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White Balance Hands On – Apple Blossoms

I thought I’d show you all exactly how I use the Color Checker Passport in my workflow to attain a correct white balance this time around.

Have a look at the small sized color swatches in the first photo and note the top half. Pay particular attention to the third row with little icons that look like mountains and sunlight; this is the group of swatches that will be used to color correct landscape photographs. The center is neutral, the two leftmost add a touch of coolness, and the two rightmost will add a bit of warmth to your color palette.

To color correct your scene, you must shoot your photograph under the same lighting conditions and incident angles as your reference shot. Also, the same exposure values must be used; any shift, and your colors won’t be true. So, in order to do this accurately, move your camera dial to manual mode and get a proper meter reading for 18% grey.

Now that we have the proper exposure dialed in, take your reference shot and forget about it till you move to post.

Once you get your images into the software editing suite of your choice, find the little white balance eye dropper and click the neutral white target for landscape that I mentioned earlier. Take note of the white balance temperature and tint, or simply lift the adjustment and stamp your remaining photos. That’s it. You’re done!

I show the Color Checker Passport on location and explain how to use it.

Apple Blossoms

I am back to the same location I created Weeping Dream, but only this time the seasons have changed. Apple Blossoms and Cherry Blossoms are in bloom and those same bare trees are filled with beautiful color; we have overcast skies again so color saturation is at its best.

An Apple Blossom tree flower close up.

X-Rite Color Checker Passport – Purple Hyacinth

I recently picked up a new color management tool called the X-Rite Color Checker Passport and just incorporated its functionality into my workflow. In a few words, this thing rocks! I don’t see this handy little color checker leaving my side any time soon.

So, what’s it do exactly? Well, you can use the passport in a few ways; I opted to simply use it as a white balance tool within my photo management suite. I take a snapshot of the color checker in my scene under the same lighting conditions and shooting perspective and swatch the landscape neutral target. I even have the option to add coolness or warmth to the photo by clicking the landscape swatches in either direction. Triple awesome.

Purple Hyacinth

Spring has sprung and the available flower assortment proves it. I stumbled upon a pretty patch of purple Hyacinths a few days ago and have been waiting for a cloudy day to reveal their beautiful colors.

A single Purple Hyacinth in focus among the out of focus purple petals and green background.

Macro Focus Stacking

Updated for 2013

I’m using a new macro technique (new to me) today called focus stacking; essentially, you take a bunch of frames with manual focus at the same exposure and bring focus to different areas of your photograph in each shot. you need the following setup for the best results:

First, set your lens focus to the desired macro scale. Once its set, do not touch it again.

Your lens probably has markings for 1:1, 1:2, 1:4, and so on. Line up your focus scale mark to the center and nail down your distance away from the subject.

Now you’re ready to set your exposure and start shooting some frames. Start at your subject’s closest features and work your way to the back by sliding the focus rail forward. Small movements make dramatic focus differences so move the rail carefully and take your time.

Depending on your subject distance, you may need to slide right or left and stitch a panorama so it’s a good idea to make sure you have x and y axis rails on hand.

Import and Stack

After importing the set, you merge the frames together and a focus stacked photo is born.

In the case of the daffodil, I wanted to emphasize the petal and leave other features out of focus. So, I took three shots at f/4.5 – one for the closest petal edge, one for the center petals, and lastly, one for the top of the petal ring. Adding focus to more frames generally creates a sharper photo when merged together, but since this is my first time, I opted to merely test the technique.

Yellow Daffodil to Kick Off Spring

Oops, I flubbed. I mistakenly shot this yellow daffodil with the focus stacking technique at ISO 3200. Luckily, my camera sensor resolves great detail with little noise through ISO 3200 and is generally acceptable at ISO 6400. I lose some dynamic range at higher ISO, but all is not lost. ISO 3200 is totally unnecessary, though. Especially in daylight. So, if you’ve been away from shooting for a while, remember to reset your camera before you use it again.

A focus stacked yellow daffodil reveals beautiful petal texture while leaving soft green stems out of focus.  The contrast of the black background with the yellow flower accentuates its beauty.

Art of Seeing & Using Pattern as a Design Element

I decided to attend another photography class on a whim last night over at Unique Photo in Fairfield, NJ. The class was called The Art of Seeing and its primary focus was to train your eyes to see differently. We touched on compositional elements such as lines, shapes, forms, shadows, color, texture, pattern, picture within a picture, and framing the subject using natural features.

The Art of Seeing was divided into three parts; the first was lecture followed by an hour for completing an assignment on what we just learned. We were tasked with using these compositional elements in a series of photographs taken within three rooms of the superstore.

We then gathered as a group again and shared photographs using the projector. Here, we each had a chance to explain our motivation of a particular photo and describe the compositional element we used. We saw the same subjects from different perspectives which is the reason this exercise was extremely valuable.

Two photographs of the same subject, where one is dull and boring, the other is a work of art. This can be achieved by using perspective and compositional elements within the photograph.

The Photographer’s Eye

For those that choose to learn these techniques by way of book, I highly recommend The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman. Michael uses the same principles and divides the book into several flowing sections with beautiful examples to support each design element.

