I was at the 2015 WAAAM Traffic Jam, when a car club arrived from out of town (I can’t even remember where.) Among the cars was a 1957 Buick Roadmaster. Right away, I knew this was a very special car and it did end up winning several awards at the show. While I was there I made sure I got a pretty good number of images of this auto.
At that time I was processing most of my automobile and airplane shot through a Lightroom preset that brought the highlights down, the shadows up, and applied a lot of clarity. This preset tended to accentuate reflections and while I was working on these images, I became very disenchanted with how this made the paint job look. It pretty much ruined the color of it. So, I decided to change my method to something more like that taught by Tim Wallace at KelbyOne.
This post method is pretty basic as an overall treatment to the image. Then apply a considerable amount more clarity with the brush, to the grill, headlights, and other like items on the car. Sometimes, I even add some Tonal Contrast from Nik Software, Color Efex Pro4.
I am happier with this method. Not adding clarity to most of the automobile has the paint job looking much nicer. I do add a slight amount of clarity to airplane images overall, but a small amount that I add to most images that I make regardless of the subject.
I suggest you take a look at Tim Wallace’s classes for more information.
It may not be Darwinian, but a photographer’s style evolves over time. Sometimes it is intentional; the photographer will pay attention to what works in the marketplace, filtering that through what excites him, altering his style. Further, if he’s really working at this he will continue to learn new things. Finally, there is unintentional evolution; it may be subtle, but the way the photographer looks at a subject will change over time.
I have created two galleries here displaying some evolution in my shooting. Both are connected to my attempts to pay homage to George Hurrell, a Hollywood photographer from the past. The above gallery is my earlier attempt and the bottom is some very recent shooting. Of course, I must also credit the help of Sami Van Der Westhuizen (the model), Carrie Strahle (makeup artist) and WAAAM (the museum that owns the planes) for having an impact on the second set of images looking different than the first.
Recently, I completed a model shoot at WAAAM with some of the old biplanes there. The route to this shoot was nebulous and the original point of the shoot got lost a little bit, but we made something great out of it. I believe WAAAM will get a great photo to hang in the lobby out of this and I certainly got some nice new additions to my portfolio.
I’ll begin my narrative with the human side of the story, as the shoot was an incredible experience, and this part of the story isn’t necessarily evident in the story.
I have been working with Ken Olsson with various things at WAAAM for several years. Initially, we met when I was writing a story about aviation museums in Oregon. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Ken, he’s friendly, and we’ve always had plenty to talk about. I met Carrie Strahle, of Carrie Strahle Makeup Artistry, at an ASMP event, and exchanged business cards with her. She is the kind of person that instantly strikes you as a friend, despite the brief encounter. In discussions with Carrie later, she suggested Sami Van Der Westhuizen might be able to help me with a project that I was beginning to think about at that time. Thus I contacted Sami on FB.
So when I came up with the idea for this project. I started by having a meeting with Ken and Judy at WAAAM and discussed this as well as a few other ideas. I did not want to move ahead with other elements of the project without making sure it was ok with them; although, I had discussed the idea with Carrie in friendly conversation and got her ideas on whether the logistics of this could be worked out or not. After getting approval from WAAAM, for a slightly different idea than what you see before you, I put out a casting call on FB. When someone suggested Sami, I wasn’t aware she met the height requirements we had at that point, I thought perfect. I asked Sami if she would be interested. Next step was to ask Carrie if she would be willing to do the project.
Finally, the day came. The photographic crew met at Joe Wilson’s studio, Joe is the membership chair at the local chapter of the ASMP. Sami was the only person involved I had not met in person. She came in with her boyfriend and I must say, they are some of the nicest people you’ll meet. So, with one of the friendliest, fun crews around, we got to work.
In summation, the shoot was a blast, in addition to producing some great imagery. I was able to make contact with existing friends again and make some new ones. On the professional side of things, Sami was amazing, what I noticed immediately was her ability to help me aim the lights shaving minutes off setup when I changed the lighting. Carrie’s work was fantastic; I especially loved the curls she gave Sami for the shoot.
