Ted Forbes over at The Art Of Photography YouTube channel recently started a photo assignment project for his viewers. The idea is to create old school photographer notebooks, the sort we all used back in school to help get our thoughts and technique together. I still use such a concept to storyboard editorials, but that is more sketching. I also use Pinterest and Evernote in a similar fashion. I actually maintain a shooting log in Evernote, complete with final photos etc.
I decided to join in this project for a couple of reasons. The two most important were the fact I have been feeling a bit creatively restricted. Ever since I have gotten to a certain level on Instagram, I've been getting many requests to shoot from agencies and agency models. Almost all of these requests have been for lingerie or boudoir and some occasional fashion. The fashion I love. I am allowed to shoot editorial there. The lingerie and boudoir is a little different. Boudoir is very stylized and plays within a certain box, while lingerie can be editorial in nature, most of the models requesting it want something more Victoria Secret's than something more editorial.
Above is an example of what I've been shooting of late. In truth while I really like that shot, I was more excited to shoot a young woman named Caitin. Here is what we did.
I just love that shot. The other reason is I wanted to create content that went away from what I have been creating for this blog and my own YouTube Channel. There are a million channels that go over gear and technique and will walk you through Photoshop et al. Honestly I was feeling like an idiot doing that. There are folks that do it far better. After starting this is have decided to focus that part on what it is like for me to be a photographer. My process and what it means to me. So many thanks to Ted Forbes to starting this project and inspiring me to change what I do here. Hopefully all of you join me in this adventure. Now without further ado, the ten viewpoints....
The first assignment that Ted gave was to take one subject or idea and shoot it from ten different viewpoints. In truth I shot 13. No edits, no selection from a larger set, all thirteen images right here.
The above is the actual notebook I pasted my shots after printing them out. I know it looks a bit old school, but the charm of it is what makes me happy. Below are the actual shots with the notes I scribbled along the edges.....
Shot on a Samsung Galaxy S5 with Camera FV5
I was a bit distracted when I started this. I couldn't decide what to shoot with. I spent so much time worrying about gear rather than what I am shooting.
The hard part was getting it to focus. Finally I just gave up. In the end I just went with it. In the end I really loved what I got. I ended up shooting 13 images. I wonder what Ted will assign next?
Why B&W? I think mostly because of the abstraction of B&W. It basically reduces things to just light and composition.
If I were honest, these shots may not be as creative as some of the other work others have done for this. I'm perhaps lacking the level of creativity and need to push there.
All italicized text is as exactly written in my notebook.
For many of us, the camera we use most is the one on our phone. Be we professional shooters to casual snap shooters, the phone is always with us. “The best camera is the one you have with you” is something Chase Jarvis once said, and by that axiom the camera on your phone is the best camera of all time. Sure from a technical standpoint it may not be as full featured as say a Pentax 645Z or as fast as say a Canon 1DX, but honestly those cameras are heavy, and don’t have Instagram built in. The smartphone, be in an iOS or Android device, has made us a connected world that information can be transmitted in real time. In photography this is even more evident with the work of photographers like Eric Kim and Takei out in Vancouver. Both use smartphones heavily for street photography, the instant nature of them being perfect for the documentary nature of this type of work, the deeper narrative reserved for the Ricoh GRs, Leicas and Fujis they also use. Of course we all want our images to look great when we release them to the online world. A cottage industry of image editors and manipulation apps exist on both iOS and Android. In this first of a series on these apps and integrated workflow we will look at VSCO.
What is VSCO?
VSCO is short for Visual Supply COmpany. What VSCO is best know for are plugins that work in Lightroom and Photoshop simulating various types of film emulsions from the days of yore, much like DXO Film Pack and many others. Last year they released a mobile version of there plugin system that like everything else has a Social Media element as well as the photo editor aspects.
When you open the app you are brought to the main screen which is the Library with menu bar open. Once you click on Library the screen clears the menu sidebar and comes to the main screen.
The main screen is very clean, with just a few icons that go to one of the various features. The video below will go over everything but here in the article we’ll focus on the icon in the lower left - the mixer.
In the mixer you can adjust quite a few variables. In the included video we go over each one. Here are some clearer images of each screen for reference.
Just follow the video below.
If I could change anything in this app it would be the ability to edit in landscape ala Snapseed, also in the crop section I would add classic photography aspect rations such as 6x17 and 6x12 as well as a free ratio option.
To continue on Scott W Leslie’s question about editing video in Photoshop, let’s discuss one type of video that Photoshop is really great at creating - a cinemagraph.
