Thursday, October 30, 2008

Governor Palin!

Wednesday night (Oct. 29th) I had the privilege of getting to shoot a GOP rally in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The main speaker was Sarah Palin. Regardless of politics, I would have taken the opportunity if it was Obama, Biden, McCain or Palin but in this case it just happened to be her. However, she is terribly cute and I had a blast taking about 500 or so photos of her. Hank Williams Jr. was there too but I only took about 9-10 shots of him.

Anyways, this situation presented me with a new challenge. First of all, I knew I was going to need a BIG lens if I wanted to get any shots of her that were reasonably close as I knew this was going to be a really big event and I doubted that I would get that close. So, fortunately, a good friend of mine let me borrow his Nikon 80-400 VR f/4.5-5.6 lens! This thing is a beast and I had fun using it. Big lens for my camera, check.

Once I got there, I was pretty far back but a volunteer security person (Tom Stinnett of Tom Stinnett RV---thanks Tom!) let me slide into the VIP area so I could get some closer shots. The deal was, he let me get in close and I had to email him a few photos. Fair enough!

So now I was in there close, had my big lens and it was time to start shooting. I started off in Aperture Priority mode and f/5.6 and ISO 1600. This was giving me shutter speeds of a less than 1/200 sec, which was giving me some blown out highlights that I didn't like and a little too many blurry shots too often. So, I switched to Manual mode, set my aperture to f/5.6, ISO 1600 and shutter at 1/250 sec. I kept chimping my LCD to see how the shots were turning out and they were still a tad bit bright and some were still blurry. So, I set my shutter speed to 1/320 sec. Now, its getting better but still not where I want. I kicked up the shutter speed to 1/400 sec and was getting the clarity that I wanted, but now it was a little dark. So... I kicked up the ISO to 3200! Yep, that's right, 3200!!! My D300 excels at high ISO's and this was an occasion where it was going to pay off. My final exposure was f/5.6 at 1/400 sec. ISO 3200. I shot all the rest of my shots at this exposure and they all turned out great. I played with my White Balanace setting but discovered that my shots looked fine in Auto White Balance so that's where I left it.

I had a blast shooting these, and if Sarah had a southern draw, I might even be in love. =)

Monday, October 27, 2008


Chase Jarvis RAW: Ninjas

I have thought ninjas were cool since I was kid and I was thrilled to find this video of photographer Chase Jarvis doing a photo shoot with ...NINJAS! Its an awesome vid so check it out if you share the love.

You're My Boy Blue!

f/11 at 1/320 sec ISO 200

I've had this guitar for almost 20 years and it has always been my favorite. I've taken several photos of it over the years and this one is the latest.

I wanted the photo to be dark overall since the guitar is black itself (with white trim). But I needed some separation from the guitar and the background so it would stand out and not be a very, low key shot.

So, the first thing I did was to set my camera's shutter speed to its fastest flash sync speed, which is 1/320 sec. Then I set my Nikon SB-800 on a light stand camera left and pointing down at about a 45 degree angle. I used a white translucent shoot thru umbrella to diffuse the light and made sure to angle it, in respect to the guitar, in such a way as not to leave a huge specular reflection in the guitar. The flash was dialed in at 1/4 power. I started off at 1/8 power but that was too dark. I took a few shots, and then was able to determine my working aperture of f/11.

After I had my key light adjust the way I wanted and my aperture/shutter speed, I set to creating my separation light. I knew right off that I wanted that blue background, so I attached a CTB (color temperature blue) gel to my Nikon SB-600 and positioned it directly behind the guitar pointing at the black sheet background. I set the flash power to 1/4 and chimped the shot on my LCD to see if it was enough. Looked good to me so what you see above is the finished product. Both flashes were triggered using my Nikon D300's built in CLS system.

Hope you like it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Bride and Groom

f/13 at 1/250 sec ISO 400

This past weekend I had the good fortune of doing wedding portraits for a really nice couple. They were very friendly, photogenic and we were lucky enough to be able to shoot outside. The leaves were just starting to change and the temperature was perfect!

I really enjoy portraits that are done outside as the surroundings can really add to the overall feel of an image. The portrait above was no exception. I have the bride and groom standing in front of the church they were married in and you can just slightly make out the name of the church. Also, as luck would have it, there was one tree in the front that had just a slight splash of fall color. The front of the church was landscaped nicely too.

How to get this shot: I knew I wanted to show the front of the church in this portrait and I also knew that I wanted to capture some of the color the foliage outside was showing. So, in Manual mode, I set my camera to 1/250 sec. and the aperture to f/13 at ISO 400. This gave me an ambient only exposure that I liked however it left the bride and groom in complete shadow.... perfect!! My assistant (my girlfriend Jenn) was holding my Nikon SB-800 off to camera right and slightly higher than the bride and groom's heads. I dialed the flash down to 1/4 power and popped a test shot. This time, it was dead on. That's the great thing about LCD's!!! You don't need a light meter to get these kind of shots, simply "chimp" at the LCD and adjust exposure/flash settings until you got the shot you like. Also, by shooting like this, you will start to become very intuitive at what settings to use based on your available light. Could this have been done with on-camera flash? Sure it could! But, by using flash off camera, it gives you shadows that will create more of a three dimensional look. When using on camera flash, it generally will wash out your subject(s) and make them look flat and dull.

