I went out last night to take pictures of the fireworks going off in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, it was raining earlier in the evening, and I think that discouraged some people from bringing out their fireworks. Several of the locations I usually hit were totally dead.

To make matters worse, fog rolled in last night. That’s a problem, because rather than hitting the official scheduled shows, I try to find groups of residents just having fun with their own (illegal) fireworks. My approach is just to drive around the neighborhood looking for people setting off interesting stuff in alleys, parks, and school yards.

With all the fog out there, however, I couldn’t see more than maybe 500 feet. That doesn’t affect people’s views of their own fireworks, but it made it hard for me to spot them from a distance and drive over.

There were, however, almost endless opportunities to get shots like this:

I posted a few more of them here. Try the slideshow.

Well, I’m finished postprocessing the photos I took of Jennifer on Wednesday, and I think the photoshoot was a success. They’re not all beautiful, and they’re not as good as I’d like them to be, but I took them my way. This is the first step toward taking the kinds of photos I’d like to take.

Some of them are just pretty-girl shots in an urban environment, like the headshot at the top, with its bricks-and-mortar background, or the beach-style backlighting above, with a shiny sea of afternoon traffic filling in for the glittering water.

Most glamour photography is either lit evenly so you can see the model, or lit only from one side, so parts of the model are hidden in her own shadow. In street photography, as in the shot above, the shadows are cast by the environment.

Finally, here’s one of my favorites, complete with urban texture and odd shadows:

If you’d like to see more, visit the photo gallery, and click the “Slideshow” button in the upper right to see a slideshow of all 13 images in high-resolution.

I just took a quick look at the photos from Tuesday’s model shoot. As with the other three model shoots I’ve done, my initial impression doesn’t make me happy. It turns out that I took exactly 200 photos, and most of them aren’t very good.

The first time that happened, it was horrifying: All that time and effort and I got nothing. All those shots I had high hopes for turned out to be disasters. (This time, at least, I’m not letting the model down because she got paid. I don’t owe her anything for her portfolio.)

When I relax a bit and look at the photos with with fewer preconceptions, I start to notice that some of them are actually pretty decent. And as I get better with Photoshop, I begin to spot images that can be fixed with some image adjustments, or that will look better if subject to radical manipulation.

I’m starting to realize that this is part of the learning process. First I have to take the pictures and see what works. Next time around, I’ll know what works and I can spend more time refining those concepts.

Of course, picking out images after the fact that can be made to look good in Photoshop isn’t really skilled photography. The real goal here is to be able to envision the completed image, then plan the shoot, take the pictures, and post-process the images in photoshop to get the same image I had in my head.

[Update: I snipped out a few paragraphs here because they’ll work better in my next post.]

I figured I’d post a couple of images this time.

That’s a composition similar to real street photography. I could easily have taken it of a random woman in the street instead of a hired model. In an ideal shot, there’d be something a lot more interesting than a city bus, maybe people arguing or a street vendor or just an odd composition of passers-by.

In this case, I did get what I wanted before going into Photoshop. The base image has lots of high-contrasts and the right composition. I then used Photoshop to deepen the contrast, darken the dark areas a bit more, and saturate the colors a bit. Then I applied a grain filter to make the image look like I used high-speed film.

(The only real surprise in this shot was how the “Senior Citizens” sign stood out. It was even more glaring than you see here, but I knocked it down in postprocessing. I think it must have a retroreflective coating that bounced my flash back real strong.)

The next photo is probably the most model-shot-like photo I took all day. My direction to Jennifer was “Do some of that model stuff.”

Note the harsh and sometimes ugly shadows. That was intentional because I’m not going for glamour here, but I have to admit it’s not quite what I want either.

I’ll have to see what else I can find.

It’s been a while since I did any photoblogging—just posting a photo for no reason other than to look at a photo. I was up in Milwaukee a couple of weeks ago, so here’s a photo I took of the Midwest Airlines Center.

Midwest Airlines Center
Larger ImageMidwest Airlines Center

I spent most of last week doing stuff for my paying job, and I thought it might be interesting to blog about that. I was planning a series of posts on the wonders of the X12 Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) guideline for the Benefit Enrollment and Maintenance (834) transaction required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) act of 1996. The main standard document is 228 pages, but I figure I could boil it down into a series of five posts of about 2000 words each.

At the last minute, however, I realized you all might be more interested in seeing a few photos from last Sunday’s model shoot instead.

I took a couple of pictures in and around the hotel where we stayed:

Hotel Atrium
Larger ImageHotel Atrium
U.S. Cellular Arena
Larger ImageU.S. Cellular Arena
Grand Avenue Mall
Larger ImageGrand Avenue Mall

Somehow, I don’t think the Grand Avenue Mall is the most fun place in Milwaukee for teens to hang out. I think it was this huge list of Stuff You Can’t Do that clued me in:

Mall Etiquette
Larger ImageMall Etiquette

Here’s a close-up of the rules:

Prohibited Activities
Larger ImageProhibited Activities

Apparently, I am in violation of Rule 17:

These activities are PROHIBITED on The Shops of Grand Avenue property:

17.  Taking unauthorized photographs of The Shops of Grand Avenue, storefronts or other areas and events.

What can I say? I’m a rebel.

Blogging was a bit slow last week because my wife was on vacation and we were out doing stuff together. For a couple of years running, we’ve gone to the Bead&Button Show in Milwaukee. The deal is, she has fun at the convention, while I try to get some interesting pictures. Last year, I posted pictures of some of the sights along the way.

This year, I have a few shots from the convention, starting with this coiled-copper tarantula from Pattern Perfect.

Coiled-Copper Tarantula
Larger ImageCoiled-Copper Tarantula

I don’t know much about beads, but I liked the bright cheerful look of these beads from Karen Moyer Glass.

I know that when the beads are complicated and artistic, like those above, the artists are concerned about people poaching their designs, so I ask permission before taking any pictures.

However, when the booth has hundreds of thousands of beads on display, like the Jane’s Fiber and Beads display at the top or like India Gems below, I don’t usually bother to get permission, because where’s the intellectual property in a big pile of beads, right?

India Gems
Larger ImageIndia Gems

Or so you’d think. Yet when I took the picture below, the booth operator came up to me and told me he doesn’t allow pictures of his booth. I chuckled, because I thought he was kidding—a few hundred vials of seed beads aren’t exactly a trade secret—but he told me he was serious.

Seed Beads
Larger ImageSeed Beads

I just walked away from him, because there was no point in arguing, but I was on pretty firm legal ground. It may be his booth, but whether I can take pictures of it is not up to him, it’s up to the show organizers. In this particular case, the show doesn’t have a photo policy, so once I bought a ticket, I could take pictures of whatever I wanted.

Even though I don’t need permission, I’ll usually ask anyway if I think the booth operator might be worried about theft of intellectual property, but it never occurred to me to ask permission to photograph these rows of seed beads. I mean, they’re just millions of tiny little colored beads. What secret could he have thought I’d be stealing by photographing them?