Tag Archives: photography

September 2014 – it’s on

I’m going for it. 
I am going to try and take a portrait over a year in the making.  My location is chosen the storyboards are done and it is the right time of the year to get the perfect light on the perfect day. 

I have chosen a bandstand in one of our local parks.  It is nestled in some trees with beautiful flower gardens and a lake. 

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The idea is to shoot with a wide angle lense and use strong leading lines to draw the eye to the subject. 

I think I mentioned previously that I bought a piece of fabric for this purpose. 

I am excited to share with you the process of constructing this image but I am also nervous that it will fail to meet my high expectations. 

Next step….find a model. 

And….
GO!

August 2014 – if at first you don’t succeed

candlefractal
There are too many details for me to share. I know the point of this whole monthly project was to document the process in its entirety but you will have to bear with me as I try to find a good work life hobby hobby hobby family balance.
Yes I too have found myself in the ranks of the over-committed and starting Wednesday get to add a return to university to my already intense schedule. If only I was studying film or something…

I digress – I wanted to take a couple of minutes and probably 2 or 3 posts to fill in the blanks since my last post. No I didn’t give up. I’m not really like that when it comes to things I think I should be good at.
I set out to take a picture with vivid colors involving fractals and I think the creative process is in full swing.

I realized after the last round that I needed a few things – and I probably should have spent more time trying to come up with a storyboard and exactly what I wanted to do with this picture, but over the past 2 days I thought about it and decided I would make a second attempt with more paint and with more mirrors.

I wanted to get reflections of reflections like in a Kaleidoscope and allow the fractal to be created in 2 dimensions.

I bought some crayola washable paints and 5 mirrors from the dollar store…and new batteries for my flash. Always always always have spare batteries for your flash.

Anyway. I played around with mirrors on top of mirrors and tealights and even had a pretty good setup with 5 mirrors and 10 tealights making this super cool pattern (what happened to the paint you ask – I was playing ok, just to see what I could do) and it seemed to work out with fractals in 3 dimensions, maybe not quite as much depth as I had originally hoped, but fractals none the less. Long story short a mirror fell down and spilled candles hot wax and flames all over my backdrop. Yes I am determined to burn down my house.

That aside I was really excited a decided to keep going rearranging a reconfiguring the mirrors and a single tea light.

The result is posted above. I like it.

There were still a few things I knew I needed to fix for the fractal picture.

So ultimately I moved mirrors angles and repositioned back drops and speedlights to get the real high key effect I was going for.

Here is what the setup looked like.

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Notice that I had to surround every angle in white sheets to allows for maximum light to reflect and wash out ever part of the image. I even had to cover my camera to prevent it from being a bold black blob in the picture.

The reverse angle might tell the story a bit better.
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You can see I am using a fairly simple 2 flash setup. The flash behind the mirrors is actually a bounce flash off of my thankfully white ceiling. The speedlight is diffused as wide as it will go with a white reflector to give as much of a soft wrapping light as possible to blow out as much of the white highlights as possible.

In my post processing post (coming up in about 5 minutes). You will see the difference the shallow angle can make in a setup with a mirror like this.

Please feel free to comment below.

August 2014 – Fractals

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Wow do I have a lot of process to document here.
I was having such a hard time coming up with something for this month. I decided to save my awesome portrait idea for September (autumn light should be even better for shooting). So I was completely at a loss for what to shoot this month. Feeling completely uninspired I turned to an old standby for coming up with good ideas….Brainstorming!

My wife and my sister happened to be around so I recruited them and between the 3 of us we came up with a page full of strong visual images themes and ideas. It was actually pretty cool and may have inadvertently inspired some future photo shoots. Still lacking ideas and the time to execute any other plans I decided to try and do something I always said I wanted to do.

Admittedly this should be a photo series, but I have always said you don’t need more lenses you just need mirrors – different shapes sizes and curves and you can create pretty much any angle you need.
I also have a deep seated fascination with fractals. So I thought I would put the two together and try to make a fractal reflected in mirror.

I wanted bold colors so I decided I would try a high key shot (exposed to the right) using acrylic paints to create really bright vivid colors……..

As you can see from the picture above my first attempt turned out ok, but I really was shooting for somethign with an even stronger fractal. So the plan now is to get several more mirrors and using even larger painted surfaces try to capture multiple reflections in one shot.

Don’t stop at your first effort
Keep going and try to create something even more engaging.

