Tuesday, December 11, 2018


In photography, as in most of the visual arts, directional light is the essential ingredient in creating drama, depth, mood, mystery as well as three dimensionality and texture. And when I say directional light I mean light that strikes the subject from any direction other than from the viewers’ (or camera) position. In addition, when outside, using natural light I look for light that strikes my specific subject in a way that highlights its best features. That requires observation on my part to determine the best time of day for that subject.

One of my favorite things to photograph are old farm equipment and machinery—the older the better—and when these things are left outside in the elements they become especially attractive to me! So, when we visited some friends, who live in central California’s farm land, and I saw their old rusted farm machinery I was all over it!

Sitting under a tree was this large rusted, lumber saw…
f7.1 @ a/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 47mm
The spotty light, filtering through the tree’s branches and leaves, from directly above skimmed the saw blade’s surface revealing its marvelous textures. I just waited for the most interesting pattern of shadows that accentuated the teeth of the blade. 

The other side of this saw was nice too….

f20.0 @ 1/80 sec., Iso 400; Lens @ 24mm
At the time the light filtering down through the tree was not adequate—the motor that powered the saw had no light on it so I went onto other subjects and came back 30 minutes later for the lighting you see in the above image. 

Going in close, using my lens at 24mm, with a very small aperture (f20.0) gave me the depth-of-field to show that cool old motor giving this image a nice foreground and relevant background feature.

This is what I was doing while waiting for good light on the saw…

f5.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 45mm
Parked in an out building that was open on one side were some old tractors. This soft directional light is what I call Barn Light. The key here is that only open sky (without direct sunlight) is the source of light. This is one of my favorite types of light and it’s easy to work with. However, because the light level is lower a larger aperture, higher ISO and/or a tripod is sometimes needed.

On the other side of the old Ford tractor…

f10.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 15mm
I love the grease and grime coating the engine of this old Caterpillar tractor.  Since there was barely two-feet between each of these tractors and I wanted to capture this tractor’s treads I used my 15mm Fisheye lens (angle of view: 180 degrees) handheld at f10.0 and bumped my ISO to 800 for a useable shutter speed.

What I want to stress here is that you should not settle for just any kind of light. For dramatic, interesting, fine-art images you must wait for the best light. If it’s not directional you come back later when it is; That’s all there is to it!

That’s it for this week…have a question don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week.

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


Waking up that frigid December morning, in 1978, in Bodie was really exciting. I was totally alone in one of the best ghost towns in America! I quickly set-up my single burner stove making some scrambled eggs and sausage. It was just as well that I could only cook one thing at a time because as soon as I removed my eggs from the pan onto a plate they were cold. I guess I was just lucky it was just super cold—being early December, at 8400 ft altitude, I was fortunate that I wasn’t snowed-in!

Fortified, I removed my camera—pre loaded with Kodachrome 64 film—from my insulated bags and noted they were cool to the touch, but not frigid. On a previous late November trip to the Grand Canyon one of my 35mm SLR camera’s shutter stopped working and the film advance levers were stiff because the extreme cold made the film less fixable. I’ve heard tell of other extreme cold weather photographer’s tales of the film getting so brittle that it would break inside their cameras. So, I figured that pre-loading my film in warm cameras plus the camera bag’s insulation would make my camera’s last longer outside in the deep cold.  Today I just have to wear my batteries so the cold does not drain them as fast.

In Part 1, I started with my main target subject—that marvelous leaning outhouse and how I exposed that image and now, 40 years later, did a digitally enhanced version.

In the background you’ll notice another leaning building—that’s where I went next…

ACR Enhanced Version
Believe it or not I took this image 7-years later (1985, Dec.) and I just happened to be there at the same time of day! Look at the shadows on the buildings! (see Part 1) 

That directional light, creating those marvelous shadows, is what makes this image work.  In fact what attracted me to this scene was the shadow of that smoke stack being cast on the front of that sway-backed building.

Here’s the original Kodachrome 64 slide…
Original Kodachrome
Looking back on this image I think I had too much of a good thing! Now I think there’s a bit too much negative space being created by the entire foreground structure being in shadow—it’s pretty much solid-black without any detail.

Here’s my How and Why Precessing this one:
  • Created RAW files by photographing my slides using my Canon 5D MKII with a Canon 100mm Macro Lens. (Note: see link to my video on how I did these copies at the end of this Blog.)
  • Open in Photoshop’s ACR (Adobe Camera Raw).
  • Used: a lot of Positive Clarity and Positive Shadow to open up shadow detail and enhance texture in wood.
  • Used: Negative Highlights to tone down wood highlights.
  • Used: Negative Saturation to make the wood its natural grey.
  • Brought back the blue sky with Plus Vibrance
  • Sharpened, applied Noise Reduction and Cropped.
Then I moved-in on the sway-back building….
ACR Enhanced Version

I used the same technique here as in the previous image except I did not de-saturate the color.

Here’s the original Kodachrome…
Original Kodachrome
The main problem with the original Kodachrome is that the highlights were too bright for my taste. While the exposure of the mid-tones was fine that old grey wood had curled and those edges acted like reflectors catching too much light. Back when I took this image there was nothing I could do about that, but now with the highlight control in ACR plus the other adjustments this image is finally complete.

Oh, and finishing the story of my first treck to Body in 1978…

When my car hit the rock on its underside it fortunately missed the engine (or the oil pan!) and instead hit my tranny’s bell housing causing a piece of the aluminum to bend inward thus contacting the ring gear—making the horrible racket I mentioned.  I and my car survived a very memorable trip.

Note: check out the link to my video on how I copied my slides using my DSLR…


’Til next week…don’t hesitate to ask question…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com