Category Archives: Equipment

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Photography on Location

Working on location with clients on location can be both fun and challenging.  The resulting images though make it work the extra work required. 


One of the biggest challenges faced when shooting on location is the lighting.   Frequently these locations are outdoors so you have the sun to work with.  Then comes the supplemental light needed to make the image come to life.  Sometimes its reflectors, other times it is portable strobes.  More often than not it is a combination.  I personally like to use my speedlights as they are small and run on batteries.

© Copyright Dean Farrell, Orcatek Photography

© Copyright Dean Farrell, Orcatek Photography





The Pocket Wizard company has come up with a new version of their product that really makes this work well.  Radio Poppers has also been selling a product to provide very similar features, albeit in a very different way.  The end result is wireless control of your flashes using full ETTL in environments where the built-in IR method was difficult if not impossible to use.  Both these products really add to options for location photography.


Another challenge on location is permission.  Phoenix requires a permit to shoot anywhere in town that is not private property.   Private property owners control their property.  The city is actually pretty easy to work with, and the permit is not expensive if you meet the requirements.   Private property owners can be hit or miss.  Some are great, others are huge corporations that you can’t even find a person to say “yes or no”.


Other cities are in the Phoenix area are not so clear cut.  I have contacted most of them and they say no photographer permit for small shoots that I typically do.  However I have had police and park rangers ask for my photography permits.  I always tell them the truth; I was told I don’t need them.  If they insist, I ask them where I get them.   In any case, I still have been run off a few times, and on follow-up found that no permit was required.   Better to take walk away on your own, then in handcuffs, so I prefer not to fight it too much.


So check the rules in your area.  Get some portable light control.  And produce some great location images.


Orcatek Photography – Phoenix

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Digital in the Studio

Category : Cameras , Equipment , photography

This week I had the chance to work with a wide variety of clients, with all different needs.   They all had one thing in common though; they wanted to look great and were nervous about getting their picture done.


The advantage of using a digital camera quickly becomes obvious.  There are several major benefits to using a digital camera.  It becomes a valuable tool in putting a client at ease.


First with the instant feed back you can show them instant feedback from the rear of the camera as to what the shots are looking like.  Clients what to know that they are “doing it right” when giving them direction.  By showing how good the photography looks, they can relax and make the pictures even better.


Second it allows for proofing during a shoot.  When shooting a head shot I will shoot in batches.   Shoot a batch review on a computer to either select a shot, or use as a point of discussion to discover what they like and tune the shoot to get the shot they desire.  Very often when the client sees the shots on the computer they find that they like a pose that they had never considered.


And of course digital allows for quick deletion of those really bad shots where clients blink or anything else.   This gives the client a much better set of proofs from which to select their photographs.


Lastly digital allows the photographer to capture more frames.  The cost per frame is much lower than film.  I find photographers in the digital age more willing to experiment, knowing that it is very cheap to do so. 


I know digital has made my clients happier, and it has made me more productive.   


Orcatek Photography – Phoenix

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Canon 50D does Barrett-Jackson

I love January in Phoenix as it is the time of year when all the car auctions come to town.  I enjoy the opportunity to see so many wonderful cars all gathered in one location.  Last week I spent some time at Barrett-Jackson with my Canon 50D.


The lighting is all over the board at these auctions – full sun, open shade, tungsten, and mixed.  I knew this would give the 50D a good chance to be tested.  I had done some shooting with it outdoors and in studio, so I knew it worked well in these environments, but the indoor shots with random lighting seemed like it would be a challenge.


With prior cameras I would just crank up the ISO and shoot in AV mode keeping an eye on the shutter speed vs the focal length, tweaking the ISO where I could get away with it.  The 50D now has an auto mode for ISO that I decided to get a test shooting the stage.  As the cars move across the stage the lighting varies dramatically, and I wanted to get the cars in the clear, so I there was no one spot that they could be shot.


And not being a bidder, this meant I had to shoot from the cheap seats, so flash was out of the question.  So I decided to switch the ISO to auto and see how the camera behaved.  The ISO swung from 400 to 1250 depending on where I had the camera pointed and what aperture I selected.  It kept the shutter speed within acceptable hand holding for the focal and length and never seemed to falter.


Upon reviewing the shots I was quite pleased with the results.  Even though the noise level is acceptable for this type of work at the highest range the camera selected, it was nice to have even cleaner shots available when the light was better.   I can really see where this feature can come in handy and why the Nikon users have always spoken so highly about the usefulness of this setting.

Auto ISO put to the test





Auto-focus is also something I got a chance to test under the poor lighting and the 50D did great.  I was very happy to see that it locked quickly and accurately under some tough conditions.  The images were focused correctly and the camera only hunted when it faced the toughest targets where there was no contract to be seen.  Experience has taught me to just focus on an edge and then recompose to the low contrast area as needed.


I will feel quite comfortable using the Canon 50D for this type of event in the future.  Next week I hope to spend some time with my 5DII in the studio.


Orcatek Photograrphy – Phoenix

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The quest for the perfect camera to make you great

Every few months a new camera hits the market. Whether its a DSLR or even a home security camera for sale, cameras are very popular. The Canon fans are all going on about how the new super duper camera is the best thing. Then Nikon comes out with their new camera and “one ups” Canon. Back and forth it goes. The wonders of the digital age create new “must have” cameras constantly. You can purchase new camera equipment over at the Edmund Optics website.

More pixels, gotta have more pixels, at least 50 megapixels. No you fool, the only thing that counts is sensor size. Must be full frame. Are you kidding, noise is what counts. You have to have no visible noise at ISO 53200. Wrong again, its dynamic range that counts, you have to have 24-bits. You know your eyes can’t see that well, but it helps it post processing.

Hey wait, let us do video too. Video at full resolution, not this crappy HD stuff they are pushing now. You must have 30fps at full resolution and you will have the ultimate sports camera. You will never miss a shot and leave your competition in the dust.

The cure for bad photographer is a better camera. The reason you don’t get those great shots is your camera. It must be the problem. If you had a better camera you could have gotten that shot, but your camera just couldn’t cut it. Next year you will get a new camera and your photographs will get so good. It doesn’t have to cost you the earth to keep yourself up to date either, as you can wait a little while then just buy them secondhand from places like So many people forget that this is an option, and it can save you much money.

But what about those other photographers using their 4+ year old camera bodies that keep winning awards. How do they do it? I’ve even seen award winning photographs taken with a camera phone. It must all be Photoshop. They are using all kinds of expensive plug-ins and fancy techniques that take thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to create those photographs. You know, you’ve seen them in magazines. They do magic.

So do you really need a new camera to be a better photographer? Is that the solution? Nikon, Canon, Sony and the rest want you to think so. After all, that’s how they make their money. How do you make yours? I make mine taking photographs.

Orcatek Photography – Phoenix