Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lauren #4

Another shot from the trash the dress photo shoot with Lauren. I can't remember exactly if the strong backlight here was natural or with a flash. I think probably a combination of both, so I went with it and made the skin tones a little more high key. What is it about a portrait subject looking off camera that makes it a more intriguing image? Especially here in a wedding dress. Anticipation? Nervousness? Somehow this photo appeals to me, but can't seem to figure out if it's the pose or the contrast between the soft subject and the rough background.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Lauren #3

Back to the Lauren bridal shoot for this one. In this alley in Galveston, there was a doorway about 5 or 6 feet off the ground. Weird, I know. Galveston never ceases to amaze you with its quirkiness. I guess it's part of the charm ... or local flavor as they say. Anyway, this doorway to nowhere was on a cream-colored wall and was just too good to pass up. Luckily Shirley brought a ladder so we were able to get Lauren up there. A flash in a softbox was firing from across the alley -- about 15 feet away; and while most people shot, I decided to change lenses to the 70-200. So from my position farther away and down the alley after changing lenses, I decided to shoot some really shallow depth of field shots. I asked Lauren to lean out, and I shot away at f/2.8. The vintage texture was added and masked into the shot in Photoshop. The three protrusions from the wall on the left are part of windows in the building, not part of the texture. Cindi has a good shot of the scene here on her blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bonaventure Cemetery

This photo was taken in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. I was heading to Tybee Island that afternoon and didn't have a lot of time to spend there, but there were some amazing trees, headstones and Spanish Moss there. This one was shot as I walked from one section of the cemetery to another. I added the sepia tone and vignetting with Nik Silver Efex and did a little touch up work on the road down the center. But even after the touch ups, there are a fair amount of shadows and high contrast areas along the path. I'd be interested in getting comments about that -- would it be worth the time to "clean up" the path? Nikon D200 at 85mm 1/100 sec at f/6.3.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Lauren #2

Here's another shot taken last weekend at our Trash the Dress photo shoot with Lauren. It's funny shooting wedding portraits in nontraditional styles and poses. At times it throws you a little -- like it breaks all the rules of formal portrait photography, but after shooting a while you start to see the appeal. This is Lauren in an alley on the Strand in Galveston, posed against the great red door we found. Like I said, it's a little disorienting at first -- color break across her head, nontraditional pose, pink Chuck Taylors, grass and bricks at the bottom. I decided to add to the texture here by adding a color shift layer done with OnOne PhotoTools, another texture layer to further add to the overall grunge, then a photo edge in overlay blending mode. I've been working with edges for a while now, and this one was a little different. I tried to work the image into the edge a little more -- first by putting the edge in overlay blending mode and second by masking selected parts so the tones of the photo would interact a little more with the black frame. Nontraditional postprocessing for a nontraditional image.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jekyll Island Shore

Here's another from Jekyll Island. This was taken before the dune shot I posted yesterday. I thought it was interesting how the reflected sunrise played with the moving water in the surf. Shot on a tripod - f/11 at 1 second.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jekyll Island Dune

This photo was taken last Saturday on Jekyll Island, Georgia. After shooting the sunrise for about 30 minutes, I turned around and took some shots of the dunes and clouds in the western sky. This is a 5-frame series merged together with Photomatix Pro. It had an odd pink color cast to it so I used Nik Silver Efex to do a black and white conversion, and I think it helped this shot alot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Forsyth Park Fountain

Sorry Lauren fans out there, back to Savannah for this shot -- taken last week in Forsyth Park. I was trying to get a little added motion in the water, so shot it at 1/100 of a sec. Went back at night and tried some really long exposures the next day and the white balance was really difficult to deal with all the light sources in and around the park. This was taken on a very cloudy day. Nice that there were no hard shadows, but since it was fall, lots of long-hanging branches -- enough so you can't see the top of the fountain. Cropped panoramic, cloned out a few distracting elements, added a Silver Efex layer in luminosity blending mode to add a little contrast and pop, also added a slight gold glow to the three lamps.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Lauren #1

Bet you thought the next photo would be from Georgia, Louisiana or maybe the airshow. Lots of images to postprocess in the coming days and weeks, so the posts are gonna be kind of shotgun style for a while. I plan on working on things as I get inspired. This photo was part of a really great series that Cindi, Mike, Shirley and I did Sunday afternoon in Galveston. It was taken in one of the many great alleys down there. This was a "trash the dress" photo session with our terrific and patient model Lauren. We were trying to put some things into practice that we learned at the McNally workshop last weekend. Not the sharpest image I've ever shot, but I think a little softness isn't necessarily a bad thing in this kind of moody image. Nikon D200 with the 70-200 VR lens at 140mm, 1/100 sec at f 2.8, off camera flash from slightly below with a softbox and from behind with the latest craze in light modifiers -- the $1.99 plastic juice jug light sphere. McNally said about some of his models two weeks ago, you could shine a car headlight at them and get great results. Well, Lauren has such great, luminous skin tones I can now add that you can shoot light through a $1.99 plastic juice jug and get great results too.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Emergency Exit View

This was my view from the emergency exit on the flight from Birmingham to Houston yesterday as Kim and I returned from our trip to Savannah and Jekyll Island, Georgia. What a great flight -- beautiful sunset, lots of leg room, and no screaming kids. It doesn't get much better. More photos to follow from the trip...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Captain Barry King

Since I do a little freelance work for the Galveston Historical Foundation, I often get to go sailing on the Tall Ship Elissa, a restored 1877 iron barque that the foundation purchased in 1975 and runs as a floating museum. It's manned by a volunteer crew throughout the year, but in the spring captains from New England come down to take Elissa on day sails out into the Gulf of Mexico. Above is Captain Barry King from Maine. He's been an officer on the Elissa each spring that I've been sailing on her, but seeing him every year causes a little uneasiness on my part. You see, in 1987 when I was fresh out of college I began working at the University of Texas Medical Branch. And a photographer who worked there named Roger Stone, just happened to be in the office across the hall from me. And while I proofread typeset galleys and set about learning graphics on a Mac Plus, Roger became a friend -- someone I looked up to and would talk to about finding my way in the field of graphics and photography. He was by far one of the most easygoing and giving people you'd ever want to meet. On top of that, he was a sailor and a great photographer. He did fantastic infrared work in the time when it didn't mean just screwing on a filter or moving some sliders in Photoshop. He did it with film.
Tragically, Roger was killed in a sailing accident about a year and a half ago helping to save other sailors from Texas A&M University while on a regatta in the Gulf of Mexico. Here's a link to the story. You'll also see a photo of Roger there. And I think you'll also see why I feel so uneasy when I see Barry King. The two share an uncanny resemblance -- both in looks and through their love of sailing.
So when I'm out on the Elissa with Captain Barry King I think of my friend Roger Stone. Whether it's rough seas or no wind at all, the Elissa heads out for sea trials every spring -- ensuring she's seaworthy and making sure she's strong enough to endure the inevitable onslaught of nature. Because as we stare at the horizon we'll never know what terrible ... or sad ... or teriffic things lie ahead.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Modeling Fee was Reasonable

This weekend, I attended legendary photographer Joe McNally's lighting workshop in Houston along with a group of other photographers from the Bay Area Photo Club. I never expected to be in front of the camera, but I was plucked from the audience with the two other big guys in the background for the photo above. We were supposed to provide a foil to the two pretty young women in front who modeled for Joe during the two-day event. Our job was to act big, burly, and mean (bodyguard like). Anyway, kind of a fun 15 minutes. Thought I'd post a photo that Joe's assistant Drew Gurian was nice enough to give me on a jump drive. So judge for yourself, do I give up my day job for a career in modeling? Being big and intimidating is not as easy as it looks, I tell ya. Now if only Joe knew how to use light properly he would have thrown that deep Octa on me, and maybe......

Friday, November 6, 2009


Another shot from the air show -- a Marine Corp Harrier demonstrating its vertical landing and take-off abilities. Shooting data: aperture priority, f/7.1, 1/500 sec at 300mm.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

My Take on the Re-enactment

Here's another photo from Sunday's air show. Every year, they do a battle re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor complete with pyrotechnics and soldiers on the ground. They said the Japanese Zeros were replicas created for the movie "Pearl Harbor." In years past I've always seemed to catch a couple of planes flying through smoke and flames, which makes for a pretty dynamic shot. But this year, when my focusing was at its best, I didn't get that great smoke-filled shot. So I decided to add my own vintage mood to this photo with a couple of layers of clouds and textures. To start with I desaturated my raw file pretty significantly, then added a Nik Color Efex paper toner layer in overlay blending mode to add some contrast and desaturate the image even further. Then I added a couple of film emulsion layers, one in multiply blend mode at 38%, the other in color burn blend mode at 15%. Then the clouds and vintage texture layers came in to further tint and age the image, each masked and applied selectively. Original exposure data was: shutter priority, 1/500 sec, f/9, +0.3 EV, panning with the 300 f/4 lens. After a couple of years of shooting at the air show, I've learned that 1/500 sec shutter speeds will usually give you just a bit of blur in the propeller.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A More Perfect Day

No one can complain about the great weather we've been having lately, especially for the air show this past weekend. I guess my only wish would have been for a few clouds in the sky...and with the help of Photoshop here they are. This is a photo of an F15E Strike Eagle taken at Wings Over Houston on Sunday. The original shot was against a flat blue background, and honestly it gets pretty boring looking at a couple hundred flat blue sky airplane photos, so I decided to enhance this one. I used the quick select tool to make a selection of the blue sky (which was very easy since it was such a consistent blue tone), selected inverse to get a selection of the plane, then moved that to a layer by itself. I then created a layer below the isolated plane and used some great brushes from Stephanie Shimerdla over at Obsidian Dawn to underlay some big white fluffy clouds.
Now, this brings up the issue of ethics and photo retouching. Since this isn't photojournalism, I don't feel particulary guilty of anything here. In fact, dropping in a new sky or altering a sky is probably one of the easiest things to do to a photo. I've heard Scott Kelby over at NAPP say he never makes significant alterations to a sky. However, all the while he's doing HDR and using blending modes to enhance images; so I think he is re-shaping reality to some degree. His stance on skies has always puzzled me. I guess it comes down to trust. Does the knowledge that I added a few clouds cause more doubt in the viewer's mind? Were the vapor trails really there? Was this photo taken at Wings Over Houston? Did I take the photo?
Once you start down the path of alteration, does it effect credibility of the photographer? It's a tough line we walk, but one that happens every day as we push pixels around on our computer screens. Like it or not, this is the world of contemporary digital photography.

Blue Angels #2

Here's another photo from Sunday's Blue Angels show at Wings Over Houston. In this one, the #1 and #4 planes are inverted. I was shooting bursts, and got lucky to get this one with a decent composition at almost a perfect right angle as they passed. The only Photoshop work was a little cropping from the top and bottom and a mild amount of sharpening masked just to the planes.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Blue Angels

The weather was perfect for the 25th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show this weekend. Crowds were huge partly because of the weather and also because the Navy flying team the Blue Angels were performing. It's been a while since they've flown at the air show. I've been tweaking my focus modes on my camera lately, really trying to learn what's best for a given situation. Today it was dynamic area focus with closest subject priority, and that really seemed to work well. My percent of keepers (as far as focus) was as high as it's been in recent air show memory. The image above was shot at 1/1000 sec, shutter priority, f/5 with my 300 f/4 lens; I just did a little cropping and sharpening in Photoshop. That 300 f/4 really is a perfect lens for air shows -- sharp, responsive, and light weight.