Somebody’s Angel

Angels come in all shapes and sizes.

Angels come in all shapes and sizes. They can often appear in your darkest hours when hope feels like a meaningless word. Keeping faith in all things you do, stay strong and lead others. Faith in your god, your country and most of all yourself is what strong people are made of. You too could be an angel someone and never know it.

Color Grading (…while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market.)

Model Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/2.8 ISO 50 88mm Color Graded

Color grading has been around for a very long time, used both in photography and cinematography. The names have changed as time and technology advance. What some refer to now as “color grading” was on once called “color timing” during the film era and was accomplished in a laboratory or darkroom by adjusting the exposure process during the developing stage of the film. Mostly used for color correction and not so much as an artistic tool. In the cinematography world it was primarily for color correction although the process was a lot more complex, requiring vast knowledge in dealing with correcting color for television tube screens. So todays “color correcting” has become a lot easier and nearly all is performed digitally making life a lot easier. I do color correcting using the X-Rite Color Checker and correct everything from camera to the monitor I use for editing. So what I now refer to as “color grading” is more of an artistic tool rather than a correcting tool.

So why color grade? Because it can lend an artistic value to your images or video work. Both photographers and videographers like to use color grading as a way to give an image or a video scene a certain vibe, feel or mood. Color grading is important because it could be what sets you apart from the crowd when it comes to editing. It is very common in movies to create a “look” for the overall movie that in-turn creates a “feel” or “mood” for the whole feature and individual scenes will vary from the main look based on the lighting, color, time of day ect… Examples are movies like Manchester by the Sea that has a rather soft and somber vibe due to the nature of the plot dealing with a lost loved one. As opposed to Hacksaw Ridge that has a very “high contrast” look do to the fact that most of the scenes take place on a battle field during intense fire fights.

So let’s step back a few years to when I was a beginning photographer and like most I was obsessed with “trying to make my images look professional” and could not figure out why I was failing. First let’s describe “professional” because a nice fashion shot certainly has a different look than say a nice sport shot. For me it was fashion photography. I would look at a magazine (remember them?) ad or editorial and fall in love with the image’s vibe. Not so much the content of the image, but more so with the way the image looked… the feel. Sure the image may contain a nice looking person in wondrous wardrobe (or lack of wardrobe) or it could be an advertisement with just a wrist watch. Either way I would sit and wonder what they did to make the image look the way it did. So when Photoshop found its way into my photography I already had several things in my mind I wanted to learn how to do. Sure basic editing comes first, along with just figuring out how to navigate through the universe that is Adobe Photoshop. But soon I was trying my hand at color grading although I had no clue what I was doing. Then I started asking other photographers their techniques and ideas on color grading. …of course as always the case with photography some photographers are more than willing to share while others are looking at you like your asking if you can sell their child on the black-market. Then of course there is the “oh just go to my website and download my tutorial” for a mere $99. So I basically continued on my own and bought a $10 automated (prerecorded) Photoshop Action or two along the way. I would analyze the layers of the action and it soon became apparent that I was doing it that way all along. But I had other ways to color grade that were sometimes so much easier than creating layer after layer in Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom has some really nice tools for creating awesome color grades and saving them as presets. This of course leads to photographers and websites selling Lightroom and Camera RAW presets, and this is fine, but I would suggest finding free downloads over paying for them.

So for my workflow I always start in Lightroom and if needed I head over to Photoshop and I finish back in Lightroom. I would say for me; 80% of the images I color grade I do in Lightroom, the rest are done in Photoshop. Also with the power of having Adobe Camera RAW as a filter in Photoshop I could technically do everything in Photoshop; however I like to save my master file without a color grade and make a separate file with the color grade.

So day we still see color grading as a strong artistic tool in both photography and cinematography. It was always said that “Instagram is for photographers” and nothing could be truer with all the filter choices IG has to offer. After all the IG filters are nothing more than preset color grades. And now that drone video is getting easier for the average person and vlogging is all the rage we start to see the color grading moving in to the mainstream. Not only do the top vloggers create trends with how they hold their camera or their scene transitions they also create trends of everybody wanting to color grade their video content to look like they’re favorite vlogger. With all this said color grading isn’t always as easy as an Instagram filter. There truly is an art to it, and in video what looks good in one scene looks horrible in another. Photos can be a lot easier to color grade, however I find that when editing a series of photos it can at times be challenging when the series contains images from different looks of light. Look for a vlog post in a few days where I will walk through a few of my techniques on color grading.

