Friday Fab Photographer

Friday's Fab Photographer: Douglas Knisely

Today's Friday's Fab Photographer is: Douglas Knisely.

Take it away, Doug.

I was delighted and honored when Rick offered to feature me on his blog.  While assembling a new portfolio on recently, I was thinking a lot about images that had a huge emotional impact on me when I first saw the subject, light, and composition -- scenes that literally made my knees shake and my heart race from the adrenaline rush to execute quickly and proficiently in order to capture the moment before it vanished.  Fortunately, I usually fall into a zone and operate almost on auto-pilot, making fewer mistakes than when I shoot deliberately. What a rush!

Nothing could exemplify that emotional rush better than this scene of a man in the window of a market district neighborhood in one of the few remaining old neighborhoods in Shanghai.  Interestingly, the man seemed to be fully aware that I was shooting and had probably been watching us conspicuous boisterous Americans coming down the street.  Yet he remained with me as I recorded several images.  This is the composition that I saw, and with a little perspective adjustment and a lot of careful work to deal with the extremely dynamic range, it worked out to my delight.

While taking a morning stroll near a Cancun beach, I came upon a model shoot.  Having taken only a Canon G9 P&S along on that trip, my knee-shaking near-panic attack was caused because getting in range quickly enough without arousing attention to catch that amazing scene and nail the details was going to be daunting.  As when shooting with camera phones, another current passion, I have always been a huge believer in going for the image no matter what gear is at hand, even if it means looking like a doofus.  I ended up with several favorite keepers from that trip, two of which I have printed large on canvas!

Ahhh, those glorious S-curves, with graffiti and fascinating lighting as a bonus!  There wasn't a bit of doubt about the desired composition, nor the nature of the HDR that it would take to execute, but how to get contorted over a fence on tripod for the long HDR series while dodging the trams that periodically emerged from the left side of this tunnel?  Adrenaline came to the rescue once more, although the tram drivers' adrenaline was probably also running high as I swung back out of the way each time!

Even though these scenes are vanishing at an alarming rate in modern urban China, they are still plentiful.  But finding the right light, subject, simplicity, composition, and moment still requires a convergence of a lot of variables.  There wasn't any doubt about this moment when the light, the steam waft, and the subject converged, and it was gone in an instant.  Waiting around and even going back two other days failed to produced anything that worked anywhere nearly as well as this, despite my attempt to will it into existence so many times before and since.

In some spare time after a meeting, I was wandering around with a new 8mm fisheye lens on a crop-factor camera -- far from my usual kit.  I nearly lost it when I spotted these aligned outriggers from across the street by those trees and just knew this image had to be in there somewhere.  Right light; right lens; right subject.  That's a rush!

Clearly I'm addicted to the rush of finding these magic moments, and for me, that's what photography is all about.  Sometimes it can feel discouraging, like it will never happen again, but searching for images for this post and finding far too many candidates reminded me that the magic will come if you just keep an open eye and keep shooting.

Thanks, Rick, for all the encouragement and comments.

Twitter @dknisely

Today's Friday's Fab Photographer: Frank Doorhof

Today's Friday's Fab Photographer is Frank Doorhof, a cool dude I met at Photoshop World.

Each week, I select a photographer - pro or amateur - to spotlight here on my blog.

Take it away Frank!
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Understanding light can save you money!

Well actually understanding light not only can save you money, it can make you money also. If you understand light you can start playing with it and make images that you actually not always see, so you can set yourself apart from the rest.

For the shot above I used one lightsource. In this case a standard Elinchrom reflector with grid. By placing the model close to the background and aiming the light the correct way you can create the effect you see here. Do remember that setting up a shot like this can take you some test shots if you want to get it right. You can speed up this process a lot by using a light meter.

The first thing you do is measure the face of the model with an incident reading, let’s say we choose f/11 for this one.

Now switch the light meter to spot metering and measure the background. Remember that if the value is now also f/11 the background will be rendered as 18% gray (middle gray). If you want the background a bit lighter you will have to change the angle of the light and move it slightly more towards the background, if you want it darker move it slightly away from the background. Do remember to measure the model again when you change the position.

By using different grid sizes you can change the “bundle” of the light.

If you want to store this setup and recreate it use your EXIF.

You can for example store it like this: RS S + 1. That means the background has to be one stop higher measured over the right side shoulder. This way you can very easily set it up again and get the same effect.

Above: Never use this kind of light. 

The main problem with rules is that a lot of people live by them and will never use light a bit more creative. One of those rules without a doubt is that one should never use light from the bottom up.

However when combined with the right “look” and some shadow play I love to play with this sometimes. In this image I used an Elinchrom reflector with grid aimed from a low angle straight on the model.

So the tip is :Always experiment with light, even if you think (or being told) that it cannot work, or cannot be used.
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Thank you Frank for a great post!

Explore the light,

7.15.11 Friday's Fab Photographer: Randy Van Duinen

Lobby of the Luxor Hotel, Las Vegas, NV
Today's Friday's Fab Photographer is Randy Van Duinen. I've known the dude for a few years and, for sure, he is one of the best architectural photographers (and HDR photographers) out there. He's also a heck of a nice guy.

These are the two reasons why I invited Randy to lead off my Friday's Fab Photographer series.

Take it away, Randy!

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First of all I would like to thank Rick for inviting me to write this article on his blog. I've worked with Rick at Photoshop World and have photographed with him at Dinosaur World and find it a wonderful experience every time.

I'm an architectural photographer in St. Petersburg, Florida and I cannot imagine doing anything but photography and feel blessed that I am able to do it everyday. I didn't start out this way though, in high school I thought I wanted to be an architect until I picked up a camera in my senior year and could not put it down. As I explored photography I discovered that most of the images I took were of architecture, realizing this relationship, I have merged my two passions together.

Union Restaurant & Lounge inside Aria Resort, Las Vegas, NV
When I'm photographing architecture for clients there are many components that have to come together to create an image that will communicate both my clients and my own visual sensibilities. The architect has an idea and vision for their project and it is my job, as a photographer, to capture that vision. I collaborate with the architect, client and my assistants to capture the building in the best light to achieve the greatest impact. This is accomplished by either bringing in strobes and/or tungsten lighting to enhance what's already there, or deciding the best time of day to capture the building in the best light.

When I made the switch from film to digital it was one of the happiest days of my life. It allowed me to explore architectural photography in a whole new light; I was more mobile, faster and able to post process images like I never was able to before. Then Adobe came out with Photoshop CS 2 with HDR processing. HDR photography allowed me to photograph architecture, both interior and exterior spaces the way I envision the spaces should look.

Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa, FL
My art photography has been expanded as a result of HDR and how I see what is in front of the camera. When I used to shoot 4x5 film I had to pre-visualize the shot before I would setup 30 pounds of camera equipment. With HDR photography and before I even click the shutter, I pre-visualize how I want the photo to look and how I am going to work on that image in post processing. Many photographers today shoot hundred of images and hope for a great shot, instead of composing a great photograph. This is one of the things that digital photography has changed and not for the better.

Dale Chihuly Gallery, St. Petersburg, FL
My advice to any photographer, beginner or advanced is to get up from your computer, grab your camera and take the time to compose a great photograph. Take the time to look at your subject from many angles, high, low or close up. Ask yourself what does this photo means to me and will it convey that message to my viewers.

When you take the time to do this you will see yourself develop as a photographer and an artist.

You can reach me at: my architectural site. my blog. my art site. e-mail

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Thank you Randy. You're the man now dog!

Explore the light,