Not trying to be political here, folks. Before the 25th, I usually wish people Happy Holidays. On the 25th, I wish them Merry Christmas. And to show that I also appreciate globalism, I wish you not only a Merry Christmas but a Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, and Buon Natale. I’d do the wishing in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, too, but I don’t have the keyboard for it.
Anyway, you get my point. I hope everybody has a great day, today, no matter whether you celebrate the holiday or not. And, start planning for some great adventures for 2018. I know I’m going to!
I subscribe to Petapixel. It’s an online magazine with all sorts of neat articles about the latest photography news (did you know Lensrentals.com and LensProToGo are merging?), cameras, camera gear, projects, etc. The other day, I read an article that piqued my interest and I ended up sharing it to my Facebook photography page (Rebecca Latson Photography). I thought I’d share it in a blog post too. To read the actual article, click on this link.
After reading the article, I decided to do some experimenting with strings of multi-colored Christmas lights (since I had 5 strings of them and only 2 strings of the white lights), using the same settings that the photographer, Irene Rudnyk applied (ISO 500, f1.2, 1/250 shutter speed, 85mm lens). Heaven knows, I didn’t have anything better to do, like laundry, dishes, or packing. It was a fun little experiment and I gained some valuable insights. Photography is about experimentation as well as about learning new techniques and ideas and stepping outside one’s own comfort zone to apply something new that they’ve learned. That’s how a good photographer becomes a great photographer.
- Ignore the clutter in the room and concentrate on the camera/light/backdrop/light setup. Just as in Ms. Rudnyk’s room, this light project can be accomplished in a very small space.
- Yes, you can do this project with just one person (yourself), but it’s not as easy. Because I was both photographer and model, and because I was using a remote shutter release instead of being the one to look through the lens at the subject, I kept checking the images to ensure I was positioned correctly in front of the lens and that the string of lights did not get in the way of the lens. You can see what happens when a colored light is in front of the subject and too close to a lens wide-open at f1.2. You also may notice just how shallow the DOF is on a 85mm lens wide-open. I didn’t mind that too much, as it added a teeny bit of dreamy quality to the shot.
- I carried out this project twice, over the course of 2 days. During my first attempt, I wasn’t using an 85mm lens, nor did I have the aperture wide-open to get the maximum bokeh. I used different settings as well, since I didn’t remember what Ms. Rudnyk’s settings were – I didn’t learn that until I actually watched her YouTube video embedded in the article.
- Ms. Rudnyk used white lights in a light, neutral-toned room with a large picture window letting in natural blue/white side light. Her model was pale and wore light-colored clothing. I was in a cluttered spare bedroom, in the evening – so no natural light – using a black backdrop and strings of multi-colored lights. The strings were dark (as opposed to the white strings used in Ms. Rudnyk’s images, which is why I used the black backdrop). I used a tall lamp near the camera for side-lighting. Sometimes the strings still showed through, but I don’t consider them too distracting.
- Because of the darker atmosphere, I used Curves to lighten, and sometimes Levels to brighten the composition. I also had to clone out a dark spot on my front tooth – I have a natural indentation on the tooth and it catches the shadow, so in some photos, it looks like a speck of food (sigh).
- I used my Canon 5DSR for this shoot. I love this camera, but it totally stinks regarding low-light, higher-ISO noise (what’s up with that Canon?). So I applied some Imagenomic-brand Noiseware noise-reduction software to the overall composition, which reduced/removed grain and helped my skin look a little more even (I’m definitely not as young as Ms. Rudnyk’s model).
All-in-all, it was a fun project and I like the results. Plus, I learned a new technique for neat portrait shots.
Note: If you are doing this all yourself:
- Use a wireless remote rather than the timer on your camera. Really, it is easier.
- Make certain you have a sturdy step-ladder and/or a spotter to keep you steady while you hang the light strings from the ceiling.
- Unless you want to put holes in your ceiling, I would suggest using something like duct tape. Gorilla-brand tape works really well. If you use any other kind of tape, it may be too weak to hold up the light strings for any length of time. I noticed this morning that the tape and lights had fallen from the ceiling to the floor.
- If you want light strings to lead to your lens, don’t use tape or anything else to secure the strings to the lens. Simply wrap the string around the lens itself to keep the string in place.
- Remember to stand in front of the light strings to get the nice bokeh.
- Have fun! Despite getting all sweaty and hot as I hung the lights up, set up the camera and ran back and forth to take a shot then look at the result, it was a neat, educational project.
Today is #veteransday . My father was a veteran of #WWII. Handsome devil, wasn’t he? He was a paratrooper who jumped over Normandy, Nijmegen, and The Bulge. Dad fought against some “very fine people” (if you get my meaning) He returned from the war with what we now believe was a form of PTSD. He had bad dreams and bad memories for years and never wanted to discuss any aspect of his experience during the war unless he was drunk. He did, however, before he died, write down many of his experiences and I have them and my sister has copies. Dad returned from the war a functional alcoholic. He apparently thought alcohol would dull the bad memories but instead, it amplified the feelings. Dad worked a day job and saved his heavy drinking for the weekends and holidays. Mom and my sisters and I HATED Christmas Eve. We also hated Saturdays – every one of them. We were ok with Christmas Day and Sundays because that’s when Dad would spend the day sobering up. He was verbally and emotionally abusive when he was drunk, but never physically abusive, that I can remember – of we three sisters, I lived with it the longest. There was only one time that I was afraid he was going to hit Mom. So I spent the better part of my growing up worrying that he would hurt Mom. Dad never made use of any VA program to help him, because in all honesty, the VA never thought about PTSD as being a huge issue until Dad was in his 80’s. So, just from my story here, perhaps you can see what a horrible thing war is. It is so easy for those of us who have never fought in a war to bandy about the lives of men and women in the armed services as if we were playing a checkers game or something. For those people who return from any war or conflict, they *are* ultimately changed. If you happen to meet a veteran, please thank him or her for their service, because protecting our country and allowing us the rights we have right now (and that includes the right to kneel or stand), comes at a high price.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYBODY
(yes, one day early – at least it’s not one day late as is my usual timing)
As I look back on 2016, I see a mix of good and bad, as is usual over the course of a year. The good stuff had to do with travel and photography and getting closer to what is left of my family. The bad stuff – well, let’s just say 2016 was marginally better than 2015, which was a horrible year.
Sooooo, I’m truly hoping that 2017 makes up for all the bad stuff. And I also hope the New Year 2017 is a start of many good things for all of you out there.
Now, for this photo: I had the great good fortune to stay in London over Christmas and New Year. It was my last hurrah to close out that horrible 2015 year I mentioned earlier. I deliberately chose that time of year to fly to London because I wanted to especially see the fireworks over the London Eye.
I remember joining the hordes to wait about 45 minutes for the security lines to open up so we could go find a spot around 7pm (nothing ever opens up exactly on time, you know). I went through 3 checkpoints before squeezing into a spot along the Thames in front of the Royal Horseguards Hotel and across from that great wheel on which one can get an amazing view of the surrounding land. It was a good thing I didn’t have to go to the toilet because we all stood there, cheek-by-jowl, for about 5 hours, waiting for the countdown to begin. I got acquainted with the family from the Midlands and the young lady from Dubai standing behind me who was there for some sort of news service.
It was worth the wait. The 10-minute display of fireworks was amazing and I alternated between having the camera up to my eye and then putting it down so I could just enjoy the fireworks without looking through a lens. It was such a neat feeling to realize I was actually standing there, in London, watching the New Years fireworks from a prime spot, surrounded by people from all over the world.
Again, Happy New Year! I hope everybody’s 2017 adventures far surpass those embarked upon in 2016.
I recently received a new hand-made felted-wool witch hat from Etsy. I decided to have a little fun with some self-portraits and studio lighting in my “studio”. Actually, I live in an apartment and don’t have an official (aka proper) studio. Instead, I have a couple of lights on stands with translucent umbrellas, all in my living room. I covered the livingroom window with a black fleece sheet and set up my tripod and Canon 5DSR and Canon 85mm f1.2L lens at the other end of the room. One studio light was above and looking down at me while the other light was below and looking up at me. After I processed the photos using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, I ran them through Perfect Photo Suite 9 Effects presets and filters for the final product.
Halloween Becky – original shot
Halloween Becky #2
Halloween Becky – Original Shot
And for good measure, I decided to have a little fun with black & white (Silver Efex 2) and Adobe Photoshop’s history brush tool.
Happy Halloween, Everybody! May you receive all the good candy (Kit Kat, Snickers, Starburst, Heath Bar).
In honor of Father’s Day, which we celebrate here in the U.S. I wrote an article about my photographer father and it was published in the National Parks Traveler. Click on the photo if you are interested in reading the article.