Thursday, June 23, 2011

recent intervarsity photo projects

Things have been a bit crazy around here.
I am juggling 3 major video projects at this time, but every once in a while I get to play with a smaller photo project.  Here are two.

Gary, one of the graphic designers, is updating a handout for campus along the topic of injustice and oppression under the question, "How does evil invade your space?".  His concept was stolen borrowed (all ideas are modified ideas by the way, nothing is ever really new) from another campaign that wrote words on a photo of a face, his idea was to actually write those words onto his daughters face.

Camera Geekout:  I lit it in front of both white and a black background so that Gary would have options.  Key light on axis and a kicker on both sides for some glow.  With the white backdrop I also had a light on the background to make it over exposed and a reflector on the floor to bounce light into the face more.

Final product, a 5x7 flier with info and questions on the back.

My second fun project has to do with a secret Video that we are doing.  All I can show you is the movie poster that was created.  You will have to follow twentyonehundred productions on facebook for all the release info.

Camera Geekout: I tried something different with the lighting.  I put both a hard and a soft light to camera left.  The hard light is providing most of the light and the 'dramatic' feel but the soft light is just adding in a little light for the eyes.

Final Product...........

Sunday, June 19, 2011

happy fathers day

Last year, a co-worker and I created a video essay as a personal side project.  David told the story of fatherhood in his life.  Coming along side David and creating the video side of his essay was a privilege and a joy.  A great added bonus is that I came to appreciate my Dad quite a lot more.  Thanks Dad, for being that loving Father that you are.  I know I am one of the luck ones in today's culture.  I love you.

Father's Day from David Hui on Vimeo.

Friday, June 17, 2011

camera button friday: blue hour

'When' you take a photo is just as important as 'How'

Lighting is one of the most important elements in photography (ummm, you are taking a photo of light remember) so choosing the right light is key.  And yes, I used the word Choosing because you do have a choice, choosing not to take a photo is just as important as choosing to take a photo...but that is another post, we were talking about light.  There are many great times durring the day to take photos in great light; this one is called Blue Hour.  Why they call it an hour is a little silly because if feels like only a couple minutes, but it is a couple minutes durring the 'hour' after sunset where they sky turns blue.  This is really cool when you want to mix artificail light with the fading night sky...but you have to wait for the levels to be the same.

before sunset....

after sunset durring 'blue hour' but to soon.....

just about right......

This is great when you want to show the photo was taken at night, but when you don't wnat the sky to be black.  I just think it creates a fun mood, especialy for those fun summer nights.

Depending on the amount of artificial light (a single street light produces a lot less light than a stadium full) you need to wait until the light levels in the sky (lets call that ambient) drop to the light levels that are created by man.  The hard part is that this will only last for a couple moments.  Then it is gone.

I guess it is called the Blue Hour because there is about an hour where the sky is still blue...but depending on how much artificial light you have to match it to, you will only have a couple minutes when those light levels cross in intensity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

recent conversation

"Can I help you?"
"Maybe.  I am a photographer and I am wondering if you can help me with a personal project."
"Um, ok."
"I am challenging myself to create environmental portraits of interesting locations. As I was driving by I thought this would be perfect.  Can I take your photo?"
"Sure, why not...where should I stand?"
"Here will work."


"Can I take a photo of your daughter too?"
"Me? Really?  Sure."
"Lets walk over here."
"That would be great."

"Thank you!"
"No, thank you. Can I e-mail you the images?"
"Oh, please!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

camera button friday: too much equipment

I am glad that the early influences on my photography (friends actually going to photo school) were not much into the gear craze.  Most of the outings we went on actually had an unspoken code of less-is-more.  We have all heard that less-is-more and yet we are all still lusting after more gear.  At least I am.

Lately I have been trying to fight that by limiting myself to one lens.  My current favorite setup (that I steel from work) is the 35mm prime on a full frame D700.  I like it so much that I purchased a 24mm prime for my cropped frame D200 in order to have the similar field of view.  I first started doing this lens combo because of how small and easy it is to handle, especially when you compare the 35mm prime to the monster 24-70mm f2.8...

...but I also noticed that this had other benefits, this actually has helped my photography (the limiting part not this particular lens.)  There are a lot of post and forums that talk about how prime lenses are 'better' than zoom lenses because they limit you into creativity.  I agree...but that doesn't make a zoom bad.  There are times you need the convenience of a zoom (like weddings) but times that it is ok to stretch yourself (like on vacation or walking around town.) Primes can do wonders in stretching your creativity if you allow yourself to enter into to that creativity.  If I had my dream kit, it would have both...but there I go again lusting after more gear than I need/can afford/deserve/need.

It seams counter intuitive, but having a lens for every occasion actually oversaturate my mind and I have a harder time seeing images.  It is like I have to many options, like the grocery store when you have 36 options of peanut butter, you always have a hard time choosing what is best.  To many choices stifles creativity.  Limiting myself is hard at first, sometimes even frustrating, but if I stick at it I usually can create better images than I could if I was not being stretched.

Here are a couple images where I have felt free while being stretched:

So, what am I trying to say?  For me, at this point of my photographic journey, limiting myself with lenses can bread creativity.  This can be with one prime, or one zoom, or some combo that intentionally limits me so that I will NOT be allowed to capture every single photo I see, but it forces me to think.  This may be different for me later in life and it may be different for you now...but try limiting yourself in some way if you want to stretch yourself.

After discovering this "limitation that breeds creativity," I actually looked it up and there is actually a really substantial following of the idea.  Even a Wikipedia page.  And if you are into it, Origami is all about this just try and make an ornate spider out of one un-cut piece of paper without betting creative.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

more from the port...and other locations

A smattering of random photos (other than the Pirate Festival) from Sarah and my recent weekend getaway around the Milwaukee / Port Washington / Cedarberg / Harrington Beach State Park area.  I felt like a true amateur vacation photographer: I was snapping away at great scenery in horrible light, resulting in mediocre photos.  But then again, photography was not why we went.

No, this last photo is NOT an HDR!  It is just an over-processed image from Lightroom...that remind me of my first car. (Try cranking your Recovery, Fill Light, and Blacks to 100!)

Monday, June 6, 2011

port of pirates

Recently, Sarah and I got away for a quiet weekend and headed out to the quaint town of Port Washington. Unknown to us, this happened to be the weekend that Port Washington has its annual Pirate Days. Probably just an excuse for adults to act like kids because there were WAY more adults fully dressed up and ‘playing’ the part of Pirates. Some of these getups were pretty fancy with real swards, guns that fired, and teeth that looked like they have not been brushed in a lifetime. Think Renaissance Fair meets Civil War reenactment with a salty little twist (and a few less manners.) Interesting thing is that there seemed to be a larger percentage of bikers at this event…like they are the modern day pirates or something. One Powder Monkey I talked to (last photo) even claimed he was an extra in the last battle of the 3rd Pirates of the Caribbean movie….

It took a little building of my own courage, but I was glad I become bold enough to go up and talk to them...there is no other way of getting the photos that I really want except by interacting with them a little and breaking that brier and let them 'play' to the camera.  Don't make the mistake I made though, I thanked the guy in the first photo for staying in character; he scoffed and said, "This is how I am normally, to get into character is to act like you lousy wallops."

Friday, June 3, 2011

camera button friday: the idea of seeing part 2

Last week I started to talk about vision, or how you see a photo.  I argued that this is just as important (if not more) than knowing how to use your gear.  This post is my attempt to give an example of how this works for me.

At a recent InterVarsity conference, I saw these guys worshiping up in the front of the hall, arm in arm, without a care for what others thought.  I thought this is perfect for what I want to convey: "Greek Conference is a place where you can get away from the world to learn about and worship God in community."

But there was a problem.  How do I get what I saw (a great moment) into an image that others can feel?  

Below is what the light was like.  There are some stage light grazing...well, no, it was blasting the sides of their faces.  I couldn't expose for both the highlights on their faces as well as the shadows around them at the same time.  Yes I could have created an image by exposing for only the highlights (like the second image below) but it doesn't convey what I want to nearly as well as the final image.

As I looked and looked at the scene, I was really torn because I really wanted to get this image and I didn't want to admit that it was physically impossible.  (I did think of HDR...but that was impossible because people were moving, I didn't have a tripod, and it would not have looked as real as I would want.) I eventually realized that I needed to get around to the left of them to capture the shadow side of their face.  But this was risky, they would see me...everyone would see me because that is the front of the room!  BUT, this would allow my exposure to be better and in turn solving my problem of mixed lighting and allow me to capture the mood that I was seeing.  So I walked out in front of everybody and sat down on the ground.  

My first shot I tried for the highlights, and yes this can be cool but not the image I wanted to capture.

I even tried a wide angle, but that didn't convey it either.

The combination of the tight shot, moving around in front of them to only capture the shadow side of the face, and then waiting for a moment; all culminated into what I was trying to say:

Yes I needed to know how to expose in a severely back lit situation, and how to frame my shot in a way that works...yes I needed a camera that could shoot in near darkness and a lens that will let in the maximum amount of light possible...but seeing the image is what made me do all that work.  If I had not seen the potential in the situation I would have taken the first and maybe second shot and moved on.

Disclaimer: I am sorry for all the "I" statements here, I feel like I am talking myself up as a photographer that has it all together.  Believe me on this one, I was stressing to get this shot to work...but I so wanted it to work! At this point in my understanding, I guess that is what Vision is.