Friday, December 23, 2011

Light Grafitti 101: How To Light Paint

 Light Graffiti or 'Light Painting' is a fairly simply technique, based on long exposure times and the manipulation of a light source.
  Occasionally nicknamed 'ghosting', Light Graffiti  will become a fun new skill in your photographer's toolbag.

  Any decent digital camera will work just fine for your first attempt at light painting, and the only strongly recommended tool is a tripod, to keep the lens steady during the extended exposure times, especially if you would like to be the 'ghost'.

  First, set your exposure timer to no less than 3 seconds. Also known as 'shutter speed', this is the length of time that the shutter remains open after you click the release button. For action shots, this is normally set very fast (a split second).
 For most cameras you will need to bypass the auto settings and move to 'manual' and the "TV" setting (for Time Value) to slow the exposure enough for light painting.

 Setup your tripod or on a steady base in a mildly lit setting ("dusk" lighting) and collect your light source(s). An LED flashlight works well, but with the right contrast between a dim background and a bright source light, just about any lights will work to varying degrees. Set your focus to about 3ft from the lens, or leave auto-focus on.

 *This is also the same basic technique used to get those cool blurry motion pictures of waterfalls and similar intentional 'in motion' blurs.
  With the shutter speed set to 3-6 seconds, stand in front of the camera with your flashlight in hand. Turn on the flashlight and reach out to click the shutter release, which will remain open for 3-6 seconds. In that time, you will draw your name in the air with the flashlight pointed toward the camera.
 Remember to keep the light moving, and if your painting is to be small and simple, then make your pattern and drop the flashlight down or turn it off until you hear the shutter close to avoid over-exposed spots in your image.
 If you stand fairly still during the painting process, you become your own model and part of the image.

  You can also move your self around a bit for those few seconds so as to become a ghost in your own image.
 When you're ready to experiment with that part of the painting, here's an idea for you to try:
 Double exposure ghosting with a light painting.

Now that you have the basics under your belt, experiment a bit with traffic, children, fireworks, or any other light and/or motion source that contrasts a dim background that doesn't move. *Complete darkness makes for a completely different result.
  My garage samples above were shot under a dozen fluorescent bulbs, so your bedroom with the lamp on will work just fine. Make sure to keep the room light behind the camera, and if it's still a bit too bright, try a smaller bulb (swap a 100Watt for a 60watt) for the shooting session.
Be aware of the background, and hang a sheet as a backdrop if it will help to keep the viewer's eyes on your art rather than the dirty underwear in the background.

 Have fun with it!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Baltimore: Welcome to Hampden, Hon!

modest beauty revealed
Cierra, a local model

Small Town Pride, Meet City Neighborhood:

Welcome to Hampden, Hon!

   Only a select few Hampdenites* ever realize this, but that small and mostly obscure little stream that runs alongside I83 is the sole reason for their neighborhood's existence.
  *(Yeah, Hampden-ite is a real term...but you gotta be one to use it: DatOKwiju?)

  At the start of the 19th century (around 1802), James Hughes was the first to harness the Jones Falls to power his flour mills, and his workers needed homes.
  The invention of the cotton gin saw the conversion of local grain mills to produce cotton duck for sail-making, and by 1890 Hampden was the largest producer of this product in the world, with an 80% market share.
  The workforce that supported the mills grew to one of the largest in the nation by the turn of the 20th century, as did the need to house these workers locally ('commuter' was a term yet to be coined or even comprehended), and Hampden-Woodberry expanded to become the neighborhood it is today. 

Baltimore Ravens are recipients of that small-town pride
  The mills still exist today as well, but have been renovated by forward-thinking investors to house artists' studios, health clubs, and high-tech companies.
 The original mill housing community known as Stone Hill, in the 2900-3000 block of Keswick Road, is a perfect example of that small-town pride you can find all over Hampden.
 Well preserved and cared for by each generation, these handsome stone houses date back to their original purpose about 160 years ago.
 The busy mills of the early 1800s spawned a benevolence in the investor David Carroll who owned about 200 houses in the Jones Valley and rented them to the workers. 
  Some were built west of the Jones Falls, where today they cluster at the foot of Television Hill; others were built on a hill north of Mt. Vernon Mill No.2, and the final group was built on a hill on the other side of the mill.
This last group of houses had two-feet-thick stone walls, and gives Stone Hill its name.

