From the last happy hour @trader_Vics in #Scottsdale – one more “Suffering Bastard”…
Fourth of July Firework Photos from Zionsville, Indiana
The 4th of July celebration in Zionsville was a blast. It was probably the best Independence Day I have experienced since moving to the US. The weather was perfect and there was a lot going on at Lions Park. From music entertainment, to fun-stuff for the kids and great food – everything was covered.
The fireworks started around 10pm and lasted a pretty long time – exactly 41 frames at 15 second exposures with my Sigma DP1. The DP1 actually is pretty capable to do some low light photography (of course it has its limitations) and occasionally I got some frames with the “Foveon Grid”. But considering the size and limitations of the Sigma DP1 I am very happy with the results.
For the fireworks I wasn’t completely unprepared (compared to my first Lightning Shots of 2011 with my Sigma DP1) and in anticipation I bought a crappy little “flex-bendi” type of tripod for a couple of bucks.
Lions Park is a great community park and for the Independence Day celebrations it was very crowded. I spotted numerous tripods and folks with their DSLR’s setting up at the south-end of the park where the firworks were going to be launched. Great close-up views, however I really didn’t want a baseball field with fencing , batting cages and huge stadium-style sodium/mercury-vapor lamps as my back-drop for the fireworks.
I also wasn’t too fond of the idea having porter potties in the frame. So I followed one of my golden rules to find a spot where no photographer was to be found – and that was a little bit away, to the north of the park. Luckily there was a great sign-post there where I could clamp the mini-tripod onto…
After finding my ideal spot for photographing the fireworks, I headed back to the spot where we set up our lawn chairs and simply enjoyed a great mid-western Independence Day celebration until the fireworks began.
First Lightning Storm Shots 2011 with Sigma DP1 in Indiana:
Today we went on a family trip to the Wolf Park, near Battle Ground, Indiana to let the kids howl with the wolves. Unfortunately, we could not make it to the Watermelon Party but instead we decided to attend a Howl Night.
The Wolf Park is a great place to take the kids; they can have fun and learn about nature and the wolves. Here is a great article about the Wolf Park from the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Just as the Howl Night was beginning thunder started to roll in and a nice summer storm was forming. Luckily, I brought my Sigma DP1 but I did not bring any kind of tripod. Fortunately I found a 4×4 fence post that I could re-purpose as a tripod.
To make sure to get sharp photos I set the Sigma DP1 to Self Timer to 2 Seconds which should be plenty of time to press the shutter and let go of the camera once it is propped up.
Setting the bracketing mode to “Auto Bracketing +- 0.3″ is also helpful since you only have to press the shutter every 3rd exposure (which is nice once you are in the 15 second exposure territory). The only painful thing is having to watch the lightning when the DP1 is writing the files – It feels like eternity. The difference in exposure of 0.3 EV up or down can easily be corrected in post processing – no big deal.
As you can see lightning shots at daylight are possible without a lightning trigger. You just have to take a hell of a lot of exposures to catch one… ISO 50 at F/11 will give you about a 2 second window.
Next time I will make sure to remember to bring a ND filter to slow things down while the sun is still above the horizon…
I have to say, that in this particular case I really like the feel of ISO 50 at F/11 processed in Sigma Photo Pro 4.1. ISO 50 may cause to loose some highlight details, however ISO 50 gives the image great tonalities and the Foveon 3D Look.
Battle Ground, Indiana is about 50 miles NW of where we are staying and just as Howl Night ended the Thunderstorm unleashed and followed us home to Zionsville. On the way home, of course, we had to stop for a potty break and I found an opportunity to take another shot, this time I rested the Sigma DP1 on a big electrical box and used the key chain of the rental car to prop the camera up to get a little more upward angle. At this point I dialed the ISO up to 100.
Finally, as I was starting to write this post, the storm caught up with us again and I had to take a break to step outside to take a couple of shots. This time the neighbors mailbox made due as a tripod…
I was all worried about missing out on some monsoon storms at home in Arizona, however Photo-Fortuna and the Wolves have been very nice to me.
Now that I caught a little dose of “Storm Chasing” I cannot wait to get back for the Arizona Monsoon Season.
I processed these images on my 6 year old Toshiba Portege with Sigma PhotoPro 4.1 and have no clue how the colors will come out on your end.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that you should check out the Flickr Wolf Park, Battle Ground, Indiana Group.
Shooting Lowriders with Carlos Valencia,
As a kid growing up in Austria during the 70’s almost all American cop shows seemed fascinating to me. I particularly remember begging my mother to stay up to watch reruns of “The Streets of San Francisco”. I was visually struck by the huge buildings, huge palm trees, and all of the gigantic cars. Everything was so different from what was so familiar to me in Europe. This was probably the time when I started to develop my love for Americana.
Of course, growing up in Austria and Germany I was very jealous that the legal age to drive a car was sixteen and it completely sucked having to wait two additional years just to be able to get a driver license.
Finally, the day arrived when I turned eighteen and I got my first car. Don’t get me wrong, it was exiting to drive this 82 VW Rabbit (slightly underpowered with 50 horses), however I kept dreaming about driving around in a big 73 Chevy Impala Coupe…
My love for cars stuck with me until today and my childhood dreams came true after moving to the US. Oh yeah, I got to own and drive a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible…
Now, my love of cars has found its way into my love of photography.
Last week I was able to photograph the 1955 Chevy 210 Farewell Photo Shoot for a friend of mine… but it did not stop there…
I also had the opportunity tag along and shoot some Lowriders with Carlos Valencia at a gathering of the Intruders Car Club.
Here are a couple of frames of the photo shoot I was able to grab while looking over Carlos’ shoulders. Everything shot was made with a Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC Lens, one light (Paul C Buff – AlienBees AB-1600 through a medium sized white Photoflex Umbrella powered by a Vagabond II) triggered by Pocketwizards.
…and yes I was listening to War as I processed these shots.
Last week-end my good friend John treated his four-door 1955 Chevy Model 210, 235 straight six with three-on-the tree to a day at the spa. She got rubbed with clay, then buffed and waxed by hand.
John has owned this beauty for a long, long time; I believe over two decades of which 16 years she served as his daily driver. Oh how I wished she could tell stories. My dear wife got to ride in this very same Chevy back in the high-school days.
Being stored for quite some time, she recently received a new starter, rebuilt carburetor, and a number of other bits. She is looking and feeling good…
A new chapter in John’s life is about to begin; and another one will come to a close… Now the Chevy is looking to become a part of somebody elses life-chapter, but before that happens John wanted to take some pictures for memory-lane over at my house.
John took a couple of shots in ambient light only, which you can see on his flickr stream and I seezed that opportunity to light this beautyiful car with John in it using my Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 bouncing it into a 86 inch parabolic umbrella (PLM™v.2: Parabolic Light Modification System). To spice things up we placed a Nikon SB-800 with a 1/4 CTO warming-gel inside a bare-bulb difuser-globe on the passenger seat to warm things up. The baby blue interior is very cool looking but it cast a blue light on John’s face and the warming gel counteracted that beautifully. The Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 was powered by the Vagabond Mini and triggered with the Cyber Commader (which works perfectly now after the “random-reboot repair”), the Nikon SB-800 inside the car was set to slave mode (SU-4).
Lighting and photographing cars à la strobist can be tricky since you get all kinds of reflections from the glossy paint and chrome surfaces, but after trying a couple compositions I found some angles where I could avoid the huge light reflecting in the paint, chrom or glass and found what I was looking for. At certain angles the reflection of the light modifiers can look horrible, especially when they reflect in the glass. This is the best time to get your notes out from Physics class and remember the two laws of reflection:
There are two Laws of Reflection:
- The incident ray,the reflected ray and normal lie in the same plane at the point of incidence.
- The angle of incidence is always equal to the angle of reflection.
If memorizing theory and physics is not your cup of tee then just do what I did. Look through the viefinder, move around until you don’t see any reflections of the light modifier (in my case the 86 inch PLM Parbolic Umbrella from Alien Bees). At some angles you’ll never be able to completely avoid the reflection of your light and then it is best to frame the shot in a way to have the catch light in areas where the reflection is more pleasing and less pronounced.
John I don’t know how you are coping with the fact that you are selling this car. All these memories over all these years. Honestly I would not able to do it.. and I am glad I had the chance to make some of the last photos of her together with you.
I sure hope she’ll find a good home…
Assignment 4 – Photographing an Entrepreneur:
Lighting Essentials Project 52’s fourth assignment was to shoot a local Entrepreneur for a vertical full page lead or cover 8×11.5, leaving enough room for a Title. The Forbes Magazine type of thing… Environmental Portraits..
Shooting to the provided layout of the Title was optional, but I made a conscious effort to frame the shot accordingly. For the assignment I had to deliver
2 photographs, the entrepreneur’s business description (faux, of course) and a paragraph that explains what the entrepreneur has done within their industry. They will both be vertical. One close up in environment, and one in a more expansive shot with more environment. We also would like to see your shoot planning docs, any sketches you are working with or have done for this image, and a lighting explanation
But let me tell you there is nothing Faux about the Entrepreneur I photographed:
For those of you that don’t know Ronald Cortez (also known as Ron), he was born in the heartland of the coffee growing region Costa Rica. Throughout his life he’s developed an attraction to all things coffee. Being the son of a plantation worker, who was also the son of a plantation worker, gave Ron Cortez the absolute inside scoop on the coffee industry.
Ron was practically born in a coffee field and for the past thirty years he as been involved in the coffee industry in every aspect. The last fifteen years he has dedicated to running a highly successful coffee roasting company, Cafe Cortez.
Not only is Ron importing and roasting green coffee, he has also became a pillar of the Metro Phoenix Coffee House Culture. As mentor and educator in all-things-coffee, Ron Cortez teaches about green beans, roasting, brewing methods and how to go about “cupping coffee”.
After all, life is too short and there is no time for secrets. In the Entrepreneurial spirit, Ron Cortez is not holding back and is always willing to share with anybody who is interested in Coffee, entrepreneur and consumer a like.
Lighting diagram and set-up notes:
The shoot took place inside the warehouse of Café Cortez and I used one PCB Einstein 640 with a 30×60 Softbox. I postitioned the soft box to the left of the coffee bags on the pallette infront of the roaster. I placed another PCB Einstein 640 with the 8.5 inch reflector hiding it behind the roaster. To the right of the roaster I positioned a large silver reflector (oval 48×72). Of course there had to be a small glitch and discovered that my Paul C. Buff Cyber Commander was spontanously rebooting and the lights kept loosing sync. Changing the frequency on the Einsteins, setting them manually and using the CST trigger solved that problem. Set up and takedown was acomplished rather quickly (except I hate the assembly/disassembly of the large softbox – perhaps time to switch to a foldable one) and I did not have to worry about finding a poweroutlet.
Project 52, Assignment #3 Still Life – Editorial
The third Assignment of Project 52 was to photograph a simple small Still Life with some special requirements. This image needed to be small enough to fit into a 8 x 8 format, pretending that this photo would be used editorial, as the cover for a brochure.
The emphasis was to produce a Still Life and not a product shot.
I thought to myself, but aren’t great product shots also nicely composed Still Lifes’? Reading further in the Project 52 Assignment Three instructions, Don Giannatti explains the subtle difference between the two:
“The point is sometimes to be a bit more ‘artistic’ and we don’t have to concern ourselves with showing a label, or something that is part of a product that is branded.”
After brainstorming a little bit about what to shoot and how to compose a still life I came to the conclusion that I wanted to create an image with a little bit of “sizzle”, after all the assignment was called Project 52, Assignment #3 Still Life and NOT “Still Death”.
Remembering a blog post by Atlanta-based Photographer Alex Koloskov, Water in Product and Advertisement Photography, I wanted to implement and build on that idea. After further contemplating this idea I almost did not do do it because thinking about all the stuff I did not have for this shot was starting to take the wind out of my sails. No Studio, no shooting table, no cinema foil, no flags, not enough stands and last but not least NO fish tank. But liking that idea so much it became clear that I could do this on a much smaller scale. Not in the studio – on my dining room table, with the stuff I already have. The only thing I did not have was a fish tank.
Fish tanks aren’t so expensive if you get a small one (2.5 Gallons) – So I went to the pet store and got mine for less than $15.00 bucks, stopped at the hardware store and bought small suction cups and wire. The last stop was the grocery store – 1 jug of distilled water, 2 bottles of club soda and one Green Jalapeno. The check out clerk looked at me with “Really?” written all over her face.
When I got home I started to set up the shot on my dining room table. I put the fish tank on a larger box to get some height (I did not feel like using several light stands). Then I cut a piece of wire, squeezed it around the small suction cup. The other end of the wire was bent to a small “hook” and I poked it right into the pepper. I prefer not having to doctor my shots in Photoshop and sticking the pepper on the far side of the glass with the wire-and-suction-cup-method worked very well. Checking through the viewfinder, the pepper concealed the wire and suction-cup perfectly.
Having the set rigged up, it was time to set up the lights and do a couple of dry-shots. All I used was two Speed Lights (one Nikon SB-800 and one Nikon SB-900), one 45 inch convertible white umbrella, one grid, one 32 inch 5-1 reflector disc, two pieces of household aluminum foil and two gels from the rosco strobist collection (one red and one orange)
After I dialed in my light and the “dry” shots looked really good, it was time to fill the tank. Since the tank was brand new it was perfectly clean. The first gallon of distilled water went in and the tip of the pepper was submerged. Pouring in the first bottle of club soda the pepper started to float up, of course I did not put into the equation that peppers are hollow, but squeezing it and letting it suck itself full of water solved the problem. Finally the fish tank was full and the pepper in place. But there was another problem. There were too many bubbles sticking on the near side of the tank. Not having one of those aquarium-cleaner-thingamajigs handy I used a silicon cooking spatula and started to “squeegee” off the excess bubbles – and it worked.
Filing the fish tank with water changed the light and exposure significantly. Of course I did not keep in mind that:
“when light travels from a denser to a less dense medium, such as water to air, there is a critical angle of incidence beyond which the light will be total internally reflected at the internal surface of the water rather than refracted out into the air”
The best way I can describe it in plain English is that the glass-bottom of the tank mirror turned into a giant mirror.
So I dialed the light down, added a couple of makeshift flags to my umbrella (I tapped the black cover of my reflector disc to the umbrella on the side closer to the camera, I used the outer black cover of another umbrella as a flag to prevent light spilling on the back ground) and clipped a piece of aluminum foil on the right side of the tank for a little bounce.
Finally I taped the orange and red gel in a criss-cross fashion over the grid.
I took plenty of shots and changed the exposure and direction of the back-ground light to get different effects.
All in all I spent about 3 hours shooting this jalapeno-pepper. Post processing was done in 10 minutes, picking a shot of the many was probably the most time consuming.
Here is what I took away from Project 52, Assignment #3 Still Life:
- Big complex set-ups can be scaled down and simplified
- Combining a Fish Tank, a Jalapeno Pepper and lots of Club Soda can be very entertaining
- Framing a shot correctly and to the assignment specifications in the camera will save you a lot of time in post production and lay-out
Project 52, Assignment #2 Photograph a Stranger
Assignment two at project52.org was to photograph a stranger. I must say this particular assignment was an eyeopener.
I am sure that any photographer, professional or amateur, has suffered from some form of “photography-block” – including me. No inspiration, no motivation and the list goes on and on and then come all the excuses as to why you cannot take any “great” images.
Let me tell you, participating in a photography project will definitely help open your photographic eye, especially if your are not shooting on a regular basis
The assignment of photographing a total stranger was very liberating. At first I had no idea where to go, what gear to take and who to ask to photograph. But then I said to myself “screw it” and I put the 50mm prime on my camera, grabbed my smallest reflector disc (32 inch) and jumped into my car and started to drive.
Not really having a plan as to where to go I ended up at a park near my house and decided to get out of the car to look around and see whom I could ask to photograph – and there I saw this frail and elderly slow-walking man walking with a cane. I nervously approached him and asked him if I could have a moment of his time. Explaining my assignment to him, without hesitation he agreed to let me photograph him and take his portrait. And then there it was, a moment hard to describe – but it was a special moment, looking through the viewfinder, seeing a simple man who has probably endured a lot of pain, seemed full of wisdom and hope and perseverance.
At first I kept focusing only on his face wanting to just take a tight head shot but then I noticed the long shadows cast by him and some street lamps intersecting the path. Instead of waisting time trying to get this stranger into a pose I simply moved around to find a frame – The only words of instrucions from me were “Just be yourself…”
Hard to explain, but it simply clicked and I thought i just captured “it”.
After I took this picture, José told me that he was staying with his daughter and he had to stay close to his house in case there was an emergency. Jose just had a stroke about three months ago and his doctor told him that it was good for him to go on short walks.
I asked him if he would like a print of the photograph I took, but he said: “No – that’s o.k.” Then I thanked him for his time and we parted ways. This all took place in less than 2 minuts.
After the encounter with José I strolled a little bit longer around in the park and photographed three more strangers.
Wow, this assignment was quite liberating and a profound experience.
Now I know what Don Giannatti meant when he said;
Photographing someone you don’t know can be a scary proposition for many of us. I am fairly shy, or at least not that comfortable with walking up to someone and striking up a conversation. I usually will not do that.
UNLESS… I have my camera around my neck or in my hand. When I am ‘a photographer’ I can easily and without hesitation walk up to people and ask to make their picture. I do it a lot, actually.
Here is what I took away from Assignment Two, Photographing a Stranger:
Assignment two very well could be the holy grail to overcoming lack of inspiration, lack of creativity and/or motivation – at least for me.
My little boy atTolmachoff Farms. Shot with my uncle’s Nikon FTn on 400TMAX, scanned directly from negative, no post-processing.