Rainbow Hills

TWiP Behind the Shot Interview

I was recently interviewed by Steve Brazill on his Behind the Shot podcast which is part of the This Week in Photography network. We talked about the making of my image Rainbow Hills.

Check it out!

Rainbow Hills


Tips for a Model Shoot at the Great Salt Lake

This is the second of a series of posts about shooting at the various locations that are part of the UTadventure Tours. Today's tip is about shooting at the Great Salt Lake. I will be an instructor on the June 1st-6th tour this summer. Come join me.

The Great Salt Lake

Saltair at the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a great location for both fine art nudes and glamour shots. For me shooting at Great Salt Lake is all about reflections. In the morning the water is still and flat and almost like a mirror. On the beach there are small ponds of water and fingers of sand that jut out into the lake, have the model stand on the opposite side of the water from you and shoot vertically or with a wide angle lens to include both them and their reflection in the water. Having them stand right at the water's edge or actually in the water will enhance the effect.
Floofie in Dress at Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake is very shallow, and the model can be well off shore and the water will only come up to their ankles.

Water Walker - Great Salt Lake

Mix up the poses here, both soft sensual curves and sharp angular poses work well. If there are ripples in the water, the reflected light from the water's surface can create interesting light patterns on the body. I like to position the model to maximize this effect.

Background

You are never sure what kind of background you are going to have at Saltair. Often times it is hazy in the distance which makes for a nice background where you can't quite tell where the water meets the sky. On a clear day there are mountain peaks and islands in the distance and I like to place the model so they are between the peaks and are framed by the distance mountains.

Multiple Models

On the UTadventure Tours there are a lot of opportunities to have multiple models pose in your photo and Great Salt Lake is probably one of the best spots for this on the trip.
I have an accomplished photographer friend who claims he has never seen a good photo with multiple models. That is of course not true, some of my best selling images have multiple models, however it does point out the fact that is can be challenging to make a good photo when there is more than one model. A lot of photographers will try to have all the models do the same pose, which is almost impossible to accomplish, any little variation in position between models is going to stand out and be easily visible to the the viewer and detracts from the image. The easiest way to fix this is to have the models pose in completely different poses, make it obvious that they are not trying to mimic each other.
UTah Great Salt Lake
An important tip when posing multiple models is to have them interacting. This helps in creating a story and makes a more compelling image than just having multiple models independently in the frame.  This interaction can be accomplished by either having them reaching out towards each other, or making physical contact with each other.
Another approach is to stagger their distance from the camera. Having one model in the foreground and another further away in the background can add interest to the image.

Conclusion

As you can see there are great shooting opportunities at the Great Salt Lake. Next stop on our Utah Tour? Looking Glass Arch.


A Good Harvest - My 2016 Photos

A Good Harvest

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop
– Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

My 2016 Harvest

This past year was a strange one for me photographically. It started with me unsure where I was headed, I had a couple of studio sessions where I flailed around with ideas trying to come up with some new body of work. I did continue my “On the Rocks” series but overall I felt directionless.

Looking back at the year and the photos I produced all of the work was sporadic and produced in March, May, September and December. I had months where I didn’t pick up a camera and had no motivation to, yet in those 4 months were I did pick up the camera I produced more and better images than I ever have in the past.

I took 38097 photos in 2016 which is almost 33% more than I did in 2015 (24,063).

The Breakdown

Non-Model Models Totals
Total 7,810 30,287 38,097
Keepers 137 196 333
Portfolio Worthy 49 134 183
5 Star 11 25 36

Keepers – these are the photos that I actually edited and considered finished.
Portfolio Worthy – There are images that I actually exhibited or showed to others via my web site, social media, etc.
5 Star – These are the photos I consider my best work of the year. These are my “Harvest” or “Crop” for the year

The Images

Analysis

When I was putting together this post I was concerned that I had so many I considered great images and wondered if I was just not being critical enough of my photos. But most have won awards or been published which seems to imply that other people appreciate them as well. Would love to have you feedback on the images.

Mixing It Up

I think it is interesting that the images fit into 3 categories, a continuation of my On the Rocks series, the Utah Adventure trips really helped with this, being able to spend straight 5 days shooting really helped me get into a great photographic mindset and really explore some ideas.

The second group are the studio shots and these predominantly part of the series I call Geometric Progression, and involve using black and white as the main theme in the images. There were was also one from the Blind Religion body of work, and a new one from my as yet untitled Room series. Except for the Room series all of these images were done in the first couple of months of the year when I still felt like I was flailing about.

The final group are the underwater images. I tried it on a fluke in August and was pleased with the results I was getting right off the bat so I decided to continue. I will definitely be exploring this more in 2017 as I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface (pun was unintended, but I liked it so I left it in, which I guess then makes it intended).

I believe it is because of doing these three disparate types of shoots that I have such a large number of keepers this year. Any one category would produce less than Ansel’s number of twelve. To further the analogy it’s like planting three different crops and getting a good harvest on each.

How Was Your Crop?

I would love to hear how many 5 star photos you shot this past year. So share with me in the comments below or on my Facebook page.


Three Models Sitting on Salt Flats

Tips for a Model Shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats

This is the first of a series of posts about shooting at the various locations that are part of the UTadventure Tours. I will be an instructor on the June 1st-6th tour this summer. Come join me. 

Fine Art and Glamour

The Salt Flats lend themselves to a variety of shooting styles, Fine Art Nudes, Fashion, and Glamour.
It is almost always windy on the Salt Flats so for fashion I like long flowing clothes, dresses, scarves, capes, etc that will billow in the wind. For glamour you can add fabric; have the model hold the fabric in their hands, wrap it around their body, etc. The wind will often hold it in place on their body which can make for unique looks. The biggest challenge with the wind is that it is not always coming the direction you might like with respect to the direction of the light. Just experiment with your angles and you should come up with some great shots.
 Salt Flats Dasha 2

Play Around with the Background

One interesting thing about the Salt Flats is there are a lot of different and interesting backgrounds. You can shoot in one direction with mountains in the background, turn 90 degrees and have distant mountains, turn another 90 degrees and have the Salt Flats disappear at the horizon. I like to make use of all of these as well as adjusting my depth of field, shallow depth of field to make the model stand out against the mountains, and a deeper depth of field when shooting towards the flat horizon.

Shoot High, Shoot Low

One thing to watch for when positioning the model is where the background intesects the models body. You don't want the top of the mountains to be in line with the top the model's head, or have just a hand sticking up above the mountain. So play around with your shooting height. Shoot low and place more of the model into the sky/clouds, shoot from a higher position and include more of the salt flats in the background. For every shot I am always concious of how the background elements are interacting with the model.

Using the Sun

As mentioned above the Salt Flats are unique in you can shoot in almost any direction and find a good composition. So this allows you flexibility in the direction you want the sun to light the scene. You can get great shots with the sun coming from behind you, or move the model so the light is coming in more to the side, as the sun sets the model's shadow will get longer and can be an interesting part of the composition. You can also position the model between you and the sun and shoot silhouettes. When shooting directly into the sun I like to have a narrow aperture like f/22 which causes a starburst effect if the sun is in the frame.
Salt Flats Gwen

Use the Tire Tracks

One of the first things I noticed when I walked out on the Salt Flats is that there are tire tracks everywhere going in every direction. I often will spend the time in Photoshop to remove most or all of the tire tracks from the image, but sometimes I embrace the tire tracks, placing the model so there are interacting with them. They make great leading lines. I will also place models at the intersection of lines, or search out curving lines and make use of them. So think about the placement of the tire tracks in your compositions.
Salt Flats Dasha 1

Making the Most of the Terrain

As you can see there a lot of opportunities at the Salt Flats to take a wide range of photos. Mix it up, move around, and explore the space.

Self Portraits #2

Thirty Self Portraits – #2

Self Portraits - #2

This is the second self portrait in my project to shoot 30 self portraits. You can read about the project in my first post.

For this one I wanted to experiment with edge lighting and profiles. I think it turned out OK. I'm going to revisit this one and try some props (I'm thinking a hat work well) and change the angles a little.

