Photo of the Day: All the Right Moves

All the Right Moves

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.

Bokeh panoramas and Photoshop CS5

blog_Untitled_Panorama1.jpg

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:

panorama-part-2.jpg

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:

Screen-shot-2010-04-30-at-3.10.jpg

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:

Screen-shot-2010-04-30-at-3.13.jpg

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.

“Creativity on the Fly” Lecture at Adorama June 21

090614-155531_24_mm-3.jpg

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!

Flickr Group: “Lit by iPhone or iPad”

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.

(Bonus) Photo of the Day: Warming Up to You

Warming Up to You

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).

Pink-y Rings

Pink-y Rings

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!"

Photos of the Day: Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work @ Fordham U

I got my start in photojournalism and spent years working for Columbia University as a photographer, doing mostly documentary work, so I’m glad to intersperse my wedding work with institutional clients, and particularly my undergraduate alma mater and frequent client Fordham University. And there’s nothing more fun in the corporate photography world than being handed a broad assignment with “tell a good story.” So I had a great time covering the recent “Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day.” Fordham did their best to make this a great experience for the kids while keeping the cogs of the university turning, with tours and events all over campus to show them different facets of Fordham professional life. Here is a sample of the day:

Students wander the halls of WFUV, Fordham’s acclaimed radio station

Students, with new t-shirts, watch a chemistry demonstration

Goggles upon glasses.

A student makes sure his work is right as they test acids versus bases.

Rapt attention.

Students make their own races during the roll call.

Doing their best to put themselves in sugar shock at a “Make Your Own Cupcake” station

Students race at the ROTC demonstration

Reporting for duty

Wedding: Sameepa and Beeren. 4.3.10

I always love getting calls from Preeti, the head coordinator at Spotlight Style, because I know it will be an over-the-top gorgeous, meticulously planned South Asian wedding, with all the colors and fun and detailed ceremonies that entails. But this time, the bride Preeti’s own sister, so I knew it would be as gorgeous and wild a wedding as I had ever seen. And boy was it.

Like so many great love stories, Sameepa and Beeren’s begins in the dentist’s office. She was his patient, and apparently he did a great job, because Sameepa has a killer smile.

Believe it or not, all of the photos below are from only one day of three. It was wonderful to get to know the family during the sangeet and the mehndi, as well as the first birthday of Sameepa’s nephew, all in the course of a week. By the time the wedding started, it felt like I was among friends as well as clients. The ceremony and reception were at espace, a fantastic event space that made a perfect canvas for Spotlight Style’s design skills and incredible floral arrangements. The ceremony was a traditional Hindu ceremony, which I always love to shoot because so many of the tiniest gestures have incredible meaning, from light touches to the materials used to a sharing of the first meal.

And then it was time to party. From the moment the music started to the end of the night, the huge dance floor was packed to capacity, and it got just a *bit* wild, as you’ll see below. Congratulations, you two, and thank you!

View full post »

HD Slideshow: Sameepa and Beeren

From some perspectives, I am a terrible businessman. I always approach my client offerings with “What would I want from a wedding photographer?” and often throw things in because I think they’re cool, for free. Photos want to be seen large. They want room to breathe, they want to run around on mountaintops and sing. So I decided to make my life a bit more interesting and design my post-wedding slideshows to be not just bigger, but HDTV compliant. And what a wedding to start with — the bigger-than-life multi-day Indian wedding of Sameepa and Beeren! See it here in 720p HD or see it smaller if it’s just too much of their awesomeness for your screen.

Touché, Time Warner

If anyone out there was placing an over/under on what it would take to get me to break my stream of daily content, here is your answer: Time-Warner Cable. Having no Internet in the office makes it awfully hard to run a business over the Internet.

On the plus side, when I return, I’ll be returning with a gorgeous Indian wedding. And as always previews from recent shoots are featured at my Facebook page, including a fun engagement shoot in Park Slope from Friday.

“>

Workshop recap!

Immediately after February’s “Creativity on the Fly” workshop, I got lots of messages from people wishing they could have made it. Free weekends are a rare commodity for me, but luckily I had one more before the season exploded and got a bunch of great photographers together for a day of discussing advanced techniques to make the most out of bad situations. I figure any workshop can take you to a fabulous beachfront estate, but what happens when you come back to real life, and all you have to work with is five minutes and a parking lot? I am lucky to work with Philip Stark in his studio, which is a great place to meet, but it’s almost TOO fantastic, so we spent the day looking for the least photogenic parts of the building and discussing what we could do with them.

Again, I want to say what an honor it is to have people come from across the country and the world to hear me prattle on for a day or two. Some people have asked me why I’ve started to do workshops when I have some rather well-documented gripes with the photography workshop industrial complex. First, it’s really, really fun. Second, it lets me try to address those problems by simply doing things the way I want. But lastly, the more I teach the more I realize that it is going to make me a much better photographer. I do so much client work that sometimes I don’t get the chance to step back and look at what I do from a different perspective. Teaching forces me to do that, to break down what I do and why I do it instead of just, you know, doing it. And by making me put this in some sort of sensible framework so people can reliably see whether a given workshop will be helpful for them or not, it has made me think about exactly the message I want to put out in the world, what things are valuable for me to teach.

Few things break my heart more than hearing people say “I wish you’d taken my wedding photos. We hate ours.” I think that wedding photography is important, and I want as many people as possible to love their photos, whether or not I took them. And I want as many people as possible to stay in love with the process of photography. And so, whenever I can find time within my packed photography schedule, I teach.

Here some of the workshoppers gather for the day. None of them seemed to need nearly as much coffee as I did to start at 9 a.m. Hmmm…

I always want to do these with people I’m comfortable with, so the day was filled with people who have been featured on this blog before, such as my friend Rochelle, who made a fabulous model. On the left she is looking cheeky for a Brenizer Method demonstration (I took the class through the whole process, from visualizing to stitching and output) and on the right we are mixing ambient and off-camera flash.

It was brisk, but much warmer than February, so we headed outside for some flash composites. This is three frames used for stark contrast with the ambient light.

And here is our “wedding party.” Flash composites are great for group shots, and here it wasn’t used as starkly, just to provide attractive light and better contrast. Again, I took the class through everything from pre-visualizing to the (very fast and easy) photoshop output.

Here I was doing a quick demonstration of Auto-FP flash, using 1/8000th of a second to bring the room ambient to blackness.

Then we moved on to couples, including my intern Isla and her husband Dan. I put them in the only part of the studio you would never want to photograph in — the kitchen we had just made dirty. To bring down the background, I stuck three flashes outside the window, mimicking bright daylight and getting interesting textures from the bars on the window.

Our next couple was the amazing Kindiya and Thomas, otherwise known as “The Couple on the Rocks.” Now we went to the ugliest part of the whole building, a nasty stairway where, Thomas noted, it looked like they were about to conduct a drug deal. Although, I said, it also looked like a place where a couple might actually make out. I don’t know anybody who spends a lot of time making out in front of gazebos. Off-camera flash and some movement to blur the shadows brought the effect here.

Here we used a very warm tungsten video light to cool the puke-green ambient into a nice turquoise. And you can see all the voyeurs in the class.

The sun came out and I showed the class how to kill it dead. f/22 wasn’t nearly dark enough for the effect I want, so we used the Sledgehammer of Light and Auto-FP to shoot at 1/8000th, f/6.3. That sky is straight out-of-camera. No HDR here.

Then we used the dramatic effect with flash compositing to light the couple from the left.

Then I wanted to show how to work when you had very, very little time, such as when you are holding an elevator. Yes, the “shaft of light” from the last post is an elevator shaft. The important thing here is pre-visualizing and then working quickly. We tossed three flashes in the reflective elevator at half power to turn it into a glowing room of white and positioned them right in the doorway. We also had a second, safer shot using video light inside the elevator.

We had a session of free shooting so everyone could work through some of the things they saw, and I took another Brenizer Method shot of Kindiya and Thomas, as well as showing the effects of studio lights (not shown).

Group shot! One of these days I’ll remember to do a group shot at the beginning, before many of the workshoppers leave.

Thanks so much everyone! This is probably the last weekend workshop I can host for a long time, but I’ll put together a weekday one aimed squarely at wedding photographers, covering business as well as wedding-specific issues, in the mid to late summer.