Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 20, 2009 - Oh the sights you can see on Peachtree

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Just a quick post. I got today's photo on the way home, at the corner of Peachtree and Lenox Roads. This was taken during rush hour, in one of the busiest intersections of Buckhead.

This nut (because I don't know what else to call him), was standing on the median of Peachtree Road by Phipps Plaza. He was raising his cross, pumping his fists, and dancing whenever people acknowledged him in some way — even if it was a negative kind of acknowledgment.

We had stopped at the red light when I saw him. I had to hurry and put my camera together before the light changed, and I snapped this shot as we turned through the intersection and past him. It was a total snapshot!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

November 19, 2009 - Armageddon cometh?

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I was lucky to get this, and it didn't even turn out the way I expected. Coming home from work with my carpool, we had left Buckhead under party sunny skies. But by the time we got halfway home a thick layer of foggy, misty clouds had settled over us.

The setting sun gave us a rare moment when the sun was just off of the horizon and visible under the layer of clouds. I quickly pulled out my camera and attached my 70-200mm lens to get a few quick snapshots as we were going over the interstate. Most of my shots were jostled by the moving car (no, I wasn't driving) or blocked by the accompanying flow of cars. But this one shot was clear.

I used my long lens to put an emphasis the interaction between the sun and the edge of the clouds. I had to guess at an ISO because of the (extremely) short amount of time I had. But it worked, and for that I am glad. I wish I had a higher vantage point so I could have caught the long line of cars backed up on the highway, but the car was too low and the overpass' railing was in the way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

November 18, 2009 - Is the tree on fire?

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Just a real quick post today for a photo that didn't take long. There is a beautiful flame-orange tree in the park down the street and I had been dying to take a photo of it. But there was a slight problem — it is sandwiched between the four-lane street and the parking lot for the park, so I wasn't sure how to photograph it without including something distracting in the backgroud.

Obviously, I finally figured it out.

I took out my 70-200mm lens and positioned myself along the fence about 80 feet from the tree. Using the focal length to my advantage, I was able to frame the tree and the fence in such a way as to leave out the parking lot (which was immediately outside the frame on the right). It also required some timing to leave out all the cars driving past on the left. It took several attempts, but I finally got a good, clear shot.

I didn't have a tripod or monopod for this shot, so I had to brace the camera as much as possible to avoid camera shake at this low shutter speed. Since I was shooting around 70mm, that meant my shutter speed needed to be at least 1/70 of a second. As you can see, I wasn't there. So some of the shots came out a little blurry from me not holding the camera still enough. This is another instance of where taking a lot of shots (by holding the shutter button down) helped produce a clear, shake free image.

To brace the camera, I knelt down on my right knee and rested my left elbow on the top of my left thigh while keeping my right arm close to the body. Because I was holding the heavy lens in my left hand, the left leg provided lots of support.

As for things I wish I could change, I wish the day had been sunny and not overcast. That would have let the blue sky shine through the leaves instead of the bright white overcast sky. I also wish there wasn't so many leaves on the ground because the nice thick green grass made a good contrast in color with the leaves in the tree.

And in case you are wondering, these leaves are really that color. I did very little manipulation in Photoshop Elements to accentuate the color. Very little.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

November 17, 2009 - Black and white rose

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I am very pleased with how this shot came out. Rachel had bought some flowers for herself, and I took this while they were in a vase on the table. I took the photo using only the light from the table lamp, which I feel gives it good depth and a three-dimensional look.

I shot at ISO 1600 to both give a grainy look and provide enough shutter speed so I could stop the lens down to f9, which provided a good depth of field. In Photoshop Elements, I converted the pink roses to black and white by removing all saturation and increasing the clarity and contrast.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

November 16, 2009 - A beautiful Fall yard

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I have always admired how beautiful this yard is in the Fall and now I have a great photo to prove it.

I shot this late in the afternoon, about an hour and a half before the sun sets. The angle of the sun gives a great blue sky without a polarizer. The sunlight coming from the right does a great job of striking the brilliant leaves, but it doesn't over-expose the rest of the yard. This allows the house in the shadows of the great pines to still be visible.

I think without the house the photo wouldn't be nearly as good. It clearly shows that this is someone's home, their yard that they have spent countless hours sweating over. And their toils are well worth it.

I shot this RAW, but the sunlight white balance setting in the camera did a great job of getting the colors right and I didn't need to correct them much. I did some selective saturation in Photoshop Elements, but otherwise left the photo alone.

I wasn't sure how the homeowners would react to me taking the photo (even though I was standing on a public sidewalk while shooting), so I preset the camera to what I thought would be a good starting point before walking over. I snapped two photos, checking each on the camera's display, figured I had a good shot, and got the heck out of dodge.

Monday, November 16, 2009

November 15, 2009 - the Earth's Shadow

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To be honest, this wasn't the photo I wanted to take today. True, I planned on taking a photo of my church while standing from this exact location — just not at sunset.

I had seen this shot earlier in the day when I was leaving the church after the service was done. It was with a deep, clear blue sky behind the building with all of the Autumn leaves brightly illuminated by the mid-day sun. In fact, the sun was at an angle where the sky would have had good, deep blue even without a polarized lens.

That's the photo I wanted to take.

But sadly, I wasn't able to get back to the church until the sun was going down. So instead, I settled for a sunset shot with the effect called the "Earth's Shadow" coloring the sky behind the building. What causes this shadow? The Earth itself. The sun has gone done below the western horizon behind me, which causes a shadow to appear just above the horizon in the eastern sky. A lot of people don't notice this because the eye is drawn to the brighter part of the sky (which is the setting sun in the west). But it can be a dramatic effect.

I shot this with my 18-55mm zoom at ISO 400 and f5.6. This was the best combination to still get a fast enough shutter speed (1/60) to avoid any camera shake (blurriness) yet still have enough aperture to make sure everything was in focus. The film speed was slow enough to create a clean image and avoid the graininess that can come at higher speeds. I do wish, however, that I had a vantage point that would have been a few feet higher.

I did quite a bit of experimenting in Photoshop Elements (using my new favorite tool, Adjust Color Curves) to get the color to the point that I remembered it. But I am worried I overdid the effect. What do you think? Does this look unnatural? Or does it look like a photo taken just as the sun is setting?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November 14, 2009 - Turning over a new leaf

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Alright, I confess. I have given up on trying to get caught up on my photos. Not only that, but I'll also admit I have missed a few days in the past three weeks (working too hard can do that to you — start missing things that are important to you).

So today I am turning over a new leaf (snicker), and promise to do better.

With today's photo I tried to capture some of the beauty that can be seen when you let the sunlight shine through some of your subjects. Thanks to a little Curves adjustment in Photoshop Elements, I was really able to bring out the vivid color in both the sky and the leaves in this shot.

I really like how I zoomed in with a long telephoto lens to isolate this small clump of leaves and almost remove everything else from the shot. I also used a shallow aperture to make the other leaves on the right out of focus.

This is what can happen when you take your camera out and play around with shots. Sometimes the best ones are those you don't plan. But once they happen, remembering them will make you a better photographer.

Monday, November 2, 2009

New Photos

I had some free time tonight, so I posted five of my photos. They are all available on the main page for your viewing pleasure! Just scroll past the Halloween photo to find them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October 30, 2009 - Happy haunting!

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I know I am still behind in posting, but I got such a great photo last night I couldn't wait to share it. Hopefully, this will help motivate me to get fully caught up.

Tonight I got a great photo of one of the youth at our church's Halloween Trunk or Treat party. He had his face painted as if it was stitched up, and had fun walking around, staring and pointing at people in a quiet, yet menacing way.

I wanted to get a photo that I thought would portray his behavior in a more sinister way. Here's how I did it.

I set him up in a dark hallway beside an open door where the light was spilling from the room into the dark hallway. This illuminated him from the side, but it still left the hallway dark. The light coming from behind him is about 100 feet away. This light is reflecting on some of the woodwork and art along the walls.

