Photography and HDR digital art by Michael Steighner
Welcome to my blog!
As a lighting designer for over 25 years, I have helped create an incredible array of environments. Lighting, a crucial part of any event, helps enhance the mood while creating a logical path for eye to follow. It is with this approach that I speak as a digital photographer and image maker.
(well, thats all I have for now. Check back soon for more profound words....LOL)
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion.” – Eckhart Tolle
The sky is getting a little interesting around here again….or perhaps I am finally getting a little chance to see it and capture it! As you might know, I have experimented with the art before and shared it here on the blog. There are many ways to create these clips and I am just barely scratching the surface on what is possible. From the D800, the iPhone (what captured the still below), the GoPros, and many other small video recorders out there, the possibilities are getting pretty exciting!
Here is a little piece I created the other day and posted on my youtube channel from the results of a quick edit of clips from 4 different cameras capturing the South FLorida sky. I am pretty lucky to have a space that has a nice covered patio/balcony to set up and play from time to time, so I am sure I will be sharing a few more of these soon.
As you can see from the video below, the possibilities for creating amazing art with time-lapse these days are within the reach of the average photographer and enthousient out there. Never has there been a more exciting time to dream, create, and share your art with the world.
A much deeper dive will happen soon on the process’s I use to create these, but until then…it’s time to keep playing!
Also, here are a few links from a few things I was chatting about on the audio recording. A couple are affiliate links, but most are just really cool links to possible tools to take your time-lapse creations to the next level!
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I had these images hanging out in the Lightroom “Blog someday” file for a while now not sure if I was ever going to share them with the world. They were created a while ago when “playing and experimenting” with a new technique I was testing out. It’s been such a while though I completely forget what the process was! Point being, sometimes you have to give yourself a little space to go out exploring. Far from my comfortable HDR processing world, this completely different style will continue to take a little time and further exploration to get the look I am after, but the real learning is in the journey with the many mistakes to be made.
I was reminded of that tonight when I was watching a video on Kelby Training from Joe McNally on flash. I really resonated with his concept that it’s best to approach your art as play and the tools we use (camera, flash, software) all as toys we include in the sandbox.
“If we don’t take time to play, we face a joyless life of rigidity, lacking in creativity. The opposite of play isn’t work, but depression. If we’re going to adapt to changing economic and personal circumstances the way that nature armed us to do, then we have to find ourselves having some play time virtually every day.” - Stuart Brown and Christopher Vaughan in their book
The object of the game of this kind of play should never be to get it perfect, but to use each session as building the story of your craft….one block at a time. His classes express that pretty well. He starts off with a simple click…on camera flash…a fairly normal and flat image, but nice. He then continues to build on it. One block at a time, a mistake here and there, a success, another mistake…..slowly taking the journey to a finely crafted masterpiece. Never loosing site of the fact that every imperfect exposure is only but a step to be embraced and learned from. Lessons we can all use no matter where we decide to use our god given talents!
I’ve personally been thinking alot about a few other areas to explore in this wonderful world of digital art and photography, and will of course share those here on the blog as I continue my journey.
There are many ways to view a scene around you. Sometimes you have to challenge yourself. Self assignments are a great way to do that. Also, getting away to create your art with a group of other artists that of course, each viewing and displaying the world in their own unique way is another great option! The feedback and collaboration can be amazing actually.
I look forward sharing with you in a post very soon about how I decided to do just that on a workshop I was on late last year.
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel— as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them— wherever you go.” – Anthony Bourdain
There is a special moment in the day. The end of the day. When the sun has set and the sky has not necessarily lost ALL of its color, it might to the naked eye, seem a little too dark for capturing. While the intense colors of a saturated and vibrant sunset are usually the main event, its worth hanging out a little while longer for the after party. The blue hour as its called, is the host to this special club for those fortunate enough to be in a cool location, have a tripod handy, have the time to bracket a few time exposed frames, and a few warm light sources as I had with this quaint little Vermont town!