Using Pattern as a Design Element

Here, I used a shallow depth of field to focus the viewers eyes towards the wrinkle in the lower left third of the photograph. Also, the black and white pattern adds dimension.

My Artistic Approach & Fire Road Flare

I recently updated my artist statement and suggest you read through it to understand more about my artistic approach, where I find inspiration, and how I add an emotional dimension into each fine art photograph.

Fire Road Flare

The Tourne in Boonton, New Jersey has wide, sweeping, fire road trails that get you to its peak. With the sun low in the sky, I opted to explore the fire road before dark; I was glad I had the time to see this gorgeous glow because the sunset was lackluster that day. Flare was inevitable here, but it only serves to enhance the golden tones along the rocky trail.

Also, notice the left side of the trail; you can see a patch of moss I photographed up close in an earlier blog post.

A gravel road leading up to the peak of the Tourne in Boonton, NJ is lit up with golden sunlight.

Valentine's Day Dinner Meets Cajun Chicken Pasta

I’ve made Valentine's Day dinner for two years in a row now, both with great success thanks to The Pioneer Woman and her amazingly delicious recipes. Guys, there is nothing sexier than cooking for your significant other so I recommend flexing your chef skills in the kitchen next year instead of opting for fancy restaurant plans.

Pioneer Woman’s braised short ribs over creamy mashed potatoes is nothing short of an execution meal if you can manage to block off 4+ hours for prep and cooking time. Last year’s dinner was served at 11:45 PM. Oops! It was sooo worth it though. Oh, and make sure you pick up the short ribs from a local butcher or Whole Foods. Opt for quality over quantity here.

Onto this years Valentine's Day dinner…

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I can sum this dish up in a few words. This. Dish. Wins. My. Heart. How fitting for Valentine’s Day.

I mean, how can you go wrong with heavy cream, butter, garlic, and white wine in the recipe. The Cajun Chicken Pasta was creamy, decadent, and had a spice that built upon itself throughout the meal. Mmmm.

Vampires stay away! Here’s a photo of the garlic prepped for this dish. Buon Appetit!

Minced garlic on a wooden cutting board with a Cuisinart knife next to the heaping mound.

The Artist Proofing Process and Autumn Water

Printing large allows the artist to detect color profiling anomalies from monitor to printer in addition to unveiling every detail possible. I’m a stickler for adhering to a rigorous artist proofing process to ensure that my art is reproduced to my standards and I will not tolerate imperfections. In addition, each proof is thoroughly inspected and will be reprinted till the final version meets my vision.

Autumn Water

Autumn Water proof one makes it way into an exotic frame mounted with 8-ply matting and museum quality glass. My art really must be seen in person to appreciate the contrast, tone, saturation, and luminescence. Water glistens and flows when viewed from different angles and lifelike tree textures pop out of the exotic frame.

Thomas M Thurston crouches beside a 24x36 artist proof of Autumn Waters.

Hiking at the Tourne – Sunkissed Moss Variation

The Tourne in Boonton, NJ is a great place to hike, bike, or enjoy a lazy day in the field with your dog. You can even get a quick game of baseball in if you’re into that sort of thing. Anyway, onto the trails…

I’ve been going to the Tourne sporadically for a few years now; the wide foot trails are great for hiking if you have kids and the twisty singletrack is gobs of fun for mountain biking. Cycle Craft in Parsippany actually does a weekly ride here (I think they meet on Wednesdays during the warmer months), but check with the store for exact details. Yep, that’s on my to-do list as well.

Sunkissed Moss Variation

Nature can be kinda boring during the colder months; scenery is grey and blah, and just doesn’t do much for me. That is until you find the right light.

It’s really remarkable how a bit of glowing sunlight low in the sky transforms nature. I was out scouting for a sunset location on one of the foot paths and stumbled upon some green moss. This stuff was actually glowing…

Moss on the side of a foot trail glows because it is kissed with golden sunlight.

Pine Trees and Snow Days

New Jersey is having an extremely dry 2012 winter with only a few dustings to date. I’m convinced the snow this winter is going to come with a vengeance late in the season. By late in the season, I mean it’s going to come so late that I’ll be sitting on the beach in June, then BAM, the next day is a full-on blizzard with lots of snow accumulation.

Probably not. Sorry for exaggerating…

I’m just hopeful that I will get to see a few more snow crusted pine trees and revel in a snow day.

This next snow photo is from the same snow storm I captured the snow covered branch.

White snow tops a pine tree branch in the middle of January.

Morristown – Red Church Doors

Morristown, New Jersey is the place to be for that small town charm with urban flair. Their booming nightlife is packed with diverse restaurant selections, eclectic and traditional bars, and shopping that is sure to please anyone looking for the latest trend on a budget.

A few important landmarks are The Morristown Green, the Morristown Train Station, and a wide selection of historic churches.

Morristown Charms with Red Church Doors

Night photography comes alive and these red church doors are illuminated with floodlight. The play on highlight and shadow is what caught my attention – one door has great highlights, while the other sits in darkness. I think the lighting was coincidental, but there’s a deeper meaning here; light vs. dark, or more abstractly represented, Good vs. Evil.

A Morristown historic church's doors are illuminated with a deeper meaning, Good Vs. Evil.