Category Archives Photography

Tie Interceptor: Full Size Replica
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Hey everyone, RC here. I was chatting with Scott a couple of days ago about my experiences at the Star Wars Celebration that just happened in Orlando, FL – and he thought it a good idea to share them here on the blog. I was happy to oblige! [NOTE: RC is being kind here. I absolutely loved his images, and the story behind them, and I begged him to do a post about it—Scott].

I walked into this opportunity not really being a Star Wars fan. I’d seen the second half of the movies as a kid, but never really got around to watching the three prequels. For the most part, I don’t watch a lot of movies, so it wasn’t something that I felt I was missing out on.

Why I Went
elvis-1What attracted me to go to this convention was passion. I’m a passionate person by nature – you kinda have to be to work here. Because of that, I find myself attached to people who are really into being passionate about things. I don’t follow sports, but i’ve always wanted to be friends with one of those superfans who paint themselves with the letter D and hang out by a stadium.

I mean, i’m the guy who drove by myself a ton of hours to go to the “RC Cola Moonpie Festival”. I love talking to people about the things that they love talking about. The sparkle in a person’s eye is just awesome- I guess it’s why I enjoy environmental portraiture as much as I do. To be able to go to a place where people get dressed up to pay tribute to something that they love was just something that I couldn’t pass up.

I packed a bunch of lights in my car and headed out to the convention. I was prepared for anything – from small lights to a pack and head scenario. More often than not, i’m usually the guy that’s packing 6 strobes so this isn’t entirely out of character. It’s the McNally in me. Last minute – I threw my tripod in the car, not really knowing why.

Check out the rest of the story by clicking on the link below…

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Yesterday Nik Software announced a brand new HDR plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom (and compatible software) for creating HDR images called “HDR Efex Pro” (that’s it shown above).

It’s slated for release sometime in October, but I’ve been playing around with a pre-release version, and I have to say—-it’s pretty cool. True to Nik form, it’s got a great interface. I particularly like the previews of the built-in presets along the left side, and the fact that Vignetting, Levels, and Curves adjustments are build right in, so after you’re done with the Tonemapping, you don’t have to head back to Camera Raw for final tweaking—you can do it all right in the plug-in.

Plus, it has “Viveza-like” control points which let you adjust individual areas in the image. The noise seems very low too, which is big.

Anyway, head over to http://www.niksoftware.com and check out their great video on HDR Efex Pro (click on the video on the lower left side).

Hi Gang: I had so many requests yesterday about how I did the frame around my Maine images, I thought I would include it here today.

I originally did this tutorial for NAPP members, and it ran on the NAPP member Website nearly a year ago, but I’m running it here today, because if you’re a NAPP member—well…..you’ve already seen it. Anyway, there’s an extra technique in here as well (a matting technique), along with the frame technique. Hope you find it helpful. :)

Hi Gang: I took last week off and headed up to Kennebunkport, Maine with my family for a week of just doin’ nuthin’. It’s so hot down in Florida, my wife wanted to spend a week someplace where you didn’t break into a sweat just looking out the window, so off to Maine we went.

Although we were there for a week, I only went “shooting” twice (well, technically two and half times, as you’ll read in a moment). Once when we took a one-day trip up to Bar Harbor (about four hours away), and once with my buddies Scott Eccleston and his photography business partner Mark Hensley (both of whom I met on my first trip up there back in July of 2007). Here are a few shots I got along the way (I haven’t gone through all of them—I had a flight to catch).

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Above: So there I was—-it was almost sunset, and I’m all alone, paddling down a creek just outside Old Orchard Beach as a came upon this beautiful area of still water. I tried to keep the boat still as not to disturb the still water, I slowly reached for my D3 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Steadying the canoe with one hand, I did my best to keep my heavy camera still with the other, while a huge snake slithered right along side the canoe, and….aw, who am I kidding—this is a totally set-up shot.

Scott and Mark positioned the rental canoe at the water’s edge for me, while I got down on one knee, with my tripod, in the parking lot and composed the shot so you couldn’t tell I was two feet in front of our minivan. Hey, I had ya going for a minute there, though didn’t I? So, it’s all real, but I wasn’t in the boat, which is a good thing, because I would have capsized it for sure.

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Above: This shot above was taken in Bar Harbor one morning. I missed sunrise (which was at 5:45 am), and instead woke up at 7:05 am, got my self together and was out of the room five minutes later while my family was still asleep. Around 7:50 am I drove past this lake and I headed back, pulled off the side of the road, grabbed my gear and headed down to the lake shore. It was kind of a steep climb down through a bunch of slippery rocks and stuff, and sure enough—I fell and slowly tumbled down to the shore. Hit the ground with a thud. Luckily, I was fine (slightly bruised ego, but thankfully no one was around. My camera wedged in between some fallen tree limbs, so it survived too (just a little banged up—like me). At 7:50 am I had long since missed any great light that morning, but I kinda liked the shot anyway (especially since I had to take a fall to get it, so it probably looks a lot better to me than it does to you).

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Above: The foggy shot above was taken in downtown Bar Harbor. It was incredibly foggy at 1:00 pm in the afternoon (which is really odd to me, but apparently is very common there), and out of the mist the four mast schooner “The Margaret Todd” came in to the dock, and I snapped this foggy shot (though it was much foggier than it looks here). Just kind of a simple shot, but I like that you don’t see anything else.

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Above: There’s a little footbridge near a creek about 15 minutes from downtown Bar Harbor, and I got there right after the sun moved out of the nice cloud cover it had been in all morning. I waited for 45 minutes for it to move back into those clouds, but it never happened so I headed back for breakfast. On our way out of town late that afternoon, I came back, and the sun still wasn’t cooperating, but I snagged this one shot while crossing the bridge, which I thought was kind of interesting.

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Above: Toward the end of my stay, I hooked up with Scott and Mark, and they had a connection with a guy who owns an huge abandoned six story old factory, that’s about a hundred years old, and creepy as all get out (Well, only parts were creepy—the parts where we went down in the cobweb covered basement with only my iPhone 4’s flashlight to light the way), but outside of that—it was an amazing place, and I got SO many shots to use as backgrounds. The shot above is a five-shot HDR image toned in Photoshop CS5, and I tried to keep more on the photo realistic side (not totally mind you, but more that way). This place had a ton of old rusty machinery, and old pipes, and it was an HDR love fest. I literally shot more HDR that day than I had all year. It was an awesome place.

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Above While we were in the creepy factory, I did a video tip on shooting long exposure HDR shots for Scott’s “WeeklyPhotoTips.com” blog  (an excellent blog by the way, which I’ve mentioned here previously—here’s the link—it’s a must visit blog), and the shot above is the image I created during the video tip. I’ll let you guys know when Scott puts the video tip up live). Anyway, when you’re shooting this much HDR you have to push one or two over the limit, right? So, that’s what I did above. I couldn’t help myself. ;-)

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Above—here’s the 1/2 shoot part: We were leaving at 12:00 noon on Saturday morning to head to the airport, and it was such a pretty morning that once I was up (around 10:00 am), I thought I would walk into town (about a 15 minute walk from our cottage), and take some shots of the homes along the way. I couldn’t decide whether to take my 14-24mm and capture the entire home, or a 70-200mm and get it tight. I wound up taking the 70-200mm, so my idea of shots of quaint Maine homes, became shots of quaint doorways, and I used Lightroom 3 to put quickly put this 24″ x 10″ multi-photo layout together (it took all of three clicks). It’s far from finished, but I thought I’d give you this “in progress” look in the meantime (click on it for a much larger view).

Once I got back from wandering, it was off to the airport, and we got home by midnight (all, the joys of connecting flights). It was great to get away right before Photoshop World Vegas (since I won’t get much sleep while I’m there), and it was fun reconnecting with Scott and Mark, and enjoying such a wonderful place with my family (the kid’s absolutely loved it!).

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Hi Gang: Just a quick update from Los Angeles where I just spent an amazing day with entertainment photographer Jeremy Cowart shooting two live on-location classes for KelbyTraining.com

I always feel like, if I take a class and I learn even one new thing, it was totally worth it. We were only about 30 minutes into Jeremy’s first class and I had already learned half a dozen new things. I was blown away! By the time the class was over, my head was swimming with new ideas, and things I just had never thought of. I called my wife at the end the day and here’s exactly what I told her:

“I learned more about photography today than I have in the past year!”

I’m not kidding. We filmed both classes in the same documentary style as our online class “A Day With Jay Maisel” but rather than doing a photo walk, instead we did a series of live location portrait shots in Venice Beach, California with Jeremy doing the shoots live with the cameras rolling, and I’m there asking him the same questions that I’d have if I were watching the class online. I also took your questions live via Twitter while we were shooting, and we had Jeremy answer your questions all day long during the shoots.

Two things I loved about these classes:

(1) Like Jay’s class, it wasn’t as much about the technical stuff (though he did share lots of settings all day long), but instead it was about the creativity, the vision, how to find and work locations, and how to get 10 different looks from one small area. And…

(2) He kept the lighting simple—using either just natural light or one flash with a small softbox, or a reflector. That’s it. What he got out of this simple set-up is just stunning, and you see exactly why he’s in such demand by TV networks, movies, big record companies, and celebrities.

