At the Workshop — Timing is Everything

Recently I taught a Horizon workshop in Chesapeake City, Maryland. The object of this particular workshop is to collectively undertake a photographic story of this charming little village at the midsection of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The town is filled with historic buildings – many restored to reflect their mid-1800 beginnings.  We had fine weather and were able to photograph a variety of subject matter.

During our first sessions, I tried to instill in the students how important it is to know how your camera operates so that it becomes second nature to you. Then you will be ready to take a good picture at a moment’s notice. I stressed that much of the photography we are enamored by happened in the blink of the eye  (or shutter, in our case).

On the way to Winbek Horse Farms, a trotter and pacer enterprise, we passed a large number of people working on a residence. Turning around, we found out that it was a “Christmas in April” event. We were happy to serendipitously come across “Christmas” and we all made some nice images of the scene (right).  Timing is everything

Once at the farm, we went out to the track to practice slow shutter speed shots of the horses training (panning). Suddenly two drivers (left) appeared on sulkies running their horses as if in an actual race.

Timing is everything

I was instructing the class in how to use a dedicated flash on the camera by lowering the exposure of the flash. One student was taking a portrait of a horse in its stall when a bird flew past the horse’s head (right). The flash froze the bird in mid-flight.  Photo by John Lauritsen              Timing is everything

On Sunday morning we were at the Bethel AME Church services in Chesapeake City. In order to keep the decorum in the church, we do not use flash, and only one student at a time is in the sanctuary. At one point, the Reverend asked everyone to join hands in prayer (left). Just one workshopper was in the church, and she was ready.
Photo by Esther Steffens

Timing is everything

Bobbie Burnett’s Angels

My latest assignment was to photograph Bobbie Burnett’s Angels. Her picture and the following explanation of her company are on the homepage of her website:

“The Caring Collection creates stained glass artwork to benefit cancer patients at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center in Baltimore, Maryland and the Anne Arundel Oncology Center in Annapolis, Maryland.  It is composed of a group of over 90 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds who create stained glass angels and sun catchers. To date, they have donated over $945,000 for specific equipment for patient care and research.”
Bobbie began to design stained glass angels in 1982. Now she is creating a book about her collection. At present there are over twenty past angels in the collection, however only a few are currently available for purchase.

Photography of glass objects presents a challenge and most of the issues center around reflections and specular highlights. The photographer wants to eliminate these, but the end result can be a very flat, uninteresting image.

So what to do? I generally place the object (angel) on a pedestal and go about controlling the light source. I build a background or “tent” to keep unwanted reflections at bay. Then I place a very large reflector (I use a folding one made by Lastolite) in front of the angel to use as a key light. I could use softboxes with flash, but I like to see how the actual light source is continually striking the object. I now have a flat-lit angel with no reflections. A black background eliminates reflections or other shapes that may appear in the transparent areas of the angel.

So far so good. Now, I add my own highlights to create my own rim lighting and specular highlights but only where I want them. I do this by using strings of white Christmas tree lights — moving them around until I get the effect I want. (See Setup Picture 1 above). I try a couple of different placements and shoot several bracketed frames of each. I also turn off the Christmas tree lights to give the client the flat light option. (See Angel with lights Picture 2, and Angel flat light Picture 3 left.)

Two of these images now grace note cards that The Caring Collection has for sale.

Experiment. Sometimes even an inanimate angel can bring surprises to your photography!