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13 posts from February 2008

February 29, 2008

Ringflash + Dog + Colored background = Art?



For a while now I have been brainstorming ideas for a series of dog portraits. I wanted to come up with a technique that could be easily reproduced and at the same time, be different than what others have done. I wanted to create something that was all about the dog and had a strong pop art feel to it.

The other night I was at a friends house taking pictures of their golden retriever who had just gotten a total spa treatment. I knew I wanted to shoot with a single strobe to keep it simple and I wanted the dog on the couch. The couch thing wasn't working out as I had in my head, although I must admit I was drinking wine and chit-chatting with my friend the who time so I wasn't getting much done. I then looked over and noticed one of their walls was painted orange. I mounted my new ringflash along with a long lens and got Toby to sit close to the orange wall. Several shots later, I knew I had what I wanted.

So this is the beginning of my new series. I hope by year end I will have 50 or so portraits of all different shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs.

Too bad Toby looks sad. I think I'll do a re-shoot and also remover his collar.

February 25, 2008

What in the world is a Strobist?

Crying EllaA Strobist is a photographer who uses small, battery powered flashes, positioned off-camera with numerous techniques and many tricks to produce images with dynamic, quality lighting.

While the techniques have been around for ages, all it took was a very knowledgeable photographer, named David Hobby, to put all the information online in a format that has attracted so many followers, you might call it a cult. The Strobist cult.

I must admit, reading the Strobist blog, following the flickr discussions and viewing all the submitted photos from the group is a guilty pleasure of mine. Some of the contributions from the group are amazing and the amount of information sharing is astonishing. I've been using off-camera flash for years, but I still learn something new every time I sit down and browse through all the Strobist information. Anyone, with any interest and skill in photography can learn something new reading through all the information out there.

There is always something new to learn. Hey, now you know what a Strobist is.

February 22, 2008

Favorite Series: Hensel Porty Premium

Hensel Porty PremiumThe Hensel Porty Premium is a portable studio lighting power pack. This baby supplies a whopping 1200 watt/second of asymmetric power in a compact, water resistant pack. Add to that a built-in wireless receiver and quick change battery cartridge and you are set to bring high quality studio lights anywhere you can imagine. Want to do a photo shoot on the beach, or in the middle of the desert? This is the answer. No more worrying about if there will be power available at your location or having to lug around a generator.

A portable power pack has always been one of my objects-of-desire and I just recently had an opportunity to finally pick one up at a great deal (and I mean a really great deal). You wouldn't think a battery pack would be all that expensive. But these things retail for an amazing $2,600 without any lights OR A CHARGER! That's right, it doesn't come with a charger. That will set you back another $350 plus $500-1000 for each light. Definitely not for the faint of heart. But when your photography requires powerful studio lights in remote locations, the porty is the answer. There are other cheaper solutions out there like pure sine-wave inverters strapped to car batteries, but I prefer a unit that won't blow up when something goes wrong. Never a good thing to burn down a clients home or melt the fur off their dog. And who wants to carry around a car battery?

February 21, 2008

Happy birthday Skyler


SkylerOn February 21st 2006, the most amazing thing happened to me. I became a daddy. Not too shabby for someone who grew up saying he would never get married and would definitely never have kids. Now I believe my kids are the best thing that ever happened to me. I couldn't even imagine them not being in my life anymore. Today on Skyler's 2nd birthday I am even more excited for him than I am on my own birthday.

SkylerWatching Skyler grow up is nothing short of amazing. With each passing day there is something new to discover. From the first time he smiled to the first time he said, "daddy". I can't even put it into words how much I love him.

Happy Birthday Skyler - I love you buddy

Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler Skyler

February 19, 2008

Favorite Series: Nikon D3

NikonSince the day my high school photography teacher showed me his Nikon F4, I knew I was going to own a bunch of Nikons. Even before high school, my dad had a Nikon FG. He wouldn't let me touch it, but I still would admire it from afar and dream about the day I could spin the dials and click the buttons. How ironic that the FG ended up on my desk as a paperweight. I never got to use it because it sat so long in my dad's closest that the shutter froze shut. I never got to take a single picture with it.

Even today, I am not only a Nikon shooter, but I am totally addicted with killer gear. I like buttons, dials, switches, lights, metal alloy bodies and let's not forget little LCD screens. What gadget is complete without a cool LCD screen?

Enter the Nikon D3. Hands down the most incredible digital camera ever produced. A 12.1 megapixel, 9 frames a second, ultra low noise picture taking machine that must have come from the mythical god of light capture. Take one look at the 3", high resolution VGA display on the back of the camera and you are hooked. This is one of those gadgets that dreams are made of.

I'm not going to go off on some crazy review about the camera. Reviews on the D3 are a dime a dozen on the web. I'm just going to say that this camera produces the most incredible RAW images I have ever processed. They have a quality to them that I have never seen before, and I've seen a lot of image files. If you are in the market for a professional level camera and you have a lot of money to spend (the body with no lens is $5K), this is the camera to get.

The Nikon D3 if my favorite camera ever. Period. Well done Nikon.

February 18, 2008

More custom toning using Aperture 2.0

Here are the results of more custom toning using Aperture 2.0. I'm surprised how much fun it is to do. When I finished creating the images, I looked at them and the first thing I thought of was the name I gave the tone.

Boardwalk Download Settings (103.3K)

Cool Sea
Sea Foam Download Settings (85.6K)

Antique Download Settings (93.9K)

Urban Slime
Urban Slime Download Settings (86.8K)

Leather Wallet
Leather Wallet Download Settings (105.3K)

I'm so excited


Today I couldn't wait to get back home and try to do some more toning in Aperture. I don't know why I have been so against this in the past. I think the reason is my style has always been, use natural light and add minimal processing. I've tried numerous Photoshop plug-ins and crazy 100 layer, selective masking, layer blending, curves adjusting techniques throughout the years, but to me, it all seems like a fad. What matters most is the content of the image. Too many photographers think a plug-in or a preset is going to make their bad images, good. The web is filled with images that have tons of crazy Photoshop and such out-of-this-world processing that it makes you want to stop and look. Lightroom makes it so easy to create and share ways of toning images that you almost forget what a real image looks like. When these techniques were done in the darkroom, many times they were time consuming, one-off, artistic experiments that created something magical. The photographers certainly didn't just pick any old image to try special toning techniques on. These days you can just click a single button and 10 nanoseconds later, poof! A masterpiece is born (at least to many of the thousands of people who might find it on the web). Rarely will the image be printed, framed and hung on a wall. It's all a matter of taste.

So why am I going off on some rant about silly over-processing techniques that probably don't make images any better? Well, I think I'm going through a new phase in my photography. I'm trying to break my old mold and challenge myself to create "something" else than what I am used to. I'm starting to work with studio lights (in and out of the studio). I'm learning new post-processing techniques. I'm reading through more photography books and seeking out websites of people I believe are exceptional photographers. I'm trying to do something different. I've developed over a thousand images in the darkroom and who knows how many I've processed on my Mac. I've been there, done that. Time to to just let loose, learn something new, discover something cool, give back to the photo community and have some fun.

Stay tuned and you will get to see some of the crazy things I do. I have so many ideas.

February 17, 2008

How to do custom toning in Aperture 2.0

A reader asked how exactly I did the toning I mentioned in a previous post. Here are the settings I used.

Somone has a lot of time on their hands

We went to the farmers market as usual and when we walked outside the parking structure, this is the truck that was parked out front. This thing was over the top, but very well done. Definitely not something someone did during a weekend. I just wish I knew what their motivation was.

Metal Art Car Metal Art Car

February 16, 2008

For the love of puppies

Who doesn't love puppies? Their cute, cuddly, clumsy and they have puppy breath. I love taking pictures of puppies. If I could, I would do it everyday of my life (ok, maybe a few days off).