Jan 28, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - Jan. 28

Fog Trees-1800

It has been an interesting month weather-wise.  That has created a few problems for outdoor photo assignments, but also some opportunities like these trees in a pasture, filled with fog.  How often do you see something, find a place to stop and just shoot it?

I would love to get some acreage to turn into a photo destination with a variety of scenery, nature, sets, props and walls.  For nature photographers, there is the Texas Photo Ranch...

Abandoned places make intriguing photos.  This photographer has gone into the 'exclusion zone' around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site and made some great images.  Would you risk the radiation exposure to make photos that, while beautiful, are most interesting because of the risky location?

Most interesting to me are photos from the abandoned town of Pripyat, where most of the Chernobyl workforce lived.

A friend of mine tossed a rock at a lazy lion once but missed and didn't get much reaction.  These folks must have had some pretty flexible safari guides to let them do this...

Very nicely done colorization of historic B&W photos.  Makes the lighting look even better as well.  Study the lighting for great portrait light.

And, for all of you out there who are "waiting for a sign"... are these the signs you are looking for?

Jan 25, 2013

Friday Featured Photographer - Robbie Rakestraw

This week's featured photographer is Kaufman County based Robbie Rakestraw.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Robbie on several occasions at sporting events and can confirm he is a great guy.  He was helpful with some tips on using strobes for basketball when I was first getting into shooting high school sports.

"I have two boys (13 & 18) that are both very active in sports," he said. "I found it very challenging to capture good images of active subjects, especially when they were in dark dungy gyms and nighttime games played in the great outdoors.  That challenge sparked a quest to capture the perfect action shot; proper exposure and white balance, no motion blur, and a compelling composition.  I’m still chasing that 'perfect image."

Shooting sports, especially high school night games, just getting a crisp action shot can be hard.  Robbie added the following tips to get the best shots possible.
"Shoot as low to the ground as you can get.  A low position makes any athlete look more majestic," he said. "If you don’t have long glass (big telephoto lenses) be patient and let the action come to you."

Like any good sports photographer, Robbie knows that there are great pictures to be had besides the athletes...

Sports photography naturally led to shooting portraits as well, but the sports influence seems to come through there as well.
"I started shooting high school seniors due to repeated requests by parents and students," he said. "This genre of photography allows me to be creative with natural and strobed (off camera) lighting.  I offer a combination of studio and outdoor locations.  I like to match the location with the subject.  If they are athletes we go to their field of play.  I always try to include action shots along with formal shots in an attempt to capture the true spirit of the subject."

While photography is his passion, Robbie manages to fit in another 'regular' full time job into his schedule as well.
"I do have a full time job that keeps me away from my photography more than I like, and I also shoot for MaxPreps (CBS Sports)," he said.  "My biggest challenge is finding time to process my images after a contest.  This past football season I shot 45 high school varsity games along with numerous varsity volleyball matches and middle school football games.  I’m currently shooting soccer and basketball and the baseball season starts next month."

Shooting one or two games in a week is time-consuming.  45 games in a season is a serious commitment of travel time, wear and tear on your equipment and carpal-tunnel syndrome in front of the computer.

As you might expect, sports photography requires a hefty bit of gear in the camera bag.
"I’m a Canon shooter, and I generally only carry one camera body, which is a Canon 1D Mark IV," he said.  "If I’m lucky enough to get a day game, I will carry a Canon Mark IIN as a second body.  My go-to lens for most field sports is the Canon 400mm f/2.8 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 on the second body.  I will also carry a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for post game shots.  For softball I will use my 300mm f/2.8.  At volleyball and basketball games my primary lens is the 70-200 and sometimes the 300."

Robbie can be reached through his website, www.r2images.com.
He also posts a lot of recent highlights on Facebook.

Jan 22, 2013

Before and after - Post processing sports in Lightroom

Here is a quick look at a few images from high school basketball and how I adjust them for newspaper, as well as how far you can take them with a quick edit in Lightroom.

Terrell played hard but lost to Carrollton Newman Smith Tuesday night... It was not a great night shooting for me as much of the best action took place on the opposite end of the court, regardless of where I went.

However, when looking through the images, I was pleasantly pleased to find that the players were very expressive.  When players are really hustling, it shows on their faces.  That, in turn, makes much better pictures even when you don't get the best action shots.

OK... here is a quick 1-2-3.

Camera setup was Canon 1D mkIV, 50mm, ISO2000, 1/1250, f2.  That turns out slightly underexposed.
Lightroom Processing Sports orig-2572

Same picture, as sent it in to the newspaper...  Bumped up the exposure a bit, sharpened and with some noise reduction.  It makes a big difference for the newspaper press, which tends to print dark on most days.  If the images will run in black and white, I bump the exposure even more because anything dark gray prints black, and white is the color of the paper itself.
Lightroom Processing Sports-2572

I do more than 90% of my normal processing in Lightroom, and really 100% of the work for newspaper.  But even in Lightroom, you can go pretty far into the realm of 'edgy magazine feature' with just a few clicks.  Oh the drama.
Lightroom Processing Sports-2572-2

Here are a few more with a basic edit and an over-the-top version based on Matt Kloskowski's "Game Day" Lightroom presets.

This one is with the 70-200mm lens, iso3200, f2.8, 1/1000
Lightroom Processing Sports-3138
Lightroom Processing Sports-3138-2

Lightroom Processing Sports-2920
Lightroom Processing Sports-2920-2

Another boring shot but with nice expression in the eyes.
Lightroom Processing Sports-2665
Lightroom Processing Sports-2665-2

One more thing ... Time-Lapse

See this ... artsy time-lapse shots created for the Conan O'Brien show..

Then some great how-to from the guy who made them..

An option for controlling your camera for time-lapse is the Trigger-Trap app and cable.  It is cheaper than the camera controllers from Canon or Nikon, with a lot more features for triggering your camera with sound, motion detection, WiFi etc.

Jan 21, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - Jan. 21

Very often getting very close to an everyday object looks otherworldly.  As is the case with this ceramic pitcher.

And on the topic of exploring ... National Geographic is celebrating 125 years of existence.  This is a nice collection documenting the society's history.

Interesting personal projects do not have to be exotic, but unique is good.  How about faces on glass?  (via @ibarionex)

Tackling (photographically) whether the moon landing could have been faked ... and the deeper meaning of what is real and important in what we want to believe. (via @jdblundell)

Need some inspiration to do great and significant work in photography... check out the Framed awards nominees.  (on the other hand, it may also inspire feelings of inadequacy etc. :))  While you are there send a vote for Jeremy Cowart's Help Portrait project in the "Big F" category.

Also interesting in that is that they have some separate categories for film and digital.

I really 'need' to get a GoPro.  So many possibilities.

Send me a note if you want to read a blog post on some cheap and simple macro techniques for shots like this
grasshopper portrait

or this

Texas Photogs don't forget, sales tax is due tomorrow :-/.

Have a great week.

Don J.

Jan 18, 2013

Friday Featured Photographer - Amy Lunceford a.k.a. Amylu

Throughout 2013, I plan to feature various east Texas photographers who catch my attention.

For the first installment ...  Amylu photography first caught my eye on Facebook sometime in early 2012.  From what I have seen, photographer Amy Lunceford, shows great consistency in finding good light, color and attention to small details in her images.

With four years under her belt doing photography professionally, Amy said her extensive background in the advertising world has been very helpful in developing as a photographer.
"After 15 years in advertising I found myself stepping back and leaving the creative world professionally serving other clients," she said.  "I began focusing on my love for photography and with abundant blessings, incredible support and a fire to continually improve I found that Amylu was born and thriving before I really think I realized what was happening.  It just became a natural part of who I am.  Now I am back in advertising and still focusing on Amylu which is a creative dream marriage for me."

