photography

I was reviewing the blog and found in 2014 I had blogged about the new Fuji X-T1 and was looking forward to getting it. Well, I never got it. I had been using the Canon 5D Mk I to get every last bit of life out of it. 12 years is quite a long time to use a DSLR. Now that Fuji announced the newest release, the X-H1, I decided it was time to pull the plug. 

I'm blown away with the advancements in camera tech in that time. There is quite a lot of new features to understand. It's like learning a new language. So far, I'm incredibly pleased with the images from the new camera.

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Beercation (Craft Beer Brewery Visits)

We've enjoyed craft beer and home brewing during our travels. It's always cool seeing new places and try things unique to an area. We managed to visit a few breweries on our recent trip to Atlanta. We even snuck in a trip to Fullsteam when we were passing through Durham (after seeing them on a recent Brew Dogs TV show.)


Miss Pennsylvania Plus America - Model Portfolio

I wrapped up a portfolio for Katy who is Miss Pennsylvania Plus America and moving on to the national competition. Wish her the best of luck.

"Would you please have fun on your photoshoots?

Truer words were never spoken about a photoshoot. I heard this on episode 104 of The Grid podcast with guest Peter Hurley. I love a photo critique episode and I really appreciated that the audience seemed to take exception with some of Peter's comments. But he was spot on. Expression and emotion of a photo will always trump technical perfection.

RC chimed in with an old standby quote that I believe is attributed to Jay Maysel (but it's possible i'm wrong), "There is nothing worse than a sharp photo of a fuzzy idea." And that is absolutely true. Art (& Photography) should say something.

I was curious how my photos would hold up to this critique. So I reviewed my portfolio at the top of this site. I think my images would hold up to the scrutiny. And the more Peter spoke, the more I realized I share a lot of the same ideas... if not outwardly consciously about it. On my shoots, I like to have fun. When he said that, It struck me how many photographers on our podcast (LightSource, on a long hiatus... lol) said just that.

If you can't get the person in front of the lens to connect with the person behind the lens... they won't connect with the person looking at the photo.

Forget technical excellence... Just make more interesting stuff. ;-)

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GoPro: Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails [Family Bike Ride]

While we prepare for our family's Boy Scout troop ride coming up, we have been riding much more. So, we headed out on a little tour of the Lebanon Valley Rails to Trails starting in Colebrook and riding through Gretna and back. As usually, we ran the GoPro cameras again. These are a few snaps from the photo mode segment. I'll put together a video from the various rides in a little.

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GoPro 3 Black Edition Exposure Concerns

Maybe I need to spend more time in the menu system of my GoPro 3. I haven't used it a lot lately and it's been a bit of a "point and pray" camera. I've gotten some images I really like from it... But not without some post processing. While I'm ok with that, I'd love to get the overall images "out of camera" a little better.

I realize that the shooting conditions I'm in are a bit tough to get a good shot when you have a camera on manual and time to analyze and "figure out the shot" so I guess a camera attached to the bar grabbing a shot every 2 or 5 seconds (forget where I set it) isn't really doing all that bad of a job. Most shots are a bit under exposed while under tree cover.

Anybody else experience this with the GoPro 3 while getting started with it?

(Small inset photos are RAW and the larger zoom is post processed.)

**** Update ****

I found a few articles and tested this out a little bit with my GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition. Timelapse capture settings of .5 sec and 1 sec will calculate exposure on the first frame and then lock exposure. Capture settings of 2 sec and longer will auto expose each frame. I could be wrong, but I haven't seen this documented anywhere then forums.

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Motorcycle photography

As riding season is JUST around the corner, I have been reviewing some cycle photos I'd taken last fall. It was reading a blog this evening about a blogger who went to the Ephrata "first Sunday" ride today. Brrr. Seems people are really hardcore. Great to see that!

These are my shots I captured last all on a "guys say out"... Me, my boys, and my Dad (and friends). That was a fun day. More to come this year I'm sure.

Bicycling Photography

Got out for the first mountain bike ride of the year now that the weather is turning. Been working on the bikes and tweaking and just hoping that things will be rolling smooth. I've also been cross training pretty heavily and I'd have to say, the first ride of the year was better then any ride last year (fitness wise). So, I'm feeling good that this is the "starting point" for the year. That's exciting!

My riding buddy Jon wanted a new fb photo rocking his new gear and ride so I threw the LX-5 for a quick short photo loop before we were done for the day. 

 

In the vein of the previous post about finding your creative inspiration... I started reading a new e-Book on my kindle this weekend and in the introduction alone, I've already seen a couple videos in my head that I'd like to produce. Along the lines of today's photoshoot, it really gets me thinking about some photoshoots that I just HAVE to do this "outdoor season".

Ego Photo - Taking Self Portraits

As a photographer, you'll either need to or want to take a photo of yourself at some point. Maybe you need a new Facebook avatar or Twitter. Maybe you need a photo for your bio and you want it to have "your style" to it. Maybe you are simply tired of taking photos of mannequin heads and there are no models available when you are ready to shoot.

This article couldn't have been any more helpful on my recent trip to Arizona to Desertlypse IV. One evening in our downtime, we were joking around trying to take a self portrait of ourselves and we were failing miserably. A few serious photographers just couldn't make it work. We'd like to blame it on the wine and exhausting shoot schedule from earlier that day, but in truth, it's because we ignored ALL the tips I'm about to recount below.

SNAPSHOTS

Arms Length and Mirrors

Facebook and MySpace are filled with the photos taken at arm’s length from the hand pointed back at your face. I feel like it's related that if you are using this composition, you must make a funny face or throw a gang sign. This technique presents a few problems. They are often too close and you have to use a wide, wide angle and the subject is highly distorted. There is also a great perspective shot of the arm in the bottom third of the photo.

So, the more natural solution is to just shot into a mirror and let the camera end up in the shot. I've seen some very artful usage of this; just remember that you cannot use the flash when doing this. You'll end up with a photo of nothing but flare.

Extenders

One thing I've adopted for video purposes is an extender arm. There are two popular devices out right now. One is called a QuikPod and the other is X-Shot. Both offer the same function with some different features between the two. Each look like a small tabletop tripod that extends to a 24"-36" arm. This lets you hold the camera at a "normal" distance and to remove your arm from the photo. This lets you look more natural because your shoulders are relaxed and you are able to use something other than total wide angle zoom settings. Look for a review of those in an upcoming blog post.

PORTRAITS

Hold It Steady

A tripod goes a long way to making the self portrait work. This has been a choice of mine when I'm using myself as a stock photo model (surprisingly, I'm not a bad selling commercial model. And my modeling schedule always works out with my shooting schedule.) The tricky part of using this method, you need to make sure that when you purchase your tripod, you get one that is tall enough for your height. I typically like to shoot pics of myself at an angle above eye level. I'm a little overweight and it helps minimize my double-chin and I just look better from that angle. Finding a tripod that extends that high, is a little tricky and options became a little more limited with that height requirement I put on one. It's important you figure out what you need and get what will work for you. I've bought enough wrong equipment to figure out that no matter how hard you work, you can't always "make it work". Just save up and buy the right gear the first time.

Stunt Double

After you get the camera stabilized, how do you compose the image without looking behind it? I've heard of users that will either work in front of a mirror or stick a small mirror to the front of the camera/tripod. I have had little luck with these methods. My Point and Shoot that had a flip out LCD was wonderful for helping with this step, but now that I shoot with a DSLR, that convenience is no longer and option (for me, Some DSLRs offer this feature and/or the option of LiveView to a laptop. These would all be very useful tools for this step.)

I decided to use my head. My mom is a beautician and when she was in school, she used these cosmetology heads. As luck would have it, they were just collecting dust in her basement. I position the head on the end of an unused light stand, adjust the height to my eye level of where my final pose will be and put the head in position. This lets me adjust my lighting, focus and exposure all on a stand in before I'm ready for me to take the stage. When you are ready to hop into the scene, be sure to mark the floor position if you are going to be standing for the photo.

Shutter Release

Triggering the shutter can be the fun part. If your camera is supplied with a handheld remote, certainly use it. Be sure to remember to set the camera into self-timer mode so you have time to remove the remote from the shot. I've caught a number of images where the subject has tried to creatively conceal the remote when they could have just set the self time and take the 9 seconds to get ready for the release.

Canon Timer Remote

I've had this little gadget for a bunch of years now and love it. For a while, it was a pretty unique device. It allowed me to setup a custom self timer mode from a handheld wired remote. This device allows you to set a "time delay till shutter release", "time delay between frames", and a "total number of frames" (and for those BULB mode users a shutter duration timer).  I usually set mine up to give me a 15 second delay, and then a photo ever 3 seconds for about a dozen photos. This lets me get into position, have a few seconds to make adjustments between shots as I would if I were shooting a model series and enough photos to hopefully "get it right". I limit it to a dozen so I have time to review and check my work so I don't end up with 30 or more frames that are completely unusable.

So, take all these tips and play around and practice with some self-portraits. It will at least give you more practice shooting. It will help you understand how your model feels sitting in front of the camera (yes, it can be intimidating.) And if you don't something scheduled to shoot, it's better than wasting that time on the internet reading blogs. So, go shoot yourself and post your results online and give us a link back and let us know how you did.

A Reason to Shoot Myself

It isn’t as bad as it sounds… harmless fun (self-portraits that is...). Istockphoto.com turns 10 on April 7th and they are asking their members to submit a headshot to build a gallery of the people who helped make it what it is today. From the forum thread on the topic:

Faces of iStock
To kick it all off we're creating a massive online gallery and we need your help. We want to see everyone out there involved in the iStock world: all you photographers, designers, illustrators, photo-retouchers, scrapbookers, video editors, musicians, Flash coders, marketing execs, iStock Inspectors, Steel Cagers, Australians, forum hanger-outers - everybody. And yes, you’ll get to see what we all look like as well. 

So, I took the time and did a few self portraits of my own. I have a bunch of self-portrait headshots already, but why not take the opportunity to shoot a new quick one. But I had to do SOMETHING a little unique. I didn’t want to just do a “pretty face” pic. So, I used my motorcycle as a prop, and not just because I enjoy motorcycling, but because motorcycling is what caused me to adopt my online moniker: Motoed (pronounced: moto-Ed).

I narrowed the choice shots down to these few. I have a fav and my wife does as well. I’m curious to get the opinion of my audience as well. Which shots do you prefer? Add comments below, please.

A:

 

B:

C:

D:

E:

Desertlypse IV - istockphoto Minilypse in Arizona

Just did an iStockphoto Minilypse in Arizona (Desertlypse IV). The trip was awesome. The weather was outstanding. It made it hard coming back to the "coming winter" about to hit this area. Aside from great models and locations a few trip highlights included:

  • Being picked up at the airport by SnapFactory's Mark Wallace and having a burger and a beer. 
  • A near-miss with a javelina
  • A pre-lypse hike in the desert (see pics below)
  • Fellow photographers I haven't seen in one year or two years.
  • Harrassing photographers I just met (you know who you are, lol)
  • Phoney mustaches from grocery store kids toy vending machine
  • Hectic, but fun shooting schedule
  • Ending it all, with a sunset shoot and giving a shot at some HDR technique.

Check out my YouTube channel for some cool behind the scenes from the trip.

Here are a few of the MANY shots that need keywording for submission to my portfolio.

Hike-2513 Hike-2532 Hike-2504 Hike-2482 Hike-2460 Hike-2445 Fortune-3498

Halloween Pumpkin Pics

We carved our pumpkins the other night and set them out for Halloween. We did a pretty good job this year so we needed to capture some pics of them. Instead of getting out a bunch of lights and trying to do a big photo shoot of them... I decided to grab two flashlights and me and my 9 year old started playing around with some light painting techniques.

