Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Note from Karen

We're off again for this coming week.  I'll see what you've all been up to when I return.  In the meantime, I've scheduled some fun posts to look at while I'm gone.  Have a great week!!!!

October Desktop Image


Here is my October desktop image for you to download, share and enjoy.  Just click HERE   then right click to set as your desktop image.   It should not be pixelated or blurry.  If you have problems, let me know and I'll help. For those of you who might not know, at the beginning of each month, (with one exception), I post an image sized to fit your monitor.  It is for your personal use, but feel free to share with friends.  Just don't use it for profit. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday

Part 1:  Encouragement for Beginners
Stephani asked me for a few 'words of wisdom' on how to become a better photographer.  As I was writing an email back to her I realized that I get lots of similar questions and I usually have the same first response. So I thought I'd write it here as well. For those of you who've been around awhile this will sound like a broken record (hmm, I guess that phrase is really outdated).... anyway, this is for you newbies who might benefit from my answer.

Hi Stephani,

Just a follow up to your comment on my Phun Phriday post asking for some ‘words of wisdom’.  I don’t think my words will be particularly wise, but more practical, and a bit boring.  For me, it all comes down to time, practice and persistence.  If you are willing to do these three things, I know you (and anyone) will certainly improve by leaps and bounds as a photographer.   Even those of us with limited natural abilities, can ‘learn’ to develop their creative side.   Probably 80% of everything I do, I learned from someone else.  That leaves only 20% for originality and creativity.  I got into photography later in life, after my kids were older, so I had a bit more time to devote.  So here’s what I did and still do.  I first got a decent camera, then read the manual.  I went to my local book store and bought several books further explaining how my particular camera works.  (If you have a popular camera, these books are readily available.)  I studied all the features of my camera, practiced until I understood all of what it could do in addition to just pointing and shooting.  Then I read every book the library had on photography, and purchased some new ones as I could afford them.  Now I have all sorts of books from learning general photography, to specialized ones on lighting, exposure, portraiture, how to shoot landscapes, etc.  Then the internet came along and I discovered if I spent some time, I could find almost limitless websites, blogs, etc. teaching just about every aspect of photography.  I find out about well known and new techniques, both for general photography and editing.  I find and follow the blogs of great photographers.  I study their photos, I read their tutorials, then I practice, practice, practice.   I am active in local camera clubs, and got on the mailing lists of camera shops and clubs that sponsor guest speakers and classes for little or no money.   Years ago I discovered Photoshop Elements and that changed my photography dramatically.  I realized that not only did I love to take photos, I loved the artistic side of seeing what I could create in post processing.   

I know there are those who are truly gifted, and can pick up a camera and within a short time create spectacular images.  That’s not most of us, and certainly not me.  For me there are no short cuts.... just time, practice and persistence!   Believe me, if you saw some of my early attempts at photography, you’d really have confidence that everyone can improve!!  Hope I’ve given you some encouragement.

Happy shooting,
Thanks for asking Stephani. I'm honored that you would find my opinion valuable; and, for everyone reading this, check out Stephani's great blog Picture Window.

Part 2:  Critical 'equipment' for photographing children


Here is an image from tonight's photo shoot.  This is my beautiful daughter and her beautiful handsome family!

  From this point of view you'd think taking this picture was easy ..... smiling, cooperative children holding still while grandma fiddles with the lighting, her camera settings, until she finally snaps the shot.  Well not true!  If you are thinking of specializing in family and children's portraiture, there is one essential piece of 'equipment' you MUST have.  And that is an assistant!  But beware, not just anyone who calls themselves an assistant will be able to get the job done.  It is essential that your assistant have multiple and unique skills and abilities.  This person must be in good shape because a lot of physical labor is required such as running up to the children to wave a stuffed animal, feather boa or other interesting item in their faces then racing out of the picture so the photographer can take the shot.  She must be proficient at blowing horns, ringing bells, and conducting a puppet show on the photographer's head.  She must be quick witted in order to make up silly games on the spot, think up and execute unusual noises and sounds that will entice children to look at the camera.  She must move quickly and have good upper body strength and stamina to chase, pick up and carry a 2 year old back to his spot at least 100 times in one hour.  She must be an entertainer, a comedian, and a disciplinarian.  And most important, she must be someone the kids adore!!!  And I have the perfect assistant that does all of the above, even when she's 5 months pregnant!!  This is my wonderful daughter-in-law Michelle.  I've decided if she ever moves too far away to be my assistant I will just have to stop taking pictures of children!  She is always willing to help me, and believe me it is work.  She is exhausted when we're through, but I honestly could not do this without her.  Thanks Michelle!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunset Romance

