Oct 4, 2013

iPhone 5s video first impressions

My phone upgrade was due, so I splurged on the iPhone 5s, upgrading from the 4S. While I have enjoyed the 4s' camera as a carry-around, it hasn't been useful for much else. I suspect the same will be true with the 5s, as I am just used to having so much control with a DSLR. Of course, the slow-mo video is a fun touch that may actually find its way into some fun music videos or other projects. Of course, the new GoPro Hero 3+ would be a better choice so maybe not.All of this is basic hand-held footage, put together in iMovie. Simple and quick. The 120fps slow-mo footage from the camera does look nice. Footage from the football game you can really see the image break up at times due to the bright lights against black sky etc. Also, the autofocus is not up to dedicated camera standards.

The footage...

Coming next, a trip to the carnival with a two-year-old and the phone... fun times.

May 29, 2013

Piaggio Aero Avanti II

She's a beauty, even on a cloudy day.  But in a hammerhead shark kind of way.
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May 25, 2013

A plane apart

One of my first assignments with the Terrell Tribune was covering the annual Flights of Our Fathers fly-in at the Terrell Airport.  It is an event put on by the No. 1 British Flying Training School Museum. The museum preserves a very unique chapter in Terrell, Texas, U.S., WWII and British history.

Any time I had contact with the museum folks, there seemed to be some talk about getting an AT-6 Texan trainer plane of the type used at the school during the war.

And finally, they have one!  Or, rather, they have a whole lot of parts that, soon, will be a great addition to the museum.
BFTS T-6-0219

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It will be fun to help document the reassembly of the plane and to find out a bit of its history.  This one was apparently built in about 1940, and may have seen some service in Canada.  While some parts have been restored, it apparently had a very hard landing and was damaged at the end of its flying life.

To see the plane's progress and support the effort, you can follow along on the museums website, and on Facebook.

May 24, 2013

Little League again

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I got a little bit closer to what I wanted out of little league photos.  This is the second team I've shot in as many weeks, but this time the weather was much more cooperative.  We started at 7 p.m. and the sun had settled behind some hazy clouds.  I need to photoshop that guy out of the background.  The one above is actually a little over-processed for my taste (and I did it :).

This is what the standard photos look like.
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And here is the setup..  Softbox as key camera left (didn't have any lefty batters to shoot this time either).  Second light is an ABR 800 shooting through a Lastolite Tri-grip behind and right.
Little League setup-0106

May 22, 2013

Wednesday Photo Roundup - May 22


Yes, it is about time for another amazing blog post.  Or maybe just a set of links to things I've found interesting over the last few weeks.

For the shot above, I imagined something more like this, but shooting outdoors with gusty wind (and no assistant) made it a bit impossible to use anything other than straight reflectors on the flashes.

Looks like Flickr decided 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," and tried to turn into 500px.com overnight.  I haven't decided if I like it any better, but I do know that doubling the price is not exciting.  Considering that I use Flickr mainly for hosting photos for this blog and some sharing within area groups, it will be hard to justify.  The big selling point is 1 terabyte of storage for your photos.  But it used to be "unlimited" for pro accountholders.  Also, if you have a terabyte of photos on Flickr, you may want to learn to resize images.

Photography on the silver screen?  fStoppers has a top-ten list of photography-related movies.

Human models aren't the only ones to get a full photoshop makeover for magazine covers.  Check out this time-lapse of a cover shoot for an iPhone a few years back.

Here is another great post with photographer Peter Belanger who pulls off those pristine product shots.

Another list.. Photo blogs that cover the business of being a photographer.  Worth a look at all five of them.

PDN's photos and photogs of the year.  Be inspired.

Good thoughts on social media marketing misconceptions. (via @justinwise)

Pet photographers... be inspired.

Another list... Places to shoot before you die.  What is on your photographic "bucket list?"

May 9, 2013

How to become a better photographer in one day!

I take it as a compliment that people ask me how to become better photographers.  The question assumes that I know how to get a picture, which is nice.  I'm not always so confident myself.

