Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

How can this possibly be the last day of another year?  I am wondering where the year went...
I want to thank each of you for your interest in and support of my photography endeavors this past year.
New blog entries will resume in January, and new photo galleries will be posted to the web site in the upcoming months.
Wishing Everyone a Happy and Healthy 2011!

(Canon Powershot S90, f 5.6, 1/8 sec, ISO 400)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing You Happy Holidays and the Very Best in 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Photographing in Snow

The calendar has yet to show us that winter has officially arrived, but in the mid-western U.S. we have had a full week of "the white stuff" already with temperatures in the single digits! If we are still in autumn, you sure could have fooled me!
I made this winter image today as I was putting my mail out for pick up. When I raised the flag on my mailbox, the icicle that had formed on it was sticking straight up in the air!  It looked so silly, so I went into the house for my camera.

Indiana Winter
Winter scenes make beautiful images, but photographing them can be tricky.  
When photographing a snow scene, the exposure is very important to keep in mind.

The light meter in your camera wants to make every tone it measures a mid-tone grey. Shooting a snow scene "on the meter" will result in dull grey snow.  This can be explained simply: the scene is so bright, the camera stops down to make the bright whites medium toned.  (see the Polar Bear image to the left shot on the meter.  the snow and fur are a dull grey)
Shot 'On' the Meter

In order to get the snow to show white in your photo, it is important to remember to add light to the exposure using a + exposure compensation. The tricky part lies in how much exposure compensation...the answer is: enough to make the snow white without losing the subtle details and texture. 

+1 1/3 stops

In the  Polar Bear photo to the right, +1 1/3 stops were added to properly expose the image. (Enlarge the image by clicking on it to better see the correct tones while maintaining detail in the fur and snow.)

Unfortunately, there is no set amount of exposure compensation to use when photographing snow scenes, although the rule of thumb is +1 1/3 stops.  So, depending on the ambient light conditions, you may want to begin by adding 1 1/3 stops of light, and then tweaking the amount of light you are adding by assessing your histogram on the back of your camera. It is important to make sure the far right (white) is not clipping. (i.e. the histogram is bunched up against the far right side of the graph)
If your snow scene shows a histogram bunched up to the right side of the graph, your image is over exposed and detail is lost.  In this case, you must then, subtract light (- exposure compensation) by small increments to make sure you are capturing detail in the whites.  You will know the white detail is present when the histogram 'backs off' the far right edge of the graph.

(Polar Bear images made in Manitoba, Canada)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Food Glorious Food~ Part 2

Continuing my thoughts from last week, I decided to write more about the comparison of food to the arts.
In last week's blog, I compared food to the visual arts.
This week, I would like to take the connection of food to the arts one step further and liken it to the performing arts.

During a visit to New Orleans, Louisiana, we decided to dine at Emeril's Restaurant located in the heart of the downtown warehouse district. The only seats available on this particular night were at a bar facing into the kitchen.
We decided to sit at the "kitchen bar" and had a wonderful and most memorable dining experience! Not only was the food fantastic and the plating worthy of fine art photos, but watching the kitchen staff turning out literally hundreds of meals in the few short hours we were there was amazing! (and not one meal was returned to the kitchen!!)
Every person (performer) in the kitchen (stage) had a definite job (role) to perform and did so in a flurry of activity and in perfect synchronization. The process and timing of the food preparation and cooperation of the kitchen staff  (the performance) was like watching a well orchestrated and well choreographed ballet!
Of course, I had my camera with me and throughout my meal, I photographed the food preparation show in front of me.  It was a lot of fun trying to capture the bustle of activity.  I have included some of the resulting images from the evening that I think captured the essence of the experience.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Food, Glorious Food!

With the holiday season upon us, food dominates our lives from Thanksgiving right through to the new year. Enjoying good food and wine is as much a passion to me as my photography. I love to gather with family and friends to enjoy a lingering meal together. After all, the company and conversation add so much to the culinary experience.
Also, when I travel, one of the highlights for me is tasting and eating foods from different cultures and experiencing new foods I have never tasted before.

What does food have to do with photography, you ask?
Like photography, food is an art. In photography, we discover the subject, select the gear to create our images, set up and compose the shot in the viewfinder, process the image, and finally present a work of art.
The art of food can be described in the same way: deciding what dish to prepare (the subject), selection of the ingredients to create the selected dish (gathering the gear), preparing, combining, and cooking the ingredients (processing), plating the food giving careful thought to colors, textures, and arrangement on the plate (composition) and serving the dish. (presentation of a work of art)

Just like photography is a "sport" for all of the senses, so is same for food. In last week's blog, I talked about how all of one's senses come into play when out in the field photographing. The same holds true for the enjoyment of food.  And, in my blog from 11-12-10, I discussed the importance of visual details to add a 'finishing touch' and to 'convey the essence' of the whole experience.  Food images from my travels help me to complete the story of my adventures, adding more interest to images of the traditional travel experience.

When I traveled to Italy with friends 3 years ago, we ate some amazing food throughout the trip. As my first meal was set before me, I decided to photograph it as a remembrance of the dining experience. Each meal set before us was a work of art, and so I self assigned the task of snapping each meal of our visit to Italy. By the end of our holiday, I had made a very nice collection of food images from Italy. The fruits (no pun intended!!) of my labor can be seen in my web site gallery entitled 'Mangia!' Looking back through the images of the food I consumed, I can remember what the food was, how it tasted, where it was served and who I was with at the time of the shutter click.
Ever since my visit to Italy, I have been photographing my food. The images featured on today's blog page were made in Namibia.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Total Experience of Photography

When I head out to make photographs, I always strive to bring home quality images.
In order to do so, there is so much more involved than gathering the photo equipment, heading to a location and pressing the shutter.
Making a quality image takes time...Photography involves all of the senses and is an ongoing creative process.

 Last weekend when returning home from walking my dogs I spotted some beautiful autumn leaves dropped from our Bradford pear tree. I was taken with the way they had transformed from their summer green color to the rich hues of autumn: not all at once, but obviously in stages, creating intricate patterns of color on each individual leaf. Although I had so many other tasks to attend to in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday, I decided to MAKE the time to photograph the leaves.

I gathered my equipment and headed out into the yard.
THREE hours later (YES, THREE HOURS LATER!!!) I returned inside with a handful of images and a feeling of calm.  It is the "process" of photography that feeds my soul.
I believe a photograph is made up of all one's senses.  Taking the solitary time to be in the field to make images slows me down, allowing me to fully experience my surroundings, my emotions, my thoughts and each of my senses. When all of these elements blend together, my creative process kicks in and the photographic experience is enhanced. 
I have included a few images from my efforts last weekend. Will they ever be printed and shown? Maybe, maybe not. But that isn't the point. While, to some, they may appear as just images of leaves, it was the total experience I felt while making them that drives me to share them with you at this time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Video: A Supporting Role to the Still Image

It has been said that "A picture is worth a thousand words."
In so many cases that is a very true statement.  However, in this day of advanced technology, it seems that video is adding a new dimension to that idea.
From the most sophisticated DSLR to the smallest point and shoot (including our mobile phones) most all have the capability of recording video clips- and in high definition at that!
When I purchased my Canon EOS 5DMark II, my main reason was for the coveted full size sensor.  It happened to be equipped with high definition video, which I thought I would never use.   I am a photographer, not a videographer but I am beginning to learn the value of video in addition to the still image.
Let me take you back to the Bushman village of //Nhoq'ma...
I have shared still images of the traditions of these people in my recently posted Bushman web galleriesSome of the customs witnessed at the Bushman village translate poorly in just one still image.  For example, the image below was made during a demonstration of the traditional 'Porcupine Game' played by the men of the tribe. 
But what is going on here? How could I share the experience with my viewers better?  What if I...?        

Enter the video clip! 
At times when fun or unusual action occurred during my recent travels to Namibia, as often did in the Bushman village, I chose to document the scene with footage in addtion to still images to capture the full experience of what I was seeing.
Although I was not prepared to shoot video, (i.e. actually remembering I had video mode on my camera, hand holding the camera, and using the built in microphone) I tried it anyway, and I'm so happy I did!  Please excuse the shakiness of the video- This is a new idea for me to embrace and I was simply experimenting with the medium. 
Click HERE to watch the 44 second video clip of the Porcupine Game in action.

One must admit that the footage seen here of the Porcupine Game adds much more meaning to the scene than what is observed in the still capture.  In the video, one witnesses energy, changing facial expressions, sounds, rhythm, language, action, interactions and excitement!

Will I totally change from still imagery to video?  Not likely in the near future- the learning curve of yet another intricate and powerful software program is daunting to say the least! 

I believe for now, I will continue with still photography and capture video memories for myself and for informally sharing with others. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Visual Details

“I've been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.” ~Barbara Streisand

I have always been a 'detail oriented' person. (O.K., I admit... a perfectionist!) Details add a finishing touch to make the ordinary special. This is true in literature, fashion, architecture and photography.
When I am photographing, I am a perfectionist with my compositions, focus, framing, etc. But beyond my perfectionism with technique, I carry my obsession further to capture visual details. I am never done photographing a subject with just one shot or view. I push myself past the obvious and look for details and different angles and views. This is the time my creative vision kicks in...  
Last week I presented a preview of the Bushman tribe I visited in Namibia. In those images, I shared the people, nothing more.

This week, I am including additional (detail) images I made while at the Bushman village.
I think they add a finishing touch to convey the 'essence' of who these people are, their culture, traditions and how they live.

I hope you agree.
So when you are out photographing...remember to look for, and more importantly, photograph the details!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bushman Tribe Pre-View

I am weeks into editing my most recent trip to Africa. We saw so much amazing wildlife! I can't wait to begin editing the images of the animals, but I HAD to begin my editing with the last 2 days of our trip during which time we spent time with a Bushman tribe. What an incredible, life changing and humbling experience!
The bushman people are hunter gatherers and were among the first humans to inhabit southern Africa. Also referred to as San people, they inhabit the remote areas of the east of Namibia and in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.
We had the pleasure of spending 2 days at Nhoma Camp near the Bushman village of //Nhoq'ma. During our stay, we were welcomed by the villagers and spent most of our time with them observing their traditional culture and way of life. Nhoma Camp and village is within Bushmanland adjoining the Nyae Nyae Conservancy.  Established in 1998, this conservancy allows the Bushman people to hunt for food using their traditional methods and hand made tools. An interpreter from the camp accompanied us to explain the things we observed.
Not only did we see the women prepare the evening meal, but we also witnessed them creating beautiful articles made of beads. 
Our first evening in the village, we were invited to watch a traditional trance dance.
The dance occurs after dark around a fire and lasts for hours. It is one of the oldest religious rituals known to mankind, going back some 20,000 years.

 Participants are known to fall into a trance during which they believe they are being spoken to by their ancestors. The chanting was mesmerizing and the dance was fascinating to watch!
Day two included a hunt through the tall grasses of Bushmanland with four hunters from the village. During the hunt, we were shown various plants used by the tribe to survive and those used for medicinal purposes. Afterward we were shown how rope was made from leaf fibers, and how traditional animal traps and poison hunting arrows are made.
Following the demonstration, were asked to join in some of the simple and entertaining games played by the villagers, including the porcupine game and monkey orange game.
The bushman people are beautiful, open, friendly, and happy people. The tribes that remain still hold on to their native culture and roots. However, sadly, as the 21st century progresses, the traditions of the tribe are being lost as current and future generations adapt to many modern ways of life.
I feel so fortunate to have visited and witnessed the traditional Bushman way of life before it disappears into history.  Our two days spent with the Bushman tribe will forever be with me and is one example of many experiences during my visit that proves the saying "Africa changes you."
A gallery of images will soon be posted to my website, but I couldn't wait to share a few teasers with you.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Shadows and Shapes

Strong direct light will create and project shapes of everyday objects.  I am drawn to scenes which combine two dimensional shapes on three dimensional surfaces.  These types of images command a second look from the viewer as they sort out what it is they are actually seeing.  The first two images illustrate this idea.
This first image was made in Venice, Italy, where I was charmed by the lines of  laundry hanging out to dry.  Yes, I have many images of the actual clothes on the lines, but this one is one of my favorites because of the "suggestion" of hanging shirts on the clothes line.  (Canon EOS 1-D Mark II, Canon 28-105mm EF lens, 1/320 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO 200)
Made over the Namib desert in Namibia, I shot the shape of our helicoptor against the characteristic red sand dunes.  The 2 dimensional shadow became the subject on a 3 dimensional backdrop.  Because of the strong desert sun, the shape of our helicoptor is crisp and contrasts with the background.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm lens, 1/1250 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO 500)
These two images are simply about shape.  Strong side light made the shadow of this fork graphic and distorted.  This image was made in my studio on a day I just felt like playing with shadows and shapes. (Canon 1-D Mark II, Canon 50mm lens, 1/125 sec @ f 16, ISO 200)
Finally, I thought I would include this image made at the Salentein winery in Mendoza, Argentina.  I was drawn to the shadow of the wine glass as the wine taster swirled the wine in the glass.  Why, this was a shadow with COLOR!   I took this shot a step further by converting it to black and white to accentuate the shape of the wine glass shadow and then I colorized the ruby red 'shadow.'
(Canon EOS 1-D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm, 1/100 sec @ f 4.0, ISO 4000)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sensor Painting

"What Music Looks Like"
Paint your sensor??? Are you thinking: 'She must be crazy!!' Photography literally means 'writing (graphy) with light' (photo), and so when I refer to sensor painting, I am talking about painting or writing on it with light.

I made these images in the city of Valparaiso, Chile. I had been looking over the hills through binoculars at the dotted lights of the city and noticed the visual patterns 'written' by the lights as I moved the binoculars.

"Light Waves"
So, I asked myself..."What if I... switched to my camera with a telephoto lens and tried to permanently recreate the visual patterns I observed through the binoculars?"

"Flying Ribbons"

After playing for close to an hour, moving my camera in as many creative ways I could think of during exposure, (I am easily amused!!) I created a fun collection of 30+ images made by literally painting my sensor with pinpoints of light.
"Curly Q's"

(All images: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS EF 70-300mm DO IS lens, 1/5 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 2500)
"Light Swirls"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freezing Action

 I have written many blogs on how to show motion in a still image...but what about freezing it?  Certain subjects benefit from 'freezing the motion' and capturing a split second in time. In order to freeze the action, a high shutter speed is a must!  Of course, it depends on how fast your subject is moving, but a good starting point for a high shutter speed would be 1/500 second or higher.  A long lens with a shallow depth of field helps to separate your 'frozen' subject from the background.
Two other features on my camera which I activate for this kind of photography are high speed motor drive and AI focus or AI servo auto focus.  These auto focus modes do a great job of tracking your moving subject and keeping it in focus as long as you are 'locked' on it!  Once focus is locked, it's a matter of tracking your subject while depressing the shutter release.  It sounds easier than it looks....

This image was made at the 2010 Indiana State Fair.  The attraction was called "Dock Dogs" and consisted of dogs competing in distance jumping from a 2 foot high platform into a pool of water.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you are aware of my love for dogs, so this attraction was a 'must' for me to photograph!  My goal was to catch dogs in flight, and I really liked this image since you can see the ball in the water and the determination on the lab's face to retrieve it.  The next frame on my CF card was a huge SPLASH, which is anticipated by the viewer when looking at this image!  (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 f4 IS lens, 1/1600 second @ f 4.0, ISO 800)

Water is an excellent subject for freezing in the moment since one can see each droplet of a splash if a high enough shutter speed is used.  This image was made in Oregon as a cowboy rode his horse through a shallow stream.  The back lighting of the water makes every droplet shimmer.  Freezing the action on this scene allows the viewer to see the intense concentration on the cowboy's face and the details of the splashing water. (Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS lens, 1/4000 second @ f 5.6, ISO 400)
And finally, this image of two running springbok helps to understand how they got their name.  In Afrikans, 'Spring' means 'jump' and 'bok' means 'antelope' or 'goat.'  They move very fast and capturing them while they 'spring' is quite challenging!  The use of a long lens and shallow depth of field in this image illustrates the point made about isolating the 'frozen' subject from the background.  (Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF 100-400mm IS lens, 1/2500 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 400)

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Happens When the Photographer is 'On the Move'

OK, so I can't sit still...I am one of those photographers who shoots all day long regardless of the light, experimenting with all kinds of photo techniques.  With camera in hand and whenever I reach a 'dry spell,' I always ask myself "What if I...(insert photo idea here)?"
This week, the featured images illustrate my question: What if I ...photograph while I am on the move?

Ever since I was a kid I have loved driving through the country and watching the rhythmic patterns of crop rows as the car sped past agricultural fields. Watching the scene below, I asked myself:  "What if I... photograph them from the back seat while the car is in motion?" 
This image was made in the wine country in Chile. A slow shutter speed captured the blurred rows of grape vines as I moved past the vineyard, and a smaller f-stop captured the static scenery in the background, just as your eye sees it in 'real time.' (Canon5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS, 1/4 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO200)
Another time, I was a passenger in the front seat.  We were driving in the rain through The Grotto in Zion National Park in autumn.  Everyone else had their cameras in their bags except for me.  ('Bad light,' I was told) But I asked myself: "What if I...shot through the rain streaked windshield as we drive through the tunnel of trees?"  The results can be seen here.  I like how the image resembles an impressionistic painting.(Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 28-105mm IS lens, 1/6 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 800)

Back in Indiana, I had the oppportunity to ride along side the harness racers in the motorized starting gate.  So, this time, both my subject and I were in motion!  Hmmmm..."What if I...stop down to f 22 (so the grandstand in the back ground is sharp) and let the horse and rider blur to show motion?"  I am really pleased with the resulting image.  (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 1/25 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100)

