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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My New Packaging

The other day someone was looking at a slide show at an event I was shooting and mentioned how much I love details.  I guess I do!!  That's probably why I'm so excited about my new packaging.  Whenever you purchase a luxurious memory book they will come wrapped and packed in custom boxes made by H-B Photo Packaging.
When I was creating the brand for Celebration Packages I wanted to convey the fact that I was a "luxury events" photographer.  One of my favorite brands happens to be Louis Vuitton. I love their craftsmanship, attention to detail, and of course....packaging.  So when I created the look for my own packaging I used Louis Vuitton as a model.  At first, I went with the deep, chocolate brown with a baby blue accent.  I didn't really like the lime green accent from the LV packaging.  But it grew on me and I decided to go with the lime green accent as well.

So for those of you who share my love for the details, here is my packaging.....along with a cameo appearance by my kitty, Pancake :)

luxury photography packaging

luxury photography packaging

luxury photography packaging


This last shot is actually my price list. The way I present these is that I printed them on a 10x10" mounted page. This gives it a very similar feel to the pages in my Generational Memory Books. Here is the digital PDF version if you're interested in taking a look.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Coleman 50th Wedding Anniversary Sneak Peek

Last Friday night, April 23rd, 2010 was the FIFTIETH wedding anniversary for Gary and Mary Lee Coleman.  How awesome is that!?!?!  Happily married for fifty years.  Their daughter-in-law, Michele Coleman, was introduced to me by one of my awesome clients, and friend, Maree Mossmer.  She told me about the event and I was honored to be a part of this historic night.


coleman wedding anniversary details

coleman wedding anniversary details

coleman wedding anniversary details


Gary and Mary Lee got married EXACTLY fifty years ago on that very same day AND at the very same place--the wonderful La Jolla Country Club.  How much awesomerererer is that?


coleman wedding anniversary details

coleman wedding anniversary details


The Colemans have three sons each with their own families so it was really cool to be able to capture their family reunion.  Check out what a cool family they have!

coleman wedding anniversary entire family


Quite a few people were there that night from the original wedding, including the best man here looking at their original wedding album!  THIS is the sort of thing I live for....I get giddy just thinking about families passing around my Memory Books fifty years from now!!


coleman wedding anniversary

coleman wedding anniversary


Dinner was AMAZING, I'm not gonna lie, one thing I really love about shooting events is being able to grub on the delicious food :)

The toasts were so inspiring. Family and friends all got up to toast this wonderful couple. The cutest part was when their grandchildren got up to say a few words! Plus, I have to say these were some well behaved kids!

coleman wedding anniversary


A three-piece, live band played some great dancing tunes.

coleman wedding anniversary dancing

coleman wedding anniversary dancing

coleman wedding anniversary dancing

coleman wedding anniversary dancing



Happy Anniversary Gary and Mary Lee Coleman!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

From blah to PIZZAH! How to Make Your Photos Pop - Part 1

Recently I attended the San Diego Photography Users Group where Art Suwansang from Rule of 3rds presented some amazing techniques in Lightroom.  I utilized some of these techniques to process one of the photos I took for the 19 Frame Challenge from an earlier post. 


Today you'll learn how to take the original photo on the left and turn it into the one on the right--all in only a few minutes!!
Lightroom Tutorial - before/after

The two techniques I'll highlight today are the Graduated Filter and Adjustment Brush Tools.  Whether you are a professional photographer or a weekend photographer with an iPhone I think you'll find a new tip or trick to really help make your photos pop. I am "stacking" a lot of separate techniques to build a complete image but any of these techniques by themselves can work on their own and might just be all you need to make your photo pop. 

Today's examples are tailored more towards bringing out the landscape in your photos.  In a later post, I'll talk about similar techniques you can do to make your portraits reach out and grab your viewers :)

Here's the photo we'll be using today.  It is a sunrise view from one of the amazing suites at The Grand America hotel in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's an ok photo.  Not horrible, but nothing special either.

Lightroom Tutorial - original image

The first thing you'll want to do is get the photo nailed down perfectly first.  If anyone out there is interested, I can talk about how to do this. Once you've got your white balance nailed, your exposure set for your white point and your blacks adjusted for your black point then you can move on.  For this photo I did not need to make any adjustments.

For this image the first thing I'm actually going to do is play with is to go back to the White Balance.Since this is a landscape shot I am going to give myself a little more artistic license and change the White Balance to give me a warmer feel. 
Lightroom Tutorial - white balance adjustment


The next tool we'll use the Graduated Filter Tool. Make sure you're in the Development module.  Then select the Graduated Filter Tool.  You can also use the keyboare shortcut (m). 
Lightroom Tutorial - select graduated filter


Select the Graduated Filter tool and apply it to your image. Here you can see that I applied a very small band right around the mountain range. (Note: if you hold down the SHIFT key you'll keep your filter straight) The main reason for doing this was to darken the sky and bring out some of the color. I did this by dialing down the exposure before applying the filter. You can see that just this one adjustment helps out a ton!!
Lightroom Tutorial - apply graduated filter


While the filter is still selected (you can tell that because there is a black circle within a white circle), let's utilize the filter to add some more pop to the image. If you look at the right hand panel there are a bunch of settings to adjust the Graduated Filter.
  • Lower Brightness to darken the skies a little more
  • Increase the contrast to further darken the skies and separate the clouds from the sky
  • Increase the clarity to bring more texture to the clouds
Lightroom Tutorial - graduated filter settings


Now, let's apply another Graduated Filter.  For this filter let's stick to the very top of the image.  The settings for this filter are to lower the exposure and brightness by just a tad to give a little more darkness gradient to the top.  We'll also select a blue color to apply and bump up the saturation to add some blue to the top part of the sky. 
Lightroom Tutorial - graduated filter settings


One other really cool use for Graduated Filters is to color correct portions of your image.  For this image, because we changed the White Balance the ground has a yellowish cast to it.  To fix this, we'll apply another filter moving upwards that has a blue tint to it.  This is counteracts the yellow and gives a more neutral tone.  While we're at it, let's also increase the brightness to give a little more life to the party.  Here, we're using Brightness instead of Exposure because we like where our white points and highlights are--we don't want to blow them out.  So we adjust the Brightness which changes only the mid tones in our images.
Lightroom Tutorial - graduated filter settings


One thing that's important to do when you're processing your photos or editing an image is to keep track of your progress and keep an eye on the big picture.  In Lightroom, you can easily view the original image without any adjustments by using the keyboard shortcut (\). 
Lightroom Tutorial - view original image


WOW!!!! What a difference we've made already!!
Lightroom Tutorial - original image


The last thing we're going to modify for this image is to put some white back into the mountain snow and make it jump out just a tad more.  To do this we'll use the Adjustment Brush Tool.
Lightroom Tutorial - select adjustment brush


Once you select the brush, let's increase the exposure a little to make the whites a little whiter and decrease the saturation to pull some of the yellow color out.  But make sure not to decrease the saturation too much because we still want a tint of the yellow/orange to keep it realistic because the snow would reflect some of the sky's light. Just go ahead and paint in right over the mountain snow.  Quick note about the two brush circles you see: the inner circle is the size of your brush.  The outer circle is the amount of feather the brush has. 
Lightroom Tutorial - apply adjustment brush



So there you have it!  Just a few minutes in Lightroom and you can make your photos go from blah to PIZZAH!!!

Lightroom Tutorial - before/after


Lightroom Tutorial - sunrise view from The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, UT

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Condo Complex

The other day I posted some photos from the 19 Frame Challenge. Those were all the unprocessed, straight-out-of-the-camera shots. Here are the processed versions.

These photos are of my condo complex so if you're visiting me you'll be able to find it :)

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4: Here's the front gate. Walk up and go to the phone...
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5: Dial 35 to reach me :)
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7: Please don't steal my mail :)
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Backpack Shootout - Tenba vs ThinkTank

backpack shootout - tenba vs. thinktank

Hello everyone!

So today I am writing my first ever review!  And of course I had to go big so it's a backpack shootout between Tenba and ThinkTank.  Both are backpacks that I own and have used extensively.  Instead of giving you "the facts", I thought I'd tell you why *I* chose my personal backpack and why.  There are plenty of other sites telling you all the fancy details, etc. so I might not repeat a lot of that. 

First off, the two backpacks I'm reviewing are the Tenba Shootout Medium backpack and the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.  BOTH are amazing backpacks and I can definitely say that I would be happy with either. 

TENBA:
I've owned MANY backpacks and camera bags over the years.  As my skills and collection have grown, my needs have changed and evolved.  Last year, I purchased the Tenba Shootout because I had several needs:
  • BACKPACK and not a carry bag
  • Ability to carry all of my photo gear
    • Cameras: Canon 5D mkII w/Battery Grip, Canon 50D w/Battery Grip
    • Lenses: Sigma 20mm f1.8, Canon 35mm f1.4L, Canon 50mm f1.2L, Canon 100mm f2.8 macro, Canon 135mm f2.0L, Canon 28-70 f2.8L
    • Flashes: 580ex II, 580ex, Lightsphere
    • Pocket Wizards
    • Miscellaneous Small Gear
  • Ability to carry my laptop
Some of the things I really like about the Tenba are that the laptop compartment is easily accessible and has room to hold a power supply and travel mouse.  It also has side compartments that you can "reach through" to access the internal compartments.  This means you can grab a lens without having to open up the entire bag.  When I first read that I thought it was sooo cool!  Unfortunately for me I was never able to make much use of it because A) when the backpack is on my back I can't bend that way, B) I am usually in situations where I can just open the main compartment , and C) I usually have stuff shoved in those side compartments to eek every last bit of travel capacity. Also, the whole innards of the backpack can be pulled out to transform the backpack into a ....... backpack :) 

Two other things that are really nice about the Tenba are that it works great for a hiking type backpack because you can easily carry different size tripods and other gear like a jack or things that you can strap in.  This backpack is also water resistant with weather sealed zippers.  And it has a rain jack thingie that you can wrap around the entire backpack for even more weather resistance. Perfect if you live anywhere OTHER than San Diego where it's sunny most of the year.

A few things I felt were lacking about the Tenba are that it didn't have as much miscellaneous storage as I wanted.  The inner pocket has a weird V shape that doesn't quite maximize the use of space.  Also, the pens that I stored always seemed to get pushed out. 
Here's a photo I stole from Tenba's site:



THINKTANK:
One day I read a review about the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.0 and thought I'd try it out. So I bought it and switched over to it for a little while.

One thing I really like about the ThinkTank is its rectangular shape which really maximizes what you can carry within the size confines.  I can fit quite a bit more in the ThinkTank than I can in the Tenba.  The ThinkTank also has two huge pockets that I can throw all kinds of random things like cables, CF Cards, etc.  There's also another flip-down pocket that I can put other things and there are a few other outside small pockets that I throw business cards and napkins in.

thinktank airport addicted v2.0 inside

For my laptop, the ThinkTank comes with a little mini carrying case.  It is cool except for the fact that you can't really carry everything you need like a power supply and travel mouse.  You can kind of jam it into the external pouch but it makes the laptop case look like it's pregnant.  It also makes life a little more difficult when you want to fly with this backpack and also take your laptop.  When I've traveled with this backpack I ended up putting my laptop in a different bag. 

A few things on my wish list for v3: the Tenba has click-straps that secure the backpack in addition to the zipper.  Every time I throw my backpack on I'm worried if I forgot to zip up the backpack or if the zipper will break.  Having the cinch straps is a nice sanity check.  Also, many times I'll just click the straps and not zip up the zippers when I just need to quickly transport the backpack from one end of the room to the other.  I also wish that cameras were stored on its side like I can with the Tenba.  The two reasons for this is that I feel space is maximized just a touch more this way.  Also, I really like being able to pop in and out CF cards without having to remove the entire camera. 


TRAVEL:
I have traveled a medium amount with both backpacks.  Both are small enough to be carry-ons and can barely fit underneath the seats of most planes. 


PERSONAL RESULTS:
Without much hoopla, I'll just announce that my personal choice of backpack is the ThinkTank Airport Addicted v2.  It just seems to fit my needs a little better as it carries much more gear than the Tenba and it has many more useful pockets.  Also, it actually is slightly smaller in overall space it takes up than the Tenba so it is easier to travel with.   One thing to note is that on Amazon the Tenba is $189 and the ThinkTank is $329.  That's quite a substantial difference.  For me, the benefits are more than worth the price difference. 

That's it folks! These were just some of my random thoughts about both backpacks. Definitely hit me up with comments or questions about anything and I can weigh in on any more personal questions you might have for either. 


