Borkware Photoblog

January 18, 2009

This month’s Projects: Portraiture and LightRoom

Filed under: Aperture, Lightroom, projects, technique — Mark Dalrymple @ 5:02 pm

Now that Learn Objective-C has shipped, I actually have some photography time to myself. Just got back from business travel, so my months now run from middle of the month to middle of month.

This month, the projects are:

  • laurel_web.jpg Portraiture. I’m going to be taking some individual and group portraits of my friends in the Aeolian Winds of Pittsburgh. I’ve already shot some individual portraits (as seen here), and some group shots at outdoor concerts, but never a “formal” sitting of the individuals and group. This will also be an excuse to go back and re-read all of my portraiture books.

  • Lightroom. Aperture so far has been my Photographic Axe of choice. I love the vaults and way I can bounce around and do stuff. Unfortunately, there are just a couple of things that have really been getting on my nerves: Nearly all of my portrait-orientation photos come out rotated wrong, so I have to find and rotate them manually, which then destroys the correctness of the “landscape/portrait” metadata. Also, doing bulk edits with plugins (like the Nik filters) causes the edited images to end up in stacks (which is fine), but not as the pick. Cmd-/ (make pick) does not work with multiple selection, so I have to manually set the pick for every stack. When you do this with 2 or 300 shots, well, that sucks. Frequently, when paging through large collections in full-screen mode, Aperture will get stuck at the “loading” phase. Going back and then forward clears it, disrupting the working rhythm. Also, I still can’t make Levels do what I want it to do like I can with Photochop curves. And I really like the Fill Lightâ„¢ control in ACR. I haven’t been able to duplicate that in Aperture.

So, I’ve picked up the Scott Kelby Lightroom book, and I’m also a Kelby Training subscriber, so this month I’m gonna live in LightRoom and see if things are any more pleasant.

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January 4, 2009

New Gallery: Casino 2008

Filed under: Aperture, CLS, D3, flash, gallery, monopod, Nik, Nikon, Photoshop — Mark Dalrymple @ 10:53 pm

solo-angel.jpg (click the picture to visit the whole gallery)

Every year, the Casino Theater in Vandergrift PA puts on a Christmas program. Sometimes it’s a musical, sometimes it’s an oratorio. This year was a smorgasbord of songs and skits.

They were kind enough to let me run around with a camera during the dress rehearsal this year. They even allowed me to use flash, which was a surprise.

These were shot with a Nikon D3, with 70-200 f/2.8 and 24-70 f/2.8 lenses. An SB-800 flash served as a master to an SB-600 slave, positioned behind an umbrella to provide extra light. I was surprised at how much light it could pump out. I used a monopod with the larger lens since the whole package (D3, SB-800, lens, extra blocks of depleted uranium) became rather heavy.

Important lesson learned: It’s better to have a very good exposure at a high ISO than a bad (under)exposure at a lower ISO. Some of the images that I had to pull out of a dark basement did not look good at all. (I know, duh!, but it’s one of those things I had to learn the hard way.)

After the images were made (~900 during the 3 hour run of the show, running up and down stairs from balcony to main floor level), I triaged the images with Aperture. 1-star for adequate sharpness and composition. Then went through and chose good shots for 2-stars, and then 3-starred the ultimate contents of the gallery.

I edited each image in Photoshop using Nik filters. This was an excuse for Extreme Photowankeryâ„¢, as well as learning how to use the filters, and playing around with a basic Wacom Graphite tablet that Uncle Google gave me. The general workflow was

  • Basic ACR adjustments, white balance, etc.
  • Noise reduction with Dfine.
  • Pre-sharpening with Sharpener Pro.
  • Adjusted lighting and colors with Viveza. I love Viveza. In nearly every case I darkened the stage and brought some brightness to the actors.
  • Retouching, especially cleaning up the stage floor. The Casino stage is filthy. I am now a master of the spot healing brush and the clone-stamp tool.
  • Dodging and burning using an Overlay layer. (fill with a neutral 50% color, then paint in white to lighten and in black to darken the image.)
  • Additional filtering using Color Efx pro. “Darken/Lighten Center” was used for most of the vignetting effects. “Tonal Contrast” was frequently used, especially to bring out detail in clothing.
  • The black and white images were done with Silver Efx Pro.
  • Final sharpening with Sharpener Pro.

I’m hoping next year they’ll let me shoot again. If they do, this is what I’d do differently:

  • Attend one or two more rehearsals. I had no idea what the show was about (except that there was a Waltz of the Flowers that included Bubbas in tutus), so each scene was a total surprise, and I frequently had the wrong lens. “Big dance number! And I have the 70-200. ack!”
  • Have two speedlights, one on either side of the stage (instead of the single one on stage-right) to balance out the speedlight coverage.
  • Watch the corners of the viewfinder. (another duh!) There is a railing in the balcony that appears in a number of shots. I did not notice it (outside of using it to not fall off the balcony) until after I started processing the photos.
  • Bring the power plug for the laptop and some blank DVD medio. I ran out of power before draining the last card. A show representative also wanted some images to display in the lobby, needing the images ASAP. It would have been nice to have been able to burn a DVD of rough-cut jpegs right there.

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