New DSLR Photography Lesson student, Natasha, will be helping photograph her friend's upcoming wedding in April. Thus, she has booked my new 4-lesson discount package in order to get up to speed as fast as she can by then, as she already previously has some photography knowledge. In addition to learning the basic settings (aperture, ISO, WB, focus mode) that are in need of regular changing, one must also know their gear well. Natasha's friend will be arriving at her wedding location in a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the afternoon (tricky lighting). So to photograph this well a fast enough shutter speed must be used to freeze the action and certain moving subject shooting skills need to be refined.
We simulated this scenario by having me walk in an arc around her while she was in AI-servo (AF-C for Nikon) and burst mode. Through several practice rounds we found out what were the best settings to use in broad daylight, and most importantly how fast her DSLR/lens combination (Canon XT) could get a focus lock on a moving subject. It is critical to know how many usable shots (six or two or four, etc.) one can get in a given space. This exercise helped give Natasha some idea what she can expect when photographing the bride arriving via horse-drawn carriage for real and what can be expected of her photography gear.
We will cover more topics and scenarios like this in our next three lessons so hopefully come her friend's wedding day, she will feel as prepared as possible!
I was excited this week to get a commercial photography job photographing Suncoast Electric Vehicles and its personal EV car and green van, as well as to meet the dealership owner, Richard Nimphie. My supercar passion is well known, but for my about town car I would definitely also have an EV car of some kind. I am surprised with all the people of means that live in my neighborhood, I have only seen one Chevy Volt driving around and no totally EVs at all. I guess EVs are still pretty rare and hard to get no matter what car budget one has.
I have unknowingly driven by the Suncoast Electric Dealership on 4th Street North I estimate at least 180 times since it opened earlier this year and never noticed it, and I am a very observant person, especially for cars! The signage is small and low and the building is surrounded by trees. I might suggest to them to somehow making the dealership much more visible to passing cars.
Mr. Nimphie and his staff were very friendly answering my questions about their EVs and helping me setup photographs highlighting the features of EV cars, which of course are their lack of a need for gas and electrical outlet for a gas cap. Thinking now I guess in the future there will be something like sold laptop docking station built into the walls of garages that everyone will just connect to when they return home in order to recharge. Maybe that will not even be necessary as some sudden, burst recharging technology could be invented along just a few seconds of plugin time to be back on the road.
If you drive less than 40 miles a day and stay on roads with speed limits 40mph and under, which would be nearly all roads in St. Petersburg, then the Personal EV would make a great way to start the future in your garage today.
2401 4th Street North St. Petersburg, FL 33704
When I go around saying digital photography editing skills are 50% of what you need to produce a satisfactory final image, I really mean it even though every other photographer around would probably disagree with that. I invite you to look at the above before and after shots and tell me in the comments below what percent digital editing had in helping the final image be all it could be.
For this photography tip I will just concentrate on:
- how I used the clone stamp tool in Photoshop CS5 to clean up the background, i.e. removing the light posts and wires
When I first pulled up this photo in Aperture 3, I really liked the bird in flight action. The great egret was caught in an unusual mid-flap wing position. However, the background was not clean and the egret's feet were overlapping a light post. Then there was the corner of a roof intruding in the lower left of the frame. Finally, there was a single tall light post on the right of the frame that was another distraction.
To me the two things that really make a photograph of a common subject matter standout are light and background. You need good light for a flattering exposure and a clean background to let the subject stand out. While it is entirely possibly to be at a location where one can get both of these things just right, I, myself, do not want to be limited to just those exact right circumstances. Hence, I have worked on my clone stamp skills with earnest.
Now, if you have used the clone stamp tool in Photoshop you know it kind of has a mind of its own. It almost never works like you want it too, especially if you use it in broad strokes. First, in order to be able to use the clone stamp tool, you must have a source area in your photo you can sample from. In the great egret shot, I have plenty of other gray clouds to sample to later stamp onto the light posts. Really this is an ideal shot for using the clone stamp tool to fix because of the ample source cloning material, the relatively small amount of area that needs to be stamped on, and the fact that the subject does not much overlap any of the background distractions (just a bit of feet do).
