Category Archives: Bodie

My Photographic Niche

If you’ve followed any of my work you’ve probably noticed by now that I am hooked on a few subjects.  Landscapes have always been a passion of mine.  Military aircraft, especially WWII Warbirds on display in an air museum or an air show are something I really enjoy.  But lately I’d have to say that my niche is black and white photography.  It’s not that I’ve lost interest in my other photographic interests, black and white has just taken a front row seat.

One of the benefits of black and white is that I can still work on my landscapes and also the aircraft.  Since I shoot about 95% color (I do switch the camera over to black and white occasionally), I have the best of both worlds.  It’s after I’ve taken the shot and have it available for post production that I can begin to transform it.  Sometimes when I’m out and working a scene I can even picture it in black and white. Ansel Adams described this as previsualization where he defines it as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.  This may sound a little corny, but it works for me.  There are some scenes that just seem to cry out to me – “black and white”!

Here’s an example.  This shot is of the Imperial Beach Pier, just south of San Diego.  Whenever I’m down in the area I try to make a sunset photo side trip.  I was trying out my new Sony RX100 and got lucky to have a very pretty sunset.

Not bad, and I think most folks would probably just leave it as is.  But there was just something about it that made me wonder what it would look like in black and white.  I think the result gives this shot a completely different mood.  It’s been transformed from light, colorful and even cheery to dark, moody, and somber.

There’s one more aspect to my black and white obsession, and that’s adding a vintage look. I’ve been fortunate to have access a family travelogue from the early 1900’s. The book is called “Around Arizona” and chronicles my great-grandparents and very young grandfather’s 1000 mile journey around a very rough and wild Arizona. Being over 100 years old it’s not in the best shape and I’m in the process of scanning all of the pages and copying the photos. I’ve always admired vintage photos and like to study them to try and duplicate their unique look and feel. Having access to some that have a direct family connection is just icing on the cake.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

As you can see, this photo is far from perfect. It’s faded, scratched, blotched, etc… etc… And I think it’s absolutely perfect with all of it’s imperfections. Looking at it takes me back to simpler time, when there were no superhighways, no air conditioned cars, no fast food. Photography was very primitive compared to what we have today. The camera my great grandmother used for this shot was an Eastman-Kodak No.1 Pocket Camera. It used A-120 roll film and had an autographic feature that allowed the photographer to actually write a note on the back of each frame of film using a little stylus.

That’s enough history. My point in sharing all of that is to say that I use this as my inspiration to further transform some of my photos into something similar, something with that same vintage look and feel. I’m not always entirely successful, but I enjoy the challenge. Here’s one of my more recent images:

To sum it up, I’d say that black and white, including vintage images have more character than those technically perfect shots that are cranked out today. There’s nothing wrong with a perfect digital shot that is flawless down to the last pixel, but most of them lack character, or a soul. A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to convey a feeling, a mood, or tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with those that want to create that technically perfect image. I’m just going in a different direction, towards my niche.

If you like black and white photography and want to see more, check out my new Black and White Gallery!

That’s it for this post. I hope you find your photographic niche! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Old Camera, New Tricks!

Catchy title, don’t you think?  Actually the camera I’m referring to in this case is my Olympus E-P3.  While it may only be a few years old now, in the world of electronics (including cameras), this is almost ancient!

As time goes on all things electronic evolve.  In the never ending quest to keep people buying their products, camera manufacturers continue to up the ante.  The E-P3 had many things going for it, especially the retro look and feel.  The camera was built very solid and felt good in your hands.  And it looked very cool too!  One of the techie features that I liked was the in-body image stabilization.  The only complaints I remember reading about was that the E-P3’s image sensor (12mp) was getting old and could/should have been updated.  But even with a “dated” sensor there was plenty of praise for the image quality just the same.

I’ve had my E-P3 for a couple years now, and even though I’ve added a newer camera to my collection, I find myself drawn to the E-P3.  For our 3 week trip to the Eastern Sierra this year I brought my newer Olympus E-M5, Canon 60D, and E-P3.  The 60D stayed in the bag and in the motorhome for the entire trip.  My main shooter was the E-M5, but the E-P3 went everywhere that the E-M5 did.  At 1st I put the 14-42mm kit lens on the E-P3 and figured that I’d just keep it in the bag for backup.  I did end up taking some pictures with it and was pleased overall with what I ended up with.  It was then when I got to thinking that maybe I could use the E-P3 for more than backup.

One of the things I try to do when photographing a landscape scene is the look for something to help make it pop.  Clouds, beautiful golden light, or a unique perspective.  Not necessarily a gimmick, but rather something to help tell the story of my composition.  And it turns out that I had something in the camera bag that would help with this perfectly!  The Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye lens!

The fisheye is definitely unique.  It provides a very wide, and somewhat distorted point of view.  It’s not something that you want to use all time, but it is fun to experiment with.  And since I had my main camera setup for serious shooting, I could play with my E-P3 and Rokinon all I wanted.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the E-M5, but there was something hard to describe about picking up and using the E-P3 again.  It was fun!

My E-P3 has been with me for 2 years of shooting.  Sometimes it hasn’t been pleasant.  Not the camera, but what it has had to go though.  I’ve taken on hikes, in the rain, and snow.  It’s gotten soaked, and dropped twice.  I had some cuts and bruises but I healed.  My poor little E-P3 still has its battle scars.  There are a few nicks and dings on its body, and the pop-up flash doesn’t work anymore.  But it still fires up and takes pictures like a champ, and I think I love it even more now!

That’s enough of me singing the praises of the E-P3, here are some photos from its last outing:

That’s it for this post. Until next time, Happy Shooting!

Before and After

Before and After

It’s been too long since my last post!  Starting a new position (same Company) and the time change, and-and-and….  The extra time has allowed me to think this post through and hopefully it will help those interested in HDR.

The images above are of the same old truck, they were just processed differently and at different times.  The photo was taken at Bodie, a Ghost Town in California.  The only changes to the original below was to convert it from RAW to Jpeg and resizing.

Old Truck, Original, Sony NEX3

Overall, it’s not bad!  I used my Sony NEX3 for this and I think it handled the overhead harsh light quite nicely.  The settings I used were Aperture Priority, f/5.0, 1/500 sec., ISO 200.  I exaggerated the angle of the truck to give it a low to high perspective and a unique non-traditional point of view.

At the time I made this image, I was just getting interested in HDR photography, but didn’t really know much about it.  My thoughts were to make things as “grungy” as possible.  So, I really worked this old truck.  Since this was a single RAW file, I need to use it as a base to create the extra exposures needed for processing (Pseudo HDR).  It’s actually pretty easy to do, using programs such as Adobe’s Camera RAW or Lightroom (or several others).  Below is a screenshot of the Old Truck in Camera RAW:

Old Truck in Camera RAW

As you can see in the image above, there are quite a few adjustments you can make prior to exporting the image to your photo editor (Photoshop in my case).  The most important one to the Pseudo HDR process is the “Exposure” slider.  The exposure is currently “0”, meaning this is exactly as it was recorded in the camera.  The beauty of using RAW is being able to make adjustments to previous camera settings.  The RAW file could be considered a Digital Negative.  Click on this link to read more about RAW files.

Change the exposure in any increment you’d like + or – up to 2 stops, saving each increment as another image file.  I like to use Tiff files at this stage of the game.  You can create as many as you’d like, but for me I usually do them 1 stop apart both + and -, with 5 total images to work with.

Next, import all of your images into Photomatix or your favorite HDR processing program.  Below is a screenshot of the images merged for tone mapping in Photomatix:

Tone Mapping in Photomatix

If you compare the original RAW image to the one being tone mapped in Photomatix, you’ll already notice improvements in color, clarity, and shadow detail.  And another area of improvement is the white puffy clouds.  They seem to have more pronounced detail without being over done.

Another thing to notice in the Photomatix screen shot are all of the adjustment slider on the left and some of the presets on the right.  This is where you can either keep it real or in some cases, over-cook an image.  Since this isn’t a tutorial on using Photomatix, I’ll keep it short and say that I now stay away from the presets, and simply adjust the sliders until I get close to what I’m looking for.  Once the tone mapping process is done, you can save your newly merged and tone mapped image and bring it into your favorite photo editor for some final tweaks.

The image below is what the truck looked like after some heavy handed Photoshop adjustments:

Old Truck in Photoshop

Is there anything really wrong with this version of the Old Truck?  No, not really.  It boils down to personal taste.  While I was pleased with it at the time, I’m no longer interested in over doing the HDR, preferring instead to keep things somewhat real.

Here’s a short run-down of my “keeping it real” process.  I imported a version of the Old Truck into Photoshop that had some of the original features I wanted to retain, in this case it would be the sky.

Next, I copied that image, and pasted it into my work-in-progress as another layer.  Finally, I added a layer mask, picked a paint brush from the tools and painted away the parts of the image I wanted to keep the HDR look and left out the parts I wanted to keep real.  Here’s a screenshot of what that looked like in Photoshop:

Old Truck, Layers and Masks

There are already a lot of great tutorials on-line so I’m not going to go into specific detail.      If you like to actually see someone demonstrating this technique, I suggest going to Youtube and doing a search.  You’ll find more short videos on this subject than you may care to watch.

The main thing to know about using layers and masks is that you have the ability to blend in any part of one image with any other part of a separate image.  The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

And finally, here’s my newly re-processed version of the Old Truck:

Old Truck, Final version

Personally, I like this version much more than my original attempt.  It has both HDR elements that add some great texture and detail in the shadow areas, and just a touch of grunge without over doing it.  The other thing I like is the sky.  It’s much more real than my 1st version.  The clouds are puffy and slightly dreamy looking, not harsh and over done.

That’s it for this post!  Don’t be bashful, share your thoughts, questions, or comments.

Until next time, Happy Shooting!