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Sweet Creek, OR

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted here on the blog.  It’s been quite a busy time with only a couple chances to get out and take some shots.  Started a new job which is requiring a lot of overtime, earlier start time which all leads to early bed times as well.  School has been getting more difficult and requiring more studying time.  With all those excuses, I finally decided to take a day and go visit an area I haven’t been to yet. 

The Sweet Creek area is just 25 minutes from Florence. It’s very easy to get to with easy to travel trails, though it is not wheelchair friendly.  This area is just beautiful!  This time of year the colors are just barely starting to change into fall which added some nice contrast to the lush and vivid greens everywhere you looked.

One of the best parts about Sweet Creek is how many different waterfalls and little cascades of water there are in such a short stretch. From the first trail head (homestead trail head) to Sweet Creek Falls themselves is maybe 1.2 miles and gaining roughly 350 feet so it’s an easy hike. Along this hike there are 11 waterfalls and numerous interesting rock beds.  Not to mention some of the old growth you see while walking through.

I want to go back when the fall colors are in full effect, and again when the water levels are higher to see how different things are.

Highly recommend checking this area out if you’re looking for a leisurely hike in the beautiful nature of Oregon.

 

One cool thing I found that I never knew existed were location aware PDF’s!  There is one provided by the Forest Service for this area which you can find by clicking here. Not that you’d need one for this particular area, but the ability to do this OFFLINE with no cell reception (does require a gps signal though) is pretty cool. There are links to install an app and download the proper pdf on the link above. It’s easy to track where you are on the map, add pin points yourself etc.. Pretty neat and worth looking into for future excursions.

After all that text and reading, here are the pictures I came away with. Click on any picture to see the larger lightbox view and you can then use your arrow keys to scroll through them.

Let me know what you think and if you’ve ever been there. I’d love to see what you came away with as well. Drop a comment below!

 

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And the Winner of the 20″x30″ Metal Print is…

Congratulations Al Dee Sollinger!! 

You are the winner of the Metal Print Giveaway. All you have to do now is get in touch with me to let me know what photo you want and where to ship it! You can email me via the form on this site or directly at zach@zblackwood.com

I want to thank everyone for their entries, the help of spreading the word and above all else the very kind compliments from everyone.  Definitely made my day and made this worth while!  Perhaps there will be another one down the road as well.

For those who did not win, thank you again for entering and prints are still for sale, at newly reduced prices over on www.zlbphotography.com.  There is a completely automated process where you can choose various sizes and prints such as Metal, Canvas and prints on a beautiful lustre paper.  If there are other mediums, sizes and more custom options needed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and we can work something out!

If you want to keep up with my latest work, you can keep an eye here on this site and blog or follow me on the social networks listed.  I seem to be most active on G+ but do generally share all the “good” work everywhere!

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Great Give-A-Way over on Crave Photography

Easily one of my favorite blogs and photographers to keep an eye on for portraiture is having a fantastic give-a-way.  Crave Photography.  Not only can you win a great lens, but you will also win a marketing set from her, and better yet, a one-on-one mentoring session!

Her style and editing process is something to behold and highly recommended that everyone check it out.  Whether or not you enter the give-a-way, check out her work and be inspired.

Check the link below for entering.

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Photobooths are fun and printing is slow!

     This past weekend I was asked to run a Photobooth at a quinceañera.  Earlier in the year, my sister had me run one for her wedding reception.  Despite not really knowing what to expect or how to run it efficiently, both booths went, at least in my opinion pretty smoothly.  The second round definitely went a lot smoother when applying the things I learned from the first time providing these services.

     These booths are attended since I am not equipped to have an unattended setup at this point.  I prefer it this way for now as I have a ton of fun doing this as well.  Get to see some crazy people really enjoying themselves, and you see a lot of people who appear to generally be more reserved, get roped into using props and making faces for the camera!

The gear/setup I use thus far are

  1. 2 Flashpoint II 320m studio lights
  2. White or black backdrop,
  3. Canon Pixma Pro9000 MarkII printer
  4. Samsung Laptop
  5. D7000 tethered via USB.
  6. Cowboy Studio wireless triggers
  7. DslrBooth Software
 Cellphone picture of my light setup. Simply going for nice even light, nothing dramatic since things were changing so much. To the left there was a table with my laptop and printer.
Cellphone picture of my light setup. Simply going for nice even light, nothing dramatic since things were changing so much. To the left there was a table with my laptop and printer.

I
have considered trying to shoot tethered wirelessly via an eye-fi card, but
still feel that a corded connection is more reliable.  

     Even
after only doing this service twice, I have learned a lot on what works and
what doesn’t work when it comes to being efficient and not slowing people down.
 First and foremost, printing is sloooooow and this is where I went
terribly wrong when doing this for my sister.  This is no fault of mine,
or really the printer per say, it’s just that this printer is not designed to
be spitting these out at the speed I would like.  This printer provides
excellent quality prints, and I absolutely love it for the price and the larger
prints I can get from it. For a photobooth printing on 4×6 cards, I will be
looking into other options when the time comes.

     Second
major thing I learned was to not use Lightroom for the tethering and printing.
 Perhaps there is a way to automate filling out a 2 column layout, each
column the same, and then printing, but I have not been able to accomplish that
yet.  When doing this over the summer, I had to manually add every single
picture, twice, into my print template I setup, then click print.  Having
to do that every time a new person or group came through, really, and I mean
really slowed things down.  Eventually I just had the DJ announce that
printing is a bit backed up, and the strips will be on the table as they come
out. That way I could just get the line of people through and then print the
shots while they all ate or it slowed down.  This initially made me feel
very uncomfortable, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought looking back at it
because it was all family and friends and no one seemed to mind.  However,
providing this service for a true client, that is not something I want to run
into.

     Since I knew I would be
doing another booth this past weekend, I did a little bit of research into some
software that would help me automate the filling out of a print template and
then print.  I found quite a few options ranging from perfectly
reasonable, to quite expensive and capable of stuff well beyond what I would
ever do.  I downloaded free trials of 4 or so different programs and
finally ran across one that I really enjoyed.  This software is called
 dslrBooth and
you can find it by visiting the link there.

     DslrBooth has a very simple UI, but it’s easy to figure out and pretty much
works right out of the gate.  There are limited printing templates
available, but more are being added in the future.  However, the limited
number of options still had the perfect one I was after.  A simple 2
column, 4 row layout I could print on a 4×6 card and then cut in half for two
strips.  You pick your print layout you want, plug your camera in, and
fire away!  As the pictures come in, it displays for a few seconds before
counting down to the next shot, fills out the layout, and prints it.  You
can have it prompt you to print every time, or not bother you and just print as
each set of 4 pictures comes in.  You can add custom branding to be
printed on each column as well if you wish.  You can also have this
software run completely automated, and countdown with big numbers on the screen
when it’s going to fire off the next picture.  So you could set this up if
you are able to enclose your camera so it’s safe and run it unattended.
 The prompts are nice and big on my monitor I used, and instructions are
simple and clear if you were to run it this way. One additional thing I enjoyed
was that the software placed all the strips into one folder, and all the
individual original shots into another. With that being done, I was able to
then upload all of the strips to facebook, and have all the high res individual
shots on my website for people to download and use for other things.  I
was able to purchase this software for $50 last week and it became instantly
worth the cost the moment the first print popped out.

 Here's the 2 column, 4 row layout that I used.  It is possible to add borders or branding if you want as well.
Here’s the 2 column, 4 row layout that I used.  It is possible to add borders or branding if you want as well.

     One
other thing I learned is ink costs are expensive and black backgrounds really
drain your ink!  I knew ink was expensive, especially for this printer.
 Running $86 for a full set of 8 colors on Amazon ($106 if you buy from
Brick and Mortar or canon stores).  What I had not counted on, was how
much additional ink a black backdrop would require over a white one.
 Luckily,  I came with plenty of supplies, but I was worried I may
run out at one point.  The black cartridge didn’t get used at all during
this time. It just used every other color combined to re-create the black
backdrop.  Using a white backdrop significantly lowers the use of ink, at
least with this printer. 

     Being
able to automate the layout and printing process made things go immeasurably
smoother.  I also had my brother helping me out with cutting the pictures
in half to create the separate strips which also helped quite a bit. However,
walmart sells a paper cutter for 11 bucks that you could just set on the table
and have anyone do it.

     After only running 2 of these booths, I am quite comfortable and confident in
being able to provide this service to people I don’t know as well.  The
software I now have and the process works great!  Throw in a few props
from the dollar store and you can have a great booth setup at a pretty
reasonable cost.

     The
only other tidbit I found interesting was how I never used my tripod when
shooting.  If this were automated, of course one would be required, but I
never used it except to hold my camera when I had to do something else.  I
found I there was a lot of little kids and adults of all various heights that I
had to compensate for.  Spent a lot of time on my knees or crouched down,
or standing on my tippy toes to get the good shot in.

     If you wish to see the other 100+ photo strips, you can find them on my Facebook page at ZLB Photography.  If you’re after the individual larger shots, send me an email and I’ll get you hooked up.

     I
am far from the expert on this type of thing, but if you’re just starting out
and thinking about running an attended photobooth, I hope you find this post
useful.  If you have any questions about any of this, drop me a line or
leave a comment below.

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April Showers

This photo was taken back in April during a pretty big rainy spell we had. It was nearing the end as you can see with the clouds breaking a bit in the background. The rain visible up front is what drew my attention to this particular spot. During the winter, this type of scene is not uncommon as we get a lot of rain, and some incredible clouds that often break nearing the sunset hours creating some fantastic drama in the sky.  It doesn’t always work out like that, and in this case it was one of those times. Still provided some great pictures, but never did quite break enough for my liking.

In order to capture the background, rain and foreground the way I wanted to, I shot a 3 bracket exposure with 2 stops between each capture. I processed this image using NIk HDR Efex Pro2 and Lightroom 4.

I started with some of the presets built into Nik Software and then tweaked the options for a look closer to what I was going for. Started out with the Deep2 preset, and then added some custom control points to adjust the exposure, contrast, saturation in very specific locations. After that I added a little sharpness and noise reduction in Lightroom.

 Seal Rock, OR during some April showers.
Seal Rock, OR during some April showers.
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Before/After

Fairly recently I’ve been trying out some new techniques and edits on some images. Here’s a couple images shown in a Before/After fashion. I flipped which ones on top and bottom for no apparent reason 😉  These are from an engagement shoot done at the end of May. They got happily married the following month on June 30th. Congratulations Nick and Kelsey!

The before versions are SOOC and the edited versions were done in Lightroom and Photoshop.

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Nik HDR Efex Pro2

I’ve been a fan of HDR for a while. Some of it overcooked, some of it much more natural looking. My taste varies quite a bit depending on the scene I’m looking at. 

Recently I picked up this piece of software and have been really enjoying it. I previously used Photomatix, which is still great, but I really enjoy the layout and control in HDR Efex. It’s a much more comfortable layout and control for me.  This is likely due to being a big fan of the other Nik Software, Color Efex, Silver Efex etc..

Here’s a great little article with images to download if you wanted to trial out exactly what this gentleman did.

Below you can see an image I processed using this software in combination with Lightroom4.

 Yaquina Bay bridge as seen from the Port of Newport public fishing pier. Processed using Lightroom4 and Nik HDR Efex Pro2
Yaquina Bay bridge as seen from the Port of Newport public fishing pier. Processed using Lightroom4 and Nik HDR Efex Pro2