What Is A Cinemagraph?
A cinemagraph is a short (about 4 seconds max) looping video used on the web or on TV. Usually they look like a still image with a small section that is in motion. Perhaps it’s light moving over a lush head of hair, or the cape of some hero moving in the wind. The idea is to create some small image that has a sense of motion, but acts for design purposes as a still. The first step in creating the image is to shoot the video. It has to be something that can easily have the motion looped. For this lesson I shot some water flowing from a faucet over an orange using a Pentax 645Z and the 645 200/4 SMC-A. The reason I use a manual focus version of this lens (I do have the AF version) is that that lens is easy o modify to a de-clicked aperture for shooting video. IN a later video I’ll show you the whole procedure on how to do this, but it’s about the only current option to use lenses on the 645Z with a smooth iris for cinematography.
The other thing to consider is that you must create a custom color profile (i.e. modify one of the scene modes) to give as “flat” an image as possible. That means turning the saturation, sharpness and highlights all the way down and the shadows all the way up. I keep this profile solely for shooting video. After setting a custom white balance I shot the video at ISO 1600 at F/4 and a shutter of 1/50th at 24fps. There is a very specific reason for those settings, but that will be covered later. I then imported the video into Photoshop CC 2015.
After importing the video I trimmed the beginning to the 14 second mark and cut the remained after the 22 second mark. Why trim on the from and cut the back? The reason for this is when I go to the next step, the data in the trim section is still there, while the data in the cut section is lost for the most part in our next step. You see we will be duplicating this layer into a new video group and recovering about 2 seconds from the start and trimming the end so that the last frame of the duplicated layer is the exact same frame as the starting frame of the original layer.
The reason we need to do this is create a smooth looping video that doesn’t look like it skips. To start this step from the Timeline Window we create a new video group. We then using the “Duplicate Layer” function on the Layer Palette. If you use the keyboard shortcut you will duplicate the untrimmed video which just adds time to your workflow. The Duplicate Layer function on the other hand only duplicates the edited clip which is what we want. When duplicated the new clip will be at the very end in the same video group as it’s original. We must drag that clip into the new group then drag that group so it is below in order the original group as we see below.
At this point we now add back about 1-2 seconds to the start of the video in the new group and trim the end of it so it matches the end of the first video, basically making the last frame of this duplicate clip the same as the first frame in the original clip. At this point we must now smooth out the video image so there is no “skipping” in playback. We do this using opacity markers on the original clip layer, setting the first one about a second into the duplicate clip, and using additional markers to set the opacity to 0% by the end of it’s playback so the last frames of the duplicate frame are showing through fully.
Now that we have a smooth looping video it’s time to color grade the image. Color Grading is the video equivalent of Color Correction in still photography and the major reason why you want as flat an image as possible. Unless you are shooting with a camera that generates CinemaDNG files, this is your best option. Now I already use color grading in still photography to set a “mood” when processing in post images for editorials. To do this quickly I use an action I call “Grade” that creates a layer group that has two Curve Adjustment layers (one set to “luminosity" and the other to “color”) and one Channel Adjustment layer set to “soft light”. After making adjustments as needed and adding some addition adjustment layers based on need (in this case Saturation and Levels) I get the image rather quickly looking the way I want.
Now it’s very important to note that if you use grading to make sure that all those adjustment layers sit in a group outside and above in the layer tree of the video groups. If you don’t do this, then the next step will not give the desired results. At this point we have a beautifully graded short clip, but it’s not yet a cinemagraph. It has too much motion. The idea is to look like a still with limited motion. We must now scrub through the video and find a spot which we think will make a great still. Once we find that spot we use the Command-Option-Shift-E keyboard shortcut to basically capture that specific frame as a still on a new layer, making sure that it sits at the top of the layer tree as seen below.
If you play the video now you will see zero motion. We are almost there. Now to add motion back all we have to do is create a layer mask and using a brush set to zero hardness and flow and opacity at 100 percent paint black on the mask where the orange is. It should look like this when done.
If you play the video now you’ll see the image stays perfectly still except where the mask is black. There the motion from the clips below take over showing nation. Now if there is any retouching you need to do at this point for say a beauty cinemagraph you do it to this layer, making sure that the mask for the motion hole gets copied to any layers that you create for retouching. finally we can export this video using the “Save For Web” feature as a GIF file set to diffusion, Dither at 100%, 256 color and looping set to Forever.
Finally below is a short video going over the entire process.