Radio Poppers JrX Studio Review and Samples [success]

I've debated for a while now on what solution I've wanted to do for "wireless flash triggering". I have always put off the cost of Pocket Wizards because the cost was always too steep and quite frankly, I never took a shot that I COULDN'T take with my sync cord. I seriously debated about the new Pocket Wizards, but my Strobist-style speedlight (that sees little use) is a 550EX and doesn't support E-TTL. To take full advantage of these, I'd need to really upgrade my flash and possible add additional speedlights as well as additional PWs. After my eyes glazed over at the dollar signs, I really took a hard look at the Radio Poppers JrX Studio units.

Why I chose Radio Poppers?
I mostly shoot with Alien Bees, and these little guys pop right into the data jack and provide remote power control. Bonus! Even better, future accessories promise this functionality will work with speedlights too (think manual mode power adjustment though, but I'm OK with that!) Throw in that the price of a set of Radio Poppers JrX Studios are less then cost of a single Pocket Wizard, I was sold.

Performance so far is great. Build quality doesn't feel QUITE as finished as the more expensive PWs, but it also doesn't feel cheap and flimsy either. Other cheaper units I had worked with had lots of misfires, but I have not had a single failed flash fire.

On Location
On a recent shoot (below and above) I gave them a shot out in the wild. A friend is having a retro space themed birthday party (after all, it is close to Halloween) and asked if I could take a picture of them in their costumes for a cake. I'm not sure they were quite aware what they were getting themselves into. I think they were thinking of just a photo with a good camera, all in focus and reasonably lit. In the day I had to think about it, the idea engine kicked in. When they showed up, I loaded them up in my car and took them to a house in our neighborhood under construction and with a large hill still being excavated. After telling them my plan, they got dressed up in costume and we hauled my Alien Bees (appropriately named for a space theme shoot) and battery up the hill. We setup the scene on top and I went down to the bottom of the ledge and directed from below.

 

The Radio Poppers performed flawlessly and at one point while chimping, I noticed my exposure was too hot. Instinctively, I headed up the hill, and then thought about how to direct the model up on top to adjust the light dial and then I remembered... I had control of my light output on top of my camera now. Very convenient and easy! I was really pleased with how simple it was and wondered how I had dealt with something as trivial as walking over to the light to adjust the output. Then it really hit me, it was always because I shot in a small space and the lights were pretty accessible. However, had I not bought the poppers, I'd never have been able to make this shot, at least not without heavy contingency planning. My sync cable would not have reached the location I was shooting from.

Conclusion
I'm looking forward to trying them with speedlights now and doing portable setups. It's amazing how a little gadget can juice up your creativity! Radio Poppers are “out of this world”.

 

Strobist Info for the above shots.
Two Alien Bees, one for the "bank" and one for the models. Each had a 7in reflector. (in the diagram below, the bricks are for the "edge" of the bank they were standing on. I was below them and about 20ft away.
 

[family photo] Starting with the Sax

Working in Black and White more lately. I like it. I started with onOne Software Lightroom Presets and worked it from there.

Watermark is courtesy of LR/Mogrify plugin that I had struggled with getting installed on my system. Rob Sylvan of Lightroomers helped get me past the stumbling blocks though. It's so great to be able to export this direct from Lightroom to the blog without stopping in Photoshop!

[Travel Photography] DesertLypse

It’s been a while since I “lypsed” (is that really a word?). My last istock event was last summer in Toronto and I’m excited to be visiting some place new this time. My friend Ethan Myerson is putting on DesertLypse 4 in November and fortunately, I made it off the standby list.

This will be my first time to “the desert” region so it should be fun. I’ve been to Las Vegas on a previous trip, but I never made it off the strip. So it wasn’t much different then any city.

Time to get my thinking cap on and start visualizing what I’m capturing!