U.S.A. Neon Nostalgia Tour Day 2


If you get this far in my blog, please take a look at the signs so far. Post a comment about the ones you like by ranking them creatively.

Tip: Rank your photographs creatively. Creative rankings is an educational term that means you list items from your most favorite to least favorite.

I’m off to Albuquerque. More pics will be posted this evening.

U.S.A. Neon Nostaliga Tour Day 1


Packing my bags. Car’s tuned up. New tires. Got a hybrid so filling up won’t happen so often. I’m off on a budget trip to view, admire and photograph what’s left of middle-of-the-last-century neon.

I’ll be reporting here about what I find and posting pictures as I move along from Palm Springs to Amarillo and back.

My first stop will be Blythe to reshoot digitally some neon I have on file in film format (negatives). I want to shoot digitally for two reasons.

1. My new Canon Rebel XT (okay, it’s not so new anymore) takes some super images without catching film grain that’s so often the case during the daytime.

2. I’ve got some new top rate lenses that I hope will provide me with some interesting close-ups and dramatic wide-angles.

This is a great time of year to photograph in the Southwest as the sun is a bit lower in the sky (than in summer) and the weather is fine.

So off I go…Blythe or bust…

Signs, Signs, and…Yes…More Signs

I don’t know how it happened. Some people wash their hands a couple of hundred times a day, a condition doctors have a name for (yes, I realize that is a serious condition that requires medical attention as I saw the Howard Hughes bio flick, “The Aviator”).

But there is no given name for a condition (albeit, a not a serious medical condition) for a person who takes pictures of signs. That’s what my life is coming to, a man who has taken to the colors and designs of signs.

I have close to 10,000 images of signs–half of them are original shots and the other half are in-progress files I’ve kept of their manipulation in Photoshop. Yes, some of the images are good and some are bad. Sorting through them is a project in itself. But I’m slogging through.

I’ve been doing these sign photographs for almost six years now so that the earlier film photos are becoming “antique” quickly as the signs have either been destroyed by hurricanes (yes, I photographed every vintage sign in Broward County) or, even more sadly, have been taken down and replaced with such edifices as post-modern parking structures (some of the old signs used to be so monumental they they’d take up oodles of land).

After writing a Table of Contents for a sign book I hope some kind publisher will pick up, I’ve sorted the signs into folders. Here’s what I came up with:

Historic

Script

Fish

Text

New

Monument

Phonebooth

Erotic-Pop-Tropic

Skylines

Neon

Fathertime

Symbol

Fans

Characters

Plastic

Graffiti-Mural

Painted

Bar

Humansignage

Preservation

Hotel/Vertical

Deco

NorthAmericancafe

Brownstone/Ghost

West

Europeancafe

Atomic

Bet you thought about what images the letters strung together bring up in your mind.

Now I don’t want to be some fu fu artist here, but I believe what we name our files is…well… art. Take a look above…my mind has created strings of letters that create an image in your mind – an image that will form according to the experience that you have with the subject. (Okay, this stuff comes from the fact that for the last three years I’ve been drilling teachers as part of a part-time “day” job about various linguistics topics that come up in the everyday classroom).

Now for a sample of the images I had in mind to go with the topic:

Coffeeasia

Historic

Arrow

HotelVertical

Characters

Erotic-Pop-Tropics

Remember that art is everywhere…Don’t forget to “smell” it (a play on don’t forget to smell the roses).

Tip: If you have an enormous picture collection, figure out categories to separate them into so that when you come time to working on them you won’t be overwhelmed by their number.

Second Tip: Of course, you see here that the names appear random and I would suggest that you put them in alphabetical order (click on your desktop to get to the Finder, then click on View>Arrange By>Name on the top menu bar on a Mac).

Great Travel Portraits


After asking permission to photograph this kid in Myanmar, I stepped back and flipped my zoom lens out (so that it extends far out from the camera) to obtain maximum background blur. I used a 300 mm zoom to get the face painting that’s so common in this part of the world in focus.

Just a quick tip here: Zoom in as much as possible then step back to frame a portrait of your subject before you shoot to create maximum background blur.

Singapore Windows

British Colonial Architecture adorns the streets of Singapore. It’s here a photographer can have a party balancing colors of the freshly redone edifices.

At any rate, sorting through dozens of photographs that I clicked and dragged into a folder called “doors and windows” had me realizing that I’d snapped some colorful, sparkling shots of freshly refurbished window shutters in Singapore. After picking out the brightest photographs in Photoshop CS2’s browser window, I found they all matched to make a set. Here they are:

Mao and Shanghai Retro

All one has to do in Shanghai for some great shots based on the popular era of the middle-of-the-last-century is hop in a cab (they’re cheap) and go to the Dongtai Lu Antique Market. Taschen Books recently has published books about Mao, the central figure mid-century China. Time magazine last June reported that even though Mao was “beyond redemption” the Chinese still sell his image everywhere, especially in Dongtai Lu. The guy is ubiquitous as trinkets in dozens of market stalls as you can see in the photos below. However horrible he was, the propaganda that was spread was colorful and simple, just the kind of art many of us here in America are craving. While our culture knows little about Mao’s message (it wasn’t pretty) they do recognize his hand waving and stoic posture that seems to amuse. See for yourself…

Ahhhh, San Francisco, you probably know the place.

Wear flowers in your hair.

I stayed at the Y this last weekend.

The Central Y.

Clean, comfortable, but very basic.

After I arrived, I went for a long walk and met an artist.

I tested the flash on my Kodak EasyShare 5 Mexapixel point-and-shoot. (The light blasted about 6 feet from where I was onto the Roxie sign.)

I saw a guy do a handstand (with his head on a Coke bottle).

I thought about an important question…

The next morning I got up and found joy.

Ahh, San Francisco, once my home sweet home. I miss it.

Tip: Don’t limit yourself at night with your digital camera, try all the settings for really cool effects. One was taken with a flash and one was not. Which is which?

Shooting for Real Estate Gold

Take a look at the image above. Is it artful? Some would probably say yes, indeed. The added palm in the corner gives the image a source point from which the viewer looks at the swimming pool–a kind of peek-a-boo feeling. Capturing images for use in the real estate industry requires that the photographer be skillful in composing a picture. And having good equipment helps too.

If you’re a realtor, architect, builder or just someone who likes to photograph Roman Columns, grill work or the steel and glass of man’s greatest achievements you’ll want to consider various options when digital camera shopping–options such as how much the lens zooms and how wide and tall the frame of the picture will be through the lens. The easiest way to do this at the camera store is to simply look through the lens, zooming both in and out to see how you’ll be able to frame an image taken with that camera.

Digital Camera Choices for Realtor and Other Architectural Photographers

It used to be a realtor was judged by the car he/she drove–a good omen if he/she drives up in a Beamer (that’s BMW) and taking clients around with flare and style.

Nowadays realtors also may be judged by the technical gadgetry they use in their work from palm pilots to personal Web sites.

Along with that gadgetry is some sort of digital camera with which he/she can produce photographs for the leaflets that perspective clients will grab under the for sale signs of homes all over the world.

There are new ways to market properties that will attract buyers in droves both by staging homes and creating images from the staging that real estate professionals have created.

Tech-savvy, wheeling-and-dealing realtors can consider buying the sub-thousand dollar model SLR (Single Lens Reflex, or camera where they can change the lenses) instead of the tiny boxes that contain upteen megapixels of fun, but many less options for indoor photography, the type of photography that is the lifeblood of the real estate business.

A Nikon D-70 or Canon Digital Rebel XT, both cameras costing a little over $800 have the options that realtors will need to take glamorous indoor photos with little effort. The sensor in the camera is bigger than in the point-and-shoot models (the little boxy cameras), so that you get more detail, an important factor in architectural photography.

For example, in order to take a good picture of an interior, the camera can be set to A-DEP mode (written the same way on the knob of the camera) before shooting away. The camera automatically focuses using multiple points within the frame of a picture so none of the picture will be blurred.

The lens the camera comes with (usually a telephoto 28-105 mm) will be adequate for a realtors needs when the camera is zoomed inward (to the range of about 28 mm, a value that is marked on the lens) to catch greatest area of living space at once inside a frame.

Keep in mind the following tips when shooting real estate for sale–

1. Get a shot that includes a wide space of something that’s dramatic about the property. If your seller has invested in something expensive such as bamboo or travertine floors catch a big part of that in the frame. In the picture below a large part of the drama of a vaulted ceiling was caught within the frame. For teckies who use Photoshop, you’ll be interested in knowing that it was shot with a wide angle lens (10 mm) and then straightened out in Photoshop first by selecting the image and then applying the transform tool and clicking and dragging the corners to eliminate lens curvature (Edit>Transform…) because there was some lens distortion in the original shot.

2. Keep each room in focus by framing shots so they include one room or one area of a room without any other extraneous furnishings or wall coverings that take away from that focus.
3. When filming reflective surfaces make sure your reflection is not in the picture.
4. If you’re proud of the home’s remodeled bathroom, include a shot that shows all surfaces extending from, say, a wallpapered wall, to a granite counter, to the solid wood cabinetry and down to the stone floor. Use a wide angle lens if possible (a lens with that can include all of the surfaces in one frame without you having to leave the room to catch it all).
5. Use a tripod (they’re cheap some costing under $50 and others less if you buy used) without a flash in darker spaces (you can turn your flash off on most cameras with the button that shows a picture of a flash with a line through it). Your lens will stay open longer in all modes, capturing more natural light and resulting in a terrific picture without all the light blasts you get with flash.
6. If you have no tripod and are photographing inside and want to eliminate blur set your ISO speed above 400. To do this search through your menu options to locate ISO speeds in increments somewhat like this: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 etc… This will eliminate blur that comes from when you shake your camera while you shoot.

Builders and Burning CDs in Mac OS 10.4

Just finished a photo shoot for super remodeler and builder John Bernard. This guy works at hyper speed fixing up mid-century modern homes that have fallen in disrepair. The real estate business in my area of Southern California is booming and the builders like to have photographers shoot their homes before and after the remodel. Unfortunately many of the come to this awareness only after they’ve remodeled.

Not so for builder Marc Sanders who took his own photos before and, after I was asked to write an article for Homestore.com, had me take them after. The rest was history–not only did I get to photograph the coolest house in Palm Springs, I got paid for it and had an extremely successful article published on the Internet (that includes some of my photographs) that has been online now for almost 5 years.

Marc, however, was even more lucky as you’ll read here:
http://www.mattbamberg.com/articles (Click on the Sinatra article.)

So here’s a tip if you’re a fledgling photographer (I was in the recent past) who wants to use is spankin new wide angle (18 mm is good) lens.

Tip: Let the realtors and builders in your area know that you can take a decent picture.

Back to the burn: When it came time to burn, I had some difficulty finding a procedure on the Web, so as always it was time for some trial-and-error work in CD burning. After some time I had some success with this method for my newly installed OS 10.4:

To create a Burn Folder–
1. Go to the Finder (you get to the Finder by clicking on any part of your desktop)
2. Click on File>New Burn Folder, then double click on it to open it.
3. Drag the folder or files you want to burn inside the burn folder.
4. You’ll get a prompt (Insert a blank disk to begin)
5. Put your CD (a RW CD or DVD, that’s Read/Write) into the drive. THIS IS THE TRICKY STEP–PUT YOUR CD INTO THE DRIVE ONLY AFTER YOU’VE CREATED A BURN FOLDER AND DRAGGED WHAT YOU WANT TO BURN INSIDE IT.
6. The burn button will activate as soon as you put the CD in. When it does click on it and the burning will start.

WARNING–If you do it wrong, you’ll wreck your CD and you may damage your CD drive.

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