The Digital Photo Guy

Alyssa Caitlain, Again

by on Oct.05, 2014, under Articles, Lightroom, Meetup, Monday Morning Tips, Photoshop CS2/4

Alyssa in LBD (Little Black Dress)

I’ll be working with Alyssa at the end of November on a 3-theme shoot at a junkyard. In this series, she was wearing one of the LBDs (little black dresses) she owns. At the junkyard, she’ll either wear this or another one that’s a bit more formal. She’s very professional and knows how to flow from one pose to the next, making it seem effortless.

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The first photo above has a bluish cast on my laptop that’s not on my large monitor. Normally, I would attribute that to the fact my laptop isn’t calibrated but the other two look fine on the laptop so I’m not sure where the cast is coming from.

The photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII and Canon 24-105/4L IS USM. Post-processing was in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop CS4 and Portrait Professional. I like how PP makes Alyssa’s eyes “pop” in the first photo.

Annual Fall Eastern Sierra Trip

I hope to be in Ancient Bristlecone Pines NF around the middle of October if the weather cooperates. So far, it’s been almost as hot up there as it is in Arizona. From there, I’ll head to Bishop to photograph Sky Rock in the early morning light. Due to its remote location, I’ll be tent camping near Sky Rock to be in position at Oh-Dark-Thirty. Finally, if there’s a chance of snow, I’ll head to Bodie to try for more photos of Bodie in snow. As always, anyone who’s interested in joining me can send an e-mail and I’ll send you my phone number.

If the weather is uncooperative, I may head to Deming, NM to get some work done on my RV and then head back to Douglas, AZ to photograph sandhill cranes.

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Glamour Model Alyssa

by on Sep.07, 2014, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Meetup, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos, Topaz Labs

Finding Models in Arizona

I had the opportunity to photograph Alyssa this past week. She’s an experienced model who’s finishing a Masters at ASU. I found her to be pleasant, professional and very good at striking a pose on cue. It took us a few moments to get used to each other but, within minutes, we were both pretty comfortable. I’m hoping to work with her on the “Arizona Surfer Chick” project I’ve been thinking about for the past 18 months.

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I used my standard “go to” rig – Canon 5D Mk II with the 24-105/4L. This was in a studio so I used their Alien Bee strobes triggered by some generic wireless triggers. There was a 48″ octobox as a key light and a smaller (24″?) softbox to camera left. I set the 5D to Manual and dialed in f/10 at 1/125, ISO 200. Lest you think I used some magic formula to set my exposure, I simply “guesstimated” and fine tuned with two test shots. I won’t embarrass either Alyssa or me by posting my first test exposure!

The photos were brought into LR4 and cropped, levels & WB adjusted and a few skin blemishes removed. Then, I used Topaz Labs Clean3 to smooth out her skin, not that she really need it. I just wanted to play with Clean3. As always, any comments or questions are welcome.

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Faster Horses, Younger Women (with Guns)

by on Sep.02, 2014, under Articles, Lightroom, Meetup, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4

Good Golly, Miss Molly, It’s Been Two Months

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in two months! All the usual excuses apply including a 2+ hour presentation I prepared for the Desert Caballeros Western Museum show, West of Center 2014. I spent about 40-50 hours preparing my presentation on Compositional Style. You can find an article about the presentation HERE.

Some of you may remember the Tom T. Hall song “Faster Horses” from which the title of this post has been blatantly ripped off. If you don’t know, the full refrain is, “It’s faster horses, Younger women, Older whiskey, More money.” Last week, I had an opportunity to photograph an MSA (Mounted Shooters of America) event. The light was high and harsh but I managed to make the following photos. The women were the most fun to photograph.

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The first image is SOOC (straight out of camera.) The rider hit a barrel and the horse was highly annoyed. The rest were processed in LR4, exported to Topaz Adjust 5 and “tweaked” using the Spicify preset as a starting point and brought back to LR4 where some were given a final tweak using the HSL panel to tone down the green background. The 5th image of the horse with all 4 hooves off the ground and visible muzzle blast was the only one where I did some PS4 trickery. The muzzle blast was in the previous frame where the horse’s legs were in a less dynamic position. I “cut & pasted” the muzzle blast from one photo to the other. I didn’t feel that was cheating since the two frames were in sequence during a high speed burst.

