Archive for the 'architecture' Category

Mar 29 2009

forgot my camera – shot with my iPhone instead

Benjamin Franklin taught us that: “In this world nothing is certain than death and taxes.” In the photography world the other certainty is the need to do marketing. With that in mind I just returned from my annual “Marketing and Taxes” visit to San Francisco. (My tax attorney is in SF.)

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Checkerboard building in Oakland

In my rush to gather up all of my tax info and marketing materials I left my camera back at home. This made me a bad student of Jay Maisel who advises photographers to always carry a camera(there is a great video of him talking by following the link with his name) – until I realized that I had my little used iPhone camera with me.

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Emerging from the BART station on Market Street

I have been a fan of plastic Diana cameras in the past and know that its better to have a good eye behind a simple camera than a have an untrained eye behind a professional camera, and I enjoyed the freedom of simply playing and recording some the new sights I was experiencing.

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Water delivery truck

There best part about the camera on the iPhone is that it is always with me and it will make a photo in just about any quantity of light.

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After an appointment in Foster City

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Shooting through a dust barrier at a construction site

And unlike the Diana where the viewfinder was more of a guess, the iPhones displays a video preview. It is still hard to be precise with the framing since the shutter release button in on the front of the camera and not the top of the frame.

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Stoplight shadow

It has an amazing ability to shoot in very low levels of light. The photos have digital noise in them, but I find it amazing that it is possible to hand hold the camera and still record anything.

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Couple walking past the Old Federal Reserve building

And it still has good color.

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The red cover of the pool table is still vibrant

After doing my iPhone exercise I read that there is a new camera/phone called a Pixon that is more of a camera with a phone added than the iPhone. Samsung sent a photographer around the world to take picture with this devise. Hey – my passport is current. I’m ready to take my close-ups.

Mark Harmel
harmelphoto.com

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Mar 19 2009

when is cheating fair-1?

Some of my students recently were appalled that I would ever alter any part of a photo. They were beginning students and still very new to working with photos on a computer.

Normally I limit myself to cleaning up faces and removing power outlets from the background, but every now and then I allow myself to think more along the lines of a photo illustration.

A few years ago I was renting an apartment in Paris up the hill from the Moulin Rouge and I knew of a photo my travel photographer friend Glen Allison shot of the famed club through the art nouveau archway of the metro stop.

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The two elements of the final illustration

I didn’t quite know how to make it different. I was both frustrated that the lights on the archway were out in the evening, and didn’t like a big Coke billboard that was in the frame. Then I noticed that a famous painting in my tour book and that many of the artists selling their work on the street had moved some famous landmarks around to suit their compositions.

I decided that I could do the same – it just required me to move the metro stop. I wasn’t sure I had the compositing skills to do this, but I have friends that can.

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The final composition with everything in the right place

I shot the individual pieces and asked my friend Dennis Dunbar to use his Photoshop skills to help me execute my original vision. This was my first big step into more of a photo-illustration look. I still prefer to capture what is actually in front of the camera, but this experience opened me up to the idea of creating an illustration.

Mark Harmel
harmelphoto.com

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Mar 17 2009

how art directors and designers can “fix” people like me

At last. A new little know feature in Photoshop CS4 can save you from photographers like me!

When I was learning how to shoot, the documentary photographers I admired all made their prints using a filed out negative carrier. That would burn in the distinctive black border around the print that served as the seal of approval to indicate the the photo was so properly composed that there was no need at all to ever crop the image.

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The distinctive black border proves that the frame is not cropped

This palm tree shadow photo taken with a plastic Diana camera shows the distinctive ragged edge of camera opening inside the black border – proof that it was not cropped!

Just because the picture is perfect doesn’t mean that some well meaning designer or art director doesn’t have a perfect cover format or design that this photo want to grace. Before recently there was the battle of perfection -until now.

Content-Aware Scaling to the rescue.

This new feature in Photoshop CS4 goes beyond the crop and allows the people that want to mess with my pictures the opportunity drastically change the format without hacking off an arm or a leg.

