Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Telling a Story with Natural Light

Sometimes while shooting a specific look, you get that one shot that just says it all. This was only the second look that we did on day one, but the way Damien set things up and the way Riona chose a specific pose gave me a shot that stuck with me for the rest of the workshop.

There are some images that just beg to be converted to black and white, and the below shot was just screaming for the conversion.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/1.4 — 1/1500sec

It was done with natural window light streaming in from the right of the frame. The moment I saw this image, I knew it had to be black and white, because it told a story. A story of sadness or grief. Initially, I had the image a lot darker, with more brooding shadows, but I didn’t want it to be gloomy. But I did want a sorrowful emotion involved.

You’ll notice that this is actually the same room as the first look. We just changed our perspective and voila! An entirely different scene.

It wasn’t all sadness though. I’ve included two more images from this look that show just how well the light was playing with us.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/1.4 — 1/600sec

ISO 200 — 56mm f/1.2 — f/1.2 — 1/1400sec

It’s amazing how the carpet acted like a natural reflector and sent a little bit of light into her. In some instances it gave her a hard look, while in another it gave her a softer look.

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: A Little Hollywood Glamour

When went to my first Lovegrove Photography Workshop in Tuscany last year, I took a ton of shots, but — like the typical noob — I had a lot of shots that really just looked alike or didn’t just stand out. At my second Lovegrove Workshop in France this year, I shot about the same amount of photos, but this year was different; I had a lot of useable ones. It took me several weeks to go through the photos and I decided that because Damien and our model, Riona, gave us so many looks, each look deserved a blog entry. I’m guessing that, for me, it means I’m improving. (Hey, I haven’t bought a new camera in a while, though did trade in my old Canon 70D and accompanying gear for a new lens…)

This first blog entry covers a shot Damien set up in our chateau’s living room. It was our very first look on our very first day. Our lighting source was a Lupo Superpanel Dual LED Light. It’s an amazing bit of kit!

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/500sec

The above shot was actually just Riona waiting as we started to set up. Damien had already gotten the light in place, but I took advantage of these little moments to capture a shot.

I brought a few lenses with me, but didn’t think about bringing my 23mm f/1.4, which on a full frame has a field of view of the traditional 35mm lens. I had left it behind because I thought bringing the 16mm f/1.4 was more important. You’ll see that I’m using the 35mm f/1.4, which on a full frame has a field of view of the 50mm lens.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/2200sec

Riona had actually see these images and laughed, saying, “They’re always cutting off my feet.” While it’s not a fatal flaw in the camera, because the composition is decent and her angles are lovely, I’ll have to remember to make the 23mm a priority in the future.

Initially, because I was so close, I tried to use the 16mm f/1.4, but once I saw the composition and the distortion in camera, I decided against it.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/2200sec

You’ll also notice that the image is a lot darker than it should be. That’s because I applied a heavy vignette around the image. I like using the vignette; for me it works in most instances. Damien doesn’t like using the vignettes at all. I can see why he wouldn’t, especially when you have magazine prints in mind, unless you have an image that’s really really dramatic. I think the vignette works, but it also doesn’t work, especially since the vignette makes the light fall off even more, especially on her legs.

For the next two shots, Damien turned up the temperature on the Lupo. Yes, you can actually do that! You can make it pure white, like he did above, and you can warm up the image as well.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/1500sec

Again, in both images, she has these lovely angles to her arms.

So why not black and white? If you’ve read my blog enough times, you’ll know that I really like the black and white look. Here’s one in black and white, with the contrast taken up.

It does produce an interesting look, but in this case I did prefer the slightly desaturated look of the color images over the black and white look.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/1700sec

Next week, we’ll look at a shot in the same room done with natural light.

Gettysburg - Little Round Top

During this trip to Gettysburg, no other place had a bigger impact on me than Little Round Top. It was in this area where in a single day, 10,000 soldiers died … on each side! Can you imagine the loss and the grief? The few cannons that are on display here ominously point out towards the fields where so many men died.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/1000 sec

In your mind’s eye, can you see the flash of the cannon and men in the distance scattering as the cannon ball strikes the ground, ripping up chunks of earth, and taking lives with it?

You can also see the strategic importance of Little Round Top with its high position.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 33.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/1000 sec

Here’s a statue of General Warren, who is considered the hero of the battle. It’s said to be bad luck to stand up on that rock with his statue!

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/4700 sec

I took a bit of an artistic approach to this close-up of Warren’s statue. It adds to the drama.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/7000 sec

That was it for my brief travels to Gettysburg. There’s a lot to see, and if you’re a history buff like me, there’s a lot to learn.

For this entire tour of Gettysburg, all I had was my Fuji XF 16-55mm f/.28 lens. I’m learning more and more that it’s a perfect lens for travel and taking portraiture for travel. This was the first lens I got when I switched over to the Fuji system, and it’s the one lens that consistently gets the most use. It is a bit heavy because of the amount of glass in it, but it’s a workhorse!

Alouette Lake - Blue Skies and Mountains

Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park, east of Vancouver, is one of my favorite places to run. In fact, there’s a race held that annually that’s one of my favorites. But this lake is amazing! It narrows to a strip in the distance, then widens a little bit after that. I like to think of it as a portal to the mountains beyond.

Shot on the Fuji X-H1 and 90mm f/2 lens. I had everything mounted on my Three Legged Thing Tripod just for additional stability.

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

On the Run - Lions Gate Bridge at Sunrise

This was one of those occasions where I knew the iPhone camera would be more than enough, but I didn’t realize just how good the camera on my iPhone SE really was, especially when paired with the Lightroom App. A lot of improvements have been made to the app in the past year, such as a texture slider and even the heal/clone tool that I’ve used often on the desktop version.

I’m very familiar with the Stanley Park sea wall in Vancouver, having run it many times in the past, once even with my old Fuji X-T1 and a small prime lens attached to it. This particular morning though, I knew I was in for a decent sunrise, but little did I know that the iPhone’s camera would able to capture pretty close to what I had pictured in my head.

Once again, it just goes to show that that most important gear for the photographer is the eyes, not the camera.

Of Things to Come - Abby Div at the Cadillac Hotel

I’ve photographed many a musician at the Cadillac Hotel, but never a model. When I found out that Abigail Div was coming back to San Francisco, it was like everything coming together. So we met on an afternoon at the Cadillac Hotel and set about creating some magic.

No, she’s not in the shot below, but I took it as I was testing both composition and lighting. This was my first time using a Lupo Superpanel Dual 1x1 on my own, after having previously been exposed to it twice at two Damien Lovegrove workshops. The results with Superpanel as the key light were outstanding! In fact, Abby was surprised by the power output of the panel.

I chose the image below though because I liked how she had left her shoes in the right spot on the floor.

The pool of light is actually the radial filter in Lightroom used to create the shape. I wanted to isolate the shoes a little more. The shadow is the real shadow being generated by the light of the Lupo.

Just a teaser for now!

Casulo - A Brazilian Jazz Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

Casulo - what does the word mean? It appears to be a Portuguese word that could translate into “cocoon” or “pod” or “chrysalis”. I like the idea of this band’s music emerging from a cocoon-like pod and bursting forth with colorful beauty, just like a butterfly. And that’s exactly what this concert was like!

I’ve photographed, perhaps, two dozen different musicians at the Cadillac Hotel our the past three years and the caliber of those bands — many of whom are just kind of getting started — is amazing! Casulo was no exception.

First, as always, let’s briefly get a look at the tools of the trade.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/18sec

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/25sec

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/2 — 1/30sec

Next we’ll have a bit of a reveal. I’ve been trying to nail this shot for a while, and the band’s leader, Paolo, was in just the right spot for me to get it.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/40sec

And now a view from above.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/2.8 — 1/12sec

I rarely am able to get the above shot, but this time the musicians were positioned perfectly and filled the space Normally the piano is turned in a different direction, making this shot a bit awkward, but I like how Paolo positioned the piano for this performance.

