Friday, November 30, 2007

back in the day on eBay

Over the past week I have started to bid on flash brackets.  Originally I looked at B&H; however, budgets being what they are - I wanted to look around to see if I could save some money on the purchase.  So where is a penny-pinching photographer to go?  I started looking around eBay for equipment and found some good stuff.  I was just thinking about how much eBay has changed over the years.  Back in 98 when I made my first eBay purchase it was kinda like the Old West.  Not a lot of people - certainly no businesses and people basically did whatever they wanted.  Thinking back on the state of things - It is amazing that I braved the bidding waters.  But hey, I was a teenager in high school - kids do some crazy things.  Anyways, I was just thinking about how much more established eBay is now.  There are businesses, a secure payment system, consequences for evil, and a population more crowded than New York City.  Even though some things have changed - the exhilaration of bidding on an item and watching it and then someone trying to slip in the last second and steal it from you (yeah, I've done it too) is what eBay is all about.  As long as that never changes it will still draw me in.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just Horsing Around

Please forgive me on the title - just couldn't resist.  Anyways, I saw a neat tip the other day on compositing text over an image using layer masking and was intrigued by the idea - not that I hadn't heard of it before, it just wasn't something that I had thought about in a long time.
I have had the past few days off from work (a blessing beyond all measure) 
so my wife and I have been spending some time in Bowling Green with her family (see the post below to get an idea of where they live - photographer's dream).  Earlier this evening I was looking outside at the great "golden hour" lighting around and saw that the neighbor's horses were at the front of the property (they are usually off toward the back).  After feeding the dog I grabbed my 20D and walked over to take a few photos.  It always amazes me at the size of a horse.  They are HUGE animals.  Fortunately, there was an electric fence between me and them so I was cool.  After snapping a few photos I wandered back inside and dumped the photos into 
Lightroom per my usual workflow and began sorting the photos.  One in particular (shown above) jumped out as a prime candidate for some photoshop action.  I went out and found a excerpt from Black Beauty, played with some color and layer masking (see illustration to the left) and BOOM - cool looking layer comp.  If you are looking for a step-by-step guide, pickup the current Photoshop User Magazine on the newsstands right now.

B&W Impact

No matter what advances in photography have or will be made - I am constantly reminded that nothing holds a candle to B&W photography.  Strongly contrasting tones convey so much mood and feeling - B&W has so much more magic than color.  

Photo of Louisville, taken by my good friend Steve Parellis.  Taken with a Canon Rebel xti and a 28-135mm lens at iso 100.  
Panorama stitched together using Photoshop Elements Photomerge.

A few weeks ago I photographed a wedding in downtown Louisville and have been working on the images over the last few days.  The reception is always tricky because of lighting challenges.  The light is so much of the mood but I always struggle with color casts.  One of my favorite ways to capture the reception is in B&W.  For one, it eliminates any color cast issues.  Secondly, it allows you to photograph using higher iso for an antique film effect.  And finally, it captures a very 1950's elegant drama that feels like it belongs in a Frank Sinatra song.  In my book those are some pretty good reasons.  Lets take a look at some supporting evidence:
The image was not bad to begin with; however, this is a great example of color taking emphasis away from the bride and groom.  The background should frame them and point toward them.  I felt that it was doing exactly the opposite.  I felt that the couple got lost in the business of the colors - primarily because there wasn't sufficient contrast
In so many instances photographers try to eliminate shadows.  This is partly because so many times harsh shadows are not flattering.  However, there is defiantly a case for shadow in wedding photography.  And one might argue that B&W is defined by shadows.  Not only does the B&W version cause the Bride & Groom to pop off the page - it also brings out the detail in the Bride's dress.  All-in-all, this was a no-brainer.  Much better in B&W than in color.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

((XM)) For The Holiday Season

99.9% of all the content is photography related; however, occasionally (as with this post) I take a few minutes to post about a service or product that I enjoy using.  I just renewed my XM subscription and purchased a new radio for the car.  If you have never given XM a whirl you really don't know what you are missing.  All you have to do is make one long trip this time of year to become frustrated with trying to find something good on the radio.  It's tough enough finding something in your own home-town  ... add driving in and out of range on local FM stations and the case for satellite radio begins to come into focus (had to get a photography alliteration in here somewhere).  Being able to listen to the same GREAT selection of music/talk/sports from my home in Louisville, KY to my parents house in Altus (middle of nowhere), OK makes a drive much more enjoyable.  

I'm not paid by XM or anything - I pay for my service like everyone else.  You should swing by a local dealer like Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, etc to check out pricing.  You can also check out XM Online for more information.  Ok, that's the end of my plug ... you may continue on your way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


There is an old saying that you have to spend money to make money. So so how is one expected to make the initial money needed to use in the multiplication of the rest? Photographers experience a similar predicament in regards to equipment. You have to work jobs to buy equipment; however, one needs the equipment to get the job. What is a so what is the solution?

The first piece of advice is to consider the borrow factor. When I shot film I was Nikon through and through. When it came time to move into the digital world my decision to make the move to Canon was based on three factors:

  1. I had sold my film gear a few years back for my wife's engagement ring ... yeah, I know - what can I say, she's worth it.
  2. In my own image tests (comes in handy working in a retail store with access to tons of cameras) showed me that Canon was giving me better image results at higher ISOs
  3. Most of my friends who are established photographers are Canon shooters
Number three was the difference maker for me. The ability to borrow gear meant I could focus more on the investment of the camera body and then save and invest in quality glass. If I had to do it all at once I would have ended up with a decent camera body and a crap kit lens. When making an SLR purchase one should always consider the borrow factor ... it is HUGE

In spite of the great ability to pester your friends for gear ... after a few times it starts to get uncomfortable. You will come to , as I have, the sad realization that you need to buy your own gear. So what is a photographer to do when they are short on green and need a lens? RENT IT.

There are TONS of rental sites out there - shoot, your local camera shop probably rents glass. However, if your shop is anything like mine , they are WAY over priced. Enter I don't remember exactly how I found this place, but it is the best. Great pricing and super smooth system. First, you hop online and browse the selection (They carry Nikon and Canon). Next pick the lens you wan to rent and add it to your cart. When you are ready, place the order. A few days (exact time depends on your method of shipping) later a box shows up on your doorstep. Inside is the lens. You get the lens for a week (or however long you rented it for) and then when your time is up - slip it in the pre-paid, return shipping bag and drop it off at the nearest post office.
Rentals are generally between $30-$50 a week based on the price and type of lens you rent. You can even purchase insurance for $2.00-$3.00 so you know you are covered in case something happens. This was my first experience with rentglass .com and I can tell you I will be using them again - until I can afford ALL the glass I want ... so I am thinking that will be never. If you need better glass and can't afford to purchase it ... check out they won't let you down.