The shortcut for selecting the clone stamp tool is "S" and the key to using Photoshop efficiently is learning as many keyboard shortcuts as you can. To change the size of the brush use the bracket keys: ] and [ To sample an area hold the Option key (on a Mac) then click on the desired spot. I very rarely use the clone stamp at 100% as that makes is hard to control and often artifacts are introduced. For this shot I mostly used 80% opacity. Once I sampled a cloud I stamped in ver short strokes, never more than one or two at a time. Then I would go back and sample the same or another area. Also, I almost always use a soft brush (see screenshot).
So to summarize how I use the clone stamp tool in Photoshop CS5:
- "S" to select it
- [ ] to change brush size
- type 8 to change opacity to 80%, etc
- Option-click to sample an area
- Use short strokes
- Resample every one or two strokes as needed
Try this clone stamping technique on one of your photos and post a link in the comments below to a before and after shot, or e-mail the shot to me and I will include it in this post.
I photographed my first wedding in Bradenton, Florida, which was held at the Calvary Baptist Church and then on to the nearby Renaissance banquet hall for the reception. However, I first met Kiera in her family home that she grew up in. As I walked up the staircase to the second floor the wall was lined with childhood photos of her and her siblings. It was really nice to get to see some of her family history before taking one photograph that day. Hopefully I will have produced a photograph worthy of placement on that wall.
Often, just by watching people I find shots I would not have thought of myself. The mirror was on the far side of the bedroom and was not being used. As I was getting ready to setup for a staircase shot, I saw Kiera go over and look into it. I always like to get a reflection shot of some kind and after working a bit on the lighting logistics was able to get my second strobe placed so that I could both back and front light Kiera without producing any glare in the mirror.
The wedding party was rather large and included four energetic kids and one very long wedding dress train. This was perhaps the most difficult shot all day to get right as on top of the tech stuff for producing this kind of shot (off camera flash, correct exposure in a large dim room, etc) I had to make sure eighteen people all lined up without significantly blocking anyone and keep them all from trodding on the bride's beautiful, but expansive, wedding dress.
The bride had mentioned going to a riverfront location after the ceremony, which I thought sounded good. The more environments I can photograph the bride and groom in the better. However, after the ceremony the bride was not so sure of making the effort to go out there and perhaps we would all just head to the reception. I highly recommended that we make the effort to go out to the riverfront because ten years from now I am sure she will be glad that we had. This is also part of the professional wedding photographer's job.
The above shot was my idea as I always want to try and include some action shots if possible, even during a wedding. Kiera & Ricardo would good about following my suggestions for shot ideas despite both of them wearing far more restrictive clothing than myself. This was a spontaneous shot I did not have preplanned, just thought we could do something on our way to the riverfront.
This shot, however, was preplanned as soon as I saw Kiera putting on the veil in her grandmother's bedroom. It is always great when the bride wears a large veil. With the wind it took a bit of finagling to get the veil as good as we could and keep it from blowing all over the place. I think this was the time Kiera & Ricardo enjoyed the most while I was photographing them that day.
I was first contacted by Barbie back in December. She sent a very enthusiastic e-mail. However, due to various circumstances, we were unable to have our first DSLR Photography Lesson until just today. Her enthusiasm never waned over those three months and resulted in today one of the most enjoyable lessons I have had in the nearly two years I have been offering 1-on-1 photography lessons in St. Petersburg. Barbie was just like I expected her to be from her impassioned e-mails. It is always nice to be around an enthusiastic person.
Barbie was given a very generous present late last year, a Nikon D700! The D700 is a pro-level DSLR and definitely not the usual camera one first ventures into the DSLR world with! So it is understandable to be a little intimidated by its complete lack of auto-exposure presets, labyrinth of menu settings and just overall physical girth. However, the ergonomics of the D700 are excellent allowing for quick changing of all the major settings: aperture, ISO, WB and focus mode, all of which have their own dedicated button or switch in the case of focus mode.
As of right now Barbie has just one lens, the Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6G, so we mostly practiced making photographs with bokeh and photographing moving subjects, two things that lens is best suited for. I expect Barbie will soon be putting those skills to use to make action shots of her golden retrievers.
Barbie is already booked for three more lessons. I am sure with her enthusiasm and strong motivation to be able to photograph everyone around her, we will continue to have fun and knowledge filled photography lessons.