My answer, and I see this a lot from other photogs much better than myself, is to shoot a lot of pictures and change the way you look at light and composition.

Want to get better fast?

Find a day-long event with a lot of people in a lot of situations and make pictures.  Go indoors, outdoors, bright sun, shade... all over the place.  Then think about each place you are shooting and how to make something good there.  It won't always happen, but it makes you think differently.

I shoot a lot of photos for my church.  I see my abilities and equipment as a gift from God, and something to share, so it affords me the opportunity to give back while also honing skills.  And that is good.

One caveat... If you do this with the purpose of thinking photographically, you will also not be participating as much in the event you are photographing.  Rather, you are participating, but not directly.  Two years from now, much of what people will remember from the event will be the photos that remain.

Here is a quick set of my favorites from an event we held last weekend, as an example.

The setup is an outdoor church service, a giant meal, followed by indoor and outdoor activities for all ages including sports, games, music, etc. etc.

For me.. one camera (6D) two lenses (24-70 and 70-200) and several bottles of water.

Early morning, partly cloudy, cold, set-up and practice by the band.  Layers.  Trees.  Sun. Expression... Push the button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Good shady light?  Isolate the subject on a darker background.  Push button.
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Now get closer.  Invade people's space a little bit.  Follow the advice of Robert Capa.  "If your photos aren't good enough, you aren't close enough."
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

And what's going on indoors?  Introduction of a new youth pastor and his family?  OK, change all of the camera settings, wait for an expression.  Push button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Think documentary purposes... and unique angles.  Climb stairs.  Shoot wide...
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Did I mention puffy clouds on blue sky?  Push button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Lunch is served.  Giant window light, Yay!  Change camera settings.  Try to get some unique angle and an expression.  Push button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Back outside.  Occasional bright sun followed by cloud cover.  Ride the shutter speed.  Basketball, volleyball.  Don't forget to change to continuous autofocus.  Timing.  Push the button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Move around a lot but on purpose.  Stop dead in your tracks because one of the most wonderful old guys you know has paused for a reflective moment on the sidewalk.  Push the button.  I wish for all the world Mr. Lyons was standing out on the grass with trees in the background.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Think up a challenge like: Can I take a picture of a person flying a kite that includes the kite and the persons face?  Then wait for it...  push the button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Back inside.  Change settings.  Dominoes going on.  Expression.  Push the button.  Don't give in to the players who want to see pictures of the other players' dominoes.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

Back outside.. it's basketball.  Harsh shadows making silhouettes on the ground?  Cool.  Put them in the picture.  Or just take pictures of the silhouettes.. whatever.  Push the button.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

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Those shadows are good elsewhere too...
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Busy backgrounds all around..  oh wait, we still have nifty clouds.  Throw horseshoe.  Push button.
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Now keep doing that for a while and just wear yourself out.  That should do it.
Get permission from your significant other first.  Especially if taking all of these pictures means you won't be helping out much with a toddler or, say, eating together.

Seriously, it changes the way you look at situations and forces you to pay attention to camera settings, people's faces and everything that is going into your pictures.

All told, with a few breaks worked in throughout the day, I shot for about 10 hours in just about every situation imaginable (except studio lighting etc).  That is good practice!

Pick an event.  Let people know you will be there with a camera.  And shoot away.

May 7, 2013

Putting light in a (very) dark corner

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As is often the case, even proper planning can get thrown out the door on the morning of a shoot.  We had planned to use a nice open spot in a hotel breakfast area for quick portraits of ladies attending the first "Treasure the Moments Tea" put on by the Sharing the Love Foundation in Forney.  I had planned a simple clamshell type setup... beauty light that would work for all of the lovely ladies who would be coming through.

Upon arrival, however, I was told that that space would not be available and we were instead using a boardroom with a giant table that could not be moved, dark wallpaper and carpet, and about four feet of space to both light and provide access to the giant wicker chair we would be posing with.  Hmmmm....

The only real goal was to give the ladies a decent photo to remember the occasion with.  There were also a lot of hats to be used as props, so the light would have to get under those...  just basic portrait stuff, but stuck in a dark corner.

