Thursday, February 22, 2024

We are not just photographers, we are historians

I am writing this blog at 4am, since I am not able to sleep. Yesterday I spent the first half of the day at a funeral. Not for someone who was elderly and had lived a good long life, but for an 18 year old who's life ended way too soon. I have photographed for this family for more than 10 years and it has really hit me hard. This is now the third kid that I have photographed who has past away, and all three of those happened in the most tragic ways. 

I am not writing this to depress all of you, I am writing this because, as I processed images for the funeral it reaffirmed how important these photos are. For the last 15 years I have told people that I don't just think of myself as a photographer, I see myself as a historian. This was just reinforced this week. 

When I heard about the passing of this brilliant young man, I waited a couple of days and then reached out to the family to see if I could help in any way. I know that these photos are important to the family and that it is my way to help. Being a photographer who has every image I have ever captured (on multiple QNAP NAS drives), I offered to go back and find the best photos from past events. Over the last 11 years I have photographed four bar/bat mitzvah, family portraits, a baby naming and more for them. 

Since I have the Canon Pro-4100 large format printer, I offered to print poster sized images for the service. I heard back from the family that they would love to have these. Then came the hard part. I poured through thousands of photos taken as far back as 2013, and it was really sad. I saw this smiling boy, full of energy, who is now no longer with us. 

I tell people that I have the best job in the world because 99% of the time I am capturing happy occasions, athletes competing at the Olympics, and taking people to exotic places around the world. But over the last couple of days I saw my job as a photographer in a less glamorous light.

This time I saw the fragility of life, but also saw the immense power of the photos. As sad as it is, it is also a way for us to remember this young man. Yes, I was hired by the family, but is still my gift to them. When I photograph events (no matter what they are), I pour my heart and soul into that. It is not just a job, it is a chance to create memories, to be creative, and to record history.

People often ask me why I always shoot my images to two memory cards at a time. The first time I was asked this, I responded by saying that in the most important moments, I want to make sure I have those photos. I was thinking of the Olympics when I said that. But then I thought "but just about everything I photograph is important to someone." When I capture a personal event, those images are very important to that family. Arguably more important to them than any Olympics I have ever taken. Even when I am messing around and taking photos of my granddaughter playing in the back yard, those are incredibly important to me.

I am not going to post images of the any of these kids, since I want to honor the privacy of those families, but I do want to share this photo with you.

This is a photo of my mother. It was taken 14 years ago, and it was the one of the last photos I captured of her before she unexpectedly passed away. It was way back then that I realized the importance of a photo, and the responsibility of a photographer. And it is for that reason that I take every photo job so seriously (but in a fun way). What we do is important! As photographers, we need to remember this every time we pick up our cameras.

At the service yesterday they said that the young man loved math and physics and he loved to talk about rainbows and why they occur. They ended the service by saying, whenever you see a rainbow, think of him.

Not more than an hour after the service, I was out for a walk and saw this. It is a simple iPhone shot, but the meaning is far greater than the overall quality of the photo. I definitely thought of him.


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• Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!

• You can now purchase Jeff Cable Photography images from my new fine art site at: https://fineart.jeffcable.com/

• If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

• Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Retouching photos - Taking them from good to great!

I recently had a client ask my why I needed to retouch their images. She said "why didn't you shoot them correctly in the first place?" I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by this question. But as much as I felt defensive, I also was very prepared to answer this question. My answer to her was quite simple, and went something like this:

* The goal of the photographer is to get a really nice photo that is 90% complete. But almost every photo needs some sort of retouching. Whether it is removing fly-away hairs, exit signs, those rogue microphones in the corner of the frame, or some other distraction. 

* As good as the cameras are, the exposure is still not perfect. I typically find that slight adjustments to the shadows and highlights make the images much stronger.

* I usually shoot in Auto White Balance, which is usually quite good. But...it is not perfect and I like to make adjustments to the white balance for accuracy and consistency across all the images.

* When people look at photos, most of the time their eye is drawn to the area with the sharpest focus and also to the brightest areas. With this in mind I will try to remove bright spots in the background of an image to make sure that the viewer is not distracted by that area. 

* There are countless other ways to retouch images, and depending on the particular photo, I will do whatever it takes to make it as strong as possible,

The end result is this...retouching helps to take a good photo to a great photo.