Feel free to comment below, or like and subscribe on YouTube and ask in the comments there. See you in the next article.
In this edition of “What’s In My Bag” I’ll go over one of my favorite toys, my “Frankencamera” setup for stills using a Pentax Q.
What’s Actually In The Bag
Let’s first start with the bag itself, my old Dome F-803 Messenger Bag. It’s an old bag, so old the strap has worn off so I went and purchased a military bag strap made of the same canvas at an Army/Navy surplus. As you can see besides the strap, this bag has lasted me about twenty years! The F-803 is usually a 6 pocket affair that comes with an insert to make the main compartment a three pocket setup. I’ve taken the insert and use it in my F-802 that you’ve seen in the previous edition of this series.
The rig itself is from an old Sunpak Slave flash as well as an IKan cold shoe. The video light is used as a focus assist light in this setup while the three F-18 flashes have diffusers made from tracing paper sandwiched between plastic from a clear plastic folder and held on by gaffer’s tape. To trigger all this I use a Pentax 2P Hot Shoe Adapter that has a pass through to allow the flash mounted on the hot shoe of the Q to fire as well as a PC Port with a splitter to connect the other two flashes via sync cables. Basically this whole rig cost at most $80 from parts that are readily available In another article I’ll go over shooting with this rig and how I post process everything.
This is a shoot I did for Salence Outerwear. We took a cinematic approach to this shoot, storyboarding the shoot and making the decision to instead of taking a color correction approach to post production, instead take a color grading approach used in cinema.
This little video goes over what I carry each day in my daily camera bag. This is basically what I have with me when I walk around daily, and whenever I do documentary photography. For the most part the why's and wherefore of the individual cameras and digital gear are covered in earlier articles here about mobile photography. Just click that tag on the left and you'll find them. The only thing I really didn't talk about was the bag itself, the Domke F-802.
I love Domke bags. My old F-2 and F-1x have been with me for a couple of decades along with the F-803. The way these bags are made out of military grade impregnated canvas is just bulletproof. Outside of a Pelican Case, nothing is better than a Domke. They may not be as flashy as say a Billingham, but they do the job well and for the most part are designed much like the cameras that were around when Bill Domke created the bag when on the staff of the Philadelphia Enquirer, to last a lifetime.
As far as the large number of notebooks I carry, what can I say. I do use them heavily, and have a fetish for Moleskin notebooks specifically. There is just something about a well crafted little notebook like the ones they make. Something very Zen, much like shooting film on an old Leica Rangefinder. To be honest that is why I love shooting documentary (or euphemistically "street") photography. I don't shoot it to get into Time Magazine or anything like that. I shoot it to document the world I see and in all honesty to relax and almost meditate. I try not to worry about much when I shoot street and while for time and cost primarily shoot this work digitally, on occasion I will break out one of my old film cameras, many of them without built in meters and shoot the old fashion way, f/8 and be there as well as Sunny 16.
Enjoy the video, and do read the articles that go in more detail about the items I carry.
As many of you know I shoot with a Pentax 645Z for a large portion of my work. Prior to that I shot with a Pentax 645D and before that I rented a Phase One back for an old Contax 645 I use to own. Now many of you will of course ask the obvious, why shoot medium format digital today? With cameras available in the 30+MP range that are smaller and less expensive what is the allure that would lead one to medium format? Let me get this clear right off the bat, I have a very strong relationship with Ricoh Imaging, the owners of the Pentax brand. This article was suppose to be a simple white paper on how to get around Capture One for tethered shooting. It was suppose to be quick and easy, but with many thanks to Ricoh and of course much patience and a few revisions this has become something a bit longer.
Now back to the question - “Why Medium Format”. As I noted there are cameras by several manufacturers that easily get into the resolution of many medium format units. Cameras by Sony, Nikon, Canon and soon Pentax as well all have “full-frame” options that reach into the 30+ mp range. Resolution must therefore not be the driving reason for the desire to shoot medium format. What could it be?
In the image above you see three shots side by side using different cameras and their respective “normal” lenses. Each uses a different sensor size and have the identical field of view. In all the shots the ISO and aperture are identical as well as the FOV. Yet in each the DOF is vastly different, getting shallower with each increase in sensor size. Why is this? Focal length is the answer. On the far left is a shot using a Pentax Q with it’s 8.5mm f/2.8 lens, next to it is a shot from a Pentax K3 using a 16-50 at 35mm, and finally the Pentax 645Z using a 75/2.8. Even though each of these lenses provides a near identical FOV, the shorter actual focal lengths will have a lot more DOF. You cannot argue with he law of physics. This is why one shoots Medium Format, you use longer focal lengths for the same FOV. Because of this you get better subject isolation and shallower DOF for the same FOV. The penalty of course is you need to be a lot more careful with your focus technique, and of course you can’t shoot rapid fire, willy nilly. The exploit the benefits of Medium Format fully, you have to slow down your approach and take a bit more time.