As luck would have it, I pulled right into town after a day exploring the countryside just after a little rain shower. I’ve always loved what a short little burst of rain can do for a scene
So I have missed a few weeks in this little audio experiment. So many last minute and time sucking events over at the main gig at HyLite…another place I like to paint with light….that I have had a hard time staying on course. That should change soon though!
I had a day and a half to sneak away a couple of days ago however for an event called PhotoShopWorld up in Orlando. I had all intentions of recording a few clips while I was up there with a few other photographers, manufactures, insructors, etc….but well, that didn’t happen.
I did however, sit in on a few amazing classes, checked out a few cool new toys, and at least get a recording from the phone on the way. Not exactly the kind of quality content I am looking forward to bringing in the future, but still worth a listen.
As always, there are a few links below from some of the things I was chatting about.
As always, make sure and subscribe and keep checking back for more!
”Creative work is not a selfish act or a bid for attention on the part of the actor. It’s a gift to the world and every being in it. Don’t cheat us of your contribution. Give us what you’ve got.” – Steven Pressfield
Wow, I just realized that I have posted over a thousand times on this blog! Sure I have been a little vacant around here lately, but still. I can be found a little bit more frequently on Instagram and Facebook lately posting images captured and processed right on the phone. Its still art. Its all art! In fact, its amazing how creative we all are when we give ourselves the creative freedom to just play!
It’s an amazing journey when you let your passion steer the rudder of your soul!
When I first started this blog and my deep dive into the art of HDR processing, it was at a pretty crucial time in my life. I had just moved out of what used to be my home, I was trying to figure out how in the world I was going to be able to navigate my sanity through a difficult, emotional, and expensive divorce, and I was looking for a place to sink my heart and creative soul all while attempting to block out the madness that was all around me. In addition to juggling that, my lighting business was kind of peaking….along with the economy, I was getting a little burnt out, and a few difficult decisions had to be made. I’m sure you can read between the lines a bit here and there in some of my earlier posts. There was always that safe place for me to turn to though, and that was my blog.
Of course, I am well aware of the fact that most successful blogs out there are offering specific niche knowledge to a target market. I guess that could be determined by what your definition of “successful” is though. For me, if I have helped even but one person out there along my way here, in any aspect of their life, then it has been a total success so far
I decided to take the above image a little deeper into my process. The sky was a little drab that evening when I was exploring the banks of Lake Tahoe. Haven only given myself a day or two around the “Burning Man” trip, I had to make the best of it. Inspired by daughters own creation you will see below, I decided to see what kind of “painting” I could do myself. Sure, its not a real painting, but the process of blending textures into an image is can feel like it. Maybe I should try taking oil to canvas someday though. Hmmm, so many ways to create….so little time!
When asked to find a few images that she could choose from to paint for a project at her school, I suggested she look at a few of mine to see if she liked any of them. She chose the one above.
And what she created is below!
I can’t even describe the feeling I had when she sent me the picture. Such an amazing feeling that this girl, who not just a few years ago, was that little girl that used to lay on the floor and color with her dad. Now she is creating incredible art all by herself….creating, sharing, and beautifully expressing her gifts with the world.
Shortly after I had received the text of her image, I created this little picframe of my photo and her painting as a comparison to share on Instagram. So cool how you can share your art with the world these days!
About those early times though, just like every moment of every day…those times fly by my friend, too fast I tell ya. Every minute spent away from the desk and with them are precious investments in your life….and of course theirs! Something I need to constantly remind myself too.
I chat a little bit more about it here on the audio cast below. As you can see, the experiment continues. The audio is getting MUCH better as you will see. And as always, see the show notes and links below for more.
Thats all for now and thanks for stopping by!
BTW, I have been doing a little VLOG experiment again this month and the link to that is below as well.
“Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown.” – Claude Bernard
There is a very strange and beautiful calmness that happens right before some of these events. A sharp contrast to the scene just a few hours ago when the floral, custom carpet, lighting, staging, and audio teams all scramble in harmonious synergy in a sort up unscripted ballet. To the untrained eye, this early part of the day can seem a bit caotic. It is actually. Eventually it all comes together though, and with any luck, just after the candles are lit, …… it’s quiet…….
Time to capture a little bit of this amazing environment the team created, a room that just 12 hours ago looked nothing like this and in another 8 hours will be restored back to its pristine condition. For now…if just for a brief few moments, the candles are lit, the room is clear, and I can get to wander around this place to appreciate our creation. Still amazes me, even after over 25 years in the biz, that this happens right in front of my eyes. The only trace of the process….the images….remain to help tell the story….
(more from this setup later on another post!)
My search for an appropriate quote, to be totally honest with you, usually has me searching for a nugget of wisdom that is somewhat of an explanation or example of where my head is at the moment. For example, my deep dive into this world of the recorded voice and the learning journey I am navigating through as the inspiration for the quote search tonight. Life long learning….its contagious and part of the very fabric of what I am.
With all that being said, please enjoy this weeks clip (a little late, I know), feel free to leave a comment, and check out the show notes for links to a few of the things I rambled on about.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
Part of the challange of the capture is to create feeling of being out in the middle of the landscape, off the beaten path, and in a perspective that the average tourist would never get a chance to view the scene from.
This one was however, about 25 steps from the car……
I found this little perch up on the ridge to try to get away from the crowds, absorb the beauty of the scene, and take away a few clicks here and there. (Did I mention it was crowded there?) As timing would have it, it was mid day, not a cloud in the sky, and the lighting was a bit harsh to say the least. Not the perfect conditions that you hope to arrive to a vista like this as a landscape photographer, but I figured I could at least capture a few brackets for a foundation that I could use to create someting out of later.
Sometimes, when I find myself lost with an image….during the processing that is…I save it into a sort of “Ill look at this a little later” file. This one was one of those. After almost deleting it several times, I decided to work a few textures into the scene, painting here and there through layers, to give new life and dimension to the scene.
A work of art?
Not so much….
But the process of creating, learning, and striving to make “better” art is all part of the process…
“Don’t be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I had a cool little chat with the art students that created this piece. You know, it was kinda funny. I had passed this “sculpture” several times….both during the day and night while exploring the art at Burning Man, and blew it off as some sort of unexplainable blob of sharp plastic shards of debris. (don’t tell them that!) To my surprise however, it was far from that. Manufactured entirely out of tie wraps, these artists had created what was in fact a rather comfortable place to lay down and shelter yourself from the hot desert sun. And it was surprisingly comfortable!
I still have many more images to dig up, process, and share from this Cirque du Soleil meets Bladerunner meets Thunderdome meets a music festival and celebration of life love and art in the desert. A life changing event for sure.
So many before me have shared it so well like the video below:
I ramble a little about it (the image I captured above) and a few more things here below!
“Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress, don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.” – unknown
As promised, I continue to dabble a bit in the world of the recorded message. I talk a bit in this recording about these images I captured from an event I lit with my team of light painters “as I like to call us” with Hy-lite this weekend. The first and 3rd ones are essentially right out of the camera while the 2nd and 4th are 5 image brackets that I used the under exposed, the average exposed, and the over exposed to create an HDR image that was processed with Photomatix and refined in Photoshop. (man that was a long sentence!) I must admit, the D800 files are HUGE and are really causing my 4 year old laptop to churn its little heart out when crunching these images into HDR files. It’s been a while since I grabbed the Nikon D800 and captured one of these incredible spaces and creations that I am so lucky to assist in creating. I must admit, it was like playing on the playground again!
More to come soon!
As I mentioned in the audio, I am experimenting with a before and after plugin that I plan to chat about and review on the next clip, so if all goes well, I’ll let you know how it goes! Stay tuned
“Art is a personal act of courage, something one human does that creates change in another.” – Seth Godin
I named this one “God Beams in the Redwood Forest” after I uploaded it to Flickr. I’ve always loved those beams you see while driving during a partly cloudy afternoon. A little South Florida humidity always helps define these amazing shards of light. Its a gift really… your own light show, kinetically evolving as the effect is displayed on the world stage for all to enjoy. Funny how many never seem to take the time to appreciate these gifts. They are usually looking at their phones while drive along actually. Man I hate that! Perhaps, on the other end of the spectrum, you might find me gazing a little to long up into these beautiful displays of illumination (also, not to good when behind the wheel!) I guess its my history in the world of lighting events that has be drawn to these natural events. Truly is amazing what can be created with just one light source by the master lighting director himself! What a great teacher he is
This effect, to be brutally honest, was a photoshop trick.
Leave a comment if you want to see how I created it and I’ll do a quick video (if I can remember how I did it!) I’d love to share
As far as the attached audio clip:
a new direction….
a different way of communicating…
or just, possibly, a fresh new start…
(or, at the very least…..a 12 week journey)
As a way to possibly infuse a little energy back into my blog, I have decided to venture into the world of the spoken word.
“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” – Albert Einstein
First off, here’s the bad pictures…lets get that over with……
I guess “bad pictures” might be a bit too harsh. Iphoneography is more like it….cause, in fact, that’s what they are. Not the sort of thing you expect to see here on this blog of refined and over-processed images, but its all I have from this event.
I love doing these collages in camera actually. I use an app called picframe if you are interested by the way. Still amazes me what can be done with a phone…..A PHONE!
I may have mentioned it before here on the blog, but if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I am sure you have seen a few images and posts from this recent event we were honored to illuminate. By we, of course I mean our team from my other area of interest and playground of sorts….Hy-Lite Productions. Although its my business, career, and main source of income, I still feel like I get to play at work. Like a kid with a large toy box of lights, cable, and heavy stuff……I often find myself painting the interiors of ballrooms with light.
As we were quite busy doing just that over the 4 day event called Engage12 at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, I didn’t take the time to capture the events quite like I have in the past. That’s OK though, as there was some amazing photographers and videographers capturing the ambiance of each and every event, but more on that in a minute.
As I have mentioned before here on this somewhat of a subjectless collection of words and posts that I call a blog, the paradigm of education as we know it is changing…..drastically. (here he goes again!) I have my own prediction about the inevitable downfall of high priced and antiquated higher education and out of date institution that it has become. It’s pretty easy to see that a new platform of learning is becoming the new norm. With specialized online learning on absolutely EVERY subject under the sun available to anyone with a smartphone and an internet connection, and the speed at which the evolution of this content is evolving, the old way of delivering this information is in jeopardy. Stop and reread that. Do you honestly think that in 10 years, people are going to be shelling out 80K a year for college?
Let’s face it, the old norm of getting a college degree and expecting to work for 40 years, never retraining, working the same gig, expecting the knowledge that you acquired decades ago to be relevant, and all the while, expecting to get a pension is all but completely gone. Some still can’t see this…. like the many who couldn’t see the downfall of the newspaper. Hmmmmm….
Of course, another rant for another day….
As we are social creatures at heart, its no surprise that industry specific conferences like Engage12 are the new paradigm shift happening all around us. Continued learning can and does happen online, but it’s events like Engage that bring industry pros together and “recharge creative batteries” in what can be a sheltered exsistance as an entrepreneur or business owner. For example, from their website:
Intimate by design, and limited to no more than 250 attendees and speakers each, engage! gathers many of the ‘best of the best’ in the wedding industry. engage! events seek to offer something not found in other conferences. Careful attention is paid to creating an intimate atmosphere of effortless networking in a non-client, non-competitive environment—allowing for an open exchange of ideas, information, inspiration and candid discussions of the issues, challenges and unique opportunities facing everyone in today’s luxury wedding industry.
It was refreshing to be a part of this amazing event amongst like minded people to not only connect with industry pros, discuss future trends, recharge our own creative batteries, but also to be able to play or shall I say, “paint with light” as our gift to all that attended!
I’m proud to say that I personally “get it” and will continue to be a life long learner
When I’m not, I might be found behind the lighting console like I was below (once again, Iphone footage….I still cant believe you can do that with a phone!)