Thursday, August 12, 2010

Summer Vacation Part 2

As promised, here is part 2 of vacations. You'll notice some similarities between this set and the last, partly due to the fact that this is the same cabin as last year in the Smoky Mountains. Same drill as last week, some shots with some explanation. You'll see a little environmental portraiture in this which is unusual for me.

On the way home, we spent several hours at the Knoxville Zoo, also in East Tennessee. Those shots are interspersed into this set.

Gonna go ahead and get the environmental portraits out of the way.

As much as I dislike the 5d2, I have to admit live view and iso 6400 are quite handy (and clean). This shot was actually taken at dusk at iso 12800 f/1.4 1/30. The goal is to get the shot. Worry about noise and technicals later.

In these next two, you'll notice another recurrent theme, which is basic layering. I frame my boys using both foreground and background elements when there are no other natural frames available. Rather than follow the trend of automatically incorporating tons of negative space, I choose to complement my subject with context. Both can be effective, but negative space rarely tells a story. You'll also notice that I love to capture my boys during a contemplative moment (i.e., lost in thought, distracted, etc).

Again, very basic framing, using the bucket to provide context. To me, the bucket sits there quietly, unused, while the boys dance as the bucket's background.

I love 50mm. I took an angle that allowed the railing to run through the frame diagonally. Even simple compositions such as this can benefit from leading lines that are subtle yet effectively draw the eye to the subject.

As much as I like to layer (and usually do), sometimes I go for symmetry and simplicity instead. In this shot, I liked the animals on the wall and used them to frame my son.

What I like about this is the dynamic of Henry looking across and out of the frame. I framed it and waited for him to do something like that. If he were looking out toward the rhino exhibit (to camera left), his gaze would have led out of the frame along with mommy in the background. Because he's looking back into the frame while she's looking the other way, there is a slight tension to the image and the eye is able to bounce around the frame without ever being "led out" of it.

Simple example of natural framing, using the doorway and the light's rapid falloff which I love.

I like the complexity of this image. If you like complex and dense (but visually organized) street photography, check out Alex Webb. He shoots for Magnum Photos and is an amazing talent. This shot has that type of complexity, while maintaining separation between the multiple subjects and their movements. Also notice that while everyone is moving about, Isaac's eyes are on the camera.

I thought I saw A LOT of shots while in this toy store. There seemed to be myriad opportunities but I never could make it work. I was a little frustrated at my failure. As we descended the stairs, I noticed the spiral from above, quickly framed, guessed exposure and snapped a shot.

Here is another example of a series I tried to shoot and felt I was failing. Carousels are frustrating to shoot because they're so visually busy and during the day, your sensor can't register the dyanmic range between the shadows and highlights. I finally knelt down and tried to simplify things, eliminating many of the issues my other shots were having.

These next two show two ways I approached a similar shot and angle.

A lot of pictures but a busy few days. So, be encouraged to bring your camera more places. Think through your shots and exposures and capture something unique. I'm excited for my boys to look back on these shots in 10 or 20 years from now. Thanks for stopping by, guys.


Summer Vacation: Part 1

Well, summer's at an end and school's begun. If we were lucky, we got to take a vacation away from work and the grind of daily life. It might be tempting to leave the camera at "get away." But think what you'd be missing. Documenting a family event or outing can offer a plethora of visual opportunities. There are stories to be told. There is scenery which differs greatly from your living room or front yard. It's a wonderful challenge and a chance to capture images that may never present themselves again. (this applies to zoo trips, park outings, etc., not just vacations)

This post is part 1 in a short series on summer vacation. The past two years, my family and I have traveled to East Tennessee and stayed in a cabin tucked in the Smoky Mountains. This post covers last year's vacation. The next one will cover this year's. The goal is to give you a sample of how I cover/document my family vacations with a few notes and encourage you to do the same.

On the way to the cabin, we stopped in a hotel. The boys weren't very good at being "quiet." The next four shots cover that experience.

This boy fought sleep for about an hour and a half. We were quite relieved when we were able to get him to to go down. Plus, I love sleeping pictures. It's a recurrent theme in my family PJ work.

What to do when your oldest wakes up at 5 AM? How about cartoons and powdered donuts? Notice the very slight tilt to the right. Subtle tilt can add a dynamic quality to an image, if not overused or too obvious or exaggerated.

The tunnel provided an interesting visual but if shot straight on, would appear at a bright circle with rapid falloff. Instead, I shot at a slightly oblique angle so that the tunnel would curve out of the frame and give the viewer a sense of where Henry had come from.

This kind of picture takes itself. Notice the sleeping bear on the other side of the glass.

It was later in the day. We had walked all over a rather large zoo and everyone was bushed. I was able to tell two stories simultaneously. And by shooting a somewhat oblique angle, I provided a little more depth to the image (with two distinct layers of content).

The context makes this shot. I could have grabbed a closeup or head shot but the rocks and brush behind him give the photo a rustic quality and sense of place that I like.

These are the kinds of moments I love to capture. Again, we have a sense of place. It was a beautiful, sweeping area. I would consider this a landscape with people in it.

This shot was easy to capture. I had to choose my angle to show just enough of his face (the eyes are the most important feature) and watch him play. This kind of image is more elemental than literal. By focusing on the context and playful eyes, it becomes an image more about childhood fun, even when it's nothing more than a bathtub.

Grandma calmed him down and rocked him to sleep...with Gus (teddy bear). Her hands were my focus, as the shot is more about her comfort than anything else. The hands and her gaze were the key features that I wanted to capture. The exaggerated wide angle (while being careful not to distort too greatly), makes the hands more prominent.

These are just a few highlights of last year's trip. It's not important to have 50 or even 100 superb shots. 15 good images is plenty IF they're really good (and that's a judgment call, there). Spend time capturing one good image per event. If you get more than that...great! That image will live on as a family classic. Quality, not quantity. Even if you don't take the camera out very much, your family will be able to look back fondly on their past, long after the details have faded from memory.

Thanks for sticking around the blog, guys. Your comments are always welcome and highly valued.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dramatic Lighting

Hey guys,

Been a while since Chuck or I posted and with the summer coming to an end and vacation season ending, I'll be around a bit more.

A quote I really like from Joe McNally goes: "John Loengard, the picture editor at Life, always used to tell me, 'If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.'" It's a pretty basic concept but a little more difficult than it sounds (to do well). He's referring to getting away from flat lighting (lighting EVERYTHING on your subject). Sometimes, flat lighting is inevitable and sometimes, it's right for the shot but for this post, we're going to focus on using small bits of light that help our subjects stand out. It's pretty easy to find (easier with natural light than in the studio) and will often require high iso and slow shutter speeds. Once you find the light and lock in exposure, it's a matter of finding an interesting composition and waiting for the right moment. Here's an example:

The room was dark and lit only by the laptop that my wife and son were sharing. I framed it symmetrically which matched the simple light source. ISO 3200 1/50 f/1.6

In this shot, most of the window light is blocked by the blinds. Henry has opened up a small portion to look out from which allows more light to hit him. The falloff is quick, as is most window light but the small pool (of light) allowed through helps his eyes to stand out. ISO 1600 1/400 f/2.8

This was shot at an alligator exhibit at our city zoo. The room they're standing in is dark and the only light allowed in comes through the windows. As mentioned above, window light has some wonderful falloff and I used it to backlight my boys. I find this to be much more interesting than if the room they were standing in was well lit. ISO 200 1/125 f/2.2

The room was dark and as Henry brushed his teeth, he was illuminated only by the tv. ISO 1600 1/40 f/1.4

Unlike Joe McNally, I didn't light these. I used available light but used it to my advantage. Rather than fake it in photoshop, I found light that had natural falloff and a little drama. It's simple to do once you spot it. Good composition and timing will get you the rest of the way there.

Thanks for visiting, guys. Please keep sharing our site with others if you find it helpful.