Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)

Ten Reasons Why I Love Capture One Pro (Podcast 702)

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After another three weeks with my head stuck inside Apple’s Xcode developing environment, and then a few more days struggling with a new eCommerce system that I’ll talk a little about later, I decided to come up for air today and talk about my favorite image management and editing software, Capture One Pro, from Phase One. As a Capture One Brand Ambassador a number of years ago I was asked for a few paragraphs about why I love this software, but after using it for four years now, and with no sign of jumping ship anywhere else, I figured it was time to put down my definitive list of reasons for still being head over heels in love with Capture One Pro.

I also have an announcement about a great page that the Phase One team has put together, and the chance for you to win a Capture One Pro license, so please stay tuned for that at the end of this episode!

1 – Image Quality

First and foremost, the reason I love Capture One Pro is it’s outstanding image quality. When I first tested Capture One back in 2016 to see if I was interested in using it, I imported around 50 images into a catalog and processed them, and I was instantly amazed by the amount of detail that I saw in my images. The shot that really showed me what I’d been missing is the Japanese Red-Crowned Crane portrait that I used on the cover of my Making the Print ebook. I had processed it high-key in Lightroom originally, but I was simply not aware that there was that much detail in the feathers when I saw my original photo.

Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison
Red-Crowned Crane Shot Comparison

In fact, these are the two photos that I used on the cover for the original release and for my 2018 release when Craft & Vision closed their doors, and I actually toned down the detail a little in the new version, because I was so accustomed to the original image at this point. Still, though, I’m sure you’ll appreciate that the difference is significant. The moment I saw this, I realized that I had to spend more time looking at what Capture One Pro could do for my photography.

2 – Excellent Black and White Conversion

The next reason is that I am able to create quality black and white images without using a plugin or other software. I was never really happy with Lightroom’s black and white capabilities and had been using Silver Efex Pro which I really liked, but I didn’t like having to save my images as TIFF or PSD files, which we’ll also get to shortly. In Capture One Pro though, I am able to convert to black and white with the control that I want, and, in true form, the image quality that I have become accustomed to.

Black and White Conversion
Black and White Conversion

The tonal range is excellent, and when necessary, I can easily create additional masks to modify things like the foreground rocks in this image with one mask and add a second mask to adjust the sky. Of course, generic adjustments to the entire image are still possible with the background layer. I’m going to put a video together showing more about this soon, but for now, if you are interested in seeing more about some of the masking and black and white conversion capabilities, check out the videos and other posts that I’ve already released on Capture One Pro here.

3 – Highly Customizable User Interface

I am also a huge fan of the highly customizable user interface of Capture One Pro. I don’t know if this should be visible by default in the latest version, because I generally continue to build on my originally saved Workspace, but as you can see from this screenshot, you can add Tool Tabs from the predefined tabs, or create your own Custom Tool Tab, and that gives you things like the Black and White tab that you can see in the previous screenshot, which I added and customized to my liking.

Highly Customizable User Interface
Highly Customizable User Interface

For example, the Black and White Tool Tab that comes with Capture One Pro contains the film grain tool, for adding artistic grain to images, but because I never use that, I simply remove it from the Tool Tab. I do use Layers a lot though, especially on my black and white photos, so I added that to my Black and White Tool Tab, along with the High Dynamic Range sliders, which I also use a lot.

4 – Most Edits Work on Layers

The other thing that I love is that pretty much all of the edits you can make to an image can be applied just to specific layers, including masks, as well as generically to the entire image. There are a few exceptions, such as the generic Black and White sliders because, at this level, you are telling Capture One Pro how to convert the entire image, although there is very granular color edibility that we’ll look at shortly.

Layer Adjustments
Layer Adjustments

The Vignette tool also works on the entire image or the crop, depending on your selection, but as you can see from this screenshot, there is a paint-brush icon next to all of the other tool headers. This indicates that the adjustments that you make with that tool can be applied to layers. These icons become visible when you select a layer in the Layers tool.

5 – Advanced Color Editor

I also love to work in color, and Capture One Pro gives me complete control over the color in my images, via tools such as the Advanced Color Editor. Here I took a screenshot of the same image showing the original raw photo, but also showing the processed image with the mask that I created to enhance the blue in the ice, and the final processed image. You can move the vertical bar separating the two views as well. On the left side, I have three views, and on the right side, I have the final processed image.

I created the mask by selecting the color with the color picker from the Advanced Color Editor, and then right-clicking the ellipsis in the top-right of the Color Editor and then selected Create Masked Layer from Selection. This is a great way to select specific colors for finely tuned adjustments. Here are the three images as regular files too, so that you can see them in the Lightbox by clicking on the images.

6 – Luminosity Mask

In the previous major update, Capture One was given one of the most useful features that I can recall for a few years, and that is Luminosity Masks. This enables us to select specific areas of the image based on a very fine-tunable luminosity range. I covered this in the following video that I release as episode 658.

7 – Keep My Images in Raw Format

As I mentioned earlier, removing my dependence on third-party plugins and programs meant that the vast majority of my images, and I’m talking pretty much 100%, are kept in their original raw image format. I also find that the editing tools, including cloning and healing, are good enough that I can avoid jumping into Photoshop or Affinity Photo to make larger changes for the vast majority of my images. Seriously, I save maybe one or two files each year in a format other than the original raw file, and this is huge for me. I really dislike having to round-trip to other software to work on my original image as keeping them in their original raw format gives us the ability to benefit from all future processing engine updates.

Phase One isn’t just sitting on their thumbs, they release a major update to Capture One Pro pretty much every year, and each time they upgrade, there is potential to see even better image quality in my photographs. If my images are stored as a TIFF or PSD, or any other third-party file format, I have to go back and redo any work that I did on my original because that was baked-in to my copy. Because all of the changes I make to my images are stored as instructions and mask files etc. when I never leave Capture One Pro, nothing has to be redone when the processing engine gets updated. I can usually simply press a button to update the image to the latest processing, and I’m done.

This also, of course, saves on disk space, as third-party file formats are generally much larger than the original raw files unless you are saving as JPEG, which should never be the case for the main archive version of your images anyway.

8 – Organization and Filtering Images

Although I initially wasn’t overly happy that I had to split my one huge Lightroom catalog into multiple yearly catalogs when I jumped ship to Capture One Pro, I have become accustomed to my current workflow, and feel very comfortable to move between my yearly catalogs, as well as accessing all of my Final selects in a master catalog, as I explained in my previous post.

When I need to find images, the filters section provides pretty much everything I need to find specific images, based on my star ratings, gear selection or searching for the keywords that I add to my images as I archive them, or any EXIF data, including that which I added myself to scanned film photographs.

Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF
Scanned Film Filtered by Custom EXIF

Note that in this screenshot, I’m showing medium format film that I tagged with Phil Harvey’s ExifTool and my own custom script that I use for walking through a folder of images tagging each as I go. There is no way that I’m aware of to enter data into the camera EXIF field with Capture One Pro alone, but it uses data that you add like any other camera.

9 – Workflow Speed

It’s also possible to customize the keyboard shortcuts for most of the commands in Capture One Pro. This helps us to tailor our workflow to our own needs and allows us to really streamline the workflow, which leads me to one of the largest benefits I’ve found after improved image quality, and that is the overall speed with which I’m now able to work through my images.

In the past I would leave my location workshops with at least a number of days of images unprocessed because I simply didn’t have time to process and select my images each day. Now though, I leave every tour with every day except the last completely processed. I go through and make tweaks to my selection before saving my final selects, but I’m generally caught up by the time the tour finishes.

As an example, one of the biggest time savers for me has been the ability to create a keyboard shortcut that copies all of the changes I’ve made to an image to the clipboard, and then apply them to future images with a second shortcut. I use SHIFT + COMMAND + C to copy my adjustments, and SHIFT + COMMAND + V to apply them to other images. As I go through similar images this saves me heaps of time, and as the image content changes requiring changes to my copied adjustments I simply update the copied adjustments and continuing pasting until it needs changing again.

10 – Tethered Shooting

The last thing that I wanted to mention is the ability to shoot tethered. I left this until last because I don’t do it often, but when I need to, I really enjoy having the ability to do this right there in Capture One Pro. When you first connect a supported camera, you get one dialog that asks if you’d like to register your camera with Capture One Pro and literally it’s just one click, and you get access to all of the controls that you see on the left side in the Capture Tool’s Live View Window here.

EOS R Live Tethering
EOS R Live Tethering

As you can see, you can control most of the aspects of the camera right from the Live View window, including even making very fine adjustments to the focus, and, of course, releasing the shutter, so if you do focus stacking, this is a great way to work. I’ve also found it very useful when doing portrait work, as being able to see the images on the computer as we shoot makes for a very dynamic shoot, and once again, really speeds up the workflow.

Essentially, Capture One Pro is just that, a Professional image editing package that provides the tools and image quality required to satisfy even the most discerning professional photographer, but these benefits are available for anyone that forks out for a license.

Win a Capture One Pro License!

On that note though, as I mentioned at the beginning of this episode, I have a Capture One Pro license to give away and wanted to invite you to take a look at an amazing resource that the Capture One Pro creators have put together, called the 30 Day Challenge. I’m not going to ask you to watch every video, but do take a look and watch the videos on areas that you are interested in. If you are new to Capture One Pro, this really is an invaluable resource.

If this all whets your appetite enough to give Capture One Pro a try, please do download the fully functional 30 day trial version, with no credit card required, and take it for a spin yourself. I had been meaning to try Capture One for years, and finally set an afternoon aside to do it in the summer of 2016, and from that first photo that we looked at earlier, I was hooked. My photography is simply better and I enjoy my photography more now that I use Capture One Pro, and that is why I’m happy to recommend it to you.

To enter for your chance to win the license that I have, I would like you to do two things, in addition to downloading the trial, and that is to write one paragraph describing what you liked about Capture One Pro, and link to one photograph or blog post that you can share based on your experience. Please post these below in the comments, and make sure that you use a valid email address for your comment, so that I can contact you if I select you as the winner. Your mail address will not be visible to anyone else, and I will not share any of the email address with anyone, including the folks at Phase One, the makers of Capture One Pro. We aren’t harvesting addresses, we just want you to have fun, and get the most out of your photography.

The deadline for entries is May 25, 2020, and I’ll announce the winner shortly after that. Also, please only enter if you do not already own a current Capture One Pro license. Let’s give people that haven’t already got one a chance to win.

New Digital Products Store

New Store Screenshot
New Store Screenshot

One last bit thing that I’d like to share with you is that I have just created a new digital products store via FastSpring, that enables me to offer downloadable products with a streamlined checkout process, in a multitude of currencies, while staying on top of worldwide sales taxes which is becoming a full-time job in itself.

At the moment you can buy my eBooks and Fine Art Border scripts, as well as my Viewfinder Mockup files, and a more streamlined monthly desktop wallpaper subscription with a 12 image Starter Pack. At the time of recording, I’ve had to use just basic links for the wallpaper subscription, but the actual checkout and delivery process is already much smoother.

If you are finding yourself stuck indoors self-isolating during these difficult times, hopefully, my eBooks will help you to fill some free time that you might have, so to celebrate the opening of my new digital products store, I’m offering a 30% discount off all of the currently available products below, until the end of May 3, 2020. Just use the code NEWSTORE30 when you checkout to claim your 30% discount! And if you know me, you’ll know that I don’t do sales very often, so don’t miss this chance if you have thought about picking up any of my digital products.

Although my general intention is to provide my digital products as popups throughout this website, you can also see all of the products together on FastSpring here and I’ll list them below as well: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/

Show Notes

Check out the Capture One Pro 30 Day Challenge here: https://www.captureone.com/en/explore/30-day-challenge

New FastSpring store: https://mbpkk.onfastspring.com/

Music by Martin Bailey


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Podcast 338 : Interesting Plainness – April 2012 Assignment Winners

Podcast 338 : Interesting Plainness – April 2012 Assignment Winners

Today we take a look at the five winning images from the April 2012 MBP Assignment, on the theme of “Interesting Plainness”. Turnout for this assignment was up again, which is great! Thanks to all of you that got involved and uploaded your images, and even if you didn’t upload an image, I hope you learned something in the process.

So, let’s jump right in and take a look at the incredible winning images for the Interesting Plainness assignment, starting with the fifth place winner, Jack Andrys, with “Cube”, and here’s Jack’s back-story…

Thank you for your votes, to have achieved 5th place was a total surprise for me and my congratulations to all the other place holders who obviously did better than myself. I had made a personal commitment to enter every monthly assignment this year and as the assignment deadlines come around I am reminded how short a month is nowadays. I was sitting at my desk looking at the images I had taken during the month with the assignment theme in mind, and I found myself rejecting all of them.

I had taken some shots of my three year old daughter’s doll house with a pinhole homemade lens but they just weren’t working for me. I did however learn that when making a pinhole lens you really need to make a very small pinhole for the image to work on a DSLR. I was trying to take an inside room shot with plain walls and furniture of the doll house yet having it interesting because of the pinhole effect and the miniaturization of the doll house; my daughter thought it was great to be playing together.

"Cube" © Jack Andrys

“Cube” © Jack Andrys

As to my image “Cube” with only an hour to go before the deadline for submissions I handheld the camera and captured the image which is of the room ceiling corner above my desk. My lighting was a desk lamp pointed up into the corner. The wide open aperture of 1.4 helped with taking the shot in poor light, but also helped with the use of a short depth of field to add confusion to the image. I then cropped and adjusted the image in Lightroom trying to make the image look as much as possible an outside corner.

Jack, I have to admit, that until I read your back-story, I really thought this was an outside corner of a cube. I think the element of confusion that you so masterfully added with the shallow depth-of-field here makes this work so well. We associate shallow depth-of-field with very small macro type images, which is of course why TS/E lenses also make us feel as though we’re looking at a diorama, or miniature model of a scene, rather than the scene itself.

It’s also an exercise in lighting, as the ceiling being brighter than the walls also makes us feel as though the cube is being lit from the top, with less light hitting the front two sides. I imagine this was probably more of a happy accident than something you calculated, although if it was calculated that would be even more remarkable. Still, kudos to you Jack for seeing this and working the crop etc. to accentuate the affect, and thanks for continuing your commitment to post a photo to each month’s assignment this year. I totally understand how these months fly by, and you are a busy man, so you really are a model MBP community citizen. Thanks so much.

In fourth place is Donald McGuire with “Linear”, and here’s Don’s back-story…

The High Line is a New York City linear park built on a 1.45-mile section of the former elevated New York Central Railroad spur called the West Side Line which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. It has been redesigned and planted as an aerial greenway, opening in 2009 . The rail line originally opened in 1934. The last trains operated in 1980 and it ultimately fell into decay until restoration started in 2006. Many cities have undertaken such rails to trails conversions. What is unique about this one, and especially significant for photography, is that is elevated. This provides a unique perspective of the many buildings and streets along the route.

"Linear" © Donald McGuire

“Linear” © Donald McGuire

On the morning of the 29th a group of us taking a local creative photography class met to see what we could make of the setting. I found this vantage point provided a perspective of the architecture that is not available from street level. The IAC (InterActive Corp) Building completed in 2007 is especially eye-catching with dominant lines, form and subtle changes in shading that really lent itself to this assignment. When viewed in its entirety the building resembles a bee-hive and is highly regarded in architectural circles. While I felt a full view of the structure was actually a more compelling photograph, I thought a tighter shot was more effective for this particular assignment, at a focal length of 105mm using a Nikon D300s.

As always thanks to the MBP community for the sustained collaborative and supportive environment. Of course, thanks to Martin for pushing us all forward since 2005, sharing his journey and enriching ours. For this assignment however I would like to also say thanks for ‘pulling me back’. It is so easy to be enamored of all the post-processing tools available to us in trying to make the plain look extraordinary that for me, this month, it was back to basics. Simply pressing the shutter hoping the plain could be made to look interesting.

Well, you are very welcome Don, on both counts. Although we have our friend Landon Michaelson to thank for the theme, I totally understand that simplicity and plainness is not as easy as one might think. You did an incredibly good job of it with your photograph “Linear” though. I am in awe of the tones in this image, and the lines are amazing. The gradation above and below each window looks so good it could have almost have been done in Photoshop anyway, but the fact that this is straight out of the camera is a tribute to the location, the perspective, and of course, your eye for the composition and ability to create the image. I love it. Thanks for getting involved Don and congratulations on fourth place.

Moving along, in third place is Elise Ange with “Emergence”, and here’s Elise’s back-story…

First, Congratulation to Wythe on his win with such an amazing image and to the others who placed. Thank you to all who voted for my entry.

"Emergence" © Elise Ange

“Emergence” © Elise Ange

This year, my project was to experience Spring. Too many years have gone by where work has consumed my time and I missed the wonderful colors that emerge with the season. I was at a local arboretum early one cloudy morning after some overnight rain when the light was just perfect. The red tulips were in one of the garden beds. This swirling petal of the opening bud made a simple tulip more interesting than the more common tulips that I normally see. Although I took many photos, this one fit the theme the best.

I made a small adjustment to the white balance and added some lens vignetting in Adobe Camera Raw to tone down the brightness of some unopened buds in the background. I made some other minor adjustment to increase the contrast and color. Thanks again, Martin, for another challenging theme.

Very well spotted Elise. I agree, that petal around the tulip adds a wonderful element of interest. The lines in the whole image are beautiful, and your post processing is very subtle, to the point that I’d never have guessed what you’d done, which should pretty much always be the case of course, but you’ve done it so well here. Excellent work as usual. Congratulations on third place Elise.

And in second place is Jason Dolbier with”egg”, and here’s Jason’s back-story…

Wow, thanks for the votes and congratulations to all the winners!! Thanks Martin for the great assignment, it was a challenge. I focused on the plainness part of the assignment first. I wanted to go as plain as I could. So i decided to play with white on white. After a thinking about it for a while I decide to go with an egg and a white background.

"egg" © Jason Dolbier

“egg” © Jason Dolbier

I used the 580 canon flash to separate the egg from the background with the egg’s shadow just outlining the top and left side of the egg. My goal was to make the shadow the interesting part of the photo. Once I got the shot I took it in to Silver Efex to convert the image to B/W then back to Lightroom to add a square crop to the image. I felt that this type of crop gave the final image a little more interest. Thanks again.

I totally agree Jason, I absolutely love this image! This is one of those images that makes me want to say that the only thing I don’t like about this image, is that I didn’t take it. It’s simply beautiful, and so simple, yet very effective. Kind of like Jack’s image that we looked at earlier, when I first looked at the thumbnail for this image, I thought it was a hole in something white, being lit from the front. I was amazed to see that it was an egg when I viewed the image full size.

The exposure and the lighting is perfect, and the tight crop, leaving very little of the shadow to the left, and removing the bottom and right side of the egg help to deepen the optical illusion you’ve created, as well as accentuate the curve of the top edge, down to the left side. Masterful work Jason! Thanks for getting involved, and congratulations on placing second.

And in first place is Wythe Whiting with “Snakes in grass”, and here’s Wythe’s back-story…

First off, thanks for everyone who voted for my image. This is my first first-place finish in a challenge since I joined the MBP forums 4 years ago. At that time, I remember being struck with how friendly, helpful, and encouraging people were here. We are lucky that we have such an oasis on the web — I’ve never run across a single other community like it, and I must give credit to the people here for my growth as a photographer.

As for my image backstory, I had decided to go out shooting one morning at our local woodland gardens. Though there were many flowers in bloom, I remembered being frustrated because I just couldn’t find an interesting subject to shoot. The flowers just weren’t holding my attention, and I remember actually being bored taking pictures of them. Do you ever get that feeling where you’re taking pictures, but you know that nothing’s really working? That was my morning.

"Snakes in grass" © Wythe Whiting

“Snakes in grass” © Wythe Whiting

I had finally wound my way to the end of the property where there was a pond with many grass reeds along the edge. I’ve walked past these on many occasions and would never think once about photographing them. But this morning, each reed had a single water droplet on the tip of the blade as if it had been squeezed out. I created a number of macro images of single blades, but the image I entered was the last shot I took that morning.

I was drawn to the two blades that had wilted over, and liked how they leaned in opposing directions. The light was already fairly low being in a heavily shaded area, but there was enough light reflected from the sky to highlight the tops of these two reeds and provide some good contrast.

I tried a number of things in post processing, but ended up settling on this low key version where the exposure was pulled down one stop. I also adjusted the black point and contrast to draw attention to blades in the foreground and to push the background in to black. In the end there’s a nice interplay of forms between the sharp vertical blades and the lazier curved blades, which to me resembled snakes.

Thanks again for a wonderful assignment. I haven’t had a lot of time for photography, but these assignments give me an excuse to get out shooting.

I’m pleased that the assignments get you out shooting Wythe, and I am very happy that you’ve enjoyed the time that you’ve spent with the MBP community. I totally agree that this remains the best community on the Web, with none of the petty bickering that you see so much of. I too am very happy to be a part of it.

Almost the opposite to Jack and Jason’s white images, you chose to go the other way, and darken it down, and this too works very well. Some people don’t like to see total blacks in photos, but I do this a lot myself. It think it works very well. It was great that you spotted those droplets, that surely do make the shot, as well as the lines, as you say, both verticals and the curves. It all comes together very well indeed. Congratulations on first place Wythe, and thanks for continuing to get involved.

Thank all five winners again for taking the time to get involved, and to post your back-stories to share with us all. Thanks also to everyone that got involved in the assignment. Whether you placed or not, I do hope you learned something by getting involved and giving this a try.

Show Notes

Music by UniqueTracks


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Podcast 333 : Food – Mar 2012 Assignment Winners

Podcast 333 : Food – Mar 2012 Assignment Winners

Today we take a look at the five winning images from the March 2012 MBP Assignment, on the theme of “Food”. Turnout for this assignment wasn’t great, which I guess proves what we already knew, that food photography isn’t as easy as you might think! Thanks to all of you that did get involved and uploaded your images, and even if you didn’t upload an image, I hope you learned something in the process.

So, let’s jump right in and take a look at the incredible winning images for the Food Assignment, and in fifth place, is Morton Goldberg with More Cookie Than Monster, and here’s Morton’s back-story.

More Cookie Than Monster © Morton Goldberg

More Cookie Than Monster © Morton Goldberg

March was a busy month and when the 31st came, I had not even made a start on the month’s assignment. If I was going to participate, I would have to do something simple — there was too little time remaining to do anything elaborate. That certainly meant that I wasn’t going to do any fancy food preparation of my own. I decided that baked goods were my best bet. There are bakeries in my area that produce luscious looking treats.

I visited the bakery in a local Whole Foods Market. It was near enough to Easter that they had a selection of pastries shaped as bunnies and baby chicks, but I was attracted to a tray of puff pastries decorated to look like muppet monster heads. I thought them amusing without being too kitschy.

I bought two. I was afraid, although each was carefully packaged in its own little box, there might be damage on the way home. Puffs are very delicate. I was right to be worried. Despite my trying to be careful, only one made it home in good enough condition to be photographed.

I used my trusty tabletop Lowel EGO light set-up to light the puff. This consists of two 16-inch square daylight fluorescent softboxes. This is an excellent kit for food photography. Actually, I think it was designed by Lowel with food photography in mind as its main application.

A confession: despite what my caption says, the subject is not really a cream puff, but a custard puff. I didn’t know that when I wrote the caption. I only found out later when I ate the puff.

I’m very pleased to have placed fifth with my rather hastily produced photo. My compliments to all those who placed above me for their excellent work. Also, I thank Martin for providing this assignment and for keeping them going. I know, Martin, you have heard this many many times, but it still bears repeating.

Well, thank you for participating, and especially this month Morton, as your photograph brings a broad smile to my face every time I look at it. You may not have made this yourself, but it’s a great find, and you lit it very well indeed. I think the light brown background matches the subject very well too, and even the fact that your little monsters right eye has been pushed half way out of its socket, adds an additional touch of humor to the subject. I really do like this one, congratulations on placing Morton.

Next up, in fourth place is Greg Anderson, with A Fancy Feast, and here’s Greg’s back-story.

A Fancy Feast © Greg Anderson

A Fancy Feast © Greg Anderson

First off, a big thank you to everyone who thought that my photo was good enough to vote for. I’m surprised that my first entry made it into the top 5!

I had been planning to pick a “theme of the month” contest to try and keep myself shooting, and since Martin’s podcast is one of my favorites, this seemed to be the natural place. By the time the holidays calmed down and I re-combobulated myself, it was March, and theme was food. Oh no! I barely have any culinary skills to make food, much less an eye to photograph it. But after a bit of thinking, I decided that since there was no stipulation that it had to be people food, I would try a different take on the topic.

Originally I thought I might have a scene with some cat food in the front (like it turned out) but have the feline face be visible, perhaps with some lip smacking going on, or some other appropriately catlike facial expression. But I quickly scratched that, knowing that it would be hard enough getting one of my cats to sit in the right place, never mind getting one of them to take posing directions. So I decided that a backlit, silhouetted cat with more direct lighting emphasis on the food was the way to go.

Setup was pretty basic: I put one gridded speedlite above the food, and one bare flash behind the cat’s seat on the floor, pointed at the blue background. It turned out to be easier than I thought to get a cat to sit by the small table I had set up, and about as easy as I thought to get said cat to sit in about the right pose. What I hadn’t counted on was tails: After my first round of shots, I found that over half of them had the backlight flash obscured partly by a swishing cat tail, since the flash was positioned right where the cat’s tail hung over the seat.

Disappointed with the results, I let it sit for a week or two. Even though I put the food away, I found that I almost always had cat sitting or sleeping on the seat, and they always had an expectant look on their face when I came into the room. The liberal use of cat treats during the previous session had made an impression, I guess!

When I finally came back to it, I had decided to add the glass of milk to the scene because having just the bowl of food and the cat in the scene wasn’t creating the right balance. Also, my backlight problems had been solved by the addition of another grid that I received from my wife for my birthday during the two weeks of downtime. Now I could position the background flash further to the side, and shape the light more.

I of course had a willing subject, and in return for three for four cat treats I managed to get the image that I entered in about 5 minutes of shooting. Post production in Aperture involved a slight amount of burning to some of the topmost pieces of cat food, as they were a bit too hot compared to the rest of the food. I also brushed in some desaturation on the milk to make it look more white, as opposed to the yellowish-white that milk tends to come out as in pictures.

Thanks go to Goomba, the cat in the picture, and Martin for everything that he does for the community. And again, thanks to everyone who voted for my picture. And of course, congratulations to Colin Michaelis for taking first place!

Well, you’re very welcome Greg, and thank you for participating, and for the great back-story. I think the key to your success with this image is that you allowed yourself enough time to revisit the assignment after a few weeks, and there’s a lesson to be learned for all of us here. Some months, it just isn’t possible to start shooting early enough, and having the pressure to come up with something on the last day, as Morton did, will certainly help sometimes, but here, I think the fine tuning of the lighting, and thinking of adding the glass of milk really made this shot. Without the milk, the feeling of the cat sitting down to a gourmet dinner would have been lost. Also, thanks for the tip on desaturating the milk a little. I’m sure that’s something we can all put to use too. Congratulations on placing, and I’m looking forward to your future shots as well.

Moving on to third place, and we have Elise Ange’s back-story for “S” is for Strawberry.

"S" is for Strawberry © Elise Ange

“S” is for Strawberry © Elise Ange

Congratulations to Colin for the win and to all who placed! Thanks to everyone who voted for mine.
I had decided that what I chose as subject matter for “Food” would not be cooked. Strawberries were featured in the weekly shopping circular and they looked mouth-watering. I arrived when the store opened for the biggest selection. I spent a lot of time looking through the strawberry packages to find ones which were all red.

The setup was not easy and I tried different glass containers, some with dry fruit, some with the fruit in water. I had a difficult time with the lighting. The first batch of strawberries did not yield any photos worthy of submission. Fortunately the next week, strawberries were still plentiful in the store and I bought a second batch.

I had done a bit of reading about food photography and decided to try natural lighting. I found a fancy bowl that I had received as a gift a long time ago and never used. However, I found that the natural lighting coming in the window still needed to be supplemented because it was stronger on one side of the subject than the other. I did some minor adjustments in Photoshop and cropped the image a bit. Martin’s themes present a challenge to me each month, but I learn something worthwhile with each of them.

What a beautiful way to have captured these strawberries Elise. Here simplicity is key, and the bright red strawberries against the white, and transparent bowl work very well, especially with that beautiful soft lighting.

I’m really pleased that the assignment helps you to continue to learn, as it does for all of us I think. Again, going the extra mile, and getting up early for the first batch, then going back to the store for a second batch of strawberries really contributes to the quality of your work, I’m sure. Congratulations on placing Elise, and thanks for continuing to get involved.

Next up, in second place is Graham Aylard with “Stawberry”, and here’s Graham’s back-story.

Strawberry © Graham Aylard

Strawberry © Graham Aylard

Thank-you for your votes and placing my image second. Here is the back story of the image ‘Strawberry’

Back in January I wanted to take my photography to a new direction. Studio photography. Inspired by one of the modern greats – Rankin. Although he operates with much more expensive equipment, staff and costly resources, personality of his subjects always shines through – a key element to his style of photography.  I wanted to capture personality of people too. I’ve been doing landscape photography for some time, studios was something that I haven’t really done before. It was time to plunge into the deep end and tackle studios.

I booked Lux studio near my home town in Maidstone for my first lighting lesson. Few weeks later, I booked model Kate for my first ever shoot.  I opted for a professional model instead of friends or family as I knew a model would be comfortable in front of the camera. Plus I wouldn’t have to worry too much on directing the model.  It went very well, capturing with some lovely fashion images. I learnt so much about lighting and portraiture that I wanted to give it another go.  Roll on a month later – I’d booked another session at Lux and hired semi-pro model Kandice.

With the theme of food, I knew that a single item of food being eaten by Kandice would work well. I asked Kandice to pose using a cherry as the food prop. However it turns out that Kandice likes cherries as she kept on eating them after I took only a few shots each time.  I also wanted to try a strawberry, so when Kandice finished off all the cherries, I got the strawberries out.  I tried head on shots at first but I wasn’t happy with the results. The side on pose with the model holding the strawberry slightly away from the lips seemed to work better for me. It also prevented Kandice eating all the strawberries!

Lighting in the studio was provided by four Bowens units, two Bowens 250 pointing at the white vinyl backdrop insuring a pure white background, and two slightly more powerful Bowens 500R for the key and fill lighting. Both of these fitted with a soft boxes. Captured on my new Nikon D7000

Post processing was done using Lightroom 3. During my efforts to process the studio shoot my iMac slowly died. Re-installing the OS didn’t help. But a torx screwdriver – size 8, Sat Nav windscreen holder and a new hard drive proved to be the answer. I had to pull the screen off and replace the hard drive which is located right behind the LCD screen. Pulling the screen off an iMac is certainly not for the faint hearted. Reinstalled the OS and Lightroom and all is well. Thankfully I have a reasonable backup workflow so I lost none of my images.

Back with a working computer I took the image and tilted it about 40 degrees for a more pleasing composition. I softened the models skin using the selective brush tool and sharpened the lips, increased the contrast, brightness and vibrance. Using the selective brush tool again, I removed the colour in the skin leaving the strawberry and lips in colour.

I was pleased with the result and I am chuffed to bits for the votes – thank you.  But my biggest critique is my partner, and she liked it too. So much so that my partner wants it framed and displayed in the kitchen of our new home when we move in together soon.

Other images of Kandice, including the colour version, the cherry images and my first studio shoot can be found on my website, http://www.grahamaylard.com.

I would like to add a thank-you to Martin for putting these assignments together. It has really made me think about my photography in ways I thought was not possible. And for the fact that each image is at first, anonymous which means we are all voting on the merit of the image and not the photographer or even the kit used.  That’s really important to me, no matter how many votes I get! Thank you to MBP members for all the votes and thanks to Kandice, who posed for the image and ate all my cherries! I would also like to add a big thanks to my family for all their support, I would be taking a lot less photos if it wasn’t for the encouragement from my partner Sue.

And lastly congrats to Colin, for the winning image. A worthy winner.

Thanks for yet another great back-story Graham, and you are very welcome for the assignments. Again, I’m really pleased that they help. You are certainly doing well with your studio work. This image is simply beautiful. I checked out the color version on your Web site, as well as some of your other work. I really like what you are doing, in all of your chosen genres. Great stuff!

I find it interesting that both you and Elise ended up with vivid red strawberries and mainly white for the rest of your images. This really works well, simplifying the image overall, yet accentuating the reds. Very nicely done indeed. Congratulations on second place.

And in first place, as many have already mentioned, is Colin Michaelis, with A Splash of Color, and here’s Colin’s back-story.

A Splash of Color © Colin Michaelis

A Splash of Color © Colin Michaelis

Wow! What an honour it is to place alongside this great group of submissions for the “Food” assignment. Such creativity was shown by everyone. It is amazing the different perspectives we all bring to a topic.

When I saw the assignment for March was “Food”, my first reactions were – what on earth could I possibly do that will be worthwhile, and this is not something I know how to do. My next thought, however, was that this is exactly the reason why I have challenged myself to participate in the MBP assignment – so that I will tackle things that are not part of my normal routine, broaden my horizons and learn from the creative ideas of the other participants.

After a day or two of pondering the assignment, I decided on a concept. We have all seen pictures of food (often berries or fruit) splashing into water and so it is a little bit of a cliché image. However, I have the view that if I have never done it, then it is not a cliché for me yet. So I did some research into how other people had done similar assignments and made an investment in a $13 fish tank.

Setup involved placing the aquarium, about 2/3 full, in front of a black poster board. My two SB-28 strobes (covered in clear plastic to keep them dry) were on stands, one angled down into the tank from above and the other from the front through the glass at a 45 degree angle. The flashes were set to 1/32 power, and this was how I planned to freeze the action. I placed my camera, a Nikon D90, with my 50mm f/1.8 lens on my tripod facing straight on to the tank.

With the three peppers balanced on a plate about 12” above the water, I dropped them and pressed the shutter release cable with my other hand a split second later. From the first try, my timing was pretty good, but I found the first 3-4 shots all had a bit of reflection in the front glass. I removed the front speedlight, which solved the reflected light problem, but I was not getting quite enough light. I did not want to increase my flash power so I mounted the second strobe like the first but from the other side of the tank. This got me the look I wanted. It probably took about another ½ dozen tries to get the timing just right.

I found that two essential pieces of equipment were a squeegee and paper towels. After each attempt, it was essential to wipe the tank dry with the squeegee and then completely remove any remaining water spots with the paper towels. Even after doing this I needed to touch up a couple of water marks with the healing tool in Lightroom 4 and dodge a couple of places where there was a little reflection on the glass. I boosted the vibrance a little, although the colour of the peppers was already pretty good.

I had a lot of fun planning this assignment and I had a blast actually making the photograph. To get the results I did exceeded my own expectations and it is very encouraging to me to that I was able to learn something new. And as a bonus, I managed to keep camera and strobes dry, so they will still be working for next month’s assignment. ;-)

Martin, I thoroughly enjoy your podcasts which I listen to regularly. I learn a lot from them. And now that I am participating in the monthly assignment (this is my second entry) I am forcing myself to learn through making photographs that expand my comfort zone. So thank you Martin for providing this great forum.

You’re very welcome Colin, and thanks to you too for getting involved, and for yet another excellent back-story, and what an brilliant tutorial on how to shoot this kind of image! Your investigation beforehand, and the a little trial and error with the positioning of the lights really paid off. You totally nailed this, creating a professional looking image, and capturing the freshness and appeal of the food too. Very well done indeed, and congratulations on a well earned first place.

I’d like to quickly thank all five winners again for taking the time to write out your back-stories to share with us all. I often fail to mention this, but it adds so much to the assignment, and is key to enabling me to bring this episode to the community each month, really building on the experience that many of us put so much into. Thanks also to everyone that got involved in the assignment. Whether you placed or not, I’m sure you all learned something by getting involved and giving this a try.

