Friday, March 30, 2012

"And Liberty For All"

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"And Liberty For All"
©David A. Ziser

You guessed it.  This image was made during our tour of the Capitol Building on Wednesday.  It was my first visit and I was impressed.  Heck, I even got a chance to catch a glimpse of Congresswoman, Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader, John Boehner. Like I said – right in the middle of it all ;~)

This image was made from the dead center of the rotunda.  I pointed my camera straight towards the dome 180 feet directly overhead, set my camera to HDR, and shot away. The result worked out quite well.  Notice that even with the use of the Fisheye lens there is no “give away” till you notice the curve of the framed paintings at the corner of the image.

I warmed the original image up in Lightroom 4 to give the image a softer feel but that was about the extent of my post processing.  Now do you want to hear the rest of the story.  If you look closely at the mural in the center of the dome, you can see George Washington holding court with heaven’s dignitaries.

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This mural is called the The Apotheosis of Washington. Brumidi, the painter, depicted George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame. A rainbow arches at his feet, and thirteen maidens symbolizing the original states flank the three central figures. The word "apotheosis" in the title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god, or the glorification of a person as an ideal. George Washington was honored as a national icon in the nineteenth century. Just thought you might like to know.

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with Canon 8-15mm Fisheye at 14mm, F6.3 @ 1/320 second, ISO 3200.  Enjoy!  -David

New DPT Blog Design; New Lighting Book; $50 B&H Gift Card; & New Italy Workshop Announced!

Good Afternoon Everybody,

New DPT Blog Layout!

How do you like the new DPT blog layout?  Let me know what you think of it and if you have additional suggestions, please let me hear your ideas. I've also removed Retweet button at the top right of each post. It was giving me problems so I just dropped it off the blog. Share Buttons. I added a new set of “SHARE” buttons at the end of each post. I'm going to run DigitalProTalk in this configuration for a few weeks just to see how it plays out from my posting standpoint.

The new layout has several benefits. One of the BIG benefits of the new format is the fact that I can post much larger size images.  You can also double-click on each image to see it in it’s full blown glory. Secondly, It also allows me to embed our Technique Tuesday videos at a 50% larger size as well – pretty cool!. And lastly, it’s easier to read – the background has been changed from black to dark gray.  I hope that’s easier on your eyes. 

I’ve actually gone back and updated all the posts for the last two weeks to accommodate the new layout – enjoy! Anyway, let me know what you think. I sure would appreciate your feedback.

My New Book Moves To The Front Burner! And I’m Giving Away A $50 Gift Card From B&H!

That’s right – I’m finally beginning my new book.  The title, as it stands for now, will be “Make Your Lighting Exciting!” and I’m stoked to get started on it! 

Here's a quick update as to what I plan to cover in my new book. I’m reposting my post from last year [link] which included lots of input and comments from my DPT readers. I’m opening the door one more time for you to have some input into the book project. I’ve got over 30 great suggestions so far on additional topics to include.  Why not add your ideas to the list. 

Let me show you what I've got so far.  Here is the super rough draft of ideas and it targets all photographers, not just wedding photographers.

Make Your Lighting Exciting:

0046-Kelby - Hope and Ben-IMG_8121- The characteristics of light

  • Small Light sources
  • Large Light sources
  • Hybrid light sources

- Do brands make a difference - Light is Light

- What kind of lighting and when to use it:

  • For brides
  • Larger groups
  • Character studies
  • Lighter skin vs. darker skin tones

- Why understand lighting ratios:

  • Contrast control
  • Specular vs. diffused highlights

Pretty In PinkIMG_9528-Edit- Make your lighting exciting:

  • Lighting for mood
  • Lighting for beauty
  • Lighting for dramatic effect

- The right lighting for your lens choice

  • Wide angle lens, what kind of light
  • Telephoto lens, what kind of light

Hot To TrotIMG_1830- Light sources

  • Shoe mount strobes
  • Off camera portable strobes
  • Studio lighting
  • Continuous output lights

- Using lighting to create shadows

  • Shadows for backgrounds
  • Shadows for dramatic effect
  • Shadows to hide defects
  • Shadows to create dimension
  • Shadows to flatter the subject

- Lighting gear that doesn't break the bank

- Easy lighting setups to get great results

- Reflectors made easy

0006- Perfect PortraitsIMG_2219- Telephoto reflectors, or how to really throw the light

- Everyday items that make creative light sources

- Creating your own lighting studio on a "shoestring budget"

OK, What do you think so far?  I'd like to hear from you, my DPT readers, with any additional ideas and topics you would like to see covered.

How About A $50 B&H Gift Certificate For Your Thoughts?

I'll tell you what I'll do.  Everyone who submits an idea or topic will be eligible to win a $50 Gift Certificate from B&H - how about that for a little incentive;~)

I can't wait to see what you come up with.  Please leave all your suggestions in the Comment section below with your name.  In a few weeks, I'll review the ideas to date and see what we've got and then select a winner. 

B&H Gift CardI want to rework the chapters and I should have the final outline ready in about a week or two. Writing the book is no easy chore but I'm really looking forward to it and planning to put together a publication that really does allow you to make your lighting exciting without going to great expense of having to buy the latest greatest, most expensive equipment.

As I progress on the book, I'll drop some excerpts into my daily posts here at Digital Pro Talk. I will always be open to your feedback and look forward to your suggestions, ideas and critiques.


Clay and I Announce Our Italy Master Class

Italy DAZ and Clay

Located in a castle in Tuscany Italy, this Masterclass is a photographer’s dream. Not only will you build your portfolio and sharpen your photography skills as you practice in one of the most scenic places in the world, but you’ll learn under the hands of two of the world’s most acclaimed portrait and wedding photographers.  Clay Blackmore and I are teaming up to bring you the best professional photography Masterclass since the Renaissance!  During the course of the week each student will learn from both instructors—giving you double the creativity and inspiration—and bringing your photography skills to a level you never dreamed of.

Italy• Price: $2,295 per person. Discounts are available for multiple people or for people sharing a room.  Prices start at just $500 additional for spouses/friends who aren’t attending the class.  Call for details.

• A private room on the Castle property for 7 nights is included with your Masterclass, checking in on Sunday September 30th and checking out on Sunday October 7th.  Several different room configurations are available at the satellite villas on the Castle grounds.

• The Castle is south of the Florence Airport (1½ hours drive along route E35/A1) near the town of Chiusi . Students are responsible for their airfare to Italy and their transportation to and from the Castle.  A car rental is recommended, however, Chiusi is well served by the train system and it may be possible to arrange for you to be picked up at the train station.

• There are 4 class days of instruction and we’ll be going from sunup to sundown and then some…be prepared for 12 hour days. The class days are Tuesday October 2nd through Friday October 5th.

• All meals are provided on the class days…and that includes wine, too!

Topics covered will be in-depth posing, lighting, and composition, specifically:

italy-cameraPosing: men, women, couples, and groups. Hand positions. Feet positions
Lighting: How to light men, women, couples and groups. All natural Lighting. Ultimate window-light portraits. Use of Reflectors. How to effectively add speed lights to any scene.
Composition: How to position the subject within the frame to create an impacting and meaningful photograph.

Equipment to bring: your camera, lenses, speed lights, reflector, and a laptop.

We just announced the Master Class and have several registered already. Clay and I are expecting the Masterclass to sell out quickly so don’t wait too long to reserve your seat in the class.  You can get all the info right here.


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  We’re gearing up for a big wedding tomorrow and I’ve got to get the cards cleared and the gear bag packed.  Everybody have a great weekend and I’ll see you on Monday, all the pixel’s willing.

See you then, David

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"And Justice For All"

Justice For All
"And Justice For All"
©David A. Ziser
I captured this image yesterday after our tour the the Capitol.  With the Supreme Court hearings wrapping their third day of testimonies, quite a crowd had gathered on the steps in front of the Supreme Court Building.  I just had to head that way and take some photographs.  Hey, I was a child of the sixties, been there, done that ;~)

I got some great images of the cameras, protestors, and curious on-lookers.  It was kind of cool to be in the mist of this historical moment.  The Washington, D.C. police were on hand to be sure order was served and the assembled crowd did seem calm enough.

I asked the police officer, who was quite a nice guy, if I could get his photograph in front of the court building and he gladly obliged. I made the image with my brand new Canon fisheye lens but with judicious pixel manipulation in Lightroom 4, was able to remove the curvature of the Fisheye lens and straighten most of the vertical distortion.

I still left a bit of the vertical distortion for the added effect for this image.  I see the officer in the foreground, the American flags flanking and framing the image, and the Supreme Court in the background against the rich blue sky as “standing tall” and assuring “Justice For All.”
Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark 3 fitted with Canon 8-15mm fisheye lens at 14mm, F16 @ 1/2000 second, ISO 800.  Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: So Have You Taken The First Step Yet?

Good Afternoon Everybody,

LaDawn and I are sitting on a Delta jet heading home from a great 7 day visit to Washington, D.C.  Photoshop World seems so long ago in the scheme of things but what a great experience it was.  We made some new friends along the way plus it was good to catch up with some old friends we only see a few times a year.  Like I said, that's one of the best reasons to show up in person at these conventions.

Cherry Blossom LDWe arrived late afternoon last Thursday with plans of the seeing the full bloom cherry blossoms that afternoon.  We made the decision to postpone that day's visit and needless to say the strong winds and rains that came by over the weekend pretty much wiped away the wonderful site by Tuesday when we finally had a day off.  LaDawn  found a few that she worked into a nice photograph or two.  Oh well, just another reason to return next year.

We really enjoyed our visit to the D.C. area.  As American history buffs Washington, D.C. can't be beat for a visit.  CamerasEver though the Congress is getting little accomplished this term and we have the Supreme Court debating the Heath Care bill, there is something exciting about being so close to the action.  Myself being a “Child of The Sixties”, I had to check out the action at the Supreme Court. LaDawn was rolling her eyeballs as I was mingling with the protesters and taking as many photographs as I could get away with.

I made a comment to David, our intern giving us the Capitol tour yesterday. I noted that in spite of the intransigence we see on Capitol Hill, there must be a certain thrill working as a Senator or Congressman in getting your bill passed or keeping another one from making it through. He agreed.


I think it's the thrill of the chase that drives some of our more productive and influential Congressmen and women.  I loved being in the middle of it all these last couple of days.

Anyway, sorry I digress.  Let's get back to business - Business Day Thursday, that is ;~)

So Have You Taken The First Step Yet?

So many times I'm asked by photographers how to start their new businesses.  And, my answer is the same all the time.  

  • Work on your portfolio development,
  • Hook up with vendors who are doing business with people you want to do business with, and
  • Practice like crazy!!!

Success does not come easy and any advice given for quick success promised by so many speakers on the speaking circuit is not the basket you want to put your eggs into, as they say.

Let's look at practical success as a three step process.

The first step to success: is to show that you can deliver a quality product to your client's.  Haven't shot a wedding yet, then learn what you need to know so your first experience isn't a "Spray and Pray" fiasco for you, and even more importantly, for your clients.  Who in their right mind would jeopardize the most important memories for the wedding couple and their families with that kind of asinine, destructive approach to wedding photography!

0001-Hug-IMG_6318Begin by developing your portfolio.  Get a good friend to be your model.  Don't know anyone, run an ad on Craigslist and offer FREE pics to cute girl and good looking guy who will act as your models.  

Start Paying Some Dues!

Now pick up a wedding gown from David's Bridal or some other national bridal chain.  An out-of-date, clearance gown will cost you $50-$100.  Make up a good looking bouquet from silk flowers you can pick up at Hobby Lobby - cost, about $15-$25.  Complaining that you don't have $100 to spend on these things?  Well then, think about another job if you don't want to pay even the MINIMUM dues to earn your stripes as a wedding photographer.

“But, but, but,” you say, “I don't want to learn how to "pose" my clients.  I just want to capture the moments as they flow.”  My quick response to that is B.. S....  The bottom line is this, everyone wants to look good in their photos. Random shots will capture the occasional good photograph of the wedding couple, and maybe even that of a family member, too. But Uncle Harry can do the same thing and won’t charge a nickel. If you want to charge for your services then you better be doing something different than what ANYONE that owns a descent camera is capable of doing.

Never HOPE For A Great Shot – Prepare For One!

I, for one am not spinning the Wheel of MIS-Fortune HOPING to capture a good photograph.  I need to know that I can do it consistently every week. No exceptions!  OK, maybe you don't want to create the stylized, dramatic images I like to create for my clients - that's fine.  But at least take some time to LEARN how a person, a couple respond to a camera being pointed at them.  Learn how to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.  Learn how to get the best expressions possible from your bride and groom.  It's NEVER about "posing". It's about getting the best, most flattering images possible for your clients on their wedding day.  And that takes practice!

0002-Hug-IMG_6286Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.  Last Friday I got the chance to practice wedding photography.  Yes, me - practicing wedding photography.  The fact of the matter is that I get the chance to practice every time I do a "Live" seminar shoot like I did for my Wedding Shootout at Photoshop World last Friday.  Yes, I was practicing like I want you to practice.

Let me give you a quick example of how I practiced working with my couple, who didn't know each other BTW, to get some great photographs of them.

I put some nice soft light on my couple by having one of the class members hold my Westcott 84 inch translucent umbrella between the couple and the harsh, early afternoon, bright sunlight.  Ahhh... gorgeous light! And, gorgeous light is a good place to start for any great photograph.

Then I took up a camera position that featured the bride and asked her to hug her groom like it was going to be the last time she was going to see him. She got into character and did exactly what I asked her to do.  It surely showed in her expression.  I even moved around the couple and grabbed a quick photo of the groom, too.   Those are the images you see accompanying this article - no posing, just great expressions!


Practice Anything – Just Practice!

So when you go out and practice, you can practice anything you want - flattering posing, how to get great expressions, better lighting, how to easily direct your subjects - anything to make your images better than the next person's. And that's the easy part because only a very few people reading this post today will ever take the initiative to do what I suggest. 

DAZNOTE: You know, I've always said, "It's easy to be the best photographer in town.  You just work a lot harder than the next guy.  And, that's easy too because there are a lot of under-motivated photographers out there.”


Parts Two and Three I'll cover in upcoming posts.  I think today's post is something for those of you who truly want to take your photography and your business to the next level of success.  The truth is - there really is no easy way to success.  Unless, of course, you win this week's New York lottery;~)

A gentle piece of advice: Take excuses out of your vocabulary and you remove the road blocks from your life!

But always remember - Do you want to hired as a HACK photographer or a professional photographer.  Its never been a question in my mind from Day 1. I always wanted to be hired as professional and worked hard and continue to work hard to be just that.

Enough said!!!


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We just landed and are in the middle of getting to all the emails, phone calls, and mail that has hit while we were gone. Plus, the weather is great, the grass is green, and the sky is blue - time to soak up a little bit of Spring.

Have a great one everybody.

I'll see you soon,  David.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Ghost of Museums Passed"

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"Ghost of Museums Passed"
© David A. Ziser

I captured this image during our visit yesterday to Duncan Phillips Art Museum in Washington, DC. As you can see I was using a very wide-angle lens – my Sigma 12–24mm lens on my new Canon 5D Mark III. The elliptical staircase reaching three floors high made a spectacular composition with my wide-angle optics.

I must've spent my first 15 minutes in the museum photographing the staircase. I photograph it from the bottom looking up and then from the top looking down. This image is one of the last images I made of the steps.

As I was framing up the image a museum patron walked into the scene. As my camera needed three frames to complete the HDR exposure, the museum patron was recorded in three different places during the three exposures.

After the in camera HDR processing of the final image, I was pleasantly surprised to see how the person was rendered in the final HDR image. His image was rendered with an almost out-worldly, ghostlike appearance.

As I look at the image again it looks as if my intruder is invisible showing only its shadow on the back wall of the staircase. Knowing that there is a physical presence of someone in the photograph without being able to discern who that person is I think, makes for a very interesting visual conversation.

The overall composition is obviously composed of the repeat of the elliptical elements in the architecture throughout the image. The secondary compositional elements, the highlights and the shadows certainly add additional interest to this image. It is the appearance of the mysterious stranger that adds the final punctuation/mystery to the finished composition.

Camera specs: Canon 5D Mark III fitted with Sigma 12–24mm lens at 12mm, F8.0 @ 1/8 second, ISO800.  Enjoy!  -David

Images and Impressions of Canon’s 5D Mark 3 HDR Feature: and Easy GPS in Lightroom 4

Good Morning Everyone,

SnapshotAfter getting yesterday's blog posted, we headed out to see the sights in Washington, DC area. Our first stop was at the Duncan Phillips Museum which was showing an exhibition entitled Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard [link].

Several of the leading painters and printmakers of the day used photography to record their public spheres and private lives, producing surprising, inventive results. Combining over 200 photographs with approximately 70 paintings, prints, and drawings from renowned international collections, Snapshot: Painters and Photography, Bonnard to Vuillard focuses on the dynamic relationship among the artists’ work in various media.

Surprisingly, although I enjoyed the exhibition, I enjoyed even more photographing the interior spaces around the museum.

HDR CAnon M3I was getting a kick out of using the new HDR feature on my brand-new Canon 5D Mark III camera. I was kind of like a kid in a candy store framing up each image, pressing the shutter release, waiting my 10 seconds, and seeing these very cool HDR results.

I thought today I'd share a few of those images with you. I also thought I would give you my quick impressions of the new HDR features on the new Canon 5D Mark 3.

Images and Impressions of Canon’s 5D Mark 3 HDR Feature

1. I've never really given HDR much of a try. I've always been busy with so many other aspects of my photography that, although I would've loved to give it a try in years past, it just never fit into my schedule. Now with the new Canon 5D Mark 3 it is nearly effortless to capture images in HDR. 

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I know some of the HDR purists out there are probably rolling your eyeballs right about now. You're thinking, "Oh my gosh, set it and forget it instant HDR – here we go again!"  Well folks, that's the deal for me and I’m lovin’ it!  The fact is; that I'm really enjoying seeing my own HDR images for the first time. Sure, the camera is doing all the work for me but it has opened my eyes up to the possibilities of creating HDR images for myself and for my clients.

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I bet before long I'll be using the standard HDR features in Lightroom and Photoshop and giving NIK Software's HDR Efex Pro and Photomatics a serious try as well. But, for the time being I'm getting a real kick out of using the simple HDR feature on my new camera.

2. I've been trying different options within the HDR dialogue on the camera. I have ranged the bracketing from auto, where the camera selects the exposure range for the finished HDR image and from ± one stop all the way up to ± three stops. Without making this too much of a scientific experiment, I'm not seeing a big difference between all the settings.

0008- HDR-919C8582

Intuition tells me that the three stop setting when compared to the one stop setting should give me quite a bit more detail in the shadows. If I look closely I can see the difference but, as I said, I had to look very closely. I was really quite surprised by how easy it is to get these cool HDR photos. I know, I know - the HDR aficionados eyeballs are rolling once again.

3.  The other thing I'm learning is that subject matter is important when composing for a final HDR image. It seems to me that the more contrast range in the image the better the HDR result will be. I also found as I experimented yesterday that I like tungsten lighting situations to be my favorite HDR subjects.

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I also find that I like the auto white balance setting when I'm in these tungsten lighting situations. Maybe it's just the visually exciting reds and orange colors in the scene that I like when I shoot my HDR images in this way. In any case, I find these images to be the most visually exciting for me.  Having said that, setting the camera to Tungsten and shooting daylight can also give you some very cool results.

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4.  I discovered something else quite unusual in yesterday's shooting experience. There were a few times when I was making my HDR exposures and one of the museum guests would walk through the image. Since it takes three images to create the final HDR image, the subject is in three positions during the three different exposures.

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Although I have the images self align and I'm shooting these images handheld, the computer in the camera understandably has difficulty aligning the pixels of the moving subject. The result is quite interesting. For me, the camera technology creates a very otherworldly kind of an image with the moving person appearing ghostly in the completed composition. I've blogged one of my favorite images from yesterday’s shoot in my image of the day post.

5.  All in all I'm finding this HDR shooting to be quite fun. Like I said, maybe I'm just a kid in a candy store playing with the new toy but it's still a kick. It gives my imagination a brand-new playground in which to play and experiment and I am thoroughly enjoying my new sandbox.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention it.  The museum was SOOOO impressed with my images, I now have a collection of my images on display at the entrance of the Duncan Phillips Museum ;~) Well not really…. but I did suggest that they should be interested in featuring my images at the museum.

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Want some more info on the 5D Mk3 HDR features and more, check out Michael James blog right here.

Easy GPS In Lightroom 4

Load Track LogBTW gang, I’m also trying out the new GPS features of Lightroom 4. I downloaded an app to my iPhone named GeoTagPhotos. The app let us track everywhere we traveled yesterday. At the end of the day, even though this app was a severe drain on battery power on my iPhone, I was still able to easily email the GPX data file from the app to myself.

At this point, it was easy to drop the file into Lightroom 4 and then sync up the GPS in Lightroomtime/date data of my images with the location data from the GPX file and see where we traveled -very cool! 

What can I say, between experimenting with my brand-new HDR shooting, playing with my new Canon lens and gearing-up the techy GPS tracking feature I had a FABULOUS shooting experience traveling around a small part of DC yesterday.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. LaDawn and I have one more day off to spend in Washington. LaDawn arranged, through our congressmen, a tour of the Capital today. Our tour of the White House and tea with Michelle disappointingly fell through ;~)  But I know we'll enjoy seeing the other sites in this fascinating, historic and exhilarating city.

RasikaIndianThis evening we plan to have dinner at Rasika, not only one of the best Indian restaurants in the Washington, DC area but also one of the highest acclaimed restaurants in the country according to John Marinai’s review in Esquire Magazine a few years ago!.

It'll be my third visit and LaDawn’s second but each time has been a wonderful dining experience. If you ever get a chance to make the trip to Washington, DC be sure to check out Rasika your taste buds will thank you.

On that note gang, we're out of here. Have a great rest the day and I'll see you tomorrow back in Edgewood, KY.

Namastay Ji everybody, David

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Road Trip: Greyton

In my previous post you will see the wedding images I took at Greyton. On our drive back home after the wedding my assistant,  and I decided to take it slow and take a few images. Enjoy xx

My assistant Jaco van Wyk