Sunday, January 31, 2016

52 Week Photo Challenge – Week 6: Artistic - Candy

No, you are not missing week 5; I am just flipping week 6 and week 5.  Week 5 is supposed to be a black and white landscape, however due to the snowstorm last week it is still difficult to get to places. I know what you are thinking, it has been a week and they have not cleaned up all the snow.  This is DC most people on side streets were not able to leave their houses until the Wednesday after the storm, which was on Saturday.  Several of the roads here still only have one lane plowed out.  It is just not pretty.  So I flipped-flopped weeks, and did the artistic challenge.

The artistic challenge was candy.  Thus, I went to the candy store and bought some random little candies. I thought it would be appropriate to use the little candy hearts since we are getting close to Valentine’s Day. I could not find the little cinnamon hearts that I wanted so mini-mints were going to have to work instead.   I also bought a stick of rock candy to experiment with.

The set up for this shoot was extremely simple; I placed a black board down on my dining room table then placed a white sheet of paper on top of that.  I then dumped the candies on the paper and arranged them slightly while still keeping them random looking. I then off to the side I placed a flash pointed down at the candies.  I placed a 60mm macro lens on my camera and shot at ISO 100 at aperture F8, and a shutter speed of 1/200.  Note, I hand held my camera for all the shots.  As you can see from the original photo, it was a little dark and not very vibrant.  I pulled the photo into Lightroom to edit. I color balanced the image, brightened it up, and increased the contrast.  I then bumped the clarity up to +33, the vibrancy up to +36 and the saturation up to +7 to make the colors pop.  I also refined the edges and added a little smoothing to the image.  Finally, I cropped the image to make one of the candies the main focal point of the image.   Usually, I am not very good at still life photography but the picture I think came out ok.

Original Image

Final Image

I also played around with the rock candy a bit. I found that placing the rock candy directly on the flash creates some interesting light in the sugar crystals. If you plan to try this for yourself, beware if your flashes start getting hot, the candy might melt to them.   For this particular image, I was holding the rock candy slightly above the flash.  I shot this picture using the same settings as before. As you can see from the original image it, came out a bit dark so to pull out the crystal structure I lighted it up a bit and increased the contrast in Lightroom. Then to make the color and edges pop I increased the clarity to +43, the vibrancy to +12 and the saturation to +10.  I then cropped the image to isolate some of the sugar crystals.  This is a very abstract image. 

Original Image
Final Image

This challenge was good practice for me in thinking in the abstract. I usually have difficulties doing still life and random object photos.  I believe the artistic challenges are what are going to push me throughout these 52 weeks to think outside the box and more creatively. You can see all the final images from this weeks shoot here:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

52 Week Challenge – Week 4: Portrait - Headshot

This week’s photo challenge was a portrait of someone else, specifically a head shot.  I lucked out on this challenge because I actually had a cosplay photo shoot already set up due to the snow storm here in DC. Yes, I specifically scheduled a photo shoot because we were going to have a snowstorm.  The photo shoot was with Life of Cosplay doing Anna from Frozen, thus the snow was fitting.  This shoot was a combination of studio and outdoor pictures to take advantage of the snow.

In studio, I shot with a gray backdrop, and two 430EX II speed lights of which one was bounced off an umbrella to light the whole area and the other was gridded to provide highlight.  The ratio of flashes was 3 to 1 respectively. I used my standard 18-200mm lens at ISO 400, an aperture of F4.5, with shutter speed of 1/200s. For this particular photo was taken at a 40mm focal length.   I then edited the photo in Lightroom and Photoshop as follow.  I balanced the color, making it a little warmer then adjusted the highlights. I then cropped the image and added some lens vignetting.  I then took the photo into Photoshop where I overlaid a different background to give it an old masters look and erased the parts of the overlay that covered the models features.  I then flattened the image to finalize it.

Original Image
Finalized Image
The second photo was taken outside during sunset (golden hour).  This image was shot using the same camera settings as the studio shot, however it used a single on camera flash instead of external flashes.  The image looked good straight out of camera, however I tweaked it a bit to enhance the golden hour  lighting and make the model pop out of the photo a bit more.  Therefore, when I color balanced the image in Lightroom I added a bit more warmth to the image, and then added some light lens vinetting at the edges after cropping the image.

Original Image

Finalized Image
Overall, I am happy with how several of the pictures from this shoot came out. (You can see all the images here.) However, I would change a few items. One I would have used a smaller aperture, since my preferred lens is sharpest around F8, at F3.5 and F4.5 the images are not as sharp as I would like.  Then outside I had my husband hold a reflector; however, I also should have brought a flash and a light stand. This would have made the images pop a bit more and would have worked better for some of the climbing snow shots, since I was rapidly losing daylight.  However, I will admit I was not thinking, because earlier in the day, the reflection off the snow was blinding, but by late afternoon when I was shooting, it was not as bright.

I also have to give a thank you to Life of Cosplay for coming out the day after the blizzard to shoot in the snow with me. She was fun to work with and was a trooper in the snow, which was a bit over two feet in spots. (I was wearing a full snowsuit compared to her Anna costume.) I also liked how she stopped and posed for pictures with the little kids who were out playing in the snow, they loved Anna from Frozen.  Finally, I would like to say she completely embodied the character, through her actions, expressions, and overall costume.  I look forward to working with her again.

