It’s yellow, has black stripes and can sting.

It’s not your everyday bumblebee, but a special “Transformers” edition, LT2, 2010 Bumblebee Camaro.

 

Front End

 

Themed from the movie Transformers, this Bumblebee autobot is one cool ride.

In reality, it’s the female bumblebee that stings if threatened, the male is basically harmless 😕 . This has nothing to do with the movie, but I wonder if Tamara, this Bumblee’s owner, may have something to say about that! Tamara? (hehe)

Tamara and her husband Greg are good friends, and when Tamara announced she bought this car, I had to photograph it. Much thanks that she agreed, and so we spent an afternoon photographing, here, in my studio/garage. It was pouring rain and miserably cold, so we were unable to do some planned rolling shots. Instead, I concentrated on details and made the best of the bad weather.

This car has awesome lines and with patience adjusting lights, moving the car into position, I came up with some shots that I think turn an ordinary shoot into something much better and befitting of this car.

First, some specs:

  • Year: 2010 “Transformers” Camaro – US build quantity was 1,900 with 200 delivered to the Canadian market.
  • It’s a type LT2: LT is marketing short for Luxury Touring and is used to identify high-optioned models.
  • Colors: Yellow, black racing stripes, “Transformers” badges and a black leather interior.
  • Engine: V6, DOHC, direct-injection w/variable-timing, 304hp @6400 rpm’s and 3.6-liter/220 cubic inches. This is a quick car.
  • Mileage: EPA 18 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Impressive economy for a performance car.
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual. Manual is more fun, period.
  • Brakes: ABS 4-wheel disc
  • Tires/Wheels: p245/50R19. Nineteen-inch tires are big, mounted on solid 19×8 polished billet Aluminum.
  • Suspension: 4-wheel independent, MacPherson struts front, Coil over gas shocks multi-link rear. Stabilizer bars, front and rear. It doesn’t get much better than this.
  • Weight: 3,872 pounds. This is heavy. Could benefit from a diet.
  • Audio: AM/FM/Sirius XM/CD, Aux. audio input via USB, 9-speakers, Boston Acoustics Premium, total 245 watts. Yay.
  • Comfort and convenience: Leather seats,  leather shift and steering wheel, driver seat 6-way power adjust, heated seats, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power steering, brakes windows, door locks, reading lights, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cruise control. Me like.
  • Instrumentation: Classic style “meter” gauges, oil pressure, transmission temp, tachometer. I love old-style metered gauges, I hate digital.
  • Telematics: wireless phone data link via bluetooth.

I’m sure I missed something, but you get the idea.

Here’s the light box with some favorites:

My fondness for Camaro’s goes back to high school. My first car was a 1974 Type LT Camaro, in Inca Bronze, with a 350 cubic inch v8 and I purchased it used in 1977. So glad I found these old Polaroids.

Cheers!
Ivan

Watermarking, why I think it’s nonsense.

Watermark-NOT

 

This is an opinion, to make the case for NOT UGLI-IFYING your photos with watermarks!

I see it every day, spackled over photos posted on social media sites all over the web. Watermarks are ugly, and they do nothing useful. We already know it’s your photo, you are sharing, right? So why be redundant.

Unless you are an amazing professional, the reality is there’s only a small chance your photos will ever be stolen. And watermarks will not prevent your images from getting stolen regardless of who you are.

Who are those horrible theives anyway?

Most likely, it’s the average person who wants to refresh their wallpaper, or a person who wants to make a print and hang it on their office or home wall. Yes, that’s awful, it’s wrong, they should ask permission first, and pay you, but you can’t stop them, watermark or no watermark. If they want it, they’re going to screen-shot it, or right-click it off your web page, crop or clone out the watermark in Photoshop or other editing software. A more savvy user may know code enough to decipher the HTML and download the original. Those dirty S0#$ of B!#%*’$!!!.

In the rare instance, someone steals your photo for commercial use, again, a watermark will not stop them either. However, there are some things you can do without watermarking to help prevent theft, that I will explain later. But more important, stop worrying about your photos being stolen.

Why are watermarks ugly?

They are distracting, egocentric, and destroy everything that is good about a photo. Leading lines, rule of thirds, golden mean, light, gesture, color, all those traits that make a photo strong, are rendered broken.

