Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Photoshop editing challenge to myself (cloning and spot healing brush in action)

Last week, on my long flight home from New York, after catching up on my email and other work, I had another couple of hours to kill before landing in San Francisco. I had this one photo of a man painting in Central Park, but really was not happy with the fence in the shot. I tried to walk to a different position to shoot this without the fence, but since he was right against it, that was not possible. With time to kill, I decided to try and edit out the fence, one link at a time!

This is the original image. I love the light on the face of the painter, and I like the framing with the two ladies talking in the background. But, as I mentioned, the fence really bugged me. So..time to go to work with the healing brush and clone tool in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

After a couple of hours, I was able to remove more than half of the fence and recreate some of the painter's stand that was covered by the green fence post.

I was zoomed way in on the image when removing each link of the fence. This was tedious work, with the amount of fence that was in the image.

After 4 hours of work, this is the completed image. If you did not see the original image (above), would you have been fooled?

Clearly, I could not afford to make this a habit. Sure... it was a fun challenge and it did test my Photoshop skills, but it also tested my patience. I can also tell you that this was easier to complete on my main editing machine at home. Not only did I have a faster Mac with a 30" Cinema Display, but I also had my Wacom Tablet and no turbulence to deal with. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Central Park in NYC - Photographing Bow Bridge (different from everyone else)

As many of you know, I was in NY last week, speaking at B&H Photo. But as always, as soon as I am done working, I go out and shoot some images for me (and the blog). I took a cab over to Central Park and walked for miles. Not for the first time, I came across Bow Bridge and decided to try and take some images of this iconic site from a different perspective. Like so many other popular sites, which are photographed so often, my goal is to come away with an image that is different from what most people will capture. And so...this is the lesson of the week. :)

I shot this image of Bow Bridge from a viewing platform next to the lake. Why did I shoot this one? Because most people are drawn to the spots that the park marks for you. They figure that, if there is an area built for photos, it must be the best vantage point. And I framed this shot to show the whole bridge, because that it what most people try to capture. But...

I captured this image from the same vantage point. The only difference is that I zoomed in on a portion of the bridge, and not the whole thing. I wanted to show more of the architectural detail, and also highlight the potted flowers against the highrises in the background.

And then, walking about 50 feet up the path, I found this view of the light post at the entrance to the bridge, which was framed by lots of lush foliage. You see just enough of the bridge to let the viewer know that it is Bow Bridge, without being obvious.

This shot does show a wider view of the bridge, but uses some of the trees and brush to give me a foreground, middle ground and background.

For something totally different, I got down low to the railing of the bridge and shot this image. I zoomed the lens to 300mm and used an aperture of f6.3 to create the desired depth of field.

Lastly, I walked across the bridge and down a pathway (towards Strawberry Fields) and came across this cluster of purple flowers. Again, wanting a strong foreground, I got down low with the camera to make sure that I had plenty of the flowers in my frame. Notice how the angle of the flowers, along the edge of the water, draws your eye up to the bridge. There you go. Some different views of Bow Bridge. And, of course, you can use this same lesson for shooting any well known landmark.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Two presentations at B&H Photo in New York City

On Tuesday, I had the honor of doing two presentations at the world's largest photo store, B&H Photo in Manhattan. The first presentation was called "Portrait Photography - With Minimal Equipment" where I showed many of my favorite portrait photos and talked about the best techniques for capturing them. As the titled stated, the goal was to show how to capture really nice portraits without tons of equipment. Most of the images that I showed were taken with my DSLR and one on-camera flash.

We had a great time during this 2 hour long class, and from the feedback that I have received, it sounds like people learned some new ideas and had some fun too. Everything went smoothly until the very end, after my presentation was over, when one of the participants attacked another to grab one of my give-away memory cards. What the heck?! Not cool!

And then after a 2 hour lunch break, I came back to do the second presentation, which was called "How To Make Money Photographing Events". Once again we filled the room and I shared my tips on how to be a successful event photographer.

I showed many of my favorite images taken at Bar / Bat Mitzvahs and weddings, and I even through in some from the 2010 Winter Olympics. I talked about photographic tips, but mainly focused on the business aspect of photography. Luckily, this time we did not have any assaults happening in the back of the room! I was really lucky to meet so many great people (minus one) and truly appreciate them coming out to see me.

After finishing my presentations and answering a lot of questions, it was time to go out and shoot some images in Central Park. Here is one of the images, with more to come in an upcoming blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bridget - Dramatic portraits in a pool

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor (and model for many years) was in her last days at home before heading back to college, and we decided to do one more shoot before she left. I have always wanted to shoot portraits in a pool, getting the lens really close to the water level. So, we decided to use their pool and meet just before sunset on the following day.

Well...we were running a little late and lost all of our direct sunlight, so we took some images in flat light. These would serve as a test for another shoot, a little earlier on the following evening.

It was nice having a chance to "pre-shoot" this. It helped us determine the best angles, and also allowed us to see what we needed to change for the following evening. Here is what we learned:

* The photos look more natural when her hair was wet (we started out with her hair still dry).
* We needed to pay more attention to the brushing of her hair and get it behind her ears.
* Even though I was in the water, I needed to keep my lens low to the water line for best results.
* Due to the reflectivity of the water, I needed to shot in burst mode to get varying results.
* Even though the images were nice, we needed directional (reflected) light to make it more interesting.

So, now that we had our checklist of modifications, we set out to improve on the images from day one.

You can immediately see the difference that the reflected sunlight makes to the images. Bridget's skin has a much warmer golden color and the colors are more pronounced.

Using the direct sunlight coming from behind Bridget, I had her move so that her hair was rim-lighted and then had her brother hold a reflector to bring some more light to the left side of her face.

As we were shooting, and the light was dropping quickly, I became more aware of the variance between the light and dark areas of the images. Working with a reflector, we added light to the left side of Bridget's face and I dialed down the exposure compensation of the camera to -0.3, to add an even more dramatic look to the images.

These last two images are my favorites. Bridget has amazing eyes, and I really wanted to capture that in my photos. The combination of dramatic lighting and her piercing eyes really makes for beautiful photos. I wish I could take full credit for these, but as is many times the case, it is the subject that makes the picture, even more than the photographer!

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Safari in California? Yep - It's Safari West in Santa Rosa, CA

Last weekend was another fun trip to Safari West, which is located near the Napa Valley in Northern California. This time, I was up there to teach photography to some of the photo buyers from Target. On Thursday evening, I spent an hour and a half teaching them how to take control of a DSLR camera, get it out of automatic mode, and get creative. Then, after spending a night in the African tents (and dealing with a whole lot of noisy birds who apparently don't believe in sleeping), we got up on Friday morning, hopped into a couple of their open air vehicles and headed off to explore the 400 acres.

I brought Canon DSLR cameras and various long lenses (between 200mm and 300mm) for the students to use, while I used my Canon 5D Mark II with a 100-400mm lens. The photo above was my example of shooting at a wide open aperture, keeping the face and eyes in perfect focus but having everything else go soft in the background.

The great thing about Safari West is that you can get up close and personal with so many different animals. These shots of the giraffes were taken when we drove right into the open area with them.

I swear...I get no respect...not even from the animals!

The rhinoceros are not the most active of animals, but they are pretty cool to look at. These two were at the lower area of the property, and then we drove up into the hills.

We came across a herd of cape buffalo who were lounging around, minding their own business. This guy was nice enough to look up at us to let us get a nice portrait.

I love the long curved horns on the Oryx. This image was an example of shooting in portrait mode (tall) vs. shooting all the images in landscape mode (wide).

I like this shot of an Eland who was walking behind one of the Zebras. The contrast between the Zebra's stripes and the Eland's brown hair, help make the photo more interesting.

This Gemsbok was hanging out underneath some tree cover when we came around the corner. He turned and looked right at us and I grabbed this shot.

After taking the two hour tour of the property, you can walk around the "base camp" area and see some really cool animals in there pens. They even have this beautiful Cheetah (obviously in a caged area). I was teaching the students how to shoot through a fence to try and make the foreground wires almost invisible.

These Ring-Tailed Lemurs were too cute. They were taking some time to clean each other when I stopped by for some photos.

Also on the property are some really interesting birds. And because you can walk around and get really close to them, this makes for an outstanding photo opportunity.

Not to be forgotten, there are numerous Tortoises cruising around the property. And they actually move faster than you might expect.
As we were finishing up our 3 hour tour of the property, we watched these two Giraffe as they bumped necks (a show of dominance). We all took a lot of images of these two animals and they performed this act for us.

If you are interested in visiting Safari West, you can check out their web site at: