Saturday, December 28, 2013

#502 -- Brown Pelican

I had to make a quick trip to Galveston a few weeks ago on a weekend and spent a little time shooting birds along the ship channel. Pelicans in flight seem to be what I gravitate to when I'm doing these kinds of things. 1/1000 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200, 300mm.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

#501 -- Sabrina at Sunset

As most portrait photo shoots go in the late afternoon, I usually look for a nice ambient/flash mix at sunset. During the shoot with Sabrina, it was mostly cloudy. The sun would come out for a few minutes here and there, and I'd try to make the most of it. So as it got close to 5:00 pm I honestly didn't hold much hope of any kind of sunset color. It was pretty overcast and gray. She decided to change into her Clear Springs Silverados uniform, and I changed to a zoom lens and put a half cut CTO gel on my flash -- thinking we'd see what came our way. To my surprise, some really nice light and color came through at sunset. The photo above was taken on the boat launch at Bay Area Park in the last moments of what was a very dramatic sky at sunset. Goes to show you to never write off a sunset. 1/60 sec at f/4.8, ISO200, 62mm, light from an SB800 with 1/2 cut CTO gel in a Westcott Rapid Box with deflector plate from camera right.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


In October 2008 I started this blog with a photo of a hummingbird taken in my back yard in the post-Ike days. Now, five years later -- here's image #500. Lots of things have happened since then. Have slowly made the transition into portraits during that time and have finally, I think, got a good handle on the technical -- lighting, exposure, gear and general technique. Still working on gesture and creating light that has both a purpose and a voice all to itself -- those elusive things that somehow separate a good image from something that transcends. With all the great tools available to photographers and training out there on the web, it's hard not to absorb and put these things into useful practice. Working with fellow photographers in the area, and watching and learning from the greats in the industry like Joe McNally and David Hobby, who so generously share thier knowledge and technique via their blogs have undoubtedly helped many a photographer out there, me included. Anyway, the photo above was taken Sunday at Bay Area Park. This is Sabrina, daughter of our good friends Pep and Patricia who we've known for 20+ years. She's a senior at Clear Springs -- so senior photos were a must. Two things I've been doing lately, and I think both have been working pretty well ... instead of shooting my 85mm lens at shallow depth of fields for subject isolation and nice out-of-focus backgrounds, I've been using my 28-300 lens (that I got more for a travel lens) and shooting it at the long end -- often from 150-300mm for portraits. I've found that even at f/5.6 and f/6.3 the background is still nice and soft and has a nice bokeh, and the f/5.6 gives you a fighting chance at getting a sharp eye. Also been using the Westcott 26" Rapid Box Octa since August and love the light it produces. Probably the most versatile and prettiest light from a speedlight I've seen. I use it with the deflector plate in; and the wrapping of the light is truly stunning. I'll post more from this shoot soon that really show this. But the Rapid Box has become my go-to light modifier, replacing the wonderful Lastolight EXY box. Specs for the image above: 1/60 sec at f/6.3, 150mm, ISO 200, light from an SB800 in the Rapid Box from camera right. Split tone conversion done with Nik Silver Efex 2.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lake Crescent Lodge

Today I was looking through some old files from our trip to Washington state and came across this photo of Lake Crescent Lodge. I remember it was a cold clear sunset, and I was shooting it across the lake, and I turned around and saw this pretty light on the lodge, so I took a few photos -- three bracketed photos merged here with Nik HDR Efex 2.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Analog Efex

The photo above of Emili was taken back in early August at Butler Longhorn Museum. If you're a Photoshop user and a Nik plug-in user, you might want to take a look at a new addition to the Google Nik Collection called Analog Efex, which emulates old camera and film styles. I experimented with it on this image. It added the lens flare, haze, color tone and film edge. Camera settings were: 1/125 sec at f/2.8, ISO200, 85mm.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cate #2

Another photo of Cate -- this one taken inside The Vanishing Point Bar on the Strand. Light from a Nikon SB900 in a 26" Westcott Rapid Box Octa with deflector plate. 1/160 sec at f/4, ISO200, 85mm.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cate #1

After our meeting with Cate at the photo walk in October, we decided to do a full fledged photo shoot several weeks later. This photo was taken in the alley between 24th and 25th Streets between Strand and Mechanic in Galveston. My shooting partner that night was Doug Haass. Light from a Nikon SB900 in a Westcott octa, 1/60 sec at f/4, ISO100, 85mm.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

One Simple Adjustment

Amazing what one simple adjustment makes. The only thing I did to this image from the previous post was to do a simple conversion to black and white with Nik Silver Efex. No other things were changed or removed in the background. No more purple and gold, people become more abstract shapes, and the viewer's eye, I think, is focused more on the players.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

O'Connell Bucs vs. Cypress Christian Warriors

Here's another photo from the O'Connell-Cypress Christian game on Saturday. The Buccanneer quarterback is applying a pretty mean stiff arm here. The background may eventually get worked on in Photoshop since it's made up of Galveston Ball High colors and people walking on the track. 1/1000 sec at f/4, ISO200, 400mm.

