I've been a fan of fire trucks long before 9/11
gave firefighters the recognition they've long deserved.
When SVI Trucks in Loveland, Colorado, asked me to photograph
some of their trucks, I jumped at the chance to create
a dramatic image of a rescue truck ready for delivery.
Photos © 2003, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
"Black is the color
of my true love's eyes."--traditional English song
Making photographs in a factory
presents lots of technical challenges. Obviously, there are lighting
problems posed by working in a big building with 50-foot high ceilings
and mixed-color light sources. When shooting digital images under weird
lighting conditions, the most obvious solution is to create a custom
white balance using the flip side of a Kodak Gray Card. (It's
white in case you've never noticed.) That was an acceptable solution
up to a point. At this factory, the color balance varied within 10 feet
of the last place I'd shot. Just when I thought the camera's
white balance was perfect, I'd take a few steps to the left and
the color, especially skin tones, would look sickly.
My next solution was to play with the camera's built-in color
balance settings until I found one that worked, which wasn't often.
I finally used auto white balance, which all the digital gurus tell
you never to use. It worked better than you might expect, but wasn't
perfect. Then I had an idea that I wondered why nobody (at least to
my knowledge) had thought about before: Since the Canon EOS 10D and
other digital SLRs, including Olympus' E-1, let you set the actual
color temperature in degrees Kelvin, I used Konica Minolta's (http://konicaminolta.us)
Color Meter IIIF at my last shoot and was able to get almost perfect
color balance. I read the color temperature and changed the white balance
settings using the camera's "K" setting every time
I moved around the factory. This was faster and quicker than constantly
producing a custom white balance, but obviously is an expensive solution
that's not for everyone.
the Canon EOS 10D and other digital SLRs, like Olympus'
E-1, let you set the specific color balance in degrees Kelvin,
I used a Konica Minolta Color Meter IIIF at my last shoot.
I was able to get almost perfect color balance by reading
the color temperature and changing the camera's white
For digital photographers on
a budget but who still want correct color, the ExpoDisc (www.expodisc.com)
is an easy, inexpensive way to get good white balance and accurate exposures
on the first shot. It's a diffusion filter sandwiched with compensating
filters that are individually tested on a color analyzer to correct the
white balance before final assembly. You make an exposure with the disc
in place and select that image file for your custom white balance and
let the camera make the adjustments. This is a faster and probably more
accurate procedure than using a gray/white card.
ExpoDisc is available in 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm,
and 82mm filter sizes but there are no threads; it just slips onto the
front of your lens. The 58mm model I tested costs $89.95 but prices range
from $17.59 up to $159.95 depending on the size of your lens. For many
photographers, ExpoDisc eliminates the need for gray cards and can replace
even your lens cap.
Color Tricks With Photoshop
Wanna learn some neat tricks? Gavin Phillips' (www.photoeffects.biz)
instructional CD contains a set of QuickTime movies that show you, click
by click, exactly how to apply his special effects using custom Actions
and tweaks. Each movie takes between 2-5 minutes and you see exactly what
Phillips is doing as he works on different images. The disc contains 45
custom Actions, and with a little experimentation there are dozens of
more effects you can create. The custom Photoshop Actions that are included
take you part of the way, but normally there is some layer blending tweaks
necessary to complete the effect.
photographed a model using the available (mixed) lighting
at the fire truck factory using the Daylight setting of
a Canon EOS 10D. Obviously this is unacceptable color balance.
The package also includes 15
custom filters that are currently only compatible with Microsoft Windows.
To run the Actions, you'll need Adobe Photoshop 7 or CS. Most will
work on Photoshop 6, but I didn't test each one so can't guarantee
which ones will work or not with that older version. To view the movies,
you'll need the QuickTime player that's available free from
the Apple website (www.apple.com/quicktime/download).
The CD costs $65 plus $3 shipping and handling within the US.
From Digital Files
Sha-zam! San Miguel Photo Lab (www.bestlab.com)
is making black and white fiber-based prints directly from digital files.
Using a DeVere 504 digital enlarger to expose a digital file onto traditional
photographic paper, a computer is used to produce a virtual negative on
a high-resolution LCD panel that is then projected onto an easel, just
as when working with any other enlarger. You can FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
your image files directly to the lab or send them on a CD. The lab converts
the file into a black and white image using three possible formulas, choosing
the conversion method that they think bets suits the photograph. Then
the image is cropped and sized, adjusted for contrast and density, and
may even be burned and dodged before being sent over the in-house network
to the enlarger. There it's exposed onto Ilford fiber-based paper
and processed, including a full archival wash sequence. It is then air
dried before being flattened and spotted. The lab also offers toning services,
including selenium. San Miguel Photo Lab is the first lab in the world
to offer this service. Sounds like the best of both worlds to me and yet
another reason to shoot digital.
I slipped a 58mm ExpoDisc over the EF 85mm f/1.8 lens and
made an exposure. Using the Canon EOS 10D's built-in
custom white balance function and the ExpoDisc exposure,
I made this exposure just a few moments later. Whether reproduction
shows it or not, her white shirt is white and her skin tone
is much better.
Wireless Keyboard &
I am a wireless dude. I have a wireless computer network and I've
been using Bowen's wire-free radio trigger to trip my electronic
flash units. Now I'm using Belkin's (www.belkin.com)
Wireless Keyboard and Optical Mouse with my eMachines' Windows XP
computer to keep my desktop free of unnecessary cable clutter. This attractive
bundle costs $69.99 including batteries. Yes, kiddies, you need two AA
batteries each for the mouse and keyboard. One of the package's
best features is the keyboard's excellent ergonomics, including
a built-in, foldaway wrist rest and enhanced wrist support on the hand
fitting, scrolling mouse. What I especially like is that the Optical Mouse
delivers twice the accuracy of ordinary mice and is more precise not just
for digital imaging but also for even navigating through something as
mundane as Microsoft Outlook.
Belkin's software lets you set up customizable instant-access hot
keys that permit one-touch access to websites, e-mail, applications, and
files. Power Management keys can be set to toggle Sleep, Wake Up, and
Log Off functions. The Optical Mouse SpeedWheel allows instant access
to frequently used web functions and your favorite sites. With connection
via USB or PS/2, the Wireless Keyboard and Optical Mouse is compatible
with PCs and Mac OS computers and setup takes less time than reading this
Phillips' instructional CD contains a set of QuickTime
movies that show you, click by click, exactly how to apply
his special effects, using custom Actions and tweaks.
Photo Cleaning Lab includes everything you need in one powerful, easy
to use program: image editor, browser, photo manager, digital album, viewer,
and CD burner. This Windows-only program has an overview window that displays
individual photos or entire folders with a mouse click. Adding, deleting,
and managing photos is quick and easy. And you can organize images automatically,
or catalog them within custom categories. It has an accelerated search
feature that locates photos based on category, favorites, keyword, creation
date, or storage location. You can automatically fix individual photos
or correct an entire collection. Photo Cleaning Lab lets you create an
interactive photo album, a desktop show, screen saver, photo e-mail, or
print to share your images with family and friends. For under $40 it's
a nice little program, especially if you don't already own any kind
of image management software.
Miguel Photo Lab manager, Lee Dubois, adjusts the lab's
DeVere 504 digital enlarger while making a fiber-based print.
The enlarger can print digital files from wallet-sized up
to 20x24" onto real black and white Ilford paper,
fiber based or RC.
Wireless Keyboard and Optical Mouse is not only practical
and makes you more productive, but is sleek, comfortable,
and powerful with a metallic silver design produced by Belkin's
award-winning Industrial Design Group.
Photo Cleaning Lab includes everything you need in one powerful,
easy to use program: image editor, browser, photo manager,
digital album, viewer, and CD burner.