Friday, December 30, 2011

Part II: Cover Art for “Feel” by The J.O.B. (Jim O’Ferrell Band)

In my last post, I shared some cover art candidates for “Feel” by The J.O.B. (Jim O’Ferrell Band).  Here are the balance of shots I sent along for the band to consider.  The idea behind the photos is feel the light.  Enjoy.

Feel the Light-7

Feel the Light-6

Feel the Light-12

Feel the Light-9

Feel the Light-11

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Cover Art for “Feel” by The J.O.B. (Jim O’Ferrell Band)

Feel the Light-5

Over the last couple of months I have been working with The J.O.B. to produce artwork for soon to be released songs “Guardian” and “Feel.”  With a new set of flashes and a model (my son and soon to be USAF Officer), I was presented with some new opportunities for inspiration and creativity.

Feel the Light

The lyrics to Feel talk about light, possibilities, and the feelings and understanding between people.  The ideas of “Feel” and “light” inspired a photo shoot focused on feeling the light.

Feel the Light-4

From a photographic perspective, this was a bare bones shoot.  The shots were made in my garage with a single light.  The garage was completely darkened and I used the base piece of a yard shed as a back drop because it was black and non reflective.

Feel the Light-1

After a few test shots, I found that I had to close the garage doors, turn out the lights and shoot in the dark to get the effect I was looking for.  The main challenge of shooting in the dark was focus.  If you have not noticed, cameras do a really poor job of focusing in complete darkness.

Feel the Light-2

To overcome the focus problem, I turned the lights on, dialed in the focus, and marked a spot on the floor for the camera distance.  I then set the focus to manual (so it would not change), and began to shoot.

Feel the Light-2-2

The shots shown here represent half of the keepers.  Come back soon to see the rest…as well as the J.O.B.’s final selection for “Feel”

Feel the Light-3

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Scenes from Occupy DC

Breakfast Time

With the paying part of my life occupying much of my time along with all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I have yet to revisit the Occupy DC encampment.  However, I still have plenty of photos to share.

Occupy DC Chef

Passing By Occupy DC

Park Seating

McPherson Square at Dawn-2

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Volvo – Worth Every Penny


With the holiday season in full swing I have not carved out the opportunity for much photography – with the exception of playing with my new lighting gear and food photography (Craig’s Grape Adventure).  To make matters worse, I have to deal with my badly crumpled car.

Last week I was struck by a deer in Southern Maryland.  It was about an hour after sunset.  I was driving about 50 mph with my wife in the passenger seat.  Suddenly my headlights were filled with a nanosecond flash of a deer racing across the road.  The blur of fur came at the same time as the tremendous thud of impact.  It happened so quickly there was not even time to brake.

Gratefully we were uninjured and the car performed flawlessly.  Despite the tremendous shudder and unsightly damage, the seatbelts not only locked, but cinched us back into the seats.  Amazingly, the car did not swerve or even give the hint of loss of control – it tracked perfectly straight as if nothing happened.  I will be without my beloved Volvo for a few weeks, but am immensely grateful none of that time will be spent in a hospital.  Thank you Volvo!

Finally, if you have not yet picked up your copy of Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew, follow the link and take care of that last minute Christmas shopping.  It is easy, you will get the book before Christmas, and you will make a food and wine lover happy with nearly 500 pages of stories, great recipes and wine pairings.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Photography From Occupy DC

Camp David

My last visit to the Occupy DC camp was several weeks ago.  I have it on my work list to visit McPherson Square later this week.  In the mean time, here are a few shots I have not yet shared.

Legal Observer

Occupy K Street

Strike for Justice

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Playing With Your Food (Photography)

Braised Pork Belly over Cocunut Curry Soup and Ramen Noodles-2

This week is very exciting for me.  I finally moved from natural lighting and a do-it-yourself lighting rig for food photography to the world of flash photography.  Thanks to the generous donations for my recent book “Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew” I was able to upgrade my lighting kit.

Before making my purchase of the Yongnuo YN560 flashes and the Yongnuo RF-603 wireless flash triggers I researched flashes, talked with photography friends, read reviews, and shopped for best prices.  I first concluded that with food photography as my principle use for the flashes, I would not need to go to the expense of purchasing TTL flashes.  With static photos, a manual flash is the best choice giving you full creative control over the quantity and quality of the light.  TTL flashes can be used in manual mode, but why pay for something you don’t need?  In essence, you set up your shot, set the power and zoom on the flash after a couple of test shots (or triggering the flash and using a light meter to set power and exposure), and you are ready to go.

Yongnuo YN 560 and RF-603

From my experience with testing various lighting configurations for my food photography, I wanted a three light kit.  Two lights for side lighting, and a third for backlighting.  Why? By applying light from three angles, you are able to wrap light around the subject and bring greater dimensionality to the photograph.  I also knew I wanted to use radio frequency remote flash triggers.  When I shoot food photography, it is real food – that I eat.  Using the RF triggers, I am able to quickly set up a shot, get the work done, and quickly move the gear to the side so our dinner party can enjoy the creation.

Cherry Tomatoes

My decision to go with manual flashes also saved a boatload of cash.  The Yongnuo YN560 flash sells for $75 on Amazon.  The RF triggers sell for $35 a pair.  In total, I have about $300 invested.  Compare this to $450 for a single Canon 580EX II.  When I decide to move to more dynamic situations (i.e. moving subjects or situations in which I cannot take the time to set up the shot in a controlled situation) I will likely purchase the 580EX II, but for now, the manual flashes are completely adequate.

Braised Pork Belly over Cocunut Curry Soup and Ramen Noodles-3

The photographs you see here are test shots and not the end of the story.  I was not at home when I took these shots and did not have umbrellas or other diffusers to shoot through.  In other words, these are all bare bulb shots.  I was able to use a little trickery by bouncing the light, but the addition of diffusers will result in softer light, controlled specular highlights, and even greater flexibility with the quality of the light.

2010 Bin 106 Twisted River Germany Gewürztraminer-2

As I play more with my food, and my lighting setup, I will be sure to share my results.  If the food you see here is making you hungry, head over to Craig’s Grape Adventure for hundreds of recipes, wine pairings and more food photography.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Occupy DC Black and White Photography

McPherson Square Tent Camp

On the day after Halloween, I made my first visit to the Occupy DC tent city at McPherson Square in Washington DC.  I continue to visit the camp every couple of weeks to document the changes in the camp – like the next shot – my last visit found the University of the 99% was established.  I can’t tell you about enrollment or faculty.  Sorry.

University of the 99%

I was intending to hold on to these shots for a while, then publish a series.  However, after reading the news yesterday, of the protestors building a two story wooden structure that eventually led to a conflict with the DC police and several arrests, I decided to share several of the photos.

Creativity Planning

The guys above and in the next shot were new additions upon my last visit, and had a nice new white enclosure from which they were able to talk to passersby about their economic perspective – and hand out flyers for their landscaping business.

Radical Bible Information

The eclectic gathering of people that make up the Occupy DC protestors is quite interesting.  I was happy to find the Latinos were well represented.

Latino Corner

I have a whole pocket full of photographs from McPherson Square.  I intend to continue shooting as long as they save.  Come back soon for more from Occupy DC.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guardian by the J.O.B.

Ryan Guardian

I am very honored by a recent invitation to continue artistic collaboration with The Jim O’Ferrell Band.  Lead guitarist Jason Crawford recently sent lyrics to the upcoming single Guardian – and once again swore me to secrecy.

The lyrics convey the image of an ever vigilant entity, a guardian angel, a superhero-like presence.  From a photographic perspective, this is a fun place to start.

Ghost Buildings

The two photos are a couple of the concepts I sent to Jason.  As always, I am excited about the artistic collaboration and am already enjoying the process.  The second single I will be working on is “Feel.”  Again, the lyrics invoke some fantastic imagery of light and shadow.

Stand by for more reports on this project and my work on “Feel.”

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Plan B 3.0

Plan B-1

Today is Thanksgiving - I  hope you all have a wonderful day and have the opportunity to spend it with your family as I am.  I chose the photograph for today because of the juxtaposition of our national day of turkey indulgence to this fellow engaged in a hunger strike to end carbon emissions in 2012 (or so his sign says).

I took this shot moments before sunrise as I was walking to the Occupy DC camp at McPherson Square.  It was the day after Halloween which accounts for the interesting lighting on the Whitehouse.  The West entrance and drive was decorated for Halloween with webs and other scary stuff along with the lighting which cast spooky shadows on the Whitehouse.

If the first shot is a Thanksgiving photograph, the next version is more aligned with the Halloween motif.  After processing in color, I decided to try another version in B/W to set a darker mood.

Plan B BW

If you happen to be meandering around the Whitehouse today, hand this guy a turkey leg or some leftover Halloween candy.  You can also let him know that while dramatically limiting carbon emissions is a good idea, it is not likely to happen in 2012 – so have some turkey.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Lincoln Memorial – One Up, One Down

Up and Down at the Lincoln Memorial

Living in Washington DC, I am often challenged with photographing and processing subjects I have seen thousands of times.  Frequently I find myself asking how can I make something new and interesting of a subject I have shot hundreds of times.  In the case of this photograph, I was wandering around DC on a foggy morning and had no intention of shooting the Lincoln Memorial.

As I was walking to another location I wanted to shoot, I looked over and saw these two men – one walking up the steps and the other coming down.  This interested me for two reasons; 1) rarely is the Lincoln Memorial so devoid of visitors, and 2) the juxtaposition of one man going up and another coming down.

I cropped the photo to this panoramic composition to further accentuate the two subjects in front of the memorial.  I am a firm believer in cropping to suit your vision – don’t be afraid to crop, and don’t feel constraints of “standard” sizes.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Barn in the Morning Fog–Southern Maryland

Barn the Mist-Edit

This photograph of a lonely barn in the morning fog blanketing Southern Maryland is a result of my mantra to always have my camera at hand.  I was off to play golf one weekend, and passed by this barn.  Thanks to anti-lock brakes, I quickly came to a stop without the drama of screeching tires.

The processing for this photo started with a three shot HDR and a round trip to Photomatix Pro.  I processed the photo in color, then sent it off to Silver Efex Efex Pro 2 for the black and white conversion.  This approach let me shoot directly into the sun while holding detail in the shadows (such as the shade side of the barn), and bring definition to the clouds, fog, and field.

The two lessons from this shot are 1) keep your camera with you if at all possible, and 2) don’t be afraid to combine post processing techniques to get the result you are looking for.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Washington Monument in the Fog

Washington Monument in the Fog

It has been over a week since my last post.  My apologies.  I was working hard on finishing my eBook, Craig’s Grape Adventure – Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew.  I made the deadline, and the launch of the book exceeded my expectations.  With Christmas on the horizon, the book makes a great gift for the chefs and wine fans in your circle of friends.

With the book kicked out of the nest, I am ready to get back on my routine of photography adventures.  Today’s photo of the Washington Monument in the fog combines my attraction to minimalism with fog – two things that go hand in hand.

While mucking around DC in the fog, I also stopped by the Occupy DC camp.  I will be sharing some photos from the McPherson Square tent city later this week.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Couple More Photographs of the U.S. Air Force Memorial

US Air Force Memorial Diptych

In my last post, “The U.S. Air Force Memorial–Can it be Made Interesting Through Photography?” I wrote about some common criticisms I hear about it.  In an attempt to moderate these criticisms I posted several photographs in the hope of bringing out some of the beauty of this memorial.

I am sharing a couple of photos in this post that did not quite fit with the first.  The title photograph is a diptych comprising two of the memorial spires.  Quite different than the previously shared photos, I thought to present this separately.

The next photograph also differs due to maintaining the color in post processing.

US Air Force Memorial

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The U.S. Air Force Memorial–Can it be Made Interesting Through Photography?

US Air Force Memorial-1

Among my friends, including many who are active duty or retired Air Force Officers, I rarely hear compliments for the U.S. Air Force Memorial located in Arlington Virginia overlooking the Pentagon.  On the contrary, I hear statements such as “too big,” “inappropriate location,” “inconsistent with other memorials,” and of course, “what a piece of post modernist crap.”

Personally, I am indifferent.  However, the one comment that draws my attention in small part is that of consistency with other military branch memorials.  Most people are familiar with the Iwo Jima Memorial, also known as the U. S. Marine Corps War Memorial.  This memorial honors the Marines who have died defending the United States since 1775. The Iwo Jima Memorial is located near Arlington National Cemetery, in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, DC.

Maybe less familiar is the Navy Memorial located in Washington on Pennsylvanian Avenue NW between 7th and 9th streets.  According to the Navy Memorial website, “The United States Navy Memorial is home to the Memorial Plaza, which features Stanley Bleifeld's famous statue, The Lone Sailor. The Lone Sailor, a tribute to all personnel of the sea services, overlooks the Granite Sea, an exact replication of the world's oceans. Surrounding the Granite Sea are two fountain pools, honoring the personnel of the American Navy and the other navies of the world. The southern hemisphere of the Granite Sea is surrounded by 26 bronze bas-reliefs commemorating events, personnel, and communities of the various sea services.”

