tired, wet, and defeated

everyone on the east coast knows what happened. tons of rain. lots of water. very wet. i have one of those “my basement’s never gotten water in it before” basements. i can’t say that anymore. i spent just about every minute between 4:45 pm and 10:30 pm yesterday filling buckets, trash barrels, wet-vacs, glasses, vases, dixie cups, etc… with water to get it out of my house. at about 9:00 pm i got my hands on a pump thanks to my parent’s neighbors. i ran the pump from 9:30 pm until 3:30 am when i got up to check on it. the water was down to about a half inch so i shut the pump off and went back to bed. when i got up at 7:00 i had about another three inches in the whole basement.

the whole day was spent pumping and vacuuming water. as i type this blog post it’s still coming into the basement, seeping ever so deviously and spreading all over my (thankfully) unfinished cement floor. those vicious dihydrogens and their monoxide buddies hanging out together in extremely large quantities and entering my house without so much as a knock – the nerve…

here’s my hand in the water when it hit about two inches

i didn’t have any water resistant footwear, so i opted for shorts and sandals. rainwater is cold. numbingly cold. i will be showering at my parent’s house tonight because putting 220 volts to your electric hot water tank while it’s under water goes against my best judgement. here’s to sunnier days this weekend.

be my guest

today my prose and epic writing can be found on a different blog… the gleam of rose tea. hillary (the writer) was kind enough to ask me to guest blog so i obliged. head over there to check it out. after you read my guest post, take a look at the rest of her blog.

it’s a total girl-fest for sure, but that’s what girls like i guess. she’s got another blog (gleam of rose tea outfits) where she posts photos of her outfits and everything’s for sale. go figure. i’ve been thinking about posting photos of my outfits and putting them up for sale. i thought better of it when i realized that if someone bought my pair of jeans i’d be in trouble. yeah, that wouldn’t last long.

hillary’s nice. leave her a comment. follow her blog. follow mine too while you’re at it.

alright – go there now!

crazy teenagers

my wife and i work with the youth group at ocean state baptist church as leaders. it’s a pretty cool gig, hanging out with all the teenagers and whatnot. this past saturday we went over to the providence rescue mission and worked on renovating a house that they acquired. the house will be used to shelter homeless women and teach them life skills like cooking. they will also train them so they are able to get jobs and sustain themselves.

i think it’s pretty cool that this group of teens gave up the majority of their saturday to get dirty and put their sweat and muscle into a good cause like this. i took a few shots but then felt guilty that i wasn’t doing work so i put the camera down and started in on picking up demo debris.

we had some time to show off feats of strength

calling it a day

i think we need to recognize when teenagers do a good thing.
thanks guys. awesome job.

two-time use wedding dresses

finally your wedding day comes. you put on your super cool wedding dress, get married, and then…
a) throw it away
b) store it in a cedar closet so your future daughter can make fun of you when you tell her she should wear it for her wedding
c) donate it to a charity that gives dresses to less fortunate brides-to-be
d) pay for it to be professionally preserved so in thirty years you can ask yourself why in the world you paid to have such a dated part of your wardrobe stored away
e) sell it to a consignment shop
f) enter the contest below and take awesome pictures that you’ll have for the rest of your life that are unlike any other pictures you’ll ever get a chance to take

it’s your choice. should you happen to choose option f, then continue reading.
“trash the dress” has become more and more popular. i’ve yet to have the opportunity to do a trash the dress session. i’m offering a free trash the dress session to the person who responds to this blog post with the best idea for a shoot. i’ve seen a lot of photos where someone puts the dress on, stands in front of a dirty building, and calls it a trash the dress photo. i don’t buy that. see example below…

there’s nothing wrong with that, but i want something crazier. more along the lines of…

image courtesy of bridalwave

we probably don’t have to get quite that dangerous, but something where the dress actually gets trashed. i don’t know… spray paint it? at least get it dirty. let’s hear what you’ve got. leave the ideas/submissions in the comment section of this post. if you’re getting married in the next couple months or got married within the past few years and you have your dress then you’re eligible to enter. it won’t hurt your chances if you have a blog of your own and you repost this contest…

winner gets a two hour blueflash session to trash your dress.

go.

whisper sweet somethings

what’s better than cake? how about a lot of small ones, in different flavors, colors, and wrappers? cake gets boring, but cupcakes from sweet somethings come in hundreds of different flavor combinations. sweet somethings is a local business run by rachel rosati, head baker and super cool girl. she’s finding success by breaking into the wedding industry. people are moving away from traditional cakes and toward cupcakes for their affordability, uniqueness, and variety. just look at them sitting there in the field and hanging out with each other. you never see cake being this friendly.

sweet somethings happens to have spectacular cupcake photographs. coincidentally, i happen to have sampled many of the different flavor combinations. there were supposed to be four cupcakes in the above picture, but rachel turned her back for a second and i committed cupcake homicide.

don’t judge me. you would have done the same. my wife and i had rachel do the cupcakes for our wedding a little over a year ago and they were awesome. everyone loved them and i think i ate six that night. ok, maybe seven.
they’re also extremely photogenic and very well behaved. do something different, go with cupcakes for your wedding. you’ll be glad. check out the sweet somethings website and get in touch with rachel. she gives free samples at the contract signing. i keep pretending i’m going to sign a contract and then i cancel at the last minute. she’s starting to catch on. sorry rach.

the dressing’s in the details

wedding season is pretty much upon us in all it’s glorious and chaotic fashion. i’m getting excited to get back into a regular wedding schedule and hang out with people on their most important day. i know that brides have a lot to think about while planning their weddings, like what color should the napkins be? should they have a diagonal fold or a straight one? will my future husband actually get his vows written on time? caesar salad or garden salad? should the bridal party sit or stand during the ceremony? what color shoes do i wear? what song do i walk into the reception to? these are the make-or-break decisions that a bride must make as her big day creeps closer and closer. ok, i admit, i’m poking fun a little bit, but there really are a lot of things to decide. i want to make you aware of one thing that doesn’t often get much attention: the dressing room.

if you have your photographer (can i make an unbiased recommendation for blueflash?) take photos of the bride and bridal party preperation, it can make your photos come out much better if there’s a little planning put into where the preparation takes place.

natural light. the more the merrier. use a room that has a (big) south facing window so the sun can shine in. this will give your photos a much better feel than if you’re in a dark windowless room. here’s what you don’t want the room to look like:

image courtesy of hippo
your photos might not look so nice in a room like that. also, clean up the room! if you don’t have the luxury of renting out a nice hotel room to get ready in and you end up using a bedroom in a house, pick up your room! i know i sound like your mom, but c’mon, do you really want to have photos of you getting your makeup done in your wedding dress with your dirty socks and under-roos in the background? below is another example of what you probably don’t want for an environment. clean your room, just one last time before you get hitched up.
image courtesy of popularwealth.com
go one step further. rather than just cleaning the room, some brides will actually decorate the room a little bit. you don’t have to go totally crazy with it, but sometimes just putting around some accent things with meaning can enhance the images, i.e. some flowers, the wedding shoes can be on the floor, a note from a close relative, etc…
spend about an hour prepping the prep room, you’ll be glad every time you pull out your wedding photos for the rest of your life. it also makes the photographer’s job easier, not that i’m partial or anything…

the bluecube is triumphant

the bluecube successfully handled hundreds of guests this past saturday night at the trunkshowchic grand opening. people were lovin’ it. i’m so proud of my not-so-little bluecube. here’s a few cool images from the night…

the trunkshow party was awesome! tons of people, awesome space, a lot of fun…

it’s official, the bluecube is available for rental now. who’s going to have the coolest party? wedding? prom? check out the whole album from the night on the bluecube section of the blueflash website.

put your party hats on

what are you doing saturday night? there’s a party going on and you’re invited. my buddies at trunkshowchic are having a grand opening for their new space in providence. check out their site to find out more about them. i plan on having a blog post in the near future talking more about their business. in short, they have an exclusive line of handmade jewerly that consists of a mix of vintage and brand new designs. there will also be other designers displaying their work at the opening party. there will be food and drinks and… the bluecube. yes, the bluecube will finally be making its debut after not getting to strut its stuff at the fake boston 411 bridal show this past weekend. it will be setup all night long.

here’s a shot from a trunkshow shoot of viktoria. she’ll be at the party! great girl, loved working with her.

party starts at 4 pm and goes all night. wear your best, it’s a bit of a dress-up occasion. plus you’ll want to look good while you get your picture snapped in the bluecube. i’ll also be taking candid shots of the party throughout the night for trunkshow.

the space is really cool, i was just there the other night checking out what they’ve done. they got giant banners with blueflash photos on them to put around the whole place.

ok, a recap… free, providence, trunkshowchicbluecubeblueflash, food, drinks, me, jewelry, clothes, bags, people, etc…

you’ll probably need the address. click the link to get directions from google maps… 200 allens ave, providence, ri     the party is happening on the third floor and there is an elevator for those averse to using stairs. if i left any important info out or you just have a question about it, leave a comment or email me or call me or message me or text me or yell at me.

see you there…

are we done yet?

this is the mini-series roundup. i’ve got to end this series so i can talk about other stuff, so i’m going to double post dynamic range with RAW/jpg shooting.

let’s start with dynamic range. this is the range of intensities the camera can collect in a photo, from the darkest dark to the brightest bright. the best camera can only see about 15% of the amount of dynamic range than the human eye. God : 1, nikon : 0. this is why when you snap a picture of a bedroom with a window during the day you either get the room exposed properly and the window totally blown out, or you get the window exposed properly and the bedroom very dark.
there’s a technique called HDR (high dynamic range) photography. in it’s simplest form, you take multiple photos at different exposure settings without changing the camera position, aperture, white balance, or focal length. that leaves us with using the shutter speed to control the exposure. the idea is to take a photo that properly exposes the darkest darks, another photo that catches all the mids, and another photo that captures the brightest whites properly. you then take all the photos and blend them together so that every part of the photo is exposed. you can also tone-map the colors to give it a surreal feel. tone-mapping is another whole animal that probably only 1% of people would care about so i won’t go into it. here’s a couple HDR photos i took of the nylo hotel in warwick, ri

cool, huh? you can get some pretty cool looking shots if you do it right. HDR doesn’t lend itself well to pictures of people or animals or anything that moves since all photos have to have the identical content but at different exposures.

enough of that. onto RAW and jpg shooting. this could get ugly, but i’m going to refrain from too much tech talk. here’s the super basic version – RAW allows you to capture much more dynamic range in a photo. it is uncompressed, the data exactly as your camera sensor sees it. every camera shoots in “RAW” internally, but all point-and-shoots add some processing and convert it to a jpg before saving it to your memory card. it’s kind of like the digital equivalent of a film negative. in post processing you can determine the white balance and exposure without any image degradation. a jpg will always degrade with every edit made to it. the drawbacks to RAW is that they take up a lot more room on your memory card, each camera manufacturer has their proprietary RAW protocol, and every RAW file needs post-processing in order for it to be useful. RAW files on their own are very bland, desaturated, and not so sharp. the possibilities they allow you in post-processing is the huge benefit. they take time to deal with and hard drive space to store.

i always shoot RAW. my camera has a RAW+jpg option which will capture both formats from a single shutter press. if i’m taking casual photos i’ll use that option in case i catch something i really want to tweak so i’ll have the RAW file. otherwise i can just store away all the jpg files and i’m all set.

there’s more to the RAW/jpg debate, but it has to do with bit-depth and aliasing and histograms. hopefully the info in this post is enough for you to decide if you want to jump into the RAW world. adobe bridge and photoshop come with a background program called ‘camera raw’ which is capable of processing all the major manufacturers’ RAW formats

just a note – i wouldn’t recommend attempting HDR unless you’re shooting RAW. there’s not enough information in the jpg files to make the image come out nicely.

that’s it! the mini-series is over. a bit of a relief for me, i’ve got other stuff i want to start blogging about. an easy way to find all the posts that were part of the mini-series is to look on the right hand side under “categories” and click on ‘education’. all the posts are under that category. go crazy. thanks for sticking with me through all of these educational posts!

freakin’ out with flash

unfortunate group of people getting their picture taken at the bowling alley by someone with their pocket camera: “the flash didn’t go off!”
picture taker: “oh sorry let me take it again”
unfortunate group: “the flash didn’t go off again!”
picture taker: “ummm, i don’t know why this dumb thing isn’t working. let’s go see what these bowling shoes look like under the black lights!”

that probably sounds like a familiar conversation you often find yourself in. why doesn’t the flash go off? why do we care so much about the flash? when a camera flash fires, it lets off an extremely intense and very short burst of light. the shutter opens up before the flash fires and closes when it’s done. if you want to understand what the camera sees during a flash photo, grab a friend and go in a windowless room in the house where it’s pitch dark. have your friend stand on the other side of the room and wave their arms like a maniac. stare in the general direction of your friend making a fool of themselves and flip the room light on and back off again one time as fast as you can. on off. what did you see? if you did the light fast enough, you saw a quick snapshot of your buddy with their arms in a fixed position even though they were in constant motion. for the split-second that the light was on, their arms didn’t move too much, so to you it appeared that they were still. that’s what the camera sees (and records) on a flash photo. this is why it’s near impossible to get ghosting or motion blur in a photo using flash. that’s a good thing. on point-and-shoots, flash is your friend, quite possibly even your best friend.

if you have a good enough dslr, enough light, a fast enough lens, and have read the other posts in this mini-series, then you should be able to take a photo of motion and freeze it without using flash. otherwise, flash does the job.

another common flash issue is that it turns your friends into evil looking monsters by making their baby blue eyes into red scary fireballs. the cause of redeye is not a mystery, contrary to what paranormal seekers would like to believe. it’s simply a reflection of the back of your eyeball, specifically the blood vessels on the retina, when hit with direct and intense light. if the flash is off-axis with the eyes, then your redeye will disappear. i understand with a point and shoot this is difficult to acheive because the flash is fixed and it points in whatever direction the camera is pointed. newer cameras have various methods of redeye reduction built into them which all but eliminates the problem. if you have a dslr with a speedlight (one of those add-on flashes stuck to the top of the camera), then you can modify the direction of the flash. point that thing at about a 60 degree angle toward the ceiling and you’ll get a nice bounce to illuminate your subject and get rid of redeye. if you have a speedlight, do a lot of experimenting with bounce angles. you’ll be surprised to see the differences in the various angles.

another nice way to soften the light is to use a diffuser. you can buy one for anywhere from three to probably over a hundred bucks. you can also use a piece of wax paper or tissue paper, even kleenex or toilet paper. be creative – when it comes to lighting it sometimes helps to be unorthodox and try weird stuff. place whatever material you have over your flash and see what the results are. anything goes, as long as it’s not completely opaque. you can even use colored material for strange pictures if you feel so inclined. diffusers work great, but i don’t recommend spending a lot on one. i bought one that fits on my sb-600 speedlight and it cost me $2.99 on ebay. i would argue it works just as well as the $100 version. it’s not rocket science, just plastic. some things are worth spending the money on – this is not one of them. put the saved money toward a better lens.

the rest of this post is exclusive to dslr cameras. i haven’t yet seen any point-and-shoots with the option to adjust the following parameters, but i suppose they could exist. external speed lights allow you to change the intensity of the flash. this is handy if you want to use flash but not have it overpower the photo. this can allow you to obtain subtle highlights without it looking unnatural. again, play around with it, it’s the only way. here’s a couple photos that show the difference between direct flash and bounced flash. notice how the direct flash photo has underexposed areas around where the flash directly hit and the indirect flash photo doesn’t. also notice the section of my basement that has a bunch of random stuff.

direct flash
bounced flash

there are usually two main flash modes available. one is front curtain and the other is rear curtain. the term curtain comes from old analog camera technology that we won’t go into. what it controls is if the flash fires right after the shutter opens or right before the shutter closes. the easiest way understand the effects of this is just to see it. both of the shots were taken with a 2 second shutter speed while panning the camera from the right to the left. check out the photos:

front curtain

rear curtain

what’s happening is that the floor and the candle get captured when the flash fires, but the flame is captured throughout the two seconds because it is its own light source. when the flash fires at the beginning of the shot, the flame lags behind the candle. when it fires at the end of the shot, it captured the flame already and ends the shot with the candle.

one last thing worth mentioning is something nikon builds into their speedlights and higher end cameras called the creative lighting system. it allows you to set up a bunch of speedlights in a room and wirelessly fire them from the camera. this lets you get all sorts of cool light angles, but you have to own multiple speedlights (a few hundred dollars each) and a camera capable of commanding the speedlights. i believe canon just recently came out with a similar capability, but i primarily shoot nikon so that’s what i can speak to. if you end up diving into that world and you’re stuck, drop me a line and i can help you get it up and running.

i really do intend for these posts to be short when i start them but they end up growing pretty large by the time i’m done. trying to keep it basic but i also want to be thorough. questions? let me know if anyone tries anything funky for a diffuser…

next up: dynamic range/HDR

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