What Phone Did You Use? (envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot)

Nam 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 4000 142mm

What Phone Did You Use?

It was nearly 6:00pm on a Cold windy February evening when myself and a group of friends had finished our joyous dinner and were leaving the restaurant. Earlier I had promised my two friends that once we met up, I would take a few nice photos of them. Nothing special, just a few good photos. Knowing I am a photographer this would be a little treat of sorts for them. 99% of the time I have my camera bag with me and there is always a body with a full frame sensor, a 24-70mm and yes, always the 70-200mm both f/2.8 lenses. Also, there is always a radio controlled speedlite or two, but who the hell wants to use those when there is natural light to glorify already natural beauty.

However, the day did not go nowhere near as planned. I was to leave point “A” and pickup Nam & Kukik at point “B” and return to point “A” to retrieve my wife from shopping and we would all go to dinner. We had also planned that somewhere along the way we would find a spot for a little photo shoot. Nothing particular just a spot with good lighting so the girls could have some nice photos and then off to dinner.

Sadly, the trip from point A to point B involved driving in mid-Saturday afternoon traffic in North/Central New Jersey. When we think of bad traffic, we have visions of LA or Bangkok, however parts of New Jersey are just as bad. I know the area well so I know all the shortcuts and alternate routes. But on this day what should have been a 25-minute ride turned into almost 2 hours, mostly due to congestion and fender benders.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Needless to say, I was able to finally get to Kukik and minutes later pick up Nam. However, I knew that by time I got back to point “A” where I had left my wife there would be little time for a photo shoot and dinner takes priority because… well because it is food lol and I know everyone was hungry and darkness would fall soon.

I start thinking to myself “maybe the girls forgot about the photos.” And as we’re eating and having a wonderful time enjoying this wonderful get-together, no one says anything about the photo shoot. I mean it was not etched in stone or anything, it was just me taking a few quick shots of these lovely Thai beauties.

But I was forgetting a few things here; first thing I was forgetting is that the whole point of this get together was because Kukik would soon be leaving to live in California and we would not be able to see her to often anymore. The second thing I was forgetting was the fact I had told two women I would take their photo. So, forget about the first part of Kukik moving away, the big tragedy here is that I told not one, but two women I would take their photo. As you can clearly see I need to find a way at 6:00pm on a cold dark windy winter night to take a nice photo of these to young ladies or I may never hear the end of this.

As we leave the restaurant no one has yet said anything about the photos, but I have this feeling building inside that “what if?” kind of feeling. What if they say “hey you said you would take our photo?” Of course, as a photographer I could justify not taking the photos for many reasons; There is not enough light, it is too cold or too windy… But then what kind of a friend would I be? The core part of my OCD is not letting people down, be it a client or a friend “if I told somebody I was going to do something I will do it at any cost or I just can’t live with myself.” They are very good friends and wonderful people and I know they would forgive me, sadly I would never forgive myself.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

So again, as we walk out of the restaurant, I am scanning the area and I see this wonderful window light coming from this rather large thrift store. Most thrift stores are small and tucked away, but this store is large and has big windows just gushing with light.

We make our way to the vehicle and the moment of truth has arrived. The girls are talking Thai with my wife and I know very little Thai. But I do know enough to know when they are talking about me and more-so I can tell by the “heartbroken” tone of their voices that they are asking about the camera and the photos. As they’re all talking, I’m playing the scenario through my head of me telling them “it’s too dark or too cold” and then envisioning myself beaten, bruised and bloody in a snowbank at the end of the parking lot lol.

Needless to say, by looking at the photos that are posted here I used the window light and I feel it made some really nice lighting for a quick shoot. I pulled my vehicle right up in front of the store and stopped in the “No Parking” fire lane and we all got out and the girls were happy to say the least.

Three things came together (in my opinion) that made these images as good as they are. First was the full frame sensor. It doesn’t matter the brand of the camera, they’re all good, Sony, Canon, Nikon and all the rest. If you have a full-size sensor shooting in low light can yield amazing results. All though it seemed the window light was extremely bright, in reality it is not. It appears bright because everything else is dark, it is night time. Most of the images came in around 2500-6400 ISO and on a full frame sensor that is easily doable these days.

Kukik 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 6400 115mm

Second thing that made the images as good as they are is that the lens was good and fast. I was using my (pry it from my cold dead hands) 70-200mm f/2.8. I had my camera set to manual, shutter at 1/125 sec, f/3.2 and auto ISO. If the ISO went above 3200, I would have the girls move closer to the window or zoom out a bit. If they were too close the shot didn’t look good because the glass would be in frame and it did not look pleasing. Also, most of the photos were shot at 115mm or higher which gave a good compression for the leading lines of the walkway in the background.

And the third thing that made the images as good as they could be on a cold windy winter night was the “even lighting” coming from the store. It was bright and soft. It was not the best lighting, but it was the soft enough and that was all I needed. I started shooting with Nam who has never been in front of my camera before. Next up was Kukik who has been in front of my camera and then of course there is going to be no stopping both girls getting shots together. It truly was one of those fun moments in life that we will always remember. One of the hardest parts of our lives is identifying those moments as they’re happening. As I was watching the girls I realized “this was one of those moments.”

Then the shoot was over in an instant… I seen the flashing lights of the parking security vehicle coming our way and I yelled for everybody to get back to the truck and we pulled away.

But as we pulled away my wife and the girls start commenting on the fact it was a thrift store and they hadn’t gone inside. Yep, I think you can see where this is going to lead. So, I quickly linked my tablet to the camera WiFi and asked each girl to “pick one good photo of themselves” and I would edit it while the were shopping. “one good photo each,” yeah, right, that is like asking a kid to take only one piece of candy. So as the girls headed off to the thrift shop, I stayed behind and using Lightroom CC Mobile I edited a few photos and posted them to Instagram and sent them copies as well.

Nam 1/12 sec at f/3.2 ISO 2500 150mm

Later the next day I did take a few of the images into Photoshop and put them to a better edit. However, the best part of this whole story is; we realized Kukik has a few more weeks here in New Jersey so why not plan another good day to get together and have fun and we did just that. Before I returned the girls home, we all sat looking at our calendars and set a date.

 

Hey thanks so much for stopping by and reading, have a great day.

 

Morning Smile ( Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.)

1/1000 sec at f/2.8 ISO 320 140mm

 

Ok so “street photography” is supposed to be for the most part an unmediated chance encounter.

While it borders on being “candid” there is still a difference. And for those who may not know; no you do not have to be in the street while capturing street style photography.

So let me talk about these two photos because they both are at the top of my all-time favorite street style shots.

I have blogged before about the morning in 2012 when I created a project where I would stand in the village street at the busiest time of the morning and I photographed everything that passed by or that came within 3 meters of me.

It was a lot of fun and I captured some real interesting images. Now first let me say that while most photographers will show their “street style” photography in black & white and I love my black & whites. However I have always had the mindset that because

Thailand is one of those places in the world that is so vibrant in color I personally feel I need to show the color. For street I try to refrain from using “saturation” but sometimes I will break that rule too.

1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 90mm

Ok so I love this image for mainly one reason and it is her smile. Her smile is so “in the moment” and natural. I did not know her nor did I think she was actually seeing me.

It is kind of hard to miss a big white guy standing in the middle of the street with a full frame camera and a 70-200mm lens.

With that said; many of the people who passed me by that morning never even looked my way, and again I was no more than 3 meters away.

So while I was shooting the burst of about 3 to 4 shots I remember seeing her smile in the view finder and I instantly thought “unusable” I’ll have to delete them because most times when people know your taking their photo… well it just doesn’t look natural.

But this was different because she was not moving slow and as she was approaching I was face away from her shooting something that had just went by. When I turned I had the camera already up and in position, essentially the total time was like 3-5 seconds.

So for her to see me and crack such a beautiful smile (and a peace sign) so quickly while her front passenger is more than clueless just adds to the excitement of these images. Beauty & youth are synonymous and when you add a natural smile it just melts my heart.

While the images are a little soft on focus the content more than makes up for the lack of sharpness, this is the case with many great street style shots.

 

So for those of you who know me personally and hear me talk about the village my wife is from… well this is a typical morning scene right outside our front door.

 

 

Old Coffee Shop (Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. )

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

It was a beautiful morning I was up early and out at 5:00am. I’m lucky enough to live close to the small city of Lambertville and when the light and weather is good I’ll get out early and capture a few shots of interesting buildings or people.

Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. This is one of the things that attract people to this town. I say “one of the things” because the little city has changed with the times; it was once a working town with industry and music attractions. But as the times have changes so did the city. Long gone is the music circus and the luggage factory along with the hobby store and little eateries, bike shop ect… In their place are now antique shops and art galleries. Long gone are the little old cozy neighborhoods and the working class people and in their place is artsy shops and hipsters. Not that it is a bad thing it is just different. Plus it all makes for great photography.

Throw Back for Thursday (“Cigar Break” with Reese Maddox)

Cigar Break Reese Maddox (model)

Cigar Break Reese Maddox (model)

A little throwback for Thursday. I have been so busy that today I needed to just sit back and look at some images from a few years ago. I come across “Cigar Break” and I remember how much fun the shoot was. It was also hot and humid that day but a lot of fun none the less. The contrast of the beautiful model with that old wooden Indian just makes this photo for me. I love it.

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas. (the backstory to the composite)

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Sometimes I have a well thought out plan about a composite image. Maybe I have to make a portrait of an athlete, let’s say a football player. So I know the background is going to be a sports field or a locker room and this will be very much cut & dry as to what the end image is going to look like.

Then there are those times when I have no idea what is going to happen or for that matter, no idea what is going on. I start to get kind of lost in what I’m doing and actually “lost” is not the right word but I just see something in a background that resonates with an image I already have in my library and then I will run down a rabbit hole in Photoshop. The whole process could take hours or it could take minutes, but if it starts to come together and it “gels” then I can’t leave it alone until I get it finished or almost finished. I say almost because I have learned that as I’m approaching the so-called “finish line” on an unplanned image, I really need to sleep on it and revisit the image the next day. Maybe the dodge & burn was a little over the edge or the sharpening was too much. The finishing touches have to be done with “fresh eyes” as I always say.

So while shooting Santa Claus photos at the local children’s play gym I captured images of the Santa that were kind of different. I was getting the lights set up and taking test shots while Santa was sitting and thinking about his upcoming Hawaiian vacation. When I viewed the images in post I saved a few thinking they could possibly be used in a composite. Santa looked kind of “washed out” and “far away” and that just stuck in my head.

Then the background image really resonated with me. It looks old yet it has these rays of light coming in, the room is so basic and screams of negativity to me. I think because it is mostly an empty room with nothing happening other than sunlight. I loved the leading lines on the floor and somehow I got the same feeling of despair looking at this room as I did seeing the washed out Santa. Soon I’m opening Photoshop and the creativity starts to happen. Santa is in the wrong kind of chair so I used an image of the posing chair I use for model shoots. My chair, although you only see the legs seemed more “time period” appropriate for the room. As for Santa, he is timeless so he works, but he did require a little “Puppet Warping” in PS to make his hands fit the scene. You have to know unlike most composites, in this example Santa was not photographed to be used in a composite. The camera was at f/8 and ISO 50 and there is studio lighting, however the masking out of the Santa from the original scene was not a walk through the park by any means.

So to put the whole scene together Santa needed some serious dodge & burn to put him and the chair into the window light of the room. And it is around this time that I start conversion process to black & white. It does not mean I will use the black & white image, but for all intent purposes I like to make both a color images and a b&w. I have posted in the past about my processes for b&w conversions (I have several) but this one was accomplished using Nik (Google) Silver Efex. All my b&w images first start with a fully edited color images and then go to b&w. Most of the way I edit came to me several years back by way of the two books “Welcome to Oz” and “From Oz to Kansas” by Nikon Ambassador Vincent Versace. These two books are great reading for the intermediate to advanced Photoshop user and have to be read in the order as I have mentioned.

In the end I decided to go with the b&w image although I then have to decide will it be tinted towards the bluer side or the yellower side. Realistically there are only two tints to use other than straight & pure b&w. Blue implies coolness, cold or it could imply night, dark and moonlight. While yellow implies daylight, warmth and heat. Although not a realistic image by any means, I mean we have a mythical Santa, the images is not in color and Santa was never in that room or even in that chair, but we still have to give the viewer a sense of the time of day or some sort of ambiance and I chose an ever so slight “coffee” tint. I do this final tinting in Silver Efex and I myself am more partial to a “brownish” monochrome image rather than a true and pure black & white.

So there is the backstory on the “Poor Santa” image. In the end I see Santa all wiped out the day after Christmas. For weeks he has been putting up with the entire Christmas calamity and now he’s done! Ready to catch a flight to the islands.

Look At Me…

Doing my thing on the streets of NYC. Union Square Park.

Doing my thing on the streets of NYC. Union Square Park.

Look at me… It is very rare of course for me to see a photo of myself doing what I do. This photo is courtesy of friend and fellow photographer Mark Rudnick. In this image I am composing renowned chess player Julia Elizabeth Sloan. Squatting down with a 30+ lbs sling bag hanging is no easy task I mind you lol. Its the standing back up part that is the challenge.

1/60 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 35mm

1/60 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 35mm

 

But Why?… (“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” )

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.

 

“Street photography is photography that features the human condition within public places.” So here we see a “human condition” that at some point in our life we have had. Mom telling you to “stay put and not jump around” and it is clear from the emotion in her face that she is not happy with mom at the moment.

The shot was taken inside a subway car on the “R” line headed uptown from Battery Park Subway station. I stepped outside of my standard 24mm-50mm focal length and zoomed to 105mm.

1/80 sec at f/4.0 ISO 4000 105mm Black & White conversion was via Nik Silver Efex 2.