Feb 21, 2013

Aim High

This is B., and she's a pilot, and a cheerful, yet determined person. She's also in the running for Miss Cache Valley, which draws the most talented women I know.

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens @ 160mm, f/8, 1/160s, ISO 100.

Feb 20, 2013

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish...

People kept asking, and Laura just kept answering, "Because we can!"

I've said it before: it's just plain fun when creatives get together. There'll be more of these to come, but here's something to tide all those involved over.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/10, 1/160s, ISO 100.

Feb 17, 2013

Definitely Dancer

I'm not a huge music lover, but I love music. I know what I like, and I listen to it. I don't explore new stuff, I don't listen to the radio. I like U2. I like John Denver. I like the Beatles, but I don't have their albums. I like BNL. I like They Might Be Giants. I like Natalie Merchant. I like Adele (and for the longest time she was the farthest thing from a white British gal in my mind).

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro Lens, f/3, 1/125s, ISO 200.
I was introduced to The Killers a few years ago, and I think they are the best in a long time. I like this song, Human.

This is K., again, and she's definitely a Dancer. Even when she's standing still, she's performing. She's thoughtful and wants to know what to do. She gets frustrated when my students don't tell her what to do, don't give her direction. I guess she doesn't realize that she's doing it already.

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.7 VR II lens @98mm, f/4, 1/160s, ISO 800, Nik Color Efex Pro4.
Setup for these was simple and fun. Let's start with the second one first. It's just a 40x40" continuous light softbox on the right. Black paper background. The light is sitting a little higher than K. pointed slightly downward. I think we had the white reflector on the right side, too. She's spinning and moving so I turned up the ISO to allow me to have a faster shutter speed to freeze her motion a little. This isn't the most perfect or graceful image I made of K. that night, but I think's the most fun; she's laughing and real and imperfect. It's perfect. Made this one at the Mansion during our beginning digital photography class.

The first image above is made during our portrait class. We're in a stairwell at USU's library. There's a small speedlight behind K. set at almost it's lowest setting, and that's for two reasons. First, when you put a colored gel on a light and you want lots of color, you use a low setting, otherwise the color is washed out. The second reason is that light coming from behind aimed toward the camera is more efficient than a light aimed at someone's face and bouncing back toward the camera. From behind it's skimming into the lens, from the front it's a full 180 degree turn to get back. Think about it, and you'll get it.

The light on the front of her face is a speedlight set into a small 24" softbox and set at it's lowest setting, and positioned about 9 inches from her face. Being close to her makes it very soft and also makes it disappear quickly so that it doesn't affect the background and barely even lights her shirt. I like this one. It's a very Noir image to me.

Thanks, K.

Camp Peak, ID

I like it. I'd live there and make pictures everyday. It's the kind of region where everywhere you go there's an interesting bit of light falling across a hill side. Seems like every time I drive by, whatever season, it's in the afternoon and I always want to stop and make a picture. You gotta drive Idaho State Road 34 to Jackson Hole some afternoon.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was driving by with Scot Weaver and we did stop and make a picture. Think they'd support me as an artist in residence? There's that magazine, Arizona Highways; I reckon we need one for images made up here. Click on the image to view it full screen.

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @28mm, f/8, 1/320-1/20s 5 frame HDR, ISO 100, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 and Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.
What struck me about this picture was the light in the foreground coming from a different direction than the light in the background. In the front you can see the the light is from camera right, whereas the clouds and mountain in the back have the sun shining on them from camera left. The light in front is actually the sun reflecting off an enormous cloud on the right and shining on the ground in front of me. It's big and soft and it was really wonderful to see. The scene was gentle and serene. 

You may need to see the print to appreciate the light changes.

That's why I chose to use an HDR process. I made 5 pictures at different shutter speeds to ensure that I recorded the full range of light in the scene. That means that everything from the brightest part of the clouds to the dark side of the out buildings has detail visible. I think that's cool, and it let's me capture the gentle gradients of light in the scene. I really think Nik software's HDR Efex Pro 2 is the top tool to do this with.

There's an excellent new book on these techniques by my friends and mentors, Scott Bourne and Rich Harrington, and I'd recommend studying from it so that you're able to maximize your wonderful digital camera. Click here to get it on iTunes.

Here's the color version, too...

Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @28mm, f/8, 1/320-1/20s 5 frame HDR, ISO 100, Nik HDR Efex Pro 2.
Last note. The day before we took this trip to Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park...I sold my tripod. Bad move! How was I supposed to steady my camera? Pictures like this one are not possible to make super sharp on my D800 (36 mega pixels) without a tripod. Fortunately, I have a Joby GorillaPod. I've owned for a couple of years and never used it. Well, I really put it through its paces this trip. The picture below of the nightscape was also made using it. I was impressed that it was able to hold steady my heavy camera and even my 14-24mm f/2.8 lens steady--that's 4 1/4 pounds of camera! Not too shabby. I did have a small Manfrotto ball head, not the one made by Joby, so I can't speak to it's quality, but the legs were surprisingly good. Both pictures were made with the Gorillapod wrapped on a fence post...and me up to my thighs in a snow drift.

Feb 14, 2013


Things--life--seem to move in cycles and patterns and rotations. I feel like I'm coming around again and it's a nice way to wrap things up. I'm moving to Portland, Oregon later this month, if you hadn't heard, and everyone is saying goodbye to me. JM is one who has come cyclicly through my photography and this blog. She's been a real friend, always supporting me, and a joy to have in front of the camera, too. 

She and her brother came to classes in 2010 for the first time, and everyone had a great time making pictures with her and N. This is one I didn't share back then. The doorway in the background is my first Studio over on Church Street!

Nikon D90, 85mm f/1.8 D lens, f/6.3, 1/80s, ISO 800.
Looking at that picture now, I realize that I was still frequently shooting jpegs only. Now I shoot everything in RAW, and occasionally RAW with an additional jpeg file (for black and whites, as described in the post below). 

This shoot above was really an auspicious day, too. While we were walking the streets outside the Studio I met my pal Sam, made this picture, and started a friendship thats going strong to this day.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @140mm, f/2.8, 1/100s, ISO 400.
What's more, Sam obliged the next session of my classes by coming and modeling for us--and this while rehearsing and playing violin in the orchestra for the Utah Festival Opera everyday. As I recall, he had to boogie from the studio and run across the block to rehearsals as soon as class was over. He's a true friend to spend energy helping us create when he still has creating of his own to do.

Nikon D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens @ 98mm, f/3.5, 1/80s, ISO 320.
While I was making the above image of Sam, Erin Holmstead was also in the room shooting as one of my students. Another day we were making pictures of flowers in the Studio and I was so inspired by her image that I turned around and made my most favoritest rose picture.

Nikon D700, 85mm f/1.8 D lens, f/5.6, 1/100s, ISO 400.

Nikon D700, 55mm micro lens, f/5.6, 1/80s, ISO 800.
Well, about a year later, Erin started working for me as my intern at the new studion in the Thatcher-Young Mansion. She tried to help me get organized...but I was too much for even her skills, I'm afraid. She was a huge help getting things done, though, and we had a lot of fun times making pictures for people and trying out some wacky stuff occasionally. Eventually, she even let me make pictures for her new family!

Nikon D7000, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 50mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 200.
Well, right about the time Erin started working with me, another student asked me to help him one-on-one. J. needed some specific help just for himself at his own pace. So we headed up to USU to walk the walks and see what there was to see. Foolishly, I didn't shoot a single image of J. that day. However, while we were hassling people outside the campus library, cajoling them to be in our pictures, JM walked up and said hello! I hadn't seen her in quite sometime, and I was glad to talk with her a minute.

Naturally, I invited JM to be in a picture or two. She demurred, however, claiming that she wasn't really made up, and didn't think she was ready to be in a picture that day. I said she looked great, but I also respect someone who takes a picture seriously, so I said goodbye and got back to coaching J. on the use of a diffuser in bright sunlight.

You can imagine my surprise a few minutes later when JM tapped on my shoulder and said, "I decided I could be in a picture." She was so genuine and disarming, I couldn't help smiling as I invited her into our location studio on the planter by the sidewalk. I'm so glad that she stopped because it made for one of my all time favorite images.

Nikon D7000, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 92mm, F/5.3, !/3200s, ISO 800.
I love to see the maturity in JM's eyes here, compared with the image made one year prior at the top.

In speaking of all time favorite images, although I didn't make a picture of J. that day, I did have the privilege of photographing he and his wife a little later on. I hope I can become half the husband and friend that J. is.

Nikon D3, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens @ 105mm, f/11, 1/200s, ISO 200.
Oh, and one more all time favorite includes my man Sam. He was back in town again this last summer for the Opera and was, once again, good enough to indulge me in some creative activities. Fortunately, his stay overlapped the Cache Valley Cruise In, so we headed to the fairgrounds in search of the perfect automobile to match up with Sam. As we walked he talked about wanting a '69 mustang. We happened to find one.

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII lens @ 145 mm, f/2.8, 1/400s, ISO 400, Nik Color Efex 4, Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

After convincing the owner of the Mustang to let us use his car for awhile, and after a few more days' break, I got Sam back into the Studio for some more portraits. If you're like me, you can help smiling when you see Sam laugh. That's the kind of treasure this black box I work with keeps for me, and lets me share. In fact, I can share it and share it and never run out.
Nikon D800, 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 250mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 100.
Which brings us to today. I was texting with Erin and Facebook messaging with Sam, when J. surprised me by showing up right before my class to help setup for our club meeting this evening; and who surprised him but JM, who came to model. So, nearly three years and five cameras later, JM is with my class again, sharing herself and helping us learn to create, helping us to consider the importance of pictures. 

What was it Norman Maclean wrote?

"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."

As I sail through life, I find it all goes 'round, and friends come again, and the shutter records it.

Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II lens @90mm, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 800.