If you care you can also check out my youtube video of a timelapse I shot on vacation. It’s short, so you won’t have to spend hours getting through it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj3GDZgQF0E

July 2014 – heartache

sky pano barn attempt 1-2

I don’t think I’ve ever looked at one of my well thought out pictures and hated it.  Maybe I’ve been frustrated with it being out of focus or annoyed with some element that I should have changed, but I have not outright hated an image I created.

Photography is a craft of heartache.  I say this because it is an art of great hope.  A hope that all of the elements in the frame would come together to capture that magical moment.  That one would be able to actually articulate a thought a feeling an emotion a sense of awe. 

Yesterday I felt a mile high.  I got home from an evening shoot with beautiful light.  Some dramatic clouds and I had made it to my pre scouted location with ample time to set up and shoot.  And shoot I did.  I framed reframed bracketed and panned my way through 7 or 8 dozen shots.  I thought I had it cased.  I thought even as a worst case I would just have to exposure blend and everything would be great.  Even my spot checks on my lcd suggested I had nailed the exposure and composition. 

Today however was a day of heartache.  I could not interpet what was wrong.  Was it motion blur?  Dynamic range?  Color cast?  Something was lackluster and in one image I would love the sky but absolutely hate the foreground or love the framing and hate how the sky turned out.  I spent over an hour trying to exposure stack a panorama.  I never did get it to work. 

Then the regret.  Why didn’t I take more time to set up.  Why did I break the golden run and handshoot something I could have used a tripod for.  Why didn’t I pull out my nd filters and try to get it even closer to right in camera? 

I’d love to say I have learned all these basic photography methods, but clearly I believe I am the exception.  This is a tough lesson to learn.  Don’t get me wrong,  some of my pictures turned out just fine, they just aren’t what I had hoped. 

Your thoughts in the comments are welcome…

So In my commitment to this process outlined is the process below.

First I shot a 5 frame pano at three different shutter speeds. I should have used a tripod and a much greater DOF say F16 or F22, but that ship sailed.

I didn’t realize how noisy the foreground flowers would be and with no real focal point you can see your eye dances around the field quite a bit. I think a tighter crop would probably serve the image well, and getting a touch closer to the barn I could have stitched say 7 images together instead of 5, but I shot from the roof of my car from the road and wasn’t about to go driving through some farmers canola field.

After i stiched the images I tried numerous times to actually process and HDR with the 3 different panoramas and even tried manually exposure stacking them, but since I hand shot three different sets of images I was unable to align the highlights the midtones and the shadow images properly.

So I had a choice. I could publish the abismal images I got (which are not shown here – although I could probably post an example if anyone is so much interested) or I could forge on. I did process a few other images from the shoot which I kind of liked (see below) but that was hardly the point, so I forged on.

With several attempts in photoshop and even one effort in lightroom I managed to take the underexposed images and tone map and caress my way to what you see. I’m still not convinced these images are entirely publishable, but I feel a whole lot better about them than my first 20 attempts.

So what exactly did I do. I compressed the highlights bumped the exposure even further I added some serious gain to the shadows and blacks and finally added some contrast. I tried to reduce the noise a bit and sharpened the images. Overall fairly minor adjustments.

I won’t share any “secret sauce” post processing tips because the truth is, if it’s worth shooting it is worth shooting right in camera.

My best to all of you. Thank you for your kindness your likes and your follows.

-Ed
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sky pano barn attempt 3-2

July 2014 – open spaces scouting

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I haven’t had a pile of time this month for shooting pictures.  Between work and illness and a million summer activities photography has taken a backseat. 

I did have an opportunity to scout out a location for my open spaces panorama and it might be the perfect time of year for it.  The canola fields are in full bloom.  All I need now is an evening with good lighting conditions and cloud cover. 

I found a location with an old barn and a fully yellow field.  I also found a secondary location about 3 miles away with a solitary tree on the top of a hill.  If the shoot goes right I should be able to get good shots of both subjects. 

Now the waiting game.  I leave on vacation in 5 days so this is cutting it close, but isn’t that what deadlines are for?

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I included a couple of smartphone shots of the area.  Pretty picturesque.  I love it.

June 2014 – down to the wire

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More time is ALWAYS a good thing – almost.

This month I made photography low on the priority list.

Today I planned, set up, shot, post processed and now published a picture that I consider well worthy of being called part of my “2014 photo project”

It probably wont win any awards for “best story” or most imaginative, but it is a testimony of how much creative power lives just under the surface.

My kids remind me of it constantly – the power of imagination – when you are willing to let go of the “rules” are engage an idea fully.

I hope these pictures are as much fun for you as they are for me.

If you have been following along on my monthly project July should prove to be a bit better on the “open spaces front” I still plan to include some of my ideas for wide open spaces, but I will have to save that for next month.

For now. Enjoy some bubbles with some even more fun lighting.

Thanks for looking and reading.

Feel free to share and comment!

bubbles test 4 small

June 2014 – Ahead of Schedule

Well after about 100 million frustrating attempts to actually capture a bubble where I wanted it to be I ended up with a handful of useable shots.

Below you will see how I post processed them.

bubble post 1

From the Raw image the first adjustment is for white balance exposure and basic contrast.

This is a bit of a trick as with so much of the image being black the histogram is of very little help. The idea here is to boost as much of the light while keeping the background crisp and black.

Next is noise reduction. I like how lightroom handles noise reduction as the color noise tends to be more of an issue. In this case the low iso (only 400) and the relatively large image (36 MP) means very little noise reduction is required to publish and image on the web (say 1024 x 768). There is very little noise in the image to begin with but with the help of the sliders we can clean that up nicely.

I also turn off all the sharpening in camera raw as I prefer to sharpen later in the process (as is the case almost always if you intend to do any post processing beyond the camera raw). Open the image for further editing.
bubble post 2

I then did the same thing with a second image.

bubble post 3

I copied the second image and pasted it into a new layer on the first image.

bubble post 4

Then blend the layer together using lighter color. This is a great method of exposure stacking and will add the second bubble to the first. I used layer masks to ensure the background and bubble edges stacked correctly.

bubble post 5
I moved each layer around until the bubbles were in their desired positions. I had some issue with a few of the bubbles at the top or bottom of the frame as they could not be moved to the center of the frame without looking flat due to their missing edge.

bubble post 6

Next I flattened the image and adjusted the “levels” allowing me to clip the blacks for a much sharper image and making the blending of the two images look a bit more natural by setting the “true black” across the board for both images.

bubble post 7

Resize.
Crop.
And last of all, sharpen.

Here you go.

bubble post 8

The final image is a bit more complicated, but I’ll post that later. For now, give it a try – see how well your images turn out.

June 2014 setup

So here is the setup for my bubble picture.  I will be putting down a basin to catch the sticky soapy bubbles. 

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I’m not super happy with the back drop.  I may try to black it out if I can as right now I feel the white may take away from the contrast. 

Either way the dof is so shallow at f4 that the background should be quite soft. 

The flash is up top gaving down through the light rig and it produces the speckled catch lights I was hoping for. 

Now it is just a matter of blowing bubbles as big as I can.

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A slightly different view.  Keep in mind the only lightsource I plan to use is the speedlight up top. 

I will try to post some test images soon.  4.5 hours to go and I haven’t started post processing.   Of course with this limited timeline I am hoping to do as little post work as possible. 

June 2014 – summer fun

My kids reminded at supper tonight that bubbles are super fun.  Yeah bubbles have been done a hundred times but hopefully not like this.  
I have decided to reuse an old backdrop and repurpose it as a lighting modifier.   My epic selfy (you can take a tour through the archives)  used a pegboard as backdrop and since I love making my own lighting modifiers I decided to reuse it to make a cover for a speedlight.

See below

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With this set up I should be able to freeze bubbles midair.  I hope to capture one popping but with no timing rig I think this is pretty unlikely. 

Wish me luck.  I’ll post a quick shot of the setup as soon as it is ready.  Only 6 hours to go.   This one is going to be tight.

June 2014- the unexpected

Wether it is gear failure bad weather or clients who cancel last minute photographers deal with a ton of unexpected circumstances.  So what do you do when life presents an unfair mix of negativity?  What every other success person in the world does.  Persevere. 
Now, im no protographer, (yes i did spell it like that on purpose) I dont depend on my photographs to pay my mortgage or feed my family but I do take it quite seriously.  So when this week presented one of the wettest weeks on record in the canadian prairies I got pretty down.  Drab grey clouds dont produce the kind of prairie skies that make an open panorama engaging and uplifting.  I thought of all the ways I could make it work but travelling is not recommended due to flooding and the fields would be nearly impossible to traverse in order to get the shot.  Please dont hear me say a good shot isn’t worth it and likely if I was making a living of this I would have been out 2 or 3 times trying to get a good picture.
All that to say my June image is not going according to plan so I have decided to adapt.  To be flexible to try and attain what I think is a crazy goal. 

Plan setup shoot post process and publish an image in 9 hours the whole time capturing and posting the process all while balancing thr demands on 3 kids. 
I make no promises but I think this is going to be fun…

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