I have retouched just about every photo I have ever taken. It may be something really minor, like a crop or a minor tweak to the exposure or it could be a major project. I don't usually do major work to a photo where I spend more than 15 minutes on any image. That is not my style. And it does not matter if it is a portrait, a wildlife photo, or a landscape. 

Even my Olympic images need some tweaking. For the Olympics, we are only allowed to change small things like exposure, white balance, and cropping. Not much else since the IOC does not want us changing history.

Let me show you some before and after photos to help you understand my retouching.

Cropping


Cropping in on a photo is a great way to highlight the subject. In the first image you see the Toucan flying off of a tree, but the bird is small in the frame and the tree branches are more distracting than helpful to the image. For this reason, I cropped in to show a little of the tree but draw your attention to the Toucan. (I also brightened the image a bit to show more detail in the feathers of the bird.) I was shooting with the Canon R5 camera, so I had plenty of resolution for the crop. The final image still has 7MB of data and can be printed large and look great.

Exposure


Here is another photo from the last photo tour to Costa Rica. I saw this Summer Tanager perched on a nearby tree branch and I loved the contrast of the red bird against the green leaves. The original image was taken at -0.7 exposure comp (just because my camera was preset that way from the day before and this was a quick grab early the next morning), so it needed to be brightened. I increased the exposure to to correct the lighting.

Shadows / Highlights


It may be hard to believe, but the image on the right is the same image (just retouched) as the one on the left. As many of you know, the camera is not able to capture images with a vast amount of light differences. Your exposure will either be overexposed in one area and/or underexposed in other areas. To correct this, I increased the exposure on the foreground (trees and Half dome) and then darkened the sky in the background. And what a difference this makes!

Saturation


I can not tell you how many times I have captured a sunset and thought "the color in the image is not as vibrant as what I saw in reality." I really hate seeing images that over heavily oversaturated, but with that said, there are many times when a slight amount of saturation is needed to For this image, I reduced the brightness of the sun and then added saturation to show you what it really looked light the night in Tanzania.

Fly-away hairs and skin imperfections


When you look at these two images, you may not see a huge amount of difference. Well..at least not from this small preview. But trust me, there are some things that I wanted to clean up. Let's take a closer look.


Whenever I take portraits, I assume that there will be some imperfections to clean up in post production. In this case, there was a slight shine on the older sister's skin, and some major fly-away hairs on the younger sister. 


I cleaned those up in Adobe Photoshop. I really love using my Wacom Intuos tablet to paint out these distractions with natural brush strokes using the stylus, versus trying to do this with a mouse. When retouching people, I generally remove acne and fly-away hairs, but I do not remove moles and other natural parts of who the people are (unless otherwise requested). I also lightened their eyes, just a tiny bit to bring them out. You probably did not notice that, and that is a good thing. Good retouching should not be very noticeable. I always say that retouching is a lot like seasoning in food, a little bit can really enhance a meal, but too much can ruin it!


I took this photo in City Hall in San Francisco. If you read the blog regularly, you saw this blog post a couple of months ago. Getting a clean shot of the rotunda is almost impossible since there are so many people in the building. I waited to try and get as few people as possible, but I knew that a perfectly clean shot was not likely. I took this photo knowing that I would have to remove the people on the right and the man in the blue shirt in the doorway. 


Sometimes I am overly picky about retouching my photos. In this photo of a Howler Monkey in Costa Rica, I loved the pose and the catch light in the eyes, but found that some of the branches were distracting. I cropped in to hide the one branch at the top of the frame that was more in focus than the others, and also removed the one lower branch at the bottom. These are minor tweaks, but I think that it helps the overall photo.

Some people say that a good photo should not need any retouching, but I truly believe that retouching helps to take a good photo to a great photo (or at very least a better one). I would love to hear your thoughts on all this.


__________________________________________________________

• Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!

• You can now purchase Jeff Cable Photography images from my new fine art site at: https://fineart.jeffcable.com/

• If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

• Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

 _________________________________________________________________   


Monday, January 29, 2024

An honor to be featured on NBC news!

To celebrate the 6 month countdown to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, NBC has started their marketing machine to get everyone excited about the upcoming Games. As part of that campaign, NBC sent a reporter down my way about 3 weeks ago and interviewed me for a couple of hours to create a profile on me for the 6pm news. 



That piece ran on Friday evening as me and my friends watched at home. I was not nervous during the interview process, but I was a little nervous about how they would edit the video and what they would say. As it turns out, I think they did a nice job with the segment. Phew!

