Photographs by Mitchell Alcala

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Looking back a little

Since the last time I sat down and wrote a post I’ve spent two weeks in Uganda, helped teach a two-week photography class in Southwest Oklahoma, got a new camera and finished my first year of graduate studies to name a few events. I’ve wanted to write about these experiences, but thesis research and the semester caught up with me.

Over spring break I spent two weeks exploring Uganda on a grant project through the Department of State and the OSU Agricultural Education, Communication and Leadership department. To find out more about this wonderful experience I had you can look at my photos on my Facebook page. You can also see a great episode of Sunup, which explains the trip in more detail. Austin Moore, a great videographer and a good friend, also traveled with us shot the show entirely on a Nikon D5000 using some photos of mine as well as others to fill in the holes.

Once I got back from Africa I spent the rest of the semester working on thesis and finishing up my film study class. During those few weeks I drove throughout small towns in Oklahoma capturing photos of classical film theaters for an end of a year project. I haven’t posted these photos anywhere, but when I get a photo gallery online I will make sure to share a link.

After the semester was over, I headed to the Quartz Mountain Resort with 24 eager students for a two-week photography class. It was a long trip that resulted in a lot of education and a ton of great photos. To see my take of the trip you can see them on my Facebook Page.

These events are just a few I’ve had since the last blog post, and I attend to get back to blogging more often. I hope everyone has been doing great, and I’d love to hear back from you on what you thought of my two photo galleries. If you visit the Facebook page don’t forget to like it, to stay up to date on the photos I’ve been shooting. I’ve also got a new website online, please check out http://www.mitchalcala.com and give me a little feedback.

Thanks everyone,

Mitch

Before and After- HDR House

So today I’m going to try and do something new. I’m trying to make myself better by, and in the process I might be able to help someone out.

I really enjoy helping others, and teaching photography is something I really do have a passion for, so today I’m going to go ahead and do a before and after comparison blog.

Tonight I had a meeting to get to, and seeing it was such a beautiful day I decided what better day for a nice hike to the FRC, and like I always I a camera over my shoulder.

As soon as I got outside, I knew I had made the right decision to walk, because the sunset was absolutely beautiful. While walking the parking lot, I realized that I had a great clear shot of a cool house right beside the university.

Ever since I first spotted this house, I’ve wanted to take a picture of it but I’ve scene it in a way that made me stop and actually do it. Tonight I saw the sunset, and just knew I wanted to take an HDR image.

A small problem I had was I had a camera but I didn’t have a tripod. When shooting an HDR image it is important to have a tripod because you need three or more images that are pretty much the same.

With an HDR you use a program to stack the images and increase the dynamic range, it attempts to make the scene appear more like the way you saw it. The human eye is amazing, and has a wonderful ability to sense a huge scale of dynamic range. You can see details in the shadows and in the highlights at the same time.

A camera doesn’t have that ability. It sees a very limited dynamic range, so by stacking the three photos, a computer has the ability to pull out the details in both and merge them together.

With out a tripod, you have to stay extremely still to get three images in the exact same framing. If not the computer doesn’t like you and you can end up with all kinds of ghosts and movements.

I also have a problem were I’m not satisfied with just three images, if I’m going through the process of HDR I want a 7 or 9 image HDR to really pull out all of the details I can get, but I digress.

I stood and took 9 images as still as I could, and headed to my meeting.

When I got back I went ahead and merged the HDR, but let me tell you it looked horrible. I didn’t stand still enough, so it didn’t turn out anywhere like I wanted, kind of disappointing I know.

So I sat back and thought about it for a moment, and decided I’d try a new technique that I’d read about. You see, some photographers create HDRs with only one image, and so I went ahead and tried it.

I grabbed the image that I had “correct exposure” with by the camera meter. It’s the image you’ll find below. I then opened the picture in camera raw, and proceeded to save a copy of it at -3,-2,-1,+1,+2, and +3 giving me 7 images of the same photo.

I sent them through Photomatix Pro and merged them together. I’m not going to go into detail on what sliders I used, because to tell you the truth I just mess around with them until I get the photo I like. If you want more info on what sliders to slide, and their effect go ahead and check out http://stuckincustoms.com .

After I had my HDR processed the way I liked it, I took it a step further and opened the photo up in Photoshop. I stacked a few of the images I had made onto layers with the HDR image, and masked in some of the areas I thought needed it.

Then I adjusted the curves just a bit to give the exact look I was going with. It was a little time consuming, but I went from the photo below to the photo above.

 

I hope this was somewhat educational, and I’ll try to do some more before and after photos in the future.

 

Talk to you soon,

Mitch

Spring, Trout, Primes and such

I want to apologize to my followers, because the last couple months have found me really skimping on the blog. I always think of it, but to tell you the truth after the 365 I just really haven’t had the passion to go out and shoot.

I’ve been shooting for people, and really enjoying what I’m shooting but I just haven’t had the drive to go out and shoot for myself. I think it’s because of the weather; there really hasn’t been any color outside lately.

Well today I noticed that the trees are blooming, and I felt inspired! I’ve had a few projects I want to work on in the books so I think I’m going to go ahead and start those up soon.

So I have a few things I wanted to talk about today. First off, I want to wish everyone a happy Trout Day. In my hometown the high school has a unique tradition. Except for the major holidays you don’t get out of school.

Students are in class for president’s day, MLK day and any other holiday that might find most kids out of school. Cassville just doesn’t shut down, and as a student you get used to it, because you know once a year you’re out of class when no one else is.

March 1st is the opening day of catch and keep Trout fishing. This is a big deal for the small town of Cassvegas, because of Roaring Rive State Park. I’ve met a number of people who have no recollection of Cassville, but know all about fishing at Roaring River.

Most of the people that know Roaring River, know it because of opening day. People come from all over to fish the banks for the big trout, and this causes the school to close down. It’s been a tradition for so long, that I don’t think any of the students actually go fishing anymore, but it’s a small town tradition that makes me smile.

I wanted to post a picture of a trout today, but had no idea were I could find me some trout fishing in Stillwater, so no trout today but I did go ahead and attach a nice spring flower.

 

The last thing I wanted to go ahead and talk about, is that like I mentioned earlier I’ve been in some sort of photography slump. I’ve just haven’t had the drive to go and shoot photos. Knowing this, I just felt bad and didn’t know what to do.

The Agricultural communications department picked up some prime lenses that I’ve been playing with, and I can tell you my slump is over. Shooting with a prime lens has just pushed me to be creative again.

It forces you to change the way you shoot, and the photos are just sharp! It’s a different feel then zoom lenses and I just want to suggest to everyone out their to pick up a prime and go shooting.

It helped change the way I’m shooting and really did light a little fire under me.

The shot blow was shot on an 85 mm prime, and if I had my 70-200 on I wouldn’t have shot it. I probably wouldn’t have even pulled up my lens to see if I liked it. If I had, I would have zoomed in on the individual on the bench and lost the specialness of the photo.

I really liked the perspective it the photo with the Noble Research center towering over the individual.

 

So I digress, and just want to say Thank You spring for coming, try some prime lenses if your feeling in a rut, and most of all…

 

Happy Trout Day,

Mitch

Tuning Things Up

Today a gentleman walked into my office. To tell you the truth there aren’t many people that walk through my office doors. I’m hidden down in the basement of Bennett, and it’s just not a high traffic area.

So when this guy walked in, and asked me why his temporary card wouldn’t swipe him into the building I became very intrigued on what he was doing.

It turns out that he is one of the longest employed individuals at Oklahoma State, and his job is to keep the pianos around campus in tune and in shape. Never thought that their was someone employed to fix the pianos, so the journalist in me made me sit down and speak with him for a bit.

He told me all about the pianos around campus, and how the piano in Kerr Drummond is as old as the university. The piano in Bennett he was tuning up today was around 80 years old, and it shows it’s age but it sounded great when he played a little tune.

It got me thinking about how many people sit on the pianos, prop up against them and bang on the keys without even considering the age and beauty they have.

It would make a great story, but I didn’t have anything that allowed me to write down notes, and I have no were to publish it so I just sat back and listened for a little while.

As I left I asked if I could take a few shots, and he had no problem with that. I shot this with the new 85 1.2 that the Ag Comm department picked up. Let me tell you it’s a lens covered in magic pixie dust.

It’s a very specialized lens, but at 1.2 it just produces some amazing photos. I shot this image at 1.2, Iso 400 and shutter around 1/250th. I black and whited it in photoshop.

 

Next time your around one of the old pianos, stop for a second and just luck at it. Who knows who has played on it, and there is a nice gentleman out their that truly loves them.

 

Mitch

It’s been a while

I apologize for not blogging more often. I do plan on picking up the amount of blog posts in the future, because I have two or three projects I plan on starting. That being said, I am sorry that for the last couple months the blog has been just slugging along.

Today I wanted to just show some stuff I’ve shot here in the last few days. I’m been pretty busy lately shooting a verity of things, but also just going to school. I’m really pushing my nose to the grindstone on my thesis, and I’m planning a couple upcoming trips.

For those of you who didn’t know, I’m heading to Uganda on March 20th. This trip kind of snuck up on me, and has really been on the top of my mind lately. I had to get a hand full of immunizations and now just getting prepared for the trip.

I do plan on updating the blog as often as I can from Uganda, because I plan on taking a lot of photos.

On top of that trip, our photography tour for the beginning of summer ended up being sold out. So, I’ve been doing some research on what were going to shoot this year with a full class.

I’ll keep everyone updated as those continue to get closer, but for right now I have a couple of photos to share.

I’m now shooting a lot for http://www.ostatephoto.com and the past two weekends has had me on the floor at GIA shooting the Mat Mayhem wrestling duals. I only attached images from Sunday’s championship match, which found Minnesota topping the Cowboys 18-13. It was a good match, but injuries really took their toll on the Cowboys.

I also got the chance to help out my friend Callan, by shooting her architecture models. It was defiantly something new that I’ve never tried. I shot them with just one light. I had a flash in a soft box to the camera left; I wanted to show the details with the shadows.

Last, but not least, I shot a composite for Griffin. He wanted to show a transformation from having a beard to being clean-shaven. What I’m posting today is only the beginning stages; I plan on putting in a background when I get the time to do so.

I shot griffin with a beauty dish high and in front of him. I had the light right outside of the frame, at a slight angle right in front of him. I also had a flash behind him pointing at his side so I could cut him out a little easier, and it just gives him a little definition. I only had two lights, so I changed their position for two different shots, and then merged him together.

I’ll get some more shots up here when I get around to them.

 

Hope everyone’s doing great!

Mitch

Bird on a Bush

So today I was heading to class over at Morril. I’ll tell you, I’m not used to walking to that side of the campus because for the last 3 years all my classes have been in and around Ag Hall.

It’s a nice walk, but I have yet to figure out exactly how long it takes me to get to class from my house. Today I started off a little to early, but all was not lost in my free time because right behind the library there’s a nice little bush.

On this bush sat this nice little bird, just hanging out. I sat down my bag and pulled out my camera, and most of the time this movement is enough to scare off a bird this close to me.

The bird was about three feet away, so I pulled out the 70-200 and zoomed in on him(her) and took about 6 photos before it got bored and flew off.

Not much technical went into this, all I did was flip the camera in AV and put a small aperture on.

The most important part of this photo was I was sure to have my camera and had enough time to sit down and take a few photos.

Hope everyone is doing good,

Mitch

Candle Lit Vigil

Today was a day of not doing much of anything, and being it a Monday it was a nice relaxing day. Today was MLK day, and the university was closed so I didn’t do anything but study and lounge around.

This evening the SJI committee hosted a wonderful candle lit vigil in remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr. They had a great turnout, and it was a great program to attend.

It was a beautiful night for an outside program. It was sitting around 60 degrees, and for a January night, that’s almost unheard of. Although the weather was beautiful, the wind wasn’t on our side.

Here in Oklahoma they don’t lie about the wind sweeping across the plain. The wind was blowing hard, and if you’ve ever had a chance to try to hold al it candle with the wind blowing every which way you understand that it isn’t the easiest thing to do.

So the candle lit vigil ended up just being a vigil with no candles. That’s not to say we didn’t try but it just wasn’t going to happen.

I hope everyone had a great day, and want to say that I’m very for what Dr. King did for this country, and was very glad to see such a large group come to honor him.

Have a great night,

Mitch

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