When the clouds are on your side

This barn sits south of Mandan, beckoning to me every time I’m near St. Anthony.  Of course, the correct pronunciation is more like “Snatnee” – sometimes even with some h’s in there for good Cherman measure – but I won’t get mired in the details.

 

Some mornings I like a blazing sunset, washing the landscape with brilliant color.  But overcast mornings have their way of bringing out color, too.  First off, there are none of the hard shadows of that piercing sunrise light.  Second, the muted tones lend themselves very well to the color already present.

I’m glad I had the clouds on my side when these photos were taken.  Much of the detail of a beautiful barn like this one would be lost in shadows, and I wouldn’t have been able to photograph both sides of it in one sitting!

Pause for effect

arena_car_DJI_0334-8_hdrI love HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography when done judiciously.  It’s the kind of thing that can bring out all kinds of delicious detail in both the highlights and shadows of a photo, and that’s what I like to go for.  That hyper-realistic look really pleases my eye.  Unfortunately, HDR processing techniques are often done in such a heavy-handed fashion that they end up looking like grainy, over-saturated paintings.  Those I do not like one bit.

I opted to go a little further toward the artistic side with this particular photo, just because I liked the effect in this particular case.  It’s pushed a little past hyper-realistic detail into a more stylized realm, but in this case I think that works.  Not too keen on some of the blooming where dark areas meet light, but much of that is actually because of the way the sky was that day.

How about you?  Do you like extra realism, or surreal style?

IT LIVES. I present to you: Frankenrig

arena_truck_37216-8_HDRI’ve alluded recently on social media that I was working on a little rig to help me with the type of photography I do.  Case in point: the photo above.  The sun was setting to the right of this photo, leaving the rest of the car in the dark.  I wanted to fill with light rather than try to Photoshop it later, but that takes a lot of light.  After trudging back to the van twice for more lights and stands, I figured there had to be a better way to get multiple flash units in one place.  That was the inspiration for Frankenrig.

 

frankenrig_40696I’ll admit: it doesn’t look like much.  It’s more an assembly of parts bought online with only one piece of my own handiwork.  I messed with different lengths of 1/4″ thick aluminum until I found the right one, cut it, drilled it, tapped threads into it, and attached the various things I needed in order to hang three flashes from one lightweight portable stand.  Once I found the right length, it was off to the powder coater to get a durable finish applied.

 

frankenrig_40700To each of those pegs I attached a pivoting light bracket.  Each bracket can swivel on its post, while each bracket can articulate back and forth.  Why use such tall pegs, you ask?  Because I want to be able to operate the knurled knobs on the bottom of the pivoting brackets, even with winter gloves on, so I need the clearance.

 

frankenrig_40711In each pivoting bracket I attached a cold shoe so I could easily slide a Speedlite on and off.  I have spare pegs in case I want to use a studio strobe, but that’s not why I built Frankenrig.

 

frankenrig_40703Here are the three radio controlled Speedlites attached.  I tried different lengths of aluminum because I wanted Frankenrig to be as compact as possible, yet allow enough room between brackets to allow manipulation with winter gloves on.

 

frankenrig_40704It’s a very flexible rig.  The posts allow a number of things to be hung on this bracket in a variety of ways.  Each flash, in addition to its own pivoting head, can pivot by rotating the cold shoe’s peg in its bracket.  The bracket can pivot using its hinge, and it can swivel on its peg.  The 1/4″ x 1″ aluminum isn’t going to bend and everything is clinging together with 3/8″ threads and Loctite, so it’ll handle anything I opt to hang on it.

 

So here I have a compact little rig which attaches to any universal light stand, including the lightweight ones I use for my type of photo trips.  It’s a simple device, but allows me to bring a lot of light to a location with very little work.  It’s a pretty specific tool, though; it’s most suitable for my type of photo trip.  I want something lightweight and portable, not studio strobes.  I need to be able to set up in uneven terrain, so the stands I have do that.  I need to be able to adjust it, even in the cold with thick gloves on.  And I want it to be overbuilt in the strength department, because that’s how my dad taught me.

 

I look forward to taking Frankenrig into the field and throwing a lot of light at something!  Then I can sing its praises when I have cool, well-lit photos to share here.

That’s my boy

jonathan_sunset_57900The sky only allowed us a few minutes, and it was cold and breezy outside, but there was a pretty good sunset the other day.  I had my littlest guy with me and handed him one of my cameras so he could accompany me in style on a brief photo jaunt between errands.  I looked on the camera’s card yesterday and found this shot.  Pretty darn good for a young boy with no training!  I didn’t have to level it or crop it. I added a touch of saturation because my old 20D is set to produce very neutral photos, but that’s it.

Photography and time with my boy.  Can’t get much better than that!

I’m not a smart man, Jenny…but I know this trick

capitol_2015_32539Last night was a little ugly for photography. It was cold. It was windy. I was preoccupied with taking my little guys to Mandan to light a few dollars’ worth of fireworks, then bringing them home for story time with Rush Revere.  I checked the weather on and off through the night, but the wind and cold kept me indoors.  That’s okay; I had another plan, anyway.

 

capitol_2015_32537One problem I had right off the bat when doing photos of the capitol with the windows lit was the dark surroundings; the lit windows looked like dots floating in the dark.  I realized that I needed a brighter background if I wanted the photo to look better, so I started chasing my capitol photos just before dawn.

 

capitol_2015_32546Showing up a little before dawn gives one the flexibility to let the light you want come to you.  It’s a delicate balance between having things too dark and too bright, because you want the “2015” to stand out.

