“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus
Working with the unpredictable light on a recent assignment to produce scenics and a cover for the Glastobury Book made for quick adaptations to changing conditions. Even when it clouded over as in the sunflower shot, which was selected for the cover, the softness of the light was an advantage to a scene that could have been otherwise too contrasty.
The young girl harvesting tomatoes was photographed with that unflattering harsh sun, but a quick a solution was to have her turn so she would have soft shadowed light on her face, and the colorful toolshed made for a nice backdrop.
The image of the historic Glastonbury to Rocky Hill ferry making its last run for the day was shot into the sun which made for a fine balance to hold details in the shadows which were brought back with some additional post processing.
Photographers continually strive to be neutral, as in neutral gray. Despite the fact that we often purposely shift and enhance colors, this is often done in post processing, but it is always helpful to start with correct neutral tones.
In the studio, when photographing products on a white or black background or all the gray shades in between, it is critical that not only the product’s color is accurate, but in addition, it is equally important that the background is also perfectly neutral. We often shoot on laminates because of its durability and texture but often finding the the right neutral tone has always been problematic.
When looking into purchasing some new laminate backgrounds, I came across a study done by Dan Kushel, professor at SUNY Buffalo State in New York, where he did some extensive calibrations of different Formica laminates and paints for the photographic lab renovations at the school, from which he narrowed down the ones with the best neutrality. In the studio, it is also ideal to have neutral walls to avoid color casts.
For paint, the best gray selections with different reflective values were Benjamin-Moore “Steel Wool”2121-20, “Sterling Silver “1461, and “Pelican Gray”1612. And for Formica, “Mouse”928-58, “Fog”961-50, and “Folkstone”927-58. The two page PDF with the data and recommendations can be downloaded here. And if you are also looking for a gray card to balance out your images, next time you’re at Home Depot or Lowe’s, pick up free sample of Wilsonart’s laminate gray “D-90”, that will also work just fine and save you a few bucks.
Every January, Boston builds an ice rink for a few weeks in the midfield at Fenway Park to host a series of skating and hockey events with college teams throughout New England in what is called “Frozen Fenway”. This year, I covered Hartford’s Trinity College Bantams hockey team playing the Williams College Ephs. In case you are wondering, a Bantam is a small variety of chicken (or rooster) and the “Ephs” (pronounced “eefs”) are named after the college’s founder, Ephraim Williams. Their mascot is a purple cow.
Conditions at game time were brutal. It was 10 degrees with windchill factors of 10 to 15 below. It was so cold, pucks were cracking in half and the player’s water bottles froze instantly. I worried about how the camera and batteries would hold out but there were no issues, attaching a foot warmer heating pad to the bottom of the camera must’ve helped. I dressed warm enough with plenty of layers but the hands are always problematic. It’s impossible to wear heavy gloves and operate the knobs and controls on the cameras. Keeping a few hand warmers in my pockets barely provided relief.
Hockey, even in a heated arena, always have been one of the most challenging sports to shoot due to its fast pace and limited vantage points around the plastic barriers, while at all times trying to stay clear of puck projectiles and hurling bodies. Fortunately, current camera and lens technology have made following the action a lot easier under the bright stadium lights.
Despite the bitter cold, it was neat to experience the fabled venue from unique vantage points and be able to visit the (wonderfully heated) exclusive skyboxes and club areas with lots of memorabilia and great sports photography everywhere. At least in hockey they have three periods which allowed for two thawing out breaks, then it was back to the boys of winter, certainly different than the summer ones.