Always Learning

One of the great things about the Internet these days is the plethora of channels that can be used to learn about various things.  The fact that ‘Google’ is now a verb clearly attests to this concept!  Photography is one of the areas where I believe there is truly a phenomenal amount of educational materials out there, than anyone looking to better themselves can learn.  What makes the interwebs so perfect for photography learning is that you can easily view high-resolution images from any number of sources without ever getting out of your seat.

Resources like David Hobby’s website, for instance, is a one stop shop to learn and master off camera lighting using speedlights.  Zack Arias is assigning and critiquing shots on  Mcnally, Heisler, Hurley, you name it – you can find interviews and behind the scenes videos and blogs showing techniques or talking about different assignments or shots.

In this day and age, most of the teaching pros use twitter to announce new stuff they are doing, so one easy way to keep up to date is simply follow your favorites on twitter.  However, you need to spend the few minutes to look at what they actually post – read their blog – watch the video.  Are all of these useful?  Doubtful, but I can promise you that you will not get dumber spending the few minutes reviewing one of these.

Live. Shoot. Learn.


Homage to Gregory Crewsdon

If you have never seen Gregory Crewdson‘s (Gregory Crewdson) work, then you do not know what you are missing.

His images capture so much emotion and context in a single frame that you can look at the images time and time again and never tire of their composition and lighting.

After watching the documentary on Brief Encounters, I thought about his use of haze in his work.  Take a look here for a trailer.  Buy it or check it out on Netflix.  If you are into photography, it is inspiring to see the level of detail that he puts into his work.

I do not pretend to have his eye, skill or attention to detail – but I was inspired by his use of haze and wanted to play with that idea a little.


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Color Temperature

I find that a lot of people don’t quite understand what color temperature is or why there are even settings for it.

The explanation is reasonably straight forward.  It is a subject a photographer should understand and be able to manage.

The simplest place to start is thinking about the rainbow you see in the sky.  This is a prismatic effect of sunlight on water droplets in the air and shows a spectrum of colors from the sun in the same way you would see a spectrum of colors from a prism created from a beam of sunlight.  They key point here is that sunlight contains all of the colors of the rainbow, we need not get into the physics of how the light is displayed – just understand that sunlight has a rainbow of colors.

Now, the next thing to understand is that if you were to look at the colors that make up a tungsten or fluorescent light, or that of the light from your xenon strobe as broken up through the same prism – you would see that the color makeup of each of these is different.  Each of the lights has a different color temperatures – or different quality of light.  The definition of the color temperature is that of the aggregate color given off from a radiator at different temperatures.  Fee free to read more about it in Wiki, but the idea is that different light sources have different color qualities.

Why do you care?

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Know your equipment. No excuses.

I am astonished at how many people are not familiar with their own equipment. I am not talking about how to adjust whether your camera adjusts exposure in 1/2 or 1/3 stop increments, I am talking about changing simple settings.

Read. Test. Practice. Rinse, lather and repeat.

Know where the ‘important’ buttons are on your camera.  Know how to use your ancillary equipment like strobes and triggers.  If you have a lighting modifier – put your strobe in it and see what sort of spread and fall off you get at different settings. This is not rocket science, just something that you should do *before* you use it in a shoot.

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I am a novice when it comes to competitions.  I admit that.  I have focused the last many years focusing on improving my technique and the capture of light to tell a story in a photograph – not showing my work.  After sitting on the sidelines for years looking at the competition area without much consideration, I decided to give them a chance.  This is a love / hate relationship.

Morning Hunt

Want to know my perspective on this?

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Business Portraits – Planning and Executing

More usual than not, when I am asked for a portrait, it is for corporate use and, again, more often than not – the end use is for web or simple marketing collateral.  These are typical straightforward head and shoulder shots with simple backgrounds that will render well in BW and look good in smaller sizes.  So this is where my head is usually at when I am asked about taking “business” shots.

A while ago, Julie, a friend who has launched her own brand consultancy business casually asked about doing a shoot sometime – to which I said sure.  Months later, I bumped into her and she mentioned a course she was teaching in Croatia and a need for some marketing and magazine article photos, but remarked that she was just going to send what she had. I have seen the photos of her and I think she has some great shots so thought nothing more of it. Continue reading “Business Portraits – Planning and Executing”

Shooting Origami for a Book

Sometime last year while at a mutual friend’s house, John Szinger was talking about photographing his origami.  We got to discussing this topic and he asked for some advice on how I might do this.  I happily offered to help and expected nothing more than some time together showing some basic lighting ideas from the “this is how I would do it” perspective.

When we discussed it again sometime later, I found out that he was writing a book on origami (“Origami Untamed” from Tuttle Publishing) and actually needed pictures for the book.  I was still interested in helping and we found an evening where I could stop over and take some shots.  The process he had been using for photographing his (quite amazing) creations was to position them on paper backgrounds on his kitchen table and shoot them with the camera on a tripod. While the mix of fluorescent and incandescent lights might have played havoc on a human subject, his results were not too bad for the paper subjects.


With that said, I was pretty sure that with some strobes and light modifiers, a much more flattering image could be created.  We had dinner together and then I set up several lights and modifiers.  After several hours of shooting, we came to some realizations…
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Plan Your Shots!

A good friend who owns a music production company asked if I could shoot photos of his staff for their website.  He wanted a group shot as well as photos for each person.  He had an idea in mind for the group shot and when I asked him for an example, he sent me a few shots he wanted to mimic in look and feel.  Great.

Group Shot

I asked about the other pictures and he was very non-committal and kept deferring to “whatever I thought”.  I did not push him on this, and that is the reason for this post…

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Photos with Context

Each year, we take a family trip to a lake in the Catskill Mountains (New York) to stay with my wife’s cousin.  Aside from the great family get together that it always is, I have been taking my camera along to shoot during the innumerable boat rides with tubes, water skis and wake boards.  When the weather is nice, this is a non-stop event.

I have been working over the years on how to capture the action – and the variables are many.  Light can change constantly between clouds moving and shadows from the hills.  The boat is bouncing and the subjects can be whipping across the back of the boat – or popping up and down depending on the particular activity.  Putting the technique aside of capturing a skier jumping a wave at 20 MPH with a 300mm lens while you are trying to brace yourself on a bouncing boat, what I tried to bring into the exercise this year was capturing context with the shots.

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