Today I’m putting in a plug for a Raul Touzon workshop being held at the Dragonfly Gallery in Austin, TX. This workshop is called “The Portable Sun” and focuses on creative flash techniques. I’ve attended a Raul Touzon workshop in the past (please read my review here) and highly recommend him as a teacher. The images you see above and below were taken while attending that workshop. We spent some time on “the portable sun” although that wasn’t the focus of the previous workshop.
I’ve messed around with flash techniques (both on and off-camera) enough to know that you can get bogged down in the technical details in a hurry. That’s fine in some situations but there are times when you just need to know enough to make it work. I haven’t attended Raul’s portable sun workshop but based on my previous workshop experience I can say that he strikes a great balance between getting technical (he can go deep if you need to) and not missing “the moment” because you’re fiddling with dials and buttons on your camera and flash. There are times (especially in journalistic photography) when you just can’t get a flash meter out or fire off a series of test shots. The image of the lady in the bar (The Broken Spoke in Austin) was taken spur of the moment — no setup or test shots. You can see that I need some practice…but that’s why we attend workshops.
Go take this workshop. Registration info is here: http://www.dragonflygallerytx.com/workshopraulportable.htm
Here are links to my posts which have some reference to my Raul Touzon workshop experience:
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.
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.