Saturday, July 25, 2009

Travel and PS Brushes

Thought I would go back in time today and talk about a couple of images I shot, the first in the Panhandle of Florida at sunset and the second near Hoi An in Vietnam. Both of these I thought nice enough as they were but wanted to do something a bit more painterly like with them.

I used some brushes I found on diviantart by KeReN R and loaded into Photoshop. The second layer was a BW the third layer with another brush with color. I adjusted the opacity of each one about a dozen times until I liked what I saw, then flattened the image.

The last step was to open a threshold layer and get a true black and then flatten that. The result I like to think was nice and moody.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shoot Through Translucent Umbrella

I've recently noticed some very nice photos done with these umbrellas, my favorite a photo done of Keith Richards by Annie Liebovitz and decided it was time for me to get over my old dislike for umbrellas. I think there was some part of me that thought umbrellas were for people that couldn't get their hands on a soft-box for one reason or another. And that probably comes from the fact that the first lighting setup I had came with two of the cheesiest umbrellas I have seen to this day.

So add that to the fact that I was getting a bit tired of the light produced from a soft-box and knowing it is always a good idea to try new things I decided it was time to go out and get one.

Here is the first shot I did with one. It is just left of camera feathered off to the right and just pointed slightly down. BTW that is my daughter who is 2 years and four months, loves to pose and have daddy as she says "click, click". But after a about six frames she informed me "me finished".

Monday, July 20, 2009


Thankfully I am pretty lazy sometimes so the light stayed up last night and there was a fish in the house this AM, a tilapia to be exact so I though it might be fun to shoot it until I put it in the skillet and he or she jumped out on the floor. I have never been real big on grabbing fish, some deep hidden fear of the scales slicing off my shooting finger. Somehow I managed to get it back in the skillet and here is the shot.


We all keep hearing about how bad the economy is and I was wanting to shoot something with this old skillet I have. So having just eaten some chicken and looking at what was left of my daughter's favorite piece of said chicken I decided it might say something about the way a lot of us are feeling these days.

I used an overhead softbox tilted slightly toward camera and a 580EXII as the only light source. Not sure it says exactly how I feel but pretty close.

Maybe tomorrow there will be some real food around the house!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Boys and a Laptop

Here is something I shot this week playing with some new off camera strobes. They are both 580 EXIIs. The one lighting their faces is bouncing off the laptop screen. I didn't have a blue gel handy (ok I lost it) so I used a notebook my wife had that is blue and leaned it against the screen to give the blue cast to their faces. Of course I didn't tell her until after I used it which I highly recommend. You know this time it's a notebook, next time it's some jewelry...

The light on the front of the laptop is shot through a snoot at about 10 o'clock.

I had seen something like this on and wanted to give it a try. The hardest part of the photo was keeping the boys interested for me to get a decent number of frames fired off but they were pretty good about it all in all.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Photographing the Rice Terraces of Banaue

I just returned from shooting the rice terraces in Banaue here in the Philippines, considered the Eighth Wonder of the World. It was a great trip. I got lucky with the weather but did miss my family.

Most of the photos were done with a Canon 24-70m lens on a 5D Mark II.

I spent the first day by myself going back and forth to the 3 viewpoints for the terraces in Banaue watching light and shooting as different time of the day and the movement of clouds would change things. At one point I was stopped on the side of the road waiting for the sun, about 45 minutes, and a woman walked up and asked what I was looking for. I told her I was waiting on the sun and she told me she thought I was looking for gold. There are rumors that the Japanese general from WWII buried gold there during the war and still Japanese comes to look apparently.

The next day I hired a guide, Robert Immotna to go to Hapao, mainly because of the road conditions to get there and the van I had would not have made it. We took a trike and then the guide and I hiked for two hours down into the valley through the terraces (on the terrace walls). After that we went back to the viewpoints where with the help of my Robert to translate I shot portraits of 5 very old Infugao Indians.

Day three I used Robert again to go up to Batad. This trip required a can't make it nor can a trike. We actually got stuck in the jeepney trying to get over a landslide because we didn't have enough weight with only three of us. Two more jeepneys came along with groups and we all joined up in one and finally after several attempts made it across the landslide. It is a two-hour very bumpy ride to the "saddle" or drop point to begin the hike down to Batad.

From there we hiked down to the terraces or rather the view from the top of the "amphitheater", a two-hour hike on a slippery, wet narrow trail. I got my shot I wanted and considered going down into the terraces. It takes about an hour to get down into them, an hour to cross them and then two hours back before starting the 2-hour trip back UP to the saddle. By the time we had finished lunch it looked like rain coming (it had rained every after noon around 5:30) and I decided better to start back with the cameras. It turned out to be a good decision for two reasons. First our jeepney was still down at the junction haveing not been able to get over the landslide so that added two hours to the hike and just as we got there it started to rain.

My guide as are all the guides there is from one of the local tribes. They are still raised to be warriors although mostly in spirit today as opposed to headhunters like in the past. Robert was a talker as I am so not only did we get along great but also I learned a tremendous amount about the culture of the tribes, the beliefs, the problems they face today and life in general there.

Many of the children walk 2 hours or more one way up and down the mountain roads and paths to go to school. Living is very communal. The town of Banaue itself consists of 28,000 people and it is only people native to that region. Everyone I met knew everyone else I met.

And that led to me telling Robert about my two guides I used 9 years ago and of course he knew them, Dereck and Jhun. We actually met up with Dereck with a group at Batad and that night Robert, Juhn, Dereck and I met up for beers at a little cafe. It was really fun. You know I only knew Dereck and Juhn for three days and had only known Robert two but felt as if I had some really good friendships.

Robert, Juhn, and Dereck are trained and accredited tour guides and members of the Banaue Tourist Organization. I have suggested I donate some of my photos to them for use as postcards and posters that will help raise money for the guides and the organization in general. There is so much they need it is amazing.

On the side of the mountain where Batad is there is no bulldozer so landslides have to be repaired by hand and since there is no funding it is left to the jeepney and trike drivers. Fortunately the one for all and all for one work for the group thought process is still very much alive (it is one of the main belief systems of the Indians) and it is not a problem to get the men to do this but it can take 2-3 months sometimes to repair. For the most part is an on going repair.

Farmers that work the terraces make 150 pesos a day or about 3 US dollars. This is problematic because as children are now growing up with an education they don't want to work the rice preferring to go elsewhere to work. The maintenance and care of these terraces is a never-ending process. Planting is in Dec/Jan, Feb is transplanting, March/ April care and repair, June/July harvest and then it starts again all the while requiring constant repair and monitoring. Older people mostly do the work.

So there is a very real danger of loosing the terraces altogether in the future, which would be horrible to loose something that took literally thousands of years to build. Fortunately UNESCO is now involved and the terraces are listed as a World Heritage Sight but this requires the people to continue to meet certain requirements, which are difficult because of their overall budget.

I feel very fortunate to have seen them.