Saturday, July 31, 2010

Photographing people in natural light

Perhaps you are like I am when it comes to photographing people. I'll see an interesting face, and imagine it as a photograph, particularly if the light is interesting also. But I hesitate to approach people with a camera, feeling intrusive. Of course, the fact is that most people are flattered when you take an interest in them. So let's be courageous, genuinely interested in the person, and arm ourselves with some suggestions with an experienced people photographer, Patrick Roddie.

Photographer Patrick Roddie is, according to the interviewer Marc Silber, perhaps the most well-known Burning Man photographer. Although this annual gathering in the Nevada desert is known for demolishing inhibitions, Roddie in the interview provides some universal tips for successful natural light portraits. Here are some of the take-aways I found, perhaps you will find others:

Natural light portrait tips from Patrick Roddie . . .
  • Most important is to keep people at ease by maintaining eye contact. Maintain contact with your eyes while you are talking to them, then raise the camera to make the exposure, lower the camera and continue the eye contact.
  • Don't fuss with the camera, as this will break the contact. Keep the photography setup simple - one lens, one focal length, one mode, if you need to, so that the photography is automatic and does not interfere with the rapport.
  • Without focusing on equipment, be sure to have backups in the event something is broken or your battery runs down. Have an extra body and backup lens available. "Don't get stranded if your one body jams up or your lens drops in a puddle".
  • Be ready. Have a "go to bag" with your basic equipment in it and ready to go. Preparedness begins with the end of the last shoot, when you make your backups, clear out your cards, charge batteries, etc.
  • For good light, go near something bright that reflects light into shadows. But watch the color of the reflected light - "grass is horrible".
  • "I don't create light; I try to find light".
  • On composition - remove anything that is not essential to the photo. Move around and back and forth to get rid of the post or whatever in the background. But if there is a background distraction, keep eye contact and keep shooting to maintain the connection as you move to get it out of the frame.
  • Have an "autopilot" mode that you are totally comfortable with so you don't have to fuss with the camera. It can be Program mode, if necessary, and equipment that you are extremely familiar with, so that you can "just go and do it", and concentrate on what you are seeing as opposed to the camera.

Marc Silber interviews Patrick Roddie about his technique for natural light photographs of people.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Window Light

Here are a couple of my favorite photographs - my brother and his wife with their first child. They are also a good example of the quality of ambient light. I like to use natural light whenever possible for portraits. Diffused windowlight always gets me excited. Directional, yet soft, it wraps around the subject with an easy transition from the highlight to shadow side of the face. The transition can be eased even more with a reflector held by an assistant just out of the frame. Notice that the subject is not in the direct sunlight, and is set off a bit to the side in the diffused light. Taken in Virginia City, Nevada in 1974, using a twin lens 2-1/4 Mamiya C330f with a 55mm lens.

Monday, July 26, 2010

March 7, 2007 Announcing "A Journey Into the Heart of Oaxaca"

In October 2006 my son Eric Mindling of Traditions Mexico organized a family trip that took us from the city of Oaxaca to the highlands of the State of Oaxaca in the far south of Mexico. Eric has been providing these unique backcactus journeys through Traditions Mexico for over ten years. This was my first book published via Blurb, and I am very happy with the quality, from the reproduction of the photographs, to the good quality paper, binding, and dustcover. You can take a look at it here. It looks pretty good on a large monitor, but of course a copy in your hands is so much better!

January 27, 2009 Golden Hour HDR

Squeezing the brightness range of a scene into the limited capability of photography, especially with color slides and now with digital, has always been a problem. The solution has been to make a choice - expose for the shadows and lose detail in the highlights, or expose to hold that detail, but turn the darker areas into black holes. Now the high dynamic range (HDR) technique provides a solution, at least for static subjects.

Here is an early attempt of mine that got me excited about the method. Four exposures were made on a tripod. The aperture was kept constant and the focus set to manual, so that nothing changed except for the amount of exposure which was varied by about one stop between images using the shutter speed.

The four images were then fed into Photomatix, a popular HDR computer program. The result captures the detail in the bright sky, as well as the delicate shadows of the stones and grass in the forground. The photo was taken in the Olmstead area of the Auburn State Recreation Area. These rolling oak woodlands are a favorite haunt, especially in the "golden hours" just after sunrise or before sunset

January 11, 2010 Not a Photography Project

This fun car, a 1974 Triumph TR6, has been waiting for 15 years under a tarp in the garage. Restoration has been planned as a retirement project. In the beginning of 2010 I decided it was too fine a toy to leave there any longer. The pictured task involves removing the wood dash which will be replaced with a nifty new one with a deep satiny finish. Whether anything electrical in the car will work again remains to be seen.

Photography is not forgotten, though. This event must be documented. So I set my Nikon D300 on a tripod and used a remote to fire off five exposures in quick succession. The aperture was fixed at f/11 and the shutter speed varied by one stop between exposures. The five images were then combined in Photomatix to create a high dynamic range image (HDR) image, capturing detail from highlights to shadows.

June 1, 2010 It's official - Traditions Mexico Tours announces Tony's unique photography workshop

Click here for the full hype.

July 23, 2010 The old guy spends a fun day in the new digs spiffing up the old web site . . .

I decided for some reason that the world needed another blog. This initiated the sequencing tasks of adding the selection to the menu, improving the menu system, improving the page header, then the footer, and general housecleaning. By the time I got to the point of adding actual content I was pretty well wrung out. But it was a fun afternoon working in my new office/studio, the air conditioner purring, while outside it was once again over 100 F. The tools are Dreamweaver and Photoshop CS4.