 

Thanks for reading.

A Creative Morning (The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else…)

I haven’t really created anything new and interesting in Photoshop lately. Sure I work in Photoshop almost every day, but it is just that… work! I haven’t had the time to create anything fun or new. However I have always wanted to try this double exposure, illustrative photo look. This was my first attempt and I don’t think it looks to horrible. I actually had a job lined up last year to do three of this style for a client who is a musician and the job was cancelled before it even got started. The client wanted one thing and the art director wanted something else, they both started fighting and before I knew it the client’s agent cancelled the job. Story of my life, some jobs die before they fly. But if the job did fly, I was to shoot three specific skyline shots of Philadelphia and then the talent was to come in studio and shoot the portrait part. The rest of course would be finished in Photoshop. All three “would-be” images were going to be part of an album release.

So anyway… cut to today. I woke up and went on an early morning walk with the dogs. A nice quiet, peaceful walk along the river. I kept looking at the trees in the early morning spring time sunlight. And then all of a sudden I just got that “I have got to sit a create something today” kind of feeling and so I did just that. I sat down and said to myself “it has to be something you have never done before.” I thought of Whan, the model in the image and I never really created a nice illustration of her. Sure I have lots of great images of her, but nothing illustrative. I just sent it off to her as I started typing this post and I’m happy to report that she loves it.

So with that said I think I will work on some more of this style in the near future. This is a rather generic one and using the trees has been done a lot. 500px.com has many of this style. So next I will try a cityscape (another generic style) then I’ll move on to more creative overlays.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Bored Senseless (But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress…)

1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm

So I am often asked many questions about a photo after I post it or someone sees it when I’m showing a slide show. If it is a slide show the comment starts with “whoa can you go back to that photo” but there are many other questions that follow, such as; “where was this shot, how did you get this shot” and many more. Many times people who were with me at the time I captured the image ask the same questions. And when they find out it was captured while they were there perplexes them because they have no memory of me taking the photograph nor do they remember the subject in the photograph. Case in point is this image of the man bushing the bicycle in the streets of the village Hua Ngua, Kalasin Province, Thailand. My wife was there however she has no recollection of me capturing the image.

So the back story is I was bored senseless as many a husband is while waiting for your wife to shop. The day started with me going somewhere to have fun with photography, traveling to local temples and other places just to have fun shooting. But somehow I find myself Shanghaied into shopping for a mattress in a small village mattress shop. Of course I had the camera in hand and I just stood along the side of the street shooting whatever went by. It was that easy. Main thing is “always have your cameras with you and ready.” Now that does not mean to walk around bothering people with a camera, in this case I had the camera in the vehicle and because I was bored out of my wits I grabbed the camera in hopes of shooting something… anything. I was at a mattress shop and that was about as exciting and as fun as a heart attack. Matter-of-fact I started by saying to myself that “there has to be something interesting to shoot in the mattress shop… there wasn’t… I tried. Now if I cannot get at least one interesting shot then I think it’s fair to say… well I think you can see by now how bored I was. Bored enough to photograph a farmer pushing a bicycle carrying what looks like weeds up a street. However it is an interesting photo or at least I think so. At I think it is least interesting enough to put in my book of street photography from Thailand.

Now for all the camera geeks the technical info; Shot on a Canon 6D with a 24-105mm f/4L 1/125 sec at f/8 ISO 100 105mm. Edited in Photoshop CC 2017 using a “multiply” layer on top of a normal layer, converted to a smart object, shadows brightened with a camera raw filter and then Nik Color Efex Pro 4 adding Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and then back to Lightroom for a small amount of sharpening and watermark applied. Output to JEPG.

 

 

Winter Video Project (So there is collateral fun to this project ) Part 1

Part:1

So my latest ongoing project is video editing. This project is a little different from my photography projects in the sense that it is not planned out in detail. However the purpose of the project is to create a small amount of video content each weekend that I can then use to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. The end purpose is to better my editing skill and become more familiar with Premiere Pro. Each weekend my wife and I take the dogs (Pixie & Jake) and head out on day trips. We try to go on both Saturday & Sunday however weather is the main dictator as to whether or not we can get out on both days. Either way I bring along my Canon EOS M3 as my main video camera and I will fill in with my mobile phone if needed.

This now leads me to answer the question that most people have been asking me; Why does you video look strange or different? And the answer is because I have been trying different things that I am very unfamiliar with. See in the past most of my video content was edited in Adobe Photoshop. Yes, you can edit video quite well in Photoshop, however it is a very different way to edit and with very different options as opposed to Premiere Pro. So as I push forward with vlogging I feel the need to expand my video editing abilities, not to mention the fact that if a customer requires a specific kind of video with specific kind of feel I would be able to achieve the task. At this time photography, Photoshop and Lightroom are my strong points, but I would like to add Premiere Pro to that list as well.

So there is collateral fun to this project and that is getting out and having fun with my wife and the dogs. Getting out of the house for an extended time in the winter is not always easy, but this project has given purpose and my wife loves it too.

End Stage Creativity (once back to Lightroom that is where I find it easy and fun to play)

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 50mm

1/125 sec at f/10 ISO 50 50mm

Can Adobe Lightroom be a creative tool? While “hardcore” Photoshop users will beg to differ, I find for me personally Adobe Lightroom can be what I call a great “end stage creative editor.” I say this because I will always start my edit in Lightroom with basic prep adjustments preparing the image for Photoshop. Then after Photoshop the image always comes back to Lightroom and while it may be finished and ready for output with a watermark I will spend time playing around doing some creative editing. It fun and it is easy, and sometimes this is where I will create something I had no idea I would do to that particular image. Best part is that if I find something I really like I can save it as a preset and use it again and again.
This image of LaydeeFly is a perfect example. The image that went to Photoshop had a color cast removed and some hair fixes as well as a few blemishes taken away. These are all standard fixes that would be done to any image I work on. But once back to Lightroom that is where I find it easy and fun to play with what the end view of the image will look like.
With this image of LaydeeFly I ended with a look I rarely ever use, although for this image the intense split toning, curves, HSL and adjustments proved to be amazing.

Creative Fun (Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls.)

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

1/200 sec at f/11 ISO 11 18mm

I guess I’m kind of forced to talk about this image due to the amount of feedback I received from it soon after it hit Instagram. I do not have a massive amount of followers but I do have some really cool and interesting followers. I have several professional photographers from various parts of the world who hail from different genres and styles, from fashion to fine art to commercial print. Then I have followers who are in the entertainment industry in Hollywood & NYC. With that said… I also have a lot of cool everyday people from all walks of life who see my images and I see theirs too.

For this image I received four direct (private) messages asking how did you take the image and what filter did you use? One question was from a young lady who is a singer, song writer in Hollywood and the others were from photographers in the UK and Russia.

First I want to say this is just a fun image and is not mean to be a portfolio quality photo. However what comes into play here that makes the image stand out are a few different, but really not so different things. So let’s look a little deeper and I’ll talk about what was going on and how the image came to be.

First and foremost is the subject, my beautiful niece Alyssa and I were walking the dogs at the lake up the street from my house and I had the camera… I always have the camera.

Second and I think most important element here is the camera… no not a $20,000 Hasselblad, not even a flagship Nikon or Canon. The camera I used is my (new to me) Canon EOS-M3. What made this image achievable is the fact that I was able to capture the photo from an angle and perspective that would not be possible looking through a viewfinder. Unless of course I was to kneel down next to or in front of the subject and ask her to stop and pose. In this image I had been walking next to her as I captured video and when I had the clip I wanted I quickly switched to Av (aperture priority) and had previously set the camera to ISO 100 and f/11. So given the extreme back lighting from the sun over her shoulder I instantly flicked the “flash release” to allow the tiny on camera flash to give some much-needed “fill flash.” Without the fill flash Alyssa would be nothing more than a dark shadow. Also know the f/11 setting helped create the “star” effect coming from the sun. And of course the sun flare is because the camera is looking into the sun. Then there is the “wide angle” factor; shooting close to the subject at 18mm (wide zoom) makes things look a little “off.” Her extended arm and distortion on her lower torso is not very noticeable, but enough to give a creative effect.

