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Welcome to today’s post. This is the seventh, and I hope final, attempt at this post. I hope you enjoy it. PLEASE click on images – they appear much better in the lightbox.
I love movies. When friends hear this they are quick to respond, “Ohh. Did you see so and so?” Most likely it will be a first run movie so the typical response from me is, “Nope, I haven’t yet.” I’m cheap. I wait for it to hit the Riverside Theater or show up someplace on the Internet. Suffice it to say that The Big Lebowski still sits near the top of my all time favorites. Another little know fact about movies in the theater – you can get a great idea about how good the movie will be by the quality of the previews.
A stranger joined me at Panorama Point, where these images were shot. Since I never caught his name, I’ll refer to him as The Dude. He pulled out his camera and snapped a few shots early, before sunset, and then headed back to his car. I couldn’t let him do that. I knew what was coming. The first image, the Preview, was too good. So I just blurted out to him, “Dude, the movie hasn’t even started yet. You need to stay another 20 minutes. Trust me on this. We’re just getting a preview of what is to come.”
And with The Dude I stood and made the uncontrollable, audible “ohhhh and ahhhh” noises. The sky began exploded around us. All the way around us. I find awe in those moments of twilight when the sky is in a real-time perceptible state of change. Most of us on any given day may not even give a glance to the sky. Those of us who do are probably considering whether it will rain. Furthermore, during most of the day the sunlight is hitting clouds from above, masking a majority of the character, texture and detail that exists in them. When the sun gets low a few things happen: First, the sun position is changing rapidly, creating rapid change in the circumstances. Second, the clouds are lit from the underside, giving rise to a much greater level of detail, contrast and character. Last, the light warms up in color.
The sky is changing right before your eyes. The color is changing. The texture is changing. It is real-time. It is like watching a movie plot unfold. The first image was a great Preview. The second (and other variations I shot during this 20 minute flick) was the main show. They were shot 15 minutes apart. Nothing perceptibly changes between noon and 12:15pm; it happens in those waning moments of before sunset and into twilight.
I hope for drama and beauty in my landscape images, but also for some relationship between the drama in the sky and the rest of the landscape. I got that in today’s images. As The Dude (in The Big Lebowski) said, “That rug really tied the room together.” And so it is in the clouds, color and landscape.
technical details: 3 frame/2 stop Photomatix Exposure Fusion, f/10, ISO100, Canon 24mm tilt shift, Canon 1Ds MkII
This post is a rare event of commercial work I present on my blog – mostly because I don’t shoot architecture that is all that exciting to me right now. A lot of it is fairly dull and documentary, from an photographic artist’s perspective. Its still VERY IMPORTANT to the client, though, and that’s what I want to focus on today: finding a way to make the potentially dull more attractive!
For the non-photogs that visit my site, you’ll no doubt think this discussion is too technical, but perhaps you’ll appreciate the close relationship between artistic eye and technical action.
For the photogs, perhaps I can provide a tool or two for you to improve your personal vision for any image.
The Case Study: The new law firm space and a study in DYNAMIC
Situation: Developer Client wants pretty images to sell design and construction services. No particular features, just eye catching. This is a typical situation and gives me a lot of freedom to shoot how I want to – which is necessary in commercial spaces like this law firm.
Process: Walk through with client, visiting shot list, restrictions around time of operation, potential law firm client interruptions, etc. Staff considerations are big. People in shots? Who? Releases? In this case, we decided on excluding people from shots. Entry (first image) was the most architecturally interesting shot, so timing of shoot built around light in this space.
Day of Shoot: Varying cloud cover producing changing light conditions in lobby/entry. Begin shooting tests, reviewing, variety of camera positions, all the time keeping an eye on clouds and changing light conditions. Also paying attention to typical, distracting garbage that appears on a lobby desk i.e. taped up signs, calenders, staplers, etc. All this stuff needs to be addressed and managed by the photog.
Concepts: Dynamic Color – Dynamic Lines Looking for good lines and observation that interior colors are warm, colors on widows and TV cool. This gives me some dynamic color to work with…also observing dynamic lines created by furniture, patterns in ceiling tiles, etc.
Execution: HDR bracketing to manage variations in strong natural light with ambient artificial light, no polarization needed for windows. They were treated with polarization coating, giving rise to low level reflections.
Post Production: Manage hue and saturation of yellows/reds for interior and blues in window using Selective Color Adjustment layer. Specifically, my Canon tends to push blues to a very strong, saturated and unnatural hue. I pull blues back with +15 points of yellow. This makes a huge difference in reading the overall color pallet and dynamic balance of the image. I use Photomatix Exposure fusion to balance light without the harsh, surreal effects typical of the HDR engine.
Hi Gang, I want to share an image I shot over the weekend and discuss some of the technique use in it and the images in my previous post. “Why Are They Surfing Lake Superior?” Let’s start with that one by mentioning the photographers currently inspiring/influencing my personal work. One is Joel Grimes (my cousin KC turned me on to him) – Joel’s work blows me away. Another is the work of Eric Curry, who I’ve mentioned previously. I’m beginning to play with their techniques as a fresh start to 2011 photography season.
Next I want to share a quote my friend Megan sent to me, read by her daughter from Jim Henson’s Doodle Dreams book. “An artist gives people back a part of themselves – the stories and sounds, the feeling of what it’s like to be alive. That’s a pretty powerful gift.” Its just a beautiful quote I wanted to share with others.
In the Lake Superior portraits I used one light, my speedlight with a softbox on a light stand, above and right behind me. My intention was to use a three strobe setup, but upon arriving I found out that my power converter wouldn’t handle it. No worries, I had my alien bees battery pack as a backup. Well, I thought it was charging the entire drive up, but it was dead. So, #3 backup was the single speedlight I was fortunate enough to have with me.
I first shot my portraits with the light, then had John the surfer step out of the scene and shot a series of 3 images for HDR processes. In post production I first produced the background using the Photomatix HDR engine, then I brought the frame with John back in and masked him into the image. In both images of John I used a series of Photoshop processes, including Selective Color layers pulling back the brightness on reds and yellows, as well as a mix of gradient maps and high pass filtering to get my own gritty look.
In today’s image it was much more complicated. Tommy, the subject, is an amazing talent. He’s a musician, but he’s also incredibly inventive and creative. The remote control car at his hands was built by stripping down parts from three other cars and building what he wanted. He knows more about a race car than a NASCAR crew chief. I wanted to photograph him in his boycave, where his work gets done. It doesn’t stop with cars, though. He builds extremely large, intricate Star Wars cruisers, in the background is a solar oven he built as a class project (it basically got much hotter much faster than any other), and like many young men, he digs riding his skateboard and snowboard. While building his creations he watches “Top Gear” on TV.
The space was staged and then I brought in my strobes. Two accent/rim lights and a key light immediately camera left. Then the lights were removed and I shot a series of 3 images with all the room lights on, for HDR production (Photomatix Exposure Fusion engine). After that, both Tommy and I started painting with light. We used a fluorescent work lamp from Home Depot wrapped in blue gel for the star wars ships. I used a spot light for the car at his hands, as well as across the floor, the stack of tires, the small helicopter lower left, etc. Then on the lower left space ship Tommy put a flashlight down inside to get the warm glow in the control deck. All in all, I layered together 25 frames to compose the single final image. I’ve included a few of the layer images for reference. The first is the HDR image, then a couple of frames painted with light.
(click image for larger view)
If someone else had taken this photo and showed it to me, then I might have been tempted to question its legitimacy. I can hear the voice in my head say, “that’s bull!@#$.” Was the sky shot some other time or place? Was it some how digitally created? At the very least are the colors overdone? I even feel a little disappointed in myself for having that reaction. I take a great deal of pride in the photography as well as the editing, but I typically want the photography to be recognized before the editing. At the very least, I want the editing to compliment, not dominate, the photography. So, it would be no surprise to me if some of you felt the way I did. This morning sky was amazing and I feel like I’ve captured it the way I experienced it, but still don’t believe it. Fortunately, there was a witness to this morning, excellent photographer and good friend, Travis Bechtel.
Over Thanksgiving weekend I drove to Badlands National Park with Travis to photograph and scout the park for a future 2011 workshop. In my last post I wrote about what landscape photographers go through to get an amazing shot. Of this 4 day trip, 2 days were spent driving, 2 spent shooting. Of the two days shooting, both sunsets were duds. One sunrise was ok and then there was Saturday morning. We arrived a full hour before sunrise, reading the sky in the dark for cloud cover, with color already starting to build, and build it did. We both were laughing and commenting that the color was so intense that our camera sensors couldn’t handle it. I remember at some point just giving up on trying to capture the moment and sat back to enjoy the show. That lasted about 7 seconds and I started shooting again. Its the kind of moment a landscape photog lives for and may be some sort of gift that one gets from putting in the time. I’ve decided to present several images from that morning, as well as some others from the trip. For example, BigBadlands.jpg and BigBadlands3.jpg are a combination of 3 panel panoramic photography with HDR photography. I hope you enjoy the images.