Dropping back down to ground level, here we see the drummer, in the zone and focused.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/1.4 — 1/75sec

The next shot was taken with the 56mm f/1.2 which on a full frame has a field of view of an 85mm and roughly the depth of field of an f/ 1.8. I just absolutely love the effect here. The saxophonist, Rueben, pops out of the shot while everything else behind him just melts way. But it wasn’t just the lens that did this, but also the lighting. Both worked together to create this nice, pleasing effect.

ISO 200 — 56mm f/1.2 — f/1.2 — 1/20sec

Normally, I would make the above photo black & white because when shooting in that direction, the colors of the curtains are often a distraction in the image. But not this time around. Somehow the sound and lighting engineer, Max, arranged the lighting differently and the background colors became pleasantly muted.

Next we have our acoustic bass player. Black and white was the best option for this shot because I think it adds to the focused look on his face.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

And finally we have the band leader, Paolo, playing and singing lively ballads for the audience.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

Prior to the start of the concert, I had introduced myself to Paolo and he asked if I could take some group shots of the band, so we spent about five minutes getting some static photos.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/5 — 1/30sec

ISO 200 — 23mm f/1.4 — f/5.6 — 1/40sec

If you’re interested in booking Casulo for a gig, have a look at their website and send Paolo a message!


On the Run — The Bordeaux Protest

It’s happened to us all, right?  You just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but you also happen to be blessed enough to be able to get away with in the nick of time.

I was doing my run-sploration of downtown Bordeaux when I whipped around the corner of one small street and heard yelling and loud chanting.  I’d stumbled upon a protest.

And then I saw the lady in the left foreground.  You can’t see it from this angle, but she had a tear gas grenade launcher slung over her shoulder in a relaxed but ready position.  But from the rest of her gear, you can tell that she’s a Gendarme (French police officer).

I had my iPhone SE with me as I always do and managed to snap this photo with the Lightroom app as the crowd began to move towards the officer.  I took that as my cue to leave the area.

I don’t know if they were part of the Yellow Vest protest or something else.  You can see a flag in the upper right.  It’s a white flag, but I’m not sure what it represents.  Either way, I didn’t want to stick around.

There was a huge police presence that day in Bordeaux, and the following day, I did notice a military presence at several of the historical sites.  I really feel for the French people, having had to deal with destructive protests and terror attacks.  But they still strive on, living from day to day.

I went with the black and white conversion for this shot because I felt that it needed a journalistic feel to it.

Of Things to Come — Riona Neve, from a Lovegrove Workshop in Southwest France

This is just a teaser, of course.  When I first saw one of Damien Lovegrove’s videos on YouTube, I was absolutely intrigued.  I was wondering who this guy was and why he knew so much about shaping light around models.  That was back in 2015.  Flash forward to 2019, and as I type this I am actually on my way home from attending my second workshop with Damien.  Twice now, I’ve felt the need to remind him that it’s his fault that I’m a Fuji user.

This workshop was held in the small French town of Le Temple Sur Lot, which is deep in the countryside of southwestern France.  It’s rural, though not as rural as the location of the workshop in Tuscany last year.

Our model was the amazing Riona Neve, from Belgium.  She’s got 15 years as a model under her belt, and it definitely shows!  I’ll have several blogs in the forthcoming weeks.  For now though, here’s a teaser of things to come.

Florentine Memories

By the time this blog is published, I’ll be somewhere in the Lot Valley of France, at another Damien Lovegrove photography workshop. But I wanted to share some photos that I took during my brief stay in Florence, Italy. They were taken over a period of about 16 hours, from the evening I arrived to the late morning the following day before I headed out to the ancient medieval city of Volterra. All of the photos were taken with my Fuji X-H1 and my always handy 16-55mm f/2.8 lens. That lens is on my camera 90% of the time.

This first set of shots were taken in the vicinity of Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most popular bridge.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/500sec

Storm clouds were brewing to the east, but thankfully they didn't head our way. I wasn’t eager to test my X-H1’s weatherproofing in a thunderstorm.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/110sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/80sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/80sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/480sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/480sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 53.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/300sec

Next I worked my way over to where the Cathedral and Duomo were. I was actually looking for dinner at that point, but with so many options, I wasn’t sure what to eat. So while I was trying to figure that out, I decided to try some extended exposure shots.

I didn’t bring my tripod with me, so I mounted my camera on anything I could find, from the tops of trash receptacles to the backs of benches.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 16mm — f/11 — 5sec

The tripod / no tripod choice was a bit of a tactical choice on my part because I would be doing a lot of walking and would clearly look like a tourist on the streets. But then again, there were tons of tourists around me as well. I decided that the unencumbered way was best.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 18.7mm — f/9 — 7sec

Since I was unencumbered, my compositions were basically dictated by where I could firmly mount my camera. In the case of the Duomo below, I really did put the camera atop a trash receptacle.

ISO 800 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 16mm — f/2.8 — 1/8sec

The long exposures helped eliminate the moving people in the shots. I hadn’t done a long exposure of street scenes before, so this was an interesting experiment. I was worried that the X-H1’s in-body image stabilization might interfere with the shot, but thankfully it didn’t.

The following morning I headed out to find some souvenirs and brought the camera along with me again.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 18.2mm — f/7.1 — 1/1900sec

I love these morning shots because there were less people on the streets and in the water, and I was able to capture some wonderful reflections.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/6.4 — 1/1000sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/3800sec

Florence is a wonderful city. It’s smaller than what I’m normally accustomed to, which is why I think I may have found it to be quite comfortable and pleasant. There’s so much beautiful history and architecture in the area. It’s definitely worth exploring again.

Colonial Williamsburg - Women in Early Music

While at Colonial Williamsburg, the last event I attended was a presentation called, “Women in Early Music”. It was late March and the program was quite appropriate for Women’s History Month.

Photography was not allowed during the performance itself, mostly because the room was really dark and the camera would have been a huge distraction/disruption during the performance. But afterwards I asked two of the ladies if I could take their photos and they excitedly agreed!

To say that the shooting conditions were difficult is an understatement. I was having to push what I thought were the limits of my camera’s ISO!

This first shot is of the flautist. What I found so amazing about her performance was the distinctive very deep breath she would take at the beginning of each song (or movement). You can see from the size of the flute just how robust it is compared to modern day flutes. But the music she drew from that flute was strong and steady, which is a testament to her stamina and skill!

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 26.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

This next shot was the most difficult one of my entire time at Colonial Williamsburg, and also of the two shots taken that night.

Our singer positioned herself in a very dark portion of the room, perhaps too dark in most circumstances.  However, I trust my Fuji, especially the X-H1 with it’s IBIS.  So I did my best at guessing the exposure and trusting the fact that the dynamic range of the Fuji sensor would allow me to bring this image up a whopping 5 stops!  And here’s the final image.

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

At ISO 1600, the image was grainy, but not so much that i wasn’t able to use the noise reduction in Lightroom to do some decent correction. The sepia conversion was done to primarily help mask the remaining noise, and also to make the image look older. It seems that when we think of sepia, we think of older photos and we think of grains so hopefully worked!

I’m glad I was able to catch this performance because it was actually the final performance, since Women’s History Month and the March of month was coming to a close. If I could go back next year and catch this performance again, the only thing I would change would be to bring a small flash and a flash sync chord!

Gettysburg - Scenes from the Battlefield

I hadn’t intended to discuss Gettysburg on Memorial Day, the day which we honor those who lost their lives defending their nation and their freedom, but this year it seemed appropriate.

I had the opportunity not too long ago to visit the Gettysburg Battlefield. Obviously, being a battlefield, the area is immense, encompassing more than just the city of Gettysburg, but a significant portion of the outskirts as well. As with many of the American Civil War Battlefields, the loss of life was at a tragically large scale. It’s also in this area that President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address.

On the day I visited, it was a rainy day. The skies were dark, and there was a steady light rain falling all over the area. I had no worries because my Fuji X-H1 was weather resistant, as was the 16-55mm f/2.8 that was mounted on it. That lens has the equivalent field of view of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera. It was the only lens I brought with me during my visit to the battlefield.

I’ve come to learn through the wise advice of a good friend, who served as a combat photographer with the U.S. military, and also through experimentation, that for just touring around and doing photo walks, the 24-70mm zoom lens is really all you need.

The first shot gives a sense of isolation and solitude. It’s a lone branch and a single water droplet. Behind you see the dark storm clouds covering the land, and the drab colors of the landscape.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/480 sec

Next we have two shots: one a closer-in shot that has the tell-tale look of a part of a cannon, and then a shot from the front of the canon itself.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/180 sec

Standing near the front of one of these, you can just imagine the power of the blast emanating from the barrel, and cannon ball being expelled, destroying everything it touches.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/160 sec

Can you imagine having to run up against this barricade, with bullets coming right at you?  It may not look like much, but truly, if you had a rifle and a pistol and extra ammo, and some gear, trying to get over even part of this would be difficult while under fire.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/120 sec

Here’s a stone wall that was probably used as cover for soldiers shooting at their opponents.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/5.6 — 1/90 sec

One must remember though, that while Gettysburg is a battlefield, but it’s also a memorial that’s littered with cemeteries. And all over its grounds, precious blood was spilled. Looking through the lens of history, we hopefully don’t see the same lines of division that they did.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/400 sec

Hopefully, what one sees at Gettysburg is not only the dangers of a nation divided, but also the memorial that it truly is. Whatever side the American soldier fought on during this war, they were still Americans. And we can only their memories on this Memorial Day by remembering their sacrifice and also doing what we can to prevent an already divided present day nation from spiraling down the path that led our forefathers to war in the first place.

Lest We Forget - A Holocaust Remembrance

May 8, 1945 was the day the Holocaust came to an end, and it’s that period of our modern history that many people often think is just a part of history and that’s it. Something that happened in the past and has already been recorded in the history books. But has to be more than that. If history is just a measure of Time + Events, then we, as a people, are walking down a dangerous cyclical path. If one measures history as Time + Relationships + Experiences, then it means something more. I wasn’t even born when the Holocaust occurred, but photography has taught me that moments are important, especially the experiences of people within that moment.

I just happened to be at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and saw this amazing display, a Holocaust Remembrance created by German-Italian photographer, Luigi Toscano. It’s 68 portraits of living Holocaust survivors. It’s a beautiful testimony to those who survived it, but a mournful, cautionary memory about the dangers of nationalism that lacks restraint.

The photos need no real description. They are as they are. Of note is that I ran across this exhibition on May 8, 2019, exactly 74 years after the Holocaust historically came to an end.

By the time this blog is published, the exhibition will have moved on from San Francisco. I urge you to find out if it’s coming to your area, and to visit it and lose yourself in the history of it. And shed a tear for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Shot with my iPhone SE and edited with the Lightroom App.

Mother's Day 2019

To all of the moms out there

Thank you! We don’t say it often enough.

The weekly blog will be back on its usual Monday schedule in just over a week. In the meantime, if your mom is still present on this earth, give her a call, visit her, talk with her. The days are very precious, so never let that chance go by to tell your mom you love her.

Colonial Williamsburg - Surveying His Domain

Sometimes you just get lucky when a shot presents itself. And sometimes if you don’t think fast enough, you’ll lose that shot.

I had just exited the Governor’s Palace and one of the interpreters bid me farewell. Since I was the only one around him — it was near closing time of the palace at 5pm — after he bid me farewell, he turned away from me, presumably to look at something. I didn’t think anything of it until I turned around and took one last look at the Governor’s Palace to try to catch the sun’s setting rays hitting the building. But what I saw instead was the below pose.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/3800sec

I quickly walked back to him and asked if I could take his picture with that same pose and he agreed.

I took the saturation down a bit because I felt that it aged the photo a little, plus I added a vignette. Colonial Williamsburg is full of wonderful colors, especially blues and reds and whites that can dazzle the eye. But in this instance I thought things needed to be a little softer and more mellow.

Colonial Williamsburg - Lost in Thought in the Wythe House

I actually started my day tour in Colonial Williamsburg at the home of George Wythe, who I learned was a mentor to Thomas Jefferson.  I was in this house the night before for the Haunted Williamsburg tour and decided to return because I wanted to explore the home more.

