Archive | June, 2011

Inspiration

23 Jun

Inspiration can come from anywhere. The smell of night blooming jasmine as you’re walking down the street at dusk. A woman leaning pensively over a table, wearing red lipstick and no bra, maybe thinking about a lover or the one-night stand she had last night. Sweat on the brow of a man walking down the street, perturbed perhaps by a dreaded meeting, an unfaithful spouse, or a gambling debt. Watch people and they will tell you their story. I like to use these stories as inspiration for my art.

Facial expressions, color, light, pose. All of these things come together to make a work of art speak, whether it is a photo, a painting, or a sculpture. And if you craft an interesting story with all of these elements, and use your imagination to create a narrative, people will be curious, ask questions, and want more… this is the fabric of creativity. A stream of consciousness revealed, and then blended with our own imagination and then colored and sculpted and blasted onto a wall or a pedestal to either be rejected or loved. Either way I keep making art…

Iphone photos.

Introduction to DSLR Photography

15 Jun

DSLR photography becomes more and more accessible every day. This is partly because the price of these cameras is getting lower, while the features and ease of use are improving exponentially. In case you didn’t know, DSLR stands for Digital Single Lens Reflex. In short, these are the kind of cameras with interchangeable lenses. There is a lengthy explanation available here… but for now I want to help you take advantage of just a few of the amazing features that DSLRs offer.

First, we need a quick lesson on shutter speed, aperture and ISO. Understanding these three facets of photography will provide you with a solid foundation. If you can master these, you will be able to manipulate your camera instantly in any lighting situation. Of course, mastering shutter speed, aperture and ISO is no easy task, but if you want to create beautiful, high quality images and push the limits of creativity with your photography, then these will be important.

Visualize the way the camera works so that you can more fully understand what I am about to describe. You press the button to take a photo. The shutter in the camera opens to allow light into the camera and onto the digital sensor. The lens also has an opening, called the aperture, that allows light into the camera and onto the sensor. Both of these openings can be adjusted to control how much light is allowed onto the sensor of the camera, but they also control other aspects of the resulting image, such as depth of field and sharpness. These will be discussed another time.

Shutter speed. This is how quickly the shutter in the camera opens and closes. It is measured in fractions of a second. If you look at the shutter speed on your camera screen, it appears as a number. Let’s say the number on your camera now says 50. This means that the shutter in your camera is opening and closing at a rate of 1/50 of a second. That sounds fast, but shutter speeds can go up to 1/8000 of a second. Now, slower shutter speeds allow more light into the camera. If you visualize the shutter opening and closing, you can imagine that a shutter opening very slowly gives more time for more light to enter. So, if you are working in low light situations, such as indoors, or at dusk, you will want to lower your shutter speed to capture more light. However, also keep in mind that the longer the shutter is open, the more movement is captured. If you are taking a picture of a person laughing or walking, or even the leaves of a tree blowing in the wind, that movement will be captured by the camera sensor and appear as blurs in the photo. Conversely, a fast shutter speed has the ability to literally freeze motion. If the shutter speed is high enough, you can capture such a minute piece of motion that it will be clear, even if the subject is moving very fast, like an Indie 500 race car. A good rule of thumb for shutter speed is this: if you’re shooting without using a tripod, the lowest shutter speed you should use is 1/60. This is the absolute lowest. I try not to shoot without a tripod at anything lower than 1/125 if possible.

Aperture. The aperture is how wide the camera lens opens. Now, aperture can be confusing for many people because of the way it is expressed numerically. Aperture is denoted by f-stops. A lower f-stop means that the aperture is open wider. So an aperture of f22 is the smallest. This is something that you will have to become accustomed to over time and with a lot of practice. Lenses with lower f-stops are very useful in low light situations, because they allow more light in so that you can set the shutter speed higher, to obtain a sharper image. Keep in mind, though, that low f-stops can also create a softer focus, so if you experiment with different combinations of aperture and f-stop, you can see what works best for the light you are working with as well as the feel of the image you want to achieve.

ISO. The ISO measures the sensitivity of the film (sensor), to light. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive your camera sensor is to light, and the grainier the image. Lower ISOs yield sharper images. Keep this in mind when you are adjusting your ISO. If you want a “grainy effect,” then using an ISO of 800 or higher is appropriate, but stay away from ISOs that high if you want sharp, clean edges on your images. The newer DSLRs are better at reducing noise at high ISOs, but it still exists to some degree, so try to stick to using the shutter and aperture to bring more light into your images.

The best way to truly learn these 3 light manipulators is to experiment with your camera. Learn how to set them manually and go out and start playing with different combinations.

Silk screening

9 Jun

I have been dabbling in silk screening for the past year. It’s simple but arduous, to say the least. Here is the process, briefly:

1) Photograph a person in high contrast lighting

2) Make the photo into a black and white, high contrast graphic in Photoshop

3) Print the graphic on acetate

4) Burn the image onto the screen using photo emulsion process

5) Create background using wood panel and acrylic gel or paint

5) Use screen and ink to silk screen the graphic onto the background

6) Apply gloss finish

It sounds easier than it actually is. Here is an example, and you can buy hand-signed prints from my Etsy shop here: Print on Etsy

Modeling

6 Jun

Over the past few years, ever since my love of photography first blossomed, I have cultivated a great deal of respect for models. Not ALL models, but those who are truly passionate about it; the ones who OWN it.

Modeling is not easy. I have learned that through first hand experience. A truly talented model is an actor and a dancer and an artist, and much more. Given a location, makeup style, hair style and wardrobe, a talented model has the ability to bring all of these things together and create a conversation between each element and the camera/viewer. A talented model knows where each and every part of their body is when they are posing, and how to manipulate each part of their body to sculpt a figure for the photographer. This is something that takes time and practice. It is almost comparable to an anthropological experiment. Studying other people’s expressions, body movements and motion is one of the best ways for a model to craft their own set of poses. One could spend hours looking at faces and bodies in an effort to develop a better understanding of posture and pose.

Furthermore, many of the best models I’ve worked with have even studied light, the way a photographer studies light. When they are in front of the camera, they have developed the ability to analyze the position of the photographer and lights, and know how to position themselves in order to achieve the desired result.

Pretty faces are a dime a dozen, and there are so many more facets to modeling than an aesthetically pleasing form. That’s something that many people fail to understand. Modeling requires concentration, patience and sometimes even strength. Models need to have imagination and expressiveness. A pretty smile is not enough, a model must possess a host of narrative facial expressions and body movements that they can access spontaneously. The shallow, ignorant, self-centered diva is not the archetypal model. Just as in any other situation, the few models who do fit that description have ruined the reputation of many hard-working men and women who take modeling seriously.

One of the reasons that I’m writing this is that if every model showed up to the shoot as prepared as I am to do their job, they would never have to ask me what to do. When all is said and done and the lights are on the model and the camera is pointed at her/him, the last question I want to hear when I say, “Okay let’s get started,” is, “ummm, I don’t know what to do.” WHAT?

The thing is, I can teach a model what to do, and I can tell them exactly what I want and even show them with my own body, but sometimes, when you’re dealing with a time constraint, there’s just no time to “re-invent the wheel.” Plus, I have to think about so many other things while I’m working. I don’t want to have to do two jobs. The point is, be prepared, just like everyone else at the shoot. And for those models that are prepared, you’re awesome and you deserve a “thanks” for what you do.