April 23, 2013

Photos from Leah and Josh’s Wedding Celebration

Josh Smiling

I went down to Lafayette, Louisiana, last weekend for my friends Josh and Leah’s wedding celebration. Leah and Josh live in Boston these days, but Josh grew up in Raine (which isn’t too far from Lafayette), and they wanted to have the wedding celebration there.

One of the main events, other than the reception itself, was a crawfish boil the afternoon of the reception. This was my first time going to a crawfish boil (and I hadn't actually eaten unshelled crawfish before either). I love shrimp, so I figured it’d be fine—my only small moment of pause was the mental image of eating food that still had its face on it. But in the end, I followed along with the more seasoned crawfish eaters, and things went just fine.

Lafayette isn't a big town, but it’s pretty charming. For the most part, I just parked my car at the hotel and walked almost everywhere—I walked to restaurants, I walked to the reception, and I ambled around for general photo-walking. A goof on my part was that my feet were frowning a bit from all that walking, but I probably should have know better than to jaunt around Lafayette in those strappy wedge sandals.

I’m so glad I had a chance to join Leah and Josh for their wedding celebration. They’re a fantastic couple, and Lafayette is a delightful little town.

April 8, 2013

Photos from Winterfamilytime 2012

Dad Laughing

Yeah, I know it’s April. But better late than never, right? Between killer projects at work and a freelance gig that was in crunch mode too, I’ve had a pretty full plate. But things have started to get back to normal, and I thought I’d do some catching up on some photo bits.

I visited my family in Charlotte for Winterfamilytime back in December and I had a jolly time seeing everyone. Gosh, that seems like ages ago. Well, I guess it kinda was.

Jan. 1, 2013

Photos from Thanksgiving 2012

Mom Enjoying a Cuppa

I visited my parents over Charlotte over Thanksgiving. My brother and his girlfriend, Margaret, came to visit as well. They’ve been together for a bit, but I hadn’t a chance to meet Margaret until this visit—not that I had any doubts, but she was super nice and a fun person to have around.

I tried to take a few shots on Thanksgiving day, but I sort of ended up painting myself into a corner with a lighting setup that was a little too complicated for my own britches. (I had two flashes, one with a LumiQuest Softbox LTp, and one with a regular LumiQuest Softbox. I was using a line-of-sight flash trigger—Canon’s ST-E2—which usually works great, but my flashes were on opposite ends of the kitchen and that didn’t play so well with the line-of-sight part.)

In the following days, though, I pared down my setup to solely a LumiQuest Quik Bounce mounted to an on-camera 580EX II and that worked out much better—I was able to open the baffles on the Quik Bounce and that allowed me to bounce a some of the light off the ceiling, which helped soften the light quite a bit. When next Thankgiving comes around, I’ll probably try to stick with a more simplified setup (like I had on the latter days) rather than overthinking things quite so much.

July 27, 2012

Photos from Bryan and Lyn’s House

Kitchen

My friends Bryan and Lyn moved to San Diego and they asked if I could help take some shots for the listing for their house. I thought it would be a fun thing to try and I jumped at the chance. As I don’t as often take shots of homes and interiors, I did a little reading up on the subject over the few days before the shoot. Among other pages I looked through, I found that Photo Centric has a pretty comprehensive set of pages on photographing interiors.

I won’t go over all the tips they mention, but among those that stick out in my mind, they recommend using a tripod (no surprise, there) and they also stress the importance of keeping one’s camera level, especially when taking shots with a wide-angle lens. Keeping one’s camera level left-to-right is probably old hat, but they point out that keeping one’s camera level front-to-back particularly helps lessen wide-angle distortion. (This is one of those times where a hot-shoe bubble level can come in handy.)

Given the challenges of lighting an empty house—and that I didn’t want to take up their Realtor’s whole afternoon with intricate strobe setups—I turned to HDR for my shots. As I don’t often shoot HDR, I figured I should brush up on some of the details, so I picked up my well-worn copy of Scott Kelby’s “Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers” to jog my memory. (The book is mostly about processing photos with Photoshop CS5—and it’s excellent for that—but it also has a couple chapters on topics like HDR workflow.)

If you’re just getting into HDR, there’re a couple things to keep in mind on the picture-taking side. Among them, you need to shoot in RAW mode and you also need to set your camera to use exposure bracketing with a span of at least 2 stops on either side of your normal-exposure shot (that is to say, a shot 2 stops underexposed, a normal exposure, and a shot 2 stops overexposed). It’s OK if you’re able to exceed 2 stops on either end—such as a sequence of -4, -2, 0, +2, +4 if you happen to have 5-shot bracketing—but the important part is that it’s at least 2 stops.

Canon DSLRs allow for a 2-stop bracketing interval, so you can get by with just 3-shot bracketing. On the other hand—and for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me—many modern Nikon DSLRs allow for at most a 1-stop bracketing interval. Fortunately, many of those same Nikon DSLRs offer up to 9-shot bracketing sequences, so even if your shots are 1 stop apart, you can still go for a sequence such as -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 and you’ll have the range that you need.

Another trick that Scott mentions in his book is that if you enable both bracketing and high-speed continuous shooting, you can capture a full HDR sequence with a single shutter press. (On my Canon 40D, I have to hold down the shutter—click, click, click—before I let go, but other camera models might allow you to tap and let go of the shutter and have it take the entire sequence.)

It’s rather handy to be able to hold down the shutter and have the camera sweep through your bracketing sequence, but even so, one’s overexposed end of the bracketing sequence may end up with exposures as long as 3–4 seconds. You may feel that’s the least of your concerns if you’re using a tripod anyway, but sometimes even the action of depressing the shutter can introduce a tiny amount of blur when you’re dealing with exposures that long.

To help counteract that potential for camera shake, one easy solution is to use a remote shutter release. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of those fancy wireless shutter releases—although those are fine too— but even a simple wired shutter release with a 2–3' cord is perfectly fine. The main thing is just having a shutter that’s physically separate from your camera body.

Pre-HDR-processing bracketing sequence I used for Bryan and Lyn’s kitchen

There’s a perception that HDR shots necessarily have that overprocessed “HDR look”, but that doesn’t have to be the case. If one practices restraint and resists the temptation to turn all the knobs to eleven, one can end up with shots that make use of HDR without being a garish mess. As well, although one can use fancy 3rd-party software for processing HDR shots, Photoshop from version CS5 forward is actually pretty decent, so if you already have that, you’re all set—and that’s what I used for these shots. (HDR processing in Photoshop CS4 and earlier, on the other hand, is fairly rubbish and if that’s the version you happen to have, you’re probably better off with 3rd-party software such as Photomatix.)

If you had wanted to see how one of my exposures came together, I’ve included the pre-HDR-processing bracketing sequence I used for the shot of Bryan and Lyn’s kitchen. At first glance, the 2-stops-overexposed shot (the bottom shot among the three) may look similar to the final HDR shot (which you can also see at the top of this post), but if you take a closer look, you can see that both the fridge and the window ended up blown-out in that shot. As well, if you look at the kitchen ceiling in each of the three shots, you can see how no single exposure was able to capture the ceiling without either overexposing or underexposing swaths of it. Fortunately, that’s an area in which HDR can help and in the final shot I was able to get a more even exposure across the ceiling.

If you know what to look for, you may see a few signs of HDR in a couple shots, but I was really just looking for lifelike exposures without turning the shots into photographic versions of Toontown. After processing the shots, I passed them along to Bryan and Lyn’s Realtor and he added them to their listing. I’m really happy to have be able to help out my friends a bit and I’m pleased with how they turned out.

Feb. 15, 2012

Photos from SXSW 2011

Next Week Out Skinny

I’ve been going to SXSW—a music, film, and interactive conference—for a long time. But I look forward to it every year and this coming year (2012) with be the 10th Southby for me.

It’s not lost on me that I’m posting my shots from SXSW 2011 when we’re only about three weeks out from SXSW 2012. I don’t have much of an excuse other than to say that I guess I had a lot going on last year. But they’re posted. Of the 303 shots I took over those six days in March, I’ve posted 19 of them.

Jan. 24, 2012

Photos from Winterfamilytime 2011

Adrian’s New Chef’s Hat

I visited my parents in December for Winterfamilytime. Pleasantly, the weather was really nice in Charlotte—it hardly felt much like winter some days (not that I minded).

Among the photos I’ve posted, I used the same lighting setup that I had used last year—I used one flash with a Lumiquest LTp Softbox that I attached to the second-floor walkway railing and I used my other flash with a Lumiquest Softbox that I attached to the mantle.

Cross-light often accommodates a fair degree of flexibility when photographing an environment, though for reasons that elude me, it seemed to work a little better for my shots last year than it did this year. (With a cross-light setup, two lights face each other on a diagonal axis to the subject that’s in-between them.) Although it’s somewhat a hunch, what may have happened this time is that I may have had too wide an arc between the subjects and my lights.

On one hand, it’s hard to say where people are going to sit, and on the other hand, there’re only so many places from which one can hang flashes. So as I daydream around how I might set things up next year, I’m pondering the idea of maybe getting a third flash to offer some fill-in light along the axis that may be getting the short end of the stick lighting-wise. (You could think of the lighting setup I’ve been using as similar to a “/” shape and the one I’m considering might look a bit like a lowercase lambda, “λ”.)

May 29, 2011

Photos from Christine and Steve’s Maui Wedding

Happy Christine is Happy

I’ve known and been friends with Christine for almost as long as I’ve lived here in Dallas. She moved to San Diego a few years ago and that’s where she met Steve. And they decided to get married in Maui.

I hadn’t been to Maui before, but it was a trip I had been looking forward to for months. And even though I was only able to go for a Saturday-through-Tuesday trip, I had an awesome time. Hawaii is basically picturesque everywhere, all the time. You can glance in nearly any direction and you’ll see a beautiful lush landscape.

The wedding was on the back lawn of the Wailea Golf Club on the Sunday around 5 p.m. It wasn’t an overpopulated wedding—I believe I counted twenty chairs—but that seemed just right for the setting. Christine and Steve were both beaming with happiness and they said their vows just as the sun was falling into the horizon. It was pretty special.

Jan. 3, 2011

Photos from Winterfamilytime 2010

Dad Laughing

I visited my parents and brother in Charlotte last month, and even though it had only been a few weeks since I had seen my parents for Thanksgiving, it was great to see everyone again (especially my brother, who I hadn’t seen in about a year). It happened to be a bit on the chilly side in Charlotte—the highs most days were in the lower 40s, if memory serves—but it wasn’t anything a little bundling-up couldn't solve.

I decided to try out some new lighting gear since I knew we’d be spending a good chunk of Saturday in the living room. As a key light, I hung a Canon 430EX with a Lumiquest Softbox to one corner of the mantle with a Gorillapod. (The Lumiquest Softbox was the smaller of the light modifiers I had on hand so I thought that would be a good fit for that spot.)

Then, as a back light (or fill light, depending on how people were facing), I attached a 430EX II with a Lumiquest Softbox LTp to the railings of the second-story walkway above the living room using a Gorillapod SLR. (The LTp is a 10×14 softbox—Lumiquest’s largest model—and I was really impressed by how much soft light it put out.) So, in all, I had two lights set up in the living room and I’m generally pleased with how things turned out; I’ll probably try a setup like that again sometime.

We happened to get a little snow while I was there (perhaps on Saturday?), and while Charlotte doesn’t typically get much snow, it was enough to cover the ground and trees. I didn’t exactly have the proper footwear for trudging around in the snow, but my one regret for the trip is that I wish I had managed to get some shots of the treetops (and other portions of the landscape) covered in snow; it was a pretty sight. Oh, well—there’s always next year.

Dec. 15, 2010

Photos from Thanksgiving 2010

Chris and Mom Looking Over Shots

I visited my family in Charlotte for Thanksgiving, and in addition to my mom and dad, we had something like seventeen other guests join us for the meal. There were cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends, neighbors—it was a full house, but good fun to see everyone.

On the other hand, my brother has been living in Cape Town for the past two (?) years, so he wasn’t able to join us. (It would have been too short of a stay to make the trip there and back, understandably.) He’s a cracking good chum, though, and I’m looking forward to seeing him over Winterfamilytime later this month.

Photography wise, I tried out a couple new lighting setups for some of my shots. For the exterior grill shots, I used my Gorillapod SLR to attach my Canon 430 EX II to one of the gutters (with a LumiQuest Softbox attached to it). That actually worked out better than I thought it would. (For instance, I think that helped fill in some shadows on shots such as this one of my dad checking on the turkey’s thermometer.)

Indoors, I used my second 430 EX (albeit not an “EX II”) to set it upon various spots on the countertop in out kitchen (with a Gorillapod functioning simply as a tripod). Partially through process of elimination—as I only have so many light modifiers—I used my LumiQuest Quik Bounce atop the flash in the kitchen. The idea with the Quik Bounce is that you can bounce some of the light upward while allowing the rest to project forward, creating—in theory—a balance of soft reflected light off the ceiling along with a dash of more focused light.

I have no qualms with the Quik Bounce as a product and I’m sure it often works quite nicely. In my case, though, I think the 9-ft ceilings in my parents’ kitchen probably weren’t ideal for bouncing one’s flash. Come to think of it, the ceiling in their kitchen might even be painted a soft creme color rather than plain white (which may affect the color of any light bounced off it). It’s a pretty great kitchen, but I may have to try a few more ideas in case there may be a lighting arrangement that works even better.

I think nineteen people may be a record for a Bischoff-family Thanksgiving and it worked out pretty well. The turkey was tender and I enjoyed many a conversation with family and friends. Thanksgiving has always been my favorite yearly holiday and this one didn’t disappoint.

July 13, 2010

Photos from SXSW 2010

Andrew Huff Enjoying a Shiner

SXSW Interactive apparently had over 12,000 attendees this year, more than this year’s SXSW Music. And I still had just as much fun this year as I’ve had any year. It was great.

Once again, Grant Hutchinson helped organize a “Found Type Photowalk” around Austin. Ostensibly, it’s about typography—and there is quite a bit of typography talk—but it’s also a fantastic mid-conference respite where photographers of all types can enjoy a leisurely walk around Austin while taking shots along the way.

I brought along my trusty Canon 40D and it held up pretty well. If anything, the one thing I noticed is that even an image-stabilized lens (like the 17–55mm f/2.8 IS that I was mostly using) can’t save every shot—several of my shots during panels ended up around 1/13sec (at ISO 400) and shots that slow just don’t have a great chance of coming out sharp. (I could have theoretically bumped up the ISO to 800 or 1600, but my 2007-era doesn’t do that well at high ISOs.) Maybe I’ll consider Canon’s rumored 60D if that comes out in time for next year?

I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be even more attendees next year. And that’s okay. I’ve made so many great friends at SXSW over the years and I wouldn’t miss the chance to hang out with them again.