That Teal & Orange Thingy Has To Go (just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.”)

International Model Zhan. Location Javitz Center NYC Very lite Teal & Orange LUT applied.

That Teal Orange Thing

Happy New Year to everybody and with a new year we hope for new and better things in our lives. We wish everybody from family, friends and colleges joy and happiness in the new year. We set goals and overall it is a time to “throw away the old and bring in the new.”

Now there are many things I would love to throw away from 2K18 and wish to see very little of in 2K19. As for photography; That putrid “teal orange” bullshit has got to go. Most of you know what I’m talking about and I would guess there are others who have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll elaborate.

Beit a filter or a LUT the teal to orange look has inundated the photography world, particularly on social media. It is akin to the horrible “HDR look” that took place several years back and still happens to day when a new photographer very first discovers HDR. He/she will jump into Photoshop and create the horrid mess on an image with halos and virtually no shadows and think they “really have something here” and then they run off and post it on Flickr and elsewhere.

However, hopefully this photographer has a good enough friend who will pick up a big stick (not just any stick, but a big solid stick) and just whack them upside the head and say “don’t ever do that again.” Kind of like teaching your dog not to poop on the kitchen floor. Now to be honest I would never hit a dog in the head with a stick, but I would whack a photographer who creates bad HDR. Why? Because it is that bad.

Same goes for this teal orange thing. So where did the teal orange thing come from? Legend has it there was this German photographer named Berger Meister, Meister Berger that hated other photographers so much that he… Ok so of course I’m pulling your leg there but here is my opinion on where the teal orange tide came from.

Instagram or IG for short has filters for your photos. I think by now everybody knows what IG is and how it works. So, some IG filters are more popular than others and people love applying the filters because it gives them a quick way to edit a photo into something a little more interesting than the color profile their phone assigned to the photo as it was shot. Essentially everybody wants to be a better photographer but without doing a lot of work. I don’t say that as a bad thing really, its just human nature. Who doesn’t want to have a beautiful physically fit body without going to the gym?

So, IG is only part of the equation, there is more to the teal orange tide than just IG. Ig is in my opinion what spawned the everyday photographer the ability and desire to apply filters and again this is not in and of its self a bad thing.

I feel LUTs are maybe a bigger culprit than IG. LUT is short for Color Look Up Table. I’m not going to go into all the details of LUTs because what a LUT actually is and how it “really” works is a topic as about as vast as the Iceberg that the Titanic hit. But here is the short answer; LUTs are generally used to color grade video because they have the power to change one color to another and a LUT can just overall enhance a scene by conveying a look and feel to the viewer that enhances the movie, video or photo. In a nut shell it helps to tell the story the creator wanted to tell.

At this time more and more creators are shooting video on cameras that record in logarithmic format or “log” for short. Log format is a very flat looking style that is void of color saturation however this in-turn allows the camera to capture video in a higher dynamic range, essentially meaning more editable information in the shadows & highlights.

Log format is not new, it was reserved for very high-end expensive cameras, but now it is readily available on many prosumer cameras. Many vloggers shoot in log format everyday and using a LUT or more than one LUT allows the editor to put color back in to the video footage I a creative way.

At this point you may be asking “how does this log video thingy relate to photography?” It relates because of a few reasons, but mostly because most DSLR cameras are hybrids that capture both video and still images. I honestly don’t know who started using LUTs on digital images, but I first heard about them from a British photographer when he did a tutorial about them on his YouTube channel. He showed how you could stack them and blend them using Adobe Photoshop (he did not use teal & orange). I found this very interesting and I’m always exploring new editing techniques for my photography. Around this same time a realized LUTs were used in Adobe Premiere Pro and I also stared using them to edit my video. I downloaded free LUTs from the internet and they were horrible, they did not enhance my images at all, in-fact were not usable at all. The reason for this problem was because the LUTs I downloaded were for log format and my images and video were shot in standard format using whatever camera profile that was in my camera.

Now with all that said I find that there are many photographers that us LUTs to an extreme much the same way that photographers over used HDR editing a few years back. So, for whatever reason the “teal & orange” look seems to be the hot flavor that has risen above the rest, with the teal color (or some variation thereof) being more common than the orange. I will admit it looks good on some images and I have used it myself… on some images. But I have seen some photographer using it on every single image they post to their IG or other social media. I mean like every single image on the IG for the past two years, almost as if that is their signature thing or their style. If this is your style; what happens next year when this fad passes? What happens to your style when the teal & orange tide recedes and your left holding the bag (so to speak).

Maybe I’m just ranting, however I really do feel it is a look that is very over used. I will be the first to admit I’m not a color grading expert but do as much as I can to learn more about it and about using LUTs.

So, let’s hope 2019 is the year the teal & orange look recedes.

Happy 2019!

Rain Perspective (And we sat in the car looking at the rain… and then got out and started shooting. )

1/100 sec at f/3.5, ISO 160, 70 mm

Shooting in the rain… Who the hell wants to stand out in the rain with a camera and capture photos? Why would you even want to do that?

Ok, so let me jump right to it and say that I learned a vital lesson several years back. “Photos have to be interesting” and if they are not interesting… well they may just be what is referred to as a “snapshot” and while snapshots may hold a lot of love, memories and meaningfulness to the people who are associated with the snapshot. However if we are trying to create something other than a snapshot, we must do something that will in some way capture the viewer’s attention enough to look at our image. We know photography is subjective, like art, music, dance, food and beauty, it is all subjective. But let’s set aside the fact of Subjectiveness and focus on being interesting.

Some subjects are photographed all the time and not every photo of that subject, whether it be a person, place or thing is interesting. Iconic landmarks are photographed everyday all day long, the Statue of Liberty, Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower are just three that come to mind. However many of the photos are nothing more than a snapshot, they all look exactly the same. Even people… let’s take a sports star for example. He/she we see their photographs all the time as they kick a soccer ball, swing a tennis racket or a golf club. Maybe it is a photo of them scoring a winning shot and for today and a few days later the photo is interesting. And next week they score another winning shot and last week’s photo is not all that interesting anymore. But if we take them out of their normal setting and place them in a setting that creates juxtaposition… well, now we have changed it up and maybe create an interesting image of this person.

One day I captured the local steam engine as it chugged down the tracks. I see it coming, I have my camera on the tripod and just as the train gets closer the rain increases from a very lite drizzle to a steady heavy rain. Not quite a downpour, but enough to ruin the series of photos I was about to take. Sure I still clicked the shutter… I don’t know why, but at the time I thought “why not” I’m here, the camera is set up and… Ok, so I pack up and go home and when I look at the photos I see the rain doesn’t look as bad as I thought it would. Also I notice that the rain is creating steam to rise from the boiler of the engine creating a more dramatic scene. So I chose one photo and I edit out the power lines and road signs as I always do and then post it on-line. I should also mention the train had a Christmas wreath on the front because it was the Christmas season.

Original edit for print and Historical Flemington website.

So, later that year I am contacted and asked if the image of the train can be used in a holiday tourism campaign and for a local website. The art director seen many images of that old steam engine, but none that had the look & feel of my image.

Lesson Learned. Changing perspective can make a photo more interesting, this I already knew. So let’s use rain as a change of perspective.

I had an outdoor photo shoot scheduled with a model and of course it turned out to be a rainy day. The model, Tiffany is very determined and is not at all bothered by the rain. Like a true professional she decided to “roll with the flow” and make the best of it. We found some roof overhangs and tried to stay as dry as possible. In the end we had some really nice images. However we both decided to reschedule the shoot for a few weeks later so we could work with some nice weather.

A few weeks later…

The rain was harder than last time. And we sat in the car looking at the rain, made a few comments about the rain and then got out and started shooting. Needless to say I have good gear so I’m not at all worried about the water. So here again we find ourselves in the rain, even harder than last time and no roof overhangs. Just two people in the rain, but two people who could care less because I for one know that “right or wrong” the images we are creating will be… shall we say different. Tiffany on the other hand, is a small little girl with enough determination and enthusiasm that would make anybody happy to be in the rain.

In the end it is about two things: 1. Are you happy about what you have created and 2. Was it interesting?

Instagram is my latest flavor of social media; I can get a “half decent feel” of how interesting photos are by the response I get. It is not so much the amount of “Likes or Hearts” but more so it is about knowing your followers and knowing what compels them to take the time to leave a comment. Also knowing who never really comments on anything, however today they were moved to take the time to leave a heartfelt comment. Or even better, they take the time to send a direct message with a comment.

So yes shooting with Tiffany in the rain generated some interest. Shooting with Tiffany in the rain again two weeks later generated even more interest. I would have thought that it would have not been so interesting because it was so similar. I was wrong… again, but wrong in a good way.

One more thing to mention and truly a key component to any photo shoot… rain or no rain, is have an interesting subject.

 

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.

Freedom of Creativity (Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”)

By The Sea

I have never before created an image that drew so much criticism and also at the same time was liked by so many others. This is a two element composite that I created in the very beginning of 2017. Actually the image of the model was captured on the last day of 2016 in a studio. Many times when shooting a model session I will have some sort of prop that I will pull out at the very end of the shoot, sort of a surprise. In the past I have used fake hand grenades, fake cigars, and gas masks ect… On this day I had a feathered headdress that closely resembles the kind of headdresses worn by the indigenous tribes of the North American Plains or as many would call them today “Native Americans.” The headdress was purchased online from a dealer in Indonesia where the headdress is made. The headdress is fabricated from duck feathers and either painted or dyed with various colors for decoration. The rest of the material is mostly cheap felt, string, thread and plastic beads. I was actually quite disappointed when I received the headdress because the feathers were rather narrow and distorted due to the painting or dying process. For this reason I did not use it right away and I was looking for a better one. I soon lost interest and the prop was packed away. I then relocated and the prop was in storage for most of the year. I came across the headdress while sifting through my props and model wardrobe and thought “I might as well use it” after all I did pay $60 for this thing. So I brought it to the shoot, pulled it out at the very end, asked the model if she wanted to wear it and she (like me) though it would be nice and rather “Avant Garde” with the juxtaposition of the fitness attire she had on. After all I did know while shooting her on a gray background I would clip her out and use another outdoor background thus creating a “Photoshop composite” as I am so known for doing.

Why? I liked it. It was creative decision based on the look and color of the feathers and the overall feel it would bring to the image. In my years as a photographer I have designed and created my own headdress for models to wear as well as purchasing pre-made items. I have seen headdresses made from everything possible (or so it seems).  Just the other day I saw a headdress with biplanes in it. One was the plane of the famous Eddie Rickenbacker and the other Baron Von Richthofen or as many know him “The Red Baron.” I thought it to be rather funny and odd all at the same time. Some headdresses I do not get at all, such as ram horns, dead sticks, plastic garbage bags ect… But “hey” beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art, fashion and beauty are all “subjective” so while I may look at a model with sticks and deer antlers as a headpiece and think it is idiotic, others could find it artistic.

Now I am fully aware that no matter what I write in the following sentences will be justifiable in the minds of some people. I might add that I am not looking to justify anything nor am I trying to win over the opinion of a naysayer. All I am saying is “there is (in my opinion) no way possible that a model and a photographer standing in a studio and deciding to place a feathered headdress on one’s head and photographing it could bring harm to anyone”… period. The model is dressed in current day fitness attire that in no way depicts her and as a Native American. Upon close examination the headdress craftsmanship shows no possible comparison to the craftsmanship of a “Plains Native” war bonnet. Other than shape and color there is very little that could be comparable between a headdress of a Native American and the headdress that is in my image. There is nothing about the way that my image was created nor in the way the image is being presented that could be contrived as someone or anybody trying to demean or disparage indigenous people of North America who whore feathered headdresses. Now with that said there are still people whom are highly offended and for several reasons. The first thing that comes to my mind is “some people just like to be offended.” There’s no two ways to look at that, they just like being offended, its life. Then there are those who are offended because they have a vested interest.  I know that sounds rather idiotic, but it is true as true can be.

Most of us have experienced bullies growing up, every class had one or more. And if it wasn’t in the class room, it was at the park or on the school bus or somewhere in our life. You didn’t have to provoke a bully, just the mere fact that you woke up that morning and now standing in close range you were going to feel the wrath of the bully. Be it physical or verbal you were going to feel the wrath. Myself personally I felt the wrath of a few bullies and I found that the biggest way to combat a bully was to fight back. But not to fight back it the way the bully fought against me, in some cases just ignoring the bully was good enough. However most effective was a flat-out “take’em out quickly and as mercilessly as possible. It could be done verbally or physically, whatever way worked best. Now cut to forty years later we are to play patty-cakes and give blue ribbons and have an after party at Panera Bread or Starbucks. Sadly enough I never grew up and I’m stuck in “forty years ago.”

So what happened on social media? Ok here is the time line of my image. It was initially created a few days after the photo shoot. I sat on it for about a week as I made various changes to the overall color and sharpness. I made test prints and used it as an image to compare different print method. Then after about two weeks it was posted to my blog. There was very little reaction. It had been keyworded with headdress, fitness, feathered and so on. Then after a few months I decided to put the image on Instagram. It was received very well, but no more than other images of comparable quality. Then it received the first comment “this is the dumbest pic I’ve ever seen.” The man was a Native American and I waited about 12 hours and asked back “what is it about the image that you do not like? His answer said “well thank you for asking, as a native it is always disappointing to see models wearing headdresses thereby the stereotype continues, women don’t wear them, it’s disrespectful to us, but people continue to misuse our culture, thanks again for asking, most people don’t care to ask.”  I did not reply and left it at that. Then there were people hash tagging it and those I deleted. The random hash tagger is the modern-day bully whom you really can do nothing about.

While I do understand a little bit of what this gentleman is saying when it comes to native women not wearing headdresses, so I guess to him it would be like me seeing a man wearing a dress. I get that and I can live with that. But this whole “stereotype” thing is a bunch of crap. I literally have no idea what so ever of what stereotype I am keeping alive and how I am misusing anyone’s culture. So I set off and a three-day research binge to try and find what I was doing wrong and how my actions could have brought harm upon this man or anyone else. Yes for three days I spent every free moment reading and researching how the Native Americans feel and their current position in society today.

Here are my findings:

Nearly every single article I could find written on the subject of downtrodden Native Americans was on blogs, and very few were on actual creditable news sites. The articles posted to these blogs were very scathing and dramatic. While most of the facts were correct about the history of the settlers pushing out the indigenous people, the articles are clearly written to be used as “click bait” and it was easy to see why. Every single one of these blog sites were filled with pop up after pop up as well as every pixel of extra space taken up by affiliate advertisements. Essentially these were all “pay per click” sites that generate revenue each time the site is clicked upon. Are they “Fake News?” No I didn’t really see anything fake about them; however they clearly have an agenda to write articles that are jaded to drawing the reader to a predetermined conclusion rather than letting the reader draw their own conclusion.

So now I leave the blogs and head off to message boards where there is no “pay per click” and it is just everyday people talking about everyday stuff. I find that about 75% of the Native Americans who I actually questioned did not care at all about my image or any other involving non-native people wearing a feathered headdress. In fact one man said that the only people who are going to be offended are people who have something to gain by being offended. And I think he’s right. The other 25% really didn’t have bad things to say, they just thought it best to not offend anybody about anything. So let me get that right… you’re not really offended by the feathered headdress being worn by a model… but I still shouldn’t do it. Ok.

So after all the research and questioning, still no one can tell me what stereotype I am keeping alive or how what I have done has brought (or will bring) harm or doom to an indigenous person/s. My conclusion is that the biggest criers are the writers who are posting to “pay-per-click” sites. This is actually the case with a lot of social topics today. While the world is now bogged down with this increasing blight of “Fake News” we are also being bogged down with one-sided dramatic opinions that are being contrived as “facts” and it is all in the name of pay-per-click advertising. For all I know the blogs that I visited may have not been run by Native Americans at all, there really is no way to know. After all you yourself could write a post on any topic, make it as dramatic as possible and post it to your pay per click site and start making money.

For now my image will remain online. People are free to comment although they have to keep comments realistic and on topic.

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.

 

 

Autumn Fun (…the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air…)

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan is new, but a fast learner. We had a great outdoor shoot in Stockton, NJ along the Delaware River. It was a beautiful autumn day and while the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air that added to our mood. The Prallsville Mill adds such a great backdrop to any photo shoot, be it wedding, engagement or model. On a weekday there is always a few people walking or riding bikes and of course they will stop and look and that just adds to the fun. We’ll see more edits from this shoot in the coming days.