Most of our family’s favorite pictures are candids like these. While at the dinner table our daughter was being cute as usual and the 50D was just sitting out from having been used for these pictures of a fawn. My 70-200mm lens was attached and while I was tempted to open all the way up to f/2.8 (love the bokeh) I stopped down to f/4.5 to keep a little more depth of field in the portraits. The toughest part, as always with a wriggling baby, was focusing on the eye and taking the shot before she moved out of the plane of focus — which was 2″ at the wide end of the lens with this body/lens combo @ f/4.5. I had mixed success but the shots we ended up with are fun. Exposure, contrast, vignette, and noise reduction in Lightroom…
Candids are often my favorites and this is no exception for more reasons than one. This shot was not posed at all unless you count “Please look over here for a second” as posing. My wife of 25+ years loathes being in front of the camera so I appreciate that she indulged me this time. There was nothing to bounce flash off of (outdoors, no roof or ceiling overhead, no wall nearby) so I used direct flash with a diffuser. I started the evening using a 3′ sync cord and holding the flash off-camera at arm’s length but tired of that fairly quickly. Lightroom was used for most of the processing and for noise reduction (ISO 3200 was used) but I also cloned out a few unattractive elements around the scene. I didn’t do any skin retouching or the like.
I recently posted this on Google+ but thought I’d share it here too.
It seems like the piano goes 24/7 in the house, which is a good thing when the music is Debussy, Beethoven Sonatas, incredible arrangements of the Pirates theme, beautifully improvised hymns, etc. Sometimes “The Little Indian Song” can wear on you though (a couple young ones are just starting out) 🙂
Having our own regrets about quitting music lessons and hearing so many others express those same regrets, we’ve always “made” our kids take piano lessons until they were 18 under pain of death and all that (for the record it’s never been a real problem to keep them going). They could learn other instruments too but piano was a must. Without exception our children (age 24 and down) have expressed great gratitude for our rigidness in this. I don’t believe any child actually kept up with lessons until age 18 but that was because proficiency, rather than an arbitrary timeframe, was our goal. All were quite good before age 18 and a couple even played in UT’s Bates Recital Hall. The daughter pictured here requested on her own to start lessons again even after we said she could be done — she enjoys it.
I was revisiting some of my favorite photos recently — most of which don’t get shared because they aren’t worth much photographically speaking. I decided to share this one since it’s a good illustration of a semi-candid shot that one might not consider taking but ends up being a (personally) memorable shot. After opening all our presents on Christmas Eve morning we gathered all of us (minus the two out-of-town siblings and the baby who was sleeping), threw wrapping paper around, and snapped some photos. The setup was simple: camera on a tripod with on-camera flash bounced on the wall behind the camera. I have a remote but I just used the self-timer here. If I were trying to get the “ideal” shot I would have rearranged the room to allow a longer lens to be used and avoid the distortion from the wide-angle. I would have also lit up the background (simply by turning on lights in the other rooms) so it wasn’t so dark. I probably would’ve gotten out an umbrella or two and the remote triggers. However, I would have also annoyed everyone and made them impatient 🙂 In the end we got a fun picture that we all like.
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.
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.
Just a quick post before the weekend. I’ve been working all evening and decided to take a break. The shot of my daughter above was taken on a whim — pure candid. It has a posed look (I may have told her where to direct her eyes) but I took it while waiting for my son to get ready for some pics (see his dramatic profile here). Two of my daughters were in our music room — that’s what we’ve turned our formal living room into — playing the piano and singing. The afternoon light was just right for these shots as there was no direct light coming in, but plenty of ambient light from the outdoors. You can see a reflection of the window in her eyes which gives a reasonable catchlight. You also see a silhouette which appears as though it might be the photographer (me). It’s actually a harp which is in front of the window. Might have moved it had I noticed it in the reflection. That’s one reason that I’d shoot tethered (camera attached to a computer and images going straight to the display for those who aren’t familiar with “tethering” in the photography sense) if I were doing serious studio photography. It allows you to more readily see these sorts of things and adjust on the fly. These weren’t serious pictures anyway.
I like the angle of the shot. My daughter was standing at the piano, I was kneeling nearby. It’s not an angle that I’d choose typically but because the underside of her chin ended up in total shadow I really like it. I got lucky with the fact that I didn’t go far enough toward the full profile such that her nose stuck out past the far cheek. I frankly never thought about it while snapping the shots.
One other thing I’d change if I were doing this over — I’d stop down just a bit. I like the out-of-focus look of the far eye and cheek, but I’d prefer the lips to be entirely in focus (or very close). No biggy, I still like the shot. Not bad for just fooling around with candids. Upon closer examination I’m sure I could find all sorts of things “wrong” with it.
For processing I mainly did a bit clarity reduction on the skin in Lightroom, exposure adjustments, contrast adjustments, and whitening of the eyes. I don’t like to overdo the skin touch-up thing — it looks too fake IMO. I didn’t do any spot-healing, etc. There was a tad bit of the background which was exposed enough to show up in the image but I made that black by lowering the exposure with an adjustment brush in Lightroom.
