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Vortex InterActive to Produce Video Showcase

"Classic JAG" - The Jaguar XK140 makes an exquisite backdrop.

Throughout its 16 years of business, Vortex InterActive has had a variety of outstanding multi-media projects. Though photography and image effects (graphic design, touchup, and enhancement) are the company’s mainstay, we offer much more. This is one of the main reasons for our name rather than “_____name Studio” Vortex InterActive is where various imaging services come together in “Helping People Visually Communicate Incredible Ideas”. Over these years we have shot and produced dozens of videos, and for the first time we are making a Vortex InterActive exclusive so our customers can gain an accelerated understanding of the services we offer.

Cincinnati Fountain Square for Pentax-Ricoh and Cord Camera

Vortex InterActive projects have included direct production in: 3D animation, virtual reality, interactive CD-authoring, musical score composition, audio work, music videos, television commercials, infommercials, logo design, web-design, web-sites, green screen, photos to playable DVD, photography of all kinds; weddings, couples, products, models, architectural, food, pets, and the list goes on.

Vortex InterActive past and/or present clients include: The U.S. Navy, Mitsubishi Motors, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, University of Cincinnati, Kroger’s, Gallerie USA, Christian Dior, Great Oaks, Kathleen Garmany & Platinum IV Salon, Blonde Dog Brewing, Cole & Russell, Grant County, The Graeter Family, Deb Knoske (Miss America, Miss USA, Miss Teen USA Pageant Photographer), John Kinsella CMC, FWMCS (World Master Chef), Kathryn Spear (Wellness Coordinator Spear Inc.), The Coy Taylor Band, and Buckeye Field Supply to mention a few that have entrusted us with their projects.

We service many outstanding inviduals throughout the year that make it nearly impossible to mention them all, and we are grateful for every one. It is our hopes this list will include “you” for choosing our services whether it be for a simple photograph or full video production. We enjoy what we do and we enjoy the people we work for: stay tuned to see some highlights of what we’ve done and what we can do for you!

Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV Samples & Review

The Ricoh GR Digital IV “Professional Compact Digital Street” camera is phenomenal in the amount of control it gives you in a compact size with superb macro abilities and sharpness that will blow your mind! Compact cameras like these are on the rise and are needed on the market. Why? Quality in low level light that even an i-phone can’t give you; I know, I own one! Special thanks to Cord Camera, Tim Hughes – Merchandising Manager, Bill Schwinn – Vice President, Stephanie Cordle, Pentax, Ricoh, and Mark Sherengo – Director of Sales – PENTAX for the opportunity to share the images of this camera with you and for allowing us to add it to our digital imaging arsenal for years to come.

Click for Full Image Gallery

When I first saw the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV camera, I didn’t know how it would fit into our arsenal of image capture devices. We have seen and used hundreds of compact digital cameras from nearly every manufacturer and we’ve had our share of Androids, I-phones (I-pad included here) so let’s be clear on the first separation – the phrase “Made by photographers… for photographers” is a highlight on the Pentaximaging website. It takes direct aim at the serious and professional photographer, so at once I knew we had to put this to the test. For those wondering who “we” are in this article, my wife and I have been in digital imaging for 18 years: together we work for an Ohio-Indiana regional camera company, Cord Camera. Currently, Melissa is in her 6th year as store manager at the Anderson location in Cincinnati. This is my 9th year as a professional photographer, 5 and-a-half years of which I worked as an Ohio certified adult teacher (digital photography). We have shot and continue to shoot nearly every opportunity that comes our way. We love imaging and enjoy working with people!

We found the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a brilliant mix of quality, creativity, artistry, discretion (perfect for the photojournalist) and flexibility through customizable settings. It’s near perfect. The 28mm lens provides a great field of view with low distortion. (The workhorse lens on my D-SLR was a 28-75mm f/2.8) The f/1.9 aperture achieves success in low level lighting situations. The CCD sensor keeps the image crisp and sharp; an advantage over most CMOS sensors. The 10 Megapixel resolution makes for great large format reproductions with medium sized files that aren’t so big they inundate your hard drive; again, great for photojournalists working via laptop. Then there’s the 3” screen: brilliant, stunning, incredibly detailed, rich in color, very real due to Sony’s White Magic technology. It’s as simple as this; most LCD screens have red, green and blue cells that vary intensities to make up the other colors. Sony’s White Magic adds a white cell for added intensity to overcome bright sunlight, better power consumption, vivid colors and better color control in general. The Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV LCD screen features 1.23 Million dots for a resolution that is clearly above all others.

