the Cape Lookout Lighthouse

On a recent vacation to the coast of North Carolina I had a chance to visit the Lighthouse at Cape Lookout (located on the Cape Lookout National Sea Shore). I’ve been sharing some pictures from my trip on my social media sites like Google+ and Facebook but I thought I’d compile some of my favorite shots from my trip into a single page along with a few facts and some history I learned while I was there.

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Dusk Photography (with Flash)

Location photography is all about showing your environment and making it look like someplace others want to visit. Location portraiture is all about getting great portraits and including a cool background (but not letting the environment dominate the shot). An easy way to get killer shots (and tone down the background in your portraits) is to shoot early in the morning or really close to sunset. Having a little less brightness in your background lets you bring out your own lights to take control of your final shot.

Whenever I walk into a location shoot I start by looking around and trying to figure out the story I want to tell with my final image. Sometimes I see my shot immediately and sometimes I have to search a bit to find my image. The bottom line is that you have to look past what’s in front of you and think about what it could become. For this blog entry I’ll be talking about how I get into the mindset of finding my shot and how I work through the process of setting up a shot using small flashes.

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Photographing Hummingbirds

Where I live in northern Virginia I see a lot of wildlife “in the wild”. In late spring/early summer I see lots of birds, owls and butterflies right in my yard. Outside of my office window I have a Mimosa tree and it really attracts the various winged creatures. I’m not what I would consider a wildlife photographer but I do enjoy taking pictures of animals. This year I’ve been seeing lots of hummingbirds so I thought I’d try my luck at getting some hummingbird shots. I learned quickly that this kind of photography is a huge challenge and with this blog entry I’ll talk a bit about how I got my shots and the camera settings I used.

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Single Shot HDR with Photoshop

Part 3  |  The Photoshop technique

Above is the end result I got from applying my new HDR toning technique. When I start to create an image like this I don’t have anything specific in mind. I prefer to just see what happens when I start making adjustments. Here’s the complete Photoshop workflow I am now using to create an HDR look with a single image.

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Single shot HDR with Photoshop

Part 2  |  RAW processing with Lightroom 4

Choosing an image

The technique I’m sharing will work with any image but it will look a lot better with certain types of images. Interiors, old places, junk yards, sculpture gardens, churches and anything with lots of detail and texture always seem to look best when given the HDR treatment. I’ve had success using this technique on portraits and landscapes but I usually have to do some masking and more blending than I’ll be talking about in this blog series.

The Photoshop portion of this technique will work on any picture (including a jpg image). For the best possible results I like to start with a RAW file that’s been processed with a program like Lightroom. The most recent version of Lightroom (4.1) seems to really excel at creating images for this technique.

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Single shot HDR with Photoshop

PART 1  |   The idea behind my technique


People who are new to my blog may not know how much I like to work in Photoshop. I process every image I deliver to my clients and between jobs I often revisit images to practice old techniques and explore new techniques. While I try to keep my processing time to a minimum when I’m on deadline, I will spend a little more time in Photoshop when I’m creating special images (composites, HDR’s, or images that will be blown up and sold as fine art prints). A good rule of thumb for me is to keep my processing time well under 5 minutes per shot and to do as much in camera as I can.

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Happy 4th of July!

No real blog entry today, Just a quick picture of some fireworks on the 4th of July.

This was shot with my camera mounted on a tripod and manually set for a 10 second exposure (at f11) back in 2009. Not much changes each year when it comes to the proper technique for shooting fireworks. If I was shooting some fireworks today I’d be doing pretty much the same thing I did 10 years ago (except back then I was still using film).

Happy 4th of July to everyone and I hope you all have a fun and safe holiday!