Saturday, February 27, 2016

Never Say Never (How I created this image) Repost

Here is a short tutorial  on how I created this image.

What software tools I used:
  • Lightroom 4.4
  • Photoshop CS6
  • Nik Software Viveza
  • Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2
The image was shot indoor in jpeg with the Fujifim X-Pro 1 using the 35mm X lens at 1/750 sec, f1.6, iso 3200.  I imported the image in Lightroom 4 and adjusted the Highlight to -100% and Shadows to +100%.  At these settings, the image look worse than the original but will work once converted to Black and White (at least if you are going for that metallic look).

The image is exported to Photoshop CS6.  In here, I bring the image to Viveza and decrease overall Saturation to -55%.  On all the three points (marked by red arrows), I increase the Structure to +68%, decrease Shadows to -60%.

Next I bring the image to Silver Efex Pro 2.  I use the template Push Process 011 (N+1.5).  For this image the tone is already acceptable for me so I do not mess with the global adjustment.  However I go back to the same three points (marked in red arrows) and make the following adjustments: Brightness -20%, Structure +29%. At these settings, the image begins to have that metallic look.

While still in Silver Efex Pro 2, I burn the edges to create a radical vignette.  This I think gives the image that film noir look.

Almost done.  Back in CS6, I add a Levels Adjustment layer mask and burn any hot spot areas that may be standing out and some other parts that need to be tweaked.

The one posted in Flickr can be found here.

Originally posted May 18, 2013 #MetallicLook #GreaseOnFace #Flickr

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Evolution of Alone

The latest revision.

She was my first model.  Never complained.  She just sat there without making a move.  Shot in 2008 with my first DSLR - a crappy Canon Rebel XT, 8 mp, 18-55 mm lens kit.  The image and her stories have gone through several changes but her spirit remains.  

Revised as aLone (again) posted November 1, 2011:

She came as the headless fashionista, and she was a blast at the Halloween party.  They loved her.  But I think she may have partied too much.  She was by herself alone when everybody left.  Left in the dark, she is still waiting for a taxi to get home.  

S:  She's sad because she has no head - maybe you should've given her a pumpkin head, Rob!

L:  She partied so hard that she lost her head.  Freaky!

Annie:  Very nice shadows. Where did you find a mannequin with no head like that? It looks like a photo fit for a fashion magazine.

Juzno:  Found her at the mall. She kept me company while my wife was trying out new clothes.

Rach: Wow a husband that takes his wife shopping; can't find many of those.

Juzno:  Well it gave me opportunity to flirt with the mannequins.

Martha:  He brought her headless body to the party on piggy-back. Her jealous troll boyfriend refused to see her smile and hear her laughter. He returned to his spot under the bridge and cradled her head.  He's destined to remain ugly muddy and cold. She was not sad and alone for long. The taxi man picked her up. She now decorates his shower. Water is life and her clavicles make excellent soap dishes.

Juzno:  Was that why her jeans shrunk?  She was decorating in the shower.

Revised as aLone (reprised) posted April 5, 2010:

It’s about being alone or more accurately the emotion associated with being alone, which is common to all of us. The original image was not like that. I changed it to black and white and darkened the background to give an impression of despair and despondency. I gave her a conscience and an emotion. She is well aware of herself and her predicament. She is helpless, and all she can do is hope. Yes, even amidst the pain and loneliness of being alone, she hopes. Just like many of us, we at times feel so alone, and yet somewhere somehow we tell ourselves that there is always hope. 

The Original Post

The original post -probably around 2009 - now lost in the blackhole of the internet.  The mysterious lady was beckoning to be shot.  So I did. 

#WhenTheJuiceDriesUp  #Revisitation #MyFirstModel

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Taking a break to see why I like taking photos of silly things

Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghost?

Lensbaby, the good guys who makes those specialty lenses, approached me to shoot some street photography to promote one of their  latest lenses - the Edge 50 optics.  I was glad to do it but by the time they sent me the demo lens I was too sick to go out and do street shots.  I did try but most of my shots came out flat as I was not in my best form.  Eventually, I settled for some macro images, which is in my comfort zone.  Here is one of the images I submitted.  So far I have not heard from them after sending in my photos.  So, I'm wondering if they'll ever use them.

#testshots #mymymymacro #demolens

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Tao of Pandas

Stop making sense.

Juzno:  Pandas are known to be ascetic creatures.  What is the good word?

Panda Left:  Good karma is like a reflection.  You see yourself in the past and in the future at the same time.  Everything is dynamic.

Panda Middle:  The goal of karma is to pursue nothingness and being.

Panda Right: I am but a blur.  Why did you use a  two legged tripod to take my picture?

Didn't get the joke?  Juzno's search for meaning is futile.  The philosophy of the pandas does not make sense.  The statement of Panda Left is a bit subtle and sounds pseudo-intellectual.  It really is nothing more than a mystical potato head blurb.  But when you get to Panda Middle the sayings get more weird.  A contradiction of terms.  One cannot be and be nothing at the same time.  Panda Right is the only sensible one on the group.  A tripod is a three legged device to help stabilize the camera to prevent image blur.  He is upset that Juzno tricked him by using a two legged tripod, which can only exist in the philosophy of the pandas.

#LensbabyDemo #reflection #GoodKarma

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Juzno starts making sense by his take on Spaghetti al Vongole

As always, I can't let a good thing go to waste so  I must take a food selfie.  Score two for my stock images.  Life is good.

About $19 billion were spent on Valentine's Day this year.  Maybe you are one of those who contributed to the statistics.  As for me, I hate going out on that day as the restaurants are always crowed.  So I make it a policy to celebrate it the next day.  Today, Rose and I had a wonderful lunch at Vicenzo's Terrazzo.  We have been here before so we know the food.  If you are nearby West Covina in Southern California, I highly recommend that you check it out.  Hat tip for guys on a budget and if you are trying to impress somebody.  Their wine selection is decent.  Even so, you can bring a $20 bottle of wine and pay a corkage fee of $15.  You will be be ahead as most bottles are double the price.  The Spaghetti al Vongole and the Burrata Caprese are tops.  Buon appetito!

#lunchAfterValentinesDay #ItalianRestaurants #goodEats

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Life Line

A wright of passage.

A warm eau de vie would be nice, Marco thought.  He kept walking.  His wet feet can no longer feel the ground.  He clutched the trash bag over his shoulder.  It was good that he remembered to bring it. His father taught him on how to use it to keep oneself warm on nights like these.   A stupid idea he thought at first but now it was keeping him from freezing.  Amidst the thick fog, he finally saw a glimmer of hope.  A visage of civilization.  A tall power line standing.  It could only mean one thing.  Wi-fi!

#wreck #glimmerofhope #bkuemoon #powerline #nightphotgraphy 

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Intrinsic Beauty of Children: Encounters in the Philippines

Between December 16, 2012 and January 3, 2013, I traveled back to the Philippines with my family. My wife arranged this time so we can have reunion with relatives and old acquaintances, trace our roots, and see the sights in various places within the country. Having lost contact with relatives on my side of the family, I did not care much about tracing my roots or meeting relatives. However, I was definitely interested in touring the country, to see both its rural and urban landscapes. Was this interest driven mainly by nostalgia for what used to be familiar, some sort of a pilgrimage to one's native land, or was it simply my passion for street photography? I don't really know but for whatever reason, I was drawn to the idea of traveling to take pictures of places with people in various settings and lifestyles. This photo excursion covered half the length of the Philippine archipelago, starting from Panay island in the mid-section of the archipelago to as far north as the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Photos taken were varied, consisting of people in market places of local towns, in rice fields, beaches, mountains, urban malls, slums, city sidewalks, etc.; all showing common people in various walks of life.

Throughout this photo-op I was surprised by the reception from the local folks. Perhaps it was my graying hair or my Westernized bearing, but most local grown-ups looked at me with leery eyes, suspicious of what I was up to. Twenty-five years of absence from this place has made me an outsider. That must explain why the natives gave me those dirty looks, or turned their backs away from the camera, or maintained such phlegmatic faces. I shot their pictures just the same. But the children were different. They looked at me directly, with that candid curiosity wondering who this stranger could be that visited their village. Some were more daring and called me out as "Cano! Cano!", short for "Americano" even though my gray hairs were no closer to the typical blonde hair expected of a foreigner. Others interviewed me, asking my name and where I was staying. They seemed to be open to know and befriend me. They were drawn to me as I was to them, for they were eager to show what they do and where they live. More so, I was captivated by this quiet contentment that they exude. They all seem to be satisfied with what they have and confident with what they can take on whatever the circumstance may be.

I wanted to highlight my encounters with these children. Hence, although I did take pictures of people of all ages I decided to come up with a short series limited only to photos of children. For this series, I shot mostly at a close range. Most of the images here were shot with myVoigtlander 20mm lens on a full frame Canon 5d Mark ii. The 20mm I have can only be operated on manual focus so it was a bit of a challenge although I was not so much concerned about the sharpness of the image as I was focused more on the feelings associated with the moments of capture. Also with the wide angle lens, I was forced to shoot real close to the subject, which I really loved because the results usually provided more intimate views. Plus it allows for interesting dynamics with the subject. If I'm smiling and happy, usually the subject will reciprocate the same sentiment.

The series documents their stories. Although the images were captured in different places, there is a commonality to all. There is intrinsic beauty in the simplistic lives of these children. In the end, it's about them -- in a time when God placed them. I chose the title "Bukas Na Kami," which is a play on words in the Pilipino language. It could either mean "We are open" or "Tomorrow it's us." I'll let the viewers decide which translation they like.

© 2016 Rob Castro

Original essay appeared at January 25, 2013

Friday, February 05, 2016

War is over

It never made sense to begin with.

#WarIsOver #dystopia #IsThereAnybodyOutThere

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Temptation of Sven

Man forging sword or his life?

Juzno:  Is it true that opium is the religion of the people?

Sven:  I believe you got it confused.

Juzno:  That may be so but didn't Marx say you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree of money lest you die?

Sven:  Marx never said that.  I think he was referring to the money being the root of evil.  Something like that.

Juzno:  Marx also said you will be like technocrats with good retirement plan once you eat of the fruit.

Sven:  Okay, sign me up.  Where do I eat?

Juzno:  I'll send you the Yelp link.

#forging #existentialism #laborersunite #senselessdialogue #socialism #socialjustice

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Instant Karma is Bound to Get You

Is anybody out there?

Why am I something when for almost an eternity I have been trying to attain to be nothing?  Why am I still in this world that is corrupted with greed and pollution and violence and adultery and all kinds of covetousness?  Why have I not achieve perfect karma?  Is karma but a delusion?  Why is Al Gore not answering my emails?

#InstantKarmaIsOuToGetYou #existentialism #GivePeaceAChance

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Nobody Cares

People tell me that my playing is great.  That it reminds them of the master Django Reinhardt.  What do they know about Djanjo?  These people don't know stuff.  I tell folks that I play 8 hours a day to get my chops.  The truth is I don't practice.  I improvise.  I make things up as I go.  Right now I don't even know what key the band is playing.  Nobody cares.  Because the truth is Nobody listens.  We are just background noise providing some contrived ambiance to this place.  You don't really need to like me.  I get it.

#jazzsmellsfishy #NobodyCares #Idonotcareanymore #StupidExistentialismBaloney #LifeIsMeaningLess

Monday, February 01, 2016

Wish You were Here

Pass me that Tiger Balm, will you?

Renaissance painters were masochists.  They painted on ceilings so that their viewers were sure to have stiff neck later.  Maybe this was to ensure that during service the faithful would be focused on the priest rather than the paintings.

#WishYouWereHere #PinkFloyd #mural #painting #renaissance #NorthernItaly #church #cruelpainters #stiffneck #tigerbalm