Posted on March 28, 2013
This is a quick story of before and after the photograph…
I was hired by a couple recently to give them a two-day photo tour of the island. Stacy and Lance were their names and they live near Detroit. Stacy was a sponge for information and Lance just loved to spend some time out in nature and smiled pleasantly as we captured images. We found a location with particularly pleasing composition so we stopped and set up the dreaded tripods.
“Okay letʻs stop,” I suggested, “because this scene tells a story.” Actually, I was out of breath, and needed to rest. (Stacy and Lance appeared to be hard-core fitness types, but I never actually asked.) So I suggested we stop to breathe with the disguise of making a photo. The spot worked, in any case, and they believed me.
We made photos of this incredible winding path through the bamboo forest of Kīpahulu, Maui. Stacy was a very good amateur photographer. Her exposure was good and she processed her image perfectly using Adobe Lightroom4. After she posted this photo on facebook, I told her, “Perfect exposure!” It was. But her final product was lacking the emotion and the feeling of the magical place where we had stood.
I stepped Stacy from Lightroom4 into Photoshop and promised her that using Adobe Photoshop was an art, like painting, as opposed to some cheezy color-by-numbers application. I led Stacy through several layers of adjustment layers in about 20 minutes, and explained to her my reasons for “painting” the way I did. I preached her, “Do not allow the eye to escape the photo! Lead the viewer in using light and color.” I learned this concept from the great wizard Ben Willmore as a student of his.
Stacy transformed her photo from a good “I was there” image, into a compelling visual story of mystery and curiosity. Wow. I love her photograph. I am now lead down this pathway on a visual journey! YOU GO GIRL! https://www.facebook.com/stacygarlington . Lance smiled. Below is her finished art.
Tell a compelling story.
Capture the viewer.
Lead the viewer through your artwork using light and color.
Do not allow the viewer to escape!
Posted on March 12, 2013
This exact waterfall is photographed by hundreds of passers-by daily on Maui’s famous Hāna Highway. Their photos will look nothing like this; just a hunch. I have photographed this place at least a dozen other times as well, and this time mine looks really different than before.
I sat on the bridge watching the beautiful water and thought to myself before capturing the image, “What might I do with this scene, which will make it different?”. So I decided to shoot this as a vertical HDR panorama using my wide lens. The left half is 3 bracketed exposures, and the right half is three bracketed exposures. For those of you (advanced photographers) who understand “high dynamic range” tone-mapping, I took care of this part of the processing first using Photomatix Software. Because of the tone-mapping process I was able to capture the extreme contrast range from the highlighted water to the deep shadows in the lava rock. Next I blended the left and right halves together seemlessly using Adobe Photoshop CS6 > Edit > Automate > Photomerge.
It worked like a charm but I found that the finished image was way too busy for my own artistic taste. Sooooooo………. What would happen is I made it look like a night scene? …if I darken it and change the hue to blue? AHHHA! Yes! It is both real and surreal! The sun happened to have thick clouds which allowed this image work as a night scene. Whew, I pulled this one off by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin!
Posted on March 7, 2013
Falling water; why it turns me on.
We all seem to love waterfalls. In Hawaii we are so fortunate to have a choice of several from which to choose on any given day. I spent the past two days guiding a private photo adventure with a young couple here on Maui and we kept finding ourselves drawn back to that good olʻ clear liquid H2O in fluid motion.
It is not just the water which attracts us, but more specifically moving water — water splashing, water tumbling, water dripping, water waving, and the “holy grail,” water falling. Why does water turn me on? Does water turn you on also? I thought about it and penciled my list of theories on to paper:
Posted on March 1, 2013
Last week I watched the Oscar Awards. There is always the Best Actor, and then the Best Supporting Actor.
Okay, let me jump right into this hapless analogy. Rainbows make us smile. A rainbow is always fabulously beautiful to look at, but still it is only the Best Supporting Actor. It makes the lead character look good. So it is up to you as the Director of Photography to find your Best Actor. In this example my main character is Wally-the-Horse. The rainbow makes the photo of Wally come to life. Without it, Wally is just another horse in a pasture. Without Wally, the rainbow is just a seven-colored arc without a good screenplay. If we put Wally and the rainbow into the same scene together we might just win the award for Best Visual Effects!
Enough of this analogy. Here are some things I do upon photographing a rainbow:
1) I rarely use a tripod. Tripods will slow you down. Working fast with rainbows is key.
2) I determine my Best Actor, or main subject, and locate that subject in the foreground.
3) I focus on the main subject, and not the rainbow. Cameras have a hard time focusing on rainbows, because rainbows are an optical phenomenon and are no particular distance from us.
4) Most often, I use a wide lens to show of the arch of the rainbow. With a wide angle lens you must remember to move in close to your main subject.
5) Keep the front of your lens dry. Rainbows are associated with water droplets and wind! I use a lens cloth to frequently wipe the droplets off the front of my glass.
6) When I have enough time, I will use my camera menu options to set “auto-exposure-bracket” (AEB) so when I press the shutter-release button one time my camera makes three different exposure values: +1 EV / normal / -1 EV. (This is what we professionals call CYA, or “cover your ass”.)
7) As an alternative to bracketing I sometimes use the +/- exposure compensation button and underexpose (make darker) my rainbows by -3, or -7 EV to create more saturation of colors.
Living in Hawaii affords me plenty of opportunity to see rainbows. Did you know that when you see the coveted “double-rainbow,” the colors of the spectrum are in reverse order from the colors of the primary rainbow? If you have your own tips for photographing rainbows, please leave a comment for me. I am interested! If you have a friend just learning photography, please share this post with them as well. ~Aloha.
Posted on February 25, 2013
It is said that the eyes are the window to the soul. As a professional photographer, I not only agree but will go deeper by saying that the eyes reveal a personʻs secrets and also life history. When photographing eyes of a person, care should be taken by any photographer, as this is what will make or break any candid or posed portrait. The Eyes, such as Fiery Eyes shown above, hold emotional expressions of their own. I often ask my models to “relax your mouth, but smile with your eyes.” Or sometimes I simply engage in real debate or discussion with my model in order to bring out the story from the eyes.
Here are a few favorite techniques I suggest using when eyes are a part of a photograph:
First - Always focus your lens on the eyelashes nearest to the camera. If I am using a camera with several auto-focus options, then I will use the single center focus point on the eyelashes before recomposing to capture the subject. Occasionally I just use old-fashioned manual focus.
Second - Engage in conversation while photographing your subject to provoke natural eye movements and facial expressions. Ask a perplexing question or talk about chocolate or boyfriends / girlfriends, or travel. This conversation will relax the subject and they may not even notice you are photographing them.
Third - Whenever possible, check to see that the eyes have a catch-light in them; a reflection of something bright or white. The catch-light brings dull eyes to life. I occasionally ask a friend to reflect some sunlight toward the eyes with a white card or small portable reflector (a car windshield sunscreen works great.) Your on-camera flash can do this, but the catch-light looks much better if the reflection seen slightly on the side of the eye rather than centered on the pupil.
Next time you look into a personʻs eyes, try to read their story. And if they look back into yours, then remember they can see into your soul.