We recently spent a week at a family camp and one of the activities was rappelling from the top of a 45′ tower (or you could climb the other side of it). My eight year old couldn’t get enough of this. He was absolutely fearless and did it over and over. I made him stand for the portrait above before he bounded up the stairs so he could do it once again.
IMO an important part of growing up is learning how to work. I’ll say the caveats up front: We’re not slave drivers, we have a lot of fun too, blah, blah, blah. We’ve finally had our burn ban lifted since we’ve been receiving some rain lately. Our burn pile has been growing, and growing, and growing — especially since it includes an old carpenter ant tunneled playscape. The boys have been anxious to get the fire going (all boys are pyros, no?) so I put off the rest of my to-do list and spent the afternoon burning. Once it was stoked we really couldn’t add wood very fast (at least not if we wanted to keep it under control) so the boys played in the wood pile and one even built a mini fort inside the pile. I reminded him to watch for snakes and he just said, “All I see is sticks”. After a long pause I heard him mutter, “But I guess the snakes match the sticks…”.
I had my daughter bring out my Canon 50D so I could grab some pics. I had only snapped a couple and it started to rain so that camera got put away. I would have liked to switch lenses as the telephoto lens compressed the scene a bit much for my liking, but the weather didn’t cooperate. [It was a typically unpredictable Texas weather day: hot and sunny in the morning, thunderstorms whipped up and it poured, went back to bright and sunny (and humid), and as I write I hear thunder again] I did get out my Canon S90 later and got a couple more pictures. The top photo was the 50D, bottom was the S90.
My mother lives close to Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, IL. Their band performed in a parade we watched last year and I caught this shot. I don’t know what this guy’s title is though — I just call him Big Red. The kids enjoyed the fire trucks and candy most of all of course.
One of the first requests the little brothers make when big brother comes home is “Come jump on the trampoline!!!”. The boys love their older brother and he indulges them completely. Today they enjoyed another fun jumping session on the trampoline while I snapped away. In some of the pictures you can see the joy and awe the younger boys feel when watching big brother. After a while my 7-year old even showed some sweet skills of his own too.
Photo stuff…flash would have been ideal but I wanted a really fast shutter speed. I don’t have the stuff to do a high-speed sync setup with parallel flashes, nor would I have bothered anyway. I shot in manual mode and in motion situations like this with such a high dynamic range you just have to pick your exposure based on what will keep the most important details. Sometimes you hit it, sometimes not. Sometimes the subject is in shadow and you lose details to shadows, sometimes (like when the faces are pointed to the sun in these shots) you lose detail to blown-out highlights. I gambled with f/2.8 to allow the fast shutter without going way up on ISO and to get some blur in the background but my focus distance was far enough that my DOF was fine (and I didn’t get much blur). All that sounds like I went through a bunch of “photo stuff” to set up for a photo shoot but frankly I just quickly chimped a few shots to pick an exposure — all of that is a 20-second thought process then I fired away.
We played in the snow today — quite a change from the warm, Texas weather. While I have no interest in living in a snowy climate again I do enjoy getting in the snow every once in a while. I took five of my children up to Stevens Pass in Washington for the express purpose of playing in the snow. There has been all sorts of snow up there in the past few days so we knew it would be fun. Things looked even better when it began snowing in the Seattle area before we even left the house.
After getting all wet and cold we headed back down the mountain and explored some side roads to enjoy the scenery. At one spot my daughter (the one in the picture above) pointed out a spot she thought would be nice for a group photo (below). At another nearby spot she asked me to take a few pictures of her in front of a bridge and the snow-covered trees (no one else wanted to get out of the car again).
Photo stuff…In the group photo below you can see the snow falling in front of our faces — we wanted to show the extent of the falling snow. However, in the individual shots we wanted to avoid the snow in the face and found a space under some trees which allowed that. However, it was so dark that we had to add some flash into the mix (no gels used). With the others waiting in the car I didn’t spend much time perfecting things but we like what we got.
The odd composition above came from just moving around trying different things out. I don’t like it…but my daughter does so I’m posting that one.
This evening I photographed my youngest boys in the backyard with the goal of trying out something called the Brenizer Method, or bokeh panorama. I first heard of it in a post by Brandon Brasseaux. The goal of the Brenizer Method is to create an image with extremely shallow depth of field. If I were to take the shot above using a single frame I would either (1) use a very wide-angle lens or (2) use a “normal” lens and stand far back from the scene. In either case it would be difficult to get much bokeh in the image. I’ll let you consult a depth-of-field calculator for the exact details but suffice it to say that the wide-angle lens — even at an aperture of f/1.8 — doesn’t result in much bokeh when focused at any reasonable distance. A lens like I was using in this shot — a 50mm f/1.4 — would require such a long focus distance (i.e. I’d have to stand so far back) that the depth of field would large enough to eliminate a lot of bokeh. The Brenizer Method uses multiple frames to form the image — using a much shorter focus distance resulting in much shallower depth of field than if you shot one frame standing further from the subject.
The process goes as follows: Instead of standing far away, stand close (I roughly filled the frame with the two boys). I used an aperture of f/1.4 to get the shallowest depth of field and set a shutter speed in manual mode to keep the exposure consistent in all the frames (I also set the camera to daylight white balance). I prefocused on the boys and switched the lens to manual focus. The first frame I took was the one with the boys in it (took many tries to get something decent). I then let them run off and proceeded to shoot overlapping frames (with the camera in the same location) of the rest of the scene you see above. I used 14 straight-out-of-the-camera frames to stitch the panorama in Photoshop but in the end I cropped the image quite a bit. It took all of two minutes to shoot the frames, even with the boys’ goofing off. Since my goal was to try out the method itself, I didn’t stress about background, lens flare, etc.
After stitching I warmed the image a bit, added vignette, tweaked the exposure/clarity on the boys, and removed some of the color fringing on the branches so it wasn’t *so* prominent. Pretty simple stuff. I want to try more of these but next time I’ll find a prettier background. I believe I’ve given enough info for one to start playing with it but if not, an internet search will turn up a lot more information in a hurry.
Here’s a link to posts by the man behind it all: http://www.ryanbrenizer.com/category/brenizer-method/
Finally some rain in Austin. I grabbed a bunch of shots of my son playing in the rain but I decided to post some faceless, could-be-any-young-boy pictures. I’m sure that many children in Austin took advantage of the rain to do what boys like to do – splash in the water in mud. For a time there was some nasty lightning so I had to have the kids come under the cover of the porch for a while. Fortunately the lightning cleared up and much fun was had again.
The black and white shot was processed in Lightroom — simply playing with sliders until I liked it. I brought the color shot into Photoshop and put a little more work into it. I cloned out a few things and used a series of curves and some sharpening in an attempt to enhance the falling rain and the drops rolling off the raincoat. I’d like the falling rain to stand out a bit more but simply did not want to put more work into it (things are busy around here). The clouds were thick and there was very little light so I cranked up the ISO for these shots. There isn’t that much noise in the shots but what little there was I decided to keep and didn’t use any noise reduction.
I posted this picture a long time back in a post about candid shots but I decided to re-post since it’s one of my favorites. We were visiting friends in Rockport, TX and my son spent much of his time picking up little things on the waterfront. As the sun headed toward the horizon one afternoon I spotted him intently searching the beach again and grabbed this shot.
What have I come to like about this one? For starters, parents just like pictures of their kids. Second, he has that cute little look of concentration on his face. Third, from a photographic standpoint I like that there’s just enough of his face showing to include him personally in the picture as opposed to some faceless “subject” (umm, yeah…I planned that…sure). Finally the light and surroundings are just nice IMO. As always, there are a few things I’d change if I were planning/posing this but I won’t dwell on those
I processed this picture differently this time. I first cloned out a few things (a piece of plastic on the shore, a pole in the water, and a tiny clump of grass). I then used several curves layers to selectively adjust areas of the shot and to add some vignette. These layers were in luminosity mode since I wanted to pretty much leave the colors (which were very warm due to the setting sun) intact. In Lightroom I did a few more minor tweaks with clarity and very specific exposure adjustments.
I couldn’t pass up capturing this candid of my son. His do-rag (some spell it doo-rag) is made from his favorite blanket so he calls this his “favorite hair”. The rag was pretty cute at first but it got to the point where he wanted to wear it *everywhere*…had to put an end to it.
This shot was snapped with my 50mm f/1.4 lens (stopped down to f/2.5) and used only light from a window at camera right. I just love the light in this shot. In Lightroom I added sharpness to the eyes, tweaked the clarity slider, and did a slight crop — that’s it.