getting the images that we wanted.  And because we were out in the water with him, we had not problem communicating what we were looking for.

Hayden Stewart
Hayden Stewart 
Hayden Stewart 
"Hey Hayden, can you get a little closer?"  Well, he did exactly as we asked.  And that is why my D3 in on the bench at Nikon Canada as I type this.  You see, not all Nikon lenses have a weather gasket on the back of them.  As you may already suspect... the AF 16mm f/2.8 does not.  What I would describe as nothing more than a mild to moderate splash got to my camera's focusing motor making all my AF lenses useless.  The only lenses that will work are my AF-S series lenses.  They have their own focusing motors.

Fast forward to the following Friday, Ethan and my schedules have lined up again.  This happens so rarely, it must be a sign.  Ethan's got his boat in the water up in Tobermory and has plans for a sunrise shoot out on Flower Pot Island.  "But, Ethan my widest lens right now is my AF-S 70-200mm VR", I said.  Not exactly a 'landscapers' first choice of lenses.  "Don't worry" he says, "I have got lots of gear, I can hook you up with something."  If you see any pictures of me holding a Canon 1D MK something or other... suspect photoshop.

Flower Pot Island was a bust.  Crappy sky and the winds are really starting to pick up.  So we get our butts back to the mainland.  Or, should I say, our soggy butts, it was a rough trip back.  

With the winds continuing to increase that could only mean one thing.  Back to Oliphant.

No hired model this time.  We are totally winging it. But, I believe my lens choice was a wise one.  The 70-200 is a fine looking lens when attached to a pro body.  You don't go unnoticed.  As Ethan and I are wading out, we are assessing the talent and who we think will provide the best photo ops.  We pick a location and set up.

"Hey Ethan, to your right, here comes that guy!"  

Once they realized we where into it, we had 4 or 5 guys attempting all their craziest stuff for our amusement.

Daniel Steiner 
David Drinkwater
David Drinkwater
David Drinkwater
Unknown Rider 
Thanks guys for being such willing models!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


After what started out as a fairly slow summer has accelerated into a lot of shooting over the last month.  I will slowly release some recent shoots as my clients get a chance at first release.

Last night I did some personal shooting, something I really love.  Lightning.

Ever since I was a little kid, I can remember staring out the window watching lightning storms.  Once, I got older, I would drive down to the beach just to see a storm roll in off Lake Huron.  Now, with the photo bug, it is almost pathological.  Last night, my wife kicked me out the door to go shoot.  I might not be that pleasant to be around when I am "missing" a good storm???

The interesting thing about last night was it didn't look that impressive on the radar, but I could hear the constant rumble of thunder and that inspired me to give it a try.  I am glad I did.  I had a blast!!!

More often than not (with my limited experience) good electrical storms come in off the lake like a wave.    A straight line front rolling over land with short burst of intense weather.  Last night was different, it was more like a streamer.  A line of rain that kept coming off the lake.  This was good.  This gave me more time to set up.

Because I was not originally inspired by the radar, I was off to a slow start and wasn't sure where I wanted to be to be ahead of the storm.  Down by the lake was out of the question.  It was already happening there.  So, I drove inland and after about 20 min I was finally ahead of it.  But, this isn't where I would normally go.  I wasn't sure what I was going to us for a foreground.  Driving aimlessly, all of a sudden I found a likely spot.

Capturing an image of a lightning bolt is actually pretty easy.  A good place to start is 30" with an aperture of f/5.6 and ISO 200.  A stop either side of there depending on how close the storm is will put you pretty close.

The neat thing is that lightning exposes itself.  Leave the shutter open as long as you want, each successive bolt will appear out of the darkness of your frame.

Generally, a lightning bolt on it's own is not that interesting.  Give it a recognizable foreground and you have magic.  City skylines, iconic landmarks and the like all work well.

What to bring: a tripod, a raincoat (for the camera), a flashlight (if you can't operate all your functions in the dark), a smart phone to keep checking to local radar and where the storm is moving, and a lens of your choice.  I use my 70-200mm most often, but have used my 300mm and my 20mm.

Finally, please remember to use some common sense.  Choose your location carefully.  Don't stand in the middle of a field.  Don't stand under the tallest tree.  Don't stay at your location until the storm is right on top of you.  You might not like the result.

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  -1 stop applied in RAW conversion

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  

Nikon D3 w/ 70-200mm @70mm - ISO 200, f/5.6, 30"  -2 stops applied in RAW conversion