Saturday, August 15, 2015

A simple "Thank You!" and a few thoughts on street photography

Baltimore's Best! 

Today I led a street photography workshop in Baltimore and the subject of photographing people came up as we walked and observed potential subjects. I have always been willing to approach a person and engage in conversation before I ask them if I can make a portrait photograph. Candid shots in public places however I have never felt compelled to ask and often make the shots from a distance without any knowledge on the part of the subject, that they are being photographed.

The officer above was patrolling the street in Fells Point when I saw him and thought he would make a great subject. In light of all the trouble that has occurred in Baltimore I felt compelled to walk up to him and just say "Thank You." These guys really do put their lives on the line every day and are often villanized by the public or media. Now I am not saying they are all good, but in Baltimore, you really have to have a passion for the job. Public service is not easy!! So I did just that, walked up to him and said "Thank You!" That was my ice breaker, then I asked if anyone got killed overnight; which opened up a conversation. Shortly after that I asked if the group could capture a couple portrait images of him. He obliged willingly and even let me guide him to a shady spot not far away with a clean background. I then showed him my image and offered to e-mail the image to him if he wanted it. I always offer to send the image on to the subject when they are willing to work with me. If I intended to make money off the image or submit it to a magazine, then a "Model Release" would be needed but when teaching or doing personal work, it is not necessary.
I personally have never had more than a speeding ticket so I have no bones to pick with the law. I wanted to capture the essence of this officer in a portrait as he proudly walked the streets. I always get a great response from public servants when I first say "Thank You", either military, fire or police and the truth is I mean it! It's a genuine thought!
Morning Rest

On the other hand for candid shots I never feel compelled to ask. People in public places, are OK to just photograph, and if you don't take that approach as a street photographer you will miss tremendous opportunities. This particular subject was in fact sleeping upright on the bench. I was not about to wake him to ask if I could take this shot. If I had, the shot would have been ruined. The posture would not ever be the same and the natural light on the subject could change. So I stepped back and composed the image I saw in my mind, showing the workshop participants my thoughts on the image capture and composition. You the viewer would have no idea that he was sleeping. To me this image was really about the posture and character of his hands, and the light on the subject. I did not need his face to communicate what I was seeing and reacting to.  The hands told the story, a relaxed pose but lots of hard living.

So next time you find yourself doing some street photography, ask for portraits by breaking the ice with a compliment, engaging in conversation, then asking for a Photo opportunity....
Or embrace serendipity and shoot fast, and don't ask!
Both images were converted to black and white using Google Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Landscape "Swipes" Processing

Palouse Abstract Landscape Swipe

Yes, for those of you who follow this blog, it has been a while since I last made a post and I apologize for such a long abscence! It has been a busy year of travel, home maintenance, gym schedules and personal beach time. :-) and, I have just not been motivated to sit down and say anything other than my Facebook posts, which on my personal page are frequent, thanks to the convenience of my iPhone.

New to the Blog: 
I have added a block on the sidebar with a schedule of appearances and other camera club commitments for judging and workshops, they are coming in pretty regularly for fall 2015 and spring 2016. If you click over the dates on the schedule a link to the club event will be generated.

As I was working on the updates, I also grabbed a file from my Spring Palouse trip to process and give you some ideas about processing and making one of my favorite style of images  "The Swipe."

Image Capture and Processing Info:

All my image captures are raw files and require processing. Not news for lots of us who have been capturing digital images for a long time but important to understanding the process.
Raw file:
Raw File: Camera Settings: f/22 1/6 sec 28-300mm at 300mm ISO 100

Capture: Location Steptoe Butte, Washington State

When making landscapes swipes I choose an f-stop with great depth of field so as to render as many "sharp" edges as possible in the raw file. Then I meter the landscape and determine an acceptable shutter speed, somewhere between one second and 1/5 of a second, depending on the ambient light and ISO selection. Generally, shutter speeds over one second are too long. Obstructions in the landscape like telephone poles or dark tree lines can be problematic so knowing what landscapes work for this technique is also important to successful results. The best time of day to make swipes is early morning or late afternoon, unless you have a neutral density filter to cut light and slow the shutter then you can make them any time of day.

Once I have set my exposure variables, I select an area of the landscape to start the exposure and then I move from the waist (like a twist) in a horizontal way, across the landscape triggering the shutter as I begin my movement, creating the abstract image.  Usually I handhold my camera while making "swipes." It is important to try and maintain the horizon level so it takes a little practice.
 Compositionally, I like to divide the frame into thirds, two thirds land one third sky.
As you can see in the Raw file the image looks muddy and might even be considered a throw away, but no...processing a swipe is where you can add the pop!

Processing: Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop

In Adobe Camera Raw I first added some exposure to the image. Then I used the spot removal tool to get rid of the sensor dust spots which are almost always present when doing a swipe. (It is really important to have as clean a sensor as possible when doing swipes.)
Screen shot:  color filter

Screen shot: a few basic adjustments notice the white point/black point push. All swipes need contrast added in processing  using black point and white point adjustment. I also made specific color channel adjustments in ACR, bringing up the yellows, blues and greens.

In ACR I added a color filter to the top portion of the image changing the color and adding some pop.
I also applied the lens correction filter in ACR.
After making the adjustments in ACR I opened the file in Photoshop and made a few more tweaks toning down the vibrancy and saturation, adding some sharpness and curves.

For those of you who like and have tried swipes and been dissapointed, I hope this information has helped improve your technique and processing.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

There is no bad light...there is just light!!

Boat house reflection
How many times have you heard that said? Well, I believe it is true...given that you are open to any subject matter...if you show up...and are open then you can always make an interesting image.
On a recent workshop I led in Annapolis...the light was harsh, even though we started around sunrise, it was going to be a bluebird sky I like to think what is good in light like that, and sometimes there are subjects that need harsh light for great images, like reflections, shadows and we started looking for those reflections and other opportunities that only present themselves in bright light. The hulls of boats anchored in harbor make interesting graphic subjects..working with a telephoto to really get into the hull and the water line reflected in the still harbor waters.
After a little time working around the harbor the sky really did turn an amazing dark blue...I saw a beautiful wooden mast and put on a neutral density filter in order to cut the light and drag the shutter enough to make an impressionist image of the mast and lines against the blue sky..I was thinking color contrast, shapes (triangle) and photo technique opportunity...
The same boat offered up another opportunity only in black and white as the shadows and lines interested me, with the star on the hull as a point of interest seemingly teetering on the shadow and I loved the kick light from the water on the hull while the lines created the shape of a triangle.
After shooting in the harbor we walked some of the back streets and passed one of my favorite houses on the corner...I always stop there as the morning light strikes in just the right way...I was thinking color contrast, texture and shape (L) as I composed the window off center.

As we continued to walk textures became important in the early morning light, I loved the unusual shape of this porch framing the entryway but even more I loved the way the light was striking and allowing all the textures to be revealed. I saw this as a symmetrical image because of the way the columns framed the doorway.
The pickets in front of the Shiplap house were in need of painting but made for great subjects as the strong light enhanced the texture of the peeling paint. Regarding composition, I was thinking odd numbers but balance and dark background. The Shiplap House itself needed paint. I loved the light on in the we made a few compositions here and then I decided to convert them to monochrome enhancing the textures of the wood and paint. The white pickets and window were striking against the dark red building.
And lastly this image I saw in an upstairs window in the back of a restaurant just before we departed the workshop when the light is strong...look for textures, and reflections, shadows, think monochrome possibilities, keep great compositional ideas working and use creative photography techniques...
I hope you can join me in the field on a workshop in the next field workshop is shooting the tulips at Sherwood Gardens in Baltimore on April 25....if you are interested click here for more information and registration...and thanks for reading and following my blog!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Arizona ~ Taliesen West in Color

Petroglyphs on rock in courtyard
As promised here are a few color shots from my holiday visit to Arizona and Frank Lloyd Wrights Taliesen West. Looking back on these amazingly electric blue skies makes me want to go back as we experience the mid winter blahs in the Mid-Atlantic. I am looking forward to working with workshop participants this weekend at the B&O Museum helping to compose interesting images and assist with appropriate camera exposure. I have three spots left if you are in the area. Click here for registration and info. 
And on Sunday I am looking forward to working with iPhone enthusiasts at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. For more info and registration click here. 
And...last but not least we still have a few more spots open on The Magnificent Mediterranean Photo Workshop in May 2015...Click here for more info...
I hope you enjoy these shots from Taliesen West!
Construction details

Whimsical details (looks like a little repair is needed, note the two missing block detail in the roof line)
Landscape meets architecture
Framing shadows

The pool
Pool reflections
Sculpture patio shot from the ground looking up to get the subject floating in the blue sky

Friday, January 9, 2015

Arizona ~ Taliesen West ~ Desert Light in Black and White

Cholla shot from the patio of Taliesen West ISO 400 1/1000 sec handheld f-16 Nikon D4 Lens 28-300 at 300mm
Wow, it has been more than a month since I posted a blog...but it has been a busy season, so I am forgiving myself for making other priorities! However I am up caught up now are a few updates. I had the pleasure of making a trip to Arizona over the Christmas holiday visiting my nephew and traveling with my sister. I knew ahead there was not going to be much time for any serious photography, but I did pack my bag and tripod just in case the opportunity presented itself.
After arriving my sister settled in with her son at his place and I settled into the Best Western in Tempe. The next day we visited Taliesen West. It was a bluebird sky day...and we made it there in the afternoon so the light was bright but the sun was lower on the horizon. I love the Cholla Cactus that grow there and when the light is low they glow back lit. I did carry my camera as photography is allowed outside the property but not on the interior spaces.
ISO 400 1/1000 sec handheld f-16 Nikon D4 Lens 28-300 at 58mm
As we walked around the pool area of the property I saw the outside glider sofa 50's style, which I enjoyed as the light on the subject and the subject itself I enjoyed. I made a compositional choice to crop the sofa on the right side when shooting the image.
As we passed through the house and then around to the back of the house I again saw the matching glider through a portico space...looking toward the pool, I composed and made another shot. All the monochrome conversions were made in Google Nik Silver Efex Pro2. If you ever get a chance to visit Arizona ~  touring Taliesen West is a don't miss! Look for more on Taliesen West in color on another blog post.

2015 is off to a great start with two private tutoring sessions and I have finalized scheduled workshops for Capital Photography Center.
My DSLR and iPhone workshops, sponsored by Capital Photography Center, are on line for registration now and posted through March.
We are still accepting registrations for the Magnificent Mediterranean Photo Cruise in May 2015 if you want to join the group click here: Magnificent Mediterranean Photo Tour
I look forward to presenting at The Horizon Photography Summit, February  27-March 1 Wilmington DE and The Photo Beach Bash, March 21 in Rehoboth, Delaware.
If you live in the Baltimore ~ DC  ~ Delaware ~ Virginia area, I hope you can join me in the field.
Have an interest in a personal photography tutoring session? Shoot me an e-mail and we can work it out! Thanks for a great year in 2014 and for following my work and blog! 
ISO 400 1/1000 sec handheld f-16 Nikon D4 Lens 28-300 at 190mm

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Killer Trash in Baltimore

Composite image
This week I enjoyed working with a client honing her street photography techniques. We met in Fells Point and walked mostly on Broadway. In just a few short blocks in a couple hours we had lots of subjects to work with...that is why I love street photography and there is no better place than in Fells Point! I also enjoyed watching two sessions on Creative Live with Brooke Shaden an imaginative photographer who produces creative emotional thought provoking composite works. When I started working files I shot on the street I decided to composite two files, one a mannequin window shot and the other a street shot of a dress form. I used a few technical ideas for compositing these two images from Brooke's session. If you have time and can watch when its airing, Creative Live is awesome. You can also buy recorded sessions.
Dare I say nothing in Fells Point is new or shiny or perfect, its gritty! We came across a store called Killer Trash, which epitomizes the eclectic nature of the area. I loved the windows and the signs on the door....I mean really, where else can you find, Catseye glasses, pearls, a red dress and rust!
A few tips on shooting store how reflections and backgrounds are effecting your images, choose an appropriate aperture to manage depth of field, move around and change perspective. Pictures are everywhere!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

On White Balance as a Creative Choice ~ Slow Shutter ~ The Ocean

Aperture f~16 Shutter speed 30 secs ISO 70-200 Lens at 100 Focal length 70mm Nikon D4
I love the ocean! That's probably no surprise to many of you but when it comes to what really makes you buzz, what makes you want to grab a camera and go make some pictures for me it is the sea. I love being at the edge where the land meets ocean: the sounds of crashing waves, pebbles rolling in the surf, the smell of salt air, the squawk of the seagulls nearby, are inspiring. Everyday the shore, sea, light and air are different. As a matter of fact, every second is different! Every wave different from the other shaping the shore with each break.
This week, my last week here until Spring 2015, I was able to get out twice to shoot. Once at sundown facing east, and once at sunrise. When I make images at the edge of the ocean white balance is one thing that always comes into play. I usually set my camera to cloudy, but really on the edge of night and day you have to play with it in post to get the feeling or the look you want...and sometimes that look is nothing like what reality might be, but its what you want in your here goes my thoughts on white balance as a creative choice....

About this image

This image and those that follow were shot about an hour before sundown facing east. The nor'easter that blew through several days ago created a very cool berm and tide pool (river) on the beach literally dividing the shore in half. I could not even walk through the tide pool to the edge of the ocean. (I left my over the knee waders at home.) That was a good thing because I used the berm at high tide as a feature to work with as the gentle waves broke and water flowed over and around the berm then collected in the tide pool reflecting the soft light of a rising moon. I was using a neutral density filter to cut light and used a 30 second exposure for these shots at f-16 locking my focus at a desirable point.
In processing I had choices to make about the "color" of the image. I could use a natural color, which was easy to achieve by using the white point dropper in Camera Raw and placing it on the white surf, but that was not that interesting to me as there really was not much color in the environment. The light was soft and the tones of the sea and shore were subtle. So I played with color temperature settings until I achieved a color that popped and worked for me setting off the subtle yellow of the rising moon reflections.  The screen shots below show first a natural white balance choice and then my artistic adjustments to the natural tones. Once you see the natural color image and then the adjusted one you might reject the adjusted tones and say over the top, but then step away and just look at the ones that are adjusted...doesn't the color have a whole different effect on the viewer?
Good or bad? It's a choice! and based on viewer responses to the FB post I made of these images folks enjoyed the artistic adjustments...
Hope to see you in the field on a workshop for Capital Photography Center or Join me in May 2015 on The Magnificent Mediterranean Workshop with photo partner David Blecman. Or find me at Nature Visions Photography Expo on November 15 and 16 for my presentations on Advanced iPhone Photography and Travel Photography.
Natural White Balance: Temperature slider at 18000 and the Tint slider at 41. As the image was a little dark as shot, I also added 1 stop of exposure to brighten the image before heading into Photoshop for further adjustments.

Adjusted White Balance: Temperature slider 11250 Tint slider -2

I made similar adjustments to the following images.