Reflections on a year in 365 photographs

Posts Tagged ‘detail


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A photo of the remnants of the season.



I liked the subdued colors of the old pomegranate hanging on the barren tree branches. I could picture a photograph in square format hanging in a kitchen or dining room nook.  I am starting to “see” photographs more and more as I walk through this project.  Thinking about photographs every day keeps me connected with the thought process of selecting and framing subjects.  I am seeing more and more subtle light and tone.  

For an image like this, keep the depth of field shallow with a large aperture (small f-stop number).  This will keep the background sufficiently blurred to keep focus on the subject.  

Take the time to stop and consider a photograph today.  What is your subject?  How would you frame it?  What techniques will you have to use to make the shot?


Written by Brian Fancher

January 30, 2010 at 12:12 am


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Following up on last night’s HDR airball, I went back to the same spot today, armed with the right settings on my Canon 40D to ensure a proper 5-stop, 3-image bracket.  As I headed downtown this afternoon, the sky promised some fireworks at sunset.  But as I finished an 8 mile running loop I saw the horizon start to become soupy and indistinct.  I took some brackets of the bridge but the sky in that direction was flat and grey.  

When things aren’t really working, turn around.  You never know what you’re going to find.  The sky here is still not exploding, but the bands of pink and magenta break up the greys and blues to make a worthwhile image.  

You can see the extra detail throughout this shot that is the product of an HDR merged photograph.  There are a few ways to make HDR images.  Photoshop has its own merging capabilities, but generally produces less than satisfactory images.  For this shot’s workflow I uploaded my CF card into Aperture 2.1 and then exported the three exposures to the Photomatix Aperture Plugin.  Once I had the image merged and tone-mapped I exported to Photoshop for a bit of curves adjustment, sizing, and sharpening.  There is a lot of information in this image that isn’t going to show up on a monitor.  With a couple of days’ work this image could actually pop right off of the page.  I will revisit it when I’ve got more time.  

So for today, I’ve conquered my camera’s bracketing with 2-second timer and mirror lock-up settings.  Success!  What have you done to challenge yourself to do better today?  

Check out my Flikr Photostream for more HDR images from today.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 21, 2010 at 1:35 am


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Photography is not about the equipment….mostly.  While some equipment can surely get you images you might not otherwise capture, you don’t need a million-dollar rig to make good photographs.  Chase Jarvis proves it in his iPhone book.  What he and other great photographers have is instinct….an eye for the images they want.  Every one of you can develop that just by making the effort to take photographs often.  Bags full of gear and shelves full of books won’t do it for you.  Get out and make photographs!

I left the DSLR behind today on a quick jaunt over to Columbia, SC to see the Ansel Adams exhibition at the SC Museum of Art.  The only camera I had with me was my Droid Eris.  If you’ve read any of the online reviews the camera in that phone may be one of the worst of the current crop of phones…worse, even, than the iPhone which has 2 million fewer pixels.  Some of the reviewers are downright hostile.

I don’t know about any of that.  This particular image won’t win many competitions on technical merit and the composition is a bit trite.  But when I consider this photo came from a camera phone that I have with me nearly all the time, I know I’ve always got a camera for those times when I wished I’d had one!

This one’s for you, Kevin.  Thanks.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 18, 2010 at 12:43 am


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Hands can tell you a lot about a person.  Hands wear our daily duty with perseverance and patience like a comfortable, old, timeworn cloak.  With our hands we create or destroy.  With our hands we comfort or compel.  With our hands we rescue or cast away.  In times of need our hands build bridges.  In times of plenty our hands harvest the bounty.  What did your hands do today?

“Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by Brian Fancher

January 16, 2010 at 1:42 am


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Blown Away

This one is for the strobists out there!  More, umm, “vintage” readers out there will well remember the Maxell ad that provided today’s inspiration.  I had a lot of fun with this one, especially after yesterday’s trials.  I tried to ape as many of the original details as possible, but play on strobe light and not sound.  I managed to include just about everything except the spilling drink, which isn’t an option if I want to continue sleeping INDOORS!  If I’d had more time I would have clothes-hangered a tie like the original, but instead I opted for tying one end of a scarf to the door handle behind me.  Plausibility, not exact copy, was my aim for the image.

The photograph and lighting are fairly straight forward.  Camera low and shoved against the opposite wall with a 24mm lens to give as much space as my kit will allow.  I put the 580EX II on the stand to my front and then used the 430EX bounced from the rear with white fill boards to direct plenty of light into the subject.

I count at least three and probably four lights in the original, so I knew I couldn’t get shadowless.  Then it hit me that this is a strobist LIGHT, not invisible sound image.  The hard shadows of the 580EX II from the front are congruent with the concept.  And I knew it had to be black and white with a bit of grain, just as the original.  Add curves, contrast, crop, sharpen, and noise.  Perfect.

Comment and critique welcome….

Written by Brian Fancher

January 14, 2010 at 1:22 am


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One reason I undertook this project is to stretch my photographic horizons in hope that I’ll settle on a style or even just a genre to focus on and master.  Of the thousands of photographs I’ve taken in my life, the majority have been travel or event related, usually in conjunction with a military deployment of some sort.  I have shot the twin towers in New York from the flight deck of the USS Kennedy.  I’ve traveled the length and breadth of Japan and other countries, capturing the unique cultures and peoples.  I have photographed miles of U.S. scenic roads and trails.

But in all that time, I don’t recall ever taking a photograph like this.  Photographer Chase Jarvis has found fame with his iPhone photography book “The Best Camera Is The One Thats With You.”  I have passed ruined tobacco barns on the back roads of down east North Carolina and not had a camera at hand.  I’ve inspected rotten buildings scheduled for destruction overseas that the military somehow renovates into expeditionary quarters or housing and not had a camera at hand.  For every image I have on film, print or slide, there are two or three missed opportunities I hold in my mind’s eye.

So today I determined to photograph in an abandoned building that I pass every day on my commute.  By appearances of the heavy construction equipment around it, I may have found it not even standing by the end of next week.  I may have taken the last photographs that will ever be taken inside this decayed old plant building.  This time I have the photographs!

As for this image, I have seen photographs of this type of urban decay quite often.  Many are graphically disturbing.  Some produce a profound sense of nostalgia.   Several convey a sense of lost beauty surrounded by a sea of modern plastic and glass.  A few, perhaps even this one, elevate the mundane to works of art.  I doubt that I’ll take up “urban decay” as my photographic muse, but I’m pleased with this shot.

As always, comment and critique are welcome.  When was the last time you passed a photo opportunity?

***Updated:  Check out my Flikr photostream for more images from this shoot, including a remarkably 3D-like HDR composite.***

Written by Brian Fancher

January 9, 2010 at 12:48 am


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After a busy day all I could think about this evening was “serenity”, so that became the theme I wanted to photograph.  When I think about meditating and calming the chaos inside, I like to pour some tea and sit down to journal.  After a few moments this image came to mind and the shoot became simple.  I shot on white seamless with a single strobe through an umbrella from camera left.  I added white reflectors close in on the subject’s right and from camera front.

Lesson for the day:  The simplest compositions often work best.  I had added a spoon at one point, but the composition became cluttered and distracting; the very antithesis of the mood I was trying to capture.

Comments and critique are always welcome!  How would you capture “serenity”?

Written by Brian Fancher

January 8, 2010 at 12:41 am

Posted in Stock, Strobe

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