Monday, January 28, 2013

Shooting For Compositing

Today's image is a start and finish sort of thing.  The subjects were shot using a Westcott X-drop Backdrop with a white backdrop cloth.  The X-drop is one of the most portable, easy to use, location setups I've ever used.  The subject is an outdoorsman and was looking for a shot with his trusty hiking companion in an outdoor setting.  There wasn't time to drive to some idyllic setting as the need for the image was about eighteen hours from phone call to publishing the shot.  The day I shot the stream behind the team was a bitterly cold fall day last year, so he well may have worn the jacket, sweater and shirt you see him in.  It was cold!!!!  Could the shot have been done "in camera"?  Sure, given the time, the distance and the gas money to get up and back the two hundred miles.  Unfortunately, we had none of those options.  To find out about the options we did have a the setup I used, hit the "Read More".

We meet at the hall I knew I could get access to.  By the time the subject arrived I had everything setup.  In addition to the #Westcott X-drop it was a four light arrangement.  The main light was a Beauty Dish set directly over the camera position.  A light on either side and a single light on the X-drop.  All were Nikon speedlights.  The two side lights were through fairly tight grids pointed just to the front of ninety degrees.  Two groups were used and the whole mess triggered using the Nikon CLS (Creative Lighting System.  Talk about down and dirty. 
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Thursday, January 24, 2013

If You Like It, Put A Vignette On It.

I was out the other night judging a competition at a local camera club.  I've done it a couple times a year for the past several years.  It's typically a fun night and we (the other two judges and I) usually get into some good natured wisecracking along with serious the constructive critiques.  The people in the leadership of the clubs tend to say they like the lighter atmosphere.  Some people who judge are just too dour for my taste.  The club I was at last week is one I'm often asked to as a judge.  It seems every time I go I ask the members to put a vignette on their images.  To have a beautiful image or print where the color just slides off the edges just makes me nuts.  It may come for when I first started out in photography.  It was at a camera club.  The more experienced members would really get on my case if a print didn't have a very subtle vignette on it.  Today's image shows different degrees of vignettes.  To find out which one was used on the final image (on the right), hit the "Read More".
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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Followup To Last Weeks Post About AF Fine Tune

It's sharp!  In the last post I talked about calibrating my 18 - 200mm lens to my camera body.  Take a look.  Enlarge the shot (click on it).  Check it out.  You can see the difference in a controlled environment (taking a shot of a Logitech webcam sitting on top of my monitor) using a flash to take camera shake out of the equation.  But, and it's a big but (only one "t"), how would it work in a real world situation?  Today's image is the final version of my testing.  For some tips on what to look for, hit the "Read More".
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Friday, January 18, 2013

I Knew It Wasn't All In My Mind.

Like I said, I knew I wasn't crazy (or maybe any crazier than friends already thought).  Ever since I bought a Nikkor 18 - 200mm lens several years ago I've thought it had a focus problem.  This morning I finally decided to do something about it.  I'd gotten a
Spyder Lenscal (tm) device from B&H last summer, but have been too busy with other things to set it up and see what the focus was on the lens.  What a dope.  I could have saved myself a lot of fighting with images.  After completing the AF Fine Tune adjustment on my Nikon D300 I had to try "something" that wasn't a Lenscal target.  I was sitting in the office and looked around for anything I could sample to check focus.  I popped up the flash and shot the little Logitech webcam on top of the monitor.  It was good as anything else that was "up close".  The lens was racked out to 200mm.  Flash on TTL (hence the highlight).  The top shot was with the settings I thought gave the best focus.  I was shooting tethered, using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 (LR4), so I had two images I could instantly study.  One on each screen.  One, the whole image and the other a magnified view.  The "adjusted" focus looked pretty good, but pretty good compared to what?  To find out, hit the "Read More".
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Monday, January 14, 2013

Why I've Stopped Teaching Photoshop Elements

Today's image really doesn't have anything to do with the topic of today's post.  It's there more for eye candy to possibly attract someone to the Gallery.  For the past four or five years I've been teaching Adobe Photoshop Elements (PSE) in the evenings for an adult continuing education department in the next town over.  For the first couple years I'd try to teach the group all sorts of neat tips and tricks that would make their images sing.  More and more it became apparent that 1) the "tricks" were beyond the "students" level of knowledge and 2) they were more interested in cropping, sharpening and auto retouching their images.  Not doing tricks with them.  There were the occasional "interesting" problems that a person would ask about.  One was a woman who's only purpose in taking the class was restoring images that had a blown out center.  She's an artist and would have the problem when shooting her paintings and sculptures.   I finally asked if I could go to her studio and look at the problem firsthand.  I asked her to shoot one of her paintings.  She put the painting on an easel, her camera on a tripod with the lens perpendicular to the painting.  So far so good.  She hit the shutter, the flash popped up and flashed the shot.  She asked me to look at the screen on the back of the camera and said "see, this is exactly what I get".  I explained that she didn't have a "photoshop" problem.  I told he to put the camera on Program rather than Auto and the problem would go away.  The whole trick was to keep the flash from popping up and giving her a big light splash in the middle of her paintings.  It wasn't silly things like that that made me decide to end teaching PSE.  To find out what drove me to stop, hit the "Read More".

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Friday, January 4, 2013

Ya Wanna Make A Buck Using Photoshop?

Today's image is a combination of a couple different "styles" that are somewhat popular in a few Photoshop (Adobe Photoshop CS6) circles.  The OOB (Out of Box) type of thing is one, where pieces of the subject extend beyond the edges of a pseudo frame.  Another is using an ordinary image to create a far out of focus background.  The third is using lightning bolts and paint splatters  to add excitement and go a little "artistic" to make a saleable image.  Shoot a few of these at a motocross event, play with them, bring samples to the next event and the riders will be falling all over themselves throwing money at you for prints.  If you decide to try something like making sales at an event, look into using a Square or Payanywhere device for you smart phone.  One idea would be to take a minimal payment for doing the work (say $25.00) and providing an online ordering mechanism.  SmugMug  or a similar service would be the way to control the final order fulfillment process.  One of the big caveats I'd suggest would be switching up the background for each rider based on the colors of the bike or riders suit.  These guys are a pretty close knit group and could end up at each other's homes.  It might be a little awkward to have the same basic image up on the wall, all framed up nice and just the riders switched out.  Seems a little lazy if you ask me.  For a few more thoughts on making this type of thing a sideline business, hit the "Read More"
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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Playing With Photoshop Blend Modes

Today's image is just a little play time thing.  I'd already done a B&W conversion of the original and thought that did fairly well.  Nice black skies and lots of detail in the clouds.  Almost a infrared type of thing there.  It looked "good ", but really lacked something to make it "interesting".  The whole thing had been shot bracketed, hand held, going for an exposure rather than anything for HDR.  The brackets were set to 1/3 stops with a starting point of -1/3 EV.  It was a five shot bracket, so I had -1, -2/3, -1/3 0, and +1/3 to choose from.  The B&W conversion came out of the zero shot, so that was 1/3 stop high for my "normal" shooting.  The color comes from a more typical -1/3 spot shot.  To find out what I did to it and why I like it, hit the "Read More".
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