May 29, 2012

Ripe unto harvest

I was out for a newspaper assignment to  get some shots of old guys using antique hardware to harvest wheat, and then decided that the timing was also perfect for some family photos in a wheat field.  The lovely Renee was willing to play along and Joshua... well, he is 1, everything is an adventure for him.
So the next day we trooped out at about 7:30 p.m. and found a safe-looking spot to park.

Take a risk, go out with the snakes and bugs, and get some fun photos!  You certainly make a memory at the same time.  Just be sure to respect the farmer's field as well, don't ruin crops.


I started with the 5D and an 85mm, and the sun was still a little high. That blew out the sky, but also made for nice silhouette stuff.

The difference in those two shots is shutter speed of 1/6400 for the silhouette and 1/2000 for the other, about 1 2/3 stops. And I had to put some light back on his face in Lightroom, but it was the one with best expression. At 1/500, the exposure was just about right, making a nicer skin tone and requiring less adjustment, even under the hat he inherited from his great uncle.

I switched to the 1D and 70-200 for a little flexibility with backgrounds. I was still shooting low apertures for the background effect, but probably didn't need that as much as I thought.

One thing to watch when shooting out in the world is the horizon line.  It doesn't necessarily need to fall on the 'rule of thirds' lines, but it has to let your subject stand out.  Or get higher and let the subject be surrounded by wheat.  Just not intersecting with any part of the head.  Be intentional with where you put it.

Of course, the key is still catching moments and expressions ... This is at f4, 1/160, (+2 1/3 exposure compensation) still working into the sun for the fun of it.wheats-1564

Zoomed in tighter with less sky, this is +1 exposure compensation.. had to brighten it a bit in LR also. wheats-1529

The sun quickly settled into beautiful glowing light, and I dragged Renee into the weeds wildflowers. wheats-9966


Have fun with your cameras, folks.

Don J.

May 19, 2012

Portrait Project - Veterans

I had the opportunity to set up a photo booth for veterans at a special appreciation event for Armed Services Day.  It is always good to meet, shake hands, and thank these folks for their willingness to serve.

Of course it was also a chance to experiment with lighting setups. I was inspired by this post on Strobist with some beautiful shots of civil war re-enactors, so I went from there using what I have equipment-wise and ended up with a totally different look, but still something that I liked a lot. Portraits-9904

Knowing that some of the subjects would be wearing hats, I wanted to make sure that there was light for their faces. The main light is a big softbox to camera right, barely in front of the subjects. Enough to the side to still get good definition in facial wrinkles and such. What I added was the 2x2 softbox just above and behind the camera position. It is a minimal power to just add a touch of light in the eyes and face without losing the shadows. Comparison photos ... (left) Just the camera-position fill light, and (right) with the key light.

As a full length setup, it still looks good.. the light draws your eyes up to the face. Of course the background needs steaming or a full seamless roll to put down on the floor.

Adding the fill light at the camera position gave a look that I like a lot better than just two lights with even lighting on both sides of the face.




This setup does require some care with subjects who wear glasses though... Portraits-9779

Throughout the event, members of the Young Marines served food, helped with setup and performed color guard duty. After it was all over, they came through the photo booth and gave me some of the best photos of the day.




Don't forget why we celebrate Memorial Day next weekend.

Don J.

May 16, 2012

Creating the Kaufman County Life coffee cover

The Tribune's Kaufman County Life magazine has been a fun project for three editions now.  It gives us the opportunity to write differently, be a little bit more creative on design elements and, for photos, printing on nice glossy paper is great.

Here is how I went about creating the cover of our newest KCL with a cover story about local independent coffee shops.
KCL Cover Blog-9653

 There are a lot of coffee themed images on flickr, 500px and other image sharing sites, but I wanted to use coffee to create something with a graphic quality that was more than just a photo of beans or a fancy cup. Of course there also has to be enough room to add text and other elements for the cover. "Cool Beans" is a phrase used by one of the Tribune staff, so I went with that, and a coffee cup shape to start with. I printed the phrase very lightly on yellow construction paper and cut out the cup. Then the hard part began, covering the letters with ground coffee using a butter knife, paint brush and patience. That went on top of a larger piece of blue construction paper, which was then covered in whole coffee beans.
KCL Cover Blog-0605-3

I played with a few lighting setups before settling on a single monolight in a 2x2 softbox and a white foamcore reflector.
KCL Cover Blog-0604

After getting a few shots to make sure I had something I could use (no tripod on the table, so I was standing on a ladder) ...
KCL Cover Blog-0602

... it was a simple trip through lightroom to clean up errant coffee grounds and give our graphic artist a few looks to choose from. This is the one we used.

KCL Cover Blog-0605

Same image, but with the color saturation way up to neon levels. KCL Cover Blog-0605-4

Different photo, also with more color...
KCL Cover Blog-0609

It is very fun to have an idea and turn it into a photo. It is even more fun to use it to make a product that helps pay the bills, and is distributed to thousands of homes and businesses around the county.

May 10, 2012

More track - Feature Photo

Continuing the previous post - Terrell High's Carnell Horn will compete this weekend in Austin at the state Class 4A track meet.  That meant a feature photo for the sports page, so it was a trip out to the practice track for me.

I took two flashes - Canon 580exII and 430ex with Elinchrom skyports.  Camera was 1DmkIV with the Sigma 14mm f2.8 to get the sky in there and minimize the other (uglier) background elements.

The idea was to add a little bit of highlights with the strobes and keep some sky color.  It was around 5 p.m., so the slight cloud cover was helpful in knocking down the direct sunlight. Carnell Horn State Track-0987

 I was using both at full power, so it was just one shot for each time he passed by. I like the look, but there is still more motion blur than I would really want. Some turned out better than others of course, but I only ended up with 9 shots to choose from. Carnell Horn State Track-0988

Shooting with the 14mm also added some distortion, but there wasn't enough time to try other setups.
Carnell Horn State Track-0995