Feb 24, 2009

Fun Photo Stuff from Around the Web

More photo linkage goodness...

Mark Rebilas put his new Nikon on a plane. Not in a plane, ON a plane.

I really like this photographer's photo-art, especially the underwater surreal stuff. While shooting at an event this evening a gentleman told me about this camera, which I think want. Early birthday present?

For you creative types this is worth the watch

And some from me from this evening... I will follow up with a full run down on this one later.



Have fun and happy shooting...

don j

Much thanks to strobist and alittlenews for the inspiration and knowledge.

Feb 22, 2009

Basic Composition #3 - Background

Back to the basics for a post... One of the most important considerations for your intentional photography is what is going on in the background. Busy backgrounds are subject killers.

This is where photography gets active. Much of the time, your subject will not place itself in front of a nice, clean background. Instead, you have to move the camera.

Here is a progression of photos to demonstrate what I mean.

The set-up... a group of guys practicing a song they will be performing in a church service later. There is a stained-glass window providing some nice light, and lots of clutter.

The snapshot...
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/200, iso320

At this point, I can tell that there is just too much clutter for a nice image. Billy is standing directly in front of that window though, which looks interesting. (of course, I also have to compensate for all of that light in order to get a good exposure on his face)
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/125, iso320

Ok, that is nice, but the glare is just too much!

If you look back at the snapshot, you can see a yellow bulletin board on the left. Big solid color backgrounds are always good... so I walk a few feet to the right to see how that looks.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/160, iso320

Well, ok, but the yellow is just so.... yellow. Having Jimmy in the foreground is nice, some people interaction... this works.

As I stood there, I could see that if I moved all the way past Jimmy to my right, I could capture Billy in front of a dark wood door. That looked very promising.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/320, iso320

Now that is what I like.. unique looking light, no distractions, just a nice shot. The only thing left to do was wait for a nice facial expression or look...
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/320, iso320

OK, now I'm a happy camper.

As you can see, the photographic results from the exact same shooting situation can really vary. The key ingredient is actively looking for ways to improve the photo, and making the effort to move around and take lots of shots to find out what really looks good.

Here is one more of BK at the piano, same light from the window, but converted to black and white.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/200, iso320

Have a great week, and make lots of pictures!

don j

Feb 18, 2009

Fun Photo Stuff from the Web

Point and Shooters... tips on getting the most for portraits here...

I have mentioned before how much thought and effort pro photographers put into their work... a great illustration of this is the level of critique they give to students trying to get into the field. Read the pros' comments below each shot in the gallery and you will see what I mean.

My favorite quote from that is "What do you consider your responsibility to society? Your subject? You are responsible to your subject when you take a photo." I suppose that is not as important when taking snapshots, but a photograph can certainly tell a story, and it should be a truthful one.

I hope to make it out to a HS powerlifting meet this weekend... I wonder if I can put up a remote camera for something like this?!

Shooting motorsports events is high on my "want to do" list... Mark Rebilas is a master of this, Even on days as miserable as last Sunday in Daytona...

Of course, he pulls off great shots at most any kind of sport... (Is UFC a sport or some other category of competition? Just checking)

Ok, one from me too, even after seeing how the pros do it! The challenge in basketball is to catch unique moments, like a player going up and hitting the bottom of the backboard instead of getting in front to the basket...
KHS vs Venus
Canon 40D, 85mm, f2.2, 1/400, iso1250

Feb 16, 2009

Photos for Ebay part 1: Small Items with a Point and Shoot

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Malissa over at Sleepyhollow Folk Art Originals about the importance of good photos for selling items on-line. Whether you are going to ebay, etsy, or any other online marketplace, the pictures are as close as a potential buyer can get to experiencing the item you want to sell. A bad photo can limit salability, cause a perception of poor quality, and reduce the number of people who are interested.

