Friday, July 29, 2011

random photos take 2

Another post acknowledged how life is getting in the way of blogging, here are just a smattering of images from random times: Garrett's surprise visit, saying good buy to Amy, discovering the Jeske's tire swing, debriefing a shoot over Mexican, cool light, and macro in the kitchen (or is it?) 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

random photos

Since I am in the middle of a couple weddings AND life is getting in the way of blogging, here are just a smattering of images from random times: picnicking at American Players Theater, walking around Art Fair on the Square, Biking downtown, and Concerts on the Square. (to name a few)

Friday, July 22, 2011

camera button friday: simple portrait

At its most glorified state, creating a portrait is an attempt at capturing an essence of a person in a way to better understand them; at its simplest form, a portrait is to show what someone looks like. Many times I have taken a technically good photo and the subject hates it, because they are overcritical of themselves and not because of anything I have done technically. Therefore, creating a portrait is both a technical feat and an artistic one…with a little luck thrown in

First the technical:
Since a portrait is about a subject, cleaning up the lighting and composition is key. There are many complicated and rewarding ways of accomplishing this and I encourage everyone to explore this….but the easiest way to do this is to utilize a medium telephoto lens to allow the background to fall out of focus. If you have a zoom, walk away from your subject and zoom in as far as you can. If you want the simplest portrait lens that produces the best results for under $1000, then buy a 50mm f1.8 lens for $100, go here for Nikon, or here for Canon. (Side note: a big f-stop is actually the smaller #, like f1.8 is ‘bigger’ than f5.6 and therefore shallower depth of field and lets more light in for low light situations.) This lens allows you to shoot at a shallow depth of field (due to the f1.8) and has the side affect of force you to think more about your photography (due to being a prime) if you let it.

Now the artistic:
1) The first thing I look for is good light. In the examples below, I looked for where the light was ‘glowing’ in from big windows and I watched for how the light was playing on the subjects face, hopefully lighting up both of the eyes. I have talked about this before.
2) Even having the best gear can make a bad photo…you need to know how to use it artistically. Below are a couple images I took with the 50mm f1.8. I intentionally used a big hallway that extended far away behind the subject to allow it go look out of focus, I intentionally squatted down or leaned slightly to the side to frame the subject into the background. Since all of these images were taken with the same fixed focal length (can’t zoom) 50mm f1.8 prime I moved around a lot to get all these ‘different’ shots. If you want the subject closer (or bigger in the frame) then move forward. Conversely if you want them smaller, scoot back and recompose. Warning, a little thinking and vision are involved here.
3) The last thing was how I related to my subject, well it was also first because I had been relating the entire time I was thinking about step 1 and 2, but it pays off after I have my subject in the right light and knowing how to use my gear. This is where being relational is super important to portrait photography because we need to be everything to everyone in order to make them feel comfortable enough with us to let their guard down and let their self show through. This aspect is the most important element to portrait photography…and usually the most overlooked in chat rooms and people that want to tell you gear is everything. Nobody will be able to tell you what lens or camera you used but everyone can tell if a pose looks fake, or a subject looks uncomfortable, or if the smile looks forced.

There are many other elements to portraits (lighting, or exotic location and people come to mind) but if you jump past the simple elements to soon, the true essence of a portrait can become overly complicated.  Juggling all the aspects; knowing how to relate to your subject, seeing the light as your camera does, and thinking in general, are all things that require practice. Put yourself in situations that stretch you, and try to create a portrait that tells a story. A good portrait is created, sometimes by accident, and sometimes by painstaking intentionality.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

walk in the light - and just a 24

Similar idea to this post, I went out to a favorite sunset spot the other day with only a wide angle lens (if you must know, a 24mm on a full frame camera.)  Like shooting with one lens can force you into creativity by making what you have work, frequenting a location is another way of pushing yourself into creativity by making you think of different ways of shooting the same scene.  I have visited Pope Farm Park a lot over the years, but never captured these particular images.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

kaitlin and randy's wedding

Earlier this year, I traveled to their family farm for Kaitlin and Rand's portraits.  To photograph their wedding, Mike and I traveled around a couple small towns here in Southern Wisconsin; from a cute chapel in the middle of a corn field, to three different bars and then off to the reception at the country club. It is amazing what a change in location does to photography and how it can refresh opportunities.  (Second image below by Mike Libby)

Friday, July 15, 2011

a 50 and green

I think I have said before that I like simple lenses for fun personal photography. I was at a workshop last weekend where I was working with other photographers teaching the use of their basic 50mm lens for great portraits.  By the way, the 50mm should be the first lens everyone should think of upgrading to (and the cheapest lens out there.)  There is something about it that forces you to be a photographer instead of a snap shooter...maybe it is because it allows/forces you to think more.

For a recent trip to Sarah’s produce isle garden, I slapped my old 50mm lens on my outdated camera. Yes I wanted a macro at times but I actually had a lot of fun…and was surprised by how ‘old’ and ‘inferior’ gear can still make pictures.