Photography

Spring Photos

I have a lot of great photos of my kids when they were younger. Mostly because I had a photography studio, and every so often, I would just haul them into the studio and take some pictures. New background or props to try out….bring in the kids.

Now that I am not using photography as a direct source of income, and I no longer have an indoor studio, I realized I am missing out on a lot of these great images. Originally I made it a goal to get my kids out once a year to get a little more than iPhone and point and shoot pictures of them, and go for something good. Since then, I have upped that to twice a year. Once in the Spring and once in the Fall.

Here, I wanted to tell you how the Spring photos went for 2016.

We are new to this area, having moved last summer. There are a lot of gorgeous places around. Downtowns, college campuses, gardens, etc. Some are close by, and some are a bit of a drive.

I started out by buying the kids coordinating shirts in a solid color. I made them all dress up, and took them to a college campus, that I had not visited before. I searched for suitable sites, and just could not find any I like.

This is the difference between shooting weddings (or some other event) and purely shooting for yourself. As a paid professional, you have to produce the absolute best results, under the given conditions, and you have to do that every time. Well, even though those are the best under the given conditions, they might not be the best you could do if you had control of everything.

I could have taken some pictures, and they would have been “okay.” But, I wanted them to be great. So, I didn’t do the best I could. I waited untilI could do better. So, no pictures that day.

After that, the idea hit me to do something a little less formal. My kids don’t generally dress up, and wear khaki’s like I had them dressed up the first time. So, why take their picture that way? We live in the mountains with lots of farms around, so I figured going more casual and finding a cool barn to shoot at was a better approach.

I looked and looked while driving and either didn’t find anything suitable, or found lots of cool places where I was afraid to ask the owner to use their barn. Across the street from our church was an abandoned barn. It had all the features I was looking for. It has wood with nice character, a cool floor on the porch, and a porch with an overhang.

The overhang is important. It blocked the light from above, and made the porch slightly darker than the light just outside in the open air. With this difference of light, I just had to turn the kids to take advantage of the difference in light, and create the light patterns on their face that I wanted. The remaining was have them pose and stand how I wanted, which I have found is tougher with your own kids than when doing it for clients.

My son took this picture of me taking pictures. It is cool because it shows the angles I was shooting at, the location, the porch, and the amount of light on the porch and just outside the porch.

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I brought light modifiers in case I thought I needed to soften light, or to reflect some fill. I could have used them, but I chose not to in this specific case.

In case you are interested, all the photos were taken with a Hasselblad 503cx. The full body shots were taken with the 80 mm CF T* Zeiss lens and all the tight shots were taken with the 150mm CF T* Zeiss lens.

Here is one more “taking the picture” shot and the following picture is the result of that setup.

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A few of the remaining photos.

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Don’t Forget the Fun!!!

When I started learning photography, I wasn’t really interested in people. I was more interested in nature and landscapes.

Once I got the bug to take portraits, I didn’t realize how much of it was people skills as opposed to photography skills. Don’t get me wrong, without photography skills, I don’t think that your portraits will have that pop and excitement that you like. But, without the people skills you are going to get technically good photographs, without much interests.

So, while I am in the middle of writing lessons on the more technical aspects of photography, I don’t want it to come off as all mechanical and emotionless either.

Today’s quick little post is about having fun!!!

The quicker you can connect to your subject, the better. The better you know them, and know their personality, the quicker you will come up with something that suits them.

I am reminded of a photograph that I did of my own kids. You should know those closest around you best, so it should be easiest to get their personalities to come out, and capture them.

To understand my thinking you need to understand the personality of my 6 year old. He is number 3. My oldest is more quiet and less likely to come out his shell. My middle is just a sweet girl. But, the 6 year old is the wild child. All personality, and he has swindles that would make a political jealous.

While taking fall photographs of them separately and then together, I wanted something to highlight his crazy personality.

I say my oldest down and posed him. Then, I sat my daughter down and posed her as well. Then, I whispered my instructions to the youngest and told him to execute those instructions on the count of 3. His behavior messed up the poses of the other two a little bit, so there is nothing technically perfect about the pose, but the end result is a photography that captures a bit of the personality of all 3 of them.

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Once again, this photo was taken during an “in between” period of my cameras and was taken with a simple Canon point and shoot camera.

A year later, I was doing the same thing again, with the same camera. While not my idea of portrait excellence, because I had to sacrifice some lighting and composition to get the photo I had in mind, it is still a very memorable photo for me. You can see some stray light peaking in when I would rather it not, and also some brighter spots in the background than I would have liked. But, it was still fun!

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All planned, but also all fun!

Happy shooting!

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More Film Photos

A while ago, I made a couple posts about getting a film camera. Then, I posted a couple images made from my first roll of film. However, I noticed that I had not posted anything since.

So, here are a few images taken over the past few months. I will include information on each image. The camera is a Hasselblad 503CX. I have two lenses. The 80mm, which acts as a “normal” lens on this medium format camera, and a 150mm lens, which is mildly telephoto.

Here we go…

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My wife and daughter. 105mm lens. Just taken on the side of our old house.

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Those crazy two again. 150mm lens, again on the side of our old house.

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The whole family. 80mm lens, taken while on vacation in Georgia.

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My wife and oldest son. 80mm lens. Taken outside the apartment where we temporarily stayed.

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Same shot. Closer with the 150mm lens.

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Some of the kids at the apartment. All taken with the 80mm lens.

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This one was taken at a covered bridge close to where our new house was being built. 150mm lens.

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We met family in Georgia at the Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

After we left the gorge, we stopped at a little farm stand at the side of the road. That is where the rest of these were taken.

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80mm lens.

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Talulah Gorge. 80mm lens.

That is all for now. The weather is nice here, so I hope to get out shooting some more soon.

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Film Roll App

Back in the day when I shot film, before digital cameras, in order to know what was going on after you developed your film, got your prints, had your slides developed, etc, you needed to know the details about the shot. It was the only way to know what was working, what was not working, and figure out problems and help you get better.

My first reaction was to get out an old trusty notebook again. But, immediately after that though, I figured “maybe there is an app for that.” Sure enough there is. For free, I found the app Film Roll in the App Store for free.

It looked pretty bare bones, but it worked great. You can input your camera, your lens, and other details. When you load a new roll of film in, you click the “add” button, and start a new roll. When you make an exposure, you simply lick the “add” button again, and add a shot. Since your information is already in there, you can just go through a simple pick menu to select camera, lens, f stop, shutter speed, compensation, notes, etc. Works pretty well.

I haven’t fully figured out my workflow from the standpoint of storing negatives, and linking them back to files on my computer, and all that jazz. But, I knew for this to be useful, I would have to get this info off my phone, and on to my computer.

Film Roll will export your data in a XML format, but the usefulness unfortunately stops there. The XML file is a bit ugly and not very useable as is. Here is an example.

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While all the data is there, I figured I would want something a little more useful than that. Opening in Excel or Numbers doesn’t do much to help you. If the file had been a CSV, that would have made life easy! 🙂 This looked like a good project for a quick Python program.

There is a Python module called Beautiful Soup that was made for handling HTML and XML. In about 2 minutes, and 5 lines of code, I had this XML file spit out into a plain old text file without the tags.

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For now (until I really figure out what I want to do) I will stop there. I am simply placing this text file in the directory with the original unaltered scans. Python can easily handle and manipulate this data, and export it Excel and even format in Excel once it is there. If I come up with something I really like, I might take this 5 lines of code and turn it into something more sophisticated.

If you already use this App, and know what you would like the output to be formatted like, let me know and I could code it up. Or, if you came up with something that you like, please let me know as well.

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First Roll

I am excited and not excited to share a couple pictures off the first roll of film from the Hasselblad. Excited because everything seems to be in working order. I had complete trust in the guy I bought the camera from, and it had been resorted to factory specs, cleaned, lubed and adjusted and was ready to go. Still, I didn’t want to invest a bunch of time taking pictures to find out the dark slide was leaking light or the magazine wasn’t winding properly, or anything like that.

So, that is the good news. That bad news is, that like I said, I didn’t want to invest that much time in taking photos, only to find out something was wrong. I made focusing errors, the light on my portraits is just kind of “blah”, etc.

The portraits more or less went like this….”Its cold out, I want to test out this camera and lens, this is the least ugly spot in the back yard, so let’s snap a picture real quick.” I knew the lighting was good, I knew my focusing could have been more precise (and I was right….I was a little off), but I still have a successful first roll!

I will quit the talking and just show you.

Camera: Hasselblad 503cx
Film: Kodak Tmax 400
Lens, aperture and shutter speed: See specific photo

My daughter. 80mm CF T* lens. F/2.8 @ 1/500

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My oldest son. Planar 150mm CF T*. F/4 @ 1/250.

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The lanterns on the back porch caught my eye, so I figured I would burn up a photo on them to get a roll done. 80mm CF T*. F/2.8 @ 1/60.

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I had these developed and scanned at North Coast Photo. I am not sure how I feel about the scans. I got their enhanced scans, but I think I will try someone else for the next ones, just for comparison. Either way, I have the ultimate original (the film), but there really isn’t anything here interesting enough to justify a “real” scan or print.

I have some Portra loaded at the moment. Hopefully I can spend a little more time on the next photos. I would prefer to be outside, but it is SO cold!!!

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Influence for Moving to Film

I am slowly getting to learn some new things with my film camera. It is a fun learning experience. If I were in the midst of taking photos for money, it would be a bit daunting. But, since I am going taking photos for myself again (instead of for money), I am more than comfortable with the learning process taking some time.

I didn’t just wake up one day and say “Hey, a film camera is the way to go.” So, I thought I would share a little bit of my thought process that got me there.

First off, when I owned my own studio, and really started to make money, it was right on the edge of choosing medium format film, versus going digitial. Everyone was going digital, and that was the way I went. But, I also had some very convicting argument for shooting film from the owner of a very large studio. He was shooting a Mamiya (I don’t even remember the model), sending his film to the lab, having scans sent back to him and working from those. Keep in mind that this was a professional lab doing scans, not the camera shop around the corner (which in my experience produces rather poor scans).

His argument was one of workflow. In portrait work, work needs to be done before final photos. Whether it is skin softening, stray hair removal, or blemish correction. His argument is that “If I am not shooting, I am not making money.” With digital, you would have to copy files, convert raw files, do your touch ups, and crops to produce your final photo. He personally did not want to sit in front of the tube, and wanted to continue shooting. So, he sent his film out, and his scans came back color corrected, cropped and ready for proofs. Now, not everyone blemish corrects proofs, only orders. Everyone is different. But, when he got an order, the lab still had his scans, could do the corrections, and deliver his final prints. It is just a matter of who is doing the work. Do you want to sit in front of the tube and make corrections? Pay your own employees to do it? Or pay someone else to do it while you continue taking more photos?

I think that is a business decision that everyone would have to make for themselves. I am not saying I agree or disagree, but the idea is intriguing, and it certainly made me think. At my point in business, I didn’t have the volume to justify paying someone else. Meaning, I had more time than money to throw at other people. I chose to do the work myself. I am glad, because I learned a lot, but I have to admit I always had a longing for film.

If I had to chose a film camera at that point, I would have bought the same Mamiya, just simply based on cost. A part of me still always longed after the Hasselblad. Maybe it is logical, maybe it is not, but I just drooled over them when I saw them. At that time, they were so ridiculously expensive, it was not even close to an option. And honestly, it would have probably frustrated me with level at I was at at the time.

Now, I am just doing photography for whatever reason I want. Nobody is paying me, so nobody can tell me what to do 🙂 Just for me.

I was at a friends house, who is a sculptor, and also a film fan. He had a cabinet full of film cameras including a Hasselblad 500 C/M. I asked to handle it, and he mentioned that with everyone digital, they are extremely affordable these days. That lead me through a lot of internet research. In that research, I can across these things that I think someone else might find interesting.

This film was produced my Indie Film Lab. By embedding it, I do not claim to take any credit. I just find that content is more likely to be viewed if it is embedded, and not linked. Visit Indie Film Lab for more info.

Basically, a lot of the guys say the same thing. Just different people with similar experiences. The points that I generally take away are:

1) It forces you to slow down. Think more about what you are doing and being more selective.

2) Keeps you in the moment. Stops you from chimping. Keeps you interacting with your subject. I compare this to a bunch of adults hanging out together, and all of them on their smartphones. Instead of interacting with each other, they are all checking what everyone else is up to on Facebook. Film is like taking away the smartphone from people.

Another article that I found interesting was over at Visual Science Lab. I don’t always agree with everything I will provide a link for. I am just saying that I thought there were some interesting points in that article.

That is all for now. Since this switchback to film is going to be a learning process for me, I hope to take you along for the ride. The good, the bad, the ridiculous. The things that work well, and the things that fail miserably. Hopefully it will inspire or encourage some else along the way. If not, maybe you will at least get a laugh at the fumbles 🙂

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