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A Different Approach to Yesterday’s Photos

I tried some different post-processing options, but the real lesson from yesterday’s shoot (a lesson I should have picked up years ago) is one that Joe McNally hammers often: understanding and controlling color while shooting leads to better results, regardless of your post-processing skills. I will reshoot these with different gels and light modifiers, but again, I do think I’m getting close to what I want for our website.




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Stretching At The Festival

At the Ojai Storytelling Festival, I get an opportunity to test my photographic adaptation skills. That is to say, how well can I adapt to a wide variety of shooting situations while carrying a minimal amount of gear from early morning to midnight? Performances included individuals, duos, and quintets. Venues were huge and tiny, well lit and unlit. I shot in the bright, midday outdoors and in backstage caverns.

Here are some samples. I’ll go over some of the lessons in later posts.

Beth Horner tells the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears with only a kazoo, gestures, and expressions.

Remember my post about sacrificing technical quality for moment quality? I wanted a picture of my friend Wendy Stroud, whether she was lit or not!

My secret for natural looking fill-flash? I dial it down about 2/3 of a stop.

Sometimes you just have to put on the 11mm lens and kneel in front of the stage. In cooler months I wear my motorcycle pants with the padded knees.

Metering challenges? Oh yeah.

Serendipitous moments? Check.

Lots more to come, but for now I’ve got to go to work! Z

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Listening to Robert Capa

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” – Robert Capa

I’m trying. Still photographing rehearsals for Dancing with the Ojai Stars.

Getting too close to dancers is risky for all parties. It would have been nice to get physically closer with a wider lens in the hope of blurring the horrible background that mars this beautiful moment.

At performances, I try to show whole dancers in context, but in rehearsal, the real subject is the intense concentration as the dancers learn new material.

Getting close means finding new perspectives, and that's my mission. When the dancers are this joyous, so am I.

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This is my friend Mike. I took his picture during lunch for a lesson I was planning on shallow depth of field and bokeh (rendering of out-of-focus areas, like the Christmas lights behind Mike).

This is an image my camera appears to have taken spontaneously while flying through the air as my car went over the edge of highway 150 between Carpinteria and Ojai.

This is Miguel, the tow truck driver who pulled my car and I off the slope, back to the road, and back to Ojai.

The three photos in this post were taken with the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro on a Nikon D7000. I met Mike for lunch knowing that the Nugget restaurant is dimly lit, and decorated with perennial Christmas lights. As you can see, the 105 delivers smooth, if asymmetrical, bokeh at f/2.8. Unfortunately, on the way home I lost control of my car on highway 150, pinballed some trees, and slid partially down a hill. The car is probably totaled, but I appear to be unharmed and there was no damage to anyone or anything else. As you can see in the picture of the tow truck driver, the 105 f2.8 produces lovely, smooth bokeh in out-of-focus backgrounds. This is why some people consider it a worthy and economical alternative to the legendary 85 f/1.4 as a portrait lens.  It also has the advantage of a much closer minimum focusing distance, which exaggerates the out-of-focus backgrounds, presuming you want shots as tight as these of Mike and Miguel.  More on Bokeh and shallow depth of field in future entries.  Below is an example of how they work together.

Shallow depth of field and creamy bokeh help isolate the subject in this image. And yes, that is an awesome hat.

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2011 Favorites, Part 3

July, August, September.

July Assigned: I like this theater publicity shot because the lighting and colors suit the subject. It would probably be a stronger image cropped just below their elbows, but then I would forget I want to get some pants like these.

July Personal: It was a tough summer around here, and believe it or not, this was taken before things got really ugly. I don't know for sure whether I like this as a photograph or as a document of some of the changes around here. In either case, I like the storytelling one can do with a wide angle lens, although you'll see (if you haven't already) that most of my favorites are much tighter shots.

August Assigned: Broadway star Sam Harris appeared locally. I got many shots of him performing, but this moment of connection with the audience connected with me.

August Personal: A grey subject between large areas of blue and green, but wait, there's more! How about exaggerated perspective AND a tilted horizon? Now how much would you pay?

I didn’t find any September assignment photos that worked on their own as photographs. And I had assignments! Sigh.

September Personal: I asked bar owner Nigel Chisholm if I could practice environmental portraiture on him. Nigel is such a friendly person that neither he nor most people that know him care much for this picture, but I think it stands on its own rather well. The problem is that I don't know whether I love the lighting because I know how I designed the lighting, or if it's a compelling image in its own right. But it jumped off the screen when I reviewed thumbnail images, so here it is.

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