 Hampden has always been a nearly self-sufficient community with local work,  places to worship, to recreate and to shop.
 Residents could find just about everything they needed in the shops along 36th Street, locally known as "The Avenue."
  The Avenue was the main street of Hampden and a focal point for residents. On any Saturday night the street was thronged with people shopping, seeking entertainment or visiting with friends. When the mills began closing for good in the 1960's, residents moved out of the area and the stores that were once filled with customers became vacant. 

 In the early part of the 1970's, The Avenue clearly needed a shot in the arm to help get going again. This did not come until the 1990's when, attracted by low rents, a few entrepreneurs with an eye on future growth opened for business.
 Since then the Hampden commercial district has been on an economic upswing. Today, The Avenue and the area in general are a  thriving, refreshed city neighborhood. 

 One such visionary whose name, merely muttered at any social gathering, will create a love-hate brew in the room that quickly takes over as the 'subject of the day', is the owner of Cafe Hon on the Avenue.
Resistance to change is a common thread in any small town, and most old-school Hampden residents feel exactly this way as well. The wave of entrepreneurs as new investors that followed the Cafe Hon sparked a bit of controversy among many life-long Hampdenites, but controversy is rarely a bad thing for an entrepreneur, don't you agree?

 However, whether it is fueled by dusty book stores, glitzy eateries, or retro shops aimed solely at the college students, Hampden is to this day the beating heart of Baltimore City proper, and one of first choices of city residents who want to settle down and raise a family in a close-knit  and self-reliant community convenient to everything.

  The pictures herein are from the recent Mayor's Christmas parade on Sunday Dec 4th 2011.  This annual celebration of local creativity has become a Baltimore staple event that, even after leaving Hampden many years ago, my family insists on seeing in person.
  ...We had to visit our hearts after all, didn't we..?

                                    Welcome to Hampden, Hon.

copyright, JB Stran

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yoga Photography: Combining Science & Art

  It includes meditation to attain mental tranquility and eccentric body formations to achieve better health. In the present times, Yoga has been popular among different nations and different races because it is proven to be beneficial to the health. It is also said to cure a number of health problems such as muscle pains, stress, and abdominal problems.

 Yoga as an Art
Apart from being an alternative remedy to numerous health problems, Yoga is also considered as an art. There are people who find beauty from the physical formations this discipline requires. In this type of art, the artist needs no medium but his body. The movement of the different parts of the body, the stretching, and the combination of different postures creates an aesthetic appearance.

 There are people who believe that yoga is not just a physical practice, but also an expression of the self, and the channeling of the emotions to create a certain kind of harmony. Some would even think that yoga is one way of telling a story, that each posture tell a statement. Many have become fascinated by artistically done yoga poses—their simplicity and intensity have been tried to capture and illustrate by artists and ordinary people alike. 

Yoga Captured in Photos
  Different media have been tried to use to capture the beauty of yoga. Paintings, literature and photography are used to illustrate the story stated by yogic positions. But among these, fine art photography is probably the medium that is often used to present the art of Yoga. With the help of the technical wonders of photography, the fluid movements done in Yoga can be turned into still images. 
 The uniqueness of yogic postures is what probably attracted photographers and other visual artists. Yogic positions are not what people see in everyday living. Yoga seems to exemplify something mysterious, something not commonplace. The mystery that lies in these eccentric body postures are perhaps what prompts photographers to take yoga images that are truly aesthetically appealing—images that might be new to many spectators.  

 Indeed, yoga art can be considered as a sublime art—it has transcended generations and never failed to bring awe to people who see it. It is not only the art of executing fluid movements but also the art of living and art of meditating. Definitely, this is something worth capturing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Balancing Flash with Fluorescents

  The classic, and most common, solution is to attach a “window green” (or “plus green”) gel to your flash head.
When the ambient light in a room is green (from fluorescent) and you’re using a green gel on your flash, with the fluorescent light (FL) balance selected on your camera, you will achieve balanced lighting, or all white. White balance, at FL, adjusts the value by 33 units of magenta, which is what is needed to cancel the green effect.