The fact the camera has a hot-shoe for a larger flash is a huge plus. The fact you can compensate the onboard flash is impressive. You can adjust a lot within this camera; from sharpness to hue, saturation, brightness and contrast. In some artistic modes you even have control over certain things such as vignette and depth of process.

The Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a beautiful camera that continues to amaze everyone we show. I ran a test print at 20×30 to which Dick Swaim, a former Cincinnati Enquirer Photographer, said, “If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it! That camera is amazing, this is an incredible shot!”

One outstanding feature of this camera is the interval shooting and its ability to use that mode for star trails. It’s absolutely mind-numbing how clean the night images are! A little advice here: do read the manual on how to set this properly and do the firmware upgrade, otherwise you’ll have wasted some time thinking you’ve captured something when indeed you may or may not have. There are some particulars to end the process correctly. The results are well worth it!

There are also some subtle, often overlooked conveniences this camera includes such as the ability to review the images without having the lens extend; just press the playback button and viola! I find this feature lacking in most cameras. The other convenience, maybe esoteric, is it can effectively trigger an external flash that uses an optical slave. Durability is a must for a camera on the go: this camera has a magnesium alloy shell – very unexpected and greatly appreciated. Last and certainly not least, it can shoot in a .DNG raw file format for greater flexibility and control in the development process.

In summary, the Pentax-Ricoh GR Digital IV is a professional photographer’s dream. I find myself using it more than my D-SLR when out and about. What we enjoyed most was the Bleach Bypass and High Contrast Black & White artistic modes. I also personally enjoyed the Cross Process and Star Trail mode. So is there room for this camera to grow? Better frame rate, higher quality video, and a slightly higher ISO range. For a camera that is near-perfect that would be even more icing on an already terrific cake!

I will take this time to let you know we are proud to be at Cord
Camera in an industry which is becoming increasingly specialized as we watch other camera stores close their doors and fold due to the advent of phonography and internet purchasing. This includes larger national based chains. So what keeps us in business? You – and your thirst for real answers from real people with professional experience; that’s the separation we have from larger retail-box stores and from the internet. It’s the personal experience in working with non-automated services and replies. In short, “Thank you” for taking time to read this article and for those stopping in to purchase your camera and allowing us to process your images thereafter.

What are camera manufacturers doing to overcome the obstacles? They are building cameras capable of capturing higher quality images and they are doing it in lower level light. Phones can be great for the mobility and for spontaneous activities in bright daylight. They can even capture them with stunning results, but bring them indoors and they suffer. Try to record sports action shots and you get blur. Print them out as an 8×10 and they fall apart with pixelization. For most people, just transferring them to computer can be an issue – at Cord Camera we have an app for that! Camera manufacturers are also getting test cameras into the hands of professionals who share their findings and we greatly appreciate that because ultimately it gets back to you, the Smart Consumer!

Zivan Mendez - Pro Camera Sales, Cord University One-on-One Class Instructor, Cord Camera, 7731 Beechmont Avenue, Cincinnati,OH45255

Owner/Director, Vortex InterActive, 821 York Street, Newport, KY 41071

 Melissa Mendez - Store Manager, Cord Camera, Creative Director, Vortex InterActive

About Deb Knoske

Deb Knoske

Debra Gilbert Knoske has been involved in the fashion and photography industry for over 25 years. A former New Mexico’s Junior Miss and Finalist at the Miss Alabama Pageant, she has worked as a model on the runway, in print and on television including commercials for Oil of Olay and Delta Air Lines.

With her industry knowledge, experience behind the camera and artistic passion, Deb’s natural talents shine in each shot capturing every emotion in thoughtful playful and dramatic photos.

Currently Deb works with actors, models and top agencies from New York, Miami and Paris. She also works with families and corporations creating one-of-a-kind images. Her energetic personality and creative eye brings out the best in her clients, resulting in artistic custom photos. Deb’s work has also been featured on CD’s for several national recording artists.

Deb specializes in natural location photography and travels the country to find perfect clothing, accessories and locations so each session is fun from start to finish and tailored to the individual. Close attention to detail sets her apart from the rest so every photo has a style and story all it’s own.


