It's been way to long since I had time to take pictures for fun and for myself and it's been way to long since the last blog post. If you read my blog, you know I love sunrises . The spring has come to Luxembourg and I managed to get up early and go to a small field of daffodils in my neighborhood.
After a long time of silence on my blog, I thought it was time to publish an update, even a short one. As you might already know, I’ve relocated back to Europe in June 2016. However, in order to keep things interested, I didn’t go back to Belgium. Instead, I moved to Luxembourg - a small (998 square mile) country, between Belgium and Germany with not one, not two, but three official languages. It sounds like an intriguing place, doesn’t it?
Since the move, I’ve been busy with so many things, including my work recently, that I really haven’t had time to work on any personal photography projects. However, I’ve been discovering the natural wonders of this small-in-size but big-in-varieties and taking a few pictures here and there. I thought to share a few photos with you, hopefully to make some of you interested in visiting Luxembourg at some point.
I think that any bottle (glass) product photograph is both quite challenging and also very rewarding. The main challenge comes from being able to constrain the reflections, make them soft and elegant and and to use them to your profit in order to create an interesting image. This type of product photography can get complicated pretty fast, especially when you’re dealing with many weird reflections and light sources. Therefore, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. I have recently photographed a Rusack Wine Bottle and I started off with my typical setup and two light sources. My vision of the final image was a clean, classic and elegant image of the bottle but I also wanted to make it challenging for myself. The challenge? To have the already black bottle on black background.
I eliminated one of the lights after several trials and errors (mostly errors of trying to use the lights on both sides of the bottle). I placed the remaining speedlight behind the bottle and put a white plexiglass between the light source and the bottle. Next, I placed two black foam core boards on each side of the bottle in order to have black background. I left a very tiny space (not visible in the final picture) just behind the bottle for the light to go through. Last but not least, I used two white foam boards on each side of the bottle in order (see pic below) to get nice highlights on both sides. Once I photographed the bottle, it was time for the wine glass. I simply placed the glass in the background, a bit to the right from where the bottle was standing and I repositioned the white foam boards to have the highlights uniform on both sides of the glass. I ended up having two images which I brought to Photoshop for editing.
I found in my mailbox a very interesting photography project proposal a couple of months ago. Angela, the owner of Willow Berry Studio (http://willowberrystudio.com/), contacted me asking if I wouldn’t be interested in providing her studio with a few styled images of their new line of greeting cards. I was genuinely interested in producing the images for Angela for several reasons: I had never shot greeting cards before and I’m always happy to shoot something new; Willow Berry Studio already had a pretty good idea what they needed and it’s always very helpful when a client has specific requirements; and Angela is a designer and a creative person and I love working with other creatives! We exchanged a few emails, had a couple phone conversations and a meeting to discuss the details. Since Angela had a pretty good idea on what she wanted to have, I did my best to keep her posted on the progress and ask for her opinion and image approvals throughout the project. Here are some of the images I produced for Willow Berry Studio.
Willow Berry Studio is a vintage remix textile and surface pattern design company based in Tennessee, USA. You can find more info here: http://willowberrystudio.com/
There is very little daytime in winter, which often creates a challenge for using natural sunlight for product photography . I’ve recently had a client for whom I had to create an image as if it was shot during the day with a window in the background - the challenge: shoot it after sunset.
I knew right away that I needed to place a speed light outside the window. Windows are great for getting soft light but in this case it wouldn’t be enough. I have a large piece of white fabric which I often place between the lights and the subject but I wanted to try something new this time - baking paper. I heard a few times before from fellow photographers about this 'hi-tech technology’ (can you sense my sarcasm 😃 ) and I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to try it myself.
The process was quite simple: I taped the baking paper (I guess it’s also called parchment paper) to the window and I placed the speedlight in the softbox outside. I was worried at first that the light would be not only too directional but also too harsh but it actually turned out pretty well I think.
I had to drive to Nashville the other day for a business meeting. Unfortunately, I don’t travel much these days, especially to central and western parts of Tennessee so I wanted to take this opporunity to do some photography. I remembered that the Natchez Trace Bridge is close to Nashville. I googled for images of the bridge to get a sense of how it looks like, what’s around it and what opportunities it gives for photography. Next step was to research using google maps and street view. I knew I would arrive to the bridge after sunset so I wanted to take a nightscape / astrophotography photograph. At the end, I narrowed it down to 2 options: shoot the bridge from the road that runsunderneath it or take pictures from the bridge.
After I arrived, it turned out that the road that is under the bridge is much busier than I thought it would be so I immediately headed to the bridge. I rather quickly found a good spot, I put on a high visibility reflective jacket on (for safety), grabbed a flashlight from the car and started shooting long exposures. I also met a fellow photographer, Scott Dubose of Photographers Artistry. Scott does astrophotography (something I have very little knowledge about) and we talked for about 30 minutes or even more.
In a nutshell, it was an extremely good day because I ended up with a picture I like and I made a new friend!
Sometimes a photoshoot just doesn’t go well; sometimes you think it goes well, you wrap everything up but when you want to edit the image, it just doesn’t feel right. I think that’s exactly what has happened in the case of my ‘Oktoberfest’ photoshoot last month. I don’t know what exactly went wrong and what mistakes I’ve made during the photoshoot.
I had started having an idea about shooting a beer and an Oktoberfest-themed image for my portfolio a couple of weeks before October. I really wanted to use a local brewer from Memphis and I saw Wiseacre Brewing’s Oktoberfest Gemutlichkeit while doing grocery shopping. It was exactly what I was looking for because Wiseacre Brewing is a local brewery and the beer was themed with Oktoberfest. The next step was to think about the specific idea and how to shoot it. Since it’s the 'harvest season' here in the US, pumpkins and hay are in every store. Few more flowers and leaves from my background and I had all of the props I needed.
I wanted to have the shoot outdoors and I needed to shoot it in shade in order to control the light in the photograph. I used a garden umbrella to have shade and I wish I could also have everything in the shade, including the background far behind the shoot location - I think this is one of the things I don’t like about the photograph but I only realized it after I wrapped up the shoot and here comes the second lesson learned: I shot it on my weakest day of a week - on Sunday. I don’t exactly know why but I always feel tired and unmotivated on Sundays. Naturally, I felt extremely worn out only after 2 hours of setting everything up and shooting so I wanted to finish the shoot as soon as possible. Nevertheless, I was pretty sure I liked the final image when I was wrapping the shoot up but I think that the 'Sunday fatigue' influenced my judgement.
I don’t like the photograph enough to have it in my portfolio but the whole experience and the lessons learned are great for the future.
October is just around the corner and everyone knows what happens in October, right?…. Oktoberfest! It’s perfect time for beer photography and I’ve decided to do a couple of beer-related photography projects in the coming weeks. I’ve chosen SweetWater Brewing Company from Atlanta, Georgia for the first project for no particular reason to be honest. One of the ingredients, or rather grains, in their 420 Extra Pale Ale is 2-row (my friends at Bernoulli Brew Werks in Memphis told me that it’s called ‘brewer’s malt’ among the beer specialists).
Due to my current photography commitments, I only have weekends for personal projects so I wanted to developed a unique idea for the shoot but also relatively easy to photography. It took my a couple of trips to buy the right amount of grain for the shoot (I didn’t buy enough the first time). The basic idea was to show that the bottle emerges from grain but that wasn’t enough. I needed at least a couple of props. A bottle opener was a ‘natural’ choice and I wanted the second prop related to the grain. Like most of my ideas, the idea for a grain scoop appeared in my head while doing something completely unrelated to the project. We bought a small teal-leaf scoop in San Francisco a couple of months ago. Its color and size fit perfectly for the shoot.
Did I mention I wanted to keep the shoot simple? Oh yeah, I did! I used only 1 light in a softbox. The reflection on the bottle wasn’t soft enough so I placed an additional diffusion panel between the set and the light source. I just used a piece of a white foam board to the right to reflect the light back from the other size.
I'm cursed (or my wife is, we still have to figure it out) because it rains wherever we travel to. It wasn’t any different during our trip to Utah and Arizona back in May 2015 (it even snowed!). We love to hike and we often end up taking the hardest and most strenuous trails possible so I bought a pair of small microfiber absorbent towels. The initial purpose for having them was to wipe off sweat from our heads and hands but I ended up using these microfiber absorbent towels for something else... you've probably guessed it! I was caught in a very heavy rain while shooting long exposure at the Virgin River in Zion National Park. My Nikon D610 and 24-70mm f2.8 lens were completely wet and even though they are both weather-sealed to a certain degree, I was still afraid that something could have happened to the equipment. I pulled out the absorbent towel immediately after finding a shelter and I wiped the camera and the lens thoroughly.
I'm obviously not a marketing manager for microfiber absorbent towels and I don't know the technology behind these towels but I was really amazed how quickly and well they absorbed water from my photo gear. I think that if I tried to wipe it off with a regular towel, it could actually push water into small cracks and spaces in my camera and lens. However, the absorbent towel 'sucked in' all the water! From now on, I take at least one microfiber absorbent towel for all of my photo shoots. They are really small, lightweight and inexpensive. This is the one I got (12x24 inches) but of course you can find different ones from different companies: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00MGGZE52
Some things are not what they seem to be; sometimes what they are depends on who looks at them; sometimes it takes a bit of imagination, time or just a bit of light and shadow. Antelope Canyon, located on Navajo land a couple of miles from Page, Arizona, is such a magical place.Read More