Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lotus meets Lightroom 4

A few years back I had a chance to photograph a beautiful British Racing green Lotus Elise for a collector. The series was pretty good but as time went on those shots just didn't have the Pazzam some of my newer stuff did.

As a technical exercise I decided to exploit the power of the new Lightroom 4 to not only bring the three year old Lotus shots back to life but to make them choice shots for my portfolio.

Here is a quick look at the results:

Green with envy

Lotus Elise - Image 4

Midnight Run

So how much difference are we talking about? Well here ya go:

So what are we looking at here? I did originally shoot the Elise in exposure bracketed files so the image on the left is the untouched Olympus E-330 Raw file from only the middle bracket. The right side is the final post production of the single RAW file; pretty sweet hua? 

The key to success here was Adobe's new highlight/shadow control that I have to say is the coolest feature in the new Lightroom 4

To express how powerful Adobe has made this set of controls just look at the comparison above, just the shadow controls button restored 70% of the image to what you see on that right side. 

Another wonderful Lightroom 4 item was the "Graduated Filter" that can transform dull skies into something wonderful with a simple pull down:

For color control there is of course Adobe's wonderful white balance but I found the "split toning" feature to be very useful in balancing color-shifts between highlights and shadows. This is great for golden hour shots or as in this case, faking golden hour shots.

The expanded adjustment brush allowed me to really fine tune all the colors, details and contrasts. This brush tool has become nearly as powerful as one of my favorite plug ins "Viveza 2"; so needless to say in most cases I could do post without ever needed to export out of Lightroom.   

In short I was completely blown away by the potential of Lightroom 4. I dare to say that this program may be the death of traditional HDR programs in it's ability to expand the dynamics of a single RAW file in a very natural and simplistic way.

Of course I had to see what Lightroom 4 could do in combination with some other tools so I tried a Hollywood style day for night shot using "Adobe Lightroom 4", "On One Perfect Effects 3" and "The KPT Collection" for lens flares.  

Midnight Run

Here is the before and after

Well there you go, thanks for reading. If you would like to see the full set of Lotus shots they are here: Lotus Elise

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A day in the life of the world project

On May 15th I participated in a world wide documentary photography project that is essentially "A day in the Life of the World" though

As a kid I was a huge fan of the book "A day in the life of America" shot by the worlds most credible photojournalists. I have long waited to do a project such as this.

You can find my shots at

So about that day:

On May 15th I was super excited about the event, I even met with my local photography group the night before to brainstorm what to shoot. I have wanted to do a project like this for years.

I originally planned to really focus on people, local religious groups, dance groups, something very social.I was going to really live that National Geographic journalist dream for a day. Of course things don't always go as planned, long work hours and a wrong turn down a country road changed the story.

The morning hours were fine, mostly I focused on my young daughter as she woke up and got ready for school.

May 15th 12:08 am

May 15th 7:35 am

I visited my dads who is an antique collector so I knew that would be a good shot. Getting him to actually be in the shot was a challenge as he said "Well just shoot the stuff, that is interesting not me". I had to explain that him being in the shot puts this collection of stuff in context.

May 15th 9:35 am

I did take some commute shots by rigging a magic arm to the passenger inside door handle. To shoot I used an intervalometer, the shots I felt out turned out just so so.

I did shoot some food shots for breakfast and lunch but neither turned out as anything cool. The lunch one had to be shot with a cell phone as not to freak out my co workers with a big camera.

I had about 45 minutes before lunch to escape. I debated where to go to get good people shots. I went to Leu Gardens a popular Botanical Garden in Orlando Florida thinking at that time of day many older couples would be there, Ironically the only thing I ran into while walking around the massive garden was a turtle crossing the walkway. I got a few garden shots and then went back to work.

May 15th 1:26 pm

May 15th 1:33 pm

May 15th 1:36 pm

May 15th 1:53 pm

I work in the video game industry so I am very restricted what I can shoot at the studio due to intellectual property issues but I was able to set up my room for a single shot to really show what that world is like...sometimes I feel like I work in Willy Wonka's mysterious Chocolate Factory. 

May 15th 3:10 pm

After work (had to work an extra hour..dang it) I headed out to a sleepy town called Winter Garden to capture the laid-back culture there. Unfortunately I met with a massive rainstorm as I approached the town (I did get a quick shot of it through my sunroof from the highway). The town was damp and mostly empty by the time I got there except a grandfather and his very young grand-kid who was out to play in the fountain.

May 15th 6:36 pm

May 15th 7:02 pm

May 15th 7:06 pm

After leaving Winter Garden I was going to explore some of the backwoods behind Lake Apopka, perhaps to find some cool old buildings or the like. I got totally lost and had to use the GPS to get me out of there. Perhaps the only cool thing that happened on this mishap was that I passed by an impressive group luxury homes on a hill with some dramatic clouds, that I shot.

May 15th 7:38 pm

30 minutes later I found myself on a familiar highway but had felt like I had wasted valuable time. I went to Lake Apopka to get the sunset (a lake famous with local photographers for sunsets) . Once at the lake I chatted with a couple local photographers there also shooting; neither knew about the aday project so I gave them the details. I stayed for probably 30 minutes to catch the twilight and then started home.

May 15th 8:09 pm

May 15th 8:33 pm

I rigged up my "Magic Arm" for some long exposure night shots while driving , once again using my handy intervalometer trigger. Out of the 20 or so shots one was clearly the winner.

May 15th 8:52 pm  ADAY.ORG

I arrived home and ate dinner and pondered what to shoot next but everything that came to mind was about to close or had closed. Rather than drive around without a clue I just shot some scenes at home that reflected my life.

May 15th 10:48 pm

May 15th 11:51 pm

I don't know if I ever got that perfect "A day in the life shot" but the experience was certainly a good one. You need a project like this every now and then to remind you to get out of your shell and see the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Exotics take over St. Petersburg FL.

King of the Hill

In early April I was hired to cover the Festivals of Speed as it once again took over downtown St. Petersburg Florida. This show has been an annual occurrence for years and famous for it's ultra high end automotive entries. The headliners this year from this year were this extraordinary Buggati Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport (above) and the much more elusive Koenigsegg CCXR as seen below (two of the worlds most expensive and fastest production cars I might add).

CCXR @ 2012 Festival of Speed

Of course for me being both a photographer and a die hard exotic automotive enthusiast this show is like spending a few days in heaven. The results are as seen a group of images showing both the show and the extraordinary beauty of these machines.

The shot above of the CCXR was posted the day I returned from the exclusive Jet Port reception party and within hours was featured on "Flickr Explore"quite an achievement considering how many millions of photos hit the site on any given day.  So the question that may arise from shots like this is how are they done?

In the case of the two images above it's a lot about composition. The Buggati shot above called "King of the Hill"  was shot with a Canon 60D and a Sigma 8-16MM Lens - F5.0, 1/50, ISO 320. Post process was done mostly with Lightroom 4 and color correction/enhancement with VIVEZA 2 by Nik Software. Creative tip: The three ways to draw a users eye to a specific part of the photo: Color, Focus, Light. In this shot I exploited the fact that Bugatti is largely grey-scale surrounded by vivid color; the opposite of another popular effect - making only the focus object color while the background is Black and white. Also note that composition plays a part in the focus as the ground forms a triangle shape leading the eye to the Bugatti.

The CCXR shot was composed with strong use of triangles to define the quadrants of the lower frame; the CCXR represents the largest triangle of the 7 triangles of the core shot. Post processing for this shot was done with NIK Software HDR Efex pro   and refined in lightroom 4 for detail and a bias to a warmer white balance.

Spyker C8 Laviolette LM85

The Spyker LM85 seen here is one of only twenty four ever made. This automobile is nothing short of a work of art inside and out not to mention its performance ability's of it's Audi V8 engine or it's Le Mans ready suspension.

This shot of it I felt was classic with sail boat in the back as if to say "parked the car and went sailing". In post process the majority of the work in lightroom was to remove the color blue from the LM85 itself to highlight it's chrome details and grill work. Blue was also removed to retain the stunning orange metallic tones in the paint.

Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4

The "Aventador" of course being Lamborghini's latest and greatest flagship exotic received ample attention at the event. This Braille sponsored race version and I spent some time together after the show for a series of stunning bay side shots.  Again one can see my heavy use of triangles for composition. This time though I was using an Adorama studio strobe powered by an Alien Bee's Vagabond 2 power supply  to chase away the harsh sun shadows.

In post process I used Color Efex Pro  to neutralize and blend tones of white to achieve a uniform color palette. I also used bleach bypass to bring out all those little details as seen in the rims.

The Usual Suspects

For this shot and the shot below I had my custom made tripod up about 8ft or so to achieve the high angle look. Shot composition was done with the 60D's wonderful articulated screen so I could easily see from below.

The interior shots at the Jet Port were largely done with long exposures to capture the majestic party lighting.

Ferrari 430 Scuderia & California

Shelby Series 1

The Shelby Series one got a lot of attention from me as I have always thought it to be one of the most beautifully designed american automobiles of all time. The Series 1 was plagued by issues around the time of its release and was for the most part swept under the rug by Shelby so they are rare to see even at events as high profile as this; I have only seen three ever. There is a great book about this car's history called Snake Bit.

So about the shot: The depth of field was faked with focal point 2 as there simple was no room to get a long lens shot with the thousands of visitors and automobiles surrounding this Shelby.

MP4-12C doors

McLaren's new MP4-12C was also being displayed at the show. This vehicle is the first we have seen since the legendary three seater F1 redefined the term "Supercar" in the late 90's. These shots show off some of the unique attributes of this new beauty.

McLaren  MP4-12C

Well I hope you enjoyed the shots and a bit of the back story behind them; to see more of the shots check out my photostream  . Also check out The Festival of Speed if you are down in Florida.

"Just Believe" 2.0

Yesterday I re-released a track I created last June called "Just Believe". The vocal trance anthem track received a nice makeover including a new ending, a more definitive drum track and a reworked beginning.

"Just Believe"  has been on my mind for a couple months as I often heard it in my playlist but there was always something about it that seem to slightly miss the mark. Mostly I felt the original minute long intro was too variant and did not focus on the highlight theme of the track.

I liked this song because it has such a positive message but it still has the energy of a driving club track. I am considering shooting a video for this in the upcoming months.

I hope you all like version 2.0 of this vocal trance anthem.

Portrait mode for the Alien Bees Ringflash

portrait mode for AB Ringflash - ABR800

Those who have the Alienbees ABR800 likely have already discovered it's a tad bit difficult to set it up for a portrait shot. Aside from the tripod head the parts should run you about $27 to do the conversion .  The stud under your desired tripod head can quickly be reattached to the center female stud for landscape mode.

The parts Manfrotto 143BKT Camera Platform for Magic Arm

One Manfrotto 037 Reversible Short Stud, with 3/8" & 1/4"-20 Threads (Brass)

And two Manfrotto 066 Double Female Stud's

This is an wonderful flash unit by the way, highly recommended.