   In the real world, however, the problem is a bit more subtle and challenging for two very good reasons. First, fluorescent lighting technology has advanced, so instead of the standard value of 30 color correction (CC) units of green light, today’s fluorescent lights are available in a wide range of light temperatures. In fact, some fluorescents have a light temperature warmer than tungsten. (Generally, tungsten light is approximately 2,700–3,300 on the Kelvin color temperature scale, while traditional fluorescents are more than 5,000 K.)
The second challenge to balancing your flash with fluorescent lights is that many interior spaces have a mixture of daylight, incandescent and fluorescent light.

  When you find yourself in a room that is predominately lit with fluorescent light, your first step toward an accurate balance is to test the light to determine where it is in the broad fluorescent range. Shoot a few images with just the ambient fluorescent light. If they tend towards green, then use the standard green gel. If they appear to be more orange, then the fluorescent light is closer to tungsten, or incandescent. In that case, use a “CTO” gel, which typically balances a flash with incandescent light.

 In neither case will you find an exact balance because there are so many varieties of color temperatures from fluorescent tubes that your images will either show a little green at one end of the scale or a bit of orange at the tungsten end. Unfortunately, cameras don’t come with a white balance FL setting for every minor difference in color temperature value in today’s fluorescent tubes.

The small difference between your flash and any of the various fluorescent values under which you might find yourself shooting usually only affect the fringes of an image where the light from the flash is diminished. Your subject, which receives most of the flash’s illumination, will typically look very much in balance.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mayor's Christmas Parade Kids

   Sponsors aside for the moment;  Parades are all about the children, and Baltimore's Christmas parade is no exception.


  A few of my favorite moments from this year's Mayor's* Hampden-Medfield Christmas parade are included on this page, and the obvious stand-outs to my male-slanted grandfather's eye will always be Kids & Cars, in that order...and this post is dedicated to the first group.

   The occasional muscle car will grab my attention for a few moments too long so that I nearly miss the ideal shot, like the '68 Goat (only got 1 shot, and it's gonna take some real PS magic to save it, but how often do you get to see a restored "Judge"?), but the kids touch my heart in a way that actually swings the camera into place because I want the world (at least my little piece of it) to see what I just saw.

  Playing dress-up with Mommy, and getting psyched-up for a long march through the streets of Baltimore to show everyone the results of those hours ( and in many cases days, and even years) of preparation is a rare ritual that only a select few children can experience, and for the majority of participants it will be a lifetime memory.
  ...For the rest, we will immortalize their contributions on pages like this one.

   My favorite shot from this grouping represented my favorite Christmas song (It's also my Dad's favorite as well, and this being the first Christmas without him around made it even more so), is therefore the most fitting picture of the day:  The Little Drummerboy

Baltimore Christmas parade 2011

                                            Savanna Fisher: Jr Miss Yuletide
                     Mayor's Hampden-Medfield Christmas Parade on Dec 04, 2011
                                                         Baltimore, MD.

 Having spent the better part of my 50+ years in Baltimore, Hampden in particular, driving back there from West Virginia for the annual parade was a labor of love, if you will.

 Always a pleasure, especially since we still have family remaining in Baltimore, the Mayor's parade didn't disappoint this time around either.

 Our granddaughter was on one of the floats (pictured) so missing this parade was out of the question...Besides, I was way over-due for a good photo-opp, and this rolled nicely into the perfect family trifecta; Visit our son, share Savanna's moment in the spotlight, and walk the newest grandchildren down to the 34th St Christmas light-show tour.

 When I unloaded the camera I had collected just shy of a thousand pictures (yeah, shocked me a bit too), and spent the next 2 days trimming the fat and dumping the too-ugly-to-save-with-photoshop shots.
 With just over 200 round-1 survivors, my next task is to find the hidden gems that can be brought to life with a little PS magic, and post them to my various sites.

 Here are a few peeks at the progress thus far: