December 2014 – frost and cheer

I am reminded again this year how wonderful and blessed I have been to grow up celebrating Christmas. Now, that’s not to cast shame on those who hold other traditions, but there is something joy-filled about this season that causes me to remember how good life is. For me and my family it means getting together (huge groups of us on both of my parents respective sides, and my wife’s family too) sharing the good times and the hard times, rejoicing in the season and in each other. It means trying to express our love for one another in gifts and words of encouragement. It means spending time together playing games, laughing and enjoying the outdoors. It means reading the Christmas story and watching our favorite Christmas movies (like Charlie Brown’s Christmas or The Muppet’s Christmas Carol). It means PEACE, LOVE, and JOY.

I am happy. That’s not a statement I make often, but I feel like, on this Christmas vacation, I have finally managed to relax and de-stress. I can actually enjoy the moment. Moments like the one captured below. The magical moment when the frost covered trees are lit brightly by the setting sun and the kids are laughing a playing in the snow. The freezing drizzle sparkling and shimmering in the yellow light. I wish I could bottle these moments.

I would love to tell you I have a plan for my final photo of 2014. I would love to say that photography no matter the season is #1, but the truth is, for me right now, it isn’t. Celebrating the birth of Jesus is more important than any picture – no matter how once in a lifetime. At least for now.

Merry Christmas all. And to all a good night….er good morning.

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No snow – Nov 2014

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Well November 2014 will go down in history for me.

I thought snow would be an easy target for a winter shoot especially here in November.  That didn’t quite work out so I decided to take it indoors with a “sno” globe

A little early christmas cheer for all of you.

I will document the post processing for you, but I’m already 9 days late.

Enjoy.

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Nov 2014 – Rain

Yup I got rained out on Saturday.  Over a week of -20 celcius and then a weekend of rain.  Never fear the forecast still calls for snow. 
I will have my winter wonderland photo opportunity yet.  Just you wait…

Nov 2014 – Snow

No pictures in today’s post.  That is purposeful.  The internet is abuzz with photos from the incredible buffalo snowfall in new york.  They are definitely worth looking at.  I have no intention of competing with the viral nature of extreme weather but ive lived on the northern plains long enough to appreciate the beauty of snow. 

I am hoping this month for some night shots of falling snow.  The warm glow the festive christmas lights and the large flakes make for magical and inviting photos.  Maybe even a portrait or two. 

My window is tight this month.  Only two nights to shoot but so far the forecast for saturday night is for warm weather and snow.  The combination that produces the largest flakes so I am optimistic. 

I plan to shoot in downtown Regina which isn’t well known worldwide but has some fantastic lights.  Mostly im just excited to go out and shoot pictures again.  After today I am done my semester at school except for exams so I am very much looking forward to that. 

In celebration my camera awaits. 

Share links to your favorite snow pictures in the comments. 

Have a great week!

October 24 – Explorations of high speed photography

I know I know there is nothing original about milk and high speed photography, but lets be honest our ideas and inspirations usually come from an extension of someone else’s ideas. When I see others peoples work I often find myself thinking “Pssssh , I could do that”. When I saw the photos at http://aurumlight.com/ (slightly NSFW), especially the series with the sword fighters, I realized – no, no I couldn’t. I was, however, very inspired.

My son spends a lot of time walking around the house yelling things like, “Dad look it’s “Pida man” or “Soup – e – man!” (He’s 2. Enough said.) He loves superheroes, and so do I.

I thought I can make a superhero. I’ll just use a lego man and try to get a highspeed photo of him “wearing a cape.” A milk cape that is! Well it turns out the only lego man I actually have in my house is a Vetruvious figure from the lego movie and he’s already a superhero that wears a long white robe, so not much to go with there. Unless I put another robe on him or something.

My son does have a few little tikes figures that he calls his “friends” and since they were readily available I thought I would give them a try.

After all they are little farmers and around here farmers are the closest things we have to superheroes…

After about 7000 failed attempts at getting anything awesome in camera I finally had enough source images to try and accomplish what I wanted through post.

Here are the two source shots I used.
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These two shots gave me the two building blocks to make the cape (the milk splash was a good shape and while totally in the wrong spot still entirely usable) and have a nice clear image of the figure.

First things first I correct the expose and tried to tone down the blown highlights.

Then I opened both images in seperate documents in photoshop.

I cut the man from one image and the large milk splash from the other.

I then created 3 new layers on the original image of the man. I had the background layer then the milk splash then the top layer was just the cut out of the farmer.

I then set to work with the layer masks to try and create a nicely defined edge on the cape as well as blend the man and cape to make sure that the right parts of the cape were behind the man and that some of it was in front of the parts of the man that would be covered had he actually been wearing a cape.

Then I used some blend as well as some simple brush strokes to try and perfect the lines.

I then selected all the foreground and any background parts of the image that were just clutter. I filled black over everything and left the stacked layers to create the depth without it looking like I had just cut and paste a picture from a magazine.

Using a brush with soft edges I carefully painted black over every remaining unwanted surface. I then made the edge of the brush more solid and lowered the opacity to create a bit of shadowing along the edge of the cape. Flattened the image and then rotated it and cropped it.

Here is what I got.
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You tell me what you think.

Sunrise!

Sometimes as much as I like to sleep in.  The light in the morning is worth it.  Today was no exception.

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Oct 2014 – Mo wedding post processing

I have had a pretty good week.  Aside from insane hours of school work I did manage to find some time to post process.

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I am pretty happy with this image.  I spent a bit of time on the floor in this image as the crop left too small of a visual mass to allow the reflection to lead the subject. 
I ended up cloning in about 1/3 of what you now see of the floor. 
I was not the actual photographer at this wedding so I would have preferred a fill light on the subjects faces.   But as you can see the dynamic range of the camera did a fairly good job of lifting the shadows without the window light blowing out the rest of the frame. 

I had another shot in this series that was tighter to the subject and actually excluded the upper windows and the lamp.  I thought I would like it better but with this crop I feel the balance is strong between the white space created by the window and the visual interest of the reflection.  This helps to allow the eye to focus on the subjects but still see the interest of the rest of the frame. 

This is a low resolution image but still maintains a ton of the detail of the original shot. 

I hope you like it and even if you don’t feel free to leave your constructive criticism in the comments below. 

Oct 2014 – a bit of wedding fun!

My sister got married this weekend and my kids had the opportunity to be involved.  My son was a ring bearer and my daughters both flower girls. 

I did have a chance to shoot some photos and loved every minute of it. 

Here is one photo I thought I would share.

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Hope you like it.

Oct 2014 – 10 reasons I miss my dslr

Don’t worry.  I kept my dslr.  Both of them.  I’m not crazy, but this weekend I chose to leave them at home when I went on my trip to vancouver.

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I think my smartphone is capable of taking nice pictures.   Even good pictures.  Even great pictures but the creative control I have with a dslr is almost incomparable. 
So here it is, in no particular order, my top 10 reasons for hating my smartphone (or why I miss my dslr):
1.  Dof – I admit since I got my d800e I shoot at some pretty crazy fstop values mostly wide open but there are times when closing down and expanding the depth of field is required. 
2.  Lenses – interchangeable lenses and different focal lengths and distances are occassionally requirements of taking a picture.
3.  Dynamic range –  yes software and sensors in phone cameras have improved dramatically in the last 5 years but being able to bracket and having even wider dynamic range helps to bring out the natural range of the human eye. 
4.  Focus – I have a love hate relationship with autofocus and the speed of a smartphones autofocus is still a major delay in taking a picture.  Moments are fleeting and hard to find and a 1 to 2 second delay in shooting a frame can be costly.
5.  Focus again, a near lack of manual focus means getting soft focus or off axis focus exactly right is next to impossible on a smartphone.  Yes in post these issues can usually be resolved with good source but im a fan of getting it in camera when I can.
6.  Colorcast.  White balance, color cast and bit depth are all still very real problems with smartphones.   The sensors no matter how many improvements are still weaker in a smartphone then a dslr.
7.  Sharpness.  Smaller sensor less light  more software post processing and lower resolution only several reasons why the sharpness in smartphones is lacking.  Even from lens to lens and fstop to fstop the sharpness on a dslr can vary.  Imagine what dust fingerprints etc are doing to smartphone pictures.
8.  Iso.  No manual iso and much higher noise.  Smartphones just dont have the same options for controlling the exposure triangle.
9.  Shutter speed. On exactly the same note as iso it hurts the creative control you have.  When was the last time you changed shutter speed on your smartphone.  Now I get it.  There are apps that will do this but with 3 buttons I can change shutter iso and fstop in beautiful harmony. 
10.  Lack of raw support.  My workflow is so happily integrated with lightroom and developing photos from RAW that the results are obviously hurt by not having raw files. 

Long story short I’m not saying I won’t take pictures with a smartphone or all of them are garbage.  Im just saying given the option I still see the value in a dslr. 

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Overall not a bad set of shots but would still have liked to go that much further. 

Anyway this month I will be attempting a high speed photo with the theme superhero. 
I am hoping to capture a lego man with a cape of liquid frozen in time.

Wish me luck!

Sept 2014 – lemonade

So I did it.  I think

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I think it turned out.  Not exactly what I thought it would be like but im actually kind of happy with it. 

Here are 2 originals

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As you can see recomposing and including more of the bandshell would contribute to the visual appear. 

I tried to save the dull gray light but only ended up making things worse. 

Attempt 1

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Kind of dreamy but unnatural.

And try 2

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A bit better but missing the punch of having actually shot with real sunset light. 

I didn’t do much to the black and white image for post processing.  

I simply opened it twice in photoshop from raw.  The first time to get the highlights and white crisp and the second to get the dark sky nice and tonal. 

I then blended the two images with layer masks and trimmed a bit.  I adjusted the lens correction and used a couple approaches to try and accentuate the height of the model primarily making the image narrower in the horizontal. 

Finally I converted to black and white carefully balancing the blues and cyans for the trailing fabric and then sharpened. 

Overall I kind of like the black and white image.  What do you think? 

Would selective color work for this image?  Is that overdone?

What do you think of the other post processing attempts overdone?

Any suggestions of things I missed in post production.