Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Musings and observations

I haven't spent much time behind my camera so far this week, but have every intention to remedy this very soon.

Not that I haven't been doing photography related things in the meantime. Been watching some instructional videos from Lindsay Adler on lighting and posing techniques, as well as diving into another of her great books - Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography. And another great source for lighting techniques is any of Joe McNally's books - and great reads too!

Oddly enough, I observed (by chance) a couple of photographers taking portraits at a local park over this past weekend; while I was there exercising my dog and letting him get excited with all the squirrels. Anyway, back to the "photographers" and my impressions of watching their work. My number one thought was how they need to read "Shooting in Sh*tty Light" by Lindsay Adler because I'm seriously thinking that their photos are not going to be very great.

One photog was working with a young couple and all she had for light modifiers was an on camera flash (no diffuser dome or other modifier in use, other than the built-in bounce card was extended) that was set to 90° straight at the subjects - the most unflattering option. They would have done a lot better to have had an assistant with a 5in1 reflector/diffuser to work with the wonderful afternoon sun (for natural light) or to help in getting the flash off-camera to provide a more pleasing fill light. What made this one worse for me was a little while later I overheard the photog and subjects talking about the shoot and the photog commented about looking forward to receiving their $400 fee! Wow classy; talking loudly about that kind of thing in a public place.

Then a little while later I saw what must have been a wedding party of some sort - big stretch limo, about a dozen people streaming out and being herded into a group for some photos. The photog in this scenario had nothing more than a single body and (what looked like) a short zoom lens. He proceeded to line everyone up, facing into the afternoon sun which meant they would all be squinting heavily and scrunching up their faces. Most unflattering!

Now it's not like I'm (currently) any top portrait photographer but I'm educating myself on good practices. I'm also very well aware of mistakes I've made in the past with a lot of my portrait work...not least of which is producing boring, stiff portraits. Add into that poor lighting choices (don't light a male and female subject the same - one will not like the look) and general errors.

I am currently planning my "first" portrait session since all my video classes and reading and will incorporate as much of what I've learnt as I can into the photos. I'm even following Lindsay's prep work suggestions to identify location and photo style. And of course, I will post updates and photos here after they are finished.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wayback Wednesday

Today I'm going to do something a little different and dig into my photo archives to highlight never before published photos.

The year is 2005 and I have recently started working with a digital SLR camera. The camera in question is a Nikon D100 (and yes, I do still have it) and I am busily diving into the whole world of digital photography.

Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings about zoos and aquariums but I have to say that they do offer the chance to photograph animals that you may never otherwise have an opportunity to. On this occasion I was at the Oklahoma Aquarium and saw a pretty good sized bass swimming around and I took several photos of him/her.

For the technically minded, the lens used was a 60mm f/2.8D Micro with an exposure of 1/20sec @ f/4.

I hope you like this small glimpse back in time and a chance to see a photo that has not been widely shared before. Who knows, I may make this a regular thing!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Busy, busy time

It's been a while since I last sat down with my laptop and typed up a blog entry and a lot has transpired in that time - some good, some not so good.

I think I'll just dive in and get the not so good out of the way. For some time now my Macbook Pro has been progressively having performance issues and Lightroom had been a major pain in that it would often fail to open and read all my cataloged images. Thinking that the problem was with Lightroom I contacted their tech support for assistance. Hmm, was that a fun time - not that they were not helpful or anything, it was how bad my Mac and Lightroom were behaving. I ended up having two separate support chat calls and both ended the same way with my Mac being so locked up and unresponsive that I had to power it off.

Long story short, it eventually turned out to not be a problem with Lightroom. Instead it was the disk in my Mac that was going bad. Fortunately I had the foresight to insure I had an up to date backup of all my photos onto an external disk, which in the circumstances was more fortunate than I first thought as the entire image folder for 2014 on the internal disk got wiped out! Backups are good!!

Ah, the joys of technology - a necessary thing for any digital photographer as our work depends on it in so many ways. And yes, my Macbook Pro is running (I rebuilt it on a spare disk).

And speaking of photography, I have been making pictures in all this and still experimenting with lighting. A couple of small portable flashes can be very versatile and when needed, can illuminate an entire room.

My first photo sample is natural light on a rainy day. Not sure what it is but I like to look for small details on wet days and this view of my garden is very whimsical -

I know some may not like how it's primarily out of focus over most of the image but it certainly draws you in and that was my intention.

Of course, what would this post be without at least one puppy photo? Well, this one would be 1 short as I'm going to post two - one of Amber and one of Jax. Both of these were taken with a pair of Speedlights on stands and set to 1/2 power, shooting straight up to bounce off the ceiling. Effectively they lit the room and removed any mixed lighting from the ambient and CFL lighting in the room. Also, I felt they looked better cropped 1:1 as I kind of like the square format look - 

My last photo updates are my most recent work and sees me dabbling again in event photography, recording events on campus; as part of my day job at the university. In this case the event was to mark the groundbreaking on a new 4-year medical school initiative between OU-Tulsa and TU. The event included the attendance of the president of OU, David Boren -

And what is a groundbreaking without at least one picture of dirt being dug - 

I'm hoping my technical woes are behind me and that I am now free to get back to making photos as I've missed being creative.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Continued learning

Once again I have been doing a lot behind the scenes while my "public face" has appeared completely dormant. When my schedule has allowed, I am still watching instructional courses on CreativeLive from such wonderful photogs like Lindsay Adler and Sue Bryce, as lighting is so important to a good photo and they are so good at what they do.

I've also been experimenting with some of what I've been learning. I recently used two small Speedlights to illuminate a room and overpower both the ambient and artificial lighting solving the color balance issues inherent in mixed lighting situations.

I've also been doing a lot of observing of the interplay of light and shadow on people and places. Yeah, I people watch! But we are all different and I find it so informative to observe and take mental notes.