Forest Glow

Forest Glow
Forest Glow, Cary, North Carolina | Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 48mm | Seven bracketed exposures converted with Nik HDR Efex

While I was experimenting with a 5D Mark III camera body on loan from CPS, I discovered that one of its killer apps is for high dynamic range photography.  No, not its built-in HDR functionality (which is rather underwhelming).  Rather, I am referring to its ability to set autoexposure bracketing for up to seven frames and, when the shutter button is depressed, automatically go into mirror lock-up and rapidly fire each frame in sequence.  The one wrinkle?  If you already have mirror lock-up enabled, this while actually cause a hiccup: it will want you to hit the shutter for each frame.  Canon, please fix this quirk in your next firmware release!

This is much more useful than previous incarnations of autoexposure bracketing: three images really is not enough for HDR photography.  Seven?  I can work with seven!


Turning over a New Leaf

Red Leaf
Red Leaf, Price Lake, Blue Ridge Highway. | Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L @ 70mm | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/4, ISO 100

Since it was launched in 2007, I have been an avid user of Adobe’s Lightroom.  One of the things that I have loved about the strengths of the “Develop” module (also called Camera RAW in Photoshop, as they share the same engine) is that I have felt progressively less need to port an image into Photoshop for further enhancement.  This has been especially true since version three onward, as the local enhancements offered by the brush and gradient tool have made selections very easy.  Need to brighten the bride’s face but keep the dress the same value?  No problem, just use the brush.  Photoshop?  Why bother.

I realize I’m likely the last person to get on board the Nik Software bandwagon (especially since even Google decided that it was a good one to hop onto….or guide into its garage, if we continue that metaphor). Because we don’t really know what that acquisition means, re-sellers are steeply discounting the existing lineup of products.  I tried their demo of HDR Efex a while back and was impressed, and decided to roll the dice and pick up their entire collection for Lightroom.  The disadvantage for some people is that this product cannot be launched from inside of Photoshop: instead, you create a copy of the image as a TIFF file and port it into whichever Nik program you’ve selected.  Since I’m avoiding Photoshop for the most part, this approach doesn’t phase me.

For making color images, Viveza 2 and Color Efex 4 are a pretty amazing combination.  Over the last few days I’ve developed a workflow of adjusting my images globally in Lightroom, and then working on local contrast in Viveza.  If I want the foliage of the trees to be more subdued to make the bare branches of the foreground trees to stand out, it’s easy to do.  No more near-impossible layer masks in Photoshop!

Fall Color and Bare Branches
Colors along the highway, Blue Ridge Highway near the Linn Cove Viaduct on October 14, 2012. | Canon 5D Mark II and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens @ 97mm | Exposed 1/15 sec. @ f/11, ISO 100

I have posted this image before; while it is similar to the original, the trees stand out more.  And going forward, I can only see advantages to using Nik software whenever my goal is to make tonal changes to ranges of color.  No, I would not suggest using these programs for every image.  But for those that have commercial value, I can see only advantages.  Below is a series of three panoramas.  The first was the result of stitching in Photoshop, but all of the toning had taken place as global adjustments on the RAW files within Photoshop.  Beneath that is the result of toning the image in Viveza 2, and the final photo is the finished product from Color Efex 4.  Each round of processing builds on the previous.

Price Lake, Lightroom Only
Price Lake, Lightroom Only
Price Lake, toned in Lightroom and Viveza
Price Lake, toned in Lightroom and Viveza
Price Lake, toned in Lightroom, Viveza, and Color Efex 4
Price Lake, toned in Lightroom, Viveza, and Color Efex 4

To my eyes, the key differences in these images can be found in the quality of the clouds and the colors and details of the reflection, especially in the treeline.  I don’t think that this software is for everyone, and some may wish to hold off on purchase until Google makes some sort of announcement to detail what kind of support will be extended to current users as they go forward.  For me, this is a worthwhile process for anything I rank three stars or higher, as well as some of my two star photographs.

More thoughts to come, as well as mini reviews of the 5D Mark III and LensAlign’s new software, Focus Tune!

Alissa and Paul

Alissa and Paul, Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky
Alissa and Paul married on September 8, 2012 at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky | Canon 5D Mark II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 28mm | Exposed 1/200 sec. @ f/10, ISO 100 | Strobes fired with Phottix remote triggers

I returned on Sunday afternoon from photographing Alissa and Paul’s wedding at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.  One of the items on their “wish list” of photographs was a portrait that highlighted the industrial look and feel of the distillery.  Here, we photographed them adjacent to a warehouse, standing on the tracks used to roll barrels of aged bourbon to the bottling plant.

We used three lights for this portrait: the key was in an umbrella on camera left, with a fill held by my partner on camera right.  The yellow backwash for the brick was created with a flash behind the bride and groom (their wedding colors were yellow and orange.)  I think this light really helps to separate them from the wall behind them and gives the image more of a three-dimensional appearance.

More to come!

Kitchen knives loom over ripening tomatoes

Knives loom over our ripening tomatoes.
Knives loom over our ripening tomatoes. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens @ 27mm | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 100 | Key: Canon 580EX II Speedlite in 16×16″ Softbox on camera right. Fill: Canon 550EX Speedlite in Lumiquest Softbox III on camera left. Triggered wirelessly using ST-E2 transmitter ratio 2:1 key to fill.

Things have been fairly quiet on the blog while I make some final arrangements to be truly “in business” as a photographer in the state of North Carolina.  I am contemplating a very large order of roll paper in anticipation of opening up my HP Z3200 to making prints for fellow photographers.  Hopefully, that will include some of my dear readers here!

However, most of my new work of late has been around the house, especially Elizabeth’s garden which is now producing lots of tomatoes.  This afternoon I made a photo of our harvested tomatoes that are ripening on the kitchen counter…or atop the microwave, to be more accurate.  In years past, other creatures have gotten to Elizabeth’s tomatoes before she had a chance to pick them, so this season she’s trying to pick them when they’ve begun to ripen, and allowing them to finish the process indoors.  So far, so good!

Home from an April Wedding

August Kryger and Amanda Shea's wedding ceremony at Alpine Park on 23 April 2011.
August Kryger and Amanda Shea's wedding ceremony at Alpine Park on 23 April 2011.

Last week I flew back to Columbia, Missouri to attend my friend August Kryger‘s wedding to Amanda Shea.  I flew into Saint Louis on Thursday and the following day, a few hours after consulting with my committee members to figure out the right direction for my master’s project on Asian carp, a tornado touched down at the airport.  By the time I flew out on Tuesday, STL was up and running once again, and plywood replaced the glass that had been shattered during the storm.

Driving up to STL in the airport shuttle
Driving up to STL in the airport shuttle on Tuesday 26 April 2011 in Saint Louis, Mo.
The main entrance to STL on Tuesday 26 April 2011 in Saint Louis, Mo.
A few glass windows remain at the main entrance to STL on Tuesday 26 April 2011 in Saint Louis, Mo.

Gardening at night

Sugar snap peas overwhelm their trellis
Sugar snap peas overwhelm their trellis in our garden, Durham, N.C. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 24mm | Exposed 1/50 sec. @ f/3.5, ISO 100 | 580EX II and 550EX Speedlites triggered with ST-E2.

The other day I received my Lumiquest Softbox III that I ordered at the Joe McNally and David Hobby “Flash Bus Tour” in Durham, North Carolina on 4 April.  A new light modifier?  Well, I simply had to play with it.  Trick is finding cooperative subject matter.  As I mentioned a few weeks back, Elizabeth and I have been working on a new garden/cooking/home improvement blog, and it was high time for an update on the crop of peas growing along the “whimsical trellises” that she made in the back yard.

Lighting the garden
Lighting the garden

So I set up the Softbox III on my 580EX II Speedlite, gelled 1/4 CTO on a stand at camera right as my key, and placed my 550EX in the back, zoomed out to 105mm and gelled 1/2 CTO to work as a kicker.  While outdoors I tend to use my low-end radio triggers for wireless flash, in cloudy conditions and after sunset I find that I can get away with wireless ETTL with either my ST-E2 or a flash as the commander.  This makes setting the light ratio and also the amount of light a lot faster when I don’t have much time (like when the sun is setting and the sky is getting really dark and really fast).  In this case, I think the warmer light created by the gels contrasted nicely with the cool sky at dusk.

Canal Vignette Two

Tony Lopez, right, coils a rope while Steve Gray, left, rests against one of the winches on Illinois Marine Towing's "Albert C." fleet boat on 20 October 2010 in Lemont, Ill. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 25mm | Exposed 1/1250 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 100

The second of two images I “rediscovered” while going through photographs for my master’s project.  One thing that I noticed throughout that day on the Albert C. was that my shutter speeds were remarkably high all day long–relatively large apertures (for limited depth of field) combined with the all-white ship resulted in a great deal of main and fill light all the time.  What was amazing about that was I only needed my flash a couple of times, and even then only inside the pilot house.

Canal Vignette One

Logs on the Albert C.
Capt. Dan Egan goes through one of the logs on Illinois Marine Towing's "Albert C." fleet boat on 20 October 2010 in Lemont, Ill. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 70mm | Exposed 1/5000 sec. @ f/2.8, ISO 200

In preparation for weaving together a narrative for my master’s on Asian carp, a river flowing the wrong way, and people’s livelihoods caught in the mix, I have been going back over some of my photos for the project, and in the process I have found a couple that I had not toned and ranked only “one star” in Lightroom.  This image, and the one I will post tomorrow, is now a three star image storytelling image and shaped up nicely with some simple white point, black point, and curve adjustments.

Goodnight, Chicago

Wendella Boats' "Linnea" passes under the DuSable Bridge
Wendella Boats' "Linnea" passes under the DuSable Bridge that connects Michigan Avenue over the Chicago River on October 19, 2010. | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 42mm | Exposed 1/160 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 400

Finally, I present the last of my Chicago images.  Not necessarily for the master’s project, but for me: Elizabeth and I lived in Chicago for a time, but I never really carried a camera with me because I was concerned about keeping my equipment safe at our apartment in Hyde Park.  I figured the less I had, the safer we were (and we never had a break-in).  But this project gave me an excuse to walk around downtown and the Loop with some of my better gear.  Frankly, the 5D Mk. II and a 50mm lens would be a great combination, with a wide-angle lens and a telephoto as two accessory lenses, but I really needed to have the 24-70mm with me that day as I was working on my project, and needed the flexibility that it provides.  The next time I go to Chicago with a camera, it will just be for me, and the equipment choices will certainly reflect that!

Taxi and Carbide and Carbon Building
Taxi and Carbide and Carbon Building (Hard Rock Hotel) | Canon 5D Mk. II and 16-35mm f/2.8L II lens @ 16mm | Exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/4, ISO 400
Elevated train on Wabash Ave and Smurfit-Stone Building
Elevated train on Wabash Ave. and Smurfit-Stone Building | Canon 5D Mk. II and 24-70mm f/2.8L lens @ 24mm | Exposed 1/80 sec. @ f/5.6, ISO 400

Three more photographs after the jump!

Continue reading “Goodnight, Chicago”