I found my way to the second floor where I was met by an interpreter who told me a little about the history of the house, and also talked about some of the architectural designs behind the home.  It was an eye opener for me.

Before I bid her farewell, I asked her if I could take her photo and she obliged.  But I was trying to figure out a good shot.

On a table were some items dealing with entomology.  I wasn’t interested so much in what the items were exactly, but they were interesting and had texture.  I positioned myself so that I could get a little backlight from the window and took the following shot.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 42.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/210sec

I didn’t want her entire body in front of the window, otherwise the backlight would have blown out all of her features.  I also increased the shadows in the room, processed it as sepia, and added a vignette to give it an older feel.

Colonial Williamsburg - Firing of the Noon Gun

The firing of the noon gun was a daily event that marked the end of the morning’s training and the start of the noon-time meal prep for the continental soldiers at Colonial Williamsburg.

I spent a few minutes wandering around the area of the Magazine in Colonial Williamsburg, wondering where this was going to take place.  I’d seen several cannons in the magazine yard, but those were pointed at the magazine itself, so that told me I was in the wrong spot.  It would be odd to fire a cannon — even with just powder — at a structure!

But a few minutes later, I saw this trio walking from around the side of the Magazine towards a cannon that was at the base of a small hill.  They walked in silence and with purpose, as you can see from the photo below.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/2500sec

Without a doubt, these three were going to fire the noon gun!

I shot the above image with the Fuji Provia Standard Film Simulation, but in post-processing, I switched over to the Velvia Film Simulation because I wanted the colors of the uniform and a hint of the blue sky to pop out.  When I shoot sporting events, I’m normally using Velvia, and for portraiture I’m usually using ProNeg Standard.  But Velvia seemed to be appropriate in this instance because I wanted the uniform colors to pop as much as possible.  They’re just pretty cool to look at when the colors become more prominent.

For the actual firing of the noon gun, I opted against using video and then capturing still frames.  Instead, I decided to shoot it using the burst mode of the X-H1.  I set it to high speed burst, which was 8 frames per second.  Shutter speed was fixed at 1/4000 and the aperture at f/5.6 to keep enough of the action in focus.  The shot was handheld as I decided to leave the tripod at home on this trip so as to be as mobile and unencumbered as possible.  I’m not exactly sure why the ISO ended up being 1600, but since it was daytime, there’s no noise that I could detect.

If you click of the image below, it will open up a brief video clip showing the firing of the gun.  You’ll notice some camera shake at the end, and I think i was my reaction to the firing itself.

1/4000 sec was the perfect speed to capture the muzzle flash and burning of the powder!

If I could do things a little differently next time, I would definitely use a tripod and cable release.  I might also set the FPS for high speed burst to maybe 12 instead of 8.  I might also use a prime lens like the Fuji 90mm or even 80mm in order to get a sharper image.  Focusing itself was done manually.

Colonial Williamsburg - Ghosts Stories

As with many old cities, particularly on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., there are tales of hauntings and restless spirits.  Colonial Williamsburg is one place where such tales abound!

I decided to hear about such stories and went on the Haunted Williamsburg tour.  It’s held at night, though I made sure to sign up for the tour that was well past sunset, starting at 8pm.  We had two guides that night who took us inside some of the haunted homes in Williamsburg.  They led us by lantern-light to each house and told us stories of the ghosts who have haunted those homes.  It is a bit of a creepy tour because in the darkness of those homes, it seems like there’s something lurking in the shadows.  In fact, one of our guides was wary about going into one of the homes because of an incident that happened to her in broad daylight while she was alone there.

After the tour ended I asked our two guides if I could take their picture.  I improvised the shot below because I didn’t want to keep them too long in the cold.

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

But is one of them a ghost?

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

The above shot is only the third time in 2019 that I’ve actually used Photo Shop to alter an image.  I wanted to see if I could create a ghost.  Mind you, I only had a single image to work with.

Did we really have two guides that night?  Or was one of them a ghost?

Colonial Williamsburg - Aggy’s Sorrow

I’ve stated many times that there’s a certain power to black and white photography. I like how it takes an emotion and enhances it. As soon as I took this shot, I knew it had to be black and white.

Why is this called “Aggy’s Sorrow”? It’s because the interpreter, Mary, is presenting the real-life historical figure of Aggy, a slave. Not only was she a slave, but she was also an interracial slave. Aggy’s father was white while her mother was black. So she existed in both worlds, more-so in the world of the slave than in any other world. Aggy also had two children with her master.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/4000sec

I suppose the use of black and white is also symbolic in that it also implies the internal struggle within Aggy.  You’ll notice that a majority of the color is a much darker shade, versus the lighter shade, showing which world she was forced to live in.

With her head down, and brim of her hat angling toward the Union Jack, which world does she really belong to?

This scene has been indelibly burned into my memory, probably my most prominent one during my visit.

I did make a few minor enhancements to this photo.  First, I used Photoshop to digitally remove Mary’s wireless microphone, which was located on the right side of her face.  It’s only the second time in 2019 that I’ve had to use Photoshop for anything since I always try to do my absolute best to nail the photo in-camera (exposure, DoF, etc).  I also burned the corners of the image with a heavy vignette to darken it even more, thus increasing the gloom.

The photo would have looked fine in color, but black and while tells Aggy’s story more than any color photograph ever could.

Colonial Williamsburg - Anticipation

If you’ve seen my Instagram, or have caught snippets of my blog, you’ll know that I really enjoy photographing live recreations, like Bethlehem AD in Redwood City which I photographed in 2016, 2017, and 2018.  I had heard about Colonial Williamsburg, but, having been to the Washington D.C. area numerous times, had never made the three hour trip south to visit.  This year I did.  And I’m glad I did.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living museum!  And it’s a museum that covers several city blocks, with restored colonial buildings and costumed volunteers (known as interpreters) in the buildings and walking the streets, eager to share their knowledge of a time just before the American Revolution.  Where Bethlehem AD is a seasonal event, Colonial Williamsburg is open year-round, and there are seasonal additions too, which are too numerous to mention.  So one could visit it annually at different times of the year and experience many new things!

What will follow over the next few weeks are photos — sometimes one and sometimes many — that each represent a different facet of my experience during one day at Colonial Williamsburg.

And it all starts with this specific shot. 

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/180sec

Whoever she’s waiting for, she’s excited.

Why this shot?  It’s the one that stuck in my mind after I took it, and it’s the one that I showed several of the interpreters when I asked them if I could take their photo.

I was doing a self-tour of the Governor’s Palace — I’d missed the guided tours earlier in the day — and I spotted one of the interpreters staring out the window.  This inspired me and I knew I had to get the above shot.

I only brought one lens for this visit: my trusty 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, which would have the field of view of a 24-70mm on a full frame camera.  For travel and events, this lens has never let me down.

How this shot was achieved:  I shot it at f/2.8, but at 24mm, which on a full frame would be more like 36mm.  Why not at 55mm?  Because I didn’t want a shallow depth of field.  I felt it important to pull out the details of not just her face, but also her dress and the details of the window and the swords mounted on the wall behind her.  ISO 200 is the base ISO for the Fuji X series cameras and I kept it at that.  1/180sec shutter speed gave me the look I wanted with darker shadows; there were no electric lights back then!

The light is all natural from the sun.  I didn’t bring a flash for this trip, instead relying on just the found light.  And the buildings seen outside the window, those are real.  I just used the dehaze tool in Lightroom to bring out the details just a bit.

As for the sepia tone, that was more of an artistic choice — one that I made on the spot —since photography didn’t exist in those days just before the War of Independence.  In fact, it wouldn’t be for another 50 or so years that the first known photograph would have been produced.  I could have left it in color, slightly desaturated, but I wanted the photo to not only evoke an emotion, but also a time and place.  Sepia seemed to suit this image because immediately the mind associates the contents of the image as not being in the 20th or 21st centuries.

Next week, I’ll blog about another Colonial Williamsburg photo that I think speaks volumes about the use of black and white and how that technique can take an emotion and deepen it.