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Starbucks Revisited

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   Finally got an evening without rain so I could get a shot of Starbucks that included the interior. The exterior lights were on and were quite warm in color. I needed one and a half CTO gels on my strobe to match the ambient. I included the mutt so the scene would be warm and fuzzy.

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 This shot is a composite of 30 frames.

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Rembrandt is me

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   Another technique for spreading light around is light painting.  My last post was about layering multiple images, each a little piece of light, when merged together make the final image. Light painting, on the other hand, usually involves just one (long) exposure and a continuous light source like a flashlight. The less ambient light the better, you need an exposure that is long enough for you to ‘paint’ your subject with light. The type of light you use, and the speed which you ‘paint’ will determine the end result.

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M y   B r u s h

  I built a light box with some foamcore and a cheap LED flashlight. The design is courtesy of Flickr member Phil Grayston. (Follow link at the end to see it). I couldn’t wait to test it, so as soon as it was finished I put on my smock and one of those hats Painters and French people wear and prepared to paint.

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M y   C a n v a s

   Running around the neighborhood in my smock and floppy hat at 1 a.m. would probably get me a date in this town. Since I’m married, I decided to stay local. Our car in the driveway was the  nearest subject. The neighbors were kind enough to leave their orange Halloween lights on for background color.

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M y   M a s t e r p i e c e 

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   The ribbon of light will begin as soon as the light source faces the camera. If you don’t want it, make sure and keep your light facing away from the lens. Here I just walked around the car, over the course of the 30 sec. exposure, holding the light about 12 inches away.

   If your camera allows a long exposure grab a flashlight and try it. You might like it so much you’ll cut off your ear.

   Here’s the link for the light box : http://www.flickr.com/photos/pgdesignscouk/5387758203/in/set-72157626315473415

   Lots of cool stuff out there if you Google lightpainting.

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Layers at Starbucks

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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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Concours Chaos

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   First, to my reader(s), an apology for the one month gap in bloggerism (new word). It has been a chaotic month of car shows (one of my favorite subjects). It seems when it rains it pours. September was a full calendar of various car shows and since I would rather shoot than type ..there ya go. This post marks a shifting of gears for my blog, from posts about learning photography and exposing newcomers to new techniques, to the actual practice of photography.

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T h e   S h o o t

   The Concours d’Elegance, an invitation only (for the cars) car show in Kirkland Wa. The Concours is a benefit for Children’s Hospital here in Seattle to fund cancer treatment for children whose families are unable to afford it. So far the Concours has raised 1.2 million, and the money raised this year (the 9th annual) will add to that. 100% of the ($25.00 per) cost of admission goes to charity. Everyone involved with the show volunteers their time.

 Each year features different makes, so it is a once in a lifetime chance to see many of these cars. This year the roster included the rarely seen in public original Aston Martin DB5 from the James Bond movies. Pierce Arrow is the featured make.

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T h e   G o o d

   The chance to see and photograph rare multi-million $ cars and benefit sick kids at the same time. The location, the upscale grounds of Carillon Point on the eastern shore of Lake Washington looking west to the Seattle skyline. (A Carillon is a set of bells that when rung play a tune). The weather, not rain for a change.

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T h e   B a d

   The weather, not a cloud in the sky. This means harsh light, strong reflections (these babies are shiny) and deep shadows. the dynamic range even of my 7D don’t stand a chance. The time (9:30 am – 4 pm) the worst time for photography. The crowd, a butt-load of people. The staging, in a parking lot (at least it’s a nicely landscaped one). The Edmonds Hot Rod show (400 Hot Rods) is the same day 10 miles away.

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T h e   U g l y

Me

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(mouse over photos for a description)

   Here is a shot of the crowd during the National Anthem. The show was Sep 11 (10th anniversary of 9-11). A touching 60 seconds of silence to remember victims of the 9-11 attacks followed the Anthem, you could hear a pin drop.

   The high contrast means I would need to use a flash to fill in the shadows and bring down the contrast. To control reflections, the flash needs to be off camera. You can see from the crowd shot that setting up light stands for the flash is right out of the question. Lucky for me my lovely wife volunteered (reluctantly agreed) to be a voice operated light stand. Good, so now I put a radio trigger on the flash give it to her and hope she doesn’t drop it.

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   So we hit the ground a-runnin. Up at 7 am on the weekend, drink a bunch of coffee (so I’ll have to pee all day) and get to Kirkland by 9. Hopefully I can get some shots before the sun and crowd are at their worst. My strategy for hiding the throngs of people is to shoot low and obscure them with the car itself. This strategy does nothing for the certain people at these events who seem to wait until you lift a camera to your eye to stroll right into the frame directly in front of you, but it is a benefit car show not a photo shoot so I just have to wait and be ready to strike when the coast is clear. All this crouching and laying about means people won’t see me very easily and I don’t want anyone to trip over me..these people have serious lawyers.

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   Pediatric patients from Children’s Hospital and Evergreen hospital as well as local elementary and junior high kids make up the Junior Judges who decide the winner of the Junior Judges Award each year. Notice the guy in the bright orange shirt and the other guy in the bright pink. (note to self… wear neutral colors to heavily photographed events).