But what I dislike the most is the egocentricity. It’s as if you are screaming “This is MY signed masterpiece, I made it, I’m amazing, I own it, I’m great, and don’t even think of stealing my precious jewel. Your lucky I even let you look at it. And while you’re looking, don’t forget to press the “Like” button and “Vote for my photo” buttons.

The watermark is not real ink from a pen, or paint from a brush, and is not personally signed by your very own hand. It’s an electronic font, tattooed into the photo, like a branding iron on the assess of a herd of cattle.

Why should you care?

You shouldn’t. Get over yourself. Does it really matter that someone likes your photo enough to want to use it for wallpaper or a screen-resolution print for their office or home? The quality will be screen-resolution, and horrible quality at best. Do you really think you are outsmarting the bad guys?

Ok smartypants, what can I do to protect my precious masterpieces?

If you are that concerned about protecting your photos from theives, there some steps you can do that are better, actionable, and don’t muck-up your photos with goofy, ugly, ego marks.

1.  Register your photos copyrights with the U.S. copyright office. This way, if you register in time, you may  receive statutory damages up to $150,000 for willful infringment. Legal fees and costs may also be recovered. Here’s the link to the US Copyright Registration website. Ok, I registered my photo, how do I know someone stole my babies and are using them to earn commercial windfalls? This is tough, but there are some tools that can help search the web for stolen photos:

Google Reverse Image Search

TinEye

CopyScape

2. Add your copyright notice to your EXIF data. What is that? EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) is data that is embedded into your photo that contains info such as what camera, lens, focal length, f-stop, aperture, time of capture, GPS location data, and the biggie – copyright, and your name. This identifies the photo as copyright protected and that you are the owner/author/maker. You can add the copyright info, even if you don’t register your photo, and you should. If you are concerned about theft for commercial use, you must register with the government’s copyright office, to be certain. It’s illegal for someone to remove CMI (copyright managment info) in your EXIF data, that identifies your name as author and copyright holder, and the fines start at $2,500 and to up to $25,000 plus lawyers’ fees, if infringed upon. Most people don’t know these consequences.

3. Make it more difficult for others to take your photos without your permission. Disable “right-click” so that novices cannot easily download. READ the terms and conditions of any website you post your photo, particulary Facebook. You can watermark untill you are blue in the face, but once you post directly on certain social media websites, you are likely signing away your usage rights to them. This defeats the watermark, and turns it into just an ego mark. If you disagree with the terms, post a link to the photo from your own website, instead of uploading the photo itself. Be smart about this, plus social media sites often down-sample your photos, which deteriorates the quality and color accuracy. This is huge, no photographer that’s worth their salt wants their photos tampered with. The irony is, posting a watermarked photo on social media, is like saying, I love myself more than I care about the quality of my photos posted here.

4. Discreetly inform your viewers that your photo is copyright protected, in a caption, a comment region below or alongside the photo, not ON the photo. Like this: © 2016 Big Shot Photography. Do not use without permission.

5. If you must share a photo directly to a social media site, and you just can’t stop worrying about theft, downsize the photo. Re-sample the resolution/size down to a small, screen-resolution copy. This will make it impossible to use as a print. This may still not stop someone from stealing it for their website, but the smaller size will make it harder for them to want it.

Last words, please stop the insanity, and stop watermarking your photos. Let them be seen in all their magnificent glory, so you the art-tist can be proud. There may be exceptions where you must watermark (I cringe at the thought), but I can’t think of any right now. And yes, a long, long time ago, for a very short time, I too was the a victim of the watermark disease. Thankfully, I got the vaccine and my photos are all clean now.

Sound off! Agree, disagree, feel free to discuss and please do comment.

This is my opinion, and I’m sticking to it. 🙂

Cheers,

Ivan

I saw the Oculus

The new WTC Transportation Hub

I recently visited the new World Trade Center Transportation Hub, with some friends for a photo outing. The hub was designed by internationally acclaimed architect Santiago Calatrava, and it just opened on March 3, 2016. Although as you can see above, construction is still going on.

The design and position of the Hub will maximize the autumnal equinox sun rays, which occur in September, around the anniversary of the catastrophe. Calatrava designed the Oculus to resemble a soaring bird with wings spread, to add a spiritual dimension to the structure.

At the top of the structure is long window to let in light, known as the Oculus.

It is stunning to see, and will no doubt become a destination for tourists when visiting downtown or the 911 memorial museum nearby.

Here’s a few more from my visit:

Cheers,
Ivan

 

 

Eight Years

Empty Chair

 

Eight years ago, I first stepped into the auditorium as a volunteer at the campus of Bergen County Academies, to photograph “Metamorphosis” a show in which my daughter was performing in.

I have completed my last show “Evita”, and it’s been an amazing journey since! I learned so much and made many new friends along the way. I will miss my time at the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, and miss those amazing productions, gifted students, generous parents, and the best teachers I have ever met. I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for providing me the opportunity to photograph so many shows, while improving my skills,  and most important, giving back through photography.

It’s been a joy, and I”ll never forget.

Here’s some numbers!

8 Years
23 Productions
71,633 Total Photographs, Including Outtakes, Sets,
Portraits and Behind The Scenes

The shows!

2008 Metamorphosis
2009 Into the Woods
2009 The Cradle Will Rock
2009 An Absolute Turkey
2010 Children of Eden
2010 The Caucasian Chalk Circle
2010 Ghetto
2011 42nd Street
2011 Loves Labours Lost
2011 A Civil War Christmas
2012 The King and I
2012 Madeline J. Small is Getting Smaller
2012 The Madness of King George III
2013 Brigadoon
2013 You Can’t Take it With You
2013 Antigone
2014 Bat Boy, The Musical
2014 Macbeth
2014 Seventh Son
2015 Kiss Me Kate
2015 DoXXED
2015 Our Town
2016 Evita

Cheers to all,
Ivan

Mercedes Benz SLR, Before-After

Mercedes-beforemercedes after

I was attending a conference in Florida a few years ago and noticed this beautiful car parked under the hotel entrances’ canopy. It was the perfect photo opportunity as the canopy blocked the direct sun and most of the reflections. I took advantage and shot a few quick ones. I had forgotten  about the shots until recently, and decided to process one.

Here’s the before-after. Not too bad for a spontaneous photoshoot, using the existing light!

Ivan

Turning a New Leaf

I’m re-inventing myself, and my career, and moving on as self employed. I’ll still be involved doing design, but my full attention will be devoted to photography.

I have much to prove and I’m driven with newfound energy to make this a success. I anticipate some bumps, but failure will not be allowed.

Gone is working for a corporation, the daily monotony, reporting to many, and meetings on top of meetings. There were even meetings to discuss when to setup other meetings! And, the politics, game playing from a few, was the thing I detested the most.

It wasn’t all bad, the first ten-twelve years were wonderful. So exciting as the company grew, and ultimately went public, and the work was interesting and challenging. I will miss the camaraderie with writers the most, and I will miss them.  After fifteen years  as a designer/manager/creative director, I’m moving on and could not be happier.

With the assistance of my sister Linda, a freelance marketing and small business expert, we are developing a business plan. This will be the structure behind the venture, and so far things are shaping up nicely!

Stay tuned for more entries on how I’m proceeding, and an introduction to the new brand. I won’t tell yet, but it’s going to be HUGE.

Cheers,
Ivan

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BTS Appa the Dog Photoshoot

A behind-the-scenes look at how I photographed and composed the following photograph of our daughters’ wonderful dog, Appa!

07 Photoshop Layers

The studio setup:

  1. Key light – 22″ beauty dish with grid, Einstein 640, mounted to a super boom on a C-stand.
  2. Kicker – Einstein 640, on a back light stand.
  3. The softbox seen on the left side was not used.

01 Appa - Studio Setup

Camer settings:

  1. Canon 5DIII
  2. 1/125 second @ f/18
  3. ISO 100
  4. 24-70 mm f/2.8 L @ 35mm

The Raw file was processed in Photoshop Lightroom CC, and edited in Photoshop CC for the silhouette.

02 Appa-Studio-Shoot

To silhouette, I used the quick selection tool and dragged across Appa to make a rough selection. Since the background was smooth and contrasty, the rough selection was a decent start.

The area that did not work well was her shadow on the floor due to similar tones. Since this area will be covered with a foreground image, I was not concerned about an accurate selection there, so I let it go.

Next, I used the “Refine Edge” mode in Photoshop to fine tune the selection edges, so Appa’s fur along the edges, would look realistic when cut out and placed in a new scene.

Here’s a look at the “Refine Edge” screen:

03 Refine-Edge

You’ll notice, it did a pretty good job with “smart radius” selected. I played with the amount and may have increased it slightly, to what you see above.

Next, I searched my collection of background photos, for something interesting and found this shot taken with my Fuji X100s mirrorless camera:

04 DSCF0270-Trees-sharp

The challenge with adding an image into a different background scene is making it look realistic enough to fool the eye into believing it was photographed that way.

The foreground would look odd with Appa floating in the scene, so to make it look realistic, I softened the background using a lens blur filter in OnOne software’s Perfect Effects 8.

See here:

05 DSCF0270-Edit-Trees-Blur

I don’t recall the specific settings for the lens blur effect, but you will need to experiment and adjust as each image is unique. I wanted enough of the trees be recognizable so there would be no mistake it was a forest, yet have them appear blurry, to help solve the difference in camera angles from Appa and the scene behind her.

To solve the difference in colors of lighting, I created a layer in photoshop on top. I sampled an average green color from the background trees, filled the layer. I created a mask and on the mask, I loaded the silhouette of Appa as a selection, then deleted it to reveal only the green color over Appa.

The color cast was too heavy, so I reduced the opacity of the layer to 25%.

06 Color-Overlay

The photo was taking shape but needed a foreground of grasses, to portray the forest ground. I found this shot in my archives taken at the NJ shore:09 Appa-Grassy Forground

All I needed was the grass, so I added the photo to the layer stack at the top, above the silo of Appa, but just below the green overlay layer. I added a layer mask and used a graduated fill to eliminate the sky and fade the grass into the scene. I used a soft paint brush using white to reveal some of the strands of grass, so they didn’t look cut off abruptly, and used black to paint away some of the grasses over Appa, to make it look more realistic.

I lowered the opacity of the foreground grass slightly, to 70%, to blend into the scene.

Here’s the finished image:

10 Appa-FINISH

 

I ordered an 11 x 14  print on metallic paper from Bay Photo, framed with walnut wood and a simple white mat with clear acrylic on top.

The image on metallic paper is stunning and adds a unique 3-dimensional quality to the composition.

It has been well received, and no one knew it was a composition until I spilled the beans!

It was great fun and I hope this inspires others.

Cheers, Ivan

Reasons for hiring a professional photographer

  1. A pro knows his gear, inside and out.
  2. A pro has invested thousands of hours to master his craft.
  3. A pro understands proper exposure and creative exposure.
  4. A pro knows the rules of composition.
  5. A pro has invested thousands of dollars in the best tools to do the best work.
  6. A pro knows how to use the industry’s best software tools.
  7. A pro uses web hosting and safe backup and storage systems.
  8. A pro knows retouching and color correction.
  9. A pro knows how to use and shape light, both natural and artificial.
  10. A pro knows how to pose subjects to get the most natural look.

Why you pay a pro

 

 

Pictured above are the base tools and their approximate costs that a pro photographer needs. Yes, a pro photographer needs two camera bodies, just in case one fails on the job, there’s a backup.

There are much more accessories not pictured such as tripods, monopods, camera straps, camera bags, flash accessories, light stands, reflectors, telephoto lens extenders, lens filters, portable hard drives, ink-jet photo printers, paper, inks, and dozens of software additions that are needed.

And, there’s additional costs for insurance, transportation expenses, assistants, stylists, props, backdrops, seminars and training expenses.

What you get when you hire a professional photographer is all of the above. It’s a valuable investment in his/her time, energy and expense to get to the level of competency that is required to be competitive and excellent.

Next time you think you can shoot it yourself, re-read this blog post!

Time

It slips away fast and before you know it, the face you see in the mirror is not the same.  A few more lines, a little more gray. One thing is guaranteed, nothing stays the same. I always had a tough time with that. I love new experiences, but I like some things to never change. Feeling nostalgic!

Cheers,
Ivan