Here is what I worked out..  The space is tighter than it looks.
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The key light is on the right...the big softbox closest to the chair.  The smaller softbox is actually aimed toward the reflector on the left.  It served as fill from the front and the left side, and under the chin.  I added another light (barely visible by the window) as a hair/separation light.

I initially tried to put the smaller softbox on the left side, but there was not enough room to walk past comfortably.  I wasn't sure if we would have anyone with mobility issues or possibly a wheelchair etc.

The view from the chair...
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And, it worked reasonably well I thought...  The dark striped wallpaper was nice as a backdrop, even if the flower arrangement got distracting.  I probably should have removed them from the vase, but decided against it.  Did I mention I have a tendency to break things?

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Tighter shots were generally better.
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This was true with multiple people in the photo as well.  Not only was it a small space, the groovy chair's low seat and wide back and arms made posing around it a bit awkward.
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Lessons learned... when you are stuck against a dark wall, you can bounce a softbox off of a reflector to make it work.  Also, don't be afraid of tight spaces.  It forces closeness in your subjects, which is generally good.

Thanks again to all of the lovely ladies for being great models and letting me be a part of the event!

May 3, 2013

A big thank you ...

Big Thank You! to R&R Construction and Remodeling in Mesquite for making the photo booth possible at this weekend's "Treasure the Moments" tea time by the Sharing the Love Foundation in Forney.

It is going to be a great time of fellowship for some great single moms, widows and everyone will get photos to remember by!

Apr 29, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - April 29

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The Terrell High School Tigerettes put on a great show this weekend.  It is always nice to see great students doing good stuff.  Nice job, ladies.

Now this would be a fun gig.. shooting 'official' sportraits for a big college football team.  Great behind-the scenes video of how that works.

On the sports theme.. here is another great look at high quality work.  If any of you crazy motocross guys want to try for some photos like this, let me know. (via @fstoppers)

How about shooting in space?  I'd like to try that too, but... well... you have to be an astronaut.

Or.. maybe you don't really have to be an astronaut.  Chase Jarvis talks about false barriers and a guy flies a camera (almost) to space and back.

Digital darkroom - Figuring out how layer blend modes work can be a life changing experience ... I have only scratched the surface but it really changes how you can use the program.  Here is a great post explaining it. (via @thomasshue)

OK, one more from me.  Like journalism, being a photographer puts you all over the place.  With all kinds of subjects.  From beauty, as at the top, to...  not beauty, below.
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Have a great week.

Apr 22, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - April 22


The good news is that I've been busy... of course, that leads to less blogging, but thanks for stopping by to read this :)

The photo above is for the good folks at the Terrell ISD Excellence Foundation.  They do a great job of supplementing the school district in Terrell with grants for equipment, teacher training, and other things that regular school budgets do not cover.

Of course the big news stories of last week were the West, Texas explosion and the bombing at the Boston Marathon.

This slideshow includes some amazing images, including several from east Texas photog ace Mike Stone who went down to West the night of the explosion.

At an $800/day rate (plus expenses, of course) I gotta wonder if anyone is paying for a personal vacation photographer.  On second thought, it could be a pretty fun gig for a single guy or gal who likes to travel.  Come to think of it, for the right price you can hire me to go on vacation with you.  The joys of traveling with a two-year-old will just be a bonus for you :)

If you have some time to burn, the "learning to see" series of posts at Digital Photo School is an interesting read.

Good post on getting better color balance at night.   (and why some light sources look way off ... hint, they are way off.)

Very cool project - lights on wakeboards for long-exposure light trails.

In the market for a new camera strap?

Have a great week everyone ...

Apr 12, 2013

The pictures at a funeral.

If you take photos of people for very long, it is inevitable that someone will eventually ask for photos to use in a funeral slide show.  Whether for your own family member or someone else's, it is a reminder that, in a way, being a keeper of the photos is a sacred trust.

This is my uncle Everett, who died unexpectedly in 2011.  When I was growing up, he was they guy at family gatherings with a camera.  He encouraged the photo bug in me, including the gift of a nice lens as a high school graduation present.  He also hated having his picture taken.

The fact that photographs outlast us and somehow keep our legacy and image intact after we are gone is part of why we pick up a camera, right?  It isn't something we like to think about, but each and every person in front of our lens is going to be a memory at some point.

I was reminded of this because of the murder of our Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia.  Less than a year before, Mike and Cynthia attended a military veterans appreciation event in Terrell, where we had a photo booth set up.  At the time, it never would have occurred to me that in less than a year, they would be gone.

So, four points..

First, try to make good pictures that capture something of the personality of subjects.  That will be the  photos that hold value when someone is no longer able to make an impression.

For example, the lighting isn't great for this shot, the background is distracting among other things, but this shot of Mike and Cynthia carries something about them and their relationship that the shot above does not.
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Second point ... catalog and keep your images in a place that you can find what you need on short notice.  It is hard to do, really.  Especially cell phone photos, Instagram posts, Facebook photos etc.  It is worth the time and effort.  Also, make sure someone else knows where your archive is.  The next person to die may be you!

Family friend and great man Kent, died unexpectedly in 2011.

Becky L.  Counselor and educator. Tremendous influence on countless lives. Died earlier this year.

Beth J.  Amazing lady and childrens minister in our church.  Died in 2011 after a battle with cancer.

Third point ... Snapshots are great.  Sure, we talk about lighting, moment, expression, backgrounds, cameras, etc. etc. etc.  But after someone is gone, that matters a lot less.  Even the cheesiest snapshots may turn into treasured memories when you can't make any more.
This is our dear Grandma Moore, who we miss greatly, died in 2009.

Finally, it is also a good idea to spend some time digitizing old prints and other artwork.
Easttexasphoto Blog
A painting of my grandmother, who died in 2002

OK, Go forth and take photos.  And keep in the back of your head that we are all temporary.  And, if you want to be remembered, make sure someone gets pictures of you as well.

Apr 8, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - April 8

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Terrell Tribune Sports/Managing Editor Todd Jorgenson spends his free time as a youth basketball coach.  When his team comes to the Forney Sports Complex for a tournament each year, it is fun to experiment a little and give his kids some unique photos.  These shots were taken in the middle of the day with a single Alien Bees Einstein flash unit at the FSC loading dock.  Just adding a single light and some quick editing in Lightroom can give some fun results.

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Picking a location that adds to the images you want to create is important of course...  Here is an article about location-picking for natural light portraits at Digital Photo School (via @resourcemag)

I am anticipating the day that someone calls me for food photography.  How about fancy ice cream sundaes? (via @fstoppers)

How do you show the population density of Hong Kong in photos?  Like This. (via @bhphotovideo)

Weather is warming up... Here is a bit of back-to-the-basics, but thorough post on photographing spring.

Working on your photoshop skills?  This post is a good place to start - 34 techniques to try.

If we needed any more evidence of the decline of basic family portrait studios, the operator of studios in  Sears and Walmart stores is going out of business. (via @ibarionex).   I would also opine that the print-sales based business model and minimal choices compared to even basic "location" photographers.

In case you missed out on last week's April Fools fun.. here is a compilation of photo-related foolin'

Have a great week.

Blazers Basketball-6172

Mar 25, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - March 25

Dallas City Hall
Playing around with the phone camera before the "Dallas Men Against Abuse Rally" Saturday morning.  Kind of sad that such an event is even needed.

Look through his images and you'll see whyJeremy Lock has won Military Photographer of the Year honors seven times in a 21 year career.

If you are into surreal images and abstract art, how about trying to get those kinds of images in-camera instead of Photoshop?  Like by using a prism.

Quick (if corny) vid explaining hard light vs. soft light.
 Film Lighting Tutorial: Qualities of Light from Zacuto on Vimeo.

Planning any summer trips to shoot wildlife?  Some tips on what to take.  Or not take.

Nice thoughts on being competitive and ranking ourselves as photographers.