So the big thing here is that I composed the image from the screen on the back of the camera and not a viewfinder (the M3 does not come with a view finder). The screen articulates and I was able to hold the camera low, but still angle the screen up toward me. I am actually very familiar with this technique because my old 2005-06 Canon A640 point & shoot had an articulating screen and I loved, loved, loved that camera for just that reason. And I must note that this is one of the three main reasons I purchased the M3. The articulating screen screams creativity… so why doesn’t an EOS-5D Mark IV or the EOS-1D X Mark II have articulating screens? Here is the secret… ready for it… Cameras are designed and engineered by geeks, nerds and trolls. These are people or beings that have not a creative molecule in their being. While they can make something that can auto focus and face detect and face track within milliseconds they could never understand creativity. So they rely on the outside world to tell them what creativity is and how to incorporate it into a product. The have stopped putting articulating screens in cheaper cameras because they want you to but the more expensive camera and I get that part of the equation… it’s about $$$. Even the geekiest of geeks wants to make money. “But let’s not make our $4000+ plus cameras with creative features like articulating screens because that would make us look like we have common sense.” And everybody knows geeks, nerds and troll have no common sense. Right!

Ok so after that rant we come to;

The third thing and that is the edit. So it is a little tweaking in Lightroom, about all of 30 seconds and then it’s off to Photoshop for about 2 minutes and I use a Nik Color Efex Pro 3 filter recipe that was created by me (yay me, I’m not a geek I can create). Also there is the use of Photoshop blending modes; in this case “multiply” was used. Then back to Lightroom and whala… done.

So in conclusion the real game changer is the camera with the articulating screen. It did not have to be the Canon M3, it could be any camera with a pop out screen. It allowed me to capture the “up angle” perspective and the candid expression all at the same time without stopping to pose the subject. And last, but not least… No you’re not gonna get this image with your iPhone. Sure you could capture the image with a phone camera, but it would be the same as using any other camera with a view finder. So put your iPhone away you little Apple worm and go get a real camera.

Thanks so much for reading and have a great day.

 

The Sinister Clown At ESP (I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth.)

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

It’s autumn, the smell of fallen leaves fill the cool morning air, pumpkins & corn stalks decorate doorways and porches… apple pie and ginger snap cookies all add up to Halloween is coming soon.

So as Halloween draws near, so does my self-imposed deadline for having completed the edits for the “Sinister Clown” project shoot. Here we see a third edit that I have just completed and I’m very happy with it. This particular image also has a sub-edit where I have cropped in extremely close. If you have followed my blog over the years you know I have a passion for close up “in your face” edits. However usually they are images of a beautiful female face and sometimes a male too, even dogs. But today’s image is that of “Sinister Clown.” And speaking of “Sinister Clown” I wish I had a name for him… yes the clown is a male character although there is a beautiful female playing the role behind all that amazing makeup. If anyone has an idea for a name please contact me.

So for this edit; the cropped version came about because I wanted to showcase Jade’s talent up close and “in your face” and the second reason (as previously mentioned) I love tight cropped face shots. However the full size version of this edit I wanted to put my clown in a decrepit, disgusting, smelly setting. Now of course you can’t “smell” an image on a screen, but I wanted that feel to come through in the edit. So I literally spent hours and days sifting through stock images that could be used for a background. All the while I am going from photo to photo I keep telling myself “you have the image you’re looking for” but I just did not know what. Let me clarify; while I am looking through stock images with my eyes and mind focused on a computer screen, another part of my mind is working diligently sifting through places I have been over the last few years, then of course there is that third part of my mind that thinks of over-throwing the world, sexy women, money and so-on. Funny how much can get done with only two brain cells, but the inside of my mind can be almost as scary as this clown lol.

After days of this… it hits me. Cell block 5 (1829 Creator: John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary.) Yes Cell Block 5 is a disgusting mess. Visitors to Eastern States Penitentiary are not allowed to enter into cell block 5. When you stand at the locked gate and look down the cell block, you get a true feeling of the horror that once was ESP in its hay-day. The place looks frozen in time, like an old closet that hasn’t been opened in 200 years, it smells like a grave. The smell is because (no joke) the place has been untouched for decades and has a smell of dirt, cob webs, mold and rotting wood.

