Monthly Archives: April 2014

Entertaining Reflections

Flagstaff Orpheum at night

Overall scene

Flagstaff Orpheum sign reflection

Orpheum sign with a reflection in the car windshield

Capturing night lights is one of my favorite subjects to photograph. Sometimes the temperature is cool (especially in Flagstaff), but the photos don’t disappoint. Last fall, I met up with my Northern Arizona University student photo club to photograph night lights. We stuck to a two block range on Aspen beginning at San Francisco and ending up in front of the Orpheum Theatre at Beaver Street. We bundled up in our winter jackets and kept warm except for our cold hands holding the metal tripod legs. When we approached the Orpheum some young men were in front of the building hanging out. Adding people to the photo can add a sense of scale to the image, so I took the shot. Then reviewed it on my LCD panel and decided it was boring. So, I looked around for something better. There was a car parked in front of the Orpheum limiting my view from the front side. I knew I had to work the subject, so I walked around the car anyway. Then, I saw a great refection in the windshield of the car. I took a shot of the bright sign and the reflection in the car window. The photo still wasn’t working for me so like I often do, I thought to myself, “What interests me here?” It was the reflection. I recomposed to include the reflection of the Orpheum sign only. This image works. My final adjustments in post

Flagstaff Orpheum Sign reflection

Final image of Flagstaff’s Orpheum night lights

processing included a little spot removal of bugs on the windshield. Although my students weren’t sure what I captured in my frame, once I shared the image with them they understood. It was another successful evening capturing the night lights in Flagstaff.

Image available as a metal print at Brandy’s Restaurant in Flagstaff.

Posted in Inspiration, night photography, Photographic Techniques, reflections

What I Learned on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop

Joshua trees have always intrigued me and since I had an open weekend, I attended the Arizona Highways Photo Workshop (AHPW) to Joshua Tree National Park (Photo A). I am a volunteer with AHPW but I signed up as a participant on this workshop so that I could learn from Joel Grimes. I wanted to gain insight into the photography profession for my college students, learn how to properly create HDR (high dynamic range) and black/white images and learn about new gear.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Trees

The workshop began with Joel sharing stunning images and fun stories about his many years in the profession. He emphasized more than once to enter in this profession, one must “build a body of work.” That simply means: find something you enjoy photographing and stick with it. Not for a few days or weeks, but years. If you don’t enjoy time on the computer, then make sure your body of work does not require lengthy computer processing. The body of work should be enjoyable and we should become so good at this process that we could teach it. To be competitive, this body of work means creating 30+ amazing images a year. Realizing images alone won’t get my students at Northern Arizona University jobs; Joel continued to share his experiences of working hard. This included making cold calls to art directors. I enjoyed sharing this insight with my students when I returned. I am hoping that they don’t give up when rejection arises; but instead, they will work hard and follow their dreams.

Black & white image from the workshop

Black & White converted photo using Nik’s Silver Effects Pro

HDR or high dynamic range has never really been my thing, but I have never really spent much time trying. I certainly have not built a body of work with HDR or black/white images. I listened closely to Joel’s presentations on bracketing images and stitching panoramas with the bracketed shots and then gave myself the challenge try this process on our evening shoot. Returning with tons of images, I processed for several hours and realized my computer wasn’t built for this process and neither was I. Several of my images were good, but I didn’t enjoy spending that much time processing HDR/panorama images and I would not use this process to create a body of work. In the next presentation, Joel demonstrated processing his images using Adobe Photoshop and Nik plug-ins. Even though I use Lightroom predominantly, I own Nik plugins but never use them. Watching his processing in Photoshop was fantastic! So, during each break I began processing my non-bracketed images with Nik Silver Effects Pro plug-in and created much stronger black/white images. Now I was loving several of my images! (See Photo B)

Photography should be simple. So simple that Joel said, “With one lens, one camera, one flash – you can rock the world!” But, I like the gear and these workshops are great for learning about photography gear from the photographers and participants. Joel demonstrated his tilt shift lenses, neutral density filters and strobe lights while several of us participants discussed bags, lenses and tripods. The highlight of new gear for me was when Joel used his CamRanger Unit (wireless DSLR remote) and Tether Tools gear. If you are not familiar with a CamRanger, it connects to your camera and creates a wireless network that is compatible with an iPad/iPhone, Android, Mac or PC. To put it simply, the mobile device controls the camera. Bracketing, focusing, shutter, aperture and ISO settings are set through the mobile device. And with a shoulder strap from Tether Tools, Joel carried his iPad several yards away from his camera to shine light on a Joshua tree and his camera captured the one minute image. I bought a CamRanger last fall and have used it many times in my home studio, but using it on location brought me to fully appreciate the new gear. I stepped back behind the other participants and captured an image of Joel lighting the tree with a flash light and several participants in the foreground. (Photo C) Since returning from the trip I have used my CamRanger several times and am thankful I got a hands-on tutorial from Joel Grimes.

Joshua tree workshop

Painting with light and capturing the image with a CamRanger

After returning to Flagstaff, I have begun processing my images and am very happy with using my Nik plugins to process these images. I learned priceless information about the photography profession and have a new found love for my CamRanger. This workshop was a great success and I look forward to the next one!

Posted in Photographic Techniques, Technology