Mar 222011

In honor of a very special friend turning the big Four-Oh today, I set out with my camera to capture an image just for her. Dawn, just let me know what size print you want and I’ll get it to you. I thought it would be cool for you to have a picture of something beautiful that existed on the day you reached this milestone in life.

Click for full size

Now for the “behind the scenes” info. Getting this image very nearly turned into a race against time as I had a bit of difficulty getting done with work as early as I wanted to. I was also struggling against a persistent stiff breeze. I walked around the UT Gardens for quite a while becoming quite discouraged before I finally found a bed of tulips. After taking a few test shots, I was pleased to find that on ISO 400, I could shot at f8 with a high enough shutter speed to hand hold. (I was worried about the amount of light available as it was quite overcast and the sun was getting low in the sky.) That made it so much easier to work my way closer and closer to my chosen flower while adjusting the zoom and changing angles for different backgrounds.

This shot is one of nearly two identical shots. This is actually the second one I processed and the major difference is that I changed the white balance. Although shot on the Cloudy white balance setting in the camera, I changed the balance to Fluorescent on this one. I immediately liked how it turned what was a boring grey sky in the background to a fairly deep blue. Adding the vignetting to darken the edges added what I consider a dream-like feel to the photograph. It also brought out some of the purplish-blue hues in the tulip and I did some very subtle hue adjustments to accentuate that as well. I spent some time flipping back and forth between the two versions of the image (Cloudy vs. Fluorescent) and called in both Mary and Katy for their opinion. I had already decided I preferred this version but I was happy that they independently agreed.

Mar 202011

Knox Heritage is sponsoring a photography contest with the subjects being buildings that are at least 50 years old in a certain section of old town. I decided to go out today and see what I could come up with. I took HDR brackets for everything just in case, but it turned out that in most cases I didn’t need to. So far, I’ve come up with on shot I might submit and another one that I like though I’ll have to read the rules to see if it would even be eligible. Probably not, but again, I like it.

First up, the one I might submit. Click on it to see it full size.

I’m reasonably happy with it with a couple of exceptions. First, the sides of the buildings are cropped pretty tight, but that was a necessity to apply perspective correction and keep the building from leaning. Also, you can’t see the bottom of the building but that was because I chose to shoot from the Gay Street Viaduct and there is a two story building between my camera and the street. I did that to have less perspective correction rather than shooting at street level from right in front of the building and asking Photoshop to twist and stretch things to look sort of straight. I think it was the right call. I just don’t know if the judges will agree. I guess there is one other thing. My Photoshop skills aren’t quite up to removing the street light. I might try it on a copy of the photo in a few days.

Here’s the other one. Again, click to see full size.

Can you guess the name of this building? When I was walking past, I liked how I could see into the top floor windows and see the skylight on the other wall. Unfortunately, I guess I wasn’t lined up quite in the middle of the sign so it looks a little off to me. On the other hand, had I been perfectly lined up, I’m not entirely sure I’d have been able to see the skylight through the window which is what drew me to it in the first place. This final image is a combination of processing the original image two different ways. The building was run through the spicify filter in Topaz Adjust which did really do a great job of bringing out details in the brickwork. The sky was also processed with Topaz Adjust though I can’t remember now which filter/setting.

Mar 142011

Tonight was the second night of my portrait class at UT. It was the first night we had a model to shoot. For some reason, directing subjects makes me very nervous. I hear that’s actually pretty common, but I sure hope I get over it quickly. I know I fumbled around a bit, but I wasn’t the only one. I did get a few decent shots, I think. Here’s the first one.

I’ll try to post a few more tomorrow evening.

Dec 312010

So here it is. The last day of 2010. I wanted to post one final photo for this year and also lay out some photographic goals for 2011. First, I’ll talk about the photo. Click on the photo to see it full size.

My daughter, Mary, did some pet setting for a friend of hers just before Christmas. Across the street from their apartment was a building with a lot of graffiti on it. On the last morning, I brought my camera along and took some shots of the graffiti on the wall that faces the apartment. Then I went around to corner to the back of the building and found a really large piece along with a couple of empty paint cans that were left behind by the artists. I got down low and pretty close to the paint cans to make them the subject. If it hadn’t been so cold that morning, I would have tried taking a few more shots working my way closer to the cans in each one. My fingers were starting to get stiff even with gloves on, though, so I shot two 3-shot HDR brackets with slightly different exposure settings and got back into the warm truck.

The only relatively tricky post-processing on this shot was the removal of some power lines and the correction of halo effects along the edge of the building created by the HDR processing. I cranked the clarity settings up pretty high for the dramatic sky effects and to emphasize the texture in the walls.

Now for my photography goals for 2011. Here they are in no particular order.

  • Finish the UT Photography certificate. I can actually do this any time now. I just need to apply for it.
  • Work on portraits. I’m taking a portraiture class at UT in a couple of months so that will be a good start on achieving that goal. I also need to figure out how to work on this outside of a classroom setting and with people other than my family. I’ll probably have to stick with environmental portraits in most situations but the most important thing right now is getting experience working with people.
  • Work on self portraits. Once I get some experience with portraits in general, I want to work on self portraits. What will make achieving this goal difficult isn’t the photography, but in figuring out how I want to present myself in the image. Self portraits bring a double whammy of being your own worst critic artistically and also never being entirely happy with your looks.
  • Invest in speedlights. I feel like to take my photos to the next level, one of the things I need to start getting experience with is multi-light setups. I’m planning on starting off with 2 more mid-level speedlights and some type of radio triggers. While I would love to have the RadioPoppers PX system or the new PocketWizards for Nikon, I’ll probably go with the lower cost RadioPoppers JrX system. I will also need to invest in some softboxes and other light modifiers. Other than classes and possibly a new tripod and ball head, this will be where the money will be spent this year.
  • Come up self-assignments/themes/projects. I actually need to do this pretty soon if I want to have plenty of time to work on them this year. A lot of what I’ve been doing is opportunistic photography. With the exception of going out to the UT Gardens to shoot flowers and plants, I tend to just walk around and see what jumps out at me as interesting or aesthetically pleasing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I think going out with a specific goal in mind will force me to search my surroundings with more deliberation and discover the shot that others might miss.
  • Enter the Knox County Fair. I should have entered this year and even had one print ready to go and others ready to send to MPix for printing and mounting. For a variety of reasons, though, I kept putting it off until it was too late to enter. I won’t let that happen again this year.
Nov 282010

Okay, technically, this is not the first frost in Knoxville this year. It is, however, the first frost that I’ve shot pictures of so that’s how I’m justifying the title of the picture and blog post.

When I returned home from taking Mary to work this morning, the sun had just gotten over the top of the hill east of our neighborhood. It hadn’t been out long enough to completely melt the frost in the sunlit areas and there were still long shadows being cast from my neighbor’s house (camera left) and the tree next to my driveway (camera right). I took a wider HDR series shot of this leaf, but it was too weak of a subject in a frame full of glistening blades of grass and other less colorful leaves scattered around the yard.