Arts

Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship

On Saturday the 14th, I covered the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., for the Bellingham Herald.

Bagpiping For the Dancers:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Bagpiper Andrew Lee of Port Coquitlam, B.C., plays for the 14 & Under 16 Years division Sword Dance championship during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.  Competition chair Heather Richendrfer says nearly a hundred dancers from as far away as eastern Canada participated in the event sponsored by the Celtic Arts Foundation and the Clan Heather Dancers. The championship is sanctioned by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing and is only one of two held in the Pacific Northwest. Winners in each division receive a cash prize and a hand blown glass, heart-shaped award.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Bagpiper Andrew Lee of Port Coquitlam, B.C., plays for the 14 & Under 16 Years division Sword Dance championship during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., INFO: Camera D300s, 17-35mm f/2.8 at f/4 at 1/250th

It was fun and challenging. The stage was well-lit to the point it was over-lit. They kept everything in lights and it was difficult to find angles to differentiate the dancers from the background. But that’s understandable as it is a competition not a play.

Overlit Stage:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  A youngster uses an iPad to photograph competitors during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – A youngster uses an iPad to photograph competitors during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash. INFO: D3s at 1/200th, 80-200 at f/4

 

The key to this competition is that all the dancers in an age group, danced individually 3 at a time to the same music. The judges then rated each one on how well they performed the traditional dances. So although they danced together, they were judged separately. In other words, not much variety.

Practice Makes Perfect:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Mackenzie Whysker of Surrey, B.C., left, and  Brielle Thibaudeau of Langley, B.C., practice their Strathspey & 1/2 Tulloch dance moves as Kate Bonar, all 9, of Surrey, B.C., observes their moves backstage during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.  Competition chair Heather Richendrfer says nearly a hundred dancers from as far away as eastern Canada participated in the event sponsored by the Celtic Arts Foundation and the Clan Heather Dancers. The championship is sanctioned by the Scottish Official Board of Highland Dancing and is only one of two held in the Pacific Northwest. Winners in each division receive a cash prize and a hand blown glass heart-shaped award.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Mackenzie Whysker of Surrey, B.C., left, and Brielle Thibaudeau of Langley, B.C., practice their Strathspey & 1/2 Tulloch dance moves as Kate Bonar, all 9, of Surrey, B.C., observes their moves backstage during the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash. INFO: D300s at 1/50th, 17-35 at f/4

 

After a few “stage” shots from the audience point of view, I went backstage to find moments and ultimately something different. This also afforded me opportunities to see things you wouldn’t see from the seats.

In Synch:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Mackenzie Cleaves of Duncan, B.C., competes in the Sword Dance portion of the  Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Mackenzie Cleaves of Duncan, B.C., competes in the Sword Dance part of the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash. INFO: D3s at 1/400th, 80-200 at f/4

 

One of the first things I do when covering something I’ve not covered before is to just observe. I think it’s important to just spend a few minutes just watching things and formulating compositions. Since the dancers performed the same dance, it was easy finding repeat moments to photograph.

Kicking High:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Brielle Thibaudeau, left, of Langley, B.C., competes in the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Brielle Thibaudeau, left, of Langley, B.C., competes in the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash. INFO: D3s at 1/200th, 80-200 at f/2.8

To compensate for the overly lit stage, I found angles so I was shooting the dancers with a dark background. I then underexposed my meter reading by one stop to attempt to drop the background out thereby making the highlights, the faces, stand out more.

My Workflow (Single Images):

  • Iingested images in PhotoMechanic to rename files and add basic IPTC and caption information. Using color coding, culled about 4 images for print. Added names and more info in IPTC. My file naming is detailed here: Keeping It Simple: My Workflow
  • Chose about 18 photos for online gallery which included the top picks for paper publication.
  • Edited the 4 photos I chose in Photoshop by opening the RAW and adjusting the white balance and reducing the noise by increasing the Luminance in Noise Reduction to 30%, cropped image, added a touch of Clarity (about 10%) then opened.
  • In Photoshop, created a new layer from background (for burning and dodging). Dodged and burned what was needed. Used a Curves layer to darken shadow areas and brightened midtones. Duplicated the Burn/Dodge layer, used High Pass filter at 4.5 pixels to sharpen, set layer mode to Vivid Light (more on using High Pass to sharpen here).
  • Checked caption information (PM sometimes changes names spellings) to ensure names properly spelled and info is correct. Saved as a PSD in new folder removing the “raw” and renumbering as 1, 2, 3, etc . 
  • Flattened image and then resized to 12″ at dpi. Saved as a jpg at 8 in new folder.
  • Back in PM, I took the 18 photos I edited down to, added more caption info checking name spellings, and then saved those as high res jpegs into the Jpeg folder. I then delete the repeat images keeping the new edited one.

