Let me just say straight up that speedlights are a wonderful thing. But not if you're shooting animals. When shooting a family portrait, it's always good to have the option of adding fill light, ideally from an off camera source, but most pets are intolerant of the bright, intermittent light. That means your time window for shooting portraits is somewhat narrower than if would be were you just shooting people. It also means that you have to be prepared to do a lot of work in post processing to bring out the correct exposures and skin tones.
Take this shot, photographed at Sunabebaba Beach in Okinawa. In order to be able to recover the detail in the clouds, I had to be sure not to over-expose it. However, unless I was prepared to shoot silhouettes, it was also necessary to bring out the exposure hot enough that I selectively could bring up the shadows without introducing too much noise. The trick here is to expose for the sky and shoot about one stop too hot. Since the clouds are not the main point of interest, it's okay if they're a bit blown out. The Canon 5D Mk2 I was shooting on is quite good at capturing detail in the highlights which can be brought out in Adobe Lightroom. Lightroom is also quite good at selective dodging, provided you don't try to push it too hard. The shadows were brought up about 50% with a slider, then I used a brush tool to bring up the faces. This has to be used sparingly, or about 1/5 to 1/4 of a stop. More than that and it starts to look too obvious.
In addition to bring up the shadows and pulling down the clouds, I also did some selective coloring. It was really quite a bleak day and the subtle gradations in color temperature present in the clouds just didn't come through on the sensor. I didn't use specialized software for this, partly because it's expensive and partly because the art of photography, to me, is about teasing out the beauty from within a photograph, not adding it with software. I'm not above doing that if that;s what the client wants, but I think April and her family were pretty happy with this.
Of course, not all shots are so challenging. The next one was taken directly into the sun on a hazy day. I set my exposure for the bright backlight that was present when I posed the models and started snapping. Young Aiden gave me a terrific smile, but Jet just wouldn't look at the camera. At least, not until the sun went behind a cloud. With my exposure still set for the bright light, I kept snapping, knowing the shot would be underexposed. That's okay, because it meant I wouldn't be fighting to get the detail back in the background. All I had to do was bring up the shadows and use a brush tool to accentuate the highlights from the sun behind the subject. The result is quite pleasing, if I say so myself.
This shot needed more color than the sun would give me through the clouds, so I applied a brush to the the ocean and brought the color temperature down a bit. The goal was to bring back the beautiful aqua color without going overboard. I generally like to bring out the colors using the vibrance slider, but the orange shirt started looking rather intense too soon. The way I handled that was to bring down the orange saturation slider in the HSL section. This took some of the warmth out of the photo overall, but I can live with that. The look is closer to that of a shot taken much earlier in the day, say mid afternoon as opposed to what would have been golden hour had the haze not been so thick.
These are two of 15 photos that I liked. During the shoot, I snapped more than 400. Some would say I went a bit overboard on that, but I'd rather be sitting in front of my computer fretting about how much material I have to sort through than wishing I'd shot more.
I'm so blessed to live in Okinawa, where such portraits are possible. And a big thank you to April, Kaden and Jet the golden retriever for being such awesomely photogenic subjects!
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If there's one thing I love to do as a photographer, it's to venture out and capture images of rustic life in the villages. A terrific place to do this is Ikei Island on the east coast of Okinawa, accessible by causeway from Uruma City. I was only there for a morning and had other business to attend to, but I brought my camera bag along in the hope that I'd find something worth shooting. Intuition paid off. In the brief time I had, I managed to acquire some pictures I really like.
The first thing I went looking for was a set of Shisa Lions. These aren't hard to find in Okinawa, where they guard the entrances of just about every house and apartment, but the kind of beautiful background I like to shoot has proved more elusive. Fortunately, Ikei Island offered up exactly what I was looking for on a nice bright day perfect for shooting.
Generally, shisas are found in pairs, one on each side of the gate leading to the front door of the house. Sometimes, they are found on the roof as well. I wanted to frame the shisas in such a way that both were in the frame, but only the near shisa was in sharp focus. I also wanted the background out of focus, but not so soft that the texture of the trees would be lost. Shooting fully extended with a 55-200 EF lens on my Canon 5D Mk2, I managed to get what I was after, with some nice bokeh to boot. I used ISO 400 so I could set a fast enough shutter to reduce camera shake and shot at f/5.6, which for this lens at 200mm is wide open. The image was cropped and processed gently in Adobe Lightroom.
After I nailed enough two-shots to satisfy me, I looked for a single, ideally a closeup. It's not always easy to find pleasing foreground, but Ikei Island gave me exactly what I was looking for. This subject of this shot is the far shisa in the photo above, shot from the opposite side, using a manicured tree as green foreground. It puts more depth in the frame, provides additional context and make the picture more intimate. The shisa almost looks like its hiding behind the tree.
Of course, there was a lot more to shoot than shisas. Walking through the narrow roadways, which were blissfully quiet except for the sounds of birds and other tiny critters, I happened upon a mikan tree, the ripe fruit of which was falling to the ground. I wanted a shot that would allow me to capture the timeworn stone of the walls on the opposite side of the road, but which also featured the fruit and other debris in the immediate foreground. In order to enhance the rustic feel, I went for a soft look, shooting full wide at f/4 on my 24-70 Canon zoom lens. My intention was to make one of the oranges perfectly sharp, throwing both the foreground and background out of focus. I further sharpened the center orange in post processing to accentuate the difference and slightly boosted the saturation and luminance of the fruit.
I shot a few more images, which I won't share here today. Unfortunately, time constraints put a limit on the number of exposures I could take, but I'd have to say I'm happy with what I got in the limited time I had. I'm glad I brought my camera!
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My simple blog about the art and science of photography.