ObG Thursdays – Vampire Prom

On a few occasions I’ve had the opportunity to shoot the fake prom event at the Starlight in Waterloo… essentially a big night club party where everybody dresses up. My part has most often been by setting up a ‘photo booth’ where individuals, couple or groups can pose together and be as goofy or sexy as they like. Today’s oldie-but-goodie comes from my favourite of these proms, back in 2010. The theme was Horror, if I remember correctly. I’m a big fan of this photo of Celeigh, both for the lighting and for the pose.

Vampire PromFor the photo booth I set up three lights. For the main light I used an Alien Bee B800 with brolly box (an octagonal softbox that opens and mounts like a shoot-through umbrella). The light was on a stand, cinched tightly to a post. For rim lights I clamped a Vivitar 285HV about 15′ away on each side, as close to the back wall as possible. The 285HV on the left was gelled with blue and the one on the right was gelled deep red. I triggered the three lights with Cybersyncs.

The settings were Pentax K20D with FA 35mm f/1.8 LTD (the lens I miss more than any other that I’ve sold) at f/2.8 1/80s ISO200.

PS – Some more from this shoot are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/owencherry/sets/72157623424241780/detail/

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ObG Thursdays – Lincoln Memorial

This week’s Oldie-but-Goodie comes from a trip Mitzy and I took to Washington DC last summer. On a blazing hot day, we took refuge in the Lincoln Memorial where I took this photo with the D300s and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8.

Lincoln MemorialI used a few photographic tricks to make this image. First was my choice of perspective. I used the Tokina 11-16mm at 11mm to capture the vast interior. The room was also full of people but Mitzy pointed out this excellent vantage point that was completely tourist free! Compare above to the image below. It’s hard to believe that they were taken just a few minutes apart:

DSC_3716To capture the full tonal range of the space I used an HDR technique. I took five images, each separated by 1EV and combined the -2, 0 and +2EV into an HDR image in Photoshop’s HDR Pro tool. Here are the three images that fully encompass the darkest and brightest tones.

DSC_3728 DSC_3730 DSC_3732

The combined image looked like this:

DSC_3728-Edit-2Once the HDR was created I tweaked the brightness/contrast and fixed the vertical perspective in Lightroom.

ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 20 21.09And that’s it! A unique perspective of a familiar landmark, captured with full tonal range.

OBG Thursdays – The Flash (with 4 Flashes)

Today’s Oldie-but-Goodie is a fun little ‘portrait’ of an action figure. After reading about some cool lighting setups for defining muscle I wanted to try it out on a real live muscular person. Unfortunately, I am not this person…

7313886510_b9be4a5d09_oThe Flash (fittingly) would have to stand in for me. This shot is actually one of the more complicated lighting setups that I’ve done. It uses four flashes in total and each of them is modified. The principle of the lighting is to use a softbox in a ‘tabletop’ position, meaning that it sits directly above the subject pointing straight down. The direction of light causes the muscles to cast strong shadows, adding definition. With just this one light, the shadows are quite strong. Rim lighting or fill lighting can lift the shadows.

For this shot I used the lighting diagram below:

lighting-diagram-1363206547A Lumiquest Softbox LTZ on SB-900 sits directly above the subject (even though in the diagram it’s placed slightly in front) and points down. For rim lighting I use two more strobes. On the right is a SB-700 with a grid spot. On the left is a Metz 48 AF-1 with a grid spot.

For the backround I used a fourth light, an Alienbees B800 with 22″ beauty dish with a diffuser sock placed over it. I’ve had a lot of fun placing this light modifier directly into photos as a creative element in the past.

The SB-900 used for tabletop lighting has a Full CTO gel on it. The Metz 48 AF-1 on the left is gelled with a light blue. In hindsight, the blue was probably unnecessary as it doesn’t look much different from the non-gelled flash (see the highlights on his waist at left and right).

The final shot was with the D300s and AF-S 60mm f/2.8 G Micro at f/13 1/125s ISO 100. The B800 with beauty dish was set to minimum power and is still quite bright at f/13 ISO 100. The tabletop light is at 1/2 power and the two rims are 1/16 power.

Blending with Soft Light – A Quick and Simple Way to Increase Contrast and Saturation in Photoshop

DSC_0292-Edit-2Today I’d like to show you a really effective, but simple, way to boost contrast and saturation in an image by walking through how I arrived at the above image. The trick is using a layer blending mode called ‘Soft Light’. Photoshop has the ability to blend different layers with each other using a number of methods. The Soft Light mode works like this:

  • Areas that are brighter than 50% grey get ‘screened’, meaning they become lighter depending on the lightness of the lower layer.
  • Areas that are darker than 50% grey get ‘multiplied’, meaning they become darker depending on the darkness of the lower layer.

I’ll demonstrate. Here is a layer in Photoshop that is a simple gradient going from white to black, left to right. In the middle is 50% grey.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.32If I add an adjustment layer on top of this, say ‘Levels’, and change its blending mode to Soft Light the lights get lighter and the darks get darker depending on how light or dark they are. In the middle, 50% grey, is unaffected. In the image below, the top half has been blended with Soft Light. The bottom half is the same as the previous image. Notice that the gradient becomes more steep… the transition between white and black is shorter. This is an increase in contrast.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.35In an image with colour, Soft Light blending can also increase saturation. I’ll demonstrate with an image. First, I’ll show the image as it is first pulled out of Lightroom into Photoshop.ScreenHunter_13 Mar. 12 19.57If I add a Levels layer and blend it with Soft Light the contrast and saturation increase dramatically.ScreenHunter_15 Mar. 12 19.57I can scale the effect back by lowering the opacity. Here I’ve set it to 47%:ScreenHunter_15 Mar. 12 19.58I’m finding that there’s still too much of an effect on Mitzy so I’ll paint some grey into the layer mask over her. Grey will decrease the opacity of the mask by another 50% where I’ve painted it in.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.00I’m happy with how the Soft Light blending has improved the image so let’s finish it off. First, I’ll remove some of the messy details in the bottom right corner using the Spot Heal Brush in a new layer.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.04Next I’ll brighten Mitzy a bit further using a curves tool, masked so it only affects her.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.05Here, I’ve decided that I want to bring a bit more of the contrast back in to the background so I increase the opacity of the Soft Light layer.ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.06Finally, I add a bit more contrast into the right side of the image with a masked Curves tool. The image is done!ScreenHunter_16 Mar. 12 20.08So there have it. Soft Light blending. Quick and simple!

ObG Thursdays – An old man, a bike, an alley and snow.

This week’s oldie-but-goodie is a simple, straightforward and totally spontaneous photo taken on a walk to the grocery store. It’s also a perfect example of why I try to take my camera everywhere with me.

Street photography is an art form that I (and many others) romanticize. From Henri Cartier-Bresson (the father of photojournalism, according to Wikipedia) to the recently discovered of Vivian Maier (who I recommend every green, experienced or even jaded photographer study) to the modern hipster photographer, I have this romantic vision of a confident, passionate and skilled artist. They turn everyday life into images that I can stare into for hours.

Street photography is an art form that I try to succeed at but rarely do. I’ve tried to “shoot from the hip”, by setting the camera to a small aperture and wide field of view and causally holding it down chest level. Usually what I get are out of focus images of people’s shoulders or store fronts. I’ve tried standing way back with a long telephoto and taking sniper shots, often getting the ‘why is that guy with the massive lens taking my picture?’ look.

Generally, the best images have come from confidently and casually approaching an interesting scene. I make myself and the camera visible. I smile. I say thanks. Hiding the camera or hiding myself just doesn’t work as well. This method helped me get some of my favourite street shots during last year’s trip to China.

So… the photo. As I said, I was walking to the grocery store with the D300s and Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8 DX. This lens has a near-normal field of view and is small, light and unassuming. As I crossed the entrance to the alley the man rode past me on his bike. I turned, followed and took 3-5 shots. I didn’t have to edit the shot much, just a black and white conversion and some contrast.

D300s with AF-S 35mm f/1.8 DX, f/7.1 1/650s ISO 200.5236619258_af9e382417_o

What would you like to see at owencherry.com? – A request for feedback.

Hi all.

I’ve been writing this blog for a few months now and have reached around 40 posts. As my first blog it has been a learning experience and I’ve had to put serious thought into choice of content, writing style and self-editing. Usually when I’ve talked about photography it’s been more of a rambling, through conversation or online chat. The blog format requires me to be much more structured and clear.  While I have writing experience through academics (Physics Undergrad and Masters) and my work (Teledyne DALSA), most of it has been dry technical stuff. I want my personality to show through in this blog. I hope that I’ve been writing with the right balance between technical and personal… keeping my posts interesting and relevant.

Now, I have a big list of posts that I would like to make. Some weeks, especially in the winter months, are photographically dry. When don’t have any current work or experiences to show I draw form the list (cool techniques that I use, gear reviews). My Oldie-but-Goodie Thursdays posts are a fun way to look back at some of the images that I’m proud of or find interesting. Still though, I wonder if there are any improvements to the content that I can make. So I ask:

What would you like to see at owencherry.com?

Are there types of posts that you would like to see me make? or make more of? I could include more detailed technical information in the posts. Or more simplified information. Or rants/opinions.

How about the writing style? Is it informative enough? For beginner photographers, do I gloss over any details that would otherwise make the posts more useful? For more experienced photographers, do I need to go more in-depth?

Should I include more personal content? Photos of my cat?

Please feel free to comment. I would love for this blog to keep improving in quality of content and grow in readership.

Thanks everybody,

Owen