One thing I learned about myself that had to do with the human side of the shoot, is I do get in a bit of “a zone” when I photograph. During most of the shoot, I got in this zone where I was only aware of Sami, myself and the plane. I came out of it occasionally to share what images we were getting. I was not aware of what others were doing around me on set. It really struck home for me when I started retouching images and I would notice a frame or two when a strand of hair on Sami would fall out of place and then suddenly, the next frame, it’d be all perfect again. From this it was apparent that Carrie was stepping in to touch up. Looking at the bts images my assistant (dad) made, it was more apparent; Carrie doing touch ups, everyone very attentive to what was happening, confirming what I had earlier suspected about me falling into “the zone.”
If you are a photographer needing a model and makeup artist, I recommend putting Sami and Carrie at the top of your list of possibilities. They do excellent work and will certainly help keep your set a fun place to be.
Now to move on to a technical thing, I wanted to explain how I made the above image.
It was inspired by a promotional video on the Profoto web site. I started by setting my ambient exposure such that everything would fade to black. Setting ISO 100, 1/160th of a second and f/16 ensures that happens really quickly under the indoor setting. I setup one light in a strip bank, as close as possible to directly above the Jenny. It was slightly in front of the plane and then tilted at a slight angle to make sure the light shone far enough back on the plane. Then, I lit Sami with a very large octabox placed 45° to her front and 45° above, essentially Rembrandt light. The octa was also aimed across her, feathering the light onto her face. This was primarily done to prevent spill on the background, but also makes the light softer on her.
Post processing on this image was really simple. Basically, it comes down to I applied Tonal Contrast from Nik’s Color Efex Pro4 on the plane and Sami’s clothes.
Personal projects are very important. Photographers must always develop their skills, practice those skills, invent new techniques, and keep their portfolio updated, these are all things that personal projects can provide. They can be intimidating to setup, however. One idea I’ve heard from several sources lately is to approach the project as if you were shooting an assignment for someone. This helps provide direction to the project that helps one cope with the intimidation. I’m going to tell you a bit about how I setup my most recent project.
I came up with the idea that I would shoot as if I was creating an ad for a cultural/musical festival. I did have a specific festival in mind, although I don’t want to name it here. Belly dancing was a great fit and I had worked with a dancer before whom I felt would be willing to do a shoot like this again. However, for this project I felt it important to include her dancing partner. So I asked them both if they’d be interesting in doing a trade shoot.
We then set out trying to come up with an appropriate location. I was thinking something that would create a Mid-Eastern coffee house sort of feel. After trying to come up with something for a few weeks, we decided it would probably be best to use one of the dancers’ home. I set out to come up with an idea that would give a similar ambience in her home.
What I came up with was to use a piece of fabric I found that’s color was close to saffron. Then in Photoshop, I would add a texture to the solid color. In the end I decided not to add the texture to all the images. When lit appropriately, this created the look and feel I was after.
The shooting itself was fairly easy. I let what images were most successful from the earlier shoot guide me. The only real challenge was positioning two dancers so that behind them was the background we made and nothing else. Portable backgrounds are only moderate size out of necessity and this can cause difficulties at times.
As a high school senior I was taking physics. I have always been very interested in science and thus took pretty much every science course my high school offered. Physics went very well for me overall, with a minor hiccup when we were studying electronics. As the school year was coming to a close, a young lady who sat next to me in class asked if I’d tutor her in physics. I agreed.
What I discovered while helping her with the material is that doing so was absolutely the best way to study. By explaining the class material to her, I found that I was learning the subject material very thoroughly, without any additional study. I continued getting my A in the class, in fact my test scores were now perfect, and I was putting far less effort into the class. I always value this sort of efficiency.
Fast forward ____ years (exact number withheld for authors pride, or is it that I’m too old to remember :)) and I run into a photo student while shooting some stock at Governor Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland. She asks me for some tips regarding her exposures for the exercise she is shooting. Her curriculum has her shooting manual all the time. I have mixed emotions about this, as I feel it is a good way to learn but not sure how much a photographer would do this in the real world. I do usually shoot manual while using flash, (find it easier to balance ambient and flash in the unusual ways I like) but pretty much always aperture priority when using available light.
Anyhow, I help her with the exposure advice. We exchange business cards. I head home.
Approximately, a week later she contacts me and asks if I can help her shoot some portraits for an extra credit assignment. I agree and we make arrangements to meet at the same location. She and her friend had come up with the idea of photographing the friend in her wedding gown, with some red rubber boots, with a very quirky “disgruntled bride” kind of flair to them. Sounded like fun.
We got there, I read over her assignment and we got to work. After she shot the first scenario, I asked if the two of them minded if I snuck in some shots. I need to update my portfolio, so I wanted to get some images, although I definitely wanted to keep her learning as the priority. So we proceeded taking turns with the shooting. We shot available light first, as her assignment was available light and then I gave her some tips on my flash techniques.
In the end, it was a very fun day, I met a couple of cool ladies and I was able to make some images I doubt I would have ever made had this situation not come up.
One of the main things anyone interested in photography as a business hears is to find your style. This is something very difficult to do, because creative people can be scared to have all their images look stylistically similar. So for a long time I struggled with how to do that.
The process started with going to an ASMP event called Portfolio Perfect. I paid close attention to the response of my reviewer. He certainly had a bigger response to my edgy, in your face, exaggerated detail, and exaggerated perspective photos. He even made mention that the other photos I showed him look like they were done by someone else.
Next, I looked at what I like. I certainly do tend to like photos with that edgy, larger than life Hollywood movie hero look.
Finally, I looked at what other photographers I know, shooting in the same areas and genres are doing. I looked at what I like about their images, what others like about their images, and finally what I don’t like about their images.
Finally, I decided on a style that would define most of what I do. Not every photo I shoot fits this mold, but the majority does. This style starts by shooting in tight to my subjects with a wide angle lens when possible. I am also drawn to dramatic skies and backlighting as part of this style.
In post processing I will tend towards a wide dynamic range as well as high local contrast, while still maintaining a photographic look.
To this end, in Lightroom I developed two presets for my work. Both have high contrast, the highlights are brought down to around -80 and shadows up to around +80. Clarity is high with a setting around +40 on one preset and +60 on the other. The big difference between the two presets is saturation levels, one is very desaturated and the other I increased Vibrance to +30, with the high contrast that makes the colors pop. I prefer to use the low saturation preset with things like military vehicles or silver vehicles where I want to minimize color contamination and use the vibrant preset for everything else.
When desired this style can be further augmented in Photoshop and Color Efex Pro4. One way I do this is apply a glow to most of the photo, but Tonal Contrast to my subject.
Previously I discussed building a lifestyle photography portfolio. So this past month I contacted the fiancé of the young woman I previously photographed cooking dinner and asking him if he’d be willing to ride his bicycle back and forth across one of Oregon’s many covered bridges at either sunrise or sunset for me. I was quite surprised when he said sunrise would work better for him, although morning does tend to work better photographically. First of all, despite the light being very similar, it’s usually a little better in the morning and secondly there’s usually less traffic to put up with on the roads, etc.
So we met at Gilkey Bridge at 6:00am. I had looked at the maps and tried to evaluate which one of the bridges near Scio would look best at sunrise. I eliminated Shimanek Bridge from the considerations because of the limited vantage points available that don’t place you squarely on a farmer’s land. This is something I wouldn’t do without permission.
We started the shoot with some backlit portraits. I was going for a casual look with some flare. When post processing I accentuated the flare a bit using the new circle filter in Lightroom. I centered it on the brightest part of the flare, inverted the mast to affect the center of the filter more. Then I increased the exposure a bit, reduced the highlights a tiny amount, reduced the clarity and saturation a bit, and finally added a tiny bit of yellow. Then in Color Efex Pro4 I applied the Glamour Glow filter to finish enhancing this look.
Then, when the sun had gotten slightly higher in the sky, we began with the real work of the shoot; photographing him riding back and forth across the bridge. I worked it from many angles, using fill flash in a soft box with ½ cut CTO on the backlit images. The one limitation that frustrated me a bit was where the ground sloped away to the river did limit me from some of the angles I would have liked to have shot. There just wasn’t any way to actually stand in those locations.
