black and white

Black and White With The Fuji X100f (Photos) and Nikon D600 (Video)

If you have spent any time looking at my work you know I enjoy shooting portraits. You may have also noticed that I often process my photos in black and white. It’s typically not something that I elect to do on purpose the photos just end up that way. In the case of my most recent shoot with Haven Hudson I ended up making the entire section black and white.

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Why Make Photos Black and White?

The most common reason that I choose to make photos black and white is because they were shot in low light. Because I’m compensating with a higher ISO and to a lesser extent larger Apertures the photos I shoot in low light tend to have a shallow depth of field along with a noticeable amount of “noise” (Grain, Static, artifacts and discoloration). While noise is a common byproduct of increasing the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor it is typically something many photographers would like to avoid. It’s why camera manufactures will invest a respectable amount of research and development into getting cameras to shoot at higher ISOs with less Noise. However even the best cameras shooting at 6400 ISO are going to show some noise but that doesn’t mean an image is ruined.

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In my opinion a humble amount of noise can give photos a film like quality. In an era where Photoshop can polish an image down to the point where it looks more like a life like painting it can be a bit refreshing to keep some of the old rough edges to images as opposed to scrubbing the photos of their soul and leaving them as nothing more than images. The issue is though is that Digital Noise isn’t film grain. It has completely different qualities, the most significant being the way it effects color tones; They can become muddy and difficult to grade colors the way you want. It is especially difficult when it comes to skin tone which tend to be a pain in the ass to change anyways. However if you are okay with less color and a bit of grain you can get some very vintage/filmic looking images.

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This is what makes black and white such an effective method of editing. You’re not worried about what the colors look like you’re more focused on what your exposure, Contrast, whites, blacks, shadows and highlights are doing without having to stress about color balance or saturation as well.

Technical justifications aside the main reason to process in black and white is purely a aesthetic choice. I have always loved the way black and white photography looks especially when it comes to my more candid and improvisational photography. I like having photos that look like you could find them in the attic of you grandparents house and it’s a big reason I frequently order 4×6 prints on some of my favorite photos. One day someone is going to be going through my old stuff and that photos I have taken throughout my life.

Shooting with the Fuji X100f.

cr-35The Fuji X100f is a relatively new addition to my camera bag. I have had it for the last 6 months and in my time shooting with it there are some certain qualities that I have grown to appreciate and other that I have learned to loath and this Black and White series is a good illustrations of the good the bad and the ugly when it

comes to this camera.

The Good:

The image quality off the sensor of this camera is excellent. I have grown so spoiled by shooting with a full frame Nikon DSLR that I have grown pessimistic when it comes to smaller sensors but the APS-C sized chip on the X100f Renders details and colors so well that in the right lighting conditions you would think that you were shooting with a full 35mm sensor.
cr-32I personally believe the sensor benefits from having a well paired lens attached to the front of it. The 23mm f2 lens that is fixed on the Fuji is roughly a 35mm equivalent on the APS-C Sensor and the combination of the f2 wide open aperture and being fixed focal length allows for very precise rendering that takes some very breathtaking images.

The final thing that I love about the camera is how fast it is. The auto focus, the shutter response (along with being incredibly quite) allows me to shoot very quickly and the responsiveness of the camera to my adjustments happen at such a pace that I can focus on shooting more than constantly making minor adjustments.

The Bad:

The X100f is not well suited for portraits, Not going to lie about that. While I am super pleased with the image quality coming out of the camera there are some things that makes it hard to get portraits to look the way portraits to should look (at least for my personal prefrence.

cr-2 Because the lens is a 23mm it has a lot of the qualities and drawbacks of a wide angle lens. Noticeable distortion, the bokeh (blurred Background) never quite gets the subject isolation you want and getting the right composition  becomes a bit more of a challenge.

Most of these things can be overcome with some editing. Adobe Lightroom (Which I almost exclusively edit with)  has profile corrections built right in for this camera and the you can add more blur the background if you’re into that kind of thing but ideally you want to minimized editing by getting as much in camera as I can and having my processing for implementing the style I want. Not so much for fixing issues.

The Ugly:

The high ISO performance on this camera is sketchy at best. The noise after 3200 ISO is Pretty noticeable but the thing that I constantly notice is how muddy the mid-tones become as you raise the sensitivity.  It is especially rough on the color quality. after 1600 ISO the color starts to fall apart on the RAW files to the point that you almost feel like you have to go to black and white which I why I elected to edit all of these photos in black and white. I’ve noticed in time that people are really committed to color photography and I will often deliver black and white photos and have people ask me to convert them back to color. So for me I’m okay with living with a camera I know I’m going to get some color issues but I think there a lot of photographers and clients out there who color quality is non-negotiable.

Video in Black and White:

I want to get back to shooting video more often. Typically I don’t mix a lot of my video work with my portrait work but it has been something that I have wanted to do. After Editing the whole set in Black and White I decided I wanted the video I captured to match.

I shot the Video on my Nikon D600 with the Nikon 24-120 f4g lens. This Camera is a bit on the old side when it comes to video performance. It shoots at 1080p at 30fps (I shoot in 24fps) on a H.264 codec which is respectable but there are a lot of 4k 60fps options hitting the market with better codecs and more video centric features. But the footage from the 35mm sensor looks great and 1080p is still respectable in the online space. (But I still am tempted to upgrade.) The real drawback of doing video on this camera is the focus. The back screen makes it really hard to tell when things are in focus and nikon photography lenses really aren’t suited for manual focusing. Another thing that some of the more latest and greatest cameras have are better video auto focus features that the D600 just doesn’t have. All complaints aside, the best camera is the one you have on you and the D600 has been a work horse since I bought it and part of working in the creative space is being able to work within the limitations of your equipment and to a greater extent yourself to realize your creative vision.

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I was actually really happy with how the video came out but I do want to improve a few things going forward. First I need to get a better stabilization setup. Not necessarily something fancy like a DJI RONIN or a Glide Cam but possibly a shoulder rig to give me more steady movements going forward. Also I need to get back on my music game because it’s very hard to get quality music that you can use in videos. Luckily Brain Altano has encouraged people to use the music he is now making for his new creative project Weird Heat on their own projects so I have decided to take advantage of his generosity.

The Set:

I feel fortunate to have been able to shoot with how busy I have been lately but I’m finding it important to continue with my own creative endeavors. A lot of what my day (and night) job have me do is beneficial to my professional growth, but being able to do things like this black and white series makes me feel like still have the ability to flex my creative muscles.

Getting back into the swing of Modeling with Crystal Sedillo

Sometimes we get away from doing certain hobbies or activities for one reason or another. Heavy work scheduled, lack of motivation/inspiration and sometimes just lack of opportunity all contribute to this. In Crystal Sedillo’s case having a Kid is a pretty legit excuse to getting away from modeling for a little while. I’ve known Crystal for years now and her husband Orlando has done a lot of my tattoo work so when she wanted to get back into modeling I reached out to help get her back into the swing of it. Crystal brings with her a list of Features that compliment my style of photography specifically her tattoo work and her Alt Model Style. Those things works well with the way I like to process my photos, especially the way I use contrast and colors it allow all of her tattoos to really pop. Over all I really loved this shoot and I hope that  I get to work with Crystal again on something a bit more high concept in the future.

Desert Darlings Belly Dance Take On Nightmare Before Christmas: Performance Shooting.

Shooting performances is one of the biggest challenges any photographer has to face. Low light, moving subjects, limited mobility to adjust your shooting angles. Everything is against you and it is probably the best opportunity  to test your skills as a photographer. The stage is set for the viewing experience, not to be convenient for photography. Lights are dim and jelled heavily and  you’re shooting  from where ever you can be out ever you can be out of the performers and audiences way (if you’re a polite photographer.) Over coming these challenges takes know how, creativity and a little luck. All these things come together to put together wonderful images.

All of this was on display for the Desert Darlings Belly Dance performance of Nightmare Before Christmas. While the Performance was amazing the conditions for shooting were less than desirable. I would have to move between scenes, Bump my ISO, stay close to wide open on my aperture and just hope I can pull what I wanted out of the Raws. Over all I’m happy with the images that I got. and even more pleased with being able to capture a wonderful performance

Behind The Scenes: Desert Darlings Belly Dance Take on Nightmare Before Christmas

My favorite way to shoot is in a candid fashion and try to capture moment. Posed portraits are great, and performances are chaotic in some of the best ways but being able to capture the world around you in your own personal vision allows for some of the most striking visuals. Thankfully The Desert Darlings Belly Dance gave me the opportunity to do some Behind The Scenes Shots of them getting ready before their big Nightmare Before Christmas Show in  Santa Fe.

My Love Affair With Black and White Images. feat: Samantha Arellano

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I don’t always edit my images in black and white… but some times I just can’t help myself. I never go into a shoot automatically knowing what I’m going to do in post processing. But once I’m sitting down playing around in Lightroom, the decision comes down to feel. This is most defiantly the case of my most recent Cafe shoot with Samantha Arellano.

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When I make the decision to edit the images in black and white itnormally comes down to one question: is it working better than the color version? I have a particular style that involves having very detailed images with high levels of contrast. Some times this will results in vibrant colors but often they can also become very muddy. If I don’t feel like the image has good color I’ll switch it to black and white and a lot of the problems I was having will go away.

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Another reason I will switch to black and white is if I had to shoot at a high ISO. This wan’t so much the case in this photo shoot but often when I have to shoot in conditions where I need to be at something like 3200-6400 I’ll opt into black and white 99.99% percent of the time. This is mostly because when you shoot at the higher ISOs you start to introduce noise and the color detail begins to fall apart. When you’re in black and white that color detail is irrelevant and the noise begins to look more like film grain than it does digital artifacts.

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Another thing going to black and white helps with is removing distractions from the background. With on location shoots gaining control over a background is practically impossible. Busy color schemes, bright highlights and distracting elements all become less of an issue with black and white images, so it’s not hard for me to opt into a black and white photo.AJA_0066

Now black and white is clearly a style that is as old as photography itself and clearly can’t be considered original. A common thing I’ll hear from models after handing in images is that they’ll say “I love this photo, can get it in color.” It’s taken a while for me not to get offended by those kinds of statements but It’s a common thing for artist to hear people to ask for changes especially when they don’t understand reasoning behind your decisions.

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Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have both a color and black and white version everyone is allowed to have different taste when it comes to photos. If the job requires me to stay in color and forsake black and white images I will do so, and make the color work as best I can. However, if I get the option I’m going to go with the one I think works best. Black and white just worked better on this rounds of photos.

Get Your Geekon: Pinball, Beer and Charity

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If I recall correctly I believe I was alive at the tail end of the arcade generation. A time where you would exchange all of your allowance into quarters and play games while your parent were out doing whatever at the mall. I remember dumping a lot of those quarters into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game and Time  Crisis when I was a kid. While today arcades have become very obsolete with modern gaming platforms being the way they are there’s still something satisfying about setting up at a cabinet dumping all your quarters into it. That’s what made Get Your Geekon such a great event and you didn’t have to get a role of quarters.

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Geekon, the company hosting the event at Sister Bar in Down Town Albuquerque, specializes in restoring, repairing and selling these old arcade cabinets and pinball machines. The endevor started as a simple pet project of restoring an old Ms. Pacman machine and it turned into a business that they are able to operate from their own home. It could almost be described as inspiring.

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The event it’s self was put on to benefit Project Pinball which is a Charity group that raises money to put pinball machines in children’s hospitals. Proceeds from the event’s pinball and street fighter tournament went to Project Pinball as well as vendors that were selling prints and raffling off prizes.

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The best thing about Get you Geekon without a doubt was the people. Not just the patrons who came out for a drink and a round of pinball but everyone who came out to contribute; Jon Sakura of Gamers Anonymous came out with his usual classic and fun loving flair and the Girls of Geek also came to sell prints and mingle with the crowd. It was easy to feel in place when you have people who you’ve gotten to know over the years be present at these sorts of events and want to just help out with a good cause and friends.

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Daniel Reinhard. COO of Geekon LLC.