Most of the potential clients I’ve shown my portrait portfolio, have pointed out that I really like to portray my human subjects as larger than life.
There is no doubt about it, whether it’s a friend I portray as a badass rock star
or as a Hollywood starlet from the ‘30s,
I do like to show my subjects as larger than life. I’m not sure if it comes from my love of the movies and studying film criticism or from my affinity to romantic and transcendental literature, but I certainly love that look in photos of people.
Thus, when I photographed a roller derby bout last Saturday I saw this tendency as an opportunity for some dramatic sports photography.
The light was difficult; it was approaching sunset and there were a set of windows on the Western side of the building while the artificial lighting in the auditorium could not compete with this at all. I immediately saw the opportunity for this sort of dramatic shot, but wanted a wider variety of images. However, after some experimentation, I came to the conclusion that the only practical way to get good exposures was to set a proper exposure for this dramatic lighting manually and then limit my shooting to only the areas on the track that were lit well. I was photographing with a good friend, Alethea Steingisser, and it was interesting to see that we came to similar but not identical solutions.
Then came the fun mental part, imagining making a movie about women’s roller derby. I watched for the skaters to enter the well-lit zone and when something dramatic began to happen I’d hold the shutter down until either the drama ended or my camera filled its buffer. Once home, I post processed these images to maintain the contrast and applied a subtle vignette.
Later that night there was a men’s bout, that was a blast to photograph, but the dramatic lighting had evaporated by then.
This month at WAAAM’s Second Saturday, I decided to do something a little different and concentrate on video. I planned for several weeks developing a storyboard in my mind about a specific story of the planes. As the day got closer however, I started hearing troubling things about the weather forecast. WAAAM has had a perfect record on not being rained out on Second Saturday, so I had faith.
This Second Saturday was also to be Studebaker day, so I was also going to produce a video just relating all the fun we had that day.
As it turned out, the weather was fabulous except for being cold and windy. This resulted in the flights being grounded for the day. Thus, the primary video I was planning got scrapped. This video of the other activities, is pretty cool though, it only lacks the really tight narrative that the other would have had. It is still a lot of fun, has beautiful clips and gives a good feel for how much fun the day was.
Video is becoming an increasingly important part of the imaging world as electronic media is taking over and viewers do like to see the moving image when possible.
Recently, I became a member at WAAAM. As a staff member there mentioned to me, I’m there so often that in the long run it will probably be less expensive for me. Not to mention, I hope to become involved with some volunteer work around there, although the distance to the museum and my focus on my career would mean that a regularly scheduled volunteer commitment would probably be impractical.
Thus, when I went over to the museum for the Second Saturday in March, it was my first time to be there as a member. When I arrived the woman at the front desk recognized me and knew that I was now a member, so she checked me in before I even got out my membership card. Once in the museum, many of the staff and volunteers made mention of me joining the museum as I walked around. (Not all were aware, but I’m sure it was greater than 50%.) I consider this fact to be illustrative of how friendly a place WAAAM is.
As far as the Second Saturday event itself; the weather was beautiful, perhaps a little too beautiful for a photographer. I did my usual of photographing the airplanes and cars that were outside for the day’s activities, with the major difference being that there was a fairly good opportunity to photograph the Waco APO as it was determined that it was easier to get the YPF out to fly by pushing the APO outdoors first. One of the APO photos is what I’ve decided to use as my cover photo for this collection of images.
The presentation for this Second Saturday was about navigation for airlines circa the ‘40s and ‘50s. This presentation was immensely interesting and I think it’s safe to say that everyone is glad for modern navigational tools.
While at the museum, I ran into some photography friends. I didn’t know they would be there, but had a feeling they might be. This led to a friendly dinner at the end of the day, an always welcome way to conclude a great day at the museum.
Recently, landmarks have become the primary focus of my stock photography. I have naturally migrated to a list of local favorites that I try to capture in all different types of weather and seasonal surroundings. These include Vista House in the Columbia Gorge, St. John’s Bridge in Portland, many covered bridges scattered around the state, and the Oregon State Capitol.
One of the big challenges for this sort of photography here in the Northwest is the surroundings are more interesting in the Spring and Fall when there are either flowers or leaves turning color, but around here at this time of year we have lots of rain and grey skies. Thus, when the cherry blossoms reached their peak here in Salem, I vowed to watch the weather closely and head downtown whenever it looked promising.
The first day that looked promising we had a nice break in the rain towards late afternoon when the light promised to be good. We went downtown and the scene was absolutely beautiful when we arrived. There were storm clouds all around but breaks in the right places to illuminate the scene and make for an interesting sky. The first shot I made turned out to be one of my favorites ever of this sort of photography.
Unfortunately, soon after the storms moved back in and we were confronted with grey skies. This did allow for some interesting compositions but made the full variety of the images I wanted impossible. Thus, I knew I had to return soon before all the blossoms fell off.
On the return trip, the blossoms had progressed a little past peak, but the weather was perfect, allowing me to get the full variety of images I wanted. Upon walking into the middle of a bunch of the cherry trees I made another of my favorite architectural images.
These visits were made all the more fun because they doubled as a day out with my parents and we played with some of the puppies the other visitors had brought to the park.
On February 9, 2013, I attended another Second Saturday at WAAAM. These truly are becoming one of the better parts of my routine.
This particular Second Saturday centered on a presentation of United States military women’s military uniforms from WWI to Vietnam. This presentation was made by Alice Miller and volunteer models. It was informative and entertaining. Unfortunately, I didn’t make any photos of the show, it would have taken lights to get the results I would have wanted and I didn’t bring mine. You can however see WAAAM’s images of Beauty and Duty on WAAAM’s Facebook page.
Another event central to February’s Second Saturday was a missing man formation flyover in honor of Ken Jernstedt. Ken was a resident of Hood River and a fighter ace with the American Volunteer Group, the famous Flying Tigers.
Once again, what I mainly did was photograph the 1935 Waco YPF-6 that was up flying once again. (You can probably tell by the slide show running at the top.) The 1931 Waco RNF also flew once on this day and I made as many images of it as I could. WAAAM has turned me into a major Waco fan. They truly made some of the most beautiful aircraft of the period and this was a period of many beautiful civilian aircraft (my non Waco favorites are the Beech Staggerwing and Stinson Reliant.) You can be sure that I’ll be all over any opportunity to photograph any of the Wacos in WAAAM’s collection.
A total surprise for me was the chance to ride in the 1929 Packard Model 640 Super 8 Phaeton. Of all the cars I’ve seen at WAAAM this is one of my two favorites (the other is also a Packard) and I was over the moon to have a chance to take a ride. The experience was sublime. Without doubt it was the most comfortable backseat I’ve ever ridden. It was like hooking up your favorite couch to some wheels and a motor and taking a ride. The only downside was no windows, so it was a bit nippy on that windy February afternoon. Below is a photo of when some other folks were taking a ride and the view I had while taking my ride.
Something different about this trip for me was that I was also spending some time with some photography friends, Bryan Heim and Caitlynn Kolb – aka CaityKat. This was good fun and one of the better experiences I’ve had shooting while with another photographer. It’s always great to have someone to talk to and joke with, but sometimes there are some downsides to shooting with someone else. This time the downsides weren’t really present; we were usually doing different enough things that we didn’t get in each other’s way and you can’t scare airplanes away so easily. Most of my experience shooting with others has been with wildlife and there added people can create quite the problem with getting in position without scaring the subject animal.
Post processing wise, this work had simple Silver Efex Pro2 work and many images relied on techniques I discussed in this earlier post.
I’ve totally obsessed about the Waco YPF-6 in WAAAM’s collection since I saw it for the first time last year. I researched every possible story I could find online about this wonderful plane, especially this one.
Thus, when I heard that it would be pushed out and flown as part of the Second Saturday activities on 1/12/2013, I made absolute sure that I made to the event to see and photograph this amazing plane. The weather that day was interesting, here in Salem we had freezing fog, making the beginning to our trip a cause for anxiety.
When we got there, we immediately went to the back of the main hangar where the maintenance on the YPF was being finished. Museum personnel were reinstalling the engine cowling and this step took longer than anyone would have predicted. We sat and watched and photographed this process until it was completed, well in addition with visiting with photography friends.
After the maintenance was completed, the plane was pushed out and started. The engine run-up actually, went much faster than I anticipated. I guess I’m used to some really long run-ups I’ve witnessed on some of the old warbirds. Then we watched the plane taxi out to the runway and fly around the valley for a while. It was quite cold, around freezing, so when the Waco turned such that the propwash hit you as it was taxiing, it was rather chilling.
Upon the plane’s return and its return taxi is when I made most of the images you see here. Although, a few were made later in the day immediately prior to closing.
The other big draw for me to this Second Saturday was the presentation by Tukegee Airman, Ben “Flaps” Berry. I have always been very concerned about the gap between what the mythical America and the real one. The Tuskegee Airmen were true heroes in the fight to narrow that gap, as such, I find their story to be truly inspiring. The surprising thing was from my perspective, Ben’s postwar aeronautical engineering career was every bit as inspiring as his war career.
I bought Ben’s book and had it signed, allowing a brief conversation with the man. I felt very privileged to meet such a man.
In February, WAAAM will be having a fashion show of women’s military uniforms as the headline event of the Second Saturday. I will be attending this event as well and this time will be with some other aviation photography friends, promises to be a fun day.
In November, I continued to photograph Oregon’s covered bridges. These bridges make for wonderful subjects; iconic, evocative, and often in photogenic locations.
One thing I definitely learned with them in November is that some subjects are definitely better photographed at some times of the year rather than others. At the beginning of the month, we still were in the stages of a kiss of Fall color on an otherwise green setting. These circumstances led to great photos, even if I would’ve preferred a little more Fall color. By the end of the month, the trees were mostly without leaves and anything but white skies became rare. This led to significantly less attractive images, so much so that I decided to put off photographing more covered bridges until Spring or we get snow with all the right circumstances to allow me to get to the bridge to photograph.
Ahh, the photo sometimes jokingly referred to as the Oil of Olay shot, because this sort of photo is often used to advertise cosmetic products. It is fairly simple and not stylized much and has many features that might make people think it’s a boring type of photo, but it still has one attribute keeping it a perennial favorite; it’s probably the best sort of photo for the simple purpose of saying “oohh, isn’t she pretty” in a visual way.
This type of shot is primarily determined by the sort of light used. The basics are to put one light near the subject, above and in front of them angled at 45°. Then place another light below the subject basically as a mirror to the above light. This arrangement can be described as being like an open “clamshell,” thus the name of the lighting setup. The photographer has to shoot through the small gap between the two lights. The bottom light, as fill, can either be an actual light or a fill card. Many photographers, myself included, like the top light as a beauty dish with a diffusion sock. I personally use a reflector as a bottom fill, but a small softbox would allow more control. The reason I use the card is currently the softboxes I have are too large to be convenient for this shot. This light setup shows the woman’s features in the best possible light; soft and shadows that aren’t too dark.
I have improved on this type of shot, primarily because I have learned to make the light on the subject more intense, which makes everything work better. White backgrounds aren’t necessary, but are the customary background for this type of shot. I use a Lastolite backlight for this sort of thing currently, but a large softbox or illuminated piece of white background paper could also be used. However you choose to do the background, the important thing to remember is to illuminate it just barely enough to make it white, unless you want the light from it to spill onto your subject.
Post processing is very simple, usually at least. I do some basic adjustments in Lightroom, primarily increasing the contrast a little. Then I go into Photoshop and retouch the images according to the methods laid out in Scott Kelby’s Proffesional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop. The vast majority of the time, that’s it. You might notice that in one of the shots, I applied the High Key filter from Color Efex Pro4.
I have made this sort of photo with every female model I’ve worked with thus far.
I’m calling this last group of photos, for lack of a better name, “Party Photos.” These are the images I had Emily targeted for in our little shoot. Essentially, more natural looking portraits made in her home, she hosted the shoot by the way, very thankful to her for that. The home would be visible in the background, unlike the other images where the background was meant to either be not noticeable or replaced by another.
In the end, like the old Hollywood style photos, we photographed both women this way. In fact, the most popular images are proving to be the two women together.
Emily is a close friend of the woman who introduced me to the roller derby world, Alethea, who I had met through photography. This shoot was the first opportunity I had to really get to know her however and she is a wonderful lady, who kept her commitment to our shoot despite many issues arising for her that day.
Lighting for the shoot was of two basic types. The photos on the couch were a large octabank to one side and a strip bank in front of the ladies powered far down as fill. For the photos in the stairwell, we were definitely going for a less polished look to the light. What I did was put a beauty dish with diffusion sock at a 45° to the area where the ladies would be posing. I put the light much further away than usual, both to give the women a wide area to move around in and to give that less polished look to the light. The light bouncing around off all those white walls, kept it from getting too rough.
Post processing on these is kind of interesting. You can probably tell by looking at these, that I did not decide on one basic way to do this. First off I will say the retouching by Scott Kelby’s techniques, I decided to do less heavy handed than I usually do.
As far as the finishing effects, you’ll see there were basically three approached I took. First off, was the nothing special approach, where I finished the retouch and called it good. Secondly, was the approach where I used the Bleach Bypass recipe from Color Efex Pro4. This came with the software and is made of Bleach Bypass, Glamour Glow, and a vignette. Finally, there is my favorite of the approaches and is what I used on all the photos in the stairwell. After the retouch, I applied the Glamour Glow filter using the cool glow preset and the Darken/Lighten Center filter.
This is the post processing used on this, the most popular ever image on my web site.
First off, I’d like to start by stating that these images are inspired by George Hurrell, but are certainly not supposed to be a direct copy of his work.
I’d like to continue with the story where I left off when I decided to ask Jenny, the dancer in the previous composite, if she wanted to model for me. I already mentioned that I had been envisioning this kind of photo for a very long time with a model with a specific look. There were a few women at this event that had this look. I spoke to one or two that night letting them know to contact me if they were interested; having never heard from them, I hope it’s because they weren’t interested and not that they forgot or something. Anyhow, Natalie, the darker haired of the two women in the above slide show was one of the women that had the look I had envisioned. Emily the other young woman, I had in mind for another sort of shot; in the end, I had both women pose for both types of shots. I was a bit nervous about proposing this idea to these two ladies as I didn’t know Natalie at all and only barely knew Emily. However, they both seemed really cool, so I definitely thought it was worth the shot.
Turns out, I was right on both counts; the ladies looked as expected in the image and were very good company for the several hours the shoot took. The three women I photographed that evening are definitely some folks that I am very happy to know.
Anyhow, let’s move on to how the images were made.
I had several lighting ideas pieced together from many different things that I read. The two that I thought worked best.
Place a beauty dish almost overhead without a diffusion sock. Bring it down at an angle to the camera until the models eyes are illuminated. Directly overhead leaves her eyes in a shadow, not a good look. Then power this flash up so that it illuminates her skin extremely brightly, but not blown-out. Then have a strip bank in front of the model for fill. Power this flash down to where it just barely provides some detail in the shadow areas.
Use the fill precisely as in #1. Take the beauty dish off the key light. Replace it with a grid. Place it such that it is 45° above and to the side. Aim it by asking the model to look at it and watch for when she can see the flash tube. Please remember to power the flash down before doing this, I forgot, this being my first time to use the technique and for a brief time I made Natalie quite uncomfortable. Without any diffusing materials in front of the flash, the light will be much brighter so this much lower power setting will probably give you the exposure you need, again you want to be approaching blown-out, but not yet there. This was my preferred of these two methods.
Then it’s on to post processing. I initially start in Lightroom, choosing the images I want to use. Then I apply the Camera Portrait profile and remove chromatic aberrations. Finally, I move to the basic panel and increase the contrast to +20 and increase the black setting until only a few pixels are showing black. At this point I right click on the image and choose Edit In> Photoshop.
Once in Photoshop, I start by converting the image to black and white in Silver Efex Pro2. I do this first because the image being in black and white sometimes changes what needs to be retouched, and thus you can save time by doing this first. For example, my method includes using the red color filter and this lightens everything red, this often makes the veins in ones eyes blend with the white, thus making retouching this completely unnecessary. Speaking of my method for this, I have created a preset in Silver Efex Pro2 for this. It includes a red filter, approximately +20 in contrast and soft contrast, -50 in highlight structure, -20 in midtone structure, +30 in shadow structure and +20 in fine structure. I then check to see if any shadow areas need local adjustment to bring out detail and I apply the copper toner using the most subtle preset.
At this point, it’s time for the basic retouching. I use the techniques from Scott Kelby’s Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques for Photographers using Photoshop. I recommend you get this book. I got it in the spiral bound version, easier to use as a reference while you’re doing the retouching. A basic overview of what I do is lighten the eyes, retouch veins if they’re visible at all, lighten highlights in hair, retouch any blemishes, reduce the intensity of wrinkles (you could entirely eliminate, but I choose to maintain more reality than that), soften skin, and dodge and burn contours to accentuate dimensionality of face. For skin softening, I use the “High Pass Skin Softening” method discussed in the book; I mention it specifically because I vastly prefer it to other methods. It is very controllable and does an excellent job. I find the most important step for this look is the dodging and burning and I’ll explain why in the next paragraph.
After doing this retouch, I stamp all visible layers to the top; the [shift][ctrl][alt][e] shortcut. Then I open that in Color Efex Pro4. I run the Glamour Glow filter on the Warm Glow preset. I tweak this, primarily by lowering the warmth. This is where the dodging and burning really pays off, what the Glamour Glow filter does with that is truly magical and you’ll see it again in an upcoming blog post. It makes the image look almost three dimensional. Finally, to accentuate the look I use the Darken/Lighten Center filter. I place the center directly on whichever eye I think is more important to the composition, reduce the size of the center to the minimum size and then tweak the luminosities of center and border.
Hope you give this look a try; it’s a lot of fun. These sorts of images help your models/clients experience a bit of fantasy as well.
Most of the potential clients I’ve shown my portrait portfolio, have pointed out that I really like to portray my human subjects as larger than life. There is no doubt about it, whether it’s a friend I portray as a … Continue reading → […]
Studebaker Saturday from Rick Brown on Vimeo. This month at WAAAM’s Second Saturday, I decided to do something a little different and concentrate on video. I planned for several weeks developing a storyboard in my mind about a specific story … Continue reading → […]
Recently, I became a member at WAAAM. As a staff member there mentioned to me, I’m there so often that in the long run it will probably be less expensive for me. Not to mention, I hope to become involved … Continue reading → […]
Recently, landmarks have become the primary focus of my stock photography. I have naturally migrated to a list of local favorites that I try to capture in all different types of weather and seasonal surroundings. These include Vista House in … Continue reading → […]