Flattr & Paypal Donations

Before we finish today, I’d like to mention that I’ve recently placed Flattr buttons on the blog and Podcast pages, to make it easier for people to help with the upkeep of the Podcast. I don’t mention this very often, probably only two or three times in almost seven years of creating this Podcast, but it does take considerable time each week to keep this up, not to mention the cost of the servers etc.

I get a lot back from this community of course, and that’s one reason why I don’t push this, but people have recently been asking more and more how they can help, so I thought it might be worth mentioning again. Note that in addition to Flattr, the new microdonations service that I think is going to become almost a standard way to pay content creators very soon, I have left the Paypal donation buttons in place, on the right side of each page, so if you want to show your appreciation, a donation using either Flattr or Paypal would be very much appreciated.

I’ve also placed Google +1 buttons on most pages around our Web site too, so you can also help by clicking these +1 buttons to let Google know that what I do here is appreciated, or maybe you could write a review for the Podcast in the  iTunes Store. Anything that you can do is very much appreciated.

Show Notes

Music by UniqueTracks


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Podcast 329 : “Intimate Landscape” Feb 2012 Assignment Winners

Podcast 329 : “Intimate Landscape” Feb 2012 Assignment Winners

Today we take a look at the five winning images from the February 2012 MBP Assignment, on the theme of “Intimate Landscape”. Again, although it was rather a difficult theme, we had an amazing turnout for this assignment, even beating January which was great too! Thanks to all of you that got involved and uploaded your images.

So, let’s jump right in and take a look at the incredible winning images for the Intimate Landscape theme, starting with Bill Johnson’s wonderful image, Hidden, and here’s Bill’s back-story.

Wow! There are many fine photographers in the Martin Bailey community, so I am deeply honored to place in the intimate landscapes competition for the month of February. This is my first time to place. Thanks to everyone who voted for this photo!

Hidden © Bill Johnson

Hidden © Bill Johnson

My photograph entitled “Hidden” was made at Seven Falls in North Central Alabama, USA. Even in the States, Alabama is often overlooked when it comes to a place of natural beauty. I have read that Alabama has more than 1700 waterfalls. Most of these would be small by any standard. These falls mostly occur as the Appalachian Plateau ends and the many streams and rivers drop into the piedmont area.

I was on a trip from the Gulf Coast where I live to Nashville, TN, and looked to see if there was a waterfall close to the Interstate highway. I found gps coordinates for Seven Falls in rural Morgan County, Alabama, not more than seven miles from the interstate. It was high in the hills and by the time I arrived at the creek there were nothing but dirt roads. There had been about three days of steady rain and it was still cloudy the day I arrived. The winter weather has been unusually warm in the southern US, and even in early February some of the trees were beginning to leaf out. The hike to the falls was easy, and the hike down into the canyon was easily accomplished. It was a beautiful area with a mature mixed hardwood forest.

Because my wife was with me I knew I wouldn’t have a great deal of time to make a photograph. Frankly, I was amazed at the beauty of the falls. Even though the falls is easily accessible if you know where it is, I found very few photographs or comments about it online. For this shot I put my tripod on a boulder so the upper cascade of the falls is easily seen. It was cloudy but I still used a variable neutral density filter set as dark as possible. The Tokina 11-16 was set at f19 for maximum depth of field with sharpness, and 16mm allowed a wide angle in this relatively intimate space. These settings provided an 8 second exposure in the middle of the day which provides the silky moving water of the falls.

Composition is important to me. For me, this photograph moves from the bottom right tree through the monolithic granite boulder at the base of the falls and back to the upper right with the movement of the water. While I am pleased with the overall presentation, the greens, especially those of the moss, popped just a bit brighter on the upload than they were meant to be (I’m not sure why that happens). While this brilliant green mossy covering is everywhere and really adds visually to the appeal, imagine a shade or two darker. The reds in the canyon wall and all the other colors in the scene appear as my eye saw it. It is a stunningly beautiful place. One other note about this falls–the water goes underground at this pool. I didn’t try to find its reappearance but it was at least as far as the eye could see.

I end with a special thanks to Martin. I’ve been listening to your podcast since about #100, and have learned a great deal from your photographic journey. More than anything, you’ve been an inspiration. I wish you continued success and good health.

Thanks so much for that message at the end there Bill, and thanks so much too for getting involved in the Assignment, with such a beautiful image too. You probably already know that I’m partial to a good waterfall shot too, and this is certainly one of them. What an amazing back-story too! It’s intriguing that the water goes underground right from this pool.

I love the colors as you say, with those bright greens and beautiful reds. Great use of the Vari-ND for the long exposure, and I like the composition too. For me, my eye is led  into the shot with the smaller rock in the left third, up into the falls with the aid of the large rock in the middle, and then up the tree, where I start to explore the red rock face to the left, then over to the right side, and back up into the image with the leading lines of the two trees on the right. It’s always a good thing when your compositional elements lead the eye back into the shot to continue exploring. Well done Bill, and congratulations on fifth place.

In fourth place we have Colin Michaelis, with Individually Sculptured, and here’s Colin’s back-story.

Thanks to those who voted for my picture, “Individually Sculptured”. I am delighted and honored to join the other placed entries. Congratulations to all of you and particularly to Seearbudd for the winning entry.

This is my first entry to the MBP Assignment. I decided recently that I needed the challenge of working on an assignment as I had fallen into the rut of taking mostly the same images – broad landscapes and birds. The first time out, the assignment achieved my goal, and got me looking at the world differently. The idea of an intimate landscape did not often cross my mind before, now I think it will be a regular element of my photography.

Individually Sculptured © Colin Michaelis

Individually Sculptured © Colin Michaelis

I went to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which are magnificent year-round. The Japanaese garden, Sansho-En, at the Gardens, is on three islands. I was viewing the garden this time, less as a grand landscape (which it really is), but focusing more on its component parts like a bright yellow willow tree, the rocks in the lake, or rounded stones on the shore. This change in focus was caused directly by this month’s assignment. So instead of putting on a wider angle lens, I actually put on my Bigma (Sigma 50-500mm) that I normally use for bird photography.

One of the elements that really caught my eye, like never before, was the sculptured or styled trees – mostly pines – at the Garden. This one (I think a Scots Pine) had a striking profile and with the ice of the frozen lake as a wonderful backdrop, really stood out as a feature on its own. My composition choice was to limit the frame to one tree and then limit it even more to just part of the tree and include a lot of the stark frozen lake, partly getting the environmental context – that wintry feel, but also providing a great contrast to the rich hues of the branches and the needles. That contrast, I felt, really made the tree pop and draw the eye to the intricate carefully pruned branches. The picture was taken with my Nikon D90 with the Sigma 50-500mm at 240mm focal length for this shot.

Special thanks to Martin for his helpful blogs and podcasts. I particularly appreciated this assignment forcing me to look at landscapes entirely differently this month. I look forward to the next assignment challenging me to think differently and step even more out of my comfort zone.

I’m so pleased that this assignment got you thinking in a different way Colin, and possibly even changed how you’ll approach your photography from now on. That’s exactly what I hope from these assignments, and I hope that those who haven’t yet really gotten involved are listening! 🙂

What a beautiful subject you found too! Unmistakably Japanese, and the frozen lake really does help to make the tree pop, almost like a traditional Japanese painting. At first I thought it was a flowing river in the background, and you’d used a long exposure like Bill to make the water smooth and silky, so it was fun to hear that it is actually ice.

I also like the way you chose to crop off the tree mid-way, and give us only a hint of it’s oriental, mistic form. Very well done Colin, and thank you for getting involved, and for the kind words. I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work in the assignments.

And in third place is Elise Ange, with The Color of WInter, and here’s Elise’s back-story.

Congratulations to Seearbudd and to the others who placed. There were so many great interpretation of the theme this month. Even though this was a very difficult one for this time of year, I learned a lot about this type of photography and found myself wishing for those cloudy days with the better lighting conditions. But the brown colors of winter made for many lackluster photos and nothing to submit for the theme. It was only one morning after one of the few light snows during the month that the opportunity presented itself in the woods next door.

The Color of WInter © Elise Ange

The Color of WInter © Elise Ange

Without the snow, this scene would have not have come together. It delicately defined the horizontal branches among the strong vertical trunks. After I had downloaded the shot, I was pleasantly surprised with the variety of browns and bark textures in the trees. This was only minimally processed and slightly cropped where the right-most tree trunk showed a small empty space. I found this theme very intriguing and will probably do more of it with the better colors of Spring. Thanks to Morton for his suggestion and to all of those who voted for “The Color of Winter”.

I totally agree that the snow made this shot Elise, it’s beautiful with the white adding so much contrast and outlining the trees and finer branches. I see what you mean about the various textures in the bark on the tree trunks too. It’s fun just looking at each trunk in turn, and appreciating the detail and pattern created on the surface of each. Excellent work as usual Elise, and congratulations on third place.

And in second place is Wythe Whiting with Untitled and here’s Whythe’s back-story.

