The California Central Coast is an unbelievable place to get some of the most classic "rock and trees meet water" shots anywhere in the world. But, it also holds a great variety of very small wildflowers...sometimes overlooked by the photographers looking toward the west.
The video clip below shows one technique for getting in REALLY close.....and modifying the ambient light with a tethered flash unit and a small soft box.
The flowers in the shots above are about one quarter inch in diameter! The camera position didn't change....only the lighting was modified to result in the three very differing results.
During our stay in Venice, Italy we had rented a second story apartment for the duration of the workshop. One morning, Cathy Laffin looked out the window and was laughing out loud. But, by the time we all ran over to see what was up, (or down) it was too late.
Our neighbor, also on the second floor, apparently found it easier to lower her cat out of the window, in lieu of a loo....or, in this case a litter box. So, several times each day, this is the unique circus-type entertainment we were provided.
When the flying feline was ready to return home, he simply jumped back in the basket and waited for a ride.
Not a real tecnnical challenging subject.....all we had to do was wait for the proper location of the basket, pre-frame the composition, and use a shutter speed fast enough to capture the action.
ISO at 400 / custom white balance, using an Expo Disc / Tamron 18-250 zoom at 60mm / f/5.6 at 1/200th
To see more of the shots from this trip, which also included a stint in the German Alps, check out the GALLERY section on the website.
The video below shows what it looked like in real time, from the voyeur's perspective.
After the really great light from sunrise has long passed, there's still plenty of stuff to shoot that doesn't require the warm, dramatic quality of that first few minutes of daylight.
The sand dunes of Death Valley offer endless opportunities to create some really unique compositions....especially right after a big wind storm has cleaned up the dunes. No footprints to deal with, other than the ones you make yourself.
Sometimes you can walk right by some pretty amazing subject matter. Especially, if you're intent on finding a specific shot, or looking for a particular subject to shoot. And, that's what happened on this morning at Death Valley.
We were out looking for the huge, sand dunes images, and almost missed this really cool close-up opportunity. And, the super wide 11-18mm zoom made the drama of distortion even more interesting.
There's 2 different elements included in this snake's eye view of a VERY small dune. The small piece of dry, crusty, mud is just inches away from the front of the lens......and the small branch in the background is no more than 3 feet away. But, the visual distortion created by the super wide lens really expanded the perceived spacing, and created a nice illusion.
Here's a little, hand-held stitching demo from a recent trip to Death Valley.
The software used to create the final composite image was "Panorama Maker Pro"
It took only about 2 minutes, and it automatically compensated for the slight variances caused by the obvious lack of a tripod. You'll still get much better results using a tripod and bubble-level.....but, in a pinch this way works, too. There will simply be less usable area in the final composited file.....which means you'll need to do some cropping to clean up the perimeter.
Every so often we get hired to do some PR shots by the local school district, here in Friendly El Monte, California. The proverbial "End of the Santa Fe Trail" ...or, so we were taught, during all my years in grammer school, here in the town where I grew up.
For this session we needed to meet with some department heads for a quick outdoor, group shot .....for use as a large graphic wrap, on one of their district delivery vans. (Boy, will the graffitti artists have a field day with this one! Man! Life-sized likenesses of the school administrators... right there....just waiting to have moustaches added. Pretty easy targets.....hand me that magic marker, please. Where was this stuff when I was a kid ?)
Anyway, we used a fairly standard lighting set-up, to overpower the ambient light. The videos below show the lights and camera being set-up, as well as the actual photo session. We set up 2 main lights up high, and aiming down at the subjects....combined meter reading was f/11 at 200 iso. The other 2 lights were placed on either side of the group, behind them. These acted as kick, or separation lights....to add some highlights at the edges, and create a clean separation from the background....these were adjusted to meter at about an half stop under the main lights.
This must have been "FREE, all-you-can-drink Coffee Day" at school....cause everyone was really movin' fast......have a look
There's lots of good information to be found by surfing your favorite sites online. Here's one you may not know of. My friends at Tamron lenses have been producing a quarterly magazine for the past few years that's loaded with some very good tips from some of the leading photographers around the country. It's also got some ads for their lenses....but, whaddya expect....it's free. And their products are top notch.
They also provide a series of weekend workshops.....held all over the US. Click here for the schedule, and pricing info
If you'd like to receive this electronic magazine via email every few months....you can check out the current edition here...Tamron Viewfinder . It may take a few seconds to load.... And, after looking at the truly, wonderful article about this most amazing photographer's recent trip to Italy, you can sign up to receive it here
Luckily, photography has been my sole profession. Since beginning my business in high school, I've maintained the studio in my hometown, and am living in the nearby town of Whittier.
I have 3 sons, who all survived the trauma of growing up in LA.....and they all appear to be well on their way to successful careers. My wonderful wife, Sue, is extremely supportive, and never complains of the constant hectic travel schedule.