Deep in Thought

So the thing all photographers fear happened to me.  My hard drive crashed and I was racked with fear.  Luckily, I had recently implemented a backup solution (within a month ago) so the timing couldn’t have been better.  I saved all my RAWs, all my family photos, and the general edited versions of photos that I kept as a kind of screensaver (the ones I really liked).  Unfortunately, the many photos I had queued up to put on the blog when I found time to write, were all gone.  So, I’ve had to start over on that.

Instead of just picking the same photos I did before, I started to look through again, some of the photos that I wanted to experience and really decide what was worthwhile to post.  As it is now, my blog has been about learning.  Posting something that may or may not be my best work, but to get feedback and to share my learning experiences so others may be able to learn from them.  I’m in the process of deciding if I want to continue doing that, or if I want to just put up what I think are my “best shots”.

I love that people comment on my blog, but currently, most of my feedback is affirmation, “Love the bird, great shot, and keep it up” type comments, which I appreciate and they help me keep the desire to continue the blog.  However, my purpose was for people to see what I had done and suggest ways to improve, compositional changes, technical camera changes and editing changes.  While I got a bit of that in the beginning, I even went and would repost shots with changes in editing made to see how the feedback worked for me, it seems that has stopped happening.  So, I guess I need to decide what I want my blog to be, as I don’t feel it is fulfilling my current purpose, which is to get a group of minds together, to learn from one another, to constructively give feedback and to improve together.

Anyway, I’m taking my time right now, I’m living a busy life, and I’m seriously considering what I want to do with this site.  I’m deep in thought, staring off in the distance and trying to come to a decision.

Canon T3i, ISO 100, 210mm, f/6.3, 1/1000

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Her Eyes Glow Like My Love For Her

I spent way more time on this photo than I have any right to.  I had the idea and really liked it, so I forced my wife to model for me.  She’s not the most willing model, but I think this shot was worth her effort.  My wife has my favorite kind of eyes, they are what most people would describe as “almond shaped” which always seem just slightly exotic to me.  She has a natural mix of brown, green and some yellow in them, and I just love to look into her eyes.  She had been at a Christmas party for the place where she does her hair, and they had done a make-over and I really liked how her eyes looked, so I had her stand close to the Christmas Tree and using only its light, took close-up shots of her eyes.

My main mistake on this is I did it hand held.  What that means is my shutter speed was 1/5 a second and well… my hands aren’t super steady, so if you look at the lights, they make little upside-down v’s.  But that’s ok, because I still love this shot.

I took the time to clean up her eyes a little (it was late, she was tired and they were a little red) then I over-saturized her actual eye, then desaturized the photo as a whole.  After that, I increased the orange and yellow saturation for the whole photo, and did a slight highlight tone to the whole thing to add warmth.  I also lowered the clarity a bit and over did the noise reduction to give it a soft feel.  This is my end result.  This photo just makes me happy and glad I picked up this hobby.  Everyone else could hate it, but looking at it makes me just so happy with the work I did on this as well as the shot itself.  I do hope you all enjoy it.

Canon T3i, handheld: ISO 3200, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/5 sec

And I know my title is cheesy, and my wife does read my blog, but that doesn’t change my opinion of any of this.

A Special Boy at Christmas

So, I photographed my wife’s work’s “Dinner with Santa” where all the kids of her colleagues were able to be photographed with Santa.  It was a new experience to have to photograph people posing, especially children, but overall, I think the night went well.  On top of that, one of my wife’s friends has a son named Adam who is about 3.  He has a muscular disorder that slightly affects the way he looks and his ability to do a few things, but he is 100% the sweetest child you will ever meet.  He’s never met a stranger, and he thought the big expensive camera was the coolest thing ever. (Not to mention I was borrowing expensive equipment for the night, over 1,500 dollars worth of photo equipment).

Anyway, when it was all done, he had come up to me and pointed to the camera and said “My?” and I said, “No, you can’t have it.” and then he looked at me and said, “Peas?” and it just melted my heart.  Anyway, I let him take a few photos with me holding him and the camera, and then I asked if he wanted his picture taken, and he very excitedly looked at me and said, “Peas!” and ran over by the Christmas Tree.  So here are two photos of the amazing child, Adam.  The first is a photo that I took laying on the ground next to him using the Sigma 50mm lens that I was borrowing.

Canon T3i: ISO 1250, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/80 sec.

This is by far one of my new favorite photos, I love the bokeh as it moves away from his head, but the detail of the carpet near him.  I love the angle of him looking to me and the gentleness in his face and the blurred presents behind him.  This is one of my favorite photos I have taken compositionally.  I had to do some serious editing to get this one visible, because apparently, I still had my camera taking bracketed photos from the HDR that I took (and will show next).  This ended up being the “underexposed” image, so there was work to do.

The Fill Light is at 52, the Exposure was increased .6 and to add to the softness of the overall shot, I lowered the default contrast from +25 to +10 (In Lightroom).

