I knew I would find myself back in Kamakura sooner or later. In fact, I even mentioned I looked forward to a return visit upon planning another route in my last walkthrough around the historic city. Just as Fall colors entered their season, I decided it was time to give it another shot. As luck would have it, though, I quickly found the day to be mostly overcast and rainy. Granted, this made it easier for getting deeper colors in the foliage (and avoiding those pesky hard shadows), but as many know, I’m a sucker for deep blue skies and fluffy clouds in my images. Continue Reading
It’s a Christmas miracle! No, I’m not dead after all. However, the firm grip of graduate school has my schedule tied up in all sorts of knots. To make a long story short, I have found it nearly impossible to take time to pursue any photography endeavors lately, even paid opportunities. When you’re in five school music ensembles, preparing auditions for military bands, and still squeezing in a couple academic classes on top, any free time quickly gets assigned to eating and sleeping.
Sob story out of the way, I never know when I may get more free time. It may even be as soon as this coming semester, and I may also have more paid opportunities to persuade me to make more time for my secondary passion for photography. Regardless, I am so close to catching up with all my previous work. After this post, I just have to put together the last quarter of my grossly-overdue 2014 Project 52 (which may end up being posted in early 2015, whoops!), and I’m all set! Continue Reading
Just like last week’s installment of my 2014 Project 52, I am working one bit at a time towards getting this past summer’s photographs organized and uploaded. On one weekend in-between a three-week sports camp photography gig, my family and I traveled only a few hours north to the small town of Nashville, IN just for the sake of going.
Nestled in the southern portion of Indiana, downtown Nashville is full of dozens upon dozens of artisan shops, stores, and eateries. Surrounded by trees and gardens, each block of the town looks something akin to this:
In the world of fast primes, not often are the specs of “200mm” and “f/2” combined in the description of a single lens. Inherently large and heavy, the ultra-fast design of a 200mm f/2 has long enabled photographers to effectively shoot telephoto in very low light as well as create stunning subject separation simply not possible with a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom. Though the available light advantage afforded by the f/2 aperture is somewhat offset by the high-ISO abilities of modern digital sensors, the extra depth-of-field control still has its place in creative photography. Additionally, when used on an APS-C sensor camera like the NEX-7, a 200mm f/2 helpfully acts as a 300mm f/2.8 would on a full-frame camera.
Though it should come as no surprise, telephoto primes such as the Nikon 200mm f/2 are somewhat bulky and cumbersome even used with a suitable DSLR like a d300 with its vertical grip. When a lens of this caliber is mounted onto a comparatively tiny mirrorless camera such as the Sony NEX-7, the combination looks outright comical. That said, it is far more important to see how the lens performs in front of an unforgiving 24-megapixel APS-C sensor in making photographs rather than how the kit may turn heads at an event. Read on to find out how the 200mm f/2 stacks up as the professional fast telephoto it aims to be. As always, if you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, please read up on this post first! Continue Reading
If you are unfamiliar with this continuing series, please start HERE first!
I have gone through a good amount of photographs requiring the “mind’s eye” style of editing over the past six months, despite my lack of posts in this fun series. The reason I haven’t written posts on any of them? They all fell along somewhat similar processing paths to established examples I have already written about (nevermind the plethora of schoolwork and non-artsy photo assignments, mind you). Before I posted again here I wanted to find something truly different that challenged not only my shooting style but my very way of editing in Lightroom 5.
Why not give astrophotography a try? Easy! I…
a) …do not have a full-frame camera with high sensitivity capabilities (looking at you, Sony A7s)
b) …still do not own any form of a fast wide-angle lens
c) …do not have any form of a tracking mount, including the cheap “barn-door” contraptions
d) …stay up late completing other assignments anyway!
All this said, I couldn’t resist jumping at the chance to create something truly unique and new. Though the following may be old news to many star-gazers out there, fresh trails from the comet 209P/LINEAR intersected with Earth’s orbit early in the morning hours of May 24, 2014 (2-4 a.m.). Originally, 100-400 meteor streaks per hour were forecast, but the actual turnout for many in the northeastern hemisphere was a disappointment at best.
That night I drove out to the most realistically remote location I could to look north in-between two towns for the best chance of reduced light pollution. The meteor shower was forecast to come from the north, but the 3-4 fireballs (yes, that’s right, only a few…) I did see with my own eyes came from all directions. Odd.
Regardless, I blindly set up my tripod and NEX-7 with the Zeiss 32mm to point at various spots on the horizon in the hopes of capturing not only a good landscape, but with luck some star trails and a meteor fireball. I must say that metering and focusing in complete darkness is a disaster for a camera with an EVF and a lens without a hard infinity focus stop. Once I locked in my settings, however, I was good to go.
The first couple shots both looking out at the horizon and the Milky Way turned out alright for photographs without a tracking mount, but I wanted to go for a long-exposure shot to give me the best chance at capturing a long meteor streak, as well as curving star trails. Looking in my manual, I learned that bulb mode on my camera goes as long as the camera’s battery lasts, so with a fresh battery I finally settled on a field with a pond enclosed by recognizable black wood fences, all set against the north sky.
The straight-out-of-camera shot was, as you could probably guess, pretty boring, flat, and seemingly useless:
As a matter of fact, I nearly tossed this photograph out while editing some other shots from that night. But oh, the saving graces of shooting in RAW! There are so many possibilities for non-destructive photo manipulation with even the flattest of files.
For this shot, I decreased the exposure by a stop, and applied two graduated filters to the sky to manage contrast and clarity. This boosted the appearances of the star trails against a darker sky. Since the foreground was then very underexposed, I worked with basic tonal adjustments in shadow and black recovery without affecting the sky. To get rid of vignetting and distortion, I applied LR’s own lens profile (very handy!), and fine-tuned the vignetting removal to get a more homogenous image. To recover lost detail in the far treeline, I applied a light shadow boost brush. For all my best efforts of shooting in a remote location, there is still obvious light pollution from a neighboring car manufacturing plant (despite being over 15 miles away). To mitigate this harsh contrast of colors from ground light to sky light, I subtly altered the individual saturation channels to avoid harsh gradations in color transitions. I also cooled the white balance to a more night-friendly 3500k. The final result? A photo I feel is much more suited to share rather than toss aside:
*Ahem*, that’s not a typo on the duration the photo was made. I left my shutter open for well over 66 minutes to make this photograph. This much elapsed time, combined with the orientation of the camera around the north star, created the long and curving star trails you see above, in addition to the odd colored patches of hot pixels. And hey! If you look closely you can see that a single meteor crossed the top of the image during my exposure! I almost wrote this streak off as a passing jet plane when I began editing this photo. However, planes usually do not fly over this area at this time of night (photo made between 3-4 a.m.), at 100% view at 24 megapixels I cannot find any telltale flashing lights that indicate a plane’s identity, and surely only the brightness of a flaming meteor could have made this bright a streak during a 66-minute exposure! EDIT: Due to the uniformity of the streak, it may very well be a highly-reflective satellite, as a meteor streak this long should show changes in luminosity and color.
I could very well be wrong, but either way I can still dream! Speaking of which, I made the unfortunate mistake of falling asleep in my car while making this exposure, a funny accident that led to the exposure time (originally planned for only 30 minutes).
It’s a shame to read that this meteor shower was a one-off deal. Due to Jupiter’s gravity, the comet’s trail will be pulled out of Earth’s orbit to never be seen again. At the same time, it is awfully exciting to know I possibly captured one of the few witnessed meteors from a once-in-a-lifetime event.
All of this on the night before college graduation. At 9:30 a.m. Yep. That’s photography and I, all right.
My life has seen a world of firsts over just the past month. From college graduation to a senior recital, and individual portrait sessions to my first wedding photography experience, the last month has been a whirlwind of activity. Everything seems to just be getting better, however, as I am pursuing more freelance work in photography in lieu of a traditional “summer job” for work over the next few months. There are possibilities for more weddings, portrait sessions, and events, so this site—and my shutter finger—may be nice and busy as time goes on!
Regardless, another “first” that I participated in last week was my first engagement shoot with a couple I graduated with at Transylvania University. They make for a very happy, sometimes silly, couple that was a blast to photograph during our 1.5-hour session. Per request, the majority of shots were largely informal, with most poses forming naturally with only a little pre-guidance from me. I have found with not only my wedding portraits but individual shoots that giving subjects general direction for poses, without specifically telling them “put your hand/foot here or there” too much works very well for relaxing everyone and making photographs that are more organic. Continue Reading
Some time, sooner or later, I knew I would get into wedding photography. With my experience the past few years shooting events and sports primarily from a candid perspective, the pursuit of more freelance work with portraiture and weddings was the next natural step.
So, when presented the opportunity to be the primary photographer for a country wedding, I jumped at the chance, despite the fact that at the time I was preparing a musically intense senior recital for my undergraduate degree in music education. But hey, I do love a good challenge, and this one was no exception—with time management a chief concern.
Regardless, after much research on wedding photography articles and ensuring I had the proper gear to take on anything an outdoor wedding could throw at me, I felt more and more confident as the wedding day grew nearer. Along with backup photographer and lighting assistant Chase Bullock, we were set for a successful day of shooting.
And succeed we did! All in all, I whittled down a large batch of files from three cameras in Lightroom 5 to a solid pool of 500 images. Obviously I don’t have the bandwidth on this site to post them all (and I would not expect any reader to want to look through the whole set!), so below are 42 selections from this pool that span the course of the wedding day. Continue Reading