Hope you like it. I love it, but of course I’m biased.
A friend who’s running for a state-level office had made arrangements to take photos with Texas Governor Rick Perry at an event and asked me to take the pictures for him. While milling around I was shooting candids using my flash for some fill. I got wildly mixed results — some shots looked great, sometimes faces were blown out.
I noticed some pro photogs also shooting with flash so when one of them was taking a break I asked him how he was using his flash — What modes, settings, etc. He was more than happy to discuss it and pulled me off to the side so he could explain the way he worked. I thought I’d pass on his tips to you. On a side note, after he pulled me aside he commented “I really like the way you carry your camera”, referring to my recently acquired Black Rapid RS-4 strap (which I completely love — check one out sometime).
First, some description of the shooting conditions: Mix of complete shade, mottled shade from trees, and some completely sunny areas. It was about 8:30am, sun still relatively low which caused a half-moon effect depending on your shooting angle (full sun on half the face, shaded on the other). It was very easy to get blown-out highlights on the sunny side.
The way both of these pros typically shoot in conditions like this is as follows (probably obvious to you experienced photogs). Flash in E-TTL (both were Canon shooters). Camera set to shutter priority mode with a shutter speed of 1/250 (max sync speed). One used a sync cord to move the flash off-camera, the other had his on-camera. Both dialed in -2/3 flash exposure compensation and only changed that if they weren’t getting good results. One of them explained that he would try to catch 6-7 frames of a situation (for example taking a shot of the Governor shaking a hand) in relatively rapid succession in order to bracket his flash exposure. Basically the first shot gets full flash and subsequent shots get varied flash power depending on how much the flash had recharged. He picks the best exposures in post. Not very scientific but he’s been shooting 50-ish years…must be effective and certainly is easy when shooting digitally (I didn’t ask him what he did in his film days). The other photog that I talked to said he pretty much shoots this way also. I was already finished shooting and about to head out so I didn’t get a chance to try this out myself.
For anyone who wants to check out this guy’s work, check out harrycabluck.com. Here are some of the very cool pics you’ll find on his website: Carlton Fisk celebrating his winning home run in the 1975 World Series (most of us old folks have seen that picture many times), Franco Harris with the “immaculate reception”, Terry Bradshaw in the Steeler’s locker room. Amazing stuff.
I found an article about him and it said that he was in JFK’s motorcade when he was assassinated and has taken photographs of every president since then. He’s covered “more Superbowls, World Series, and national championships games than he could remember”. What an interesting (and very pleasant) guy. He gave me his card and I think I’m going to call on him one of these days and see if he’ll trade a lunch for some stories.
One parting piece of advice Harry gave me: Keep your non-photography job so you can afford to keep taking pictures 🙂
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.
[Yes, I know the more proper title may be “To Tonemap or Not to Tonemap” but it just doesn’t sound as good]
HDR is fun — a downright blast I’d say. It’s very easy to get caught up in it to the point where you (1) always bracket your shots and (2) always tonemap in Photomatix or similar software. Why? The images are often stunning.
Lately I’m finding more and more high-dynamic-range situations where tonemapping isn’t my preferred option. Take, for example, these exposures of 6th Street in Austin taken on a photowalk organized by Alex Suarez during SXSW. I wanted to tone down the intensity of some of the lights yet show detail in other areas.
After tonemapping, I got this:
I played with combinations of settings and some were better than others. In the end though, no tonemapping settings produced an image which I was personally happy with. I decided to start with my center exposure as the base layer and see what I could do with it. I rather like the final result and I’ll explain below how I processed it. I’m sure there are better ways to do this but frankly I’m a CS4 novice and this fits in my current skill set.
Here’s the short description of what I did: I started with the layer which contained the normal (“0”) exposure on top. I placed the -2 exposure underneath, created a layer mask and blended the darker layer into some of the blown-out areas (neon signs for example). I darkened a few other spots according to my taste as well. Using the same masking process I blended in parts of the +2 exposure to bring out some detail in the shadows — went very easy on this because I still wanted this to look like a night shot under the streetlights. I also played with all the layers to get the look I wanted with the moving traffic.
Next, I had to do something with the people on the sidewalk. Ideally I would have taken them from the normal exposure but there was too much motion blur. The only acceptable exposure from this standpoint was the -2, but the subjects were far too dark. I simply duplicated the -2 layer and gave it some treatment — bumped up the exposure, played with the contrast, etc. — in order to make the sidewalk and people roughly match the normal exposure. This allowed me to blend them in reasonably and obtain the (roughly) still look I wanted. I also used that layer to touch up a few other areas. One of the guys in the foreground still ended up without an arm…but I worked with what I had and he was moving in all the exposures 🙂
Of course I finished off with curves, sharpening, etc.
So, that’s it…I hope you like the shot and I also hope I’ve inspired some simple non-HDR experimentation. I’d love to hear your comments, particularly related to what approach you might have taken to process a shot like this.