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What Successful People Do On the Weekends

Mid-December paddle in the snow and ice of Hemlock Lake

Before I worked as a full-time professional photographer and opened my studio, I worked as a part-time photographer, and devoted most weeknights and many hours of the weekend on my part-time profession. My weekday hours were filled with my duties as an environmental scientist (12 yrs.) or software quality manager/engineer (12 yrs.), which were my two careers in Corporate USA.  My fellow photographers were never surprised to get e-mails from me at 2am from my home studio, then followed up by at 7:30am e-mail from my corporate job.

Three years ago when I left Corporate USA, I would spend all day in my studio, then continued to devote my evenings and weekends to my fledgling full-time business, which consumed sometimes 20 hours a day.  After one year of that I knew I needed to avoid getting burned out, so I carved out more time for my pleasure activities, which included biking, kayaking, golf, socializing, and...gasp...even napping in my hammock.

This Forbes article expands on the things that successful people do on the weekends:



Drew - Fairport HS Senior Portraits, Class of 2014

 Drew comes from a family of soccer players.  He has three younger brothers and they all play, sometimes totally 11-12 games a week for the family.  Knowing how important it is, and knowing how good of a player Drew is, I had planned something special for him.  Little did I know it would be over so quickly.

When I apporached Drew with the idea of capturing him doing a scissor kick, he said, "Sure, let's do it!"
But wait a minute, Drew, it's not going to be that easy.  Or is it?  I set up two studio lights: one a White Lightning 1600 in an Apollo soft box to camera right, to light up his left side; and a Quantum T2 flash to camera left to light up his right side.  I positioned myself where I would get him in mid-air against the stadium seats and press box, with the two lighting standards in view.  His mother tossed the ball in mid air, and he executed the most perfect scissor kick.  Well, I have to assume it was perfect, because when I pressed the shutter button, the camera's mirror flipped up at precisely the exact time he was kicking the ball, thus blocking my view through the viewfinder.

When I looked at the image immediately afterwards on the camera's LCD, I couldn't beleive that it all came together on the first take: great lighting, excellent jump, great timing, and a perfect look on his face.  One take.  One take and move on.

Drew has a huge collection of sneakers and cleats, because he doesn't seem to grow out of any of them any more.  I thought a photo of him laying in a pile of foot ware would be a uniquely colorful image.

Drew was the first tennis player I had the opportunity to photograph after conceiving the idea for this photo. I dusted the back half of a tennis ball with baby powder, then had him launch it with a forehand.  The powder had to be lit from behind in order for it to stand out from the black background, so I placed two studio lights left and right behind him to light up the dust cloud.  A gridded flash was used to light his face to show the detail.



Jenn - Fairport HS Senior Portraits, Class of 2014

Jenn is the other half of the Crater twins, a lacrosse-playing brother and sister from Fairport.  During her consultation she described herself as funny, easy-going, and athletic, and I found her to be exactly that.  Her mother described her as being shy and quiet, so I wanted to show that with the following photo of her in the spotlight on the studio floor. Jenn is a goalie on the girls' lacrosse team, so we had to make sure we took the time to include that in her session.



Sarah - Fairport HS Senior Portraits - Class of 2014

All I knew of Sarah before she walked into the studio was that she played 2nd base on Fairport’s varsity softball team.  We had that in common, as I played 2nd base for many years.  By the time her session was done, we had more in common, as we both loved her photos.

Sarah has a fun and outgoing personality, but is also a very energetic, focused and driven athlete.  During the early part of her session, she flashed a nice, easy smile while in the studio, and jumped around energetically while outside.  Near the end of her session, once she put her softball and basketball uniforms on, the session changed and the more focused side of her personality came out, even proudly showing some of the bruises badges of courage on her legs..  She even let me spray her face down with water for several shots at the end, showing a focused, sweaty and driven athlete.



David - Fairport HS Senior Portraits - Class of 2014

David is one of the studio's ambassadors from Fairport High School for the Class of 2014 and plays on the varsity soccer and baseball teams.  He was photographed in early April, at the beginning of the baseball season, so we decided to concentrate on that for the sports portion of this session and save the soccer photos until we could get outside during the summer months.

There must have been some real magic in the sweet, left-handed swing I captured in the lead photo, because David was in the position to win the Section V baseball title in the bottom of the last inning, and stroked a clean single to drive in the winning run from third base, setting off a riotous celebration. Ever the non-selfish player, he deflected all the praise and instead was happy that the team won it for a great class of outgoing seniors, including three that came through the studio last year for senior portraits.  Further prof that kids that come to Luke Photography for senior portraits go on to do big things.

...yeah, like "I" had anything to do with that....



Sports Team Portraits a Different Way

Field hockey team that was composited from 26 individual photos of the individual athletes

Luke Photography has been working with the booster clubs at the local high school do create unique and interesting team and individual portraits of the high school athletes. Sports are really a big part of Fairport High School's environment, and they really were interested in something different than the tried-and-true standard athletic photos that most teams get.

Lighting set up:
Overhead beauty dish, two gridded soft boxes
left and right behind the subject, and an umbrella
on the background

After arranging for use of the school's cafeteria, I set up my mobile studio using a four light setup and grey paper background.  The main light on the subject is an overhead strobe in a 24 inch beauty dish, which gives off a soft but edgy light that I love for athletic portraits. There are two strobes placed diagonally behind the subject that are outfitted with medium-sized gridded soft boxes. These lights provide nice separation light behind the subject, and are usually placed to match the digital that I plan on putting behind the subjects. Finally, there is a strobe that is bounced out of an umbrella that lights up the background.

The Fairport Modified girls' softball team ready
for their Hollywood close-up.

Raw image

The raw image out of the camera looks like this. A quick pass of retouching is usually done on the face, if there are any blemishes or shadows that can easily be taken care of.

Background stripped out

I usually Topaz Remask, a Photoshop plug-in, to strip out the subject from the background.  Each player can be done in 8-10 seconds.

New background image inserted behind subject

A new digital background is placed behind the subject. I create many of my own urban backgrounds (e.g parking garages, industrial buildings, etc.), but these stadium backgrounds were purchased from StreetscapeBackgrounds.

Raw image

To create the composited team  portrait, I photograph each player facing directly towards the camera, then at a 45-degree angle to the right, then to the left. Using Adobe Lightroom to filter through the images, I pick the best image of each player, trying to get equal numbers of "lefts" and "rights", and several facing directly at the camera.

Background stripped out

Using Topaz Remask, the subject is stripped out of the background.

Using Adobe Photoshop, each player is placed into the image, row-by-row to create a pleasing arrangement.  There are multiple blank layers that are added above and below each player's layer on which I brush in shadows, which would occur naturally if the team was actually photographed all together. These shadows make all the difference in the image, and although time consuming, turns this from a run-of-the-mill fake image into one where most of the parents can't believe the athletes were not all photographed together. 

When complete, there are often 45-50 layers in the Photoshop file: one for each player, at least one shadow layer per player, and several other shadow layers where their feet are touching the ground. In the photo above, several players were wearing flip flops or were in stocking feet, so the team name banner covers up the bare feet of the front row players that could not be hidden in the back row.

Everyone is still smiling when they're done.

The JV hockey team shown below was one of the first teams that I created this way.  The individual player's photos again were close ups of their faces in front of a really nice rink background.  When the hockey parents show the team photos around, I soon had baseball, field hockey, softball, football, boy's lacrosse and girl's volleyball teams on board.  

Many people ask me why I photograph team portraits this way, because it is much more a time investment than just lining a team up and photographing them all together.  First and foremost, it allows me to get great, consistent light on each and every player's face.  This is not always easy to do in a large group.  The accent lights that appear on each player's face helps define it and delineate it from the players behind them.  There is no way this accent light would get onto the player's faces at the center of the group if they were all photographed together simultaneously.  The second reason is that it looks different. Being different gets you noticed.  Executing this different vision on a consistent basis keeps you moving forward, onward and upward.

One of the first team composites that I created.
Once other teams caught wind of this , they were lining up to take part



Corteney - Fairport HS - Senior Portraits

I love photographing the contrast of warm and cool colors together, as shown here by the warm reddish orange of Corteney's dress and the cool blue of the worn denim jacket, then the warn rusty tones of the hand-painted background.  Corteney was the first to be photographed against this background, and it looks like it was made just for her. 

Corteney brought this leather jacket all the way from Spain, and we made sure that it played a prominent part during her session.  The rich carmel color of the jacket was really enhanced by the color of her blonde hair, and was made all that mofe saturated by the cool mottled greens of the background.

The thin stripes in Corteney's top play well against the geometric grey shapes of the background, another favorite in the studio.  Her face and hair are really prominent against the cool grey tones behind her.

This is a perfect pose and color combination for Corteney.

Although basketball is her favorite sport, the lighting in this soccer photo shows off her eyes and creates wonderful drama and impact, especially against the dark background.



Ashley - Fairport HS Senior portraits

Ashley is the 3rd model representative from Fairport's Class of 2014 to have her senior portraits taken at Luke Photography.  She plays basketball almost year-round and is a starter on Fairport's varsity basketball team.  She is tall and statuesque and looks as much like a model as any athlete I've had come through the studio.  Although she was getting over a cold and didn't feel well, she certainly gave all her energy during the 3-hour session, then has to turn around that evening and go to work.

I really love it when people bring in their own ideas for their portraits, and Ashley did not let me down.  She had seen this idea of writing her graduation year on the bottom of her flip flops, so that it would show up correctly when her feet were crossed while lying on her didn't just happen that way....there is actually quite a bit of planning to make sure it looked right.

Ashley's royal blue prom dress really made her stand out against the new high-key set wall in the studio.  We made sure her pose showed off the leg slit and the peek-a-boo cutout in her dress.  Very stylish and chic without showing too much.

For this image, Ashley was posed outside along the canal.  For all the photographers out there, here is the geeky part: the camera was set to tungsten white balance, which produces a blue color cast over everything when photographed outdoors during the day.  Orange filters were placed over the two flashes in the soft box which she is looking towards, which corrected the light on her face and skin, rendering it a neutral tone.  This trick is used to create impact lighting out in daylight.

Depending on what color the subject is wearing, different colors pop out from this background.  Ashley's fuschia top made the pinks in this background really stand out, but nothing stands out more than Ashley, who looked fantastic all day, and was so comfortable in front of the camera.



McKenzie - Fairport HS Senior Portraits

McKenzie is one of five model representatives from Fairport High School that are getting the word out on the street about the unique senior portraits done at Luke Photography.  She is very outgoing and we certainly had alot of laughs during her session.  We even took advantage of a fairly warm and sunny early April day to venture outside and photograph around the Village of Fairport.



Olivia - Fairport HS Senior Portraits

Olivia was the first of this year's model reps. in the studio for the upcoming HS Senior portrait season.  While I had alot of high school athletes come through the doors of the studio last year, I wanted everyone to know that there are many more looks that can come out of the studio.  This is why I requested that Olivia be one of the studio's representatives this year.

Olivia was equally comfortable posing as beautiful model with big expressive eyes, as a lively and active teenager, or acting a little goofy when her sister and boyfriend joined in the session.  She has an infectious laugh, and shared it quite often as we had fun throughout the whole session.




Photographing Beer

I recently started photographing various trademark beers for Fairport Brewing Company, a local microbrewery.  Although all the foods and beverages that you see in magazine and television advertisements look deliciously steamy hot or refreshingly cold, nothing could be further from the truth.  There is an art to making month-old, cold hamburgers look lip-smackingly good.  And in this post, I’ll show you what makes you want to dive into room temperature, flat beer.

With the exception of some English beers that are preferable served less than cold, most beer is served cold, so that is what advertisers want you to see and crave.  But again, what you see is rarely what it really is.

“Hero” Shot

Frosted with aerosol deoderant

To get this photo of one of this brewery’s IPA’s, I started with one of their signature logo glasses.  To make the beer seem like it sitting in a frosty glass, I masked off the very top of the glass with a piece of paper, then lightly sprayed the rest of the glass with the cheapest aerosol deodorant that I could find at my local supermarket.  You really want to “cheap out” here, because the more expensive brands go on clear, and you want the frost.  A side benefit is that the studio smelled spring fresh after each and every spray.
Glycerine and water

Next step is to spray the frosted area of the glass with a 50/50 water and glycerine mix.  You can find glycerine in your local pharmacy…it’s in the “constipation” aisle…so don’t spend a lot of time there browsing.

The glass is then placed in the lighting set-up, which included one overhead light in a gridded soft box and two side lights, each in a gridded strip box.  These side lights were placed slightly behind the glass to add to the rim light effect of the glass and show off the water droplets.

Cardboard reflector
The trouble with this lighting set-up is that there is not a lot of light going through the glass, and not matter what kind of beer you are photographing, it’s going to look dark and cloudy…and very unappetizing.  The trick is to take a cardboard cutout similar to the shape of the glass and angle it directly behind the glass, so that it won’t show from the camera’s angle.  This cardboard will reflect the light from the overhead soft box, and send it shooting through the glass, instantly elevating the status of the beer from dark and cloudy to refreshingly delicious.  Hard to remember that it’s still warm and flat.  And speaking of flat, when you are ready to photograph the beer, drop some salt in the glass.  This will produce bubbles and bring back the head of the beer.
Hero shot lighting setup

As an alternative to shooting against a dark background, I also replaced the dark background with a large soft box, and adjusted the light in it to give me a nice white background.  This produces a lot of light coming through the beer and avoids the dark, cloudy look altogether.

“Pour" Shot

I took an empty beer bottle (I had several to choose from at home) and using a glass cutter purchased from my local big box hardware store, cut off the bottom of the bottle and sanded the edges to they were smooth and would not cut my tender fingers..  I then clamped the bottomless bottle of beer…which is the ultimate fantasy….to a light stand.  Doing this allowed me to place the glass and the bottle in exactly the same position for each and every shot, and I simply just pour a cup of beer into the open part of the bottle while firing the camera. 

The logo on the glass did not show up well against the dark background in the first several shots, so I added a small snooted flash directed at the background, directly behind where the logo would appear in the photo.

Again, flat beer works best in this kind of photo.  Otherwise, all you’ll be taking a photograph of is foam on the bottom of the glass, which is less tasty than the amber-colored goodness of grain,  hops and yeast.



Curling is "Chess on Ice"

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
Stones in the house

The Rochester Curling Club held a free hands-on curling demonstration at the Fairport Junction ice rink in the Village of Fairport over the weekend.  I’ll admit, I’ve been intrigued by the sport…often referred to “chess on ice”…after watching it on the Olympics three years ago.  “Just how hard can it be?

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
I remember watching players sliding the stone down the ice, their teammates furiously sweeping the ice with brooms in front of the gliding stone, until the stone came to rest in a colored circle, closer to the center than the opponent’s stones.  Little did I know that what I was really was watching was a dramatic bonspiel with the lead delivering a 42 lb. stone on keen ice to the house, chipping the guards, not wanting to be a biter, but using the skip’s broom to land the shot rock on the button.  Whew…. 

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
A young fan concentrating on his delivery

The Rochester Curling Club started at RIT in 1961, eventually moving to its own facility in 1966 at 71 Deep Rock Road, Rochester. NY.  Members range in age from 5 to 85, and include members of the US National Team.  Much like golf, it’s easy to learn, but is difficult to master.  Having played golf, I can attest to that.

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
Each curling stone weighs 42 lbs., and the handle is used to give the stone a rotation as it is delivered down the ice, "curling" it into position

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
The Greatful Dead have 'deadheads", the Green Bay Packers have "cheese heads"...are curling fans called "stoneheads"?

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
A hogged rock that didn't make it to the house

Luke Photography - Rochester Curling Club in Fairport
The outdoor ice rink at the Fairport Junction parking lot in the Village of Fairport.