The 2013 Longhorn Open (annual racquetball tournament at the University of Texas) featured the #1 ranked women’s racquetball player in the world, Paola Longoria. Learn how to consistently hit shots like the one above and you’re one step closer to a #1 ranking. I decided to take a few pictures on the final day of the tournament — just to see how they’d turn out. I shot in manual mode and played around with the balance between aperture (depth of field), shutter speed (freezing the players and the ball), and high ISO (noise considerations). The lighting was actually pretty good in most of the courts, allowing “reasonable” settings. Most of the courts didn’t have any viewing area except from above. That isn’t so great for pictures but I was just experimenting anyway. Focusing was another challenge and I frankly never figured out a good strategy.
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.
[Update: By popular demand I cropped the original image (which is now at the bottom of the post) to remove the railing. Once I did that crop, I really felt like the fountain was too close to the edge of the frame so I cropped that out too. Hated to lose it, but it needed to go. I also used Lightroom’s healing brush to get rid of a few heads and such which were on the edge of the frame due to the crop. Finally, I cropped out the top of the sky to get an aspect ratio I liked and added a touch of vignette. If I were reworking this image I’d probably do some cloning in the sky to make it “fit” better on the edges of the frame but I’m not going to go through that effort for this shot. Thanks everyone for the input!]
My wife and I are planning a trip this summer with three of our older girls. We haven’t settled on a destination yet but in the process of thinking about the upcoming trip I couldn’t help but reminisce about our trip to Paris two years ago. I would happily go to Paris again — so many things I didn’t get to see last time (and so many I’d like to see again).
I took the shot above (an HDR processed from three handheld exposures) on our first day in Paris. This one is almost impressionist in feel. The edges are soft and I only partially masked in some of the ghosted people from the various exposure. It would be unacceptable as a print but makes a nice, moody image when viewed at the appropriate size (smallish).
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.
During my not-a-photo-trip to Paris and London this past spring I still managed some interesting (IMO) shots. This image taken in the Great Court inside the British Museum has been one of my favorites from the standpoint of its composition and the contrast of the blues and greens against the drab-ish stone. Again, that’s just my opinion of course.
I’ve had difficulty processing this image, however. I really wanted to process as an HDR and the three original handheld exposures were extremely difficult to line up properly. I’ve noted that when shooting wide angles a slight bit of movement and/or rotation between exposures makes a huge difference. Because of this, Photomatix did a very poor job of alignment and this left a lot of ghosting in the image. Of course, I had the ability to mix the tonemapped image with the original exposures but it was proving to be a lot of work to tweak pieces of each layer to line up with the section I wanted to mask it into. It also took more work than usual to get the original exposures looking just right in order to match the main image. I pushed the texture and HDR-ishness farther than I normally do…just because it seems to work here.
One mistake that I couldn’t overcome was the fact that the light coming through the glass roof was blown out in all the exposures. I call that a “mistake” but I really wasn’t taking the time to think through all the shots because I was doing very well at keeping the trip about time with my wife, not about photography. Heath O’Fee has a good post about mistakes like this by the way — they don’t always ruin the shot [Here’s the link: http://yycofee.wordpress.com/2010/08/30/mistakes/].
Well, there it is — one of *my* favorite images.