The Beauty of Time

The Beauty of Time
The Beauty of Time by I Nancy, on Flickr

More from the incredible Lower Antelope Canyon just outside of Page Arizona. If you want an ego boost with the opportunity to take many wonderful images, this is the place to visit. There is one simple rule – you will need a sunny day to get the textures and variations of light, however do not include the sky in your shot. This shot (and several others) were done with -1, 0, +1 bracketing HDR. I used a subtle technique, but the HDR is why all the textures and stripes are so visible and how I controlled both the highlights and shadows.

It’s About Feet

Martha Graham FeetMartha Graham Feet by I Nancy, on Flickr

As I wandered around the Santa Paula Citrus Balloon Festival a couple of weekends ago, my eyes and mind were busy processing the sights and sounds looking for the essence of summer fair goodness. Daytime activities included parachute jumpers, stunt plane flyovers, fair games, food, and a big open circle that was a magnet for playing children and adults alike. Night time was dominated by the balloon glow activities.

As I watched people interacting, their activities as well as their, often painted, faces spoke to me about the mood and activities. I took a bunch of shots following people around the playing field and concentrating just on their feet. What were they doing? What was the motion? What did this express? This woman, and her gingham dress, caught my eye as belonging to another place, another time. But there she was playing wiffle-ball with her friends. Her skirt flowing with her moves.

Pick Up Game

The children were a fun subject too. This boy’s parents were trying to teach him how to kick the ball, but all he really wanted to do was pick it up and throw it. Eventually he got the hang of it, playing with another child. I loved the “golf-pants” on the the further boy.

Kick Game

My mental list for this set of images included feet, action, play, summer. I spent the time during these shoots at foot level with a 70-200mm lens. I wanted to be far enough away, so as to not interfere with the action. I also wanted to use the narrow slice of depth of field to focus the viewer in just on the feet. I think in the Kick Game I may have gone a little too narrow with the DOF and wish that both sets of children’s feet were in focus. This may just be a sketch image for a future opportunity.

The Good Stuff

The Good Stuff

Artist and Geek collided for this shot at the Ventura County Fair.Night at the Fair

Like a hunter in pursuit of that elusive prey, I’ve been in pursuit of night-time fair shots for some time. Mostly they end up in the bit-bucket, a jumble of over exposed lights and chaotic people. (A notable exception is my 2nd Place Fair Theme win at this years Ventura County Fair. It was taken last summer at the Santa Monica Pier). Given that luck and quantity weren’t helping with the quality of my output, a bit more thought was needed. Time to get the Artist and the Geek to talk to one another.

I’ll explain this one like I have a few others since listening to David duChemin’s CreativeLIVE Vision Driven Photography webinar. First a list of what I saw and felt. Then lists of how I went about the Frame, Capture, and the Process using the list as a guide.

The List – what I saw and felt, what I want to convey in the photography

  • Lights and bright colors
  • Excitement
  • Vendor booths of junk, pure junk
  • People, together and separate
  • Colors
  • Light in the darkness
  • People are part of the scene, but not the scene itself

The Frame – what will I put in the frame

  • I really wanted to see people interacting with the brightly lit vendor food booths. Here I saw these three friends in front of this booth. There was a lot to attract me to this subject. They were there for quite some time so I had time to think and compose. They were well back lit. It was a group of 3 (perfect!). There were good colors and contrasts of the group – red, black, and white.
  • The background booth was as colorful and audacious as it gets – The Good Stuff – all junk, pure junk. Then think about the friendship of the group of 3, hanging at the VC Fair for the evening. Now, isn’t that the Good Stuff too?
  • The rest just sort of fell into place – nice oblique angle, balance using the rule of thirds, timing getting the rest of the path clear.

The Capture – what camera settings, lenses and why

  • The oblique angle gives me some excitement
  • The exposure was the difficult part. The obvious solution to high-contrast situations is HDR – so I bracketed -2, 0, +2. This would allow me to capture the detail inside the building as well as the outside. I also knew that I would need to reblend in the middle-exposure of the people in order to avoid ghosting of movement.
  • 55mm – really just a standard street length. Let the building and the scene do the speaking.

The Process – post processing

  • I’m not a fan of wild HDR, but it is quite useful for these high-contrast scenes. For this I wanted lots of detail within the image, but keep the people as silhouettes with just the edge light. A combo of Photomatix from the RAW images and tweaks of the tonemapped image in Lightroom.
  • Then I processed the middle exposure to match the HDR and using Photoshop and layers, I masked the people in over the HDR to remove the ghosting effects of the people movement.

The result is a bright and dark scene. The colors of the fair and the emotion of friendship.