As an example, here is the original rectangular capture of a radio telescope in Owens Valley.

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The original rectangular capture

Using Content-Aware Scaling the rectangle is stretched in perfect proportion into a panorama.

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The panorama version

Notice how the dish and sun remain unaffected and the mountains and sky nicely stretch. Now lets try a square…

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The square version

Once again it all looks natural. Imagine how you can now make photos fit your wonderful design without having to crop!

There are a couple of tricks to make this all work, but none of them require advanced Photoshop mind warping abilities. You can learn all about the technique from the amazing Dr. Russell Brown. This is a long page of tips and you will need to scroll 1/4 of the way down the page to the 9/23/08 tip. There you will find an entertaining and instructive video.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

One response so far

Oct 04 2008

financial worklife

Just before our current financial crisis entered possible meltdown territory I had the opportunity to spend a day in my financial advisor’s office taking what I call my modified candid photos of their office worklife that will be used in a company brochure and website.

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I love doing this style of shooting. Part of the process is being a fly on the wall and capturing spontaneous interactions that happen in the hallway.

The other part involves going into specific offices and work areas, doing some improvements to the existing lighting and then direct the people to act naturally instead of posing. I find that the best method for this is to start with my staging and lighting and then help the person become reengaged with their job. Interacting with a co-worker on a real issue is often the best approach.

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The client likes this because real work is accomplished in the process and my normally camera shy subjects return to using their real gestures and become engaged.

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I’ve also learned the art of doing nothing. When a person is already looking natural and engaged I can concentrate on improving on the existing light and searching for interesting angles through gaps in monitors or in reflections.

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Whether shooting on the street or in an office I always love how the environment can add to the story. In this case I get to use my fine art photo of the old Pacific Stock Exchange building as a way to tell the financial story of my client’s firm.

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The original Pacific Stock Exchange photo. The San Francisco build is now being used as a Equinox fitness club.

Here are some page samples from one of the finished brochures:

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Mark Harmel
harmelphoto.com
@MarkHarmel

2 responses so far

Sep 21 2008

the beach house

The Fall morning chill is starting to return, prompting me to get another cup of coffee a reminisce about the week Anne and I spent on our first simi-staycation up the coast in Ventura, California.

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She found a wonderful little beach house in the Pierpont neighborhood that still retained remnants of a simpler way of life where you chose to live near the beach because it allowed you to be close to your favorite surfing spot or to be near your favorite shore stroll with your morning coffee.

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Our house for the week was a simple white wooden structure with enclosed patios in front and back, parquet wooden floors and birds-egg shell blue walls. Starfish graced the front window frame and sea shells and river rocks graced the bowls covering the dressers and living room coffee table.

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Like many beach communities this one was in transition from the simple and stylish one story cottage structures to often cold and fortress-like beach McMansion structures.

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The quaint decorations and the VW microbus and rusted pick-up trucks are starting to be replaced by the Audi in the driveway and architecture that communicates “stay away” more than stop on by for a drink.

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I enjoyed my morning walk through my adopted neighborhood for a week during the quiet time before the buzz-saws and hammers broke the silence building the next big, faceless structure that will be one more step in change the beach way of living.

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Mark Harmel
harmelphoto.com

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Jun 30 2008

most photographed places – angkor wat

A quick one this time. The first day in Siem Reap, Cambodia to explore the ancient temple complex. There is not much time to see anything because most of the day was filled with flying in from Bangkok. The plan was a simple drive by to get an overview of the area. We were on the shoulder of the monsoon season and any idea of dong any exploring on foot was quickly damped by the sky opening to a massive downpour as we passed the western causeway section of Angkor Wat. The secret to this photo?

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Stay in the small travel bus and ask the driver to open the door and move the vehicle back and forth to get the view I wanted. When I retuned the next day in the sunlight it wasn’t the same. What we normally think of bad weather is a great time to take photos. In this case the rain softened the features of the temple giving a fog-like effect. I have used my car a number of times as a photo blind in the rain and snow before. Try it sometime. Keep yourself and your equipment dry and If you wish lie about your commitment to the great shot to impress your friends.For a different view of the temples explore John McDermott’s infrared black & white photos of the temples. That look defines many viewer’s experience of the Angkor Wat. He has a gallery in town with his photos as well as gracing the walls of the amazingly stylish Hotel de la Paix.  I think of my experience there as staying in a refined W Hotel in a third-world country.

2 responses so far

Jun 28 2008

mpp – most photographed places – taj mahal

Most of us don’t have the luxury of the 30 day National Geographic  assignment or the big budget GE Healthcare commercial (“Beats”) that has time to scout and stage a cricket game across the river from the Taj Mahal.

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In my case I was traveling with a group of American Diabetes Association doctors and their families and had a sunset and a sunrise to do my shooting.

Shortly after entering an enterprising guide, seeing a professional looking camera attached himself to my hip and commenced to drag me to all of the cliche locations that he learned from the postcard vendors. Since time was short I allowed him to lead hoping that one of his prized spots could be close to a location that I could work with.

As we were walking I could hear the Islamic call to prayer wafting through the courtyard and I noticed a devoted man kneeling in prayer against a wall. I had read that the Taj was constructed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, but it only then that it dawned on me that I was in a Muslim mosoleum. I had my idea!

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I turned my guide into a model asking him to kneel in profile in one of the side archways. The direction of the prayer was chosen by what looked good to the camera. I only hope that this was close to the proscribed directive of praying to Mecca.

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My friend returned the next morning and was quite confused to see me pointing my camera down into the reflecting pool instead of including it as a foreground element like he saw so many times. Perhaps this spot has been added to his selection of locations that he highlights to the next camera toting tourist.

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Jun 28 2008

mpp – most photographed places – paris/eiffel tower

I both love the experience of visiting and enjoy the challenge of saying something new about one of the “Most Photographed Places” (MPP) on earth. There can be disagreement on what these places are (the Google photo sharing site Panoramio has their list), and I have been fortunate enough to visit many of them and I wanted to share my joys and frustrations with the experience of creating photos at a MPP.The frustration always begins with looking trough my view-finder and discovering that I simply remaking an uninspiring postcard. Not to knock the postcard – its job if to make the famous place familiar. Postcards are also great scouting tools. They can give you information about what is the “good side” of the landmark and even give you clues about where the sun will rise and set.

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The Eiffel Tower looks good from most any angle and I decided that I wanted to show the tower at dusk with the lights glowing. The light balance happens about 20 minutes after sunset with the correct balance lasting about one minute. This requires being in the right place in advance and shooting the entire range of light – from too light to too dark. It helps to have a digital camera to review the exposures, but I still want to capture an entire series and edit later.Originally I saw a similar photo on an airline poster that made me aware that there were these great lamp posts somewhere near the tower and research on a stock photo site identified that the lights were on the Pont Alexander III, a grand bridge over the Seine. The enemy of any traveling photographer is construction. Most often this means scaffolding surrounding historic towers, as was the case with Notre Dame Cathedral during my trip to Paris. This time I was in luck. The perfect location to shoot the lamp and tower was from the center of the bridge roadway which was conveniently surrounded by construction barriers.

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I decided to return the next night for a view closer to the tower and found the equivalent of the tripod marks on the Champ-de-Mars overlook of the reflecting pool leading to the tower that was in my DK guidebook. I knew I wanted something different and that I had to decide between the safe postcard quality location versus the risk of finding something new.

I chose to descend from the overlook, tried views from the reflecting pool and eventually spotted a carousel closer to the tower. After some test shots I decided that I needed to be on the carousel and paid the attendant for multiple rides while performing my best charades act indicated that I wanted to to take pictures from the ride.

There was again a brief window where the lights were in balance and moving horse was in the perfect location. Unfortunately the tower was in it’s sparkle light show mode instead of the more traditional illumination – one of the few example of bad French that I hope has gone out of style.

2 responses so far

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