Tuesday, October 28

Surprised by Joy


I was experimenting with the custom white balance using the Expodisc on my Canon 60D the other day and I forgot to reset it back to Auto.  The next day when I used the 60D on this photo I was pleasantly surprised to see the unusual colors.  So I kept the color the way it is.  I just love it whenever I'll get these joyful "accidents".

#flower, #WhiteBalance

Monday, October 20

Thoughts on Babes, Cake and Candies (Repost)


Black and white photos tend look timeless in my opinion. As someone commented this is a Kodak moment. Though maybe Fujifilm -- the camera I used to shoot this -- will probably resent the reference to Kodak.

The picture of the two girls could have been taken in the 1950s. Yet they have just been captured last summer. That's 2012 for those of you reading in the future.


I like how their dresses appear 50'ish. Even their hairstyles look retrospective to me. Somebody told me it's called the Betsy Johnson look. Now I know what to tell my hair stylist next time I go for a hair cut.


And the M&Ms. Did you know they were created in the 40s so that the chocolate won't melt? 


The two girls are focusing on something other than the M&Ms -- that is a bit of a mystery because it is out of the frame. What was it?


#BlackandWhite, #children

Friday, October 10

How I create portraits (part 2)

Here are some examples of the before and after using the technique mentioned in Part 1:

Example A





Example B





Example C



#CreatingPortraits

Thursday, October 9

How I create portraits (part 1)



Here's a glimpse of my workflow:

I shoot everything in RAW and usually bracket my exposure.  Then I import my images in Lightroom 4 (LR4).  Out of the bracketed exposures, I choose one that seems right for me.  Here is a screen shot of the RAW image in LR4:


This was shot with the EF24-70mm f2.8 L ii mounted Canon 5D mk ii.  Focal length 70mm, 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 400, no flash fired, aperture priority.  Not an ideal camera to have for portrait but since that was what I carried at that time - it would have to do.  As one can see, there are a lot useless space on the image.  Cropping out those useless pixels would compromise the quality of the image but I didn't have much choice.  (My EF70-200mm f4 would have been a better choice but I left that at home.)

In LR4, I tweaked the image so it looks a bit better:



Exposure +0.45, Contrast +22, Highlights -100, Shadows +80, Whites 0, Black 0, Clarity +18, Vibrance 0, Saturation -3, Tone Curve (TC) Highlights 0, TC Lights +9, TC Darks -6, TC Shadows 0, Split Toning 0, Sharpening 25, Radius 1.0, Detail 100, Noise Reduction 0, Enabled Profile Corrections, Everything else is 0.

Then I export the image to Photoshop CS6.  Here is the image cropped at 4x3 portrait:


Using Silver Efex Pro 2, the image is rendered in black and white:



Then I remove the background using layers.  It is much easier for me to remove the background when the image is already in B&W.



I used Analog Efex Pro to add some grit and dirt:



Viveza for selective dodging and burning:



On a new layer, I then tamed the highlights on the nose and the beard using the brush tool and copying the grey tones that are on the image.



Then I created a vignette using Color Efex Pro 4 and was able to easily remove the name tag with a brush tool.  We are almost there.



Then I darkened the entire image using Viveza but I masked the face so it would not be affected.



I added a film grain using Color Efex Pro 4 to smoothen out the gradation on the background.



The last step is to create a copy using Shift+Alt+Cmd+E on the iMac.  Then I applied the hi pass filter that is built into CS6.  I applied a Radius of 1.8 pixel.



Change the blend mode to Soft Light and reduce opacity to 17%.  Viola!



Hope this helps.  Next time I will write about how I get my signature shoe polish look on the faces of my portraits.  Cheers.

#CreatingPortraits

Wednesday, October 8

Riva del Garda from a room with a view


Riva del Garda is a small town located in northwestern corner of Lake Garda, which is the largest lake in Italy. 

We were blessed to have a balcony overlooking the scenery.  The weather was near perfect.   

Friday, October 3

River Verona


Photo © 2014 Rob Castro

This was taken after Rose and I left the The Verona Arena (Arena di Verona), which is Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy built in 30 AD. (I'll see if I have any good shots of the amphitheatre for the next post.) We had to walk back to the cemetery where our coach was parked - probably a good 20 minutes walk - while the rest of our group took the taxi. On the way back, we passed this river. A mix of modern and antiquated architecture and gentrification.

Friday, September 26

St Bartholomew at the Duomo di Milano

Photos © 2014 Rob Castro


The statue of St Bartholomew draped in his own skin can be seen inside the Duomo Cathedral of Milan.    Made by Marco d’Agrate in 1562, it was originally not intended to be inside the cathedral.  It is believed that the saint was skinned alive.



When I first saw the statue, I was fascinated that it looked like a depiction of an alien from some science fiction movie.  Then an Italian woman next to me excitedly tried to explain what it was.  At first I couldn't understand what she was saying until I realized that there stands a man before me.  He is without a skin.  His every vein, artery, muscle, every fiber and tendon and tissue of the human frame are represented in minute detail.  At his back, his bearded head hangs.  He is carrying in his own skin. A hideous thing just thinking of the agonizing pain that he had gone through.



Thursday, September 25

Duomo of Milan (series)

Photos © 2014 Rob Castro


The massive Duomo of Milan is a sight to see - inside and outside. As one will see in the photos I took, each facet is an artwork by itself. I'm told that the cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete.Even now, work on rebuilding it is still going on.





The outer structure is made of pink marbles. Depending on the time of day, it can look like beige or pink.

I decided to go B&W on this series. W
henever I visualize strong forms, I tend to render the photos in B&W. Honestly it was not my original idea. Outside the cathedral there were posters documenting the rebuilding of the Duomo,  And they were all fabulous B&W. So I borrowed the concept, and it seemed to work well. 







I'm reminded of one of my favorite verses found in the Apostle Peter's first epistle: "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5)" I wonder if the builders of the cathedral were thinking of this passage. As one can see, sculptures of saints embellish the walls. The saints are the living stones being built up as Christ's church.






If my orientation is correct, the man should be beckoning towards west, which would be Spain and Portugal. Anything farther would be the New World, the Americas. Why was he pointing in that direction?  Perhaps, it is where the missionary journey should head to.  Or it could be as simple as beckoning the people to come inside the church.  I think I am reading too much.

Wednesday, September 17

Pond Anilao



© 2014 Rob Castro

Taken in 2010 with a Panasonic DMC LX3 Point and Shoot.  The camera only had 10 mp.  The worst part was I dropped it on a raging river.  I let it dry for 3 days and re-used it on this landscape.  Obviously, the camera still worked.  Maybe the water that got inside the camera gave it special powers.  Who knows?

The calm fish pond is owned by Rose's sister-in-law.  For years, she was in a legal battle to claim its ownership.  Finally, the court settled that she has rightful ownership.  It was battle worth pursuing, I think.

"Belek! Belek!"


© 2014 Rob Castro

In the Old Medina at Fes, if you hear "Belek! Belek!" behind you, stand aside because a heavily-laden donkey is bearing down on you. I was told by a local store owner that the word Belek comes from the root Bel, which means the mind. Hence, literally the cry of "Belek" is calling your attention - or calling to mind. More fascinating for me is that Moroccans don't have the letter B in their alphabet that to my untrained ears I hear "Puh-lak" instead. Our local guide warned us that if we don't heed, then we will be "Fuh-lat" or flat.

Taken at Fes, Morocco.

Blog http://www.juzno.com/
Gallery http://www.justanobserver.com/

A Night at Madrid


This is at Huertas in Madrid - a stone's throw away from Museo del Prado. Huerstas is cool at night. Everywhere you go is a Tapas Bar, left right front and back. One of the guys at the bar enticed me to watched a Flamenco show. He said that his bar is the oldest one to have shown Flamenco dancing. He was obviously not a very good liar.

I really loved Spain. A lot of history and very laid back. The Spaniards are lazy and they take siesta from 2pm to 5 pm. So the stores are close around that time. One would be fortunate to find an open restaurant. But it's nice place. The city becomes alive after 9pm. This is fiesta time. People including kids sleep 6 hours at the most.  

The weather was gorgeous when I was there. Our last day was in Madrid and our tour group - all 50 of us - got entangled with the demonstrators at the city while on the way to our farewell dinner. At the end, there were tear gas and rubber bullets flying. Quite exciting.

More stories to come.

Nana and Petrocz


Her dog Petrocz was too smart for his own good.  As Nana posed for the photographer, she didn't realize that the dog had painted graffiti on the wall behind her.

Hope your day is going well.

[Shot with the X-pro 1, 35mm lens at Szentendre, Pest County.]