Coming Soon, Carl Denham explores the explosive growth of film in the age of digital and explains why it may not be right for you. Compelling and enlightening, don’t miss this one.
Today we have Carl Denham back on the Lifestyles Desk with another installment of his informal series we’re now tagging “Advanced Techniques for the Universal Selfie”.
Today Carl offers various exciting and proven techniques to help the four eyed “Selfie” addict avoid those ugly reflections that often ruin their mugs.
If there’s one thing that makes your average photographer eat their liver it’s being tasked with photographing an individual who wears glasses.
Any time you have bright strongly sourced light, you have to consider the real possibility that the light source be reflected in the lenses of the eyewear worn by your subject (or yourself) and back to your camera or smart phone.
If this is a problem for highly skilled professional photographers it’s a nightmare for the committed “Selfie” addict, with multiple thousands of otherwise excellent efforts ruined every day.
As with everything in life when we have a problem in order to find a solution we must first understand that problem.
As this graphic demonstrates, it’s all a question of angles. Light follows a completely predictable path from source to subject to camera lens just like a ball follows a completely predictable path on the pool table when you ride the nine.
And it is that predictability that allows the professional photographer to avoid the bugaboo of glare by simple adjustments in the relationship between light source, subject and camera.
Now I say “simple”. Simple perhaps for the professional photographer who has control over all the elements of his shooting environment.
But not so simple for the “Selfie” King and Queen who often has no control at all and may be dealing with drunken if not outright hostile friends.
So let’s explore the options.
The most obvious solution is for the subject (be it you or others) is to remove the offending glasses.
That might be fine for somebody who alternates between contacts and analog glasses but maybe not for others.
Very often if somebody wears glasses full time that eyewear can be as much a part of their visual identity as the nose on their face.
Very often when asked to remove the glasses ( the subject be someone else or yourself) no one will be happy with the picture because it’s not going to look like the person as the world has come to know them.
That applies even when the person is ourselves.
So we reject that option out of hand.
The second option is to rearrange the relationship between the subject, the light source and the camera.
As we see in the accompanying photographs this can be quite an effective technique when it comes to avoiding reflections from eyewear. But this option is not without problems of it’s own.
It can be a royal pain to move cameras and lights around, especially if the setup revolves around more than one light source.
And arranging lights to avoid reflections may not give you the results you would like.
And of course if you’re shooting film which more of us are doing these days you won’t have the instant feedback of digital so you won’t even know if your adjustments are effective for days or weeks.
And finally this is time consuming and with the slap ‘n’ tickle nature of the “Selfie” time is not your friend here.
There is a another option that is much quicker, a trick the pros often use. Simply tilt the glasses on the head so the lenses are angled downwards.
Properly done the reflections will not hit the camera lens.
But still not the ideal solution as the glasses can easily look askew.
So what’s left?
What will work for us, quick and dirty and with minimal effort?
Perhaps the Bible can provide some inspiration:
“If your eye offend thee pluck it out.”
Now one saying we should pluck out eyes, but we CAN “pluck out” the lenses of eyewear thus remove the offending elements.
A procedure easily accomplished by some thumb pressure properly applied.
And as we see in this comparison photograph of Dorothy the Plastic Head, removing the lenses from our eyewear is an extremely effective method to avoid glare and reflections.
In fact without the lenses glare and reflections are impossible.
But like they say there’s no free lunch.
If you remove the lenses from your “real” glasses you may not be able to put them back.
Therefore I do not recommend that.
What I DO recommend is that all four-eyed “Selfie” addicts invest in one or more “burner” frames and remove the lenses from them.
For about $7 currently the “Selfie” addict should be able to find frames that match their own more or less.
I found serviceable frames two for $14 at Amazon.
I found several more at Zanni even cheaper and now carry a variety in my standard “Selfie” kit, always available and close at hand and thus always loaded for bear.
One final advantage of lens less frames, without the distortion of interceding glass, the eyes can really pop and as the Bible said:
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.”
So it is when the “eyes have it” with “Selfies” too.
A Carl Denham brand commentary
Coming soon, hot “Selfie” techniques for people with glasses.
Carl Denham on the Lifestyle Desk offers advanced tools and techniques guaranteed to avoid reflections and glare and bring out the beauty of the eyes without resorting to technical tricks and photoshop.
A Carl Denham brand commentary
Life is not always about politics and hating Donald J. Trump though it seems that way today.
There are some other important issues that may even be of greater consequence to the average American.
Today Carl Denham is at our Lifestyles Desk where he is opining about one of the more compelling issues of our time, the ubiquitous and ever-present “Selfie” and how this universal symbol of our age and aging can be transformed from all too often bottom drawer into a thing of at least acceptable quality.
I’ve noticed over the years that the problem with most “Selfies” is that they make even the most attractive people look much less so and some can be downright ugly.
That’s the big reason various “beauty filter” apps have been added to smart phones and the like, the smart phone in various configurations being the tool of choice for the “Selfie” generation
The problem with that technology is that increasingly while pleasing the end result can have very little in common with the original subject as far as an accurate representation of same.
Now we are seeing serious psychological distortion among otherwise sane and well-balanced folk, and frustrated “Selfie” addicts are breaking down the doors of plastic surgeons around the world demanding major facial reconstruction and dropping wads of hard-earned cash in the process in a vain attempt to force the reality of their mug to more closely match the ersatz physiognomy they are showing to the world via social media and dating apps.
Now that may be fine for the well-heeled who don’t mind pain but what about honest people of limited means who cannot afford the many thousands of dollars required for that nose job and chipmunk cheek reductions and enhancements to the eyes.
Not to mention those who would rather avoid becoming one of the many horror stories making the rounds of surgery breaking bad, with noses falling off and even the occasional fatal consequences.
Fortunately there are cheap and easy ways to improve the quality of any self-portrait, and without the need of technical tricks or gimmicks or a substantial outlay of Benjamins.
And best of all, the picture will look like YOU, so that Mr. or Ms. Right you scored on your on-line dating platform won’t necessarily bolt when they see you for the first time and in the flesh… you can put your days of hiding out in dark bars and candle lit eateries behind you forever.
There is no such thing as a free lunch of course so you will need to assemble a bit of inexpensive kit.
First out of the chute is a camera support of some sort.
As this illustration shows, this can be anything from a full size tripod to a gorilla pod that can be folded and carried in a pocket, even that “Selfie stick” you already have can be pressed into service if you spring for some rubber bands.
Next thing you need is a target. A Plastic Head like Dorothy here is the gold standard of course and can be found in great variety on Amazon for very little coin.
If you don’t want to spring for the Plastic Head ask your mother or grandmother if she will give you hers.
Women 50 and older were very big into wigs in their youth and they generally have a head or two stowed away somewhere … an attic, maybe a garage.
The advantage of the Plastic Head is that it allows a precision in both focus and framing that you cannot obtain by any other means.
The disadvantage of course is that you are apt not to have a plastic head with you when you need one, unless you are car tripping where an extra head can work magic avoiding fines when illegally using the HOV Lanes on your local Interstate.
And that case a little creativity will serve you well.
A plain paper bag for example can serve as an acceptable target as can an empty water bottle.
This time of year you might find a pumpkin or other fruit or vegetable that can be pressed into service, though not easily. I would not recommend using this pumpkin.
The last piece of kit is the picture taking machine.
While a dedicated camera guarantees Superior Results, more than likely all you’re going to have with you is your smart phone and that’s good enough for the average “Selfie”, at least dumbed down for posting on social media.
You will of course need a bracket so that you can mount it on your camera support. If you have a “Selfie Stick” you already have a bracket and if not they’re easily obtainable for a couple of coin.
You will also need a Self Timer app for your smart phone. This could be either free or at most a couple of coins depending on how much capability you want.
Technique is what is going to make or break your picture.
In terms of general principles exhaustive studies have demonstrated conclusively that no matter the camera, no matter the lens, no matter the settings people look their best when the camera is placed a little over 3 meters (10 feet) away from the tip of their noses.
Except with extreme wide-angle lenses 10 ft (a little over 3 meters) will give you an image without noticable distortion, especially the kind of distortion that makes many “Selfies” butt ugly by adding 5 to 10 pounds to the subject in addition to big noses and slack Jaws.
Cameras placed 10 ft (3 meters) from the subject completely negates any distortion and you are instantly ahead of the game.
Second principal. The camera should always be placed at least at eye level for skinny people and above eye level for those carrying a couple extra pounds.
Some Stellar Photographs can be taken from chin level and below but they are best left to the professionals because they rarely make people look their best in the hands of the average “Selfie” addict.
Finally there’s the question of light.
Light can make or break your portrait.
In fact it is the most critical part of the equation.
Of course we are talking about both the quality and quantity of light.
It goes without saying that you must have enough so your picture-taking device is not forced into High Gain mode. And the quality of such must emphasize the positive aspects of you and not the negatives.
Some basic rules, unless you want your “Selfie” to look like a mug shot, don’t expect the built-in flash to do much for you. They invariably suck.
