Learning Photoshop and Android Skin

Isn’t it funny what life decides to throw at you sometimes?

Recently, Life decided to throw me a new horse (Which may or may not be the reason I’ve neglected my beautiful blog for two months. I am confirming nothing).

IMG_5277

But Life isn’t always a rude bitch (only mostly….), sometimes she decides to reunite you with an old friend. To the tune of horse manure and setting money on fire, Julia and I were reunited after a twelve year hiatus.

It’s been a fun vacation with Julia and my new horse but it’s time to get my ass into gear and continue blowing people’s minds with my awesome editing skills (Ha!).

So it wasn’t too long before I asked Julia to model for me (It was inevitable yes, but I waited till the third date like a gentleman), because hello, her face is like a warm crackling fire, or a cross between Joan Jett and fresh pumpkin pie (Or apple…if that’s your thing).

DSC_8927

(I mean come on!) 

Julia already boasts a successful modeling career so it tickled my behind to give ONE phrase of direction and we got the shot in five clicks of my shutter. That’s magic, people. Sorcery even.

I told Julia “Your’e an android. No emotion on your face, but you’re seeing your hand as if for the first time” And. that. was. it. She donned a black tube top, sat down and BAM! 

DSC_8918

My original idea was to have an android with all kinds of shiny mechanical pieces and moving parts, her hand would be dissolving into code of 0’s and 1’s. Kinda Matrix-esque only without the crappy sequels.

Buutttt as I sat down to edit my ego cowered in the corner and piddled on the floor. Yeah, I had no idea how to execute such an epic idea. My skills with GIMP are all but maxed out and I’ve been reluctant to venture further into using Photoshop.

Photoshop is hard to learn and I have about six and a half minutes of free time each day to learn new editing techniques (Eight minutes if I don’t poop that day).  So learning how to dematerialize a hand took me For-ev-ver!

I started in GIMP as I usually do, to remove any blemishes, and in this case make Julia’s skin flawless, because it’s 2017 and androids don’t have flawed skin or the right to vote yet. I used simple white lines to make her skin seem shiny and fake and settled on a soft green for the color.

Android

For a tutorial on how to change eye color in GIMP go Here.

Our next stop was Lightroom where I simply made the background black and made her skin more glowey. eyes1

I enrolled at Youtube university to learn how to dematerialize in Photoshop.

 

It took me about five tries (and some grey hairs and a hemorrhoid), and when all was said and done I still wasn’t happy with the way it came out.

Exam2-20

But I’m still considering this a win for me. I stepped out of my comfort zone, learned a little bit more about Photoshop and made a pretty awesome Android Portrait. Now all she needs is a name and a back story…..

Here’s a side by side because they are fun:

Happy shooting Peons!

 

 

 

 

Shooting macro. And finding detail.

See these bad boys?

(click the image to purchase them for pocket change. You won’t regret it!)

These tiny things help me see into another world.

WHAT SORCERY IS THIS?! You ask.

Allow me to explain: These lenses screw onto my camera lens and open up a whole new world.

An alien world.

A world so full of the most minute detail that it gives me the heeby jeebies.

DSC_0116

Ewwww!! Who knew the Soul’s Window could look like a butthole!

Macro changes EVERYTHING. It brings out details that our own buttholes can’t see normally.

But macro photography is hard. I’m still learning the technique and what I’ve gleaned is that you MUST autofocus and you MUST NOT use flash. So when I have my subject in frame, even the smallest amount of movement ruins the focus. Usually I just lean forward or backward about 0.67354 of an inch at a time until my focus is tack sharp…and then I try not to move. Or breath. Or pass gass. Or blink. Or anything that would cause me to move and lose focus. 

DSC_2153

This little fellow was smaller than my pinky nail. Bask in his cuteness.

My garden hosts lots of tiny creatures that look like horrific beasts under the macro lenses. Unfortunately, the photos in this post are all I have as far as macro photography goes.

 

I don’t claim to be an expert in all areas of Photography. In fact, I probably know the least about macro photography. It’s a niche I have touched on but it didn’t hold my interest (for now).

For those of you who are interested in actually learning something from this post, head on over to Click it Up a Notch where you can get some real information about Macro Photography. Courtney has such a knack for the technical aspect where, sadly, I lack finesse.

Enjoy Peons. And Happy Shooting!


Photographing hair. And Rebecca.

My cousin Katty called me one day to tell me about a wonderful photography opportunity.

Rebecca.

Rebecca, she said, had the most glorious waist-length hair. And was actually willing to let us photograph her. (Some people balk when they see my wild eyes and hear my even wilder ideas).

I love when opportunity calls. Or rather, I love when opportunity calls Katty, who then calls me. 

The Walking Hair showed up at my house, shiny, soft and connected to a shy, exotic face. My mind went full tsar bomba and exploded with possibilities.

We can have the fan blowing her wonderful mane around her face!

We can splay it around her head and shoot her from above! 

We can strip her naked and have her black tresses shield her private parts! 

As with all idea that come from my brain, some worked great! Some did not…..

I’ve never had long hair before so I wasn’t aware how heavy it would be. My tiny fan was NOT cutting it. Coupled with the fact that it was freezing that day, so my beautiful Hair (connected to Rebecca) was cold.

We stuck a space heater on Rebecca AND the fan, set up lights and got to work. (I’m surprised she didn’t leave my house with the sniffles).

DSC_2285

We are about 0.325 milliseconds away from blowing a fuse here. We used two umbrellas and an accent light, aka a hair light, to add a nice sheen to her hair.

I wished at the time the fusion of hot and cold air would create a tornado and swirl around Rebecca’s hair magically, but no such magic happened…woe is me.

DSC_2068

It was extremely difficult to get her hair to cooperate, and I remembered why I’ve always kept mine short. Still, the beauty of it, the flowing chocolate waves, were mesmerizing to watch. And she seemed to know how to tame it.

It took some finagling with the fan and positions but we finally managed to score some beautiful images.

Hair2LR (1 of 1)

Soon after, we abandoned the idea of blowing hair (pouty lip), and took some glamour shots with her hair down and natural.

And then….oh! 

Magic! 

Rebecca reiterated over and over how she was not a professional model. That she didn’t know what to do, how to position her arms, her face, her hands. I was shocked by this. I thought she did amazing. Or maybe it was her quiet, shy nature that really made this shoot. 

I didn’t give her much direction with her face, somehow knowing her eyes would speak (which is usually the case with quiet people). And a reserved melancholy oozed from her skin.

Hair1LR (1 of 1)

hair4

Suddenly the shoot wasn’t about her hair anymore. She was no longer a walking wig. Instead she became Rebecca, quiet, sweet, and full of a secret sorrow. Rebecca, who’s face tells the story we all want to hear. She was Rebecca, who just happened to have long hair. Ahh, the sweet bliss of a photo shoot transforming itself. 

Hair 4

I am ashamed to say that I didn’t see it. I hadn’t met Rebecca before this day, I didn’t KNOW her, so I was dead set on shooting a beautiful girl with magical, Rapunzel hair. I never imagined it would turn into something more, (you’d think I’d know by now that my shoots never go as planned!). I’m not sad that it turned out differently. Just ashamed that it took half of our allotted time to see that this young (barely legal) girl could portray such emotion, and throw out such epic shots. Goosebumps.

DSC_2432

A waterfall of chocolate hair walked into my house, and a sweet, sad and brave girl walked out.

I only met Rebecca that one time. It’s been a year and I haven’t seen her since. But she taught me a lot!  Don’t assume. Don’t hold so tightly to ideas in your head. Don’t judge a book by it’s hair. 

 

I’ve been so fixated lately on finding models with an aesthetically pleasing quality. When the truth is, that beauty really IS on the inside. And sometimes it oozes out in time for me to photograph.

Convenience vs. Quality or iPhone vs. Nikon.

I’m waging a war today.

A war against people who want professional pictures taken, but don’t want to pay.

A war against chintzy app filters.

A war against iPhone Bob.

And I stand with professional photographers.

I have no issues with using an iPhone to take pictures. I do it all the time (I can’t very well tote my camera everywhere I go. It’s heavy, people).

My issue is with iPhone Bob stealing work from me. My issue is answering emails from prospective clients, answering a gazillion questions, setting up a date, settling on a price, only to hear those dreaded words:

  • “I’m on a budget” (Hinting at a discount)
  • “I have a friend with a nice/expensive camera who is gonna do it instead”
  • “We’re just gonna use our phone”

Aghrhsgsjejdndkfksodij!!

I’m seeing into the future, and it looks bleak. A future without the need for professional cameras and photographers. iPhone Bob is in this future and he is using Sepia. I shudder.

It’s these types of people who are putting us professionals out of work.

Photography is not an easy job. But it is a loved job. We put years into learning our craft, studying manuals, perfecting techniques, and then there is the brain splitting task of navigating Photoshop and Lightroom (which has left many with grey pubes).

And yet, I’m still losing jobs to people who don’t care about the quality of professional pictures. Here are some side by sides of photos taken with an iPhone 6 and a Nikon D7100.

dsc_5937

dsc_5931

I see a future with our profession becoming obsolete.

Sure there are still those who respect the art, who appreciate the time and skill used, but there are others who feel we rob them, are overpriced and that anyone can do our job.

Screw you!!!

Every time I’m doing a photo shoot I’m thinking “I get paid too much for this”.

And then I sit down to edit and I think “I don’t get paid enough for this!”

But hardly anyone appreciates the time and skill. Why? Because iPhone Bob stands behind me at a wedding shooting the exact same picture and with a wink and a smile tells my client “I’ll text it to you later”.

And doesn’t that just make me look like a thief. 

Again, I’m not saying that great pictures can’t be taken with an iPhone. Camera phones are a great way to learn the craft. What I’m saying is that with camera phones being so accessible (in your pocket) it makes paying for a professional a little superfluous.

So I’m waging a war. 

“WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER!” Oh wait…wrong one. 

How about.. “WE’RE HERE! WE’RE TIRED-OF-LOSING-WORK-TO-CHEAP-ASSES-WHO-DON’T-CARE-ABOUT-QUALITY!” Too much? 

dsc_5935

It’s a losing battle, I know. All I can do is keep pumping out beautiful photos for my clients and pray that new ones choose me over iPhone Bob.

I’m keeping the art alive.

I’m bringing back the term “Self portrait” and obliterating “Selfie“.

I’m kicking iPhone Bob in the shin.

How to Create Different Moods Using Lighting (In Photography)

You know that moment when the clouds open up, light pours out and you can hear the heavenly voice of the angels singing Ahhhhhhh? That scene has been portrayed a hundred different times in a hundred different movies. Why? If you ask me it’s because of the light.

Light. LIGHT! Lighting is used in movies, music videos, photography, etc. to show something important. (It also helps you to find your underwear at five in the morning when you forgot to put the laundry away and instead shoved it into a pile by your bed)

Photographers use lighting to create a mood. A feeling. An emotion. It’s not easy, trust me. As a newbie with studio lighting, I am just scratching the surface of what my studio lights can do for me. I have always been an advocate for natural light. God created the perfect accent, the perfect soft box when he created the sun. And God doesn’t make mistakes!

With that being said, natural light is fleeting. All photographers know about the “Golden hour”; That moment just before sunset when the light turns from harsh and bright to soft and gold, casting long, dramatic shadows. When the Golden Hour is gone you’re reduced to fixing grainy, dark pictures in editing (Which is stupid. So don’t do it. That’s an order)

This is the reason I un-puckered my ass cheeks and doled out Fifty bucks on a cheap lighting set up.

I bought these:

dsc_5334

Which you can buy Here.

They serve me well and give me so much control in my studio. For this set up I put my umbrellas on either side of the subject with the accent light to the right and behind (It get’s moved around to fullfill it’s masters needs).

A simple white reflector was placed in from of the subject to bounce light onto her face, since any one of the lights directly on her face would be too harsh. SIDE NOTE: My fancy “reflector” is a white piece of cardboard from the dollar store. I also have black and one covered in foil. Did I mention I’m cheap?

Speaking of the “Subject” she does have a name. This adorable little hooman is my second born and the destroyer of worlds. She is Benji, conqueror of all toilet seats and sports a face that is likely to send her Daddy to an early grave.

So now that you know Benji, let’s get started. The first setup I am going to show you looks like this:

example3

My drawings might just rival Da’Vinci, I know, I know. So these shots were created using the two umbrellas and the reflector ONLY. It creates a very soft even light.

dsc_5356

Simple, beautiful.

BUT if we add the accent light behind her (and to the right, remember?) it adds a dramatic glow behind her and places a beautiul shine to her hair.

Setup looks like this:

example1

By Golly I am amazing!

Pictures look like this:

It’s amazing what a little light can do for a picture.

For the next set up we put one umbrella in time out and had the accent light assassinated. Setup looked like this:example4

Doing this brought a nice one directional light to the picture casting dramatic shadows:

dsc_5349

This setup is nice for moody self portraits. But if you want even MORE drama (Because we are all basic and we all love drama *rolls eyes*) Then we can send BOTH umbrellas on a shopping trip and use ONLY the accent light.

example2

The outcome? Out of this world, dramatic, moody, dark….all the fun stuff. Mmmm.

It’s fun to play around with the lights and settings and come up with different moods. I switched between a black and white background as well, just to create a different feel.

(No editing was done to these pictures)

Hope this little how-to helps! Happy shooting and happy editing my peons!

Photoshoot fun. Flowers and Blood.

I love to laugh. And I like funny things.

I once thought about becoming a phlebotomist just because it’s fun to say.

Phlebotomy. Come on!

But humor, like beauty, is subjective.

I have never thought bum fight videos were funny, or laughed when people fall down and get hurt.

On the same note I find death, destruction and blood to be a beautiful thing. There is something to be said about the quiet death of a rabbit as you cull it for dinner. Not everyone finds beauty in that, and that’s ok. Like I said, subjective. 

The out-of-control, inevitable end we all face can be seen from a different light. And can be met with grace.

Flowers. Beautiful right? I have photographed lots of flowers over the years; Roses, dandelions, hibiscuses. And yet, they all seemed drab after staring at them on a computer screen, (probably because I can’t smell them).

So for this photoshoot I decided to take a different approach and add a beautiful element to flowers. I am calling this series “Copper and Blush”.

DISCLAIMER: I’d like to say that when I have an idea, I don’t usually google it to see others’ work or their version of it. It messes with my vision. So most of the time I don’t even know if my idea has been done a million times and a million times better. I’m not about that, and neither should you!

So after I bought two beautiful bouquet’s I set up the studio and went to work.

DSC_5167.JPG

 

I blasted Uematsu (only the best composer ever) as I got lighting all fixed up (an artist needs her music). I set aperture to 4.5 and shutter speed at 330 and pretty much kept those settings through out the whole shoot. I used my accent light only and just moved it around until I got the feel I wanted.

 

It took me about fifteen minutes of setting changes, repositioning the light and about twenty test shots before I was satisfied. (I was smart and put the kids to be before I even attempted this shoot). Then it was time to add the special ingredient.

dsc_5166

 BLOOD! Thank god for Halloween stores!!! One bottle of awesomeness to add that special something to the flowers.

I love fake blood. It has so many uses in my household.

It was messy (hence the bag), and my carpet may or may not look like an episode of Dexter. But hey! These pictures are a thing of true beauty for the lover of the dark and macabre.

cab1

A little drippy drippy with a spoon and these flowers went from blah to beautiful in no time flat! Huzzah! I am the bringer of all awesomeness!

cab4

THESE FLOWERS ARE SO METAL THEIR EYELINER IS DRIPPING WITH THE TEARS OF THEIR RUINED CHILDHOOD.

cab5

Take a big whiff! Smell that coppery blood? Smell the aromatic scent of the flower? Smell the dance of these two scents swirling around in your nostrils? You can’t? Hmmm….maybe it’s just me then.

The sunflower is my personal favorite and is now the screensaver of my new iMac (This is the part where you ohh and ahh at how cool I am). Go on….I’ll wait. 

Copper and blush

My plan for these shots is to have them printed on canvas and hang them in the stairwell.

And if you might be interested in purchasing these I just happen to have an etsy set up (for all of my adoring fans).

You can find my etsy HERE!

Happy shooting and Happy editing my peons!


What I’m Rockin’. A photographer’s toolbox.

I’m not gonna walk in here saying that a great memory can’t be captured from an iphone or simple point and shoot camera from your local wal-mart. I’m not saying that a successful photographer has to have a top of the line camera, a $1000 lens, or even a studio. In fact, I might at one tiny moment have been that condescending person who scoffed at the idea of “needing” fancy equipment. Let’s keep that a secret though. But one thing iv’e learned is that a photographer’s toolbox is an important part of a successful photo shoot. As my skills and passion for the art grew, so has my “toolbox”.

For years I walked around with my trusty 35mm film Nikon and was happy. My pictures were great! And I was content. As I became more serious and my hobby organically transformed into a small business, I found I needed more tools.

Surprise!  My shoot got changed from outdoor (With God’s very own perfect lighting) to an indoor shoot (think blurry, unflattering, blinking truck stop light bulbs. I loathe indoor lighting) and I needed a light setup. Drop some dollas on those bad boys. On location at a shoot a client had trouble seeing the pictures from the tiny screen of my camera. “Honey I NEED a new laptop so we can view pictures on location. I NEED it” Hello Dell touch screen laptop!

My needs grew as did my clientele, until suddenly I was that person who had a butt load of equipment that gets thrown into the back of my traverse every time I have a shoot. Woe is me. I became that person I always hated. *cue sad trumpet*

Let’s crawl out of my puddle of self pity and have a look at my toolbox, shall we?

DSC_3093.JPG

My camera- A Nikon D7100. My beautiful, awesome, always-be-there-for-me-when-I-need-it-don’t-need-no-man camera. This bad boy is lovingly named Charles Foster Offdensen, or CFO for short. (yes I name all of my cameras. My last one was Shelob, and I loved her)

Nikon has and always will be my go-to. Nikon has never let me down. Nikon for President! I first rocked a Nikon Fm3a 35mm film camera with the body of a steel truck. Loved that thing. My “upgrade” from that was a Nikon D5000. Awesome camera! My first digital. Shelob went everywhere with me for years and years and never let me down. But the time came that I need faster, I needed better, I needed MORE. That’s when CFO jumped off the Best buy computer screen and said “Buy me! I am perfect!! I will do anything and everything you ask! Buy me!” So I did, because Nikon. And because it was exactly what I needed. Two memory card slots. Two! I never knew I need two until I had two. Two! Dos!

Another feature that sold me on the D7100 is that it’s weather proof. If you’ve ever seen me at a photo shoot you can understand why this feature was crucial for me to have. I am willing to do whatever it takes to get the perfect shot, “The one” “The golden shot” “The look down at your screen and smile inwardly because you know that the rest of the shoot is just backup shots” Yeah that shot. So picture me balancing on a ladder in 40 mph winds on one leg. Picture me on the same ladder above a naked woman with a real octopus stuck to her naked boobs. Picture me laying in a field of horse manure, underneath a four foot cross rail jump while a 12oo lb horse jumps over me. THAT is why I needed this camera. Durability people!

I shoot children (with a camera!) And horses too. So I needed a fast camera that could focus to perfection. Cue CFO with his 51 points of focus. Mmmm sexy! Among these things Iv’e told you the D7100 has a slew of other fun things to play with. Go look it up if you don’t believe me. In fact I suggest doing your research before buying any equipment. (That way you can’t blame me if it doesn’t work out for you)

DSC_3081

I bought this camera bag twelve years ago and it has held up through some amazing shoots. They just don’t make them like they used to. Within this magical leather bag are my lenses, filters, my old crappy flash that never gets used, my macro set, shutter remote, old straps etc. Again, more crap I just “had to have”. Ugh.

Let’s talk about my Sigma lens.

DSC_3084

I adore this lens. I got it from the back of a photography magazine twelve years ago. Sigma 28-300mm’s of perfection. It is manual focus only, which I credit to saving my butt a million times when Auto focus JUST. WONT. WORK!!! When your very first lens is manual you are forced to actually learn that barbaric method of using your fingers and dry eyes to focus. I dubbed this lens my Viagra lens. It goes from being a grower to a shower real quick. And since I love Sigma so much I recently purchased another one that is auto-focus and just the most beautiful thing Ive ever set my eyes on.

My tripod was a gift from my friend Patty. It is strong and awesome and apparently made in Italy. Cool.

DSC_3087

I went full blown cheap ass when I bought my lights.

DSC_3089

They were a measly $50 on Amazon and they serve me well. I use them often for self portraits, which as you will find, I do a LOT of. I like my face.

My workspace.

DSC_3077

I sit here a lot, play music and let my weird brain take me places. Then my fingers take over and I create awesome pictures. On the left is my Dell laptop and Wacom tablet. The pen makes it a thousand times easier than editing with a mouse. And it’s fun to paint with too. My desktop is also Dell (recurring theme? Maybe…) I use both of them to edit. My laptop holds the program GIMP. The desktop has Photoshop CC and Lightroom. I use all three for editing pictures. Each program has that something different that keeps me from committing to just one. (EDIT: I have now updated to an iMac. Holla!)

DSC_3075

And lastly, the most important tool in my toolbox.

DSC_3095

For what is life without coffee? The most precious gift of Mother Nature. When energy drops and the idea of hiking up a mountain to take pictures seems impossible: Coffee! When creativity slows and your brain needs a kick in the ass: Coffee! When the most awe-inspiring ideas pop into your head, and your mind races with the possibilities! Who can you thank? Coffee…..