What a great assignment and a strong showing of submissions. I’m really tickled to have placed in this month challenge. My backstory is pretty short. I went out to a small creek to see what kinda water falls it had. As it turned out, this was not the kinda place where you could set up and get a nice shot of big falls. So instead, I decided I’d try to move in closer to try and get some more abstract shots of rocks and water.

Untitled © Wythe Whiting

Untitled © Wythe Whiting

I found this nice rock with water sheeting off of it. I had an 8 stop and 3 stop nd filter on to slow the exposure to 10 seconds. I later learned that a 5 sec exposure gave exactly the same look to the water given how fast it was moving, so maybe a bit of over kill on the filters. I used a 25 mm lens and so the camera is only about a foot or two away from the “falls”. The black and white conversion was done with silver efex.

I really enjoyed this assignment and will be thinking of intimacy with my landscapes a lot more now. Thanks to all who voted for me.

Again, it’s great to hear that this assignment has you thinking more of intimate landscapes Wythe. I believe that many landscape shots can be improved a lot by getting in much closer, and examining the details, rather than automatically reaching for the wide angle. There are of course places for the sweeping vista, but close is often much more compelling in my opinion.

And once again, another great water fall shot. I love the tight composition, and the feel of the running water in contrast with the textured black rocks. A very nice black and white conversion here too. You gotta love Silver Efex Pro. Congratulations on a very well earned second place Whythe!

And in first place is Thomas Seear-Budd with In Search of Intimacy, and here’s Thomas’ back-story.

Firstly I just wanted to thank everyone who voted for my image. This is the first time I have entered one of these assignments and I am really suprised that I won. There are so many talented people who entered some truly amazing work in this assignment. Also I just want to say a big thanks for Martin for making this sort of interaction among photographers possible. You have formed a great environment full of education and learning.

The back story of my image is a similar to that which was posted with the photo. I went down to this site about four times before I got what I was after.

In Search of Intimacy © Thomas Seear-Budd

In Search of Intimacy © Thomas Seear-Budd

Whenever I go down to the South Coast (Wellington, New Zealand) to take photos, I usually spend about 2-3 hours sitting among the rocks, shooting and thinking. I have been down several times and while I’m there I always have at least one moment where I think about my Mum. Earlier this week I was taking photos down there, only this time I began to think more deeply. I began to think about my memories of Mum and the times we had together.

To fill you in, when I was 10 she died of cancer. She had suffered for eight long years, while caring for two small children and a loving husband. As I was only 10 when she died, my memories of her are not crystal clear. What I found interesting as I dived deeper into my thoughts was that these memories were mostly visual. I don’t remember sounds or smells as much as pure visual experiences.

For example, I remember the experience of going bike riding along the coast here with Mum. I don’t remember specific rides but I remember the feeling and sights. As I sat on these rocks I began to respect this place for how significant it is in my life and its importance to my mother. Due to its impact and meaning to Mum, this coast has more significance to me now than my nearby family home.

I remember her going off for walks down at the coast and she constantly wrote about it in her daily notes. At the time I never thought anything of this. But here I am ten years later, sitting on these rocks beginning to wonder why she came here and what she did. Or more importantly what she thought about. I think she came here to escape, to think by herself. To cry, yell, jump and run. I think she used it as an opportunity to think about my brother and I, as well as to worry and pray for my father.

I think she also contemplated about what we would become and reflected on her life and illness. I think this last point is very important because my Dad has told me that they rarely talked about the illness. He said that mum was in denial. She wanted to focus on her family and on the moments she had. This environment served as her escape and she formed an intimate bond with it. In doing so, this place has become a catalyst for my memories of her.

Over the past decade this landscape has enabled me to search for a more intimate relationship with my mother who I never fully got to know. To me, this image speaks of this on-going search for my mother. This may be a never-ending journey but one thing is certain, a greater level of intimacy will grow.

Thanks again everyone, I am honoured to be selected this month. I have only been seriously photographing for about 4 months, so this result is really satisfying.

Wow! Holy crap Thomas! If I hadn’t had a chance to think about what I would say right now, I’d be speechless, on so many levels. Your story about your mother and this place in heart-wrenching, and yet incredibly tender. I feel so sorry for you and your family, and all that you went through, and for your mother who lost the fight with that awful desease that takes so many.

Also, it sounds like you are only twenty years old, and having only been photographing for 4 months, and coming up with this! I cannot wait to see how you develop as a photographer, and really hope that you’ll hang around to share your progress with us.

You followed your post with the shooting information, that you used a sigma 10-20mm f3.5 lens, at f11 for 50 seconds, and that you wanted to use one point perspective to compose this image to draw the viewer into the frame to add to the idea of searching.

You accomplished your goal in the image, with the beautiful composition, dark corners and the water leading down through the rocks. Then the flowing sky from the long exposure brings us back up through the photo to come back down and start exploring again. It’s a masterpiece and classic image, after just four months of shooting. I’m sure you’re very proud of your work, and I’m sure that your mother would have been too. Well done Thomas.

Thanks once again to everyone that got involved in the February assignment. Whether you placed or not, I’m sure you all learned a little something from getting involved and giving this a try.

Tokyo Photowalk with Mark Esguerra

Also, I’m planning to take part in Mark Esguerra’s photo walk, starting outside the main gate at Shinjuku Gyoen at 1PM on Saturday April 7, which is this coming weekend. If you live in or around Tokyo or are visiting for the cherry blossom, it would be great to see you there! Here’s a link to the details on Google+ => https://plus.google.com/u/0/100377493270775536948/posts/J8muk7Rbddu


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Podcast 324 : Jan 2012 “Frozen Motion” Assignment Winners

Podcast 324 : Jan 2012 “Frozen Motion” Assignment Winners

I’m back from my Snow Monkey and Hokkaido Winter Wonderland Workshop and Photography Tour, and just settling back into my daily routines. I’ll be updating you on the tour later, once I’ve gotten through all of my photos, but today we’re going to take a look at the five winning images from the January 2012 MBP Assignment, on the theme “Frozen Motion”.

Despite the relatively difficult theme, we had a great turnout for the Frozen Motion assignment, with almost double the entries of the previous months! Thanks to all of you that stepped up to the plate for this one and uploaded your images, and please do continue to try and get involved if you don’t already.

So, let’s jump in and take a look at the winning images, starting with Satoshi in fifth place with “Happy Hour”.

© Andrew Satoshi Aylett - Happy Hour

© Andrew Satoshi Aylett – Happy Hour

Hello everyone, and thanks to all who voted for my photo. As this is my first entry, it feels like first time luck to be selected amongst such talented photographers in this community.

Before knowing the assignment theme for the month, I’ve been coincidently taking some action photos of my dog at the local park which I was quite happy with some of the results. But I remembered in the previous podcast when Martin mentioned, monthly assignment are not for digging back through your old photos, its about getting out there and shooting with a purpose and it’s a great way to improve on your skills.

Although I had taken some shots during January, I decided to take on the advice and re-shoot for this assignment. This also gave me the opportunity to plan this shoot and after three days returning back to the same spot, I finally nailed one of my dog jumping in the air.

As my dog wanders down the hill, the only way that I can get him to sprint back up where he makes the final jump is to get his attention and run the opposite direction. He really loves to play chases.

Firstly, I needed to pre set the camera in aperture priority mode to f5.6, iso 640 to achieve shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second. I’ve also under exposed by -0.3 from exposure compensation to make sure I get all the highlight details in the photograph. It was late afternoon and the sun was quite low, giving nice side light across the park.

As my dog makes his way towards the top of the hill I then quickly focus on the area where I think he is going to make the jump and lock the focus and exposure by pressing down on the af-l button on my Nikon D3. I’ve also set my camera to continuous shooting mode and made sure that I started firing before he reached the top.

Finally, I hope for the best that just one photo is in focus at the right moment.

Andrew Satoshi Aylett

Well, first of all, thanks for getting involved Satoshi, and thanks for the great back-story! I really like your shot, and your subject, Charlie, is a beautiful looking dog. You must be very proud of him. It’s good that you were able to think of all the variables for your shooting situation ahead of time, such as ensuring that you had a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion, and pre-focussing as you did, are perfect to execute shots like this, so well done on that, and congratulations on placing!

Next, in fourth place is Marcus Perkins with “Breaking the Slidesical”, and here’s Marcus’ back-story…

© Marcus Perkins - Breaking the Slidesical

© Marcus Perkins – Breaking the Slidesical

Firstly many thanks for the votes and congrats to the other placed entries. It was a great theme and there were lots of great photos. This year I made the resolution to enter the MBP monthly assignments to get me taking pictures. Something that I had been neglecting last year.

I had the idea of breaking the block of ice when I first saw the assignment title. I liked the idea of using the ice as a lightbox for a slide and set about testing the freezing process. The first attempts were ok although with the slide buried deep in the ice, the picture itself wasn’t clear because of frosting. Finally with the month slipping away I managed to get the slide to stay on the surface of the water as it froze in a plastic tub.

I set up my studio with a black card background and white card base to reflect the light.
I wanted to use Nikons Auto FP mode for this to maximise the shutter speed. I used two SB800s, one placed behind the block of ice and one front and camera left.

