Sunday, August 19, 2007

Catching Up

A month or so before my last post, I attended my photo society's symposium in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Put this on your watch list, by the way, for next May 17-18. It will be called the Mid-America Photography Symposium. We're reaching out to our sister organizations in two neighboring states, Oklahoma and Missouri, to make this a regional symposium for the first time. As we grow, the quality of instructors, speakers and activities will only improve.

Anyway, this time, instead of simply attending and enjoying, I taught two classes and was more involved because of my board membership. So, I didn't come away with as many images as I used to. But I did learn quite a bit, and I began to give more focus, as a result, to where I wanted to take my photography career.

Anyone familiar with my work to date knows that I simply love architecture—daytime, nighttime, in any kind of weather. Prior to this year's night model shoot, attendees were gathering in front of the hotel, and I stepped across the street to take this night shot of the Basin Park Hotel. I've shot it a number of times in daylight, but this was my first opportunity at night.

I started this blog with the best of intentions to post regularly, but a modicum of success seems to be getting in the way! Although I haven't hung out a shingle, as they say, I'm still getting lots of word of mouth advertising. As each new project comes along, I add to my backlog of images to be processed. It's given me a tremendous appreciation for working professionals who don't yet have anyone on staff to handle such things for them. With a full time job and dozens of photography assignments coming along, I simply fell behind. I owe myself a complete redesign of my web site, but I've had to push it back. It's kind of an interesting situation to be in. I need a polished web site to bring in more business, but I'm doing too much business at the moment to devote the needed time to the web site.

As I mentioned, I like architectural photography (which was one of the classes I taught this year at our symposium), and I have always tended to photograph nature or inanimate objects (like buildings). I think I always had a feeling that this sort of photography was simpler, people being as particular about how they look in a photograph as they sometimes are, especially when they're paying for the photographs. Buildings never complain if you show their flaws. But, it occurred to me that, short of breaking into the world of fine art or architectural photography, photographing people is what's most likely to pay the bills in the short term. So I determined to put people into my repertoire. To my surprise and delight, they are lots more fun to photograph than I had thought. And the creative possibilities with people are much greater than with found objects.

Back to the symposium this past May...

From the Basin Park Hotel, we moved on up the street to photograph models. We really appreciate the models who join in with us at our symposium. We contract with them through their agency on a Trade For Prints basis. They come away with hundreds of photos to add to their portfolios, and we get the chance to photograph people with modeling experience. The rules of the night shoot are: no flash, and anything else goes. This session is always fun and can be extremely challenging to folks who haven't done low light photography before. The moody image of the young model above had a lot of clutter and an overall red cast from the neon lighting from a store. With a little work in Corel PhotoPaint and using the vignette tool, I'm pleased with the effect.

I was determined to get better shots this year—without benefit of a tripod—so I bought a Canon EFS 17-55 f/2.8 IS lens just before the event. Wow! What a difference a lens can make! It did exactly what I expected it to do for me, and it's become my workhorse ever since. I was able to shoot hand held, at no more than ISO 800, using only street or store window lighting and get crisp, sharp results.

For instance, the picture of Jazmynn, above, was shot at f/2.8, 1/20 sec. at ISO 800 with an effective focal length of 60 mm (37 mm on my 30D). The rule of thumb for hand held photography is to have a shutter speed equal to or greater than the inverse of the focal length to avoid blurriness from camera shake. With a slower, non-IS (Image Stabilized) lens, I doubt I could have captured this image without some serious compromise in quality. To get 1/60 sec. in this same light with a non-IS, f/3.5 lens, I calculate I would have had to push to ISO 3200. I challenge you to take a sharper image with studio lighting at 1/250 sec.

Speaking of fast IS lenses, I borrowed a Canon EF 70-200 mm, f/2.8 IS L series lens from three different friends for several recent shoots. My guilt finally started to get the best of me, so I figured a way to buy my own. I'll talk about this lens at another time. It rocks!

If you were observant, you noticed I mentioned above editing images in Corel PhotoPaint. Although I own PhotoShop, and I've used it at my job for the past six years, I've never learned to do with it—as quickly or as efficiently—what I can do with Corel's product. It could be the seventeen years' experience I've had with PhotoPaint that skews me that way. But I really do intend to become proficient with PhotoShop. The same things that PhotoShop layers make easy are somewhat more difficult with PhotoPaint, although, for the sake of argument, not impossible. But, well, EVERYBODY uses PhotoShop, and the release of CS3 has finally nudged it ahead of PhotoPaint, in my book. If Adobe would just copy some of Corel's ease of use features, it would be a slam dunk to switch.

The next morning, we had sessions in the four studios we set up in the hotel. The image of Rock, above, and the next two images are from some of those sessions. Up till now, I've never had use of an actual studio, so I've had to use available light for all my photography. Our photo society recently decided to offer extended memberships to our members. For those of us who participate, we share time in a fully-equipped studio. Now I'll have the facilities to explore this area of photography more aggressively.

Above, Jazmynn posed again for a fun shoot in the studio. I keep reading about the huge upsurge in popularity of Senior Photography. I can't wait to get started.

The title of this post was "Catching Up." I think I had a lot of it to do—and much more yet to come.

In coming posts, I'll talk about some of the amazing opportunities I've had come my way over the past couple of months and share some more photos from them. There have been a number of concerts (you REALLY need to get a backstage pass—it makes everything so much easier), a couple of weddings, a family shoot, great Fourth of July fireworks photos, and charity events.

I hope to cover this last item in more detail later. I've read it any number of times, but doing charity events really gets your name out. And, when folks at these things see some pro gear hanging off your shoulders, they ask for your card. It goes the other way, too. I shot a wedding at a church in Fayetteville back in June. I did a back to school charity event there yesterday for underprivileged kids. A nice young lady who knew the bride from the June wedding, and who had seen her pictures, came up to me and asked for a card. Her wedding is in January.

Keep shooting...