We had planned to have a big end-of-summer playdate with a bunch of Jason's friends, but it turns out that when everybody involved a.) has toddlers, and b.) are busy people, it's hard to get everyone's calendar lined up. Thus, our end-of-summer playdate ended up happening in mid-September. Anyway, it was a rousing success and everyone had a good time. Or at least was polite enough to pretend.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 18mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/60 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: Daylight WB preset, cropped to square, curve for contrast and highlight recovery, burned background.
Thoughts for improvement: Well, the booger in his nose is a little unsightly, but I was unfortunately not skillful enough to clone it out. It would also be nice if that bush weren't right behind his head on the left.
Headed back to the car, I noticed this kid climbing up to look over the little wall separating the boardwalk from the beach. He must have gotten stuck, though, because by the time we walked past him he was calling for his dad.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 175mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/1000 sec, ISO 200. Post processing in Aperture 3: applied Daylight WB preset, a bump to vibrancy and a bit of edge sharpening, strong curve to increase tone and contrast, and dodged over the boy's face and arms.
Thoughts for improvement: There are a bunch of distracting elements right behind the boy's head, including what appears to be the top of his dad's hat. This would definitely be better without those. The sky is also kind of boring, and I've put the horizon right at the middle of the frame, which isn't terribly interesting. I should probably have cropped this lower.
Sand Like Glass
About midway through Sunday's trip to Mission Beach, Jason decided that he wanted to get out of the stroller and go look at the water. Can't say I blame him.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Focal length 100mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/2000 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3: Daylight WB and Yellow Filter BW presets. Dodged over the subjects and burned the backgrounds. Applied a medium-ish vignette.
Thoughts for improvement: I'm not totally pleased with the post-processing in this one; the burning and dodging feels kind of sloppy to me. I think I'd also like if I were able to get more of the reflection in the sand.
Mother and Daughter
Saturday evening we joined our friends at their church's Greek Festival. I've been hearing about Greek Festivals for as long as I've known them, but this was actually the first I'd been to. It reminded me a lot of the Obon festivals I went to as a kid, except, you know, Greek. We all had a pretty good time, and of course the food was great, but I think it'll be even better when the kids are a little older. Who knows, maybe Jason will even learn a little Greek dancing.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR lens, in aperture-priority exposure mode. Focal length 55mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/200 sec, ISO 200. Post processing in Aperture 3: applied Daylight WB preset and pushed recovery to max. Bumped vibrancy a little, then applied a strong curve to bring up the midtones and darken shadows. Lightly dodged over both faces. Lowered the overall saturation a little, further desaturated reds, then brought up the luminance of the reds.
Thoughts for improvement: The only thing that would improve this, in my opinion, is if I had caught it just a half second earlier or later, when the girl was making a happier face. But I like the lighting, especially the rim lighting in their hair, and I also quite like that you can see the dad reflected in the mom's sunglasses.
This Looks Like a Good One
Aside from the whole "seeing family" thing, I was excited to take a trip home last weekend because it would give me the opportunity to take pictures of stuff outside my normal routine. So, of course, I had to go and forget to bring the charger for my camera, which meant that by Sunday I had to use my iPhone if I wanted to take any pictures at all.
As usual for our trips to Big Sur, we ate at the River Inn several times. Jason was entranced by the umbrellas on the lower deck, and kept wanting to see them. Monday morning, his cousin--"Other Jason"--showed him how to throw pebbles into the river, which was hugely exciting for him. Seeing him delight in such a simple little game made me nostalgic for my own small-town youth. We don't have any rivers near our house, but the bright side is that I think Big Sur and the Monterey Peninsula will probably become a very special place for Jason as he grows up.
Technical info: Shot with an iPhone 3G. The EXIF data says the aperture was f/2.8, with nothing about shutter speed. Post-processing in Aperture 3: applied the Cloudy WB preset first. Then added edge sharpening and bumped vibrancy (0.2). I added a strong mid-tone curve, then a medium (0.4) burn to the river and background. Desaturated reds a little (-15). Finally, I added some vignetting (intensity 0.6, radius 0.9).
Thoughts for improvement: Tough to get a great technical shot out of an iPhone, but for what it is, I like this one. The main thing when using a cameraphone like this is to try to avoid high-contrast scenes and moving subjects.
It Goes Like This
One of the belated birthday presents Jason got this past weekend was a whole Potato Head family: a mom, a dad, and two kids. My aunt's friend Linda had a lot of fun showing him the ropes. Jason actually already knows all about Mr. Potato Head, but he was polite enough not to mention it.
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 400. Post processing in Aperture 3 was relatively light: auto WB adjustment, a little bit of curves, and a light vignette.
Thoughts for improvement: I don't know, I'm pretty happy with it. I like the way Jason is framed by Linda's arm and body, and I think it's a decent capture. What do you think?
The Wonder of a Child
One of our main reasons for the trip home this past weekend was because some of Juliette's Canadian cousins were coming to visit her parents in Big Sur. Since they were in town, we decided to take the opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which has the distinction of not only being my personal favorite aquarium but also the best place I ever worked.
This photo was taken next to the tide pool exhibit, over which a big artificial wave crashes every couple of minutes. I was lucky enough to have the camera up to my eye just as one hit, and caught not only Jason's reaction to the wave, but also everyone else's reaction to him. Moments like this are just wonderful for me, both as a photographer and as a parent.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 18-55mm DX lens, in aperture priority mode. Focal length 18mm, aperture f/3.5, shutter 1/125 sec, ISO 1400. Post-processing in Aperture 3 was fairly simple for this one: I applied the Daylight WB preset, then used a curve to recover the highlights and give a slight bump to midtones and increase contrast. Then I applied a medium-high burn (0.6) to everything but Jason's face.
Thoughts for improvement: There are a lot of technical things wrong with this image. Juliette's mom's face poking in on the left and her cousin's face cut off on the right are both awkward, compositionally, as is the fact that her other cousin's face is blocked by her mom's face. This image also really stretched the limits of my camera, as the relatively high ISO setting (a result of my auto ISO configuration) left a lot of digital noise throughout. And then there's a difference in both lighting and sharpness between Jason's face and Juliette's mom's, which is kind of jarring to look at. So, technically, this is a very imperfect image. In terms of storytelling and capture, though, I think it's right on the money. Sometimes what's important about a picture isn't the technique or even the artistic elements, but rather what story it's telling. I'm sure this would be a better picture if I'd nailed the technique and composition in addition to the storytelling side, but as it is, I'm still pretty happy with it.
My Little Superhero
We traveled home to visit family this weekend, and on Saturday we had a little get-together at my aunt's house. Jason was delighted to find that several people had brought belated birthday gifts for him, among them a "Superhero Starter Kit" that included a bright red cape. We couldn't get him to take it off for the whole rest of the afternoon.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 DX lens, in manual exposure mode. Aperture f/2.8, shutter 1/1600, ISO 400. Post-processing in Aperture 3: first, I applied the Daylight white balance preset. The shot was taken in the middle of a very bright day, though in the shade. I was trying to get the exposure right for his face, but I missed a bit, so he was a little dark, while the highlights were very bright. So I bumped exposure (+1) and recovery (+1.5), then used a curve to further recover the highlights and boost the midtones. I did a strong burn (0.6) around the outside, then a lighter burn (0.2) to just the shadows over his face and chest. Then I applied a very light dodge (0.05) to his eyes. Finally, I desaturated the reds (-15.0) and brushed that in just over the cape.
Thoughts for improvement: The main thing is to get the exposure right the first time. The focus is a little soft throughout, so I probably should have stopped down to f/4 or f/5.6, which would have been no problem since I had a very fast shutter. I should also have remembered to re-set the ISO back to 200 after I came outside, instead of leaving it at 400 from when I was indoors. Despite the fact that all that stuff meant I had to do a lot more work in post, though, I still think this may be one of the best portraits I've taken of him, at least in terms of matching the styles of the portrait & lifestyle pros that I've been studying.
This guy was one of the volunteers at the Celebrate Dance festival last weekend. When we first got to the stage area, I noticed him walking around with a donations box. Later, he sat down to watch the performances near where Juliette, Jason, and I were sitting, and the reflections in his sunglasses caught my eye.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/320 sec, ISO 200. Post-processing in Aperture 3. My goal with the processing was to isolate the subject from the background, add a little more texture and pop, and make the reflection stand out. First, I used the Daylight white balance preset, then I reduced the saturation (0.81) and vibrancy (-0.1). I then used a curve to darken the shadows just a touch and bump up the midtones and highlights, also bringing in the white point a little. I then applied a reasonably heavy burn (0.6) to the background, then a medium dodge (0.4) to the highlights on the subject, and a light burn (0.1) to the shadows on the subject. To make the sunglasses pop a little more, I used the Intensify Contrast brush just on the lenses, with a relatively light setting (0.3). Finally, I added a little bit of edge sharpening.
Thoughts for improvement: I wish his elbow weren't cut off, but other than that I'm pretty happy with this one.
This was one of the last shots I took during our trip to Balboa Park this weekend. This woman crossed the walkway right in front of us, and the combination of her umbrella, clothes, hair, and makeup turned both my head and Juliette's. I snapped several shots in a hurry as she walked by; I like this one the best because of the moment of recognition evident on her face.
Technical info: Shot with a Nikon D40 and Nikkor 55-200mm VR DX lens, in aperture priority exposure mode. Focal length 200mm, aperture f/5.6, shutter 1/160 sec, ISO 200. Here again I did a fair amount of post-processing in Aperture 3. The original had a much brighter background and darker subject, so I bumped the exposure and recovery (each +1). I then reduced the overall brightness (-0.5). Then I added a strong bump to midtones using a curves adjustment and brushed that in over the woman and umbrella. To help isolate her from the background, I pulled back the saturation (0.8) and vibrancy (-.2) and applied that to the background and the man in the foreground. Then I burned the background and the man and dodged over the woman and umbrella. I wanted the background even darker, so I used the vignette tool (intensity 0.7, radius 0.92) and brushed it into just the top and right side. Finally, I used the Intensify Contrast brush on the umbrella to bring out the tones a bit more.
Thoughts for improvement: I still need to work on getting the exposure right the first time so I don't need to do as much work afterwards. I think I may have actually overdone the post-processing here--it looks a little too played-with.