US Air Force Memorial-2-2

The Army is more complicated.  Apparently if the Army wanted you to know where the Army Memorial stands, they would have put it in one of their manuals.  The fact of the matter is that there is no single memorial celebrating the Army as a whole.  There are not one but two Army memorials near the White House. One depicts a winged figure of Victory and was dedicated in 1924 at 17th Street and State Place NW. The other is a gilded flaming sword erected on the Ellipse in 1936.

These monuments memorialize the exploits and soldiers of specific Army divisions: Victory honors the 1st Division, the sword the 2nd. Neither celebrates the Army as a whole, nor do any of the scores of other monuments at battlefields and Army posts across the country, which honor individual units or divisions.

Finally, we come to my proud service, The U.S. Coast Guard.  Similar to the Army, the U.S. Coast Guard does not have a single memorial celebrating the U.S. Coast Guard as a whole in the Washington DC area.  Rather, the U.S. Coast Guard is memorialized by smaller monuments, plazas, plaques and the like dispersed around the country and the world.  Included among these is a 36 x 32 relief at the Navy Memorial…thanks for the nod.  Like the Army, many of these memorials remember specific acts of heroism, historic events, or tragedies associated with a specific ship, aircraft, unit, or person.

US Air Force Memorial-3

Contrasting each of the service monuments to the U.S. Air Force memorial, those who taking the position of inconsistency may have a point.  I will leave the judgment to you.  For now, lets return to the starting point of this discussion.  If you are one of those in the camp who believe the U.S. Air Force memorial is a “post modern piece of crap,” I have included a series of photos here that will hopefully moderate your assessment.  Once again, I have to leave that to your judgment.  Stay tuned, I have a couple more to share later this week.

Have fun and go make some great photography.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Chocolate Crème Brulee Action Photography

Creme Brulee-7

As I close out the final punch list to complete my soon to be released eBook “Craig’s Grape Adventure; Loving Life with a Skillet and a Corkscrew,” I am photographing several the recipes I failed to shoot on the first go around.  Stay tuned to my other bog, Craig’s Grape Adventure, for announcement of publication. 

Last night I prepared and photographed an open faced steak sandwich with grated celery root and leek, and truffle macaroni and cheese.  Chef Sue decided to contribute to the meal by preparing chocolate crème brulee.

Creme Brulee-8

I always try to include some “action” photography when shooting for Craig’s Grape Adventure.  This is not an easy task as I play both the role of chef and photographer.  It is complicated further because the lighting in our kitchen is not ideal for photography.  The kitchen is not large enough to both cook and set up lighting, so I am stuck with a combination of natural light from the windows and the installed lighting.

Creme Brulee-6

The amount, or level of light is adequate, but the lighting comes from several sources, each having a different temperature.  First we have natural light from the windows.  Add to that the halogen lights installed under the cupboards and the range top surface light.  Finally, the overhead lights are compact fluorescent.  The various light temperatures are a challenge, but can be handled in post processing with just a bit of difficulty.

Creme Brulee-5

The chocolate crème brulee photography was made easier by bringing the chilled bowls to the dining room table for caramelizing the sugar.  With my food photography lighting rig around the table (doesn’t everyone have a dining room table photo studio?) I was better equipped to control the quantity and quality of the lighting.

Creme Brulee-9

Check back soon at Craig’s Grape Adventure for the chocolate crème brulee recipe and wine pairing.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Times Square De-saturated HDR

Times Square

I am not a fan of heavy handed HDR and have posted my views several times in the past.  So here I am, producing a couple of photographs that run completely contrary to my previous rants.  I’m ok with that, and I have a reason.

Like all “rules” or guidelines for photography, including composition, it is good to have a foundation on which to base your photography.  When you step outside these self-imposed bounds, it is good to do so intentionally.  In other words, it is ok to break the rules, and it is best to do so with purpose and intention.

The two HDR photographs of Times Square featured in this post were shot in August 2011.  Just yesterday I finally got around to processing them.  As I was running the photographs through Photomatix Pro, the practically empty Times Square coupled with the clouds and the street shining from the drizzle, led me to choose a heavier application of tone mapping than I normally prefer.  I quickly became attracted to a grungier look for the scene which seemed consistent with the conditions.

To add further to the gloomy feel I was trying to achieve, I de-saturated the photographs aggressively and added grain.

Times Square-1-3

As a final word, I remain opposed to heavy handed HDR.  On the other hand, I can imagine particular scenes, such as these from a sparsely populated gloomy Times Square, when use of the technique and produce interesting results.  HDR is a great tool when used judiciously and appropriately.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.