Apr 282011

Mother’s Day is fast approaching so I decided to come up with an image that I can have printed and give as a gift. I’ve had some success with shooting flowers so I decided I’d work with that but try something a little different. One of the most difficult parts of the whole thing was finding some roses in decent condition. I finally did find some, however, and then came home and turned the dining room into a temporary studio. Here’s the first shot.

I hung my roll of black felt from the top of the dining room windows and unrolled it enough to drape across the dining room table. Then I took a large piece of glass out of the entertainment center and set it on top of the felt for a reflection. I also used an eye dropper to strategically place a large puddle in front of my main subject, a yellow rose. That actually worked out fairly well in most of the shots I took, but in the shot above, I moved my flash (with my brand new soft box attached) from roughly 45 degrees camera right to just slightly camera left which seems to have eliminated most of the reflection. In the end, I chose this shot because I prefer the lighting on the rose so much more than the shots with the strong reflection.

Now for the next shot.

For this shot, I used all 3 of my extension tubes and my brand new Orbis Ring Flash. I used my 70-200 lens and started out with my smallest extension tube, took a few shots, added the medium extension tube, took a few shots, then finally added the large one before I felt like I was as close as I wanted to be. I lost count of how many shots I took before I finally felt like I had the right parts in focus combined with a good exposure.

I’d really like to get some feedback on which of these two shots should be used for Mother’s Day. Either leave a comment here or on Facebook or Twitter. If you do leave a comment here, please make sure you say who you are unless it’s really obvious by your WordPress account name. I get my share of spambots trying to get through and I’d hate to delete a real comment because I thought it was a bot.

Apr 222011

As I mentioned in the previous post, the current assignment for my creative photography class was to take a creative shot of a man made sign. In this post, I’m going to talk about the shot that is currently selected to be the one I will send unless I get another chance to go out shooting before Sunday evening.

This was shot in front of Calhoun’s at Volunteer Landing. I thought it was kind of funny how they had these three no parking signs so close to each other. I focused on the closest one to me and then worked with both the zoom and my shooting angle to get a diagonal line of signs shrinking into the distance. I also shot at various apertures so I could pick how sharp I wanted the furthest sign. I wanted it to be recognizable, but not sharp.

The toughest decision for me when processing this image was to desaturate all of the color channels except red. I see this effect used a lot in photo communities so I feel like it’s been done to death. However, I really thought it was needed in this situation because it was a bright, sunny day and the trees were green and yellow and those flags in the background where orange and white and there was just a LOT going on in this picture. I felt like only leaving the red channel was the best way to not lose the signs further back into the background AND to amplify the message the restaurant was trying to convey by putting so many signs that close together. “Look people, DON’T PARK HERE!”

Oh, there’s also a touch of vignetting around the edges, but nothing heavy handed. I used it mainly to bring down the sky peaking through the tree in the upper left just a little bit.

Apr 222011

The first assignment for my creative photography class is to take a creative shot of a man made sign. I had an opportunity to go out last Tuesday evening and shoot around Volunteer Landing while I was waiting for Lisa. This picture below is one of the first I took. On my way home, I thought that was going to be THE shot, but I’m not 100% thrilled with it. I’ll explain why below the photo.

First, let me say what I like about this image. The number one thing I like about it is that it’s not a typical sign. I was trying to think outside the box about what most people think of when they think of “man made sign.” I also like the dramatic low angle and the fact you can see the reflection of the old Baptist Hospital in the top part of the seal. (Incidentally, I guess you’d call that a seal. Is there a more appropriate term for that?) Anyway, I also love the texture and color of the concrete. I always try to amplify the texture any chance I get.

Here’s what I don’t like about it. First, the river bank below the hospital is just BLEH! For me, it borderlines on eye sore. Second, there’s something that I can’t quite figure out that I don’t like about how the hospital itself is lit. I tried working with it quite a bit and it’s better in this final version, but there’s still something I don’t like about it. Third, the green bridge on the left side of the frame bothers me a little. Fourth, and this is a bit nit-picky, but while the hospital and the top of the seal are pretty much dead center in the frame, the nearest point is shifted a little camera left. I was literally laying on my side trying to frame this shot and apparently I was just a touch too far to the right but didn’t see it at the time. I’m just far off center enough for it to bug me every time I look at it. In the end, the things I didn’t like about the image outweighed what I liked so I’m not submitting it for next Monday’s class.

My next post will be of the photo from this trip that is the current top choice. If I get out any tomorrow, I’ll take my camera and see if I can come up with something better.

Apr 062011

Monday night, our photography class was fortunate to have a belly dancer as our model. We first shot her in street clothes, but I didn’t get any that I was terribly happy with. They were okay, I guess, but I didn’t like them enough to bother processing them. After everyone had a turn with her in street clothes, she changed into her new costume. This was also challenging because a lot of her poses and moves require her arms to be quite outstretched and I frequently was getting the edge of the backdrop in the frame. Sure, I could have used Photoshop to fix that, but that’s not my first choice. Anyway, time to get to the pictures.

All of these frames were processed similarly. For instance, I pretty seriously darkened the background in all of the frames. To me, the brightness of the background was almost identical to the brightness of the model and I wanted to deemphasize the background to keep attention on the model. I also didn’t bother with the portrait filter for skin smoothing since you can’t really see the skin texture unless you zoom way in or if you made a really large print.

In the image below, I adjusted my exposure settings and put my camera in rear-curtain sync to try and capture a little motion blur before the strobes fired. I wasn’t even sure if the radio triggers would work with rear-curtain sync, and in retrospect, i STILL don’t know if they were actually respecting rear-curtain sync, but there is a hint of motion blur in her hand. Not as much as I’d hoped for, but considering there was a line of students behind me waiting their turn, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time working on it.

I was in Nashville last Sunday for The Flash Bus Tour with Joe McNally and David (Strobist) Hobby. It was an awesome workshop and definitely worth both the time/gas and the registration fee. I would definitely consider going if they ever do it again.

Mar 282011

Tonight’s model in my portrait class was Amanda. During the course of the evening, I found out she’s engaged and she’s a journalism major. Our first setup was out in the lobby to use the incoming light from the huge windows. Unfortunately, I had to push my ISO up to 800 and even with Nikon’s VR system turned on, I was pushing the limits of hand held shooting. I may work up one or two of those images later in the week, but I wanted to start with the studio images we did in the second half of the class. I actually ended up with 7 picks out of the set so don’t be surprised if you see a lot of Amanda this week.

This was actually one of the last shots I took. There was a large softbox overhead and our teacher is holding my gold reflector just out of frame below her. I think my gold reflector was doing a little better job of filling in the shadows then the plain silver one he was using. Besides my standard portrait plug-in, I manually brightened the area just below her eyes using a duplicate layer in screen mode and a blurred filter mask to blend the brighter area in with the rest of the image. The layer opacity was around 40% if memory serves me correctly. I also did some clean up of a few strands of hair, but there weren’t that many so it was no big deal.