Sunday, December 16, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Writing


I enjoy writing. I'm not sure whether that's because I enjoy the process of communicating my thoughts and ideas, or whether it's simply that I enjoy the process of crafting the words, sentences and paragraphs together into coherent wholes that convey those thoughts and ideas. I also enjoy photography, and therefore when I write, I generally write about my photographs, about my cameras, lenses and other equipment or about the people, places and things that I have photographed in the past or want to photograph in the future.

Lately, I've been writing a series of articles for my personal webite. A list of those articles can be found here: Writings and Articles. I'm concentrating on lens reviews right now, and it has been great fun to go back through my extensive archive of photos to find images that best exemplify the characteristics of a particular lens. The image to the right, for example, is used in an article about the Canon 28-70 f/2.8 EF L lens, which has been my workhorse lens for over 5 years. I have an entire list of additional articles on equipment that I'm slowly, but surely completing, and I'm always looking for new ideas for articles.

This image is taken from my review of the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 EF L IS lens. The image shows just how sharp this long zoom can be even when it is wide open (maximum aperture) and at its longest focal length. The image also shows that the lens has good bokeh (the quality of the background blur) and color saturation.

The image itself was taken at a mid-summer celebration party in 2006. Although the party had a pagan theme, there were guests from all religious stripes in attendance, and the event included costumes, body painting, fire dancing and excellent food and drink (very important for any party). It was really a fun photographic experience, and I enjoyed shooting the event for the group and sharing the images afterwards, and I had no idea at the time that I would be writing an article about both of the lenses I was using at the event.

So, I look forward to writing the articles, and I hope that those that stumble across my personal website find them useful and informative. During the holiday break, I expect that I will be able to finish at least two or three more of the equipment articles and at begin writing a new article about photographic lighting tips and techniques.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Favorite Models

I'm writing a series of articles for my personal website. The articles include lens reviews, places to shoot, tutorials for photographic techniques, and other subjects photographic. I finished a couple of articles yesterday; one on the Canon 85 f/1.2 L lens and another on the Canon 135 f/2 L lens.

I illustrate my reviews, of course, with photos taken with the lenses or at the places of which I'm writing. In the case of the two lenses I wrote about yesterday, the model here was used prominently to illustrate the lenses capabilities and to provide example shots to draw the readers' attention. As you can see, Christine would draw anyone's eye.

Christine is an aspiring model, and I worked with her for a couple of years assisting her with some shots she needed for her portfolio and for some modeling applications. She works hard, shows up on time, and really contributes to the creative endeavor. I really miss working with her. It has been over a year now, and I do hope she is doing well with her career.

The last time we worked together was in August of 2006. We were working on getting her a portfolio established on one of the major online modeling publications. We had gotten several shoots completed for her outdoor glamour portfolio and were about to start working on some more generalized fashion and activity shots when she abruptly told me she wouldn't be modeling anymore for very well thought-out personal reasons. It's really a shame, because she was truly my favorite model and I do miss working with her.

When I was writing yesterday, I found the photos of her best illustrated the particular concepts forwarded by the articles, and that got me to thinking about Christine and how she was doing and how much fun it was to shoot with her. I miss her energy and her willingness to try new poses and concepts, as well as her ability to look at the positive.

Christine, wherever you are, I hope you're doing well and that you've taken up modeling again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pinup Photography

The other day a friend asked me aboutu 1940's and 50's style pin-up photography. She said they had never seen any on my site and wondered if I had ever done it. My answer to them was I had done it, but nothing recently and that it was a matter of costume, setting and lighting. After more thought, I realized that those three attributes determine the style or genre of any people photography.

In any event, I went looking through my archives to see if I could find any specific examples, and of my digital files, this is the closest I 've come to that genre of photography since moving to digital. I did find some slides done with other models that were closer to the style, but I've found that the older Ektachrome slides I used don't scan well to digital.

To be really more of a 50's pinup style, though, the model's pose in this photo needs to be more elongated, that is, her body should be stretched out with much more emphasis on the legs and torso. Additionally, the props need to be more closely aligned to the costume. In this case, a red toy sack and a Christmas tree background would be more appropriate.

So, I've been doing quite a bit of research on this style of glamour, and I think that will be one of my winter photos projects, i.e. to shoot a series of 1940's and 1950's style pinups. I'm working on getting access to the loft of a shop which may work out well for a winter photography studio. I have a number of models that will be willing to work with me for copies of the prints for the portfolios, or for a modest fee. It's really, then only a matter of buying the props and costumes and optimizing the lighting. I need to research the lighting styles a bit more, but I've ordered a couple of Bunny Yeager's books and those will provide good examples for what I'm trying to accomplish. With any luck, I'll be able to post a new entry here is a few weeks with some examples of these types of photos.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Favorite Lenses

I enjoy using different lenses on my cameras. The primary reason I bought my first Single Lens Reflex camera was the fact that I could change the lenses on the camera to choose the one most appropriate for the subject I was photographing. Although I've owned many Point and Shoot (P&S) cameras (and I still do), my tool of choice is still a Single Lens Reflex camera with interchangeable lenses.

I went digital with my photography in 1998 and at that time the only economically feasible digital cameras were Point and Shoots. Digital SLR's at that time cost many thousands of dollars. I still shot film, but what I really wanted was the convenience of digital combined with the versatility and image quality of a DSLR. That didn't occur until late 2000 with the release of Canon's D30 DSLR (Nikon had a DSLR earlier, but since all my lenses were Canon, it wasn't an economically viable option for me). With the release of that camera I had my wish and I've since expanded my lens collection significantly.

As I was shooting some photos this weekend for a lens comparison article I'm writing, I realized that there are few lenses that are just wonderful for photography and have to be listed as my favorites. One of these lenses is the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 with which the posted photo was taken. This lens is a great deal because for the money you got a wonderful low-light lens with fast auto-focus and great image quality. It's big brother, the Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II can produce better image quality and has lower light capability, but at a significantly increased price and with slower AF speed.

As you can see from the image here, this lens is quite capable and produces lovely images. I almost sold it last year, but pulled it from my "to sell" list at the last minute. I'm certainly glad I did.

Mark

Friday, November 2, 2007

Montana


I took a longer lunch today and did a photo shoot with a long-time friend of mine, Montanna. I've known Montana for about 5 years, I think. I met her through another friend of mine, and we've done a few photo shoots together. After modeling for a while, she took a break, but is now looking to get back into the business. She has a portfolio on One Model Place and I'll be helping her build and expand her portfolio over the next several months (I hope).

The photo shoot we did this afternoon was fairly quick. We shot under the St. Johns Bridge and it was quite cool down by the river. Montana is a slender young woman, and I could tell the chill was getting to her when we weren't in the direct sunlight. She was quite game and very enthusiastic about the photo shoot, though, so anyone that hires her as a model would be very pleased with the results, I'm sure.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sunsets

Most people love to photograph sunsets, and they can certainly be beautiful, but often the shots turn out to be very clich├ęd. The key to sunsets, I believe, is to find something different or unusual about the sunset - the weather conditions, the activity, the terrain - or anything to make the sunset just a little (or a lot) out of the ordinary.

For me, a photograph of a sunset can vary in tone and the feeling it evokes. For example, this sunset is soft and puts me in a contemplative mood:


Pacific Coast Sunset during a storm

While this sunset has a slightly different nuance to it:


Sunset on the Big Island of Hawaii

Sunsets can wonderful variations of colors such as these two from the Caribbean Sea:




Two views of sunset as seen from the deck of the USS Fury

Sometimes with the sun goes down one color predominates and sets a mood or tone that's almost scary in it's intensity:


Death Valley Sunset

Sometimes sunsets can be very, very wierd:


Iridescent Sunset in Las Vegas

Or they can be very, very subtle in color and tone, yet still be beautiful and evoke feelings of quiet solitude:


Dusk in Death Valley


Sometimes sunsets can provide a feeling of serenity:


Oregon Sunset

While other sunsets can provide a sense of fun:


Sunset Surfer, Big Island, Hawaii


Sunset Riders, Las Vegas, Nevada


Outrigger Canoe Team Practice, Hawaii

Sometimes beautiful sunsets show up when you least expect them:





Two view of sunset in Maupin, Oregon


But no matter what, when you see a lovely sunset, you should take time to enjoy it with someone special.


A couple enjoying sunset on the island of Kauai

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Friends

Fortunately, over the years I've had quite a number of friends who have been willing to be my photographic subjects. Often their husbands or boyfriends were more than willing to assist me by holding reflectors, carrying extra cameras or lenses, or just staying out of the way. Most of the time they knew that by helping me, they were making their ladies happy and ensuring the photos from the session would be better for their efforts.

In the case of this photo, my friend Roberta was helping me with a budoir shoot. She was posing on a settee in my living room. While there was sufficient natural light from the windows and skylight in the room, I wanted more moody lighting, and so I instructed her husband to stand at the top of the stairwell with a small, golden reflector and to catch a portion of the light streaming from the skylight and to focus it on Roberta's upper body. This gave her a nice warm color that complimented her tan and set her body off from the white lingerie she wore for the shoot. The reflected light also provided more moody shadows and allowed the intensity to taper off toward the feet. All in all, it was a very fun and successful shoot.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Portraits

I enjoy shooting portraits. They can be very challenging images to make because a good portrait must not only be technically good, but it has to capture the personality of the person portrayed. This is quite difficult to do when working with only the head and shoulders of the subject (the classic portrait). I also find it more difficult to shoot male portraits. I think this is because, despite popular opinion, men are actually more self-conscious of their image and the whole portrait process. Or it may be that I simply have more experience with and relate better to shooting portraits of women.

The two female portraits shot here were photographed on location at a friend's house late in the afternoon of a clear August day. The soft, low light contributed to the warmth of the photograph and provided the soft shadows that help define the portraits. The ladies were posed in a open, grassy area already turned a golden brown brown by Oregon's dry summer. The background was a large stand of evergreens.

A large aperture, a long focal length and a relatively close camera to subject distance was used to minimize the depth of field and throw the background out of focus. This isolated the models to make them stand out from their surroundings. The focus point was on the subject's eyes and a shutter speed was picked that would minimize camera shake for the focal length and sensor size used for the images.

An assistant with a large white reflector provided fill light to soften the shadows even further, and an external flash set to minimum was used to provide a small catchlight in the eyes.

The models were simply asked to look natural. As you can see, one lady smiled for the camera and the other did not. This isn't so much reflective of their personalities, but of their mood during the shoot. They both had fun shooting and were pleased with the resulting photographs, but one model was far more at ease during the shoot than was the other. Neither lady is a professional model (but one has had to put up with my cameras for many, many years).



For the portrait of the couple seen above, many of the same techniques were used, but instead of a reflector, on-camera fill flash was utilized. Posing two people together isn't as easy as shooting one subject at a time, but the couple has a great dynamic and I think this shot works very well for them.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Autumn Photography


I enjoy shooting in the Fall. Of course, the seasonal colors were much better when I lived in New England and Upstate New York. Here in Oregon, the colors are more subdued and tend toward the yellows and oranges as opposed to the bright reds and deep burnt oranges of the Northeast. Also, the weather here makes for more difficult shooting as the storm fronts start moving in off the Pacific beginning in October and a dry day becomes more of a rarity.

I took a day off last week to do some fall shooting. My plan was to drive over Bald Peak into Yamhill County and down to McMinnville to shoot around the vineyards and the town. t was supposed to be a dry day, but the morning was actually pretty foggy and damp. By lunch, however, the weather had cleared and I managed to get in some shooting. Driving over Bald Peak was quite interesting in the fog, but I did get some spooky looking shots at Bald Peak Park and on the property of some friends who live up on the mountain. I found some interesting colors driving down the mountain into valley, but the colors were still fairly dull due to the overcast skies.





When I got into McMinnville, I was happy to find quite a bit of color in the town itself. There were several maple trees outside the Hotel Oregon which had turned, and there was a Farmer’s Market scheduled for that afternoon and the vendors were setting up some very colorful displays. I wandered around town for a bit, had lunch at the hotel, and they shot a few frames of the market, the town, and some of the outlying vineyards. All in all, it was a nice relaxing day, but I sure would love to visiting Vermont and Connecticut in the fall again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Projects and Fun


I'm working on a long-term project, something that I hope will provide me with a creative outlet for the next couple of years. I've been exchanging some e-mails with some prospective models, and this description of the project from one of the e-mails:

The them of the project is The Fae in All of Us, and so I'm looking to find various models to help me depict this in images - so the images will vary depending on the person, the season and the desires of the photographer and model. While, I do intend to complete the seasonal series (Winter, Spring and Summer), I also intend to depict the elements as well (Earth, Wind, Fire and Water).

The project does, however, allow me a great degree of freedom to work with the model to achieve her vision as well. For example, I have one friend who wants to be depicted as a "Combat Fairy." That's her vision, and it will be fun to work with her to see it to fruition. In this case, she is designing her own costume and we'll work together to find the appropriate location and we'll begin shooting when we're both satisfied with the concept and preparations. In another example, I have a model who interested in posing as the fire fairy. He concept is red wings, red hair, and a sheer red outfit while she dances around a bonfire. I have a friend with some property and a burn pile who is willing to provide the location for that shoot. Other shoots will be done either in a studio, at other locations I've used over the years, and in some cases will be suggested and provided by the models themselves.

