little lighting lesson

Little Lighting Lesson

I was in Washington speaking to the Professional Photographers of Washington showing a quick lighting demo using a three light setup with Fiilex LED Bricks.

before moving headSubject with no light in the eyes gives a less than stellar appearance.

Once you have lights in position, it can be a very small movement of your subject to get a better image. In this case, changing the head to a slightly higher angle allowed the light to show in the eyes. Catchlights in the eyes adds a lot of life to a portrait. A small change. Big difference.

lightis in eyesThe small change in position allowed the light to leave a catch light behind for a more ‘alive’ look.

fiilex p100 aka the brickFiilex P100

I choose the Fiilex LED’s P100 (AKA the Brick) because they fit easily in my suitcase, are battery powered (approx 2 hours battery life per charge), and have adjustable color and power. With a Color Rendering Index (CRI) of just under 90, there is a large spectrum of color available that is important to look for in LED lighting. Very versatile.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob


portrait of ernst

Post Processing on the Portrait of Ernst

One of the great pleasures of traveling to speak to photography groups is the fellowship with photographers. I met Ernst Ulrich Schafer while at the PPW Conference in Yakima, Washington. Ernst and I went out on an adventure and had a blast getting to know each other.

I asked Ernst to take a moment to pose for me to make a portrait. Found a decent spot for a nice lighting pattern on his face but the final portrait was completed in post-production. Here is the story of ‘The Making of Ernst”.

ernst portrait by bob coatesFinal image of Ernst

starting imageOriginal capture. Looking for a soft split light pattern.

I looked for a background that had a little bit of a gradient and a soft shadow transition from light to dark. Accomplished but finding an overhead light block with two open sides. I placed Ernst closer to the left-hand side to make the short side of his face the lighted portion. The light coming from the other side worked as fill. If aI wanted a sharper contrast I would have moved him further left. Less contrast further right. Since we can’t move the lights in a situation like this moving the subject is the only way to go.

ernst with NIK silver FX pro 2Process in NIK Silver FX Pro 2 with Sepia Tone. Note the difference between this image and the final at the top of the page. The white rim on the collar was removed as it was a distraction. Additional dodging and burning was done to lightly increase contrast and control some of the highlights. Check out the Layers Palette Screen Capture for more details.

If you don’t already have NIK filters be aware that they are a free download from Google. There is a great variety of filter effects available in the Suite. I often use Silver FX Pro 2 for my black and white and sepia tone conversions.

layers palette screen captureLayers Palette

Background is the original capture. Silver Efex Pro 2 is the Sepia Tone conversion. The copy Layer shows some retouching with the removal of the white collar. Layer 1 is a Soft Light Layer to burn in the sweater and add contrast to the shadow side of the face. Layer 2 is another Soft Light Layer to control some highlights and add a little sparkle to the eyes. I use the Soft Light Layer Mode to dodge and burn my images.

As you can see Adobe Photoshop with a pit stop in Adobe Camera Raw is a large part of my workflow.

Image made with the new Lumix GH5 and the 42.5mm f1.2 Nocticron lens @f1.2 1/320th sec ISO 200

Yours In Creative Photography,      Bob




photographing in florida tiffen filters

Working with Tiffen ND Landscape Filters

Had a good time making photographs in Tampa with Rob Bird a couple of weeks ago. We were on the beach at Fort Desoto Park, and I was working with my Tiffen ND Pro 100 Landscape filters. I used the 10 Stop plus the three Stop filters stacked together under overcast skies.

long exposure in tampa floridaMade with Lumix GX8 camera and 12-35mm f2.8 G Vario Lens with a sixty-second exposure. Added a bit more blur to enhance the scene in post processing in Adobe Photoshop

I like the ability to add a sense of time to my images by using the deep ND filters. Clouds and water merge into an otherworldly look. I’ve only just begun to experiment with this type of photography and look forward to getting better.

When working with the Tiffen Filters, I feel confident that the glass will protect the actual filter material. In the past, I had been using plastic filters and often ended up with scratches making replacement frequently a necessity.

tiffen landscape neutral density filter photo exampleThis image had the same settings and gear as above. Added just a bit of grain in post-production. Also removed a tower that was in the background that was a distraction.

Please note that this is not documentary photography. I am working toward giving you the vision I have for the final art piece. I am always adjusting my artwork to suit my vision. With that said, I am onboard with Julianne Kost in using the term ‘Lens Based Artist’ or ‘Lens Based Art’ to differentiate this work from my more realistic work.

action photo of Bob Coates by Rob Bird of pocket hamsters photographyMy working set-up for Landscape and Nature photography.
Image © Rob Bird

I work light when on location. Here’s my gear list that is pictured above. MeFoto Road Trip Tripod. Lightweight yet solid. Packs up small for travel. Think Tank Mirrorless Mover belt bag. Hold three lenses, spare batteries, lens cloth, mini-tripod and extra SD Cards. Lumix GX8. 12-35mm f2.8 Lumix Vario Lens, 7-14mm f4 lens, 35-100mm f2.8 Lumix Vario Lens, 20mm f1.7 Lens. Also on my belt the Tiffen Filter kit mentioned above. On my shoulder is a Lumix GX85 and the 100-400mm Lens.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob




sunday photo art quote -del

Sunday Photo/Art Quote – Eugene Delacroix


Perfection is the enemy of creation.

photo/art quoute eugene delacroix“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.” – Eugene Delacroix

That said, one needs to have a solid grasp of the technology and science behind the capture of the image. The more one understands the science and how the film or chip receives information the easier it becomes to stretch and push creative boundaries. Not to mention the post-production capabilities in manipulating the information captured after the fact.

It’s a great time to be a creative in the photography industry. I am going to start using the terminology I first heard from Julianne Kost that helps describe what I feel I do now.

“Lens Based Artist.”

Your thoughts requested and encouraged.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

aurora hdr 2017 software deal

Aurora HDR 2017 Software Deal

I’ve been really enjoying the program from MacPhun to create HDR images. I feel I am able to get more realistic images and still be able to tweak photos for the ‘traditional’ HDR look. This month gets you a deal to not only get the software but to get Trey Ratcliff’s instruction on how to get the most out of it. Check it out.

aurora HDR 2017 deal bannerThis software is for MAC OS only at this time.


Aurora HDR 2017 + Trey Ratcliff’s Complete HDR Tutorial 3.0 for only $89. Total value $189 Savings over 50%
Upgrade pricing starts at $49 for users of Aurora HDR, and is $69 for Aurora HDR Pro users

You get:
Aurora HDR 2017, The world’s most advanced HDR photo editor for Mac.
Trey Ratcliff’s Complete HDR Tutorial 3.0: Perfect for everyone who wants to learn to shoot HDR images from beginners to advanced users.
6+ Hours of instruction
Trey’s RAW image files

aurora hdr 2017 deal

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

sound bites grill – richardson

Walt Richardson & Friends at Sound Bites Grill Sedona

What a great show! Walt is known for his reggae music, but he is so much more. He’s a legendary songwriter with a big heart, and it shows during his performance. His friends are entertaining and talented musicians. There’s a reason Walt is in the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Walt’s own words say it best, “I am a Soul, Living out my life as a Songwriting, Storytelling, and performing Musician.”

Learn more about Walter Richardson & Friends.

Walt Richards & friends band - bob coates PhotographyArt with signatures for the Wall of Fame

If you have followed my work you know I photograph the musicians live while they are performing for marketing of future performances. In addition, I create an image for the ‘ Sound Bites Grill ‘Wall of fame’. These art pieces are created with each individual member of the band recorded and then extracted from the image and rebuilt. It’s a great challenge to render each performer and band in a slightly different style. Here in a nod to the reggae, the red and green lighting pattern was utilized in the spot lights. The singer-songwriter and personality of Walt was highlighted by picking an expression with that little smile and wide open eyes.

walt richardson & friends photo art by bob coatesNon-logoed version of the art.

Most of the images were captured with the Lumic GX85 and a 35-100mm G Vario lens.

bob coates photography photo walt richardson & friends bandImage of the full band for future marketing and appearances at Sound Bites

bob coates photography sound bites grill photoBack-stage view at SBG.

walter richardson at sound bites grill by bob coates photography

Walter Richardson black and white photo.

When I am creating the marketing photos I always make the conversion to black and white as well as a color version. There is more to creating a dynamic black and white image for printing than just desaturating the image to monotone. You need to control the contrast and the highlight and shadows properly to make a solid photo.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

bjs brewhouse colorado springs

BJ’s Brewhouse Art Piece – ColoadoSprings, Colorado

Had a great time sharing Adobe Photoshop techniques from my PhotoSynthesis program for the Professional Photographers Guild of Colorado Springs. During my All Day hands-on class, I was charged with creating artwork from scratch live in front of the attendees including making selections and sharing the thought process as I created the image.

bjs restaurant & Brewhouse art by bob Coates PhotographyHere’s the image I made for the class with a few elements cleaned up for clarity

This technique was one I created for art application but I keep finding that it is working its way into my commercial work as well. You can see the original photo below. The textures I used were images that we had gathered on-site that morning. The idea is you can create a significantly different image using many different techniques, textures, masks and blend modes.

photoshop pallete screen grabHere’s the Photoshop Layers Palette in a screen grab illustrating some of the techniques used.

The text was created using the fx palette. A large font was used for the name to attract attention. It was ‘dressed’ with bright color, an inner glow with a bright edge and a drop shadow. All of the text effects were chosen to help make the name stand out. The text for the address was more informational and was rendered white to be in high contrast with the rest of the image.

original capture beer in glass at BJs BrewhouseHere is the original capture SOOC ( straight out of camera) when my beer was delivered at the bar. Made with the LumixGH4 and the 35-100mm f2.8 G Vario lens

Got questions? Give me a shout.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob




tuesday painterly photo art – mcclanahan

Tuesday Painterly Photo Art – Dan McClanahan

For this Tuesday edition of Painterly Photo Art I have Dan whose work I have admired for quite a while.

© Dan McclanahanDad Started It! This piece was photographed in my client’s garage, capturing each subject’s expression from a tripod and stacking them together in photoshop to create an ideal composition. The food was all real, but the background was manipulated to look like a dining room instead of a garage. © Dan McClanahan

© Dan McclanahanBefore images for Dad Started It.

Dan’s work is a mix of in-camera artistry using artificial lighting and photorealistic compositing, often with a fun and vibrant feel. He’s only been a shooter since the digital age, so progressive lighting and digital manipulation have always been a part of his work. Dan’s business is split between his portrait studio and commercial work, and you can see the influence of commercial lighting and sheen in his portrait work.

© Dan McClanahanSports Poster – Basketball © Dan McClanahan

© Dan McClanahanReference images for sports poster. © Dan McClanahan

“My inspiration is generally gleaned from my clients, so my concepts are a collaboration between me and them within the parameters set by their needs. My challenge is to see how technically interesting and creative I can get within those parameters. Beyond client work, I try to challenge myself a couple times per year to create something I have no idea how to pull off just to make myself learn how to do it. Our Christmas cards and my annual schedule poster for the Iowa State Cyclone basketball team are examples of this. Aside from being great learning experiences, these personal challenges generally reciprocate in the form of successful competition prints and great exposure for my brand. For example, the image above of the family having a food fight was commissioned by a mom that saw our crazy/fun Christmas cards and wanted something like that for her family. I’ll take it!

© Dan McClanahan

Commercial photography created by McClanahan Studio in Ames, IA. Des Moines photographers specializing in modern, creative imagery for marketing and advertising campaigns. Dan and Alex McClanahan create promotional photography throughout Iowa and all over the midwest.

© Dan McclanahanThe Dangerous Lure of Entertainment: This was a personal piece. I had a tenant that was a hoarder and left a lot of weird stuff behind when she moved out. I ended up building this set out of her possessions and visually portraying the danger of our culture’s over-addiction to entertainment. It’s something I have struggled with in the past, and I knew people that dropped out of college due to video game addiction. I set the scene in the early 90’s because VHS tape looks way cooler than DVD’s and it was fun to pull some of my childhood interests and possessions in as props. © Dan McClanahan

“I’m not adept at drawing or painting like many of my peers, so when I composite I tend to photograph my components with precise lighting to match the scene so that the layers come together naturally and don’t require much blending in photoshop. I tend to use shapely lighting setups that retain the full dynamic range of the subject while sculpting expressions and textures to look 3-dimensional in a way that is coherent to the scene. Rim lights and fill lights are often used in addition to a key light to create this look. Remember, it’s easy to add contrast in post-production, but it’s tough to fix a photo with blocked up blacks or blown out highlights.”

© dan mcclanahan photographyNewborn Mutant Ninja Turtle: I recently became a father and while we hired out our newborn photos to someone with much more expertise than myself, I still wanted to make a newborn portrait “Dan Style.” I mixed several favorites of my wife and me: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, crochet, my father’s glasses, my old boom box, and our favorite local pizza. I figure I better subject my daughter to all of my favorite childhood things in photos before she’s too old to object. © Dan Mcclanahan© Dan Mcclanahan

Before image. © Dan McClanahan

Dan McClanahan became a photographer in 2009 with the goal of creating a fresh alternative to traditional photography in his market. His quest was so successful that his work quickly made waves in the photo industry with multiple Grand Imaging Awards from Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) awards, magazine features and becoming one of the youngest photographers on record to receive all three photography degrees bestowed by PPA. Dan has given back to the photography community as an educator, teaching numerous times at Imaging USA, SYNC, After Dark Education, PhotoVision and other events.

He owns and operates McClanahan Studio with his best friend and beautiful wife, Alex. He splits his time between advertising photography and high school senior photography. The couple live and work with their daughter in a twelve thousand square foot historic building they renovated and share with nine tenants.

Outside work Dan is a small town Iowa introvert that loves Jesus, his family, punk rock drumming and strong coffee.

See more of Dan’s work –

Dand and Alex will be hosting a photo retreat in June in Hawaii – for more details






time lapse sunrise – tampa

Tampa Time Lapse Sunrise

While I was in Florida for the Lumix Luminary summit on the GH5 I had scheduled a couple of extra days in Florida to photograph wildlife and nature scenes.

Thanks to fellow PPA member Rob Bird I was able to get to some cool areas with great subject matter. One of the benefits of being a PPA member is that you have photographer contacts who know the lay of the land all around the country. We got up and going for what I call dawn patrol to capture the city of Tampa at sunrise. I decided I’d work a couple of cameras with my Lumix GX8 capturing a time lapse of the whole sunrise while I used the Lumix GX85 for stills.

Tampa sunrise set to the music of Eric Miller – The video was put together using ScreenFlow a screen capture program that has some pretty powerful video processing features.

The time lapse features of the Lumix cameras are pretty amazing. You don’t have to add an intervalometer because it is built-in. You can select your timing between image capture, the number of frames, start and stop times in an easy to use interface. But, here’s the incredible part. You can process the finished time lapse in the camera. Choices for how many frames per second and quality level is chosen. In this case, I prepared the files to a 4K .mov video. 4K allows me to move around within the image in post-production when using a smaller timeline.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob




working a scene

Working a Scenic Landscape

The light was fantastic. Scenery amazing. Time? Very short!

I was on my way to a photo shoot in the evening and saw the moon just starting to peek above the horizon as the light from the fading sun had already dropped below in the west. I grabbed the Lumix GX85 and the 7-14mm f4 lens to see what I might capture in the few minutes I had available. I don’t usually like to rush when a situation like this appears, but duty and a deadline called.

sedona red rocks by bob coates photographyThis was the first quick image to make sure I had something in the can.

I first quickly grabbed an overall scene-setting image. Then I tried a couple quick grab shots. I ran down the parking lot to get a better overall view. Having the wide angle lens gave me a lot of the scene but I knew I would need more to be happy.

adobe bridge screen grabNine image panorama capture for further work in post. Note the images have already been adjusted a bit in Adobe Camera RAW

I set up and shot a nine image panorama with the camera in the vertical orientation to gather as much info as possible. Already the light was starting to fade and my job was calling.

sedona red rocks by bob coates photographyImage output after using Photomerge in Photoshop.

I allowed the Adobe Photomerge tool to do a lot of the heavy lifting for me. I highlighted the images in Adobe Bridge selected Photomerge from the Tools drop-down menu Tools>Photoshop>Photomerge… Layout was set to Auto. The following text boxes were checked. Blend Images Together for obvious reasons. Vignette removal. This was checked because the lens had a bit of vignette and would have made for messy skies. A reason for not checking the vignette box would be if you had files that had no vignette because the files could process faster. Geometric Distortion Correction. You can try working without this but I have found in a scene like this the red rocks would have curved. Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas. When a handheld pano is  made like this there is often areas that don’t completely fill the rectangle of the final image. Photoshop will look around and use it’s best guess to fill the areas. You can check on them quickly as it will also leave a selection around the areas it filled in case you need to make some adjustments. In this particular case, it did a great job. All setings are available for you to play with if you don’t get the exact results for which you are looking.

Post-production is a huge help in these instances to obtain quality images.

full mon photo by bob coatesI pulled a full moon from my files as the moon area was blown out. Another case of the eye being better than the camera. If I had more time I would have bracketed exposures to get the detail I needed.

red rocks moonrise sedona by bob coates photographyHere’s the final. The moon has detail. The image was cropped to bring attention where I wanted it and
a little judicious Cloning was used to remove the couple under the tree.

If you have any questions or comments give me a shout!

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob