Impromptu Hiatus

Alright, so, we’ve been absent from our blog as of late.  We promise it’s not you, lovely readers.  It’s us.  Well, more specifically, it’s life.  Life happened.  And it kept happening.  It happened so much that we were unable to keep up with posting here at Written Shots.  But we made life sit down and drink some calming tea and now life’s willing to work with us again.

Anne will talk about her life below (or whatever she chooses to add), and if you’re super interested in reading about what life and I were doing this past month or so, you can check out my personal blog.  But we’ll be getting back into the swing of things in the next few days, so prepare yourselves for more Written Shots goodness!

Still pushing that trigger,

-Kate

 

Aww life, you just had to go and happen just when I thought everything was going great…. I do believe it’s called Murphy’s Law.

So as you may have guessed life happened for the space of two weeks and left a disaster behind for me to clean up. Now that the cleaning is mostly done it’s time to get back on the horse and ride out for better pastures. Just joking! Kate and I will be back to posting as soon as we are able and I finally got my Tumblr up and active (in other words I queue it up about once a week). Check it out at Chimeric Reflections. Otherwise you can follow what randomness and photos I post about my daily life and trips on my Facebook: Anne Vornbrock or if you are here for just the photography you should check me out on G+ and if you are here for the photography and you are not on G+….. YOU SHOULD BE! I have been thinking of starting a personal blog…. but thats one more thing to the list. I will think about it some more and let you know if it ever bears fruit.

Keep a camera ready, but dont forget to enjoy the moment~

~Anne

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#Instagram

All it takes to call yourself a photographer these days is to have a camera, right?  Even a camera phone counts.  People are styling themselves iPhotographers.  They even have a magazine dedicated to photography with your iPhone!

This all seems somewhat ridiculous to those photographers who know it takes more than a camera to truly be a photographer.  I hear a lot of people complain about apps like Instagram ruining what photography is all about.  It’s supposed to be an art form, something you really work on.  This stems from the days of film, where it was a long and sometimes expensive process to take a photo, so the photographer really had to think about composition, subject, lighting, and all sorts of other elements.  Photographers with this mindset see Instagram as lazy and frivolous.  Instagram and other mobile photo apps come with all these preset filters and whatnot, no one really has to worry about if a photo looks good on its own without any help from editing anymore.

But Instagram is a social media site, first and foremost.  And while I know photographers that use Instagram as a way to showcase their skills, I use it as a social media site.  I use it to capture moments in my life that don’t necessarily warrant me getting out my Nikon.  Moments that sort of spontaneously happen, that I need to be quick about if I want to capture them.

My Instagram is pretty much full of my cats and whatever food I eat.  Both of these subjects are not something I want or need to capture as a large RAW file, edit in Photoshop, print out and hang on my wall.  They’re just moments and things that I want to remember and share with my friends and family.  Before Instagram, I would text my parents pictures of my two cats doing silly things.  My parents took care of my two furbabies for a while when I wasn’t able to, and are quite fond of Disco and his sister Juri.  Now with Instagram, my parents and my friends can see what shenanigans the two furballs are up to!

When it comes down to it, you can use Instagram or a comparable app however you want.  Use it creatively, use it to showcase your skills, use it to document your life, use it to share with your family and friends.  If you want to be an iPhotographer, go for it!  It doesn’t really matter what type of camera you use.  Being a photographer is more about how much you enjoy photography rather than whether or not you have an expensive piece of equipment.  It’s about you wanting to learn about photography and working at improving your skill and developing your own style rather than if you’re using a Nikon D5100 or an old point-and-shoot Canon.  Don’t let anyone talk down to you because of the equipment you use or the ways you choose to share your photography!  Even if you’re only using your iPhone and only using Instagram to share moments of your life with friends, it’s still developing your skill as a photographer.  It’s still developing your personal style.  You learn which shots you like and which you don’t, you learn what sort of edits you like based on what filters you use, you learn that the grid lines provided in the app will help you compose better photographs.  Tagging your photos and going through tags to see other people’s photos of the same subject help you develop your personal style and skill, too.  If you like the way someone else took a photograph of their cat, try and replicate it!  It’s fun and helpful to try and figure out new techniques on your own.  You might make a friend out of the deal, too!  But perhaps best of all, you can easily look back and see your progress as a photographer, regardless of whether or not you’re consciously trying to improve your Instagram photos.

