Tuesday, May 21, 2019

THE ART OF B&W CONVERSION


Decades ago, in my film days, B&W as an art form was not something you converted to. It was a planned decision you made based on the subject. And if you wanted quality B&W you started with the proper B&W film for the job. As Ansel Adams taught it was all about pre-visualization; how did you want your vision or interpretation of a given subject to look?  Every step of the way we had many excellent choices in films and B&W papers to create that B&W vision.

It was a big deal when I set-up my darkroom to print the B&W negatives I deemed worthy of printing. Then I’d spend an entire weekend printing, souping, washing and drying prints until the wee hours of the morning.

Our only choice for converting color images to B&W back then was using Kodak Panalure paper on color negatives, but the results were not very impressive. In addition, because the Panalure was a resin coat product it was far from archival due to color shifting (bronzing) and orange spotting in reaction to light. It was thus not a paper of choice for fine art printing.

Today in our digital realm it is amazing what we can create with color RAW files as our source images. I can now pre-edit (Adobe Camera RAW) make a JPEG convert to B&W (NIK Silver Efex Pro) and if needed do retouching cropping and noise reduction (Photoshop) creating a spectacular new rendition of my color file in 30 minutes! 

It’s important to note that you’re not going to create a spectacular image out of nothing. As has always been the case you must start with a good image; the old adage comes to mind—You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear!

A B&W result using my favorite software….
NIK’s Silver Efex Pro-2
This is the finished image with NIK’s Silver Efex Pro-2 using the B&W Push preset with some of my own tweaking. Then I used NIK’s DeFine2 noise reduction.

Here’s the original image after prepping….
f11.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 100mm
I always prep my RAW files in Adobe Camera RAW before I drop the resulting JPEG into NIK. 

In this image I made these adjustments:
  • Exposure…..- .20
  • Contrast….. + 5
  • Highlights…..- 88
  • Shadows….. + 53
  • Blacks….. - 72
  • Clarity….. + 11
  • Vibrance….. + 18
  • Saturation….. 0
Note: I’ve learned over the years to take it easy when using Clarity and Saturation; two fo the most over used sliders in the digital world.

That’s it for this week…Have questions don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

OUTDOOR FAMILY PORTRAIT POSES WITH PETS


We encourage families to include their pets when doing their family portraits. Sure, it’s more challenging, but in the many years that we’ve been doing portrait photography at The Storytellers we’ve found that the more people we photograph in a given session more great images are created and the better the sale as a result. So, that also applies to pets; after all they’re part of the family, too!

Note: because this concept has proven itself over and over again we never charge extra beyond our usual session fees for additional relatives in a portrait session (we love family reunions!). Don’t put up roadblocks to making better sales!

So, do close-ups….
f5.6 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 145mm
During the session—we do the whole family group first and find out who belongs to the dog. Who has that special connection with the dog? You can usually tell just by observing the family dynamics and then suggest special combinations. If they hesitate, I just say, we’re all here, you’re dressed perfectly, we can give you more choices and we have no time limits on your session!

Do individual portraits….
f5.6 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 155mm
Since they had their dog groomed—complete with a ribbon-bow—for this session and that dog is gorgeous anyway this was a slam-dunk. Besides I wanted this for my portfolio!

Note:   Always have squeaker toys in your camera bag to get their attention—the people as well as the animals! 

Here’s one of the family poses…we do at least 2 and try for 3

f8.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 125mm
As I already said, we always start with the whole group portrait first because that’s the hardest pose and the reason we all came together in the first place.  This image was taken about an hour and a half before sunset. As is my usual procedure (and my artistic style) I place my subjects with the sun setting BEHIND them to get that nice backlit background. In addition I make sure the there is a large patch of clear blue sky as the Key Light; that way I never need to resort to any ugly fill flash.

