Collage Barrage

I’ve been writing so many wig review posts I got behind on sharing photos, so let’s catch up! Since I had so many shots to share, I decided to save some space and use the Pixlr collage function to group things together. Here’s the first one:

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I shared the photo on the left in my last photography post, but I wasn’t pleased with it. However, Pixlr recently came out with a new set of overlays called ‘candy minimal’ and it’s got some great pastel color washes I love, so I moved this shot over there and played around until I came up with something I liked. Now I really love this shot; I even made it my new lock screen on my phone. Loving all the pretty pinks and blues and yellows those overlays have. I’ve Pixlr’ed some other photos too, but they haven’t come out as good as this one.

Here’s another shot I shared previously that I re-worked a little:

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The skin was way too plastic-looking in the first shot, so I worked to maintain more depth and texture when I edited it a second time. It’s still a little flat, but that’s because of the bright flash; at least I look a bit more human in the new version.

Next up, some macro florals:

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Last week I had to stop by the grocery store to pick up some things I forgot to get the day before, and to make the trip less irritating I decided to grab some flowers and photograph them when I got home. They were hydrangeas, and yes, they were originally these colors; I did enhance them but I did not alter the color. For some reason I eventually decided to stick a doll in there; it was my Madame Alexander angel doll, so I used her wings in that top right shot too.I took 500 shots of these flowers, so I would imagine there will be more to come from this set in the future.

Then, after filming wig videos the other day, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I already had my studio set up and some halfway-decent stage makeup on to take a few portraits in some of the new wigs. One of the wigs I haven’t reviewed yet and I’m not sure I will –  it looks pretty outrageous and the cap is a hot mess, but it’s great for photos. It’s called Stream, it’s by Ellen Wille, and the color is Hot Chocolate Lighted. The other wig in these shots is the Shari by Envy I uploaded to the Wig Videos section a few days ago.

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For some reason, I edited all those shots with a lot of greenish and bluish tint; not sure why but it felt like the thing to do at the time.

And last but not least, some random other shots that didn’t fit into any of the previous collages:

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That first shot up top took forever for me to edit; all that fancy eye makeup was done in Photoshop, as well as the nose contouring, so just those two things took me quite awhile. Then I went for an almost cartoon-ish effect, and that also took me time to get exactly like I wanted it. And yes, the day I took all my Stitch Fix photos, I did do some light leaping. My bum knee hurt a bit when I was done, and I definitely cannot leap with the enthusiasm I used to be able to do (but that’s totally my fault for continuing to not exercise like I’m supposed to be doing to strengthen it) but I got a few good ones in before I had to call it a day and limp away.

So many shots in the hopper to edit and play around with; one week into summer and I’ve spent most of it either shooting photos and videos or editing what I just shot. Kinda sad, but lots of fun. More wigs coming this week, including a (gasp) topper, so probably more filming at some point and uploading of new reviews. Getting the old ones uploaded will also continue. That’s right, it’s me with free time, so I’m getting all busy on the blog over here!

And by the way, my beloved Pearl did not win RuPaul’s Drag Race, but the finale was all kinds of awesome and I’m sure all the queens will make loads of money on all the singles, albums, and other various business ventures they embark on after their time on the show. Pearl has actually come out with a perfume called “Flazeda,” and I bought it even though it probably smells like every other perfume on the celeb market and costs too much at $125. Still – FLAZEDA everyone!

Mild Flower

I’ve had a chance to edit a few more flower photos, but only a few, so here we go.

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I really struggled with the color on this one; that yellow flower in the background looked very dark and muddy and it was distracting. I ended up using Rad Lab filters to take the saturation way down, which did the trick, but it washed out the pink flower too. In the end I still liked it, and the softer tones worked, but it was much brighter in the original. The yellows worked better in this one:

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One thing I did differently when using the macro lens this time was to place the subject, the vase of flowers, on the floor so I could sit down and crawl around while photographing it, as well as being able to stand above it easily. This helped me get good angles but more importantly, it kept me from getting tired due to all the stooping and bending into strange positions I had to do last time I used the lens, when I had the subject on a table. I also attached the 7D to a monopod to hold it steady and rest my arm a little. Both strategies helped. I took most of the 500 or so shots with manual focus, too, to control the focal point better. I think all these things helped make the shoot more successful than my last attempts at using the macro lens.

About half the shots I did were taken with my umbrella lights only; but when I tried to get really close-up they were coming out too dark, so eventually I attached this little piece of magic I purchased recently called a FlashPipe – it’s a cylinder made out of some sort of plastic which slips over an external flash to give out an even and soft diffused light. I’ve used my Speedlite when shooting macros before, but it is hard to control the light when aiming in so close or leaning in at weird angles; the FlashPipe did a beautiful job of filling in shadows where I needed it without overpowering the subject.

This next shot is one I took with the FlashPipe; I have more to come using it and I may do some comparison shots so you can see the difference it made (I also spritzed the flowers with water at this point for added interest). But for now I just have this one:

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The nice shadows and sharpness aren’t all due to the FlashPipe there; I did use RadLab and Snapseed to add contrast and detail as well as tone down the color, which was a bit too bright initially. But still, it did a wonderful job illuminating such a close shot without blasting out the subject or creating odd shadows. And it only costs about $30. Of the three I processed today, this was definitely my favorite – I’m thrilled that I finally got some genuine macros out of that lens!

In case you missed it when I mentioned it above, yes I did take over 500 shots of these flowers that Lana sent me as well as the ones I bought from the grocery store (Lana’s were pink and yellow, the grocery store ones are blue, orange, and green). So there will be more coming as I’ve just scratched the surface here of what I took.

Flower Powered

Would you believe that a day after getting out my trusty new super-tall step ladder to hang my old white backdrop on the wall the cool brick one from China came in? Figures. But as it turned out, my friend Lana sent me flowers Saturday, and given the day I had Friday it was a welcome and much-needed surprise. So thanks Lana!

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Since I had the white backdrop up, I decided to use it for macro pictures of the flowers; these shots wouldn’t have worked against the printed brick background (at least I don’t think they would have) so it was probably best I hadn’t hung the other yet. These even inspired me to zip up to the grocery store and get some more to practice on, but I’ll show those later.

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I used my macro lens, my two umbrella lights, my Speedlite on my 7D, and for added fill light in later shots I used a new gadget I bought recently called a FlashPipe – again, I’ll talk about the FlashPipe in a later post, as in these shots I’m sharing today I wasn’t even using it yet.

I don’t have many to share in this post, because editing them was time-consuming for reasons not related to the photos at all (my computer was being sluggish and difficult, and I had to re-boot a few times). But suffice it to say Simon felt he had to get in on the action, and I had to document that:

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This last shot is actually of the teeny little purple flowers you can see in the Simon shot. I think I got some nice magnification and focus here:

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I also used my Dirty Pictures filters on this one, not sure which I prefer:

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I’m leaning towards the Dirty Pictures version, but let me know what you think. I know this post is brief, but it’s late and I’m tired, so I’m going to hang it up for now. Much more floral-ocity to come – but to close this out, enjoy a little video I made of Simon playing around behind the white backdrop. something he always does. As usual I forgot to turn my camera into landscape mode, so it’s a silly little strip of a video. But it is kinda cute.

 

Macrobatics

OK, I deserve an award for that title.

I must say that of all the photography lenses I’ve bought and tried this year, the macro lens is by far the toughest one to use properly. In fact, I still don’t know how to do it, but I am learning. Getting a proper focus is a real challenge when working so close to the subject, and often has to be done manually; getting enough light on the subject is also difficult. It’s not as simple as sticking the macro lens onto the camera and walking around in the backyard, which of course is how I thought it would work.

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Up above is a pic of the ring light, which I attached to my macro lens in the hopes that it would light up subjects better for shooting; it worked to an extent, but unless I was already in a well-lit area it didn’t project enough light to make much of a difference without increasing the ISO and dialing up the exposure compensation. Even with the ring light on, a lot of my shots were too dark to see.

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This is a close-up of a makeup brush, which reveals how rare it is for me to clean them. 

The lens is also very heavy, which made focusing a clear shot difficult as I struggled to hold the camera steady. The ring light added a bit of weight, but it’s a cheap plastic one so not too much – the lens itself is just weighty and makes my arm hurt. One thing I learned for next time is to whip out the monopod and use it when working with this lens; funny since I thought I’d need that for the telephoto lens that turned out not to need it. I also think next time I’ll try setting up for macro shots first; maybe a table in my office with all my portrait lights aimed at it. Then I can bring things into that space to shoot them rather than wandering around with my camera. Or perhaps venturing outside with the ring light will be enough; I meant to do that today but forgot and took all my photos inside instead.

 

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I took a shot of this because CHOCOLATE.

I also had to use a lot of manual focus with this lens, which I’ve never done before, but the autofocus spends way too much time searching for something to latch onto when working upclose, and when trying to use it I’d end up having to back so far away that it negated the purpose of using the lens. This was another thing that made my arm hurt pretty quickly with all the twisting of the lens back and forth. Which reminds me that this past week at work I needed to take photos of some events, and I used the school’s cameras which are Canon Rebels, and they were so light to carry and shoot with it was amazing. Then I saw the results and was sorely disappointed, not that anyone else noticed. But I am definitely spoiled by my Canon 7D, even though my right arm is going fall off eventually because of it.

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Mardi Gras mask

I’ll close with the one shot I took today that I think was pretty awesome; I got a nice sharp focus and an interesting composition at once, which was rare for the day. And I’ll also say that there are only ten more days of school before the kids get out, then only ten more days until I am done for summer, so yay. This has been a really tough year for me professionally, and I hope things are looking up, but that remains to be seen. I’m going into a big old mystery next year, so I better rest up in June and July. Good times!

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Yay for raw sugar! I love this shot.

Macro’ed Up

First of all, I got confirmation at work today that next year I can move out of counseling and into a teaching position at the school. So yay to that. And also:

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My macro lens arrived! Like my last eBay lens, it shipped quickly and seems to be in good working order. I wandered around the house and backyard this evening attempting to take close-up shots. The lens was a little tricky to work with, but mostly because I haven’t done any reading about the best way to use it; I just threw it on the camera body and started walking around snapping photos of things. Mostly I had a hard time getting the lens to focus, and I had to put my Speedlite on it to get enough light which made my camera pretty damn heavy; this may be my heaviest lens yet.

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That’s a shot of the chandelier, BTW. I am pretty happy at this point with my lens collection; I think I’ve got a nice variety of choices to use in different situations and for different effects. At some point I’ll line all my lenses up for a photo of them, but I’m not in the mood tonight. It’s late already and I’ve got a full day ahead tomorrow.

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This is a shot of the beveled glass in our front door. Apparently we need to clean it; didn’t notice that until processing the photo.

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And this is some sort of decorative geegaw that was stuck into a floral arrangement. Damn, it’s also dusty. I’m going to have to do a better job cleaning if I’m going to keep using the macro lens around the house. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m going to have to do a better job paying someone else to clean my house if I keep using the macro lens around the house. #firstworldproblems.

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This is a bracelet that was hanging on a jewelry box that sits on top my vanity. I have loads of bracelets and earrings that I never wear, so at this point they’re more like decorative accessories for my bathroom counter. Not as dusty as the other stuff though, so that’s a positive.

As far as jewelry goes, I’m not much for anything other than necklaces. I don’t wear earrings at all anymore, and even my so-called wedding ring is a simple band from Tiffany’s – I love it because it has a tiny band of Tiffany’s blue running through it, but it isn’t an official wedding ring or anything. I had one I wore for 13 years, but I developed an allergy to the nickel in it and had to replace it. When looking for a new ring, I couldn’t generate enough interest in anything I looked at to feel inspired to spend thousands of dollars, so I went with the sterling silver band with Tiffany’s blue and am fine and dandy with it. It only cost $150. Much less than this macro lens I’m using. I realize that at this point it would make sense to have a macro shot of my faux wedding ring, but I didn’t actually plan this little digression in advance so I didn’t take any. Moving on.

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Well, what can I say? This is my favorite so far. Penny is hard to catch in front of the camera.

 

 

Happy Spending

I noticed as I was wandering around the past few days with my new telephoto lens that I was taking a lot of macro shots, or at least attempting them, which got me thinking: perhaps a macro lens is another purchase I need to make. Need might not be the best word to use, but I’m going to go with it for now, because obviously it’s a type of photography I’m interested in as I was so drawn to taking those photos with my new lens, and hey, I’ve come this far, so why not keep throwing my money down the photography hobby-drain?

I could keep attempting to take macros with the telephoto, or give my 50mm a go now and again, but they are not ideal for such photography and are incredibly persnickety to use. Plus, I can’t get too close to a subject with them because they simply cannot focus, so I lose a lot of shots I’d like to take and have to settle for less than stellar results. Believe it or not, there’s a LOT closer I could be getting to some of these subjects if I had a lens that could focus at such a close distance – the ones I have simply turn to mush and can’t find anything to latch onto until I back up or get incredibly lucky. So today I hopped on the information superhighway and researched what might be a good macro lens for me to try out.

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Pixlr’ed to disguise poor focus and lighting. Also I love it that my blog readers know what it means to be “Pixlr’ed.”

Now, I could go with something low-end like one of Canon’s S-series lenses that doesn’t work on a full-frame body, but my level of satisfaction with a cheaper build-quality lens isn’t going to take me very far. And with the few shots I’ve managed to pull off using the lenses I have, I can tell I’d get a lot of use out of a higher-quality version, so I’d at least like a mid-level range macro lens to start if I’m not willing to shell out for L-series glass right off the bat (which, of course, starts around a grand as usual). After all, neither my 50mm nor my 85mm are L-series but I am happy with them for now, and when I exchanged my S-series 50mm for the mid-range version I definitely saw improvement.

So, what to buy: I’ve landed on the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens for now. There’s a pricier L-series version, but as you can see there’s a big jump in cost, and I can get the mid-level model for about $450 off eBay if I play my cards right. Obviously I am not making this purchase right away, as I just spent a lot on the telephoto lens, but this one is definitely on my radar now, and I bet I get my hands on one sooner rather than later. I may suck it up and sell some stuff on eBay to help pay for it, when I get some time to do that.

Lord knows what I’ll decide I need next. I’m usually happy plodding along with what I have, but I guess adding to my boredom with taking self-portraits and jump shots comes the desire for more gear as I take different types of pictures. I’m happy to purchase higher-quality stuff at this point too, that can add to my growing collection of gear. I’m getting quite a nice little arsenal built up, so overall I don’t mind having a few less pair of Uggs as a tradeoff (plus it’s warming up here, so I’m not wearing my Uggs as much now).

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What will I decide I need next? Probably a new camera body! The idea of buying a Mark III hasn’t left my head, and sometime soon Canon should be introducing a IV or some other upgrade that drops the price lower on the III (and by “lower,” I  mean, still quite high) and makes it the right time to buy. Going from a cropped sensor to a full-frame would involve a learning curve, for sure, but it’s my next logical step and I’m sure I’d love the results (don’t ask me for specifics on what exactly a ‘full-frame’ camera is vs. a ‘cropped’ one, because aside from cost I barely know myself. Except that math in involved). Plus, all the lenses I currently own will work with full-frame cameras, so yay to paying a little more for quality – buying a new camera body won’t suddenly deplete my gear collection! Hear me justifying the purchase already? But seriously, it’s not gonna happen soon. I’ve got a lot to learn with all the new equipment I’ve acquired, and I really do want to wait until a newer version comes out and the price goes down. $3400 for a camera is a huge chunk of change, and I’m not up for it right now – but it does make $450 for a new lens look downright reasonable in comparison. 🙂

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This is a wall. You’re welcome.