For the second year in a row I’ve taken pictures for my daughters’ volleyball team. The individual shots were pretty much a piece of cake and they turned out great. The set up for those involved spreading a neutral-colored paint tarp on the floor to eliminate the red glow on the girls’ skin, standing the girls on a stool, setting up one speedlight (triggered with Elinchrom Skyports) shooting through a white umbrella for the key light, a strobe flashing the gym behind the girls to add light to the background, posing them with a volleyball, and firing away. These went very quickly as there was no change in setup between each girl. The gym is horrible for pictures but was workable for these individual shots.
We also goofed with some dramatic shots with the girls looking serious and got the shot above. The main light is the same speedlight-thru-umbrella held nearly on axis with the camera (slightly toward high camera left). The back light is simply a speedlight plopped on the floor. These took longer to get the girls set and posed, and as you see above, we never got the posing or the spacing quite right. We didn’t have all day so I had to take what I could get as they say. There are lots of photographic flaws but the girls and parents are plenty happy with the pic, which is what really counts.
I did some basic processing in Lightroom then headed to Photoshop to grunge out and darken the background (mostly with curves), do some very minor edits and retouching, noise reduction, and add the text.
Last Friday I walked past our kitchen window and was blinded by the light of the setting sun reflecting off the trampoline as my daughter was jumping. The backlighting also made for great highlights on my daughter’s nearly black hair (it’s that beautiful American Indian super-duper dark brown — and the brown really comes out when it’s backlit). I grabbed the camera and told her to keep jumping. I picked an exposure in manual mode and fired off 50 shots or so with the intention of posting something for #weareparents on google+. My son ended up in the g+ post (see here) last week so I decided to post the trampoline pics this week.
I wanted to include several “poses” in my image and set about to do that via clipping masks. I’ve played with clipping masks in the past — they’re easy — but I use them so infrequently that I always have to refresh my memory on how they work. I’ve posted some pictures below to illustrate a simple clipping mask. I started with a white background layer and a layer with a random image from my desktop (which happens to be a variation of HDR Tennis #18 which I modified via inverted curves to look rather nuclear:
Between those layers I inserted some text that said “Clipping Mask”:
My layers then look like this:
To use the text as a clipping mask, simply hold press option (alt on windows) and click on the line between the text and image layers. The result is this:
And the layers now appear like this:
A few weeks ago our family and some friends camped at the Vineyard Campground in Grapevine, TX (while attending the Alliance Air Show). Snapped this shot of the girls watching the sunset from the dock behind our campsite.
Did some basic adjustments in Lightroom (mainly crop, contrast, clarity and some desaturation) then pulled it into Photoshop and combined it with a couple of subtle textures from Jerry Jones at Shadowhouse Creations.
I was very surprised to find that one of my (not-so-freshly-pressed) posts was featured on WordPress Freshly Pressed. I started thinking about what post I should follow up with to hopefully meet the expectations of any new followers, etc. I’m humble enough to realize that I’ve got nothing but photographs that *I* like — and hopefully others will like many of them. What’s the Ansel Adams quote? Something like “There no rules for good photographs, only good photographs”. And of course “good” is defined by personal taste. So…I’m just posting the next picture I had already planned to post in hopes that others like it too
On a recent trip to the Texas coast I was setting up for some bokeh shots with the 50mm f/1.4 and noticed this couple approaching. I quickly focused on the sand and recomposed to catch them as they passed in front of the camera. I said a quick ‘hello’ but otherwise pretended to ignore them and clicked off a couple of shots as they were in the frame.
My camera was already at what I considered a good aperture for this situation — f/2. From experience I knew that anything larger and the background would be too blurred to provide enough detail to give a sense of where the shot was taken. I had already experimented with some f/1.4 shots taken at a very close distance from the subject and the background was completely lost. For all you could tell, I was in a bright room inside my house as opposed to the beach. Sometimes that’s a nice effect but when I’m at the beach I typically want to show, or at the very least hint strongly, that I’m at the beach.
I knew my focus wouldn’t be perfect. With such a shallow depth of field it usually doesn’t work to recompose your image since you end up swinging the whole plane of focus away from the subject [see below for a short, lame-ish explanation of that]. I had no time to worry about that nor did I care for this shot since I didn’t really want to capture any detail of the couple — I was going for the overall scene of “some couple” walking on the beach. With the blown-out highlights and backlighting a precise point of focus wasn’t going to matter much anyway. I’m not wild about the composition but again, this was a hurried, serendipitous shot. The almost-opaque frame around the image was something I added while experimenting with OnOne Software’s Photoframe. I’m not sure if I like it but I’m considering this one “done”.
About those depth of field issues when recomposing a shot…When you focus your camera on a particular point, imagine a plane that is perpendicular to line between your lens and subject. Everything on that plane (including everything near the plane within the range of your chosen depth of field) will be in focus. Taking that further, if you focus on a subject 10 feet away it will obviously be in focus, but so will anything on the flat plane (NOT arc) which goes left and right from that point. [Here's an illustration -- not sure how helpful] When you focus and then rotate the camera (recompose) that whole plane moves. If you have a large depth of field (ie small aperture and/or fairly large distance to the focus point) that may not matter because the subject remains within the in-focus region even when you rotate the plane. If the depth of field is very narrow there’s a good chance that you end up moving the subject out of the in-focus region (actually you move the plane of focus away from the subject as you rotate it). I’ve seen a great illustration of this somewhere…I’m not able to find it with a couple quick internet searches though.
I took individual and team pictures of my daughter’s volleyball team and here’s one of the outtakes. It was an afterthought that I decided to try before calling it a day so we didn’t even bother including a ball like we did in the “normal” shots. Lighting was a Canon 580exii into a reflective umbrella in front at slightly camera left and a bare 430exii on the floor behind the team. The exposure was chosen to darken the ambient light quite a bit. The girls attempted to look serious for this dramatic shot (after having been smiling and goofing off in the previous pictures). If I could do it all over again with less time pressure there are some shadows I’d work on getting rid of (in-camera, not in post) and a few other changes I’d make but the girls are pretty happy with it.
For processing I did various tweaks to little spots here and there. The floor is a deep red so I used curves to decrease the red channel a bit (and the green channel a *tiny* bit). I added the text and colored it with a color I grabbed from the jerseys.
On a recent evening I went out with my friend Scott and some of our children to experiment with portrait lighting. I haven’t gotten through all the pictures yet but I’m not too excited about what I see so far. In my defense I was initially trying out some new setups which I had never used before. Learned a few things there but didn’t come out of it with any great images. I switched to bare off-camera flashes but we were also attempting some lighting in really tight spaces with lots of features which could cast shadows, etc. That made things rather challenging and again…no great images from what I’ve seen so far.
I did get a few decent shots while the sun was poking through some trees and bushes. The shot above was taken with my daughter standing directly in front of the sun. I shot about 30 variations of this scene with different poses, framing, and exposures. I liked the backlighting and the rim of light it created around the hair, shoulder, and arm. The image above started out life almost two stops underexposed (part of all that playing with settings). However, my daughter liked this pose and expression so I proceeded to try to make something out of the shot.
I remembered back to a video I had watched by Dan Margulis called “There Are No Bad Originals” in which Dan started out with horrendous raw files and turned them into pretty great pictures. I thought “I can do something with this shot” and just started fooling around. In the end what I did turned out to be really straightforward. I bumped the exposure way up, used white balance to warm the image way over the top (as my daughter was the “client” I was letting her choose which direction I went with the image). I don’t typically go for the really warm look but I have to admit I like what it did here and probably should experiment more with this. I used Noiseware mainly to do noise reduction on the background but it also had a great effect on my daughter’s skin. Then I used some curves to tweak a couple spots and add some vignette.
I initially used a jaunt into lab color mode to get some color in the blown-out highlights (see a post about that here) but my daughter liked the blown-out highlights better so I reverted to that. After all, she was the “client”. The highlights are too prominent for my taste but my daughter pointed out that they actually cause her face to stand out more (I agree with that). All-in-all this image was not what I had in mind when I shot it, but I like what I ended up with nonetheless.
[Update: I just looked at this post on my windows box at the office. On this monitor there's a lot of green from the background trees still showing in the image whereas on my home monitor(s) the image was more homogenous in tone (orange-ish color). I don't like the green here...may try to fix this later]
On Wednesday I left work mid-afternoon — wasn’t feeling so great. I walked in the door at home, said ‘hi’ to my family while making a beeline to my bed. Three hours later I woke up to miserable aches and fever. While (barely) standing at the sink to get a drink of water I looked through the window and saw my daughter swinging. Loving that backlight from the sun, and remembering that the dailyshoot assignment was to take a photo using natural light, I grabbed the camera (which is always handy) and took this shot. I purposely included the window frame to give a sense of someone inside looking out. Headed right back to bed for the night at that point…
I had in mind to try and use the window frame in a rule-of-thirds mode but it just didn’t work out with the other elements in the frame as I tried options. Of course I only tried for about 30 seconds because I couldn’t get back to bed fast enough. I got a little lens flare…that’s OK sometimes and doesn’t detract from this shot IMO.
Finally processed the image the next day — picked a preset in Lightroom, added a bit of warmth and clarity — done.