Friday, February 18, 2011

Shaped Bokeh

A few weeks ago I said that I was going to talk about some fun things that you can do with Bokeh and the elements that fall out of the narrow field of focus. This is a simple one that brought me back to the stringing Christmas lights in my back yard. Next I cut a small shape in the middle of a piece of black construction paper and then taped it over the front of my lens. The cool thing is that it doesn't effect the view of the subject in the field of focus. However it has a major influence on how the light in the background enters the camera. Here's an example with little diamond shapes.Isn't that fun? You can do other shapes as well. Here's some squares.
And even though it's a little late for Valentines day, here's some hearts.

You are only limited by your imagination and the shapes that you can cut out in the paper. Here's some pictures to give you an idea of how I set up for these shots. The trickiest part was getting the lighting in the foreground just the way I wanted it. That called for more than a little innovation and tweaking.

And as an added bonus since I had my camera on the tripod and a stable subject, I thought I'd do an HDR image. The results are interesting also in that it shows how much light pollution there is in my neighborhood. More fun things to do with the camera.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Back In The Old Days Of Film

I've been photographing weddings for over twenty years and in the old days it used to be so much less work. Sure I was jumping over bushes to get ahead of the bride as she came out and crouching down to get the best shots of the ceremony while not obscuring the view of the audience but after I spent six to eight hours shooting the wedding and reception, I would just drop of the seven to twelve rolls of film and my work was pretty much done.

Now in the digital age there's so much more to do. For starters, I can shoot so many more pictures. My big chips hold lots of pictures and when one gets full I just put in the next chip. Shooting almost with abandon has a huge advantage over the film days and increases your chances of getting great pictures. It also improves your coverage of the wedding because along with getting all the pictures that the bride has included on her list, I like to make sure I get shots of everyone who has attended. One of the things I really enjoy about doing photography is freezing this moment in time and of recording the history everyone who participated in the wedding. The result is that I end up with hundreds of photographs to process myself in photoshop. No more just letting the lab develop and print the film. I sort through the hundreds of pictures, cropping them to make them look best, tweaking the color and exposure to bring out the best in the photos I've got. Sometimes I'll take the same shot and crop and work it different ways so that I'll end up with a couple pictures made out of the same shot.

So as you can see, the six to eight hours spent at the wedding is only the beginning. I will spend two to three times that much time making the finished product. Fortunately, the results are worth it.

Meanwhile, I've created something of a collage based mostly on my work from the easy old film days. There's a lot of fun memories attached all these old pictures and I'm really happy to share them.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Hold The Shutter

This time I'm going to talk about another fun thing that you can do with your camera: long exposures. The idea is to work in low light and then hold the shutter of your camera open for a longer time, thus capturing the light in a slower fashion. The results can be really interesting and you can get some results that you wouldn't see otherwise. For example you can make pictures of scenes that your own eyes can see but normally you wouldn't be able to capture with a camera. If your camera has a "bulb" setting, then you can hold the shutter open as long s you like. It's recommended that you use a tripod or something to stabilize the camera. I also used my infra red remote control. Otherwise you'll get camera shake or "ghosting." Then again, you might be going for "ghosting" but I'll go there another day.A community theater company that I work with is moving to a new location. So in the middle of the process I came in to take some pictures. With a lot of things in a transitional phase, this looked like an opportunity to capture some interesting images without turning on the lights. Here is the stage in the middle of being dismantled. The only light in the room is coming through the door to the lobby. I held the shutter open for a count of sixty seconds and really captured the mood of the room.This picture is of the dressing room after all the makeup tables, costumes and dressing booths had been removed. The approach I used is that the room is pitch black except that I lit it using a tiny flash light with a single LED bulb that I laid on the floor. I held the shutter open for sixty seconds again. It really creates a different look from other techniques such as using a flash.
Long exposures don't always work for portrait shots. This is another sixty second exposure and it's really difficult to sit perfectly still for that length of time. So I got a little blurry. On the other hand, I really like the way the background came out and how all the tiny light sources back there showed up in the picture. The front lighting in this picture was a single small candle. Next time I try this, I might use more candles or a different small light source. It's a lot of fun to play with this technique and I'll be doing more in the future.