Luckily, getting better results is easy. You do NOT need a fancy new ultra-gigapixel camera to do it either. These photos are not for printing, so high resolution is not required. Everything in this post is shot with a 3 year old 5mp camera (Kodak v530)

You already know to get rid of distracting backgrounds and prioritize the subject, so priority one is to make a nice white (or black, or anything solid) background. A bed sheet, posterboard, etc. can all work, depending on the size of the object. Drape it over a chair and voila..

Well... better than sitting on the kitchen table, but the on-camera flash is glaring and maybe I should iron the sheet....

So, what if we want to do something a little better? Instead $170 or better for a light-tent setup, run down to your favorite craft store and pick up some white foamcore, then a couple of work lights (or any light holders will do) with some flood light bulbs. High wattage is best, just watch out because they will get hot.

Now make a shooting spot (here on the floor to use chairs for propping up the foamcore.

Quick note about light... Pointing the lights directly at the object will get the most light, but also some harsh shadows, which are not helpful.

How to cut the shadows?
Point the lights into the foam core on the sides instead to make a larger light source. You lose brightness, but you will want to compensate anyway. Remember, your camera wants to turn all of that white into gray! That is why the photo above is so dark.

Here is the setup...

and the result, less shadow...

I have also corrected the exposure there by +1 in the camera.

When shooting shiny things especially, remember that the shiny bits reflect whatever color is hitting them. Surrounding the object with white (or black for darkened areas) will help.

Black backgrounds can be very effective, but as you see, you have to make sure it is clean!... Felt fabric works well for this. Foamcore shows dirt very well...

You will also want some detail shots. Here again, the on-camera flash does not help.. turn it off and let the side lighting do the work...

With the flash on...

and off...

All together, this setup is about $25 and you can stuff it all in a closet or under a bed etc. etc. If you can shoot by a nice big window on a sunny day, you can even do without a light...

don j

Feb 14, 2009

Basketball - KHS vs Venus 2/13

I was happy to make it out to the last regular-season home-game for the Lions vs. Venus Bulldogs match-up. (Boys)

With a 77-37 home win, you can certainly expect plenty of highlights, which is good for photographers! I am a bit saddened that the season is ending right when I feel like I am finally getting some nice shots.

One thing I have been playing with at previous games was slow-shutter panning type shots... these turned out nicely I thought...
Canon 40D, 50mm, f2.8, 1/60, iso800

Canon 40D, 50mm, f7.1, 1/30, iso800

Canon 40D, 50mm, f4.5, 1/30, iso800

The game action was fast and furious all evening, with lots of photo opportunities.
Canon 40D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/500, iso3200

Canon 40D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/500, iso3200

Canon 40D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/500, iso3200

Lucky catch... a Venus player using his face to block a pass down the court..
Canon 40D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/500, iso3200

As I was leaving, the KHS vs. Royse City varsity soccer game had 10 minutes remaining... got a few shots in..
Canon 40D, 85mm, f2.2, 1/500, iso3200

Canon 40D, 85mm, f2, 1/500, iso3200

Time for some new lights at the stadium, you know, for better photos.

Happy Valentines and have a great weekend!

Don J.

Feb 10, 2009

Photo Stuff from the Web

Slideshow of images showing the recovery of United 1549 out of the Hudson River... and not just snapshots either... Here

I know that pro photogs think very differently about making images than most of us... Celeb/Commercial photog Bil Zelman is even different from most pros... here. Check out his galleries of images as well here.

Here is a whole website dedicated to helping you pick the best digital photo frame...

Last Saturday I shot about 1800 images of Kindergarten-6th grade basketball... great fun and a lot of work all in one. Overall it was a pretty successful day... this is one of my favorites so far...
Upward Basketball
Canon 40D, 24-70mm, f2.8, 1/250, iso1600, no flash, lots of processing

Feb 3, 2009

Rayfield Wright visits FBC Kaufman

Certifiable football legend Rayfield Wright was a guest speaker at FBC Kaufman last Sunday. For me, it was a fun opportunity to capture another event at the church while working on photo ideas.

First up was a baptism, and I finally got to try putting a remote camera "backstage" for a unique view. I used a Strobist inspired 2-flash setup... 1 flash in a Lastolite EzyBox about two feet above the camera, and another on the other side of the pool firing directly back at the camera. I wanted a blast of light behind either the pastor or the boy who was being baptized...
Canon 5D, 24-70mm, f11, 1/200, iso400

Next time I will try blasting the whole back wall to white.

The remote was triggered by the camera I was using from the back of the room...
Canon 40D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/100, iso1000

Next up was Rayfield Wright... and he is a totally classy guy with a great message about living, faith and finding your way to a meaningful life. If you get a chance to hear him speak or meet him in person, you will be blessed.

I tried to be inconspicuous... but I had a hard time finding anything unique to shoot. There was Robert with a Tony Romo jersey, listening intently...
Canon 5D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/30, iso1600

Mr. Wright is an active and expressive speaker which is great for photos... unfortunately there are a lot of distracting things on stage that draw attention away from the subject...
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, f2.8, 1/30, iso1600

I did not want to be distracting with a flash, so even at ISO 1600/f2.8, I was still shooting at 1/25-1/60 shutter speeds. Leaning on the wall helped keep the camera steady, but I had to try to catch him with his hands still, which wasn't easy. I still like this one because the pastor is laughing and looking back toward the camera.
Canon 5D, 70-200mm, 1/25, iso1600

Finally I caught him gesturing, not blurry hands, just the red chairs in the background, and a nice bunch of attentive audience members in the foreground.
Canon 5D, 70-200, f2.8, 1/30, iso1600

With that, I was pretty happy.

This was the last of 3 services that morning, and Mr. Wright stuck around until nearly 1:30 signing autographs, selling his book and shaking hands. He put one of his SuperBowl rings and his NFL Hall of fame ring on the little kids for pictures... those rings are huge!
Canon 5D, 24-70mm, f5, 1/60, iso1250, Flash w/bounce card

Pro Football is a game for really big men..
Canon 5D, 24-70mm, f5, 1/60, iso1250, Flash w/bounce card

It was a fun morning to shoot, and great to hear a really inspiring man share his story, faith, and experience. He retired from football when I was 4 years old, but what he shares is timeless.

If I took your photo, you can find it here.

Back to photo basics next.

don j.

Feb 2, 2009

If you want more interesting photos....

In The Moment it Clicks, Joe McNally quotes another National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson...
"If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff." That seems simple enough, but finding the "more interesting stuff" can be downright difficult when you are taking family photos.

The fix? If you can't change to a more interesting subject, do something to make the subject more interesting. Taking photos from normal eye-level vantage points, in normal places to stand can result in very average shots. Moving the camera to a viewpoint that isn't normally seen creates a visual that holds interest.

This is a normal snapshot of my niece on the floor counting Easter eggs... not a bad snapshot, but still, nothing to it.
Canon 40D, 17-85mm, f4.5, 1/60, iso200, flash on

Drop down to kid level though, and and there is more visual interest...
Canon 40D, 17-85mm, f4, 1/60, iso200, flash on

Looking at anything from an unusual angle makes it more interesting.

Ballet from above...
Canon 1D mkII, 50mm, f3.2, 1/200, iso 800,

The business end of a knife
Canon 40D, 17-85mm, f7.1, 1/80

How about looking up at a fire hydrant?
Skyline plus 1
Canon 40D, 17-85mm, f4, 1/5,

Taking pictures from eye-level is automatic. Thinking of a more interesting angle makes it better.

If you don't get to choose "more interesting stuff," choose to shoot your mundane stuff in a more interesting way.

Final note.. if you want to see what goes through the head of a top shooter, check out the book I quoted at the top of the post. From National Geographic to Sports Illustrated, Joe McNally is one of the best. Add a big dose of humor and inspiration and that is this book.

don j.