Daily Photo – Doa in the Window

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Doa leans against a storefront window in downtown Austin.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/125
  • Aperture:  f/1.2
  • ISO:  1600
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Composition and Processing

  • Night photography always feels like the “land of hard light” to me.  There’s no control over the lights, and diffusing them tends to make what little there is unusable.  I had seen this frosted glass storefront window a few times before and thought the glow might make for an interesting background.  I was also thinking the soft light through the window might dilute the hard shadows falling on it.  That mostly worked (the hard shadow on her left is visible but almost undetectable), although as a side effect I also picked up some blue fringe on the hood.
  • As interesting as the color and light distribution are (including the reflected lights from across the street), what really makes the background work are the window seam and lettering.  They turn the soft amorphous backdrop into an actual surface, with a specific relationship to the subject.
  • People should use hats, sunglasses and other props more often in portrait shoots.  Hats in particular can dramatically change a person’s look, even if their expression has been well covered in other shots.  Doa brought this sleeveless coat along mostly to keep warm, but the hood turned out to be a nice change of pace after a long day of shooting.

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May 03 2009 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – Doa Ready

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Doa poses on her board.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/250
  • Aperture:  f/5.6
  • ISO:  400
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L II USM

Composition and Processing

  • There are a crazy number of straight lines in this shot.  I mostly concentrated on those leading from the vanishing point in middle of the left edge to the corners on the right, directing the eye to Doa.  I was also concerned that any major lines did not intersect Doa in the wrong place (e.g. sticking out of her head).  So I positioned her very carefully inside as many framed areas as possible:  within the ground shadows, between two of the major roof beams, etc.  I didn’t get them all — there’s still the roof beam running through her neck and the rail running through her butt — but those were the least of the potential offenders.
  • Once Doa was in position, the only variations I made between shots were the direction she turned her head:  left, right, above the camera, straight at the camera and so forth.  I settled on this one for two reasons:  first, it was the most natural looking.  She looks more like she’s assessing where she’s about to go instead of standing in some forced pose.  Second, her head matches the bend of her body, and together they mimic the 90 degree angle formed by the roof support and adjoining beam.

Original:

April 13 2009 | Photography | 2 Comments »

Daily Photo – Doa in the Sun

The Daily Photo series focuses on the two or three key creative choices, in terms of composition and processing, that go into creating an image.  Specific technical details about the shot have been left out — you won’t hear me talking about tone curve adjustments and whatnot unless it was a key component of the end result.

Doa relaxes against the balcony railing while the sun sets in Austin, Texas.

Exposure

  • Shutter:  1/320
  • Aperture:  f/2.8
  • ISO:  200
  • Camera:  Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III
  • Lens:  Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM

Composition and Processing

  • What I originally wanted from this shot was a nice warm sunset to go with Doa’s casual pose and expression.  There are obvious lighting challenges:  the range from Doa’s face in shadow to the (relatively) bright sunset is too broad to be captured by a single shot.  I could have popped the camera on a tripod and taken multiple shots for an HDR exposure (or more likely, HDR that blended the best exposure of the subject back into the finished shot), but that’s pretty hard to do without creating weird halo effects or noticeably incongruous lighting.  So I underexposed Doa’s face as much as possible without clipping the shadows, hoping I wouldn’t clip too much of the sunset (or at least leaving enough information in there for me to add a color gradient or similar later).
  • In Photoshop I started using multiple layers to tweak the exposure of different parts of the photo.  The final image you see here was actually just one of the layers I expected to use for all or part of Doa herself.  I found I liked this layer as a complete shot.  I’ve lost any direct representation of the sunset, but still have a surge of light in the upper left to suggest the location of the sun on the horizon.  Doa herself is warmly lit, indirectly suggesting sunset light.  And the landscape below is likewise washed out in yellow-orange.  So here we have a sunset shot without, in the traditional sense, a sunset.  Does it work?  You tell me…

Original:

April 06 2009 | Photography | 2 Comments »