Thanksgiving Photos

Next week will be another Thanksgiving Holiday.  It is always my favorite time of the year.  Family and food with the opportunity to reflect on all the good things we get to enjoy. 

Sometimes we get in such a rush to stuff our faces with turkey and pumpkin pie that we don’t take the time to capture the moment with a few pictures.  Worse yet, sometimes the images we get, are flat and make the food look terrible—unless of course it is that jello and carrot salad thing, which is terrible.  For us, the preparation of the feast is as much fun as the results.  My cousin Bob and I debone the turkey based upon a Julia Child/Jacques Pepin special.  It is still on a working video tape, so we have to have a third party rewind and pause it so we can get all the steps.  Of course this requires us to speak in our best Julia Child voices.  Yes, laughter ensues.  Oh then, we stuff it and tie it back up like a giant sausage.  

It reduces the cooking time and makes serving it very, very easy   A little bit of bounce flash can add dimensionality to your guest of honor.  

Don’t forget the side dishes either, that is often where the color is. 

On an unrelated but equally important note, Roger and I realized we didn’t recognize the winner of our Harper’s Ferry Photowalk photo contest.  Although we didn’t get as many submissions as we had walkers, one of our walkers—in fact Rich Walker had the picture that our independent judging panel liked best. 

Harpers Ferry ruins--Photo by Rich Walker

Harpers Ferry ruins--Photo by Rich Walker

A very moody black and white, shot by the way with a pretty old camera.  Definitely reinforcing that you don’t require the latest and greatest gear to get great photos; a good eye and good technique and voila. 

Everyone travel safely and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Should You Avoid Group Shoots?

By Roger (16 November 2014)

Shooting a single subject with a group of photographers can be less than ideal. At times, it can seem like you're in in a photography mosh pit. Sometimes, you're shoulder to shoulder with other photogs, everyone trying to get a decent photo (you already know it isn't going to be unique). But there are times where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, and the group shoot may be worth a try.

Combat photography?

Combat photography?

If you find yourself in this situation, you're probably at some sort of organized event. And, although you may wish there weren't so many folks crowding your space, keeping an open mind may still result in a nice photo.

WWII Japanese Zero

WWII Japanese Zero

So, why would you ever subject yourself to this kind of scenario? Well, going to an organized event can give you access to subjects more easily than you could get otherwise. The Zero, above, was taken out of the Commemorative Air Force hanger, in Atlanta, for our workshop. Moose Peterson (link), a highly-acclaimed warbird (and nature) photographer led the workshop and was there to help with technical solutions and ideas. We spent the entire day with several World War II aircraft. The planes were moved out of their hangar and put in several different positions, so we could get better photographs. We, also, had access to the pilots who flew the planes. A reasonable trade-off, in my opinion, for a crowded shoot.

Contrast that with my recent trip to the Military Air Museum (link), in Virginia Beach. It only cost me the ticket price, but I had to shoot this B25J Mitchell bomber in the hangar, with other aircraft too close for me to get a clear photo of much more than the nose art. The docents were very helpful and gave me unfettered access to the aircraft. They even let me bring in a tripod! For some reason, however, they wouldn't move the planes around for me. ;-)

Organized model shoots, like the one below, sponsored by Westcott Lighting (link), are another example where you may want to join a group shoot. When you are just starting out, you may have a hard time coming up with all the ideas and resources they use. They show you what is possible with their great lighting products and a staff of set designers, stylists, and make-up artists. Even if you have some experience using lighting and sets, these group shoots can be fun to walk up to; snap a few shots; and take away a nice photograph and lots of ideas and inspiration.

Westcott Photoshoot Clown

Westcott Photoshoot Clown

Different Sets from a Westscott Model Shoot

Different Sets from a Westscott Model Shoot

These group shoots are also great for variety or trying new types of photography.

I am not, and never will be, a bird or nature photographer, but, in a group shoot with The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia (link), I got the opportunity to give it a try. The RCV rehabilitates and releases injured raptors back into the wild when possible and cares for the birds that can't be released.

These birds are put onto a branch, near a stand of trees for a natural background. I tried to frame the photoss so that viewers couldn't see the tethers that keep the birds close to the handler. Where that isn't possible, I'll have to take a trip into Photoshop to make them look more natural. Ideally, I would like to photograph them in the wild, but – let's be real – I am not going to spend hours hiking out into the woods to find these birds in their natural habitat. And, with the birds so close to my camera, I could use my 70-200mm, rather than renting or buying a long, expensive lens. For a small donation to the RCV, there were eight raptors easily accessible for our small group of photographers. We had plenty of time to try different angles, and the handlers were very helpful and informative. It was certainly worth an hour of my time to give it a try.

Saker Falcon

Saker Falcon

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

I would much rather make more unique photos, in a setting of my own choice, but, from my point of view, there are times where group shoots are worth the inherent disadvantages they present. Your mileage may vary, so you need to make your own choice of which group shoots, if any, you want to join. They can be fun for variety and ideas, and that is the guiding principal for my photography.

Playing with Fire

By Mark

I’m not much of a pyromaniac by nature, but there is something very cool about watching the way flames ripple and change.  For a very long time, people have found that creating realistic looking fire in Photoshop was very, very hard.   In one of the new features introduced during the October update, Adobe introduced a new “Flame” Filter along with some others.  You can find it under the Filter>Render>Flame Menu.

In order to use it, you need to create a path or a shape using the Pen or Shape tools.  Once you have one, select the filter and it will bring up this very detailed menu panel.  

As you can see, it gives you a lot of choices.  Starting with the Flame type, you can really adjust the style, length, direction and the violence of your fire.  You can also use custom colors for some eerie looking effects.

I started out with the simple path as shown in the flame panel.  Then I created some 3D text and wasn’t happy with the results. 

I wanted the flames to follow the outline a little more closely, so I created another layer and played with the path I had built, by adding some more control points and then re-ran the filter with more violent settings. 

Just to keep playing with it I created a new image and used the Shape tool to create a wavy arrow. 

I set the flames to run parallel with the shape.  

I kept the same shape and on a new layer, filled in the arrow and applied some layer styles to it giving it an embossed look.  I then duplicated the flame layers and ran a motion blur filter on it. I added some background elements as you can see from the layers view.   

As we keep saying, the best way to learn these features is to just start trying them out.  You never know what you will come up with.  Here by the way is my final result.  Not very useful, but lots of fun.