My son leaping out of the water pretending to be a monster. I love how the motion makes his hands look like claws. And the mask? Well, nothing needs to be said.
It was in the middle of a bright sunny afternoon — terrible time for photographs. I used a flash so that I could dial down the ambient a bit. We took several shots like this, using a fast-ish shutter speed but not so fast that it froze all motion. In post I processed things pretty heavily in Lightroom — lots of contrast and clarity.
Taking pictures of flowing water is always fun but it requires a bit of experimentation. Of course the definition of a “good” result is completely subjective — Do you want to completely lose the definition of the water? Completely blow out the water’s highlights? Freeze the motion or splashing of the water? All of those things are cool at times. My objective in these pictures was to open the shutter long enough to show the motion of the water yet keep some definition in some of the individual streams/strands of water as it flowed over the features of the water park (i.e. not turning all the water into a plain white blur).
There’s no one method to use when doing this. My ideal aperture would be something around f/11 to be in the sharp range of the typical lens and have reasonable DOF. However, I don’t own a neutral density filter so I sometimes have to stop down to be able to open the shutter as long as I’d like (I used f/16 in these photos, f/22 in some of the others I took). Sometimes I’ll use my circular polarizer (gets me 1.5 to 2 stops). I pick a shutter speed next — via experimentation to get the definition (or lack of) that I’d like in the water. ISO is ideally 100 but I’ll vary that as necessary. Then I play around with all three exposure variables until I get “good” results, the definition of which varies from outing-to-outing.
Composition options were endless in this park, but rather tricky. Unless I was zoomed in very tight on a feature, the angles were such that something always looked out of whack. When one feature was nicely framed, something else was awkwardly framed. It made it rather interesting…
Post-processing was simple Lightroom tweaking.
Practiced capturing some motion “stuff” during a recent-ish photowalk on the University of Texas campus. I think the red blur and subtle wheel-spinning pattern from the passing SUV adds to the photo. To shoot this I set my aperture to f/22, pre-focused on the far lane and switched to manual focus, used some test shots to pick a shutter speed, and then panned with the next bus which came by.
Writing from the friendly skies between Austin and Seattle…
We’ve been getting a lot of rain in Austin lately, which is a huge blessing! I worked from home today and shortly before noon the skies let loose with some hail. Despite the risk of damage to cars, roofs, and whatever else, it’s always fun to have a hailstorm. This one was good. Most of the hail was about marble-sized but for about 30 seconds we got some that was nearly the size of golf balls. It was quite entertaining to watch the large ones sky off the trampoline.
Of course I got the camera out. I realize the scenery isn’t all that interesting but the hail is IMO. You can see hail from the sky (falling right-to-left), from the roof (left-to-right), and bouncing helter-skelter off the trampoline. Using ISO 100 and playing with shutter speed and aperture I attempted to capture streaks of hail stones as opposed to freezing them (no pun intended) in time. While it would’ve been fun to play with a flash and stop the motion, I needed to get back to the job which pays the bills.
One final note: This hail came down at about 11:30am-ish and when my daughter and I left the house at 3:40pm there was still ice in the yard despite the fact that (1) it was March and (2) it had rained all day. It was amazing how much ice came out of the sky.
My wife and I (and several in her family) attended a luau while in Hawaii last week. I have no idea what an old traditional luau was like or how authentic the festivities were but in any case it was immensely enjoyable. Knowing that the main show would be after dark, I fitted my camera with my 50mm f/1.4 lens. Night photography has never been something I’ve been good at (maybe that can be said about all my photography ). I’m always going back and forth with myself on the best combination for getting good exposures — shutter/aperture/ISO. Noise is always a consideration (not so much now that one of my bodies is a 5D Mkii).
For much of this show I wanted to mostly freeze the motion (like in the second shot above) so I shot in manual mode with an aperture between 1.4 and 2.8, shutter speed in the 1/500s – 1/640s range, and ISO 1600-3200 (the stage lighting varied from act to act and I tweaked settings accordingly). Depth of field wasn’t much of an issue because my focus point was quite far. However, I also spent time trying to capture some of the motion in the dances. I was shooting handheld so I did have to consider that when deciding how long to open the shutter. I played around with various shutter speeds and came out with some fun shots. For the fire shots I had hoped to be able to reduce the exposure enough to avoid blowing out the highlights of the flames completely but in doing so I ended up underexposing everything else much more than I liked. In the shot above I like the balance between capturing motion in the flame yet keeping some clarity in the dancer. Some shots blurred things more (see image below) and that’s interesting in its own right but I prefer the balance in the shot at the top of the post.
