Book Cover
Photography forums are littered with posts from rookies asking about filters and other effects. Almost immediately someone will post “that’s easy to do in Photoshop,” without a link or any other explanation. For a Photoshop AND photography rookie like myself, that makes it doubly frustrating. Luckily, help is just one book away.

“The Photoshop Show Starring Russell Brown” is a timeless book with techniques that will help you regardless of which Photoshop version you might have. As someone who has only used Photoshop to edit images for websites, this book was a helpful glimpse into the full power of what the program offers. Brown covers such topics as Channels and Blending, Layer Masks, Filters and Patterns in a way that makes it very easy for the novice to ‘get’ the concept being illustrated. The enclosed CD offers sample files for all of the exercises, which is invaluable for retaining the skills this book teaches. Several chapters are also devoted to transforming an image to create a completely new work. Again, all samples are included on the CD so that you can get the most out of the exercises.

I still consider myself a Photoshop novice, but this book has enabled me to do much more with photos than I could before I read it. I highly recommend it for photography and Photoshop novices alike.

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Images that move you

Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park
Just the other day, Photography Director Rob Haggart wrote a blog post entitled “Here’s What I Think Of Your Pictures“. It seems to have struck a chord with a number of people, myself included. I am a flickr-holic, constantly browsing the recent uploads to see what is moving through there. Most of it is uninspiring. A lot of cutesy snapshots (not that I am above taking such images). Every once in a while though, I see an image that moves me, and I either favorite it, or sometimes go so far as to add the photographer as a contact. The timing of Rob’s post is interesting. It came right about the time I was editing the photo above. The original is in color, and the sky is horribly blown out. But because I shot it in RAW, and with the assistance of a friend and also Lightroom 2, I was able to selectively adjust the exposure of the sky, bringing out more detail. Then I went in a direction I don’t normally go.

Sepia has never done a whole lot for me. In my mind, it just made things look “antiquey”. But as I was floating over the presets in LR2, the preview of the Sepia version caught my eye. I applied it, and you see the result (after about 4 iterations of exposure correction, leveling the shoreline, etc – see the original color version). Now this photo talks to me. I am sure it is in part because that is “daddy’s little girl” in the picture. But for me, this was a rare instance where she was sitting idle, taking in the scene. None of it was staged, other than me telling her to sit on the rock so I could take some pictures. The rest was all her. I have some with her facing me, some with her back to me (such as this), but it was all her choice. The strap of her shirt falling off her shoulder, the hair, everything about it was as it happened. I didn’t do anything but take the picture. I have always said that I am more lucky than anything else – right place, right time.

I printed this image on the color laser at work, using HP Glossy Laser Photo Paper and have shown it to some people, looking for objective opinions. The reactions were all the same. This picture moved them. They all interpreted it differently, but the bottom line is that it moved them in some way. This is what Rob was looking for in his blog post. I feel fortunate that I was able to capture a moment that has moved some people. But I also know I cannot bask in the glory of this moment for long. There is no doubt that I will still get more snapshots than moving pictures. But at least I know I am capable.

[edit]My son saw the printed version of this photo last night. He said “You could sell that for a lot of money!” He has never reacted to a picture of mine like that. I know the complexities of selling a photo better than he does, but I did find that reaction to be quite interesting.[/edit]

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So many interpretations


As we were driving into the Bear/ Sprague Lake area on Sunday, we drove alongside Mill Creek and I noticed that it had a significantly-sized channel with a lot of boulders in it. I filed it away in the back of my mind, thinking it warranted more inspection. I think Megan noticed it too.

After we wrapped up with all the shooting at Bear Lake and Sprague Lake, we started to head out of the park. It had rained pretty good, and the roads were pretty wet. As we crossed the bridge over Mill Creek, Megan and I agreed that we should at least check the site out. I was a bit concerned because of how much it had rained. The rocks looked pretty slick. We walked all the way from where we parked down to the bridge (where I took a photo of the underside of the bridge because of George Barr and his book. I still had reservations because of the wetness of the rock, but Megan wanted to do it and was confident she could if she went barefoot.

Throwing caution to the wind, we went out into the boulder field/ creek. I wouldn’t want to try this in May/ June when the runoff is raging through there, but at this time of the year the creek was pretty tame. I found what I thought was a good rock for Megan to pose on. I got a good number of shots of her on that rock. Some laughing, some serious, but all good I think. I decided to “think outside the box” a little and moved her off to one side of the frame. That resulted in the picture above. When she saw it in camera later, she was really excited. Didn’t catch what she thought of it full size on the screen. Guess I’ll have to dig into her myspace page – I am sure it is there if she liked it.

For me though, this image could be used to convey so many thoughts. I could easily see it being some type of album cover (or something along these lines at least), or an advertisement, or just an interpretive piece for the viewer to decide what it means. For some reason this image is very powerful to me. Maybe I am reading more into it since I took the image. Definitely possible. Doesn’t matter though, I really like it.

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2nd Round of Senior Pics

Senior pic candidate
Sunday we decided it would be a good day to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park for round 2 of taking Megan’s Senior Pictures for her last year at Lakewood High School. I don’t know RMNP that well, but my mother in law did and had some good recommendations of places to go. We stayed on the east side of the park, in the Bear Lake and Sprague Lake areas. Bear Lake was packed. Luckily we found some rock star parking up front and were able to get in and out of there pretty quick. There were some good areas to take pictures at, but the background was so dramatic that it kind of overwhelmed the pictures. This was also in her first outfit of the day. I shot probably 30 or so pictures here.

We headed out of there and went down to Sprague Lake. Once again we were able to find great parking (looming thunderstorm might of had something to do with it) and immediately went to work. Megan made a quick clothing change and we got some shots in her cheerleading uniform. Probably 25 or so. Since this was the only other location we had considered, she went back to the Suburban for one more clothing change.

As you first leave the parking lot and walk towards Sprague Lake, you cross a bridge over some beaver ponds. I didn’t think about it much, instead concentrating on the opportunities that might exist around the lake. We were wrapping up being near the lake and heading back when I realized that first bridge I saw was perfect, I just needed a bigger lens (I was only using the 14-42 up to this point). I ran back to the car and got my Sigma 55-200 while Megan walked back to the bridge. The photo above is “the keeper” from that set, at least in my eyes. I think this particular outfit was the most flattering of the day, and to me, it seemed more like the Megan I know. This pic is completely unretouched, meaning it is exactly as I snapped it. I might work on the brightness or lighting a little bit, but I really like how the picture came out.

All told, I think I shot somewhere around 120 pictures in the park Sunday. Some wildlife, some Natalie, but mostly Megan. We got another good one that I’ll write about tomorrow. I think she said something last night about only liking maybe 2 of the pictures we have taken so far. Oh well. It’s a learning experience for me, and it’s free camera time for her. I am getting a book about posing, so that should help me to direct her more. We’ll be doing one more session I think, and she might bring a friend along for that one.

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Real estate photos that probably won’t work




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Originally uploaded by familylogistics

I say this tongue-in-cheek, because:

a) I know this wasn’t a real estate photo for the sake of selling a property
b) Noone was hurt and no homes were knocked over during the tornadoes in Parker on Sunday.

Pretty sure that including any kind of natural disaster in a picture would not be a good selling point. Although you should make sure that the seller/ realtor is telling people if the house is in a flood plain or anything like that. Pretty sure I still should buy the book on proper real estate photography.

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Random idea for a new website

Another day goes by My mind does this to me sometimes, giving me ideas when I still need to execute on others. I had a random thought the other day about a new type of website. One where total “unknowns” could get some recognition. I was thinking originally in the context of photographers, but there is no reason why this couldn’t work for other types of art, such as music, etc.

Be fun to try, but would need some credible names behind it to really make it viable. My ideas of what makes an “unkown” worthy probably aren’t in line with the professional needs of some organizations. That’s OK, I need to get the real estate photography business of the ground first…

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Review: Creative Photoshop Lighting Techniques

Book CoverSometimes you take a picture and you know in your mind that it could have been different or better if you had taken it on a different day or at a different time. Lighting can play a huge role in what your picture conveys. And this is where “Creative Photoshop Lighting Techniques” comes into play.
(more…)

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OK, I think I am committed to this…

HDR Home For whatever reason, I think I am committed (in my mind) to making a go of a real estate photography business. I have been mulling it over for a few months, off and on. Been really pondering it the last couple of days. I could go on and on about the reasons why, but I just know it is something that I feel motivated to do. So now I need to start figuring out how to go about doing this. This blog will still be written on a few different subjects, but there might be more posts about starting this business than other subjects. The beauty of this medium is that you don’t have to read every one of them, just the ones that interest you.

So first things first. A checklist of what needs to be done:

  • Order the Photography for Real Estate ebook
  • Decide on the extent of services I wish to offer
  • Develop a business plan, outlining financial goals (will help in setting pricing)
  • Order some off-camera flash triggers
  • Watch CraigsList for some inexpensive additional flashes
  • Do some practice shoots
  • Prepare marketing materials
  • Network with realtors
  • Get clients
  • Make a fortune

OK, so maybe the last one is a bit ambitious. But there has to be some goal. I don’t want to do this to lose money, which it sounds like some people are (or at least not getting what their time is worth) . Well, we’ll see how this pans out…

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Aerial Photography – From a Pole

denver-6121033I am still trying to find my way around this photography thing. I am devouring books left and right, taking pictures when I feel inspired, and generally just trying to figure out what subject matter is going to be best for me.

Aside from being completely inspired by David Tejada, I have been very interested in real estate photography. As in taking pictures for real estate flyers, websites, etc. I like to think I would have a good eye for this and that I would be able to help people sell their house faster, while also making some money on the side.

The other day I came across an interesting technique for getting an aerial photo of a property. I have seen plenty of things written about using a kite, a balloon of some sort, even an r/c helicopter to get a good picture. Had never though about using an extension pole. I should have. After all, I use one to hang Christmas lights on my very tall Douglas firs. It definitely gives me adequate reach. As the article I linked to explains, the investment is actually fairly small. And whether or not you want to risk your DSLR or use a less expensive point and shoot, there are options for you. Check out the article and see what it is all about. The comments afterward are pretty helpful too. Ad watch for a pole mounted aerial from me sometime in the near future.

By the way – the photo above was taken from the roof of a building, not a pole.

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Review: Helicon Focus

In reviewing George Barr’s “Take Your Photography to the Next Level”, I noticed two things. 1. George Barr stitches a lot of images together (a topic for another day) and 2. Mr. Barr uses Helicon Focus quite a bit.

Helicon Focus is designed (per their website) for:

  • micro photography (camera + optical microscope)
  • macro photography (camera + macro lenses )
  • landscape photography (infinite depth of field)

I have only done a couple of tests with it so far (it rained here in Colorado most of the weekend), but I think a definitive one is illustrated below. I want to thank George Barr for bringing this tool to me eyes, and to Dan Kozub (in the Ukraine) for writing it. I am going to use it a lot when I do flower macros, etc.

My first attempt at doing a test didn’t come out so well (I didn’t even save the result). The primary reason? I was trying to do it handheld. You definitely want to use a tripod for this.

Since it was raining all weekend, I just set up my small tripod on the kitchen table and took some pics looking into my wife’s office. For this test, I snapped a total of five pictures, all in manual focus mode. Here is the first:
P8172066-helicon (by Chester Bullock) Notice that the computer monitor and other items are well out of focus in the background. Here is the relevant EXIF data:
Camera: Olympus E-510
Exposure: 0.2 sec (1/5)
Aperture: f/5.3
Focal Length: 34 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: 0/10 EV

Following this shot, I rotated the focus ring a little ways and snapped another. I did this 2 more times before taking this final shot (for a total of 5).
P8172070-helicon (by Chester Bullock) Notice that things in the background are in much better focus now. Here is the relevant EXIF data:
Camera: Olympus E-510
Exposure: 0.167 sec (1/6)
Aperture: f/5.3
Focal Length: 34 mm
ISO Speed: 100
Exposure Bias: 0/10 EV

Obviously you can guarantee best results by being in full Manual mode and making sure the aperture and exposure are the same for each picture. Since this was a crude, last minute test, I didn’t go that far.

Here is the resulting image from a combination of the 5, using the default settings in Helicon Focus.
compilation-helicon (by Chester Bullock)

The difference is pretty obvious, and pretty striking as well. All told, it took about 20 minutes for the software to process the 5 Olympus RAW images (~8MB each) into the resulting image above. I can’t wait to get out in the field and try this on some flowers. Just make sure your objects are stationary. As you can tell from the Windows logo on the computer screen, EVERYTHING makes it into the final image.

For more information, or to purchase this software, go to http://www.heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html – you won’t be sorry you did.

Be aware that there is not much in the way of tutorial information. You really need to experiment with the program or look in the forums to get an idea of what you are doing. I figured out that I needed to shoot several images, and then simply loaded them in and let it do it’s thing. Very cool tool!

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