Category Archives Photography

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You guys know (at least I hope you know) that I read every comment you guys post on blog. I answer as many as a I can; I fix problems that you guys point out, and I really value your input and advice.

When I did my post about my guest instructor gig at Joe McNally’s Workshop in St. Lucia, I saw a comment posted that really made me stop and sit up. It was a criticism, but he did it in such a kind, respectful way, that I really had to give it its due. He said that my photos didn’t look nearly as sharp as the photos on Joe McNally’s blog, and he thought I must be doing something wrong.

He was right
I scrolled down the post, looked at the photos, and I thought the same exact thing. They do look soft. I called Matt’s extension; read him the comment, and he pulled up the post on St. Lucia, and he agreed, but he pointed out something important: he told me to look at the shot of the Garvey, the fireman on the red wall. Then he told me to click on it to see the larger version of the image. The larger image was tack sharp. He asked me to compare that to the smaller image embedded in the story, and sure enough; it was really soft in comparison. (Here’s the link to the story so you can compare the two images).

That’s when it hit me
I used to make two separate sizes of photos that get uploaded to my blog: one at 516 pixels wide, and one that’s 12″ wide which appears when you click on the smaller image. But for the past year or so, I’ve been letting WordPress (the software that runs my blog), automatically resize my larger image to make the smaller 516 pixel image that appears embedded in the story (as seen above). I know—what was I thinking? It sounds so stupid now, and that’s exactly how I feel.

A Lesson Learned
So I asked my assistant and digital tech Brad about it, and he told me he always resizes the images separately when he posts the Guest Blog images on Wednesday, and he built Photoshop actions (and Mac Automator scripts) to do all the work for him. I feel even dumber now, if that’s even possible. Anyway, Brad was kind enough to share those actions and Automator scripts with me, and from here out I’ll be sure to resize the images separately, so even the smaller images look sharp.

Anyway, I appreciate the “heads up” on this soft-image thing very much, and every time you guys let me know about a broken link, a misspelled word, or some other thing I’ve messed up on the blog, it’s very much appreciated.

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If you’re registered to walk in one of our Photo Walks around the world, as a special bonus we’re giving you a FREE one-month subscription to our highly acclaimed online Photography, Photoshop, and Lightroom training, from Kelby Training Online.

You’ll be learning from industry icons like Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Myself, Jack Davis, Bert Monroy, Matt Kloskowski, Dan Margulis, Katrin Eismann, Rick Sammon, Dave Cross, Vincent Versace, Eddie Tapp, John Paul Caponegro, David Ziser, and a host of the most talented, gifted, and giving instructors in the world today.

When you log-in to your Photo Walk page, you’ll find the code to redeem your free month, and how to access your free training.

We’ve never done anything like this before, but we wanted to do something special for you guys, and we thought with all the photos you’ll have to process after the walk, having access to all this online training (accessible any where in the world), might really be helpful.

Thanks again to everyone walking, to our sponsors, and to our leaders. You guys rock! :)

Last week Mark Astmann from Bogen Imaging came by our studios, and showed us one of the coolest, and most anticipated, new battery-powered strobe systems ever, and well…you’ve just gotta watch the video below to see what all the fuss is about (Note: this is the same kit that Joe McNally was using for his shot of the diver in the water last week at his workshop in St. Lucia).

UPDATE: I just learned that the first shipment of these is due to hit B&H photo any day now, and they’re acceptings orders right now. Here’s the link to the “S” head two-head kit I talked about on the video, but you can find all the Quadra gear there by searching for “Ranger Quadra.”

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I’m back from four days on the Island of St. Lucia in the Caribbean, as the Guest Speaker at Joe McNally’s Off Camera Flash workshop. The workshop was an even more amazing experience than I had expected, and I learned a lot more than just photography.

This week, I’m going to share some different things I learned as an instructor, as a student, as a guest in a very special resort (more on this in a moment), as a businessman, as a husband, a father, and as a photographer (it’s amazing what you can absorb in just four days).

It’ll probably make a separate post each day this week to share these lessons, and I’ll weave my stories in alongside some of the other important things happening in this; the week leading up to my Worldwide Photo Walk on Saturday. But as I’m sitting here on the five-hour flight from St. Lucia to Atlanta, (and then a short hop home to Tampa), all this stuff is swirling around in my head, and I’ve got to get it down on paper (even if it’s not really paper).

First, we’ll start with the shot up top. I arrived after the workshop was already underway, and after checking in at the resort, I headed down to the beach to catch Joe’s sunset shoot at the beach.

When I got there I high-fived my assistant Brad Moore, who was already there assisting on the shoot, and then watched as Joe waded offshore with a local scuba diver to do a portrait, along with his assistant Drew holding a large Elinchrom Rotalux softbox with flashhead attached, as one of the students (A great guy from Texas named Clint) held the small Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery pack and cables (more on this later in the week, when I post a video we did here in the studio on the Quadra).

It was just a one-light shoot, using a single studio light on location, but man did Joe make that one light sing! Check out the final image on Joe’s blog (here’s the link).

More Proof it’s a Small World
The next morning, we headed into the small town of Soufriere, so we could do some street shooting. After wandering the streets for an hour or so, we met up with our guide from the hotel, and he mentioned that there was a fire station nearby if we wanted to drop by and see if they’d let us shoot their trucks, so we headed over there.

A student from our group got about 100 yards ahead of us, and got to the station first. A fireman was standing outside, and he saw the photographer’s Canon camera and said, “Hey, I’m a photographer. I’ve got a Canon DSLR, too!” They started chatting and the fireman asked the student, “Hey, do you read Scott Kelby’s blog?” (I kid you not!). The student tells the fireman that I’m actually part of the group, and of course, he thinks the guy is pulling his leg until McNally and I come around the corner 30-seconds later.

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The firefighter’s name is Garvey Charlemagne (that’s a portrait I took of Garvey above), and he’s an avid photographer, and just a wonderfully gracious, kind, and incredibly patient guy as he let the class make portraits of him, in full gear, for around an hour, and it was Caribbean island-hot down there (that’s real sweat, in other words).

Although my blog connection to Garvey might have gotten our foot in the door at the fire station, watching Joe work in this environment was a master class unto itself. Joe just has a way of ingratiating himself in any situation, and within minutes these firefighters, were rolling out the red carpet to do anything Joe needed to “get the shot.”

He had them do everything from move firetrucks, to dress up in full gear, to doing group shots with the entire department (including the Captain in his full parade best), to pulling out all sorts of gear, posing in different locations—you name it. They were so taken with Joe, and he worked the scene like such a pro, that everybody, firefighters included, had a blast.

On the flipside of this; Joe does something for them, which I think is very, very important; he immediately sends them the best finished images from the shoot. (They may not at first know what it means to have Joe McNally make your portrait, but they soon will).

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Here’s Joe and I posed with Garvey (photo by Steve Rogers), after the shoot. A big thanks to all the guys at the Soufriere Fire Dept., and a special thanks to my blog reader Garvey. You guys were awesome!!!

Ya Just Have to Know What to Ask
I have a running joke with Joe. When we were walking the backstreets and alleys of Sufraire, I put the camera to my eye and shouted ahead to Joe, “Hey Joe, you been shootin’ much HDR??” He turned toward me, and I took the shot below, which pretty much says it all.

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Can Joe Pick a Workshop Location or What!!!!
Our host resort for the workshop was the fabulous Jade Mountain hotel, which has already become a favorite hideaway of celebrities (which we knew), but what nobody knew until the third day of the workshop was that Travel & Leisure magazine had just named the hotel the #3 best hotel in the world (the first time in history a Caribbean hotel had made Travel & Leisure’s exclusive Top 10 List). Believe me; these accolades are well deserved—-I’ve never seen anything like it.

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Here’s the view from my room (they call them “Sanctuaries” and they’re well-named). It’s a 17-photo pano; taken hand held, standing inside my room. It’s 62 inches long at 240 ppi.

It stitched together perfectly; totally seamlessly, without any input from me, all in Photoshop CS4 (well, I selected the photos inside of Lightroom, then chose “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop.” I’d do a tutorial on it for you, but there’s nothing to show. Select 17 photos; choose “Merge to Panorama in Photoshop” and then wait a few minutes and it’s done.

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This one was taken from the breakfast table in my room. It’s not a pano. I just cropped it that way in Lightroom.

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This isn’t the lobby. This is the hotel room they gave me as an instructor. I kid you not. This is where they put me up. My wife and I walked in, and our jaws hit the floor. There’s only one wall (on the left) with a 14-foot high door, so basically 1/3 of the room has a wall, and the other 2/3 are wide open to the sea. But it gets better.

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There’s actually an Infinity pool in my hotel room. It has steps down into it, and then it’s around 5-feet deep. It’s not a hot-tub—it’s much bigger—it’s a pool, and it’s amazing (as is the view).

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Here’s where I shot the first pano from. That’s the canopy bed on the left. The room came with a full time butler who was fantastic, and I could go on and on, but it was immediately clear why this hotel was awarded the #3 hotel in the world. I can’t imagine what you’d have to do to #2. The service was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and the entire resort, and its staff, made sure everyone; instructors and students, had an experience of a lifetime.

Thanks to Nick and Karolin Troubetzkoy, the owners of the Jade Mountain Resort, who have created a magical place where you can unwind and relax at a level like no place else. (Check out their Website, or follow them on Facebook).

There’s more to Come
I’ve got so much more to share, but they’re closing the aircraft doors for our connection down to Tampa, and it’s already really late. I’ll have some insights on the workshop, on learning, and Joe, and a whole lot more, but I just had to share a few fun stories to kick things off.

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Nikon has just released a new site, called the “Nikon D-Movie Screening Room” that features high-definition video clips shot entirely with their DSLR’s that have built-in video capabilities (the Nikon D90 and D5000 cameras).

I have to say, it’s pretty amazing to see what can be done, thanks to the ability to use Nikon camera lenses (and the shallow depth of field that the right lens can bring), and if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about on putting video in DSLRs, this will make you a believer. Here’s the link—-take two minutes and check it out.

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With the 4th of July coming up tomorrow (The 4th is Independance Day in the US, and we celebrate with Fireworks), I thought I’d run a quick blurb from Vol. 1 of my book, The Digital Photography Book on how to shoot Fireworks (like I did last year around this time). Here ya go:

You’ll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you’re going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you’re really after.

Also, this is where using a cable release really pays off, because you’ll need to see the rocket’s trajectory to know when to push the shutter button—if you’re looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.

Next, use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) so you can get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the background (like fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World), then use a wider lens.

Now, I recommend shooting in full Manual mode, because you just set two settings and you’re good to go:

  1. Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
  2. Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.

TIP: If your camera has “Bulb” mode (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great–hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. (By the way; most Canon and Nikon digital SLRs have bulb mode). The rest is timing—because now you’ve got the exposure and sharpness covered.

Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy fourth, and I hope you capture some great images this year!

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