Nov 30, 2012


Some days it is good to just have a fun shooting day.  Yesterday was that for me, and one thing I wanted to play with was panoramic shots.  There is a bit of a learning curve, but also lots of resources to make decent shots come together.

Panoramic images are a lot of fun to look at, but to do them well is often labor intensive.  Of course, there are apps for phone panoramas, which is great fun.  Here is my son playing in downtown Dallas, captured in the middle of an iPhone panorama shot.  Click through to flickr to see the full size photo.
Joshua Pano

A few attempts with the iPhone show its limitations, but if you have a very static scene and a steady hand, it is fun.

Later in the evening I took a 4-image shot across the downtown skyline from a different spot.  I had a 5D and 50mm lens with me, so the detail is good, but not great.  Again, click through to flickr to see it up close.  The vertical line about 1/3 in from the right is not a merging artifact, it is a light pole on the bridge where I was shooting.
Dallas Night Pano

This was automatically merged together quickly with Photoshop's automated photomerge option.  If it were a daytime shot, the problems would be easier to spot.  And there are always problems to correct.

Finally...   to see how it is really done, read through this post about creating a gigapixel pano of San Francisco with amazing detail.  It also highlights some good info on the how-to side of things.

Have a great Friday!

Nov 29, 2012

Marge and the moon

I was in the neighborhood of the Margaret Hunt-Hill Bridge this evening, which warranted some quick pics.
Margaret Hunt-Hill Bridge-6430

The occasion was a creative Circle Meetups gathering and presentation by Austin Mann.  To say he does good work is an understatement.

Most of the conversation revolved around storytelling and creative work for nonprofit and faith-based organizations, which is exactly where I want to be, so that was great.

The other thing that grabbed my interest was Mann's work on "motion fine art."  The idea of high definition screens as art displays is not new, but the idea of fine art with a time/motion element thrown in is intriguing.  The possibilities are quite endless.  Wouldn't have to be video, per se.  Digital mixed-media.  Or something.

Here is one of Mann's creations.
Covet from Austin Mann on Vimeo.

Nov 28, 2012

Where to shoot - Cedar Hill State Park / Penn Farm

First - a quick disclaimer.  The photos for this post were iPhone snapshots from a family camping trip, not examples of decent photography :)

I will update this "Where to shoot" series of posts from time to time when I find  a spot to share.  To that end I have also started a flickr group for area photo locations.  Feel free to come add to it.  If it grows over time, it could be a good source for shooting spots when you run out of ideas.

Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1736

A few weeks ago we packed up and headed to Cedar Hill State Park for a quick camping adventure.  I intentionally left all photo gear at home except my iPhone and the camera above.  It was not to be a photo safari, but a family fun time.  As we left the house, Renee said that I should be bringing more camera, and, as usual she was right.

Any state park will offer a multitude of natural backgrounds and potentially great portrait spots.  Cedar Hill gives that and more.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1732

There are a few unique spots like the "perch pond" for kid fishing above, a short hike back to a natural pond, some well maintained hiking trails, and great views of Joe Pool Lake.

The real gold mine here, though, is the historic Penn Farm within the grounds of the park.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1805

There is a short walk from the parking area back into the farm (with restrooms near the entrance), but the dirt road pathways and trails are good enough for strollers or wheelchairs.  A variety of old farm equipment is scattered around the grounds, and old wood fences are in abundance.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1790

An old windmill can be a great prop.  Unless the person volunteering to take your photo puts it right on your wife's head.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1795

For my money, the best features are the old barn and house buildings.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1798

Wood and stone features are everywhere, with lots of big shady spots to find good light any time of day.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1817

There are also some wide open fields available, although it seemed to be a popular place for people to let their dogs romp around.
Cedar Hill State Park Penn Farm-1819

There were several photographers out doing the work on a beautiful but cold Saturday morning, and I see why.

Entry to the park is $7 for adults, free for kids under 12.  Park hours are 6  a.m. - 10 p.m., but the website lists Penn Farm as closing at 5 p.m.

It is a beautiful spot within an easy drive of the general D/FW area.  Enjoy!

Nov 27, 2012

Design means something

I don't think anything can save newspaper in its present form, but the idea of adding value through good design works for any form of media product.  That certainly applies to how photographs are used within the design context.

Look at the value well-placed imagery adds to these newspaper designs.  Mr. Utko describes it as designing a poster as much as designing a newspaper.

Beyond being an interesting exercise, it is also nice to see that increased readership followed.

The same mechanisms work for advertising impact, which I think is lost on small- to medium sized businesses who don't have a budget for good marketing or rely on the publications  in which they advertise for designs.

As better design increases in the upper end of the market, small shops will look increasingly backward in their marketing attempts...   the rich get richer?

Nov 26, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Nov. 26

It is always good to have some fun while shooting... with twin two-year-olds, how can you not have fun?  Well, at least they had fun for some parts of the shoot :)

Playgrounds can be risky!  I almost broke a rib on this very playground a couple of years ago.  It pays to look up from the camera now and then.  Of course, it isn't really as risky as, say, swimming with lava. Anything for a picture?

Interesting, weird, creative, awkward

How about treating people on the street as celebrity subjects?  Brilliant.

What would you do if you were shooting a wedding and your hair caught on fire?  Come to think of it, we did have a hair fire incident at our wedding.  And the lady in question is now a photographer.  hmmm.