On August 23 and 24, 2013 I attended the Airshow of the Cascades in Madras, Oregon. To give you some idea of how much fun this was, let me start by telling you the only negatives to the experience. We’re sitting out in the sun a lot, so obviously one needs to wear sunscreen. We figured that it wouldn’t last all day, so my dad started to reapply and the spray bottle broke. We were unable to get anymore sunscreen out of the bottle, so the part of my face the sun hit from about 2:30 until the end of the show got a bit burnt. The other negative was when I was sitting my camera down on its lens hood to rest, some tiny little wasp decided the hand grip to my camera was a good spot to rest. Thus, when I went to pick it up to take a shot I got stung on my ring finger. Fortunately, the poison of this type of wasp is either less effective or there was less compared to a honey bee and the pain subsided in about ten minutes.
We left our house in Keizer, OR around 10:00am on Friday and drove up I5 to 212 and then got 26 to go the rest of the way. This made for a pretty good start to our day, 26 is a picturesque drive going through Government Camp and offering fantastic views of Mt. Hood. This also coincided with the Hood to Coast relay race, so we were able to witness some of this big event on our way.
We arrived in Madras around 1:30, giving us some time to relax in front of the TV in our hotel room before grabbing a bit to eat and being at the airport at 4:00pm when the gates opened. I hadn’t been to an airshow in a long time and had never been to one held around the sunset hours. It was really cool to see the performances in the nice light of sunset. It did get a bit dark for aviation photography, but with a little of Lightroom’s noise reduction, it all turned out alright. The show concluded with some fireworks. I’m not a big fan of fireworks, but had always wanted to photograph them. This opportunity led me to discover that what I wanted to do with fireworks was surprisingly easy. I made a shot about ½ hour before the fireworks started to capture some color in the scene to serve as my background. Then when the fireworks started I used bulb mode to capture several bursts. In post, I processed both images separately for good color in Lightroom and then loaded them into Photoshop as layers in one image. I put the fireworks burst shot on top and changed the blend mode of the layer to lighten, this dropped everything out but the fireworks themselves. I had moved the camera a bit in between so I applied free transform to the fireworks layer to tweak it to where it lined up to where it should be. Then I merged the layers down and applied a Color Efex Pro4 Glamour Glow.
Saturday was an early morning to get there when the gates opened. This was fantastic for static and taxi shots in the morning light and limited people wondering in and out of the shots. I also met some of the photographers I knew from the Pacific Northwest Aviation Photographers group on Facebook and it’s always nice to meet these folks in person rather than just on Facebook (in the video you can see me shaking hands with one of these gentlemen.) Saturday was an intense day of shooting culminating in a wonderful photographic event the “Wall of Fire” pass of Tillamook Air Museum’s B17 “Chuckie.”
The result of all this has been a group of photographs that I stare at more than I’ve stared at my photos in quite awhile.
And of course the one I stare at the most, that “Wall of Fire” pass by “Chuckie.”
It’s been a while since I’ve posted here and for my return I thought I’d post about how I’ve further refined an earlier technique I wrote about here. Inspired by Joel Grimes’ online training at Kelby, I played around with my earlier method until I arrived at something I truly love.
The method starts with a three shot HDR that I merge in Nik HDR EFex Pro 2. I process it to be a little flatter than I want the final product to be with slightly exaggerated detail. Of course, I prepped the RAW files by applying the chromatic aberration reduction and reducing the noise a little. When I finish with the HDR merge, I then open the file in Photoshop. I open the file in Nik Silver Efex Pro2 and process this image to be a little flatter than the desired finished product with good defined detail. I start with either the High Structure (Harsh), High Structure (Smooth) or Fine Art preset. In the final, I want the subject to have more structure than the foreground, so I use whichever preset will lead to that result the easiest.
After finishing with Silver Efex Pro2, I convert the background to a regular layer and move it above the Silver Efex layer and change the blend mode to soft light. Next I stamp the visible layers on top and apply a 16 pt Gaussian Blur. Change the blend mode of this layer to overlay and reduce the opacity between 60% and 40%.
Next Stamp all visible layers to the top and apply a Color Efex Pro4 recipe I discussed earlier here. This applies Tonal Contrast and Detail Extractor. Brush this effect on to only the vehicle and then reduce the opacity of this layer as desired, I find 70% is the average setting.
Finally, you may want to stamp all visible layers to the top again and apply Darken/Lighten Center in Color Efex Pro4.
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.