FREE Open Studio Workshop Dec 1st, 2012

On Dec 1st, Cord Camera will hold a FREE Open Studio Workshop at Vortex InterActive Studios, 821 York Street in Covington, KY. Bring your camera and receive helpful shooting tips with real answers provided by Cord Camera Associates, or come…as you are to see how a studio setup can work for you. Get to see Cord Camera products used to create the imagery. Get to work with live models, hair and makeup by Kathleen Garmany, and gain an understanding of light modification. Additional insight to shooting with natural light provided by Deb Knoske and insight to shooting with studio light provided by Zivan Mendez. Attendees receive a 10% coupon off Lighting and ProMaster Items and 50% off PhotoClub Membership – See a Cord Associate for details. It’s a great way to grab some savings for the upcoming Holidays while learning through this unique experience!

Vortex InterActive in Cincinnati

You may or may not have been aware of our work, but if you’re within the Cincinnati region, most likely you have seen us…

Great Oaks Billboard with Vortex InterActive Images - Beechmont

For the past 6 months, our images have shown up on billboards across the Cincinnati Region for Great Oaks on major roads and highways as well as on Cincinnati Metro buses.

by Melissa Mendez - Instagram

Last year, we did a full video production for their new website featuring 11 of their main courses which you can catch a glimpse of both (images and video) in our galleries:

VortexInteractive – Great Oaks Gallery

VortexInteractive – Great Oaks Videos

Indeed, everytime a new brochure gets published, you are also viewing our images – Vortex InterActive is proud to have been on most of their front covers for the past three years as well as on cut-sheets and on banners throughout their campuses.

Vortex InterActive Front Cover of Great Oaks

Contact Vortex InterActive for your digital imaging needs be it photography, Adobe lessons, or consultation: 513-432-4000.


Painting with Light

When we found out The Great Oaks Career Campuses wanted us to shoot a student project car to promote their Auto Collision Class, we thought it was great until we realized it would require a lot of light to do it right – (4) 800 watt-second studio flash heads to be exact – flash heads that we didn’t have at the time. Coming up with extra cash to buy a $400.00 studio flash head, or yet alone even rent one in Cincinnati, wasn’t an option. Sifting through the internet, we ran across a photographer who was using an arcane technique of long exposures to paint his subjects with light for better illumination, versus what a single light source can do, with an added touch of drama. So we decided to utilize the same technique on our car. Having a long exposure allowed us to spread the light in time, so-to-speak, using multiple flashes from a single head unit to effectively create a virtual bank of lights while providing a unique, defined look that hadn’t been achieved in any of Great Oaks’ previous images. 

What is it?
In our image of the car, we shot the light facing away from the camera. If you were to shoot the light facing the camera, the image would result in 1.)multiple rather brilliant light sources or 2.)streaks of light similar to the way a paintbrush streaks a canvas with paint. The type of result you get depends on the light source used. Speedlight flashes and studio strobes yield multiple light sources while fire and ordinary handheld flashlights (the kind you use on a campout) gives you the paintbrush effect.

Final Shot for Great Oaks Auto Collision

The Process
Using a Neutral Density Filter, we stopped the light down by 4 f-stops (designated as ND4), then we set the camera’s f-stop to 10 which allowed for a 15 second exposure on the shutter. Using such a high f-stop value achieved several things: it allowed for a longer exposure, which would have been around 7 or 8 seconds otherwise, it provided a larger depth-of-field (DOF) – ultimately this means the image is sharper throughout – and it allowed us to perform our biggest trick yet – Melissa was able to walk in front of the camera with the studio flash head unit without showing up in our photo!

On a sharper note (pun intended), one would think the higher the f-stop used, the sharper the image will be throughout; however, this is not the case. As a rule of thumb, one should never go above f/16. Above this number, the image you are trying to take gets soft again due to light being scattered internally by the lens: a prism affect that results in Chromatic Aberration or CA for short. Also, knowing the sweet spot for most lenses occurs between f/8 and f/11 helps.

Another secret to such a quality shot is the lens itself; we were using a Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which happens to be among Tamron’s sharpest of zoom lenses. It was a workhorse lens when shooting with the Canon 40D at that time.

On to Painting with Light…with fifteen seconds on the clock, Melissa was able to walk one 800 watt-second studio flash head around the car, setting off the flash at prescribed intervals. Looking closely near the driver’s side turn lamp, one can see the multiple umbrellas indicating the number of times the flash was actually triggered. We also used a large Super White 107” wide paper background roll off the right hand side of the car, held up by a Promaster Background Kit, as a giant reflector. Both of these items are readily available at Cord Camera.

Highlighted Umbrellas Indicating Individual Flash Triggers

The image was shot in .RAW, a whole other topic, to give us further control over the final look – custom white balance, saturated colors, image lightening to specific areas – and in this untouched version one can see the minimal ghosting by Melissa that was cloned and blurred out using Adobe Photoshop.

