Archive for the ‘Still Life’ Category

Knobs and Pretty Lights

I was at Paul’s the other day and wanted to mess with the macro, and his rack of recording equipment seemed to be the perfect subject. This was originally meant to be paired with another HDR as a dual-screen wallpaper kinda thing, but I am still processing the other one and will post it at a later time or perhaps not at all; I’m having some pretty severe issues with it due to the long exposures (30 seconds) causing lots of light to bleed where I don’t want it. Wasn’t that much of an issue in this one, although I did do some pretty severe levels adjustments that purposely clipped my shadows to mitigate the hazy light (you can still see how the textured surface, which should be black, is slightly orange, and badly green in the bottom right. Oh well.) I hadn’t originally planned for the light stars and in fact I was going to shoot these at f/2.8 to go for a soft-focus on the knobs, but I’d left the camera on f/8 accidentally and upon seeing the results thought duh, this is awesome! So I went with it.

Paul has cool audio stuff and I have cool photography stuff, when you combine them, you get cool photographs of audio stuff.

On Set: Van Nuys

As a tribute to our dedicated production designers, I’m putting up this image I took before the room was loaded with our dozen party-going extras. I’m a fan of the tiny amount of cables, the C-stand,  and the Kino on the extreme right side of the frame and did not crop them out of the final image as a reminder that this is still a set. As much as we will be making you believe it’s actually someone’s apartment that has been dolled up for a surprise party, it’s only possible with smoke and mirrors… and a really talented camera department with an incredible gaffing crew.

I love the way the light plays with the couch... makes me want to take a nap right now: Van Nuys, CA

More Macro Experiments

While on another shoot for Rick recently, this one in Garden Hills, I came across a small object that caught me attention as I was about to pack away my gear. This glittering statuette seemed too cool and full of detail to be missed, so I grabbed a few quick shots of it with the 100mm macro as I left. and I had the idea to do two HDRs, one with the Owl in focus, and one with the background in focus, and merge them somehow. These are the preliminary shots:

The first HDR, with the focus on the owl figure.

The second one, with focus on the background.

After making those two HDRs from the two sets of 3 brackets, I took each image into Photoshop, created two layers, and began to selectively adjust opacity and erasing in areas where I wanted to get details back, namely the owl. I left the out of focus trees at about 20% opacity over the fully in focus ones, mostly because it looked “too” fake if I just had crisp focus on both parts. This way I think it looks obviously manipulated, as I like my HDRs, but not completely fake. Looking back, I wish I could have taken a third HDR with the wall behind the owl in focus. It had a great texture and would have helped make the final look a bit less weird, I think, but I dunno… this whole close-up HDR thing is new for me! Anyway, here is what I ended up with. I really like the cobwebs, and I did not notice them at all when I was shooting. I am actually kinda glad about this, as I would probably have removed them before taking the shot.

The final edit, with crisp focus on the owl and some definition in the background, but not a distracting amount.

Quiet, Unsaturated, and Empty

In contrast to what Andrew has recently posted, I have been doing work that lacks crowds, crazy colors, and all that is Disney… but what he’s posted is awesome! I especially like the California Adventure Main Entrance; it’s just an awesome picture that really pops in the right way and is framed perfectly. Bravo on that. I have been busy with work and life in general, so I haven’t been able to post for the past few days. Again, most of the work I have been doing is for Rick, so here is another post from that endevour… it seems likely that by the end of this you will have seen every room in Rick and Pete’s house! That is also partly because every room in the house is gorgeous, simple, welcoming, warm, well designed, and worth photographing! Rick has complimented my work, but in all honesty I just take pictures of what is already beautiful. I would love someday to be able to live in a space to which he has applied his uncanny skill and design sense. More is sure to come, as I have yet to photograph the front and back of the outside of the house. Giacomo got back today, so there is sure to be much HDR before I leave for Maine once more. Here is a shot from the downstairs bathroom in Rick’s house, and just for fun, a hand-held HDR of the current state of my room… we are putting in the trim and baseboard tomorrow, and all that will be left to do after that is paint! Hopefully that will get done when I am home from Maine, and I can move back in. I have been trying my hand at indoor HDR whenever I get a chance… it is much harder than outside because issues of color balance/white balance crop up in nearly every shot, requiring much more processing time.

On a different note, I have discovered why some of the pictures that we upload are huge, requiring much more time to load and therefore drastically increasing the time that the entire blog itself takes to load. This is mostly the fault of the WordPress uploading system itself, and one that we can now work around… I have begun to correct it in all of my images, so that the ones that appear small on the main page are very tiny in file size, and the click-through image is the full-resolution 21 megapixel file. Andrew and Giacomo still have to correct theirs, but once it is done the site should load much faster, especially for those of you on dial-up connections 😉

One side of Rick and Pete's downstairs bathroom. So much texture!

I spent about a month stripping the paint off of the 108 year old trim...........