I thought I would share this with all of you. You can click the image below or just click here to see the segment.



Luckily they showed more of my images, than my ugly face! 😀

__________________________________________________________

• Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!

• You can now purchase Jeff Cable Photography images from my new fine art site at: https://fineart.jeffcable.com/

• If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

• Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

 _________________________________________________________________   




Friday, January 26, 2024

2024 Summer Olympics in Paris: The planning, the challenges, and the future.


Today is the 6 month countdown to the Opening Ceremony of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. For those of you who have followed my journey through the last seven Olympic Games here in the blog, I am excited to share yet another experience with you all. And this one should be amazing!

As always, my goal is to share the behind-the-scenes of the Games as well as my daily photos and the stories behind the images.

We are now six months from the start of the Olympics, but the planning process has been going on for almost two years now. Let me tell you a little bit about that process and some of the challenges I have faced already.

Credentials


The credentialing process is where it all starts, and the applications started in the middle of 2022. Each National Organizing Committee (NOC) gets a small number of credentials for the Olympics. As you can see from the chart above, there are numerous media credentials which can be applied for. As a photographer, I always apply for the EP level credential, which gives me access to all the venues. As it turns out, credentials for the Paris Olympics are in even higher demand than a normal Olympics. I am guessing that this is due to the fact that this is the first Olympics since 2018 where we will not be locked down with Covid restraints, but mostly because the Games are located in the amazing city of Paris. 

In February of 2023, I got the email approving my EP credential. That always puts a smile on my face.



Housing 

Once I received word from the USOPC that I was getting my EP credential, the next step was to wait for the Paris Organizing Committee (POCOG) to contact me about housing. The weird thing was...I never got any email messages from them. Around the middle of last year, I reached out to them to see when the housing process would start. I was SHOCKED to hear that the process had started and ended already! Knowing that press housing (which is subsidized) was going to be in high demand, I started to panic. I reached out to the housing group and let them know that I was never informed of the housing options. After a month of stressing, they got back to me and said that they would let me know if anything opened up. I waited...and I waited...and then decided to work on a plan B. I researched the venue maps (above) and started reaching out to AirBnB places and other online options. I found some good places but they were all at least an hour away from the key venues. An hour commute here at home might be doable, but not at the Olympics when every minute counts.

About the same time that I was researching for other places to stay, the housing committee got back to me with some options. I had heard from my contacts at the USOPC that the housing options were not good. When I looked at the hotel options they gave me (in a reasonable price range), the hotels were really bad. Some of them had reviews that said "don't go out after 10pm as it is too dangerous", "most of the rooms have air conditioning that is broken" and one review showed the hotel with garbage piled up in the hallway. Yikes!

I knew that beggars can't be choosers, but I wrote back to them and asked if they had any other options. I ended up selecting a place that is within the price range, looks OK, and I am just going to hope that it is livable for 3 weeks. Heck, it has to be bigger than my hotel room in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics!

Flights

Once the housing crisis was solved, I knew that is was imperative to get flights booked as early as possible. I usually fly United Airlines, so I called them and got flights for the exact dates and times that I wanted. That was easier than I expected it to be.


Credential Processing

It had been nearly a year since my EP credential was approved and last month I received the final application forms and I had to submit my photo. Here is the headshot that I submitted. I know that I don't look happy, but just like with passport photos, we are not allowed to smile.


The Schedule

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has already posted the daily competition schedule, for all the sports that will be happening over the 3 week time span. I will use this, as well as a more detailed schedule (when that becomes available) to plan my days. I will be contractually shooting for USA Water Polo (men and women), so those games will take a priority over the rest.

Opening Ceremony

For the first time ever in Olympic History, the Opening Ceremony will not be held in an arena. Instead, each team will be floating down the Seine River on a barge. I have heard that there will be more than 160 boats floating along the route. I am VERY excited about this since it gives me a chance to capture the ceremony with a totally different look.


This is an artist's rendering of what it might look like. 


From what I have heard, they are going to give away free access to the public along this floating parade route. This is very exciting, but also means that the crowds in and out of the area are going to be massive.  The big question for me is...will I be able to get a photo position with the Eiffel Tower in the background (which is what I really want)? 

Contract

You would think that I would have a signed contract with the team well before going through this whole process, but that is not the case. Since I have worked with the team for so many years, and I have their word that we are working together once again, the contract process usually comes towards the end for me. We just signed the contract about a week ago. I should mention that I make this really easy for the team since I do not do this for the money. I do this for the love of doing it!

Equipment

For those of you photography enthusiasts, I know what you want to ask me right now. You want to know what camera equipment I will be using in Paris. I can tell you this: I will be using Canon cameras and lenses. Which ones? I am not sure yet. But stay tuned and I will tell you more when I can. How is that for a tease?

Moving forward

We are officially 181 days until the Games begin, and I promise to keep you all up to date as the final plans come together. And of course, I will be blogging daily from Paris, showing what I photographed and sharing the crazy stories as they unfold. To get my blog posts sent directly to your email, click HERE to subscribe now. 


__________________________________________________________

• Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!

• You can now purchase Jeff Cable Photography images from my new fine art site at: https://fineart.jeffcable.com/

• If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

• Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

 _________________________________________________________________   

Thursday, January 18, 2024

The first San Francisco photo tour: A great success!

As many of you know, I have been teaching photography all over the world for many years now, but I have done very few photo tours within the United States. After repeated requests I decided to start a photo tour of my home town, San Francisco, late last year. October tends to be the best weather in the city, so I picked that time for my tour. 

Having never lead a tour in San Francisco, I did have reservations about where I should take people and how to handle some of the logistics. Obviously, I know the city inside and out, but I wanted to make sure that we could fit in all the best locations for photos and make sure that we captured everything that the city has to offer, all within 3 days. I also wanted a nice place to stay, to provide good transportation, have a driver so that we could easily get out anywhere we wanted (without worrying about parking), and I wanted a security person to watch us and the vehicle while we out taking photos.

After a lot of planning, all the pieces came together and the first San Francisco photo tour went off amazingly well. I had a small group for this first outing, which was ideal for the trial run. And now I want to show you some of the images that we captured on the trip.


I had made a list of all my desired locations, and I separated them out based on weather conditions. Since we had overcast weather on the first day, I decided that our first stop would be the cable cars. I knew the best location to get photos of them coming and going in numerous directions, allowing us to photograph them from different angles and with different backgrounds. I showed everyone how you could get a nice shot of the cable car looking down California Street, with the Bay Bridge in the background.


I figured that the darker skies would be perfect for getting photos while motion panning these iconic cars. I suggested camera settings and everyone had a great time trying to capture photos like this, showing the cable cars in motion.


I even suggested that they try showing motion by rolling the zoom of their lens as the cable cars came up the hill towards us. I had never tried this myself and it was really fun for me to try something new too!


Here are some of our group hanging out with Eli, our security guy.


Our next stop was Chinatown. I knew that the city had recently replaced some of the hanging lanterns with newer and brighter ones, so we headed for that spot to get photos of this iconic area.


There are lots of murals on the walls in Chinatown, so I used those as backgrounds to take portraits of each of my guests. I should mention that, for this trip I used the following gear:



We stopped at one of my favorite Chinese bakeries for some food and then walked to the famous fortune cookie factory. Both for photos of them making the cookies, but also so I could buy some of these tasty treats for everyone. 


We drove down Lombard Street (also known as the crookedest street in the world), and then headed to a spot on the opposite hillside to take photos with our long lenses.  Here is a photo taken while zoomed way in...


...and here is a photo taken from the same location but zoomed back out. I like both of them and how they tell a different story from the same place.


As I mentioned, on the first day, we had dark clouds and rainy conditions, but that can also make for great photos. We used those cloudy skies for a dramatic background behind the Golden Gate Bridge.


I showed everyone how you could zoom in with our long lenses and get this photo showing the extreme curve of the bridge.


While they were taking photos of the bridge, I was having fun taking pictures of them.




Very near to that same location is my favorite staircase in San Francisco, so we stopped by there for portraits.


The next stop was Golden Gate Park to capture some of the beautiful flowers.


Once again, this gave me an opportunity to teach. This time explaining the benefits of selective focus and clean backgrounds. 


Right before leaving, I saw this squirrel climbing one of the plants. I quickly locked in focus and got this funny shot.

I really wanted to do night shots, but the weather was not cooperating. So we had a nice dinner and packed it in for the night.


