Time lapse footage Old Bills

Old Bills vantage point
Old Bills vantage point

Old Bill’s Fun Run Timelapse

Some of my Old Bill’s Fun Run time lapse footage was used in the 2014 1% For the Tetons Video Blitz Film Festival. Check out the film here:

Any part with the race, banner or runners were my shots. There were taken with a Nikon D800, Nikon D300s, and a Sony RX-100 to create the footage for part of this film.

Time Lapse Shooting Tips

Nikon 85mm f/1.4 aperture
Nikon 85mm f/1.4 aperture

I used Nikon  lenses with aperture rings to take all of the shot sequences to avoid flicker. When building up a time lapse video, flicker is the bane of time lapse shooters. It’s caused by subtle variations in the aperture setting when the camera takes pictures. You’ll never notice these in normal shooting but if you lay the shots down in a video sequence, the effect is distracting and ruins the video.

There are software tools to “de-flicker” or deflicker the video sequence. That’s all fine but it’s another step. All of Nikon’s new lenses are G series without aperture rings. I rarely use them but for time lapse. But when you need it, there’s nothing better. The only way to directly avoid this problem is to leave the G lens wide open or stop it all the way down. Both of these options aren’t as ideal.

Canon lenses and cameras used for time lapse shooting suffer from the same problem. If you are lucky enough to own a lens with an aperture ring and are thinking about selling it, consider that if you’re ever going to shoot time lapse, you’re selling off a superior tool.

Photographing paintings

I had a client come to be and ask about photographing some paintings. He wanted to have them shot with enough resolution to make reproductions of them for sale. Wonderful! I was glad he called because it’s not as easy to photograph a painting as one might imagine.

As you can see below, the shot is terribly washed out on the left hand side. What happened?

Washed out glare
Washed out glare

Glare from the flash caught the surface of the painting and bounced into the camera, creating a badly washed out looking left side. What about the right side? I had the polarizers from the lamps set to the proper orientation, so it looks fine.

You’re asking – wait a minute..did he polarize the flashes? Yes, in order to eliminate glare off the painting, I needed to polarize the light coming from my flashes. This way, I could align the light in such a manner as to nearly eliminate all the glare coming off the painting even before the light hit my camera lens. But, to get the correct effect, the lens also happens to have a second polarizer on it. And you need to use a polarizer alignment card to check the polarization to make sure it is correct.

Confused yet?

There’s a lot to photographing products and artwork because if done improperly, these problems will show up:

  • Glare
  • White balance
  • Color calibration
  • Lens distortion
  • Orientation/perspective distortion

All of these problems will ruin your attempted reproduction. In order to photograph flat artwork properly, you’ll need the following tools beyond the usual photo tools:

  • Polarizer panel for each light source
  • Diffuser for polarized light source panels
  • Polarization angle detector
  • Polarizer for camera lens
  • Color calibration reference card for printing
  • Distortion profile for your lens
  • Light stands
  • Powerful strobes
  • Light meter with remote trigger or flash sense

It takes quite a bit of equipment and even more know-how to photograph flat art properly. Even if you’re able to get away from the glare, the color calibration is a major deal. If your colors are incorrect, the client is going to be very unhappy. You can’t just put your camera on flash white balance and assume it’ll all work. Polarizers subtly shift color (especially in sunlight),  plus the color dye balance of your camera never matches the flashes. And the color balance of your flashes is never correct.

No matter how much effort you put into trying to color balance your lights, you’ll never get 100% of the way there. The only way is to have and use a color reference card, then know how to calibrate the final image so it looks correct.

Also, using hot lamps (light bulbs) is problematic for 2 reasons. They’re easier to align for polarization, true. But you have to have a LOT of light power to expose the image properly. That means your very expensive/nice painting is boiling under quartz halogen lamps.

Or you have to have a very long exposure. That means the rest of the lights in the room have to be extinguished. But wait, you’re in your gallery, so you can’t shoot this in the dark. So you need even more and more powerful lamps.

Then notice that the blues in your image are too dark because you’re using a tungsten/halogen light source. So you adjust the white balance but notice that there’s blue noise in your image.

