Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How to Rock the House Despite a Blizzard

The weather outside was frightful, but the food, ambience and music inside was sweetly delightful. That's the official conclusion my wife and I reached after combining a date night with shooting some pics for Nissi's in Lafayette, Colorado. But the night was not without an element of danger. Now I do NOT cancel date nights and babysitting due to bad weather, mind you. Yet as we approached Lafayette while 12" of snow an hour pounded our car, I started to have some doubts about our chances to make it to the venue in one piece.

But we persisted over the strong objections of my wife and we were richly rewarded. Teresa and Mark were great h
osts at Nissi's. The Kobe beef sliders rocked. Also loved the yummy ahi tuna. The place is cozy and warm, every seat in the house a perfect view of the music. And if you have never been to a FACE concert, you need to put that on your bucket list right now and get 'er done!

I am no professional music critic, but the wife and I had a wonderful time. Hard to believe a human being can make such sounds without a single keyboard, instrument or other digital sound effects. The vocals brought some tears to my wife's eyes, she loved it so much. Their energy and sound and overall stage show was dynamic and fun. It was a real treat to be a part of that evening out.

What else can I say? Some things are worth risking getting stuck in the snow to see. FACE was worth it. See the whole shoot here.

Music photography is a lot of fun when there's a talented band, a great venue and excellent food. And throw in a pretty date and you can't miss!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What's In Your PC?

Until I enrolled in a computer maintenance course did I have any real clue what was going on inside my computer. All I cared about is that it would run smoothly and blazingly fast. No blue screens of death nor the whirling beach ball of death on the Mac side and I was happy.

One day we took apart motherboards and had to identify and replace a processor and cooling unit. In the harsh light of an overhead fluorescent at our workbench, still I was unimpressed. Then color contrasts started to scream out in the back of my head.

Next day I borrowed some defunct memory modules and a motherboard and took them home and set up a shooting table. I kept my 4 year old daughter up late to be a hand model and then threw a blue gel on my background light. Then I gelled the ringlight to about 1/2 CTO (an orange-tinted gel). With my white balance set to warm the image some more, I fired away. Time to send off to the publisher to compete for next year's photo placements!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ignite Boulder + Velvet

Andrew, Kath and the crew over at IgniteBoulder know how to throw a party. They sold out the Boulder Theater and streamed another 500+ people in online, making this the largest-attended Ignite of all time. Well done, you guys! While photographing the event last night, I learned about how to prepare for being a contestant on Family Feud from a real-life game show veteran. Learned some new Spanish vocab should I ever get stopped at the US-Mexico border. Top that with some of the neat work being done for spinal cord injured people here in Boulder. I now have 'Pam' as a secret weapon to donning triathlon attire. And most critical of all, I learned to never leave home without velvet.

What an imaginative and informative bunch. And a heck of a lot of fun, too! See the pics here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lightpainting the Town

Ever see a photograph where you can't quite tell how they did it? Light seems to come from out of nowhere. You wonder how did those weird streaks get recorded in the picture? Or why does the subject seem to glow in funky ways?

Take the image to the left. I shot this for a product portfolio several months back and have always liked the various bits of motion and action in the composition. What's going on in the shot to come up with this one?

I used three lights. I blue-gelled my Nikon speedlight and fired it into the white seamless backdrop from off camera left. Then I left the shutter on my camera open another 8 seconds while I took 2 different flashlights and lit the front of the bottle for a moment, then danced their lights off of the background. Then I took one of the flashlights and illuminated the back of the bottle for a second or two. Finally, I made the arcing streaks of light emerge from the bottle top to resemble an erupting volcano.

Also, there is the extra layer of color contrast going down in this shot. The bottle glows a warm tone, which your eye/brain complex interprets as moving towards you. The cooler blue background appears to recede away from the viewer.

So the result? Don't know about you, but it makes me want to go crack open another BAWLS Root Beer!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Using the Schwartz to Combat TMI

Non-photography topic--TMI: How much is too much information?

Social media can be a great tool for business and personal use. There are a million blog posts singing the praises of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. But why must we all broadcast every detail of our lives to the world? Aren't some things better left in the private sphere?

We're a society obsessed with safety, from anti-bacterial soap to air bags to home alarm systems and wearing helmets on the ski slope. We show zero tolerance for kids who have toe nail clippers stowed safely in the trunks of their cars. Yet when we get online, we gush uncontrollably about the most private moments of our personal lives. No one cares about the espresso double shot you just scored at the Starbucks drive-thru. That is TMI.

But there is a growing class of people who DO care about such things. They like to read about how you are on vacation in Fiji for a month. They love to know your birthdate, social security number and home address. They like to read up on every personal account they can about you. And trust me, you don't want these people in your life. Let's be smarter out there and assume that whatever you put online CAN and MAY very likely get read by someone you don't want.

Some suggestions for your 2010 online experience:

1) Don't accept a friend request unless you are absolutely sure who they are.

2) Be very leery of Facebook requests--often these are phishing attempts to steal your login and password. Always get in the habit of checking the URL bar to see the true web address of the site asking you for your login information.

3) Don't respond to a Nigerian email solicitation telling you that only you can help them claim a $10 million lottery prize. (On that note, don't board a flight with a young Nigerian male who paid $3000 cash for his ticket, checked no luggage and whose father reported him for Jihadist ties and is wearing holy underwear, Batman.)

Wishing you all a wonderful 2010--ring it in with peace and joy. And love your neighbor just do so wisely. And may the Schwartz be with you!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Stratford at Flatirons Portrait Sessions

I must confess--I totally want to move in to Stratford at Flatirons--this is absolutely the nicest and most luxurious senior living residence I have ever seen!

We had a great time working with Kathy and the crew on Friday. We set up a portrait studio and then made instant prints from each of the sessions. For the technically-minded, here's a look at how it all worked. To just go right to the images from the whole session, just go here.

Backdrop: 12' painted canvas mounted on backdrop frame system.
Lighting: 1 Photogenic monolight and 2 Nikon SB-800 speedlights. Each had an umbrella light modifier.
Display: Samsung 23" monitor
Computer: Mac Mini
Printer: Sony UL-150 dye sublimation printer
Capture software: Sofortbild for Mac.
Viewing, editing and printing software: Lightroom 2.5

Sunday, November 15, 2009

How to Turn Your Desktop Scanner Into an Artist's Tool

I am working on a new portfolio for a restaurant with locations nationwide. They requested new images to be displayed in their lobbies based on a global cuisine theme. So to go beyond my normal style of work, I tried to think outside the black box of my normal cameras for something different. How to create an image of something without a camera? Since I am not a painter, I ruled out painting and drawing an image. That is when I remembered I had another camera already sitting on my desk--my scanner/copier. Within minutes every interesting food item I could think of was about to be dumped on my flatbed scanner.

My favorites are the coffee beans and the tulip below. I really love the depth of field (or lack thereof) found in the scanner--it is great for making sharp copies of text lying on a sheet of paper. It needs no more depth than that thin surface. But add an object with three dimensions and they tend to be sharply in focus at ony one point. Everything else falls off and gets soft.

I either used the pull down document cover or created my own white surface. You could also use other colors, as this will end up being your backdrop as the scanner looks up to capture the image.

Then I did some heavier work in Photoshop to ge the colors and tones and contrast where I wanted them. To give a richer feel and to accentuate the softness of the texture.

Play around with it and see where this tool can lead you--lots of fun!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vintage Neon, Boulder Theater

Stripped out the color and boiled this awesome old vintage neon sign to its elements. Simple line drawing done by running a glowing edges filter in Photoshop, then inverting the image colors and then adding a border from an old Polaroid A. I love how the texture of the facade lettering jumps out. Never forget watching this sign get pumped full of water by the fire department in Boulder as an electrical short in the sign could have burned the whole place down.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Three Styles, One Portrait Session

On a recent shoot I sought to capture an extremely diverse feel across the 60 minutes we spent shooting. The end result shows it this clearly--from sunset lighting on my subjects' faces to off camera flash fill to near darkness with flash. Finally I shot a quick series without flash, allowing the ambient light reflecting off the lake to paint my subject's face. And how starkly different the shoot turned out--beyond consistent wardrobe, it looks like we shot on different days and locations, yet all was done within a 50 yard radius across in less time than it takes to watch an episode of 'Flash Forward'.

The light shifted so fast we could hardly sit still--throwing rocks in the lake is way too much fun, but we quickly moved on and did the group pose on the big rocks on the shore.

Then we played some more and then ran up to a park bench for a few more shots. A group posed then the final series with just my client's son and no flash, just post-sunset skylight bouncing off of the lake. Then we jumped on a small pier and shot with off-camera flash and dialed in the ambient sunset light to really pop.

In the end, we created a whole series of unique compositions. And by scheduling the shoot around a span of time where the light would be most dynamic, we made plenty of special moments to choose from for wall portraits.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

$50 Portraits for 15 minutes

Just in time for the holidays, we are holding the first official Marc Littmann Photography Great Portrait Shootout this weekend. What you get: 15 minute portrait session under the fall foliage in Boulder. A set of 8 wallet prints and a 5x7 print.

You'll also have option to get a sweet 20x30 canvas gallery print of your favorite image, a
box set of Christmas cards and a DVD with the files.

What'll it cost you? $50 bones. You heard right--just $50 big ones. So
with a tiny time and money commitment, you can make off like a bandit (or an outlaw) at the Great Portrait Shootout!

Buy your session ticket here.

Monday, September 21, 2009

5 Good Reasons to Visit San Francisco with a Camera

5. Autumn Moon Festival in Chinatown. Stumbled on this one over the weekend. Dad and I walked several SF districts after arriving by Amtrak from Denver. Tried the fish balls--once was enough, if you get my culinary drift. But the copious red colors, brilliant rich textures and sheer size of this Chinatown transported me right back to my time in Yunnan Province in SW China many years ago. And the purple eggplant here was succulent, at least my camera thought so.

4. Italian celebration in Washington Square. Lagunitas IPA and the free bottlecap pins were an added bonuses (boni for plural?). The guy who tossed pizza doughs as part of a performance stole the show--how the heck did he do that? Deep fried calamari and penne with salsiccia---multo bene!

3. Tuk Tuk Thai Cafe off of Washington Square. A quick walk up Columbus Ave brought us to this highly regarded Yelp favorite. Never had I tasted so many complex flavors in Thai food. The panang curry sauce was deep. Tastebuddies screamed for more Gai Tom Ka soup--sweet and tangy yumminess! And the green tea and coconut ice cream paired with the deep fried banana post-meal rocked. No pictures please--just concentrate on the culinary ecstasy in front of you.

2. Grace Cathedral and Coit Tower. Grace's politically liberal inner walls were way beyond my comfort zone of mixing politics with religion (a whole wall was dedicated to the United Nations and its massive logo), but the architecture was breathtaking and the stained glass reminiscent of St. Chappelle in Paris--shamwow, man! Coit Tower yielded stunning views surrendered only after steep climb up a very tall urban hill. 31 percent road grades in this town are mind-boggling. Favorite was my fisheye composition laying on my back looking straight out the top of the tower.

1. Riding our bicycles across the Golden Gate Bridge. This one should be #1 with exclamation points. 8 miles to Sausalito (named after conservative Supreme Court Justice Sam Alito? Highly unlikely in Nancy Pelosi's backyard). So stunning. Magnifique. Just plain old cool. Fog bank rolled in and turned the red giant into a gaseous nebula of fuzzy mist shrouding a riveter's dream. Will never forget that experience as long as I live. New toll station assesses a $100 fine for anyone caught without a camera here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Circular Reasoning

I once read a photographer's book where he would teach his students to look only for a certain shape to photograph. Like squares, triangles, or even wavy lines. OR he would have them throw out a hula hoop and wherever it landed, they would have to make 25 compositions either of macro objects within the hoop or to shoot outwards without leaving the hoop. Really forced you to start looking for patterns and finding that same unnecessarily beautiful detail that also adorns places like the Grand Tetons or the Horsehead Nebula a few jillion light years away. So here is my fun attempt at a composition of circles I shot one morning near Boulder, Colorado. And I did decide to convert it to my Twitter home page, too, cause I liked it so much.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Like Sand Through the Hourglass...

Forgot all about this image--every so often I rummage through the archives of older projects and fun things I experimented with and say 'that was kind of cool--what was I thinking?' All I know is that this is called "Sand Mandarin Woman". It is the mandarin character for 'woman' and the pink striated backdrop that looks sort of like muscle tissue is beach sand from Sanibel Island, Florida. Let me know if you can see the lightning shape in the picture. Or the crab.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Every Day is Goggle Day

Forget ever trying to get Ellie's goggles off--she not only swims with them on, but loves to eat, play, take a bath and even sleep with them on. Can't believe this one started preschool last week. Hope her teachers don't mind the goggles! These aqua-tinted scenes put her underwater in our living room without having to build an indoor pool--always a $mart move in uncertain economic times.

Broker Headshots

We posted up broker headshots for the Colorado Group this week. Here is a link.

The architectural detail shots in the upper right corner of each page are ours, as well. Doing broker headshots does differ from environmental portraits. You get 2-3 minutes per person with the quick headshot. Environmentals usually run from 20-60 minutes and are much more creative and dynamic. But there is a place for each.