Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Piece of a project and name dropping

Test image.

First of all I'd like to give a shout out to  and   Actually two shouts out to David.

Let me explain, David publishes a fantastic e-book called Craft and Vision, if you're not familiar with it I highly recommend you get all the copies made so far.  Additionally, in a recent blog post David discusses a new exposure/marketing concept he has come up with, but more importantly he's encouraged everyone to share what they're working on; http://davidduchemin.com/2013/06/left-found

I'm generally hesitant to post work within a project until the project is completed, and unfortunately I have many more projects underway than completed.

So that's two shouts out to David.  My acknowledgement to Martin comes from within a copy of Craft and Vision.  He has an article discussing "The Power of Printing" which doesn't help me too much, but he touches on something that has been vexing me for some time now; the fact of processing an image with a computer monitor that makes the image glow significantly brighter than the final print.  I've tried to account for this using various processing techniques but Martin's simple statement about reducing the brightness of the monitor, to as much as 30% brightness, is so obvious I'm embarrassed to admit I never thought of it before.

To that end I'm including this image, which part of a project I'm working on (1 of 2 projects actually) in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  And the first of a series of images processed with my monitor brightness turned way down.



Monday, March 18, 2013

US Flag; an idea, a photograph Project, and lessons learned.

I can't say for sure when I got the idea, it was certainly within the last 6 months, and I don't know what triggered the idea, it just seemed to be in my mind at some point.  I thought I'd like to make some images of the American Flag.  Not the iconic images of it waving majestically in the breeze or the illuminating back lit type.  But detailed shots, with a wide open aperture, and lighting that created interest shapes within the image.  Of course B&W with duotone.

That was my idea.

As with so many of my ideas it immediately gets placed in my "Photograph Ideas" file in my iPhone and onto a 3x5 notecard to pin to a pegboard next to the computer.

Next I needed to find a flag.  As I wanted this to be about textures I wanted a flag that would provide textures of it's own before the light and shadows were added.  My nylon flag would not do.  My wife's flag, given to her family after her fathers passing, is cotton with a tight weave but just too big.  I didn't want to buy a new flag just for this purpose.  I was eventually able to borrow one from a friend.

The set up.
Here's how I envisioned it;
The flag would lay horizontal on a table, with some padding underneath.  My light source would be an off camera flash shooting into a flash umbrella on a stand so I could move the light around for creative lighting.  The flash would be helpful for not only forming shadows but allow me to shoot in the range of 1/250.  For shallow depth of field I would use a 50mm f/1.7 lens wide open, and a variety of extension tubes depending on how much DOF I wanted to create for each shot.  With the setup in place I would move freely around the table shooting in all directions and distances in a similar fashion that I've used successfully when photographing flowers.

Here's how it went down;
The first problem was the 50mm lens was to tight, I needed a wider lens.  Off went the 50mm and on goes the 24mm f/2 attached to the 36mm extension tube.  Way to tight, the lighting was not quite right either but I needed to get the lens combo right first.  Switch the 36mm extension tube down to a 20mm.  A series of test shots, bad lighting and still too tight.  Switch the 20mm down to the 12mm.  More test shots, still too tight and bad lighting.  Take off the extension tube and mount the 24mm lens to the camera.  A few test shots and the field of view is good.  Now to the lighting.  Shot at f2, 1/250, 200 ISO the image was too dark.  Adjust one stop of speed 1/200 and everything but the dark blue was blown out.  A few more camera adjustments and I realize I'm running into another issue.  The LCD screen was making exposure adjustments.  This is a Live View LCD and I was shooting in Manual Mode, I should be in control of all exposure adjustments.  I spent some time going through the camera menu to try to find  a way to stop this, with no luck, a quick check of the manual, no luck.  And EA (exposure lock) won't work in Manual mode...how bizarre.
Back to a few test shots and the batteries in my flash are dying.  Since I haven't used the flash in some time I hadn't purchased extra AA batteries in some time either.  It was at this time that I thought about adjusting the output of the flash.

Fortunately there was some wonderful natural lighting coming through a window, I just had to avoid blocking the light as I moved around.  Additionally I had to adjust the speed closer to 1/60 and shot  between 200 and 400 ISO, to even get a workable dark image.

Ultimately I shot around 350 images and was able to narrow that down very quickly in Lightroom to about 100.  Because the images were generally dark I had to pull up the exposure for each image.  That is were I found out how bad noise can really be.  Don't get me wrong, I've dealt with plenty of noise before, especially shooting theater performances, but these images were up close with plenty of detail...and noise.  I spent some time trying to figure out how to fix the noise problems in LR, with little to moderate success.

Included with this post are a few of the images I can live with.  I do like the concept and will probably come back to this and try it again.  I've already bought a new pack of AA batteries.

Lessons learned, what I don't know;
Off camera flash lighting
Why the LCD has a mind of it's own
What make a good open aperture image
How to successfully adjust noise


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Landscape to Portrait

While Shooting landscapes in the Deep Creek area of GSMNP.  We attracted a fair amount of attention and had plenty of pleasant conversations with a number of passersby, including this couple, who asked me to take a their picture with his iPhone.  The iPhone picture was made just around the bend you see on the right side of this image, on their way up to see one of the local waterfalls.  A short time later they re-emerged  on their way back, we obviously hadn't gotten much further up the trail.  As they stopped to talk again she burst out that they were now engaged.  He had planned on having a photographer with them to capture the moment as he proposed to her at the waterfall, but the cold, icy, day kept the photographer from their appointment.  At that moment they asked if I would take their picture.  I of course agreed and removed my camera from the tripod, tried to quickly change all my settings from landscape mode to portrait mode, made of couple of quick test shots, chimped the results made a couple of adjustments and ended up with this image.



Sunday, February 10, 2013

Welcome, Rocky Fork Tennessee, to Conservation

Welcome, Rocky Fork Tennessee to conservation

As many of you know this is one of my favorite places to visit.  I was first introduced to the area as a member of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy http://www.appalachian.org during one their scheduled hikes.  That day the weather unruly and flash flood warnings were in effect so the hike was a short walk and brief history of the area lead and presented by SAHC board member David Ramsey.

After hearing that  the final step in the conservation process was complete, I was again motivated to return.  I set out alone just after 6am and aside from one hunter who was "taking his rifle for a walk" I remained the only one in the area.

It was close to 30 degrees in the valley around the river, but much warmer with bright blue skies along the open ridge.  I spent the morning photographing some of my favorite spots and also explored new areas.  The light throughout the morning was quite magical and while some rays of light were better experienced than captured, there were plenty of wonderful photo opportunities.

Along with the recent conservation of approximately 10,000 acres, about 2,000 acres will be dedicated to the Tennessee State Park system making this Tenn. 55th State Park.

Additional information about the area can be found here http://www.fs.fed.us/land/staff/LWCF/web-2012/3_Rocky_Fork.pdf



Sunday, January 13, 2013

You take pictures of wood? Why?

A few Saturday's ago the girls and I were finally able to align our schedules so that we could make a trip to the Great Smoky National Park.  The Park always makes for a great "day-cation" and while I'm working on a photo project there we're always looking for the opportunity to return.

In the essence of time we decided to go to Cataloochee which is on the SE portion of the park and only about an hours drive for us.  Not only is there wonderful history at Cataloochee but it's also were the park service started the reintroduction of Elk.  It's always a pleasure to see the Elk each time we visit.  There is a great abundance of turkey and we've seen a bear or two off in the distance during warmer months.

There are a couple of home sites that are still on my list to visit in Cataloochee and with this trip I was going to have the opportunity to visit one of them;  The Woody House, an original log cabin that was converted to a multi room house between 1901 and 1910, by Steve Woody.  The walk to the Woody house is 1 mile from the trail head which is located at the end of the last open valley and very scenic, with 4 sawn log bridge crossings.

After our visit to the Woody House, I wanted to shoot some detail images and the large barn across from the Palmer House was just the place.  It was late in the afternoon and about 30 degrees so there were very few people around, except for one couple who appeared to be picnicking on the second level loft of the barn.  They looked quizzically at me as I walked around the barn staring at the sawn log siding.  It seemed an odd moment so I asked how they were doing and mentioned they must be cold, without much of a reply.  I did find some interesting details to photograph and after a while the couple appeared close to me looking even more curious than when we first saw each other.  I had my camera set on a tripod and positioned about a foot from the side of the barn.  They watched as I took a few shots and as I was about move my position the man approached and asked "You take pictures of wood? Why" in a European accent.  As I tried to explain the project I'm working on, the concept of detail work, textures, their puzzled looks became more and more glazed over.  So I hit the preview button on my camera to show them the last few images, as they saw a couple of images they looked at each other in surprise then looked at me and said "Oh my God, those are so beautiful!".  They said something to each other and then walked away.

I must say it made me chuckle inside.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grab your Camera and Go!!

For me, one the hardest types of photography is Model/Static portraits. I never really know how to place people and there's always that issue with time and patience. I frequently see other photographers work and admire the poses, location, post-processing, etc. Recently I've been thinking that I need to work this and see if it's even something I'd be interested in.

So the first beautiful day we had this winter, Caitie and I grabbed the camera and took off to downtown Asheville. I had a couple of places in mind, but also wanted to walk the streets and see what happened. Needless to say we had a great time. The first image is from one of our first stops. I had a few ideas and a little direction and let Caitie move and pose as she wanted.

This image was made while we were on our way to the location of the image below. Caitie stepped on the curb stop and it crumbled under her feet. She asked if there was a way to make a picture form this so we played around for a while and finally came up with this one.

As some people already know computer/software and I don't get along at all. My original thought was to load these into lightroom, then jump into PSE and use the NIK Color Effects Pro plug-in to work the image for color and style. Well that didn't work, I had a couple of problems keeping images, or saving images and then when I quit PSE and went back to LR one of the images appeared but without any adjustments. So, I kept everything in lightroom, made all my modifications and was happy with the results...enough said
I have a few more images that I like from the afternoon and if I can figure out how to load them onto this post I will, it seems to be limited to four images for some reason.
The bottom line...if you want to get better at something you know, or learn something you don't know, grab your camera and go make some images. You might like want you've done, you might not, but there's a good chance you'll have fun either way.


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Monday, January 24, 2011


It seems funny how things come about sometimes, 2 of the 3 items I wanted to photograph during this Winter season are bare trees and icicles.  There is something that draws me to the bare trees each year but I can't exactly put my finger on it.  And there are a few clusters of icicles I see each Winter on the rock faces along some higher elevation roads.  One of my goals this year was to put a couple of days aside and spend some time with the trees and the ice.  Usually, when I have ideas like these I'll also have somewhat of a game plan...maybe some ideas in my head, and usually some sketches with rough concepts on them, but for these two I have nothing, just the fact that I want to go and do it, and yet it's mid January and I still haven't even made an attempt.  I think I'm hesitant because I just don't know what to do, or even were to start.

As I was skimming through FB today I happened to come across a post from a famous photographer that I follow (or Like), and there was an image of a cluster of icicles, with a foreground feature, just as beautiful as any could be, and it immediately struck me, That's it...not that I want to copy the image I was looking at, but it gave me great reference, composition, rule breaking ideas.

And later today,  while I was trying to remember a username and password that I had created to pay some bills I got tired of defeat and decided to read some blogs that I  follow, one of the articles referenced an upcoming print sale and had a link to the photographer who's prints they'll be selling, low and behold the photographer has an outstanding gallery of images of...that's right...trees.  http://www.charlescramer.com/index.html

Once again the creative wheels started turning and I already of a collection of ideas in my head.  2 items covered in one day, I might be busy this weekend.