In the case of the 1st set which you've seen on my website, the model was hired specifically for the project. She had no particular vision or emotional investment for or in the project and simply was seeking the modeling fee for the work. After post-processing the images and reflecting on the shoot, I came to feel that I would get better images that would convey more of the project's concepts by using models who were specifically interested in the project for the fun and the art rather than simply for the money.


The set of photos mentioned above are located here: Autumn Fairy

So, that's part of what I have planned for the future. I do hope to be able to post some of the resulting photos in the next few months, though I envision this as a long-term project that will continue over the next 2 to 3 years.

Monday, October 8, 2007

2007 Oregon Country Fair



The Oregon Country Fair this year was, as always, a great photographic opportunity. I went on both Friday and Saturday. Friday was my day to indulge in abstract photography (patterns, colors, textures) while Saturday was the day to meet friends, enjoy the food, and shop. Unfortunately, the fair gets more crowded each year and it becomes more difficult to get around through the crowds, and there is seldom an opportunity to simply sit and rest for a few minutes. The fair has always been a colorful, chaotic event, but the crowds make it more chaotic and I fear that eventually it will reach the point where it becomes self-defeating.

The good news was that Kathleen the body painter was back at the fair this year and there were lots of people sporting her work. Of course, there were lots of others wandering the fair in their own imaginative paint jobs and costumes. The photo posted with this entry is of a very lovely, happy and enthusiastic young lady dancing at the main stage. She was very happy to pose for this and subsequent photos and she flashed the most dazzling smile.

Yes, I'll probably go again next year, despite the crowds.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

New Models



I had the distinct pleasure of working with a new model a couple of weeks ago. Sierra is a lovely young lady who obviously enjoyed posing for the camera. Although she is just starting out as a model, she has a natural ability to move for the camera and to strike poses that show off her lovely smile and physique quite well. I particularly like her eyes and her smile. I am looking forward to working with her on several more projects in the very near future. She has expressed an interest in working with me on my light painting and fairy projects, and we may very well revist Cathedral Park under the St. Johns Bridge (where these photos were taken) when the fall colors become more prominent.

In addition, I met another lovely young lady this week for coffee and a discussion about photography. She's done some pretty good work herself, but she's also interested in working with me on a couple of projects as well. We'll be setting up test shoots in the very near future, I hope. She has some great ideas for us to shoot as well.

Unfortunately, with the onset of the wet Northwest winter, much of my photography will be curtailed. There are very few fairs, festivals and other outdoor events during the wet months, so usually this means I don't take the cameras out much during the winter. This year, though, I'm planning to do more during these months. I have a friend who is building an indoor studio and I'm sure that with my help and the ability to use some of my studio gear, he'll be more than happy to trade me for studio time. I also plan to get out more and do some wet landscape photography, and perhaps even some model photography in the rain or the snow. So, I do have some planning and some work to do this winter.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wild Thing


Wild Thing

This morning when, at my window I stood,
Sipping my coffe and reflecting on good,
A creature stirred near the edge of the wood,
So amazing and lovely I scarcely could,
Believe my eyes for there in the light,
Stood so quietly; soft, frail and slight,
This unearthly, beautiful sprite.

Slowly and softly from the window I crept,
To the case where my camera I kept,
And gathered my gear and quickly stepped,
Back to the window not daring to accept,
That I might capture an image wild,
Of this lovely ethereal nature's child,
Who had me so easily beguiled.


She moved through the foliage with silent grace,
Clearly not of this world nor of our race,
My heart skipped a beat with she raised her face,
To look in my eye and smile with a trace,
Of sadness so clearly etched in her heart,
That humankind had become so smart,
We no longer believed in the mysterious art,

Of magic and legend and creatures of mirth,
Or spirits and sprites, not of this earth,
Evidence of which, I'll admit 'tis dearth,
But does not detract one wit from their worth.
She looked away and picked a bloom;
I raised my camera, focused and zoomed,
And took this image out of the gloom.

She did not startle, but fled right away,
This wonderful, mysterious Grace of the fae,
Under my mechanical scrutiny unwilling to stay.
And the last that I saw was the grasses sway,
As she passed from the light and into the glen,
And faded from the sight of all men,
Not to be seen until belief comes again.