northskyposts

5

Palettes 

More than just a trendy movement on Tumblr, palettes are a great way for a photographer or graphic designer to tell a color story about their work and personal style. 

Most of my palettes are muted, faded colors. If you asked me a year ago to describe my style, it certainly wouldn’t be in those terms. I’d have called my work bright and vibrant and clear. 

Making these palettes was a great way for me to see my work in its bare bone form. This is who I am. This is what I love and now that I know it, I can move forward in new projects with a solid aesthetic that represents my work as a whole.

Photography by Bex

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Shooting into the Sun

I live by the sea, and I shoot by the sea a lot. My least favorite thing is when I don’t plan my shoots properly, and get myself into a position where the best shot is facing directly into the sun. This isn’t really desirable in any landscape, but the reflection off the water makes it especially troubling to get a nice seascape.

I wasn’t at home for this shot, so I didn’t really have the luxury of waiting around for the right light. I also had very limited time, as the tide was coming in quickly, so I had to make my shot and be done with it. I got lucky in that there was a cave along the shore, so I was able to position myself right on the sun/shade line to get some nice lens flare.The spray from the waves made some nice atmosphere in the mid-ground. 

Had I not been terrified of being swept out to sea, I might have stuck around a little while longer to get a better shot. As any Icelander will tell you, you don’t mess around with the south coast waves. I wasn’t taking my chances.

Photography by Bex

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This sparkler photograph, taken at a wedding in Northern Ireland in December 2013, was a bit of a challenge to achieve. The light in the room was very low, and I had to push my 6D’s ISO way up to 4000 just to be able to hand hold a 1/60th shutter speed with an aperture of f/4. I put the drive in burst mode and hoped for the best.

This was the only usable shot from the burst of 22 images. It was difficult to get the sparkles sharp (and keep the model’s hand still!), but in the end the clarity in the foreground and the delicious, soft bokeh in the background made for a perfect capture. A little color toning and highlight adjustment in Lightroom, and the image was complete.

Photography by Bex

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Moon Base

I used this image as the base of a composite I created for a class I took in photography school. There’s a litttttle bit of a color filter on here, but not a whole lot, as you can see by the moon itself. The night sky was just the right shade of turquoise. Magical.

Then again, a full moon always is.

Photography by Bex

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5

Jökulsárlón

On Iceland’s south coast is a lagoon filled with icebergs recently calved from a glacier tongue called Breiðamerkurjökull off of Europe’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, but if you try, you can find some quiet solace amongst the coaches.

I like catching Jökulsárlón on a cloudy, rainy day. The stark contrast between the blue, white and black in the icebergs and the grey sky can be ominous and moody. The blue isn’t quite as spectacular on a sunny day, if you’ll believe it.

Photography by Bex

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3

Creating splash shots in the studio can be one of the most frustrating and rewarding shoots a photographer can take on. Not only do you have to set up the lights absolutely perfectly, but you have to either have an assistant who you are very much in sync with, or be a genius with a shutter release. You also have to be ready for a lot of mess, and a lot of photographs that will never see the light of day, but are great for a blooper reel.

For these shots, the glasses (filled with water, not alcohol), were set up about three feet directly in front of a 3x4 softbox, with black foamcore cards clipped to either side to create the black rim on the glass and the water. Right above the glass was another softbox, this time a 2x2.

Since I was shooting with strobes, I put my ISO at 100, and my shutter speed as fast as I could make it without seeing the sensor curtain (on my Rebel it was 1/200th of a second, on my 6D it would be 1/160th). I set up my camera about ten feet from the glass and used a 300mm lens. My aperture was at f/14, to make sure everything that came out of the glass was completely sharp. I zoomed in so the glass filled the frame, leaving room for whatever splashes might happen, and accounting for the black cards on the softbox.

It took a few (horribly bad) test shots before my assistant and I got our rhythms connected. I would count down and he would throw the fruit from a few feet away (to maximize splashes!).  Once we realized how cool the shots could look, we got creative by adding food coloring, and throwing the fruit before the color mixed with the water.

Photography by Bex

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10

Orchid Sanctuary

Housed just inside the entrance to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida is one of the most breathtaking conservatories I’ve ever seen. As their website tells us:

“The conservatory looks and feels like a tropical rain forest, which is where many of its show-stopping orchids and bromeliads were collected by the Gardens’ research and conservation scientists. Arranged in a spectacular collage of color and design, the plants feature marvelous adaptations like insect-catching pitchers and spiny trunks. Some climb upwards to the greenhouse roof, while others cascade over the walls of hanging baskets. Since the plants bloom at different times, each visit will yield a completely new experience.”

Photography by Bex

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I wanted to capture the scale of one of the most beautiful and most photographed locations in Iceland in a way I hadn’t seen before. I used my wide angle lens on a tripod with a long shutter speed. It was too busy of a day to wait until everyone but that couple was out of the photograph, so I had to rely on my Photoshop skills to remove crowds of people from the foreground and midground.

Sometimes, less is a lot more.

Photography by Bex

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An early April stroll through Brooklyn found me looking for a bar to get good whiskey. I wandered up Front Street toward a place I’d heard about on Pearl and happened to glance up Washington as I crossed.

Ohhh… THAT’S the photo everyone takes when they come to DUMBO. Okay. Should I take it, too? I’ve seen it a million times and-oops-snap-snap-snap.

I love it. I love how the bridge frames the ESB and how massive the whole thing is, looming above the buildings.

And yes, I found the place I was looking for. I had a double rye neat. It was delightful. Then I had another… and then I missed my train back to Boston. C'est la vie.

Photography by Bex

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Anyone working in studio photography will tell you that glass and metal (any reflective surface, really) is a frustrating challenge like no other. This shot was actually an accident - I was setting up my black cards in front of a 3x4 softbox, and just testing strobe exposure. I was shooting tethered, and wasn’t impressed by this shot at all. The 1x4 softboxes on either side of the glass were too far away and not firing bright enough strobes.

It wasn’t until I looked at it later that I realized how lovely it was. The thin outline of the glass was enhanced in Lightroom by increasing the highlights and dropping down the darks and shadows. I did clean up a few stray reflections in Photoshop, converted it to black and white and there you have it. 

Photography by Bex

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3

A Tribute to Winter

Don’t be afraid to go out in adverse weather! I was happy to find the streets abandoned during this huge blizzard last winter. It was quiet and peaceful and I was able to take my time with every shot I made. 

It doesn’t hurt that my town is CUUUUTE as heck when it snows. It’s your perfect, typical New England winter wonderland. Kind of makes me miss it… just a little.

Photography by Bex

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3

Armaugh, Northern Ireland

Often, in my travels, I come across a small city or town that captures my spirit and makes me want to make beautiful photographs. Some places have more pull than others. Armaugh, in Northern Ireland is one of those places. We happened upon this sleepy town a few days after Christmas in 2013 just as a fresh rainstorm blew through the area. 

The streets were empty and the pavement was wet, an amazing combination. I took these photos and brought them into post, dropping the saturation and upping the clarity to create crisp, desolate images of the town we fell in love with.

Photography by Bex

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Steps to the Sea

This shot was taken in Northern Ireland in January 2014. The low, winter sun was behind the hills, and created a nice, diffused, soft light which was lovely to photograph this little beach we stumbled upon. 

We didn’t stay long, as we only had about five hours of usable daylight to work with, and lot of miles ahead to travel.

Photography by Bex

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Exposure 201

Exposure occurs when the camera’s sensor is revealed and responds to a volume of light for a period of time. The goal of a controlled or “correct” exposure is to make a photograph that is neither too bright nor too dark. To do that, we must bring into balance 4 variables:

  • A given level of light
  • The sensitivity of the recording surface in the camera (ISO)
  • Lens aperture (regulates how much light enters the camera)
  • Shutter speed (regulates how long the sensor is exposed to light)

Because these 4 variables are inextricably linked, a change in any one requires a counterbalancing change in another. For instance, if the quantity of light in a scene suddenly increases (perhaps the sun comes out from behind a cloud), the photographer will adjust either the lens aperture to cut back on the amount of light entering the camera, the shutter speed to reduce the length of time the sensor is exposed to light, or the ISO, to reduce the sensitivity of the sensor. We call this balancing act reciprocity. In order to make this process simpler, photographers try to “lock down” on one or more of these variables, depending on a particular image’s requirements. The easiest variables to commit to generally are the level of light in a scene and the ISO setting on the camera, leaving only the aperture and shutter speed to bring into balance.

In the hypothetical situation illustrated on the chart above, the camera’s meter has determined that 1/30 second at f8 at ISO 100 was the correct exposure for a particular level of light. But as you can see, for this level of light at ISO 100 there are any number of other shutter and aperture combinations that will also result in a “correct” exposure. While different combinations will result in the same image brightness, they will offer a variety of visual effects. For instance, choosing a combination toward the left side of the chart balances a faster shutter speed with a larger aperture, allowing you to stop motion, but also resulting in shallow depth-of-field. The combinations toward the right balance slower shutter speeds with smaller apertures, causing anything moving in the image to record as a blur while resulting in greater depth-of-field. These are scientific truths based on absolute laws of physics, and until the age of digital imaging were undeniable. Luckily for you, in this pre-Photoshop module, they still are.

To make shooting a little easier, digital SLR’s offer a variety of methods of automating some or all of the exposure process called Exposure Modes. Shutter Priority Mode allows you to manually select the shutter speed, which makes the camera automatically set the corresponding aperture. Aperture Priority Mode is used when you want to control the aperture yourself, and the camera then chooses the matching shutter speed. Program Mode chooses both the shutter and aperture at the same time by allowing you to quickly scroll through all of the combinations that result in a “correct” exposure. Manual Mode requires you to set both shutter and aperture yourself, “nulling the meter” by referring to a scale displayed in the viewfinder. Each of these exposure modes are responding to the exact same lighting conditions, but they offer the photographer different interactivity with the camera. Each can be overridden when necessary using the exposure compensation control for the automatic modes, and simply adding or subtracting exposure in manual mode. 

(big thanks to Shawn Read on this tutorial)

Post by Bex

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Foggy Sunset

I’m fortunate enough to live right on the ocean, so every night, about fifteen minutes before sunset I peer out my living room windows to gauge whether I should make the long trek down the stairs to photograph it.

This one was one of the best. It had torrentially rained ALL DAY. Those of you who follow my photography blog here might recall reading about how I got caught in two flash floods and had to literally seek refuge in a Whole Foods cafe for a few hours before the waters went down enough for me to drive home.

The upside of all that rain was an incredibly damp coastline that created some haunting fog once the air cooled a little. The pinks of the sunset and the lights of the bike trail all came together in a way that made me forget about how horrible the day was.

Silver lining, kids.

Photography by Bex

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10

I live in a tourist town. Probably THE tourist town - Salem, Massachusetts - home to the infamous Salem Witch Trials, wizards, warlocks and enough vomit inducing kitsch to last you a lifetime.

Nine months out of the year, Salem is a sleepy, seaside town with lots of bars and restaurants to keep the locals happy. The “fun” comes when summer starts, and in October all of the greater Boston area descends upon the town in hoards that can reach up to 150,000 per day around Halloween.

I don’t dislike living in Salem, but I don’t love how busy it gets. I own a condo downtown, on the water, and often avoid the city center. Today, I wanted to challenge myself to see my town like a tourist. Armed with my Lensbaby Spark, I set out on foot to explore what makes my town a destination for people from all over the world.

I was pretty happy with the results.

Photography by Bex

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3

This composite was created using two separate images, one aerial photograph taken from the top of the Shard in London, and the other an image taken in the studio of a model’s hand.

Each image was converted to black and white, with the contrast and clarity sliders way up. Contrast is very important when creating a ‘double exposure’ image.

I played with the scale of each image in Photoshop, and decided that the fingers on the hand competed too much with the steel and glass in the London image, and enlarged it considerably (thank god for RAW resolution!) so that just the city below and the reflections of the facade were visible.

After I found a composition I liked (which is very hit or miss in DEx images - so don’t be afraid to play around a LOT when making one), and created a mask over the hand image, and worked on the opacity in certain parts (like the creases in his fingers) until I found something I liked. When the image was complete, I put a gradient map over the whole thing, and called it a day.

Photography by Bex

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