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.

Anyone Want a Neon Sign?

I detoured off I-70 last Sunday--too much traffic and needed a break from drive from Glenwood. Enroute to the Idaho Springs java place, I saw a vintage neon sign being torn down. I shot this sign last fall when it was still intact (first image). By the way, I love the richness and grunge texture encrusting these old neon signs, intact or lying forlorn across a soon-2-B-gentrified property. But the Peoriana Inn has seen better days and the sign out front sure could use a new home. It would be fun to have my own vintage neon sign retirement home be a great place for 'seasoned' signs to spend their final years in dignity? I know there is the neon sign graveyard just off the strip in Vegas, but there are so many other striking signs beyond the realm of the casino sign. Time to start getting land and a some sign inventory!

Senior Session with Casey

There really is a different feel to shooting senior portraits versus a wedding. With a bride and groom as a couple, I find it can be quite easy to put them at ease in front of the camera, as they have each other to play off of. But with a solitary portrait, especially high school seniors, it usually takes a little bit longer to break the ice and to get in the zone for being photographed. But the results are fun and very individualized, especially when you let them play! Casey is a pretty dedicated skateboard enthusiast, braving his share of broken bones yet not giving up one of his passions.

Peyton's First Day

Baby Peyton showed up for her first portrait session Friday morning. She was very prepared, looking cute and swaddled like a burrito, her skin perfect and not a hair out of place. For being just 4 hours old, she certainly has it all together! Catch the whole shoot here to see just how ridiculously good looking she is!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Urban Funk in a Corporate Portrait Session

Got to hang out and shoot a portrait session for an attorney friend recently. Jodi is a great lawyer starting up a new law firm in Denver and wanted to create something special and not so stuffy for her new corporate image. So we loaded up and took a few clothing changes down to Pearl Street in downtown Boulder, Colorado and made a whole new look for her. This is not the traditional feel of a conservative lawfirm. And I love it! My guess is her existing and future clients will love it, too. Bright colors, scratchy and rich urban grit come standard here...stuffiness and boring sold separately.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Collages and Clusters

I put this collage together from a collection we shot for a Boulder commercial real estate firm. The task was to photograph several architectural structures around the city and then create a display for their office lobby and hallways. We had previously done a collection of our landscape images, but the architectural images were to complement the natural scenes with some man-made vistas. If you are around The Colorado Group's offices on Iris and the Diagonal Highway in northeast Boulder, step in and check it out. And they rock in the commercial real estate market, too.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Love This One...

Short of shooting a wedding in the Himalayas, you won't find too many wedding venues straying from sea level as much as Ten Mile Station in Breckenridge, Colorado. Perched on the slopes of this stunning ski town at almost 11,000 feet above the ocean, bring extra oxygen bottles for your guests (and even the hired help!) But Colleen pulled this pose off in high style (and without supplemental oxygen), combining strength, beauty and fashion. Love the weighted hip that forms such an appealing S-curve and shows off the dress--FABULOUS!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wedding Testimonial from Camilla & Ryan

Thank you to Camilla and Ryan for their kind words about us. We had a fun day shooting their wedding in downtown Boulder. My favorite line is at the very end of their comments (an inside joke about liking us so much that they promise to use us for any future weddings of theirs! Here is what they had to say:

Ryan and I got married on 22nd May, and had our wedding reception on 23rd May 2009 in Boulder, Colorado. I knew that photos were one of the most important parts of the event, and I wanted to find a photographer I could trust. I have to admit that I was very nervous about the photos, and wanted them to be artistic and meaningful and reflect the beauty of the occasion.

I spoke to Marc on the phone and found him so easy to talk to, and when we met for coffee to discuss what we wanted he was just as laid back and enthusiastic about his job. You could tell that he loved being a photographer and took a great deal of pride in his work.

Marc used to coach Ryan's soccer team and had been a family friend more more years than Ryan could remember. I felt instantly very relaxed discussing this important occasion with Marc. He seems to grasp almost immediately what we wanted to capture from the photos and the style of the occasion. And he made the groom feel at ease when Ryan discussed sepia tones and black and white images.

Ryan and and I arrived early for a small private photo shoot before the reception began. I was so nervous when we arrived. I had never had a photo shoot or worked with a professional photographer like this. Never mind that Marc had suggested going down Pearl Street at one of the busiest times of the day, and in addition to that, it was the Boulder Creek Festival.
But as soon as Ryan and I saw Marc he made us feel instantly at ease. He was so excited about getting the right photos for us that it gave us the energy and confidence that we needed. Instead of being embarrassed and nervous about having out picture taken on a busy downtown street, with people watching, and sometimes cheering, we managed to get into the spirit of things and were grateful that the crowds were so happy for us. OK...I still felt a bit embarrassed, but I also enjoyed myself.

When we got back to the party everyone had arrived and Marc just went to work. He seemed to strike the right balance of natural photos with posed ones. He worked very well with both families; managing to get the photos that pleased them, as well as staying alert to what Ryan and I wanted.

Marc had to go away the next day to a family funeral and so I expected to get some of the photos the next week. But we got them on the Monday after the Saturday reception. When we looked at them we were transported back to that wonderful evening with our friends and family and the magic of celebrating our wedding with them. The quality of the photos was so good, and the composition excellent. But apart from that everyone looked like they were having so much fun and so at ease with Marc taking their photograph.

Marc was a joy to work with and one very talented photographer. When it comes to wedding photos I think that half of the battle is understanding what the bride and groom want out of the photos. And Marc did this effortlessly. Ryan and I have both agreed to hire Marc for our next weddings!

Photographers: How to Choose a Sunglasses Tint

After getting my eyes dilated during a routine eye exam yesterday, Paige Paddock, my eye doctor, gave me some good feedback about the benefits of which tint to choose for sunglasses. I needed to make a new pair, as my prescription just changed again. Another friendly reminder from the big guy upstairs that I will be turning 40 in a few weeks and that gravity sucks big time on all of our eyes. Enough to gradually cause my eyes to develop astigmatism, pulling my eyes out of visual alignment. Time to move to zero gravity--is there a cabin available on the promenade deck of the International Space Station? Might need it soon...
But here is what she had to say on which color tint to choose:

Gray and Gray-Green tints: The most common type of lens color. Transmits all colors evenly without changing value of color. Light enough not to impair vision, yet dark enough to provide overall protection from glare. Excellent for bright sunny days. Grey tint is best for bright light situations like water sports because it blocks out the brightest of the sun's rays.

Dark Amber or Brown lens tints: A warmer, slightly brighter lens than the gray. Especially good at blocking the blue light commonly found in diffused light such as one might experience on a cloudy day. Brown/Amber can improve both contrast and depth perception, reduce glare and is a good all-around choice if you live in an area with changeable weather patterns. Brown is great for applications where distances need to be constantly judged, like tennis or golf or skiing or other sports requiring acute visual perception and contrast differentiation. Brown is also best for lower light situations, like fishing in the late afternoon or early morning. Brownish tint lens helps highlight the different contrasts in green colors and enhance visual acuity on the golf course.

I would also add that polarized lenses are a major obstacle to professional photography. Any of you who have shot weddings or any portrait session outdoors on a sunny day while wearing polarized lenses know that you can not view your LCD on the back of your camera. So you have to go with your regular glasses and squint. For long bridal formals, eye strain gets to be a big problem. It is because the LCD screen is also polarized that when the 2 polarizations (glasses and the LCD) intersect, you won't see a thing on your LCD screen. So I will be switching to a tinted lens this time, most likely a brown/amber color.

Nikon/Canon: any new technology on the way that will improve the polarization on LCD screens so this won't be a problem in the future?

Touching the Pretty Stuff: Blue Lake

Did some experimenting with different post processing techniques. Cropping images into a medium format aspect ratio in a few of the landscape images with flowers in foreground. Playing with vintage styling, too. But that said, there was very little to do to improve upon what we had to work with up at Blue Lake this weekend. Ever notice that ringing in your ears from the overwhelming silence in the high country? If you have experienced this, you will know what I am talking about--a truly wonderful thing, full of peace. Then the sound of a distant waterfall ricocheting across thousand foot high walls of sheer granite. Tiny air bubbles trapped in the blue-green ice as a giant slab slowly makes its way to the east side of the lake. The piercing chirp of a marmot lazily checking us out from his perch 20 feet away. The melody of a peace-loving cluster of mosquitos as they gracefully whisper in my ear, drawing a bloodmeal from my neck. Aaaahhhh, the sounds of summer in the high country of Colorado!

See the images here:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

An Unnecessarily Beautiful World:: The Gallery

Get the flash player here:

Families, High School Seniors, Babies

Get the flash player here:

Corporate Portraits Gallery

Get the flash player here:

Wedding Gallery

Get the flash player here:

Top 4 Reasons to Shoot Formals Before Your Wedding

One of the biggest concerns brides have when planning out their wedding photography is should they shoot their formals before or after the ceremony. If they do it before, then won't it kill the excitement and surprise of seeing each other for the first time as the bride walks down the aisle? As a wedding photographer in Colorado, I don't believe the wisdom of the choice is strictly limited to one region or another. Here are my top 4 reasons I use to encourage my clients to get them done beforehand.

4. Don't Kill the Thrill! Seeing each other in a 'first sight session' won't ruin the experience when you actually walk down the aisle an hour later. Expressions on my groom's faces still show they are totally blown away when they see their bride at the ceremony for the first time.

3. Great Stress Buster. Clients have consistently told me getting to see each other, hold hands and embrace for 5-10 minutes in a completely private moment before doing formals helps them relax and be in the moment. Normally we will have the groom wait in a scenic and fairly private spot and then have the bride come out to him. No one is allowed out with them, except for me and my camera for just a couple of quick photographs. Then they get to be all alone amidst an otherwise whirlwind day. For them it is kind of like an oasis, a spa moment, if you will.

2. You Look Maaaahvelous! All that hard work spent in the salon doing hair and makeup can be lost if you just spent 45 minutes standing in the hot sun during your ceremony, emotions flowing. Shoot your formals beforehand and you will be at your absolute freshest, especially if you just had 5 relaxing minutes alone with your spouse-to-be!

1. Party Time! Best of all, when you walk back down the aisle in your first test of physical endurance with your newlywed spouse, you get to go straight to the party! No more keeping your guests waiting and you missing your own party that you worked so hard to plan. Need I say more?

Monday, June 08, 2009

Amazing Place, How Sweet the Sound...

With overcast skies and rain threatening, we decided to postpone an early morning family portrait session set for Chautauqua Park in Boulder. I went ahead to the park to just an hour later we were standing in the middle of the meadow making some gorgeous images. Draped in emerald, purple lupine and yellow penstemon leapt up and greeted us as we set out a picnic blanket. The clouds had burned off and stunning light crept in and painted the Flatirons something proud. Young Perry broke out the NY Times while Ainsley force-fed mom a croissant. Dad Peter and I discussed home in Australia and his work at NCAR as a climate scientist. It was a fine morning...

See the session slideshow here.

Browse and order prints and digital files here.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Ever Seen Boulder This Green?

Boulder is known for being green. Eco-types and greenbacks all flock here. Even March 17th each year brings out the world's shortest St. Patty's Day parade and the green beer flows something fierce. But every few years a wet springtime just might turn our beloved 25 square miles surrounded by reality into a patch of the Emerald Isle. This little one shows off his delight of all things green, taken just this day in front of the Flatirons. Top of the mornin' to ya!

We Boulder wedding photographers have such a gem right in our backyard!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

How to Kiss Your First Kiss

Okay, I'm not going to get too graphic here since I don't want screams of "too much information!" But I need to share some thoughts on the big first kiss when you are getting married.

1. Don't crane your neck. Cranes work great for constructing buildings, but not for first kisses. Lunging towards your soulmate while standing many feet apart does not result in the best kiss on film. Move close and then make it happen.

2. Take your time. One client of mine kissed their first kiss for precisely 2/10ths of a second. That makes it harder for us photographers to capture something good. You are not kissing your grandma here--no quick pecks on the cheek allowed. Think Wesley and Princess Buttercup--enjoy the moment and have fun. Kiss for at least 2-3 seconds. And try to count in your head (1-Mississippi, 2-Mississippi...) or you will ruin the kiss if you count out loud! But remember, though you are not doing a grandma kiss, she is probably sitting in the front row, so keep it PG-rated if you get my drift.

3. Take a dip. Guaranteed to win the crowd over every time. Talk about romance and true love. Might want to practice first. But the look of surprise on the bride's face during and after is priceless, so surprise her, too!

4. Get your limbs involved. Get creative here. Embrace. Put hands on his lapels, ladies. Or touch her face, guys. Throw an arm around their back and reel them in. Remember the key here is being natural, yet passionate. Might even get your legs in on the kiss, too, if you excel in the creativity department.

5. Don't rush into the kiss. Kind of restating #2, but don't feel like when your officiant says 'You may kiss the bride' that you have to leap towards her and start kissing instantly. Just like when there aren't 250 people staring at you, hooting and hollering, take your time and look at each other in the eyes for a moment. Remember why you are marrying this person. Flash back to when you first met or when you first laid eyes on each other and knew you would be married someday.

6. Kiss the first kiss, then go for two. Who says you have to kiss just once? One of the most exciting first kisses was actually two. They kissed a pretty passionate kiss. Pulled away and then went back in for more. Well done. And the crowd went wild!

Camilla & Ryan Get Hitched at Rembrandt Yard

This was the first wedding I shot for a former soccer player I used to coach. Granted Ryan was just 8 years old when I coached his Boulder Junior Soccer team back in the mid-80s. And Camilla grew up in England and is a big fan of Little Britain TV show. After promising to not get heat stroke at their wedding last weekend, we ended up having a great time over at Rembrandt Yard just off the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder (inside joke--you'll just have to hire me to shoot your next wedding to find out what that's all about!)

Watch the slideshow here to see what we did during the formals session before guests arrived. Got to love all the texture down on the alleyways off Pearl Street.

Go to the online gallery for the full event here.