Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Visual Inspiration

As a visual artist A.K.A. photographer I often look to other photographers for inspiration that I can use to push the envelope and develop my skills and creativity to produce better works. I wanted to share some of my favorite artists with you.
Location Unknown
Rarindra Prakarsa
Jakarta, Indonesia
What inspires me about this image is the use of back lighting of the
subjects which almost throughs the cat into a silouette. I can't say for certain
but I'm sure there is a good deal of Photoshop work (dodging and burning) that
was performed on the image to create this result.

What inspires me about this image is the use of contrast and saturation to gove
the image a surreal quality that you can't find in a lifelike image.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Flash Your Christmas Tree

Today the wife and I gathered our three children to take our annual Christmas portrait in front of our Christmas tree. The room lighting was not very good so I setup two off camera slave flashes (580 EX II and 430 EX) on light stands and triggered them using the Canon 7D's built-in master flash. I love this feature on the 7D!

I wanted to capture the available light of the Christmas tree but after a few test shots with the children I knew I would have to go with a faster shutter speed to minimized motion blur because our youngest would not or could not stand still. This resulted in a 1/60 second shutter speed with an aperture of 4.5. to get a shallow depth of field. I setup the camera to manual mode (M) and took a few test shots to dial in the flash to get a decent exposure.

We took several images with all five us but I was not very happy with any of them because the lights on the Christmas tree just didn't show up at all. The children were becoming restless so I made the decision that what we had taken was going to have to do.

After the boys were off in their rooms playing my wife and I continued the photo session with a few images of both of us. Me being somewhat lazy on that Sunday afternoon I left the camera on the same settings as before and again I wasn't happy with the results.

What to do? I decided to slow the shutter shutter speed by a stop or two while leaving the aperture at 4.5 and I also lowered the flash output by 1 stop. Wow, what a difference it made. Now this is what I had in mind when we started.

Next year our youngest will be a little bit older and hopefully a little more able or willing to stand still so I can use the slower shutter speed and get those Christmas tree lights to really glow in our family Christmas portrait.

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Photography Quotes

Some of my favorite photography quotes...
  • "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." ~Ansel Adams

  • "You don't take a photograph, you make it." ~Ansel Adams

  • “Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” ~Dorothea Lange

  • "It's weird that photographers spend years or even a whole lifetime, trying to capture moments that added together, don't even amount to a couple of hours." ~James Lalropui Keivom

  • “Whether he is an artist or not, the photographer is a joyous sensualist, for the simple reason that the eye traffics in feelings, not in thoughts.” ~Walker Evans
All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Details of a Ferrari

There is nothing like an exotic Italian sports car. Most of us have seen them speed by at 100+ MPH and leave you in their dust. In this series I chose not to photograph the entire car, but rather focus on some of the finer details that you can't see when they pass you in a blurrrrr..

Front hood
Wheel, tire and disc brake
Drivers side front panel and door
Tail with see through engine cover.
Right rear corner

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Photoshop Tip - Merge All Visible Layers

Like most other digital photographers I occasionally use Adobe Photoshop (PS) to edit and enhance my images. I'm always looking for better or faster ways of doing things in PS so as I run across great PS tips I will be sharing them with you guys. So without any further delay here is PS tip #1.

When editing my images in PS I typically create mutliple adjustment layers. As you can see in the image below I have the original (background) image layer, a levels adjustment layer and a curvers adjustment layer.

When I finished making adjustments to the image I almost always need to sharpen the entire image using either one of the sharpening filters or by using the High Pass filter (Filter > Other > High Pass...) which is my favorite. In order to apply the sharpening filter to the original image plus all the adjustments the multiple layers must be combined into one layer. This is done my pressing CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E which will create a new top level layer that is a merge of all visible layers.

Now you can select the new layer and apply your favorite sharpening filter to the entire image.

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Monday, September 14, 2009


This past Saturday I asked my wife to model for me so I could practice portrait lighting and posing. I know very little about how to properly pose or light a person for a portrait, but from reading online forums, books and studying other photographer's portrait work I've picked up a few tips for posing and lighting. I wasn't trying to create "glamour" style images but they seem to have come out that way.

Our kitchen and breakfast area has excellent defused northern light streaming in through the two large windows so I decided to use that room for this shoot. We moved the breakfast table and chairs out of the room and I tacked a large 6' x 14' piece of black felt cloth about 4 feet up on the wall to act as the backdrop. The cloth hung down the wall with enough material leftover so that I could pulled in away from the wall to cover the floor. This allowed me to have the same color on the floor and the wall behind her. The use of a solid color backdrop allows the viewer of the image to focus on what's important, the person and not become distracted by the background.

The lighting for all of these images was natural sunlight coming in from two windows located to the right of the camera. I also used a 24 inch round silver reflector that was used to reflect the sunlight on to the side of her face opposite the windows. The reflected light reduces the shadows and provides even lighting across her face which helps smooth the look of the skin.
1. I like this image with the exception that you can not see her hair very well. I also don't like the way her legs are crossed, but I'm not sure how else I would have had her arranged them.

2. This was my favorite image from the day. I like the crossed legs, the color of her hair and the lighting on her face. If I had to change anything I'd have her move her legs so they are more straight up and down like in the image below this one.
3. This one is similar to the above but the crossed legs are more straight up and down which I like better. She thinks there is too much symmetry in the face, hands and hair.
4. This one was all her, she started moving her hand through her hair and I grabbed this shot. The lighting across her face and the focus is off a tad bit but I like the feel of movement in this image.