I’m writing this post just a few days before I start teaching a landscape workshop to remind myself that HDR for HDR’s sake does not equal good photography. Like two litttle kids comparing who’s dad is tougher, some photographers compete with each other to produce more graphic, more over the top HDR images with a total loss of focus on the photography. Maybe I’m one of them some days.
There’s no substitute for the right quality of light, the strongest compositions and a clear of idea of what you want to say in your image. Now, if what you want to say is that you know how to sit at your computer and pull the sliders far to the right in Photomatix, then continue doing what you do. I love producing graphic HDR images of cliche subjects which usually arise out of opportunistic moments to shoot – as much as the next person – as evidenced by the following cliche truck shots created in the middle of the day, just because I happened to be there. Not because the light was great and not because I had anything new to say about nostalgic old trucks or a better day gone by.
But I don’t see many writing about or discussing use of HDR processes to create more photo-realistic images where the HDR work compliments, not dominates, the image. So these next two images I feel fit much closer to complimenting the image.
In both of these landscape images I used multiple HDR conversions, some more realistic than others, to manage the overall effect and flow of the final image. I do a number of other processes to help HDR compliment an image as well. Several different techniques (high pass filter) to improve contrast and use of Lab Color mode to finish the color work. In both cases I did one HDR conversion for the sky/treeline and another for water and rocks. In the first there is substantial dodging and burning to get the read of the image just right and if you really want to get this shot you’ll have to wade into the Baptism River, up to your chest with expensive camera gear and steady yourself against a giant piece of ancient granite at 9:45pm to get it, praying that the one cloud in the sky sits tight while you get the shots.
So, I wonder…what is your preference for work dominated by HDR process vs. work complimented by HDR processes? As a photog, do you think about this difference and if so, how and when do you choose one style over the other?
Consistent, quality photography is generally not an accident or product of happenstance. Its a product of management and preparation. I now spend less than 1% of my time on any shoot actually pushing that silly little shutter button.
I recently had a teaching client in my studio working on a shoot. I had worked with this client previously, watched his behavior and listened to his words. His behavior was anxious, nervous, uncertain, lacking confidence. His words were, “I don’t like pre-visualization, I just like to go with the flow.” I’m not judging this behavior as poor; its a natural part of the learning process, but can regularly lead to less than optimal outcomes. So this time around I forced him into the studio the day before his shoot for several hours of preparation. Check lighting with props, nail down some camera settings, anticipate HOW you want to shoot, work with computers and software so your process is clear. The outcome of the shoot was amazing, some of the best work he has done yet, in which he was able to focus on the model and shoot and eliminate dealing with pre-shoot issues. He has become a fan of what this really means and a blog post started brewing in my head. Then good friend and outstanding photographer, Matt Gibson, stated recently in his blog post, “My job as a photographer is to continually revisit subjects… refining my composition and learning my environment. When conditions arrive, I’ll be best able to ‘react’ and head right to the spot to capture the masterpiece.” Matt is actually saying the exact same thing only relating it to a different subject matter and environment.
I hated learning this lesson. I learned it while assisting another amazing photographer, Bryan Allen, on some wedding shoots. The man will drive any reasonable person bat-shit insane with his preparation for a shoot (or a workshop or a trip to the store). Scout the location 76 times, go through lighting possibilities for hours, walk the property again in the blazing heat and humidity, go over equipment, count batteries, make sure everything is packed just so, have his system down for backing up files (I still owe you for that hiccup Bryan:)), consider all possibilities for how and what he might want to shoot or “pre-visualize,” and have the gear and assistants to accomplish those ideas. Oh, but he produces great photography all the time and I finally found the cure for that nervous, uncomfortable, itchy, burning, anxious feeling I had going into shoots: PREPARATION H(elps). Using a little will allow you to more consistently produce better work.
Here are three broad and related categories of PREPARATION H for you to consider in your workflow:
1) The Scout – Do you need to scout in your studio? To some degree, YES. Location portrait and Landscape, absolutely. Its all about getting familiar with your surroundings, shooting angles, opportunities and threats to the shoot; test shoot to anticipate problems and opportunities that the casual walk through may not reveal.
2) The Timing – If I’m working with a model, how much time do I have? When does the shoot begin and when should the model arrive so hair, makeup, wardrobe, etc is managed to fit in the time frame allowed? If I’m on location I want to anticipate light conditions, weather conditions, driving time, time to haul gear and get set up. Is any of this happening in the dark? Do I have flashlights? Have I walked it in daylight to anticipate any dangerous areas of travel? Is there parking for everyone involved? The Scout is a very helpful in this process; If its a wedding, have I gone over with the bride exactly what the schedule is and when/where formal portraits will be shot? What’s the light in that spot at that time and what do I need to control it?
