Friday, January 29, 2010

Pieces Of Larger Images

Notice anything similar between the smaller image and today's "finished" image? They're both the same flag. I saw the "original" shot on a cloudy, blustery day when the breeze was snapping the flag at a pretty good pace. It was a great day for getting rich, vibrant colors in the flag, but a dud of a day for anything to do with the sky. The background shot in the "finished" image was taken on a day when the clouds looked great, but there was no interesting subject. If you were to flip back through the posts on this blog you'd find that same flag in a couple of images. The shot of the farm scene has it up on the silo. How it would have been hoisted I haven't the foggiest idea, but people have accepted it as being okay. Another shot, with the flag tipped on a fairly steep angle, is that of the fireman's hat and clouds. It's an element that can be used over and over again. Same with the clouds. They can be popped in where ever needed. Getting the images to combine is the topic of today's post. To find out how easy it is, hit the "read more".

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Going Overboard

Today's image is of a young friend. His team had just placed well in a rowing regatta and he was running over, expressing his joy that his parents had been able to see the team do so well. I thought the shot came out pretty good and gave the parents a print the next time I saw them. His mother took a look at the image and said to her son, "oh, I didn't know you had so many freckles". I looked at the boy and he didn't have the same facial texture as the boy in the print. In my exuberance to produce the sharpest possibly print I had gone too far and wound up with all sorts of artifacts he his face that gave the appearance of freckles. Oops! One thing we have to be mindful of when shooting people is perception. How people record on a piece of film or a digital sensor is not always the way they want to be seen. Another example of being too "accurate" with an image occurred about two months ago. A group of friends offered to take some portraits of the senior citizens group in one of the towns nearby. I setup the lighting, my friend who's the really good portraitist did the shooting and another friend was going to do the retouching and printing. There were a few others handling the paperwork and coordination, so we had a pretty good team. When the images got to the retoucher she commented that there was nothing that needed to be done other than a little tighter cropping. The photographer said "what about sharpening?". I suggested that we probably didn't want to "sharpen" people from a senior center. The prints were printed and handed out to the subjects. I noticed one women looking at her image with sort of a semi-sad face. I asked her if the shot was alright. She said it was very nice, but her expression gave away a hint of disappointment. On the way home I figured it out. It wasn't the shot that had saddened her, it was the person looking back at her. She was a great, dignified looking lady of about sixty-five. That was the issue. When we look in a mirror we often don't see the same person looking back. I swear, when I look in a mirror I see a fairly trim twenty year old looking back. The photograph doesn't lie, but sometimes it would probably be kinder if it did. Five minutes of touchup could have made that regal lady look a little less like the queen and a little more like the princess she once was. It was an interesting lesson. To find out what was done to the young man in today's image, hit the "read more".

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Sometimes You Just Goof Around

I was looking through some older files this morning and came across an old shot of a swan. Notice I said "a" swan. It crossed my feeble mind that the neck looked like the shape of half a heart. How's this for justification? February is coming up pretty quick, Valentine's Day is in February, so let's do something saleable to the greeting card industry. I'm thinking the 2011 season, as any cards that will be out for this year are already on the store shelves. I wanted to make it a little harder for the casual observer to see that it's one swan, copied and flipped to create the second participant. There's a stick crossing the tail of the swan on the right, along with some debris in the lower right hand corner. The right swan has a drop of water coming off its beak, the left one doesn't. It was a little ten or fifteen minutes project to make some whimsical. Every now and then we all need to stop and let our playful side out. Doing something, anything silly is needed by all of us. If we stay too serious for too long we tend to crumple into state of depression. I just read a quote in the paper this morning I thought dovetailed with my mood today. Apparently the author Sue Grafton said "Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between being cautious and being dead". Sounds good to me. Caution is stifling, throwing caution to the wind is liberating. Along the same line is a song that was on the charts a few months ago. Lee Ann Womack had a song called "I hope you dance". The chorus says "And when you get a chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance". It goes right along with the Sue Grafton quote. So much for "inspiration", if you'd like to know how the changes were made to today's image, hit the "read more".
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Photo Restoration?

Some photo finishers might try to take a "snap" from 1944 and lovingly take the creases and folds out of the image and restore it to pristine condition. Some may even apply a faux hand tint to it to make it look like someone did something special to it 66 years ago. I sort of went the other way on today's image. I took a shot from a reenactment demonstration last summer and tried to make it look like it had several decades of being carried around and then had been tossed into a drawer to be forgotten. I probably need to do a little more work (probably start over with the original) to get it looking aged. The "cracks" need some work. They need to be rougher and have the emulsion look like it's separated. The edges of the "print" need to be more distressed and the overall image of the image needs to be discolored. I print isn't going to sit in some GIs wallet throughout the war and then survive in a drawer without getting pretty well damaged. It's not bad for a first attempt, but if you're interested in how I'll address the next round, hit the "read more".

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Advantages Of Insomnia In Photography

One of the advantages of waking up at 3:00 AM is that you're all set for sunrise photography. It could be said that another is getting blog entries up for people in the eastern US to have with their morning coffee. The former is cool, the later a little sketchy. Today's image is a result of the cool portion of the equation. Let's see, early morning, cool temperatures, warm(ish) water equals fog. Fog is a good thing for certain types of shots. Today's is one of those shots. About fifteen minutes after this image was made, if I stood in exactly the same spot and pointed the camera in the same direction, at the same height, we'd see the rock breakwater about fifty feet past the last boat. The shot would have been totally different and not anywhere near as interesting. Typically, with a "fog shot" you need a couple of elements. Something strong that attracts the eye, like the light/horn/object at the front of the lead boat. It could be a tree in the mist or a set of railroad tracks fading into the fog. Something to arrest the eye. Another element that makes this work is a splash of color. Here it's provided by the red of the second boat. The green grass leading up to that tree or brown of the railroad tie in the foreground might work just as well. In today's shot the red is pretty strong. The color element of the tree or track shots wouldn't have to be strong, just a hint of color would do fine. Fog shots are, for the most part, opportunistic shots. Sure, you can check the local forecast and increase the odds of there being fog (like when the local weather person says "there'll be fog in the morning"). But, having the right amount of fog, or being able to get the shot without distractions is a crapshoot at best. To find out more about today's image, hit the "read more".
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Negative Space

A friend of mine is a very good portrait photographer. You might want to check out her blog (Click here) One of the key elements of much of her work is the use of negative space. According to Wikipedia, "negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image". Today's image uses negative space to frame the tropical flowers. It was taken in overcast skies. The appearance is such that the impression is that a shaft of light magically shown down on the flower and the rest of the area was under the clouds. Almost, the shaft of light comes from an off camera flash set to TTL exposure determination. The camera itself is set at F5.6 at 1/250th of a second. A reasonably "standard" setting for a Nikon DSLR. Because of the distance to the background elements, F5.6 works fine to produce the "bokeh" of the scene. The reason for the crop being the way it is is due to the light spots at are so soft that they almost look like clouds hanging over the blossom. It also gives the flower some space to "grow" into. Unless you're intent is to do a dramatic crop, cutting into the subject on several sides, the subject needs a little "breathing room". By "dramatic crop" I'm talking about cutting into the subject to create emphasis on a particular piece of the subject. When "the guys" were young we used to send out holiday cards to the relatives. The first was of our older son and consisted of his eyes only. You couldn't see his nose or hairline. Just his eyes. That was a dramatic crop and caught the attention of everyone receiving a card. From then on people looked forward to each year's offering. To find out more about "negative sapce", hit the "read more".

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Friday, January 15, 2010

A Place Made For HDR

Ya know how you find a place every once in a while that's the ideal place for a certain type of image? Like the stream on the Kelly Stanton Road in lower Vermont? I've had images from there on the blog a couple of times. Straight ones and faux color shots and really pushed HDR images. It's just a great place to shot a stream with large, natural boulders. Well, I found a place last week that should have a sign on the door saying "enter here, all those wanting to make an HDR image". It's today's image and is Pusser's Road Town Pub in Tortola. Check out their live webcam here. It's a great place to get a bite and have something to temper the tropical heat. We were in Tortola as one of the stops on our annual Caribbean cruise. It has a lot of rich, dark wood and details everywhere you look. On the ceiling they have old rescue rings from different boats. Just above the light you can see a model of a bi-plane. The walls are covered with all manner of photographs, framed newspaper clippings and proclamations. The back of the bar/dining room is dark enough for a lover's tryst and there's the tropical sun shining through the windows in front. The difference is way beyond the dynamic range of any digital cameras out today. (Next year, or the following that could all change.) It's an overall great place for HDR. Today's image was shot hand held using the auto bracketing function of a Nikon D300. To find out more about how the shot was taken and processed, read the "read more".

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Waiting For Summer

It's cold. Winter started a short time ago and we're in for a couple months of not so much fun shooting outside. Winter is a good time to shoot in the studio. Either getting "models" (friends typically) to dress and do some set pieces or doing floral, light drawing or tabletop photography. That doesn't mean we can't think about summer and where we might want to do some shooting once the cold starts to abate. Today's image comes from a great place to shoot that's not an unreasonable distance away. It's in Harriman State Park in New York, about an hour hour's drive. Harriman is about 46,000 acres and has more than 200 miles of hiking trails. It's about 30 miles west of here and 30 miles north of New York City. Today's image is of a stream about 15 feet off one of the roads through the park. Another place to look forward to in the spring is Kelly Stand Road in southern Vermont. It has a very impressive stream running along its side, with great boulders making spectacular drops. It's a weekend trip, but one that we'll start planning as soon as the snow is gone. We'll want to get the snow melt from higher on the mountains to give some terrific flow. You can always count on coming back with some very saleable images from that road. To find out more about Kelly Stand Road, check out Dave Middleton's book "A Photographer's Guide to Vermont". It's worth purchasing. Well, hope everyone is staying warm.
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Friday, January 8, 2010

Hidden Images

Every once in a while I like to put something unnoticeable into an image. Today's image is a fairly blatant example, with a "hidden image" that's reasonable obvious. I called the image "The Tobacconist's Ghost". The truly bizarre thing about the image is that the farmer is not a tobacco farmer and the building is not a tobacco barn. Living in Connecticut and growing up in the Connecticut River Valley I'm well aware of the opportunity Connecticut Shade Grown tobacco presented young teenagers. Connecticut law (at least back in the '50s) allowed kids fourteen years old to work "agriculture". I remember my older brother working the tobacco fields. By the time I was old enough to take a shot at it we had moved too far to the west, out of the river valley, to work growing tobacco. Other than the red door, the barn in today's image reminds me of the weathered wood you can still see on the tobacco sheds (barns) as you drive through the Connecticut River valley north of Hartford today. The "farmer" is actually farms in Cooperstown NY, growing hops. Today's image is just a demonstration of "hiding" one image in another. I occasionally add my image to landscape images I give to friends. I gave one to a friend taken when five of us were at the museum at Mystic Seaport. The shot clearly shows the other four members of the group and, although I know she still has the shot framed and hanging some six years later, she's never mentioned seeing my image in the roof of one of the buildings. Who knows, maybe one of these days...
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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Infared Looks Like - Before and After

After talking to several people about my technique of shooting infrared I think it's time to do a little more explaining. I shoot the infrared in color, using a very dark red filter. One of the reasons for doing it this way is to be able to get a color version of the same shot with a minimum of jostling of the camera. Both shots are taken using Aperture Priority mode. The filter is attached using only about a half turn of the threads. That way the filter is on tight enough to hold, but loose enough to be easily removed. Using this method (Aperture Priority and loose fit) allows the infrared and color shots to be fired within seconds of each other. Typically the infrared is shot first and then the color version. Since the color shot can be measured in fractions of a second, compared to twenty or more seconds for the infrared, the match of passing clouds in minimized. You will end up with a red infrared image, but conversion to black and white, using your favorite conversion method is no problem. The smaller image shown today is the "original" and the B&W image is the converted image. Once you're there, the image can be printed (shown) as a straight print or combined with the color version to produce a "color infrared" image. That's it for today. Ignore the "read more" prompt.
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Monday, January 4, 2010

How To Get Blue Skies In The Camera

Here's a quick trick to getting rich blue skies, in camera, at mid afternoon. Today's image has blue water and blue sky. The easiest way to intensify blues, in camera, is to shoot in Tungsten White Balance. I first heard about this trick in one of Joe McNally's books. After that I saw it brought up in a couple blogs I follow. Scott Kelby's, McNally's and a couple others. McNally used the technique to get dramatic sunset, environmental portraits. His use was to gel and off camera flash with a full cut of CTO (Color Temperature Orange). If you have a Nikon SB 800 or SB900 Speedlite you got a set of gels with your purchase. If you have a different flash you can get a set of Rosco gels called the "Strobist 55 Piece Filter Kit" from B&H Photo in NYC. What you'd do is set the White Balance on the camera to Tungsten. Then put the "Tungsten" conversion gel on the flash. That'll balance the light from the flash to what the sensor in the camera is expecting. What I did with today's image was to do everything except use a flash. In other words, set the White Balance to Tungsten and you'll get deeper blues in your skies. I did start out by saying this would be a "quick trick". Have a good day.
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Friday, January 1, 2010

More Tricks To Start The New Year

First things first. Happy New Year everyone. I hope the year, for you, is spectacular. The first image of the new year started out with another bald sky. I'm sure every photographer has a pretty good supply of shots with bald skies. There's not a whole lot that could be done "in camera" to avoid having the sky show up as a big fat white blob in the data. The trees on either side of the building are what makes the shot. They basically have to be there to show the old store/tavern in its context of being along the road to somewhere. Eliminate the dirt road and the setting and the building could have been on a road today. Having the break in the clouds helps with the "believability" of the image. You can see that the weather is changing and the clouds may be gone shortly. Therefore, it is plausible that the area in front of the building is in sunlight while the sky has some drama. I didn't want to crop the image down to the top of the trees because it would have cramped them too much. Like having some room in front of a running animal or speeding car, boat or plane, the trees need a little "room to grow". To find out "what" was done to the shot to make the image, hit the "read more".

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