This image was made from the back of a Harley while traveling across country.  I made it my mission to document the sights from the back seat. (I mean...What else can you do riding for days for hours at a stretch?) Timing and pre-visualization are key to this type of photography since there is only 1 chance to get the shot.  After days of observing oncoming traffic as it passed us, I asked, "What if I...try to capture the ominous blur of an oncoming semi-truck?"  The challenge here is that subject and photographer were traveling in OPPOSITE directions, increasing the concept of speed.  After many unsuccessful attempts to capture what I had pre-visualized, I finally achieved my goal with this shot.  I find it interesting how the front of the truck is blurred, yet the back end is static and sharp- most likely a physics concept, but to me, it's visual magic!  (Canon 10D, 28-105mm lens, 1/50 sec. @ f 22, ISO100)
So, the next time you find yourself in a shooting 'dry spell,' ask yourself "What if I..." and then try it.  You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.
(To see more images of my self assignment of photographing sights from the back of a motorcyle, check out my gallery: "Harley Trip- Las Vegas to Indianapolis" )

Friday, October 1, 2010

Panning Static Subjects

One of the first 'rules' of photography we all learned was to always hold your camera steady.  Well, some rules were made to be broken!  Vertical pans of static subjects definitely breaks this rule because the camera is deliberately moved during exposure.
This is a fun technique to try in the harsh light of mid-day.  Why?  Because the contrast between light and shadow is too harsh to make striking images. Panning static objects in harsh light causes the contrast to decrease and the colors to blend across your sensor often producing pleasing abstract images of lines and color.
(Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 0.6 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100) 
The image above was made on a spring afternoon in the Smoky Mountains when the trees were green with new growth.

In contrast, the image on the right was made during autumn in New Brunswick.  The oranges and yellows of the leaves blended nicely during the pan and the white tree trunks added lines of interest.  This vertical pan suggests the original subject in an abstract way.  (Canon 1D, Canon 70-300 IS DO, 1/15 sec. @ f 25, ISO 100) 

Another purely abstract image is shown on the left.  I made this image in a stand of birch trees.  My friend was wearing a red jacket that day and I asked him to stand between two of the trees in my scene.  I panned the scene vertically, but at the same time wiggled the camera back and forth during the 0.5 second exposure.  I really like the results of this experiment with the red splash adding visual  interest.  (Canon EOS 50D, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 0.5 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100)

The technique of panning static subjects is worth exploring.  It's fun to do and the results are often pleasantly surprising.  However, don't limit yourself to just stands of trees as I have featured this week.  Try panning any colorful scene and see what wonderful abstracts you can create.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Panning to Create Movement in Still Photos

Another way to show movement in a still image is to pan with a moving subject.  Panning involves moving the camera close to the same speed as your subject during exposure.
The classic desired effect when panning with a moving object is that the resulting image has something sharp in the frame, while the rest of the image becomes blurred.  This week's featured images were made at the 2010 Indiana State Fair during the harness races. The first example (Above) is a classic pan showing the horse's head in focus and the rest of the image blurred. (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/25 sec @ f18, ISO 50)
Another successful effect of panning is the creation of a totally blurred abstract image.  (anything in between these 2 extremes tends to look like a mistake!!)  In this second image, nothing is sharp, making this an abstract image of the sport of harness racing. (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/20 sec @ f20, ISO 50)
 I have included this 3rd image for the sake of comparison.  I experimented a bit with freezing the action as this horse raced by.  Although technically sharp, you can certainly appreciate that this image is nowhere near exciting and has much less emotional impact than the other two.  The panning technique is what added the drama and excitement to the photos above.  (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200mm f4 IS USM, 1/2000 sec @ f4.5, ISO 320)
 So, are you ready to give panning a try?  Here are a few tips to get you started:
A good beginning point when panning is to choose a low ISO.  Place your camera on aperture priority and choose a small F-stop. (i.e. higher number- like 16 or 22)  If the light is too bright to achieve a slow shutter speed, a polarizing filter or neutral density filter can help.  Meter your scene to see what shutter speed the camera 'chooses' for your chosen F-stop. The desired shutter speed will vary for the speed of the subject of which you are panning.  Luckily, in this digital age, we can see our efforts immediately on the back of the camera to judge if we are achieving the desired effect at the moment and adjust our settings accordingly.
When panning with a subject, be sure your have a wide steady stance.  Then, lock your elbows to your sides and pivot from the waist.  It is important to lock your focus on the moving subject and begin tracking it before pressing the shutter and continue following the subject once your it passes by and the exposure is complete.  This will keep your panning motion smooth.
Panning takes a great deal of practice, but once you get it, it is a fun technique to experiment with and to use in your photography.