3) The Needs – What gear do I need, photography and otherwise, right down to bottles of water and power bars, to keep me in the best creative place? Does my client have the gear he or she needs to be successful for the shoot? Does someone have a physical limitation that will impact the shoot. Can your assistant handle the weight and awkwardness of studio gear? Is there a need for an assistant who has GREAT people skills with a particular client/shoot?
Consistently shooting better work is not about pressing the shutter button. Its about management and preparation for the shoot.
Yep, another grain elevator shot. Whew, how many of these can any of you take? Well, we’ll find out. I’m going to start including a short video on my thoughts regarding the WHY of the image post as well as the HOW of it. Today is the first of these. Please feel free to post any questions or comments about the image and/or video.
NEW NEWS Well, I did it again. I have a new site with a new domain name and for good reason. The short of it is a change of focus and a need for better SEO (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means). Those two simple sounding issues created a number of large headaches, now cured! Many, many thanks to my good friend, Matt Albiniak, for overseeing the overhaul. THANK YOU MATT!!!!!
What’s new? I’ll be offering more workshops and that information will be available here, including online workshops. I’ll be producing more video tutorials, and I’ll be blogging in a more traditional sense about photography. Most of this new blog activity will be found in the “News” category. I will blog frequently, but I don’t know if I’ll blog regularly. Hmmmm…..
So, if you’re in to pictures or you’re just a good friend that puts up with me, then I’ll send you an email when I’ve posted a new image (like today). If you’re really into photography, you may want to subscribe via RSS to keep up with the frequent “News” posts, or subscribe in the “ENEWS & UPDATES” area. If you prefer, you can follow on Facebook via Networked Blogs and always feel free to share a post on Facebook or other social media using the new sharing feature found in the posts. Ok, please subscribe one way or another, if you haven’t already.
OTHER NEW NEWS I’m in a new studio as of Wednesday, Oct. 30th, located in Edina, MN. I love referrals for studio work and if you have an idea for creative studio photography you’re interesting in trying, let me know. I’m usually game. You can view my portfolio of studio work at my commercial website.
Fine Art Gallery: Please visit the Fine Art Gallery to purchase fine art prints. The design needs tweaking but the site is fully functional. If you have questions regarding a print, feel free to contact me directly.
Regarding today’s post:
Today’s post was shot from a perspective shown to me by a 2009 Digital Landscape Workshop participant, Amy Okaya. I was so taken with the image she produced from this spot that a few weeks later I went back on Sept. 10, 2009 and shot my own take on it. This was sunrise at Split Rock Lighthouse State Park. What stunned me was how many new ways there are to see an old subject and all it took was a fresh set of eyes to show me. Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us, regardless of what we pursue????
Today’s post title is inspired by another amazing photographer, Guy Tal. In a recent post on his blog, Guy discusses the purpose behind his landscape photography, “…you are there to make images of beautiful experiences. Make it a beautiful experience first, and you will have something to photograph.” Guy’s writing articulates very well a message I’ve been delivering to camera clubs all winter and spring, and is the energy behind the name of my blog, EXPERIENCE, and its a major theme in my workshops. A huge THANK YOU to Guy for articulating this so well.
This image was made last Friday night, on the Lake Superior, under the overpass. I left Saint Paul and arrived there with just one hour to shoot. It was cloudy, late, cool transitioning towards cold and beautiful. I photographed, I sat and watched a man catch a trout, and I listened to the water. I experimented and played with images, I got my feet wet because I forgot my waders. 3 1/2 hours to shoot for an hour, go to sleep and turn right around in the morning and drive back, and for what?as it enters
To EXPERIENCE. A BEAUTIFUL EXPERIENCE. I’ve added some audio captured at the same time and location as the image, to add to the experience.
Technical: ISO100, f/10, 24-70mm @70mm, 3 images/1 stop bracket HDR processed with Photomatix Pro software
Following up on Tuesdays post of BW images, today’s post features a variety of color HDR images all produced with Photomatix Pro. I’ve been experimenting with different light conditions, different effects. For example, in the Mickey’s shot I definitely wanted to see what would happen when motion was introduced across three exposures and NOT controlled for in Photomatix. I’ve learned a great deal about using Photomatix Pro, much of which I HAVEN’T found in other tutorials, so I’m considering one. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll start working on it. Enjoy the images and have a great weekend! If you have specific questions, ask them in the comment section where I can try to provide responses helpful to everyone.