Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

WHERE'S JEFF.....and the answer is

Jeff number 4. Most of you got it right. Amber, you and Will have been away from Utah too long. Sherrie, you got it right, but for the wrong reason. Almost everyone at the car show had a mopar hat on because it was a mopar carshow!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Phriday Phun.........

....well at least it was fun for the under 35 part of our group when we were in Las Vegas, (and it was Saturday, not Friday). Being at the top of the Stratosphere gave me heart palpitations without going on all the rides that dangle over the side. Here is a collage with a red arrow showing where the rides are for those of you not familiar with Las Vegas.....and yes, you can have fun in LV without gambling!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tech Talk Tuesday

We are still discussing composition, and today I'll talk about framing. There are some simple 'tried and true' techniques for making your photos more interesting and dynamic and one of them is framing. I've talked a bit about determining what your subject is, then making sure that subject stands out over other elements in the picture. One way to do this is to create a frame out of other objects or elements that will naturally lead the eye toward the main subject. Framing the subject also adds detail that makes the photo more interesting. Remember, however, that the framing needs to support the subject and not detract from what you want the viewer to concentrate on. Study the following examples:

Notice how the bride is framed within the arch of the gazebo. (Also notice how the lighting naturally highlights her face, the most important part of a portrait picture.)

Lindsey is definitely the focal point of this photo. She stands in a frame within a frame. The dark outside frame naturally leads your eye to the beautiful bride in the center who is lighter and brighter than the frames that surround her.

Here is a beautiful Belize sunrise. I think this photo would have been boring if I'd stood at water's edge and just shot the sky. Standing behind the palms and letting their silhouettes frame the sunrise adds depth and interest to this photo. (Yes, I did have to look up the spelling of the word silhouette!)

Once again, the part of this photo I want people to focus on, (the spires and Angel Moroni), are framed by the tree branches.

I took shots of this cactus from many angles and this is the one that was the most interesting. The bloom is the main attraction, and it is perfectly framed by the backdrop of a cactus leaf(?) in soft focus. Even the highlighted needles are pointing toward the bloom.

This was taken on location of a movie set in Santa Fe during our photography workshop. Other photographers were taking photos of her posing by the bar or sitting on a stool. I saw the reflection in the oval above the bar and thought that would be a great frame to highlight her face so I asked her to pose this way. When you look at this photo try to imagine her facing the other direction. Would this picture be as interesting? Would the most important part of this portrait, (her face), stand out as nicely against the shelf with the bottles? Now go back and look at all the photos and imagine the main subject, but without any of the frames. Do you think they would be as interesting?

Assignment: Next time you pull out your camera to take pictures of something or someone you already have in mind, take a few seconds to look around for an angle that will frame your subject with other objects. (P.S. I don't know if I'm giving tooo much info (boring), or if it's tooo basic (more boring). Is any of this stuff helpful?)

Monday, March 23, 2009


I was going to post this on Phun Phriday, but I had to do something fun today. We just got back from the annual car show in Las Vegas where the weather was so beautiful and of course we came home to snow!! Anyway, I always tease Jeff that I never see so many gray haired old men all in the same place as I do at these car shows. If I'm looking for him, I always have to really look close because I see him all over the place. So here's my version of "Where's Waldo." See if you can pick out Jeff. I know for those of you who don't see him often this will be nearly impossible but I'm expecting guesses from his siblings and children to see if they know the back of their dad/
head. (Actually, forget the boys, they were all with him and know what he was wearing. I'll post some more photos of this annual Larsen family pilgramage later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tech Talk Tuesday

So, we are still talking about Composition, and I've given some brief and general comments on Simplicity and Perspective/View. Then last week was Part 1 on Lighting and I talked about taking pictures of landscapes. This week, Part 2, I'll talk about taking pictures of people, or portraits. (Remember I'm just giving you a nibble in each area I talk about, so if you really want to learn more than my simple comments here, you'll need to do a lot of reading and shooting.)

Here is the most important point to remember when taking photos of people and I'm talking about taking 'head shots' or close ups. The eyes must be the most important feature to highlight on the face. You must make sure your camera's focus point covers the eyes because they must be in sharp focus. Everything else may or may not be sharp or soft focus, but the eyes are the focal point of a portrait and they must be in focus and lit well. Another thing to remember about lighting portraits, is that for the most part, side lighting is more flattering that front lighting. Of course there are exceptions, but remember I'm simplifying to the extreme here.

First I'll talk about taking pictures of people outdoors and then indoors, and I'll illustrate with some pictures I took of my lovely and cooperative model Michelle. I did these in about 10 minutes this morning:

Isn't this lovely - colors bleached out, big dark shadows under her chin and around her eyes. Notice her eyebrow shades her eye so you can't even see it. Obviously this was taken outdoors in bright sun. I told Michelle to face the sun and smile. I didn't give her any coaching and this is what I got. I took about 10 shots and she could not open her eyes. Yet this is what most people do when taking pictures outdoors. The tell their subject to move into and face the sun thinking this will light up their face the best. The thing to remember about this picture is that the absolute worse time of day to take portraits outdoors, (just like landscape pictures), is high noon on a sunny day. The second worse thing is to have the person face the sun.

Next I had Michelle face away from the sun. If I would have taken the photo without a flash, her face would have been very dark because the camera would have exposed for the bright background. Even if I focused on her face, it still would have been too dark. On this shot I turned on my flash (you can tell by the round catch lights in her eyes.) Some compact point and shoot cameras may not allow the flash to go off in a brightly lit scene, but I think on most cameras you have a control that will allow the flash to function. On the more expensive cameras you can also determine how much flash you use. If you are able to have this much control, you should turn your flash down so you have just enough to fill in the shadows and brighten the face (fill flash). Another advantage of shooting into the sun is that it creates beautiful highlights in the hair.

A safer option where your chances are best at getting a decent shot outdoors in bright sun, is to find a place that is in the shade, with subject and background in similar light, and then still use fill flash to make the face 'pop'. If you have a choice, the very best type of day to do outdoor people photography is on a light to moderately overcast day. Look at the ground where an object is creating a shadow. If it is a dark, hard shadow, it is a sunny day and bad light. If it is a dark, overcast day and there are no shadows, your photos will come out dull and flat. If it is an overcast day and there are soft, light shadows, the sky is acting like a big soft box (used in a photography studio), and you'll get beautiful portraits with soft shadows wrapping around the face giving form and definition.

Side note for those who want a bit more information: So far I've recommended using a flash outdoors for better photos when you must shoot in the middle of a sunny day. Now I'm going to contradict that a bit. Using a flash (if it is on the camera), is the last choice for me, whether outdoors or indoors. Straight on flash creates harsh, flat lighting, not soft light coming from the side that would add soft shadows and a more realistic 3-D effect. If you are lucky enough to shoot with a dedicated flash, one that you put on the hot shoe of your camera, there are a variety of little gizmos you can stick on the flash that will diffuse the light, and this helps a bit. The other option that works better is to use no flash, but instead use a reflector. This is flat piece of anything that is usually white or silver or gold. You can use a piece of poster board, or buy a nice reflector at a photo shop. You will need a second person who stands at an angle away from your subject and reflects the sun off the reflector and onto the subject's face. This creates beautiful, warm light and shadows, depending on where the person is standing. (I warned you this was probably more info than you wanted.)

Now let's move indoors. Let me say that most all indoor lighting is bad. Incandescent lights (bulbs) make your subject's skin look like they've eaten too many carrots, (orange), and fluorescent lights make him/her either look like he/she just walked out of a freezer (blue), or is heading to to bathroom to throw up (green). Usually it is dark enough indoors that you need a flash anyway, which will also help neutralize these color casts. Flash indoors has the problems I mentioned earlier- flat, unattractive lighting. (Actually as I look at this photo, this is not bad, but I do have a very nice flash and that makes a big difference.) Another problem with indoor flash is that it casts a shadow on whatever is behind the person, usually a wall. Often this distracts from the portrait. (If you were in a studio, the photographer would have numerous lights to eliminate this.) The best solution if you do not have a dedicated flash, is to make sure your subject stands far away from walls and other objects that are behind them.

If you are lucky enough to have a nice flash attachment, you can twist the flash head toward a nearby wall or the ceiling and "bounce" the flash back at your subject. This eliminates the shadows on the wall, and creates a softer portrait.

The best light of all is natural light, preferably from a north facing window. No flash, just beautiful soft shadows that mold her face and make her eyes pop. How bright the day is will determine how close to the window you would place your subject. First I had Michelle about 4 or 5 feet from the window. I took a few shots and checked the exposure and the light side of her face was too bright or blown out. I then had her move about 6-8 feet away, and this is what I got. I think for setting this up in about 10 seconds, it is a lovely portrait. (It certainly helps that I have a very beautiful and photogenic model!)

Just to end, I did a little (very little) Photoshop work. I cropped in so you focus on her face and eyes. I removed a few tiny blemishes and sharpened her eyes and softened her skin. Wow, this could be a glam shot!

To conclude, notice that in all the photos where I've pointed the flash directly at Michelle at close range, the color seems unnatural and the lighting is harsh. (If I were going to use any of these, I would work them over in Photoshop.) Also remember that sophisticated flash attachments will produce a better quality by far than a point and shoot camera's pop up flash. (And of course, professional studio lighting creates beautiful portraits, which I'm assuming none of us have!) The indoor shot where I've bounced the flash looks better, but in my opinion, the natural light, without any flash is the best by far. What do you think?

(Just a quick note on the portrait of the green tie man. He was in shade, but the building in the background was in sun and brighter than he was, so I used a small amount of fill flash to brighten his face so he was not overpowered by the background.)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Are You Wearing GREEN???

Happy St. Pat's Day!!!! Kay Lynn and I were at our photography workshop in Santa Fe over St. Pat's Day a few years ago. (At least I think so since this guy was dressed up like this.) Every day we had an assignment. This day the assignment was something like "shoot strangers at 20 feet". Each of us had to wander the streets of Santa Fe, engage strangers in conversation with the goal of making them comfortable enough so they would agree to have their picture taken by a stranger at close range. I had no idea how intimidating this would be until I had to do it. No cheating and sneaking a candid without the person knowing. This man was on his way to work, and I complimented him on his handsome tie. (I'll talk a bit more about this portrait tomorrow on Tech Talk Tuesday.)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Flowers for Mom

My mom was a gardener. She loved her garden, she loved flowers and had beautiful flowers of all varieties blooming year round. Sometimes she picked them to arrange on our table for dinner, but not often because she loved to see them growing naturally outside 'where they belonged'. She gardened the summer before she passed away at age 96. That spring I was down for a visit and suggested we go for a ride. She had never seen where my brother Paul worked, which is in Antelope Valley, over the mountains and in the high desert of California. Spring in this area is very fickle. Many years spring brings green hills with a few wildflowers here and there, and then every so often the spring weather conditions are just right and there is an explosion of vibrant colors everywhere you look as far as the eye can see. It is glorious. It is intoxicating. It is heaven. That spring was one of those years. This was the last real outing my mom and I had before she passed away and Heavenly Father put on a show for her that was as memorable as she was. My mom and I had a wonderful day , just the two of us, that I will never forget. She passed away about 8 months later. Scroll down to see a picture I took of her at that time.

My mom was as kind and sweet as this picture portrays her to be. She never got grouchy as she got older and would always thank everyone who helped her. I miss her a lot. I like to think my mom and dad are having fun with their great grandson right now!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Spring in Chesterfield Missouri

If we were living in Missouri right now, I bet I could look out my kitchen window and see beautiful white and pink dogwood flowers peeking out from behind the bare brown trees in the woods behind our house. Oh how I miss that beautiful spring show. (This photo, however, was taken several years ago in late spring behind the Lion House where there used to be one lone dogwood tree. I don't know if it's still there.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tech Talk Tuesday

We were discussing COMPOSITION, (having an interesting subject or subjects, and having a visually pleasing arrangement and presentation of the subjects in the frame).

In previous posts I gave a few basics about:
1. Simplicity
2. Perspective or View

Today I'll give you a few ideas about Lighting. Some would say that lighting isn't really part of composition, but I think it is. It's how your subject is presented, so I'm talking about lighting here. I'll start with an incredibly profound statement from Joel (see previous posts). "Good light is good, and bad light is bad." He says that a good photographer spends years honing his skills to see 'good light'. Lighting is often the least understood by beginning photogs but will make or break a picture. Often we see photos that are uninteresting yet we can't quite put our finger on why. Many times it is because the lighting is flat and boring. A good example of this is in my previous posts of the St. George Temple and that will be my example for this week as well.

I'll split lighting up into two categories and talk about taking pictures of landscapes today and pictures of people next week.

This is simple and can be summed up in two words...DAWN & DUSK!!! Now I understand that most of us aren't thinking about taking photos at dawn or dusk, but if you really want to capture a beautiful landscape scene (vista with mountains, lake, trees, ocean, etc.), this is when you must shoot. In fact, I think I'm safe in saying that probably 99.9 percent of landscape photographers do not like to shoot at any other time of day except the brief time before and at dawn and the time just before sunset, at sunset, and for a brief time after the sun goes down. (Exception to this rule is, photographers also like bad weather, rain, fog, sun and rain together, etc. And, the absolute worst weather for landscape photography is a bright sunny day at high noon!) Anyway, Dawn & Dusk produce 'magic light' that will transform your ordinary photos into memorable ones. This is a dilemma because most of us are more interested in taking pictures in the middle of the day. Well, if you are on vacation, you often have no choice and so you have to shoot when you are there; but, if you really, really want that once in a lifetime beautiful photo of the Golden Gate bridge as a remembrance of your trip to San Francisco, you'll need to get up when it's dark, (which usually means leaving your spouse sleeping peacefully and snugly in bed), and venture out to your predetermined shooting location and be ready to shoot away just as the dawn begins to break. The other alternative is to schedule your activities so you are on location and ready to shoot just before sunset. This also means that you have scouted out your subject beforehand and determined whether a sunrise or sunset shoot would work best for your composition.

If you must shoot during the middle of the day, try not to take pictures of large expanses of boring sky (unless it has big, puffy clouds or a rainbow in it)! If you are taking close ups of flowers, etc., then find subjects that are in bright shade and not in direct sunshine. Try not to shoot at noontime when the sun is directly overhead.

Additional info you probably don't need: If you own an SLR camera, and you like to shoot landscapes, water, foilage, flowers, just about anything outdoors, you absolutely, positively MUST purchase a circular polarizer filter for whatever lens you are using. After that purchase you then need to buy a few split level neutral density filters. (For anyone wanting more info on these filters, what they do, and why you must have them, leave a comment or e-mail me.)

Assignment: Find a landscape scene and take a picture at noon on a bright, sunny day. Then take another picture of the same scene either at Dawn or Dusk. Then compare the two. Notice the difference in color. Early morning pictures usually have a blue or magenta cast, while early evening pictures usually have a warm orange cast. Also notice where the shadows fall at different times of day. At noon, there are few shadows, so everything looks flat. At Dawn and Dusk when the sun is very low to the horizon, soft shadows wrap about the objects in your picture giving depth, and a 3D effect, which is more realistic and true to life. (Go back and look at the pictures of the St. George temple again, and see the difference in the details of the temple itself in the different lighting situations.)

Phriday Phun ANSWERS

O.K. here are the mystery items:

1. Coated wire wisk
2. Piano keys
3. Cheerios box
4. Banana slice

Friday, March 6, 2009

Phriday Phun.........

It's Friday....relax a bit from all the hard work you have accomplished during the workweek. Take a little break from your worries, problems, sorrows, concerns. This weekend, do something you enjoy that will renew your spirit, 'sharpen the saw', etc., even if it's only for a brief while. Just for a few minutes, be carefree, be silly, be a bit more childlike. Here's a start. Guess what the following photos are? Let me know if I've made this too easy or too hard. (They are all very common items.)

Mystery Photo #1

Mystery Photo #2

Mystery Photo #3

Mystery Photo #4

Thursday, March 5, 2009

P.S. to Previous Post

O.K., here's my critique of the previous photos all titled, "Twin Rocks":

View #1
This is a pleasing composition and utilizes the frame well. Like Tiera says, it tells a story because there is a Beginning, (foreground- tree), Middleground (middle-rocks), and End (background-sky/clouds). The rocks stand out as the focus and the other elements contribute. I also like the diagonals (diagonals are most always pleasing in a picture). Do you see the diagonal in the clouds that mimic the landscape horizon, then the sun shadow diagonal in the opposite direction adds balance.

View #2
This is the most unique perspective. The twin rocks are still the center of attention and the tree limb frames the subject nicely. If this view had a different title, this would probably be my favorite, because I tend to like photos that grab my attention because they are different. But if the title is "Twin Rocks", then other views are better.

View #3
This is the cluttered picture. (Good job picking this one out Amber.) There is too much going on, and not one element stands out as the subject. The tree limb blocks the view of the twin rocks, there's a scrubby bush in the center of frame, the rock on the right is larger than the twin rocks and there are two distracting parts of green bushes on both sides. This is definitely a 'hit the delete button' image for me.

View #4
This view is o.k. but not too dynamic. Shows various elements in relation with the twin rocks. The twin rocks are shown well, but the rock on the right is larger and competes for attention. This photo is O.K. but it would end up in the trash bin for me.

View #5
I like the diagonal composition, and the sky is interesting, but again, the large rock on the left competes for attention if the title of the photo is "Twin Rocks".

View #6
A pleasing composition element is called 'leading lines' meaning that there is a a line of something that directs the eye to the main subject. Here I tried to use the little ravine going from the bottom of the frame up to the top where the rocks are as a leading line; however, the line is boring and the bottom half of the frame is boring, and the angle of the camera gives the rock in front as much importance as the twin rocks, and makes them all look small compared to the rest of the composition. Into the trash bin it goes!

View #7
This view shows the twin rocks in context with it's surroundings and emphasizes their size, shape and why they were important enough to be noticed and named. Surrounding rocks don't detract, sky is pretty. This photo also has a Beginning/Foreground, middle/Middleground, and End/Background. And, the twin rocks are placed in a pleasing location in the frame, (not dead center-I'll talk about this later).

SUMMARY: My first choice would be View #7, if the title is "Twin Rocks" and my goal was to help the viewer see and remember what the twin rocks were like. If I could name the photo something else, then View #1 and View #2 would be neck and neck for my favorite. All the others would hit the trash bin. Remember, however, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and photography like all artistic endeavors is subjective and personal! Have a good day, and get those cameras out!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tech Talk Tuesday

Wow, another week has gone by very quickly. Today will be a follow-up on last week's discussion on SIMPLICITY and PERSPECTIVE. To sum up......

Simplicity - Remember to decide what your main focus is and the reason for the photo, then zero in on your subject, and eliminate all other distractions. As a side note, this does not mean that there should not be other items in the picture, it means that all other items in the picture should support or enhance the main focus and not detract.

Perspective or view - Taking shots from different perspectives or views can help you make a more interesting and dynamic photo, and let the viewer see more clearly why you took the picture. Different views of the same subject can help you find the shot that has the most appeal, shows more emphasis, tells a story better, better defines your subject, etc. When possible, take many shots of your subject from different angles, from different focal points (zoom in, zoom out). Look for views that most people would miss. Then as you look through all of the possibilities, one or two will jump out at you as the 'best' for what you were trying to capture.

TODAY'S ASSIGNMENT: Last weekend Jeff and I took a quick overnight trip to Lake Powell, (don't ask), and came home the long way through Capitol Reef National Park. I took a bunch of pictures of a landmark called 'Twin Rocks'. Remember that the title of the photo is 'Twin Rocks'. Study the following photos, and decide which one is the most interesting and makes the twin rocks look most appealing to you. Now before you get stressed out over this, there is no right answer. All the photos acceptably show the twin rocks from different perspectives or views, so it is a matter of taste. There is one exception. I threw in one that for me, is not good at all. It breaks my rule of simplicity, and items in the frame detract from the subject. See if you can spot this one. Then decide which perspective of Twin Rocks do you like the best and why? If you're brave enough, let me know.

View #1

View #2

View #3

View #4

View #5

View #6

View #7