Pics Ahoy!

Please pardon the terrible pun.  Sometimes I can't help myself.

I was approached by a good friend to spruce up the stock images he was using on his website.  He runs a sailing company that operates on Lake Travis right outside Austin, Texas.  This should be fun, I thought.  After checking out his site to get a good idea what was needed, I noticed the pics on the site were already pretty darn good.  This is going to be a challenge, I thought.

The strategy was simple.  My wife and I would accompany them for a weekend out on the lake.  During which, I would snap some shots throughout the day.  I was going to run the gamut - still life, detail shots of riggings all the way to broad shots capturing the lake and surrounding rock formations.  Don't forget the lifestyle shots!

It turns out I was quite naive about the whole thing.  One doesn't simply replace an entire, multi-page website with quality images from several different photographic disciplines over the course of just a few days.

When we got back from the fun and exhausting weekend I poured over the images.  I felt we got a few 9s, some 8s, and a whole mess of 7s and 6s and shots that should not have made it back to shore.  We weren't going to overhaul a website with this small amount of pictures.  So I got on the phone and explained the situation.  Fine, we'd just go out again!  Okay!

After that initial trip I came to understand a bit more about what we were dealing with.  Since I knew what images were lacking in the first attempt I was better able to focus on shots that would round out the collection.

I didn't want the images to look like they were done on the same day, by the same photographer.  I wanted quality images, of course, but I wanted that perceived production value you get when you look at a brochure and the people are wearing different clothes in each picture, for instance.  In this case I felt that processing shots differently would create a similar effect.

After reviewing the second set of images I started to feel much better about the project as a whole.  If I had my druthers I'd like to go out a few more times, but as it stands we have a collection of images I'm comfortable with.

...And some that have become all-time favorites.

For this last image I was standing out on the balcony of a rather nice hotel.  When I arrived it was just me and the view, by the time the sun started setting a dinner party broke out all around me.  So there I was, looking like I had just spent the day out on the lake, in the middle of a throng of people who had just showered and made themselves up to impress.

For the shot, since I was shooting into a sunset, I used a Singh-Ray reverse 3-stop neutral density filter.  Despite the high quality of this filter I still managed to pick up a vertical flare between the boat and the sun.  After some internal debate whether I should remove the flare or not, I decided to leave it in.  Who knows, next week, when I look at the image again, I might not appreciate it as much and decide to take it out.

It strikes me that we go out of our way to invest in top-quality expensive gear, one benefit of which is the minimization of flaring and spotting, yet we often appreciate the artistic, organic aspect of interesting artifacts like flares.  I appreciate the look so much I often add flare or some other "imperfection" to many of my images.  In fact, apart from the last one (which has the naturally occurring flare smack dab in the center region of the frame), I've added or otherwise augmented sun flares in the images that have them.

Such is the duality of man.

-JD