2011 in Photos

Happy New Year!  Thanks to everyone who read my blog, checked out my images, and especially those who offered words of encouragement throughout 2011.   It was a good year for me with photography.  It was my second year engaged in the art.  It was a year of discovery of new photographic styles, subjects, and post processing techniques.  I learned quite a few things and feel like I have made a lot of progress in figuring out my personal style.

I found myself doing less HDR images this past year.  There were a number of reasons for this.  With the limited time I have to pursue my interest in photography, I found that I much prefer getting out and shooting to spending time in front of the computer processing.  Not that I don't enjoy the creative aspects of image crafting in post production and the HDR technique - it's just that I spend a lot of time in front of computer screens at my day job so I try to limit my gazing at the backlit screen at home.  I also discovered that as I have learned more about image exposure I am often happy with a single exposure or maybe a subtle blending of a couple of exposures over a full tone mapped blend of numerous exposures.  HDR is a powerful and wonderful tool that I can pull out of my photography tool box when needed.  I think I've gained more wisdom the past year about when it should be used.  I've come to appreciate the use of shadows in images, purposely limiting the dynamic range for dramatic effect.

A big turning point for me in my post production work came through a workshop I attended early in 2011.  I attended a weekend course in dramatic post processing taught by David Nightingale.  His instruction completely changed the way I process my images.  I learned how to give a dramatic, yet "plausible" look to any image.  Through simple but powerful tools such as the Curves adjustment in Photoshop I have learned to add depth and contrast to images.  I find myself relying less on Photoshop plug-ins since taking David's course.  I also learned a great deal about composing for dramatic effect, which changed the way I capture my images.  David's workshop was money well spent!

In 2011 I was introduced to Strobist photography and working with models.  Perhaps more accurately, I was dragged into it!  Early in the year I had volunteered to be a photography coach for newbies on a photowalk hosted by Trey Ratcliff.  A local model, who goes by the name 8, was on had to pose for folks.  At the time, I had never shot a model and honestly didn't have much interest in doing so.  Along the walk, 8 repeatedly asked me to take her picture.  I pretty much blew her off!  Thankfully, 8 doesn't know how to take no for an answer.  I was finally persuaded to take a shot of her with another model and I really liked the image I captured.  8 and I later hooked up for a photo shoot after I acquired a meager set of flashes, stands, and umbrellas.  I learned quickly thanks to a gracious and patient model.  We did a lot of great shoots together throughout the year and I have since worked with a number of talented models.  I discovered that I most enjoy on-location shoots in an environment portrait style.

I did a lot of shooting with prime lenses the past year.  I challenged myself by leaving the zooms at home and often just walked around with a 50mm prime on my Canon 5D.  On model shoots, I shot with either the 50mm or a 100mm prime.  I often walked around with only my Fuji X100 (35mm equivalent prime.)  Using a fixed focal length lens has really helped me compose better and think more about how best to capture my subject.  I highly recommend you "limit" yourself like this from time to time.  It really makes you think and move around more.  The results can be wonderful.

Speaking of the X100, I have also come realize that I love the simplicity and easy carrying of such cameras.  As much as I love my DSLR, it is like a lead weight that I drag around sometimes.  I am becoming a big fan of small cameras.  I can carry the X100 daily without it feeling like a burden.  The image quality and dynamic range of the X100 and comparable cameras in its class are truly astonishing.  I have even taken the X100 out in a strobist kit that fits in a small messenger bag to shoot models.  I look forward to the continual improvements in technology that will make shooting with a small rig even better.

I learned that I really enjoy shooting at night.  This comes partly out of necessity since I work during the day.  However, I really enjoy capturing urban shots using available light.  Some of my favorite photo explorations have been walking around with a camera and tripod taking long exposure shots in the city.  I also stopped by a few carnivals during the year and got some great shots of lights in motion.  I really enjoy combining lights, color, and motion under a night sky, particularly in the early hours of dusk.

So, what are my plans for 2012?  I hope to do more model photography in creative environmental settings.  I'm toying with the idea of doing some commercial portraits on the side to help support my equipment and web hosting costs if nothing else.  I plan to do more urban landscape photography.  Additionally, I plan to get out of Austin more.  My work schedule doesn't afford much time off for travel but I do want to make it a point to get out and capture the world that I can access readily.  Specifically, I want to get out to some of the surrounding small towns in Texas and capture some of life beyond the city.

Have a great 2012, folks!  Please enjoy this video clip of the images I uploaded to Flickr in 2011 and stay tuned for what 2012 will bring.