MOTHER

Something I wanted to do with a follow-up to a maternity shoot I did months ago. I got a couple other non reflection shots I want to work on that I happened to get at the same time; but this one came out pretty much how I wanted it to. In fact, I pictured the mother not interacting with the picture and the baby laying there; but of course you have to kinda go with what the baby does. I actually like the fact that he was staring at the camera better that just laying there sleepy like. Something more powerful about that.



You can see a bigger version at my deviantart page if you wish: Click here

And thank you so very much to Amber for letting me run into the middle of her day while she is in the middle of not only taking care of a newborn and her little girl, but also getting ready to move out of the country.

UPDATE: The response on various sites I have put the picture on has been great. Thank you to everybody for your comments. This picture after one day is already the sixth most popular photo in my deviant gallery and has about 60% as many favorites as other pictures that have been up for nearly two years now. On other sites where I don't have as strong a presence, the photo has still received about five times the amount of favs and comments as my other photos. I'm glad everyone has liked the work so far and I've also seen several tell me they had to look twice to see the baby vs belly reflection.

MOTHER NATURE TAKES A VACATION

One day soon I hope to be pushing my own writings on you, but for now you will have to settle for me pushing a book by a friend of mine. I've met a lot of interesting people through the bellydance community and Karla is one of them. Many of the performers dance in their spare time and do a variety of things in their day to day lives. Although I believe Karla has the normal daily grind type of job as well, she also has managed to work on another of her passions when she has time and is now a published author.

Karla Reese both wrote and illustrated "Mother Nature Takes a Vacation" and when "Mother Nature goes on vacation. Soon enough, Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer trade places leading to confusion and chaos. The animals don’t know how to behave, tornados and hurricanes blow, things get turned upside down and sideways. Will Mother Nature return in time or will chaos rule?"

Please visit the website for more information on the book:
mothernaturevacation.com

or you can purchase it online through these retailers:
Barnes & Noble
or
Amazon books

and if you live in the Virginia Beach area, it can also be purchased at the Heritage Store.

HAVE A LAUGH

I guess you could call these pictures I wish I took. But they are just pics I've come across that make me laugh. The ones I felt ok putting up on my blog anyways. Hopefully they can pass on a smile to you as well.










UNDERSEA VOLCANO ERUPTION

Continuing the series I started with the shuttle pictures a few days ago, this will add to the "photos I wish I had taken" section to continue to offer some cool pictures for your viewing that I come across. I am always on the lookout for interesting photography, so hopefully I'll offer up something new that you'll like. Though this has really made the rounds, so you might have seen them already. These are images from an underwater volcanic eruption off the island of Tonga in the South Pacific.












These pictures were taken by Dana Stephenson of Getty Images.

DEVIANT ART

For those of you that use deviant art, I'm just pimping my work there. Check it out and follow me if you wish, I should be adding more and more throughout the summer. And most of my scenic work is available to purchase as prints through them as well. For those not on deviant art, it's free to create an account and you can either just follow people and mark favorites or upload your own art, be it photography, drawings, crafts, whatever. But even if you just browze the site there are some outstanding photographers on there, feel free to browze through my favorites to look at some of what is out there.

My Deviant Art Page

My current Top 5 "deviations":
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TAKING BETTER PICTURES PT 4: CAMERA POSITIONS

I shot several sample pictures today to try and show the effect camera position and lens choice/zoom length can make in shooting portraits. Like any rule in an artform, these are meant to be broken-- but broken on purpose, not because you didn't pay attention. And that is really what this part is about, paying attention to the choices you make while shooting and giving yourself options.

(Disclaimer: Yes, I know I shot these at the worst time of day in harsh direct sunlight; no reflectors or fill flash used. But they will work for the purposes and explanations used here) (Also, all images were shot ISO 100 and at f4, including the zoom examples)


This first example is a pretty basic one and I probably could have shot dozens of examples, but these two will have to do. One thing a lot of beginning photographers do is shoot standing up, except for those ones that just love to shoot from extreme angles. Now if you are shooting a headshot of roughly someone the same height as you, then shooting just standing there is great. But most of us shoot pictures of people of all sizes and that being said, you want to pay attention to your camera level when you're shooting. (I'm talking the placement of the camera, not just where you point your camera throughout this lesson)

One easy way to "feel it out" is that if you are pointing your camera slightly up or down to frame your picture and you are not intentionally shooting an extreme angle, then you need to stretch up or kneel down to get your lens pointed level at your subject. This requires me to stand on my tip toes when shooting a headshot of someone half a foot or more taller than me for example to avoid that slight looking up the nose angle. But mainly it seems to effect people that are shooting full body or 3/4 shots of someone while only a few to several feet away. In the example above, picture one was shot standing straight up and framing in full body. Whereas in picture 2 I knelt down to about stomach level to shoot straight across at the model.



