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.”
In my last blog post, I discussed WAAAM’s 2013 Traffic Jam and mentioned how difficult it is to create truly great imagery at a car show. There was one image that I made however that I truly loved and today I intend to tell you a little bit about how I did it.
Detail shots are the best hope for truly great images at a car show. The fact that you are isolating in on a small detail of the car eliminates that big problem of clutter in the image. Look for small interesting aspect of the car; logos, hood ornaments, etc.
Camaros of the late ‘60s are one of my favorite cars. Thus, when I found one at Traffic Jam I was pretty excited and had to look into a wide variety of shots. It didn’t take long for me to come to the conclusion that the Camaro by Chevrolet logo on the hood amongst the flames paint job was my most likely candidate. To frame up this photo I was looking at a couple things I wanted; the angle of the sun to the camera to get the chrome looking the way I wanted, angles of the car being in a pleasing orientation, and I wanted the headlight to be visible as a complimentary element. The lighting angle would’ve been easier to figure out if I was using flash in a softbox, but I was able to setup the shot without too much difficulty.
Then it was time to get it home and in the computer for post processing. I started with my realistic treatment. This was just a slight boost in contrast and saturation and then cleaning up some dust. (Both sensor dust and actual dust on the car.) This resulted in this image.
Then I created a black and white conversion using Silver Efex Pro2. I went for an overall low key image with strong structure and gave it a slight sepia tone. This resulted in an ok image, one that didn’t even thrill me enough to upload it to my web site and thus I don’t have the example for you here. Finally, I thought I’d try my blend. So I opened the two image as layers in Photoshop. Placed the realistic one on top and changed the blend mode to soft light. Instantly, I thought something magical happened to the paint job on the car. However, the grill had gone too dark. Thus, I stamped all visible layers to the top of the layer stack, changed the blend mode to screen. Then, I held the alt key while clicking on the create new mask button to give me a black mask, followed by painting the grill part of the mask white. Then I lowered the opacity to taste, not much in this case. After this, I stamped all visible layers to the top again, applied a 16px Gaussian blur and changed the blend mode to overlay. This layer’s opacity was then lowered to about 60%. You may recognize this as a workflow that I use a lot from previous blog entries. Well, this time I stopped short at this point, because I thought it looked so good. The only thing I did now was to clean up dust on the car a little bit better even. I wanted this image to have an “idealistic” look.
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.
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.
This image was very important to my recent updates to my portrait portfolio and I’ll begin this entry with an explanation of why.
I have been trying to find a model for the “George Hurrell inspired glam shots” that I have been envisioning for a very long time (I’ll tell you more about these images in the next blog post.) It has been quite the challenge since I’ve been working with friends on a TFP basis because of limited budget. I’ve had models cancel on me, potential models go from friends to certainly not friends before I asked them, etc. Thus, I have been constantly on the lookout for someone to ask to do this.
So along came this event that a friend of mine asked me to photograph for the Emerald City Rollergirls, the flat track rollerderby league of Eugene, Oregon. The event photography consisted of photographing the various people as they came through the room where I was setup to get an image of themselves in their cool costumes. When Jenny (the girl in the photo) came through, she made an effort to introduce herself and when I found out she was a belly dancer, this image popped into my mind and I got very excited about making the image. Furthermore, there were some women who had the look I felt was right for my aforementioned, George Hurrell inspired shot, so I went about setting up a shoot with several of the women from the group.
For this particular image, I was looking for a light and airy feel. I picked an old image I had of the Warner Wetlands at the base of Hart Mountain in Eastern Oregon. I was playing around with many different ways to prepare the background image and all of the came close, but none were exactly what I was looking for. That’s when my Google+ friend Monico Havier suggested I try the blending a black and white image with the color for the B-17 image that I have written about here recently. Now, this is a method I knew how to do already, but it wasn’t dawning on me to try it on the B-17, until Monico mentioned it. Well, I loved it and so did a lot of other folks. That got me to thinking that maybe this was the proper approach to this background image.
I opened the background image in Photoshop and opened the Silver Efex Pro2 plugin. I ran the Fine Art – High Key preset and turned off the border and brought the blacks down. This gave me a good black anchor, while still giving me that creamy look I wanted through the water, etc. Then I double clicked on the background to convert it to a regular layer and moved it above the Silver Efex Pro2 layer and changed the blend mode to soft light. At this point I saved the background for when I made the portrait. (I was overly excited about this composite and was messing with the background long before the portrait shoot was scheduled.)
For the actual shoot, I was looking for a little softer look than I usually do for my composites. So, I positioned a strip bank directly to one side and a speedlight in a softbox to the other. Above and in front of the blocked spot was a beauty dish with a diffusion sock. My Dad was there as an assistant, so I had him step in and we established our lighting ratios. The two lights to the side I intended to illuminate the model just slightly darker than pure white. The fill light in front would be just slightly less than that. This is where the setup differed significantly from my normal as I usually set the front light to considerably darker. When Jenny arrived we readjusted the lights a bit as she is considerably shorter than my Dad, but the power settings were already dialed in. After that, the shooting was pretty easy, at least from the photographer’s perspective; told Jenny I wanted eye contact in the shot and she did her dance poses.
Then came post processing. I started with some basic Lightroom stuff with a slight darkening of highlights, slight brightening of shadows. After this I opened both this image and the intended background as separate documents in Photoshop. Then I selected the dancer using quick select and then refine edge, exporting the result as new layer with layer mask. This selection actually worked unusually easily and only required use of the refine edge brush along some of the fuzzy costume accessories. Then, even if there was a mistake there, no one would probably be able to tell unless it was pretty major. Next I dropped in the background and moved it in the layer stack until it was beneath our dancer. After this, I duplicated the dancer layer and opened the bottom one in Silver Efex Pro2. This time I did not run the High Key preset, but instead made it a contrasty image. My aim was to make the skin tones look like they received the High Key treatment, while still keeping the darker tones nice and rich. Once this was done I changed the blend mode of the top layer to soft light. Then it was time to unify the two elements. The color saturation was now low enough that there was no apparent mismatch in the color. Thus, I went to the background layer and opened it in Color Efex Pro4. I ran the Fog filter here and made the fog pretty intense. I then brushed it in just behind her and along the horizon but fading away as I got further from her. Next I stamped all the visible layers on top, the old [shift] [ctrl] [alt] [E] shortcut and opened that in Color Efex Pro4. I ran Tonal Contrast on balanced mode and then ran Glamour Glow on it. This pretty much finished the post.