Family photography is a competitive world these days.  To set herself apart, Amy said that she strives to make her subjects feel more like her own family rather than clients or business associates.
"Amylu is VERY fun and laid back," she said.  "It is known that I 'shoot on the fly' a bit.  I see images as I shoot them and move through a shoot.  So there is no stuffy, stiff posed, formality going on.  A great deal of laughter, adventure and heart goes into my shoots.  I like my clients to leave feeling like family."

According to her website, Amy shoots primarily with available natural light.  Take a look through her galleries and you will note that she knows how to find good light and backgrounds.  Again, her history in advertising comes into play as she also emphasizes pre-visualizing the final image as she is shooting.
"I have worked with some amazing design talent nationally for my entire advertising career.  Access to that has given me an extremely strong love and appreciation for color, texture and the ability to relay a story and feeling in an image," she said.  "I feel it is my gift of seeing a shot as I shoot it just as I know I want the end edited image to appear to convey that moment in time that sets my work apart from others and defines my personal artistic voice."

As for gear.. a quick look at her images shows Amy's tendency toward fast lenses to get the super soft background bokeh.
"I am a prime girl," she said. "My bag is pretty simple. A Canon 5dMarkii and 50D as backup, 50L 1.2, 85mm 1.4, and when needed for specialty shoots I use the 24-70L and the 70-200 f/2.8, a Speedlight  580EXii."

Which goes to show (despite my best efforts to collect photo gear :) that more cameras isn't the key to success.
"I am a believer that it is all about using what you have to its fullest versus having mounds of lenses and toys," she said.

Follow along with Amylu on Facebook or her Blog.

Have a great weekend, it looks like great weather for making photos!

Jan 15, 2013

A little flash on the side?


A little bit of dramatic lighting can go a long way, especially when you are shooting outdoors or somewhere that studio-style lighting is unexpected.

This is straight out of the Strobist playbook...

With the setup of a hay bale, a beautiful young lady and one excellent mom/assistant we came up with some nice shots.

Equipment was simple ...
Canon Canon 430exII flash fired with Elinchrom Skyport radio triggers
Canon EOS 5D
and for the shot above, a 40" diffuser/reflector .

The flash is on a stand about 7' away to the right of the subject.  You can see by the shadows that it is overpowering the ambient light for a dramatic look.

Here is a wider shot showing the placement of the diffuser...

Here is another pose with the same setup.  Adding the flash allowed the sky to be darker, although with some low clouds, it wasn't as dramatic as I would have liked.

Jan 14, 2013

Monday Photo Roundup - Jan. 14


Happy New Year everybody.  I hope that you have had a great Christmas holiday season and that your 2013 is off to a great start.

Around the Johnson household we had guests for good portions of the last month.  That means test models for new lights and such, including my niece, above.  New additions include a ring flash, mobile battery power for strobes and a few other goodies.  Wherever you need studio-lit photos, we can do that.

I like Norman Rockwell's art, so I liked this collection of photos he used in the creation of his work.

Old meets new ... the marriage of an old Speed Graphic 4x5 camera and a Fuji digital mirrorless camera.

Interesting post by photographer Chris Crisman about failure. (via @davehillphoto)

Being a second-shooter includes the fun part of actual photography without the post-processing and marketing (or credit :).  Here is some help in being good at it so that you will get called again.

And, while  on that subject, there is a whole website dedicated to second-shooters.  I added myself to their list but without any results so far.

Ahh, the value of photographs as propaganda.  It happens everywhere, but North Korean dictators have it down to an art form :)

Actually, Russia's Vladimir Putin is probably tops in the political photo-op management business.

Meanwhile in the US, political photos get scrutinized and critiqued from every angle,  especially if it looks like image manipulation.

Finally, cooperative photo subjects are great, and when they let you experiment a bit, even better.  After getting some sunset photos with this cool character, he let me try something a little different...
Through the Screen-

Have a great week,

Don J.