As much as I don’t want to post my mistakes — especially the really stupid ones — they can be helpful to look back on and point out to others. It depends on the natural light situation of course, but in a portrait like the one above I often use a single strobe through, or reflected from, an umbrella placed above-camera. This may be to provide a catchlight in the eyes, a bit of fill in the eye sockets, some overall light, or all of the above. I occasionally use a bare strobe (well, sometimes with a gel but no other modifiers) to give a hint of a rim light on the shoulders to help separate the subjects from the background. My daughter typically holds this in position behind the subjects when I use it. During a recent family portrait shoot on the grounds of the Texas Capitol I pulled a real boneheaded move with this light.
Just before we shot the pose above (which fortunately wasn’t the “preferred” pose) I got my rim light strobe out of the bag and quickly tested that everything was working (flash on, remote trigger operational, my guesstimated manual power set). All was well so I dropped it in the grass and we set to arranging people and reminding the kids not to watch the squirrels running around. We shot a bunch of frames to make sure we caught everyone looking their best-ish and moved on to our next pose. I had decided not to use the rim light because the separation from the background seemed fine.
To my horror, when I loaded the pics up on the computer at home, I noticed that all the shots of this pose had a bright light in the grass and two of the subjects were lit like they were being blasted by the sun. Well, they *were* being blasted — by my portable sun as you see in the picture below. I had left it turned on and the trigger active…probably at 1/4 power. Oops. I couldn’t believe I had not noticed this while chimping my test shots. My (young) daughters didn’t point it out — one didn’t even notice and the other assumed that I intended to use the flash that way.
Needless to say it was a big mistake. While this was not the ideal pose we wanted to keep one from this set. I was fortunate enough to have a reasonable fixable frame in the bunch so I went to work. Switched a head, toned down some of the effects from the misplaced strobe, and made the other usual edits. I believe the photo *is* completely salvageable given enough effort and time and I may work on it for practice in the future.
Lesson learned. Chimp and look around the *whole* frame — Check everything…check again.
While we’ve gotten much more rain this year than in past years, we could use more. I’d love to see the sky go black, hear some good thunder, and feel the rain coming down again. During one of our spring rains my daughter and I had lunch at the Whole Foods mother ship (as we sometimes call the headquarters) and walked around downtown Austin in the rain. I went monochrome, super contrasty, and dark/moody with this shot of my daughter walking along Lamar Blvd. For most of our walk I had to keep the camera put away — too much rain — but we had a lull here.
Each year my mom sends hand-made Christmas ornaments to family and friends. They are usually very intricate in both structure and painting. It’s a bit harder now with our large family size but ours are typically personalized with our first names painted on the ornament. She does exceptional work on crafts like this. We always encouraged her to make a business out of her various crafty things but she was never interested.
Before the tree came down this year I decided to grab quick shots of some of the ornaments. While the crafts stand on their own artistically I’ll throw out a few comments on how I shot them. First off, I didn’t light them except with the lights on the tree and the ambient (tungsten) light in the room. I used a tripod and bracketed the shots thinking that I might even do some HDRs given the large difference between the shadows and the lights on the tree. In the end the only HDR is shown at the top of the post…it’s just OK photographically IMO. I didn’t spend any time in Photoshop trying to make it better. I experimented with aperture. I didn’t get enough DOF with f/2.8 — even when considering only the ornaments and not the tree and lights. Using f/22 gave interesting starbursts in the lights of course but required either very long shutter speeds at low ISO or a higher ISO which I avoided since I was planning on HDRs. Of course I could use any shutter speed I wanted but I was simply too lazy to do manual exposures/bracketing above the 30 second maximum sans “bulb” mode. I didn’t want to do starburst HDRs that badly. So, I ended up processing individual frames with apertures ranging from f/6.3 to get some bokeh vs. f/22 to get the starburst effect. Lightroom was used for some simple adjustments — mainly clarity, contrast, sharpening, and vignette. A variety of combinations are posted here.
For purposes of scale here’s a (blurry) picture of the above ornament with a quarter held next to it. Other ornaments are shown below.
While setting up camp last weekend in Port Aransas, TX we saw the most amazing colors in the sky. I’m usually in mission mode when setting up camp and wouldn’t normally stop for pics, but this was too cool. Given that we were in an RV park there weren’t a lot of great foreground elements to choose from but I think the palm tree silhouette does the trick in a pinch.
This was shot with daylight white balance and post-processing consisted of noise reduction and bringing the luminance of the blues and oranges down a notch to get the colors looking like the actual sky. I also dropped the exposure of the lower part of the frame (the campground) about a stop. This image could use a border to keep it from blending into the background of the page…maybe I’ll update it later.
I loved Montana. There were scenes like this everywhere — wide open spaces, mountains, horses — beautiful. I passed this place several times and decided I needed to take a picture of it. I waited a little bit for the horses to move into an interesting position (ie not with ALL their backs turned) and took the shot. Simple, but I like it.
Processing consisted of cropping and playing around with things in Lightroom. The main effect is the semi-desaturated, “old picture” look.
Just down the road from this ranch, I captured this shot of an old, rusty tractor and gave it a similar “old picture” treatment.
[Update in response to questions]
What a surprise to featured in Freshly Pressed. Thanks, everyone for the kind comments! What I liked about this picture was its simplicity and its portrayal of the vast open spaces — glad you like it too.
The picture was taken near Nye, MT in the Stillwater Valley. For those familiar with the area it was approximately half way between the Nye post office and the Stillwater mine. While I’ve driven through other parts of Montana, the Stillwater Valley is the only area where I’ve spent significant time (three different trips). There is basically no tourism which makes it that much more attractive. I’d highly recommend a visit to the forests and wilderness in this area. I’d also recommend renting an ATV (http://www.benbowatvrentals.com/) and heading up into the mountains — AMAZING views to be had. Unfortunately severe rain was threatening (and eventually arrived) when we rented the ATVs so the camera gear stayed in our cabin — no pics. The camera used was a Canon 5D mkii with a Canon 24-70 f/2.8L (at 70mm). The image was cropped slightly for aesthetic reasons which slightly reduces the “vastness” effect but improved the overall image. Over time I’ll try to visit everyone’s blogs, but it may take a while!