Monday, November 11, 2013

O'Connell Bucs vs. Cypress Christian Warriors

I've had the opportunity to take photos at a couple of Galveston O'Connell Prep School's football games over the past couple of years. I shot their game against Cypress Christian on Saturday at Kermit Courville Stadium in Galveston -- under a beautiful sunny sky. Took this shot of Cypress running back Conner Orrick heading around the right side early in the game. 1/1000 sec at f/4, ISO 200, -0.3 EV, 270mm.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Galveston Photo Walk #5

Great white egret, taken during the Galveston Photo walk last month near the Ocean Star Drilling Rig and Museum. 1/1250 sec at f/5.6, 300mm.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Galveston Photo Walk #4

Here's another photo from the Galveston photo walk earlier this month. This one's cropped a little wider than I'd normally like, but above this egret was the gangplank to the drilling rig museum, so its shadow made for a nice natural vignette on the bottom. 1/4000 sec at f/3.5, 200mm, ISO200, -1EV.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Four Cranes

I was taking some photos at an event last week for Breast Cancer Awareness month in the Caduceus Room in the Administration Building at UTMB. Before it started I took this photo of the progress of the new hospital scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Galveston Photo Walk #3

Here's another photo from the Galveston Photo Walk. This one was taken along Postoffice Street near 23rd Street, towards the end of our walk. We happen to meet a young woman named Cate who had this great hat, so we asked to photograph her. The background here was pretty awful -- benches, umbrellas, etc. So I simplified it with some cloning and patching in Photoshop, then used Nik Color Efex to add some contrast and glamour glow. We weren't really equipped for portraits, so used my pop-up flash for some fill. I've done this a few times before, and besides the catchlight being dead center in the pupil, it's really not as bad a quality of light as you'd think. I think the compression with a long focal length helps negate the on-camera flash, almost makes it ring-flash like. 1/60 sec at f/9, 105mm, ISO200.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Galveston Photo Walk #2

Here's another photo from the Galveston Photo Walk last Saturday. I'm always a sucker for fire escapes. I tried to play up the complementary colors here -- blue and orange. By the way, there's a web site devoted to color theory and complementary colors called Color Scheme Designer. It's pretty good. I saw it recently over on Phlearn. Specs for the photo above: 92mm at f/8, ISO200.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Galveston Photo Walk #1

Saturday was Scott Kelby's Annual World Wide Photo Walk. Our photo club decided to participate this year with a walk down the Strand in Galveston. I got there a little early to test a lens that I've been having some focusing issues with. Took this photo of a landing pelican near 19th and Harborside. 1/1000 sec at f/5, ISO 200, 200mm.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Summer Portrait #5

Another portrait done over the summer -- this one of Emili at Butler Longhorn Museum. More experiments with shallow depth of field, color toning and texture. 1/2000 sec at f/2.2, 85mm, light from a Nikon SB800 in a Westcott Rapid Box from camera right, in high speed sync mode.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Slotted Spoon

For some time now I've been thinking of a new photographic series. I take these on every now and then -- sometimes they work out, most often not. I tend to try and learn something along the way ... pick a concept, figure out a unique approach to it, then take a weakness of mine and apply it in the mix. This time it's selective lighting -- something I really want to learn more about and experiment with. My floral macro series was all about large volumes of light and shape and form. This one will be about selective light, colored light, still abstracting though. The photo above is a common kitchen slotted spoon -- blue gelled light from below shooting through the slots, a piece of foam core above reflecting the light passing through back down on the stainless steel. Final specs were: 1/180 sec at f/22, ISO 200, 85mm. Not sure how this project will turn out, but on a rainy day it's been a fun exercise. More to come.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Macro Flowers

I've been shooting images similar to the one above for several years now. As a graphics person, these types of images appeal to me -- getting in close, abstracting color and form, soft focus. The photographer who really got me into this type of work is Mark Johnson and his book Botanical Dreaming. Mark is from Boulder, Colorado, and if you watch the news you know what's going on in Boulder. I share with you now an excerpt from his email to followers of his blog. I think many of us can relate.

Hello my friends, 
In the wake of the major floods here in Northern Colorado, many of you have sent notes asking how my family is doing. Thank you. Like so many others, we’re bailing out from multiple levels of water and sewer damage right now, but given the extent of the disaster, we feel very fortunate to be alive. My heart goes out to those who have lost more than their homes and possessions. 
Although I will do my best to continue producing the Photoshop Workbench and corresponding in the coming weeks/months, it’s hard to know what lies ahead. I appreciate your patience while I regroup. If you would like to offer assistance, what would help most at this time is having you stop by my Store to make a purchase. To provide assistance to others in desperate need in Colorado, please consider donating to the Red Cross. 
I truly appreciate your concern, patience, and prayers!  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Schuenke Family Portrait -- Original

Doug asked about seeing the original of the family portrait I posted last week, and here it is. As you can see, elminiating light from the capture really helped with the oxidized areas in the shadows. In postprocessing I retouched out all flaws and scratches and darkened down the areas that had the grey-ish colors in the shadows. Considering the age of the photo, I thought the overall quality of the image was very good. This is a large print, probably 11x14, mounted on some sort of dark grey board. Finals of the reproduction shot were: 1 sec, f/11, 85mm, with a tripod.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Schuenke Family Portrait

Disclaimer: I did not take the photo above.
But I've seen it my entire life. When I was a little boy it hung in my grandmother's house in Wisconsin. As a young man it hung in my mother's house in Galveston. I would guess the photo was taken between 1900 and 1910. And seeing as it's been through some rough times, I figured it would be a good idea to get it out of its frame and digitize it to preserve this Schuenke family portrait. I love looking at old photos. And this one is particularly interesting -- not too many smiles 100+ years ago. They are a pretty stoic bunch. My first thought was to put it on a flatbed scanner and make a really good high res scan. But the silver oxidation was bad enough that the light from the scanner created massive problems -- a retouching nightmare. My next idea was to photograph the print with a digital camera using a tripod in a dimly lit room -- no lights, no reflections. And that seemed to work pretty well. There were still some reflections and some silver residue here and there, but not nearly as bad as a traditional scan ... and pretty easy to clean up with Photoshop. Thought I'd share this on my blog. Interesting to see how photography and especially portrait photography has changed in the last 100 years.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Armand Bayou Abstract #3 -- Free Download

Here's another abstract from Armand Bayou last weekend -- out of focus water, creating a bokeh pattern in the reflections. I've posted this as a high resolution jpg. Please feel free to download and use it in your Photoshop work -- and please post a link back in the comments. I'd love to see how it's used.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Armand Bayou Abstract #2 -- Free Download

Here's another abstract from Armand Bayou last weekend -- out of focus reeds and water, creating a nice soft bokeh. I've posted this as a high resolution jpg. Please feel free to download and use it in your Photoshop work -- and please post a link back in the comments. I'd love to see how it's used.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Armand Bayou Abstract #1

I was out at Armand Bayou on Saturday testing out a lens. And just like any time when you want to test focus and sharpness, there was no wildlife within 80 yards. That's always the way. The tide was high and the sun was bright, so my focus tests ended up being wildflowers in the reeds. And when I get bored with that I start doing unusual stuff with my lens. Here I rocked it up and down while on a tripod during the exposure. 1/13 sec at f/32, 400mm, ISO200.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Summer Portrait #4

The photo above was taken earlier this month at Butler Longhorn Museum. This is Jen Watts, one of our models for the morning. Technically, this photo is a bit of a departure from my usual portrait style. Normally I shoot in full manual mode with a radio trigger, which limits my shutter speed to 1/250 sec. When I took this I was shooting with Norma DeLaGarza, a fellow Nikon shooter, and as we shot and the light became more intense I thought it would be interesting to try Nikon's CLS high speed sync -- using our pop-up flashes to trigger the flash. Specs of this portrait were: 1/1250 sec at f/1.8, ISO100, 85mm, off-camera light from a Nikon SB900 in a Westcott Rapid Box Octa -- about 1/8 power from camera right, on-camera pop-up flash zeroed out in the exposure -- just used as a triggering mechanism.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sol Duc Falls #3

The photo above was taken in April in Olympic National Park at the lower section of Sol Duc Falls. There are times and shots as a photographer that become very memorable, and this set of shots fall into that category. It seems like the elements often play into these memories, and I guess it's part of the photographer's job to try and tell those stories, or try to impart to the viewer what it felt like when the photo was made.
It was sunny and cold when we reached the trailhead to the falls, so we headed out on about a mile-long hike to the falls. The farther we got along the trail, it began to rain, so the snow along the trail became slush. We made it to the upper falls, and it was a vantage point where you actually stood above the falls, so with the heavy rain and spray from below I decided the best shot was a spot I saw along the hike -- in the lower section. There's a small bridge across the falls that you see here, so in a pretty heavy rain and about 36 degrees I pulled out my camera and took about 40-50 shots. The one you see here is from alongside the falls -- probably the best angle. Since I was limited in so many ways (rain, cold, slippery rocks, raincover on the camera, raincover on me) I didn't attempt the vari ND filter, so I went ISO100, f/22 and my shutter speeds ended up around 2-3 seconds, which created a pretty nice blur on the water.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Summer Portrait #3

This photo of Roxann was taken earlier this summer at Clear Lake Park. I've been experimenting recently with the Skyland Texture set from Paintcandy, so I blended in a sky from the package. 1/160 sec at f/4, 85mm, light from a Nikon SB800 in a Cowboy Studio beauty dish from camera left.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Open Gates

I was at Open Gates last Friday taking a group photo of attendees at a retreat. Open Gates is located on 25th Street and Broadway in Galveston. It's been operated by UTMB for many years as a conference center, but has been closed since Hurricane Ike in 2008. It recently reopened, and was on the Historical Foundation's Homes Tour in May. While I was waiting for my group, I took the photo above -- three handheld bracketed photos merged together with Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, 2000 ISO, no tripod ... just experimenting with light levels. My group ultimately became 68 people, so I wisely moved into a much lighter room on the exterior of the building for the photo. But for a while I was considering this location. But with the dark walls, hanging pendant lamps, and 68 people I just didn't want to attempt it.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Portrait #2

Another photo of Carli taken at the photo club workshop. We used an off-camera flash behind her as an accent light. I augmented it a little in postproduction with some warmth and lens flare. 1/60 sec at f/3.5, light from a Nikon SB800 in a Westcott Rapid Box Octa at about 1/16 power.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Portrait #1

The Bay Area Photo Club had a portrait workshop last week, and I had the pleasure of shooting Carli, pictured above in the courtyard of Butler Longhorn Museum. 1/200 sec at f/2.2, ISO200, 85mm; light from a Nikon SB800 in a Lastolite 26" Rapid Box Octa at 1/32 power.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Killen's BBQ

A few weeks ago, over the Fourth of July holiday, we had friends over to celebrate a birthday, so we got some barbecue from Killen's BBQ Pop-up in Pearland. He sells plates and meat by the pound from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm or until he runs out. All this on the property where he's renovating a building that will become a permanent restaurant. Worth the trip and and the long lines. I took this photo at home with our homemade sides. As you can see, the Fred Flintstone-like beef rib was bigger than the plate. 1/250 sec at f/1.4, ISO1600.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Brazos Bend State Park

Several weeks ago I went to Brazos Bend State Park with a group of photographers from the Bay Area Photo Club. It was the first time I photographed alligators in the wild. Interesting experience. 1/800 sec at f/5.6, ISO200, 300mm.

Sunday, July 7, 2013


I'm still shooting my macro flower series when the inspiration comes up. This one was shot for the Bay Area Photo Club's high key assignment a couple of weeks ago. The usual set up -- two umbrellas with speedlights, 36mm extension tube with a 50mm lens, manual exposure and focus. The EXIF data said this was shot at f/2, but with the extension tubes that was more likely around f/1. So shallow that I actually had to pull parts of the stamens from other frames and composite them together so they would all be sharp. That sounds complicated but with such a soft background really isn't that hard to do.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Jekyll Island Revisited

I was looking through some old files earlier today and came across some shots from Jekyll Island more than a year old, so I processed a few. This is an HDR at Driftwood Beach. I spent a little time retouching some spots in the sky -- not sure if they were all dust spots or if some were the swarming noseeums that still stick in my mind to this day. Three exposures shot on a tripod merged together with Nik HDR Efex 2. Base exposure was at f/14 and 36mm.

Monday, June 24, 2013

EMP Museum Abstract #2

This is the second in a series of abstracts of the EMP Museum that I shot while in Seattle in April. The squiggles on the far left are the reflection of the Space Needle in the building's unique metallic tiles. Three handheld frames merged together with Nik HDR Efex 2.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ruby Beach Sea Stack

This photo was taken at Ruby Beach along the coast of Olympic National Park in April. It was the first night we arrived on the coast, and I was determined to shoot a sunset ... in the rain ... and fog. So this was my sunset. Still experimenting with neutral density, so I put on the filter and played with long exposures. This image is actually made up of 3 frames merged with Nik HDR Efex. The middle exposure was 13 seconds, which smoothed out the water and clouds, and somehow through software magic aligned things.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Seattle Space Needle

This photo was taken back in April on our trip to Seattle. Like most days we were there, it was cool and overcast. As we walked through the park near the Space Needle, I looked up and thought this was an interesting take on the landmark -- through the barren trees.

