Friday, May 30, 2008

Jazz Festival

Photography by Ralph Singer
After capture processing by Hal

Friday the 30th here in beautiful Los Osos. We are busy today prepping for the inaugural Back Bay Jazz Festival tomorrow afternoon. Victoria and I will be down there all day enjoying the music, serving wine, and taking pictures. Weather forecast is good and registrations are up so it should be a great day. We will post some pictures from the event on the blog next week.

As always there is plenty going on around here. Most of the week was dedicated to making wine. With no class in session, I've been up at Midnight Cellars blending wines for our upcoming bottling. I also spent an enjoyable evening pouring wine at the Palo Alto Art Center. A little more blending this afternoon and pouring at the Jazz Festival will round out the week.

Around the school, we've had a lot of private tutorials and have finally been able to catch up on some much-needed image processing. It's always nice to go back and revisit images that were put on the to do list.

Hope to see ya'll here soon. As always give us a call or email with questions, comments, or concerns.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Canvas Work Today

Yep, that's Ben Willmore trying to hide from his students behind a vintage Corvette.
Today is all about canvas at the school. As many of you know we offer limited canvas printing and finishing services to our clients. We specialize in the very popular gallery wrap technique.
We run canvas classes every now and again whether taught by Hal or with visiting instructors like Randy Hufford from Maui. Overall, the process is fairly simple. We first optimize the image in Photoshop and then create a canvas extension for the gallery wrap process. Whether we use a mirror method or a few different techniques is determined by the image itself and what will look best.
We print the image on Smooth Matte Canvas made by Premier Art ( We have had the best and very consistent results with this canvas. A few hours after printing, I will coat the canvas with Premier Art's Eco Print Shield. The product is a water based coating that give the print true archival characteristics. Once coated, the print is water and wine resistant (in actuality it is almost water proof), the ink will not crack nor flake when stretched, and UV/Ozone resistant. Normally it takes about three coats of the Shield to finish the print.
After a short drying time, I stretch the canvas around 1.5" stretcher bars using the Tensador II canvas stretching machine. For most prints, use of the machine reduces the total stretching time to about 5 minutes, not too shabby. With a simple workstation near our studio, I can stretch multiple canvases per hour and have them ready for the finishing touches shortly thereafter.
We add a 3/16" piece of Fome Core to the back of the print to ensure the canvas will be protected. All that is left is to screw in some hangers and wire and the print is finished.
So that's what is happening around here today as I work several 24 x 30s and 16 x 24s.
Take care and hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

No Class In Session But Plenty Happening

No class this week but still busy around the school. We've spent the first half of the week on administrative tasks and performing a detailed inventory of everything. Found a little time here and there as well to work on some of the images we've shot over the last month or so. For me, I have shot over 7000 images between George's class, Ben's class, and a week-long trail ride assignment. Like I often say in my Photoshop and Lightroom classes "It is all about effectiveness and efficiency " (especially with that many images to process.) If your workflow is not strong and quick, images can back up and become very intimidating and frustrating.

This week we also switched our email contact program. For any of you with your own businesses or if you are looking to keep in touch with many people, we highly recommend the folks at Constant Contact ( If you are thinking of using their main competitor, don't do it. Any other questions about this or why I strongly recommend this group, shoot me an email at

Take care and shoot well.



Monday, May 19, 2008

Ben's Finish

We finished Ben Willmore's Fine Art Nudes class Friday afternoon. Overall, it was an excellent week with time devoted to shooting outdoors, shooting in the studio, and working Photoshop in the digital darkroom to optimize the images.

Thursday was another studio session and it saw all of the students expanding their knowledge and understanding of the Profoto lighting system. In addition, the class rapidly gained confidence interactin with and posing/directing the models to get the ideal shots. A little experience made a huge difference.

Most of Friday was dedicated to Photoshop and printing. Ben, as a Photoshop Hall of Famer, did not disappoint. The balance of the day saw the Canon ipf 5100s printing most of the week's work. Whether color or dramatic black and white the machines performed and the class left with some beautiful finished prints.

After the class, we boogied up to Midnight Cellars in Paso Robles for the annual May Winefest. As you know Hal works as the assistant winemaker for Midnight and had some entertaining to do for the visitors. Festival was great, although a bit on the hot side. Temperatures hovered around 100 for both days. A little warm, but easily remedied by returning to Los Osos. In fact, when I left Paso it was 95 and twenty minutes later a cool 65 greeted me at home. So if you need to beat the spring and summer heat, Los Osos is a great place to do it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Ben Willmore Class

Day three of Ben Willmore's Fine Art Nudes is complete. The last two days have been a whirlwind with Ben teaching in the morning and then shooting all afternoon.

Yesterday was spent on location outdoors using natural lighting. From high on a hill, we shot at an exclusive pool setting overlooking the entire Central Coast.

In contrast, today was all in the studio. As you may recall, we have been outfitted with an excellent studio lighting system manufactured by Profoto and sponsored by MAC group. We had multiple stations working today as we practiced the studio lighting and shooting techniques Ben taught all morning.

As you might expect Ben has also been very active teaching the class Photoshop. Many of his techniques apply perfectly to the shooting this week.

Tomorrow will begin with a critique (all participants submit their best images from today for display on the big screen and constructive critique from all.) After that we will spend the rest of the day shooting in the studio again. The plan had been for another natural lighting session but it is possible to get so creative (with perfect lighting) indoors.

Take care and hope to see you soonest.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Ben is Back

Ben Willmore is back in town this week teaching his Fine Art Nudes. For those of you who know Ben mainly from his Photoshop expertise, he has become an incredible photographer as well, not surprising for someone of Ben's talent.

Today's focus was painting with light. In this technique, the model is in a totally dark room and the light is provided by the photographer's flashlight, sparkler, glow stick, etc.

We spent the morning in the lab learning the requisite techniques both for the shooting and the after capture. Ben has some great workflow to combine multiple light painting shots into one final image. We explored many of the layer blend modes and did some intricate seletions and masking.

The class put it all into practice in the afternoon as we turned the back half of the school into a completely dark studio. Our model was illuminated with just about everything but the kitchen sink. The resulting images are excellent. The shoot lasted right until dinner so everyone took a needed break for feeding and will be back shortly to process the images.

In other great news, we have a completely outfitted studio but I will save that for tomorrow's discussions.

Take care and have a great day.



Friday, May 2, 2008

Back on the Blog

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Since I last updated here we've had a lot going on. Over the two weekends we held some great Beginning Photoshop classes. We break the beginning classes into two parts. Although the course is labeled "beginner" we learn a huge amount about the program.

I really believe in setting a strong foundation upon which to build your Photoshop skills. It is a great feeling to watch as clients are fully optimizing images after only four days experience.

Last weekend, one client from San Luis Obispo declared Sunday morning that she does not understand nor would ever get Layer Masks. By lunch something had happened, since I had to force her to leave for food and save her 10 layer image. It was awesome to look at the individual layers using small, targeted curves adjustments to make her image "Pop!"

During the weeks, we have been doing a lot of printing work and I have been off consulting with the Navy. As some of you may know I spent a little time flying jets for the Navy and still use that knowledge every now and again.

Take care and hope to see you here soon.

By the way we have Ben Willmore here in two weeks for "Fine Art Nudes" and Jonathon Kingston next week with "Photoshop Unlimited."