Bonus Material:
I am providing information on a bonus shot, because I like how the image turned out.  We had very large snow piles from the plows (actually the county uses backhoes to pile up the snow) which looked like mini mountains. Therefore, I had my model act as if she was climbing a mountain per the scene in the movie. Now the shot was originally taken with the camera parallel to the ground, but once you rotate the image it looks like she is hanging from the side of a mountain.  To give the picture a more dramatic feel, I edited it in Photoshop by replacing the traffic lights and building with a distant mountain background.  I then added a layer of snow flurries on top of that. Finally, I adjusted the lighting to balance the scene and give it a warm glow, since it was sunset when I took the base picture.  Overall, this image was a lot of work to produce, I am happy with it. Do I think it could be better, yes; but I need a lot more practice to make it perfect. 

Original Image

Final Image

Saturday, January 23, 2016

52 Week Challenge – Week 3: Artistic – Red

This week’s challenge was an artistic challenge that stated the focus of the image should be red.  Therefore, this week I shot a red rose using macro lens, which filled whole frame with red producing a bit of an abstract image.   For this shoot, I used red roses that I misted with water set in a tabletop studio box.  I used a 60mm macro lens on my camera, which was mounted on a tripod.  I also used two external 430EX II speed lights.   I used an aperture of F2.8, with a shutter speed of 1/2 second and an aperture of F4 with a shutter speed of 1/100s both at ISO 400.

After taking the images I imported them into light room and adjusted the them because Cannon occasionally have issues with red. In this case, the red was too bright and was not the actual color of the rose.  Thus, I darkened the image, increased the clarity a bit, and increased contrasted.  I then did a creative edit on the image that faded it to give it a more antique look. 
Original Image Straight Out of Camera
First Edit Round
Antique Look
The second image was also a bit washed out so I adjusted it by darkening it a bit. I then cropped the image using the rule of thirds placing the center on a sweet spot.  I then upped the clarity and slightly sharpened the image. I then darkened the edges a bit to draw the eye to the center of the rose. 

Original Image Straight Out of Camera

Edited Image

I ended up taking 95 images and keeping 18 images.  I noticed I was being more selective since the images were very similar, which is normal for a still life.  Overall, I’m happy with the final images. Next week the challenge goes back to portrait, this time of another person. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

52 Week Challenge – Week 2: Landscape

I have to be perfectly honest with you; I was a little lazy doing this week’s challenge.  The laziness was not because I do not enjoy landscapes, I do, but is winter and the scenery in DC is not that great right now. It might be better if we had some snow but we do not so it just looks dead.  In addition, I did not get up early to catch the sunrise, and the sunset I had just did not work out due to all the clouds.  I know these things sound like excuses, and they probably are, but sometimes I think you are allowed to be lazy at least during the winter. Now onto the photo.

I took this shot on a hill behind where I live that is actually a tiny park marking a historical site.  Historical sites are everywhere in DC.  I shot this around 5:00PM, facing towards DC with heavy cloud cover.  This is the direction the sun rises but the direction of sun set has no points of interest and the sky in that direction was shrouded in heavy clouds so there was no color in the sky in that direction. I mounted my camera on a Manfrotto tripod, and used my 18-200mm lens set at 80mm with a f20 aperture and a 1/8 second shutter at ISO 400.  I also had a NP4 neutral density filter on the front of my camera to balance out the sky and the city.As you can see the original picture straight out of camera (below) has no pop and is very flat.  

Original Image Straight Out of Camera

Therefore, I adjusted it using Lightroom. The first thing I did was balance the whole picture for a cloudy day, and then applied a graduated filter to the sky.  I then adjusted the saturation levels, sharpness, and for lens correction.  I then applied a pre-set to bring out the color a little more.  The final picture is a bit more dramatic, but I would not say fantastic.  

Final Edited Image
I did take several shots, and played around with them via Lightroom to see if I could improve them from the original straight out of camera image, but sometime there is just no helping the image.  I placed a few additional images below.

Additional image

Additional Image
I learned this week there sometimes there is just no good shot,  there is no helping a lousy photo, and I have to get a jump on the landscape week challenges.   Next week is the artistic challenge, which is a study in the color red.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

52 Week Challenge – Week 1: Self-portrait

I have decided to do the Dogwood 52 week photo challenge, which gives you a new photo assignment each week alternating between a portrait, landscape, and artistic photo types.  The goal of the challenge is to increase your creativity and improve your photos in each of the three areas.   I will be blogging each weeks assignment, which will show the original out of camera and the final edited image.  I will also note which setting I used and some of the edits I made.

This is week one which was to take a self-portrait.  For these images, I set up a gray backdrop (very wrinkly) behind my couch, placed a 18-55mm lens on my camera with a beauty dish on a 450EX II Speedlight on camera. I used my cell phone as a remote trigger.  The settings on the camera were ISO 200, at F4.0, with a 1/15s shutter at a focal length of 18mm. 

The first image I cropped the image to focus on my face. I then adjusted the lighting to brighten my face, then adjusted the white balance a bit, then added some vignettting, and finally blurred the backdrop to remove the wrinkles and fix some small facial flaws.

Original Image Out of Camera

Final Edited Image

The second image followed the same basic procedure of cropping, adjusting as the first image except converted the image to black and white.

Original Image Out of Camera

Final Edited Image

Overall, I’m happy with how the images came out, but did notice they were a little soft and that I really need to iron the backdrop.  Thus, I need to work on the sharpness of the image. In addition, I should have moved the flash off camera and that beauty dish that I have needs to be slightly bigger because it leaves a ring shadow in some of the photos.   

Next week is a landscape

Headshots and Tulips

Since all of Ohio is on a stay at home order currently,   I thought I would update my headshot and take some photos of the potted tulips m...