So matter what anyone says, get out there and shoot!

-Kate

Camera History: Early Fixed Images

It’s another installment of Camera History!  Last time, we covered the precursor of the modern camera, camera obscura.  Today we’ll delve into the very beginnings of photography with the earliest cameras and experiments in capturing an image without having to trace it.

The first partially successful photograph was taken in 1816 by one Nicéphore Niépce.  When I say “partially successful,” I mean that the photograph was not permanent and eventually darkened completely.  Niépce used a small camera of his own design and a piece of paper coated with silver chloride, which darkened where it was exposed to light.  He didn’t know how to remove the unused silver chloride, which is why it was not permanent.

Before the photographic process was perfected, there was no way to truly preserve the images.  After some experimentation, in 1826 Niépce used a sliding wooden box camera (made by Charles & Vincent Chavalier in Paris, France) and bitumen to create a permanent photograph that still exists today.  It’s not a perfectly preserved image, but it was a huge step forward.

I want to get in to the chemical details of both silver chloride and bitumen, but first I just want to give a sort of shout out to Johann Zahn.  Zahn envisioned the first camera that was small and portable enough to be used for practical photography in 1685.  It wasn’t until about 150 years later that his vision would be possible, but gotta give credit where credit is due!

Alright, time for some science mixed in with this history!

First up is Silver Chloride (AgCl).  It’s known for it’s low solubility in water.  How it works in photography is that when silver chloride is exposed to light or heat, it changes into silver and chloride.  The silver appears as a grey or purple coloration where as the chloride dissipates into the air.  It is also used as/in:

  • an infra-red transmissive optical component that can be hot-pressed into window and lens shapes
  • an antidote for mercury poisoning
  • a way to create yellow, amber, and brown shades in stained glass manufacturing
  • bandages and wound healing products

Then we have bitumen, aka asphalt (that surprised me, too!).  It’s used in the oldest surviving photograph.  It can still be used for photography today, but it’s a long process to get any outcome.  First, you have to thinly coat a pewter plate with bitumen.  It takes many, many hours of exposure to light to create a picture.  Exposure to light hardens the bitumen and makes it insoluble.  When the final picture is rinsed with a solvent, only the sufficiently light-struck areas remain.  However, ultimately, using bitumen in photography is extremely impractical.

And that wraps up our lesson for today!

I’d like to take a moment to apologize for getting off schedule.  I was at a wedding over the weekend, and Anne was on a photojournalist gig.  She’ll be posting on Sunday and then starting on that Sunday, posting is going to get more intensive!  We’re going to attempt to post every day of the week!  So stick with us through September to see all the cool things we come up with!

Get out there and shoot!

-Kate

On Being Professional

Sunday, August 25th, I did photography for a wedding.  While not the first wedding I’ve worked, it was definitely the biggest.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and am going to pass that learning on to you, dear readers.

First thing is to make sure you have your own ideas to bring to the table.  Just because your clients want certain things doesn’t mean they won’t also want something you suggest.  On top of that, who hires someone who doesn’t add to the job with their expertise?  Going hand and hand with having your own ideas is accepting that your client is the one that’s really in charge.  You may have the expertise and equipment, but it’s ultimately them that need to be happy with the photos.  

For example, since my forte is natural light, I had a spot picked out where I wanted to take Mike and Missy’s first look photos.  It was out next to the lake, by the hotel’s outdoor area to their restaurant.  As pretty as I thought the location was, and as sure as I was that I could get an amazing shot, Missy just was not comfortable being in a position where so many strangers would see her in her wedding dress (which was stunningly beautiful, by the way) and have to deal with all of the attention.  Even if she had agreed to the location, I wouldn’t have gotten that shot out of it because Missy would have been uncomfortable.  It’s a give and take between photographer and client.

Don’t be afraid to make requests, either.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend the rehearsal before the wedding and quickly found out that with the way the chairs were set up, I wouldn’t be able to move down the right-hand aisle without getting in the way.  The wedding coordinator, also named Missy, was able to adjust the chair placements with hotel staff before the actual ceremony and I was able to move around with ease.

Speaking of being lucky enough to attend the rehearsal, don’t pass up any opportunity you might have to prepare for a job.  I was able to assess the lighting situation beforehand, and knew what to expect from the setup.  I knew where I needed to be and when I needed to be there to capture the best moments.  I was far less prepared at previous weddings and I feel that the extra preparation really paid off.

Another example: I was on location in Walker, MN, and completely unfamiliar with the area.  The bride and groom wanted to have their family and bridal party photos outside.  I was able to go with them and their wedding coordinator before the wedding day and we picked out locations close to the hotel, decided what photos would be where, and went over a list of must-have photos.  The day of the wedding, it was a scorching 119° F outside.  Even in the shade, it felt like we were melting.  Because of the preparations done earlier, I was able to save family and bridal party alike from waiting out in the heat for their turn to be in pictures.  We had allotted two hours for bridal party and family pictures, and we ended up only taking an hour and a half, maybe a bit less.  Those not needed to be in photos immediately were able to stay cool and wait inside, and because of the list of who was needed in what pictures, no one really needed to stay outside longer than 15 minutes.  With the exception of yours truly.  But, being the professional that I am, I powered through it and got beautiful results.

Lastly, I want to touch on doing paid jobs for friends.  If you’re just starting out in the photography-for-money world, more likely than not you’ll end up working gigs for your friends first before getting more business from outside your personal connections.  The wedding I worked over the weekend was actually the wedding of one of my best friends.  He was constantly encouraging me to take it easy and not work so hard, asking if I needed a break or if I was okay.  While part of my work ethic on his wedding was absolutely because Mike is a very dear friend to me and I wanted him to both have fabulous photos and get the biggest bang for his buck, an equal part was simply because I was being paid to do a job and I would be damned if I didn’t do it to the absolute best of my ability.  I learned the hard way on a previous wedding job with another friend how easy it is to take advantage of a friendship, as either the photographer or the client.  I was able to enjoy the reception once my duties as wedding photographer were done, and I will admit to breaking my professionalism once during the ceremony (c’mon, who doesn’t cry when one of their best friends gets married to the woman of his dreams?).

In these situations it’s a fine balance between friendship and professionalism.  And while my favorite couple is honeymooning in St Lucia, I will soon be sorting through all the photos and editing where needed.  A photographer’s work is never done!

Be professional when you get out there and shoot!

-Kate

P.S. All the best wishes and happiness in the world to Mike and Missy!

Collab Post: Hack My Photo! #1

Alright, dear readers, Kate here.  Today’s a special day for all of you!  Today, Anne and I have teamed up for a post!  It’s a new thing we’ll be repeating a lot as we get this whole “post a blog post” thing under our belts.  Today’s collaboration is called Hack My Photo! and here are the rules:

  1. You choose a photo for your partner in crime to edit.
  2. This photo cannot be more than a year old.
  3. You have a set time limit to edit the photo you are given.  Our time limit is 30 minutes.

And that’s it.  Pretty easy.  Except when you’re editing a photo you didn’t take.

Here’s the original photo Anne sent to me unedited, followed by the original unedited photo I sent to her.

Anne's original photo.

Anne’s original photo.

Kate's original photo

Kate’s original photo.

We’ll start with my edits because I’m the one typing this up.  When editing photos, I don’t usually even think to crop them.  This is because my shooting style is to zoom in/out to get the shot I want or move around until it’s framed the way I want it without me having to crop it in post.  So then, my first thought with the photo I was given was to bring out some sunlight and brighten the sky up a bit since it looks like it was a dreary day the day this photo was taken.  I did all of that in Camera Raw by adjusting the exposure and brightness and such.  I fiddled with specific colors’ saturation levels to try to get the sky even the tiniest bit more blue, but couldn’t make it work.  So I took the photo into Photoshop.  My go-to edit is Linear Contrast, so I slapped that on before doing anything else.  I love the way it looks.  From there, I did some more hue altering and brought out the blue in the sky by using the magic wand to select the sky area, making a new layer, adjusting the hue and saturation, and then changing that layer’s opacity to make it look more natural and less obviously edited.  I also did something similar to get the dark colors darker – I copied the original layer in Photoshop and layered it on with Darken and adjusted the opacity until I had it where I like it.  I tend to like darker photos with heavier contrast, and that’s what I ended up doing with this one.

Edited only in Camera Raw.

Edited only in Camera Raw by Kate.

Continued edits in Photoshop.

Continued edits in Photoshop by Kate.

 

Anne's edit of her own photo.

Anne’s edit of her own photo.

And now, here’s Anne’s bit, as written by her:

When I first saw this photo I loved the colors, the purple, yellow, white and bright spring green. So I opened it and got into editing it. However, because I am OCD or ADHD or whatever other acronym you want to throw in there my eye kept being drawn to the brown curly leaf(?) behind the iris. So I thought okay I will take this into PS and be done with it… I forgot about the fuzzy yellow stuff! So to cut a long story short it was just too much work in the 30 min time limit we gave ourselves. I liked the daisies on the right side and so I just went with them. For the first edit after doing a screen layer and a multiply layer and flattening them both in-between I went into the lens distort filter and added a small vignette and then a small bowing of the lens to give it a miniscule fisheye effect but in reality to bring the front flower and stem closer. The second part I didn’t crop as close as I wanted more of the vignette and more of the colors. I love the hint of pink in it. For the last one I cropped it closer but I’m not sure if I am happy with the results as you can see grain/noise in the photo. If I had more time I would probably go back in there with my pen and get all the fuzzy yellow stuff and use the picture as a whole but my (acronym here) wouldn’t let me.

 

Anne's first  edit.

Anne’s first edit.

Anne's second edit.

Anne’s second edit.

Anne's third edit.

Anne’s third edit.

Kate's edit.

Kate’s edit of her own photo.

 

Kate here again to send you off, dear readers.  What do you think?  Do you think our editing styles are similar?  Would you have edited either photo differently?  Let us know in the comments!  We’d love to hear from you, our lovely readers!

Get out there and shoot!

Kate & Anne

Studio Lighting

Alright, ladies and gents, today’s post is all about studio lighting!  I can’t speak to Anne’s experiences, but I took a couple of digital photography classes in college where we learned the basics of studio lighting.  And now I’m here to pass the savings on to you!  I mean the knowledge.  I’m going to pass the knowledge on to you.

Sort of in hand with the previous post about high key and low key lighting, there’s a few names to the quality of light being used.  Soft light is exactly how it sounds it would be.  There are little to no harsh shadows or highlights and the contrast is not too sharp, either.  Hard light is the opposite.  It’s high contrast with harsh shadowing and harsh highlights.  See the examples below.

Model: Darrien.  Shot with a Nikon D5100.  No editing.  Soft light.

    Model: Darien. Shot with a Nikon D5100. No editing. Soft light.

Model: Nick.  Shot with Nikon D5100.  No editing.

Model: Nick. Shot with a Nikon D5100. No editing. Hard light.

There’s also special terminology for where a light is coming from.  Hint: the terms are super easy to remember.  Front light comes from in front of the subject.  Back light comes from behind the subject.  Side light comes from – wait for it, this one’s a tricky one – the side of the subject.  Tough, right?  Below are some examples.

Models: Kevin and Daniel.  Shot with a Nikon D5100.  No editing.  Front Lighting.

Models: Kevin and Daniel. Shot with a Nikon D5100. No editing. Front Lighting.

Shot with a Nikon D5100.  No editing.  Back Lighting.

Shot with a Nikon D5100. No editing. Back Lighting.

 

Model: Me! Photographer: Ryan Edner.  Unsure camera make/model. Unsure about editing.

Model: Me! Photographer: Ryan Edner. Unsure camera make/model. Unsure about editing.

As you can see with some of the above shots, it’s fun to play around with colored lighting.  While I style myself as a natural light photographer, sometimes it’s nice to be able to control my light source.  Adding interesting colors without the use of photoshop is also very nice.  I would highly suggest renting studio lighting or coming up with a rig of your own if you’re attempting more complex and abstract photography ideas.  Product photos are also better done in some sort of studio setting.  Or, at the very least, with controlled lighting.