’Til next week…any questions? Don’t hesitate to ask…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

GHOST TOWN FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY - SILVER CITY, IDAHO; Part 2


Like many fine art photographers I like old things—(that’s why I photograph ghost towns!) and old things left outside, in a four season climate, to degrade and rust are the Best! So, when I first visited Silver City after checking out the historic buildings I ventured up into the hills on the town’s edges looking for those old things left outside. I soon found several old car chassis, hunkered down in the weeds, rusting way, paint peeling…

f9.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 73mm
The peeling layers of paint on this old car’s “suicide doors” is art in itself! That’s why I did so little in post processing on this image besides cropping in camera to off-set the doors’ seam pushing the door handles to the right (“rule of thirds” composition). I suppose I should title this one, “Bloody Suicide Doors”.

Next I found this old car being consumed by weeds…
f9.0 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 32mm
Or, maybe, as edited into B&W, my vision of this as a metallic skull, with the trunk lid gone, creating a huge maw, it looks like this beast is doing the consuming of the weeds!

TECH NOTE:  I converted this RAW file into B&W with NIK’s HDR Efex Pro using the B&W Art Preset modified to my taste.  Here is the original file….
Original Unmodified File
This original file just did not have the sinister punch I wanted for my vision; it had to be monochrome. I also picked-up a lot of texture in the rusted steel with the HDR conversion.

Here’s my favorite view of Silver City….
f8.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 32mm
Whenever I photograph any well known site I always try to create something that other photographers have not done. I do not copy other photographer’s work. So, looking for a different composition is important, and one of the compositional elements many photographers neglect is the tried and true: Foreground, Middle-ground, Background concept. To create this concept I find a subject—in this case the old school house—and then I back-off and look for an alignment of some foreground element. Well, I had to back WAY-OFF, but I found this really nice archway created by some old vine covered trees that gave me the perfect foreground to frame my schoolhouse scene.

Not content with that look I pushed it to the surreal….
Solarization
 One of the benefits of our digital photography age is that we can create surreal images so easily. One of my favorite printing techniques from our film days was Solarization and it happens that included in the NIK bundle of effects is both color and B&W Solarization.

TECH NOTE: This was done with NIK’s Color Efex Pro using the Color Solarization #3. However, when using the Elapsed Time Slider for the look I wanted it created some unwanted colors in the clouds over the school house. So, then I dropped the image into Photoshop and used the Spot Healing Brush Tool to clean up the sky.

Hope you enjoyed my one day adventure….’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

GHOST TOWN FINE ART PHOTOGRAPHY - SILVER CITY, IDAHO; Part 1


I’ve been doing fine art photography of ghost towns and old cemeteries for over 40 years. One of the best ghost towns I ever photographed was Bodie, in the high country East of Yosemite National Park, off Highway 395. But, that was 40 years ago before it started falling apart; now they’re having to prop-up some structures. It wasn’t until I moved to Idaho that I discovered a rich new (to me!) territory of subjects to really enhance my fine art portfolio.

Because of all the mining that took place here in Idaho there are a lot of ghost towns in the mountains—mostly North of Boise. But there is Silver City, one of the best ”ghost” towns just South of us, that is well known for it’s many intact buildings, operational hotel, bar and restaurant. It looks like it’s been coming back to life. At just over 63 miles from Meridian it takes about 2 hours to get there; the last few miles are on a narrow, rutty, dirt road. We went there in June with friends in their 4x4, crew-cab pickup and had no problem. In the winter though the road is impassable except by snowmobile. 

I think Silver City is better than Bodie in many ways. There’s a lot of variety in its buildings and they are still standing without supports. There is a really nice cemetery and the topography is far better; the town is nestled in some hills so there are elevation differences that make for more interesting compositions while Bodie is built on a flat empty plain.

Here’s an example of Silver City topography…

 f11.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 40mm
This image was a natural for a B&W conversion because I knew that the dark tones of that outhouse would contrast nicely against the old white church in the background. In addition I wanted to get rid of all the greenery in the scene that distracted form my main two subjects.

This B&W conversion was done using Adobe Camera Raw.

A detail image of a front porch….
f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 40mm
Going for the textures in this image: I was drawn to this scene because of the slivers of sun light slicing through the uncovered boards of the porch overhang.

TECH NOTE: Processing for texture; I used NIK’s HDR Efex Pro single image Tone Mapping here; using the Dramatic preset.

A Low-Light Interior Detail…

f4.5 @ 1/25 sec., ISO 3200; Lens @ 32mm
This is the old telegraph office inside the hotel. Set-up in 1874 it was the first telegraph in the Idaho Territory.

TECH NOTE: This had to be B&W so I converted it in NIK’s Silver Efex Pro using the fine Art Preset. Then I selected one of NIK’s Film Emulations (the Agfa100) for the monochrome look I liked best.

Then out at the Silver City Cemetery….

f5.6 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 40mm
They have some of the best wrought iron work I’ve ever seen at a cemetery. I enhanced the color and texture of the rust in Adobe Camera Raw for this image.

Next week in Part #2 I’ll show some before and afters of images I dramatically altered for artistic effect.

’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

PHOTOGRAPHY OF TRACTORS IN THE WILD!


Just one of the many reasons I enjoy living in Idaho is that with agriculture being such a huge part of the economy, culture and history I’ve had the opportunity to photograph so many historical artifacts greatly adding to my fine art portfolio. Some of my favorite subjects are old farm equipment; especially old tractors that have been put out to pasture or those in tractor salvage yards.

You don’t have to go very far from the main population centers of Boise or Meridian to find large farms and ranches either. Only 18 miles from my home town of Meridian is the big agricultural town of Caldwell. While visiting one of my clients there I drove around the edges of some farms when I discovered this tractor…
f16.0 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400; Lens at 40mm
It was 8 o’clock in the morning in August and the sun had just dramatically reappeared breaking up the cloud cover.

TECH NOTE: To enhance the tractor’s color and dramatize those clouds I processed this image using NIK’s Tone Mapping (single image) using their Sinister preset.

Next I moved-in closer….

Original File                                                                              TM Soft Processed

As you can see with this before and after processing example these old rusty tractors really benefit from NIK’s Tone Mapping. Here I used NIK’s Soft preset with the soft slider changed to accentuate.

Moving to a tractor salvage yard….
 f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 50mm
This image was created in March about 20 minutes before sunset giving me my favorite very directional and dramatic lighting; this is called Short-Lighting. To use short lighting you must SEE the directional light striking your subject and then you rotate your camera position around the “face” of the subject so that the light is almost behind the subject creating a shadow on the “camera side” where you are positioned. I use this style of lighting for portraits of people as well.

Another study in detail….
f13.0 @ 1/40 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 67mm
This was taken twenty minutes later as the last glimmer of sunlight was striking only the right side of this tractor.  Even though this image has copious texture and detail it was not processed like any of the preceding images. I only tweaked a few sliders in Adobe Camera Raw—I didn’t even touch the Clarity slider!

That’s it for this week!  Should you have comments or questions please don’t hesitate to ask. ’Til next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

WHY I CONVERT SOME COLOR IMAGES TO B&W AT CIVIL WAR EVENTS


I usually know when I snap the shutter if an image is destined to be a color or B&W image because of how I compose a scene. In other words when I’m doing Civil War Re-enactments I will design some to be in color when there is a compelling color feature in the scene. When there’s little color in a scene, if I want an historical look, and I can see good contrast between what will be blacks and highlights then black and white usually wins out.

This image had those features….
f5.6 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 142mm
In addition this image had the posed look that we see in much actual civil war photography. Of course back then that posed look was necessary because their cameras’ film (coated glass plates) was so slow that every image was a time exposure (with the camera on a tripod) where nobody could move or they’d get motion blurred photos. That’s why there are no action photos of the Civil War!

I designed this image to be color….
 f4.5 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Backed-off, using my lens at 200mm, I carefully composed this image to PLACE that flag EXACTLY where it is relative to this soldier while he was moving around unaware of my presence. I purposely chose the aperture of f4.5 to blur the flag and background enough that the flag would not dominate the scene.

This scene had to be B&W….
f5.6 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 155mm
This image of the gun crew, taken seconds after they fired a cannon, was visually polluted by the colorful crowd in the background. That’s why I waited for them to fire giving me that cloud of smoke to help obscure the background.

TECH NOTE:
  • To further obscure the background I converted the color image in NIK’s Silver Efex using their Antique Plate 2 preset, which not only creates a nice warm tone monochrome, but also adds a white vignette around the image effectively increasing the smoke in the scene.

Another image designed for color….
 f8.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Again using my lens at 200mm I layered and compressed these elements: the flags and a model of a civil war cannon are on a table while in the background, some 25 yards away, are some full scale cannons.

TECH NOTE:
  • I focused on the Union Flag to make it really stand out and used an aperture of f8.0 to blur the Confederate Flag and the background cannons, but still make them identifiable.

Back to a more historical look….
f5.0 @ 1/1600 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 40mm
I have two layers of processing on this image. 

  • First, I put the color original into NIK’s Single Image Tone Mapping using their Dark preset to really enhance the cannon smoke.
  • Second, I converted in NIK’s Silver Efex using their Antique Plate 1 for a straight warm monochrome.

Here’s the original image….
Original Color
The color original is just way too colorful and cheerful a setting for a Civil War Re-enactment! In addition I had a sign on the left side that had to be removed.


Sometimes enhanced color is called for….
f5.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 47mm
Our Civil War volunteers here in Idaho always have their blacksmith there doing authentic iron work of the period. For this image I wanted to enhance the red hot steel, the sparks, and the textures in the anvil so I processed this in NIK’s Tone Mapping using the Structured 2 preset.

I’ll finish with a classic B&W candid….
f4.5 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Since the Union’s uniforms make nice clean black when converted this was a natural for B&W. This old soldier in the shade of a tree, with dappled light filtering on him in this introspection, was also done with my lens set at 200mm. I used my favorite portrait aperture of f4.5 to create a nice bokeh background enhanced by the lens’ shallow Depth-of-Field.

That’s all for this week.  ’Til next time…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

NATURAL LIGHT PORTRAITS USING NEGATIVE FILL


I think most photographers would agree that natural light is the best light for portraits outside. However, as a long time professional portrait artist it’s my job to find or create directional natural light to create the third dimension in our two-dimensional media. If there are no shadows on the subject then you don’t have directional light; you just have flat light. The worst version of this type of light is the effect of direct on-camera flash. 

So, because adding artificial light, in a scene where there is plenty of ambient light, will look harsh and unnatural I propose the use of Subtractive Lighting or what is sometimes called Negative Fill to create natural looking directional light. 

How to Create Negative Fill

There are two ways to subtract light from your subject when out doors:
  1. You place your subject(s) close to natural (trees, bushes, rocks, etc.) or unnatural (buildings, walls) objects that will create a shadow side on the face. Of course it’s imperative that there be light (e.g. Lots of sky light) on the opposite side. 
  2. You place a black, opaque Gobo (or flag) near the subject to create the shadows.
Here’s an example using the location’s natural light blockers…

f4.5 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
The keys to creating this look outside is proper placement of the subject and time of day. I placed the boy where there is a line of trees and rocks about ten feet away on camera left. On camera right there is a large patch of clear blue sky creating the key light. The time of day (about 1.5 hours before sunset) is creating that nice, bokeh filled, back light.

If you’re forced to use an open location with no natural light blockers using a black gobo on an individual works great. In the image below my wife, Kathi, is using a 42” Black Gobo to block side and top light at the same time creating a nice shadow side on his face. 

Hand Held Negative Fill
My Mentor Leon Kennamer

I learned the Subtractive Lighting Technique from the pioneer of its use in still photography Leon Kennamer. He was one of the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) Masters that I studied with in week long courses at the Brooks Institute of Photography some 30 years ago. He taught me the use of the hand-held gobos, but he also taught us about finding the light. His words are always with me when I’m scouting locations. He said that, “THE LIGHT IS AT THE EDGE OF THE FORREST.” That means if you drag your subject(s) INTO the forrest you’ll lose all light direction (called blocked-up light) because you’ve created negative fill everywhere. You must step back out of the forrest until you have that patch of blue sky on one side and the forrest on the other.

Again using natural light blockers on location…

 f4.5 @ 1/320 sec., SIO 800; Lens @ 155mm
So, I’ve adapted Leon Kennamer’s technique using natural light blocking features because when doing group portraits it is not possible to use hand held Gobos on groups of people. In the image above, taken about an hour before sunset, I’ve placed him where a line of trees, on camera left, are blocking all the sky light from that side. The sun is setting behind him and there’s a large patch of blue sky on the right. The key here is to watch where the subject’s nose if pointing; too far towards the tree line and you can lose the light in the eye on the shadow side. This image shows how directional natural light can become with careful subject placement. It’s no different in principle than classic studio lighting.

Have questions or comments don’t hesitate to leave them. 

You can also watch a short 8 minute video about Subtractive Lighting on my YouTube Channel, Light At The Edge Photography, along with other helpful videos:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UevJkSVJy4o

’Till next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training Site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client Site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

USING BACKLIGHT AS THE KEY LIGHT OUTDOORS


Back in the day Kodak publications told amateur photographers to always have the sun at their back to avoid shadows and eliminate lens flare. It didn’t take me long to realize, even when I was an amateur photographer, that there was little drama in creating images with light that came from camera position; that’s just flat light. In fact it’s far better that the light striking your subject, wether in the studio or outdoors, comes from ANY direction other than from camera position. One of my very favorite types of directional light, especially for fine art, is using backlight as the key light when I’m outdoors.

TECH NOTE: 
The Key Light in photography is the dominate light striking the subject. When used properly the key light creates the three dimensionality and the drama that compels the viewer to SEE the artist’s intent in creating the image.

Time of day is the key for backlight….
f8.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 120mm
I usually go out about 2-hours before sunset to line up my subjects for backlight. I don’t wander around searching for subjects; these are already found subjects that I put on a list as future targets when the weather is good.

This image of sunflowers was taken in the middle of August in California, at 6pm. Flowers and fall colors leaves are naturals for this lighting. 

TECH NOTE:
With really bright flowers, (as with fall leaves), especially in a dark field, I use a spot meter on the leaves so I don’t clip the highlights.

This lighting can work with people too…
f5.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
This lighting is NOT for portraits! This type of lighting, as in this image, can create great pictorials of people doing things. 

This image, was done at 8pm, of people walking through an animal exhibition hall at the Idaho State Faire. The dust their feet kicked-up made for a terrific backlight image.

Now, back to some thorny blooms….
 f8.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
In this image, the backlight not only lights up the translucent blossoms, but the Rim Light on the cactus thorns is marvelous as well.

TECH NOTE:
It’s important to note that when doing extreme backlight, with the setting sun, that you must control lens flare. In spite of the fad to Create Lens Flare, which only makes professional photographers’ work look amateurish, I control flare to make my subjects look great. With lens flare you lose color density, contrast, and sharpness—things that photography does best!

Here’s how I control lens flare…

My set-up
It’s often not enough to use a large lens shade. So, I’ve added a black flag on a Mathews arm attached to my tripod. I always use this set-up when I’m doing portraits outside. I don’t really care if some photographers think they’re being artsy flaring out their nature photos but I think it’s photographic malpractice to allow flare in a portrait image all the time; it’s also bad business. It’s like improperly using soft focus.

Have a question? Don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

USING MONOCHROME TO REMOVE DISTRACTIONS IN PHOTOGRAPHY


Some subjects must be rendered in B&W or Monochrome because they simply lack color to begin with and they have excellent texture as well—such as old barn wood—then it’s a slam dunk. When color helps the center of interest or IS the center of interest than a B&W conversion will probably weaken the image. But, how many colors and where should they be within the frame? I’ve found in my studies of art that simplifying your color composition and placing powerful colors in one of the “crash points” by using “the Rule of Thirds” can make an image very powerful and not overwhelm the viewer. The point is when using color you must design the color composition into the image before you trip the shutter. If that not possible and you have a compelling subject, as in my example below, know that you will have some editing to do in “post”.

My Criteria to Convert Images to Black and White:

My basic philosophy on converting color images to B&W or monochrome has not changed since I was “shooting” film; the best B&W images have:
  1. Directional Light; that makes Shadows
  2. Good Blacks and Whites
  3. Texture and or Details
  4. A Strong Center of Interest
I think today’s example image meets my criteria….

f6.3 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 73mm
This image was converted to monochrome using NIK’s Silver Efex Pro-2. NIK is one of my favorite methods of conversion because it offers a lot of choices and styles as well as emulations; and it has 38 preset styles and 18 film emulation modes. 

My Process for this image:
  • Brought down the highlights in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) and made a jpeg.
  • In NIK Silver Efex I selected the Antique Plate1 preset because I wanted a warm-tone monochrome not just B&W.
  • Lastly I put a vignette on the image to darken the corners.
Here’s my original color version….

Original color version
This is a great example of color chaos! With this much uncoordinated color in a scene the viewer’s attention just bounces around all over the frame. In addition his lime green cowboy shirt was just not the classic, old time, cowboy style of image I was looking for!

That’s it for this week…Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A PRO’S TIPS TO PHOTOGRAPHY AT AN OUTDOOR WARBIRD MUSEUM


In last week’s blog I talked about photography at Lockheed’s Blackbird Airpark. So, after we did those incredible planes we walked next door to the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark to find an even more challenging array of all types of military and important civilian aircraft, all jammed together in a fairly small space. Because most of the Warbirds were so close together I moved out to the outer edges of the display to try to isolate some Warbirds and maybe get a clear open background. I was delighted when I found one of their most significant aircraft on display in the outer most ring of the airpark. 

The Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star….

 f11.0 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 67mm
In its red, white and blue, stars and stripes paint job I consider this the star of the display at this airpark.  For those unfamiliar with this historical Warbird the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star was America’s first operational jet fighter and that it was flying in Europe at the height of WWII. Its creation was mandated with the discovery by Allied Intelligence of Germany’s ME 262 jet fighter in the spring of 1943. Tasked with its creation the ultra top secret project was given to the legendary “Kelly” Johnson at Lockheed’s famous “Skunk Works”. Beginning design on June 26th, 1943, the Skunk Works delivered the airframe in an astounding 143 days! The prototype was flying by January 8th, 1944.

Back to photography of this classic Warbird. One of my favorite techniques to isolate a large subject is to use a “foreground foil”. In this case using the small tree and bushes in a little patch of grass creating a dark vignette to frame the aircraft and block some empty sky. This is an example of why I start by viewing my subjects from a distance using more telephoto to look for an alignment of foreground-subject-background.

Again, looking for alignments and foregrounds….

 f8.0 @ 1/2000 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 93mm
This shows just how densely packed the aircraft are in this airpark. There are wings and tails overlapping and nearly touching. So, for this image I “placed” the colorfully striped jet (with camera position and focal length) under the tail of the jet in the foreground.

Another famous Lockheed design….

f11.0 @ 1/1000 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 80mm
For this image of the Lockheed F104 “Star fighter” I moved to a rear angle to place the jet against that tree in the background, giving it a dark field for nice contrast between the jet and the tree; eliminating an empty bright sky. In camera tight framing eliminated side distractions.

Then sometimes you can just fill the frame with two really big planes….

 f11.0 @ 1/1000 sec. ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
Wow, a B-52 bomber with a 747 in the background. And not just any 747 that’s one of the space shuttle carriers. Aside from close-in photography with my lens at 24mm what really made this image clean was that the large expanse of dirt in this airpark is so smooth and clean. They obviously take care of the grounds there. 

Then moving around to inspect the 747….

 f4.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 105mm
In awe of the size of the 747 I walked past this until my son, Alex, told me to look closely above the landing gear. Happily perched at the edge of the landing gear well was this owl that had made a nest there!

Something about “birds of a feather!”…comes to mind, but it really doesn’t apply here!

Hope you enjoyed…should you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask…”Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A PRO’S TIPS TO PHOTOGRAPHY AT LOCKHEED’S BLACKBIRD AIRPARK


The biggest problem photographing aircraft at any museum is isolating particular planes for a clean, uncluttered, image. Indoor museums are the worst because in that confined space you have to deal with a ceiling, walls, and often poor light. So, my preference is doing photography of aircraft at airshows or in this case the outdoor museum at Lockheed’s Blackbird Airpark in Palmdale, California, and the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark right next door.

The Blackbird airpark gives photographers good access to an SR-71A an A12 and a U-2. There’s also one of the J58 jet engines that powered the SR-71 and one of the D-21 supersonic reconnaissance drones.  We first heard about the Blackbird Airpark from our son who lives in Palmdale with his wife who is an engineer employed at the famous Lockheed Skunk Works; the top secret unit under the legendary Kelly Johnson that designed and built the famous SR-71 and the U-2 spy planes among other things! So, when we visited them last year they drove us over to see Plant 42, which houses the skunk works at site 10, with the Blackbird Airpark near by. 

Here’s my isolation of the SR-71A…

f22.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 50mm
The first step was framing the Blackbird in tight; filling the frame and omitting its surroundings. The second step was in “post” with NIK’s Silver Efex Pro2 using their Antique Plate-2, which created a high contrast B&W effect and a white vignette that clearly isolated the jet engine nacelles from the dark background as seen in the original image here…

Original Image
The original image has a lot of dark ground clutter that hid the plane’s details. I don’t think the color version here was helping either; after all the SR-71 is a mostly monochrome subject.

How about a foreground blocking isolation…

f11.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 88mm
Ducking under the wing of the SR-71 for a tight view of the nearby A-12 created a nice composition and showed some interesting detail on the underside of the SR-71’s wing. This “foreground blocking” technique was mostly an effort to block out a sky with a lot of power poles and high-tension power lines messing up the scene. The unexpected bonus was the nice curving shape (and that detail) of the underside of the SR-71’s wing.

And a “powerful” detail image…
f8.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 24mm
With one of its huge Pratt & Whitney J58 jet engines in the background and where it’s supposed to be, as the foreground center-of-interest, I like the storytelling juxtaposition of elements in this image.

And just one more of the SR-71A…

f11.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 142mm
Backing off and going to telephoto for some compression of the plane and engine nacelle…. This thing looks like some bizarre hydroplane! Its unique “chined” fuselage looks like the hull of a hydro racing boat.

The SR-71 still looks futuristic even though it was designed in 1959; truly remarkable. 

In next week’s Blog we’ll walk next door to the Jose Davies Heritage Airpark.  As usual should you have questions don’t hesitate to ask…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

CELEBRATING WEIGHT LOSS WITH A PROFESSIONAL PORTRAIT!


We enjoy helping our clients celebrate their milestones. One of the common milestones is when they finally lose the weight they say they’ve always wanted to lose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a potential customer say, “Oh, I know I need an updated portrait…but, I just have to lose a few pounds first—then I’ll call you!” Years go by and most never make that appointment. Sadly their procrastination sometimes means that they don’t commit to their own family portrait or even worse the large multi-generational group portraits (with their brothers and sisters families and the grand parents) that actually create the milestones of family history (“before it’s too late”).

Our solution to this procrastination—when the weight loss they seek is not so much—is to go ahead with the family portrait and have us trim them down with a little digital magic. Then they will have a preview (an image goal!) of the body they want. We do this kind of thing all the time.
And, somethings we get that call when the client finally achieves their goal….

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 160; Lens @ 63mm
This is Ed, and he lost over 90 pounds and got really fit as well. So, when he told us he rewarded himself with that motorcycle we all agreed it had to be included to really personalize his portrait. And, besides look how comfortable Ed looks astride that Harley!

Here’s the big view….


This was the first large subject we photographed in our Eagle Studio. Doing a side view of a big bike was never possible in our previous studio, as our backgrounds at 10 feet wide were never wide enough. However, in the Eagle studio we were able to mount our 10x20’ backgrounds sideways giving us the 20 foot background needed to do this.

In addition we upgraded our studio lighting with a 7-foot Octodome (Photoflex) main light that will cover large objects or groups without the need for a fill light. By omitting the traditional fill light our lighting is more directional giving our images a nice three dimensional, dramatic, look.

That’s it for this week…as always should you have questions please don’t hesitate to ask…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A PRO’S TAKE ON CAR SHOW PHOTOGRAPHY


The outdoor car shows—especially the more casual community events—are my favorites for custom and classic cars. These shows allow me more freedom and better access without onerous security that you will find at the big indoor events where everything is roped off. In addition I really prefer natural light (with some direction) to the hard overhead floods that flatten out the light (like grocery store lighting!) at the huge indoor arenas.

That being said each type of show still shares similar problems. Those are the people constantly filtering around the cars and the spacing of the cars. Both of these problems severely limit whole car images of most cars on display. So, I tend to go in close and create images of the best features of each car. What I like about this type of photography is that I actually have better control in creating artistic compositions when working with the details of a subject…

f18.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 58mm

Many photographers don’t like it when the cars are opened-up for display, but use that to make interesting compositions and when opened-up those parts of the car can block out clutter (like people) in my background! For example in this image by moving in close on the open door I created wide angle distortion that created nice “leading lines” that guide the viewer’s eye into the image. In addition with the hood propped-up the steady stream of people on the other side of the car were eliminated.

Technical Note:  Going in close with any lens you will lose depth-of-field, so I really stopped-down here to f18.0 for good depth-of-field through out the image.

When I see a car I like I always circle around the whole car looking for details to compose….
f18.0 @ 1/100 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 28mm
Dropping to my knees and moving in close with my lens at 28mm made that grill even more impressive in this image of the same car. And, I still like the opened-up appendages of the car creating this wacky composition! 

This next car’s stunning paint attracted me….
f5.6 @ 1/1600 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 105mm
With a lot of photographers hovering around this car I zoomed in more for tight in-camera crops of its details.

Technical Note:  With that red car so close in the background I opened up my aperture to f5.6 to soften the red car’s details. I really wanted to isolate the purple car’s grill and hood ornament.

Next I backed up and focused down the length of the car…
f8.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 135mm
I Wanted to highlight this car’s sensuous curves for this image so I cropped in tight and added a little more telephoto for some lens compression. I really like compression distortion used this way!

When I really want subject isolation….
f11.0 @ 1/640 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Amidst all these pristine cars with perfect colorful paint this unrestored Dodge stood out! I really like the Dodge Brothers badge on its rusted radiator. So, zooming into 200mm is my go-to focal length when I want to isolate a subject. The only problem using 200mm at a car show is that because, at that focal length, you must back-up for it to focus, then you get lots of people walking in front of you—some will even stop to take their own photos directly in front of you! You just have to be patient and wait for your moment.

That’s it for this week…I’m available for questions…just ask…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com