Photoshop World 2011 (Part 1)

It has been one hectic week! I've been lucky enough to chaperone a trip for Ashland University to Photoshop World 2011 in Orlando, Florida. I haven't been to this conference in a few years, and I can't tell you how nice it is to surround yourself with tons of people who are addicted to creativity and learning cool new tricks of the trade. I was explaining to my four students who came down here that this conference is one of the best opportunities they will have to take classes from world-renowned instructors. The courses range from web design, to photography, to digital copyright and all offer the unique perspectives of seasoned professionals. If you haven't gone to PSW before, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Here are a few photos that I've shot thus far!


The first three images were shot on my iPhone. The next shot is the view out of my hotel window, and the final two are model shoots.

More to come!

A Funny Thing Happened...on the way to the concert.

I'm trying to catch up on some blog posts here but sometimes life just gets crazy! So, I wanted to share some cool photos that I took in Chicago a month or so ago and tell a (what is now a funny story). One of the things I enjoy most is walking around a city and just exploring to see what I can find. Often, taking a taxi to wherever I'm trying to get to is much easier, but I've never been disappointed when I decide to grab the camera and walk a few miles.

Rebecca and I were in town during one of the rainiest weekends I can remember. We were going to go see B.B. King as apart of our anniversary and I ordered the tickets online way in advance. I figured, we're both blues fans, and B.B. King is a legend, how many chances are we going to have left to see him? We had been walking around Chicago all afternoon shooting pictures, window shopping, etc... We were out the previous night during a rainstorm shooting pictures... It was going to be nice to stay inside and enjoy a concert.

We're getting ready in the hotel room and I grab the tickets from my bag and as I'm double checking the time for the concert I noticed the date. It said "Concert Sunday, Doors open at 7PM". I thought I had bought Saturday night tickets. Of course, we couldn't stay in Chicago an extra night because we had to get back, and we called the venue to see if there was anything we could do, and low and behold...nothing. Sorry. I was bummed beyond belief. Here I am, trying to be Mr. Details-Smooth-Guy and I completely botched it. I was sulking, and annoyed at myself for letting this happen. Rebecca stepped in and said, don't worry about it, we're in Chicago, we can't change things, so why be upset? Let's go have fun!

It turns out, we had an incredible evening together. We found a fantastic jazz club called Andy's Jazz and had got a chance to see some local musicians blow us away. We never would have found it had we not missed out on the concert. It was very cool. A lesson learned.

I mention this to all of you because I see people planning the most important day of their lives, and there's so much detail and precision riding on that day that the stress just piles up. I'm here to tell you, roll with the punches and let things ride... It doesn't always go according to plan, but sometimes, those little bumps you encounter make some of the best stories. Make the best of it, and have fun!

In the end, my solace was I got a chance to create some cool photos and spend an amazing weekend with someone I love very much. Enjoy the pics!

A Cold Night in Nashville

We had some time to shoot in Nashville the last night of the conference and so we decided to have a little bit of a contest. Our goal was to go out and shoot for a couple hours and to see what we could come up with. Chris and Jeremy went off in one direction and Brad and I went off in another. I love walking around new cities. I think that being in an unfamiliar place with a camera really does allow your creativity to shine.

Our photos turned out awesome and I was really happy to see that everyone went for something a little different. Chris went for abstract art, texture, and shape whereas I produced some HDR photos, interesting color, and some portraits for people I met around town. I met a very nice lady named Abby who was playing spoons in the downtown area just up the street from the original Grand Ole Opry. She was gracious enough to let me photograph her playing. It was about 10 degrees out that night and I had to commend her on her willingness to entertain out on the street. She loved to play, and I loved to shoot. That's dedication to your craft.

There's so much detail to be seen if you just stop and look for it. A cool angle on a building, an interesting texture on the street, or a passing glance from a stranger... the point is to get out and shoot! You might be surprised what you're missing.

Back from Nashville

Brad, Chris, and I met up with Jeremy, from A-Team Productions to head down to Nashville Tennessee to attend a fantastic photography conference, Imaging USA. For those of you that don't know what Imaging USA is... it's run each year by Professional Photographers of America and was created to serve as a place for photographers to learn, network, and explore new technologies in the industry. We got a chance to meet some of the best and brightest photographers in the industry.

Some of our favorite lectures were delivered by Joe Buissink, Denis Reggie, Dane Sanders, Allison Rodgers, Jeff and Julia Woods, and Clay Blackmore. There lectures spanned a wide variety of topics such as studio management, marketing, creative identity, inspiration and style.

Joe Buissink and Steve

If you haven't seen Joe's work, you've got to check out his web site. Click here.

I heard many photographers give excellent presentations, but Joe's really stood out to me. The reason why I like listening to Joe is because when he talks about photography, he talks about it as a passion, not a job, and that's exactly how photography should be. Of course, it's a means to pay the bills, but there is so much more to it than that.

In his lecture, he said, "Every time I snap the shutter, I leave a part of myself in that image." He also went on to say, "I grab the moment between moments...the amazing instances..." Wow. It's funny to think about how many photographers call themselves photojournalists these days, and I think it's obvious when photography is overly posed. If I see an opportunity to put my subject in good light, I'll step in and make it happen, but what I've found over the last few years is that my most popular prints are the ones where my subject wasn't even aware that I was there. Joe's got it right. Capture the moment between moments...

"Put your passion first, and your business second." - I seem to remember a college professor telling me that once...


Horton Plaza

The last few HDR's from San Diego that I thought turned out cool. There's an outdoor mall in downtown San Diego called Horton Plaza. The plaza is architecturally interesting because all of the hallways are ramps to other floors and they intersect at different angles. If you like to photograph abstract shapes and patterns, this place is a must. Hope you like them as much as I had fun shooting them.

My favorite one from Horton Plaza.

Some Shots to Keep you Warm...

This week, we've been diligently working on numerous projects in order to prepare for our upcoming photography season. Album designs, new web site development, new products, and countless other to-do list items have kept us all busy. Chris is in Texas (I'm totally jealous) and Brad and I are gearing up for the Kaufman Kramer trip to Nashville for the Imaging USA Conference. We'll be hanging out with our friends from A-Team Productions in Nashville, so we'll keep you all updated with the cool stuff we find down there. Since it's cold outside, I thought I'd post some fun shots from San Diego that I love, and that should evoke thoughts of being warm :) Enjoy!


(This is my FAVORITE shot from my trip to San Diego on Thanksgiving)


The Courthouse


The Gaslamp District

Downtown HDR's (Part 2)

When I'm walking around looking for things to shoot, especially for HDRs, I am looking for architecture that stands out against the skyline. I love lines, color, and contrast, so if I can find all three in a particular scene, I'm going to try and see what I can come up with. 0004

When processing HDR's you have to be careful not to over-process the image. Now, on my HDR's I am intentionally going for a more surrealistic look, since that's what I like. However, if for example you are being paid to shoot interiors of a building, and you want to expose the inside of a room versus the windows facing outside, the surreal look just won't work. In this case, you have to be very careful to make sure your shots are well-exposed and merged properly. If you look at good real estate photography, you'll notice that when you're standing in a room and looking outside, you can always see the room clearly and the outside area clearly. HDR's are perfect for that kind of thing, and certainly much easier than hours upon hours masking in Photoshop.

If you notice in the image below, while it is a cool HDR, it's slightly over-processed because of the "ghosting" around the buildings. Sometimes it looks cool, but in this case it's a bit much, so I would bring this back through my editing process to eliminate how extreme that looks.


On this image, I love how the HDR brought out the detail under the archway. You can see all of the wood rafters, as well as into the building.


Here's an example of how lines can create an interesting graphic element within the scene. The tall building in the background looks like a grouping of emerald crystals when standing far away. I thought it was cool to show it as a part of the block in downtown San Diego. Compared to much of the South-Western look of the downtown area, this building it seems to grow out of the ground and makes a striking addition to the San Diego skyline.


Hope you like this set of photos! More to come!


In San Diego (Part 2)

While I was at Balboa Park in San Diego, I got a chance to walk through the Spanish Village Art Center. This is an area of the park where many talented artisans display their work. You can find everything from sculptures, hand-carved wood work, jewelry, paintings, and much more. The great thing about this area is that it provides photographers with lots of great colors and interesting textures to photograph. I love to visit places like this. County fairs, craft shows, and farmers markets are always great places for people watching, and forces a photographer to think about different angles and perspectives.

The Gaslamp District

My Aunt Linda and I were walking around downtown San Diego looking for a good place to grab a bite to eat... okay...okay... I dragged my Aunt Linda downtown so I could shoot some photography and finding a good place to eat was a bonus. :) Excellent Sushi in San Diego by the way... We started out at Horton Plaza and walked around Market Street and the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. I've probably been to this city 20 times since my grandparents moved out here when I was a little kid, and truth be known, I had never walked around the actual downtown area. My family would always wind up going to Seaport Village, or a theater in a specific area of downtown, but I had never just walked around the city. San Diego in recent years has been on a campaign to revitalize the downtown area. They've built numerous high-rise apartment buildings, a baseball stadium (Petco Park) as well as an elaborate trolley system to link the outlying suburbs to the metro area. Luckily, my Aunt an I arrived downtown just as "magic hour" was about to take place. Being close to winter, the sun is setting here at about 5:00PM, so it's nice to get an early start on great skyline photography. I can't wait to show you all the series of shots that I was able to come up with. I wanted to take some time and explain how I shot them so if you get a chance to visit a cool city yourself, you can go out and look for some of interesting things to photograph.


Now, when I shoot HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, I'm looking for certain things. It takes time and patience to create an HDR, so I only want to shoot things that I know will turn out well when I'm post-processing my images.

First, I like to wait until I have an interesting sky. I think that clouds work best for this, especially in the late evening when clouds pick up the bright reds and oranges of the setting sun. However, sometimes (most of the time in San Diego) you don't have any clouds. When this happens, you really have to wait much later in the evening to pick up some great color. I'll be honest that a Photoshop guru can certainly make the sky whatever color they want, but to be a purist, I am doing very little color enhancement to the sky in the series I'm going to show you.

To see some great examples of HDR photography that will blow your mind, check out Ben Willmore's site:

I love angles, textures, and perspective. When you combine these elements with great color, it can be a winning combo for a great image. The reason I like to shoot HDR is because it looks surreal. You can see what your eyes would see if your brain could process the lightest of the light and the darkest of the dark all at once. Since you don't see that way, multiple exposures from your camera will show you what you're "missing". In the late evening, I like to shoot 5 exposures. This is known as "bracketing". The textbook definition is: "An exposure technique to assure an accurate, or preferable, exposure. I like to compose my shot at proper exposure first, or even 1 stop below "proper" exposure. I think going 1 stop of light below helps to bring out richer colors, plus the way-over exposed shots don't get you much in post-processing. Next, I set my camera to shoot -2, -1, +1, +2 exposures of the exact same shot. Basically, 2 stops below, 1 stop below, 1 stop above, and 2 stops above "proper" exposure. What this is doing is allowing your camera to capture the darkest darks and the lightest lights. This is allowing you to capture as much contrast (the differences between the light and dark portions of your image) as possible.


Notice that in this HDR, you can see the full range of color in the windows. The darkest blues, as well as the brilliant teals, are combined to show the gradual change in color from the horizon to the sky. In addition, notice how you can see detail underneath each balcony all the way up the building. This is because the over-exposed shots were combined with the under-exposed shots to get you both detail and color.


This is an example of how you can accentuate features of a building using HDR. I love the lines and symmetry in this image. The sconces on the side of the building look like they're on fire. I love how the trees and the arches draw your eyes into the image. I feel like I could just keep looking higher and higher.

I'll be posting some HDR images throughout the week, as well as show you some before and after processing images, so you can get a sense of what I'm doing. I hope you like the shots... there's definitely more to come!