While doing a photo shoot there in June of 2015 with Nicole I had stuck my camera inside the gate and captured some really decent images. I have edited one as a cover photo for the Reckless Pixel Facebook page (but is no longer in use). So this was the background that would work perfect for this edit. Not to mention the irony that Nicole is the clown and the background image comes from another shoot she did with me over a year ago.

Now I feel I need to explain that in the beginning I had envisioned this clown being scary, but in an organic sort of way and not in a generic “blood & gore” kind of way. In the first making of the movie “IT” which was actually a TV mini-series the clown Pennywise was never really seen devouring the little children of Derry. It was implied that the clown ate the arms of children… after all it was a movie made for TV. So I wanted my clown to have that same vibe. I want him to scare the bejesus out of you, but do it without holding a half-eaten arm in his mouth. So instead of putting gore props in the images with the clown I would rather put the clown in an evil setting. Now with all that said the average viewer of the image is never gonna know the significance of the background and I’m ok with that. Most of all I’m happy that the background is one of my own images and not a stock image.

I will have more edits of the Sinister Clown up in a day or so and there will be a video blog post too. Thanks for reading and have a great day.

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/14 ISO 50 123mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, SFX Makeup by Jade Alexandra Brown

Only a Year Late (So being a guitar player in another lifetime I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat…)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm
Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

It has taken me well over a year to complete this “behind the scenes” video of a shoot I did with model Nicole Gallagher. Why? Because I am stubborn and when I want something to be a certain way… well I want it that way. Childish? Maybe. So the problem was… ok so here is where you can laugh, smack my head and call me crazy. I couldn’t get the music right. I wanted a certain piece of music, I wanted Santana/Everlast “Put Your Lights On” and while I have that version done, it was done two days after the shoot, I could not get it uploaded. And rightfully (pardon the pun) so because Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook all threatened to ban my accounts if I tried to upload it again. What a bitch and I really can’t complain because I know the copyright laws very well when it comes to intellectual property, after all I’m the guy that makes everybody sign a model release to protect my images.

But then I had an idea… ahhh… what if I record the song myself. All I wanted was the music and not the vocals. So being a guitar player in another life time I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat and fires up my GK amp and laid down a fairly decent instrumental version of  “Put Your Lights On” and edited it using Adobe Audition CC (which by the way I love Audition CC). But still no luck, YouTube slammed me with even nastier emails. …oh well I tried.

So then I got discussed and I set the project aside. I revisited the project no less than 8 times since June of 2014 and to no avail. So my last attempt was the other day and like all the other attempts I crashed & burned after an 2 hours of sifting through clip after clip of “royalty free” music. However tonight I hit on a song that I liked and the video has been uploaded. Did I win?.. hell no, but I do like the song “Hey Girl” and it seems to work. Check it out and hit “Like” if you would please, you can also subscribe to the Channel too.

 

Magic at Lockridge Park ( I try to get out to Lockridge a few times a year…)

Fitness/Fashion model Whan 1.250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 95mm

Fitness/Fashion model Whan 1.250 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 95mm

Shooting at Lockridge Park in Alburtis Pa is a photographer’s dream if you like textures and stones. The site of a former iron ore furnace first built there in 1868. All that remains now are these partial stone structures that appear as beautiful ruins and set the stage or rather a backdrop for photo shoots. On any given day you can find a photographer out shooting amongst the ruins. A nice setting for a wedding ceremony or just a fun model shoot, I try to get out to Lockridge a few times a year, once in the summer and again in the autumn season.

It really can be a fun and magical place for model shooting, the juxtaposition of a model’s beauty back dropped with the textures of the stone and cracked cement are a lot of fun for me. In this image we see Whan giving us an awesome fitness look with a classic pose of negative space in the arms and legs, I then edited the image using split tones in Lightroom to enhance the textures of the stone and cement. The sky is bright blue above her so the stone is holding the blues although our human eye cannot see it… until the color is saturated a bit. I love split tone editing as long as it is not over done. In this case I made sure none of the split tones are on the model, just on the textures. Most times when I use split tones I use it very sparingly on my images. However today I wanted to go a lot stronger to give a little surreal or magical feel.

Whan was a lot of fun to work with, she has a classic Thai/Asian fashion look and style and she can shoot fitness to. She’s dedicated to a healthy lifestyle of fitness and exercise as can be seen by her body. Follow her in Instagram https://www.instagram.com/whannasert/

Till next time… and thanks for stopping by and reading.