Throughout my design career, I’ve been asked to illustrate. For the purpose to help communicate ideas or enhance the visual experience. All sorts of media, from trade publications, powerpoint presentations, web banners to employee communications. Sometimes, just for myself.
Most are sketched first with pencil on paper, then scanned and re-created using Adobe Illustrator. Some are traced from bits of photographs, stylized and adjusted to suit my taste. I love using Adobe Illustrator to layer and build illustrations. It’s time consuming but the final illustrations are efficient in size and scaleable, perfect for offset printing or on-screen presentation.
After a few idle years, I decided to continue with this project of photographing machines. Most notably, antique cars, exotic sports cars, restomods and rare collectibles. I’m not limiting this series to cars, it can be anything mechanical or interesting. Being in Southern California, car enthusiasts are everywhere, so for now, it’s been just cars. I placed an open call on the social media site Nextdoor and started the project again!
Recently, we signed with SunGrade Solar to install solar panels on our roof. March 15, 2018 was an epic day, I got to witness the installation! We’re so excited to finally have clean, renewable energy! And, just in time before SoCal Edison institutes changes, raising the cost-per-kilowatt hour rates during peak usage. Our energy costs could double during the hot summer months when air conditioning and power is used the heaviest. We took advantage of a sweet deal where we pay nothing out of pocket. We don’t own the panels and we lock in to a fixed Kilowatt hour rate, only adjusted annually for inflation. We can now breath easy about our energy bills. And, the roof and panels are fully insured by SunGrade. We have the option to buy the system in five years, but we think sticking to the plan is the best for us. SunGrade Solar benefits from the government incentive and will receive a $10K credit they will use to offset their cost of the panels and installation. Sadly, this benefit ends after 2018, so our incentive was to do this now before we miss out.
I spent the day hanging out with the two-man installation team, and learned much about photovoltaic solar power. They were kind enough to allow me to photograph them at work and happy to sign my model releases in exchange for the photos and some drone footage, so I fired up my drone and got some good footage, and got some wonderful shots with my DSLR as well.
I scrambled and put together this short video which I hope you’ll enjoy it:
One of the incredible advantages of using strobes, either portable speedlites or larger, more powerful monolights is the ability to have complete creative control over your photography. Many photographers are frustrated using flash, and don’t like the results and give up, but with practice and some experimentation, you would be amazed how great flash is and will add an enormous capability to your photography repertoire.
I was shooting in bright sunlight but wanted the look of blue hour for a quick portrait of my daughter Kimberly a few years ago. I reached into my bag of tricks and by customizing the white balance, I could turn the ambient light blue.
Unfortunately, the subject also turns blue, and unless that’s the look you want, can be pretty unflattering. The way to fix this is by adding a strobe. I gelled a speedlite with a full cut of CTO (color temperature orange) gel to overpower the blue tint on my subject and warm her up to mimic the look of the directional light of the setting sun. Of course, you’ll need to experiment with how much orange gel to use, you may prefer a 1/4 or 1/2 cut CTO. The point is, you have control. I’ve used this technique many times before, and love the effect.
There are some gotcha’s. Strobes create shadows that need to look natural, so strobe placement is critical if you want a realistic result. I like to place my flash the same side where the sun is, or near where it will be when setting. If the sun is higher up, the effect may not work unless you crop in tight to avoid seeing errant shadows that are different than your strobe.
Overcast days can work better as there’s no natural sun direction, the sky is one big light source, so shadows are diffuse and less of an issue.
Here’s examples showing a normal exposure with correct white balance, and subsequent example showing the customized, cooler white balance with gelled strobe added:
Here’s the specs for the blue hour shot:
1/125 @ f/4
93mm (Canon EF 24-105 f/4L IS USM)
Canon 5D Mark II
Color Temperature 3200K (tungsten)
Full Cut CTO Gel, Canon 580EXII Speedlite (off camera, right side)
I have an array of gels from various sources including the standard color correction gels and a bunch of theatrical colors for effects. However for speedlites, I mainly use David Honl’s, pre-cut gel system, and they’re great. There are others that are equally great, such as MagMod which attach using magnets, or ExpoImage’s Rogue Gel system, to name a few. They’re all good choices, but the MagMod system can be pricey. For an economical system, the XP PhotoGear Speedlite Kit is an amazing value for a complete kit, although I have not tried this one. Most of these systems can be purchased ala cart or in a kit.
If you have any questions, please reply in the comments below. Happy speedliting!
I’ve been reflecting on what influenced my life as a photographer recently, so I thought I’d share a memory. By the way, that’s me, in the “orange” no. 33 jersey playing ball. I loved sports.
Sometimes, looking back is a good way to move forward and grow, but it can also be nostalgic. I always enjoyed my fathers photographs, and I recall he always had his Nikon to document our family. Looking back at some 35mm photographs he had taken years ago, I found a few infra-red photographs of me as a kid playing football on our front lawn with some friends. I’m guessing I was eight or nine.
Some pretty creative photography that I’m thrilled to have. The memory of that day is long gone, and only one of the faces in those shots is recognizable. A kid named Scott who was from a family we met while on vacation at the New Jersey shore one summer. I have a faint memory that Scott and his parents were invited over by my mother, so we played while our parents had a get together. It was probably the last time our families hung out and I can only guess was due to the inconvenience of living far away.
I wonder why my father chose infrared film to shoot this, but his eye was excellent, getting shots in tight or back away but in a position to tell a story. He was an amazing photographer who’s influence I’ll carry with me forever.
At 90, soon to be 91, he is in declining health and soon, in need of full time care. I’m looking forward to be back to visit and spend some quality time shortly. the same home and yard where these shots were taken so many years ago.
The takeaway is, go back and look at old family photos and scan them. You may be inspired and find some pleasant surprises as I did here!
On the east coast where I lived and grew up, there sits a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks. Well known for taking the brunt of many east coast storms and hurricanes, it’s a beautiful place with wild horses and it has tons of charm, fantastic food and famous southern hospitality. For a half dozen years, we did the twelve-hour road trip from Northern New Jersey to the Outer Banks for our annual week-long family vacation to Corrolla, on the northern end of the island. To get there is not easy, there’s no connecting bridge from Virginia Beach, so you have to make a long, round loop inland before heading eastward, over the Wright Memorial bridge, then onto the Outer Banks. Of historical importance, Kitty Hawk is known for the Wright Brothers whom in 1902 solved the problem of powered and controlled flight. On the very site of their first flight is the Wright Brothers Memorial as a tribute to them. The National Park Service has a ranger station there with historical artifacts, a replica of the first flyer, markers and the rails where they launched the first flight and park rangers give regular talks at the visitors center. It’s well worth a visit to see this amazing place.
Here’s a satellite view of the drive-on beach just north of Corolla in Corova, using GPS coordinates in Lightroom:
I was not much of a photographer in 2006, only reserved for documenting family activities and life events, and cell phones did not have cameras that were any good. My camera of choice was a Canon Powershot Pro1. A pretty amazing point-and-shoot with a fast f/2.4 lens that happened to be an “L” red ring zoom lens affixed to it. A sweet camera, it had a whopping 8 megapixel sensor, which was large for it’s time. I wish I still had it, but unfortunately the zoom motor broke when I loaned it to my daughter and it was not repairable.
I shot the panorama above with the Powershot Pro1 in 2006, using the auto-stitch pano feature. For a 2006 camera, not bad, but I certainly can do better shooting the pano manually if I shot it today. If you zoom in, you can our Jeep Cherokee Laredo on the beach!
Since moving to the west coast last year, we’ve visited some wonderful beaches, but I miss the charm and beauty of the Outer Banks the most. Sorry LA, so far the outer banks has you beat in my book!
Beloved by many, 500px was founded and developed in Toronto, Canada in 2009 by Oleg Gutsol and Evgeny Tchebotarev (to whom I was lucky enough to meet on a photowalk in NYC). I learned recenlty, 500px was purchased by VCP, know as the “Getty Images” of China. No doubt, a big pay day for Oleg and Evgeny. VCP also bought Corbis. For those who are unfamiliar, Corbis is a high-quality digital stock image provider, developed by Bill Gates of Microsoft. I used Corbis many times in my graphic designer days, and I’m on 500px and love seeing the best photos there.
Why does this matter? I’m not sure, I hope it’s good, but not so good that China is now the world leader beating out the U.S. in acquisitions of advanced technology, development of new technologies, manufacturing, and surprisingly, clean energy. Yep, they’ve woken up and realized they need a cleaner environment and are leapfrogging into renewable energy at a fast pace.
Currently in the U.S., we can’t even pass a simple bill to protect our kids in schools from assault weapons. Shame on us.
Much thanks to Jeff Butler who saw the photo I entered in the Department of Energy’s “Hit me with your best SunShot” photo contest. The photo won best in show and Jeff chose to share it on his 7 Minute Solar website. I’m grateful for the recognition but more importantly, pleased to know there are good people like Jeff who advocate Clean Energy and saving our planet.
During a maintenance check of my blog, I received an alert that my current theme was out of date and required an update. Unfortunately, during the update, my blog crashed!
Oh no! I was afraid I lost everything! Fortunately, all was ok and recovered after a tech call to GoDaddy. They’ve been great helping me fix occasional issues. Unfortunately, my beloved theme I worked so hard to customize, was no longer usable. I had to find a new theme and retro fit my content and re-configure it, including all my social media links. UGH!
So. Welcome back to my blog and it’s new look! It’s pretty close to the last one, but more important, content is back and working as it did. My apologies for any inconvenience.
From a recent shoot, I had the privilege of photographing an Audi r8 super car. I had the car for a brief time, and no rigging was permitted, so to make a rolling shot, I edited it in post using Photoshop. Here’s the before and after: