Turning Daylight into Blue Hour

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
ISO 640
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.

See here:

If you have any questions, please reply in the comments below. Happy speedliting!

Ivan

Infrared Film

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!

Ivan

 

 

Lenticular Clouds

While driving home on California State Route 14 from Nevada, the winds began to gust and I noticed some unusual cloud formations. I was nearing Red Rocks Canyon State Park when I pulled over and took this shot. These are rare lenticular clouds, and yes, those iridescent purple hues are real. if you’ve never seen these clouds before, they are spectacular! I hope you get a chance to see them some day.

Cheers,
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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Appa, Before After

Here’s the before after overlay – from the studio and into the forest!

I like showing the transformation of a photo. To learn how I did this, see my previous post here: Appa the Dog Photoshoot

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.

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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!

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