A rough way to keep it in mind using the examples I just posted: Picture 1, a headshot-- the white line cutting across the image represents the camera level. The model was about half a foot shorter than me, so I crouched a bit to shoot this. You want to shoot headshots about eye/nose level. Picture2, a 1/2 body shot-- shot with the camera about chest level. Picture 3, a full body shot-- again, shot at roughly stomach/waste level.

This might seem nit-picky but can make a difference between a picture looking like a snapshot or not. Most people take pictures just standing there and pointing the camera, even with children. We all see children looking down everyday. Down on a level field with them, we can often see more than we open our eyes to everyday just walking around them. Does it mean your "snapshot" looks bad? No. But give it a try, I think you'll be surprised with the results. Not just with kids pictures either, it's just easiest to see the with them because of the height difference.


The last thing I wanted to bring up is "zoom" length. On all of these shots, the model tried to keep roughly the same pose and I tried to frame in at the same place as well after moving back for each shot.



All of those were shot at f4, but you can see how the further zoom ranges also add to background blur. The other effect you'll note is the compression, this is easy to see with the background as the treeline closes in behind the model in each shot. But it can also make a difference in the image of the person as well, which is why you see a lot of those fashion photographers on tv with giant zoom lenses shooting a model from further away.

Image 1 is shot at a 17mm focal length, standing only a few feet away. Not a good option for shooting a portrait, though I have seen this way too often by photographers. You can see the distortion in the models body/face from the wide angle curve. Now this can make an interesting effect when done on purpose, especially on horizontal shots where you fill the frame with a lot of background while keeping the subject closer to the undistorted middle section so their body isn't distorted. Also can be interesting when used in other ways as well, shooting down on subjects at extreme angles, etc.

Image 2 is shot at 50mm and Image 3 is shot at 100mm. This area is kind of a sweet spot for portraits. (Usually about 85mm) But it seems to pick up what the eye would naturally make of the scene. It can also be cool if you just run around with a 50mm fixed lens on your camera and see what sort of images you come up with on an outing. (Another thing nice about the 50mm lens is that usually you can drop the f-stop down to 1.8-some higher or lower- and get some great low light shots without turning up the ISO)

Image 4 is shot at 200mm. You can really see the compression of the background up to the model and how much more out of focus it is even still at the same f4 as the other shots. I like the pop of this difference on a lot of shots, especially outdoor. Having a not too busy background should be a goal in portraits, not capturing the entire detail of the wilderness setting you are in. (I'll be covering background on another installment though).

This example is just a basic shot again of Picture 1 taken from standing position, Picture 2 taken from kneeling down to be straight across from the chest/shoulder area. (Though I wish I had her look at me in picture 2, looking away IMO worked for the first shot, but not the second...anyways...)


Other than the model looking away in the second picture, personally I prefer it as a portrait. The first looks just too much like I just pointed a camera down at someone sitting on a bench and snapped a picture. Now if the angle had been more extreme or the framing tighter, that might have made it more "artistic".

The important thing to keep in mind is to give yourself options. Take pictures a couple of different ways. Most of us use digital now, so take advantage of it. Give yourself options when you go through them the next day. These "rules" usually make for better habits and then better pictures; but like I said are always good to break when done intentionally. And to prove it, my last shot was taken from me laying on the ground shooting up (I usually avoid shooting up the nose, but for this shot it was needed for what I pictured in my head).

Oh...and thank you to my guinea p---- er, model: Angela for helping me today.

SHUTTLE LAUNCH

I want to point out first since most of the images on my blog are often mine, that these photos are not. I just thought they were very cool pictures of the shuttle launch last week and wanted to share them. The first is just a great AP photo and the last two were supposedly taken from the International Space Station (I came across by way of Warren Ellis' blog), although I have seen people arguing that the altitude/angle are not right for that. Though they are still great images.


ORAPAX

Well, last night was Alima's first night at the elusive Orapax Greek Restaurant and it was packed. The line out the door was crazy. Her performance was awesome as well. I didn't take a lot of pictures because I didn't want everyone looking at the big bald guy with the giant camera and blinding flash on her first night. So I'll probably try and get some pictures a couple performances from now.

I shot a few shots without the flash last night and they came out decent considering. There was a table taking shots with point and shoot cameras for a bit so I spent a while trying to time some shots with their flash. I ended up getting one from that attempt, which I put up here. I also included a couple of the other shots which were good if but a little grainy.



Anyways, if you are reading this and live in the hampton roads area, definitely visit her website: alimadusana.com and come to a future performance. Just might want to make a reservation at orapax though (which has some great food btw).

RETOUCHING

I wanted to bring a little attention to a service that we offer. It's a not one of the big ones that gets a lot of attention and it's a normal part of what we do to process our own photography. But we offer very reasonable rates for retouching and design work. As long as you have the rights or permissions for us to retouch your photo we can often put the extra polish on your pictures or save a photo that might otherwise be unusable.

The collage below are all photos retouched by us and were from a bellydance forum I post at. Every photo had different amounts of changes made. Every picture had airbrushing to eliminate blemishes and smooth skin as well as touch ups to remove anything else that might destract from the normal beauty of these young women. In addition to those changes: Picture 1 also had some antiquing effects done to it and some desaturation. Picture 2 has an entirely new background. Picture 3 had a table in front of the dancer removed as well as some clean up for grain and poor contrast. Picture 4 had some color corrections made. Picture 5 had miscellaneous stuff removed from the floor behind the dancer and other clean up. Picture 6 had a black background added for use in flyers. Picture 8 had recropping, some grain cleanup and audience heads removed from the bottom. And Picture 9 had grain cleanup, red eye removal and an item removed from foreground. All in all I've worked on about 3 dozen sets of photos for dancers from this forum of varying requests. I appreciate working with them, but also wanted to remind any readers that we do this sort of work for any and everyone.

Costs will vary depending on the amount of work needed, we will give you a quote before work is started and tell you what to expect from the work as well. The picture we have to start with can make a lot of difference in what we end up with (bigger the picture size the better always helps also). Having items completely removed or new backgrounds added obviously take more work than basic airbrushing and corrections, so keep that in mind as well.

REVIEW: PELICAN CAMERA CASE

Pelican brand, #1510, hard case.

Some basic info on the case:
Made of a pretty much unbreakable copolymer and it is water tight and air tight (also has a pressure relief valve in case of atmosphere change).
It has two very oversized and sturdy latches with two reinforced padlock holes beside each.
It has a side and top handle, good grip and sturdy...never any fear for breakage for weight.
Also an extendable handle and small wheels for wheeling around as luggage. Speaking of luggage, it is sized for carry-on luggage size as well (meeting FAA requirements).

It came with an 11 piece padded divider, but first I used a seperate pluck out foam insert in the case that I ordered seperately. After a bit of time though, some of the pluck out foam was coming out without being plucked, plus you couldn't make many changes to re-arrange equipment without ordering a new foam insert. So I eventually went to the padded divider that came with it and have been happier using that.

I have been able to fit in the case: a D40 with a battery pack on the bottom (though the camera must be turned to sit in the case face down because it is too tall with the battery pack on it. I did use a piece of foam under it and was still able to store a 50mm lens under the camera in the foam). I have four lenses of different sizes stored vertically, plus a 70-200 canon lens; though I had to store it sideways in order to fit in the case (plus the 50mm lens). I also have a D30, 2 Flashes, a battery pack for the flash, an epson backup reader and a variety of other small accessories stored in it as well. In fact, about the only piece of equipment I regularly use that won't fit inside it is my stroboframe and that is just because it is pretty oddly shaped.

The one extra piece I ordered that has been extremely useful was the lid organizer. It comes with an egg carton like foam insert in the lid, but you can pull that out and mount this organizer inside. I really don't see how the case would work without having to carry some other piece of small items without this lid organizer. (That is actually where I store the flash battery pack, the epson backup drive, a ton of batteries, filters, cords, locks, locking cables, etc).

All in all, if you need a case, I would definitely recommend this one. I'm a glutton for organizational stuff, and out of the probably ten different bags and cases I have, this one has been the most versatile and useful.

B&H photo carries it (in a few other colors I believe as well if you dont want basic black) as well as all the accessories. Can't say enough about B&H photo either, they have been great to me and recommend them for anything you might need.

B&H photo page: 1510 Pelican case

THE LACK OF LIGHT

I took these pictures last weekend for the heck of it while watching my friend Alima perform. I have so many shots of her, I wanted to try and take some at this restaurant that is usually pitch dark except for some roving spots and see how they came out with no flash.


I probably got about a dozen or so keepers and changed most to black and white to help with cleaning them up for the colored spot lights and the grain. I put a few into the "old picture" look just for the heck of it because it seemed to fit. Anyways, back to work now and watching Wil Weaten torture people on criminal minds.

PICTURE BOX



I was working on a couple of things for the blog, but in the meantime I wanted to throw up a family production. My father does a lot of woodworking and....well, he builds everything...but the picture box came from building the octagon part for someone else and was a bit too big so I threw out the idea of making a circular frame to float inside of it. (They may be painting the back of the octagon to match the wall so it truly looks like it is floating) When my dad sent over the measurements for the inner frame I ordered and cut to size a blowup of one of my pictures my mom has always liked.