Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Guest Blog - Jennifer M. Ramos: Top 10 most frequently documented, non-action derby shots

Jennifer M. Ramos is a brilliant photographer and a really cool soul.  She has been posting a 'top-10' on her Facebook feed for a couple of days.  Thinking it is brilliant and wanting to have it in one place so everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy it, I assembled it here.  So, here is my first guest blog of sorts.  Take it away Jennifer!  (oh, and by the way - you can check out her other stuff right here: Jennifer M Ramos - Photographer)

All photos and copy are copyright 2013 Jennifer M. Ramos, and are being used by permission.

 I want to compile a list of the top 10, most-frequently documented, non-action derby shots, then work on placing less focus on that subject matter, or considering a brand new perspective on the same.

10. Skates on the ground with floor reflection. (This was with the 70-200mm f/2.8 sitting on the tripod mount).

9. Equipment check. Who doesn't love looking down the middle of rows of refs and skaters facing one another.

8. Not sure of the name for this, but it seems like a mandatory end-of-bout shot. It's proof that you stayed the whole time

7. The National Anthem. It's hard to put your hand over your heart when you camera weighs 10 pounds and the grip is on the right side

6. The backs of fans (though these fans are special).

5. The ref when you really meant to get the jammer. If you're going to do this, make it look like it was on purpose. 
*See what I did there? It's not action, anymore, really.

4. Fans in the stands reaching for free merch being tossed their way. This is a ploy to generate excitement from said-fans. It always works, too.

3. Signs. People put a lot of effort into making these, and the people who do that are true fans. Yeah. I get as many of these as I can. It's better in action, than just sitting there, but whatevs.

2. Some random kid-fans. I always make a point to get pictures of kids, because families want to see some reflection of themselves when they're checking out roller derby as a potential family outing. Kids interacting with skaters or holding their own, handmade signs (whether *their mom did most of the work, not relevent), or dressed to support a favorite home team - all good stuff.
(*Metallic Sharpies kick ass!)

1. The Group Shot. This is not always easy, and I mess it up a lot. Not surprisingly, most teams are great at assembling themselves. Don't forget to adjust for a greater depth-of-field. If you have a full-frame sensor, leave room on the sides and crop later. It's easier to eliminate distortion that way. Some photographers have as much experience taking this shot, as the skaters themselves have holding that perfect expression. 

This is actually an important shot. When two teams have fought hard and only one team has been declared the winner, this is a way to show they're all still friends. No losers in roller derby. Good game.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Abandoned Car's - this time during the day...

I know - a daytime shoot?  Yeah - the place I shot these at is only open till 5pm so I was kind of limited.  I would LOVE to get in there at night, but there was evidence of attack cows all over the place (read cow poop)...

50 degrees F. Overcast and drizzly. Very flat light. After 90 minutes or so, I was completely soaked!

Most of these started out as 4-6 multi exposures, blended and mildly HDR'd prior to B&W conversion.  All were handheld (if you look close enough, you will see ghosting - I think I missed it on 2 of the images)

Without further ado, here are the images:

I am not going to tell anyone where this is.  I bet eagle eyed hunters might be able to figure it out though.  Seriously though, for $10 it was worth it to go in and shoot for as long as I wanted to.  For $50 I could have brought in a model.  Still a deal!

This one had a hood from a '57.  It has 2 doors.  Nomad rotting away....  Sad really!

My daughter asked me to have a copy of this one printed so she could hang it in her room.  (grin!)

The 'FRAGILE' stencil was there.  I added the other stencil in post for a bit of fun.

Standing in front of this car, it looked like it was ALREADY in HDR!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tutorial: DIY - Small basic dolly for smooth camera motion

Good day!  Today I decided that I wanted to do a photo project that would mimic a 'car rig shot' but on a much smaller scale.  Specifically metal die-cast cars.  Given that there is a lot of different pieces needed for the full scale rig, a complete redesign and slightly different methodology would be needed given that a scaled down rig would not support my camera!

The theory is this:  If you move your car and camera at the same speed and orientation and drag the shutter, it will appear that the car is moving really fast.  Now, because I like to have a bit of fun I thought that it would be interesting to make a scale model car appear to be moving very quickly.

I decided that I would need to get a smooth rolling camera dolly to mount my camera on and devise a way to attach a car to it.  A quick internet search showed a few, but I was convinced that I could do this for less than $25.  I designed something in my head and went about getting the parts for it.  The most important part of this rig is the wheels.  They need to roll smoothly.  I decided that inline skate wheels would fit the bill.  Fortunately there is a Thrift Store pretty close to me.  Found a pair of donor skates for $7.99.  I figured that $1 a wheel was pretty good, and since I only needed 4 of them, that would leave me 4 extra for another project.

Here is my parts list:
4 - inline skate wheels ($8)
1 - 12"x1"x4' pine board ($6)
1 - 3/8"x1 1/2" hex head bolt ($.22) [this is specific to the size of the thread of your ball head - check first and buy the correct size.  If you are unsure, get both a 3/8" and a 1/4")
4 - #10-24x2 1/2" machine screws and 12 - #10-24 nuts ($3.54)
8 - 1 5/8" Sheetrock screws ($.??  I had them in the garage and they are like $5 a pound - so maybe $.10)

Tools needed:
Table saw, Drill, Drill Bits, Counter Sink Bit, Screw Driver or Driver bit for your drill, Tape Measure

How To:
* Cut 2 parts of the board to be 12"x12".  Save the remainder of the board for another project.

* Rip one of the newly cut boards into 2 "strips", 3" wide.  The remainder of this piece can be saved for another project.

* On each of the 3" strips, drill and counter sink 4 holes along the long bottom of each.

* Secure each of the 3" strips to opposite sides of the 12"x12" platform.

* Mark a line to determine how "high" to drill the holes for the wheels, and mark on the line how far in from the edge to make those holes.  I am being non-specific dimentionally here as there may be different size wheels.  Mine were 5/8" up and 1 1/2" in from the edge.  Measure for the placement of the wheels.

* Drill your holes for your screws.  Accuracy is important here as you need to insure that all 4 of your wheels touch the "ground" together.

* If you have not already done so, remove 4 wheels from the donor skates. This will likely require hex wrenches.  Discard all of the hardware and nekkid boot.  You just want the wheels.

* Thread one of the nuts on the screw.  I intentionally got screws that were too long so I could adjust them on the inside.  The distance that you will put this down depends on the length of screw, thickness of board and the thickness of the wheel. Thread this screw into the hole and secure another nut down on the screw.  This should lock the screw down. I only tightened mine finger tight, you can use a wrench of your so choose.  Then put the wheel on the screw and now the final nut to secure the wheel.  So your 'sandwich' should be: Screw->nut->board->nut->wheel->nut.  The middle nut is important as you need to hold the wheel off of the board so that it spins.  The size of the nut is important as you only want to tighten down on the bearing so that the wheel spins.

*Now repeat this on the other 3 corners.

* Drill a hole 'somewhere' on the platform for the 3/8" bolt to go through to secure down your ball head.  The hole I drilled was a little large, but not too bad (I didn't have a correct sized bit).  If you find that you have drilled your hole too large, move to another spot and drill another hole just slightly larger than the shaft of the bolt, or you could use a fender washer between the bolt and the platform.

* Thread the bolt through the hole from the bottom and screw on your ball head.  This one you might want to tighten more than by hand, but please don't tork the heck out of it.

I do have to put a little note here - if your ball head pans, make sure you have it tightened so that you can give it a little twist if need be, but not so loose that it will go all rotatey...  On my head, the knob to tighten the pan is right at the board.  When mounted, it cannot tighten.  I learned...

* Mount your camera to the ball head and viola!  You have a very basic camera dolly.  iPhone photo warning, I left my other body at the camera shop.

You can stop here if this dolly will suit your needs.  But remember me telling you that my project was to move a scale model car and the camera at the same speed and orientation?  Joan Crawford was wrong - I *DO* need a wire coat hanger.  They are great DIY staples to have around!  Cut off the hook part and straighten it out.  On one end, bend a loop in it so that you can screw it into the dolly.  You will need to decide where you want your car to be to determine where you want your bends on it.  Also, depending on the scale of the scale model, may dictate the length.  The last bit of stuff needed is how to secure this to the car.  Because some of these cars can be pretty expensive, I wanted to use something that was non harmful to the car.  My daughter has to use these silicone-wax ear plugs to take a shower.  She cannot get water in her ears.  She also can't seem to get them into the trash after she uses them.  I have stepped on a few.  They are sticky.  IF you go this route, use a fresh one.

