Playing Around with Silhouettes

I recently decided to try to experiment with some silhouettes since I’ve never really tried them (and the couple I have done have been a little spotty at best.) Below are the three that turned out the best; I also tried a book against a backdrop of lit-up pages (which sounds a lot cooler in theory than it actually ended up) but the text was a little odd looking, so I decided to leave it out.

The setup for these guys was a little unconventional, so I thought I’d touch on it briefly. I don’t have any studio lighting equipment, nor any kind of backdrops, so I had to improvise a little bit. I made a frame to hold the backdrops up out of two Costco boxes that I cut the bottoms out of and taped together (I had to have an empty frame to hang the backdrops from, or else any kind of holder would show up since the light would shine behind it and make it look like a silhouette itself.) The light comes from a desk lamp that I angled upwards and placed behind the frame with the backdrops in front of it.

For the backdrops, I used what I had on hand to get some different colors (all done in camera save minor adjustments in post-processing.) The first image of the apple actually uses Fuji and Granny Smith apples and oranges as the backdrop with light shining on them, which gave off a kind of orangey glow. The second and third are made using red and silver and blue and green tissue paper, respectively.

All-in-all, I feel the silhouettes turned out pretty decent for a first attempt; I do want to revisit my whole book concept (but I need to nail down a couple of the finer points first.)


Forgotten Buildings

I’ve seen these two buildings many times and have even photographed them before (quite a bit, actually.) I’ve been wanting to do an actual series of them for a while now, so yesterday I loaded up my camera gear and set about photographing them in all of their old rusty and grimy glory.

One of the classrooms still has its old room number on it: G2. The other one’s boarded-up windows and triple-locked door didn’t seem very welcoming. I don’t know the last time either of the rooms was used to house any students, though I think they’re currently used for storage of some kind because I have seen a janitor open them once or twice. It’s one of those things where I’d like to see what’s inside, but also don’t really want to for risk of inhaling a lifetime’s worth of dust and asbestos in just a few seconds. They’re textured and dirty and photogenic from the outside at least.

Around the two old classrooms is a chair graveyard of sorts where they dump all of the broken chairs, lockers, and other bits and pieces that are probably eventually slated to make their way to the dump but have yet to do so. The whole vibe is really cool (if you’re into photographing old, beat-up odds and ends) and despite frozen fingers due to the cold air I was able to get a series of the chairs lying around as well.

Most of the photos from both series were shot on a tripod, all with my 40mm lens and 5D Mark III. Post-processing done in Aperture, Lightroom, and for two of them Silver Efex Pro 2.

I’ll periodically check back and see if there are any new additions to the chair piles (or take some more photos once they really start to rust away.) Until next time.

More on Model Cars

This past week I shot another series of model cars, this time with the Cadillac (again), two Bel Airs, and an old Chevy truck. I used the same setup and lighting as I did to complete my last series and even re-shot the same picture to give myself a measuring stick to use when comparing my photos.

The setup

I stuck my Canon T3-i on a tripod and shot these photos with my 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. I decided to try tethered shooting this time, so I had the photos downloading into Aperture 3 as I went for quick adjustments and larger previews than I could get on my camera’s little screen. I also used the Triggertrap app on my phone as a shutter release (which is really awesome and something I recommend you check out.)

The background is just our pine table with some chairs placed behind it and the light came from a chandelier hanging above with a dimmer switch on it. It may not be the most technical studio setup, but it got the job done (I feel, at least) pretty nicely.

The old and the new

You can compare the link to my old post on the Cadillac Fleetwood to the re-shoot of the same photo below.

I always have to critique myself and this time is no exception. I’m torn on the new one, as I think the color is more accurate and the lighting a bit better, but the background is not quite as interesting (the old one had different shapes and colors and some more bokeh.)

The cars

This is one of the first times I’ve dual-edited photos in Lightroom as well as Aperture 3. Aperture is great for organizing and quick adjustments, while Lightroom I’ve found to be more of a powerhouse editor, though I’m not as fond of its organization. So, I used them together for this series, which I think turned out pretty decently.

Model cars have become one of my favorite things to photograph, so expect some more coming soon in the future.

Plates, bowls and others

I was looking around our kitchen and saw these sitting up in the cupboard, so I decided to photograph them in a spur-of-the-moment type surge of inspiration. What interested me about them is their lack of uniformity despite them being the same dishes, all made by the same manufacturer; some of them don’t quite nest right and each has its little differences in its shape. This isn’t a bad thing, though. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, as it gives them a really handmade feel (and creates some pretty neat lines as well). Another aspect I was going for was more subdued colors, nothing too vibrant and striking except for the light and shadow, which hopefully comes through in these.

Exploring Hawaii

A couple weeks ago, my family and I took a trip to Hawaii. We stayed in Mauna Loa on the Big Island for ten days and despite frequent beach going, we also went out on a couple of adventures to different places on the island.

Native to Hawaii

Since I’m from California, seeing all of the different plants in Hawaii was pretty awesome for me. Not to mention the little green geckos which were running all over the place constantly (the little guy above just sat on a wooden post and looked at me taking his picture.)

Pololu Valley Lookout

One of our other day trips was a hike down to a black sand beach at the end of the highway at Pololu Valley Lookout. The hike was a steep one but definitely worth the views you got along the way (and the awesome beach that was waiting at the bottom.) On the way back, we stopped for lunch a little joint called Minnie’s as per the recommendation of a local pineapple stand owner (where we bought the best pineapple we’ve ever had: a white pineapple grown right in his yard.)

Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park is really fascinating to walk through: it’s the remains of an ancient fishing village as well as the site of some beautiful scenery. There’s a path for you to follow with locations marked on a map, with everything from ancient houses to the games they played there.

Akaka Falls State Park

One of the most beautiful day trips we took was to Akaka Falls, a massive waterfall not too far away from Hilo. The whole park is pretty amazing, as there are a lot of smaller waterfalls and creeks as well, plus some pretty huge trees. There’s a little cement path winding through it (though it was lightly raining when we went, so the stairs were pretty slippery) that you can follow to hike through the park.

Since we were staying in the drier part of the island, the sudden change in scenery from dried lava rock to grassy farmland was made for some pretty awesome landscapes on the way there.

On the way back from Akaka Falls, we also stopped at Kolekole Park, which is pretty close by. They had this really awesome bridge there over a creek, as well as a neat waterfall and coastline as well.


Revisiting Hawaii now that I’m older (since the last time I went was when I was a little kid,) I really enjoyed being able to explore the island more than we previously had done. Until next time Hawaii.

Outdoors with the Petzval Lens

I backed Lomography’s Petzval lens on Kickstarter back when the campaign was running in August last year and a couple months later got the lens in the mail, which I immediately took out and played around with. I’ve used it multiple times since for its artsy effects and swirly bokeh, though it struck me I’ve yet to share my images from it. So, I grabbed my Petzval and my T3-i and headed outside for some nature shots and experimenting.

Exploring the outdoors

The Petzval is known for its swirly bokeh, which – despite being used largely for portraits – I’ve found to be awesome at nature shots.

Above are the final, edited versions from my Petzval excursion, though there are a couple I’d like to offer some more insight into.

A closer look at the bokeh

I’ve mentioned the infamous Petzval bokeh a couple times above, which you can kind of get an idea for by looking at the images of the ground cover and flat leaf Italian parsley (shown both above and below).

You’ll notice the blurring around the edges of the frame and the circular, swirly pattern of the bokeh (the little blurred dots) with a relatively sharp part of the image in the center. Both of these were shot using an ƒ/2.2 aperture, which helped to make the bokeh and blur even more pronounced.

Using the Petzval

The Petzval is pretty easy to use, though there are a couple modern lens features absent from it, and understandably so. The first would be the lack of autofocus and an image stabilizer, though this is to be expected firstly for the sake of its historical accuracy and secondly due to the fact that there are no camera-to-lens electrical connections on the lens mount.

The other caveat is that photos taken with the Petzval are missing aperture information from their metadata, as the camera doesn’t receive any aperture information from the lens (the aperture is set using drop-in plates). This also makes it a little tougher to use certain modes on the camera, though a little tinkering should be able to solve those problems.

Getting close up with the Petzval

I also decided to try using the Petzval for macro, which I was surprised to see turned out pretty good for the most part despite the blur of the lens.

I used the Petzal in conjunction with my set of Hoya close-up filters (I used the 4+ filter; luckily the thread size I had for my set happened to match that of the Petzal, 52mm) and two different apertures: ƒ/2.2 and ƒ/5.6.

While I was shooting using the filter, I noticed that at smaller apertures (like the ƒ/2.2) the images became increasingly fuzzy. You can see what I mean by looking at the two images of the same plant below, the first shot at ƒ/2.2 and the second shot at ƒ/5.6, taken directly as shot in-camera.

Excusing the slight difference in exposure, the difference in clarity is really noticeable. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though, since it can easily be overcome by using higher apertures. The blur can be used to create additional artsy effects as well, making for a very versatile lens and filter combo.

In fact, the lens is capable of picking up pretty great detail with the filter, as shown in the leaf below (the first straight from the camera, the second edited in Aperture 3).

Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the Petzval and its performance for macro, which is one of my favorite styles of shooting. If you’d like to pick up a Petzval and try it out for yourself, you can head over to Lomography’s online shop and snag one.

Time Lapsing

Those time-lapse videos of flowers blooming, waves changing, and sunsets coming and going have always seemed really cool to me. So, I decided to try a time-lapse video of my own, though since I didn’t quite have a beautiful expanse of beach with cresting waves handy, I made it of an ice cream cone, doing what an untouched ice cream cone does best: melting.

I shot the photos for this video using the Triggertrap to control my camera, with it taking a picture about every five seconds or so. Unfortunately, I thought that the ice cream would only take about five minutes to melt, but instead it took around twenty, so I had six-hundred photos of the ice cream cone melting, which was a bit excessive. So I used every fifth photo in the time-lapse, then batch processed them in Aperture 3 to keep the colors relatively consistent across frames.

All-in-all, I think it turned out alright, and I had a lot of fun doing it, too, so more time-lapses may be in the future. You can check out the video below (don’t worry, it’s a small file size, so even on mobile you should be alright.)