Now let’s move on to the next matter, workflow. When Pentax released it’s first MFD, the 645D, it enjoyed support in Capture One for DNG conversion. One could capture via a workaround into Capture One as well, much like Hasselblad H3D users had to do. Unfortunately Phase One has decided to block DNG support not only for the 645Z, but all Pentax cameras. Since their product is vastly more expensive with far less technology, Phase has decided to block all competitors in an attempt to monopolize the market and take choice away from the consumer. Now for the vast majority of Pentax users this is of little consequence, but for 645Z users this is a major headache. Most work done with Medium Format cameras is done in a tethered workflow model. This is primarily due to the market sector MFD users are in. While the 645Z has expanded these markets and the places one can confidentaly use a MFD, the vast majority of the work still is done in markets where an AD will want a realtime view of what is being shot.
Thankfully for us Capture One is not the only solution available. Adobe’s Lightroom CC provides us with two methods to implement tethered workflow. One of these methods also provides the added benefit of compatibility with Lightroom Mobile, thereby allow you to provide an experience similar to using Capture Pilot only without the iOS only restrictions. So let's dive in!
Option 1 Pentax Transmitter Software
This first option is the least desirable of the options available. It is basically similar to the old “watched folder” work around in previous versions of Capture One. The application is Pentax Image Transmitter 2.0. This version of the package does provide an image preview and allows you to fully control the camera as seen from the screenshot below.
One very interesting thing is the LV function that gives you the Live View screen right from the camera. It also allows you to write directly to the memory cards while tethered, and allow you to shoot in TIFF as well as the usual DNG and JPEG formats. What Image transmitter basically boils down to is a quick and dirty way to whether and capture to your computer.
The control panel above is the key for what we are trying to do. The section at the top marked “Destination” is where you will choose the folder your captured images are stored. This will be important when we get to Lightroom in the next step. Now the most important thing to remember is that folder must be empty for Lightroom to do what we need it to do. The video below will demonstrate the final steps.
The live view feature is the most interesting thing and as you can see includes focus peaking. The only real bad thing here is the fact that one cannot enlarge the window or use the Transmitter Software to also do video capture direct to the hard drive. Another limitation of this method is the fact that in Lightroom I cannot target a Collection. Collections is where the real power of Lightroom in a capture workflow lies. Collections allow you to sync via the cloud to mobile devices such as an iPad or Android Tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro.
Option 2 - Pentax Tether Plugin
While the above does work to capture to a hard drive and as you see in the video above apply a recipe as the images are imported into Lightroom, the limitations on syncing with an exterior device is problematic. Another issue is of course the need to run additional software. The less one has to worry about the better. To that end the folks at Ricoh Imaging worked together with Adobe and created a plugin for Lightroom that allows direct tethered captured. The major benefit of this is that you can send the files directly to a Collection that can be synced with Lightroom Mobile. This allows you to hand the client a tablet and they can watch the image pop up right there. Now granted Capture Pilot does this as well, but Lightroom Mobile goes a few step farther allow not only selection of the images which gets synced back to Lightroom, but it works via the Adobe Cloud, not just WiFi. This allows the client to be remote from the shooting location, hell even the other side of the globe if need be. LR Mobile also allows the client, or better their Art Director to modify the DNG development recipe and have those changes updated to whatever the photographer is shooting.
After going to File>Tethered Capture the following dialogue box should pop up. Here much like in Capture One you can set the location, file naming, metadata and of course the ability to “Add To A Collection” where the real magic happens. Once you click OK the following control bar pops up;
Unlike the Transmitter Software, the options are far more limited for camera control. Outside of the big silver button to fire the camera, the control panel only shows the information that you have set on the camera itself. usually I first create a collection for the shoot and make sure that I have it sync with LR Mobile. On the Collections Panel this is represented by a small double ended arrow to left of the collection name.
Once Capture occurs the images are transmitted immediately to LR Mobile allowing the client to select and of course if they are capable make needed adjustments to the photos and have those elections and adjustments sync back to the host computer.