Birthday Girl

It's been too long.  I want to maintain this blog, but want to branch out from the normal post-a-picture-every-6-months usual.  



Freyja_1st_Birthday - 21.jpg

Here's a picture of our new (well, we got her like 8 months ago) dachshund, Freyja.  (Get it?  Thor and Freyja?)  She tries to fill the void that Cleo left with lots of barking and mischief.  I guess Dachshunds are just bred to be brats.  But we love her.

Split-Tone Time Machine With Dogs

Today was a glorious Fall day.  I decided to do a portrait shoot with the pups. I also split-toned the photos in lightroom to give it that vintage look.  I added yellow to the highlights and purple to the shadows.  This is not to be confused with using Instagram as a crutch to try and make a boring cell-phone photo appear interesting...  

Personally I love these shots (but I'm biased based on the subject matter).  I'm not always a fan of this coloring technique, but with the lighting and the shallow depth of field, I think it helps the images quite a bit.  I love these photos of Cleo.  You can just see her age in every white hair on her nose.



Photo 52 - Week 12, 13 and 14

You get a 3-for-1 special in this post.  I've got some catching up to do. 

Week 12

First up, a shot from a very empty week.  Lacking any inspiration, I went on a walk with Christina and Thor, and out of nowhere this Pit Bull decided he wanted to walk with us.  I never know what Thor will do in these situations, I had Christina pick him up while I tried to shoo the dog away.  I only managed to get this one shot. 

It has a lot of issues.  The composition is boring, and awkwardly amputates the dogs front legs and rear end off.  And it's just a picture of a dog.  Nothing special.  But in a week of non-inspiration it's the best shot I had that week.

Week 13

Week 13 was a lot better, since Christina and I went to Chicago for my Birthday.I tried to get some architecture shots, but really liked the texture of this building facade, and this is my shot of week 13.  This is a building on Michigan Avenue near Millenium Park.

There were a few other decent shots from that trip.  I was able to bump up my ISO all the way and get a shot of one of the subway tunnels.  I like the lines and perspective.

And finally near Millenium park, I found this black bird perched on top of a Chicgo sign near Millenium Park.  This shot was almost my shot of week 13.

Week 14

And to take it back to basics, I ended up not having a whole lot in week 14.  I did spend some time with Thor in the backyard, and I like how this shot turned out.

Photo 52 - Week 11

Well, it might not be an exciting shot or even a unique subject.  But, it does show off my new lens, my 28mm f/1.8 prime.  It is gorgeous, light, and great for indoor shooting!  It's a great compliment to my 50mm f/1.4.  As you can see it's got super silky bokeh and is really, really sharp even wide open.

It fills a nice hole in my lens collection, and I struggled with my decision to even get it.  It's a little expensive for something that I technically didn't need, but I found that with my 7d I have been shooting a lot more, especially indoors.  My 50mm f/1.4 is fast enough to get some great shots indoors, but it is too tight on my camera, especially since it is a 1.6x crop (a camera like a 5dMkII, for example, is a "full frame" 35 mm sensor), so effectively it's an 80-something mm lens.  Too tight for most indoor shooting. 

I also love shooting wide when I'm outdoors too.  I knew I'd get more use out of a wider lens, and when I shoot with my 28-135mm, I typically am below 50mm when I'm shooting outside.  I paid attention to all of the photos I've been drawn to when viewing photo blogs and browsing through flickr groups (my primary source of inspiration), and they were on the wider end of the spectrum.

While my 28-135mm can get wide enough, it wasn't fast enough for indoor shooting or for that nice silky depth of field that all the kids are crazy about.

So, at the end of the day, I justified it as filling that one hole in my collection, and I really feel like I won't need to buy any more glass for a long time.


At least, that's what I tell myself.

Photo 52 - Week 8

We round out the second month of the year, and the 8th week of my "Photo 52" project.  I'm sorry that it's another picture of one of my dogs.  Unfortunately, with the weather as it has been (Winter is stubborn around these parts) I didn't get the motivation to go out and shoot.

I'm loving the high ISO performance of my 7d, and the above is a shot I couldn't have imagined taking before, lest it be a staticky, noisy mess.  And what noise is present in the image (you need to zoom in to see any) is cleaned up in Lightroom.

Photo 52 - Week 1

Above is the first photo from my 52-week long (that's one year for those who failed math) photography challenge; my Project 52.  A lot of artistic types decide at the beginning of the year to do a "Project 365" or "Project 52" where they commit to working on something once a day or once a week, whether it's writing on their novel, knitting scarves or taking photos.

The photo above is of the Mighty Thor, one of my favorite subjects.  I can't take all the credit for this shot though.  It's all about the light, baby.  If you're not familiar with the Golden Hour, it's those times right before dusk and right after dawn, where the sun is low and casts this extremely flattering golden glow on subjects and minimizes harsh shadows.  Below are some of the runner-up shots.

Some photographers are trying a Project 365 (you know who you are).  That's just a little out of reach for me, and I know if I push forward to go shooting 2-3 times a week I know I can find at least one great photo per week, and in my mind having 52 great photos at the end of a year is not bad at all!  Besides, if I tried a project 365 I would have already missed days 1-5, and I don't want to start off the year as a failure.

For post-processing, I boosted the blacks a tad and added some vignetting, that's it.  All the post-processing in the world can't replace being outside at the right time of day.

Housekeeping Note:

For Christmas I got Lightroom 3, and have been spending the last couple of weeks trying to learn it and develop a sane workflow.  Where to keep my RAW files, how to process them, tag them, export them to Flickr and finally post them here on the site.

I am going to try and use Flickr as my primary photo host for right now, and serve all the blog images straight from Flickr instead of uploading them to my squarespace account.  This saves me a step and really there's no reason to have multiple copies of the same photo on the web.

Oh, and sometime this year I'm going to redesign the site.  My web design skills may be a bit rusty, but I'm a little tired of the squirrel and dirt motif.

Campus Life

Ha!  The title's kind of a joke (except for the squirrel).  I was supposed to go out and shoot "Campus Life" at the University of Illinois.  Last weekend was absolutely gorgeous, and when I walked out onto the quad, it was teeming with life.  However, I have this thing called shy-ness, and I didn't want to start pointing a 250mm lens down people's throats.  It's something that, as a photographer, I really need to get over.

I know there's a fine line between taking photo-journalistic type shots of people in public, and actually creeping said people out.  I know if I was playing frisbee on the quad and someone pointed a lens at me, it would weird me out just a *little* bit. 

My favorite photography podcast touched on this a long while ago, and basically they say that people you are taking pictures of get more weirded out the more shy or timid you seem.  The key is to be confident, seem like you know what you're doing, and if are getting close, simply ask to take their picture.  The key is to seem confident.  I guess a guy that is shying away from eye contact, hiding behind a bush trying to sneak a shot does seem a lot creepier than the confident guy down on one knee pointing a giant lens at people.

Again, something I want to work on personally and as a photographer.

BUT, the day was not lost!  First, probably my favorite shot in a good long while.  I only wish it were a tad sharper.

 A squirrel playing to the camera on a nice spring afternoon.

This was shot with my 50mm.  I am in love with the DoF, the Bokeh, and the Colors.  I didn't have the luxury of a long lens, but I didn't need it!  In this shot he was probably 3 feet in front of my lens.

I was scoping out a bike rack just off the quad, and was trying to compose a good shot of some bikes lined up, and I saw a squirrel that was completely un-shy.  He was sniffing me out from 3 to 4 feet away on the ground.  I did as many quick shots as I could, just hoping to get one in-focus shot before he darted away.

Instead, he kept sniffing at me, darting to the side, sniffing me some more ... he obviously wanted food.  I wish I had a granola bar, I bet I could have taken a picture of him eating out of my hand!  After 30 seconds that felt like 10 minutes, he started darting up this small tree that, as you can see, was budding these bright pink flowers.  Before heading all the way up the tree, he took one last look in my direction.

Further up on another road, I found an even better bike-rack, and snapped this:

 A retro bike hanging all by its lonesome.

I like the colors, moodiness and depth of focus.  This bike really stood out on the rack.  I was playing with composition, and I think I like the tension of the bike rack being on the left-edge of the image, with the shrub on the right side with this bike caught in the middle.

And I think Christina actually took this last shot.  I was ribbing her earlier when she's try and take photos.  I'd ask, "who's the subject of this photo?  Every good photo has to have a subject."  She grabbed my camera and just shot up at the building.


I love the geometry and angles, and the drain pipe is such a strong pull on your eye to get you to look up and down the image.  I wish I could take credit for it, but Christina saw it and snapped it.

Spring Twenty Ten

With the vinegar comes the sugar, and in Champaign, that means that with the bitter Winter comes the Spring. And Spring has come, in a big way.

As one is apt to do, when the sun fights back the bitter cold, and the grass, birds and flowers come to life, I went outside. Actually: my wife, my dogs and I went outside. We went to Crystal Lake park in Urbana. Of course I had to bust out my camera, and Christina had to put up with me spending 10 minutes at a time peering at tiny flowers through my lens while she wandered off with Thor and Cleo.

Similar to my Fall Panorama I posted last year, I made a panorama of one of the better views of the park. I used Photoshop's built in "Photo Merge" feature, and I love it! I need to remember to use it more often, now that I have a machine that can do one in less than a bazillion hours. Click it for bigness!

A Spring panorama that feebly tries to convey the warmth and calmness of a spring day in Champaign.

And because I'm all about close-up, depth of focus effects, here is a shot of some tiny pansies that were growing in the grass. I love this shot, because it feels like it could be a background for Alice in Wonderland or something. Foolishly I was shooting at ISO 400, so it's a tad grainy. Oh well.

An army of tiny purple pansies

My new 50mm did not monopolize the shoot, though! I did catch a shot of this sunbathing goose using my long angle lens. I've heard that geese are mean, and I didn't want to test my luck with this one. I tried to bring out the warmth of the sun from the late afternoon.

A goose, catching some warm rays

And, finally, I tried another HDR shot. It's hard to do them anyway, let alone hand-held, and I think I kind of succeeded. Basically this shot was tricky because the bridge was under shade, and the clearing was bright. So I had to use two exposures, one with the bridge properly exposed, and one with the clearing properly exposed. Then I brought out the color and bumped up the contrast. I kinda like it

A lonely wooden bridge leading to a bright green clearing

By the way, so far i'm keeping up with my three shooting-sessions a week plan. I will post two more blog entries later in the week. COMMENT!

The Fauna of Doña Ana

We went back to Las Cruces this month for a wedding and reunion.  Of course I took my camera, and while walking near the in-laws' property in Doña Ana, snapped some shots of the local animals.

First, the in-laws' dogs.  The big one is named "Bert."  I tried for the longest time to get him to look straight into the lens (I was behind a chain-link fence), but he was distracted by Blossom.  I think the shot turned out pretty cool.  Click to view the full size image!


Across the road, their neighbors had a few beautiful horses.  One in particular was not shy t all, in fact I think he was hamming for the camera.  Here's one of the shots (click for bigness):


The sun was perfect when I found the next animal.  It was a burro (?), again not very shy.  I didn't have any carrots for him, just my camera.  I was probably only 6 inches from the guy when I shot this: