Colorado Part 2: Subjects of Opportunity

I rarely find myself making plans for a photo shoot. In fact, the only times I really have were for magazine article and cover shoots for the BYU Universe, my own engagement photos and illustration reference shoots. Otherwise I’m usually taking photos of opportunity. I like to have my camera with me, and if I see something I like I can stop and get it. That of course is what all my photos from my Colorado cabin vacation were. I actually had some half baked plans about visiting certain places when the light was just right. However, I didn’t do any of those things. But I did carry my camera and shot what I liked.Night photo of the Milky Way among trees. By Jameson Gardner

I’ve been wanting to get some star photos for awhile now. But living in a light dome, as most of us do, It meant driving 3 or 4 hours to make it worth it. I hadn’t gotten to it when vacation time rolled around. So, my first subject of opportunity, once we got out of the light pollution and up to 10,000 feet, was the stars. My methods may have been a little unconventional, but then if you get the image you want, is there a right way?

I didn’t want to be maxing out my ISO and getting noisy or having my shutter open too long and have the stars turning into little lines. So I used my fastest lens and also used it on the lowest stop to get the most light. I think I ended up doing f1.8 with a 10 or 15 second exposure. That meant less noise and faster exposure, but also that my foreground elements wouldn’t be as sharp, and my field of view was limited. I did a bunch of expirementing, including using other lenses etc. Once I knew the view I wanted, I did two parallel columns of 4 shots and stitched them together manually (photoshop just doesn’t get it quite the way I want). This solved both the field of view problem and also when viewing the full image, the depth of field issue with the trees isn’t really an issue at all.

View of valley up Hall's Gulch, Colorado. By Jameson Gardner

This one (above) was also a panoramic stitch. We came across this view while on our way up Halls Gulch. I wanted better resolution on the details and less distortion than my 18-55mm was offering. so I went for the 50 again. I’m not real big on going crazy with processing. If you’ve read my other posts you know that I sometimes feel that editing way beyond what was really there can be dishonest and detract from the actual beauty of that scene or person as well as from the truly amazing moments that don’t require you to drag a bunch of sliders etc.

I do like to make sure that the values and colors are at least as good as they looked to my eye, though. It is amazing how the human eye can automatically adjust when focusing on a slightly different areas of what you are looking at. A camera can only output a single exposure (though, raw data is great because it records more and lets you be flexible in post) and that is often the culprit when you look at something and say “wow that looks great”, then take a picture and think “at least it did in real life” (composition is the other half of that coin). These clouds are a great example. In my image above, they look pretty much like they did when my eyes focused on them at the time. However, if I had exposed for that, the landscape would have been way off. So I got my best all-around exposure and then made adjustments after stitching.

The Artists Father by Jameson Gardner

Next up, my Father. I shot this while he was relaxing on the cabin porch. There isn’t a  whole lot to tell other than that the lighting was good, and my mom thinks he needs a new hat. But, the men out there know that it isn’t so easy to replace a good hat.

Alpine Outcropping by Jameson Gardner

This outcropping is another example of what I was saying before. I saw it and thought, “wow that is perfect.” but it didn’t come off quite the same until I was able to make some adjustments.

Elk Skull at Ruins of Miners Cabin. By Jameson Gardner

And finally, this skull. We found this near the crumbling ruins of an old cabin while hiking. I believe it belonged to an elk. Like my father this one didn’t take much. I just bent over took a photo and it came out nice 🙂 I hope this, like the others, really just captures a moment and a feeling. Stay tuned for my final installment of Colorado vacation photos, in which I will be sharing some artifacts.

The Way Things Are

These days it’s easy to get caught up in all the digital tricks and edits of photography. I am obviously not some kind of  film purist, but I do try to remember that I take pictures because something about what I am seeing in real life engages me. I have a couple shots here of pretty pedestrian subjects. One is from the port in Dover and the other from Kensington Gardens in London. Those were places we went to see sights, but definitely not the objects we came to see. I noticed things I thought were beautiful and took advantage of what I could get in the frame—the kind where I am less worried about representing what it is, just what it looks like.

Water spilling from a pier in the Port of Dover, England

This one is water spilling from holes in a mussel encrusted concrete pier. I had to warm it up a little in Photoshop because even white-balanced for cloudy, my camera recorded the evening light much cooler than it really was. That’s Photoshop so that you could see what engaged me, not so I could trick you into thinking I saw something else.

 

Clouds above Kensington Gardens in London

This one is clouds. I am a sucker for clouds. I’ll be honest though. For a split second I thought about messing with the levels to increase the contrast, or pumping up the saturation just a little. Then I realized that would subvert my purpose. I took a picture of these clouds because I liked them the way they were. I spent time making sure my camera was set to capture them the way I saw them with my eyes—now I am home thinking about throwing that all away because people are used to seeing photos doctored to be more striking and more colorful. Well don’t worry, I came to my senses. Here are my Kensington-clouds as-shot and unaltered. I hope maybe you can see a little of what I loved about them.

Vintage Photo

Vintage style portrait of mother with two girls. © Jameson Gardner Art

I have a this shot of my sister with her two girls that I took at a birthday party a while back. I thought it would be fun to try to make it look like a vintage print. Turns out there is more to that than you’d think. There is the photoshop work, of course, but I also created the distressing patterns by hand. I didn’t follow any instructions or tutorial, so there may be an easier way. I thought it turned out kind of nice. It makes me want to try out different techniques, which also makes me wonder if there is a market for portraits like this. Let me know if you’d hire me for portraits of you or your family in a vintage style.

Also, my wife and I will be in the UK for the next two weeks, so blogging may be sparse. But rest assured I’ll be back with plenty of material soon.