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)
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey
If the day goes as planned, there is a little window of time…quiet time…..just before the guests arrive. After the band has sound checked, the wait staff has finished laying the flatware, the lighting is focused (thanks to my HyLite Team), and the florist has left the building, the creation for the night is ready to be photographed. Its like a playground for the camera photographer! My only regret is that I didn’t capture a few “before” or “without the event lighting” shots. (I really need to remember to so that!)
Still amazes me what is created in such a short amount of time for one night!
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins
I remember listening to a podcast from Rick Steve’s about the history of this area along the Thames and some of the artifacts that were along the banks of this historic river. Having traveled to London a few times before, I can honestly say that I had never even though about getting this close to the water. Funny how its hard to even think about water running through such a large city as being…..well…actually….WATER. I mean, unless you are Kramer from Seinfeld, would you ever think about going for a swim in the East River? Nuff said……
So he (Rick Steves) talked a little bit about how, mixed among the many pieces of brick, were smoking pipes….from the 1800′s! On the flight across the pond, it was one of the few things that I guess I lodged back into the “If I ever happen to be there” file part of the brain. After a semi dangerous leap down off of the seawall, and after the Nikon was set up on the sticks to capture a few frames, I looked around and was reminded of his story. Hmmm, maybe this is where he was talking about. Amazing, after looking around for only about 5 minutes, I scored 3 or 4 of these little pipes. Kind of like these little ceramic things….bizaarre. How they could be there from over 100 years ago amazes me actually. Then again, they could have been crack pipes from last week. I like to think not though. I left them there for the next brave photographer to find….
(man, was THAT a dumb story…true, but so boring…..)
Anyway, enjoy the image. I used a little “oil paint” effect on the foreground and a few other areas just in case you were wondering about the “swirly look!” I kinda like it!
One more thing. I notice that my friend Jim Nix had just posted a shot of this bridge today on Instagram. Check out his site here for more cool HDR and travel images!
“Creating art is a habit, one that we practice daily or hourly until we get good at it … Art isn’t about the rush of victory that comes from being picked. Nor does it involve compliance. Art in the post-industrial age is a lifelong habit, a stepwise process that incrementally allows us to create more art.” – Seth Godin
This one has been hanging out in the “ready to blog file” for several months now. It wasn’t until I decided to convert it to black and white instead of the color tinted infrared that I felt like sharing it though. I like this version much better! It was taken at what I remember to be the highest area of land in Florida…which is something like, oh…. I don’t know, 3 feet above sea level?
In the center of the state, The Bak Tower overlooks the well manicured gardens that were fun to explore sans the hot Florida afternoon heat. These high contrast lighting scenes are always a challange for landscape photography, but pefect for infrared captures….when the sunlight turns the leaves and foliage a surreal and bright white.
A couple of years ago, I decided to convert one of my DSLR’s……the evergrowing collection I might add….into an infrared camera. A great idea if you are looking at a way to expand your vision and journey in this creative world of capturing the light. The great folks at LifePixel have a few options for this conversion. Check out their site here as well as these otheramazing artists works to give you an idea of what can be done after this conversion. Like anyting, there are a few techniques you have to learn and refine, but thats of course all part of the art
I’ll post a video or 2 later here on the blog if you are interested in the process!
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” – Pat Conroy
The best time to head out and capture the light is of course when everyone else is sleeping. As I have never been a huge morning fan, (I tend to wear out those snooze buttons!) I was pretty happy that this seen was waiting for me…..just a few steps from my pillow. Lots to explore here at the Hyatt Kauai. An amazing beach was just steps behind me as I took this one early morning.
Click click…..all right, where’s the coffee!
All righty, its time to get back to the blog here!
Been a while….sorry….but I once again hope to get a bit current with ya. I’ve got a bucket load of images in the hopper (not really sure what that means actually) that I want to share with you.
As you might know by now, I seem to divide alot of my time either providing light over here, or capturing light with the goal of sharing it here.
Since I started this blog a couple of years ago, a few other places have sprung up to share the art and craft. Seems like I am kind of watering down my time spent among all these places. Do you feel the same need to do so? Do you focus your sharing strategy on one more that another? What are your favorite photo sharing sites to hang out at?
For me, I find myself posting on my Facebook stream and Instagram feed a little more frequently out of sheer laziness of should I say ease of posting.
Funny how all this evolves right? Well, not really funny per say, but you know what I mean.
By the way, have you checked out the new Flickr user interface yet? Here is a quick screen grab of how my new page looks over there. Having been the first place I started sharing images when I started this blog out, it seems like I have quite a pile of “art” over there. Over 1400 images and counting. The new UI displays the images pretty well and really brings the look into web 3.0 …. or at the very least, 2013….
So many places to share your art. Feel free to share links to yours in the comments below!
Stay tuned for more as the summer frees up my time a bit. Lots of new projects in the works. There are so many ways to paint with light, and I am exploring a few of those a little deeper. I hope and plan to share a little more here on the blog as I dive into a few new directions in this creative journey!
“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…