On the second day, we woke up to clearer skies and no rain. I knew that the remaining clouds in the sky would be beneficial for a long exposure shot, so we headed for the Palace of Fine Arts. We set up our tripods and had some fun experimenting with different shutter speeds. For this shot, I was using a Tiffen 10 stop ND filter and had the camera set for a 13 second exposure. This long exposure neutralizes the water to accentuate the reflection and shows great movement in the clouds.


We made our second visit to the Golden Gate Bridge, this time from a different vantage point.


Since we had rain the day before, there were puddles on the ground. I saw that this could give us good reflections, and so I showed everyone how you could get down low on the pier to get a reflection of the bridge. I always strive to get something different from what the average person with a camera would take. I really like this photo.


Our next stop was to the Painted Ladies, which are probably the best known victorian houses in the world. We took the standard photos of these houses and then I pushed everyone to try motion panning. We waited for different cars to drive by and followed them with our lenses at the exact same speed. I saw this SFPD car drive by and thought that it showed a classic San Francisco scene. This was taken at a shutter speed of 1/15th of a second.


Looking at the previous photo in the eye-piece of the camera, I noticed that I wanted to show more motion blur. For this shot I slowed the shutter speed all the way down to 1/8 second. It is not easy to get a photo like this (where the background is in motion but the car is in perfect focus), but it is a lot of fun to teach and see people push themselves to get one. 


After lunch we walked though the Haight Ashbury district of the city and photographed the classic "Hippie" environment. These people made me laugh, but also provided a teaching opportunity. Specifically, how to interact with people and get permission to take their photo quickly and in a fun way.


At that point, the weather was clearing nicely and so we went to one of my favorite vantage points over San Francisco. 


Speaking of favorite spots. As I planned the tour, I knew that this was a night photo I wanted everyone to get. There is no way to park in this spot, but we had our van and driver, so we could have him drop us off if needed. We drove out to this spot and it started raining. I was really disappointed. We waited to see if it would clear up, but it was not looking good. At the very lat minute, I jumped out of the vehicle to see if there was any chance of a shot, and the rain stopped! I ran back to the vehicle and told everyone to get their gear and capture this moment before it passed. We had great visibility, interesting clouds, and the deep blue skies! We were all shocked that we got this beautiful shot on a night which showed almost zero promise of a photo. 


The next morning I decided to call and audible and added a last minute addition to the tour. I took everyone to the coastline to get some photos at one of my favorite beaches. 


Everyone loved this added stop.


On our third day we had very clear skies, so we went across the Golden Gate Bridge to get photos from the other side of the bay.  From this location, the light on the bridge was not good for a photo, but I saw this view of the city through these sailboats and encouraged everyone to take a photo like this, showing a different perspective of San Francisco.

I wanted to wait for better afternoon light on the bridge, so we stopped for a nice Italian lunch in the quaint town of Sausalito. The food was great and it was a nice break for the everyone.


When we got to the Marin Headlands to photograph the bridge, the sun was now behind us and and in the perfect spot for photos like this.


You can see from this photo, that the sun was in a spot where photos to the left were ideal, but in this direction, the light was not good. Well...good enough to get a photo of them shooting...


Having the late afternoon sunshine on our side of the bridge made for perfect photography conditions. We started towards the top of the mountain...


...and then had our driver take us down to each vantage point, getting a lower shooting position each time. I encouraged everyone to shoot images wide and also zoomed in.


I really like using the suspension cables as leading lines in photos, and I showed everyone that we did not have to have the entire bridge (or even the towers) in every photo. I also reminded them to make sure that the key buildings (Pyramid and Salesforce Tower) were visible through the cables. 

On our last evening, it was clear enough to get night shots from Twin Peaks. We had made numerous visits to this vista point, and I really wanted people to get a night shot looking down Market Street. It was a really great ending to three days capturing images in my home town. 

For those of you interested, come join me this year (also in October) for the second photo tour of San Francisco. You can find information on this on my photo tour page.

__________________________________________________________

• Subscribe to the Jeff Cable Photography Blog by clicking HERE!

• You can now purchase Jeff Cable Photography images from my new fine art site at: https://fineart.jeffcable.com/

• If you are interested in purchasing ANY equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. It does not change the cost to you in any way, but it helps me keep this blog up and running.

• Check out my upcoming photo tours to amazing places around the world. I have photo tours to Africa Costa Rica and more. And Canon will loan you any gear you want for FREE for any of my tours.

 _________________________________________________________________