If there is something I learned from this session it is that I want to have more energy in my portrait images. These are a little to "posed" for my liking so next time I'm going to use a fan and see if we can get her hair moving in the wind or something like that to give them more life. We are both very happy with the results and we're planning on doing more of this style later.

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Rainy Saturday

This has been a very dry summer in Texas but this past week has been very wet and today (Saturday) it rained almost all day long. Our three boys were content to stay in their rooms and play video games most of the day and there wasn't much on TV so I decided to experiment with portrait lighting and try out an idea I had for a portrait of my wife. As usual, she was more than happy to be my photography muse for the day.

The portrait idea I had was to use the french doors that lead from our living room out to the back patio as a prop for a portrait. I wanted to create a evening or night feel with my wife in a cocktail dress and use the window panes of the french door to break up the image. Even with the rainy overcast sky there was no way I could shoot from the darker inside of the house, through the french doors to the bright outside without turning my wife into a silhouette. The solution was to hang a 6'x6' peice of black felt cloth from the roof of the patio as a back drop and block the harsh outside light, the patio furniture and the boys go-kart, bikes and toys on the patio. I then placed a lightstand outside to the left of the door with a speedlite and reflective umbrella to illuminate her.

I like the results...

This one was taken in the same place but with the french doors open.

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Mountain Sunset

We just returned from our summer vacation to the Ozark mountains in Arkansas. What a wonderful time we had. This was the first time my three boys and my wife have been to Arkansas, so they were in awe of the mountains and the views of the valleys. The weather was so much cooler than we are normally accustomed to in Houston, Texas and the scenery was absolutely beautiful. I vacationed in the same place several times as a child and it was very interesting to return to these same places as an adult. We stayed in a log cabin on the top of Mount Nebo and drove to several other mountain state parks during a week long stay.

Since I first purchased my Canon 40D DSLR camera back in November of 2007 I've been waiting for a change to capture a mountain sunset. Well, I got my change on this trip. In fact I went a little overboard with the number of sunset images I captured. But then again its digital and doesn't cost anything except a little disk space.

Most of the sunset images I took were processed as High Dynamic Range (HDR) images which allow you a display a much broader range of colors and tones than can be captured in a single photographic image.

Taken from on top of the The Hot Springs Tower in Hot Springs National Park

Mount Nebo Sunset Point

Mount Magazine Cameron Bluff

Mount Magazine Cameron Bluff

Mount Magazine Cameron Bluff

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

2009 Worldwide Photo Walk

On Saturday, July 18th I took part in the Worldwide Photo Walk at Discovery Green in downtown Houston, Texas. It has been a very dry summer here in Houston so when I started driving to the photo walk and saw black clouds around downtown I was happy for the rain, but also concerned the photo walk would be rained out.

After finding a parking spot and lugging my camera case and tripod to Discovery Green I turned to look back from where I just come and captured this image of the approaching thunder boomer.
... and then the heavens opened and dropped a torrential down pour on about 30 photographers and all their camera gear. Yikes! We all headed for cover under the awning of the Lake House pavilion.

Even the security guards were taking cover waiting for the rains to stop.

Drink'em here

Reflections of the street lights in the small boat pond.

More reflections of the street lights in the small boat pond.

Cypress tree

Rain, rain go away and come back another day...

Is this a sign?

The coast was clear, so we all headed out to shoot in the remaining evening light. The combination of clouds and evening sun produced a very yellowish, golden color to the light.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of the main walkway in Discovery Green.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) image of new building construction just north of Discovery Green
All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just Paint

These images were taken a few days ago as my wife was putting the finishing touches on her latest painting. All three of these images were shot using a Canon 40D and a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens wide open at f/1.8.

Adding Definition

Loading the brush


Finished Product

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Heat is On

The weather here in South Texas is already hot and it isn't even officially summer yet. It must be that man made global warming causing all this or possibly just the cyclical warming and cooling trends that have been taking place for thousand of years. Anyway, I don't want to go down that political road right now.

This past Saturday we decided to take our three boys out to Cullinan park near Sugarland, Texas just southwest of Houston. This is a secluded park with a large wooden wharf and two story observation tower that extend out into a freshwater lake which is covered in lilly pads. As our three boys watched the water foul and looked for alligators it gave my wife and I a few minutes to spend some time together and she was gracious enough to allow me to use her as my muse to practice photography and lighting techniques.

Taking in Nature - The sun was setting, birds were singing and a lone alligator was making his way through the marsh. What a wonderful way to end a late spring day.
On the Boardwalk - Even though we were baking in the afternoon sun she didn't mind taking the heat and letting me take some full sun exposures. I think she looks HOT in this one and I aint talkin bout da weather!!
Hiding From the Sun - After a few minutes the sun was more than we could bear so she hid from it under a stair case leading to the parks second floor observation deck. With the sun blasting its rays of light through the deck fencing it provided a great opportunity to use the softer light to bring out the skin tones. A small amount of fill flash was used to illuminate her without giving it that all too familiar FLASH photo look.

Waiting - As I was changing lenses she was patiently waiting for more instructions. This image was taken as I was telling her I'm just taking a light meter reading and then I snapped the shutter to get a candid image. No posing here that's the real girl.

Taking a Break - Modeling for your husband is a tough job and the heat doesn't make it any easier. A short rest in the closest available shade was in order. A big glass of fresh squeezed lemon aide would have been nice too.

All images copyright Daniel Ray Photography.