Thanks for Reading!
Reuben

Saturday, April 10, 2010

19 Frame Challenge

A week or so ago, my friend Jeff Youngren issued a 19 frame blog challenge:

Grab your camera, turn off the LCD screen, and challenge yourself by shooting a single scene or event AND tell it’s story with one lens (fixed focal length, if possible) in under 19 frames (or 19 frames exactly if you want to be super cool and earn some extra high-fives)

If you aren't already following The Youngrens, you should.  To get you started, check out their original "19 frames" blog post.

Anyway, here are my 19 frames all straight from the camera. No LCD chimping, no deleting and re-dos of any shots, and no post production other than my logo and sharpening for Web. If you're interested in how I shot these and why...it's after the photos. 

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villa europa condo complex

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villa europa condo complex


This was SUCH a fun challenge!!  I can't wait for the next one they come up with.

Anyhoooo.... here's a little info about my thought process.

First off, I am a lazy person.  So it took me forever to even get started on this because I kept trying to think of a location or story I could tell.  Because I'm lazy, I decided to just tell the story about where I live.  To kill another bird, people are always getting lost and confused finding my condo so I figure I can just point them here from now on :)

OK, second thing.  I TOTALLY understand and get the whole shooting with your LCD screen turned off.  It challenges you to nail your exposures and white balance in camera.  While I've been getting MUCH better at that, I still wasn't that sure of myself getting DEAD ON my exposures.  So I kinda cheated (well, technically I followed all the rules still :) and I used a light meter.  SURPRISE!!!  Even when you use a light meter sometimes you'll forget to adjust ALL of your settings so in some of the shots you'll see are a little too dark.....that's when I forget to re-adjust my ISO setting too.  Haha. So much for that.  But for me, the challenge was learning how to effectively use my light meter to nail exposure and get things right in camera.  I had to check multiple readings for a scene and still had to figure out in my head which exposure to aim for to get the feel I wanted in a certain shot.  (I took these mid-evening so there was still enough sun to present some contrast and sunlight/shade exposure issues to think through).

Ready for the next trick I pulled out of my sleeve?  I storyboarded my shoot.  I took a piece of paper, drew out 19 squares, and thought through exactly which shots I wanted and how to lead you through that story.  I sandwiched my story from the beginning (showing you the outside, overall shot of my complex) and the end (knowing that I wanted to end at the door to my condo).  Then I filled in the middle with what I wanted to represent.  During the actual shoot I kept pretty close to my script and only changed a small handful of frames.  But having that storyboard helped me know where I had flexibility and where I needed to stick to the script.

Because I knew most of my shots would be inside my condo complex and I knew it would be shaded I could take those shots almost anytime.  But the shot outside from the street would be full on with the sun.  So I knew I'd want to take that as close to sunset as possible.  Did I mention I was lazy??  Well, I didn't want to sit around waiting just to get that perfect shot so I did the next best thing.  I figure I'd get started whenever I could.  To get the timing as close as possible, I decided to shoot my 19 frames BACKWARDS.  That's right, I started my shoot at my front door and shot sequentially working myself from the end to the beginning.  This way, my outside street shot would be as late in the day as possible without inconveniencing my lazy butt.  Hee hee :)

A few things jump out at me after this challenge:
  1. In this digital day and age you HAVE to have solid post-production as part of your work-flow.  For all the care and planning I took I still had a few shots that were sub-optimal but could have been easily fixed in post.  
  2. Unless you custom white balance EVERY shot, you'll need to go back and make minor adjustments. If you compare shots 9 and 11 you'll see a pretty drastic color variation even though both were in-camera white-balanced to the "shade" setting.  
  3. Knowing your camera, your lenses, and your technology really pays off.  I would say I have moderate knowledge/experience with exposures and was able to set things like shutter speed to get the flowey water in shot 14 or just enough depth of field to keep everything I wanted still in focus for shot 8. 
  4. The more instinctive knowledge you have, the better the chance you'll have of taking amazing in-camera photos.  If I were doing this at an event I would be DYING!!!  Challenges like today help me push my learning to keep getting better and better at what I do so that when that one instantaneous moment shows up in front of me, I'll be able to nail the shot without having to think through what shutter speed or aperture I need. 

So there it is.  My 19 frame challenge.  One of these days I'll go through my normal post-processing on these photos to get them ship-shape and post those again so you can see how my photos look all dressed up and ready to go out.  But I couldn't leave without doing ONE of them... here here's one of my shots with some Lightroom enhancements.

EDIT: check out all the post-processed photos.


Post-Processed Version:
villa europa condo complex


Original:
villa europa condo complex