Thursday, April 16, 2009

Newness! Spring!! Yay!!!

Spring marks the advent of a new beginning. In pagan and celtic history spring was the (re)birth of the sun. The beginning of a whole new life, a whole new world cycle. Sunrise. Buds and blossoms. Celebration! And this springs marks the advent of a whole new venture for Shaun and I. I took my own advice (read a few blog posts back for my contemplation on this) and we are launching a new website aimed strictly at our portraiture business. Our new URL has been purchased, we've got a website template being constructed and we're working on getting it filled and launched! Look to this blog in the near (hopefully!) future for more information. And no, I won't tell you the new address. It's a suprise!

Along the same vein of newnicety ;) we bought some new lights. Nothing to break the bank, but a couple of halogens and new reflectors. I'm looking forward to playing with them - woohoo! Now if only I could get Shaun to model for me. :( I seriously need a mannequin.

I will be leaving tomorrow for a little over a week. Family business calls me away. You'll hear from me again when I get back, I may have images to share from the trip. We'll see, it's not exactly a pleasure cruise. Otherwise...miss me, get out and shoot - and live!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers, by Scott Kelby

ISBN-13: 978-321-50191-2
New Riders Publishers
Copyright 2008 by Scott Kelby

I love this book. Love, love, love it. Scott Kelby is famous for his photoshopping skills, but what's even better are his communication skills. No matter how complex a process or thought on CS3, Scott has a way of breaking it down and explaining it. Trust me on this, if I get what he's saying, you'll get it to. He's providing any number of useful tools that it would take a lifetime if not longer for you to figure out on your own or with minimal help. I'm finding his Portrait Touch-up tools to be very simple, practical and exciting. This is a book/manual that I keep on my desk and am sure that I will refer to time and time again. Below are a before and after of one of my shots touched-up using just some of the tools he provide in this book. Enjoy, this book is worth it's weight in pixels!

Denver Darkroom Portraiture and Lighting, Day 2

On saturday we had the second day of our portrait and lighting seminar. We finally covered strobes. I found this the most pertinent to what I'm doing, as I use mainly strobes in my portraiture. We had fun playing with lighting setups and two new models, April and Emily. My only regret was that I did not get a chance to shoot anything of Emily. Attached are a few of April I took.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Littlest Superman

We know him as tall, brave - a man of steel. He came from a distant planet as an infant. As he grew into our superhero, all memory of his youth was lost to the ages. Or so we thought...

Be it fate, or direction by unseen forces - images of The Littlest Superman have surfaced!

How many of us could have imagined the pressure, trials and tribulations Superman went through as a child?

The angst and discomfort from being different? Even as a sprout Superman was capable of bending steel pipes!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Find Your Bright Red X

I'm not trying to steal David DuChemin's thunder by posting yet another link to his blog. I love his blog. I read it every day. I recommend you read it every day if you want to be a better photographer and person. When I started this blog, I promised to post pieces of the world I found on the net that I was motivated and inspired by. It just so happens that I'm motivated and inspired by DuChemin's blog often. Today was no exception.

Read Me

David suggests we find our brightest Red X. What he means by the Red X is, where in the grand scheme of the photographic world do you stand? Which niche do you claim? What shaft of light do you passion for, wish to master? What vision and style is all yours to share with others? We are individuals as unique as raindrops and yet many of us in photography would rather master someone else's style, someone else's vision and call that a success.

I see it on all of the forums for photographers and even amongst my friends, people are constantly comparing their work to others and castigating their competition. They come off as petty whiners. If they can out Annie Liebowitz, Annie Liebowitz then they must be great photographers, right? The truth is that there is no real competition between photogs. As David talks about in his blog, nobody can fill your niche (Red X) like you. Every one of us brings a unique vision to our photography. Line 10 of us up and shoot a robin in a tree and you'll get ten hugely different shots of a bird, a tree, a leaf, the sky, a branch or a shoe. Why do so many photographers grrr at Ansel Adams out of jealousy and frustration? You couldn't fill his shoes. Admit to yourself, NO, you could not take his shots better. You know why? They're his shots, his vision, his style. Go find your own damn vision and shoot the hell out of it. The only person you need to be better than is yourself!

David makes another point in that post that I'm guilty of. If you're reading this blog then you've seen our website. According to our website, Shaun and I aren't out there as portrait photographers. We're not out there as travel photographers. We're not landscape artists. Our big red X is awefully diluded, by anyones standards. My dream is to be a portrait photographer. I believe I excel at portraiture. I love faces. I always have. I see something beautiful in every face. I hope my passion comes acrossed in my photography. But who could tell by looking at my site? The portrait gallery is one amongst many. For me, it's a quandry. Our site is a union between my husband and I. And we have two hugely varying visions, passions and pursuits when it comes to photography. To be a bigger success as a portrait artist does that mean I need my own site dedicated solely to portraiture? I think David Duchemin would say "absolutely!". Something for me to think about, and you!

Shoot Something Every Day

I'm a writer as well as a photographer. I've done some work for pay, mostly I write for my own entertainment. Why is this pertinent? When I sit down at the page I allow myself some time to "write out the brown water" before I expect myself to create anything worth reading. By brown water what I mean is, imagine an old pipe. If it sits there long enough unused, it'll fill with sediment and gunk and turn brown. If you want to drink water from that pipe you have to drain and cleanse out the brown water before anything good comes down the chute.

It's the same thing with creative juices. And yes, photography (and absolutely writing) are both creative functions. If those juices are allowed to sit and firment then it's unreasonable to expect the first shots or pages to be of any quality. That's why I suggest you shoot something, anything, every day. I don't care if it's a flower, duck or dog poop. Get out there and keep the juices flowing. If you can't, don't expect to shoot gold on your first roll. You'll have to get the brown water out first. And if you're any good the money shots will roll down the chute next.

Get out and shoot!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fun With Vignettes

Photographers will often use vignettes to make a 2D image seem more 3D (the goal of any good photographer, regardless of technique). Vignettes can be in the form of filters you put on the end of your lens while shooting. They can be added in during photoshopping. Or for the most fun, they can be found spontaneously while shooting and improvised with. These two shots were taken down the 6" wide barrel of a white lined plexiglass tube. I thought they were a lot of fun, the boys enjoyed it, and the color fade from white to blue/grey was an interesting pop to the composition.

A Stellar Black and White Conversion

I've been practicing my color to grey scale conversions based on what I learned from the Katrin Eismann tutorial. I'm attaching an image I converted that I thought turned out really well. I started with an amazing shot, f/1.2 at 50mm ISO 200. I worked the color channels, selecting the green channel because it gave me the most tone and least amount of noise. I converted to grey scale mode and did a levels layer to add a bit more black. Nothing else was done, any haloing was a natural light phenomena. I had a lot of fun and am enjoying continuing learning from the Black and White Artistry tutorial.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Katrin Eismann - Color to Black and White Artistry

I found this course at the Kelby Training Center . I have never seen an online course so wonderfully illustrated and taught. You literally watch her desktop as she shows you how to expertly convert color images to black and white (greyscale). Not only did I learn about the color channels and their uses, I learned a lot of information about CS3 that I never knew before. I've only just been turned onto the Kelby Training Center world, but as soon as I post this I'm going back over there to look for more information. There is a membership fee of $20 a month for the rest of their courses, newsletter, etc. Amazingly enough, the Katrin Eismann course was free. Enjoy! The image of Curtis to the left was done with techniques taught in this course.

Denver Darkroom, Portrait and Lighting

It doesn't matter how good you may think you are, you can always get better. There's always someone better than you, taller, faster, more creative. Don't worry about other people. But don't let yourself get barn blind either. By that I mean, don't stop looking and comparing other people's work. Not to be critical of them, but of yourself. Being barn blind means that you think you have the best looking and conformed animals around. But you never step outside of your barn, so you're blind to reality. Along that same vane, I signed up for a Portraiture and Lighting seminar at the Denver Darkroom. Located on Tejon St. in Denver, more information about this school can be found here. The seminar is affordable and meets in 3 sessions. Yesterday was the first and was a very fun time.

We met at the Darkroom studio at 10am. For the first hour and a half Standish Lawder (founder of the Darkroom) showed us a slide show and discussed portrait photography and lighting. His presentation was interesting and informative. Following that discussion we moved two models into the room, Curtis was in front of a black background and Renee was in front of a white backgroud. My six classmates and I were split into two groups. Within our groups we spent 20 minutes directing the shoot and model and then switched to let another of our group members direct. Afterwards we switched to a new model and teacher. Standish directed the group shooting Curtis and Jeffrey Rupp directed the group shooting Renee. This week we worked with Halogen (hot lights - APTLY named). Next week our class will shoot outside and also work with strobe lighting, using two new models. Then on May 9th we'll have a wine and dine and critique session. I've enjoyed the group immensly and am looking forward to next weekend. I've attached some shots I got from yesterday.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers, by Christopher Grey

ISBN-13: 978-1-58428-125-2
Amherst Media
Copyright 2004, Christopher Grey

If you're a portrait photgrapher looking for the crucible of books on lighting, your search stops here. I'm sorry if I'm sounding particularily melodramatic here, but this is my absolute favorite book on portrait lighting to date. Not only does Mr. Grey show you how he lights each of his shots, he shows you the evolution of his thought process to get there. Invaluable! Not only that, but he gives you insight into the history of each lighting style and technique and challenges you to master the basics and then move beyond. If you only look for one book to master portrait lighting, find this one. You won't be disappointed. My only con for this tome was the author's prompts to try each shoot myself. I didn't want to put the book down long enough to try! ;)

PDN (Photo District News)

I like to read photographic magazines. Admittedly, some are far more interesting and informative than others. Unfortunately far too many are page after page of ads with a sprinkle of article thrown in. I've even read some of the British magazines, looking for the best fit to my interest and insatiable curiosity. One magazine that I really enjoy is Photo District News. It is one of the few magazines that I'll read from cover to cover. Right now a yearly subscription will set you back $65. I think it's worth the expense if you can afford it. They have insightful camera and gear reviews, they feature a variety of photographers and their articles deal with real issues for professional photographers. You can find out more information at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Best of Portrait Photography, Techniques and Images from the Pros. 2nd Ed. Bill Hurter

ISBN-13: 978-1-58428-223-5.
Amherst Media
Copyright 2008, Bill Hurter

I had high hopes for this book, it received good reviews online at amazon. What I thought this book would be was a consortium of tips and how-to's from professional photographers to help take my portraiture up to the next level. What it turned out to be was a beginner book on portraiture terms and editorials on various high-end portrait photographers. There wasn't any real depth to the chapters, no lighting scenarios or diagrams beyond one page of the basic set-ups. In the end, I took away a sense of respect for the high-end photographers presented in this book by the author. But was often left wondering if the photographers themselves would have broken their images down to the minutae of the author. A nice read for inspiration, but was left wanting more meat on the bone.

Photoshop World - Vegas, Oct 2009

Photoshop World, Oct. 1-3, 2009 Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas NV

"With over 100 classes taught by some of the biggest names in the industry, Photoshop World is the world's largest conference and expo dedicated to Photoshop, Lightroom, design, and digital photography! Join us for three days filled with training, inspiration, and fun! It's gonna be wicked cool."

I'm really hoping to get to PSW this year, if I can convince the hubby and find a babysitter. Duchemin is supposed to be there and the whole convention sounds amazing.

Photoshop World Website

HighKey Stephanie

This is #2 in the lighting diagram series. The key light is my 17" beauty dish. My fill is a silver reflector camera left and close to the model. I've got two mid-range silver bowl reflectors feathered across the white background for the high key effect. I like the results.
See results below.

Seductive Stephanie

I was inspired by a thread on POTN the other day and thought I'd try that here in our blog. The premise was for photographers to post a lighting setup diagram and then an image taken using that setup. My first post in this category was done with Stephanie. Using a black background, I had her at a forty five degree angle to the camera. My key light was a 17" beauty dish with grid on it, my fill light was a 60cmx80cm softbox, a silver reflector forty five degrees to camera left and a 16 degree snoot as her hair light. I like the effect, thought it turned out well. My only qualm is the slightly hot spot on her right shoulder. Easy dealt with in PS. But even better, next time I shoot this I'll be sure to move the snoot a little to her left.

David duChemin

This man is a fantastic photographer, writer and all around good person. I found David a few years ago on a Travel Photography forum and have followed his work ever since. We've even exchanged a few emails, although with his busy schedule I doubt he'd remember me by now. Regardless, he does good things for good people and maintains a super blog (linked above). Check it out. I thought his "Put Crap in the Way" (for good composition) post was wonderful and funny. Hope you enjoy!

Our Beginning

This isn't my first blog. I've used blogspot before, and I've had a live journal. I thought I'd gotten over it, not wanted to journal publically anymore. But everywhere I look I'm finding more and more photographers with blogs. Don't get me wrong, I love to read what other people are doing. I just worry that I'll come off a little egotistical by thinking anyone would want to read about my ins and outs. Regardless, here we are. High Plains Photographer has a blog. Who are we? My husband Shaun and I met on POTN (Photography on the Net) and were married last year. We've collaborated since we've met, mostly doing travel and landscape photography. Before we met I was working in a portrait studio in Wisconsin, and have wanted to get back into for years. Pregnant with twins, and a busy life put that dream on hold for a while. But now we're back in action, both Shaun and myself working on portrait photography. We've got a small studio and a great lighting setup and are looking forward to sharing that with our friends online. In addition, we're both sort of internet addicts. I often come across interesting articles or posts online that I think would be interesting for other people. I'll post some of those here in the future. Thank you for joining us, I hope you stick around and enjoy your time here.