Bokeh panorama with Stephanie and Sam, 14 shots with the 135mm f/2.
One of the things I love about being a photographer in New York City is that you can never see every block, so there are always fresh surprises. Crystal and Bryan’s wedding was my first time at Brooklyn’s Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and man is it gorgeous. And a great fit for a couple with long ties to the church and the neighborhood. Thanks to Crystal and Bryan’s lively and fun wedding reception in Staten Island, I have now photographed weddings in all five NYC boroughs. (Next stop: 50 states) If it began as a relaxed, fun occasion throughout the whole day, as the night progressed, everyone got more and more into the spirit. Ties became props, the band and guests intermingled, and no floor, wall, or even ceiling was safe.
Yes, you heard that right. I’m pretty sure this is the first wedding I’ve shot where the bride managed to get her footprints on the ceiling. You don’t need me to tell you how awesome that is.
I took this with a point-and-shoot camera while on an 18-hour vacation in Cold Spring, NY. If your point-and-shoot has manual control, you can get a lot out of it by forcing it to do what what you want, including using extreme underexposure to change the nature of a scene.
Now to expand on yesterday’s picture…
Personal work is extremely important to keep a photographer focused and constantly improving. Even with my clients, who are amazing and more willing to experiment than most people, I can’t ever say “Hey, I tried this really cool thing and it didn’t work out. Can you get married again next weekend?” So I’m putting together a little project that should mean some envelope-pushing for me. It might take a little while because it’s busy season, but I’m very excited about it. All you get to know about it beforehand is that, for my main star, I needed more than just a model, I needed an actor with an amazing emotional range.
Luckily I knew just where to find one: My friend Kelly Denicolo. Kelly and I actually went to high school together in the frozen tundra of upstate New York. We didn’t know each other that well, because, let’s face it, I was much cooler than she was. My talent and fabulous singing voice made me the star of all the musicals, while she was more of the subversive class clown type, encouraging students to have disco dance-offs during class-time and thinking up new and creative ways to get detention.
No, wait, I got that backward. She had the amazing singing voice (mine has been outlawed in 43 states), and I was the one who wrote the president that I wanted to secede my room from the Union because I had always dreamed of founding a climate-controlled nation.
But it’s been … several … years since high school, and we hit it off as New Yorkers. She’s focused on her dramatic talents ever since, so I thought she’d be perfect for the project, but I wanted to do some test shooting to see her emotional range on-camera.
I thought she’d be good, but I was wrong. She was amazing. I told her to recreate emotions so complicated even I didn’t understand what I was saying, and she nailed every one with subtlety and seamless transitions from one to the next. Seriously, if there are any screentesters out there, call me.
I’m more excited than ever now to get this project going!
Speaking of other wedding photographers, here is a photo I took of Dallas/Forth Worth photographer Lynn Michelle at the Digital Wedding Forum convention in Nashville. Sledgehammer of Light behind her, two speedlights aimed back, one aimed at me.
I had a wonderful time in Nashville and wish them all the best in flood recovery efforts.
Given a lot of traveling this year, with weddings as far as Singapore, and that we are more and more producing same-day slideshows and edits for our weddings (which you can see on my Facebook page), I figured we should ramp up our road warrior tools a bit, so I picked up the new 15-inch Core i7 Macbook Pro with higher-resolution anti-glare screen.
For this picture, I used a technique called “freelensing,” which I’ve been too nervous to do much of. Basically, by actually removing your lens from your camera before taking the picture and shifting it around, you can create strange, diagonal focus planes (like you see here), and also reduce your lenses’ minimum focusing distance (usually the 50mm f/1.2 AIS can’t get very close to its subject). It also means that I am going to have to make sure I or my assistants cleans my cameras sensors’ a LOT, since snapping photos without a lens on the camera is generally not recommended, and I usually keep effects like this to a minimum. But it’s a handy trick to know how to do. Up-and-coming photographer (and my Flickr pal) Gene Pease makes use of this trick really well.
Saturday was an intensely, intensely bright day. For the geeks, it was f/32 bright. For the rest of you, that means eye-searingly bright, with hot sun and direct reflection off shimmering water. In other words, it’s not the kind of light that a tiny little speedlight can generally overpower.
But I have my ways.
So here’s one that probably hasn’t been done before. This was a Brenizer Method with 31 images, lit by an iPad, AND composited to hide the light source. But I wasn’t just trying to do a trifecta of tricks for the heck of it, all I wanted to do was to solve the problems that would give Carol and Johann the image they wanted. Bringing out the lights of Boston’s skyline meant lighting them with a very, very weak light source. Luckily I had one on hand as a photo display.
I had my assistant light them as I shot them, and then move out of the way as I shot the rest of the scene. It’s not easy, but it works.
The trials of Photoshop CS5 are available for download, and of course the first thing I did was to try a “Brenizer method” panorama on them. Since I like to be timely, here’s one I just shot a few hours ago, during an engagement shoot with Jennifer and Richard.
For new readers, basically the trick is to use a multi-image panorama to make for a super-shallow depth-of-field by using a longer lens. This was 18 images with an 85mm f/1.4. If I’d had to use a shorter lens like a 24mm to capture everything in one frame, all of that background foliage would be in focus as well. Here is an example of a single frame from the shot:
I have not been happy overall with the performance of CS4 in stitching these sorts of panoramas, keeping CS3 around or using a dedicated program like Autopano Pro. Is CS5 better? On the good side, I fed it 18 full-resolution images, which usually causes Photoshop to hang for a long time, if not crash. It took a while, but the progress was steady and measured, and produced an image without major artifacts. On the bad side, it still has the CS4 habit of throwing pieces it doesn’t know what to do with into the corner and not making it easy to move them:
Now the exciting part is “content aware fill,” which fills in gaps by taking into account all of the textures around it. And it seems to work really, really well in general. Here was the cropped section, with a gap the stitching couldn’t fill. One swipe of content-aware spot healing produced the image up top:
BUT you have to be careful when doing these panoramas, as the whole point of them is to create a very three-dimensional look where everything is in a certain amount of focus due to its relationship to the focal plane (like most pictures, just more so). Photoshop will very happily grab the surrounding textures even if they’re in a different part of the focal plane, which in this case would have made content-aware fills of the out-of-focus brown patches in the grass look out-of-place. Overall, though, it should be a valuable tool in the panorama arsental.
Exciting news! I’ll be joining the ranks of well-known photographers like Cliff Mautner and Joe McNally as a lecturer in Adorama’s workshop series. On June 21, I’ll be giving a talk on a subject near and dear to my heart: “Creativity on the Fly, Turning Bad Shooting Situations into Great Wedding Photos.”
Weddings are, at their heart, barely controlled chaos, and it is the photographers who learn to do good work even when everything is lined up against them who will be successful in the long run. And if there’s one thing that a long history of shooting in New York City has taught me, it’s how to deal with adversity. We’ll be discussing how to think through shoots when the light, the location, and time is against you, and hopefully have some fun. Just $35 for a two-hour lecture, which is about as inexpensive as anything gets in Manhattan.
Seating is limited, so click here to read more and sign up!
I love Flickr, but I think it’s been four years since I started a group there. I’m blessed to be busy with awesome clients, so I only participate in a couple existing groups. I mean, there’s a group for the Brenizer Method out there, and I didn’t even start it! But I’m a big Apple dork, and I know how many people out there love their iPhones (I shot for FOUR iPhone app developers last year!) so I’ve started a group for shots lit by these miniature softboxes. If you have any photos like that, feel free to join the party.
Since everyone guessed that I used the iPad yesterday, here’s one where I *did* use the iPad to create a textured, warm uplighting, using a custom color on the "Flashlight" app. After shooting in the unseasonably cold weather, Jamie and Phil were ready for some night, intimate scenes in a NYC coffeeshop (Café Grumpy, one of my favorites).
There were a lot of good guesses over at Flickr about how I put this together. No, they’re not resting on an iPad — that would work too except for all the fingerprints. This was a highly reflective black jewelry box, and behind it for the color and texture was the bride’s pink Netbook. I had fun with it when the bride’s mother walked in and said "Look at that! He’s using the computer!"