Dark Days (when the creative light weakens)

Dark Days make you create what you feel.

Sometimes you just create what you feel… literally. Mood is the major factor in “what, when and how” most people are able to create. Stresses (or the lack of) from the outside world help set the tone or kill the creative spirit all together. Internal stresses are just as incriminating because we all know demons never sleep and they rarely take a day off. But for the strong healthy minds and souls demons are kept at bay, although there are those times we let our guard down and the demon within will rise up unexpectedly and quell your ability to create.

For me right now it is the outside stresses of the world that have all but extinguished my creative fire. You cannot control your outside world. We try to and we feel we can, but as we all know life can really come down on you sometimes and like a rainstorm it can be hard, real hard and when it’s real hard and you’re hurting from the rain… it gets even harder and yet again harder.  You feel as though you’ve done something to make God angry with you. When in reality you really cannot complain. For if you wake up breathing with two good eyes, legs, feet, hands and arms your still in the game. You just need to be stronger. Love the most those who love you back. Most of all love God and yourself.

I could list my problems and try to invoke drama but my problems are mine to solve. After all what is life? Just one problem after another, they key is to “solve the problem at hand and wait for the next one.”

They Have All Become Cartoons (Yes ladies you can take offense to what I am saying and that is ok)

Un-filtered and unedited image of Bree Arkham

Un-filtered and unedited image of Bree Arkham. Asked to submit a test shot, she did so while driving to work. Now this is a good selfie.

Sadly enough they have all become akin to a cartoon character. If you’re a male you may have noticed over the past year or so and even more so of recent months that many female faces on social media have become very cartoon like. It doesn’t matter young or old, but the need to make themselves look… prettier? I guess? Either way it has led them to look like something out of an animated cartoon.

Yes ladies you can take offense to what I am saying and that is ok, but seriously you really need to stand back and take a look at what you’re doing. I equate it to the botchery that people like Joan Rivers and Michael Jackson bestowed upon themselves. The only difference here is that it is not permanent and it is only being done to images. However we all still have to look at them. From my following many people both male and female on social media I have found the biggest culprits are the ladies who are not bad-looking at all. But still they take it to an extreme and blur their face almost beyond recognition.

Blurring the skin is nothing new with images. Photoshop blurring has been done for many years now. In fact when I starting learning how to retouch and edit human skin in Photoshop the first technique was to use a blur layer on skin. But I soon found it was way too easy to overdo it and it looked very fake. Today’s retouching uses a technique called “frequency separation” and it too (in my opinion) looks very fake when overused as it often is.

The problem with the blur techniques that all the girls are using today is that the filter is applied “globally” to the image. This means it is applied to the whole images like a smear. When a retoucher uses the technique in Photoshop we do not apply it to eyes, nostril openings, lips, teeth, jewelry, hair ect… It is only used on the skin. Many of the images I see every day are actually laughable. It is like when a 14-year-old girl first uses makeup and she goes totally overboard until somebody (hopefully) steps in and shows her otherwise. But until then the female population will continue to look like smeared clowns. Seriously Miss, when did you ever see a real live person with skin that looked like “porcelain”? It does not exist, period, end of story. So you’re making yourself look “unreal” many times the breast implants become the topic. Girls get boob implants and I get it, they want to gain self-confidence or maybe they are in the entertainment industry and that is par for the course. But creating a false image and publicizing it is downright strange if you ask me? (I know you didn’t ask me lol)  When the girl with fake boobs walks in the room she looks the same as she did in a photo. But blurring a photo to make yourself not visible is weird. …I just don’t get it.

GUYS BEWARE: If you are hooking up with babes online and you have never met her in person. Is she luring you in with a selfie that has been blurred? The first meeting could be a doozy when you first see each other and she really “looks worse than a rough strip of Texas highway in the hot summer sun.”

I have posted many times in the past on the topic of retouching and editing skin and blemishes. I have a rule I go by and it takes two different paths. First I decide “is it a real photo I am looking for in the end result”, or am I going for an illustration. If it is a “real” image that I want to be my end point, the rule is as follows; I will remove what should have never been there. Examples are zits, pimples, and other skin flaws. If you weren’t born with it and it wasn’t always there then why have it in the photo. Skin can be softened as can crow’s feet and lines. But once you start removing lines you have crossed over to “fake” and that is not good (in my opinion). Moles and birthmarks are optional and I’ll ask the client or model if he/she is bothered by them and if so I remove them. After all moles & birthmarks can be covered by makeup, so therefore I say they qualify to be removed. Lines can be softened by makeup and I can do the same in PS. The big rule for skin is; Skin has texture, even with makeup applied skin still has a texture or the makeup has some sort of texture. If you slightly blur you will soften the texture. If you use the new professional techniques of “frequency separation” you are simply putting in “fake” texture. If done correctly Frequency Separation looks amazing, done wrong it looks just as fake as blurring.

If the end image is going to be an illustration I will take a different route. There are no limits because it is art, so “yes” I may make her skin like porcelain and that is ok because the image is not expected to be real.

I do understand that everybody wants to look their best… I get that. But how are you looking your best if your face is blurred or smeared?

Let’s look at some example.

Too much blur on skin.

Too much blur on skin.

Model 1 Model 3

In these two examples of frequency separation you have to use you own opinion. Some people like and some don’t.

Model 2

 

The Selfie Stick (along the way of the whole trip I was hit with the selfie diarrhea… eww).

Angel & Me

My Angel & Me

The “Selfie Stick”… it was only a matter of time and the inevitable would happen. A way for people to capture a selfie of themselves literally anywhere. There has been so much written lately on the topic of selfies. As a photographer I really do follow this change in society. Although I rarely take a selfie with my mobile phone I do find myself (like most photographers) taking a selfie as test shots. Most times it is for checking the lighting, the camera is on a tripod and when I have no one else around to be a stand in, so I’ll jump in front of the camera. I guess it doesn’t really count as a true selfie unless I was to go crazy and post them to social media. I will admit I have made a fair amount of self-illustrations, again usually when I’m working on a new technique in Photoshop. But somehow I’m not really self-absorbed with it.
However I do follow social media closely as I’m always promoting my own photography and illustrations. After all this is pretty much what the modern day photographer does to promote. Instagram for me is the place of recent that people really have gravitated toward. I get so much activity and business from Instagram it is amazing. Now while following Instagram and Facebook I see so many selfies. Mostly teen to college aged girls, but I say “mostly” although the trend seems to be changing and I’m starting to see more and more older females and guys putting up the selfie.
Let’s take a look at the selfie ordeal, shall we. So ok your out to dinner with friends and you want to capture the moment so you and your BFF squeeze in tight and take a selfie. You captured that moment and off it goes to Facebook oblivion for all your friends to see and comment on. Then five minutes later you do it all again. But dare I ask… If you shot the first selfie to capture the so called “moment,” what was so different about five minutes later that you needed to capture the moment again? I really don’t quite get it. Now I don’t worry about offending this type of person with this blog post because I know 100% for sure they’re not reading it because three sentences into the post they had to stop and go take a selfie (no joke intended).
I did read an article just the other day about a young man that committed suicide because he could not take a perfect selfie. He became obsessed with taking the perfect selfie and after some time he became withdrawn and depressed and offed himself. After reading this I thought not too much about it, just thinking that this particular person obviously had some mental problems and the whole selfie thing just was the end result. …Or was it? Are we going to start (or have we already) to see the beginning of a new era of mental disorders spawned by technology and the ability to take a photo of yourself? Just saying… I don’t know the answer to that question; but____ selfie diarrhea is all over everybody’s social media. Maybe you’re not the one posting the selfie but there they are all over your Instagram feed. Just now as I’m writing I go to my Instagram and I see five selfies out of the first twenty photos in the feed. Now I just went to my Facebook feed and the third post was a selfie. Now I really don’t think the selfie is a bad thing, however I would question the mental status of someone who is posting several selfies a day, or an hour. I would think several selfies a days would be a bit much, but again I see it all the time. And as I stated earlier I’m not off limits to posting a selfie, but starting back last July I kind set a self-imposed rule to kind of give my selfies a purpose. While finishing up a photo shoot with model Cynthia Ann she asked if I could stand behind her while she captured a selfie with her “awesome” photographer (her words not mine) and then she did the same with the makeup artist. So I kind of got in a little bit of a habit of capturing a selfie with the models right after the shoot is over. Although the photo is usually posted to social media the big laugh comes at the time we’re capturing the selfie and I never really pay too much attention to it after that. So that is my personal rule, no selfies unless you have a pretty girl standing in front of you. Cool rule I think lol. Crazy? Maybe, but not enough to kill myself if it turns out bad lol.
So let’s end where we started… the Selfie Stick. There is more to the selfie stick then first meets the eye. See like the young man who could not take the perfect selfie, I noticed many people of recent trying to capture themselves in just the right way. I recently spent a month in Thailand and all along the way of the whole trip I was hit with the selfie diarrhea (eww). I seen people contorting themselves and standing in weird positions, even falling down because they were trying to capture the selfie. And yes I saw the selfie stick everywhere. Now this is my observation; most people I noticed when using the Selfie Stick hold the stick up above so the camera is looking down. This is one (not the only) of the techniques that photographers use to capture… a… well… fat person. Yup my blog so I can say it. And not just fat people but it is a technique used to stretch out the loose skin we all have around our neck as we get older. Overweight or not, most people are conscious about the loose skin around their neck and the Selfie Stick can help reduce this if used at the correct angle. Then not to mention Google puts a softening to your photo automatically… oh you didn’t know that? Sure Google and I’m sure others do it too, put a softening filter to photos that have faces in them and you can turn the option off if you like, but most people don’t even know about it. They just know they look so dam good in their iPhone.
Time will tell… but I’m laying my money down on the bet that the selfie disorder will make a lot of people a lot of money much the way other fake disorders have made shrinks money for years. They (whoever they are) say “OMG you posted ten selfies in 9 minutes your gonna die” and then the therapy starts along with support groups and I could even see some moron selling anti-selfie pills… don’t laugh your spouse is most likely ordering them right now for your teen. Who cares if somebody takes too many photos of themselves? Not me, I think it is downright hilarious, just like the people that say Fast Food is evil because it made them fat or people who kill themselves texting. I could go on and on all day… OMG maybe I have a disorder because I laugh at other people short comings in life… oh that group therapy session will be soooo much fun.

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My wife & I.

Nicole & I

Nicole & I

 

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Just having fun at Thepsuda Bridge

 

 

Personal Photo Favorites From 2013 (I would rather have a selfie of me punching Kim Kardashian in the face but…)

1/250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 175mm

1/250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 175mm

So after mulling through all of the better photos I captured in 2013 I wanted to choose some of my favorites to share with you. As I had stated in an earlier post I always have one photo of my wife that will really stand out and be my favorite of the year. I also wanted to include some additional photos as well.

So I really feel that of all the photos I captured of my wife in 2013 this one is my favorite. A little story about the photo; this photo was shot at 5:49pm on July 29th. As you can see the sun in July is still very high in the sky. I had to shoot a wedding in five days and not being a wedding photographer by trade I was doing my homework and preparing for the big day. I wanted everything to be right. I spent a lot of time reviewing video material by Cliff Mautner. Mr. Mautner is one of the best wedding photographers of our time. I say this because part Cliff’s style is to just go and shoot using mostly available light and minimal flash. His style and approach is very organic and not over the top with a “Broadway” like production to shoot a wedding. Also Cliff is a Nikon Ambassador. If company like Nikon is going to trust him with talking about their products… well I think Cliff might know a thing or two or ten about photography.

One of Cliff’s prize techniques is shooting brides in the middle of the day with high sun and no fill flash. So I had to try this technique out for myself. In short the; put your subject between the camera & the sun and use a dark background. That is it that is all you need to do. Then meter with the camera off the subject’s face. Look at the photo and the front lighting is even across my wife’s face with this wonderful rim lighting. If she had been wearing a darker color shirt would have been even nice for the rim light on the shoulders, not to mention that if this was a bridal shot with the veil, the veil would be very nicely back lit with a glow like effect. So to conclude; I walked out the door and captured this shot in about 5 minutes. The color, lighting and smile all come together to make it a very nice photo. I love it and I will print and frame it.

Pixel (aka Pixie) at day 2.  1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

Pixel (aka Pixie) at day 2.
1/640 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm

My favorite photo of Pixel (aka Pixie) was shot at 11:17am of May 27th at a roadside rest area along route I-78 in Pennsylvania. I had received Pixie for the first time the day before. I had lost my previous Bichon Poo to liver cancer and a mere 20 days later Pixie had come to fill the void and ease the pain of Snuggs rapid departure. So on the second day of having Pixie my wife and I had a road trip planned to visit my father and we just couldn’t leave this little creature home. We stopped to stretch our legs and to let Pixie have some fun. It was our first chance to let here run and be free in the wonderful green grass of the springtime. Using my trusty (you’ll pry it from my cold dead hands) Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens I shot this wonderful candid shot. She had been running and moving so fast to & fro it was nearly impossible to get a great shot of her. I made a squeaking sound and she stopped for just a few seconds and looked right at me. I love the photo and after posting to Facebook a friend had commented on the light & dark green background as an adding quality to the photo. She was so right it just gives the photo a “good” feel.

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

Photoshop composite of NY motocross rider Harlan Hoose.

My favorite Photoshop image of 2013 would be “Shattered” a composite of a motocross rider that I had captured in the springtime at our local motocross track. His name was Harlan Hoose and he hails from New York State. Harlan and two friends had made the long trek down to Raceway Park in Old Bridge Township just to practice. I happened to be there and Harlan Had asked me if I would capture some images of him. This was one of the first of many photos. In the original photo Harlan was just sitting on his bike waiting to go onto the track and I captured a close up focusing on his eyes. So several months later I used the photo as the main element in a Photoshop composite that I call Shattered. With time I grew to like the image even more. Thank you Harlan it was nice meeting you, Anthony & Jordan that day.

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

1.1250 sec at f/2.8 ISO 200 200mm

My favorite nature shot would be this photo of the Wild Foxtail Grass. Captured at 4:57pm on October 14th right here on the farm where I live. The contrast in color between the background and subject is what I love most about it. Also it didn’t hurt that it received so much affection on 500px.

Sunken Forest 172 sec at f/22 ISO 50 24mm

Sunken Forest
172 sec at f/22 ISO 50 24mm

My favorite Long Exposure photo is this image of one of the “Sunken Forests” at Merrill Creek reservoir located in Warren County New Jersey on top of Montana Mountain. It was cold and very windy that day, but in the end it paid off because I came home with some really nice images.

American Bald Eagle

American Bald Eagle

My most favorite wildlife shot of 2013 would have to be, hands down the one of the images I captured of an American Bald Eagle. It was amazing to see this beautiful bird right here in the town where I work, a rare sight for sure. The photos are not Nat Geo quality but still my favorite nonetheless.

At The Train 1/1600 sec at f/3.5 ISO 200 200mm

At The Train
1/1600 sec at f/3.5 ISO 200 200mm

My most favorite candid shot of the year was taken at the Flemington train station. I was first trying to capture the expression on the little boy’s face and then in the background a young lady and a child stepped from the train. I re-focused at captured a wonderful candid photo.

Selfie in a jail cell.

Selfie in a jail cell. Sussex County, NJ.

Lastly my most favorite selfie would have to be of me in a jail cell. I would rather have a selfies of me punching Kim Kardashian in the face but I’ll settle for the jail cell shot.