Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Word of the Day

The Word of the Day produced by Miriam Webster Dictionary at m-w.com is a feed I subscribe to. Love it. Enjoy.
Here is today's word.

    The Word of the Day for June 24, 2008 is:
    procrustean • \pruh-KRUSS-tee-un\ • adjective

    1 : of, relating to, or typical of Procrustes

    *2 : marked by arbitrary often ruthless disregard of individual differences or special circumstances

    Example Sentence:
    The company abandoned its procrustean scheduling policy and began allowing single mothers and other employees to work more flexible hours.
    Did you know?
    Procrustes was one of many villains defeated by the Greek hero Theseus. According to Greek mythology, Procrustes was a robber who killed his victims in a most cruel and unusual way. He made them lie on an iron bed and would force them to fit the bed by cutting off the parts that hung off the ends or by stretching those people who were too short. Something "Procrustean," therefore, takes no account of individual differences but cruelly and mercilessly makes everything the same. And a "procrustean bed" is a scheme or pattern into which someone or something is arbitrarily forced.

    *Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence

Thursday, June 19, 2008

full moon

I brought out the big lens tonight and shot a picture of the moon. Evidently last night it was a full moon and quite large. And I have heard it said that more babies are born on full moon nights than any others. Well, we got a new nephew last night around 11pm with that big moon in the sky. Congrats Emily and Kammon on your new Boswell LeGrand Walker!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


When I have some time at work I love to watch and read tutorials on photography; especially lighting, Photoshop, etc. Today I was watching a couple of tutorials by wedding photographer David Ziser . His tutorial was on indoor lighting techniques. So after the kids went to bed, I pulled out the camera and flash and tried out what I had learned. I thought I would share, because I think every photographer (whether a snap-shot-mommy or daddy or an SLR shooter) could benefit from these tips. I know I have.

The setting is this... you take a portrait indoors and the subject is well lit, but the background is just too dark... as in this example:

This background isn't as dark as some, but it will have to suffice in illustrating the point... I have taken plenty of shots where the subject appears to be in a black hole. So how do I overcome the dark-background blues?

Here's the run down. If you have an instant camera or an SLR and you are shooting in Auto or Program mode, set the flash to "Slow Flash". This allows the camera to set the correct exposure for the background AND light your subject with the flash --this way both your background and your subject are well lit. One way to think of it is like a fill flash*.

The image is essentially handled as two scenes, with two sources of light: 1) the ambient room light that lights your background. 2) the light from your flash that lights your subject. The technique is to expose for the ambient light in the room and then use your flash as a highlight to your subject. (Watching the tutorial can help one understand this better).

So when I set my camera to Slow Flash, I get an image like this:
Here the subject and the background are lit. Something to note: the darker the background, the more steady your subject must stay, because the setting on the camera exposes for the darker background and the shutter must stay open longer in order to allow the ambient light to enter the picture.

Another example of Slow Flash is when we were up at my parents house for a dinner. It was fairly dark outside and I was using the flash inside. I wanted to light the outside as well, so I set the camera to Slow Flash. The shutter speed ended up at 1/30 at f2.8 ISO 200. The 1/30th shutter speed allowed the outside to be exposed correctly while the flash took care of lighting the inside correctly. Remember, this is all in Auto mode, no decision making necessary (other than setting flash to Slow Flash).

You can see that the subject is well lit, but the background is lit as well, allowing for a more complete image (note that the inside light appears warmer because the camera automatically white balances for the flash, which in turn makes the outdoor light appear colder (more blue). See warming with CTO tutorial.

For the techies who are shooting in Manual mode or just want a challenge: you can try this: expose your shot for the background and then stop it down about 1 stop (allowing the background to be just a smidge darker than your subject). I used f5.6 per David Ziser's recommendation. And it was shot at about 1/5 of a second (pretty slow). The flash was about 7 feet from my subject, so I set the flash at 1/4 power. I like to use off-camera flash, as illustrated below, because I find it gives the subject more dimensionality.

The image came out as such:

It may require watching both of David's tutorials in order to understand what I am trying to convey here, but they are well worth it... and can definitely be applied to every-day photographs.

*a fill flash is used when your subject is darker than your surroundings (say a portrait in the shade but with a sunny day behind them). The picture is exposed for the sunny day and the flash lights your subject to fit that exposure.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

It's late on Father's Day, and the house is quiet. I am reminiscing about my father's good influence on me... so I must write.

1. He taught me to enjoy traveling. From traveling within the fine state of Utah to around the globe. He taught me to appreciate other cultures and peoples.

2. He taught me to love scouting. He supported my scouting endeavors, went on many camping trips and other adventures with me. He taught me many important skills and much knowledge as we worked on merit badges together.

3. He taught me discipline. He is a hard worker and enjoys working, especially in the yard. He taught me to discipline myself in school and at work in order to feel good about an honest days work. And to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Even sending me to the ranch for a couple of weeks to haul hay (with a tractor) when I was about 14.

4. He taught me to have many interests. My dad encouraged me to be a well-rounded person. He supported me in sports and recreation, in musical talents and hobbies, scouting, working (picking pineapple when I was 15) and many other hobbies along the way... from doing magic shows to caring for multiple pets.

5. ...to be faithful to my family and my religion, by his example of a faithful steward.

6. ...to be neat, orderly, and clean. If not by example, by principle. No, he taught me to be clean and organized, even though he and my mother can be considered a little bit pack-rat-like.

7. ...to have confidence in myself and in my abilities to contribute to my family and my community.

8. ...to set my goals high and work to achieve them. He always ensured that I set goals and reviewed them often. He gave me encouragement to work towards them and gave me ideas of how to accomplish them.

9. ... to be frugal; yet willing to give to those in need. Many times I saw him secretly give money to families in need, anonymously.

10. ...to value relationships. My dad knows many people and values their relationships. He makes friends wherever he goes. And he remembers those friendships.

11. ...to be assertive, not agressive; just assertive. A man needs to stick up for himself, his family, his religion, and his freedom. Those things that are of value to him.

12. ...to value the gospel of Jesus Christ... missionary work, temple work, and our personal covenants with our Heavenly Father.

Well, thanks Dad for all you have done for me and all you do now. Thanks for loving and accepting Amber and me. And thanks for being such a great grand-dad too.

I love you. You are "the world's greatest dad" to me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

2400 North

so, probably everyone has seen this one... but we have a couple of motorcyclists that like to drag down 2400 North occasionally. We don't much care for it. Here's an idea...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


So here's one for the photoshoppers out there... I was reading an assignment by the Strobist today and I wondered if it could be accomplished on photoshop. Here's my attempt...before (as shot)...

and the after...

I'm no guru on using flashes or gels or anything, but here is my understanding of the technique with materials. The CTO gel is a colored material that goes over your flash to bring a warming tone to your picture... to the area that is flashed. So the camera is set to a white balance of Tungsten. This produces the cold (blue) colors in the background (the non-flashed area). The subject is lit by flash with the warming filter. This compensates for the tungsten white balance and warms your subject to give that golden sunset appearance that is so warm and appealing.

Before I go on though, I must add that Dave Black does an incredible job (in my opinion) of this type of work with materials. He is a professional photographer that I really admire the work of and he explains his techniques on his website , if you are interested.

So to accomplish this in photoshop, here is my layers palette.

I first opened the image in Camera Raw. I simply set the white balance to Tungsten and opened a copy of the image in photoshop.
Secondly, I went back to Camera Raw and opened another copy set at "As Shot". I warmed it up a little with the Temperature slider.

I then placed both images on the same palette as layers (Layer 0 is the warmed image and Layer 1 is the Tungsten image)
Next, I masked Layer 1 to expose the warm layer below (using different brush opacities) - I focused on the skin tones and hair, leaving the clothing to the tungsten layer for added temperature contrast.
Then I copied Layer 0 to add some lighting effects to make it look like the flash was a little above and right of the camera (thus lighting Scotts face better) I masked that layer so that it looked like a more even light from my "flash"
I adjusted the opacity and levels of that Layer 0 copy.
I darkened my tungsten layer so that my subject stood out more.
and finally, I cloned some of the background (not shown on layers palette) to get rid of the blown out area.