A quick post to wish my friends and blog readers a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011. As I start another year of displaying my photographs on Flickr and now on this blog, it will be interesting to see where it leads. I have no idea how my photography will evolve this coming year. Hopefully it will be new and exciting and I will improve in ways yet unknown.
As we start a new year, it’s always fun to look back at the past year and see what happened in 2010. One of my photography friends used a service from pummulevision.com to create a movie of their Flickr posts. I thought it was a fun idea so I made one for my 2010 Flickr posts. I have a goal to post one decent photograph per day on Flickr. I’m happy to report that I have met that objective in 2010. So here are the 365 photographs I posted last year on Flickr in less than 1 minute.
I’m not sure if there is any discernible pattern to my photography. I do try to take a wide variety of topics. 2010 has been a busy year for me on the social media front. I started the year just doing Flickr by mid-year I expanded my online presence with this blog and a companion photo gallery. I have also dabbled in Facebook and Twitter.
I brought a lot of photography gear in 2010 which I need continue to use fully and improve my proficiency. I don’t expect to add as much equipment this year — maybe a few lenses or lens adapters for the Sony NEX-5. It might be fun to add some old manual focus lenses on the NEX-5 to see what it can do. I have a general desire to learn and do more off camera flash portraits with umbrellas and soft boxes but I’m not sure if this is going to be the year. I still feel there is a lot to learn and improve on the urban landscape type photographs I have done this past year. We will see.
This past Sunday, I went to the 2nd Annual Texas Photo Festival in Smithville, TX. for nice relaxing afternoon of photography. I mentioned on my previous post about my first visit to the Texas Photo Festival. I had a great time last year and was looking forward to going again. This year, the festival had a special guest, the 2010 Miss Rodeo Texas, Celesta Harvey, who patiently posed as one of the many models in this small Texas town. Celesta was hard to miss with her bright red jacket and bright white smile. While the other models were people from around town, there was no mistaking Miss Rodeo Texas with her color coordinated outfit — even down to her white stetson hat with red trim.
How strange it must have felt for Celesta to have several dozen people, many with large cameras and long lens, taking pictures of her. While I’m sure she’s been at the center of attention, especially with her Miss Rodeo competition win. it’s a different thing to pose in front of photographers. Miss Harvey did a wonderful job and after some direction from the seasoned portrait photographers, she was a natural. The portrait session started around 2pm, so the harsh mid-day sun was tough even with some scrims setup to soften the light. I was equipped with my Canon 7D with my new favorite 70-200 F4 IS lens along with an external Canon flash. While I may not have the largest camera/lens combo in “photographer equipment arms race” (you know these photo festivals are a great place for photographers to show off their gear) I was happy with my setup. My gear was nice enough to get the images that I wanted without being too big and heavy to carry around.
Towards the end of the day, when most of the other photographers had either left or attended a Photoshop seminar, I was able to take my best photographs. By this time, the sun was softer and lower in the sky. There were more open shaded areas where I could get nicer images of Celesta. The temperature was a bit cooler and by this time and after hours of practice, Celesta was more relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. Or perhaps she was just too tired to worry about posing as a model and her true self came shining through.
Celesta told me she is going to Las Vegas next to complete in the national Miss Rodeo competition. I wish her the best of luck to win the national title for herself and for the great State of Texas.
My Thought Process
All of my portraits were done with one lens, the 70 – 200 F4 IS. This is a great lens and works wonderfully for portraits. Also, it’s not too heavy to carry around for many hours. Canon also makes F2.8 version of this lens, which are also very nice but they are significantly heavier. While I previously used the 85mm 1.8 Lens for portraits, this new zoom lens will probably be my new default portrait lens, especially places with decent light.
As you can see from my portraits, I have a tendency to get in really close to my subjects. I like tight shots and I rarely do full body portraits. I’m sure having such a long zoom is part of the reason but I’ve noticed with even shorter lens, I seem to prefer getting right up to people in my portraits. Only when I want to show the person in their environmental context do I back up to show more of the scene. For regular portraits, having a long zoom is great since facial features are flattened out and the backgrounds become nicely blurred. The person becomes the center of attention and background fades away.
Using some fill flash in these conditions can be very useful for several of reasons. If there is any harsh sun, the flash can be used to fill in some of the darker shadows. If the background is really bright, you can drop the exposure to darken the background while using the flash to add more light to the foreground. Finally, the flash adds some nice sparkle to the eyes by adding catch lights. Off camera flash is certainly preferable however all of Celesta’s images were done with flash directly on the camera’s hot shoe.
[Note: Click on the image for a larger version]
The image was taken with a Canon 7D with the Canon EF 70 – 200 F4 IS lens. I also had a Canon 430EX flash directly on the camera’s hot shoe. The image above as well as all of Celesta’s images in the gallery were taken as 18MP JPEGs. I used Aperture to sharpen, add slight vignettes and warm up the image. I also used the brush feature in Aperture to add additional saturation and skin smoothing to just the face.
The image above was taken at f4, 1/320 sec , no exposure compensation, ISO 200 at 100mm. Fill flash was used with 0EV compensation.
All this week, Austin is having its 2nd annual Austin Fashion Week. The fashion week is a series of events hosted mainly at salons, stores and clubs throughout Austin. They showcase, clothing designers, makeup artists, models and even photographers. I decided to go downtown on Monday to several of the events to see if I could get some interesting portraits and candids. I also went to several fashion week events last year and had a great time. The venues are typically dark with fast paced movement so I find it a fun challenge to get decent images under these conditions. I ended up attending 4 events that evening, though I spent the bulk of the time at two of the larger fashion shows. All of these events were on the west side of town so it was quick and easy to get to them by car. Luckily because it was a Monday, parking was easier to find.
The first large event I attended was the “Bollywood Nights” event at the Jose Luis Salon. The whole thing was themed around Bollywood, which is an informal term used for the Indian Film Industry. They had Indian Hors d’œuvres, Bollywood music and the western (non-Indian) models in sari inspired clothing. The salon was a nicely sized, upscale with a long stage setup with VIP seating. On stage, they had two chairs setup at either end where the models would get their hair styled very quickly up on stage. The hair styling lasted 5 – 10 minutes so It was neat to see these people transformed very quickly. During the event there must have been around 5 pairs of models with these quick on stage hair transformation so that were ample opportunity to shoot. [View my entire Austin Fashion Week Gallery]
All along the stage, wherever there was room, about 15 or so photographers jockeyed for position to grab their shots. Some had professional gear with remote triggers and large off camera lights. Others seemed like me, amateur photographers taking images for fun or as a side business. Of course the audience also had their point and shoot cameras. With all the flashes going off and photographers running around, it was kind of fun. It felt like a small-scale version of what some of the larger fashion shows must be like on New York, Milan or Paris.
I find it a challenge to decide which lenses to bring to these events. You don’t know what the venues look like, or where you will be positioned and the what the lighting conditions are like. I decided to bring 3 lenses, my general purpose 18-135 zoom, a 50mm f1.4 prime and an 85mm f1.8 prime. I wanted to have the fast prime lenses with me for the darker conditions. The zoom along with my external flash gave me the flexibility to frame without moving around.
The image right above (2nd image on this page) was taken with the 18-135 lens. The ceiling was relatively low and white, so I was able to bounce my flash off the ceiling. While the salon was decently lit, I still shot at ISO 1600 and with the bounce flash. The zoom range was nice though I tended to shoot wider with this lens to get a feel of the stage and the crowds. The exposures were a bit dark at times and I wasn’t too thrilled with the look of the closeups. I decided to switch to my 85mm f/1.8 prime lens. The 85mm is one of my favorites for portraits. With its large aperture it is great for lower light conditions. As long as I can zoom with my feet, it works wonderfully. Luckily there was enough space to move around a bit to frame the shots. The lighting was mostly even so shooting on manual exposure mode was not too difficult. Images with and without flash looked about the same by the stage however when I went to the backstage area, I needed the extra light from the bounce flash. I got some of my favorite images backstage, away from the crowds, including the 1st image at the top of the page.
The second large event was a completely different environment from the first. It was held in the warehouse district in downtown Austin in a night club. It was young, very crowded with loud dance music. While the first salon was upscale with an older audience, this dance club was understandably young and energetic. The room was very large with really high black ceilings–I wont be able to bounce the flash off the ceiling here! Given how dark and large the room was, I would have to hit the models directly with flash, which usually does not make great photographs. I took a few shots with my 18-135 and direct flash but was not too excited by the results. I decide to use my 50mm f1.4 prime with and without flash to see if I can get more exciting images. I was on manual exposure again to ensure I have a decent shutter speed. Because the lighting conditions changed so much here, it was a real challenge to get a good exposure. I started out with a higher ISO but lowered it after deciding to add a small bit of direct flash. It took a bit of fussing around, but I got an exposure that worked most of the time. I was constantly looking at the histograms and highlight alert warning to make sure I remained in the ball park. Since I shot so many images, I used JPEG to save space. I didn’t have the latitude of RAW to make post processing exposure adjustments. The show itself was more like a traditional fashion show with the model strutting down the stage one by one. Each model sporting an increasing elaborate and strange hairdo.
The 3rd image on this page, taken at the Phoenix Austin night club maybe my favorite of the night. It has a lot of shadows but I think the right amount of light to give a nice feel of the place. You can see the details of the model and make out the photographers in the crowds. The bright light on the right side is actually a flash from another photographer. A bit of luck that, I believe, makes the image even more interesting. The last image was taken at the end of the show when all the models came up on stage. The various level of lighting on the model’s faces was interesting to me, including the backlighting effects.
My Thought Process
Image 1: After shooting at the runway for a while, I wanted to get out of the crowed and find a different angle. I made it back near the “backstage” area and shot the models waiting around. This image maybe my favorite from the Bollywood event.
Image 2: The wide-angle gives a nice view of the audience and the stage. I waited for the models to be close to each other and facing backward towards the photographers.
Image 3: While the Phoenix Austin night club was a challenging place to shoot, I’m happy with the way the images came out. This one is my favorite of the night and I think has a more artistic and moody feel. Lots of shadows and the right amount of highlights made for a more mysterious image.
Image 4: The backlit hair and different light levels makes this similar in feel to image 3. I like the models’ expression as they take their final “curtain call” at the end of the show.
The images were taken with a Canon 7D as 18MP JPEGs.
Additional post processing in Apple’s Aperture 3 program included some sharpening, color correction and increased color saturation. I lightened some of the images, especially from the night club.
Image 1: f1.8, 1/200 sec,-1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 1600 at 85mm with bounce flash
Image 2: f3.5, 1/200 sec, -1/3 exposure compensation, ISO 1600 at 18mm with bounce flash
Image 3: f1.8, 1/160 sec, no exposure compensation, ISO 320 at 50mm, no flash
Image 4: f1.4, 1/125 sec, no exposure compensation, ISO 500 at 50mm, no flash