Saturday, June 12, 2010

We've MOVED!

Please take a moment to bookmark our new address. I've been posting there for a while but just got around to extending the invitation to the new digs here.

Thanks to Driskellmade Studios for the great design work that went into integrating the blog into our newly designed web site and thank you for following along. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I resolve...

Ok, I'll play. My single biggest imaging related resolution this year is to grow my skill set in 2010 at least as much as I did in 2009. This has been a huge year of personal development for me, carefully but ambitiously laying the foundation for things to come.

I invested far more in training than gear this year and I believe it was a sound investment. I can see a marked improvement in my lighting, composition, story telling and most importantly, subject interaction that showed up big time in my portfolio. That's good but it will be compounded this year with a similar strategy.

I resolve that by the end of 2010 my book will be full of new images that put my current work behind me. That's why Santa brought me more training this year instead of a new lens, strobe or camera body. I can always use more toys (tools) but I figure the training is more likely to lead to assignments that pay for the gear than the gear is to lead to assignments that pay for the training.

May we all grow by leaps and bounds this year, but most of all may we have so much fun doing it that we actually take the time to leap and bound a bit. Blessings to you - Thanks for being a part of the journey!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Happy New Year From Ice Imaging!

Much to the chagrin of my very patient family, I decided to have a little fun taking down the Christmas tree this year. The dog dropped in for a single frame while I had my back turned. See if you can spot his cameo appearance. Thank you to all of the friends, family, clients, associates and faithful pets that have made 2009 such a great year for us. God bless you - HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

May your life be bright, colorful and full of joy this year...

Merry Christmas from our family to yours.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is That All?

I saw this post on the Digital Photography School web site today and it inspired me to think through and document the post-processing steps I take on the majority of my images. It helped me to think through why I do what I do and identify a few things that I could probably better automate. For those interested, here's what I usually do with the files after I wave goodbye to the client.

Let's start after the obvious steps of nailing the shots on set then saving and backing-up of the files:

1) Review the pre-session notes and make sure I have the story I was trying to capture clear in my mind (explained here)
1a) Re-read notes and make sure that I'm sure I have the story I was trying to capture clear in my mind.
2) Select the images that do the best job of illustrating that story.
3) Second pass to pick the best technical shots from that group.
4) Open in Camera Raw and make sure my camera's profile is selected.
5) Click "auto", review what Adobe suggests then set it back to "default".
6) Crop and set the white balance.
7) Tweak the exposure, brightness, fill and black sliders to set the highlight and shadows where they need to be for the story I'm trying to tell.
8) Jack up the vibrance slider until I see the peaks of the histogram start to drop.
9) Back off the saturation slider until the colors enhance the tone of the story.
10) Add clarity until the histogram peaks start to move up then tweak a bit one way or the other to taste.
11) If the image has skin tones in it I'll click on the HSL/grayscale tab and bump the luminance of the oranges a little to help bring them forward.
12) Work the luminance and saturation sliders on all of the individual colors to better isolate the subject and match the background to the mood of the story.

*** Side note: Yes, again with the story - remember, unless you are in a line of work that requires photocopy level "truth" in your images your goal is not to tell the truth, it is to tell the story. Don't get hung up on "rules". Get hung up on the story. Most photographers should be entertainers first and foremost, not just reporters. If you are adding a strong accent to your story, in the form of heavy post processing, make sure it's because the accent adds to the story, not just because you liked the way it looked when another photographer used it. If you are strongly opposed to those things please make sure your reasons are, again, tied to your story, not just a list of self imposed limitations. Remember, 99% of the people who look at a picture are looking at the story, not the image. The other 1% are probably competitors, not clients. Ok, back to our regularly scheduled program***

13) Open in Photoshop at 16 bits.
14) Massage, tweak, stack, select, clone, heal, blend, cut, paste, liquify, dodge, burn, mask, filter, etc., etc, etc. - per story requirements. This can be minor or extreme. Sorry I can't be more specific, this part can go a thousand directions and it's never the same way twice. Neither is the story.
15) Sharpen with a high pass filter and save per job requirements.
16) Repeat as required until job is ready for delivery.

Finally, one of my favorite parts:
17) Pick a few of the shots that speak to me and PLAY!!

As you can probably guess by this work flow, I may shoot a lot on site but I rarely deliver a huge volume of final images to the client. I kind of feel like any story that takes several hundred images to tell could probably use a little more clarity from the start. I made the decision early on that I was going to specialize in capturing and developing a vibrantly told story in as few images as possible so that I could give those images the attention they deserve. My goal is to entertain and engage the viewers who invest their time and attention in my client's story without loosing them along the way. Fifteen images is kind of my base line number for a full blown portrait session but that's pretty arbitrary. Some ad jobs only require one and some require a LOT more, but if I haven't delivered in 15 images or less, the viewers are going to be very tired of hearing from me by the 100th frame. If I do it right I believe people will invest more time looking at those 15 images than they would reviewing a typical higher volume set. I know I sure do.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Flame-on, originally uploaded by goldenwreckedangle.

There are those who believe that any image manipulation is something new and evil, and that anything that isn't created in the camera should be shunned as something less than pure. I've got a few subjects in my portfolio who are probably glad I don't take that self imposed limitation too seriously. A quick study will reveal that few of the old school masters of the darkroom did either.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Liar, Liar Brains on Fire...

Da-Shroom-Wida-Plume, originally uploaded by goldenwreckedangle.

I like mustard. I like sweet potatoes. This is a big deal.

One of my 2009 new years resolutions was to learn to like the taste of mustard and sweet potatoes before the end of the year (not together mind you) . That may sound like a silly exercise but I've hated them both all my life so much that I literally had a hard time swallowing a bite of anything that had a hint of either one in it. I use to jokingly tell my waiter not to prepare my food in the same kitchen where mustard had been used.

Today I enjoy the taste of both of them enough to eat them fairly often. It turns out my own brain had been lying to me all my life about the taste of mustard and sweet potatoes. They are actually quite delicious.

What does that have to do with photography or creativity?

Simple - Confront your brain. It's lying to you. It's been lying to you most of your life.

Your brain is forcing you to see things the way you have always seen them. It wants you to go with what it tells you at first glance. It wants you to reject the unfamiliar and accept only what it hands you after it has applied all of the filters that help to keep you sane.

Children move those filters out of the way all the time and discover new truths and new skills at an amazing rate but in time the brain builds enough experience based evidence that it gets harder to push around. It eventually becomes a mountain that is very difficult to move and even harder to see around. Everything starts to get... predictable.

It takes a little faith to move that mountain, faith that there is more there than meets the eye. Faith is not the absence of doubt, it is the cultivation of the doubt that what you are seeing is all there is to see. Crazy hu, the idea that the seed of faith is doubt? It develops into something more, and one of the side effects is creativity, but faith sprouts from the seed of looking your brain square in the face, doubting what it's been telling you, then calling its bluff.

It's not a mustard seed, it's a creative seed, but they are about the same size, small enough to be easy to miss. You get one every time you remind yourself that your brain is lying to you. Plant one and see what grows. It may not be what you expect but it will certainly be more interesting than sitting around looking at the same mountain of predictable misinformation all day.