This cityscape in downtown Greensboro presented a composition challenge. Horizontal (slightly wide angle) or vertical (slightly telephoto). Which do you think makes the best composition? I’d appreciate your feedback.
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The rear view of this old building in downtown Greensboro caught my eye on a ride to lunch a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve visited the site several times. Once after a light morning snow, and another where I was shooed away from the tracks by a railroad employee. The front and interior of this building was recently restored and is now the home of a popular restaurant.
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This series will feature photos from my 2017 backlog of unprocessed prospects. This first composition was taken in Winston-Salem looking back across Sixth Street to the old RJR Bailey Power Plant. It’s now part of my Winston-Salem Cityscapes Gallery.
A year ago today I was visiting Reidsville, and shot these images in an abandoned section near downtown. After a series of 5 posts, I moved on without considering other candidate compositions in the series. I finally went back to resurrected these unfinished compositions for this Monochrome Monday. We all have several of these forgotten gems strewn across our hard drives.
This was quite an interesting building, with several composition opportunities. I particularity like the composition below. Though the door is in the center, the image is mostly composed of asymmetric elements. From the foreground broken pipe, the converging foreground lines land on the door and building plane, and then your eye bounces over to the stairs and covered walkway back to the sky – quite a bit of depth.
Shot from several angles, it was difficult choosing the best detailed, up-close composition. Sometimes you just have to pick one and move on.
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Backpacking through the Grayson Highlands of southwest Virginia, you can’t help but notice the vast display of lichens growing just about everywhere. As lichens are sensitive to atmospheric pollutants, they only thrive in the most pristine environmental conditions. You won’t find many growing in the city.
The fascinating, yet often overlooked, noteworthy feature is lichens are actual a composite of two unique species of organisms, living together in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship. The first organism is fungi, which provides structure, shelter and moisture gathering for the second organism(s), algae and/or cyanobacteria. In turn, the algae and cyanobacteria, through photosynthesis, provide food for the fungi.
This post features Crustose, Foliose and Squamulose lichens. Crustose lichens, seen in the center of the image below, have a encrusting form which spreads over the surface. Foliose lichens, seen above, have leafy lobes which attach by root-like threads to the surface they inhabit. Squamulose lichens have the characteristics of Crustose and Foliose lichens. They can be seen in all three compositions. If you do have lichens in your yard, then please welcome them. They pose no threat to plants and grow very slowly.
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Last fall, my local Project Management Institute (PMI) chapter asked me to offer professional portraits at our Fall Professional Development Day. Having recently obtained a Profoto B2 location kit, I was eager to rediscover portraiture. This post includes some personal background, behind the scenes techniques and sample images from the portraiture sessions.
In 1982, I earned an associate degree in Commercial Photography from Randolph Technical College (RTC) in Asheboro, North Carolina. Now known as Randolph Technical College, at the time the photography program was considered a top 10 photo school in the country. We had a required course in portraiture, which taught the basics in lighting and retouching. But I really never had an interest in exploring portraiture.
The PMI assignment was to provide PMPs (Project Manager Professionals), with updated head-shots for their LinkedIn profile and other professional uses. I discussed with my chapter PMI Communication Director using a traditional portraiture backdrop. The problem was, I didn’t have any backdrops or means of hanging them. Researching choices of paper rolls and various textured fabric backdrops, I ended up with a Kate dark grey and white fabric 5’ x 7’ studio backdrop from Amazon. About $30 each.
To hang my backdrops, I wanted something lightweight and inexpensive. After looking through dozens of plans, I came across Joe Edelman’s DIY Background Video which includes plans for velour fabrics and an excellent PVC pipe 6’ x 7’ stand. When completed, the background stand breaks down into 14 pieces which can be carried in a duffle bag. I spray painted mine satin black for a more polished look. Some silicone plumber’s grease in the assembly joints help with putting up and tearing down. The total cost came in around $40
For the light setup, I setup a one B2 head with 3’ Octa softbox just above and slightly to the right of the subject’s face. On a plane from the subject’s waist, back towards the camera I had a large white reflector. This setup created the classic clamshell lighting technique. My second B2 head with grid was behind the subject’s left acting as a hair light. On several shots, I also had my Nikon SB-700 speedlite on a stand behind the subject. This helped with getting some separation from the background with subject wearing darker cloths.
Back in post, I had a standard workflow of lightly flattening highlights, whitening teeth, brightening eyes, and removing stray hair. With 25 subjects, this took quite a while to complete, even with several Lightroom portraiture brushes. I downloaded a trial of PortraitPro, but could use it because it didn’t support 16 bit and forced you to work in Jpeg only. I did give it a try and was impressed by the features, but can see where it would be very easy to overuse the processing. Once some useful presets are setup, I suspect it will be a real time saver. I’ll definitely purchase before booking another multi-subject portrait session.
- After trying to iron the wrinkles out of the first backdrop, my wife suggested putting in the steam, low heat dryer cycle. Bam, done!
- The hair light was too hot on several portraits. Will turn it down another stop next time.
- Feather the main light (octa) down a little more to compensate for falloff toward the waistline.
- Use Portrait Pro to streamline retouching with a high number of subjects.
- For b&w portraits, a slight bump in orange luminosity helps skin tones quite a bit. I’ve actually know this for a while, it can also help sometimes in color, depending on contrast and skin tonality.
- Use AF-C auto focus to keep the subject in focus. I noticed many subjects would move slightly back and forth, in terms of distance to the lens. This slight move can cause loss of depth of field focus in the critical area between the eyes and nose tip.
- Related to the depth of field, I’ve read a lot of different opinions about depth of field in portraiture. My personal taste is to have a bit more depth of field than less. Mostly shot at f5.6 the depth of field felt a little too tight on my Nikon 28 – 300mm at around 85mm. In the future, I’ll try to shot the same scene at f7. I hope to acquire an 85mm prime in the future.
Thank you for stopping by. Feel free to share your experiences as well.
A few weeks ago, I visited Bailey Park and the old R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Bailey Power Plant in Winston-Salem. As part of the renovation effort in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, the plant is being converted into retail space. With much of the exterior work complete on the northern end of the property, the grounds are now open to walk around. The image below, of the southern side of the property, was captured at sunset.
The cirrus clouds and jet contrails contributed to the dramatic skyscapes in both compositions. Looking back towards the old R.J. Reynolds Tobacco building from Bailey Park, I captured the image below. The post and images also represent the decline of the tobacco industry as a significant regional economic driver.
First posted as a series on Monochromia, this post features new images from my visit to the abandoned Link Taylor Furniture Plan in Lexington, North Carolina.
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