 

capitol_2015_32551Of course, it’s half part luck. If this morning had been sunny, I’d have been sunk.  The cloudy sky, however, diffused the waxing light of the sunrise just enough to give me what I needed.  The snow and capitol were lit, as was the sky in the background, but not enough to blow out the numbers in the windows.

 

capitol_2015_32555It’s a just-perfect set of circumstances that will allow you to get a shot like this, where it looks like daylight but the windows are still visible.  I didn’t do any Photoshop or Lightroom trickery to make any of these shots happen.  It’s all by trying to glean an understanding of the light, being in the right place at the right time, and having the good fortune of the weather conditions required.  I was out of bed, done with my photos, and back home before my first bleary-eyed little boy wandered out of his bedroom to say good morning to Daddy.

Happy New Year!

 

 

World Wide Photowalk, Part 3 (help me rate ’em)

federal_building_31945I have a couple of stragglers from the photo walk, such as this photo of the crown of the federal building on 3rd and Broadway.  I hope by now you’ve made a selection, but I’ dbe interested in how you like these.

 

fall_foliage_31973These trees are on the east end of the parking lot at the Peacock Alley.  It’s a parking lot now, but is apparently going to be an ice skating rink next year – because downtown Bismarck has way too much parking space right now.

That’s it!  I was happy with the shots I brought back.  I could have roamed more, but I had a nice morning walk and maximized the amount of time I had available.  My new lens performed admirably, and I had good company.

Thanks for looking through my photos!

World Wide Photowalk, Part 2 (help me rate ’em)

Here’s another set of photos from our local group’s participation in the Worldwide Photo Walk.  I’m trying to decide which photo to submit.

counterweight_31935This is the counterweight for a fire escape in downtown Bismarck.  I love the sky in the background combined with my vignette.

 

lion_chain_31953Remember Gary Miller?  If I remember the walk correctly, and I don’t know why I shouldn’t, this is one of the chains holding up the overhang at the entrance of Gary’s Gallery.  I believe this gallery will be closing in the near future, as his wife had announced something about it a while back.

 

no_smoking_31971I love this sign.  It’s attached to the freight elevator in the Anderson Building, which I hope to own some day.  This elevator is no longer available to the public.  I remember hearing a news report in the late 80s or early 90s about a young girl getting her arm pinned and amputated by this elevator.  That’d do it.

I’ll shoot myself in the foot by saying that these three are my favorite of the bunch.  I do have a couple more, but they don’t mean as much to me as these.  I’ll post the other ones soon and hopefully receive your feedback in time to upload my selection to the Photowalk website.

World Wide Photowalk, Part 1 (help me rate ’em)

Our photo club took part in the Worldwide Photo Walk this past weekend, and it was a blast.  I didn’t stay for the entire window of time because of other errands, but I did walk around downtown Bismarck for two hours with a couple of photo pals.  Each member of each local photo walk submits one photo to the group.  The group them forwards one photo on to the worldwide walk, and so on.  I got a few shots that I like with my brand new lens, and I need some feedback as to which I should submit before the deadline.

 

belle_bricks_31933This was right at our starting point in front of the historic Belle Mehus Civic Auditorium.  I tried to go for sort of an optical illusion effect.

 

hebron_brick_31957On the other end of downtown, I found this little nook in the back of the Anderson Building…a building I one day hope to own.  The frame gave it a nice splash of color.

 

hebron_brick_31959Made in North Dakota.  These are the bricks which sealed shut the window in the last photo.  Good ol’ bricks and mortar, compliments of Hebron.

I did take photos of more than bricks, but I thought I’d share these first three together due to the similar subject matter.  The ones I really like will be posted next.  Shoot me an email or post a comment when you find your favorite!

Always pack a backup piece

dead_battery_57896Little boy loaded in the truck: check.  Camera bag and tripod: check. Sandbar with grit getting everywhere: check.  Battery…battery?  Oh, seriously.  I even have a dual battery grip on my 7D, so how in the world did I get Munsoned out in the middle of nowhere?  Well, as you can see I still had something capable of taking photos with me: another Canon DSLR in its bag, which I’d forgotten to remove from my truck yesterday.

 

sunset_57878Fortunately, I realized this just in the nick of time, and was able to catch the sun just as it was about to disappear over the horizon.  I was in the best spot I could think of on short notice, and I think it paid off nicely.  Then we came home to watch Courageous with the rest of our little family while I stuck batteries into the charger.

A Googled gaggle, a fox that baled, and a pause for reflection

I bolted to Sweet Briar with my best friend tonight to see if I could catch a red sunset.  There’s a lot of particulate matter in the sky right now, making for some very red suns, and I wanted to get in on the action.  There were a few things in the way of that plan, however:

road_geese_30196First is this gaggle of geese. I had to double-check my terminology to make sure that I was right, and apparently a “gaggle” is at least five geese.  This bunch easily meets the requirements and, although they were plopped down as if they owned the road, I was able to convince them quite quickly that it was time to move.

 

fox_bale_30194Just prior to that, I’d spotted an unusual sight: a fox laying on top of a hay bale.  He had his front paws out in front of him and was just lounging around as we passed.  I grabbed a telephoto lens and a camera and circled back, but this time he must have seen the lens or something…and scampered away.  Shot missed.

 

sweet_briar_30213The sky played a cruel one on me today: the clouds moved in, obscuring the sun and the horizon.  That’s okay, I had a Plan B: catch some nice reflections in the calm water of the lake.  That worked.

Because of the advancing clouds and haze of the sky, it got dark quickly and it was time to head for home.  It wasn’t the result I was looking for, but it was a good night nonetheless.