Minimal Ghosting May Occur

Fire Me - Self Portrait - 4 Second Exposure

Using the same technique; an ND4, a higher f-stop value and a long shutter exposure, we have painted several subjects and created various painted images using studio flash heads, off camera speed lights, flashlights, fire…almost anything bright. And sometimes, we just capture ourselves in front of the camera for the duration doing fun and goofy stuff like painting smiley faces, lighting sparklers and spinning fire poi  – just a few ideas.

A painted street lamp - I was standing in this photograph using multiple speedlight flashes on the column, the long exposure allowed me to enter and exit the scene without being captured:

Street Lamp Column Painted with a Speedlight


Existing street lighting combined with painted flash via long exposure: Photo 1.) Existing Light, Photo 2.) Painted tree with a bus passing by as indicated by the high light traces, Photo 3.) Painted tree with car traffic going by.

Two Various Looks with Speedlight Painting

Sparkler with Long Exposure




Practical Tips & Tricks
Can you capture a night time shot of the city this way? Sure, but be aware, the longer the exposure, the more individual street lights will flare out into star patterns. You may like the creative look, but then again, maybe you need a cleaner image in which case, a longer exposure such as 10 or 15 seconds wouldn’t do.

20 Second Exposure - Doug Bowman - Vortex InterActive Student

If you don’t have a flash to paint with light, look for street lamps illuminating things such as this tree in a downtown parking lot. Against the darker sunset, it really stands out. In such a case, you don’t need a long exposure either. Just a tripod and a low ISO if you want to capture it in the best way possible.

Tree Illuminated by a Street Lamp

Another Tree…

Ethereal, Surreal, Fantastic Lighting

Here are three various looks we achieved when painting with an off camera speedlight aka flash; Photo 1. is simply the shot with existing light (without any flash). Need more flashes in your shot? Increase the exposure time!

Various looks achieved depending on the speedlight's position when fired.

Photo 2. was painted with the speedlight turned away from the camera. Photo 3. was painted with the speedlight facing the camera. Photo 4. A painted photo with a very still Melissa…

This brings us to the last tip: this technique is excellent for still subjects, but for people it poses a challenge. Have fun with it though; take your time as people can be photographed when painted with light – they have to be extremely still. More than likely, you will have to shoot them multiple times unless you are fortunate and get lucky at the start. Enjoy!

Zivan Mendez - Thanks for Reading!

Depth of Field

The first thing a photographer should have in mind is what type of look they’re trying to achieve. Should it be soft or should it be hard-edged? For portraits, it depends on the textures and colors involved; whether they’re high or low contrast. It depends on the background – is it a farm or is it a city? Is the background in tune with the clothing? Is the subject a male or female? In other words, there are guidelines, as to all kinds of subject matter, and guidelines are just that: they should be followed most of the time with the understanding they can also be bent.

In general, portraits generally take advantage of a shallow depth-of-field or DOF for short. A shallow depth of field is a narrow plane of focus where blurring can be found a short distance both in front of and behind the subject. A shallow DOF is obtained by using a fast lens and by that we mean the aperture value of the lens is either f/2.8 or lower. Setting a camera to this low aperture value is what allows us to achieve the look below:

Shallow DOF

For landscapes, or for high-contrast textures and colors, it is a general rule that a large DOF be used where the entire image appears to be sharp throughout. A large DOF is used by setting the aperture value of the lens to f/7.1 and above.

Large DOF

Getting the correct, or better handle, on DOF also depends on how close you are to your subject and whether the lens is zoomed in or at a wider angle. The final shot below could have been taken either way – a large or shallow DOF  We choose a shallow DOF to seperate our subject from the background and to blur out some distracting telephone lines and some undesired city elements. We also used a touch of flash to further enhance our subject.

City Walk - feat Brittni Johnson

VIA Photography, Videography and Adobe Class Fees

A Basic Introduction to Digital Photography class is $180.00 for four 2-hour sessions totalling 8 hours of class time at our studio on 821 York Street, Newport, KY. The class meets once per week for one month. Class times vary as invdividuals are paired to accomodate. Classes can be in groups or private.

Contact us for more information or for specifics and rates on Specialized Classes that can be taken at our studio or in the comfort of your own home. We teach, but are not limited to, Animals, Commercial, Food, Flash, High Dynamic Range (HDR), Landscape, Model, Natural Lighting, Night Time, Macro, Portrait, Product, Studio Lighting, Wedding, Pets, Adobe Photoshop, Premiere, and After Effects.

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