Sunset Romance

Don't they make a beautiful couple!  I guess it's alright to say that about my own son and daughter-in-law.  I think they could quit their day jobs and be models (but I wouldn't want them to!)  I love the way Emily's veil is lit by the sun, as is the outline of Dalin's suit.  With my camera on manual, I exposed for the sky pointing in the sky to the right of the bright sun.  Of course this put Dalin and Emily in silhouette.   (If I'd exposed for them, the sun would have been totally blown out.)  To light them, I put my flash off camera on a stand and attached it to a small, portable light box, triggered with two pocket wizards.  With one attached to my camera and one attached to the flash I then experimented with flash strength until I got what I liked.  In post processing I used a Lightroom preset to turn the artificial flash to the same warm color as the natural sunset color.  I love how this turned out. 

(Shortly after this shot, the sun went below the horizon and instantly we were attacked by 10 trillion mosquitoes and noseeums.  Read my comment in the last post.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Phriday Phun


Here's my photo story for Phun Phriday.  My son and his bride (last year's marriage), wanted to do something fun and edgy after the 'official' wedding photos.  We went out to the great Salt Lake and just had fun.....that is, until we were attacked!  (More on that in the next post).  Anyway, hope these photos put a smile on your face to start the weekend!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday

Photography - Reality, Artistic Creativity AND/OR a Combination of Both 

So, as photographers are we artists, story tellers, historians, journalists, painters, snap shooters, etc. etc.???  The answer is YES!  We can be whatever our personal style and interests dictate.  This post will show you my style of blending photography, story telling and creativity:

Battery Mendell
This facility was build in 1905 to keep enemy warships from entering the San Francisco Bay Harbor.  At the time it was armed with the biggest guns in America, 12 inch cannons.  They could be hidden, then rise up for a surprise attack. 

This day was dark, except the sky which was white with fog.  Here is one of many SOOTC shots I took at various exposures.  We walked around and up the stairs and saw where the cannons were positioned.  The bars on the windows of the jail area, the heavy metal doors with rivets, the graffiti, the stark concrete and remains of peeled paint all gave a very eerie and menacing feeling to me.  The textures and details on the walls were amazing.  I'm always looking for new textures to use as overlays on photos, so I took several photos just of textures.

As is often the case, when I looked at my photos on the computer, I didn't get my camera to record what I saw, and just as important to me, I couldn't capture the mood and feel of the scene.  Yes, the above image is dark and gloomy as was the case, but still uninspiring to me.  Here's what I did:

This is one of the texture shots I took.  First I changed it to B&W and increased the contrast a bit.  Then I added it as a layer to the above original photo, altered the opacity, and masked/erase parts on the building where I didn't want it.  To me, so much white sky was boring, so I wanted to mimic the textures of the building. Then I used Topaz Adjust (a Photoshop plugin) to accentuate the contrast and clarity.  Basically I moved the sliders until I was happy with the result.

Final Image

The gritty, grainy, rough textures, the stark coldness of the concrete, the menacing thought of enemies attacking our shores, and a prison to stop them.  This photo more clearly tells me this story when compared to the original photo.  


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Oakland Temple

Just Before Sunset
If anyone does not know why photographers call sunset the 'golden hour', this photo should explain.  The temple looks beautiful bathed in this warm light.  And, believe it or not, I did nothing to the color of the sky.  (But I do notice that when I downsized to post, it created a subtle 'blotchy' look.)

At Twilight
This is a multiple exposure image, (HDR).  By underexposing and overexposing several shots and combining them, you can create an image with a greater range from light to dark than with a single exposure.  HDR works best when you have a scene with extreme lights and darks, such as this one where there is a brightly lit building, and deep shadows in the shrubbery.  Although I could see these shades with my eye, my camera couldn't. 
On this shot, I did not change the colors, but I did make an adjustment in camera.  I did a 'Tech Talk Tuesday' on this quite a while ago and it works whether you are doing portraits or landscapes outside and are shooting at twilight.  Simply change your white balance to the 'florescent' preset (on a Canon it shows a picture of a rectangle light.)  This will make a pale blue/gray sky pop with color, and in this shot, it also made the dull gray foreground water turn dark blue.  Very dramatic.
To answer some questions, this is one of over 130 temples around the world owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (Mormons).  While we were visiting, we learned that many brides of all religions come here to have wedding photos taken in these lovely gardens.  At one time the church decided to turn off the lights at night to conserve energy and were approached by city officials saying they would help pay to keep them on.  Evidently the lights are so bright on the hill that the temple acts as a beacon and landmark for ships and planes.

Sunday, a Time to Worship

Oakland LDS Temple

While in the bay area for my son and daughter-in-law's wedding open house, we spent a couple days seeing the sights.  This beautiful temple sits on a hill and overlooks San Francisco.  Check back later tonight and I'll post my favorite night shots.  It is spectacular with night lights.  Oh, and have a wonderful day of worship and rest!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Phriday Phun

Phun With Sunflowers
First Light

Busy Bee

A Single Dew Drop

We're finally home and it was good to take a stroll in my garden this morning.  Our corn is done, we have a ton of ripe tomatoes and the sunflowers are in full bloom. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Phriday Phun

What Every Modern Homemaker Dreamed of Owning!

 Doesn't it make you wonder what future generations will think about our 'antiquated' technology???
(We've gone to San Francisco to attend an open house for Tyler & Emily's wedding, and to celebrate our anniversary.  Be back in a week.) 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tech Talk Tuesday

Discussion on Previous Post and the Comments
On the last post I presented the technical challenges I had to overcome to create a photo that realistically represented what I saw.  I wanted the foreground and the background and the moon to be in focus.  I wanted to show some of the detail I saw in the landscape.  I wanted to show how beautiful and bright and clear the moon was as well.  I started with a wide angle lens and was able to get the best focus on all elements, but it made the moon look really tiny.  A telephoto did the best job with the moon and that's the main subject, so I started at 1/8 sec., f/22 with a focal length of 200mm and focused on the moon.  Then I distanced myself far enough away so I was able to get the jet ski and mountains in one shot, and focused a third of the way into the scene (hyperfocal distance), and took some more shots.   Then I took more shots, varying the exposure, because I knew that the camera could never record the bright moon and the dark landscape.  I had some shots where the landscape was almost black in order to maintain detail in the moon, and other shots where I got detail in the landscape, but the moon was totally blown out.  And yes, as you've probably guessed, I used Photoshop with layers and masks to combine various parts of different exposures to come close to what I actually saw.   I like this image at a glance, but in reality it is not a really great shot technically.   I forgot to up my ISO and all the images are at 400.  There is a lot of noise and other strange aberrations, especially noticeable in the sky.  (Scott, the white balance was the same on all the shots and I did not alter it during editing.  Ginny, if you find the center of the sky, then look down about 1/4 to 1/2 inch you'll see what really looks like a dust spot.  It is blurred and barely visible, but that's the bat.  He shows up much clearer on the full resolution version.)      

Monday, September 6, 2010

Moon Over Lake Powell

Riding In the Moonlight

The big, full moon made for lovely nights, but it was so bright we didn't see the usual star show.  Beautiful moon, romantic evening rides....perfect for the newlyweds that were with us.  We have this nice houseboat with beds, air conditioning, all the comforts of home, and the newlyweds decided to 'sleep' in a tent on the shore....away from the houseboat.  Go figure!

This image is how the scene looked to my eyes.  A telephoto lens would have kept moon the right size and with some detail, but the foreground was not in focus and the immediate foreground was not in the picture.  A wide angle lens puts everything in the picture and in focus but makes the moon appear smaller than how I  saw it.  Also, I could see a lot more detail and color in the low light night than my camera is capable of recording.  How would you solve these problems to have an accurate representation of what I actually saw???

Oh, I forgot to mention the bats???  They come out at night and eat the insects, which I'm sure is why we are never bothered with mosquitoes at Lake Powell.  Can you see the bat in this photo?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Antelope Island

(the little dots are flies)


I was about 15-20 feet away from these guys, shooting with a 70-200mm lens, and these shots are not cropped.  Lest you think I'm totally foolhardy, I was in my car, on a road, engine on, car in gear, foot hovering over the gas pedal, ready for a quick get-a-way.  I shot out of the window using the window edge as a tripod.  I was shooting in the mid day bright sun which produced flat, boring lighting and color so I post processed in sepia and popped the clarity in Lightroom.  (Antelope Island is in the Great Salt Lake, and close to Scott and Chad's neck of the woods.  I made the drive hoping to see a hot air balloon festival but  all I saw was one deflating balloon that said ReMax.  It would have been a wasted morning, except for a few photos of some of the bison that live on the island.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Phriday Phun