The settings were 1/8000sec F8 – foreground flash 1/1 power – background flash 1/8 power. I knew this would be a one shot effort and couldn’t use high speed continuous due to the flash recycling. I braced myself with the lump hammer, a wireless remote and hoped for the best…..

© Marcus Perkins - Aftermath

© Marcus Perkins – Aftermath

It was close to what I wanted and I was very happy not to have caught the hammer in mid air! I had another couple of swings just for the hell of it and then it was time to tidy up and apologise for the noise.

© Marcus Perkins - Aftermath

© Marcus Perkins – Aftermath

Post processing was limited to a crop, white balance and the usual sharpening etc. Many Thanks again.

Thanks you Marcus! You made a great shot, and a great back-story to follow up with. I’m impressed with your vision here, as well as the execution of the shot. I’m sure this is one of those times where I would have missed the timing slightly and ended up having to clear up and refreeze everything etc. Congratulations on a great shot and for placing in the assignment.

In third place is Jack Andrys with “Look”, and here’s Jack’s back-story…

Let me start of with a big thank you to all who voted for my image, I am honoured to have placed amongst such great competition. Whilst it is rewarding to have placed, I found that just the act of participating was a great deal of fun in itself. Thank you to Martin and anyone who helps in the background on the assignments.

As to my photo, it was early in January and my daughter was visiting from Australia so I had many opportunities whilst showing her around San Francisco to photograph our site seeing. It was the afternoon when we decided with the rest of the family to take a boat tour around the bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was cold and as you can tell a windy trip so in the main we stayed inside, but ventured out on deck to take some shots as we neared the bridge.

The sun was low on the horizon and with the light fading surrounded by a deck full of people I was forced to shoot close at 24mm with my daughter at the minimum focus distance on the 24-70mm. I set myself a minimum shutter speed range of 1/60 to 1/80 and tried to stop down to as high an f stop as possible which ended up being f9. I ended up taking about 25 shots all whilst the boat went under the Golden Gate Bridge, and after I imported them into Lightroom 4 Beta I fell in love with this image.

© Jack Andrys - Look

© Jack Andrys – Look

Whilst there were plenty of shots with my daughter looking less wind swept and more posed, it was this shot which captured the moment when she lost interest in everything else but the bridge. I think she even forgot that I was taking photos at this point in time.

When I processed and cropped the shot and looked at the way her hair was pointing at the bridge frozen yet still in motion I immediately remembered the January assignment. It was great to place on my first ever assignment entry. Thanks again to all and well done to Mr “Jello” Tanaka for his winning entry.

Thanks very much for getting involved Jack, and for yet another great back-story! You captured a beautiful image of your daughter in a wonderful moment, looking up at one of the most iconic structures in the world. The look is great, but for me, what makes this is the clouds, flowing in almost the opposite direction, complementing your daughter’s hair as they criss-cross. Congratulations on the excellent shot and for placing Jack!

In 2nd place is Elise Ange with “Flight of the Husky”, and here’s Elise’s back-story.

Congratulations to Forrest for the win and to all who placed! Thank you for all of your votes.

It was almost the end of the month and I hadn’t been very successful in getting anything to submit. There were so many great entries that I needed to have something different than what was already posted. I decided on some sort of flight. I have several interesting kites but it is too cold in the middle of winter for flying them. The next best thing was planes. The small commercial airport I visited did not allow photography without written permission. The next two small local airports had no activity when I drove by them. But the third one was busy enough with take-offs and landings.

© Elise Ange - Flight of the Husky

© Elise Ange – Flight of the Husky

It is located in a state park next to a beautiful lake surrounded by many trees. The setting was ideal and the temperature not too chilly for the couple of hours I was there. The take-offs were into the sun so I concentrated on the landings coming in over the lake. The Husky A1-A is bright yellow with black trim and produced the most contrasty photos. The conversion to black and white with Silver Efex Pro made an even more dramatic image.

Great shot Elise, and a very nice black and white conversion as usual. I really like that you can see the pilot’s face as they guide the small plane in to land. I see from the EXIF data on your image that you had cranked up the ISO to 900 with an aperture of f4.5 to give you a nice fast shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second, which helped to freeze the motion, in line with the assignment theme, which is great. Congratulations on placing and on a great photo Elise!

Finally, in first place is Forrest Tanaka with “Attraction”, and as you’ll hear Forrest has a great back-story behind this image.

Hey everyone, thanks for all the votes! It’s a nice way to come back to Martin’s assignments after a long break. This is the backstory for the shot, “Attraction.”

I had tried a similar shot for an assignment a couple years ago or so, and it completely failed. It involved tilted tables, and moving and stopping glasses of wine, and all I ended up doing was making a big mess and some lousy photos. The idea stayed in the back of my mind, and a recent trip to the grocery store where my daughter was looking over pudding flavors next to the Jello (US brand generic; it’s “jelly” in other countries) packs finally made the connection click. Then the Frozen Motion assignment came up, and I knew I had to enter.

I bought some long-setting raspberry Jello and some raspberry juice for the poured “wine” (I’d photographed real red wine before, and it looks as opaque and black as coffee). I poured the Jello into a couple of wine glasses propped at an angle on styrofoam protectors from a laptop box. Then I set up a frame I’d made that lets me hold a translucent white 1m-square sheet of acrylic I use for some product shots, and a remote strobe on the floor below pointing straight up. I shot it with a 70-200 lens at 100mm with just this one strobe.

On the first attempt, I forgot to set multi-shot mode on my camera, so I only ended up with a wine bottle and no wine. The second, I missed the wine glass completely and made a mess. This was the third.

© Forrest Tanaka - Attraction

© Forrest Tanaka – Attraction

If you want to see how I took the shot, I redid the shot the next day on camera and posted it on YouTube.

What an brilliant shot Forrest, and a very imaginative way to achieve these excellent results! When I first saw the image I was running through the possibilities, like those you mentioned, as in tilting the table and quickly pushing the left glass in to cause the fluid to move up like that, but I figured that both would be too messy or difficult, and then I’d figured that it must be Jello when I saw your post on Google+ about this, with your video.

It was nice to be able to figure this out, because I know that you and other food photographers go to great lengths to achieve realistic looking food and drinks, often with different substances altogether. I would never have guessed that red wine photographed so darkly mind, so I also learned something there too, so thanks again for the excellent back-story and video to explain your process.

Thanks once again to everyone that got involved in the January assignment too. Whether you placed or not, I’m sure you all learned a little something from getting involved and giving this a try.

Show Notes

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Podcast 320 : Dec 2011 “Organic” Assignment Winners

Podcast 320 : Dec 2011 “Organic” Assignment Winners

Today we’re going to take a look at the five winning images from the December 2011 assignment, on the theme of “Organic”. It was great to see a still more people get involved in our assignment for the January assignment that is about to close! Thanks to those of you that uploaded your resulting images, and please do continue to try and get involved if you don’t already.

So, let’s jump right in and take a look at the five images that got the most votes from the MBP Community for the Organic assignment. In fifth place is Morton Goldberg, with “Not a Pumpkin”, and here’s Morton’s back-story…

Not a Pumpkin © Morton Goldberg

Not a Pumpkin © Morton Goldberg

My idea for this assignment was simple: use the same lighting setup and depth-of-field stacking technique as I used in last month’s assignment to photograph a fruit or vegetable. I thought the visual contrast between the two subjects photographed with the same lighting and perspective would be interesting. There was a risk with this idea: it assumed the viewer would make the connection with my Machinery assignment entry, at least subconsciously,

I first looked in my fridge, but wasn’t inspired by what I found there. A trip to a produce market presented me with a wealth of colorful subjects despite it being December. Although tempted by a variety of exotic squashes, I decided to focus on bell peppers (pun intended). They were available in green, red, yellow, and orange. I was much taken with a little orange one which looked to be a miniature pumpkin.

Beside being intriguingly photogenic, the orange bell pepper appealed to me because I had never tasted one and because it was very much the same size as my last month’s machinery subject. This sameness in size meant, when photographed with the same studio setup (including the same camera to subject distance), I would get precisely the same lighting and perspective, which is what I very much wanted.

The only difference in photo technique between my Machinery assignment entry and this image was that I used a five-frame DOF stack for the bell pepper rather than an eleven-frame one. Post processing was exactly the same.

After serving as a photographic subject the pepper contributed to a fine salad. It was very tasty.

Well done on fifth place Morton! I like the shot, and the obvious link between your two shots. The appealing thing about your subject to me, and why I think it was successful in the assignment, is the fact that the bell pepper seems to be a tad past its best. The wrinkles in the skin and the slightly wizened stalk emphasize the feeling of this being a living “organic” object. I’m pleased that this little guy made a nice salad too. Congratulations Morton.

In fourth place, we have Landon Michaelson, with “Bio”, and here’s Landon’s back-story…

That was a great assignment. Really got me thinking. Congrats to all the great entries, ideas and [thanks for] the resulting votes. Now on to the back story for “Bio”.

