Big Bend Workshop: Oct. 21 – 25, 2011

I’m holding a photography workshop based in Big Bend this coming October. If you are interested in attending, please contact me to register. Please see the workshop listing for detailed information.

Dates: October 21 – 25, 2011
Focus: Landscape and Night Photography
Students: 9
Tuition: $600

Click for more info about the workshop

Big Bend is my favorite place in the world. I have enjoyed exploring and photographing the area for seven years. I greatly look forward to this workshop and sharing it with other photographers!

Group Portraits Speed Sessions

I volunteered to help our church create a member directory with photos. Four of us in the church are familiar with those camera thingys and joined to help make this happen.

Churches usually hire some pro outfit to come in and take everyones photos, but our church just can’t afford it. It’s cheaper and easier for them to upload our digital image files into their database software and then generate the actual directory.

Our setup is simple. Our goal is something slightly better than a mugshot but not as formal or nice as proper portraits. We have a large paper background that is solid gray. Lighting is done with one speedlight pointed upwards at the low, white ceiling (with white bounce card extended on the flash head).

Yesterday was our first Sunday to do this. We’re planning on taking photos for four Sundays total. There are over 300 members (and “member” includes family units) of the church and we’ve only captured 47.

Shooting was rather painless. Yesterday, myself and one other volunteer worked the sessions after each of the three church services. One of us helped to move people in and out of the room while taking their names on a notepad. Both of us helped to situate and arrange people for the photo.

I worked the camera, and in most cases it only took one shot. After each shot, I’d quickly check the LCD and make sure that everyone was smiling, had their eyes open, and nothing looked too funny. We jotted down the file number next to peoples names on the notepad to match photos-to-names later on.

About halfway through yesterday’s shooting, I realized my wonderful Canon flash (580EX) was doing some whacky stuff with the exposures. Some shots looked right-on, but about half were either over or under-exposed by as much as 1-stop.

There were subtle differences between each group shot, but the shooting parameters (e.g. distance from camera to subject, position of the flash, distance from subject to background, etc.) were pretty much the same. I switched the flash to full manual mode and that solved the problem. I should have foreseen this problem. It wasn’t too difficult to correct in processing the RAW files, however. But I won’t be making the same mistake in future sessions.

Oh, the gray background is perfect. It matched well with everyone regardless of color and served to adjust the white balance in RAW processing.

Only three more Sundays to go… :-)

Giant Yoda

What does an eight-foot tall Yoda made of LEGO® bricks look like? Well, there was one in Baybrook Mall this past weekend :-)

The new LEGO store at the mall celebrated its grand opening over the weekend, and TexLUG (the LEGO fan group that I’m in) volunteered to help with the giant build.

a smaller model of Yoda sits atop the unfinished giant model

Of course I took my camera along to document the event. It was a lot of fun watching the kids (and adults too) help build the model. The process involved the public building “macro” bricks (large bricks made up of smaller bricks) that were then passed to the master model builder (from LEGO) to place in the final Yoda model. Click on the images to see the full gallery of my photos.

master model builder, Dan, hard at work

Fishing at Sunset

This photo, taken last week, comes from our annual family reunion in New Braunfels. Our family has been gathering once a year for a long or short weekend for 36 years now. The fisherman is my cousin, Travis, and he’s winding down a long, nice day of family gathering on the back deck. This spring-fed pond is in Landa Park, and the water is clear and cold :-)

click for larger image

This was an impromptu shot. I walked outside right before sunset and took a look at the clouds. The sky and cloud patterns had potential for nice color. Travis moved around a lot, so I decided to keep it quick, and take handheld shots (as opposed to using the tripod and spending a long time with the shot).

I used my Canon 5D and 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II lens with no filter. It was shot in RAW at 35mm, 1/160 sec., f/8, and ISO 400.

I processed the RAW file twice: once at -0.5 ev (for the sky) and again at +0.5 ev for the foreground. I then feathered the lighter exposure (foreground) over the darker (sky) to have a more balanced looking exposure overall.

What I did to get this shot (in shooting and in processing) is a good way to capture a scene like this when shooting hand-held. I also didn’t worry about loosing detail in the shadow areas since I was going for the classic and cliche silhouette look. If I had been using the tripod, then I would have shot several different exposures of the same scene.

I’m still impressed by the 28-105mm lens. The sharpness (at f/8) appears to be as good as my more expensive “L” lenses. It does, however, lack the color and contrast “pop” as seen in the better lenses, but most of that can be brought back by careful post-processing.