2.21.2014

But how do those color portraits look in black and white?


about like this.


Are you ever just fascinated with the same object over and over again?


I've probably walked past this construct a couple hundred times as I go downtown to the convention center for various events. I have no idea what its original purpose was but it has advertising for P.F. Chang's on one side...

It looks different all the time. I like the color and I like the angular arrowhead pointing up into the sky.  I tried to make it look different today. I like the swirl of the clouds. It would be fun to find out that it's got a ladder inside the main column and that you might be able to go up to the top and sit in a chair and watch the people come in and out of the neighboring bars and steakhouses during a warm, spring evening.

Today it was a willing subject for my nerdy camera test. It passed and my camera passed. 

Giving some more love to the Panasonic G6. But really, any camera would have worked...



I've been pounding out work lately and I spent my morning retouching portraits. Yep. Sitting in front of the computer ironing out a few wrinkles, taming some fly-away hair and liquifying a few double chins. All part and parcel of the portrait photography trade. But after I uploaded the images, in various file sizes, and I put away all the cameras in the tool boxes I really felt the need to get outside and recalibrate the old eyes for infinity and beyond!

I wasn't too intent on taking photographs so I wanted to travel light, camera-wise. I sorted through the stack and found the best weight to IQ ratio and committed to it. The Panasonic G6 is lightweight but packed with just about everything I want. Mostly that's just a decent sensor and a nice electronic viewfinder. The lens that was on the front when I pulled if from the stack was the Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 so I let the fates decide and left it on.

I stuck the camera in "A" mode and dialed in f5.6. with an ISO of 160. Worked for everything I wanted to shoot today. Bright sun to open shade. And I think the files out of the camera looked darling. Now, darling is not a term in common use at DXO but it refers to the well behaved and endearing nature of a lens and sensor combination. This one worked for me.

So, I make it a point never to tell people what to do with their lives but...wouldn't it be cool to leave the office a few hours early and walk down some of the streets in your town and just let your eyes soak up some infinity and some local color before heading home to the loved ones? Just a thought.


Austin, Texas. The fastest growing city in the USA. Four years in a row.


Here's why it's fun to be a photographer or a video producer in Austin, Texas: There are over 4,000 high technology companies currently located here. There are major offices here for Apple, Google, IBM, Dell (HQ), Silicon Labs, Intel, AMD and a zillion more. These business are currently expanding, growing, spinning off more companies and most importantly----spending money.

More metrics: 70 people per day are moving here. Over half the people who move here have four year college degrees. Of the adult population already here 38% have four year college degrees. It's a nice place to live but mostly talent attracts talent.

The building in the foreground (photo above) is another high rise, luxury condominium tower. Within a square mile radius there are already eight such buildings with four others under construction. And that's just in a small area of downtown.

It's fun to be a photographer here because people are highly creative and they are into collaboration. And everyone is busy starting a company.

The downside of all this success is that of the 70 people who move here everyday probably half of them are photographers---- (insert smiley face).  Every one of those 70 people has a car and wants to drive it instead of riding on a bus or light rail. That ten minute drive across town is now an hour. If the roads ice up be sure to take along a good book. With ice any drive is a four hour drive...

And we haven't talked about Summer yet. One apocryphal story: The reason why people keep moving around in Austin in the Summer is that we all live in fear that if we stand in one place for too long the soles of our shoes will melt into the asphalt on the roads or parking lots and we'll get stuck and burn up in the sun....

But right now I wouldn't trade it for any other big city in the country.

Life in the time of selfies.


A quick note to my professional friends: A blurry photo, taken with a shaky cellphone, featuring a shocked and grinning expression taken at table in your favorite dive may be just the thing for your anonymous feed at Tumblr but you may want to reconsider using said selfie for your "best foot forward" business portrait on your company's website or on your LinkedIn page.

You will spend more money on a real portrait but your avatar will serve as a better front man and you'll probably make the short, happy list of some clients who might have chucked you in the "freak" category when glancing quickly at your previous snap shot.

Funny to think that those little photos that go next to your comments on Twitter or the hundreds of other places on the web are quickly becoming your first impression to potential business clients and partners....

But that's okay. We can fix that.

Naomi. Samsung Galaxy NX camera.

2.20.2014

Some times I feel like I've spent large parts of my life making white backgrounds for advertising photographs.

X
The Lazy, Digital Age way to light a white background depends on post production.

Here's the correct way to light for a white background:



I go through white, seamless paper faster than you can believe. I think I'm in the roll a week club. Back in the heydays of film photography I was a master at lighting stuff against white. And I don't mean just the easy stuff like black audio components I mean white dresses with white pearls on a pale model on a white background. But man, it took time and careful lighting. And sometimes a little darkroom masking.

Today we did an easy one. It was emotive images of Jaston Williams (of the Greater Tuna and A Tuna Christmas fame) for an upcoming show at Zach Theatre. No white-on-white. Nothing tricky, just a white background the designers could easily drop out.

The image above shows the basic lighting for the background. I'm shooting a wide shot here from the final camera position but instead of a 24mm lens I used a much longer focal length for the actual shots.  It may be hard to see in this shot but there are 400 w/s lights on either side of the seamless paper. Each one is aimed at the opposite side of the paper to ensure and even wash of light and each one is gobo'd by a solid flag which you can see clamped to stands just inside the two background lights. The flags keep spill light off my portrait subject so I don't get unwanted highlights or weird shadows.

My main light is a 500 w/s mono-light   firing into a 24 by 36 inch soft box, up and to the left of the frame. You can see it up at the top. Not shown (because it is behind the camera position) is the 60 inch umbrella, used at low power, for just a hint of fill lighting. Very simple set up. But effective.

So, I'm sure that the theatre will choose different images and I'm sure they won't follow my desaturated, high sharpness post processing but I'm sure they'll find a number of images that will work well for them. Here are a few of the images that I really liked and spent a few minutes playing with:






It's fun to have a full plate. Shooting for clients every day makes me more and more relaxed because everything becomes so practiced and natural and there's a flow that moves shoots along. I've been pressing more and more flash back into service just to freeze motion and match daylight and, just like riding a bicycle, it only takes a few minutes to get back into the flash groove. But practice makes it almost transparent. Yesterday I shot with the Ranger RX pack. Today was all mono lights . 

I've also been vacillating between cameras. Some shoots I'm doing with 24 megapixel, full frame Sony cameras while on other shoots I'm choosing the G6 camera or the Sony RX 10. They all work so well. Especially with flash at ISO 125, 160 or 200. 

The thing I always forget when we have dry spells in the market or when I've been shooting with available light is just how much gear I like to have around when I do studio set-ups. I was pissed off today that I didn't pack the Westscott FastFlags because I wanted to totally control the background light and, in truth I would have like to have screen off the non-image forming light that was coming back into the camera from the background. 

But as it was I was packing seven light stands, a background stand set, a long roll of white seamless paper, five Elinchrom mono-lights, a bag full of umbrellas and soft boxes and enough heavy electrical cord to grab power from anywhere. The cameras? They were the least important of the load. I had my two cameras in my little moss green Tenba backpack. It was almost weightless. 

I love working with talent like Jaston. He is so expressive and so full of energy. He's also wonderfully fun to be around. I didn't even mind missing lunch...

Guess the camera? Just for fun?

Article supports VSL practice of lighting from the left with subject looking to their right. Read all about it.


Click this link to read the article where I found it, on F-Stoppers:
Visual Science Lab Portrait Lighting Style Gets Science.

Revisiting a classic lighting concept...




































2.19.2014

Revisiting the Panasonic G6. On stage (or near the edge of it...) at Zach Theatre.



Thing One from "The Cat In The Hat."

 I had all these great intentions to shoot this kid's play with the big ole Sony full frame cameras till I remembered how much better the Sony RX10 nailed the colors and the exposures last time I shot a dress rehearsal. I had almost made up my mind just to go with the RX10 and keep the big cameras in reserve when I literally tripped over the Panasonic G6 and 25mm Pana/Leica Summilux I'd left on the floor the day before. So I scooped it up and dropped it into the camera bag next to the Sony cams. 

When I got to the theatre I pulled out the RX10 and set up all the controls the way I like them.  I find that it's important to go through and make sure you set the stuff that's germane to the shoot at hand. The last time I used the camera was for video and I'd turned off stuff like IS and set the focus differently. Oh, yeah...and the ISO and the color balance....

I knew the theatre lighting in the smaller stage pretty well and I knew that the play would be a fast moving one so I set the ISO to 1600. That meant I could stop down to f4.5 (the absolute sharpest f-stop for the Zeiss zoom lens) and still get shutter speeds in the range of 1/200th for most of the well lit scenes.

Once I got my primary camera set  up I grabbed the little Panasonic and set it the same way. And in a daring break from my traditional theatre shooting practice I set both cameras to RAW. 

I knew I'd get good files from the Sony. At 100% there would be a pattern of monochromatic "digital grain" but at any size that the theatre might want to use the images the noise would be mostly invisible. I had previous experience shooting this camera at those settings and I knew we could pull it off. 

But I wasn't so sure about the Panasonic G6. Subconsciously I'm sure I'd bought into the anti-hype I'd read or stumbled across on the web. The take on that camera is that the sensor is one generation older and it is rumored, conjectured or believed to have less dynamic range and more noise than "modern" cameras. But I'm obstinate so I decided to look for myself. 

When I compared the raw files, head to head, in Lightroom (current version) I found that the "digital grain" more or less matched. The G6 was perfectly fine to shoot with. And while the color rendering was a little different between the two cameras I would be happy with either. 

I ran into one problem with both cameras. I ran into the buffer. I was shooting full raw files (there's no option for a c-raw or compressed raw...) and I found that after the first six or seven quickly shot files the cameras both slowed down. They process quickly so they recover quickly but it took me a while to get used to the cadence. When I shoot Jpegs I never seem to have an issue with either of the camera's slowing down. 

Both cameras were great at nailing the exposure and when I disagreed with the cameras I was forewarned by the miraculous technology of the EVF and I could easily tweak exposures with top mounted, direct, exposure compensation controls. The feedback loop, incorporating good EVFs made the shooting much more reliable than any set of cameras I have previously used, including the Sony a99. 

Above, I have included a hand-held (no image stabilization in the G6 with the Leica lens...) fast action shot from the play.  The aperture is nearly wide open. The shutter speed is nicely fast. The AF locked on like a badger.

The top shot is the full frame and the bottom shot is a 100% crop of the top shot. For ISO 1600 with moving objects in contaminated light I think the G6 is a rocking good camera. I'm currently waiting for those genii at Amazon.com to lower the price back down to the $495 at which I bought my first one so I can buy a back up. While I'm almost certain that a G7 is in the wings I'm happy enough with the performance of the current camera to not wait around betting on the future. 

The play was fun. The photography was fun. And just to shake things up, when I left the theatre and went to shoot my next job...a corporate job....I tossed the little cameras into the trunk of the car and used the Sony a850 for all my afternoon shots instead. All at ISO 160. All with fast primes. Oh my. My world is upside down...

But the cameras don't seem to mind. They seem not to be judgmental.

Portrait of a New York Photographer/Artist.


This fellow artist dropped by while I was model shooting in New York and I asked him to sit for a couple of minutes and have his portrait done. It's one of my favorite portraits from the week.

Amazing to me that he was able to shut out the hundreds of people swirling by and give me his full attention and collaboration.

Simple lighting. Simple camera work. Mutual cooperation.

today's schedule:

I'm off to shoot a children's play.  It's The Cat in The Hat. It's on the Kleberg Stage at Zach Theatre.  After the play I'll be heading over to a telecommunications company to make portraits of their CEO and some of the new company officers.

But as I was packing and double checking everything I had a thought just pop into my brain. I'd been reading about the slow food movement which is all about taking the time to do things right and the time to enjoy not only the consumption but also the process.

And I wondered if people might enjoy photography more if we slowed down a bit more and.....savored it. An example is the image above. It was shot back in October but I only really started mulling it over a few days ago. And I let it sink in before I did any (small amount) of post production and then posted it.

I think my interest in slow photography was initiated by three or four articles detailing how the sports photographers in Sochi at the Olympics are moving so fast to get literally millions of photos to the public in record time. And how soul robbing that must be to the photographers who must think of so many different parameters as they shoot. Lao Tzu said that when we concentrate on the future we bring anxiety into our lives. And when we concentrate on the past we bring depression into our lives. How can sports photographers savor the present moment when they must be overwhelmed with the process of getting the images off the cards and into the waiting eyes of web surfing sports fans everywhere?

Anyway, I haven't really thought it through yet but I'm going to let the idea of slow photography rattle around in my brain a bit and then figure out what I really want to say.

In the meantime I will be thankful that the work I shoot today isn't due until sometime tomorrow, at the earliest. And that after shooting the images I'll have time to chat and pack up at a leisurely pace. It's not glamorous like the Olympics but neither is my work a constant source of adrenaline poisoning... Something to ponder.

Slow Photography? Thoughts?

2.18.2014

Two of my favorite people came together to make a video, start a Kickstarter campaign and champion some great music.

I think many of you will remember Rosie (Selena's) face from some of my LED portraits a few years back. Here's what she looked like back in 2011:

Well, Rosie is now the ultra-talented leader of a country band called, Rosie and the Ramblers, and they are doing their first full-on, high quality, studio album. To pay the studio and the musicians Rosie and the Ramblers is doing a Kickstarter campaign. They are hoping to raise $8,000 in the next 30 days and the list of perks for donors is very wild and fun. Donate $1,000 to the cause and Rosie will (permanently) tattoo your initials on her arm. For a bit more you can have the whole band come to your house and play a concert. But for those who are not high rollers there are other cool things.

As with most up and coming musicians independently making their first album these guys are happy with any level of giving people can muster.

Here's their promotional video for the campaign. Pay close attention to the production values....



My friend, Chris Archer, produced the video for Rosie. I helped a little bit. I brought along the microphone for our shooting session with Rosie on camera and created the cut away video of Rosie from either side. That's all I did. Chris shot, edited, art directed and basically did everything else.

I think the video is great and I think the band is great. Rosie is smart, focused and talented. Invest a few bucks if you possible. Always good to help out young artists.

Here's the Kickstarter link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461033799/whatever-you-need-a-new-album-from-rosie-and-the-r