An Artists Communion Through A Lens

Clayton

Basking

It’s September but August heat is still with us

 


Lazy Hazy Day In August

Woke from a couch nap to see this siesta on our deck rail.  Had complete empathy.   Double pane glass door and screen between us so focus is a little soft, in addition to the soft, diffuse light of open shade.  They are necessarily ever alert so I waited until he closed his eye which told the story better.   Removed some light branches in the background to keep attention on the main idea. Click on the image for full size.IMGP7808Gear used in this post: Pentax K3II camera, Pentax 50-135/2.8 lens + Kenko 1.5x Teleconvertor

Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro


Tattered

This is the second year in a row I’ve made a photograph of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail  Butterfly with tattered wings on August 5th.  There was no plan or intention.  It was simply the coincidence of us both being ragged from July in North Carolina. In my case, I needed relief from air conditioned cabin fever.  My shutter speed was too slow for the light breeze and it was entirely my fault.  Too much time indoors.           _IMG7012

 


Light Properties – Direction

Photography means to draw with light.  Learning the properties of light is easy, there are only four: Intensity, Color, Quality and Direction. Understanding their use and consequence is a large part of the difference between a camera owner and a photographer.

Of the four properties of light, Direction has (I think) the biggest influence on our visual perception.  Billions of selfies with on camera flash blasting away are featureless and flat.  Move the flash off camera, place it low and we get the “Monster”, as every kid with a flashlight has done.  Move the light high and to the side and you’re emulating Rembrandt and his window.  Light directly from the side and you have an iconic Beatles album cover.

Irises have replaced Azaleas on this cloudy-rainy-sunny-cloudy Sunday.  A surprise because my real boss made me divide and replant them and they still bloomed. I confess to finding Iris blossoms real lookers – shape, color, texture – they have it all.  Their rich colors almost demand the drama of low key lighting scheme.

So I chose to ignore light Intensity, Color and Quality and photograph them with variations in Direction.  I eliminated Intensity variations (ambient daylight) with a manual exposure at least 3 stops low.  I eliminated Color variations ( ambient daylight) with a one light at 5600K.  I eliminated Quality variations ( hard or soft) by using a bare speed light with 16 degree grid for a hard point source.  My only variable would be direction.

1. Top Light:   Top lit, the direction we are used to seeing in our sunlit world.  I held the flash up and about 45 degrees to camera right.  The direction gives us shadows which give us modelling and sense of volume, not flat like a selfie or on camera flash that is straight on.  Since the only light recorded was from the flash,   the Grid plus Inverse Square Law prevented reflected light from the background being recorded so we get a dark background and high contrast ratio with the rich color and shape of the Iris. The high luminance or bright front parts come forward as robust with lots of volume.  Flash & grid, high and front, camera right. F16, 1/160, ISO 80.

2 Sunday Irises2. Rim Light:   Moved the flash further behind the blossom. Impact shifts to the center and the exterior volume is deemphasized.  The Iris appears less dense and more ephemeral. We can see the delicate veins in the petals and the attached spider silk.  The character of the flower is different solely due to changing the light Direction.  Flash & grid, high and rear, camera right. F16, 1/160, ISO 80.

1 Sunday Irises3. Back Light:   Moving the light even further back and lowering it changes the image again.  The translucence gives it a completely delicate nature, like colored tissue paper.  It doesn’t seem solid like the opaque first image. The impact is less dramatic and softer.  I stopped  down a little more as the sun peeked out from a cloud.  Flash & grid, behind and lower, camera right. F22, 1/160, ISO 80.

3 Sunday IrisesGear used in this post: Pentax K5IIs camera, Tamron 28-75/2.8 lens, Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod & 488RC2 Ball Head, YN560-III Flash, YN RF-603NII Wireless Trigger, Rogue 3-in-1 Flash Grid, Vello Wireless Remote

Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Nik Collection, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro

 


Manual Exposure Epiphany & A Sunday Walk

I’ve had a “Daily” folder of photographs since 2009.  The first were portraits of a contractor’s kids that came with Dad to see the finished addition he’d built us. Next  were thunder clouds & a plane on approach to RDU, made from a parking lot in Morrisville. I was starting to look around and see.  My Epiphany was taking control by using manual exposure to make the images I saw, instead of hoping the camera’s programmers knew what I was thinking.

My gateway to Manual Exposure was reading Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” and reading The Ultimate Exposure Computer until I knew it.  Bought the first at Barnes & Noble, the other is a free download.  I’m not affiliated with Amazon, just wanted to show the book.

Understanding exposure is very straight forward but it takes some effort to learn a few ideas and then, practice to get used to them.  If you learned it with film, you still got it.  Like riding a bicycle.  That doesn’t mean you’ll qualify for the Tour de  Paris but you can probably get where you want to go.

So yesterday, like a lot of days since, I took along a camera and it wasn’t a paid shoot.  It’s the practice thing.  It’s the “how” part and the muscle memory and seeing which all need to be used or they atrophy.  It partly explains why I’ve been using the same brand and series of cameras since 2007.  I can and do use them in the dark, by feel.  The benefit from frequent camera use is getting rid of the self consciousness and preoccupation while out with the “really nice camera”.  It’s simply a tool, use it. That enables the good part, which brings us back to yesterdays walk.

What could be better on a beautiful Sunday afternoon before dinner than a walk?

Image 1 is “Buddy” who is a rescue dog and skittish about strangers and a regular on our walks.  While his owner does yard chores, he surveys his realm. Each time we’ve met, he has allowed us closer.  On this visit with his owner, he didn’t run away. He briefly ignored me when I knelt down to his nose level because my wife spoke to him.  I set exposure before I knelt, knowing he wasn’t staying put.  It was “Sunny 16” except for the patch of shade on him.  I got one frame before he moved away.  The good news is, his owner asked for my card and wants to have a family portrait made. Which is another reason to go walkabout with a camera.  I don’t take the trash out without a business card. Trust me, you’ll need it when you don’t have it.

  1. Buddy: Top Lit, hard sun & patches of shade, medium key, f8, 1/320, ISO 400.

01 Loop Walk

The next two images are two different mailboxes and two different exposures.

2.  Blue Clematis: Top lit, low key, shaft of sun light coming through trees like a spotlight, surrounded by shade.  Lit like a studio setup by Mother Nature, saw this walking down the street.  F8, 1/400 and ISO 100 so Sunny 16 except I swapped two stops of aperture for two stops of shutter speed in my exposure budget.

02 Loop Walk3.  Blue Clematis: Top lit with the soft diffuse light of heavy shade and some bits of hazy sun. Medium key, f2.8, 1/800, ISO 400 so Sunny 16 minus 4 stops.   A week ago, there was only one blossom.  Had to back up as my lens had a MFD ( Minimum Focus Distance) of 3 ft.  I used  the maximum aperture of f2.8 to emphasize the flat single plane of the blossoms in sharper focus from the rest of the background.  Shutter speed of 1/800 for wind picking up.

03 Loop Walk4. Hybrid Encore Azalea: These are still blooming and just like them. Back Light, hard direct sun, high contrast, low key.   F8 to keep the whole blossom sharp and I maxed my shutter to 1/8000 to make the background go dark, bumped ISO to 800 which is still pretty noise free.

04 Loop Walk

Image 5 is actually is two frames side by side to show the difference when you  move a little with the same exposure but different backgrounds. This is a flower box on our deck rail.  On the left image, I crouched down so the background was the dark tree canopy.  On the right, I stood up an swiveled a bit so the bright Tulip Poplar trunk was the background.  

5. Two Exposures of a violet flower: Top front light, hard sun, low and medium key respectively.  F2.8, 1/2500, ISO 200 or just about Sunny 16 except 2.8 to isolate the blossom from the background, almost 4 1/2 stops of shutter speed to offset the wide aperture and the wind and ISO 200 for a little bump in sensitivity.

05 Loop WalkI could have made all these images with Program, or Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority Modes but they wouldn’t have looked like I wanted.  Also and importantly, I could make one exposure decision and then frame with the zoom without having to recalculate for variable aperture.  All my lenses are constant aperture.

None of these will win awards but I have to make them to have a chance.

Gear used in this post: Pentax K5IIs camera, Pentax 50-135/2.8 lens.

Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Nik Collection, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro

 


Spring Walk

Our neighborhood is coming alive with Spring.  Oaks and Maples are almost fully open, Daffodils are long gone and the Azaleas are in full bloom.  Just before dinner, we took a much welcome walk, been spending too much time in my office chair.  Took along a camera and made a few stops along the way.

1. Blue Clematis: Top lit with the soft diffuse light of open shade, medium key.01 Loop WalkSpotted this single Blue Clematis at the base of a mailbox.  The street was heavily shaded and protected from a windy afternoon.  This is an easy exposure that the camera meter will usually get right.  I could get close since my lens has a MFD ( Minimum Focus Distance) of 12″. I used  the maximum aperture of f4 to emphasize the center or the “star” in sharper focus from the rest of the “supporting cast”.  Shutter speed of 1/200 was plenty fast for still air.  That left me with an essentially noise free ISO 800.  Had I used my Incident Meter, which I leave set at ISO 100, it would have read an EV (Exposure Value) of 9 or -6 Stops from EV 15 aka Sunny 16 Rule.

Near our front door, Azaleas are blooming.  Common in the American South, I never tire of them.  Originally from Asia and I felt connected when I saw some walking down a residential street in Japan.  My photographs of them still haven’t captured their iridescence and textures so I keep trying.

2. Hybrid Encore Azalea: Back Light, hard direct sun, high contrast, low key.02 Loop Walk3. Hybrid Encore Azalea: Front light, hard direct sun, high contrast, low key.03 Loop WalkThese were lit with the hard, directional sun of late afternoon which will provide some modelling vs the flat overhead light of mid-day. Open to the wind, I needed a fast shutter speed to prevent blur, even as I waited between gusts.  I had no flash to stop movement.  I stopped down to f8 for more DoF ( Depth of Field) as I wanted the blossom to be sharp from front to back.  It would be the “Star”.  Leaving my ISO at 800, I bumped my Shutter Speed up until the Histogram looked good and it was fast enough to freeze the wind motion.

Number 2 is back lit so the sun shines through the translucent blossom, letting us see how it grows. It helps show the iridescence.

Number 3 is front lit (I simply moved around) and is how most will photograph the blossom.

During editing, I got rid of background distractions, especially bright spots that take attention away from the “Star” and branches that lead the eye out of the frame.  The goal is to keep impact by not diluting the dominant element and maintaining interest in the entire composition.  It can’t be too busy or too sterile.  It needs to be like the temperature of Goldilocks porridge, “just right”.

Gear used in this post: Pentax K5IIs camera, Pentax 17-70/4 lens.

Editing Tools used in this post: Adobe CC2015, Nik Collection, Pixel Genius Photokit, Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet, Pantone Huey Pro