Web Site: http://www.lemonsandbeans.com
Posts by Frank:
Sanlitun Yashow Clothing Market
A land of contrasts.
A great day walking around with my cousins and mom in the fascinating 798 Art District.
Get used to it kids, because that’s the developing world and the cost of the modern lifestyle. But, what do I know?
In late December I was asked by the Baton Rouge Foundation to shoot a short photographic essay about the recently initialed Baton Rouge Museum of Public Art. The shoot was to cover the prime mover behind the project, a local orthodontist named Kevin Harris, and the works he had helped to organize. The shoot spanned two days, both overcast. The lighting conditions allowed for slower (and in some cases HDR) exposures which resulted in pretty dramatic skies and bold colors without too much reflection or glare.
As usual, I was happy to be working for a great organization that gives me a lot of creative latitude. This is the result of that project as printed in the 1st quarter edition of their magazine Currents.
There are several mural project underway in Baton Rouge right now. The most ambitious and probably most well known of these is the Baton Rouge Walls Project, organized by Casey Philips. It is encouraging to see abandoned or underused wall space around downtown and Old South Baton Rouge being used for such a striking, public and adult venture. I don’t mean “adult” in any sort of bawdy sense but instead that we might be a little short of public projects for grown ups. People will spend until they are rubbing wholes in their pockets for children’s actives (which is wonderful, but not the sole focus of such activities), so it is nice to see some inspired individuals acknowledging that it is okay to spend money on aesthetic objects in the public sphere that can be enjoyed by someone of voting age.
More than satisfying my own desires to see art in unusual places, these project’s displays, in monumental proportion, that sometimes a multi-story brick wall is more than a stiff structure to keep the weather out. It demonstrates that the world is our palette. And demonstrating that is no easy feat.
To insure that I don’t appear to take credit for someone else’s work, I should point out that I was not involved in the cover photo. It is included here for reference, I wish I knew who to credit for the work. If I do find out, then I will update it here.
All shots were taken with a Canon 5D MKIII through a Canon EF 20mm f/2.8 USM or the Lensbaby Edge 80.
Taking pictures of Leonela is easy because she is a pretty lady and effortlessly photogenic. Beating here at bocce is considerably more difficult, but it is doable. And for as easy as she is to photograph she is equally competitive. I have never been a very competitive person but I do take great pleasure in besting people who are. I know, it’s sick. I don’t really take any special joy in victory but watching a hyper-competitive person crumple into the frustrated submission of defeat gives this guy a big smile. I could go on about the unalloyed joy of beating Leonela at bocce, but why rub it in. That’s the great thing about highly competitive people, once you beat them, they continue to beat themselves up about. You really don’t have to do any work.
But enough about a friendly game of gloried lawn bowling. I wanted to again sing the praises of the Lensbaby Edge 80 optic. Being able to wildly (and sometimes unpredictably) manipulate the plane of focus from a simple depth of space, a set distance from the photographer, to a wedge of focus ricocheting around your field of view is lots of fun. Many portrait shooters like the way a long local length lens and shallow depth of field allow you to isolate and emphasize your subject. But, as I laid out in a post (complete with my awful drawings) a while ago, the Edge 80 lets you emphasize that same subject in three dimensions instead of two. It really can make for pretty dramatic portraits. Now, I am not claiming to have mastered this tricky lens, but I like what I have gotten so far.
Below are a few other portraits I took with the Edge 80. One is of my exceedingly lovely friend Megan Bernard (who is also effortlessly photogenic and, I suspect, also highly competitive) and the other is of a scientist in his lab that was taken for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s quarterly publication Currents. That issue is out so I feel comfortable sharing it here.
I have been on board then Lensbaby train since all you could get were 50mm permutations on a selective focus lens. They were (and continue to be) a lot of fun. Those 50mm optics made a lot of my shots from Nicaragua. But, with the addition of the considerably more robust (in terms of both built and versatility) Sweet 35, Edge 80 and Fisheye optics, Lensbaby has produced a formidable lens lineup that can enliven any photographers appointed tasks. I suppose that an argument could be made that most of the effects that these optics create could be done in post, but it is so much more fun and rewarding to achieve them in camera. Now, I am not Lensbaby pitchman and they don’t pay me to say nice things about them, although they did cut me a deal on replacing my Lensbaby Composer and Double Glass optic when they were stollen, along with my original 5D, in Mexico a few years back. Their good customer service only reinforced my positive view of the company, it didn’t bribe me into shilling for them. So, take me at my word. If you can get your hands on one, you will have a blast and your clients (the more adventurous ones anyway) will thank you for it. I never head out to a shoot without the Composer and a few optics in my bag.
I am flattered, overwhelmed even, by the outpouring of affection for this photo. I had decided once I finished playing with it and getting it in just the shape I wanted that I would only print 15 copies of this rice field and storm. I often put a limit on the number of prints I will make of a certain shot. Sometimes I don’t put a limit on print runs, but for photographs that really express a time and place in just the way that I want them to and also seem like something worth adding a certain level of significance to, then I only make a few.
Often it takes months or even years to sell all the prints in a limited run. So, I am deeply appreciative of the faith that I take from my friends and acquaintances who have bought a print of this scene. I posted it on a popular social networking site (ummm… Facebook) a little over a week ago and once you take out the one copy I am keeping for myself, there is just one copy that isn’t spoken for. I can’t fully express how much this means to me. It’s just plain flattering, unexpected and an incredibly meaningful endorsement. So, thank everybody. It means a lot.
I took this shot when I was driving back from a day that involved a tour of a third generation rice mill and some time spent in the fields of a fourth generation rice farmer. I was still on the Louisiana back-country roads, making my way back to the interstate for a two and a half hour drive home, when I noticed that a storm was rolling in from the Gulf. The leading edge of the storm drew a dark diagonal across the blue, fall horizon. I was struck by how profound the juxtaposition or light and dark, tranquility and hazard, were. I pulled my truck into the first turnrow I could find and set up my tripod.
I don’t shoot a lot of HDR photographs. They are not frequently called for in the work I do and, if I am honest with myself, the popularity and frequent abuse of the technique has always turned me off a little. But, there really is no way to show the full dynamic range of this high contrast scene without HDR. The way it appeared to the human eye just wasn’t easily translated into a single frame from a digital camera (film maybe but not the 5D MKIII I was packing that day). In spite of my reluctance to use HDR, I am glad I did in this instance. Very shortly after I took the three exposures (which, in total, added an additional 6 stops to the final product) the clean line of the storm front had blurred as the rain came. The shot was only possible for a brief moment and I was just lucky enough to notice and then pull over into a field where a well-used tractor sat idle, all metal and function, in contrast to the fluidity of nature and the fading verdancy of the field. I was just in the right place at the right time, but that expression never really tells the whole story. In order to take advantage of serendipity you have to know it when you see it and you also need to know how to employ whatever skills you have to truly make the most of a fortunate moment. Photograph is about capturing a sliver of time, at the right instant and in the right way, but there is no shortness of luck in that equation.
Anyway, I am glad so many people responded so positively to this image. Folks from all over the country have bought prints of this image and each one for their own special reason. Some recall similar scenes from childhood, others seemed moved my Louisiana’s natural, irrepressible beauty and still others seemed to just connect with it on a more difficult to articulate level. Generally, when I do a limited run of prints I like to only print them up in two, larger sizes and I felt that was particularly important in this case as the landscape format and sweeping scope of the shot pretty much demanded that it be printed big.
So, thanks again and feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how I got the shot or… if you happen to be interested in that one, last print.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I had a shoot yesterday for a commercial client. After I had gotten the images that they needed I slapped the Lensbaby Edge 80 on my camera and parked the subject (named Cortez) under the shade of some oak trees. Lensbaby optics tend to lend a dreamy, surreal look to any subject and a young boy with a bunch of balloons seemed like just the sort of thing that would benefit from the Lensbaby treatment. There isn’t a lot to say other than that except that the weather in Louisiana has been amazing the past few days and I was grateful to have something to shoot in the crisp Fall air.
Obviously, I can’t post the “keeper” images that the client needed but it is great when a contract shoot also affords you the chance to play around and get some images you want for your own portfolio. The angle of the sun was throwing all kinds of lens flares around and even making some diamond patterns on the balloons. I couldn’t have asked for a better lighting situation and after some adjustments in Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4, I ended up with some shots that I am very happy to have. So, thanks Cortez and thanks to Caroline for helping me out on the shoot and thanks to the Louisiana atmospheric gods for finally giving us a break from the heat and humidity.
A few days ago, my father and I (and the dog) went camping in the San Juan Mountains of south-western Colorado. We pitched camp in a north-facing alpine glen at about 11,500 feet. Now, I have been to higher places in Peru, Tibet and elsewhere but by the next morning my head was pounding with the beginnings of altitude sickness. But, such is the fate of people who make their home at 43 feet above sea-level. And, I just had to descend about 5,000 feet to start to feel better again. All complaining aside, it was a great night in the mountains.
The primarily goal of the sojourn was to find a spot with a south-facing mountainside so I could shoot some long-exposure, star trail shots. In the end, I am really pleased with how they came out. We got cold, we almost skittered over a mountain slope, we drank a little bourbon (really, not the source of the headache).
At some point, I am going to rework this shot with Canon DPP to do some RAW fine adjustments, but Aperture’s RAW converter seems to have done a decent job. Of course, the low humidity and cold temperatures (as well as almost no light pollution) helped a great deal. But, this has all been a learning experience. In the past. I have always shots my night work with either a Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 or a Canon EF 28mm f/1.8. This time I was trying out some new gear, namely the Canon 5D MKIII and the much maligned Canon EF 20mm f/2.8. The 20mm might not be as sharp as the 28mm but it is no slouch at f/4.
I’ve been out in the mountain-West for a little over a week now and was able to make a side trip over to Canyonlands National Park for more camping and more night photography. I’ll post those shots later. In the meantime, here is a list of gear I used to get these shots (not all of it was used for each shot):
Here is some information about star trail techniques, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Here is another version of the star trails shot that was run through DPP before processing in Aperture and Nik Color Efex Pro 4. Thoughts?
Writing articles, editing photos, prepping for a camping trip in the beautiful town of Ouray. Hope to get some good night shots in Yankee Boy Basin this evening before a front rolls in. Enjoying a latte at the Backstreet Bistro. This is fine part country.
The air was hot and thick as I set up my camera at the foot of a turnrow somewhere north of Lake Bruin. It was hot enough to bring on a full sweat even though I was standing motionless in the dusty, rutted path. Mosquitoes filled the air, but in the distance, lighting rioted across the sky, strobes behind the clouds that made ramparts out of the rushing thunderheads. The lightning storm was at least fifteen miles off and no rain fell on the cotton fields I was positioned among. It was a great show.
But, rather than wax descriptive about the weather I’ll just say that it was spectacular, if you could forget about the bugs. For those interested in the photographic details, I primarily used a Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 USM but also got a few shots with my Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L USM. It took a while for the lenses and camera body (a 5D MKII) to warm up and cease fogging, but once it was all situated, I took 30 second exposures at ISO 800 (with long exposure noise reduction enabled). The lenses were initially set at f/8 but I dropped the aperture to f/5.6 in order to gather more ambient light from the half moon. The whole set-up was trigger by an AOE Lightning Strike II. The shots were taken RAW then processed through Aperture, Nik Color Efex Pro 4 and Nik Dfine 2 to remove the noise.
We started early this morning, my mother and aunt waking up around 5:30 and me dragging myself awake around 7:30. Out here on Lake Bruin, in rural Tensas Parish, there is not much to do except enjoy the isolation and scenery. But what little there is to do in the way of organized activity happens early during the weekends.
My mother needed to get a flat tire repaired. I had swapped it for a narrow spare in the gravel parking lot of one of the few local restaurants the previous night. As she headed off to get it tended to at the local farmer’s co-op, my aunt Anne and I went into the parish seat of Saint Joe. Our destination was the small farmer’s market at the end of Main Street, tucked up against the levee. There were no more than 10 or 12 people selling items ranging from tamales to wooden bowls and homemade squash pickles. It may be the parish seat but there is not much left to Saint Joe. Just a few, half filled brick building that used to be banks or dry-goods stores and some newer buildings housing, among other things, the closest grocery store. We were there for a few staple items, fleshed out with the diverse selection of pickles from Enola Farms I had gotten at the market.
In all, it was a busy morning in an otherwise sleepy place. Our morning chores attended to, I went for a drive to try to get some photos. The lush green leaves cotton looked healthy in the fields, the corn dried on its long stalks and languid tributaries that once connected Lake Bruin to the Mississippi were choked with turtles, white egrets and cypress. All in all it was just another morning in the country. But, that is why I love to come up here. Each day can seem a lot like the last but the quiet and the natural, alluvial beauty of the place never fails to put my mind at ease. So, these are the photos I have so far. If the skies clear tonight I may try to get some shots of the Milky Way, but we have a few more, much anticipated, guests arriving this afternoon and who knows where the slow country days will take us when they arrive. I hope you are all enjoying your weekend and taking full advantage of all that our wide and elegant world has to offer.