Archive for August, 2008

Daily Photo – SXSW DJ

This was taken during the Texas Garage Event at SXSW this year. The top two decks of the new AMLI building were closed off for three days of non-stop music. Something like 75 bands and DJs performed at the free event, and nuisance or not, I happen to live in the building. Sometimes it’s just easier to photograph what’s right in front of you.


  • Shutter: 1/125
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO: 200
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1d mIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM


Composition and Processing

  • I had actually spotted this composition earlier in the day and figured the sun would be dropping down just right to backlight one of the DJs. What I wasn’t sure about was whether I’d get just the right amount of flare in combination with, at a minimum, a typical DJ pose. And in fact, it wasn’t quite right as I ended up clipping a bit of the hand.
  • There’s more detail in the shot than suggested by the original, and most of that came back by simply running blacks up to 100 and the shadows slider down to -100 in Lightroom. I didn’t really care about clipping the shadows, and in fact preferred it since turning the canopy black provided a stronger background and better contrast to the sun. What really brought the detail out though was the Nik Efex bleach bypass filter. The image was already washed out anyway so I didn’t care what it did to the colors, but the somewhat high contrast filter helped shrink the flare and bring out the face more.
  • The nice colors came from a color balance layer in Photoshop. Since I wasn’t looking for a realistic rendition, I just twiddled with the various sliders until I got a combination I liked.

More from SXSW can be found here.

August 13 2008 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – Zion on the Tracks

This shot was taken at the Creative Lighting Workshop thrown by Christopher Fergusen and Steven Noreyko in March 2008. We hauled a chair out from the studio to the nearby defunct railroad tracks and tried to find an interesting composition (this chair has been featured enough in Christopher’s work, in addition to the photos of various workshop attendees, that it probably needs it’s own agency representation).

The photo itself was taken during the setup, before we had the lights in place.


  • Shutter: 1/250
  • Aperture: f/5.6
  • ISO: 100
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1d mIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM


Composition and Processing

  • Yeah, dark again. The tonal range of this image is pretty broad though, and if you look at the histogram it’s actually clipped at the top (the tracks, sky and part of the road) but is about 15% clear of the bottom end. And thanks to the 1d’s shadow detail, perfect for this shot. In fact, with Zion largely backlit anyway, I decided to emphasis this and blow the background out more, while bringing up the shadows.
  • The image required some cleaning up and reconstruction. That was easier on the left, but the right required a lot of grass and the addition of the obscured part of the chair. Blowing out the background meant the grass duplication could be less than perfect, and I took a piece of the left side of the chair and used it to rebuild the right side.
  • There was good color separation between Zion and both the chair and background, but not very good separation between the chair itself and the background. And the yellow-green color wasn’t working in general. I tried a number of things: changing the hue of the green, going to black and white, etc. After the black and white experimentation I decided that the image should probably have the same overall color, and given that railroad tracks have a bit of a classic western feel to them, chose this reddish sepia tone.

More shots of Zion can be found here.

August 11 2008 | Photography | No Comments »

Daily Photo – Dalhauser vs. Lambert

I took this shot at the AVP God and Goddess of the Beach tournament last September in Las Vegas. The general idea behind this tournament is to play with a wide range of different partners (and not your regular tour partner) against a varying combination of opponents. So in each round of pool play, the four players in the pool will play three matches (the number needed to play all possible combinations in the four player pool).

The win for each match is credited to both players on a team. At the end of pool play, the individual player with the most wins advances. After all rounds of pool play are complete, the top two players each pick a another player from the tournament to play with in the final match. This photo is from the final match for the men between Dalhauser and Hyden — Dalhauser had chosen Rosenthal and Hyden had taken Lambert. Hence the matchup here (Hyden won).

The whole reason I was actually in Vegas for this tournament was thanks to an amateur-level King of the Court tournament (whose rules I won’t bother explaining) thrown by one of the sponsors at the Dallas AVP event. Of the 20+ entrants, my double partner and I came out on top. The prize was a free trip to the Vegas tournament (we had to play in another King of the Court tourney there too, but only finished 5th out of 9).


  • Shutter: 1/2000
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • ISO: 1600
  • Camera: Canon EOS 1d mIII
  • Lens: Canon EF 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM (at 70mm)


Composition and Processing

  • One of the nice things about AVP tournaments, even ones like this with one court, is that despite the crowd it’s relatively easy to get a front row seat. The barrier between the players and the crowd is low, and unlike some sporting events, you can bring in whatever (still) camera gear you like. I could probably get a press pass for some of the less popular tour stops (like Dallas), but there’s almost no benefit to it. At least, not if you know where the best angles are and have an understanding of the game. Press pass or not, when you’re trying to capture the hit, it’s good to be back far enough on the angle to get the blocker too; it’s also helpful to shoot from the opposite side of their hitting arm so that their arm doesn’t obscure the face.
  • Shooting any sport at night is a challenge. I’ve sometimes used prime lenses wide open (at f/1.2 or 1.4), but there are serious drawbacks: first, they simply focus too slow for this level of action; second, the depth of field is so shallow that you’re unlikely to catch more than one player in focus on a shot like this. I normally like to shoot f/4 at the net to guarantee both hitter and blocker will be sharp (I probably got lucky at f/2.8 due to both players being lined up more or less in the same plane of focus). That said, I’ve lately been shooting some sand volleyball mid-day at f/1.4 as an experiment (I’ll post some from that at a later point).
  • Lighting for this shot came from two banks of lights atop mobile cranes at opposite corners of the court. There was enough light I could stay at ISO 1600 and not have to go to prime lenses. I could have shot at ISO 3200 or 6400, but 1600 is the last point on the 1d where I know the noise cleanup will be easy. Beyond that, and given a bunch of other exposure issues likely to be present, it becomes a bit more problematic.
  • I shoot a lot of local volleyball and I’ve gotten used to the players and what they’re capable of. The pros jump a lot higher though, and often at the peak of the action they’re high enough that the tape (at the top of the net) obscures their face. So you have to get really low, or much higher, if you don’t want photos of a bunch of anonymous volleyball players. I shot this pretty low, but mostly I benefited from Lambert’s late jump to intercept Dalhauser.
  • This is normally a vertical composition, and ultimately that’s what I settled on. But I shot it horizontally because I was just learning to use the AI Servo focus and wanted to keep the hitter lined up with the center focusing point without losing the blocker from the frame.

A small side note: it may look impressive that the ball is being compressed during Dalhauser’s hit, but that’s actually pretty common even from weak hitters I’ve shot at local courts. It’s a fairly soft ball. Dalhauser hits really hard, of course, so odds are the ball ultimately compressed down to about one quarter of it’s size during the hit (I have photos of other pro players where the ball is nothing more than a pancake on impact).

For more AVP volleyball photos, check here.

August 10 2008 | Photography and Volleyball | No Comments »