Sunday, August 31, 2008

Monsoon Season

As hurrican Gustav approaches New Orleans after devistating Cuba, I enjoy light to medium rain showers every day here in Flagstaff. The locals call August the "Monsoon season," and it is easy to see why. Today it rained all day except for the hour and 20 minutes I was out biking. Absolutely wonderful for me because I love rain. The kids from Oregon are a little less pleased.

Yesterday it rained quite a bit. During a particularly heavy bout I grabbed my camera, hat, and a plastic cover and rushed out the door. Just outside my dorm I found a pretty little flower weathering the storm right next to a quickly forming pond.

I like shooting in the rain :-)

More later :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Blues

First, a picture.

shot on my walk around campus the other day. I actually had to bring down the saturation on this one in Aperture.

Business: I am officially one of 11 or 12 (I am not really sure) staff photographers for The Lumberjack, which is NAU's weekly paper. I met up with the photo editor yesterday and after he looked through my stuff online, he decided he might as well hire me. (it actually pays: $10 per picture printed).
The setup for this paper is pretty different from what I am used to. Photogs sign up for stories online, our editor approves our choices, we shoot and upload from anywhere on campus to the server. We write our own captions (something i did not do at FHS) in the photo comment field in Photoshop for our "final" 4-6 good pictures.
I am fairly excited, and also kind of nervous. I shot a women's volleyball game last night just to try it out. The Jack already had 2 or 3 photographers there, so I did not need to come up with anything good, which is a relief 'cause I got nothin'. Maybe 2 or 3 good ones out of 100, and even those few did not deserve to be published. 
I guess it is time to get back into the game.

More later,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Picture of the Day

Another of the shots from my recent walk around campus. I have been trying to get a good reflection picture for a long time. This shot does not quite meet my standards, but it is close.

I am bored with posting the tech detail for each picture, simply because it does not really matter if you knew the exact settings, date and time of day that I took the picture, if you try to recreate it you will get something completely different. Trying to recreate pictures by the famous guys (not that I count myself among them) will not make you a good photographer. It is in trying to out-do them that you will find yourself creating fantastic photographs.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cheap Prints!

Ken Rockwell is pointing people at Adorama's photo labs: 11x14 inch prints for $1.99
I just ordered 7 prints for my dorm room, a little decoration for my extremely barren walls.

I'm still searching for a model. I have found a few possibilites but I haven't actually done the shoot yet, so we shall see.


The buzz: new nikon, new canon... who cares?

Honestly, I used to drool over every camera that came out from either Nikon or Canon.
These days, after reading the stuff that David DuChemin comes out with, I care less and less about the camera, and more and more about the pictures.
Which explains why I laughed out loud at the video Chase Jarvis made while he and his staff tested the D90 before it came out.
Nikon's goal: Sell cameras.
Nikon's method: Get a professional to use the camera and make amazing photographs.
The effect: A bunch of amateurs see the video that Jarvis made and think "Oh wow! This camera is so advanced that if I buy it, I will be able to make pictures like him!"

In truth, I am pretty sure if someone handed Mr. Jarvis a disposable camera covered in mud, he could still make amazing pictures with it.
Likewise, if a bunch of rich and untalented amateurs get ahold of the D90, they will still take a bunch of crappy pictures.

The video is an almost-well-disguised but still unabashed promo for Nikon. The D90 is likely a great camera, but it still takes a photographer to know how to use it.

On a totally unrelated note, I went out around campus yesterday with a new photographer friend and shot a few pictures (76).
I got around 11 good ones, so they will be the pictures coming up throughout this week.

Desktop background anyone?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The R-strap for $1.50

After seeing the BlackRapid R-Strap I decided I needed to revise my own strap system. But, not having $50 to spend on a strap, I resolved to make something similar for less than $10.00.
I busted down to my local hardware store in Boulder and bought an eye-bolt for $1.35. Then, using a duller-than-average hack saw, I (with the help of my father) cut off about half of the bolt, such that it buried right to the hilt into the camera body. I then searched through my strap inventory (I have a habit of collecting straps), and happened upon the straps that came with my M-Rock camera holster. After taking a pair of wirecutters to the wimpy plastic clips and attaching a couple home-depot carabiners in their places, I was good to go!

a very basic strap for $1.50

(Pictures taken with the iSight camera on my Mac)

Maybe eventually I'll break down and buy one from BlackRapid, 'cause those have pockets for cell phones and such...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Black and white

Another image off my most recent roll of film. It was a really good roll for me, more than half of the pictures were bearable, almost none had exposure failures, mainly composition.
I could definitely justify shooting more film if I could keep up this kind of success rate. Images shot in Digital and then converted to black and white just don't have the same feel.

N80 35mm camera, tamron 28-105 1:3.5-5.6 lens.
pushed contrast a little bit in Aperture after having the film developed and put on a CD for me at the local Walgreens. Next time I'm going to go out and see if they will raise the scanning resolution, these images were only about 1mb each.
Either that or I'll find a way to get into the labs here at NAU and use their beautiful neg-scanners.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photoshop fun.

I picked up my most recent roll of black and white film today. The pictures are decent, pretty much what I expected. I spent a while yesterday playing in photoshop again, so here are a couple images for ya.

This I shot on film before photoshopping out the background. I like circular pictures and I do not know why.

This I shot digital and then made background black and white in photoshop.

fun fun fun.

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I took a half-hour yesterday and ran around shooting. I managed to find a (very shiny) motorcycle, so I broke out the 100mm f2.8 and popped off a few shots. Here you are :

I converted them to black and white with Aperture, and increased the contrast a little to get closer to matching film. I still need to shoot a little with the Active-D lighting, but I am stubborn and set in my ways ;-)


Friday, August 22, 2008

All Moved In

I am officially moved in to my dorm in NAU. I am not quite settled yet though.
I have some furniture rearranging to do, probably another lamp to buy, things like that.
Hopefully I can get that done with and spend some time today shooting!
More later, it is breakfast time!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Something I can handle

My two shoots yesterday were fantastic!
The shot of the day is from shoot #2:

We had perfect light, the wind was blowing in the right direction, all my gear worked, and I finally got a reflector! I took an old Blackjack pizza box from the recycle, taped a wooden dowel to it, and grabbed some really shiny gold wrapping paper and taped it on shiny-side-out. The result is a fantastic (albeit ghetto-fabulous) reflector. It provided the right quality and just the right amount of light to fill in the shadows from a little different angle than my flash, which I was using as  a fill against the sunlight. I also tried a new strap system for my camera, and to my immense delight it worked wonderfully! I will put up some pictures later showing the setup I used, but it is based off of the "BlackRapid R-Strap" [link] that photographer David DuChemin has been ranting and raving about. Of course, it cost me all of $1.35, whereas the R-straps go for $44, so it needs a little improving here and there, but I think I can handle it.

I'm packing and running errands all day, leaving tomorrow!

Monday, August 18, 2008

cleaning and packing

Today is going to be a busy day for me. I'm trying to get all my loose ends together so I can pack tomorrow and make the drive to Flagstaff, AZ on Wednesday.
I have 2 photoshoots today for senior portraits. I have good feelings about them :-)

I also have a really cool picture in my head. Unfortunately I am the model I see in my head and that simply cannot work. I need a model. So, I expect I will find myself outside on Campus somewhere looking for someone who fits the bill. This happens rather often to me, an image pops into my head while I am enjoying dinner or relaxing and that picture is the only thing I can concentrate on until I have at least tried it. Hopefully I will be able to take a break from it while I do my photoshoots today.

I'll be posting pictures as soon as I move into my dorm, but that won't be before Wednesday afternoon.


Sunday, August 17, 2008


The firefighters actually did a controlled "backburn" along the fence you see here before the rest of the fire actually reached it, in order to essentially starve the fire to death. It did not cross the path or the ridge, and was 100% contained 2.5 hours after the department received the call. Not too bad for a 50-150 acre fire (we still don't know).

It smelled for days afterward, but it will be really good for the grass come next spring.

Thats all for now!

Friday, August 15, 2008


Goodness me, somehow I managed to miss a day blogging. Shame on me.

I've been pretty busy with senior photo shoots recently. Finally getting a little bit of money.

I took a break for a personal project the other day, shot a friend of mine and his Honda F4i, up on a "scenic overlook" off Highway 36.

