Friday, April 23, 2010

lightning storm

I haven't shot lightning in probably 20 years, until last night. It was quite a show and when i finally decided to grab my camera and take some shots it was almost over. I was watching the hockey game and was nice and comfy so to get up and go to the car for the tripod, dig out the camera and blow the dust off, set up and shoot, was hard. I was happy in the end that i did so all was good.
I used a 50mm lens as i did not know where the lightning would strike, camera set to iso 200, aperature of f11 to f16, and a shutter speed of 30sec. I just kept hitting the shutter button as soon as the 30sec was over and hoped for a strike while it was open. I cropped the images, sharpened and that was that.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


This is a photo of my wife i took over the noon hour today. The decision that i mentioned in the title was not whether i would take her photo or not but how i would take it. What would i use for a background, lens, fstop, light, etc, etc. Our experience as photographers is kind of like a large bag of tricks. What have i done in the past on shoots, images i have seen online or in magazines, successes as well as failures i have had, all fill up this bag and give me options when i get to a shoot that i can draw from. Its rarely easy to walk into a shoot and take an exceptional photo right off the bat. You can think of it like sports, you have to warm up first. On this shoot for example we started in my wifes office. I tried some shots just using window light and adjusting her pose so the light worked. It did not work. Not enough light in the eyes. Nice background, foreground, everything else, except the eyes. It was her suggestion to move to the car next. I rarely turn down a suggestion from my subject, especially if the shot is not working for me. If the shot is working i will spend some more time at it and finish up that location and then move to the new one.
New location, new set of decisions. I started with composition on this one, decided on fstop, then set up my light for the proper power to achieve the fstop i had chosen. In this case I had chosen f1.4 (50mm lens) so the flash was set to something like 1/16 or 1/8 power. I used a sb900 with the dome diffuser on it and shot it through a very large umbrella. I placed the light in front of the car so it would go through the cars windshield. I set my shutter speed to 1/200 sec which, by trial and error, gave me the ambient light level i wanted. A good rule of thumb is to get your ambient set first and then build up the flash. I took about 10 frames or so just to get a good content expression on her face and then let her out of the car.
In photoshop i did a bit of retouching to her face and did a curve adjustment. I duplicated my background layer and used lens correction to add a vignette. I then created a layer mask and painted in black over the face so the vignette would just be where i wanted it. I ended up doing this twice as it was not dark enough the first time. I flattened and duplicated the background layer again and desaturated it. I then adjusted the white and black points to make a very contrasty image. I changed the layers blend mode to overlay and lowered the opacity to about 20. I sharpened and was done.
So, would i do the exact same thing on my next shoot. No, probably not. I dont know what trick i will pull out of the bag for the next one. I just hope that it is a good one and i will be as happy with the next shot as i was with this one.

Monday, April 12, 2010

interior in hdr

I shoot one building every year or so for a company that makes steel. I have shot a water treatment plant, a high school, an overpass, and now a gym. I am sure there were a couple more in there but i cant remember what they were now. I started using hdr awhile back because the interiors were very dark and you could always see to the outside, which was very bright. Before hdr i used different exposures and composited them together in photoshop. Hdr has saved me hours and hours.
In between my sons volleyball games saturday morning i took a quick run over and bracketed about 240 frames. I spent a good part of my sunday evening running them through lightroom and into photomatix. I used a mid light smoothing setting in photomatix and cranked up the luminosity slider to the far right to light up the ceiling. I used 5 bracketed images for this one which was shot with a 24mm lens, on a tripod, at 200asa. I was very cold and was worried about camera movement on the slower exposures but everything worked out ok.
I opened the tonemapped file in photoshop and did a curve, a sharpen and that was that.
I am very much looking forward to when the building is completed. I have two shots planned, one inside and one out, and they will both be hdr. I just need a helicopter for the outside shot but other than that it should be pretty straight forward.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

interesting people

When shooting an event i always try to take my focus off what everyone is looking at so that i can look at them. I found this very interesting looking man who was also shooting the event and i had to take a few photos of him.
The sky was overcast which made it perfect lighting conditions for every angle. I tried to be a little bit sly while taking this photo as i did not want to attract his attention. I dont think he would have minded being my subject but i did not want him looking at the camera. I wanted him natural and relaxed and focused on what he was looking at. He did catch me later taking another frame and my shot has one of his eyes behind his camera and one looking straight at me.
I think my aperature was around f4 and i wish i would have shot it at 2.8. Most of the shots i was taking of the event needed a bit more depth of field but he certainly did not.
I did most of the work in lightroom. I added 4 graduated filters to darken down the sides and top and bottom just a bit and then opened in photoshop to crop and sharpen.

Friday, April 02, 2010

more flower photography

My wife unexpectedly had her gallbladder removed a couple days ago and as a result we have had a few bunches of flowers delivered to the house. This bunch was sitting on the counter and the light was nice. The background was crap though so i went to the garage and found the black cover for my cars hatchback. I rested it against my tripod and was ready to roll.
I shot the photo at f1.4 with my 50mm lens hand held and only used the natural light.
I prepared the photo in lightroom but once opened in photoshop i realized that i did a horrible job of the contrast and color correction so i applied a curve. I sharpened the photo and that was about it.
Creating an image is a process. Could be trial and error, usually lots of error, or preconception. For example the photo above falls under the latter. I had made all my decisions before i had taken the shot. I knew the background, composition, angle, depth of field, lens, etc. It is certainly not always like that but i prefer it when it is. I like to see an image in my head and then make it happen. Sometimes however i can be surprised with what i end up with when i go the trial and error route and get something totally unexpected.