Mar 182011

My homework for my portrait class this week was to take one or two shots of a subject by a window. I talked Mary into being my subject and even managed to coerce Katy into holding a reflector and my flash. I kind of broke a “rule” of positioning the face (though I won’t say what it is) but I was fighting quite a bit to keep the shadows from the tree and the frame of the window from hitting her face in the wrong places and getting the reflector in the right place to keep light on her hair.

Katy is holding the reflector about 12 to 18 inches away from Mary’s hair and directing the flash to bounce into it. The reflector is mostly silver but has gold stripes all over it to give it a warm tone to get close the the setting sun coming through the window. Post processing was mostly limited to Portrait Professional to handle skin smoothing (I never thought about the screen on the window putting lines on her face but sure enough, it did!) and some subtle adjustments to her eyes and lips.

Jul 262010

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m going to talk about a couple of the shots I took on the Worldwide Photowalk that just didn’t quite do it for me when I got them into Lightroom. Hopefully, going through the exercise of analyzing these photos for why they didn’t work will help me the next time I’m out shooting.

Here’s the first one.

This is a shot of The Tomato Head restaurant in Market Square. Every time I’ve come here to eat, it’s been packed. It’s a very popular place and the food is excellent! Anyway, when I was standing out on the square early on Saturday morning, I was struck by the fact that it was one of the few times I’d ever seen the place when it wasn’t full of people. I also thought it interesting that even when it was closed, there were still bikes parked there. I presumed they belonged to employees that were already inside cooking up stuff to serve later in the day. I put a polarizer on my lens to cut the reflections on the windows and setup my tripod so I could get the entire restaurant in frame with a moderately wide angle. I shot two or three HDR sequences so I could capture the inside of the restaurant as well as the outside. Technically I’m reasonably satisfied with this frame (though I probably would have played with the crop a little if it was a keeper), but the picture doesn’t really communicate what prompted me to take out my camera. Still, this could be a good spot to come back too in the early evening when there are people sitting at the tables. I would probably raise my vantage point, though, so I could shoot over any parked bikes.

It wouldn’t be much of a farmers market if there wasn’t produce being sold. I’m standing at the end of a rather long table full of different varieties of tomatoes. The signs caught my eye as well as the contrast between the yellow bins and the red tomatoes. I took different shots at slightly different angles and alternated focusing on either the closest sign or the ‘Ultra Sweet’ sign on the right side of the frame. Unfortunately, in all of the shots, I found the background too distracting; especially the words on the banner which in most cases are just out of focus enough to be unreadable but in focus enough to make you want to try to read them. I’m also thinking that I should have probably been higher up and pointing the camera back down to see more of the tomatoes in the bins.

Jul 242010

Today I participated in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk. I enjoyed myself and got a few shots I’m happy with but I sure wish he set this up for the end of May instead of the end of July. It was hot, humid, and there was little to no breeze in and around Market Square in Knoxville. I only stayed for about an hour before I decided that the heat was becoming so much of an issue that it wasn’t fun to be shooting anymore.

The image below is my first “pick” although it is actually at the second location I shot at. (I’ll probably discuss the shots that didn’t make the final cut in another post.) At one edge of Market Square, there was a building that was surrounded by scaffolding and had really been stripped down to a skeleton. As far as I know, the guy that was welding was the only person working. I was on a tripod and actually made an HDR sequence for this shot. However, when I got home, I came up with a different way to process it. I took the dark exposure of the HDR sequence and used Lightroom’s adjustment brush to selectively brighten the scene using the light from the welder as a source. I added a little post-crop vignetting as well to both amplify the effect and also to darken the large white building across the street that you can see on the left side of the frame.

This next shot is and HDR shot of one of the little Farmers Market shops . The title is Modest Mannequin. There are a couple of different things I like about this shot. I like the contrast between the white mannequin that is covering herself (itself?) on top but is wearing sparkling “LOOK AT ME” pants. I also like the contrast from left to right between the white mannequin and the brightly colored clothes hanging on the rack. I also think it’s kind of ridiculous to have a mannequin designed with arms folded over to cover her “breasts.” Why cover them? They aren’t real!

This next shot is of a street musician that was just getting settled in and starting to play. I can’t tell you why, but this shot went from being a “skip it” as a color image to a “pick” as a black and white. I did some subtle split toning and added a little film grain as well. (Not sure the film grain comes through at web resolutions, but I promise it’s there.)

Next up is an HDR shot of the Tennessee Theater on Gay Street. I was in here a month or so ago to see Avenue Q and was blown away about how beautiful it is in there. Anyway, this HDR was processed in Photomatix and is somewhere between ‘grunge’ and ‘photorealistic.’ I was trying to show on the outside how beautiful it is on the inside. I’m not super happy with the amount of reflections in the windows and doors, but my polarizer filter cut as much as it could. I probably could have eliminated most, if not all, of them by shooting at an angle, but I wanted a straight on view. Still, I’m happy with the shot over all so it’s definitely a pick.

The last shot of the day was total luck. I was actually walking around the block to get a candid shot of someone I had seen at the end of an alley when I passed by a doorway that was half underground. It was old and dirty and gritty and just looked really cool. I shot an HDR sequence and was blown away with how good it came out of Photomatix. I started by using the Grunge preset and then tweaked it just a little here and there both in Photomatix and back in Lightroom. I love how the texture of the scene just seems to pop out of the photo. I realize it looks a little crunchy when shrunk down to website size, but it looks awesome full screen.

Now I just need to figure out which shot I should submit for the photowalk contest. Decisions, decisions!

Jul 232010

I ‘ve spent quite a bit of time tonight getting ready for the county fair coming up in September. I’ve decided to submit at least 3 of my images to the photography contest. One of them will be the flower shot that I blogged about a few days ago (Post Title: The Power of White Balance). The other is an HDR shot I took while at the Mayan ruins of Kohunlich. While there are certainly ruins in the background, the main subject is actually a very pretty tree.

In my opinion, this photo loses some if its impact shrunk down to the size needed to fit in the blog. I think it will look pretty cool in print. I just hope the petals pop as nicely on paper as they do on the screen.

What you don’t see is the headache I went through getting these two images ready to send to MPix. The fair requires that all photos be mounted on 15X19 to 16X20 foam core. I chose 16X20 because that’s a standard photo size and I can have MPix mount it for me. Now, neither of these photos are at their best cropped to 16X20. I wanted to print them so the long edge of each would be roughly 16 to 18 inches and then have a black border around the rest. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say that no matter what I tried, I could not get the MPix ROES software to do what I wanted to do. I ended up going into Photoshop and creating a black 16X20 image layer and then adding my new image as a new layer above it and positioning it where I wanted it.

Of course, my other option would have been to print at a smaller size and take the print to a local place to have it matted (or attempted to figure out how to mat it myself). It might have been a little cheaper, but I just felt like since I was placing these images in competition, I wanted them to be presented as professionally as possible.

In other photography-related news, tomorrow I’ll be heading out to Market Square to participate in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk. It starts at 9:00 but I plan to get there early and get my photo-mojo warmed up a little early. I’m hoping to get another shot or two for the fair. I’m going to keep my eye out for interesting architecture, inanimate objects, and candids of people going about their business. It should be a lot of fun!