Automotive Details – Jeep Liberty

This is my first in a series, featuring detailed automotive photography.

Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot

Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a Jeep for my first shoot because I own it. Owning your own car for a shoot makes it a heck of lot easier to work into your schedule.

There were several challenges, but most of them were in the prep work.

First of which, my car is not new. It’s a 2010 Jeep Liberty with approximately 30,000 miles.

It has it’s share of wear, with dings and scratches, and worn tires.

I needed to clean the car thoroughly with a good car wash, and detailing. Yeesh! That was hard work! The dark metallic gray color took a lot of hours to wax and polish. Getting all the streaks out was a challenge, and I was not completely successful.

I knew if I didn’t do a careful job, all the wax and spots would show up in my shots, so I did my best to do a good job.

All of this work was done during a heat wave, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was in the garage. I used a fan to help take the edge off, and planned the shoot to take place in the evening, when it was a little cooler.

In preparing the space in the garage, the floor was too dirty for the shoot. So, I decided to give the floor a fresh coat of paint!

Ugh, more work!

I spent the next few hours power-washing the floor and when it dried, I gave it a fresh coat of paint. Not the entire floor, for that would have involved moving everything out, which I didn’t have time for. So, I pushed all the stuff we’ve accumulated as far to the side as possible.

So far, that’s two days of prep invested in this project!

Finally, time to shoot the car!

I setup a single Einstein 640 strobe with a 10″ x 26″ strip box. In addition to the small strip, I used a huge Fotodiox 12″ x 80″ strip box for the wide shots of the car’s front end, and side of the car, but I much preferred the small strip box for most of the detailed shots.

I sandbagged an Avenger stand with a boom arm, to be sure it wouldn’t tip over.

It took the usual trial an error to see where the light fell, but eventually I figured it out.

Here’s the shots (click photo to enlarge):

This was a tough shoot, but fun to do, despite the challenges and the heat and humidity!

Camera
Canon 5DIII
24-105mm L f/4.5
85mm, f/22 @ 1/200

Strobes
(1) Einstein E640 @ 3/4 power,  w/sync cord
10″ x 28″ PCB strip box
12″ x 80″ Fotodiox strip box

Grip
Avenger A5043 stand with extension boom and grip head
Giottos sand bags

Cheers, Ivan

Bike Details

It’s been a long while since I posted so I thought I’d start off with a quick behind the scenes photoshoot. Inspired by Scott Kelby and Mark Wallace’s photography of exotic and expensive sports cars, so I decided to give it a try myself. To begin with, I don’t own an exotic car, nor do I have access to one. And, I certainly can’t afford one myself. However, I knew I could use their lighting principles on any shiny object. So, I decided to shoot my daughters bike!

Click images to see larger.

I purchased the bike for my daughter as a gift many years ago. I don’t know how old she was, but I found the bike at a Toys Are Us  nearby.

As things go, my daughter never got into mountain biking, and the bike sat in the garage for years, hardly used.

After being inspired by Scott Kelby’s detailed photographs of an Acura sports car, and Tim Wallace’s amazing work and tutorials, I thought I’d try shooting the bike!

First, I had to clean the bike. It was filthy and it took several hours to scrub it clean.

I don’t own a studio, and my basement is tiny, but that’s where I setup the shoot because I wanted to control the ambient light and get it as dark as possible. My home is an old stone colonial, built in 1780, and is on the historic registry in New Jersey, so you can imagine how limited the space is in my basement.

The last photo above shows the strip bank in relationship to the bike. The modeling light helped me figure out the lighting, and  I moved the front wheel many times, to get the angle just right. I switched from a prime 24mm lens to a 24-70mm zoom and found it much better for getting in tight and composing.

Settings
Canon 5DIII
24-70mm f/2.8 L
24mm f/1.4 L
f/20 @ 1/100
Some shots were @ f/22
ISO 100, and auto white balance

Lighting
Einstein 640 @ approx. 1/3 power
10 x 26 Strip bank
Triggered with sync cord
Avenger A5043 Stand with extension boom

I hope to get the opportunity to do this again on an exotic car, or motorcycle. I love what some people have done to customize their Harley Davidson motorcycles, and I’d love to shoot one someday. It’s always fun using big studio strobes, and learning. I feel I can do better, but I’m pleased with these shots as start. I hope to do many more. ;-)

Cheers,
Ivan

Russian Self Portraits

 

 

Remembering David Attie

When I was thirteen, my father thought I might enjoy spending part of my summer, working as an intern for David Attie, a commercial photographer. Dad was an art director for IBM, and hired David many times for his projects. He loved David’s creativity, both behind the lens and in the dark room and David and his wife Dotty, became close friends of our family.

My father wanted me to experience working in a photo studio, and to work with someone he considered one of the best would be great and perhaps the beginning of a career for me.

As a thirteen year old, I had not formulated what I wanted to do. I liked the arts, and enjoyed sketching, and photography, but I was young and uncertain like many my age.

I remember my time at the Attie’s brownstone, in Chelsea, New York City. Coming from the suburbs of New Jersey, I had trouble sleeping. I was not used to the loud sirens and horns throughout the night. I woke up each morning groggy, and struggled to make it through the days.

During the day, I helped David in the studio. Unfortunately for me, it was a slow period and there was little going on in the studio. I spent most of my time organizing files of slides, contact sheets, and model tear sheets. The studio was not the neatest, with stuff everywhere. I did deliveries to a few nearby clients, then back to the studio. After a long day, we had dinner then to bed, with no TV.

Some work came in, and we did a shoot. Nothing memorable, and all the films were developed in the studio by David. I remember the distinct smell of dektol and photographic paper, always in the air. I worked in the dark room, did some developing, but mostly clean up work.

Work slowed again, and so my time at the studio ended only after about a week.

Little did I realize how much of an impression that brief time spent would have on me today. David had passed away from cancer a dozen-plus years ago and how I wish I could speak with him today. I admired his work in those early days, and over time realized how great his work really was. If he were alive today, I’m convinced without question, his name would be up there with all of the greats. I know there are still people who knew of him that will attest to his genius.

A Legacy
David Attie, along with his corporate, commercial stuff, did work for many major publications of the time, including Vogue, and Esquire. He was published several times in interviews and produced a few books. Most notably, Russian Self Portraits, and Portrait Theory.

Russian self portraits was produced as a cultural exchange program with the Soviet Union. We were at the height of the cold war with Russia, and to go there, I’m sure, must have been dangerous. David traveled to the city of Kiev, no in the Ukraine, for the shoot.

The book was simple. David setup his view camera equipment and invited ordinary Russians to come in snap their own picture. He wanted them to play an active role in their portrait.

They were given an instant Polaroid print, and David retained the negatives. The interesting thing is, he was not permitted to keep the negatives per agreement with the authorities. Perhaps due to disorganization or confusion, he was able to retain the negatives. The book was produced and published in the U.S. in 1977. It’s filled with wonderful, full-length self-portraits by each subject, and a wonderful account of the experience by David.

A snapshot of time in the lives of individual, now indelible in print. The expressions, most of them melancholy, one or two dared to smile, some playful, one or two flirtatious. And my favorite (and David’s), the little girl on the cover who dared to curtsey.

It’s a wonderful, must-have rare book for photographers, long out of publication. But you can find it used on Alibris, or click here

A second book, confirms David’s talent as amongst the best in photography, is a series of essays and photographs on Portrait Theory. Contributing writers/photographers include: David Attie, Chuck Close, Robert Maplethorpe, Jan Groover, Evelyn Hofer, Lottie Jacobi, James Van Der Zee, and Gerard Malanga. The essays and photographs are fascinating and must have for any serious photographer.

Portrait Theory – Click Here

I have fond memories of David Attie, and appreciate his work now more than ever. I wish he were still with us today.

Ivan

Sun Rays – Before/After

When I’m photographing into the sun, I often do so with the intent on silhouetting or purposefully adding lens flare.

When it doesn’t happen, I can add the effects in post processing. By adding sun rays and lens flare, it can add mood to the scene. Here’s the before and after on a shot I took a few years ago while hiking in the Ramapo Reservation Park, in New Jersey.

Sun Rays BeforeSun Rays - After

Here are the abbreviated steps in Photoshop (Substitute CTRL for CMD if you are using a PC):

1) CMD -> Click on the RGB channel to load the luminosity. Create a new alpha channel and fill the loaded selection with white.

2) Boost contrast of the new alpha channel with levels. Use the black eyedropper and click on a dark area. Use the white dropper and click on a bright area.

3) Load the new alpha channel as a selection in a new layer and fill the selection with white.

5) Go to filter menu -> Blur -> Radial Blur -> set amount to 100%. In the preview window, move the center of the radial blur to the relative brightest spot in your photo.

6) Hit CMD-F to Re-apply the filter to soften the blur.

7) In filter effects, add an outer glow with a yellow-to-whte gradient, if you want to enhance it further.

8) To add more contrast and drama, add a new layer above the bottom-most layer. Load the alpha channel, invert the selection, and fill with black. Use the opacity slider to lessen the effect if it’s too dark. Use the Output Sliders (Know as the “Blend-If” sliders) and drag the black and the white sliders in towards the center to add more contrast.

9) Add lens flare – Create a new layer on top and fill it with black. Go to Filter -> Render -> Lens Flare. I chose the 50-300mm zoom and left it at 100 %. Choose Screen from the blending mode.

Your done!

Virtual Machine

A new addition to our Smiles Are Free bag of tricks, courtesy of Mike Abshier, is a virtual background system. I was put in charge of the equipment, and asked to test it out. Being the skeptic I was doubtful this would work, and be a viable piece of equipment. Although I have to admit, I was intrigued with the concept.

How it works — you place a 2.25″ slide transparency in the machine and it projects the image onto a special screen. The lamp works like a strobe, so you never see the image until it’s exposed. There is a modeling lamp, but the only way to preview it through the lens. This allows you to alter a pose or reposition your model. The screen is about the same size as an 9′ backdrop. Your subjects stand a few feet in front of the screen. Miraculously, the background appears in your shot. There are some issues. Your strobes must be feathered away from the background. Any spill will wash out the background image.

Here’s the setup:

Virtual Background Machine

The setup is involved and requires a lot of calibration to align all of the components.

Test 2, I finally got the image to appear. And yes, this has got to be the ugliest room I’ve ever seen.:

Test 2

Test shot of a projected “virtual background” scene

Test 3, with me in the scene. One beauty dish with strobe, on low power. f/4 at 1/160, ISO 100.

Moi Boudoir

Ok, I know, I could have at least smiled for the picture! :-}

Here’s my quick review:
The system works. Do I love it? Uh, not so much. Does it have possiblities? It might. I don’t like locking my camera into a machine that can’t move easily. This can be solved with more expense, but you are still limited in movement. I’m not a tripod shooter when I do portraiture. I like to move around and be spontaneous. This system locks you in. The backgrounds they offer are cheesy-wiz schmaltzy. It comes with about 22 backgrounds. You can buy more and they sell hundreds, or you can shoot your own film. This opens up some possibilities. I’ll shoot some more and post soon. There may be one or two they provided that might have some merit, but most of them I don’t like very much.

It’s a very controlled system. Your lighting needs to be spot on and gelled to match the lighting in the projected image, otherwise, you look cut-and-pasted into the scene, as I do in the un-gelled example above. This takes some doing and a lot of experimentation.

Portability – the screen weighs a ton. It’s actually two screens, sandwiched together. A silvery backing and black mesh in front. It rolls up into it’s own holder and mounts to standard background stands. The projector mounts to heavy gear-head tripod. This thing also weighs a ton and has a fragile glass – beam-splitter mounted to it. It will need to be broken down and packed in an optional hard case, to be portable. It’s a big deal to move it, set it up and transport. Not very practical.

If you are looking for a way to minimize Photoshop collage work (I happen to love Photoshop colgaging!), and like the idea of instantly changing a background scene, and providing a customer a quick, on-the-spot instant photo, there is a business model here. It reminds me of a mall photo studio where moms bring their babies. Ugh. In reality, you could actually make a business out of this thing. Is it creative? it could be, if you shoot your own backgrounds, have a wardrobe of accessories, makeup artists, costumes… whatever. Will I use it? Hmmmmm. For Smiles Are Free…, I might, since we now own it. For my own work or anything else… no.

CAVEAT:
THESE ARE TEST SHOTS ONLY and NOT indicative of my photography, creativity or skill. The background scene of a velour couch in the ugliest room I’ve ever seen, came with the system. It is absolutely awful. The shot is tilted…because i’m still figuring out how to align… and the color is off… no correction gels were used yet.

Check back again for more test shots.

Cheers,
Ivan

Julia & Julia

Before and After
I recalled a scene from the movie “Julia & Julia”, a story about Julia Childs starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, where Julia, played by the incomparable Meryl Streep was sitting on a bench in a Paris train station.

In reality, the scene was shot in the historic Hoboken NJ train station, because it resembled the early stations in Paris around 1949 when Julia Childs lived there early in her career. I pass through the Hoboken train station twice each day for my commute to work.

So, I thought I’d bring a small point-and-shoot camera to be discreet, and take some shots of the station. I Processed this shot in Lightroom 4 and OnOne’s Perfect Effects, and here is the before-after of the very same bench Meryl Streep sat on in the movie.



If curious, you can read more about it here.

Old Tractor, Before After

After being inspired by the latest Perfect Inspiration video by Brian Matiash, I remembered a shot I took of an old rusting tractor in 1999. I thought I’d go back and re-visit post processing to enhance the shot further.

I loosely followed the steps on epsiode 16, getting lost, but changed a few things to better suit the tractor photo.

I think you’ll agree, it’s a decent improvement. As I do more, I’ll continue to post more before and after shots.

I used Lightroom 4 to make the initial minor adjustments, then OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.1 to add the gritty feel, vibrance and selective focus. I created several layers with various blending effects to bring out the rusty decay in the photo. By adding the focal-point, selective blur effect to the background, it brought out the tractor, adding dimension.

Below is the before-and-after. Drag the slider left or right to see the comparison.

Much thanks to OnOne software’s Brian Matiash, for his terrific series of videos that inspire and teach at the same time. It’s helped me learn to use their software.

Thanks for visiting!

Giving Back

Several years ago, some friends and I decided to give back by using our photography. We reached out to several community centers in the New York City vicinity and made arrangements to come in, setup our photo gear and provide a day of free family portraits to the underprivileged families there. People who have never had a family portrait before. A keepsake of loved ones, that they’ll have forever. Something to do where we can use our skills, share knowledge, and give back to those less fortunate.

We thought it would be a great way to bring some happiness to those families, and a way for us to practice the craft of photography. Most of us are passionate amateur photographers, looking for interesting subjects and places to photograph. None of us were ever interested in profiting, just a method to do something fun and give back to the community.

Several of our volunteers are professionals, thrilled to donate their time and expertise in giving back. The expertise ranges from professional photographers, retouchers, makeup artists, IT pros, graphic designers, to passionate amateur photographers like myself.

With some planning, we pooled our talent and organized the events. Since we began, our accomplishments have been incredibly rewarding. We’ve provided portraits for hundreds of families, from Chinatown, to Harlem. I’m incredibly proud of our volunteers, and most important the wonderful families we’ve given back to.

The families are incredibly thankful. Many shed tears of joy, and can’t beleive we are giving them a gift of a family portrait. We make everyone of our subjects feel like kings and queens for the day. It is a joy to be involved and I look forward to every event.

We’ve gained some recognition! Time Inc., honored us for our community service work and we won the Andrew Heiskel Community Service award. Along with the award came a grant which was used for some printing supplies and needed lighting equipment.

We continue to do our charity work in 2012, with plans to photograph families from the Heritage Health and Housing center, in NY.

Smiles Are Free is a 501C3 non-profit organization.

www.smilesarefree.org

Some background
I’m a relative newbie to photography. For the most part, I’m self taught. Although I’ve been photographing for many years, I became serious just a few short years ago. I have much to learn. I shoot as often as I can and I keep up with my education with online courses and getting out to shoot as often as I can. It has brought me great joy. I love it as a creative outlet, and I enjoy the technicial aspects. Learning about cameras, lenses and all the associated gear is fun. But more important, enjoy giving back.

Volunteer for a cause, mentor someone, share your know how with others.

You’ll be a better person for doing so.

Cheers,
IB

Canon 7D firmware upgrade

Canon’s EOS 7D firmware v2 upgrade.

The release will be coming in August. Here’s the list of new features:

• Improved maximum burst for RAW images (up to 25)
• In-camera RAW image editing
• In-camera Image Rating
• In-camera JPEG resizing
• Maximum Auto ISO setting (ISO 400-6400)
• Manual audio level adjustment in movie recording
• GPS compatibility
• File name customization
• Time zone settings
• Faster scrolling of magnified images
• Quick control screen during playback

Here’ my take:
Great! Having new functionality added by way of firmware is always welcome.

However, they missed the mark. It would have been easy (i think) to add more Auto Exposure Bracketing stops, extending the current limitation. Nikon’s D4 can shoot up to 9, with 1/3, 1/2 or 1 stop increments.

I want this for HDR photography. Doing so manually is a pain, and can’t be done as quickly as an automated mode.

As for the other features, I find most of them will be useless to me.

• I don’t need in-camera RAW image editing. All my editing is done using Lightroom or Photoshop.
• I don’t need to re-name files in camera.
• Manual audio level adjustment – Nice, if you shoot video and need it, but most people I know that shoot video, use a separate recording device and sync it in post. So, this is nice, but not a necessity.
• Time Zone settings – should have been there in before, so nice to finally have it for travelling.
• GPS compatibity – nice, but not a necessity.
• Faster scrolling of magnified images – was never an issue for me before.
• Quick control screen during playback – I never found not having this to be an issue before.
• Still no voice memo! At 8 frames per second in continuous shooting mode and with it’s fast focus tracking, this is a sports shooters camera. The need to record a voice memo for an important sports play, would’ve been nice. Why they left this out is beyond me.

This is supposed to be a significant upgrade. Canon will certainly sell more GPS units, but for the average user like myself, this upgrade falls short of what I really wanted.

More details on the Canon Rumors website.

Before After

My first post in a series that show some of my photography, before and after processing. This shot was taken last year in October. It was a cold, dreary day, and we decided to drive to Brooklyn and take some shots of the bridges by DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). This is an iconic place with an amazing, panoramic view of the east side of New York City in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

The original (before) photo was shot in the camera RAW format. As you can see, there’s no detail in the sky, and the shadow areas are too dark. Although you can’t see the detail in the sky, it’s not lost, but is contained in the 16 bit file. By using Adobe Lightroom 4 to process the photo, I brought out the missing detail in the sky, and brightened the shadow areas of the bridge, this is a perfect example of how much information you can pull out of a RAW file.

BeforeAfter