This is my first try, straight out of camera.  Alignment is crucial here!

I obviously did not get it dead straight...

This is after a little post processing magic! Not too bad.  About what I expected for my first go.  I have a lot of ideas and tweaks for this.

I think I will end this tutorial here since the name of this is "DIY - Small basic dolly for smooth camera motion ".  I will make a part 2 that will show what I did to create the "Scale Model / Die Cast Rolling Rig Shot".  You can view that by clicking "HERE"!  I will have more and better images to show you there, along with a how to on the removal of the rig.

If you enjoyed this, please let your photographer friends know by sharing it to them.  If you have any questions, I will do my best to answer them, just leave a comment below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Night shoot in Long Island...

This post is in loving memory of my uncle Richard F. McCrossin.  May you rest in the peace that the Lord gives you - and please, don't give God too much of a hard time...

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 was his funeral.  Driving in the procession out to Calverton National Cemetary in Riverhead NY, I spot this old truck on the side of the road.  After the service my cousin Richard and Lori asked if I saw the truck.  I told them that I did and I planned to come back at night to shoot it before I left.  They wanted to go with.

All I had with me was my 40D and Tamron 28-75.  No tripod, no remote shutter...  Fortunately Walmart sells a tripod, which is only marginally better than hand holding...  But they have a great return policy, so I went that route.

Borrowed a flashlight from my Aunt Barbara, and the 3 of us were off...

It was pretty cold and windy this evening.  I think we were out of the car for maybe 20 or so minutes.  I had to shoot this in 7 frames as I was limited to 30 seconds for a shutter speed and couldn't light all of the parts that I wanted to in that amount of time.  By the time we were done with this comp, my fingers were numb - so there was no doing another angle...

F2.8, ISO400, 30seconds for each of the 7 frames.  Stacked and masked in PS-CS5E...

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nightshoot: More Abandoned Cars

Todd and I out and about again.  December can be iffy in Texas.  The forecast for this evening was supposed to me cool and clear for the week before.  The two days prior were perfect.  We were scheduled for a full moon, clear skies and cool - we got the full moon, a lot of clouds and cold.  Well, make the best out of it is the best course of action.

Previous recon established the primary target, an abandoned gas station with a decrepit mid '40s sedan on site.  When we got there at about 3:30pm, there was a nasty ten foot tall deer fence about 10 feet in front of the place.    Took some scouting photos to see if it was worth a return trip.  Certainly was not ideal, but again, make the best out of it.  Left there and scouted some other sites Todd had pre-located.

Well, without further ado, here are the shots.  I hope you enjoy them!

Todd gets the most amazing photos from his iPhone 4.  Okay, he is looking at his star finder app to see where the Milky Way would be presenting itself for this evening.  I think my version is funnier!

This is the set-up shot for the final image.  I LOVE my tripod!  I can take the center column and put it to horizontal. This worked out very well for this application.  My lens just fit through the hole in the fence.

This is the final image.  I really like the dark brooding feeling I got in this frame.  This was lit with a combination of a touch of a 4D Mag-Light and a Coleman camp lantern.  Shot on my 40D with Tamron 28-75 2.8.

This is pretty much straight on using my Tokina 11-16 2.8 at 11mm.  I had to get way low and shoot up a bit to get the whole awning in the shot.  I used a very heavy handed 4D Mag-Light to light this frame up, I wanted the feeling a little more open than the last.

This location was quite a ways away from the old gas station.  This ol'boy had a great big mess in his front yard.  Fortunately for us, he had the better junk toward the outside of his property with almost a non-existent fence.  When I saw the grill of this old panel delivery van, I was determined that I would have to have this image.  This was with the Tokina and lit with my 2AA Mag-Light and the break light of a passing car.  Love that little touch of red!

Slightly different view in the yard.  The guy across the street was hanging Christmas lights and had just turned them on.  I did add a little 2AA Mag-Light to round it all out.

A rare landscape shot from me - in portrait orientation - the  moon is just behind the tree.  I ran the beam from my 4D Mag-Light up the trunk during the exposure to just bring the bark detail out of the shadow.