Thursday, October 28, 2010

Another Wedding

Part of the Portrait Studio Management curriculum at Randolph Community College is the Mock Wedding. For some students the Mock Wedding will be the first opportunity to put all of their training together into a single "real world" experience. The Mock Wedding allows students to photograph their "first wedding" in an environment where it won't cost them too dearly if they have problems.

Sort of a dress rehearsal for what you face in the real world.

Pentax K20D, DA SMC 18-55, ISO 800, f/5.6 @ 1/10 sec
It's your average small intimate wedding. One bride, one groom, one best man, one maid of honor ... 12 wedding photographers.

With a very few exceptions, all of the parts are taken by students. The wedding party is made up mostly of first year photography students, and the wedding is organized by second year students with massive amounts of assistance from a few former students.

One exception is the clergy.

We held this years Mock Wedding at the Church of the Good Shepard in Asheboro, NC and the minister gave a talk on wedding etiquette for photographers. The most important lesson I learned from her is to make sure the prospective bride & groom  provide a copy of the church's photography policies early in the negotiations for the contract.

This gives the couple the opportunity to avoid surprises, and allows the photographer to advise the couple whether the venue is going to permit the kind of photography they want.

Mostly the Mock Wedding is a chance to show that you know your equipment from the point of view of what can go wrong, what can you do when it does go wrong, and what backup equipment to have along. By this time in your career, you should know your equipment backwards and forwards. If you do, you'll sail through the Mock Wedding.

If you don't, the Mock Wedding will make your shortcomings abundantly clear.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Two Lane Photography?

I spent 15 years as a field service tech. The company I worked for promised our clients an on-site response to  their problems within 24 hours - 7 days a week; 50 States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. There were 58 of us to provide that level of service.

I covered a 625,000 square mile territory; the eastern two-thirds of the State of North Carolina, and provided backup for the technicians in Georgia, western North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.

Needless to say, I stayed on the road a lot. Averaged 1500 miles a week just getting there.

And a lot of "there" wasn't on the interstate. Nor could you use the national highway network to get from point A to point B. Not unless you wanted to add a whole lot more miles and a lot more hours on the road. So, I became very familiar with two lane county roads and state highways - the ones that could get me where my customer was located without adding another hundred miles to the trip.

I went in all kinds of weather, every season, year in and year out. And I began to see the light, the sometimes limitless vistas and the natural beauty of the landscape as I passed through it. I've had a camera of one sort or another since I was 8 years old, but along the way the journey I was making inspired me to move my photography up a notch. I started carrying a 35mm SLR camera along with me and stopped occasionally to photograph what moved me.

And still managed to make good time.

HDR image - Pentax K20D, Sigma EX30mmf/1.4DC ISO 800 @ f/8 +1.3 -0.3 -1.3

Sometimes, the quickest route took me down this road.

This is the Blue Ridge Parkway, somewhere between Roaring Gap in North Carolina and Fancy Gap in Virginia. If you want a location more specific than that, you'll have to go find it for yourself. It's right after sunset. I love this time of year. There's something special about autumn light in the Blue Ridge.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

First "Official" Wedding

I finally got the opportunity to shoot a wedding. This is what I've been going to school for, preparing myself to shoot weddings and portraiture as my source of retirement income.

Pentax K20D, SMC DA18-55, ISO 400, f/5.6 @ 1/50 sec - AF 540FGZ flash, PTTL at -1 stop
I was actually second shooter, so I gained experience without the pressure of having to be responsible for the whole thing I'd have had as the primary. Still, I wanted to do the best job I could, and I think I did well.

All things considered, it went remarkably well. I only had one fumble, when a set of spare batteries I'd brought proved to be defective. Fortunately, I was carrying four sets, and it only took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was wrong and get a functioning set installed.

I shot in RAW+JPEG and copied the jpegs off onto CDs for the couple before leaving the reception. Filled 3.5 CDs. I was worried that I wouldn't have enough. Next time I'll carry DVDs.

I'm pleased with how it turned out. I made fewer mistakes the first time out than I anticipated and the mistakes I did make were correctable on the spot, so I feel I was able to give the customer good value.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Washington, DC

We had fall break at school this past weekend, and I drove up to Northern Virginia to take the Washington Metro into DC. I have an assignment for class to create a 360 degree panorama and went to the National Mall for the opportunities it presents.

I've had some images in my head for a while and I thought while I was up there, I might try to do something about them.

Pentax K20D, SMC Pentax DA18-35 II, ISO 100, f/8, 119 sec.
Pentax K20D, SMC Pentax DA18-35 II, ISO 100, f/8, 30 sec.
Pentax K20D, Tokina ATX-Pro 80-200, ISO 100, f/8, 2 sec.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sunrise 10-10-10

I took a break this past weekend to spend some time with my first love, Nature Photography.

I scouted the location at Cades Cove in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park on Saturday so I'd know where I wanted to be when sunrise came on Sunday. I had a particular location on Sparks Lane that I wanted to photograph as the first rays of morning sun broke the rim of surrounding mountains.

Cades Cove is not open to vehicle traffic until after sunrise, but you can park in the main parking area before dawn.  I made it to the Cades Cove entrance gate at 6:00 am and walked to my chosen location to set up and await the sun.

I did not allow for the fact that due to the surrounding terrain, the sun would not actually break the horizon until some time after official sunrise. While I was waiting for the light, another park visitor drove his monster pickup truck up and parked right into the middle of my scene.

Plan B.

I had taken my 300mm lens along even though my aim was to make wide angle scenic views capturing the morning fog, directional light and emerging fall colors. As I was relocating to a new position, I noticed some vague movement out in one of the fields. I mounted the 300 and set my tripod down.

I managed to capture two frames. This crop is approximately 1/4 of the first frame.

Pentax K20D; Sigma 300mmf/2.8; ISO400; f/5.0 @ 1/30sec
I didn't get the shot I wanted, but I'm happy with the shot I got.

Besides, now I've got an excuse to go back.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Little Photoshop Magic

I am always on the lookout for ideas to aid me in improving the presentation of my photography. One of the problems I've encountered is an inability to truly represent the range of tones in some image. 

Case in point - This is the Colorado 145 just south of  Telluride, mid-October 2007. I took the San Juan Skyway Scenic Highway from Durango north to Silverton and then around back south headed for Cortez. It was a blustery, dark cloudy day, without much scenery because of the thick storm clouds .. until I hit this stretch of highway. The sun broke through and the aspens burst into glorious gold.

I've never been able to do justice to what I saw. Everything I ever tried with the image resulted in a dull lifeless image. I either couldn't get the brilliant gold foliage or I couldn't get the brooding cloud cover shrouding the mountains.

Until I found a tutorial on Luminosity Masking by Tony Kuyper.

Luminosity masks are a series of Photoshop actions Tony came up. Luminosity masks are self feathering and make the kind of selective adjustments I was looking for in this image possible. 

The image above has two masks applied to curves adjustments layers - one for the highlights, and one for the shadows following the instructions Tony gave for creating the Luminosity Masks. 

I won't go into details, you should see Tony's tutorials for yourself.

Window Light

Been away a while.

Caught one of those "sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, stuffy head with a fever ... " colds, as the ad jingle goes. Used the advertised product and it knocks me right out! So while the cold does its thing, I'm off visiting never-never land.

In the meantime, the world continues on its merry way and school assignments have their due dates.

Which brings me to the Window Light portrait. 

Window light can be a beautiful light that wraps around your subject. Look for a good northern window so as to soften the effects of direct sunlight. If your light is large enough and your room has light colored walls you might not even need to add a fill.

I made this portrait of my mother using the large north window in her living room.

Technical details, for those who are interested, Pentax K20D, ISO 400, Tokina ATX-Pro 287 at 70mm, f/6.3. Metering the window, I got 1/80 sec at f/5.6 + .5.

I did use a fill light, a Vivitar 285HD bounced off the ceiling on the other side of the room, triggered by a CyberSync. The strobe is set to YELLOW which automatically gives f/4, for about a 2:1 ratio.

And then I took mom out for breakfast and some nice Sunday morning conversation.