Blue Hill Hearth, Blue Hill, ME

After picking up my girls from school, we went to the Blue Hill Hearth for an after school snack. The bakery is in back of North Light Books, and serves a great variety of delicious baked goods, as well as soup and pizza.

Blue Hill Hearth
Blue Hill Hearth, Blue Hill, ME

Today, Liz (on left) and Molly were working and kindly let me photograph them as they worked,

Cleaning up, Blue Hill Hearth
Liz (on left) and Molly cleaning up.

and even posed for a more serious shot ( :-)  )

Liz & Molly, Blue Hill Hearth
Liz & Molly, Blue Hill Hearth

Meanwhile, Eva (left) and Rose were engrossed in reading about Charlie Brown and Snoopy while grazing on a tasty muffin:

Dining at Blue Hill Hearth
Dining at Blue Hill Hearth, January 2011

White Balance in Architectural Photography

I just finished editing a set of architectural photographs for Steve Prescott of Fiddlehead Designs in Brunswick, Maine. This is a total kitchen redesign he recently finished for a client. Steve did all of the cherry cabinetry for this job, and he had custom glass created locally for the cabinet doors. It’s an impressive job, and anyone who has had any experience with woodworking will immediately notice the attention to detail from the matching of wood grain, to the extremely uniform reveals and excellent joinery.

Photographically, the job required an extremely stable tripod, as I wanted to show the kitchen in the lighting conditions actually present in the kitchen. I used the available light to photograph everything, and this meant at ISO 100, exposures of around 2 seconds at f/11.  The most challenging aspect (that threatened to take even more post processing time than I  wanted to spend) was the very blue (and very bright!) outdoor light streaming in through  the windows, while the indoor color temperature was due to the “warmer” tungsten lights (It drives the physicist part of my brain absolutely nuts to call blue light “cool” and red light “warm”—who came up with this?). The best way to have dealt with this would have been to have to drop the window shade, but that would have made my exposure times either very long or required me to go to higher ISOs than I like. So I used Photoshop CS5 to select the window area (and a few “cool” patches in the image) and applied a warming filter. Not perfect, but it made a marked improvement. Perhaps lowering the window shades would have been better? What would you do?

Lightroom 3, with its ability to correct for lens distortion and make manual adjustments made my 17-40 f4L lens into a pretty close approximation of a tilt-shift lens, and I could perform all these corrections on the raw images non-destructively. This is a completely fantastic feature, although it really seems to slow down processing of the images when this is enabled.

More images of this kitchen can be seen at this site.

Don’t buy cheap flash triggers!

2010 Mid Atlantic Planetarium Society, Portland, ME

Recently, I had to photograph the Mid Atlantic Planetarium Society meeting in Portland, ME. This relatively simple shoot turned into a very stressful project due to two factors.

First, (I’m not supposed to admit this sort of thing, right?) I totally forgot about the shoot until I received a friendly reminder via phone (thanks Jerry!) about an hour before the shoot—you can probably imagine the extreme embarassment and quick mixed-with-panic thinking that ensued.

So, down to my basement office, grab camera bag (always ready to go), light stand bag (ready to go with two shoot through umbrellas, and stands), tripod, and one other bag. I get in the car, and I’m thinking fast and furiously. Then, as I drive down to Portland, I go over a lighting plan; shoot down on the group, from a chair or a ladder, and use two speedlights to cross light the group. Simple.

Now the second stressful event.

I arrive at the conference, notice that there is a balcony from which I can shoot (no ladder needed, yeah), set up my light stands, and attach my radio triggers (Chinese Cactus V2s triggers). Test the triggering. NOTHING.
Okay, panic setting in. I just used these triggers and they were working fine. Battery problem? Ha, I always carry spares. Load up the new batteries…still nothing. Panic level increasing. Group portraits are stressful just like weddings—there are no retakes. Now I have to abandon my original plan. No radio triggers, what to do? The conference room is pretty dark and I don’t want to have to push my ISO up to 3200 if I can avoid it. Fortunately, I carry a 10 m off camera shoe cord, so I managed to light the entire group with a single 580EX II flash on a shoot through umbrella.

Amazingly, I think there is only one person mid-blink in this photo, and he’s wearing glasses, so the reflections mask the blink. A successful group photo.

So, my take on the Cactus V2s triggers. Don’t use them unless you buy a few extras to have on hand. When I arrived home, I sat down to see what the issue was, and was able to make only one receiver fire. The second seems dead for no apparent reason. Maybe I’ll have to finally invest in Pocket Wizards. Time to do some RF trigger research.

Oh, and make sure to add ALL my shoots to my iCalendar.