This is a portrait of my daughter we did after her violin class right behind the public library we normally go to. She just started to learn violin and I wanted to get a “classy” portrait. So instead of using a fake background I used a real sunset. Lighting is the sunset as fill and an umbrella to camera left as main.
Pablo and I went to the library to pick up some books just a little while ago, close to sundown. There is a nice little pond behind the Davis Library in Plano that had lovely water reflections and the sun setting over it.
I said to him, how about a sunset portrait? And he said, “Sure, let’s pretend I am holding the sun!” - I don’t know if he’s seen this kind of fun picture before or what, but it was totally his idea.
It took five minutes to set up my beloved EX600 strobe on stand, mount the 70-200mm lens on the D700 and take the equivalent of a roll of film. He picked these two. Colors are straight out of the camera, as is the exposure - I desaturated his bright blue shorts to make them less distracting.
Good photo fun!
Sometimes I get film nostalgia and feel compelled to go back to the old ways. For me the nostalgia is more sentimental and emotional than rational - I love the little film camera from my father that I keep in its immaculate condition, a wonderful Olympus OM-1, in all its mechanical simplicity. I love the noise it makes when I press the trigger, the feel of the trigger as I press it, and the great view I get thru the viewfinder. And I love the memories associated with this camera, memories about my father.
So when the nostalgia hits me I get the camera out of its brown leather case, put a roll of film in it, and take some pictures. Today I connected a Pocket Wizard to the flash sync port and shot the camera with a softbox. I ran to Costco to have the film developed and then I scanned one of the frames in my very sh*tty flatbad scanner.
When I opened the image in Photoshop, the disappointment started to replace the nostalgia. While the feel of photographing with this little camera is wonderful, the images I get are not. It’s not the camera or the lens, for sure, it’s my poor ability to make decent digital images of my color negatives. I’d need a much better scanner, and much better knowledge about how to scan, in order to go a good job. The scan had at least 100 specks of dust, and I had just taken the negative from the sleeve to put in into the scanner tray. The image just doesn’t look good.
So now I get the urge to get a good scanner to do justice to the negative, which I know is good. But then I realize that I am trying to mix film and digital, at some expense, to simply feed the feeling of nostalgia. There is nothing special about the images I took with the Olympus OM-1 - the only special thing is what’s inside of me when I touch the camera, it’s a purely emotional thing. I can do a better job with digital equipment.
So… I think I will not try to bring those negatives into the digital realm - when the urge to shoot film overtakes me, I’ll run a couple of rolls thru it and print them 4×6 but not scan them. It’s just for the pleasure of feeling the camera in my hands.
Here is the scanned image. I don’t like how my wife’s right arm is posed, but I like their expressions. We’ll put it away as a Mother’s Day portrait.
Olympus OM-1, with Fuji Superia ASA 400, f/11 1/60, with a softbox to camera right. Some postprocessing in Photoshop, including skin smoothing. Converted to platinum monochrome on the computer.
I have been enjoying Ben Maddow’s “Faces” treatise on the history of portraiture and looking at hundreds of old B&W portraits. I was very moved by Paul Strand’s images - for me, he’s is one of the greatest photographers of people of all time. So all this was inside of me when I took a casual snapshot of my daughter in the minivan. She looked a me and I saw a bit of her inner life, her unique view of the world as a person - she was wearing a bright orange shirt and a colorful cap - the colors really didn’t go with her expression, so I started to experiment with B&W, looking for a way to interpret the image that reflected what I saw with my heart when I photographed her, not what the camera captured. This is what I came up with.
Last year we spent Spring break strolling in Trestevere, enjoying the Vatican Museums, and eating gelato at Piazza Navona. It was great to spend an entire week in Rome! This year, however, our Spring break was much more modest. Stella is saving her vacation time for summer, and we decided to stay home. The kids had fun, though, as they visited with friends, spent time playing and watching some movies, and just being kids. This past Fri we drove to Houston to get some visa paperwork started for the trip to China, and decided to make the drive into a mini-Spring break vacation by spending Fri and Sat in East Texas.
We drove from Houston to The Big Thicket Natural Preserve, a forest in deep East Texas. The visitor center where we stopped first was great, with lots of information and displays about the different ecosystems at the Preserve. The kids enjoyed the interactive displays and the stuffed animals there. We decided to walk the Kirby Trail, a not-to-long trail going thru the woods. It was really beautiful and quiet there - Christina got a bit tired by the end of the hike, but she was a great sport, as she carried the map and the backpack and was the official guide. Here are some pictures from our hike at the Big Thicket. Click on any image to see a slightly larger version.
I am enjoying this book “America at Home” by Rick Smolan - I love the simple images of people inside their homes… some are done with ambient light, but many use flash so skillfully that it’s hard to tell it’s flash.
As I have shared in other postings, my photographic goals for 2010 are (1) improve my ability to tell stories, (2) use multiple planes in my photos to help with the story telling, and (3) continue to experiment and gain skills in using strobes on location. For every photo I create for fun I try to advance these goals above.
I decided to photograph my wife in the bathroom while she was doing some makeup stuff, and my daughter was on our bed reading a book. It looked like a perfect moment to capture with a candid snapshot. The problem was that the light coming from the windows in the bedroom and the tungsten light in the bathroom were different colors — and it wasn’t enough for it. I could keep one or the other, and then replace the other one with gelled flash. Or I could simply use flash and kill ambient - but the flash had to preserve the feel of the ambient light I could see.
I bounced an SB800 off an umbrella to the right of the bed and used that to fill the bedroom with light. I bounced another SB800 off the bathroom ceiling - I diffused it first with a small softbox and then bounced it. Just softer light. One complication was that bathroom is lined with mirrors and I didn’t want to see myself/camera and the softbox in the photo. I had to play with camera and flash placement.
Let me say that I am posting this not because it’s my best image, or is a perfect image. I am sharing it because I am inspired by other photographers that share their ideas and experimentation approaches, and I want to do the same. The hope is that some of you may pick up your camera and flashes and make some portraits at home inspired by this posting. I may also get lucky and get some insightful suggestions about how to tell the story better, or how to better achieve my goals above.
Here is the image, and a photo of the setup below it.
My eight-year-old has been learning to play violin for a couple of weeks now, so it was time to make a portrait of him as a violinist. Both he and my daughter have also been playing piano for about a year, so I asked her to play the piano, so that we’d have a violin sonata setup. I wanted to create a low key mood, reminiscing of the old times when players would perform by candlelight.
The kids were not very cooperative, as my intentions were competing with Club Penguin (an online world) for my son and her story time (my job) for my girl. So I had to do this pretty quickly. Lighting is explained for each image below. It’s an experiment on light with no other purpose that just fun.
Image 1. A single SB800 flash with a 10 degree grid to my daughter’s right, to produce a very dramatic Rembrandt pattern on her face.
Image 2. This is my favorite, as I am trying to create more planes of interest, and in this case I wanted the foreground to be out of focus, with the focal point in the background. I used two SB800 flashes, the one with the 10 degree grid on my daughter, as above, and a second one with a 20 degree grid behind her and pointing at my son.
Image 3. The least dramatic image, I used the 20 degree grid in front of him and nothing else.
Here is the lighting diagram for the image with the two musicians:
I had a few minutes today, while my wife was fixing some dinner, to take a fun picture of my son Pablo. It was getting pretty dark and I had to work quickly. I asked him to step on top of a power utility box next to the garage at home and jump. I was on the ground looking up with a wide angle lens. The light on him was provided by a strobe with a 7in. reflector and no diffusion. The strobe was on a short stand pretty close to the ground. I captured a few frames, and I liked two - in one Pablo was getting ready to jump, and in the other one he was already in the air. I decided to combine the two frames into a single one to create a better story - Pablo pushing himself off the cliff. It was pretty easy and fun to do! And he really likes the photo too!
On Friday July 3rd we woke up early to drive to Houston. Our plan was to go to a couple of museums, the Houston Natural Science Museum and the Houston Children’s Museum, then to dinner and to the hotel. On Starday we wanted to go o Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach, to hang out on the beach - and then drive back home in the afternoon. We did just that, and it was a lot of fun. The museums were crowded, especially the Children’s Museum, but Pablo and Christina enjoyed them just the same. Stella found a nice prepaid deal for a La Quinta room in Sugarland, right by the swimming pool, and breakfast included… it was a great value!
I photographed everywhere, at the museums, the ferry, the beach. Some of the pictures from the museum ended up in my stock collection. I have a few of the children I need to upload for the family. Overall a really nice weekend! I include a single picture of Christina at the museum.
Technical stuff - D700mm/85mm f/1.4 on a tripod, f/2 at 1/13s. with natural light coming from the door as he was leaving for school. Background is the wall.