Saturday, June 26, 2010

Not a Wildflower

This is a greenhouse flower photographed against the dining room wall.  The light is coming from a diffused window to the left and a couple of feet away.  Diffused window light is a classic way to light people for photographs and paintings.  I took a photography course recently at a wildflower festival where the instructor said that photographing flowers is like taking a portrait.  It struck a chord with me so I tried portrait light on this flower.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking some Time Off

If you follow this blog regularly you know I haven't posted in a while.  It's just that I've been too busy doing other things and this blog takes some time.  If you'd like to see my latest photos, then check out my regular blog Apparently Random Traveller.  If you want to know how I took or post processed a photo just leave a comment and I'll respond.  Meanwhile, maybe I'll get back to finishing the rest of the 50 Photo Projects someday so check in from time to time if you are interested.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Shadow Knows

Week 37

This week's topic was suggested by my daughter and while the subject matter was probably the last thing I would have chosen if left to my own it was more fun than just about anything else I've tried lately.  You have to break out of your shell every once in a while...

The camera and setting don't really matter so I'm not even going to get into that.  It is all about shape, light,  and some sort of emotion.

The book covers architectural shadow, urban settings, and objects.  I started with that but once I got started photographing my own shadown I couldn't stop.  I did lots of post - they've been darkened because I liked what it did to the mood.  The two shadows on the sidewalk were manipulated with the Topaz 4 Dark - Ghost filter.

Try it, all you need is the sun.... 

Idea based on Shadowplay, pages 114-115 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vertical Egret

Week 36

Among my favorite birds are the cranes and egrets.  This is a great white egret in Hermann Park, Houston, Texas.  It is standing on a rock in the Japanese Garden and reminds me of Japanese scrolls I have seen with cranes painted on them.  Accordingly, I have cropped it in a long vertical manner which suits not only the bird but the inspiration.

The camera, is a Nikon D3 in aperture priority mode, f/3.2, ISO 800, and a -0.7 exposure bias that probably should have been a tad lower.  The negative bias was set to keep the feathers from burning out (always remember to check for this on a white bird).  I had it at ISO 800 because I'd been shooting another egret in shade a moment before and wanted to capture the bird in flight when it jumped up.  I could have had it lower here, but the D3 does pretty good at ISO 800.  The resulting shutter speed was 1/8000 second which was certainly fast enough to freeze action on a standing bird. The lens is the AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm 1:2.8G VRII ED at focal length 200mm.

In post I cropped, added "micro contrast" to the bird only in Topaz Adjust 4, then a vignette.  Adjust 4 is a great Photoshop plug-in and I find myself using it a lot.  Sharpening was applied to the bird and rock.

Idea based on Vertical Limit, pages 156-157 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Week 35

Megan and I have been doing some creative assignments where a topic is selected and we go out and shoot it.  This week I suggested 3 shots of one object from 3 different positions and this is what I came up with.

The subject is an ornamental windmill in the Eau Claire area of Calgary close to the river.  The sky was overcast and the windmill had a very graphic appearance.  I selected 3 views that taken together are somewhat symmetrical with me in front of, to the side, and behind the subject.

Graphic shots need to be simple - it is the shape that it is important.  Maybe these are a little busy due to the detail in the windmill.  In post processing I bumped the contrast way up and made it B&W as the shape is what matters.  There is still some texture and detail in it when you look closely which I like.

Camera is a Nikon D3 in aperture mode, f/8, ISO 200, 1/800 second or so.  The lens is my trusty AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 1:2.8G ED.  The focal length is varying 40-50mm or so depending on where I was standing.

In post I distorted the middle frame to make it fit where I wanted.  I turned it into a triptych in vertical format just to be different.

Idea based on Go Graphic, pages 44-45 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Canada in the style of Norman Rockwell

Week 34

This week's picture is full of cliches of Canada - Hockey, the grand hotel at Lake Louise, and of course winter.  The idea is to pick a theme that instantly tells you where the shot was taken.  This one kind of seems a bit like Norman Rockwell to me it is so old fashioned.

They are playing out on open ice which you really don't see much any more.  I don't really know hockey, but in this format there are only 3 people per team on the ice at any one time.  The goal is unguarded.  The Chiefs were playing the Slapsticks and they were killing them.

The camera is a Nikon D3 in aperture priority at f/8, ISO 200, which results in a shutter speed of 1/640.  I might should have set ISO to 400 to get shutter speed over 1/1000 but it is still pretty sharp.  The lens is the AF-S Nikkor 24-70 1:2.8G ED.  I find I use this lens more than any other.  It was a cloudy day and thus not too contrasty to get both the sky, ice, and people fairly well exposed.

Post consisted of adding micro contrast with the Topaz Adjust 3 plug-in to PhotoShop, adjusting red saturation to make the jerseys pop, lighten the faces, and a gradient to the sky with soft light to give the clouds more drama.  It is cropped of course in a horizontal pano format.

Idea based on It's in the Detail, pages 54-5 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fishy Business

Week 33

The Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle is a great place to take a photo and I couldn't pass it by this last weekend. Food markets and fish in general are photogenic I think. They are probably my favorite place to take candid pictures of people.

The picture was taken in natural light (a mix of tungsten, fluorescent, and I don't know what) with a Nikon D3 and an AF Nikkor 50mm 1:1.8 D lens. This is Nikon's cheapest lens but a good one. It is fast and sharp. I carry it always because it is so light weight. The camera ISO is set at 400, aperture is f/4 and shutter speed is 1/60 seconds.

I cropped the photo in post and did some work with the clone stamp tool on the sign in the top right to get rid of some bad glare. The Topaz Adjust 3 plug-in was used to get the HDR like effect.

Idea based on Food for Thought, pages 40-41 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Three Horses

Week 32

These three horses were walking in the snow near Rocky Mountain House, a historic trading post in Alberta. Things in threes look natural and appealing. Three is lucky in most cultures and I've always considered it my lucky number (I have a 3 in my name, there are three brothers, and it just seems things come in threes).

We normally think of, and present, a photo as a single entity. But things occur over time and in different locations. Often a story works better with more than one picture. And artists have done pictures in threes (or triptychs) for a very long time. Early altar paintings in churches were often done in triptchs. I've even used them before myself, like in this fireworks display taken on the Buddha's Birthday in Brisbane.

This triptych actually started as one photograph. It was cloudy and snowing when I took the picture. The sun is behind me but because of the clouds the light is soft and kind of flat. The camera is a Nikon D3 in aperture preferred mode set at f/8 with an exposure bias of +1 stop which gets the snow white (I bracketed the shot) and the camera chose 1/80 second. ISO is 200 - I might should have had it at 400 to get that extra sharpness but it isn't bad. The lens is an AF-S Nikkor 70-300 1:4.5-5.6 zoomed to 140mm. The key here is to expose a bit more here than what the meter says in order to get the snow right.

To make a triptych I divided the shot up into 3 layers, each one with a horse. I then resized the 3 layers a little smaller and moved them on the background to where I wanted them. I used layer effects to drop a shadow on the background and make them appear to float on it. Then I rendered some cloud effects on the background and darkened it so the layers with horses would pop a little more.

Idea based on Three of a Kind, pages 134-135 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Banff Snails

Week 31

This is one of the stranger posts I'll probably make on this site. The swirling masses, green and white, are algae in a sulfurous hot spring. The eyes and nose are rocks. The little pimples are the endangered Banff snail, who lives only in these springs.

One of the sections of the book is about sands on the beach. We don't have any seashores in Alberta, but we do have sulfurous hot springs with algae in them so that is what I shot. Sand moved by water and wind has abstract patterns, textures, shadows, and subtle color. So does algae. And the rare snails add extra interest.

The camera is a D3, ISO 200, in aperture preferred mode. The camera chose a shutter speed of 1/80 second. The lens is my new AF-S Nikkor 70-200 1:2.8GII ED at 200mm to zoom as close as I could from the rail I was behind. I hand held and steadied the camera on the rail.

Post was a crop and some saturation boost.

Idea from Sands of Time, pages 106-107 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Week 30

I have been looking for a good minimalist image for sometime now. It seems like it would be easy, but this is the first one I thought might be good enough to publish here.

The idea is to get rid of the clutter. Only retain what is necessary. Reduce shapes and color to a minimum and leave some space. No need for fancy lighting here.

This tree was poking out of about a meter or more of snow on the shoreline of Lake Louise. The lake is in the background, frozen over, and covered with snow. The texture in the background are old footprints from someone crossing the lake.

Technically taking the picture is easy. I'll give you the settings but it is seeing the picture that I find hard.

The camera is a Nikon D3 with an AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 1:2.8G ED lens. The camera is in aperture preferred mode, auto focusing, and set at ISO 200. The lens is at f/2.8 to minimize depth of field and the camera chose 1/1000 of a second. I checked the histogram and had plenty of room top and bottom because of the cloudy conditions. Look at the very soft shadows and you'll see that the sun is behind the tree and a bit to the right.

Post consisted of a bit of color balancing to get rid of some but not all the blue cast and an exposure adjustment in camera raw. I smoothed the snow a bit with a blur in the background in Photoshop but left shading and the diagonal footprints.

Idea from Keep it Simple Stupid, pages 60-61 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Just Forks

Week 29

Repetition. Patterns. It draws our attention. I probably don't use patterns enough in my photography now that I think of it. The idea here is that repeating features draw our attention, and we look for sense in it.

I was looking for something to photograph and the kitchen drawer came to mind. Just one fork wouldn't do so I picked five and arranged them carefully on a white paper background.

The trick with shiny things is lighting of course, and the light is overhead in a softbox, a single SB-600 in TTL mode with no exposure bias. I put white styrofoam on each side to assure even lighting.

The camera is my D3 at ASA 200 and 1/30 seconds. I wanted to push the exposure to the right to get the background white instead of grey (but not so far the blinkies showed up) so the exposure bias on camera is +1. The lens is a AF-S Micro Nikkor 105mm VR set at f/16.

Post consisted of cleaning up specks and spots - they really sow up in a close up of shiny things - and a crooked crop. That seemed to help the compositon a bit. I also tweaked it in curves to brighten the background a bit more without losing the shadows.

Idea based on Repeat after me, pages 100-101 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's All a Blur

Week 28

I like sharp photos. I normally don't like photos with blur unless it is subtle and showing movement (here is an exception). But this week's post is about intentional blur.

The blur can be for intentional softness, to show movement, or just to add interest as I've tried to do here. To get the blur you can set the shutter speed low, shake the camera, zoom it during the exposure, or pan it. You can add a foggy filter or just make it out of focus.

For this shot I moved the camera and added something a little extra - I set my flash to go off during the camera movement. Setting a slower shutter speed when using flash is also known as "dragging the shutter".

The cool thing about this is that the flash freezes things the instant it goes off due to the short duration. In my picture only the christmas lights hanging from the trees show the blur. The light was low enough that the tree, people, etc. weren't lit by ambient and showed up only when the flash went off.

The camera is a Nikon D3 in aperture priority at f/3.5 with ISO fixed at 400. Exposure was 1/5 second. The flash is a SB-600 in TTL mode so the camera was doing all the hard work. The lens is a AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 1:2.8G ED zoomed all the way out to 24mm.

There is very little post processing. I cropped the shot and added a little contrast.

Idea based on Blur, Blur, Blur, pages 14-15 in the book 50 Photo Projects by Lee Frost.