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Hope....

April 27, 2014 at a approximately 7:30pm, the small town of Villonia Arkansas was hit by an F4 tornado.  The sleepy bedroom town of 3800 was devastated.  16 people lost their lives and 90% of main street was destroyed.  I was visiting friends for the new year and asked if they would give me a tour of the devastation.  I was unprepared for the sheer devastation to this little town.  Entire neighborhoods gone.  Debris as far as you can see.  Trees ripped out of the ground or stripped bare,  Its one thing to look at images shot from the air to see the total devastation but when you get up close and personal you see the details.  I took this time to record my experience.  A neighborhood where nothing but a lone fire hydrant remains, a foundation but no home, a lone mailbox and a slab of concrete where someone's home once stood now a lone US flag hangs from a bent steel pole.  This was the second time this small town was hit in 3 years.  But there was hope.  Children have hand painted and placed all over Villonia over 700 colorful little wooden stars with words like Hope, Love and Smile.  If I had not shot anything but this little wooden star it would have been enough.  So while you pour through the negative posts on Facebook or listen to your friends whine about their college team losing, think about this small town and what they lost this year and how the littlest population sees the good in the bad.

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If it was good enough for Leonardo...

So a lot of you know my feeling about composition.  I have always felt the rule of thirds is a lazy way to compose.  Its very predictable and doesn't really challenge the photographer or illustrator.  So my method is to use the fibonacci spiral or the divine proportions.  It is more organic and creates a more pleasing composition.  It allows you to lead your viewer through the image.  After awhile of using it it will become second nature.  When you understand how the human eye views an image you can use the fibonacci to lead the eye through an image not just look at it.  Next post I will talk about what the eye looks for in an image and how I use it in my story telling.

Making lemonade...

Another Tutorial!! Hey just thought I would show you what 6hrs and a photo shot in not the ideal situation can be if you put enough effort and time into it. 
So at comic con the great Rayce Bird, winner of Scifi's Faceoff did a full head werewolf on Daniel Presedo from Adobe. I shot him with a Canon Eos 1Ds mark III, f2.8 at 1/80th sec with ASA of 1600. Now I know that based on my tutorial from yesterday this is not ideal but that is the point here. When your given lemons, well you get the point. My goal was to create an image that harkens back to the wolfman origins in tone and color using only what I had on hand. The masking was straight forward since I shot him against a gray pole it made it somewhat easier. I knew the hair would be the major challenge. I masked around the main body using a hard edge brush set to about 87% hardness then when I got to the head I used channels to mask the hair. After masking I removed the head so I could do some warping, liquifying and building. I wanted the expression to be more menacing and the ears pointed more. I then rebuilt the jaw and teeth and eyes then painted hair, lots of hair. I reshaped the body and enlarged the hands again to make it more menacing. A little perspective control to give him some motion toward camera and built a background of a dark forest. Lastly one thing that really makes images pop and appear real is to create atmospheric effects. Here I chose rain as a aid to push the story along. Having rain falling in front wont do it folks, you have to make him appear wet and dripping. So for those who think its just a photo mash, nope there is a fair amount of painting here. 
Those of you who have taken classes from me know my love of the divine proportions so I have included how it works here. Also the use of my cinematic storytelling and the use of what the human eye looks for in an image, using it to help tell the story in a single image. I hope you enjoy this piece. 
Whether your working in advertising, illustration, publishing or comics. These simple principles will help you tell a better story.

Shooting for compositing.

Ok folks Tutorial time!! 
So I just finished working with my friend and longtime collaborator Tim Bradstreet on a project and I was working with images that were shot by someone else. So I thought I would give some tips on shooting for images that will be used for compositing. First, don't use green or blue screen. For the most part these are used for motion only these days and unless your a portrait shooter and need to do background replacement in a specific software program then don't use them. One of the main reasons I don't is contamination. More specific is when you shoot on a green screen the green color will reflect back onto your subject and contaminate the subject. It simply adds more work for you and is just not necessary. I use either white or slate grey. these are neutral colors and will not contaminate. However white will affect your subject and your exposure slightly. Also using green screen requires you to light the background as evenly as possible so that when you do selections you don't have to select too many color variations.
Next, use the highest resolution camera you can. This will help when compositing into higher res backgrounds and it is much better to reduce than try to enlarge. 
ISO rating, use the lowest you can depending on your situation. Higher ISO ratings will add noise to the image. There are noise reduction techniques and plug ins but they only add another step to the process and when your in Photoshop time management and workflow should be managed carefully. Also shoot with a lens shade ALWAYS. It will help with stray light and reduce the possibility of flare. Use flags or cards to minimize the light hitting the camera when possible.
Lens selection. If your using a 35mm, 50mm lenses are considered considered normal. Anything below begins wide angle and longer will enter zoom and telephoto. When I shoot I always choose longer lenses. They will compress the background and subject. If you shoot wide angle or anything below 50mm you risk distorting your perspective and subject. Also if your background is not very wide it will make it appear smaller. Depth of field should be enough for the subject area and make sure your shutter speed is at least twice the focal length of the lens to stop any movement in the image when shooting in available light. Most cameras are sync'd at 1/250th for strobe. 
Next, camera angle and height. I shoot from about waist to mid chest for a normal portrait or fashion shot. If you are shooting from a standing position the subject wont appear very heroic. Keeping the camera waist level makes your subject whether fashion, portrait or advertising the most important thing in the image. If the image calls for the subject to appear not as important or very important then adjust accordingly. 
Exposure, make sure the exposure is clean. In other words, you have detail in your highlights and you can see into your shadows. You can always up the contrast and highlights but if they aren't there in the initial shot you will get poor results in post. Remember, get in CAMERA first not fix in post mentality will go a long way in making a better image.
Well that is enough for now, hope this helps with your projects.

San Diego

So while walking through Ruocco Park in San Diego I came across this guy screaming at the top of his lungs about lots of random things.  He was along the seawall throwing garbage up on the boardwalk.  Its really amazing how everyone except for this girl who was drawing and myself noticed or should I say stopped to notice.  Most folks just walked by ignoring him.  I think we took his power away when we acknowledged his high jinks....