It’s important that the light is uniform across the image as well. Otherwise there will be gradients of light that aren’t in the original piece. This makes a BIG difference. In order to measure the light uniformity, you’ll need to use a light meter (I use Sekonic-L608C) to check the uniformity across the painting. And you’ll need a way to remote trigger your strobes from the light meter while doing this as well. If the painting is brighter on one side or spot than the other, you’ll not be happy with the reproduction.

You care about getting the image correct, right? The above is the basics of what you have to consider, own and understand.

Or, you can just hire me and I’ll get you the images without the headaches and $1000’s in gear you’ll have to have to make this work correctly.

Color corrected, no glare
Color corrected, no glare

Note – Edge intentionally left on images

Old Bill’s Fun Run timelapse

Old Bills screenshot
Old Bills screenshot

The Community Foundation of Jackson Hole has asked me to produce a timelapse of the Old Bill’s Fun Run at the start line. This is quite an honor, as this is a major town event that has pulled in over $100M in charity money since 1997.

It’ll be a challenge to compress 3 hours of setting up, preparation, and gathering into about 30 seconds of useful finished video. I’ve done time lapses, multispeed shots before, so it’s not a new thing. This is more of how to capture the scale of the people

This should be a fun time!

Photography in ad

Photo in media
Photo in media

After my photo shoot with a client’s bronze sculptures, they wasted no time in getting the ad to print. I liked that they were able to use my images immediately for print and advertising.

This particular image was in the Jackson Hole Daily newspaper on July 29, 2014.

The photo shoot was a good time and it gave me the chance to work with a Jackson Hole artist who is making some very interesting bronze pieces. They are in their new gallery on 25 S. Cache Street.

Fireworks flower

DSC03544sm
Click to enlarge

While visiting San Diego in May, I ran across an epiphyllum flower exhibition in Balboa Park. Of all the flowers I’ve shot to fill up hard disk space, these were some of the most spectacular. The interior of it looks like a 4th of July firework surrounded by eye-overloading color.

One of the challenges of photographing in the exhibit hall where the horticultural shows are done is the lighting is mostly fluorescent. This means that there is a greenish cast to everything, wiping out the nice magenta colors of many of the specimens. As such, I had to ensure my white balance was not set on auto but rather on fluorescent.

Aside from the color aspects of shooting in that type of environment, there is the dim light. Even though there is plenty of light for humans to see in there, the light is actually not that strong, meaning a slow shutter speed or a high ISO has to be used to get the shot. Both of these factors can add up to a blurry or grainy picture.

The other challenge of this type of shooting is the depth of field of the image. This was one time where the Sony RX-100 came in handy. Small sensors make getting a large depth of field easy. They sacrifice a lot but this is where they excel. That’s why its so easy to get a photo with nearly total depth of field with an iPhone, Galaxy, or the like. But you can -almost- never get a pleasant shallow depth of field shot with those devices for the same reason.

After all of those technical aspects are considered, there’s just the plain joy of looking at a plant that resembles a firework.

Jewelry photography

Ring test-118-EditJewelry photography is one of the most difficult technical photographic skills out there. Even after you get a handle on the lighting and setup, that is only 30% of the process. More than likely you’ll have to do focus stacking to get the maximum sharpness for an image, and that can be after using a tilt-shift lens. After getting all the photographs taken, there’s still  50% of the job to be done in post-processing to get the image even close to what a client wants.

Take for example the ring in the upper right hand image. It is 60 years old and has seen a lot of use. The piece is very dear to the client and they wanted the best image possible within a budget.

This was a tall order, as the rhodium plating has worn off in many spots and the casting of the ring shows a lot of pores. Getting the look just right for their use takes quite a bit of work. The bottom Ring test-051diamond has a big chip in it, the ruby has several inclusions and surface defects. Of course, all of these are invisible when the ring is worn. But when the client needs a photograph for it, all the defects become painfully apparent.

You can see how the image started with in the bottom right picture. The color is off. The depth of field is shallow, the background is not white, on and on. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

Some of the imperfections have been left, as the client did not want to make the ring “too perfect”. Just good enough for their use.

Fourth of July 2014

Fireworks Wort Hotel
Fireworks Wort Hotel

The Fourth of July, 2014, in Jackson Hole was a pleasant evening. The storm that blew through earlier in the day cleared out the air and made for perfect fireworks conditions.

Click on the picture at the right. It was taken from the Jackson Indian Arts Museum across the street from the Wort Hotel.

This is a single exposure, no Photoshop involved. Judicious use of exposure time, off-camera strobe, a Nikon D800, and a Nikon 35mm f/2D lens.

Happy Fourth America.

Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014
Wort Hotel 4th July 2014

Roller Derby Team Photo

Sports Team Photo

Juggernauts Roller Derby
Juggernauts Roller Derby

Creating an interesting sports team photo takes a lot more than grabbing an SLR and an on-camera flash. You have to be interesting, creative, and deliver the product in a timely manner. All while working on marketing, computer problems, and everything else.

When I first conceptualized this shot, I was thinking of how I could take the entire Juggernauts team of roller derby ladies from Jackson Hole and place them somewhere else with a little more grit. That is, not dirt grit from climbing the Tetons, but rather industrial grit only found in the city. Looking for ideas, I thumbed through the various roller derby team photos I found online and realized that, for the most part, they were just plain shots in their arena. Boring. Some had lighting but the sparkles from the reflections behind the players were distracting and thus ruined the photos. As a sponsor of the Juggernauts, I had to deliver better.

There was one interesting shot online that was done in a city drain but the lighting was unbalanced, so it was impossible to see the team member’s faces. I had seen some interesting team photos in posters around town, so they were my inspiration. I needed an original Detroit industrial-looking location with a big city in the background. After visualizing my shot, I went about figuring out how to create it. Sports team photography is enjoyable because the players appreciate the work put into the shot. They know what the conditions were when the shoot was done, so when they see the final product, they’re blown away. Based on the Juggernaut’s response, this was no exception.

I was very happy to deliver this photo after a considerable number of hours invested into the photography and the post-processing of the image. The team’s response made me even happier, knowing I had hit the mark. If there are teams looking for compelling and interesting shots, look at the above image and ask, “Do I want a generic shot in the arena or do I want something that sets us apart from everyone else?”

Hire me and you’ll have just that shot.

Product photograph – wine

Wine bottle
Wine bottle

Photographing products is one of my specialities. I take great care in making sure the image looks exactly like the client wants it. Today’s case in point – a bottle of wine out of a case.

If you click on the image, you’ll see a higher resolution sample of the work. This bottle had quite a few wear marks on the label as well as dings in the actual glass. It added to the post-processing time but the final result is well worth the effort.

The actual photography of the bottle didn’t take too long. But the bottom label gave me some trouble because it has gold foil. As soon as I lit the bottom label for the gold foil, it ruined the dark color of the black, making it an ugly hazy gray. That required some extra work that I would have prefered to avoid doing, but doing all the usual tricks to lighten up the gold foil ended up making other problems worse. So, a little magic and voila.

Original image
Original image

As you can see in the picture on the left, the original, there is quite a bit of damage on the label and some in the bottle. That caused some extra trouble, too. The bottle was very dirty and the cleaning process left the edges of the label shredded. The holding stand is of course visible and the left side of the image isn’t perfectly white.

As I was able to make the background around the bottle 255 white, I didn’t have to do any time-consuming (and sometimes miserable) post-processing select, trimming, pen tool, or other work. It’s just such a joy to get the area around the product white enough that I don’t have to do anything more with it. So often, masking the product out of the background vaporizes more time than anything else. So if I can get it white, I do it.

The super clamp came in handy to hold the wine bottle on the light stand, as I didn’t have my regular platform. This worked out okay, though it was a little precarious. Nothing bad happened in the end.

Now it is time to open that wine.

Photoshop for photographers

Photoshop interface
Photoshop interface

There is still time to sign up for my Introduction to Photoshop for Photographers at the Jackson Hole Art Association. In this class, we will cover all of the basics you’ll need as a photographer to get the most out of Photoshop.

The software is complex and can be daunting. In this course, we’ll get you comfortable with making your way around the software, getting everything set up and helping to improve your photographs. If you’re serious about your photography, this class is definitely worth the time.

You’ll learn some of the tip, tricks, and power-user techniques that will make you more confident and efficient with your Photoshop use. Whether you like to just dabble or you’re looking for some more serious usage of the software, this class is a great introduction. You’ll learn what all of those icons in the picture to the right mean and how you can use them.