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 shorts 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.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Red Door ~ Texture Layers ~ and...More on Color and Visual Poetry

During the recent Freeman Patterson, Andre Gallant photo workshop I attended in Canada, we visited a small abandoned house on a neighbors property. Adjacent to that house was a lovely pond with reflecting fall trees and leaves floating. Everyone gravitated to the pond while I gravitated to the house. Hmm....well, I was spending a few more days on the road afterward and calculated that I would have another opportunity for the leaves and pond, but not this little abandoned house.
I don't like going into abandoned property alone, so while there were other photographers around I chose the house. This morning, I decided to create the image above from a couple files I shot there.

About this image:

The red door really made me stop and work out a composition. I wanted the red door to be a meaningful portion of the image. Choosing not to make an HDR image, the scene did not need it, I made several compositions working my way to this composition which I liked. In thinking through the composition I considered the balance between the red door and the space to the right of it. I chose to set my camera at a height that would allow the inner doorway to be framed by the interior walls. The soft light coming through the windows in the interior rooms was beautiful and I really loved the sequence of doorways. The stack of wood in the corner of the first room was a great counterpoint to the red door and added the balance I wanted.
While in the house I also shot a few simple compositions of textures, peeling paint and wood.
I liked the Red Door image as shot with no texture but also liked it with the texture. I thought it really added to the emotion of the get the effect of the texture I made two layers in Photoshop, used the Multiply blend mode, turned the textured image into a monochrome and adjusted opacity of the texture layer. I chose the original Red door image with no texture for the Blurb book Andre puts together of participant images, for the workshop participants to purchase.
Kim their assistant asked for a little blurb on the image or a comment on the workshop. I wrote a poem inspired by the Red Door image which spontaneously sprung forth from somewhere in my brain. Doors metaphorically: refer to portals and other non-physical entrances. In literature, doors often represent choices or outcomes which the principle actors can directly engage with.
How about a metaphor for red? Here is a link to a paper on Red as a metaphor....what do you think?
Would this image have the same impact or emotion if the door were blue?

And hope to see you at Nature Visions Photography Expo November 15 and 16! I will be presenting some thoughts on Travel Photography and sharing some of my favorite advanced iPhone techniques..
I will also be helping out at the Capital Photography Center's booth. Or join me for some field workshops! Check out the links on the sidebar of this blog!

The Red Door~

The Red Door beckoned, enter here
but there laid bare the floors,
the walls in disrepair.

The Red Door swung open, enter here
then enter more see my bones,
explore the empty rooms with no one there.

The Red Door brightly welcomed, enter here
see the light beyond my threshold, enter here
see my soul.

Karen L Messick ~
Original Red Door image.

Original Texture image

Monochrome of Texture layer

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Imagery and Poetry...The Old Swimming Hole

Aperture f~16 Shutter 1/50 sec ISO 100 Focal Length 125 Lens 70-200 Nikon D4
About this image:
This scene in Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada evoked a sense of nostalgia in me. On a morning shoot, I found this small pond, only large enough to be a swimming hole, in a meadow in early morning light as a gentle mist was beginning to lift. It harkened the end of the summer season. The colors of the vegetation, the stillness of the water and the moodiness the mist brought to the scene enhanced the feeling I had of the past. I felt a sense of visual poetry in this scene. As a young teen, I had a swimming hole my boyfriend and I used to visit in an old quarry, that is now fenced off and impossible to access. This scene, when I saw it put a smile on my face thinking that yes, children somewhere on the planet still enjoy an Old Swimming Hole! I made several compositions with focus on the soft light striking the floating platform but liked this one best, it was the first shot I made of the scene. I processed the image minimally in Photoshop and removed a distracting red float in the water at the end of the platform. When composing the image I paid particular attention to the balance between the lower third of the image and the trees with the beautiful sidelight. I was also paying attention to exactly where in the frame the floating platform was located in the lower right of the frame.

When preparing to write this blog I "Googled" "The Old Swimming Hole" and found the poem by James Whitcomb Riley about The Old Swimming Hole written in 1883. Some things never change!
It made me think about how our images can align with the heart of a poet, both evoking a feeling or emotion in the viewer or reader. 

The Old Swimmin' Hole By James Whitcomb Riley
Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! whare the crick so still and deep
Looked like a baby-river that was laying half asleep,
And the gurgle of the worter round the drift jest below
Sounded like the laugh of something we onc't ust to know
Before we could remember anything but the eyes
Of the angels lookin' out as we left Paradise;
But the merry days of youth is beyond our controle,
And it's hard to part ferever with the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the happy days of yore,
When I ust to lean above it on the old sickamore,
Oh! it showed me a face in its warm sunny tide
That gazed back at me so gay and glorified,
It made me love myself, as I leaped to caress
My shadder smilin' up at me with sich tenderness.
But them days is past and gone, and old Time's tuck his toll
From the old man come back to the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! In the long, lazy days
When the humdrum of school made so many run-a-ways,
How plesant was the jurney down the old dusty lane,
Whare the tracks of our bare feet was all printed so plane
You could tell by the dent of the heel and the sole
They was lots o' fun on hands at the old swimmin'-hole.
But the lost joys is past! Let your tears in sorrow roll
Like the rain that ust to dapple up the old swimmin'-hole.

Thare the bullrushes growed, and the cattails so tall,
And the sunshine and shadder fell over it all;
And it mottled the worter with amber and gold
Tel the glad lilies rocked in the ripples that rolled;
And the snake-feeder's four gauzy wings fluttered by
Like the ghost of a daisy dropped out of the sky,
Or a wownded apple-blossom in the breeze's controle
As it cut acrost some orchard to'rds the old swimmin'-hole.

Oh! the old swimmin'-hole! When I last saw the place,
The scenes was all changed, like the change in my face;
The bridge of the railroad now crosses the spot
Whare the old divin'-log lays sunk and fergot.
And I stray down the banks whare the trees ust to be—
But never again will theyr shade shelter me!
And I wish in my sorrow I could strip to the soul,
And dive off in my grave like the old swimmin'-hole.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cropping and Fog ~ In the Fog

F-9 ISO 200 Shutter 1/200 sec
Fog looks cool in the landscape creeping quietly into the scene and ever-changing with the breeze and light of day. It adds an air of mystery. It can even be a little scary to be in a thick fog as it obscures our vision, but I love fog in the landscape when creating images. Fog shots are also good candidates for textures in processing but I decided to leave this one as shot.

About this image:
I had the opportunity on my recent road trip to Vermont to drive to the top of Mt. Mansfield, 4393 feet above sea level on the toll road which is a green ski run in winter. As I drove the switchback, muddy route I traversed into a dense cloud fog that completely shrouded the mountain top. Immediately I noticed a quiet in the atmosphere as the sunshine slipped away. No one was one else had decided to go up that day as views from the top were obscured. I did not care about the clouds, I was there for the experience...the fun of driving to the top and I love fog!

While driving I  noticed the tops of the tall pines standing out against the white of the clouds with layers of fog density, I loved the way they looked. So having my camera with me I made a few shots of the pines at the top of the mountain. In processing I decided to make the square crop as shown. Cropping is not what I usually choose to do with my images as I prefer to get it in camera, but square works for me too. I actually shot this image with the idea to crop later in mind as I loved the way the tops of the three trees in the middle tiered down the mountainside.

Here is the original shot before the crop:

It must be a Carl Sandburg is his poem on Fog.


By Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Impressionism in Photography ~ Technique ~ Play with the Wind

Aperture f-22 Shutter 1.3 ISO 100 Lens at 200mm Nikon D4 (5 shot composite)
Sometimes experimentation is a must in your work and life..sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't! I think this photographic experiment worked, I like the resulting image! On my recent road trip to see and capture the beautiful fall foliage of the Northeast I experimented with this beautiful tree as a subject. I have always loved impressionism and have made more than my share of 'swipes' and in camera 'multiple exposures' in the traditional way. I have also made layered images adjusting opacity and brushing in and out sections of an image where I wanted to keep or remove parts of an image to arrive at a unique image, but I had not come up with this method before. I am sure someone has, that I don't know about, but I thought it was interesting. I liked the result and thought I would share it here. This image creating technique is something I will add to my shooting repertoire in the future when the subject has potential.

About this image:
I chose the original composition carefully watching the background as I did not want any "white" holes but instead a full texture of vegetation. Then I made five separate shots keeping the camera position the same on a rock steady tripod. Each image was captured in a different file. The wind was briskly blowing and I chose a small aperture f-22 which gave me a 1.3 second exposure at ISO 100 for each shot. At that shutter speed with the wind blowing each shot was different as the leaves were fluttering and the branches moving with the trunk of the tree fairly steady. I then opened all the images in Photoshop created layers for each one and adjusted opacity, blend modes and masked sections in each layer to get to the final image here. It is a five layer composite, creating a slightly different look than moving the camera for each exposure as in a multiple or a single swipe impression. Would love to hear your thoughts on this image.

I have always loved poetry and find this one from Carl Sandburg fits my image, the season and the idea of change and impermanence.

Autumn Movement
I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.
The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper sunburned woman,
      the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.
The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, new beautiful things
      come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, and the old things go,
      not one lasts.

Carl Sandburg, 1878-1967.

Hope to see you at Nature Visions Photography Expo in Virginia November 15-16 where I will be sharing two presentations, one on iPhone Photography and the other on Travel Photography...for more info and registration click here.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

On Windows ~ Nik Silver Efex Pro2

Aperture f~16  Shutter Speed 1/80 sec ISO 100 Focal length 180 Lens 70-200 Nikon D4
Windows often hold an interest for me as photographic subject matter. I am not alone in that idea as many photographers and artists have long made the window an element of their imagery. It has been said that a window provides access to two of life’s essentials, light and air, but is it more than just a means to an end? Windows also have symbolic, expressive and architectural qualities that have for centuries inspired some of the world’s greatest artists such as Matisse.
Sometimes there are multiple roles of the window in art surrounding key themes, from the window as a status symbol to its use as a provider of physical and spiritual illumination; from its employment as a literal window on the world outside the confines of a room to its function as a mirror, reflecting the emotions of the artist or the individuals depicted; and finally to the immense architectural variety of windows. (Excerpt from: Windows in Art by Christopher Masters)

What do you window images reflect?

About this image:
This window image is one shot. While it may appear to be two layers of images, instead, it is two layers of windows in a single shot. The closest window reflecting the windblown leaves of the vegetation just outside the first window and the second window holding the jars. When I saw this scene I thought about going into the abandoned house and closing the door that is providing a strong dark element on the right side but then decided I liked it, it allowed the first window to frame the second window with the reflected leaves and added a strong linear element to the image. My choice of camera position, being aware not to get myself into the reflection, put the image slightly askew, which I decided not to correct, I liked it that way. In creating this shot I used a small step stool to get taller so as to minimize the skew. I also made a shot or two with the outside frame of the house in a horizontal orientation, but liked this image best. It is good to try many different compositions when you have a great subject. My decision to present this as a monochrome image arose from the lack of strong color in the scene, the tonal offering in the scene and my mood.

Windows have also been a strong metaphoric element used in poetry as in this poem by Carl Sandburg~

At a Window

Give me hunger,
O you gods that sit and give
The world its orders.
Give me hunger, pain and want,
Shut me out with shame and failure
From your doors of gold and fame,
Give me your shabbiest, weariest hunger!

But leave me a little love,
A voice to speak to me in the day end,
A hand to touch me in the dark room
Breaking the long loneliness.
In the dusk of day-shapes
Blurring the sunset,
One little wandering, western star
Thrust out from the changing shores of shadow.
Let me go to the window,
Watch there the day-shapes of dusk
And wait and know the coming
Of a little love.