Category Archives: Portraits

Veterans’ Day 11/11/17

ENGLAND

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.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under family, Portraits, Veteran's Day, World War II, WWII

Happy Halloween, Bitches – er, I mean – Witches!

Halloween Becky 3

Halloween Becky 

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 3

Halloween Becky – original shot

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky #2

Halloween Becky 2

Halloween Becky – Original Shot

Halloween Becky 2

And for good measure, I decided to have a little fun with black & white (Silver Efex 2) and Adobe Photoshop’s history brush tool.

Halloween Becky 3

Happy Halloween, Everybody!  May you receive all the good candy (Kit Kat, Snickers, Starburst, Heath Bar).

 

 

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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Halloween, Portraits

You Don’t Need A Large Studio For Fun Portrait Pics

Becky-New Dress-Camera I’ve been recuperating from some outpatient surgery and haven’t gotten out for a couple of weeks.  I’ve enjoyed my “stay-cation” of napping, watching TV and reading, but my thoughts always turn to photography in some form or another. I recently received an order of three really cute vintage-inspired dresses and some extra studio light bulbs to replace the ones that burned out on me.  So, I decided to put two and two together and get some self-portraits of me in my new dresses while having fun playing with the studio lighting. Becky In A Blue Dress I don’t have any large rooms to use for dedicated studio work;  I’ve got clutter, luggage, etc. in every room.  But, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t get some great photos within a very small space. Becky-Camera-New Dress As you can see from the photos, I used continuous lighting with a couple of white umbrellas, one on each side of me for equal lighting.  I also used a wireless shutter release which ensured the focus on me was always nice and sharp.  I used both my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX; my 85mm f1.2 lens was attached to the 1DX while I alternated between the 24-105mm and the 40mm lenses on the 5D Mk III.  My favorite images ultimately came from using the 85mm f1.2 lens on the 1DX.  That combination is killer for portraits and great lighting, I feel. Becky In Blue Moral of the story:  you can get some great portrait images without alot of space or a special background.  And, playing around with the cameras helped me eliminate my bout of the “stir crazies”.

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Filed under Canon, Equipment, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Meet Kyle & Adrienne

Kyle and Adrienne - Color

Hello everybody! I know, long time, no post. I’ve been a busy gal. I’m getting ready for a late April 2014 return trip to Big Bend National Park.  I’ve also been  putting together my packing list for my August Alaska 2014 trip, and I just purchased a plane ticket for an October visit to Hawaii where I have a reservation for 4 days at Volcano House in Volcanoes National Park. On top of that, I am trying to get into better (waaaayyyy better) shape in order to do the hikes I want for all of these trips. And, I admit, it’s been a little “dry”, photographically, since my last post.

A week ago, however, I traveled north and west of Houston to a lovely home for some engagement photos with Kyle and Adrienne. I’d been hired to photograph their June wedding and Adrienne told me her mother wanted an engagement photo session.

The day dawned overcast with a few sprinkles; the photos were supposed to be taken in Adrienne’s parents’ backyard garden. We’d scheduled a time of 11:30AM, so I knew the light would be flat, but I figured we’d still get some great shots and I’d bring along some fun umbrellas as props to keep the couple dry if it rained. As soon as I parked my car in front of their home, the sun came out; an auspicious omen.

I used my Canon 5D Mk III and Canon 1DX. I placed the Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on the Mk III and the Canon 24-70mm L II lens on the 1DX. I brought along my flash, too, which was good since several of the settings were interior shots. For those of you who have been following my posts for awhile, you know that I generally eschew flash because I simply don’t like it. I did use it for a couple of shots, but I also used just the ambient lighting and increased the ISO to compensate for the low light.

Below are some sample images from the morning’s session.

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes

Multiple Kyles and Adriennes - Garden Closeup

I’m starting to get the hang of this multiple-shots-in-one-image thing and thought it would be a fun trick for a couple of images.

Kyle and Adrien Azaleas - Color

The pink azaleas perfectly matched Adrienne’s sundress.

Kyle and Adrienne - Yucca - Original

Adrienne and Kyle - Tree BW

Among the many images taken, I also made sure to get some poses that might make for a nice photo to put into the engagement section of the newspaper.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano

This image was taken using a high ISO and the ambient light.  I chose to keep it the golden color of the interior lighting.  That beautiful charcoal drawing in the background was done by Adrienne’s mother.

Kyle and Adrien at Piano - Vignette

This image was captured using a flash.  I processed the image in Photoshop then applied some presets from OnOne’s Perfect Effects to soften and create a bit of a glow to the scene.

Kyle and Adrienne Stairs

Once again, I used only the ambient light and a high ISO to capture this image.  Then, I added a very little bit of vignetting to focus the eye more on the subjects.

Kyle and Adrienne On Stairs

I used a flash for this image, then cropped it a little more tightly around  the couple.

All-in-all, it was a fun morning and I’m glad I was able to meet the couple prior to their wedding.  By the end of my hour with Kyle and Adrienne, we were all feeling more relaxed in each other’s company.  Engagement photos are a fun way to introduce the photographer to the prospective bride and groom, discuss what kind of images they have in mind, and get everybody comfortable with each other.

If you would like to see more images taken on this day, click on this link.

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Photo Shoots, Photography, Portraits

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).

My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.

Easier said than done.

My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.

So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.

Christmas Becky

As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.

I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.

This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).

Christmas Becky-Flash

Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

Portraits

Bear Face

I captured a lot of images of the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.  The majority of the photos I took were with a rented Canon 500mm f4L Mk II lens on my Canon 1-DX body.  I duplicated many of the originals which I then cropped quite a bit in order to focus only on the faces of the bears (thank goodness for full-frame cameras).  After a time, I began to notice unique differences in each face, their shape, their scars, expressions, and – to some extent – the color of their fur. Here are some of the portraits I took of the denizens of this park.   FYI, I have also created a 2014 calendar with brown bear portraits in addition to other 2014 calendars.  Here is the link to the site where I am selling the calendars, or click on any the calendar images to the left of this screen.

*Note:  the park has stringent rules regarding human/bear interaction.  If’ you read my article about Brooks Lodge written for the National Parks Traveler, you will have read some of the rules I listed and know that all of these photos captured were taken from the safety of the viewing platforms constructed for the viewing of the bears with the super-telephoto lens and then cropped.

Bear Closeup CROP

Portrait Of A Droopy Lip

Sniffing Around

Hiya Becky CROP

Portrait

Look at these portraits and you, too, will notice the characteristics that make each one of these bears as unique as you and I.

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Filed under Alaska, bears, Katmai National Park, National Parks, Photography, Portraits, Travel, Travel and Photography, wildlife

A Wedding In Galveston: The Gear

Newly Wedded

Originally, I had written a 2800-word blog post (give or take). Yikes! Way too long! I think the human attention span tends to get a nervous tic over anything past 1200 words (which is the length I try to stick to but oftentimes never successfully manage). I personally can’t stand reading uber-long posts, no matter how helpful they may be; I tend to skim over them and just look at the pictures. I’d forgotten about this, though, in my 2800-word zeal to get everything down about my experience photographing this wedding. Then, I started reading some short but neat blog posts by Scottseyephotos about his photographic trip to Hallo Bay, AK, and I realized I was far more interested reading his numerous, interesting short blog posts than I would have been had he combined all of his bear articles into a single post. So, I’ve separated this original post into several shorter ones.

Here’s the First Post, which I hope whets your photographic-blogospheric appetite for the next post:

I had the great fortune to photograph Josh & Maegan’s wedding in Galveston, Texas, back in late April (2013).  The venue was the San Luis Resort.  I reserved a room for the weekend and prepared for the event.

What I took with me:

I’ve written a TripAdvisor review including photos of my room and the resort.  Suffice to say that I enjoyed my stay, liked my room, loved the view, but wished they had provided me with a different type of coffee maker .  A small complaint, but coffee is a mainstay for me when traveling and working with photos on my laptop.   I usually pack my own coffee and filters with the assumption the room has a 4-cup coffee maker.  It didn’t work with this particular room.

Setting Up The Wedding Venue

Looking down at the wedding venue from Josh & Maegan’s 16th-floor penthouse suite.

Now you have the location and the venue.  Next post:  my first photo op with the bride and her crew.

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Filed under Equipment, Events, Photography, Portraits, Texas, wedding