Elephant for Sam

Here, as I promised Sam, is the second in a series of elephant pictures… this elephant is so teeny and full of awesome details that you can only see with the macro that he makes a really fun still life subject. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of him…! I used my new Trek Tech T-pod that I’ve been talking up over the past week or so to get really close on the table. The thing is awesome! Supports my 5d, batter grip, and the 100mm macro with ease, very sturdy lil’ thing. Speaking of sturdy, I also got my Pelican 1520… with all my gear inside it weighs 27lbs! I got my wish today, and we had another huge thunderstorm… but it lasted all day, and kept me inside, so it didn’t really help  me get out and shoot. Hopefully some of the weather will carry over tomorrow. The second shot is one I ran across on my computer and realized I’d never bothered to put up, partially because so much of me wants to go back and reshoot it… it was done quite a few months ago at this point, when we were really just figuring out the basics of HDR still… and I shot it in JPG! With awful framing, and the sky moved so much in between the brackets that it got all blurred and weird at the edges… but you know, I can’t deny a sky like that, and I’m not sure I want to pay another 5 dollars to get on top of the Lindberg Center parking deck; maybe if Giacomo and Andrew are back in town sometime it will be worth it. I like the way the HDR process turned what were the brake-lights of cars into black strips that resemble tire tracks. Makes it look a lot more hardcore than it is… anyway, here are the shots.

The Eeny Weeny Brass Elephant on a clay dish of some sort. He will rise again!

Yet another night HDR of the Atlanta Skyline, this time from the top of the Lindbergh Center parking deck.

My First Foray into Macro HDR

I decided to try the inevitable, combining my two current loves: my new 100mm f/2.8L macro, and, of course HDR photography. Macro HDR is harder simply because your field of view is so much narrower than a wide angle (…duh) that you end up having much fewer subjects with high contrast, as macro shots tend to be evenly lit and do not include the sky. Because of this, I decided to shoot at midday, in an area where the sun directly hit the flower but the background was in complete shade.

An HDR of a flower on my porch, done with the 100mm Macro.

That came out ok. Not the “oh wow!” that HDRs usually give me, but I do like how much punch it gives the flower. I will try more of this “straight” macro HDR stuff later. I say “straight” because of what I did tonight. I was bored, and house-locked due to the awful humidity/storms/grayness/grossness that was located outside. I wanted to make it over to the Jimmy Carter Center to shoot their rose garden and get some overall HDRs of the place, but I’m saving that for a day with good clouds… hopefully soon. Today was not that day. So, I decided to make a still life that would have the ultra high contrast I’d need for HDR, while being minute enough and having enough detail to be done with the macro. I decided that since I was bored, I would combine this with another technique I’d been considering: taking a series of macro shots from a tripod of the same scene, focusing on a different part of the image in each shot, and then editing together all of the shots in Photoshop in a way that would create an impossible depth of field. So, I shot four 3-shot brackets of the same scene, focusing on a different aspect of the scene in each bracketed set. This was the result, after (very quickly because I am tired and want to eat some ice cream) compositing them together in Photoshop:

A macro-HDR composite; 4 different HDRs with different focal planes all fused into one image.

For this, I shot an HDR focusing on the 9 in the LCD, one focusing on the upper right screw on the clock, one focusing on the America on the gold dollar, and one focusing on the teeny brass elephant. The 3 HDRs were processed with similar settings in Photomatix (not identical, I did change some things as the images varied a bit in exposures and obviously what I wanted to be in focus) and then pasted over each other one at a time and erased away with a really soft eraser.

Right off the bat, I can list some mistakes I made, almost entirely due to the fact that I had simply never done this before/wasn’t thinking ahead:

  • Shooting at f/3.5. I initially thought, oh, I am editing these together so it won’t matter. WRONG! The extreme bokeh, while nice in a single shot, impedes details when edited together. See for example, the way the coin’s “halo” intrudes in on the elephant, the way the out of focus light from the cup intrudes on both the coin and the elephant… Shooting at f/8 or even f/11 would dramatically reduce this effect and make the editing process easier.
  • Simply not shooting enough different planes of focus. I would love to be able to get more of the overall image “in focus,” in other words I wish I had shot one with the orange spot on the cup in focus, one with the lamp in focus, and one with the back of the wall in focus. The room has a great wood panelling pattern that would work well to fill all that white space. The downside of this is of course more time composing, and much more time editing them together.
  • Not looking at the clock. The time changed from 9:01 to 9:02 during the bracketing… enough said! My next attempt at this will probably be something similar but exclude the darn clock. It takes so much time between focusing on new areas and waiting for your bracketing to finish (the longer exposures at macro focal length at f/11 are going to be 10-20 seconds; I was already hitting the 1 second mark at f/3.5) that the time is bound to change.

Something else that I found interesting came up immediately, and that is the issue of the Hybrid IS that I have been praising so highly. Don’t get me wrong, it is pure awesomeness when you are handholding shots. Absolutely incredible, allowing tack sharp, 1/30sec macro shots that you just couldn’t do otherwise. But, when I had the 5D on the tripod and Live View enabled so I could accurately compose and focus my shots, I noticed something: I was being perfectly still, and yet the image was “swimming” on the viewfinder. I could hear the IS continually going, something I had noticed and liked when handholding movies, as it helps reduce the shaking of your hands. On a tripod, it seems to be too enthusiastic and correct for motion that just isn’t there. It will be good for me to keep this in mind in the future; it probably wouldnt show up at all with ultra-fast shots but when your exposure times are around the .5-1sec range, it results in very blurry images, something this lens should NEVER do. Turning it off solved my problems.

So, this was an interesting experience. I think I will try more of each side of this separately, doing macro HDRs of flowers and other things I find, and attempting to do varying planes of focus with just straight shots. If I’m feeling ambitious again I will attempt to combine them, and this time I will make sure to shoot more than I think I need, and I will do the photoshop work on my PC with the Wacom tablet instead of on my laptop, half asleep on the couch with my trackpad, bemoaning only having 4gb of ram. Anyway, just wanted to show you what I’d been experimenting with. I feel like, when implemented correctly, it will result in some awesome, totally weird images.