In Lightroom (for the gallery):

  • Imported (Added) the images from the Jpeg folder I selected for the online gallery and the ones for print.
  • Darkened the background and increased midtones a touch by using curves if needed, adjusted the white balance a touch, added about 10 to 20% clarity, sharpened about 90 at 1px, reduced luminance noise to about 30%.
  • Exported these to a new folder titled Web at 900px long side at 8 jpg.

 Just One More:

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald -  Mackenzie Cleaves of Duncan, B.C., competes in the Sword Dance portion of the  Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., on Sat afternoon Feb 14, 2015.

© Paul Conrad/The Bellingham Herald – Mackenzie Cleaves of Duncan, B.C., competes in the Sword Dance portion of the Celtic Arts Highland Dancing Championship at Syre Center on the campus of Whatcom Community College in Bellingham, Wash., INFO: D3s at 1/400, 80-200 at f/4

The gear (check photo captions for each individual picture):

  • Lenses:  Nikkor 17-35 f/2.8 AI, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8D
  • Cameras: Nikon D3s and D300s with ISO set to 1600, and White Balance on manual set to Tungsten
  • Shutter and aperture varied. 

To view more images from this event, visit the gallery Celtic Arts Highland Dancing.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Paul Conrad is an award-winning, nationally and internationally published freelance photographer living in Bellingham, Whatcom County, Wash., north of Seattle in the Pacific Northwest. His work has been published in newspapers and magazine throughout the United States and in Europe.

His clients include Getty Images, Wire Image, The Bellingham Herald, and many local business in Whatcom County. Previous clients are Associated Press, the New York Times, L.A. Times, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News, and many others.

His specialty is photojournalism covering news, sports, and editorial portraits, he also is skilled in family portraiture, high school senior portraits, and weddings. He is available for assignments anywhere in the Pacific Northwest.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Weekly Photo Challenge: Carefree

Being avid outdoorsmen, living in the Pacific Northwest has a distinct advantage: It’s not a far drive to either the ocean nor the mountains. You practically live in the outdoors.

Sunset Kayak:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A kayaker paddles on Bellingham Bay under a brilliant sky near the Boardwalk in Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Wash.

This week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is Carefree. Living up here promotes a carefree lifestyle and encourages one to visit the Great Outdoors.

On weekends and even during the week when neither has work to do, my wife Heidi and I like to drive around and enjoy the area. We are both from Colorado. She’s from Colorado Springs, and I from Aspen. I worked at The Aspen Times for over 7 years as their Chief Photographer. After living in Colorado for many years being and avid camper, hiker, backpacker, biker, snowboarder, and Jeeper, we needed someplace in the great outdoors.

Joy at Sunset:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - My wife and Sweetpea Heidi takes in the sunset at Larrabee Beach south of Bellingham, Wash, on her birthday in 2012.

Before meeting my wife, I moved out here after the newspaper industry began taking the big economic hit in Jan. 2009. I pulled roots from the great little town which I have great friends, some of those I almost consider family.  Heidi moved out here after we met in 2010.

Dancing With Itself:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) appears to dance on a piling in Bellingham, Wash.

Blazing Fast:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - A runner jogs along the Boardwalk at Boulevard Park in Bellingham, Wash., during a blazing Sunset on Sunday evening April 14, 2013.
***The photo above won Best of Show Third Place – Professional in the City of Bellingham, Wash., photo competition Essence of Bellingham***

We live now in Bellingham, Washington, where we go on drives to enjoy the carefree outdoors of the Pacific Northwest.
Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Trying His Luck:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad PhotographyA fisherman tries his luck at Deception Pass on Whidbey Island north of Seattle, Wash., as the setting sun washes the sky with its hues.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

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Calendar Photography: Illuminating Goddesses

***Updated***

For the past week or so I’ve shot portraits of Goddesses for my local client Ashley Benem of Benem’s Body Works.

Ashley contacted me through a friend of a friend. Upon first discussion, her ideas intrigued me and wanted to work with Ashley on her project. She needed various models dressed as certain goddesses for her calendar.

These consisted mostly of studio sessions with a few outdoor shoots. For the studio, I used Einstein monolights made by Paul C. Buff.  These lights are phenomenal.

I borrowed them from my good friend Earnie Glazener of Seattle, Wash. I’ve used studio lights multiple times before, but these were fantastic. With a quick tutoring session, I realized I need to get me a set of them.

For the main light, I used one with the parabolic light umbrella (The PLM system), which is basically a huge beauty dish and gives off some wonderful light. My fill was a basic soft box by Paul C. Buff. On some shots for more dramatic light, I used a Photflex reflector to fill in the shadows for more dramatic light.

For the outside shots, I just used the reflector to fill in the shadow areas.

After setting up the lights, I took a few test shots each day using my Color Checker Passport by X-Rite Photo. Just a few shots at the metered exposure and then a few more bracketed. The good thing with the Einstein lights is that they are extremely consistent with their color temperature.

These are some of my favorites and how I lit them:

Artemis the Hunter:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Ashley Benem of Benem's Body Works portrays the Greek goddess Artemis the Archer, Goddess of the Hunt, Forests, the Hill, and the Moon, during a photoshoot for her upcoming calendar.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Ashley Benem of Benem’s Body Works portrays the Greek goddess Artemis the Archer, Goddess of the Hunt, Forests, the Hill, and the Moon, during a photoshoot for her upcoming calendar.

Lighting: What was important in this photo was the angle of her drawing the bow (it is a real bow and arrow) and the ability to see her eyes. Yes, the inspiration for the angle was the movie poster for The Hunger Games.

A basic lighting set-up was used for this image. Ashley was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the left and a powered down soft box (2 stops under) on the right. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 80-200 zoomed halfway for a slightly compressed feel.

Post Processing:  Simply brought into Adobe Camera Raw to get correct color balance and add a little fill light. Brought into Photoshop and used separate layers for curves (slight increase in mid-tones) and Black & White layer for the sepia.

Persephone Daughter of Zeus:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Greek goddess Persephone daughter of Zeus being tempted by Hades. Queen of the Underworld and vegetation goddess.

Lighting:  What was important in the photo was all the white with emphasis on the reds of the pomegranate and her lipstick, yet, still maintain some color for her skintones.

The model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the right and the soft box on the left as fill. I wanted less depth of field so I powered down all the strobes to their minimum. Exposure was 1/250th at f/4 using my D300s with 50mm f/1.4  focused on the pomegranate.

Post Processing:  I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw twice: once for correct exposure and color balance, the second time to get the overall overexposed look. Those were then layered in Photoshop with the bright layer converted as a smart object and placed on top of the “correct” layer. I then used the eraser tool with the opacity and flow settings set to the mid-range on that layer to bring out the red in the lips and pomegranate of the underlying layer. I then added a curves adjustment layer to flatten the highlights and add just a touch of contrast.

Athena Goddess of War:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Athena the daughter of Zeus, Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, architecture, divine intelligence, and crafts.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Athena the daughter of Zeus, Greek Goddess of wisdom, warfare, architecture, divine intelligence, and crafts.

Lighting: What was important in this photo is to make her look the part. Ashley did a great job coaching her to bring out the character as she did with all the models.

While shooting, I had to pay attention to the sword because when it was turned the “correct” way, the glare was overwhelming. The model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the right and using a Photoflex MulitDisc 5-in-1 reflector on the right using the gold fabric surface. I wanted less depth of field so I used my 80-200 to compress it a touch. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 80-200 f/ 2.8 focused on her eyes.

Post Processing: I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw for correct exposure and color balance. Then using Photoshop, I layered a curves layer to bring in the mid-tones and add some contrast by anchoring the upper shadow area. Then I added a Black & White layer to add the sepia toning.

Brighid- Celtic Goddess of Childbirth & Poetry:

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography - Brighid the Celtic Goddess of Childbirth and Poetry.

© Paul Conrad/Pablo Conrad Photography – Brighid the Celtic Goddess of Childbirth and Poetry.

Lighting: What was important in this photo is to ensure the herbs on her left were properly lit as well as lighting the globe with a spot light so it has a glowing feel to it.

While shooting, I had to pay attention to the globe to make sure the model held it in the spot where my snooted SB-800 strobe was firing. The rest of the model was simply lit with the large PLM umbrella on the left as the main light to keep the herbs well-lit.  The right side was lit using a soft box set about 2 stops under the main. Exposure was 1/250th at f/11 using my D300s with 17-35 f/ 2.8 at about 20mm focal length.

Post Processing: I brought the image into Adobe Camera Raw for correct exposure and color balance. I also made the shadows a little deeper to drop out the black background. Then after importing it into Photoshop, I layered a curves layer to bring in the mid-tones and add some contrast by anchoring the upper shadow area. Then I added a Black & White layer to add the sepia toning. With the B&W layer, I added a mask and using the eraser tool, deleted that part over the herbs to bring out the green. The opacity and flow settings on the eraser tool were set to the mid-ranges to keep the edges from being to stark.

There are a total of 13 models for this shoot. Each one has their own special characteristics. Each one with their own special circumstances. These are just my 4 favorites.

Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.
Thank you for stopping by to read and view my work. Feel free to comment, critique, or just ask questions.

Also, feel free to share and reblog, link to, and add your site in the comment section.

Paul “pablo” Conrad

Follow me on various Social Networks:
Pablo Conrad Photography

“Like” my Page on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

Follow me on Pinterest

Follow Me on Google+

My Page on 500px