 

The Image

Self Portraits #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighting Diagram

One thing I left out were the camera settings. Although the light is at f/5.6 I had the aperture on my camera set to f/8.0. This helped to darken the side of my face even more.

I also had a question about why the light is at an angle instead of behind me (which would have given more of a rim effect). The reason is so it doesn't appear in the scene as I wanted a black background. It is just out of the frame to the right, I made it as close as I could where it would not show up in the scene.

One other thing to note, I purposely made the light very close to me, the reason was to have a lot of light fall-off from the front of my face to the back. This creates more of a gradient and wider range between the highlights and shadows.

Self Portraits #2 Lighting

 

 

 

 

 


Self Portrait #1

Thirty Self Portraits - #1

Thirty Self Portraits - A New Project

As with all projects the Thirty Self Portraits Project came about as the result of several different influences and directions.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

The first influence came from watching the HBO documentary on Robert Mapplethorpe (Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures). There were several photos that he took where I really liked his lighting and decided to try to emulate them, I also really liked the very last self-portrait he did of himself.

 

Howard Schatz Workshop

A few weeks later I went to the Palm Springs Photo Festival (which I have written about here) and took a class with Howard Schatz. The class was all about experimenting with lighting and trying different techniques. I really enjoyed the play and learned a few tricks that I wanted to try myself. One thing I have learned about taking workshops, if I don't practice what I learned I soon forget it. So I thought taking self-portraits would be a great way to practice what I learned and to continue with the experimentation.

 

I Need More Head Shots

Finally I need more head shots of myself. For a lot of the gallery shows and publications I have been in over the past couple of years they are often asking for a head shot and I don't have that many. This works well with the practice I mentioned above. I need a subject and I need more shots of myself so the self-portrait project was born.

 

Why Thirty?

I just pulled a number out my ass and it happened to be thirty. I don't know if I will actually shoot 30, maybe I'll only do 20, or maybe I'll just keep going and shoot 100. I've put a stake in the ground, but am not absolutely committing to it. I currently have 23 ideas for self portraits, so I figure I will at least get that far.

Also this is not a self portrait a day, or a week, or a month. Every time I've tried a project like that is just kills the joy for me and makes me stop taking photos. So this is just doing it when I feel like it, some weeks I might do 3 or 4, then I might not do another for a month. No pressure, no commitment, just do it when the mood strikes me.

 

The One Downside

My subject in these portraits is an ugly son of a bitch.

 

Self Portrait # 1

Thirty Self Portraits #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the lighting setup for this image.

 

Thirty Self Portraits #1 lighting diagram


Academy Awards 2016

Every year I make it a goal to watch every Best Picture Nominee for the Academy Awards prior to the airing of the Awards Show. Here are the eight movies nominated this year and my brief take on each one. These are listed in order from least favorite to most favorite. Which one do you think is going to win?

 

The Revenant

This was a beautifully filmed movie, the scenery was amazing, everyone seems to love this movie but I'm going against the grain on this one, to me it was a 30 minute story stretched into 3 hours. I was bored more than once during the movie, in fact at one point I was starting to doze off. That is not the sign of a great movie. I'm guessing people are gushing over it because of the cinematography, which was spectacular, and Leo's performance which was also very good, but the drawn out story .

 

Mad Max: Fury Road

This movie was much better than my expectations going into to it. I was expecting just another action movie with little substance, but it surprised me. Both the story and the acting were very good. I don't typically like action movies but this one was a good balance of interesting action and visuals with a good story. I've seen some film reviewers actually predict it could win the Best Picture Award. While I liked I do disagree that it was that good.

 

The Martian

After reading the book I was very excited to see that it was going to be made into a movie. I was doubly excited when I heard that Ridley Scott would be the director. The visuals in the movie were fantastic and better than I could hope for. Matt Damon did a great job playing Mark Watney. But I was disappointed. Movies are never better than the book and I expected that, but the parts of the book they cut out of the movie were the parts that made it a great book, the tension. The book was full of tension and you were never sure how Watney was going to get out of a situation. The movie had zero tension. There was never a point in the movie where I felt like Watney wasn't going to make it. As I said the visuals and special effects were great but the story never grabbed me.

 

Room

Room was a very good movie and although it was depressing I did enjoy it. I won't give any spoilers, but I enjoyed how it showed something I never really considered, which is the aftermath of a trama like kidnapping. Brie Larson was excellent and deserves her Best Actress Nomination. It's not a movie I would see again, or even one that stuck with me that long, but I always appreciate movies that make me think or where I learn something. Room is one of those movies.

 

Bridge of Spies

This movie is about what transpired after the Russian's shot down a U-2 plane during the height of the cold war in 1960 and how the a lawyer James Donovan, played by Tom Hanks, negoiated an prisoner exchange for the U-2 pilot in exchange for a Soviet KGB spy. Although before I was born, I knew about the shooting down of the plane, but knew nothing about what went on to arrange the exchange. I found it very interesting, and even suspensful. - Mark Rylance who played the KGB spy Rudolf Abel was excellent in the role, and Tom Hanks delivered his typical well done performance.

 

Brooklyn

I knew nothing about this movie when I went to see it except that it had been nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award. I enjoyed this movie quite a lot, it's not very fast paced and while it was a fairly formulaic love story it still surprised me and had me questioning what was going to happen next. The lead actress Saoirse Ronan was very good. A very strong, well done movie.

 

The Big Short

I thought this movie was a little confusing in the beginning mainly because it is multiple stories about people who realize the housing crisis is coming and how they use that knowledge to profit for the crash. It's a complicated subject but the movie did a great job of explaining it, often by having a sidebar scene where some actor/actress does a cameo and pops in to explain a concept; Margot Robbie in a bath tub, Selena Gomez playing blackjack. The first of these caught me off-guard but it was very effective to understanding the subject matter. Great performances, especially by Christian Bale (nominated for Best Supporting Actor), Steve Carell, and Brad Pitt. A very interesting and enjoyable movie.

 

Spotlight

This movie felt a lot like All the Presidents men which showed newspaper reporters learning about Watergate. In this case it was Boston Globe reporters uncovering the child sex abuse by Roman Catholic Priests and the church's cover up. Very well acted, well paced and really great script that made it easy to follow what transpired.


Quick Photoshop Tip - Feathering Selections

I used to struggle in Photoshop guessing how much to feather a selection. A lot of it was trial and error, pick some number of pixels to feather, try it, undo, pick another number, rinse, repeat. But this is now a thing of the past, I recently realized I could use the Refine Edge tools to have a visual aid for my feathering of selections.

I often want to brighten an area of a photo or create a vignette as one of the final steps of editing a photograph. Here is an example where I want to brighten the statue of David using a mask and a curves layer.

Make Selection

I use the elliptical marquee tool to make my selection then press the Refine Edge button in Photoshop.

Feathering1

 

Select View Mode

In the Refine Edge dialog box I change the view mode to either View on White. This shows my selection with a white border around it.

Feathering2

 

Adjust the Feathering

Using the Feathering slider I visually adjust the feathering to get a selection without a hard edge. I then output to Selection.

Feathering3

 

Make my Curves Adjustment

With the feathered selection active I then create a curves layer which will create a feathered mask. I can then adjust the curves layer to brighten or darken the selected area. If I were doing a vignette I would invert the selection prior to creating the curve layer and then darken the edges of the photo using the curves adjustment.

 

Feathering4

 

Conclusion

There you have it a quick and easy way to visually determine how much feathering to add to a selection. Let me know if you use this tip and how it works for you.

By the way for those who are going to comment that you are not allowed to take photos of David, they recently changed their policy sometime during the Summer of 2014 and photos are now allowed.


Aristodeme

Lake Powell Images - Aristodeme

Aristodeme

This is a continuation of my Lake Powell images, there are so many that I'm can't put them all into my portfolio, but there are many worthwhile images, so I decided to show them here as blog posts. Each post will present all of the images for a given model. This week it is Aristodeme.

If you missed it be sure to check out Cwen's images

These were shot at Lake Powell during a week long trip in October of 2015. I talk about the trip in this post about Taking a Workshop

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme