Sunday, December 28, 2014

Traveling Light -- Washington, DC #2

Supreme Court Building, Washington, DC. Glad I was traveling light here -- very tight security to get into and on the tour of the building. No photography in the main courtroom. This was pretty typical weather while we were there -- cold, grey, and rainy. Nikon Coolpix L20, 1/64 sec at f/3.1, contrast and color bumped up a little in Nik Color Efex.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Traveling Light -- Washington, DC #1

In early December, Kim and I made a trip to Washington, DC. I knew I'd be going in and out of places where a large camera wasn't allowed so decided to use only a small point & shoot and an iphone. Thought I'd post some of these images over the next week or so. There's a certain freedom when traveling light and unincumbured with a large camera and the associated gear, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. The photo above was the Christmas tree in the Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall. Nikon Coolpix L20, 1/15 sec at f/3.1 handheld, ISO400.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

More Macro Florals

I've been shooting these type of macro floral photos for several years. Since the focus is so shallow I've always tried to shoot them indoors under more controlled conditions. Lately, I've been trying them outdoors with some success when it's not windy. This is a passion flower in our backyard. 1/60 sec at f/2 with extension tubes, ISO400.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gelled Lights

Several years ago Larry Patrick and I experimented with portrait lighting with colored gells. It was one of those things that you see other photographers do and think you should try. You think it would be easy but as Larry and I found out at that day -- not so much. We made some critical errors in our efforts that day -- shooting too shallow depth of field, not really focusing on how the colors would mix, and most importantly the intensity of the gells coupled with the overall ambient exposure. So, needless to say those images never saw the light of day. But I always had it in my mind to try it again, and when a photo shoot last weekend got moved from outdoors to indoors I thought it would be a good time to revisit this technique. The image above of April was taken using turquoise and orange gells, really knocking down the ambient exposure with shutter speed, and selectively lighting with snoots on the gelled speedlights. And one more important thing I learned: even the slightest change in position and direction of the light makes a huge difference. 1/125 sec at f/7.1, ISO200, 85mm.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In-Camera Double Exposure #1

I've been experimenting with in-camera double and triple exposure lately. Pretty amazing technology, where you can tell the camera to overlay two or three consecutive images together all the while allowing for the exposure gain. Amazingly the combined composite turns out remarkably well exposed. The above was some fall flowers. After so many years of Photoshop and its infinite possibilities, it's different and challenging to do this so randomly in camera.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Galveston Photo Walk #3

Hutchings and Sealy Buildings -- Galveston Photo Walk 2014. 1/500 sec at f/5.6, 112 mm, ISO 200, -2 EV.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Galveston Photo Walk #2

Here's another photo from the Galveston Photo Walk. This building is on the Strand; and the red, green, and blue color combination always catches my eye on a bright, sunny day. 1/1250 sec at f/6.3, 112mm, ISO800.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Galveston Photo Walk #1

Last Saturday our photo club did the annual Scott Kelby Photo Walk. I got there a bit early and walked around the Strand and Postoffice Street just as the sun was rising. I took this photo of St. Mary Cathedral Basilica as I walked from the east behind the church. I tried to work my way around to the front and get the statue from straight on, but by then the light had totally changed. Liked this one though, as the light was soft and low from camera left. 1/125 sec at f/5.6, 300mm, ISO200.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Shannon Maternity Shoot on the Bayou #3

Here's another photo from my shoot with Shannon several weeks ago. This was one of her favorites from the session. About the same time I edited this image I got a new texture and edge pack from Flypaper Textures -- Antique Edges 2. When I did a sepia version with Nik Silver Efex I also brought in some texture and edge from one of their images. Image details: 1/100 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200, 78mm, light from a Nikon SB800 from camera left.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shannon Maternity Shoot on the Bayou #2

Here's another image of Shannon along Armand Bayou. I really liked the green dress she had on at the time and wanted to play that up along the grasses and along a very small break in the brush. With the rain we've had this summer, the edges of the bayou are pretty much totally overgrown, so this was one of the few places you could even get a glimpse of the water from the banks. This image started out very green and blue, but I added some warmer tones in post, including a very subtle texture that brought in some auburn tones into the shadows. On my initial work on the image I brought the exposure of the sky down ... like I tend to do, but after working in the warmer tones and backlight ended up taking away that sky detail in the upper right and simulating a warm ambient backlight, even though there wasn't much really there. Off camera flash was from the right front, so I think visually it still makes sense to have the backlight, and with some work with masks and blend modes seems to look fairly realistic. Although feel free to comment if you think it's too forced. Sometimes we go down these paths as photographers and retouchers and at times it's hard to differentiate between impact and over-processing.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Shannon Maternity Shoot on the Bayou

Last weekend I did a photo shoot with Shannon, a coworker who's about 6-7 months pregnant. The photo above was taken along Armand Bayou in the late afternoon last Sunday. Somehow the tulle fabric seems to make an appearance on many of my shoots lately. Little wind that day so we draped it over some brush along the bayou. It worked well with Shannon's dress here. My editing on this was a bit different. As a finishing touch I tend to lean pretty heavily on Nik Color Efex, but in the past I've applied it to a final layer and used it pretty much as is. This time I applied multiple effects to the image with masked layers. So in the end, I think you have three distinct layers -- foreground with Shannon and an Indian Summer effect to color shift the green grass to more of a brown/red, the middle ground of the trees across the bayou with a fog effect, and the background sky with a pinkish gradient color added to give the sky some color. All these layers were masked pretty heavily to selectively apply. Base image was shot at 1/125 sec at f/5.6, ISO200, 55mm; light from a Nikon SB800 in a Lastolite EZbox from camera left.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

High Key Composite

I was in New Orleans in August and took some photos of the interior of St. Louis Cathedral. I've been in there before with and without a tripod, and found the white balance really difficult to nail down. I decided to work on some black and white variations recently, then remembered some photos of Alyssa I took back in December with her in a white dress. I thought compositing the images together might be interesting -- both pretty high key with some atmospheric effects between the groups of layers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nicole and Bass #3

Here's another photo of Nicole and her bass at Kempner Park. This image was taken with the Garten Verein pavillion as the back drop. It was also among some of the last photos we took, so the light is nice and low in the sky opposite Nicole. We lit her with two softboxes crossing to add a little more pop. The pop, however, caused some bad reflections in the bass, so in post I darkened some of the highlights down. 1/100 sec at f/6.3, 85mm, ISO200.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nicole and Bass #2

Here's another photo of Nicole and her bass at Kempner Park. This was taken early in the shoot. Larry and I back lit her a little with some natural light, then added a softbox from behind and off camera right to add to the ambient. The main light was from camera left. I've lit like this a few times in the past 6 months, and I really like the movement of light from highlight to shadow, then quickly back to highlight for some accent rim light (which you can see on Nicole's left shoulder). 1/200 sec at f/4, 85mm, ISO200.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Nicole and Bass #1

I thought I'd post a few photos from a shoot I did last week with Larry Patrick and our friend Nicole, who's a musician, scientist, and a great person to have in front of your camera. About two years ago we photographed her on the beach with her saxophone. For this shoot we decided to photograph her with her upright bass at Kempner Park in Galveston. As the sun got low and was filtering through some trees Larry and I began experimenting with back light and lens flare, something I've really grown to love over the past few years. I played with some shots with the sun directly behind her head, but settled on this shot with the sun peaking around her head right at eye level. 1/60 sec at f/13, ISO 200.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

#527 -- Lensbaby or Nik #3?

Another photo of Julie at the beach during our maternity photo shoot. This shot was taken opposite the sunset which is behind me and to camera right. That light was enhanced with a speedlight in a Westcott Rapid Box at about 1/16 power, no gel, just the natural warm light.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

#526 -- Lensbaby or Nik #2?

Here's another photo of Julie at the beach. I broke one of the basic rules of photography by placing her dead center. The seagull in the upper right was taken from another photo shot that day and blended in. I did a lot of color work on this image -- added some red in the shadows and shifted the highlights a little warmer, also desaturated the blues a little. I liked the fact that there are only two real dominant colors in the image -- reds and blues. Even the sky here has that same tonality. So, take your best guess -- Lensbaby or Nik?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

#525 -- Lensbaby or Nik?

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of doing some maternity photos with Julie. We decided on a beach location, and I had the idea of using a lensbaby for part of the photo shoot. I have to tell you, I've had a love-hate relationship with my lensbaby since I got it, probably 7 years ago. I like the look of the images, but hate the fact that everything is manual -- manual focus, manual expsosure, no zoom. It's about as far back to basics as I like to go. I have the Lensbaby 2.0, so I'm sure the lens has improved over the years, but for the limited times I use it for a certain look, the 2.0 works fine for my needs. For me the most frustrating part is how the plane of focus shifts from front to back, not like a normal lens where you have a zone of focus, with the Lensbaby 2.0 you can have the subject's face in focus, their legs out of focus, and a point on the horizon tack sharp -- crazy stuff. But I guess that's the point of using the Lensbaby -- the randomness makes it unique and not reproducable in Photoshop. About the same time that I did this shoot I also upgraded to the new Nik Collection filters with Analog Efex 2.0, which has some amazing motion blur effects. For the next week or so I'm going to post some photos from the shoot. Please comment below about whether you think the look of these images is with a Lensbaby or with Nik. I'll tell you what I used on the image before I post the next one.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

#524 -- Baby Yellow Crowned Night Herons

A few regular visitors to Brazos Bend in our photo club knew about some baby yellow crowned night herons in a nest. So we spent a little time at the location trying our best to get a decent shot through trees and nesting material. The photo above is far from the best shot I've ever taken, but interesting to see and capture nontheless. There were two chicks here, at the time not able to stand or get too much above the nest height. I was only able to get a clear shot of one. I believe the second is behind and to the right. 1/400 sec at f/6.7, ISO 200, 500mm.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

#523 -- Little Blue Heron, Brazos Bend

Little blue heron with crawfish, Brazos Bend State Park. 1/160 sec at f/6.7, ISO800, 500mm.

Monday, June 2, 2014

#522 -- Brazos Bend Great White Egret

Near the end of our field trip to Brazos Bend I came across the scene you see above -- a great white egret in a bed of water hyacinth. The light by then was pretty harsh and bright, and I've learned from experience that shooting a white bird in those conditions isn't always ideal. But I figured I had to give it a try. I took a couple of frames, then autobracketed a few more frames. In the bright sunlight I couldn't really tell which exposure was best. Surprisingly when I got home and was looking over my photos the camera-metered shot was really pretty good, no real blown highlights and decent exposure on the flowers. In post, I added a slight vignette and sharpened the egret a bit. 1/640 sec at f/6.7, 500mm, ISO100.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

#521 -- Brazos Bend White Ibis

White Ibis along the 40 Acre Lake Trail, Brazos Bend State Park. Even after sunrise there was some nice light along the trail with some back light on this white ibis. 1/320 sec at f/6.7, 500mm, ISO 200.

Monday, May 26, 2014

#520 -- Brazos Bend Sunrise

The Bay Area Photo Club had its annual trip to Brazos Bend State Park on Saturday. We always start our morning at 40 Acre Lake. This was sunrise from the pier over the lake -- three frames merged together with Photomatix Pro. I've been using the Nik Collection a lot lately, and seem to always use HDR Efex by default. Thought I'd compare the Photomatix version and liked the Photomatix version much better. The mish mash of shadows in the foreground is part lilly pads, part wading birds. I'll be posting more from the trip throughout the week.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

#519 -- Iris #3

Another iris macro shot -- this one extremely abstract. You can really see the shallow depth of field you get with the extension tubes, with just a sliver of a petal and leaf in focus. 1/100 sec at f/2, ISO 100.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#518 -- Iris #2

Another shot of the iris. I was surprised I got all purple in some shots, no yellow. I liked the motion and shape in this one. 1/100 sec at f/2 with extension tubes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

#517 -- Iris

Since it's spring -- more macro florals for the series. This was a really pretty dark purple iris. 1/100 sec at f/2, 50mm lens with a 36mm extension tube.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

#516 -- Compositing #3

Still working on my compositing skills. These are three images combined. I shot the photo of Christine in February in the studio on a white seamless background. Over the next several weeks I looked for backgrounds that seemed to fit and finally got the structure behind her. The very back landscape (in the structure openings) is from Jekyll Island, Georgia. They all seemed to fit together visually, and I guess I enjoy the challenge of masking, blending, and matching tones to make the whole thing fit together -- as Joel Grimes says: "selling the fake." Once combined I ran a flattened version through Nik Color Efex and added some additional tone and contrast, did a custom vignette in Photoshop, and this is the final result.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

#515 -- Pincushion Flower

More experiments with extension tubes, this time with a new flower I discovered called a pincushion flower. 1/60 sec at f/1.8 with a 50mm lens and 36mm extension tube; light from a speedlight in an umbrella above.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#514 -- Spring Rose

More experiments with flowers and extension tubes. 1/100 sec at f/2, lighting from speedlights in umbrellas from either side.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

#513 -- Floral Macro

More experiments with abstract floral macro photography -- this time with a full frame camera body. 1/100 sec at f/2, 50mm with extension tubes. I found that exposures seemed a bit hot, so I had to bring down the ISO. Discovered there are quite a few options under ISO 100, which will be nice for motion blurs and water blurs with the neutral density filter.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Compositing #2

Compositing -- either you love it or you hate it. Kind of like HDR in that sense. I don't do a whole lot of it, but I've been strangely interested in it over the last few months. I think it tests you. It tests your skills in capturing, lighting, and selecting images that work well together; and it sure tests your postproduction skills to, as Joel Grimes says, "sell the fake." Color blending, lighting effects, blend if sliders, atmosphere layers appearing in front of and behind, hopefully adding a sense of dimension -- all that combined to make a final image. The shot above of Alyssa was taken in late December with rim lights on a grey background in the studio. Finally got around to working through it, and with inspiration from Joel Grimes and Aaron Nace on Phlearn recently, got something I kinda liked. If you're interested -- 23 layers, mostly lighting and color effects, lots of masks and opacity work. No plug-ins. Fun stuff. The only thing that bothers me is the orange color in the soccer ball. I may end up color shifting those to a pink or purple ... 24 layers.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Bokeh at f/1.8

Doing some tests with the new Nikon 85mm AFS, f/1.8 -- a fine lens at a reasonable price. Selective focus seems to permeate most of my work these days, whether it is portraits or macro. So this lens will fit in nicely in many applications. This image was taken in my back yard with afternoon sun hitting the wrought iron fence. 1/1000 sec at f/1.8, ISO 200.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

#510 -- Back Light

Another photo of Cate from several weeks ago. Most of the lighting we did that day was pretty traditional front light, but for a short time I experimented with turning the back light from hitting the black muslin to shooting straight over Cate's shoulder. Seems like after every photo shoot the back lit stuff is always my favorite, either by natural sun or artificial. Took this one a few steps further by adding some light streaks in post and converting to monochrome. 1/80 sec at f/8, ISO 200, 85mm; light from a Nikon SB800 in a Westcott Rapid Box from camera left, another SB800 bare shooting back into camera.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

#509 -- Light and Lace

This is from the studio shoot with Cate several weeks ago. Bob and I were experimenting with background light placement, and at one point he lifted the light and stand above Cate and bounced it off the black background. Cate was working with a piece of lace at the time. I thought the combination worked pretty well together here. 1/80 sec at f/8, ISO200, 38mm.

Monday, February 10, 2014

#508 -- Masked Model in Black and White

Another photo of Cate and the mask. Despite all the color in these images, I thought black and white was an interesting variation too with the variety of texture and tone.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

#507 -- Masked Model

We did a portrait shoot a few weeks ago in the studio, and it gave Bob Dempsey and I a chance to try out a few new techniques and play with light. One added prop on this one was a great mask given to us by fellow shooter Doug Haass, who was nice enough to let us borrow the mask even though he wasn't there to take photos. This is Cate, who we met on the Galveston photo walk in October. Seeing as it will be Mardi Gras in a couple of weeks, consider this my Mardi Gras photo of the year. I think we all had a good time with the mask. It was a challenge for Cate to bring personality to an image without being able to use her facial expressions, and it was definitely a challenge for Bob and I to light and capture this theatrical-styled pose. 1/80 sec at f/8, 85mm, ISO 200; light from a Nikon SB800 in a Westcott 26" Rapid Box from camera right, back light was an SB800 shot into a black muslin background. Interesting, the background seemed to go a little cool -- I figure from the light spilling through the feathers. Nice accident.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

#506 -- Floral Macro

More in the floral macro series -- f/2 with an extension tube, so barely any plane of focus at all. It's more about shape, color and abstraction.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

#505 -- Compositing #1

I have to admit that I've always been interested in compositing -- blending two images together ... using Photoshop to try and tone and blend them so it's a believable merger. When I was shooting Alyssa in late December we started talking about space, and I remembered I had downloaded some high res space imagery from NASA's hubble telescope. The image above was shot on a white background, so the blending was pretty simple. And some of the new features in masking and refining masks in Photoshop made the task relatively simple. Image of Alyssa: 1/60 sec at f/8, two SB800s providing some rim light, main light is an SB800 in a Westcott Rapid Box. Some warm, magenta overlays were added in post to help blend the composite.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

#504 -- High Speed Sync with the Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini

During my shoot with Alyssa, I wanted to try out some new Pocket Wizard Flex and Mini triggers I got recently. These were shot in my back yard with a shallow depth of field, using high speed sync. 1/2000 sec at f/1.8, 85mm, ISO 200, light from an SB800 in the Wescott Rapid Box from camera right.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

#503 -- Blue Umbrella

Normally during the week between Christmas and New Years I try and do a few test shoots with new gear and some different techniques. The photo above of my second cousin Alyssa was taken last weekend. Tried out a couple of new things. First, the background is a Westcott 7 foot parabolic umbrella -- decided since it was so large it might make a decent and interesting background, so I set up three flashes firing into it, all with Roscoe Blue Bell gels. Main light was an SB800 in a Westcott 26" Rapid Box boomed overhead on a C-stand. Just below the camera frame Alyssa is holding a DIY beauty reflector that I made from three silver cake platters from Party City. Ended up not getting the intense blue that I wanted for the background, so eventually shifted the white balance to 4000 K manually (making the entire scene more blue) and putting a 1/2 cut CTO gel on the main light (which brought back the main light to more of a neutral skin tone on Alyssa). If you're interested here's the lighting diagram.