Saturday, May 3, 2014

Spring Break in Portugal

 Elise and I spent Spring Break exploring the Portuguese coast.  We stayed in the town of Nazare and visited the local beach which was home of the 100 ft wave.  I took this opportunity to spend some time on the coastline during sunset and visit the local churches.  The images in this post were taken on the days leading up to and following the 2014 Easter celebrations.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Exposing for Skin - without a light meter!

   I'll start this post off with an admission ... I've always struggled exposing skin properly.  Whether it is with artificial or available light, getting those skin tones correct has been a difficult process in camera.  Being a part-time professional who wants to keep costs to a relatively reasonable level, I have resisted purchasing a light meter thinking that there must be a way to get this correct in camera without spending a boat load on a light meter.

   Enter my new macro lens.  Now, please note, what is to follow is only an example and the photos are simply crops of larger photos but I think they serve to prove my theory.  I recently purchased the Canon 100mm 2.8L Macro Lens.  This purchase got me thinking about macro photos and histograms ... and that led me to my current exposure process.

  My theory was that I would be able to expose for a subject's skin by taking a photo that encompasses the highlights to shadows of the subjects face and then look at the histogram to determine if the exposure was correct.  I quickly realized that the histogram changed depending on the lighting ratios/setup and the intended mood of the image.  I found that a flat lighting setup gave a histogram that spread from the "bottom" (shadows) 1/3  to the top (highlights) 2/3s of the histogram.  Now, this is not always true for every lighting setup, or every photographer.  You will need to determine your ideal histogram shape and spread.  
   I start by taking a photo of the subject (a forehead) as you see below.  Note, that you do not need a macro lens to do this as you can take the same photo, out of focus, and achieve that same result.

   After that, I look at the histogram and adjust settings until I get a histogram that spreads from the lower (left) 1/3 to upper (right) 2/3s of the histogram (see below).  I've found that I tend to like the look that is shifted slightly to the right.

  I then step back and begin shooting.  and get images that, I have fond, require little adjustment for skin exposure in post.  Now, this does not include a explanation of determining background exposure.   That is another beast for another post, and I would be happy to explain that process if there is interest.  In any case, below is an example the overall histograms and photos that I have been getting out of camera.

   As always, comments, opinions or other methods of exposing for skin are very, very welcome.  Take care everyone!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spring Sofian Trams

     I spent this weekend walking around Sofia as Elise my little daughter visited the US.  It was perfect Sofian weather for reigniting my passion with trams.  When visiting many other European cities you see uniform, high-tech public transportation that is run in an immaculate fashion.  While Sofia's public transportation is well run and very timely, it is anything but uniform.  Each tram, bus or subway has its own character and appearance.  Travelling on these trams (and other forms of public trans) is one of my favorite things to do in Sofia.  It is a throwback to an earlier day.  These photos were taken using back button focus while tracking the tram along its path.

Saturday, March 8, 2014


Brandenburg Gate

Elise and I made the 2 hour plane journey to Berlin last weekend.  It was a trip back in time for me as, when I was a youngster, I visited the wall with my father and snapped a photo in front of the division between East and West Berlin.  I'm hoping to get my hands on the photo of me as a child in front of the wall.  I will post it here if it ever turns up.

The history of Berlin is eyeopening.  From Nazi Germany through communist rule up to the modern day, Berlin retains a history that continually overcomes conflict.  The stories about the Death Strip and the Nazi Gestapo send a chill down any human's spine.  Today, Berlin is a city that is known for its nightlife and diversity.

The images below were all taken with natural light.  The image of Berliner Dom is an HDR shot that was tweaked in Photoshop while the others underwent minor adjustments in Lightroom.  Enjoy!

Hole in the Berlin Wall revealing a Bear in what was communist Germany

Berliner Dom

Brandenburg Gate

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Communist Cinderella

After being influenced by the inspirational photography of Annie Liebovitz, I decided that I wanted to take a stab at a concept that I had been thinking about for quite some time.  Living in Bulgaria has provided me access to an amazing group of people and monuments that are scattered around the country.  After interacting with many Bulgarians it is clear that they are struggling to leave their past behind and embrace a more democratic future. This has proven very difficult, with a corrupt government stubbornly occupying the country for many years.  The Bulgarian people are strong though.  They are fighting to free themselves from the legacy of dirty money and corruption that has gripped the country since the days of communism.  You need to go no further than the parliament buildings in downtown Sofia to witness this David and Goliath-like battle.

The current struggle of Bulgarians inspired this most recent photoshoot.  After seeing Annie Leibovitz's Cinderalla I came up with the concept of a communist Cinderella trying to escape the throws of post-communist corruption in Bulgaria.  I shot these images at The Bell Tower, in Sofia, Bulgaria and used Photoshop to merge multiple images together to create the effect that you see below.

I created all of these images in a very similar way.  I started by taking a photo with large softbox directly beside the model in an attempt to mimic the natural light.  I took one exposure with the softbox in place and then asked the model to pick up the softbox and walk out of the scene.  I then took a second exposure without the softbox and model.  Afterwards, I used Photoshop to blend the two images, first aligning them and then masking the softbox out of the scene.  After a little more dodging and burning along with some color adjustments, I arrived at the images you seen in this post.  I would be happy to provide lighting diagrams if they are of interest to anyone.  Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fashion Shoot in Downtown Sofia

After the fog lifted here in Sofia, Cenestella and I went downtown and did a quick model shoot.  After getting kicked out of a few locations around the parliament buildings we found a nice little location in behind the shopping mall.  Below are some photos and lighting setups that we used.

For this shoot, we used a large umbrella softbox and a Canon 430 EX II speedlight.  To edit these photos I used a Huion H610 Pro.  It has been a fantastic substitute for the much more expensive Wacom equivalent.  The drivers were easy to install and the tablet works fairly well.  Once in a while I find that the pressure sensitivity is lost in Photoshop and it seems to default to 100% flow.  This problem usually resets itself by simply clicking elsewhere in the image and then returning to the area to be edited.

I used a frequency separation technique to adjust skin texture and color.  Afterwards, I did some dodging and burning using a masked curves layer in Photoshop.  Other than some basic adjustments resulted in the images you see in this post.  The tablet made it much easier to complete the task and once I got use to using the pen it became a very natural and efficient tool.



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Huion H610 Pro Drawing Tablet

Huge apologies to everyone out there who reads this.  I've been absent for quite some time.  The holiday season, work and a newborn have been occupying most of my time lately.  The good news is that I'm finally back on the horse and I'm taking photos again.  I know it sounds materialistic and it goes against everything that every photographer would tell you, but I received some new gear over the holidays that has helped to inspire me to take my photo editing to the next level.

Recently I've been looking into the Wacom tablet and considering purchasing one of their higher end models for my photo editing.  The allure of using a pen to edit (as apposed to a mouse) seemed to be quite attractive.  I found using the mouse restrictive and not very exact.  To make a very long story short, I ended up researching alternatives to the Wacom tablets due to their price.  I ended up finding the Huion series of tablets.  Since these tablets were only 1/5 the price of the Wacom I concluded that I really had nothing to lose by purchasing one and trying it out.  Now it has only been a few days, but I have to admit that I am loving it.  It installed quickly and easily and it has taken my editing to a completely new level.  It does take a little getting use to, but I think considering the price, it was completely worth it.

Today, I'm off to take some head-shots that I can hopefully practice editing with the tablet.  I'll post them in a upcoming blog entry.  For now, the image above was drawn with the tablet and I thought it might be of interest to anyone photo-editing or into digital art.  Also, I've found that there is very little information on this tablet so I thought that I might continue reviewing it here as I use it and discover new features.  Stay tuned and thanks for reading!