I visited my family in December, and even though it had been about a month since I had seen them last (for Thanksgiving), it was mere icing on the cake to be able to see them again in December.
Quite pleasantly, it wasn't all that cold (well, for most of the time). Sure enough, it was around 30° the first couple days, but toward the end of my stay, it did get up near 60° for a day or two. And, as it turns out, it was on one of those later days when my mom, my brother, and I decided to head into downtown Charlotte and check out a seasonal outdoor ice skating rink that my mom had heard about.
I probably hadn’t been ice skating since the dot-com bubble (back when I lived in Alexandria, VA), but my muscle memory was still mostly there—I guess it’s a bit like riding a bike in that way. Oh, what fun that was. Sure, the rink wasn’t exactly NHL regulation-size and, while not crowded, there were a fair number of people attending. I got the feeling that most of the skaters—like myself—were on vacation and so there was very little stress in the air. I had a great time and I might just have to see if I can find an ice rink somewhere here in Dallas.
My brother is also into photography he had brought his umbrella along. If you’re not familiar with photographic umbrellas, they pretty much look like regular keep-you-from-getting-wet umbrellas, except that they’re designed so that one can shoot a flash through them or, in some cases, so that one can reflect a flash off them. The gist of it is that photographic umbrellas, while not exactly small enough to carry around for casual party shots, can often create a lovely diffuse light from a flash.
It may have been the even before his flight home, but Adrian generously let me try out a few things with his umbrella. I hooked up my flash to the umbrella, a 430 EX, and after shutting each end of a length of black
velour velvet in some cupboards, I took a few shots of Adrian as he coached me through some of the ins and outs. As it turns out, Adrian was a pretty good subject even through—and this isn’t his fault—I struggled even now and then at avoiding the reflection of the illuminated umbrella in his glasses.
I always knew in the back of my mind that umbrellas could help create flattering portraits, but I guess I just needed to see one in action (and with my own gear) to really believe it. I think those handful of portrait shots may have even reenergized my interest in flash-based photography. I even recently bought the Strobist Lighting Seminar DVDs (from what may be the most talked-about flash-lighting blog out there, Strobist). At $129, it’s not cheap, but with eight DVDs, the price per disc is pretty reasonable. I think I’ve watched three discs already and it’s simply a phenomenal tutorial series.