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

Crandall Rangers-9978

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 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...
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

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;

Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

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.
Don C. Johnson: FBC Mayfest 2013 &emdash;

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!