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   One of my favorites, a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540 K Special Roadster. This shot took about 25 minuets to get and was taken the split second one spectator had left the frame and before another entered it. I have to rattle off the shots whenever I can and the opportunity seems to come in waves. With the flash at full power to combat the sun and the shots closely spaced that thing gets hot. I forgot to tell my wife / light stand this may happen, she found out. After 175 frames or so the batteries are toast (spares in pocket?…check), time to change them out and shoot solo for a while because my light stand has to pee.

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   All my combat photography in ‘nam is paying off, it’s see an opening, tuck and roll and come up shooting. It’s hot out (80 deg.) for Seattle and I’ve only managed about 200 frames in 3 hours waiting for people to clear the shots (I want shots of the cars not just detail shots or abstracts).  6% is about my keeper rate so I’ve probably got about 12 – 15 good shots and now it’s time to go. Got to race off to Edmonds because that show is ending in 4 hours. (And by race off, I mean sit in the one and only way out of here line for 45 min). But not before I get a dash shot to convert to black and white, you know I love those !

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   Next time ..Hot Rods…..Thanks for reading.

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Togetherness

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   The last three posts have been a mini-series ( like “Roots” ) on black-and-white. Pulling them all together, I decided on a monochrome image (Ebony and Ivory) so I found a subject I thought would make a good B&W image (Seeing Monochrome) and found the processing technique that would represent my vision for this shot (Monochrome Choices).

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   Here is the monochrome conversion from the Seeing Monochrome post. I liked the conversion but it looked a little sterile for an image of a 1950 Studebaker dashboard. These hot rods are rolling slices of the past, so I thought a sepia tone and some film grain to mimic an old photo would be in order.

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   Here is the sepia toned, grain added image with a black key line (border) and a muted gray border.

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   Or to push the old photo motif one step further, a white border.

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   Notice how the white border seems to make the image brighter  (at least it does for me). The only difference between the last two images is the border. This ends this monochrome mini-series so break out the crayons and follow along cause up next … Color !

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Monochrome Choices

” Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask ‘how’, while others of a more curious nature will ask ‘why’. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information. ” – Man Ray

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Here is the original color image I shot this Saturday on a little photo walk-about with my awesome friends and lovely wife. I took this shot with the intention of converting it to black-and-white. The green color was a bonus for infrared demonstration purposes.

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Here is a pretty straight forward conversion to black-and-white.

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Here a Sepia tone is added, Orton effect applied (adds a little glow), and some grain added to mimic film.

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Here it was Solarized. Solarization reverses some of the tones, but not others and usually reminds me of my trip to Woodstock.

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And finally an infrared effect. Greens go white in infrared, so landscapes with grass and trees look surreal.

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 Which one is best? I guess that depends on the ‘why’. The ‘how’ these effects are achieved is not nearly as important ‘why’ an image is presented in a certain manner. The one with the frame around it is the one I would choose, and it’s the role of the viewer to interpret the ‘why’ and my role to leave some clues. Your choice may be a another, or none of the above. There is a ‘why’ in each different image and also a ‘why’ you pick that ‘why’. Why oh my…bye bye.

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(Google some infrared photographs if you haven’t seen them.)

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Seeing Monochrome

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.” –  Walker Evans

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    I fell in love with photography in 1975 when a friend of the family loaned me an old Mamiya 35mm film camera and showed me how to use the darkroom he had in his basement. Black and White (monochrome) was all that darkroom was set up for so that’s what I shot. I rolled my own film spools from bulk Tri-X, developed and printed my images and dried them on an old drum dryer for that “glossy look”. The smell of the chemicals, watching the image slowly appear in the developer bath…I loved it.

   I still took color photos with an insta-matic and took the film to the drugstore for prints, but the opportunity to make my own prints kept me shooting some black and white. I noticed that monochrome images were more than just lack of color. They were different. They were more about the light and the shapes. They were an abstraction (learned that word yesterday). All photos lie, but black and white doesn’t claim to tell the truth.

   Then I moved away and my world became all color for 30 years. But I never forgot my first love (couldn’t resist awesome cliché line opportunity). But what makes a good color image is usually different from what makes a good monochrome. My ability to “see” in monochrome when I am shooting is rusty to say the least. Luckily the makers of Photoshop have decided to name many of the tools after darkroom techniques (dodging, burning, masking etc.). So the results are the same, just the process is different.

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   Below is a shot of a dashboard (50 Studebaker, ya know I love those things) that was taken specifically with a monochrome image in mind. (The dog in the previous post was not).

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Good things in monochrome images are deep blacks, bright highlights and high contrast. Tight shots and abstracts usually work good because monochrome is itself an abstraction.

 Here I liked the shapes and the light falling on the dash and reflecting from the chrome. I did not like the difference in whites between the speedometer and the (50 years newer) tachometer, but I hoped I could balance this in the digital darkroom.

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So here is the shot I had in my head.  You can see the emphasis monochrome places on light and shapes.

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   Any digital camera file can be converted to monochrome. Most of the techniques are fairly simple, but there are many paths to the same result in the digital darkroom, so finding what works for you is harder than learning the techniques themselves (at least for me it is).

   Back to the books fer me, I gots some lernin to do. I’ll post if I git anything figured out.

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