Monday, April 16, 2012

How I Got The Shot #30 - Artist and Paint

Another Project52 assignment to share with everyone.   This time, we are looking at using one light to create a portrait of an artist, holding an implement of their craft.

Here is one of the final shots from this shoot:
Our #1 Pick
I decided to use the wonderful Dani as the "artist" and we dabbled into the world of painting.

Check out the details after the break...

Monday, April 9, 2012

How I Got The Shot #29 - Interpretation of Power

I was working on another Project52 assignment and the theme was to have a shot that expresses POWER.

Creative Process:
I thought about ways that power might be expressed.  They can be physical, mental, spiritual, and a whole lot of other things.

I decided to concentrate on the more cerebral aspects and shy away from the physical.  The image I came up with is a conceptual one.

And here it is:

Reynoldsburg, Ohio  -  My home studio.

Fuji X10
Nikon SB-28(main light)
1/8" grid
white board as a reflector
black board as background
Radio Popper JrX trigger/receivers
light stands

EXIF Info:
Shot in manual mode, 1/1500th @ f/4, ISO 100, ~28mm.

Yes - 1/1500th of a second!!   How is this possible?  One of the things that attracted me to the Fuji X10 was the fact that it has a leaf shutter.  Most other cameras have a focal plane shutter.  Focal plane shutters are generally constrained to native flash sync speeds of 1/160th to 1/500th of a second.  The average being about 1/250th.  In order to get faster sync speeds with focal plane shutters, you have to use HSS/FP sync functions in the built in flash or an external speed light.  This generally requires using an OEM flash from your manufacturer.
Leaf shutters do not have this constraint and can sync with a normal flash all the way up to the cameras maximum sync speed.  In this case, the Fuji X10 can go up to 1/4000th of a second.

Why did I pick 1/1500th?  Well, I was shooting this in the middle of the day and was lazy and did not want to black out the house windows.   So 1/1500th at f/4 was a fast enough shutter speed to kill any ambient light.  It was also because I wanted to try it and because I could!!  :)    lol

Lighting Setup:
SB-28 @ 1/64th power, 1/8 inch grid attached.
Added a bit of fill to the back side of the chess board with a white board I had sitting around.

Other Info:
Obviously, this is a composite image.  Lets look at the other images and the composite work.

I took passages from the Art of War and from The Tao Te Ching that applied to our power theme.
The lighting setup was essentially the same as for the chess board.

Here is what the Layers palette in Photoshop looks like for the completed project:

Disclaimer:  There is more than one way to do things in Photoshop.  This is the way that I did my composite, but there are plenty of other ways - some possibly even easier.  So don't take what I have done here as the only way.

What you will notice, is that next to the eye symbol is the representation of the image.  You can see that each of the composite images has a layer and there is an extra white color fill layer(that will be explained here in a minute).  Next to the image thumbnails, you'll see a chain link and another box to the right of that.  Those are edit masks.

Edit masks allow you to do some non-destructive editing to an image.  What they do is hide or reveal what is underneath.  The rule that you need to remember is this - black conceals, white reveals.  Or in other words, the black part of the mask prevents the effect, the white allows the effect completely.  Here is the magic - levels of gray in between white and black reveal the effect in different levels depending on the level of gray.  If it is more gray - closer to black - it hides more.  If it is a lighter gray - closer to white - it reveals more.

So this is what we did - in order to have a canvas big enough to hold the composite, we created a new canvas that was twice the size of the chess board image.  To do that we used the IMAGE --> Canvas Size... menu option.
The top part of the image above shows the original canvas size, the bottom the expanded.  What you do is pick the anchor point where you want the image to stay.  I picked the top middle.  Then, in the height field, I doubled the size.  Photoshop then created the canvas double the size by adding the extra canvas to the bottom.

Now that we have the canvas to the correct size, we can add in out 3 elements.  The chess board and the two images of the book passages.

To add a layer mask to an image, click the layer in the pallet, then select the icon at the bottom of the layer pallet, third from the left.  It looks like a rectangle with a circle in it.
This will not attach a mask to the layer.

I then click on the layer mask to make it active.   I use the gradient tool to start the blending process.  Make sure that you have selected the default black/white color picker colors and  that the gradient option is black to white.
Select the layer you want to blend, and drag the gradient tool how you want the mask to be applied.  Don't worry if it is not perfect - we can tweak the that later with the feathered brush tool!!  Just get at close as you can - let the gradient tool do 99% of the heavy lifting.

One problem I ran into was that the top of the image was a black background, and we can deal with that.....but the bottom of the image ended at the chess board.   This left us with a transparent section at the bottom part of the image.   Easy fix...just add a color fill layer of white to the bottom of the layers.  You don't really need it as it will go white when you save as a JPG - but it helps for you to see visually when building the image.

This is what the image looks like without the white fill:
You can see the checker board at the bottom, but the white - as seen in the final composite at the top, give you a better sense of the finished product.

Now, all that is left is to select the brush tool, make the brush color white and select an appropriate size and a feathering to go along with it and reveal additional parts of the images below the chess board.  If you want to hide parts - change the foreground color to black and paint the layer mask back in.  Remember - by using the layer mask, you can correct any mistakes or change your mind without destroying the pixels of the images.  You are just hiding or showing more through the mask.

Also, remember to make sure and select the layer mask box in the layer pallet for each layer - otherwise you'll paint white or black onto your image.

In this composite - I used a lighter feathering for the bottom text and a "heavier" blending for the top.   I wanted the bottom to have a more airy feel and the top to have a harder, "burnt" feel to it.  I did that all from changing the paint brush feathering and size.

I shot all these images in color and converted then to black and white in CS4.  I also added some grain to the image to make it look more like it was taken with an old B&W high ISO film.

Experiment and find the type of style that fits your project.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Clay Blackmore "How To Photograph Everyone" Tour

Hello all.   I just recently found out about Clay Blackmore.  He is a very talented photographer and teacher.
Check out his site and see the quality for yourself.  Lots of good images there!!

Here is some information about the "How To Photograph Everyone" Tour:

Clay Blackmore’s 30-city “How To Photograph Everyone” Tour kicked off last Monday evening, in San Diego and runs through June 11, visiting cities throughout the US.
Don’t settle for snapshots and flash-on-camera images - you need to know the techniques to set yourself apart from the crowd. HTPE brings portrait photography back to where it started, with all the tools you need to make timeless photographs that sell.
Clay will teach the following principles during the seminar:
Posing, Lighting, Lifting, and Refining - A live demonstration will take place with all participants looking through Clay’s lens as he creates elegant portraits on the stage.
Clay’s Flow Posing - Clay will demonstrate live how to create 10 portraits of a couple in five minutes.
“How to Photograph Everyone” - A descriptive analysis of how to make portraits of children, mother and child, maternity, men, women, high school seniors, business portraits, and small-to-medium groups.
The Perfect Portfolio - How to create an awe-inspiring portfolio that is sure to entice potential customers.
Weddings: Catering to the Modern Bride - Learn how to take photos that sell, and get your client to fall in love with the pictures before they even leave the wedding.
Big Portraits with Small Lights - Take cover! We’ll focus on working with scrims, reflectors, and window light to produce photographs that rival studio portraiture.
Post Production – Clay will show you several of his secret weapons for portrait retouching and enhancement.
DSLR Filmmaking Opportunities - Learn how Clay is bundling his photography with this new technology to increase his bottom line.
Don’t Just Survive—Learn to Thrive - Learn how to control the sale and increase profits.
Register using our Discount and Save!
Registration is $69, but you can save $10 and pre-register for only $59 with promo code CLUB10. Click here to register for a program near you!.

Clay Blackmore, one of the most passionate professional photographers working today, is a true innovator in the world of portraiture and wedding photography.  One of only a few Canon Explorers of Light, Blackmore’s style blends the beauty and timelessness of classical portraiture with the spontaneity and appeal of photojournalism. His credentials were developed during his 25-year association with the legendary Monte Zucker as assistant, business partner, and co-educator. A celebrity and society favorite, Clay’s clients have included such luminaries as Larry King, Forrest Whitaker, Jenna Elfman, and Maria Sharapova. Renowned for his ability to photograph groups and cover events, Clay is consistently hired by corporate entities as diverse as the PGA and USGA and is a popular request for political inaugural balls.  In Clay’s groundbreaking work on Extraordinary Women:  Fantasies Revealed Clay photographically chronicles the dreams of 58 elite women, capturing intimate and energetic portraits of Madeline Albright, Dena Merrill, Joan Rivers, Cokie Roberts, and Dominique Dawes among others.  Blackmore is an active and contributing member of the elite Cameracraftsmen of America.
For more details about the upcoming How to Photograph Everyone Tour, visit:

Monday, April 2, 2012

My On Site Tethering/Printing Solution

I was digging through some of my old electronics the other day and came across an old Acer Aspire One netbook that I bought for my daughter a few years ago.

I remember looking around for a tethered shooting option, but all my camera gear and Lightroom are in my home office tower.  The Aspire One is a nice, ultra thin netbook, but it cannot run Lightroom.

Then I stumbled across the DIYPHOTOBITS website and realized that this might be the solution for me.

The Aspire One has 150GB HDD, which is plenty of room for the files I would need to transfer.
The DIYPHOTOBITS software is very low footprint, so getting it up and running was a fairly easy thing.  I just followed the instructions on the website and had my Nikon D50 tethered and running within minutes.

The software can even fire the shutter and change aperture, ISO and exposure compensation(only to the positive side on the D50).  The shutter speed value does not seem to work remotely.

It also has functions for time lapse shooting as well as bracketing.

I set the D50 USB mode to PTP, fire up the software, connect the camera, have the software detect the camera, start tethering and that is that.

You can get a used Aspire One netbook for around a $100, and the software is free - so this setup is worth it if nothing more than to experiment.  I plan on using it for doing on site printing of 4x6 images on a dye sub printer(Canon Selphy 800).

I did a test shoot the other day and ended up putting an Ugli fruit into the light box and shooting tethered.  I also ended up shooting some impromptu self portraits with the help of my daughter.
Here are the examples:

Tech Info on the Ugli fruit:
Inside light tent, gridded SB-26 above and camera right at about 1/32 power.  ISO 200, 1/250th @ f/7.1 - triggered with Radio Poppers.   Nikon D50, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8

Tech Info on the portrait:
In my kitchen, gridded SB-26 to camera right at 1/32 power, second light(bare SB-28 on the floor pointing up) in the room behind me shooting through the glass in the door at 1/64th power.  Triggered with Radio Poppers.  ISO 200, 1/500th, f/4.5.   Nikon D50, Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
I really like Zack Arias' work and I did this in honor of the work he does and his ability to teach.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How I Got The Shot #4 - FIREWORKS!

Everyone loves fireworks, right?  Sometimes fireworks shots can be tricky to get if you don't have a good starting point.  I'll outline my approach to getting fireworks here.

Check out the details after the break...