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.
While I’m still wallowing in sorrow over the Red Sox / Yankees game getting rained out — the game for which I held a ticket for a seat behind home plate — you’ll have to suffer through more Fenway Park pictures. On my trolley tour of Boston one of the stops was Fenway so I spent a bit of time taking pictures and watching people as they gathered for Saturday’s game. I had tried getting tickets for this game but it was sold out.
I asked the guys above if I could take their picture together and they obliged with commentary on how they didn’t like each other. The guy on the left (jokingly) wanted to make sure his picture wasn’t going to be on the cover of Guns and Ammo — he didn’t want the government putting him under surveillance. The vendor below also willingly allowed himself to be included in the shot of his wares.
For the shot of the crowds on Yawkey Way I put the camera on a 2-second self-timer and held it up high by lifting my tripod high overhead. After 4-5 tries I ended up with a decent perspective.
On the day of my scheduled game I stopped by the park again and found an open gate. I later learned — after being educated by the nice security guard who asked me to leave — that it was open in order to let a tour exit the park. The guard (he really was nice about it) did agree to let me walk to the nearest entrance to the stands and snap a few pictures. It wasn’t a great photo spot and the rain was starting to really come down but I took what I could get. The thick white line at the opposite end of the field is the infield tarp. They were just getting it out to cover the field when I arrived.
Last Saturday Pete Talke and I helped shoot a wedding held at a ranch outside of Austin. The only shots I posed were some of the groomsmen getting ready and the boots on the stairs shown below. I mainly concentrated on getting candids throughout the night. I’ve posted a few which I feel sufficiently captured the Texas nature of the event…
The lighting was very tough. It was late evening so there was direct sunlight from one side as the sun neared the horizon. If you weren’t careful you ended up with one half of a face being blown out while the shadow side barely had any detail. Girls with blonde hair were particularly difficult — easy to lose all detail in the hair. Pete and I both chose to shoot in mostly in manual mode so the camera’s metering didn’t go all squirrelly with the lighting and we squeezed off a few test shots to make sure we weren’t losing any (important) details and adjusted as the light changed.
[Random note: I'm posting this from the HP laptop which my company purchased for me...I'm very sorry for all of you who always have to use monitors which are this bad. My pictures (and all of yours) look terrible on this thing.]
The wedding was standing room only. These guys were standing in back and I asked them to stand together to frame the bride and groom.
After the bridesmaids were finished with their formal portraits I asked them to pose on the steps. The sun was just setting, providing a perfect, golden light. They were relieved that I was only taking pictures of the boots — no need to smile or keep their eyes open in the sunlight.
I spent a good part of the past weekend at a friend’s ranch. My main purpose there was to set up his new iMac (the beautiful 27″ model) and get all his “stuff” transferred from his old Windows box. During this process, while software was updating, files were copying, and backups were running, we also plinked around with some guns and shared stories.
Walking a lot is one of the main instructions from my back surgeon so I headed out on a walk around part of the ranch Saturday morning and took my camera along. There was still snow on the ground (the ranch got 3″ the previous day) and some frost on the vegetation. Unfortunately the frost was disappearing fast so I wasn’t able to catch many very cool pics.
I traipsed through the brush, careful to avoid a particular type of bountiful cactus which, besides poking into your skin, attaches to your clothing and forces you to pick the pieces off (I can’t remember the name of it). I found a few interesting things and took some photographs. There were several shots I wanted to take but it seems that my preferred angle always placed the shadow of the camera and tripod in the frame (the sun was still low). I passed on most of those.
Returning to my truck, I put away the camera and tripod. My rancher friend came over to the truck and leaned on the side of the bed as we talked. As I looked at him I realized I was staring at a very cool, candid shot. The sunlight was backlighting him and his face was in shadow with a perfect level of light. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind me grabbing the camera and snapping a few pictures and he sheepishly obliged.
The man pictured above is very wise. He’s full of skills and wisdom regarding ranching and all it entails, gardening, shooting guns and bows, hunting, cooking, and life in general. He helps me so much and it makes me glad that I have something to offer him (setting up his computer). I think the shot above reflects his skills in so many ways. The reflective look in his “I’ve lived life” face. The dirt on the hat hints at the hard, outdoor work he’s done.
In the two minutes (or less) that I spent photographing him I did run into some minor challenges. In the shot above one might notice that I violated one of the “rules” of photography in that I cut off his hands in the middle. I wanted to capture his hands as they were part of what made the shot IMO. However, when I zoomed (with lens and/or feet) to the correct point to do this, the sun snuck into my lens (I was using a hood) in such a way that I got flare (OK with me) and horribly reduced contrast (not OK with me). Maybe I can save some of those exposures in post but a quick look says they’re not very good. I didn’t want to be at a higher point either (nor did I have the means to get there at the time). So, I went with this shot (uncropped from the original frame) and I like it just fine. Rules are made to be broken.
Chromatic aberration was a problem as well even though I was using a high-quality lens (Canon 24-70 f/2.8). When a subject is so strongly backlit you just have to deal with CA. I fixed that up in Lightroom as best I could before processing but didn’t feel that it was worth the trouble to fix up further in P. The final image is a blend (via layer masks) of the original exposure, a single exposure tonemapped in Photomatix, and various adjustment layers. I brought in just enough of the tonemapped version to give the face an edgy look and highlight the rough-looking stubble on his face. With the large variation in exposure I also ended up using several adjustment brushes in Lightroom to balance light and dark areas somewhat. I left the face on the underexposed side (I agree with Raul Touzon’s statement in the photo workshop I attended — many portraits/photos are over-exposed and shouldn’t generally be so “bright”).
I would have loved to play with more angles, especially using my wide-angle lens, with him as a subject but I didn’t want to turn the moment into a regular photo shoot. I got what I wanted…hope you like it.
Had a great Father’s Day this year! We spent Saturday night at our friend’s house in Fredericksburg and I woke up to a fresh cup of coffee and the sunrise in the image below (9-exposure HDR). It was such a cool morning (by Texas summer standards) so I just wandered around a bit and watched the cows graze.
We have so much fun with our friends and Sunday morning was no different as we enjoyed breakfast together and got ready for church. After church we headed home to meet our oldest (married) daughter and have a meal — of my choosing of course — together. The family got me something around 700 shirts which my son said was their way of telling me that they didn’t like my current wardrobe.
Speaking of being a father, we celebrated the birthday of one of our younger sons this past week. Whenever we celebrate our children’s birthdays I’m reminded of how old *I’m* getting.
Our son has become fascinated with cowboys of late (he wanted to invite Roy Rogers to his birthday) so we got him a cowboy hat and used matches for candles on the cake (seemed more like what cowboys would do). He loved it — “Mom, this is the BEST cowboy cake EVER!”. Here’s a shot of him getting ready to blow out his “candles”.
I don’t normally process single exposures (especially of people) as HDRs but I was inspired by Jayme Rutherford’s single-exposure turtle shot which you can view here. I decided that the cowboy theme lent itself well to the gritty texture that tonemapping an image brings about.