And avoid light from directly above unless the raccoon or kangaroos looks appeal to you
Also avoid strong backlight … and full sun too.
A personal experience of mine illustrates the latter.
There used to be this famous actress named Cheryl Ladd ( no relation to Alan of “Shane” fame ).
Beautiful woman, her most famous role was when she played one of Charlie’s Angels probably. Her “white bikini” in “Angels in Paradise” was the stuff of legends
A number of years ago I handled photo duties during an interview with her at some farm up-country..
I don’t remember why we were there ( probably some environmental issue ) but I do remember Cheryl had several years on her since “Charlie’s Angels” and while she was still an exceptionally beautiful woman I could easily see some tiny age lines and crow’s-feet sneaking in.
Cheryl wouldn’t do the interview unless we did it in open shade. Reason being as a professional Cheryl knew that FEW men look good in full sun and women NEVER do (unless it’s a character study where you want to show the ravages of time for documentary work or whatever).
So take a tip from Cheryl. Unless it is the so-called Magic Hour right around sunrise or sunset, full sun should be avoided at all cost.
The other principle, strong backlight or a background that is much brighter than the subject will always result in substandard product.
The key is brightness balance between the subject and the background.
It’s actually better if the background is darker than the subject if you can manage that.
Disregarding the strobes these principles are encapsulated in this photograph
Use a target to frame and focus the shot.
Camera placement just over three meters ( 10 feet) from the subject, and above eye level.
Light on the subject sufficient in quantity to balance with the background.
You can see from these comparison shots of me ( Carl Denham )
that these principles apply equally be you inside or out.
Adherence to these basic principles are almost guaranteed to produce a result far superior to what your friends are able to accomplish and without the need for goofy filters and post processing tricks and gimmicks.
And most importantly without the need to spend thousands of dollars on potentially dangerous surgery that may or may not be successful in order to bring your physical appearance in line with that face you’re showing the world.
Is it worth the effort?
That of course is a personal decision but the thing to remember is that images live on the internet forever ( in theory anyway but not actually. But that’s a tale for another day).
Do you really want to be defined 5 10 20 years from now by your grand and great-grandchildren by some less than adequate pictures taken today in your prime after the ravages of age may have rendered you less attractive than you were in your youth?
That is something only the individual can answer but if you take care with your “Selfies” today they will certainly take care of you and your tomorrows.
William Jennings Bryan said that. He spoke those words at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, the 9th of July 1896.
William Jennings Bryan was the greatest orator of his time, three times a candidate for the Presidency of the United States of America.
Bryan was also the role model for the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz and the foil of Clarence Darrow and cannon fodder for H.L. Mencken in the Old Courthouse in Dayton Tennessee 21st of July 1925.
Bryan died soon after the “Monkey Trial” and Mencken noted in his eulogy.
“It was plain to everyone, when Bryan came to Dayton, that his great days were behind him that he was now definitely an old man, and headed at last for silence.”
( The eulogy in its entirety makes for compelling reading. You can find it here here)
That speech, destined to be known for evermore as the Cross of Gold speech, was Bryan’s greatest moment.
A lot of changed since the voice of William Jennings Bryant thundered across the American political landscape.
Today we’re no longer on the gold standard and even silver certificates are a thing of the past.
In fact the American dollar is without foundation at all except for the assurances of Donald J Trump.
But that’s not why we’re here.
I talked about my lucky coins in various venues recently and today I will expand upon that theme.
There’s never been a time man or boy that I can remember that I have not carried one or more lucky tokens in my kit.
Of course the number of coins and the configuration has changed over the years as my fortunes have ebbed flowed and my tastes changed.
( A couple of caveats.
1… I also pack two modern Sacagawea golden dollars dated 2017 and 2018. They are not included in the graphic as they are not relevant to my story.
2… While all the coins I actually pack with the exception of the modern dollars were minted in 1964 and earlier, I have replaced the 1964 Kennedy half-dollar with one from 1967 for the photography session.
Reason being the 1964 Kennedy is pristine and handling the coin could reduce its value
3… For the purposes of calculations in the story I’ve decided to use the year 1964 as a base.
Reason being in 1964 all of these coins were in common circulation and within the course of a year the average American could expect to at least occasionally come across all of them in his or her daily commerce.
Even the Indian Head Penny was a frequent visitor in my change drawer.
Now back to the story)
The graphic places the face value of these coins at the impressive sum of $0.98.
You can’t buy much today for $0.98 in Donald J Trump’s America and even less tomorrow as Donald’s attack on the American consumer unfolds through his misguided trade wars.
But what about the base year 1964?
According to the CPI calculator in today’s dollars that $0.98 would cost
you $7.98 in goods and services today.
Now personally I believe that estimation is low.
Example, in 1964 that $0.98 would get you 3.2 gallons of gas. Today in my area that $7.98 will only cop you 2.8 gallons of go juice.
At Sam’s Restaurant (long gone) down at the Farmers Market in 1964 I could buy a business man’s lunch which consisted of extra cut steak ( t-bone) with two vegetables, homemade rolls, iced-tea, and homemade pie for dessert for the handsome price of $1.57.
Even the Inflation calculator tags that $1.57 at $12.73.
No way can you get a steak dinner with all the trimmings for $12.73.
No way can you eat that well for that little today
In short the numbers don’t “add up”
But that’s not the whole story. There is still treasure in those old coins.
The silver coins pre-1964 WERE REAL silver coins, not the ersatz clads we have today.
So there’s another way to calculate value, using the melt value of the coins as opposed to their face value.
Now the melt value changes minute-to-minute as the price of silver changes throughout the day so please note that these prices are only valid at the time I wrote this story.
Let’s see what we have. Using the melt value calculated at the current spot price of silver I am packing a fat $9.88, already a nice profit over inflation.
Once we add in the 3 pennies we pump up our treasure to $13.64, a full 164% over inflation numbers.
Not a bad day’s work.
And the point of this story?
If you have any coins from pre -1964 or an elderly relative with a jar of dimes and quarters, or run across a jar of coins at a yard or estate sale going at face value then snap them up and you may well find yourself in Fat City.
You may find their melt value beats the face value all hollow and brings new meaning to the old saw “a dime’s worth of difference”.
A Carl Denham commentary
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As our political commentator J Randolph Fuller is taking a break back on his uncle’s farm in Kentucky for a couple of days helping with fall cleanup duties we are going to divert from our mission
statement and join our guest commentator Carl Denham on the Health Beat.
Today we’re going to be talking about peanut butter, a staple in the pantry in the household of every true American Patriot and the favorite lunch for millions of children since well back in the last century.
First a little history.
“Impatience for victory guarantees defeat.”
Louis XIV said that. Something the liberal community needs to take to heart as they try to bring down the sitting president Donald J Trump.
The groundnut as food source likewise has a long history, predating the Roi Soleil by many centuries.
Word has it the Incas and Aztecs were the first to realize the nutritional benefits of the Arachis Hypogaea (or goober) in paste form.
And of course the West Africans were famous for their peanut stews and soups.
I myself frequently used the fat groundnut in my crock pot cookery.
Peanut butter slow cooked with vegetables and blueberries, grains and chicken broth makes quite the tasty dish on a cold Winter’s day.
While we can assume that ancient peoples used a peanut paste akin to peanut butter it really wasn’t known in its modern form until around 1884 if memory serves when it was officially “invented” by a certain Canadian name of
Marcellus Gilmore Edson.
Even then it wasn’t an American tradition, appearing in over 95 percent of American homes, until George Washington Carver and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg ( the Kellogg’s cereal dude ) popularized this nutritional powerhouse as a cheap and tasty source of protein, a welcome substitute for expensive steak and chicken during Hard Economic Times.
Unfortunately this healthy meal has been bastardized over the years.
The modern product is often far from the healthy food that Carver made into a national obsession and today is all too often laced with salt and sugar and various oils and fats of questionable nutritional value.
Fortunately over the last couple decades there has been a move back to basics in food and All Natural peanut butter without salt or sugar or chemicals of dubious safety can be found on just about any grocery store shelf and for a good price too as major manufacturers join smaller outfits tooting on the goober bandwagon.
But there is a caveat to all this good eating.
The problem with All Natural peanut butter is that the oil separates from the “butter” if the jar is left to sit and it is a Royal Bitch to get it back together.
It takes a long time and a mighty lobstering with a spoon or a knife or a fork.
You’ll get your butter you bet but you’ll also get a hell of a mess on the jar, the floor and everywhere else.
But there is a better way.
Get yourself one of these, the peanut butter stirrer.
Perfection in Simplicity, you just unscrew the original top, replace it with this device (top included), give it a dozen cranks or so
and there you go.
All natural 🥜 butter with all the easy spreading texture of the chemically laced “no stir” spreads.
And cleanup is a snap.
A wipe with a rag, a run under a faucet followed by a wipe down with alcohol and you’re good to go.
Just make sure that “natural” peanut butter has only one ingredient though… peanuts
Coming up, the value of pocket change, then and now and then some.
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