Have a great end-of-November!

Nov 24, 2012

Cover Story - Kaufman County Life Winter 2012

KCL Cover Winter 2012-1877

The winter 2012 edition of Kaufman County Life is circulating in the wild.  I can't say this was my favorite cover concept, but simplicity is often the best choice.  One thing I miss about being on staff is the day-to-day input and haggling over details and design.  Once you are out of direct contact, it is harder to have meaningful input.

The cover story involves three local musical acts who are making headway in the music biz: Chip Murrey and Texas Underground, Kimberly Torres and Swamp Love, and the Acoustic Sound Hounds.

I shot performance or practice photos of all three, but the cover needed to be inclusive of all of them.  The concept that was chosen was an iPod playlist with the three bands in it.  An old jukebox would have been more fun, but alas, the budget was closer to whatever was handy, so my iPhone got the call.
KCL Cover Winter 2012-4266

I set up in the kitchen (The garage shooting space was not yet complete) to see what kind of light would work to show the phone and playlist well.  The key considerations were plenty of detail to read the playlist, no reflections off the glass (easy since it is flat) and a balance between the phone screen and the ambient light.  I ended up at ISO 100, 1/2 second at f10.

Here is how that breaks down.  Shutter speed really only affects the ambient light, in this case the iPhone screen.  The aperture, meanwhile, has to be closed down to make sure everything is in focus, so I balanced that with a studio flash in a small softbox that is very close to the subject.  The slow shutter speed also required that the use of a tripod and not having a person as a model.

Next, to give the shot some personality, I borrowed my wife's dress form, jeans and a shirt to put the phone with.  A plain white or other color shot similar to the test would have been interesting as well, and definitely more "Apple" looking.  We did not want it to look like an ad for phone.

Here is the setup.
KCL Cover Winter 2012-4296

One light in a 2x2 softbox to the side and a reflector.  Simple wins the day again.  No reflections in the phone and plenty of shadow detail in the fabric.

The back pocket shot was used for the cover...  It had more room for text.
KCL Cover Winter 2012-4276

I think the front pocket is a little better proportioned...
KCL Cover Winter 2012-4283

That is about as simple as you can get, and now you've seen my kitchen :)

Don J.

Nov 19, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Nov. 19

When you take pictures professionally, it is easy to forget the power of family snapshots over the course of everyday life.  I was reminded of the importance of the simple documentary value of these photos by some friends at our church's annual Thanksgiving meal yesterday.

This was in 2008...

And this year...
FBC Dinner Pics-4653

Not marvels of composition or photographic excellence.  But still priceless images in the history of this great kid, his family, and our friendship.

It is a reminder to remember that the value of photography is not always in the critical details.

OK.. on with the show.

It is Thanksgiving week after all... how about a steamy turkey photo.  Literally.

Christmas shopping already?  40 gifts under $40.

NYC then and now.

Wow... before and after drug addiction imagery combined.

Making objects translucent.. without photoshop.

Joe McNally talks umbrellas.

Nice collection of Veterans Day photos.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Nov 15, 2012

Fall Moon

Crescent Moon-4489

I like being able to see some detail in the moon's shadow areas.  Of course, you lose all detail in the 'lit' portion, but it is nice and moody.

Nov 12, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Nov. 12

HP Belles-3526

Terrell travelled to Highland Park for the final game of the season.  As halftime shows go, the Highland Belles were the best dance/drill team I've seen all year.  It's too bad their website has a bunch of mediocre photos that are distorted.

Which leads me to another point.  Don't stretch/bend photos to fit a spot.  Crop them if you have to, but stretching to fit is terrible.  It is also one reason photogs hate giving up digital files to customers.  If you make a photo look ugly, it reflects back on the photographer.

Transfer B&W photos onto clear contact paper to stick them anywhere...

An intriguing photog project - contents of insane asylum patient suitcases.  There is so much history there and so much unknown about the owners of the objects.

10 surefire ways to become a better photographer.  I subscribe to this method, and add one more step.  Also look at a lot of photos.

And if you want better photos of the moon, here is a comprehensive article on that topic.

The football action was a little lopsided Friday, and my shots were just OK.  I'm thinking the lady in the endzone was positioned just right for this play.
HP Pass-2938

Same for whoever was shooting from the other side here..
HP airborne-2960

Have a great week.

Nov 5, 2012

Monday Photo Roundup - Nov. 5

It was another fun night of photo booth fun, this time outdoors, at the FBC Kaufman Fall Festival on Halloween.

I will do a post on the lighting setup I used later this week.  Closeups looked good (above), but the shadowy look I was going for only worked with some of the more extravagant costumes and poses.  I liked this one...
Purple Alien-1087

Zombies are all the rage.  Chase Jarvis picked out some great zombie photos for your perusal.

Interesting - Time magazine used 5 photogs to fill an Instagram feed as "Superstorm Sandy" approached.

Iwaan Baan talks about how he made an iconic photo of Manhattan with the power out for the cover of New York magazine.  Also an interesting that he takes a bit of a political commentary at the end.

Working on portrait lighting?  Sara Lando guest post on Strobist talks about working it out with self portraiture.

In the "some day" file.. I want to play with some stop-motion video. You know, like this.

Have a great week.