We have Solar!

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:

Solar Panel Installation Day

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

 

 

The best beach!

 

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:

GPS Corolla Drive-on Beach

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!

Cheers,
Ivan

In case you didn’t know.

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.

Read more on 500px’s acquisition by VCP on fstoppers’ web site.

7 Minute Solar

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.

Thanks Jeff.
More about Jeff.

See the article here:

Sunday Solar Photo Of The Day February 25, 2018

Audi R8: Before-After

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:

Befor – After

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

New Space, New Place

My_Desk
New workspace!

Our move to a new place in Los Angeles is done. The exciting work of re-establishing myself and meeting new friends has begun. I’m excited about the change, but being a life-long east coaster, it’s going to take some time getting used to the culture here. Admittedly, I’m home sick. I miss my old house in Plainfield, and all my friends and family back in NJ, but LA is my new home and I’m committed to giving it a chance and to do the best work possible, give back to others, and make a new life here.

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

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