Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Giant Flying Saucer Cloud

The sky and especially cloud, stormy being the best, have always held a special interest for me.
There is something about their majesty and untold patterns that can form and re-form as the wind passes before you.
Sometimes they are downright scary and deadly and at others more cerebral and safe which works well for a photographer.

On a late summer evening with several rain squall line moving through, there came with the last a giant thundercloud. It wasn't until it was passing and with evening side-lighting that the grandeur of the cloud became apparent.

2 images combined. Each image at 18mm (27mm @ 35mm equ)

From the backyard and out over the fields, it looked like a giant flying saucer with the pillars at the edges of the spacecraft.
The cloud was about 10km (6mi) across, which I also confirmed later from the radar.
It was hard to get a full unrestricted view, as smaller clouds would drift underneath. The cloud's scale was only revealed as different parts became visible over time.

I also took many overlapping images of this cloud at 65mm (100 @ 35mm equ) so that one day I might print a large version of this. Somewhere about 17 ft at 240 dpi, at least in theory.

The above image is made from 2 of the zoomed sections and show the pillar-like cloud texture from the top right of the saucer cloud.

Below is another closeup of an area that is just right of the middle tree top (1st image) and below. This cloud had so many areas with different types of textures and patterns that it would be lost in a web image. It would need to be printed very large for a viewer to appreciate all facets.

I warmed (yellow) the lighter portions and cooled (blue) darker sections of the cloud to increase the visual contrast.

And just to the right of the above image, there was another area that appeared to be like streamers raising from the ground.

I enjoy clouds and I have quite a collection of clouds in all shapes, sizes and intensity.  When I look and subsequently photograph clouds, I enjoy the freedom of not being bound by preconceived items and therefore, I can explore their forms more.

Niels Henriksen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: Fast Track Photographer

Book Review: Fast Track Photographer
Leverage your unique strengths for a more successful photography business
by Dane Sanders

One Free copy of book available. See end for details.

This book is a little different than most photography type books in that it doesn't focus on either how to take or process photographs, or even about being creative in your artistic approach. What it does is focus on you. How your personality and style could or might fit within the photography industry.
The book also does not focus on the transitional brick and motor type of business in setting up a studio or acquiring all the correct equipment for your specific genre of photography. 

The book is about you as a photographer and understanding your basic, for the most part, social skills and then deciding whether to pursue the 'brand name' approach, like Chase Jarvis and Joe McNally and many others, or a more transitional mode, including location based studio or contracting out to larger businesses.
One of the keys to success is understanding that a photographer must be adaptable and be able to fit the market and clients.
The strength of the book may be in the online questionnaire and analysis report that you can take for free (once). There is a code at the back of the book to enter to take self-help analysis and it will give you a report in many categories that are related to photography such as experience, self-starter, creativity, artistic identity, need for collaboration, self-promotion and more. These pDNA, as the author calls them, help to define where your strengths are and other areas which should be your primary focus of growth.
Strengths true but my own view is you must have a solid minimum core of quality in other areas.

You can always improve but it is very hard to change completely how you are and anyway why bother, play to your strengths.

Some Book Advice Tips.
'Focus on the parts of the business that has more of your creative processes involved and outsource the generic or other parts that are not your best strengths. It is about business, and you as the photographer must know where your strengths lie.'

'As a photographer you need to know consumers (people) will consume your product.'
My own advice is, this is the social networking era, social skills are paramount no matter what you are doing.

'No one steals work, they take work away because they service the client better and sometimes it is about cost.

'Do not fix everything but only those limiting factors. Find the sweet spot around “you”.'
Know what to outsource.

You only need to find 1,000 true fans.
That's amazingly true to almost work you do.
There is a difference between a professional and DIY photographer. 
it's not about the money

The author does not ascribe his method as the only way to find yourself but encourages you to seek other sources. Self analysis is not everything. You need to trust yourself that you will see ideas emerge.
As with all self-help books, it is important to do the exercises and work and the book does offer advice on how to overcome times when you feel stuck and not sure how to proceed.

While many self-help type books deal with broad applications to guiding principles, many wonder how this guidance can apply to my case. In this book's case, it does deal with how this applies to you.

Who is this book for?

First off, if you are not comfortable with analyzing yourself as with many of the self-help then this book is not for you.

The biggest problem with self-help books is that the readers tend to trust the source as being an expert on whats ailing them. When in fact, most of us barely know ourselves and this is compounded by the fact that our views will change and develop as we age.
This is why I find that with any analysis, it is good to get more source of input. Seek sound people and ask for their opinion of you.

The book by itself does provide good guidance with working in more traditional commercial fields but does not venture far into other areas such as photojournalism, fine-art, stock, book and travel etc.

While I did not take the online analysis test, I left this for the winning reader, I do believe that with this report the price around $12.00 (list $16.99) makes it a very reasonable investment for a photographer who wants to pursue or improve in the wedding, studio and action genres.

Amazon Link

ISBN 978-0-8174-0001-9

To get a Free copy of Fast Track Photographer book (gently read once) mailed to you
Please leave a comment that has the word “Free' included somewhere and a method to contact you.
I will use a random number generator to select the person.
Offer end Wednesday, 1 December 2010, midnight EST.

Thank you,

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Spotlight Effect

I just came across an interesting painting video that talked about the spotlight effect that is sometimes used. I liked the ring effect in the Monet painting in video.

I thought it would be fun to play around with this in some of my photographs as, in the video, that author does make an attempt with one of his images but not very subtle. I suppose it was to demonstrate the effect clearly.

 Can you spot the effect in the above image. I have made it just a little stronger so that it might show better, There is a light ring around the runner and it is just a little lighter in centre.

The first part was to make a layer that I could use in a lightened type of blending mode. I knew the lightened modes tended to work above 128 so I set the background to 130 grey. I used the elliptical marquee tool to create a circle and then stroked it with a grey setting of 230 with a 100 pixel width. With the magic wand, I selected the grey in the centre of the circle, and with paint bucket set to a grey of 165, filled it in to add a little more brightness than the background. A Gaussian blur of 28 to soften edges was used.

I can use the transform function to change size and shape.

I can always use the curve tool to move the 3 tones up and down to suit effect as in image above here. The 2 big spikes are the background and middle tone in the centre. The outer ring is the smaller spike on the right. The above image shows the curves before and after, that moves the centre tone lighter and corresponding spike to the right. This way I can control 3 parts separately.

When you can see both original and altered, the effect seems to show up more. But when you turn the final effect off and on then it becomes less noticeable and even the original now appears a little dark at focal point.

Here, the effect is more noticeable but when not viewing the original, it looks better.

This was just an hour playing around and I do like the effect for some images.

There lighting effects in Photoshop but this is an easy way to add a little focal interest to the image. While I used more of a ring  a circular spotlight would also work.  The Overlay added a little more drama as it could also darken background (move left spike more left with a curve)

Here the link to the painting video I mentioned.

Niels Henriksen

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Eye, the Brain and the Camera

The eye and the brain and the magical interconnections between them creates wonderful light recording system, or its the one we have become accustomed to. The eye only sees detail at about the size of the thumbnail on a fully extended arm. The rest of the field of vision is ever decreasing resolution (less cones) as it moves out from the centre of vision whereas the camera for the most part has perfect resolution across field of view. 

Where the eye really has it though, is when unmeasurably small refocusing speeds our eyes over the full field of view which makes it appear as one image. It's the brain that processes the eye's information, in a manner that appears to us, as infinite DOF and resolution through field of view. The brain is very complex in its processing of visual information. We really don't see all the detail that we think we do.
There is a great book 'Vision of Seeing' the biology of seeing.

It's no wonder, at times, that the image captured by a camera does not quite fit in with what we remember we saw, which is different from what we actually saw. This is the great part about enhancing photos. It allows us to bring to life those parts that captured our imagination.

The soft blue/purple of the stones compliment well with the yellows/oranges in the highlights.

On one Friday evening I was heading out to the Byward Market in Ottawa to hopefully get some interesting B&W shots of dark alleys with lots of mood and mystery. At least that was my goal.
I arrived at 7:30pm in order to find a parking spot and even then it took a while, as by 9:00pm the market, which by then are the bars and bistros, start to hum with people.

At sunset, about 8:30, I started to scout out suitable alleys or courtyards for my image theme when I came across this man sleeping on a bench in a courtyard under a canopy of trees.

It wasn’t completely twilight dark at this time but even with a fast 2.8 VR lens set at ISO 640 @ f4.0, at 100mm I would still needed a tripod, as the shutter speed was 1/9 s.

The above photo is a camera RAW image and as you can see, it is a bit brighter due to large amount of dark areas going to mid-grey value with exposure readings. This turns out to be a benefit as when the image is darkened, those areas will have its noise reduced proportionally.

In my mind I had a different picture; darker surrounding areas with a light streaming on the gentleman. Darker foreground and removal of the cigarette butts.
The problem was, it was not quite dark enough when the photo was taken. When I returned in about 20 minutes later, the man was getting up so there was no opportunity to retake this shot and you have to go with what you captured.

Below is the Layers I used to achieve the effect.

I tend to use a separate layer for each effect or localized area that needs to be adjusted. This is why it is easier to fine-tune the image as a whole.

As I am examining image possibilities with design ideas I save a version (cntrl-alt-sft-E) I like. See top of stack.

This is a B&W version blended with a more contrasty colour I also enjoy.

Niels Henriksen


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