Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Reflections and Shadows, SLAM

Something a bit eerie is happening in the basement of SLAM.  Here is an example of accidental in-camera special effects.  I shot this through the corner of a plexiglass exhibit case holding a horned African Mask casting the shadow on the wall.  The white door is actually a reflection of the wall in front of the case.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm f1.4G, ISO 1600, f/2.8 @ 1/125s, handheld.   Unusual here is the amount of noise visible in the mid tone area.  I'd love to know why most shots at ISO 1600 have no noise, but a few, like this one, have overall pronounced artifacts.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Flower #1a, Day Two

Flower #1 aged one more day, shot at approximately the same angle.  Technical details are the same.

Flower #4

The last rose from our garden bloomed today.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8, ISO 200, f/22 @ 1/20s, Calumet Quattro fluorescent studio light, Calumet light table.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flower #3, Irving Penn Homage

Slightly more worn than my last post, here is another pansy from our garden.  I keep forgetting how hardy these plants are and how late in the season they continue to bloom.  Isolating the shapes on white like this, rather than shooting in situ, is enormously freeing in spite of presenting a special effects challenge.  I've been wrapping the stem in a ball of white clay to stand the flowers up.  After shooting a couple of these, I really appreciate Irving Penn's work.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF, f/22 @ 1/10s, tripod and ball head, studio grade fluorescent lights, Calumet light table.    

Flower #2, Irving Penn Homage

Another flower from our garden, this time in reasonably good shape.  This exercise is more fun than I had imagined.  The fluorescent lighting isn't half bad; no worries the flowers are going to wilt in the heat.  For critical color, I'd go back to Broncolor.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF, ISO 200, f/22 @ 1/13s, tripod, ball head.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.5.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Botanical Abstract Experiment

Serendipity has always played some role in photography, providing opportunity for the prepared camera jockey to click at the decisive moment.  Some of my favorite abstracts are accidental or half-hearted shutter trips that are discovered post processing.  The digital tools and techniques for manipulating images are endless and encourage experimentation.  Is there a picture there, if one just keeps looking?

This is an accidental, extreme out of focus shot of the subject in Flower #1.  I liked the sensuous shape, so some play in Lightroom 2.4 followed.  I settled on some extreme contrast boost, split toning and curve settings.  I stopped fiddling when I saw what looked to me like a fuzzy female breast on the right side of the dark central blob.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF, ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/200s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4.  

Flower #1, Irving Penn Homage

Susan is bringing plants in for the winter and I noticed this bloom hanging on, just barely.  The subject is just right for an homage to Irving Penn's series of flowers.

Technical: Nikon D700, Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 AF, ISO 200, WB daylight, f/22.0 @ 1/13s, Manfrotto Pro tripod with Manfrotto 488RC2 ball head.  This is my first macro shot with the ball head and I must say that I'm very happy.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4.  It is very stable, no hint of drift with the camera and lens sitting at about 85 degrees down.  Main light is a Calumet Quattro dish with four flicker free daylight balanced 35 watt fluorescent bulbs.  This is the first time I've used fluorescent lights for a color shot, so I took a little extra time to calibrate the system using the Xrite Colorchecker Passport.  The Passport comes with a Lightroom plug-in that recognizes the target and generates a custom camera profile.  It worked perfectly.  Below is the uncalibrated calibration shot straight out of the camera.  Note how dingy the red flower below is compared to the calibrated flower above.

It turns out the fluorescent lights are close, but not exactly daylight balanced.  The Colorchecker Passport correction sets the temperature to 5150K and adds +20 magenta.

African Mask #5, St. Louis Art Museum

Another treasure in the basement of SLAM worthy of note, this mask feels more like a bust.  Something about the display made me want make it look like an exhibit picture from the 1920's.  The death of Irving Penn is still much on my mind, so the angle and composition show his influence now that I look at it.  I like the resulting mash-up of styles.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, ISO 200, f/2.0 @ 1/40s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.0 to crop, drop the red channel to mimic 1920's ortho-chromatic film and add sepia tint.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Grid #3, Intersection

This is a picture of a flood light set in the ground in front of the St. Louis Art Museum.  Getting back to the Alan Watts grid analogy, the theme here is that there are important concepts that don't fit neatly into a single category.  To understand these outliers is important because they are the key to a deeper, more universal concept that unifies two or more categories.  Malcolm Gladwell delivers a non-Zen take on this topic in his book, Outliers.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, ISO 200, f/5.6 @ 1/8000s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4.  The straight photo looked a bit lifeless, so I decided to go for a silvery transformation by tweaking saturation, contrast and black levels.

Reclining Pan, Detail, St. Louis Art Museum

Moved for the third time this year, the Reclining Pan statue now keeps company with some astounding paintings in a rather dark room.  He seems more approachable now in the new surroundings, so I went in for a new picture.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 G, ISO 1600, f/5.6 @ 1/25s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4 to crop and adjust color.  I'm very happy with the bokeh and find that I'm using the 50mm more than I ever imagined.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Grid #2, Compartmentalized Cloud

Grid #2, Compartmentalized Cloud alludes to the Alan Watts' lecture that warns about Western (and other) philosophies that section, name and categorize things without recognizing that the practice tends to limit and make rigid what is understood about the object under study.  In other words, the tools we use to understand nature can lead us to miss the big picture.  Other writers not concerned with Zen, like James Burke, have noted that our understanding of the Universe advances in sudden bursts by those thinking outside the box (his Day the Universe Changed, and not from workers building on some sort of inevitable formula.  So, in this picture, the grid is a dark prison that divides the cloud into meaningless compartments.

Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4G, ISO 800, f/8.0 @ 1/6000s.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4 to crop slightly and apply Mike Lao's 300 v2 preset as a starting point to set the mood.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Grid #1

I'm starting a new series of abstractions that involve grids.  There is no way to tell where it is going, but the journey is most of the fun.  I remember an old Alan Watts video that used the grid as a metaphor for Western thought, which tends to compartmentalize to a fault.  It might be fun to explore that angle.
Technical: Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 G, ISO 800, f/5.6 @ 1/180s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4 to adjust exposure and add split toning.

Friday, October 2, 2009

African Mask #3, St. Louis Art Museum

One scary dude is lurking in the basement of the St. Louis Art Museum.  Luckily it sits behind thick glass.  The textures on this guy are amazing.

Technical:  Nikon D700, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 G, ISO 200, f/2.8 @ 1/8s, handheld.  RAW file processed in Lightroom 2.4 to adjust white balance.