I shot this with my 50mm f1.8 lens with the camera set in aperture priority mode. I set the aperture to f2.0 to get a fast enough shutter speed (at 3200 ISO) to get the photo sharp and clear without using a flash (which would have totally destroyed the lighting effect).

Finally, I edited the photo to be a little soft (in other words, I didn't do any sharpening) and off-color on purpose. I thought it made it look like more like a dream (or nightmare) type state.

There are two things that really bug me about the shot. First, there is a chair in the hallway, which you can see in the lower left of the photo. I wish I had noticed it and moved it first. Second, he hand is much blurrier than I thought it would be. I wish it had gotten into focus a little more.

But what's done is done. What do you guys think? How would you rate the photo?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

October 24, 2009 - the best Photoshop Elements book

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After my success with using Curves in Photoshop Elements, I am totally convinced this is the best book for digital photographers to use for Photoshop Elements. If you don't have version 6, just look the edition that matches your version. Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski do a great job of having an edition out immediately after Adobe releases a new version.

To take this photo, I placed the book on my kitchen table (which has a nice black surface). I stood on a chair to get over the book so I would have more a a head-on view. I used my 50mm f1.8 lens and pumped up the ISO to 800 so I could shoot with natural lighting in the room and not rely on a flash. Finally, in postproduction, I adjusted the color to make everything appear natural.

The only thing I wish I had done differently is pay more attention to the corners. I had clipped the lower right corner of the book while taking the picture. To compensate a little for that, I also clipped the upper left corner when I cropped the photo down to fit on my blog.

And I really do love this book. Can you tell by the roughed up edges to the cover?

Friday, October 30, 2009

October 22, 2009 - Intense sunrise photo

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Thank goodness for being prepared. I have been bringing my camera bag to work everyday since I started this 365 project. This morning it really paid off. This sunrise was happening when I got to my desk.

This photo is actually a photo-merge of two different versions of the same shot. I got the technique from the Photoshop Elements book I told you about back on October 7. I first processed the photo to give great sunset colors and saved it. I then reopened the original, proccessed it foe sunset, and merged the two.

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And this photo is what I saw when I turned around. This is a great example of turning around and looking at things differently. You may be missing a great photo just because it isn't what you originally envisioned.

I wasn't sure what photo I liked more, so I put them both in. What do you think?

October 21, 2009 - Black and white ivy

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Today's photo is a closeup of some simple ivy against its concrete border. I used my 70-200mm f2.8 lens to isolate just the ivy in the photo and create a nice depth-of-field.

In Photoshop Elements, I increased the contrast and added to the shadows. I also burned in (darkened) the edges to bring more attention to the leaves in the center.

I like this photo a lot. What do you think?

October 20, 2009 - Operation cow drop

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The Chick-fil-A down the street had a lunchtime festival today. Games, food, and a cow drop. That's right, a cow drop. They dropped 300 mini plush cows — with parachutes — down to crowd of at least 600 people. It was crazy, as the photo shows.

This was a tricky shot. We were outside, but underneath a large, covered plaza between two tall buildings. Both ends of the plaza were very bright, which was fooling the camera a little bit. I put the flash on to make sure that whichever way I was facing the shot would be illuminated. Finally, I took a bunch of shots to try to get something good. And out of about 50 shots, I came up with this winner.

I really like it because it shows a lot of action. There are all the hands reaching for the cow, and the lady in the center isolated fantastically against the clump of people. You can clearly see her business attire — the high heels, short skirt, and white blouse — reaching for a cheap little cow like all the rest (oh, did I mention they all had food coupons attached to them?).

I wish, however, I could have been closer and had more of the faces towards the camera.

October 18, 2009 - A nice warm fire

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The weather is getting colder, so we put some logs in the fireplace today. After the girls got dressed for church, they sat in front of the fire to play.

I bounced the flash off of the ceiling to light up this photo. I took a bunch of photos to get a really good expression from one of the kids, and it worked. I also got down to their level instead of simply taking the photo while standing up. If you aren't doing this yet with your photos, do it — it is a subtle but significant change that will make your photos much better.