Apr 232011

I found some time to go out shooting again this afternoon and came up with a couple of fun shots for the assignment. I’m fairly certain either one of these shots would knock out the no parking signs shot from a couple of days ago.

I came up on a rather large poster hanging inside the window of one of the businesses on Gay Street. It popped up in my head that if I could get a slow enough shutter speed, I could get a rotational blur effect. The window was still in full sun so I had to drop my ISO down to its lowest level and also ended up having to put my circular polarizer on to lower the shutter speed even further. After taking several shots, I knew I liked the concept but I realized I had a slight problem. If I got a really nice, creamy rotational blur, you couldn’t really see enough detail to really understand what it was you were looking at. If I reduced the amount of rotation to make the poster understandable, I lost the “cool factor.” I decided I’d use a shot that had a lot of rotational blur and then take a sharp shot of the poster and composite it into the picture with Photoshop. Once I got home, I decided to only composite in the girl and I reduced the opacity of the layer she was on to help her blend into the background just a touch. Other than that, it was pretty standard post processing. I upped the black levels as much as possible to deepen the red and also reduced the luminosity on the red channel just a bit. No additional sharpening at all except for the standard Lightroom 3 export sharpening.

This was the second photo op I came across. I loved the sign as I approached but I’m most happy I didn’t even start shooting until I walked to the other side and checked framing opportunities back in the direction I had come from. The wall of the building I had already passed had these black and white drawings painted onto the side and the one in the middle, as you can see, was the aperture of a camera! How perfect is that? Quite a bit of clarity was added to this as well as sharpening in an attempt to bring out the texture of the rust and other details on the sign. I also had to go into Photoshop to remove a power cable that ran from the upper right of the frame, directly through the center of the frame between the sign and the background. I also chose to remove a small clump of leaves in the upper left because they were still catching some of the setting sun and were much brighter than anything else in the background. Back in Lightroom, I added a vignette and altered the shape so that it was as close to the shape of the sign as I could get it.

So far, both Lisa and Katy have preferred the poster shot over the parking lot sign. I’m inclined to agree although I’m not sure if a composite image is going to be considered acceptable for this assignment. I’m going to send both (we are only supposed to send one image) and tell him my pick is the poster, but if he doesn’t want to allow composites, then he should use the parking lot shot instead.

Apr 232011

My Orbis Ring Flash came in the mail earlier this week and by Friday the need to play with the new toy reached a breaking point. I asked Katy to pose for me while I tried it out in several different settings. The verdict? I can’t really say I liked any of the shots I took with it. Clearly, I need to practice a little more and experiment with settings and distances. I know it can produce some great looks, I’m just going to have to figure out how to get that with my equipment.

Fortunately, the session wasn’t a total loss as I took a few shots outside without the flash. Here’s the one I liked the best.

This shot came out of the camera about a stop too hot but the nice thing about working in raw is the ability to recover those overexposed areas. I ran this through my portrait retouching tool for some slight skin smoothing and then into Photoshop to remove a few stray hairs and to brighten and sharpen the eyes. I also added a little saturation to her lips.

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.

Sep 262010

Woo Hoo! Two days in a row! Go me!

I had to pick up Lisa from school one day last week and I had some time to kill so I took my camera into the UT Gardens to see if I could find anything to shoot. It had been raining about 30 minutes before so everything had raindrops. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tripod with me so I couldn’t get any extreme close ups of the drops. Still I got some interesting shots. Here’s my favorite.

Post-processing this image got interesting in one way. The edges of the flowers were so close to being fully saturated that bumping up the saturation for the rest of the image almost immediately blew them out into what I can only describe as “bizzare-o land”. I actually had to selective desaturate the edges so that I could then gently bump up the saturation on the image as a whole (which it needed, IMHO, for impact). Not a whole lot of other processing was done. I did some sharpening and added the vignette, but that’s about it.

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!