Tuesday, October 28, 2008

wide angle perspective distortion...

...and pretty cars make for a fun Saturday afternoon!

"If it has balls or wheels it means trouble" is the phrase I've seen on a few bumper snickers over the years. For me its wheels, add lots of chrome then I'm in at the expense of common sense. Its how I'm wired, can't help it and don't want to change it.  This weekend was close to nirvana when the 18th Annual Monrovia Hot Rod and Custom Car show hit town.

Which lens one chooses can greatly affect the final image and how angles and distance are compressed or exaggerated.  Understanding how focal length affects the final image is one more tool in the bag for a photographer who wants to do more than simply record the world around him.

A wide angle lens is a way to make things look bigger through elongation of the subject.  The also make for very pronounced convergence of lines.  This good for buildings looking up, head on, well they look like the are tilting to the center.  The ultra-wide makes it even more pronounced.  The photographers angle of view and the lens you can emphasise and exaggerate the perspective is probably one of the most important tools one needs to understand as you control your image results.

American cars of the from the mid 50's to early 70's in particular were all about lower, longer and wider.  The ultra-wide lens will emphasise the the width up close and really exaggerate the length.  The car didn't change, the lens changed how the angles were viewed by altering the perspective or horizon point where the angles converge. 

All three of these cars were shot with a Canon 20-35mm lens at the 20mm setting.   This allowed me to make them appear much longer and broader than they would have been with a "normal" 50mm lens.  Even the old Chevy looks longer and more streamlined than it really is. 

The tech bits for those of you who care.  The final images are HDR images generated from 3 raw files bracketed +/- 2 stops.  They were done mapped for detail enhancement and run through virtual photographer to clean up some haze and purify the colors.

Enjoy the cars a 1949 Chevy Sedan, 1960 Cadillac Convertible and 1961 Ford Thunderbird.  You will need to click the image to get to a larger size as they are "clipped" to fit the columns. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

What is "Virtual Photographer"?

Cafe Observer of the  Cafe Pasadena blog asked me that question on a recent post.  The easy answer is that Virtual Photographer is a free download from OptikVerve Labs that is an easy plug-in for Adobe's Photoshop CS.

The reality is that it is much more than a simple plug in.  It comes with pre-sets that for sure do a nice job of layering in other effects that one could generate in the lab back in the days of dip-n-dunk with silver based materials.

What it does very well is allow you to start with your basic raw file and use a variety of fine tuning tools to mimic just about any silver based material you would like.  It does a most excellent job of removing atmospheric haze which I use quite liberally. 

The old silver based films, in particular the various 'chromes, or transparency films as they were also known recorded what was seen through the viewfinder.  Kodachrome had nice saturation, tended to like the warm tones best and had the widest contrast arrange around.  Next in line would have been the Ektachromes heritage films.  They tended to record blue better and in particular with shadows had a much stronger blue cast.  Ektachromes had a narrower contrast range which made for very dark shadows with little detail.  Fujichrome had a much stronger saturation than Ektachromes, more pronounced color separation and a slightly broader contrast range.   It gave the photographer a lot of latitude in choosing film depending on the final image result one wanted.

Even the silver based print material had a lot of variety in how it handled saturation, color separation, purity and contrast.  With all those factors there was a lot of variables you could work with to determine how the final image appeared to a viewer.

Along came the digital age and digital imaging.  Although the recent image sensors are getting better with all the variables, for many, including me, they still lack the warmth and feel of the silver based materials.  Virtual Photographer brings the ability to fine tune the image to have the quality and feel of the silver based materials.  

The images here for the example were taken with a Casio Exilim camera with a 10.1 megapixel sensor.  There are nominal controls on the camera, raw is not an option in terms of shooting.  The final image is a jpeg and there is some compression even when you have it set for largest file and most detail possible.  The sensor data is a good representation of the scene, certainly not an objectionable image.

For the unaltered jpeg all that was done is re-size it to fit here.  That unaltered jpeg was used for the variations.
I'm fond of Kodachromes for a lot of reasons then tend to be warm toned and not as prone to overly blue shifts in shadows.  The had very good saturation and color separation.  They also have excellent stability so the images remains unchanged as it ages.
The other chromes out there, Fuji in particular had very good saturation and color separation.  Fuji's tended to do a better job of not shifting towards blue in the shadows than Ektachrome.  I also liked those films printed on Cibachrome as the colors were very strongly saturated and had a marked increase in saturation and contrast that allowed for very pure black shadows.  That characteristic was objectionable to some, but I was fond of it when I wanted dramatic scenes.
That is Virtual Photographer in the shortest way I can explain it.  Go get your own copy.  Its free, what have you got to lose other than a few electrons?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

keeping in the spirit of the season

This weekend was busy, not sports but auto show and the parents in town from Las Vegas.  The 18th Annual Monrovia Hot Rod and Custom show was on Saturday.  I can appreciate the customs and all the work that went into them, however the decidedly low brow aesthetics and unpolished presentations of the Hot Rods I seem to gravitate to more.  I love their use of chrome as that is the shine on the cars, the old matted paint seems to serve as the backdrop for those delicious bits of chrome. 

I've also decided that I like use of Orton a lot on the chrome bits.  The process makes the chrome richer and chromier helping it to pop even more from the blacks or washed out bits of a scene.

This image was post processed from the raw images with a bump in saturation for the blur layer.  Once it was all taken down to 8bit I ran it through virtual photographer to remove some of the cyan haze from the sky reflections and saved it as a jpeg.   A larger version can be found on my flickr page.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I found my cool place

I almost missed my anniversary.  Not the big one, but an important one to me none the less.

October 15, 1985 I loaded my stuff into my car left Phoenix for LA.  It was an adventure, the need to find a cool place and Phoenix certainly was not it for me.  One of my best friends moved to LA right after we graduated from college.  Our visits in LA were always a lot more fun than when she came to visit me in Phx or LV.  When the job stagnated it was clear it was time to make the jump.  I needed a cool place and LA was it.

23 years later I sit back and think, wow what a journey it has been.  LA is the kind of city you need an entire life time to explore and you will still be missing something.  I didn't think at the time I'd be here this long, flash forward and I still am living the adventure.  That is the reality of LA that makes it so different.  IT is vibrant, alive and always something new starting here to explore.  That is the reason I won't be leaving LA , yes folks you are stuck with me a bit longer.

I'm in a nostalgic mood tonight.  It started with hearing an 80's song and digging through the old cd's.  This one reminded me of those long drives at night between here in where ever I lived as it was one of the tapes I always popped in to make the miles fly by (and with an enforced 55 limit you needed all the help you can get).

I saw Sparks a few times after I moved here.  They were quite the deal back then, guess they still are since they showed up on youtube.  Enjoy. I certainly enjoyed the memory jog and marvelling that I am in LA, my "cool place" still after all these years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

giving is good

Sometimes its just good to share your art and give it to someone who will appreciate it.  You can get the full story on metblogs.  The short version is East Valley Community Health Center, a local non-profit in the area reached out to the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts to see if they could get some art on their walls.  They did, two from me, including this one shot in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  

My appeal to any artists here who'd like to add some art to the walls of the East Valley Community Health Center contact Mila Arroyo, Public Policy Director at 626-919-4333 ext221.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm baaaack....

A couple of weeks ago Darleene Powells of Darleeneisms blog fame dropped me a note on facebook about the AAJA Trivia Bowl that was this Friday night a couple of weeks ago.  I posted  the details on the super secret metblogs Author's Forums to see if there was interest.  There was.  As I was busy with show prep jozjozjoz took care of getting things rolling for a team LA Metblogs.  Lucinda Michele Knapp our every faithful metblogs block captain for LA took over for Lucinda and voila we had a team.  

3 didn't make it but we still forged on.  End result, this motley group of first timers at the AAJA Triva Bowl came in #16, and what killed us was not knowing a single one of the 10 sport questions raised in the final round.  Not bad, we didn't get the coveted Rice Bowl (not kidding that is what they named the trophy), but at least we didn't get the bottom feeders "Box-o-Ramen".

I think we may do this again next year.

Now...I won't ID the metblog team, you figure them out for yourselves.  Photo is by Seth Dowling one of our team members who offered to grabbed the pic for us.

So this ends the silence of the last week.  I had to take the break as the Celebrate the Arts event just drained me.  Too pooped to photo or blog.  Sad state of affairs indeed.

To give you an idea what it was like check out the clip that Will Campbell grabbed from Ed Padgett.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm just a little jazzed....I got front window

I'm jazzed, it wasn't by some grand design I got front window...but I did and I'm not complaining. The location is totally accidental and placement was alphabetical order. Pays to be a "Z" sometimes doesn't it? (Thats me on the far right, 2nd from the top - an abandoned rail car).

The show I'm in is the take all comers, worldwide pool of contributors for the "Snap to Grid" show at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art in the DTLA Arts District. Tonight was the opening reception for the show that will run through the end of the month. I put up a short post this morning on LA Metblogs. Cool show if you want to see the many directions people are exploring with digital art I highly recommend stopping in. Its free and there is cheap parking right around the corner so you don't have to tip-toe through bums to get to the show.

Snap to Grid runs now through November 1, 2008

Just a little reminder the Monrovia Association of Fine Arts is holding its 45th Annual Celebrate the Arts event in the Monrovia Community Center. It is located just off Myrtle at 118 W Palm Avenue in Monrovia's historic Old Town section.

Also, Saturday night is a new facet to the Celebrate the Arts. We are having a Reception and handing out out some awards to some great people in town who contribute to the arts here. First is the "Renaissance Award" going to Kathie Reece who owns the Aztec Hotel and has supported MAFA over the years including donating her lobby and two street front stores in the hotel for Gallery space featuring MAFA artists. Also James Farmer a MHS is getting an award for his 38 years of teach art and inspiring artists.

The reception has a donation of $25 per person, which is tax deductible as MAFA is a 501(c) non-profit. With that you get to see the art while nibbling away at goodies and sipping wine (do tip the wine-tenders as they are donating their services and wares). You'll get some music, meet some artists and a chance to bid on some reserved pieces of art in a silent auction donated by artists for this event.

Oh yeah, come see me too - I'm the feature artist at this years event. Not sure what it gets me other than some publicity, but free is still better than a kick in the pants. Hope to see you!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Accidental meander and stuff

I accidentally started a new series of exploration.  I do it without thinking about it.  Often.  Then suddenly one day, out of no where it seems I see a group of related images suddenly coalescing before my very eyes.  Dang, another path to meander down further.  As if I don't explore enough as it is.  

I've blathered on in the past how I love the surreal effects you can get out of posting processing bracketed images with High Dynamic Range.  HDR is a method I go back to constantly as it gives me total control of the gray scale and how elements appear through manipulation of the micro contrast, saturation and a host of other tools in Photomatix.  Yup, still digging it and love the paths it opens up.

Monday was a school holiday and we packed it up and headed over to the CA Science Center near USC in Downtown LA.   One of the floors was dedicated entirely to biology and how things work.  Giggles and chortles of the youngest aside, there were some interesting and informative dioramas.  Museums love those things, I do to for other reasons it turns out.  I shot away the one of the guy in the diner that was part of the digestion explanation.  I post processed it. 

The frames I shot were both startling and compelling and I couldn't get them right easily. "Right" as in color was off, too far off to do what I wanted due to all of the various artificial lights, some with filters no less illuminating the scene.  When it was all said and done I was happy with the results.

It wasn't until I posted them in flickr I realized that I had a new series in the making.  I don't even know what to call it.  Without thinking some done a few weeks ago were done with a purposeful cold-war-nostalgic-surreal-frozen-in-a-nuke flash.  I now have 5 images, 3 with human forms in a frozen moment, totally unreal in a surreal environment.  It clicked.  I need to explore this more.  Dummies in Dioramas frozen in an atomic flash.  Interesting...

But what to name it?  "Atomic Cafe" has been taken, though that is as good an explanation of what sort of set they could fall into.  Anyone want to toss out a name for the set?  HDR Humans has been taken, and this doesn't qualify as my subjects aren't human, only human in form.

Of course this got me thinking about what Miss Havisham wrote in her blog regarding when enough is enough in a painting.  I commented on her post and she commented back: "Thank you, Frazgo. What is your take on when to know something is done?  It’s so much easier with cooking."  If I knew the answer Miss H I'd tell you.  If I knew the answer I'd either be a rich man or a fool for sharing with everyone free of cost.  

In the digital world it is pretty easy to eliminate steps that don't work and revert to a starting place.  In painting its different as removing rarely can be done.  I think understanding when the piece says what you want it to say is the first step in recognising when something is done.  Tasting with your eyes to see if it is done is very personal so I don't think there is a pat answer.

Enjoy the two pieces from the yet un-named set.  I call them "Donuts" and "Wired Diner Man".

ps...this weekend is the MAFA Celebrate the Arts, a fine art event, here in Monrovia at the north end of Old Town, in the Monrovia Community Center.  Its free Sat/Sun 10-6.  I'll be inside, pay me a visit if you have the time.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And now for something completely different.

Every now and then I just like reading my various friends blogs.  I met Julia over a year ago at LA Metblogs.  She has her own blog, "Julia's Mexico City".  Today she ran one of those silly MEME thingy's called the 3r's.  Her post was funny.  Here are the questions and my answers (and snarky comments on the side.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car):  Snuffy Grand Marquis 

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Rocky Road Tennies (gonna be iced quick with that one down in the 'hood).

3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal): Yellow Dog (what, I'm chicken?)

4. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (middle name, city where you were born): Joseph Larium (not gonna make it with that handle now will I?)

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name): Zgofr (frazgo is way better) 

6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Red Wine (wasn't that a lyric in a 80's song?)

7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers): Frank Frank (Actually you can go back several generations and have nothing but that choice, it ends with me though.)

8. STRIPPER NAME ( the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):Kuros Velvet Crunch (not going there!)

9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your fifth grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Rasche Riverside (not feeling the love on that one.)

10. SPY NAME (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Summer Rose (do I have to be a tranny for that one?)

11. CARTOON NAME (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now): Cherry Shorts (wasn't that a character in Fritz the Cat?)

12. HIPPIE NAME (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Cereal Mimosa (that one will get me far won't it?)

There you go, 12 inane instructions with equally ridiculous answers.  Can you do better?

woooot over 100K views on flickr!

My flickr accounts does get a lot of daily activity.  Sometimes huge spikes after something fun like a day in the Bullitt will cause a big spike when the raw images are posted.  I have not a single answer to what it all means, but consistently over 200 views a day I know someone is paying attention to what I am up to.   Looking at the numbers the media event images tend to get more hits.  Oddly so does the pics of my MRI films of my knee from a while back. Go figure.

The more important number to look at is the views and favorited items in my arty sets.  It is silent feedback on what works for viewers.  To that end I know if I am striking a cord somewhere and use that info to help me determine what images get a simple matting and others go the whole 9 yards and framed for shows.

The danger is in letting stats interfere with meandering down artistic paths to explore.  So far it hasn't discouraged me from exploring anything, but strengthened the resolve to explore what interests me.  I guess being a statistician has its merits even though it is dangerously close to cube dwelling activities.  

Regardless you can follow my daily photo-blogging, raw image samplings and final works on my Flickr.