My first idea was to get out a bag of compost. The great soil that comes out of the process of composting organic waste. Then I recalled I had part of some vertebrae I found washed up on an ocean beach years ago. They have been sitting above my workshop bench on a shelf beside the radial arm saw for a long time. It still has beach sand on it within the crevices. I figured bones are foundational and so different than machines made by humans.

So I started with the idea of shooting down the inside of the vertebrae where the spinal column would be. Thought of what camera might get me the right angle of view. That turned out to be an iPhone and I took some test shots. The next idea was to run some fiber optic cable through it to simulate nerve impulses and some dramatic lighting. But that idea got put on the back burner as the month progressed.

Ultimately I wound up taking some time on the last day of the year to try shooting the object with a “big boy camera” by mounting my 105 VR macro lens on my D700 and having a go at framing the subject various ways looking for a compelling angle.

Bio BTS © Landon Michaelson

Bio BTS © Landon Michaelson

Photo number one (above) shows how I grabbed some hunks of white foam core, setup an Alien Bee B800 on a boom arm light stand, mounted a 47-inch octabox to the bee and set it with the face of the octabox vertical with the edge of it touching the floor. Placed a couple of hunks of white foam core on the floor ramped up and resting on the front of the couch. I used various bounce sources on the opposite side of the bones and wound up with a small circular collapsible 5-in-1 reflector using the silver side. It gave the right look to my eye. I triggered the strobe with Pocket Wizard Plus II units. I thought the large diffused light source and the texture of the object combined with some processing would provide a compelling image in the final outcome.

Then after taking a number of shots at various angles I dropped them into Lightroom to have a look.

Bio Attempts © Landon Michaelson

Bio Attempts © Landon Michaelson

Photo number two (above) shows a couple of the other angles I had tried. I tried some processing ideas as well. Some black and white and some toned to look like bone color. It did not take me long to find that a closeup instead of the whole object was more compelling subject matter and pure black and white was my processing choice. I tried a tight crop in Lightroom with what I had shot and that is when I noticed the sand texture showed up much better as well as the small barnacles on the bone surface in many places. So I went back out into the living room and concentrated on framing in some full frame closeups of what I thought was an interesting section to photograph.

Bio © Landon Michaelson

Bio © Landon Michaelson

Camera settings were f/20 for depth, 1/250 to nuke any ambient light at ISO200.

I then selected one file that stood out as the best. Some base processing in Lightroom followed by passing it through Silver Efex Pro 2 provided me with a photo that met my goals. With a few minutes left before midnight I uploaded the image to the assignment gallery. It was a good sendoff to finalize 2011.

Well, thanks for the thorough back-story with a great behind the scenes photos too Landon! It was a great idea of course, and I can totally relate to how you noticed the tiny barnacles when viewing the image zoomed in on screen. A lot of time when I’m shooting things up close like this, it’s how it looks on screen that drives me back to the subject with a new idea or two.

I agree that your winning image was probably best for the Organic assignment, but I also really like the other examples that you posted too. Masterful use of your gear and subject matter, as usual. Congratulations on fourth place Landon!

And in joint second place is Melanie Lebel-Potter, with “Promise of Spring to come”, and here is Melanie’s back-story…

A bit of boredom on a rainy day between Christmas and New Year. That’s what’s behind my picture.

I have been thinking for a while about this assignment and was planning to take a picture of some of my Christmas baking (either finished or un-finished items). I have got few nice shots but nothing that felt organic enough. Christmas came and went and no organic-looking picture…

December 29 was our last day up north before coming back home to the London area. Our plans for a nice country walk got thwarted by horrendous weather so I resorted to take pictures of my mother in law’s hyacinths instead. I noticed a few pots of them around the house at different stages of growth and thought they would make a lovely photographic study.

Promise of Spring to come © Melanie Lebel-Potter

Promise of Spring to come © Melanie Lebel-Potter

The pots were placed on a coffee table near a large window in the living room. I used my deflector (black “reflector”) as a background and kept moving it up and down during the exposure so we couldn’t see the wrinkles on it. (It worked better than placing it further away, which could not be done easily anyway.) The camera was on a tripod and a cable release helped a lot!

It is only when explaining to my mother in law what I liked about this particular bulb (“It is both elegant and earthy. No, earthy is not the right word… what would it be?.… elegant and… organic. Yes, organic is the word … Oh, Wait!…”) that I realised that I had my shot.

I almost forgot to upload the picture and did it in the middle of a New Year Eve’s party…. :balloons: :cheers: I am not only amazed that I have placed for the assignment (co-second with my favourite picture! :D ) but also that I entered the picture correctly in the first place… :oops:

You did great Melanie, on the upload and the photo! The fact that it’s obviously a shoot of new growth coming out of the bulb was a great idea, but I think the soil that it left around the base adds a lot to the organic feel. You chose an interesting way to remove the creases in the background too. With it being totally dark and black, you might have gotten away without doing this, but it’s certainly an ingenious way of dealing with creases when using a relatively long shutter speed. It looks like the EXIF data was removed so I can’t see exactly how long the exposure was, but I imagine is was probably over half a second or so to make that possible. Congratulations on joint second Melanie, and thanks for the kind words about my image, which shared second place with yours. Here’s my back-story…

There actually wasn’t really a lot to my shot, “Bunashimeji”. The lighting here was just the ceiling light in my studio, which is two circular florescent tubes with a white dome shaped shade. I placed the mushrooms as far away from the light as possible to get a good angled shadow, and I taped a bit of black velvet to the wall behind them to stop light from bouncing back and filling in the slight shadows. The white balance was adjusted slightly, and I ran it through Color Efex Pro 4 to give the detail/texture a subtle boost.

Bunashimeji © Martin Bailey

Bunashimeji © Martin Bailey

I took the most time looking for the best composition to give the mushrooms a bit of character, and eventually I only shot about five frames with a few different apertures for shallower depth of fields. When shooting macro though, even f8 gives a relatively shallow depth of field, and this was the one that I liked best, as it gave us nice amount of texture and detail in the spots on top of the mushrooms, which are called bunashimeji in Japanese.

And finally, in first place is Aviv with “The Organic Market”, and here’s Aviv’s back-story…

WOW – Thanks so much to all who voted. 🙂

I have been a huge fan of the MBP Podcast pretty much since picking up photography some year and a half ago. Watching the monthly assignments I was constantly blown away not only by the wonderful images but also by the commitment and effort put into the creation process. Being placed among the winners in my first submitted assignment is extremely humbling, and I will only take that as a sign that I should commit more to the future assignments and to the MBP community.

Since I am not much of a studio photographer and do most of my work in the street. I took the topic of “Organic” as an inspiration to where I want to shoot and what ambiance I’d like in the image. I love farmers’ markets and since I recently became more oriented towards organic growth, I thought the newly established Organic Market in the old Tel-Aviv port would be a perfect location.

The Organic Market © Aviv

The Organic Market © Aviv

It was a great morning for photography and the market offered many subjects to photograph. After covering the little booths, the merchants and the produce I searched for a view that shows the entire market atmosphere. I have to give credit here to a fellow photographer who joined me that morning on a last minute decision and she spotted this restaurant overlooking the roofed market. We set ourselves and our tripods there and the combination of the limited light and the desire to capture motion, lent itself nicely to slow-exposure. I put on the darkest ND filter I had to not over-expose the lit areas while shooting slow enough to get the moving crowd.

I experimented with various compositions and exposures to show people standing still at a booth while others are rushing through the market. I liked how the vendors were constantly buzzing to serve customers and it was nice to capture the baby stroller in there as well; all surrounding the beautiful Organic vegetables in their lively colors.

Thanks again and congratulations to the other winners and to all who submitted really stunning work. Wishing everyone the best for the New Year, and especially to Martin – may 2012 be less dramatic for you than 2011!

Thanks for the well wishes Aviv, and for the great back-story! It sounds like you also put a lot of effort into your shot for December, and it really paid off. The view from above really makes this, and the movement you captured in the customers and market stall owners really enhances the image and does somehow give it a more organic feel.

The bright colors and giving us a title to recognize this as an Organic produce market probably clenched it for you. Great stuff! Thanks for getting involved, and congratulations on making such a splash in your first month!

Thanks to all the winners, and to everyone that got involved with this assignment. As of the time of recording we already had more images uploaded to the January 2012 assignment album than the Dec album finished with, so it looks like more of you have made an effort in January too, which is again very nice to see. Remember the deal I made with you last month, that if we can reach 100 entrants to the monthly assignments during the first half of 2012, I promise to spend the time to approach potential sponsors and line up some prizes for the second six months of this year.

The February assignment is “Intimate Landscape”. This idea was originally from Morton Goldberg with actual theme name tweaks for us by Nancy Lehrer. The idea is that you would single out just a tiny part of the landscape but still depict a somewhat grand scene. I for example tend to shoot lanscapes with long lenses, as long as 600mm in fact, to just single out a small area, and I find this approach quite effective. A landscape doesn’t necessary have to be a wide angle or even standard focal length shot. In fact, I think that many landscape shots would benefit from being shot much closer, so let’s give this a try. Thanks for the idea Morton and for your help with the wording Nancy!

You will be able upload your images until the end of February, anywhere in the world, regardless of your time-zone, so don’t forget to post your images.

Show Notes

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


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