I also changed the Tone Curve to Linear so that there wasn’t any harshness.

The second shot I am going to show, he actually took before this one, but I wanted to place it second.  It is an HDR made of just two exposures.  The  medium one seemed to detract for some reason, so I just have the really light and the really dark in there.  What this gave me was a well exposed child, as well as lights that glow but aren’t glaring and the bows are almost luminescent in a lot places.  I again used photomatix for the HDR processing, and the imported it back into Lightroom for final editing.  I just like the fact that this shot is almost entirely lit by Christmas lights, and I love his expression in front of the tree.  Also one of my favorite photos that I have taken.

Canon T3i: Bracketed Exposures, Bright Photo – ISO 3200, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/50 sec, Dark Photo – ISO 250, 50mm, f/2.0, 1/60 sec

Anyway, I hope everyone else enjoys this, this little guy put so much joy into the experience of photographing children for me that it made the entire night worthwhile.

Going down the road

On September 12th I started making photography posts on this blog, having just returned from Ireland.  I made the blog prior to that, but there was no visibility or anything past that.  Today, November the 8th I’ve hit my 1,000th visit.  There’s been some growing that has occurred, and some definite work to figure things out.  Anyway, yay for 1,000 visitors in my first 2 months, and here is a picture to symbolize me going down the road of my journey into photography.

The Learning Curve

So, I got my camera about a week before I left for Ireland.  Ireland is… amazing and the scenery everywhere was picturesque and beautiful.  I’ve now been using this camera steadily for about 2 months, and boy I wish now me could go back and tag along with then me and work the camera a little better.  Compositionally, technically and speed-wise, I am just so far ahead of where I was then.  Not to mention all the reading I’ve done on photography since then.  I just have so many shots I could have done a 1000 times better with if I had known what I was doing at the time.  (I’m not saying I KNOW what I’m doing now, but I know better than I did)

Here’s a shot I took at the Ireland National Park in Killarny.  I had to work so hard to get the background not to be this faded out blah of a background, and my depth of field is so far off from where I would want it to be because I used f/4.6 on a 70mm lens.  I just want to walk back there and smack past me on the back of the head for not knowing that smaller apertures cause a larger depth of field and not vice-versa.

Anyway, I’ve done what I could with this shot to clean it up and make it presentable, I loved the tree, I liked my composition, I just wish I could make a few edits and change some camera settings.  Oh well, you live you learn, maybe I’ll get to go back some day and try again.

New Watermark

So, when I started this out, I didn’t put a watermark on my photos because I didn’t feel it necessary and I didn’t know how.  But later a few people mentioned that it might be nice to put them on my photos so that if they show up elsewhere, it might help people find their way back to me.

However, my watermark has been ugly and intrusive, partially due to me being lazy and partially due to me not really knowing what I was doing.  However, I also was just using the name of my blog and as I spoke with my good friend, he had an idea create something a little nicer for me (as well as suggestions on how to and not to use the one I have and the new one)

You may have seen comments between he and I in the past, we have been best friends for as long as I’ve been a teenager and we argue like an old married couple, but that’s part of the familiarity we have for each other.  His name is Zachary.  Regardless, we worked on this probably for about 2 weeks going through different ideas of what I wanted, what was a good idea and a bad idea and all kinds of other design pieces.  He’s a graphic designer and a great one at that, so after taking his advice into account, and giving suggestions based on my gut, here is what we ended with.

I have included it with the photo of a tree in Ireland that inspired the new watermark.

Rise Again

Every few years, our church has a sermon series that focuses on baptism and nothing else.  The main focus it to educate those in the congregation of both where you should be before you are baptized and what the purpose of baptism is.  The series finished up this weekend and as usual, there were more baptisms than a normal weekend service usually elicits.  While it’s an understatement to say that the service was moving, the part that will probably put things into perspectives is: 686.

That is the number of people who came forward to be baptized this weekend.  There were so many people after second service this Sunday, that an hour after service had ended there were still over 100 people waiting to be baptized.  It was well organized, and they were bring people into the baptismal 10+ at a time, and they even had soap in the water just to deal with the large numbers of people going in and out.  It was truly unbelievable to see.

While I was there, I was taping a video of a friend who was getting baptized, but I couldn’t resist the urge to snap a few photos of strangers as well.  I will share one with you.

I’m not going to describe the feelings and the symbolism that I see in this image, instead, I will let each person pull from it what they see, but here is a picture of a person emerging from the water as their baptism is completing.  Each person chose a shirt as they were in line to get baptized with a single word on it.  Some said “Alive” while others said “Forgiven”.  As you can see, both our senior minister and the woman watching her friend be baptized are wearing shirts that said “Free”.  You were supposed to choose the word that best symbolized how you felt your soul would be after baptism.

Without further chatter, here’s the image: ISO 1600, 42mm, f/5.6, 1/100sec