I handheld my Canon 7D with the 70-200/4L set to Aperture Priority and ISO 200. The AF Point Selection was set to expanded and I moved the zone left or right depending on the direction the horse was moving. The AF Shooting Mode was set to AI Servo so the lens would constantly update focus as the rider moved. For more details about these AF Modes, follow this link.

Beware of “Gurus”

Recently, I’ve overheard people advising beginners to “do it this way.” I’d caution anyone, newbie or advanced, to be wary of people who claim their way is the right way. As most of you know, the answer to most photography questions is, “It all depends!”

Upcoming Photoshoots

In mid-October, I’ll be headed back to the Eastern Sierra for my annual shoot. This year, I intend to concentrate on Sky Rock around Bishop and arches in Alabama Hills. I’ll go to Bodie if there’s snow but otherwise plan to stay south of Mono Lake. As always, feel free to contact me if you want to join me.

In November, I’ll be at Arizona Shootout, a nude & glamour workshop in the desert near Wickenburg. I’m not going to embed a link to the site because it contains nudity but if you’d like to join me, Google is your friend. The cost is ~$350 for both Sat & Sun or ~$175 for either day. These are Playboy level models with lots of experience and some top glamour photographers.

In late Dec or early Jan, I hope to make it back to Whitewater Draw near Douglas, AZ to photograph sandhill cranes. The schedule isn’t yet firmed up but stay tuned for details. While in the area, I’ll also go to Bisbee to photograph more hippies and cool art.

In February, I hope to make the 7th Annual Lake Havasu Rockabilly Reunion to photograph a boatload of pin-up models.

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Homeward Bound

by on Jun.28, 2014, under Articles, Composition, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Miscellaneous Photo from Past 6 Weeks

Surviving 6 weeks in a 25 foot RV with a wife and an 18 lbs cat has been an interesting experience. Amazingly enough, we’re all still talking to each other and no one has tried to kill anyone else! “T” the Cat is so ready for this adventure to be over so he can get back to his catio on the back patio where he can survey his kingdom. Tomorrow (Sunday, 6/29,) Mary’s retreat is over so we’ll meet up in Petaluma, CA for the ~800 mile drive back to Wickenburg. I had planned to stop in Oatman, AZ to photograph wild burros but Mary (and T) pointed out the temps will be in the low 100s. I’ll plan Oatman for a winter visit.

I went back over the ~1700 images from the trip and found several that could benefit from PP (post-processing.)

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These top four were various rock formations around Bishop and Big Pine. The first two are, obviously, HDR using Photomatix Essentials. The last two are SOOC (straight out of camera) with cropping, levels/saturation/contrast adjustments and sharpening. I’m still trying to go easy on HDR because, deep down, it feels like cheating.

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The above three are from the Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, CA. In lieu of HDR, I’m trying more BW and I’m finding more images that “feel” like good candidates for conversion. In the above trio, I think the last two might also work as BW. I plan to try that when I get home.

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The last two are mules from Bishop Mule Days. The light colored mule seemed to have such deep, expressive eyes that looked right through me. The big, brown guy was a handsome mule who seemed curious.

All photos were processed in Lightroom 4.4 with HDR taken out to PhotoMatix. Some were also processed in Topaz Labs Adjust 5. The first 2 were made with a Canon 7D and 24-105/4L while the rest were with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105. The belts at Laws RR Museum photographed with my Canon EOS-M mirrorless. I’m beginning to love that camera and will try other lenses in the future.

Wickenburg Photography Group Summer Unmeetings

The Wickenburg Photo Group is dormant during the summer but I’ve been trying to schedule activities to keep members and potential members involved. These blog posts are meant to give people ideas for photo trips as well as techniques and gear. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment.

On Saturday, July 19 from 9AM to Noon, I’ve scheduled a model session at the Wickenburg Art Center. The model is Chy Von Sweets, an alternative-style model who does Pin-Up, Rockabilly and High Fashion. As you can see from her portfolio, she’s a mix of Bettie Page, Punk and Vogue. I’ll have my backdrop and lights for anyone who wants to try studio model photography. The cost is $20, payable via PayPal at

On Saturday, August 9 from 1PM to 4PM at the Desert Caballeros Western Musuem, I’ll show you how to define and develop your own compositional style. To quote Ansel Adams, “The so-called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant and immaterial” or, more succinctly,There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” I’ll, hopefully, demonstrate how you can stop worrying about rules and start making good photographs.

Finally, in September (date TBA,) if there’s enough interest, I’ll conduct a 2-3 hour printing seminar at Wickenburg Art Center. I’ll haul my 45 lbs Epson 3880 printer to the center and demonstrate how to prepare your photos for printing and how to fix common printing problems.

The WPG meetings start again on Monday, October 6 from 6:30PM to about 9PM depending on the agenda. We’ll send out an e-blast agenda to WPG members in Sept.


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Waterfalls and Wildlife

by on Jun.22, 2014, under Articles, Composition, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Twin Falls at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

By this point, I was tired of volcanoes and lava so I was looking for something different. Twin Falls isn’t particularly spectacular but it was a fun diversion. To quote Edward Weston, “I see no reason for recording the obvious” and the scene from the viewpoint was as obvious and pedestrian as I could imagine. Hopping over a low parapet, I originally intended to reconnoiter a few yards up the side of the waterfall but quickly realized I didn’t have the proper tools for getting my gear up to the pool beneath the falls. So, armed with only my Canon EOS-M, I clambered my way up about 150 feet to the base of the falls. Not having my tripod with me, I couldn’t simply slow the shutter speed to blur the water. Instead, I tried something unorthodox by setting up for a three frame HDR in Tv (Shutter Priority.) This varied the aperture for each frame, varying the DoF (depth of field.) In PhotoMatix, I created the HDR, ticking the “Remove Ghosts” option. That removed the ghosts on stationary elements like the rocks caused by camera shake but couldn’t remove the DoF blur caused by the different apertures. Bottom line, the water isn’t quite as soft and creamy as a 3-5 second exposure but it’s pretty good. The first image is my favorite but there’s something I like about the second. The third is simply “interesting.”

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Our next stop was Lassen Volcanic NP. Any more volcanoes or lava and I was going to toss my cookies so I made landscapes at the Bumpass Hell parking lot inside Lassen. The first was my favorite. I also made a version with lens correction to reduce the lens distortion in the background but I still preferred the original. I love textures but, as you can see in the second photo, I’m not very good at it. I believe this is due to my compositional style which I’ll explain in my August 9 presentation at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. The third photo is a composition where color is a key element. It’s one of those things that came to me as I peered through the viewfinder.

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These last three are examples of PDL (pure dumb luck,) aka, why one should always carry a camera. The osprey were at McArthur-Burney Falls SP in CA. I love ospreys and tried to make some photos of this pair with one or two chicks. This wasn’t my smartest move but, as regular readers know, I’m a firm believer in doing dumb things to learn. This nest was a good 500-600 feet away, across a canyon. I dug out my Canon 300/2.8L plus Canon 2X TeleConverter and threw on the 1.4X TC for good measure. On a crop sensor Canon 7D, I had an effective 1344mm focal length. With such a jury rigged setup, capturing clear images is, as I stated in the beginning, PDL. While the 300/2.8L is one of Canon’s sharpest lenses, adding the 2X and 1.4X teleconverters has a noticeable effect on IQ (image quality.) Further, even on a Gitzo 3530LS, Markins ballhead and Wimberly Sidekick, the slightest breeze or movement will induce blur. These are the two best out of nearly 100 frames.

Finally, at Clear Lake SP, I wasn’t expecting much so I had my standard setup, a Canon 5D MkII and Canon 24-105L with the Canon EOS-M in my vest pocket. As we crossed a bridge, a doe and her two fawns casually walked toward us. I was so surprised I only had time for two shots before they ambled off through the brush. Almost all the critters at this park were amazingly tame.

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