I really enjoyed creating this image and I hope you like it too!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Snoot It!

f/10 @ 1/250 sec ISO 200 flash at 1/8 power

Always experimenting with new techniques, I've become fond of using a Snoot for portraits. Using a snoot really restricts the beam of light from your flash and creates a dramatic mood in your shot. I discovered this technique by viewing photos from UK-based photographer Nick Turpin. He uses this technique for street portraits and excels at creating dramatic lighting, using only speedlights with snoots. Check out Nick's website to see what he has done with this technique.

The above photo was taken by getting a base ambient reading, then underexposing the shot by stopping down my aperture by about 2-3 stops. Then I placed my SB-800 on a stand, camera left and placed my homemade cardboard snoot on my flash. To make sure I had the flash aimed where I wanted it, I simply made sure that Jenn (my model) could see the fresnel lens on my flash through the snoot from where she was standing. Then I dialed in the flash to add as much light as I liked. Its a cool technique and easy to do. If you would prefer to have a "real" snoot as opposed to a DIY version, then check out Honl's lineup of light modifiers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I've been FRAMED!

Whew! It seems like ages since my last post and I will be making a better effort at updating more regularly. Off to the post...

A few friends have commented about how much they like some of my 'gallery series' prints I made in Photoshop so I thought I would try to explain briefly how I create these...

I use Adobe Photoshop CS2 currently and I'm sure this technique can be applied with all versions of PS from 7.0 and up.

1. The first thing you want to do is open the photo in PS that you want to frame and copy it to its own separate layer. First click the letter 'D' to set your foreground background colors to default (black & white). Then Press Control A to select the photo and Shift Control J to place your photo on its on separate layer.

2. Go to Image, Canvas Size, make sure the 'Relative' check box is checked, set the Canvas extension color (drop down menu at the bottom) to white and then enter 3 inches for both the width and height, click OK

3. Go to Image, Canvas Size (again), enter 1 in the Height and click the top center arrow of the Anchor grid, this will give you more space at the bottom than at the top for text to be added later, click OK

4. Hold the Control key down and click the 'New Layer' icon in the lower right of your layers palette. This will create a new layer between your photo and your background.

5. Select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the top left of your tool bar and draw a selection around your photo just slightly bigger than the photo and fill this section with white by pressing Alt-Backspace and then de-select by pressing Control D. Note: this will not work if you didn't press 'D' in the beginning to set your default background and foreground colors.

6. Click on the layer you just added the white to in the layers palette, right click and select Blending Options. Double click the Inner Glow option, change the Blend Mode dropdown to 'Normal', lower the opacity to around 40% then click on the color swatch and change the color to black. Click OK, this will give you a soft gray box around your photo which will give the appearance of an inner frame.

7. Click on the layer with the photo in the layers palette, right click and select Blending Options then select drop shadow. Lower the opacity to around 60%, turn off the 'Use Global Light' checkbox, increase the size to around 20 pixels and click OK. This adds a soft drop shadow to the photo inside the gray line you just created.

8. Go to the layers palette and click the "Create new layer" icon in the lower right hand corner. Then, select the Rectangular Marquee tool from the top left corner of the tool box and draw a selection only slightly inside the edge of the white selection of the photo, then right click and Select 'Inverse'. Then select the Paint Bucket Tool, set the foreground color to black, and click on the photo. This will add a black "frame" around the photo on its own layer.

9. Click on this layer in the layers palette, right click and select Blending Options then select Bevel and Emboss and Contour. I used the defaults for this and it will give the inside of the black frame a little shape.

10. Go to the layers palette and click the "Create new layer" icon in the lower right hand corner. This layer will be for any text you want to add below the photo. I always put each line of text on its own separate layer so that you can easily change and move it wherever on the photo you wish. Add whatever text you wish and if you want to add shadows or effects to that text, go to the layers palette and click on the text layer you created, right click and select Blending Options, then click the effects you want to use.

11. Go to the layers palette and click the "Create new layer" icon in the lower right hand corner and add your signature! Now if you will be making prints from this, just save it as a layered .psd file to maintain maximum resolution and also so you can make changes to it later if need be. If this will be for the web, then go to File "Save As" and rename the photo such as DSC0012_web. Go to 'Layer' at the top and click on 'Flatten Image' almost at the bottom.

12. Go to Image, Image Size and make the largest dimension in pixels (either the width or the height) 1024. Make sure the 'Constrain Proportions' box is checked. This will resize your photo for the web.

13. Click File, Save and move the Quality slider to about '10'. This will still have a fair amount of detail to it but not be too big to upload to the web.

14. Upload to the net somewhere and share with your friends!

You can play around with the numbers I used in this tutorial to personal tastes. These are just the settings I used on the photo above.

I wish I could say I came up with this myself but I didn't. This is a mix of several tutorials I learned from Scott Kelby's "The Photoshop CS2 Book for Digital Photographers". If you are interested at all in using Photoshop then I highly suggest you pick up one of his books, he has books for every version of Photoshop and a whole lot of other things. They're easy to read and full of great info! You can also get a ton of great tips and info from Scott's blog, Photoshop Insider.

I hope this helps and if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask! I'd love to see some of your works that you have tried this application with so if you give it a whirl, post it to the web somewhere and send me a link!