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Playing with Portraits

Memoirs of a Band Geek

I took a Photoshop course this past Monday that taught me a lot about RAW workflow, tone and color correction, and retouching techniques. I thought I knew a lot about Photoshop, but the instructor showed me many great techniques to put more “pop” in my pictures. Ben Willmore was a great instructor and I’d highly recommend him to anyone who wants to see how curves in Photoshop is truly used.

The picture of Jenni was originally shot as a test portrait at my workplace. I’m in charge of doing employee portraits next week, so Jenni was helpful (as always) and picked up some backdrops for me. We tested a green, blue, and black. I couldn’t help but snap a half-portrait with the black since it looked so dramatic. And the end result? An interesting but not terribly useful pseudo-spoof on the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha.

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Fingers in the Grass

Jennilyn's DressI remember seeing this dress from Jennilyn’s senior portraits where she leaned on a tree with her blue eyes looking intently into the lens. She chose the dress because it was her grandmother’s and she wanted to preserve it in a photograph.

As I took photos of Jennilyn in her grandmother’s dress, I was waiting for my camera’s buffer to emptywhen I looked up and saw her sweep her hand across the grass. It reminded me of simple mannerisms that I’ve enjoyed about Jennilyn—that, and she’s full of grace.

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Monochrome Flowers

Black and White FlowersWe had the opportunity to photograph a wedding a few weeks back, and when Jennilyn did post-processing to the photos, I was struck by the elegance and simplicity of black and white. As she changed some of the photographs to black and white, they transformed from an “okay” photo to a great picture.

Experimenting with the monochrome theme, I took a few photos of flowers and changed them to black and white. I chose a specific color to filter for— generally a red color, so that the reds will become whites. I also boosted the shadows so that the only flower is visible and the background disappears to darkness.

Most of the flowers in the pictures are tulips outside my workplace. I waited until the rain stopped for a moment and captured the raindrops on the petals. Sunlight peeked through the clouds gave good lighting for my transition to black and white.

The rose in the collage was taken on my apartment dinner table. I included it because it was the first flower I used the aforementioned technique. The difference is that I blurred the edge of the pedals.

See the full gallery »

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Patterns in Pictures

PatternsOne of the fun things to inspire creativity is to come up with a theme for routine tasks. I’ve read from a variety of sources that photographers spice things up by setting up a theme on a photo hunt. I believe there are times for freeform and exploration, but a theme can give a purpose rather than aimless shooting.

The weather was fairly nice in Beaverton in the afternoon, so Jenni and I took a light stroll near the Beaverton library with cameras in hand. While she was getting better acquainted with my digital rebel, I took the opportunity to photograph some patterns around me.

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Chinese New Year Performances

Two girls performing routine

My parents, Jenni, and I visited the Portland Convention Center to see the festivities for Chinese New Year. There were many performances with children, musicians, and martial arts experts. The children were amusing and entertaining as they performed routines in colorful costumes. The musicians played traditional Chinese instruments like the two-string cello instrument, Chinese zither, and mandolins. I enjoyed the martial arts toward the end because they were impressively fast and the weapons they showcased looked dangerous to wield.

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Sophia the Kitten

Sophia nappingOur friend Leah recently adopted two new kittens to her household and they’re incredibly fiesty. Here, in this rare moment, Sophia is tired from entertaining guests, and nods off softly for the camera.

I got a few more pictures of Sophia napping, posing, and playing around—even in my shoes.

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170th and Elmonica

Waiting at the MAX stationThere are mornings where I drag myself to get to work, knowing I have a 25 minute walk to the MAX station. Although I know that the exercise is great to wake me up and maintain my health, sometimes it’s still a chore. Especially when it’s cold and rainy.

However, when it’s foggy, I enjoy looking around because it’s a whole new world. I’m only aware of my environment to a certain distance then it blends into a solid gray. At 170th and Elmonica, where the closest MAX (Portland’s mass transit) station is, I took out my camera to capture some of the foggy elements. I’ve often looked down the distance of the tracks and enjoyed the lines.

When I saw the stop sign, rather than reading it literally as a caution to watch out for the train when crossing tracks, I was reminded that in life, to stop and smell the roses on occasion.

And as life would have it sometimes, when you’re waiting for your train, it seems like the train going the opposite way comes frequently. Until you’re waiting for that train then the other train comes more often.

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Elsie Macaroni

Elsie eating her macaroniMy boss at work has an adorable little girl who’s about to turn one. She’s recently started to walk and she’s fun to watch. She’s not people shy and gets excited easily. It’ll be great fun when she starts to talk.

On two occasions, Jenni has gotten the opportunity to babysit Elsie while her mom and dad had a meeting. Jenni and Elsie would hang out at the Vernier Gym at my workplace, playing with pilates balls, basketballs, and her own stroller. In this picture, she was enjoying her macaroni. I like this picture because it captures her heightened awareness of the world around her.

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Trouble Comes in Colors

Colorful water balloonsAt Beaverton Foursquare’s “Neighborhood Nights” picnic, the biggest entertainment on a hot summer’s evening was naturally a water fight. It was entertaining to see some church leaders play around, soaking each other with water guns and water balloons. The kids there loved it. As I watched the kids fill up water balloons, I couldn’t help but be attracted to the vivid colors.

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Jenni’s Red Shoes

Jenni's Red ShoesI smile when I see Jenni wear her red tennis shoes. Not only is red my favorite color, but they’re vivid and eye-catching. When I’m doing photography, it always seems that the red shoes are photogenic.

The top picture was taken in her brother Rex’s apartment after we finished taking our “Save the Day” pictures for our wedding.

Next, in her wedding dress at our reception, she had the red shoes on because they were more comfortable to walk in, but no one knew because her dress flowed over them. Regardless, she wasn’t ashamed to show them to the wedding photographer.

At the Portland zoo for my company picnic, I asked her to get into the photo booth so I could get a picture of her shoes. I think throughout this blog I’ll have a random post about her red shoes from time to time.

The bottom picture was at Long Beach when we visited Oysterville. I liked the story of the picture, it’s like watching a close one leaving you behind and moving on.

Stay tuned… the red shoes will be back!