Sunday, March 31, 2013

Flash Photography in the Fitness Center

Lisa Cvach asked me recently if I’d do some photographs for publicity for the Paradise Valley Community College Fitness Center.  I was happy to help out.  If the fitness center was a corporate client, I would have charged of course.  I mean, you wouldn’t ask your car repair guy or medical doctor for free services; I get that.  But this is to help out colleagues at my college.  Plus, darn it, it’s work sure, but it’s fun! 

When I walked into the fitness center I noticed Lisa trying to take photos using a small point and shoot camera.  What she said to me was pretty important.  “How do you get the background to blur?”  That’s why I’m glad I took my flash with me. 

My models this day are Fred from the fitness center and Shay.  Now, look at Shay.  The pressure is on me not to make her look bad.  Sorry Fred but Shay is the star of this shoot!

My camera body is the Canon 5D Mark III, using a 24-105mm Canon “L” lens and the new Canon 600ex-rt flash.  Shooting without flash under fluorescent light could be done, but with a much higher ISO and more grain.  I wanted to use flash to highlight the subjects and to darken the background some.  To make sure I had a fairly dark background, I used a shutter speed of 1/125 and faster.  Plus, I used Lightroom 4 in post production and could brush a darker exposure around the background, as you’ll see in many of the examples here and in the slideshow at the bottom of the blog. 

I shot everything in manual mode.  For some shots, I used direct flash and turned down the power; for others, I used modified flash using a simple white card to reflect for softer light. 

For the panorama of the fitness center, I took seven photos vertically set to aperture priority and available light, then combined them in Photoshop CS6, then I applied HDR (high dynamic range) toning to produce the effect you see in the photo at the top of the blog. 

Happy Shooting!

Jim Patterson

…And, here are all the photos from the fitness center shoot!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saturday Photo Adventures in the Phoenix Area: 23 March 2013

I hit two venues Saturday: Turf Paradise for the camel and ostrich races and later that evening I travelled to Cave Creek for the pro rodeo.  Each presented photographic challenges.

I’ve been to Turf Paradise before, so I knew what to expect.  The challenge here is getting a good angle on the action on the track.  If you stand at track level, you find that you are going to be slightly below the track, so I had to walk way off to the side, down from the finish line, to get some track level photographs.  I used my 24-105mm Canon lens on the Canon 5D Mark III body for those shots.

I then retreated to the highest grandstand for the best angle, primarily using my 70-300mm Canon lens on my Canon 5D Mark III body. 

In post-production, I primarily used Lightroom 4 on all of the shots, as I usually do.  For daylight photographs I mainly used the “shadows” control, which for the most part worked quite well.  Maybe a bit of “clarity” control, too.  And many of the photos I cropped.  I pretty well stayed with ISO 100 or 200 through the whole afternoon since there was plenty of natural light. 

Then it was north to Cave Creek and the pro rodeo there.  The rodeo started at 7pm.  Yes, I’ve been here before but only during the day.  I immediately had an “oh oh” moment:  the lights for the arena were tiny.  Sure enough, lighting was horrible for a photographer.  And very uneven.  Using the same equipment as I had for the Turf Paradise shoot, I had to increase ISO to 3200 and sometimes higher than that.  The Canon 5D is good, but even at higher ISO you will see grain in the photos.  The other problem I had was it was a huge crowd with people constantly going up, down, and across my field of view while I sat in the first row.  I also had a fence in front of me, uggggh! 

I had to throw away the bulk of the photos I took.  They were simply too out of focus and grainy.  I did manage to salvage a few shots.  On one, I imported into TopazLabs “simplify” and made it into a painting.  It was either that or delete it.  Others I boosted using Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro.  Sharpening and de-noise didn’t help much.

I learned a lesson here.  Daylight for action shooting like rodeo.  Sit at the top row, not bottom row.  Even better, ask for a photographers area!

Friday 29 March is my next challenge: photographing the University of Arizona football team’s spring game at Phoenix College.  It is also a night shoot, but at least I will be on the field closer to the action.  Yes, another high ISO challenge. 

That’s it for now. 

Happy Shooting!

Jim Patterson

Here are photos from Turf Paradise:

And photos from the Cave Creek rodeo:


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Roots and Boots with Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Joe Diffie 16 March 2013

The Chandler Center for the Arts was the setting for a concert featuring country music greats Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw, and Joe Diffie

Before the concert, we went to the SanTan Brewing Company, just south of the concert arena.  First off, yes the beer was tasty.  I had the hefeweizen which is a muddy wheat beer.  Many Americans are turned off to the dirty look of the beer, but I find it quite refreshing.  The food was quite good too.  French fries never tasted as good.  This blog is not about the brew pub, but I was very excited to visit this place as I had done a photo essay of brew pubs last summer in Santa Fe and wanted to do one for my home state of Arizona.  The manager gave me a road map to the so-called Arizona Ale Trail, which will be quite helpful to me this coming summer.  If you are in the Chandler area, I strong suggest you visit!

Now back to the concert. 

This venue presented some obvious lighting challenges.  Most of these concerts won’t let a photographer take in “professional” cameras, so I took my pocket Canon S100 with me.  I have a lot of control over aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.  I also can shoot in raw with this camera.  Still, you are going to see some areas that are overexposed and some under exposed.  It’s pretty hard to rescue that with Photoshop CS6 or any of the plugins I use such as Nik, OnOne, and Topaz. 

I edited all photos at first in Lightroom 4.  Sometimes all I needed to do was crop and touch on clarity.  Other times I used Silver Efex Pro from Nik to convert to black and white or OnOne’s Perfect black and white on the final goodbye shot of the three country crooners. 

Next photo adventure up for me is the Cave Creek Rodeo!  Look for a new blog post soon.

And remember, Just Shut Up and Shoot!

Jim Patterson

Click HERE to see all the photos from the Roots and Boots concert 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Photographing Jai-Cea

PhotoflexThe Power of Light” sponsored a model shoot in Gilbert, Arizona on 2 March 2013.  John Beckett was the photographer-host.  John is a commercial photographer based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Since this was sponsored by Photoflex, we used Photoflex strobes and softboxes.  I will say for the record right now I am more comfortable with Canon Speedlites because of their portability.  My speedlite of choice is the Canon 600ex-rt, which is controlled by radio frequency.  But it is good to get some familiarity with large AC or battery powered studio strobes. 

Our main model was Jai-Cea.  She’s obviously very beautiful and very tall at 5’ 11”

My camera is the Canon 5D Mark III and the Canon 28-105mm lens

I edited photos primarily with Lightroom 4, but also black and white enhanced one shot using Nik’s Silver Efex Pro and a few others with OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 7.1’s Perfect Portrait, through Photoshop CS6.  And, a playful shot I enhanced with HDR toning from within Photoshop.  I guess you could call me a plug-in junky, since I own OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 7.1, Nik’s Ultimate Collection, and Topaz Bundle.  Take a look and if you are interested, remember if you are a student or educator you are likely to get a nice discount!  ALWAYS ASK!

My personal style is called “photo journalistic” or catching people at ease, not posed.  However, sometimes you have to pose a model!  I had Jai-Cea just goof around a bit and then had her go into “model mode” and give me some poses. 

That’s it for now,

Have fun and keep shooting!

Jim Patterson

Enjoy the Flickr slideshow of all of my photos on the shoot below!