Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Metropolis series continues to grow

This past week I took some time to work on two multi-exposure images for my Metropolis series.

The first one is entitled "Metropolis - Feininger redux" because it reminded me of the compositions of the painter Lyonnel Feininger, particularly in his 1920's work while he was in Germany working at the Bauhaus. It consists of four main over-lapping images of the city. Feninger continued his painting and photography when he returned to New York after the Nazis closed down the Bauhaus.

The second image, called "Metropolis - Day into night", is also an assemblage comprised of four images.  The images were taken around sundown in the winter time when all the building windows are brightly lit around sunset creating a cacophony of pulsating color.

My favorite period of music is 1920's and 30's jazz. I have been trying to capture that spirit of the jazz age in the Metropolis series of photos.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Fuji X-camera's Classic Chrome look

One reason I love using the Fuji X cameras so much is the way they seem to mimic the film era look and feel. This is helped greatly by the film modes that are built into the camera. These have become quite popular and lately been extended in the new X-Pro2 to include an Acros black and white film look.

The film modes are only applied to jpg images, and, since I like to have the flexibility of shooting in camera RAW for its greater range in post-processing, most of the time I set my Fuji cameras to shoot both RAW and jpg at the same time. This provides me with a jpg reference photo to use while processing the RAW image in Photoshop. All the Film modes are available within Adobe Camera Raw so it is easy to apply them after the fact in post. But I also tweak my camera with further settings of tone and color that enhance the images. These, too, need to be applied later in post, but the effects are sometimes a bit more elusive to achieve.

On a recent lifestyle shoot in the studio I decided to set up my X-T1 to shoot in my favorite mode of Classic Chrome. This color mode has more dialed-down colors and a punchier contrast that results in more of a candid look suitable for lifestyle where I'm trying to create more of a believable situation. Although this mode already delivers more muted colors, I like to dial it down even further with a setting of -2 for color. I sometimes also play with the contrast by dialing in more or less in the shadows and/or highlights depending upon the type of available light I am using.

For the first time in a shoot I chose to go exclusively with the jpg images instead of processing from the RAW. With less latitude for correction, this meant getting the scene just right in the camera. I shoot mostly with back light so on a bright day this resulted in blasted out highlights with no detail. In RAW I could have brought back some of the detail, but with the narrow jpg palette this was not possible.

Here are a few takes from this latest shoot -- all jpgs straight from the camera and done with Classic Chrome and -2 Color settings.


Friday, February 5, 2016

Just before dawn today a mist enshrouded the city and a light snow began to fall giving me this view of the top of the Empire State Building. I treated this image to my autochrome technique to create the colorful grain pattern. 

The snow continued through the early morning but was very light.  It did stick to the trees, and by mid-day the sun came out and melted the snow so water droplets glistened in the light and fell from the branches forming a shiny curtain with a city backdrop. This was the view from Madison Square Park. It lasted for about a half hour and was gone.

Both photos were taken with my Fuji X-T1 and the 18-135mm lens, which I keep attached and on the ready at all times. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Photographing the city shadows - Classic Chrome on the Fuji X-T1

I must be going through a dark period -- first the still life shoot of a few days ago and now images of the city where I'm shooting for the highlights and letting the shadows go dark.

All photos were taken with a Fuji X-T1 and 18-135mm lens. The first three color images were taken before dawn in a thick fog. The camera was set to Classic Chrome and -2 color and +2 shadow tone. The images are the original jpgs with slight post-processing in Photoshop.

The intentional blur in this image and the one below was caused by moving the camera up and down during a 1/15 second shutter speed. 

For the black and white series I exposed for the highlights with the camera set to a red filter with +1 on the high tones and +2 on the dark. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Applying atmospheric effects to images

Softening effects can often add more of a candid look to images. They can also be used to blur down sections of a photograph to leave a more neutral area for designers to place type or product. Sometimes an effect can just add a warmer glow to a scene.

I have been applying soft focus techniques to my lifestyle images as long as I can remember. Years ago I developed my own filters molded from Plexiglas to achieve the specific results I wanted, and recently I returned to making some of these filters. I also use glass objects -- glasses, vases, prismatic pieces of chandeliers, anything that will diffract the light --  I have picked up at flea markets.

I find that the technique works best with lenses of a full frame focal length of 50-85mm and a wide open aperture. For that reason I use my filters with fast prime lenses. It also works best with top quality optics that have good contrast, since the filters themselves tend to really subdue contrast and detail.

The main reason I make my own filters is that the streaking and blurs are more random than what can be achieved with typical, store-bought softening filters.  On top of that, I can create the filters to deliver very specific effects that I like to use.

I make my own filters either my molding plexi squares over heat, or by applying a thickly molded acrylic gel to the surface. By cutting my plexi to the same size as Cokin filters I can also use a Cokin filter adapter to hold them in front of the lens.

This is a plexi filter I have created to deliver a sun-streak effect. It works best with a strong light source in the background. 

This effect is simply selective focus achieved by placing the camera close to a foreground desk area and using a wide open f/1.4 aperture on the lens. 

Sometimes I use one of my filtering techniques to give the impression that I am shooting through a glass panel from an other room. 

This is my sun-streak filter again combined with a post-processing inclusion of a sunburst placed in the window.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Conceptual multiple exposure

This photo just emerged out of nowhere while I was playing around in Photoshop over the weekend. It began with a sky and clouds picture I liked.  I then added the charts, next the woman, and then building facade with its arrow-like shadow pointing towards the future.  Lastly, I added the world map, which I have created into a Photoshop brush preset so I can quickly stamp it anywhere in a photo.  The lowered opacity white boxes help to shape the composition and also separate the elements from each other.

I purposely did not include any symbols such as financial signs, technology or scientific symbols, or anything else that would peg the image to a specific industry. This way the photo can be applied to almost any forward looking idea with a global reach..

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dark still life shooting

I pretty much photograph constantly, and don't I don't always have a plan for what the subject will be. Sometimes I just get an idea of a type of lighting in my head and begin with that, adding the subjects to suit. A couple days ago while in the studio I felt like shooting some really darkly lit still life subjects so I set up a lighting scene with black background and dark base, and added two tungsten lights from the rear, one on each side. I controlled the shadows with small cardboard gobos. Then I added subjects that might look good in that type of light. This is what happened.

This type of backlighting is perfect for photographing smoke so I did a number of situations with smoke in them. 

While shooting this still life set up I decided to make it more interesting by doing a deep focus technique on it. I took ten shots focusing each one just a little closer to the camera each time until I had a the full range from front to back covered. I then fed the ten images into the Helicon Focus stacking software to combine the images into one, super-sharp final photograph with continuous focus from foreground to the back of the books. From experience I find that an aperture of f/5.6 with my Nikon 85mm tilt shift lens gives the best results. Click here to download a high res version of this file.