Sunday, June 27, 2010
Inspired by a number of my on-line students at Betterphoto.com, I started experimenting with photographing smoke. I bought some incense and used a single, off-camera flash placed about 90 degrees to the lens axis to shoot the smoke coming from the incense. I hung a piece of black velvet on the wall as a backdrop, and using the LCD monitor on the back of the camera as a gauge, I adjusted the exposure accordingly by tweaking the flash output (using the exposure compensation feature on the flash). I got a number of wonderful abstracts, but then I wanted to add other elements to make the images a lot more interesting.
First, I added color to the smoke by making a duplicate layer in Photoshop (Commmand/Ctrl J) and then I applied the gradient tool. When the gradient tool is selected, in the tool bar you can select various multi-colored patterns that become the gradient. After the color was placed on the duplicate layer, I used the 'overlay' blend mode (found in the submenu within the layers palette) to merge the color with the smoke. Second, I used Photoshop's powerful ability to combine images, and the first two composites can be seen here.
To place the nude inside the spiral of smoke (top photo), I again used the overlay blend mode to make it look like the smoke was twirling around the model's form. Of course, the reflection was made by the Flood plug-in made by flamingpear.com.
I photographed the costumed model on my Carnival in Venice workshop last February. It was an arranged setup and my entire group photographed her in front of a gilded mirror in an elegant, medieval-adorned suite. I separated her from the background using the pen tool so the edges were absolutely precise.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
One of my on-line photography students asked why a particular photo had so much depth of field, yet it was taken with a large lens aperture -- f/5. The photo in question was similar to the one you see above. It was taken with a wide angle and the foreground was relatively close to the camera position. Here is the answer to the question.
Depth of field is controlled not just by lens aperture. There are a total of four factors that influence depth of field (dof):
1. Lens aperture (the smaller the aperture, the more dof)
2. Focal length of lens (the wider the angle lens, the more dof)
3. Distance from camera to subject (the further away the camera is to the subject, the more dof)
4. Distance from subject to background (the closer the subject is to the background, the more focused the subject and the and background will be, thus the more dof you'll have)
These 4 factors interact with each other constantly, and often one will override the other. In the example of the New England boat harbor, the fact that a wide angle lens was used eclipsed the influence of the lens aperture. Wide angle lenses offer tremendous depth of field at ANY aperture. However ... and this is where the plot thickens ... if the camera is positioned very close to the foreground subject, like 2 or 3 feet away, that factor will eclipse the influence of the wide angle focal length. Thus, the background will be defined but not tack sharp. In other words, some (but not that much) depth of field will be lost because of the close proximity to the foreground. Enter lens aperture. By closing the aperture down to, say, f/22, you get that depth of field back and the distant background becomes sharp again.
By moving further away from the foreground, the depth of field in the background also comes back, but then the composition changes.
So, all of these factors come into play in each picture you take.
Let's take another example. If you want the background behind a subject to be completely out of focus such that there is no definition at all, as in the picture of the Canadian lynx kitten, and you wanted to use a 50mm lens. That wouldn't be possible. Assuming you were several feet away, even at f/1.4 the background would be blurred but we would be able to see a significant amount of definition in the trees behind the cat. Why? Because the 50mm focal length offers too much depth of field, and that overrides the large aperture. The only way you could override the influence of the focal length would be to shoot the kitten from about 12 inches away -- not a likely scenario in this particular case.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
My great Pyrenees, Rexie, turned one year old a couple of days ago, so we celebrated the event with the neighborhood. Rexie wouldn't sit still long enough to wear sunglasses, so I put them on him digitally. I used the magic wand tool to select the blue glasses on the little girl at the far left, and then I deselected the dark plastic lenses so when I pasted them onto Rexie (Edit > paste), we could see his eyes.
With all the kids and the two dogs, it was a challenge to get so many good expressions in one picture. I fired off many frames in quick succession in the hope that one or two of the images would be good.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Wide angle lenses positioned close to a subject create distortion. When shooting people, some photographers think this isn't the correct approach. However, I use it often, especially when shooting fashion or wild costumes or masks. This picture of my wife was done in our home with a mask I bought in Venice, Italy. I used a 16mm wide angle lens to exaggerate and distort the perspective, and a single photoflood illuminated the setup. I also used a tripod, of course, and in Photoshop I changed the color (the original sofa and dress were wine red).
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
If you haven't used HDR yet, I consider it a must and I encourage you to try it. It is one of the most incredible techniques, and I wanted to share with you an image I did on the recent photo tour to Ireland I conducted. Notice how much detail you can see in the shadows as well as the highlights. This kind of detail is seen with our eyes, but because the digital sensor is not as sophisticated as our eye/brain combination, we need to use this specialized technique to reveal in a photo what we can see at the time of shooting. I have enhanced the colors, obviously, but this image is dynamic largely because of HDR
HDR stands for 'high dynamic range', and this means that photographers can now reveal complete detail in dark shadows and bright highlights in a single picture. This was never possible before. We usually exposed correctly for the highlights and let the shadows go dark. HDR involves taking several images -- in this case I used eight photos -- that are bracketed quite a bit (such as +1 +2 +3 and -1 -2 -3 based on what the meter dictates), and then the software program Photomatix assembles the altogether to produce a perfect exposure. You need a tripod if you want the picture to be tack sharp, and it's also important to use the same lens aperture. You don't want the depth of field varying. Vary the exposure with the shutter speed.
In the Photomatix dialog box, there are quite a few sliders that give you a large number of variables with respect to exposure, contrast, color temperature, etc., and it's just a matter of experimenting until you like what you see.