Jonathan Fleming's Blog

A Photography Blog

Posts Tagged ‘technique

Making the Sky Purple

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Fuji X100 | 1/240 sec, f/8, ISO 800

Recently I posted a photo of Suki on Flickr that made some wonder, “hey, how’d you get the sky so purple in that shot!?”

Some sort of post-processing trick perhaps? Or maybe the sky really WAS a surreal, deep purple that night? The answer is neither actually. It started with a simple white-balance adjustment in my camera.

Shooting RAW does allow you to make color corrections in post, but depending on your camera, you already have a ton of control over the color of your images while you’re actually shooting. Besides providing the typical white balance presets that can be selected at the camera depending on the situation (daylight, cloudy, shade, tungsten, flourescent etc), many cameras allow you to further customize white balance by shifting it along blue/amber, green/magenta axes. Below is an example of the white balance shift menus from Nikon (left) and Canon (right).


Want your selected white balance to be a bit warmer? Add some amber in this menu. Cooler? Add some blue. Greener or magentaer more magenta? You get the picture.

My Fuji X100 presents the white balance shift menu differently, along the red/cyan, blue/yellow axes.  So, to add amber warmth to a white balance setting in the x100′s menu, you have to add some +Red and -Yellow steps, instead of just simply adding amber like you can in Nikon and Canon DSLRs. Me no like.


See how purple the image at the top of the post appears? I achieved that look by shifting my auto-white balance as magenta as possible, which on my X100 was +9 Red and +9 Blue (or on Canon and Nikon, just shift on the magenta axis…come on, Fuji!!!)

Ok, so now daylight is thrown into magenta, but there’s a problem that comes with doing this. If you take a picture of someone with this white balance trim, they’re also going to come out purple! What to do?


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Take a look at the two images above. It’s actually the same RAW file from my X100, converted in Lightroom 3. The one on the left is the output from my camera with the magenta bias and the one on the right is corrected. How? Simply by moving the hue slider in Lightroom towards green until the colors look more natural.  The green corrects the magenta cast, and vice versa.

So if green corrects magenta and you’re in a magenta-biased white balance, couldn’t you light your subject with a green light source to preserve a more natural skin tone? Yup:


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/4, ISO 200 (sb-900 bare camera left)

Notice that my happy volunteer here is lit with what appears to be much more natural looking color compared to the purple daylight you see behind her. This is the same magenta biased white balance set at the camera that I described above, with a bare strobe on camera left lighting my subject.  But here’s the important part: I stacked two green gels on the strobe to compensate for the magenta cast. It’s like correcting the white balance on JUST my subject. Without the green gels, I’d just be hitting my subject with more magenta light.

So now I have a surreal, magenta background with a color corrected subject. This was the method behind the shot I took of Suki at the dog park:


Fuji X100 | 1/1,000 sec, f/2, ISO 200

I started at sunset with an underexposed background, magenta biased white balance…


Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Add Suki in the mix, light her with the green gelled strobe…


Fuji X100 |  1/500 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

…Wait for her to give me a better pose…


Fuji X100 | 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 200

…Almost there…


Fuji X100 |  1/500 sec, f/2, ISO 200

Perfect! Now get out there and experiment with your color controls. Don’t forget to break rules while you’re at it!

Also, just an update on Suki’s health. She had a horrible day yesterday with her allergies but is doing much better today, She’s becoming more playful again which is a very good sign. Thanks for all your well wishes for Suki!

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Small Flashes Love Dreary Weather

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The wedding I shot this past weekend was a wild ride. Some unexpected circumstances arose that forced us to cancel our original plans for some on-location formals between the ceremony and reception. With the reception rapidly approaching, and no time to travel anywhere beyond a couple of minutes from the reception hall for some portraits, we scrambled to find a place that would work.

Fortunately, my wonderful wife located a small community park tucked away in a neighborhood a few blocks from the reception hall. We all headed there, not knowing what to expect. Gotta be ready for anything in this business!

As it turns out, the park didn’t look very promising, at least at first. As I entered, I was greeted by some rusted old fences, areas under construction, and a tattered restroom hut. But as I pushed a little further, I found a long stretch of grass with some nice trees far in the distance.  Good spot to hunker down and quickly work through the formals. Moving fast was key. The entire family was there along with the bridal party, and it was cold….and the reception was to start in like 20 minutes. Yikes!

The weather was bad at the park. The late afternoon was foggy, dark, cold, and the lighting was completely flat. Some in the group were concerned about how the scene would impact the pictures.  Indeed, it was easy to look down range at this field and just see a dark, dreary scene. As I pulled my SB units out of my bag, however, I saw an outdoor studio.

Hot shoe flashes thrive in dark, shaded areas.  I was able to shoot the top two images wide open on my 70-200 2.8, and the resulting shutter speed pushed the remote SB-900 flash that I was using as my main light into hi-speed sync. This dramatically cuts the unit’s power, which was already being cut by running the flash through an umbrella. But since I didn’t have a strong amount of ambient to compete with, the strobe didn’t struggle to give me adequate output. Sweet!

Three lights were in play for most of the shots: An on camera SB-900, used as a commander for two remote units and for on-camera fill, set to TTL. The main light is a single SB-900 through a 42″ translucent umbrella, also set to TTL. A third SB-900 is zoomed to 200mm and firing at my subjects from behind for some rim lighting, set to a different CLS group (Nikon speak, sorry if some of these acronyms are not making sense), firing manual at…hmm…I think it was 1/8th power or so. All of this lighting came together to give my final series of images the clarity, punch, and dimension that the scene wasn’t giving me on its own.

It was  all over in a flash (har-har), and it would have been great to work the location even more than we did, but we still came away with some great images for the family…images that I’ll be really busy processing over the next few weeks.

Congratulations to the beautiful newly weds, Michelle and Rodney!

See these images in high-resolution

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Nikon D700 | Nikkor AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II
www.jonathanflemingphotography.com

Suki and the Trolly

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Watch out Suki! Well, she’s actually not in any real danger here. This particular spot where we took Suki’s latest image for my photo project, combined with a real long focal length, gives the impression that Suki is in danger from on-coming traffic. In reality, she’s quite safe, comfortably surveying the scene from a sidewalk.

The image above was actually a test shot that I ended up liking. I noticed that Suki kept getting distracted while I was shooting. In this case, a loud sea gull pulled her attention away from the camera.

In this image, it was a group of tourists across the street yelling “look at that doggie! Hi doggie!!!!” that made her turn her head. While I thought this was pretty annoying at first, the resulting curve in her posture turned into a really appealing pose for the image.  Besides, most of Suki’s best images are taken when she’s not looking at the camera.

Nikon D300s + Nikkor AFS 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR

Written by Jonathan

August 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm

HDR with Photomatix Pro

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Alright, I finally did it. I broke down and gave HDR a try (click image above for large version). Creating a HDR or high dynamic range image involves blending multiple exposures together in order to display detail in the final image that would otherwise be lost in a single exposure. Our eyes are capable of looking at a scene with bright highlights and dark shadows and still see an immense amount of detail. Cameras simply don’t have that kind of ability, which is why blending exposures is useful when a scene contains very bright and very dark elements at the same time.

I set my D300s to automatically bracket a series of photos for me at 1 stop increments, and here’s what I got out of the camera:

Notice that if the sky looks good, the beach looks too dark. Conversely, if the sand looks detailed, the sky is blown out. There’s simply too much range for the camera to pick up detail in all areas of the frame. Yes, I suppose I could have used a split neutral density filter to even things out, but the purpose of this shoot was to experiment with HDR.

Exposure blending used to be extremely difficult, requiring the use of multiple layers, masks, and a whole lot of brush strokes to manually bring out detail in the HDR image. Nowadays, it’s dead simple. Photoshop has a “merge to HDR” feature built-in, but it’s not quite as good as standalone software like Photomatix Pro, which I used to merge this HDR image. All I had to do was drag the four bracketed images above straight from Lightroom 3 Beta 2 into Photomatix Pro, specify a few parameters, and POOF! It spit out an HDR image. Of course, what you see at the top of this post is not what you get right after the merge in Photomatix. I still had to tone map the HDR, then export it as a standard image file back into Lightroom for post-processing before it looked satisfactory.

I’m pretty excited about how easy the process was. My goal was to try to convey the scene the way my own eyes saw it, and I have to say that the final result looks very close to what I experienced that evening. Overall, I’m glad that I decided to give HDR a try, and I look forward using this photographic tool again.

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Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at f/13 ISO200, various shutter speeds.

Sunlight in the Evening

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I took this photo Bridget by the window in our study a couple weeks ago. The interesting thing about this image is that the source of light is not the sun. This shot was taken late at night, long after the sun had set. I was experimenting with using strobes to re-create the look of sunlight softened by a window.

I placed one of my Bowens monolights on a light stand out in the backyard, roughly ten feet from the window, positioning it towards my subject at an angle that the sun might be at in the late afternoon. Its lowest power setting from this position gave me f/8 at ISO200. These lights are powerful!

The window diffused the incoming light, which wrapped around Bridget nicely and created a daytime sort of look in the middle of the night. I don’t have a way to fire my SB units via a radio signal yet, but when I eventually add that capability, I might try using this technique much more often in a variety of locations.

Camera Specs: Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/8 ISO200 1/200 Second

Written by Jonathan

February 23, 2010 at 9:43 am

Super Glam

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Nikon D300s + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 50mm f/14 ISO100 1/125 Second // Lighting: Bowens Monolite + Beauty Dish, Bowens Monolite + Softbox

Bridget and I revisited the glamour look and changed things up a bit. She’s sporting some really cool eye shadow color here, and in case you didn’t notice, some huge glue-on eyelashes. Her makeup skills are so great that I had barely any work to do in CS4 to retouch the photos. Great job, Bridge!

I’m pretty close to her here with the 17-50 on the camera. The beauty dish is pretty close to her as well, and even at its lowest power setting, the Bowens9000 monolite I pulled out of my Dad’s garage packs such a wallop that I had to shoot at a relatively tiny aperture to prevent vaporizing my subject.

Suki was unfortunate enough to walk right into our shooting session. We couldn’t help but pick her up and take a shot. I don’t think she appreciated it very much, being the diva that she is.

Written by Jonathan

December 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm

More Glamour Shots

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Nikon D300s + Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 VR at 155mm f/11 ISO100 1/125 Second

Here are two more images from the photo shoot I blogged about yesterday. Bridget’s look is very similar in all three in the series, but I like the crop and posing differences between all three. In these two images, I introduced a small amount of skin softening using a masked 25 pixel gaussian blur layer in CS4. I don’t think her already soft skin needed this treatment, but I thought I’d give it a try. The result sort of reminds me of a makeup add in a Japanese fashion magazine.

I had a blast with this little portrait project! Check out more shots here.