The first two have minimal photoshop, just a little clone tool to get rid of an annoying "Wrong Way" sign in the background. The bottom image I actually photoshopped his glasses on, and I did it poorly. You can't really tell unless you're looking for it, but still. I cut out the glasses off another shot where he was wearing them. In that shot he was looking down, so the angle was way off. Rotating them didn't work so I manually erased and made a new side to the glasses, holding them on his ear. The first two shots are lit by the awesome cloudy background and my SB600 flash, about 6 feet from the models on a tripod. 1/8 power or so, zoomed to 50mm
The bottom shot is lit from the on-camera flash at full power, as well as the SB600 which I was hand-holding about 5 feet from the camera. probably 1/3.2 power zoomed to 75mm.

My goal with these shots was actually to use 2 new constant 90 watt floodlights hooked to a generator to get some balanced light and some blur, but the generator didn't fire when we got to our location (despite having tested it before lifting it into the back of my truck).

Oh well. I did get several spare 90 watt floods for my new lights, as well as a couple of decent pictures. All I need to do now is send them off to Honda...

tomorrow: pictures of the charred Lookout Ridge after our 50-150 acre (sources disagree) fire.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008


UPDATE: Turns out that both pictures posted here were published in the Boulder paper "The Camera" on August 17. These were my first pictures that actually made print for that paper, although several of my pictures have made the online-versions of stories.

Probably my last opportunity to shoot a fire came up today, so quite naturally I took it.
Fire was between 79th st. and highway 287 south of Lookout rd.

I know nothing about how it started, but once the wind kicked in, the fire burned pretty fast. Several different agencies responded, BRFD (my employer for 3 more days) was first, so after recieving the call from my dad, I busted out there and took a few pictures. I saw several photogs come out, one had a real big lens, and I knew they would have better longer lenses than me, so I hustled out into the middle of the field with my wide angle. I was not anywhere near close enough, but shooting these damn fires always entails a lot of walking and I wanted to give the fire a lot of room, because the cross winds could not make up their mind which way to blow. first at me, then away from me.

I submitted 6 photos to the Camera, we'll see. The best of which is:

What I realled needed was a brush truck or a tanker about 20 feet from me on the right... but they were all busy fighting the fire.

I did get one shot with the tanker in it:

The fire was really far away, so I had to put on the tele and stand far enough back to make the fire seem a little closer.

Some cool motorcycle pictures later!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Yesterday after a shoot with a friend of a friend, I found myself lamenting the mediocrity of my images. There was simply nothing special about them. This was an every-day shoot, and I treated it like one. Thus, the images came out looking every-day. Admittedly, some photographer's every-day images are better than others, and while these were not bad pictures, they were not great either. 
Then I found myself thinking.
"What is so bad about mediocrity anyway?"

We as photographers, and as people, need mediocre pictures once in a while. It makes the really good ones stand out, it shows us how we can improve and teaches us what really makes the "good" picture so good. Great photographers make shitty pictures all the time but you as the viewer or the audience never see them. Likewise, shitty photographers can make great pictures. Everybody sees those pictures. It does not matter if you are shooting a disposable, a PS (point n shoot), a DSLR, or an 8x10. There will always be lots of bad pictures. All we can do is critique those pictures. Ask ourselves "Why does that picture suck?" and "How could I have made that a better picture?"

Mediocrity exists for us to learn from. So really, I am proud to say that my images yesterday were not fantastic. I learned a few things, and caught myself making mistakes that I have not made in a long time. At my next shoot, I will not make the same mistakes, and the images will be better for it.

Totally unrelated, have a  couple fun little pictures I shot the other day. Longboarding rocks!

Tech for both images: D300, Vivid PC: saturation boost +2, 18-55mm at 18mm, f3.5,   5 second exposure to let the grass and moonlight in. the boarders were stopped using 1 SB600 flash about 4 feet camera left, 1/4 or 1/2 power. We tried the start the shoot earlier, when I would not have needed such a rediculously slow shutter, but we got kicked off the road (up to NCAR) by a rent-a-cop and were forced to switch locations.


Monday, August 11, 2008


Saab Poster.
If only they would buy it from me... or hire me to make a real/good one.

later: skateboarding and lighting pics.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunset Storm

Not much new to say. I'm leaving for college in 10 days (not that I'm counting down).
Here is that picture from the weather we were having a while ago.

Lots of color, lots of awesome contrast. You cannot get this kind of picture with Active-D lighting! 
Tech: exactly as shot, D300, 28mm f2.8, 1/640 sec, ISO 100. 

Later: late night pictures of sean's Saab 9-3.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

website update

The website for my business, Vault Photography, has finally been updated. I took a couple of hours today and gave it my new logo, a new set of links, a welcome note, and a brand new 14-image slideshow that plays as the welcome screen.

Take a look!


Link and a picture

First off, here is that self portrait I've been promising.

Shot it in my bathroom using the lights above the mirror. 
Tech: D300, 18-55mm at 35mm, ISO 1250, underexposed amost 2 stops. I increased contrast and lowered saturation in Aperture.

Also, an awesome multimedia presentation called "Common Ground" by Scott Strazzante


Friday, August 8, 2008

Business cards, my way

So, I am incurably impatient.
Two or three days ago I sent off some pictures to a graphic-designer friend of mine. She has been working on a business card design (or three or four) for me. Having read some of David DuChemin's thoughts on graphic design, I decided to try my hand at it (cause i've got nothing better to do... just passing time til college starts). 

Before you see the cards you get to see the process I went through to get there.
First, I needed a picture. Something that hopefully goes with the "Vault" theme, and looks good. Lacking a safe, I chose a padlock. I happened to have a couple locks lying around without brand names on them (although I toyed with replacing the "master" on masterlocks with "vault photography").

Location studio: my bedroom.
Backdrop: One of my sports coats
Lighting: mix of tungsten, daylight, and mostly SB600, diffused with a piece of paper taped to it.

Here is a picture of my "studio" as I finished my shoot.

You see my platform is my bed, the sportscoat is still on its hanger, and the flash is on its tripod with half a piece of paper taped to it. I made some wrinkles in my coat to give the background a little texture.

I used the 28mm 2.8 lens, shooting between f4 and f8 to get a decent depth of field balance while trying to keep my ISO low, because I knew I was going to be cropping a fair amount.

The original:

It is dark, and you can hardly see any detail, but I knew I could fix most of this in post. For once, I was actually shooting with the post-production in mind, so all I shot for was a decent focus and the right highlights.

I messed with it a fair amount in Aperture's limited editing. Boosted contrast, brought down shadows and boosted highlights. The result:

Lots of color range. I blew out the highlights a little bit so I could have some pure white somewhere on the card to go with my contact info, which I planned to have in all-white. Of course I then have a LOT of shades of grey to choose from for the "Vault Photography."

End Product:

When my graphic design buddy is done with her magic, I'll show you what a real business card looks like :-)

Eventually we'll get to that self-portraiture and a decent shot from one of the many storms we have been having in Boulder.
-Matt Beaty

Real Detail

My truck:

Sometimes I wonder... Why is it, that the makers of the Toyota pickup in 1987 decided NOT to prime the bed of the truck before painting it? This truck runs like clockwork and it is older than I am, but man oh man, it looks like a hunk of junk. It has character, I'll give it that.
Oddly enough, this picture is exactly as shot. One of the few images I have not had to mess with in post to get it where I want it.
Tech: Nikon D300, 28mm f2.8, 1/800 sec, ISO 200, Vivid PC: contrast and saturation +2.

Coming later (I dont know how much later): my new business cards and how I got them!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Valmont school: 1911

I have been meaning to shoot the old schoolhouse off Valmont and 63rd streets for a while.
Two days ago the light was favorable and I was looking for something along there to shoot. I chose the schoolhouse this time, but there are several nice barns/houses on Valmont and my goal is to make it to at least one more of them before I leave for college.

Tech: Nikon D300, 28mm f2.8, 1/800 sec, ISO200. PC: saturation and contrast were both +2, but I took saturation down a fair amount in Aperture to make it feel a little more old-time.

A detail shot with my 80-200. I don't like how the light blocks the view of the sign, but when I moved around to the other side there were powerlines and less-attractive objects in my way. The lesser of several evils.
Tech: D300, 80-200mm f2.8, 1/400 sec ISO 200, PC: again, both set at +2 and brought way down in Aperture for the old-time feeling.

On a totally unrelated note, a friend of mine just bought a D300 and was ranting and raving about the Active D-lighting setting. According to him, setting the D-lighting to "High" brings the tonal range of the D300 to somewhere closer to film. (I believe I heard digital can get you detail in almost 5 or 6 stops, whereas black and white 35mm film will give you detail up to 8 or 9 stops difference). AKA, you get detail in your shadows and you don't blow out your highlights. I will take a look at this, as I do not currently use the feature at all.

Coming soon, my new business cards and how I shot the pictures, as well as some self-portraiture.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Junk on Sensor

I was out shooting another sunset this evening. I like sunsets but I find them very difficult to capture. Either my equipment is malfunctioning, or I am. Tonight I think it was a bit of both.

I was having trouble composing and upon chimping I noticed JUNK on my sensor. How much?
This much.

Ouch. Look at all that. In addition to being bitten by ravenous mosquitos and not being able to compose an image, now I had stuff on my sensor. This is not the kind of stuff that the D300's "Clean Sensor" deal can take care of. no no no. I tried three times and it made no difference at all. I was forced to give up, go home, bust out the shop-vac and clean my poor sensor.

Luckily, with some post-production contrast boost I was able to get a decent image out of a shot I had taken before I was beset by the sensor-cloggers.

I really like the contrast, both highlights/shadows and colors: blues, pinks and yellows against grays and blacks.
tech: D300, ISO 100, Vivid PC, contrast and saturation +3, f22, 1/15 sec.

More later

Same old, same old

Nothing much new to report here. I have not been shooting much. Too busy enjoying my summer. A couple of my friends are leaving for college around the 10th, so I have been trying to squeeze in as much time with them as possible. I did take a chunk of time out of my drive yesterday to shoot an old and very abandoned schoolhouse. I'll load those pictures soon and see if they are any good. I also have need to shoot a safe. One of my friends has a safe, but I have yet to contact him to see if I can some set up some gear and shoot it for a half hour. The picture will likely serve to decorate as well as my business cards... if I can get it looking anything like I want. I often find myself with pictures in my head that end up being very difficult to create with a camera. That's the fun part for me, is seeing how close I can get the actual image to the image in my head :-)


Monday, August 4, 2008

Missed Sunset: A Tribute to the D300's Colors

You remember that sunset that I was ranting and raving about?
I did manage to catch the very end of it, but not from where I wanted to, and not with the lens that I wanted. To compensate? Boost saturation and contrast each to +3 and hope that the rediculous colors blow the viewer away and distract from the composition. What a horrible thing to do, yet I did it anyway.

Tech: Nikon D300, 28mm f2.8. 1/1000 sec, ISO 400. Aperture tells me that the saturation and contrast are only boosted to +2! Imagine if I had been at +3. The yellows would probably have blown out (more), but the blues would have likely come darker toward the top left corner.

More later

Friday, August 1, 2008

From the Photo Gods

Que the heavenly-sounding music!

Scott Kelby is out to promote his new book. Good for him. Usually I wouldn't care, but how he is doing it is making a lot of people very excited. A world wide "photo walk." [LINK]
Actually, its several (100+) small (50 person) photo walks. What is a photo walk? Where a group of shutterbugs get together for a day of walking and shooting. You meet in the morning, shoot all day and end up at a pub or cafe or restaurant in the evening to chimp on each others photos. 
Do I want to do it? Heck yes!
Is it going to be a little difficult? Probably. The date for the photo walk is August 23. 2 days after I move in to my dorm in Flagstaff, AZ. The nearest walk to me is in Prescott, AZ. An hour and a 45 minutes drive.
The challenge? Make friends with a few photographers in the first 2 days I'm in school. Then make friends with a photographer who is willing to drive a couple people down to Prescott for a day of shooting.
Do I think I can do it? .... maybe. I expect it will be a little bit of a challenge.... but I also figure if I walk around carrying my rig at its biggest, I might meet a couple people who 1) have camera envy, or 2) will give me camera envy. We all know most photogs are total gear-heads, so walking around carrying a bunch of gear might do the trick ;-)

That's what I know for today!

(photo tech: 1/3200 sec at ISO 400 F8. D300 with 80-200 at 80mm, PC set to vivid and contrast +2)