Friday, June 7, 2013


The photo above was taken earlier this spring at the beach during an engagement shoot with Shannon and Rene. Yes, at the beach. I shot it at f/2, so the water was just about nonexistent in the background in the original file, just a hint of blue. Me being me, I shifted the colors pretty heavily -- a few color grading layers, some blur/flare overlays and some bokeh texture blended in. I entered it in the Bay Area Photo Club's June assignment for "Connection." 1/4000 sec at f/2, ISO 200, 85mm, no flash, all ambient light.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Roxann #2

More experiments with color grading, back light and flare in postproduction. Lighting at the scene was from an SB800 in a 16" Cowboy Studio beauty dish from high camera right at about 1/4 power. 1/250 sec at f/4, 85mm, ISO 100.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Roxann #1

I got together with some members of the Bay Area Photo Club last weekend and did some portraits of Roxann Hales at Clear Lake Park. The photo above was taken near the church with some moderate backlight. One thing I've been experimenting with lately is color grading with curves adjustments to individual color channels. I think it helped this photo a lot. I also stumbled on a web site called Paintcandy Photography Art Tools, and used one of their freebie lens flare overlays here. Definitely added a lot of drama to the existing backlighting.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Ruby Beach

Another photo from Ruby Beach on the Washington coast. I've been comparing Nik HDR Efex and Photomatix for exposure blending. This one's with Photomatix -- 3 exposures blended, then enhanced with Nik Color Efex.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sol Duc Waterfall

The photo above was taken on my hike up to Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park last month. Interesting trip -- snow, rain, and water everywhere. After stopping briefly at the main falls at the top of the trail, where it was raining heavily and there was spray everywhere, I decided to move further down the trail and shoot at this smaller stream falls. This was taken from a bridge with the falls running underneath. It was still raining pretty heavily here. You can see the wet rocks along the side, and snow in the upper corners. 0.6 sec at f/22, -0.7 EV, 22mm.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Snowy Egret in the Wild

The Bay Area Photo Club made a field trip to Brazos Bend State Park on May 4. This was my first trip there. The photo above, while probably not a thing of beauty, is a pretty interesting study on how snowy egrets feed. The bird would fly from one edge of the marsh to the other -- probably 4-5 feet -- and hover slightly and drop into the water trying to get a meal. Interesting behavior, something you don't see much in a more coastal environment. 1/1600 sec at f/6.3, -0.7 EV, 300mm, ISO 200.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Last Light at Ruby Beach

This photo was taken in early April at Ruby Beach along the Washington coast. It was one of the few clear, nice days we had on our trip. I made the most of it by shooting until no light was left on Ruby Beach, along the southwest coast of Olympic National Park. This is three bracketed exposures merged together with Nik HDR Efex 2.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Lake Crescent, The Night Before

Sunset on Lake Crescent, Washington. This photo was taken the night before the morning photo shown below. Two bracketed images merged together to make the panorama you see above -- so basically an HDR panorama.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lake Crescent, Washington

Low clouds at sunrise on Lake Crescent, Port Angeles, Washington. The view above was nearly right out our back door as Kim and I spent a couple of days on the Olympic Peninsula earlier this month. This photo was taken the morning we left. We stayed at the Lake Crescent Lodge in the Roosevelt Cabins, so named because it was the place where FDR stayed in 1937 when thinking of establishing Olympic National Park. He did so the following year. 1/400 sec at f/8, -0.7 EV, 135mm handheld.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

EMP Museum Abstract

EMP Museum abstract, Seattle, Washington. Three handheld frames merged together with Nik HDR Efex 2.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Chelsea senior photos #2

Another photo of Chelsea Cochrane taken in Galveston aboard her father's and grandfather's fishing boat. Again, simple lighting, really bringing out the color and tones here. 1/125 sec at f/6.3, -.7 EV, ISO200, 66mm, light from an SB900 in a Lastolite EZYbox from camera right, mimicking the direction of the sunlight.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chelsea senior photos #1

I had the opportunity recently to do senior photos for Chelsea Cochrane, pictured above near the Strand in Galveston. I wanted the lighting on most of these photos to be very subtle -- there but not overpowering, just highlighting the natural colors and textures in the scene. 1/180 sec at f/2.8, 85mm, ISO200, -1EV, light from an SB900 in a Lastolite EZYbox from camera left.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Galveston Reflections #2

Galveston shrimp boat and dock with reflections. 1/500 sec at f/9, ISO 200, 150mm, -1 EV.