Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Dickens of a Dilemma - The Liquify Tool

So, if you read this blog or know me, you probably have heard or see by my recent posts that I'm trying to do more portraits and people photos. While pelicans in flight are still near and dear to my heart, it's time to branch out into the world of lighting and models. With that comes the pretty ominous task of facial retouching and postprocessing, or more specifically how much is acceptable? I posted the photo above left about two weeks ago --- a perfectly lovely young girl who Larry and I photographed at Dickens on the Strand. The photo on the right? Well, there's this tool in Photoshop called the Liquify tool, and it's not one that I use too often on pelicans. Literally, with a couple of clicks of the mouse you can take 15 pounds off the subject. Now, I ask: is it practical for the portrait photographer to do this to every shot? Would it increase your business if you were making a living from this or would it just increase your workload with no real payback? Would subjects be so thrilled, would you get more business? Anyway, I'd love to hear your opinions about this dilemma, and if you're a portrait photographer how you handle this. Please click to see the full size version, and feel free to comment...

Friday, December 26, 2008

In the Street at Dickens on the Strand

Here's another photo from Dickens on the Strand - a policeman who was in the middle of the street on a stand, high above the crowd. The old building facade behind him made for a nice background (shot at f/2.8). When you really study the scene you realize how good digital cameras are these days - white beard, black hat and coat, very dark glasses --- in full sun with a mixture of neutrals and colors in the background. If that's not a lot to throw at in-camera metering I don't know what is --- all at f/2.8. The only thing done was to add a little fill light in Camera Raw to bring out the shadows under the brim of his hat.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

In the Alley at Dickens on the Strand

Here's another photo from Dickens on the Strand in Galveston - probably my favorite of the day. This gentleman was sitting on the curb eating his lunch when Larry and I pounced on him, right after we had shot the girl in the pink hat that I posted a few days ago. That alley made for some great backgrounds, and he was so cooperative letting us take a few photos. Again, the same light setup was used, a Nikon SB800 off to the right shot through a soft box. I thought this almost looked like the light was snooted, but probably is because of his dark clothes and hat and the relative ambient dark alley behind him. Black and white conversion was done with Nik Silver Efex Pro with a selenium tint. Click to see the larger version -- it's worth it. I'm also posting the color version below. I'd be interested to hear which you like better in the comments.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dickens on the Strand

Above is another photo from Dickens on the Strand, now almost two weeks ago. Setup was identical to the previous post - a single SB800 flash shot through a small softbox. This woman was nice enough to forward a photo taken by her husband of Larry and me in the act (below). I told Larry, "we almost look like we know what we're doing."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dickens on the Strand

This photo was taken at Dickens on the Strand a week ago Saturday in Galveston. This is an annual festival on the island celebrating Victorian London and ringing in the Christmas season here in the Houston-Galveston area. My shooting partner, Larry Patrick, and I were using the same flash setup we used at the Renaissance Festival about a month ealier - a single Nikon SB800 flash shot through a small softbox triggered wirelessly with Alien Bees remotes. He'd shoot, and I'd run the flash; and then we'd switch off. This one young lady was heading quickly down the alley when we stopped her and asked to take her photo. I'm pretty sure she didn't know what to think of the two of us when we first approached her, but I think she liked the results. Anyway, it's truly amazing that so many people are willing to stop and spend a few minutes letting you take their photo. It's a great learning experience for aspiring portrait photographers - setting up a light and quickly composing a shot in a very short amount of time.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

abstraction #5

This abstraction involved moving the camera diagonally while photographing a shoreline of reeds at Armand Bayou.

Monday, December 8, 2008

abstraction #4

This photo was taken along Armand Bayou, and the effect was achieved by rocking the camera vertically during the exposure. Color tweaks and vignetting were added in Photoshop.

Friday, December 5, 2008

abstraction #3

Camera movement? Wild Photoshop filter? No, just the clouds over Galveston this morning ... and you can take take whatever way you like.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

abstraction #2

This photo was taken walking down the street in front of the Tremont House in Galveston, Texas. If you look closely, you can see the blurry emblem of the hotel in gold along the right side - not that you could ever decipher it if I hadn't told you because of the blur. This photo was shot at 1/8 of a second as I walked. I do that sometimes, put the camera in shutter priority at 1/20 of a second or below and take photos as I walk, most times without even looking through the viewfinder. It's surprising what you get, sort of like throwing paint on a canvas - sometimes you cringe and other times you say to yourself, "that's kind of cool." It's something you never could have captured without loosening your grip on what your mind tells you is a good photograph.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

intentional abstractions

Over the next couple of days I'm going to be posting a series of abstract photos - abstract because they are blurred intentionally to create a wash of color or texture. Whether done in camera with movement or with special lenses or attachments, they will hopefully challenge our expectations of what a pleasing photo should be in the classic sense. Sharpness will become blur, shape will become texture, and colors will become hyper-real. This is something I want to pursue more in 2009. Craig Tanner calls it "the power of play" - using the camera, unorthodox techniques, and not playing by the rules to open up the possibilty of creating something nontraditionally beautiful. In the photo above, I moved the camera in a circular motion as the shutter went off. It's a simple fall bouquet of flowers. No special Photoshop filters were involved - just opening your mind to the concept of "what if?"