One Light, One Modifier

I have the same problem most photographers do, Equipment Acquisition Disorder. It’s ugly, painful and the treatment is very expensive. Yet, every once in a while I’m in remission and I’m able to almost be a normal human being. The kind of person who recognizes how much I already have and what I can do with it. So, in between boughts, I managed to have a couple of successful studio sessions with a single light (Einstein e640) and a single modifier (a Buff 30″x60″ modifier). Not only was I able to have some very different lighting on my model’s face, but it didn’t stop me from getting the looks I wanted.

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So, I lied a little. There’s an SB-800 with two blue gels throwing a splash on the backdrop. I don’t really count that, but it appears in the next couple of shots. In this shot I was pushing toward short lighting, but I brought the source in nice and close. I used a piece of foamcore (held by an assistant) to make sure her pretty curls weren’t lost on the shadow side.

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This shot has the same setup, but with the model turned to take a broad light shot. I’ve been enamoured lately with B&W conversions of my portraits and I think there is enough contrast for it to work here. The light was pulled back just a bit to get a little more definition in the shadows.

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Same lighting, with the light pulled back (you have to, since it is such a large source) and my position raised up above the model’s chin level. I really wanted the focus pulled right into her eyes.

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One light, no fill, no background light. I was going for an old-hollywood feel with this. In Perfect Photo Suite 7, I added blur in Perfect Focus and used Perfect B&W for the conversion.

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Again, going for the glamour. However, this time, it isn’t a soft and I kept most of the color (although the tones aren’t quite as vibrant, except in the lipstick, to add to the period feel).

So, it’s likely I’ll be back in the depths of my illness and dropping coin on something I desperately “need” sometime soon. However, the next time I’m in remission or shamed by my wife, I’ll try to remember how much you can do with just one light, some patience, and that creativity thing.

On the edge


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On a senior portrait shoot this past weekend I had a subject that was both beautiful and accommodating  So, we went a little off the beaten path to get some edgier shots.  This was as much fun in post as it was to shoot.

The late afternoon Fall light was kind of going away so I filled with on-camera flash (I was having a little pocket-wizard issue) softened with a large Rogue Flashbender with diffuser and a 1/2 cto gel on the flash.

In post I leveled it out in Lightroom and then brought it into OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects 4 where I applied the Arkham preset a couple times with different masks, some tonal contrast and something else that presently escapes me.

I think the final product has the intrigue I was hoping for without taking away from the lovely features of my subject.

When is it no longer a photograph?


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While working on this image, my wife commented that it wasn’t a photograph anymore since it no longer looked just like it came out of the camera. Well, I don’t know about that, but it does fulfill my vision of what this shot was supposed to be.

Yes, I added the clouds to enhance the rather lackluster sky and brought out the colors in my mind. Those of a later day shooting opportunity I didn’t have.

The bracketed shots were merged using the ‘Merge to 32-bit HDR’ plugin from HDRSoft for lightroom. Tonemapping was started in Lightroom and completed in OnOne Software Perfect Effects . There was a little bit of masking in photoshop to replace the sky.

Jen and Adam one year into the rest of their lives



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When Jen and Adam were married, Adam had committed to but not entered into the Marines. So, they were unable to have their wedding album full of pictures of Adam in his handsome uniform. Now, a year later, they were back in town and we managed to get an hour together to take those pictures.

I was very honored to be asked to take these for them. I’ve known them both for many years and they are such a pleasant couple to be around.

The image above was processed starting in Lightroom 4 to balance out exposure, then exported into Photoshop CS5 to remove the diffuser. I could have stopped there. However, when time permits, I just love taking it to the next level with OnOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite. I used Focalpoint to separate the couple from the surrounding garden and trees, then I used Perfect Effects to give it a little late day light.

Calculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

Calculating GodCalculating God by Robert J. Sawyer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mr. Sawyer made it difficult to enjoy this book by “poisoning the well” in his preface. He made it abundantly clear that he hoped to show that people who disregard theology in favor of a reasoned approach to the world based on scientific study were just as biased and closed minded as some theists. The “Science is just another religion” view. This position shows both a lack of understanding of the process of science and, apparently, religion.

He accomplished no such thing, of course. It was about as much a useful parable on the acceptance of theism by critical thinkers as Sherlock Holmes is a textbook of crime scene investigation. Mr. Sawyer thought that by changing what we know, adding new fabricated knowledge and introducing a foreign perspective he could enrich the discussion of the “does god exist” question. He didn’t. He trod old ground and made the same logical mistakes that many have made before. That aspect of the story was so infantile it seems clear that Mr. Sawyer has been lax in his consumption of modern philosophical thought.

It’s a shame, really. The actual narrative is very sweet. Especially with the excellent reading by Jonathan Davis. The very human aspects of the story are well done, if a little more sentimental than absolutely necessary. Still, it is always nice to read a science fiction story that is more interested in people than technology or aliens.

Yes, there are aliens in this story, but they are only alien in their form and origin. They are not advanced or particularly different in any other meaningful way. I’m having a difficult time in deciding whether I respect the novelty of this or not. It is very common to have aliens that do not differ from us in form, but have significantly different culture and thought processes, this is the opposite. A nice twist for creating sympathetic characters, but it is a cumbersome way to play at confirming his premise without actually bringing in any new evidence. Kind of like paying a shill to extol the virtues of your snake-oil.

Not a bad read, but kind of a ham-fisted effort to push a particular agenda. Having characters in the book draw bad conclusions from contrived evidence does not a compelling argument make.






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Are you talking or communicating?

When you talk to someone, are you more interested in saying what you have to say or them actually hearing it?

This is a surprisingly non-trivial question. Too often, recently, I have been on the receiving end of talking that isn’t really communicating.

Maybe, when you want to communicate, you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

1) Is anyone listening?
This seems really obvious, but in our modern “multitasking” society you can’t assume that someone sitting near you sans headphones is ready (or interested) to listen to you. Listeners should have to opportunity to “buy-in” before you start your long story about what your co-worker did or your thoughts on the latest political nonsense. Make some eye contact. Hell, you could even ask.

Honestly, no one really multitasks. If they are replying to an email, they aren’t really listening to you and will probably be annoyed by that incessant buzzing in their ear.

2) Are you whispering (or yelling) to help you communicate?
Take this metaphorically or literally, it applies the same. If you are communicating, the volume should be appropriate to the comfort of the listener. If you are so loud that it is uncomfortable for the listener, they will shut you off for their own comfort. If you are too quiet, they can’t hear you. Either way you are not effectively communicating.

I have a friend who whispers and sometimes just mouths words for no good reason. It’s not secrets, inappropriate or anything. Maybe it is just a bad habit, but it makes me feel like I have intermittent deafness. You get tired of asking people to repeat themselves or saying, “I’m standing right next to you.”

3) Is your communicating interactive?
Unless you are standing at a lectern, it is unlikely anyone wants your ten minute long discourse. Breathe. Allow others to work in a couple of words.

4) Does your audience get your references?
No one loves pop-culture references as much as I do, but you cannot watch (read, listen to) everything or sees all that’s out there. Make sure people have seen that YouTube video before you base your argument around it. If you have to spend the first ten minutes explaining the episode of Seinfeld I never saw, maybe you need a better simile?

Bottom line, if you don’t care whether I really hear you, don’t talk to me.

I hope that I was communicating and not talking here. I tried to keep it short and I didn’t want to rant. Let me know what I missed. Do these things bother anyone besides me?

“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” – Pythagoras

The Mockingjay (I skipped reviewing Catching Fire)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can’t imagine why an author would spend so much of their word count convincing us that the “hero” is an over-thinking, inconstant, whining little girl. There is no growth of this character across three books. At the outset, I was happy to see a strong female protagonist that carried along a dynamic and dramatic sci-fi story. Unfortunately, the author was more interested in convincing us she’s not mature enough to handle relationships in difficult situations and not intelligent enough to synthesize a new understanding of the world through her many experiences.

The story is serviceable enough and there are certainly plot points that make it engaging. Unfortunately, there is so little subtlety in any of the characters. The most interesting character, Haymitch, is kept mostly on the fringes. I would rather hear his inner dialogue, than another self-centered monologue by Katniss.

Fortunately, this should be near impossible in the movies. We might actually get that most rare of artistic products, a movie that is better than the book.




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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was OK. I couldn’t help but think that this would be really exciting new territory for someone who doesn’t read science fiction. It appears to be targeted at the same demographic as Twilight with a very Twilight-esque love triangle.

The most annoying part is how the protagonist has amazing insight and stubborn, idiotic, blindness at turns depending on what is going to move the plot forward or draw out the story. This reveals in cumbersome inner-dialogue explaining history, external motives or her fears. The problem is that, most of the time, it is unnecessary and interrupts the flow of the narrative.

There are also some real inconsistencies in the world-building that I would have liked explained. Especially in the education of the populace. Why would children in District 12 even go to school to work in the mines? Why would the Capital waste their energy on violent suppression when they could control so much easier by giving and taking technology, medicine, food, etc… It just doesn’t seem that well thought out.



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I could listen to Christopher Hitchens all day

I will continue to listen to his many debates, interviews and public appearances.  There is so much more to learn.  Not just knowledge he has accumulated but his exemplary rhetorical and speaking skills.

Orators of his caliber are rare in this world.  A singular intellect and a very
unique life experience created a once in a lifetime personality.

Please find the time to enjoy the legacy of a once in a lifetime life.

Thanks to Zachary Moore for recording and posting the video and J Daniel Sawyer for making me aware of it.

Christopher Hitchens at Prestonwood Baptist Church

“.. the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that?  Because that is the only conversation worth having.” — Christopher Hitchens