As I mentioned yesterday, I spent some time this weekend working on an idea for a dpchallenge.com contest. Afterwards, having cleaned up my lighting setup and put the dining table back in order, I decided to play around a bit with the cranes I had made. This is one of the results.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: tungsten WB preset; curve for contrast and tone; decreased overall color saturation.
Thoughts for improvement: This was a pretty off-the-cuff shot, so clearly it's not perfect. The main thing is that there is too much in the frame. The table surface is kind of pleasant, but it doesn't really add to the shot, and the runner on the table and the wall you can see in the background also detract. I'd like to see what it would look like if I took the persimmons and cranes and put them against a flat white background.
I did this one for the "Complementary Colors V" contest at dpchallenge.com--as you might imagine, the theme for that contest was to use two complementary colors. Unfortunately, I missed the submission deadline by about fifteen minutes.
I feel like every time I set out to make a pre-planned, studio-type shot, I end up frustrated. I'm used to heading out the door with a location and a vague concept, and just seeing what I can find. I like opening myself up to possibilities and seeing what I can find. But when I start with a clear vision for an image and actually move the furniture in my kitchen around to make some studio space, things just never work out the way I planned. Moreover, I'm just never all that happy with the end result. This shot isn't bad, I don't think, but there's something about the textures and the lighting that just feel amateurish to me.
Still, I guess the only way to improve is to keep at it.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, and Nikon SB-400 flash. Manual exposure mode and manual flash mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/500 sec, ISO 400. Flash is set to (I think) 1/64 power, and positioned at camera left, just below the level of the table. Post-processing in Aperture 3: Hold Highlights preset; curve to increase contrast; added edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: I don't really know what this shot needs. Something different with the lighting, but I don't know what. Maybe multiple lights, with a hard key and some diffuse fill, maybe a snooted light to make a really hard shadow. Anyone with suggestions, I'd love to hear them.
With both our Christmas card shoot and a family trip coming soon, Juliette and I decided it was time to get Jason's hair cut. Last month I took him to the stylist on my own and he ended up with such a slight trim that you couldn't even tell he got it cut. This month, Juliette was there and so he got a real haircut. I think it makes him look older. I swear, sometimes I can hardly believe that less than two years ago he couldn't even stand up.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/800, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve for highlight recovery; separate curve for slight contrast increase; dodged over the shadowy side of his face and a bit down his left sleeve; burned over the bright side of his face; burned the background.
Thoughts for improvement: The tree trunk to the left and behind him is a little distracting; ideally, it wouldn't be there. A 4x5 crop might also look good, excluding much of the space above his head. Not sure about that one--on my laptop monitor the leaves add some nice texture, but on my desktop monitor they're just a dark smear and could be excluded. I think some fill light on the left side (his left) of his face would also be good, though it's hard to get a two-year-old to sit still while you get a reflector in place.
Yesterday the family accompanied me on a jaunt around San Diego's coastal areas as I did some location scouting for our family holiday photo shoot next weekend. We stopped in La Jolla for a short walk by the cove, and I grabbed a few pictures of the sea lions. Jason particularly liked their barking--all the way back to the car he shouted "Ar! Ar! I'm a sea lion!"
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/250 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: orange filter BW preset; curve for highlight recovery and black point; second curve for tone and contrast; slight dodge in the lower right corner; burned over the highlights in the rock and sea lion; intensify contrast adjustment brushed in over the water.
Thoughts for improvement: I would have liked to see this one at f/8-1/125-400 or maybe f/11-1/125-800. I had a fair amount of trouble nailing the focus and in any case I'd prefer more depth of field. As far as timing, I'm a bit torn. I really like the texture of the water above the spray, but it might have been a bit more dramatic if I could have waited for a bigger wave.
There's a New Sheriff In Town
Are you eyeballing him? Believe me, this is one hombre you do not want to mess with.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: auto WB, picked from the white on his vest; curve to bring up exposure, dodged over his face; burned the background; desaturated yellows; added heavy vignetting.
Thoughts for improvement: I tried to get rid of the heavy shadow that runs across his nose and cheek, but couldn't do it in a way that looked natural. That's one thing I'd change. I ultimately opted to keep this one in color, but there were a few B&W versions I tried that weren't bad, so that is another option. And, of course, I wish the picture had a bit less digital noise--I kind of like the texture, but would prefer a bit less.
The Fruits of His Labor
After we finished trick-or-treating, Jason got his first taste of Halloween candy. I'm not quite sure, but I think he liked it.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 lens, and Nikon SB-400 flash, in manual exposure mode, automatic (eTTL) flash mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/250 sec, ISO 400, flash tilt 90 degrees, flash exposure compensation -1 EV. Post-processing in Aperture 3: auto WB, picked from the white of his vest; cropped to vertical; cloned out some spots on his face; curve to increase brightness and contrast; burned background; applied light skin smoothing over his cheeks and forehead.
Thoughts for improvement: Really, this isn't a very good photo, artistically speaking. The composition is boring, the background is cluttered and the framing is pretty poor. There should be a little more room above his head and his arms really shouldn't be cut off. It's pretty much just a snapshot, albeit a relatively well-lit snapshot. The expression is priceless, though.
Trick or Treat
We took Jason trick-or-treating for the first time this year, with some friends and their kids. Neither of us were sure how it would go, whether he'd have fun or whether he'd fall apart quickly. The previous times we'd put him in his costume, he started taking it off again within minutes, so we didn't expect much. Turns out, he loved it. After the first couple of houses he was pulling us along down the street, running up to each door and shouting "Trick or treat!" before he even got up the driveway. By the time we were halfway around the block his pumpkin bucket was too heavy for him to carry, but he still kept going. What's more, he kept his costume on the whole time. It was a lot of fun.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/125, ISO 1600. Post-processing in Aperture 3: cropped and rotated; daylight WB preset; curve for contrast, tone, and highlight recovery; burned the background.
Thoughts for improvement: I'd be interested to see what this would look like on a camera with better high-ISO performance and a higher resolution. (Though, if I'd taken a step forward I could have saved some pixels and not had to crop.) I'd also like to see what it would look like with sharper focus. Still, the grainy look from the high-ISO noise and the softness give it a kind of retro look, which I tried to enhance with the white balance and tone. I think it works relatively well. The only thing that kind of bugs me is the way that the bucket is out of focus, which is due to the wide-open aperture. If I had a camera with better low-light performance, I might have been able to get this at f/2.8 or maybe even f/4, which would have kept the whole subject in focus.
Jason, like most kids his age, goes nuts for stickers. What I'm not sure is quite as common is the fact that as soon as he gets his hands on some, he starts sticking them all over his body. As you can see, he particularly likes to put them on his belly. And then show them to everybody.
Technical information: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode (matrix metering). Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/250 (+0 EV), ISO 800. Post-processing in Aperture 3: a little bit of straightening and a curve to bring up exposure and contrast.
Thoughts for improvement: I honestly can't think of anything. I love this shot.
This is another from the wedding we attended last weekend. I got this image during the cocktail period between the ceremony and reception, while the space was being converted for dinner and the wedding party were off taking pictures. Unfortunately for the bride and groom, it had been raining all weekend, which meant that their plans for an outdoor wedding had to be altered. For most of the guests, though, it was actually quite nice, as the rain made for a cozy feeling indoors and some beautiful scenes outdoors.
What I love about this image is the painterly quality of the bokeh. When I look at the tree in the background, it almost looks like something one of the impressionists might have created.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve to recover highlights and deepen shadows and midtones, brushed in over the background; second curve applied to the entire photo to brighten and enhance color.
Thoughts for improvement: As I mentioned, I absolutely love the bokeh here. I'm not sure about the composition, though. When I took the shot I was mainly interested in the drops of water on the tree in the foreground, and had taken several closer shots to focus more clearly on them. Here I was trying to get both the drops and the tree in the background in the same frame, but I think it might have been better to just pick one or the other.
Delicate and Strong
As I mentioned before, Juliette and I went to a wedding this weekend. We'd both been looking forward to it, in part because we've been wondering for years now what it would be like--the couple are two of the most interesting people I know, and the bride has an eye for detail that is unmatched. This image is one example of that attention to detail. The chairs for the ceremony were decorated with little flower arrangements that were tied onto the backs, a large soft flower surrounded by what I think were thistles. The contrast was wonderful--not just in the play between the pink of the flower with the blue of the thistle, but also the textures and characters of the two blossoms. I love the idea of the soft, pale, delicate petals of the one being balanced by the prickles and tenacity and strength of the other.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/1.8, shutter 1/30 sec, ISO 800. Post-processing in Aperture 3: curve for highlight recovery and contrast; BW conversion with yellow filter.
Thoughts for improvement: If I had a camera that had better low-light performance, I would have liked to try this at f/2.8 or maybe even f/4. I like the way the shallow depth of field makes the thistle bloom soft while keeping the closer points of the leaves sharper, but it's a shame that some of the texture in the large flower is lost.