Anyway, I had an amazing, eye-opening, exciting, and totally exhausting day, and now I’m beat, and headed back home with my crew, but man—what a day! One I won’t forget (and I can’t wait to try out all the new stuff I learned).

Thanks Jeremy—I can’t wait until these classes go live!

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What a perfect day! I just got back last night, I’m still grinning about the wonderful day I had shooting the Cubbies. Even though I was in/out the same day (flying up from Tampa for the game), it was totally worth it.

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Wrigley Field is truly a Magical Place
I had never been to Wrigley field before (one of the last classic iconic ballparks in America), and as much as I love Boston’s Fenway Park, I think Wrigley truly takes the cake. It’s everything from the hand-updated scoreboard, to the ivy in the outfield, to the way the park blends in, lives, and breathes with the surrounding neighborhood. I can’t imagine a better place to take in a game.

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(Above: An 8-frame pano taken from the 2nd deck, right behind home plate—click on it for a larger view)

Cubs Fans Rule!
The Cubbies are having a really tough year, but despite that, Cubs fans packed every seat and cheered their Cubs on as if they were just 1 game back (even when they were behind by 8 runs). I was really impressed with how the fans carried themselves. Very classy.

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Steve Green Rules!
Mike and I spent the day with Cubs Team Photographer Stephen Green (shown above), and he was an incredibly gracious host, and knew every nook and cranny of Wrigley, and how to get there fast. He’s a long time sports shooting pro, and he knew all the angles, all the best spots, and he made the day a lot of fun for us both. Everybody we met from the Cubs organization was just as gracious.

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Surprise of the Day
The Cubs were playing the Cincinnati Reds and I’m in tight on one of the Red’s while he’s at bat, and when I zoom out a bit I notice the name on the back of his shirt. Cairo. It was my friend Miguel Cairo (I did a location portrait shoot with Miguel back when he was with the New York Yankees. Here a link to that post from 2007).

Between innings I switched over to the photo pit near the Cincinnati bench, and I yelled over to Miguel. He saw me and came out of the dugout onto the field to give me a hug (I’m glad the folks from the Cubs organization didn’t see that one). I don’t know who was more surprised to see the other—-me or Miguel (he was with the Phillies last year).

I shot his next At Bat from the Reds bench view and sent him the photo you see above. One thing I particularly like about this photo is that you can see his eye looking down the line of his bat, right above his arm. I have two more frames taken a split second after this one with all three of them looking to the sky following the ball, and they all have a clearer view of his face, but they don’t have the drama that this one does seeing just that one eye. Anyway, it was my favorite of the three.

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My first real Chicago Style dog
OK, I had two (with all the fixin’s). I know, I know, somehow they’re better if you have them at Wrigley Field, but man, they were off the hook! It challenged my love of New York’s “Dirty Water” Sabrett hot dogs you buy on the street.

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(Above: I thought I’d try a fish-eye shot or two. Taken with a 10.5mm lens).

The Weather Man was Half Right
As I sat on the plane in the morning, I checked the Chicago weather. It showed a 0% chance of rain. When I actually landed in Chicago 2+ hours later, it was already raining. Luckily, the rain cleared (after a short 10 minute rain delay), and it was a beautiful day (well, it was if you’re coming from steaming hot, humid Florida).

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(Above: Another fisheye shot, but with the circular distortion fixed using Lightroom 3s built-in Lens Correction).

Getting Some Long Glass
I wanted to try out a different lens, so I rented a Nikon 300mm f/2.8 with a 1.4 tele-extender from LensProToGo.com (I love those guys—-highly recommended),  so it effectively became a 420mm f/4 lens. I also shot with a 200-400mm f/4; a 24-70mm f/2.8 (out wide at 24mm most of the time), or a 10.5mm fisheye. So I was either tight or really wide all day. For all the tight shots, I shot wide-open all day long at f/4 or f/2.8. For the few HDR shots and fisheye shots I took, I went to f/8 or f/11 to keep everything in focus. I included a few shots from the day here. Nothing great, but I still had a ball.

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(Above: That’s my buddy, photographer Mike McCaskey in a shot taken right after the game).

Seeing the Ivy up Close
After the game, Steve took Mike (above) and I out to see the famous outfield ivy up close, and to stroll around the park just hanging out and swapping stories. It was a perfect day.

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Even perfect days have to end
After the game, my buddy Mike and I headed to Carlucci’s Italian Restaurant in Rosemont for a great dinner, and then it was back to O’Hare for the flight home (I landed around midnight). Again, totally worth it. Luckily, my son waited up for me, and we stayed up late laughing and listening to some new tunes on his iPod until way too late. And I thought the day couldn’t get any better. :)  Thanks Mike, and Steve, for treating me to a day I won’t soon forget.

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