The one downside I can see to studio lighting is that if you’re working with a inexperienced models, being in such an intense setting might make them uneasy and hard to get any good pictures until the model relaxes.  It really helps if you can joke around and make your models feel comfortable in their settings.  But that’s a trick for an entirely different post.

Now get out there and shoot!

-Kate

Camera History: Camera Obscura

If you’ve come to this post looking for Camera Obscura the band, you’re now stuck reading the whole thing to get to the video at the bottom.  I’m using the honor system here, so no cheating!

Alright, my dear readers, it’s time for a history lesson.  Today I will be writing about the history of the camera.  Well, part of the history of the camera.  There’s a lot more to the invention of the camera than I thought, and a lot more steps from that to the DSLRs we use today that I think are important to cover more in depth.  Especially since the history of the camera goes back farther than the history of photography.

To get to the invention of the camera, we have to start with it’s predecessor, the camera obscura.  This device dates back to ancient Greece and ancient China and was a tool that helped mankind learn about light and vision.  The term “camera obscura” is Latin and means a darkened chamber (camera = vaulted chamber/room, obscura = dark).  German astronomer Johannes Kepler – you might know him from Kepler’s Laws of Planetary Motion, if you paid attention in science class – coined the term in 1604.  The basic purpose of a camera obscura is to project an image of it’s surroundings on a screen or wall and is used for entertainment and drawing/painting.

Image found by Google search; 1stpersontech.wordpress.com

Image found by Google search; 1stpersontech.wordpress.com

A basic description for this type of device was first mentioned by Chinese philosopher Mozi (470 BC – 391 BC).  He described what we now call a pinhole camera-type device, referring to it as a “collecting plate” and a “locked treasure room.”

Alhazen, an Arabic scientist and astronomer, gave the first clear description of a camera obscura as well as an analysis of the device and what it does.  He was the first to demonstrate that what was being projected is an image of everything on the other side of the hole, instead of just light, as previously used.  He did this by successfully projecting an entire image from outdoors onto a screen indoors.

In the 9th century, Chinese scientist Shen Kuo attributed the fact that the image is inverted to it being projected through a small hole.  Earlier beliefs held that the reason for the image being inverted was caused by other things.  For example, one earlier Chinese philosopher wrote that the inversion of the image was caused by the camera obscura being set up next to the sea and the image being of the sea.

Image found by Google search; en.wikipedia.org

Image found by Google search; en.wikipedia.org

While the camera obscura had mainly been used for entertainment as well as studying various aspects of light, in the 13th century Englishman Roger Bacon suggested that the device could be used to safely observe solar eclipses.  It’s use as a drawing aide wasn’t widely seen until the early 15th century.

Giambattista della Porta ‘perfected’ the camera obscura by adding a convex lens to the hole to make the projected image both brighter and more in focus.  He used this as an easy-to-understand example of how the human eye works.

Early models of the camera obscura were quite large, needing an entire darkened room or tent to function correctly.  But as advances in science were made, the camera obscura became more and more easily portable around the 18th century.

Portable, but larger camera obscura; Image found by Google search; www.vintag.es

Portable, but larger camera obscura; Image found by Google search; http://www.vintag.es

Portable camera obscura; Image found by Google search; physics.kenyon.edu

Portable camera obscura; Image found by Google search; physics.kenyon.edu

The camera obscura, while not an actual camera, is still used today.  It’s main purpose continues to be entertainment, education, and is still used as an artistic aide.  Basic ones are fairly easy to put together, as seen in the picture below, but more complex configurations exist as well.  You can see a neat visual of the timeline of the camera obscura here.

How to make your own camera obscura; Found by Google search; myriadmisgivingsofamonk.tumblr.com

How to make your own camera obscura; Found by Google search; myriadmisgivingsofamonk.tumblr.com

And now, lovely readers, I do believe I promised you some music.  If you actually read this post, honest and true, I commend you for not just scrolling down like I probably would have.  Enjoy “Let’s Get Out of This Country” by Camera Obscura.