Processing was quite simple for all these shots. I shot with daylight white balance so that I effectively captured the colors consistently. The color turned out rather well. I used a bit of clarity and sometimes bumped the exposure up a hair in Lightroom. Finally, I exported from Lightroom with a preset that ran the images through a noise reduction action (using Noiseware) in Photoshop.
For the last 4+ years, my main drive (or “sled” as a former neighbor used to say) has been a 2000 BMW 540i. Awesome V8, 6-speed manual transmission, sport package, and sport suspension . One note of trivia is that it’s one of the few cars where you actually had to pay *extra* for the stick. At 10 years old with over 150,000 miles it still runs perfectly and handles like a dream. The car is tight. However, the maintenance is getting to be a real headache. I generally like to do my own maintenance when I can (water pumps, radiators, alternators and such) and BMWs — at least the three that I’ve had over the years — are quite easy to work on. There are so many resources available in print and on the internet which can tell you what every last bolt on the car is for. These days it’s really hard to find the time so “maintenance” has degraded into “take it to the shop”. I haven’t even done my own oil changes lately. My 6 year old loves to change the oil and I’m robbing him of a great chance to learn to work on cars…
A couple of months ago I bought a truck to replace the one I gave my oldest daughter when she got married. That truck has become my daily drive for various reasons (maybe someday I’ll write a post about trucks, 4-wheeling at the beach, and just being manly). Occasionally I’ll drive the 540 and I still enjoy it, but it’s time to sell it (anyone in the market?).
As I prepped to sell the car, I thought back to this image taken on the streets of Paris last spring. I was poking around with the camera and spotted a Mini Cooper speeding toward me. I was fairly fresh off a workshop taught by Raul Touzon and one of the things he had taught us was his method for capturing motion like this (see this post). I attempted a panning shot of the Mini and this 5 series followed soon after…grabbed it too. The shot of the car headed away symbolizes my 5 series leaving the family (sniff). Just kidding, how sappy would that be? — it’s actually just a cool shot IMO! No symbolism in this one It would have been great if the entire car was sharp but I can live with the look here — it gives an additional sense of speed like the car is just headed into some sort of a time warp.
I started with a single exposure and I tonemapped it in Photomax. Then I blended it at about 50% opacity with the original exposure. I used overlay mode for the blending. Topaz Adjust, curves, sharpening, and Noiseware were used selectively in the image. I left in lots of the noise to give the motion-blurred portions a bit of grain and texture. Finally I brought it into Lightroom and touched up a few things before exporting.
I hope you think this is a cool scene too.
Practice makes perfect as they say. The shot above — which is by no means perfect — was the result of some practice attempts to capture the motion of an Austin Capitol Metro bus as it sped up South Congress Ave toward downtown. I was taking a photo workshop and the main purpose in taking this shot (and a whole series of others like it) was to get better at capturing a subject going by and get it in focus. Of course there were many other considerations like exposure, etc but mainly I wanted to practice the setup and the panning (handheld) of the camera.
I was using “Raul’s Rules for Motion” as I’ve taken to calling them. A few hours before this shot was taken, Raul Touzon had explained to our photo workshop his method for doing shots like this. Here are his rules:
1) 1/15s (or slower) shutter speed
2) Multi-frame mode
3) Pre-focus on subject’s path and turn off auto-focus
4) Shoot perpendicularly to the subject’s motion (ie the line between you and the pre-determined focus point is perpendicular to the subject’s travel path)
5) Follow the subject to get in a rhythm (lock onto its motion) and start shooting before it reaches the point you focused on
For the workshop critique we had to present images straight out of the camera but here I’m showing one post-edit. I played with all sorts of tweaks and settled on this treatment. Here’s basically what I did (all using Lightroom): B+W…some vignette, mild clarity and contrast adjustments, and used the adjustment brush to add a bunch of contrast and clarity to the bus. I added extra clarity to the cross walk lines to highlight them a bit as well. There are some weird streaks in the top of the image — maybe a bird in the frame? Not sure, but it adds to the mystery of all the background blur.
This shot didn’t have perfect execution — I would prefer that the bus was a bit sharper — but I like it anyway. I like the how the cross walk lines lead to the bus and how the circular motion can be seen in the street in the foreground — exaggerated by the 15mm focal length that was used. The bus stands out just like it is supposed to as well. I’ll certainly experiment with this type of shot again.
Other posts (from me) about Raul Touzon’s workshops: http://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2010/04/27/my-first-photo-workshop-experience/, http://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/raul-touzons-portable-sun-workshop/, http://michaeltuuk.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/zipping-by/