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Layers at Starbucks

October 5, 2011

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” You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

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   I discovered an inspirational post about the  architectural photography technique of one Michael Kelley on David Hobby’s Strobist blog a couple of days ago and thought I would “give it a go” (Brit-speak for try it). I will post a link to Michael’s site at the end of this post, this kid is good. Basically the technique involves putting your camera on a tripod and walking around the scene with an off camera flash lighting portions of the scene one frame at a time. Then you layer the images upon each other in Photoshop masking out all but the lit portion to build up an image that would have taken many expensive high-powered studio strobes and an elaborate set-up to get in a single frame (if it could be captured in a single frame).

   No wonder people want this guy to shoot houses they’re selling, this technique really makes architecture pop. Once I get familiar with it, I plan to try it elsewhere.

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   So now I need some architecture to shoot. I’ll need to leave my camera unattended on a tripod maybe 100 ft away, probably best to avoid sketchy neighborhoods and high traffic areas.  It’s October in Seattle so it would be nice to have a hot cuppa nearby. Maybe in a strip mall ( lots of room and nice pavement for a  stable tripod ). And if I could just think of a place where I knew cops hang out so I wouldn’t have to worry about gear theft……….

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Here is how it looked with just the ambient light.

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Here is the result of layering 16 images.

   Now I’ve an idea what I need to do to get a better effect. I need to mount my flash on a pole to get it up higher so the lights would look more realistic. I want a little darker base image (so I’ll start an hour or so later in the day). I will set the white balance to daylight to blue the metal facade. Finally, I will take my last frame after dark to get the interior to show nicely…..or so I thought.

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Here is the ambient light shot from day 2.

   I started later as planned,  bonus… the Starbucks Coffee signs are lit, but notice there is no other exterior lighting. My white balance setting has the facade the metallic blue I want. The sky is total crap (Seattle in October, I’ll replace it in Photoshop), but at least it’s not raining. I set up, get my flash on a stick, and set to shooting.

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Second attempt, my refined technique, 46 layers.

   30 min. longer, the sun would have set and I could have taken my final frame showing the interior……..but this is Seattle in October and here came the rain.

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    Here is the link to Michael Kelley’s site, as you can see he’s not as good as me, but after all I have done it twice……

http://mpkelley.com/

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