Feb 13, 2013

One Light, One Lens, Two High Schools

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/5.6, 1/160s, ISO 800, red filter in monochrome mode in the camera
Ah, high school. Remember how great it was? How free you were? How your only worries were about friends and home work that wasn't really that hard? How you went to an after school job to earn spending money instead of mortgage money? How you got to go to art classes and have a good time? Those were the good ol' days, eh?

Well, I went back yesterday. Twice. I spent the morning with Photography students at Fast Forward Charter High School were we set up a simple studio and made some simple portraits (still hoping to see their pictures of me on Facebook!). We did the same thing at Logan High in the afternoon. I talked about light and working with people and not sitting back in your chair so your legs don't look fat. Then--finally--I shut up and made pictures.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/4, 1/25s, ISO 400, red filter in monochrome mode in the camera
And I have to admit, this post is not normal for me: I haven't finished any of the images, they are straight form the camera. I normally adjust the exposure and do some touchups and add a vignette and maybe use the Nik software tools to really make them pop. But I wanted the students to see here that the photo as I shot it wasn't bad, and that I'm not using photoshop to completely change the picture. Most of the students have shot film and may be inclined to think that photoshop is a little bit of cheating: but I heartily disagree. I use photoshop (Actually, I use Lightroom4) to finish the image off, just as I would in the darkroom, brightening here and darkening there, and increasing contrast, and cropping. It's not rocket science, but it does finish my image to look the way I envisioned when I pressed the shutter button. That's the way photography has been for nearly 200 years!

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 400, red filter in monochrome mode in the camera
Besides that, digital camera all have significant photoshopping skills built right in. This black and white setting I use isn't one of them, however.

When we shoot black and white film, a red filter (red glass) placed in front of the lens makes pictures more contrasty and has an especially nice effect on skin tones. See, it evens the tones and makes blotchy skin more clear, and makes pimples virtually disappear. Now my digital camera does the same effect without the glass--it interprets the light coming into the camera as if there was a filter on the lens. This is great! Just go the monochrome settings in the Menu on your camera (not the shortcut to button on the outside of the camera) and go in and choose to use a red filter (ROYG are usually the options--red, orange, yellow, green). I love it, and I think you'll enjoy better black and whites from it, too.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/4, 1/100s, ISO 400, red filter in monochrome mode in the camera
Also, the students at LHS will remember that the above picture of J. (long haired male) was made when he was sitting farther from the light--that's why the background is more visible. When the students sat closer to the light the difference between the amount of light on the face and on the background was too much for the camera to distinguish and so the background is completely black. The the model farther away from the light, the difference in the light on the face and the background is similar and so the background is visible. Note also that image was shot at 1/25 of a sec--much slower, and much too slow for me to handhold, so I'm using the tripod. 

Also, these pictures are simply made. There's just one light to the side (at Fastforward we put four lights right next to each other to make a single source, and at LHS we shone two lights through a white sheet to make a single source), one lens, and the subject is turned so there is light on both sides of the face. We're lighting the short view of the face, remember?

In the end, I think everyone had a good time.

Feb 9, 2013


Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/3.2, 1/400s, ISO 800.
K. is a joy to work with. She came to a Lightroom class a few times with her mom and then left for her dance class part way through. She was always smiling and had a light in her eyes. Not like other people's light, though, not like when a mom says she has a light in her eyes. Nope, K. has some like a two million candle power halogen shining out of her skull--it's like a blinding kind of light that is infectious, and she seems to make others more cheerful just being nearby.

Well, now she's come to model for our photography class a couple of times and it's really fun having her. Sure, she's got that great smile, but she can also put it away and appear somber beyond her years.

Nikon D800, 105mm f/2.8 VR Micro lens, f/3, 1/125s, ISO 800, Nik Color Efex 4, CS6.
The first image above was made in the Mansion using a 40x40 softbox on a set of fluorescent light bulbs; there's also a large white fill card on the right sode of the picture. I just kept sidling closer until she was laughing at me. That happens a lot--people laughing at me. I had my camera set to Monochrome with a red filter applied in camera to give me those luminous skin tones, and I added some contrast, and my favorite gentle tint with a little vignette to finish the image off. I keep smiling just looking at it.

The second is even more fun. The whole class is crammed into a stairwell at the Library at Utah State University (that's what I call my tax dollars at work!). There's a single florescent tube position vertically in the corner, and she is sitting on a window sill facing into that light. That's it, no fancy tools, and no fancy lights. Anyone with a camera can make this picture. I used a contrast filter, glamor glow, and darken/lighten center in Nik's wonderful COlor efex 4 to finish off the finishing I started in Lightroom 4. Plus a bit of an oil paint filter on the scarf from CS6. I rather like it. Can't wait to have both K. and C. back next week.

Feb 1, 2013

Nighttime in Hoback

We're up here near Jackson Hole celebrating Scot's birthday. We're staying at this great bed and breakfast, and freezing our you-know-whats off while we make pictures outside. This one has the north star as the hub of the universe, and I think it's kinda cool. There sure are a lot of stars up there.

Nikon D800, 14-24mm f/2.8 lens @ 14mm, f/4, 1406s (more than 23 minutes), ISO 100.