Thursday, November 25, 2010

A Thankful Shoot

For this Thanksgiving Holiday we traveled back to Bellefonte, Pennsylvania to visit Teresa's side of the family and see our newly acquired rental property.  A bonus was two photoshoots I lined up with Kelsey and Amber Rose back in October. Once those shoots were lined up I purchased a Westcott Apollo 28" softbox strobist kit, which includes the softbox, a stand and an umbrella swivel.  I also bought a Cowboy Studio Boom stand and a Manfotto Nano stand.  I had the Softbox kit and boom stand shipped directly to Bellefonte so I only need to pack the Nano stand, foldable reflector, speedlights, D700, 50mm prime and my 24 - 70 lens.

The weather forecast called for cloudy days, sleet, wind and occasional sun for the week.  On our first full day in Pennsylvania headed out to one of the relatives camp in the mountains.  These images were taken with my 50mm with available light. 

Originally, Amber and I were going to do an Amish Girl Gone Wild shoot, but I forgot the outfit and the weather just wasn't conducive to have her strip down in one of the many barns in the area. So instead, we would improvise and shoot in the basement, which has red shag carpet, wood paneling and a bed.  Amber is a very likable and upfront model, no inhibitions and is down-to-earth.

For the shoot I used the softbox and two speedlights with homemade Aluminum Foil snoots and reflectors.  Yup, I forgot to pack my HONL light modifiers, too.  The Cowboy Studio boom worked very well, it felt solid and supported the speedlight and softbox without needing a counterweight. We had ample room to get some decent shots, although using new modifiers, working with a new model and shooting in a new environment was very challenging.

The homemade snoots and reflectors kept falling off the speedlights, the softbox worked okay, but similar to an umbrella it kinda blasts the light everywhere.  I'm getting spoiled by the SABER STRIP lights and really wanted them for this shoot, but they are a little too big to haul through the airports. Now that I have a house in Bellefonte, I may order my favorite lighting kit from RPS Lighting Studio.

After shooting indoors, we moved outside to shoot at sunset.  I brought out my SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel and shot bare flash using Nikon CLS to trigger the flash.  It was pretty cold, around 43 degrees, and the sun really drops fast this time of year. After a half hour we called it quits due to the temperature and wind.  Amber was so gracious that as I was putting my gear away, she put the basement back in order.  That has to be the first time a model helped me put away my stuff without me asking for assistance.

On Wednesday, Kelsey and I met downtown at Talleyrand Park to shoot at the Bellefonte Train station.  The day started out beautiful, but by 3:00 PM the sky clouded up and the temperature dropped to 38 degrees.  Drew helped me with this shoot carrying the lightstand with an SB-900 and the Apollo softbox.  He also acted as a VAL with the SB-600 for accent lighting.

The shoot only lasted two hours and I definitely struggled with the weather and another new location.  There are some really neat places to shoot at Tallyrand, train tracks, old brick factories, a gazebo and a wrought iron bridge that crosses Spring Creek. However, with the sun setting so quickly during winter, it was difficult to set-up and shoot.  We still managed to get some cool images and I believe Kelsey liked the photos.

There wasn't a lot I learned with this shoot that was within my control, but I do need to build a shooting kit for my trips to Bellefonte, such as purchase a  flashlight, tripod, black wrap, gaffers tape and some ankle weights similar to my gear I use back home.

Hopefully I'll get to shoot with Amber Rose and Kelsey next time I'm out.  I also have two other local Model Mayhem models who are interested in shooting with me, too.  I'm sure I'll do the Amish Girl Gone Wild theme that time.  Wishing everyone in the States a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving and That's A Wrap!!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Spasibo, Scott and Saber Strip Lights

I haven't attended a COMP group shoot since January of 2010 for personal reasons, but promised my friend, Tim, that I would attend if he put one together.  Tim worked really quick and within a week he had come up with a BYOB (Bring Your Own Background) COMP shoot. A two day event, one "On Location" in Clovis, CA and one in the Kerman Community Center.

With all the personal stuff going on, I messaged Tim a few days before the event and told him I wasn't going to attend.  As the event neared, I realized I had made a commitment to a friend and needed to follow through on my word. Usually I start promoting the event about a month in advance so we can get some quality models, however; this time I didn't have any time to beat the bushes.

On the day of the group shoot, C.J. and I left Bakersfield at 8:30 AM so we could arrive an hour and a half before the start of the event.  I called my friend, Brian, and he said he would be there by 11:00 AM.  We made pretty good time and arrived as planned only to find the clean-up crew still working.  I spoke with the on-site manager and she said the event wasn't scheduled to start until 2:00 PM. What The Heck!!! 2:00 PM!?!  After several calls, I screwed up and thought it started at Noon.  Nothing like hanging around the city of Kerman for three hours.

Tim arrived at 12:30 PM and we began rearranging the Community Center and setting up our gear.  For this shoot I brought my three Saber Strip Lights, a 40" brolly, an Alien Bee Ring Flash, and my Thunder Gray seamless Paper. For wardrobe I brought a gray Russian Military Fur hat and my gray London Fog Trench Coat.  I was hoping that the attending models would have some black lingerie.

After I finished setting up my set by 1:30 PM, I noticed that my seamless had several moving bumps.  I checked around and noticed that the A/C vent was blowing directly on the back of my seamless.  One more strike and I was packing it in.  At least the thermostat worked and the air flow would shut off long enough for me to get my shots done.

Pretty much a simple set-up, SB-600 in a Saber Strip for Rim, another SB-600 in a Saber Strip for Hair and the SB-900 in a 40" Brolly for key.  The power on the SB-900 and the SB-600s were set to 1/8th power.  All speedlights were triggered by my Pocket Wizard. This is the second shoot using the Saber Strip lights.  I have to admit that they are really cool and everyone asked about them.  After a shot or two with a model, I'd let the other photographers "chimp" and they definitely loved the quality of light and the ease of use the Saber Strip lights provide.  I kept getting questions about pricing and a Release Date.  Although, the creator didn't have me sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), I told them I couldn't divulge any information until they were released for public use, but that they could visit the website - http://www.saberstrip.com/ and that the initial price is $135.

I love shooting when Danielle attends, she does her own hair and make-up, and is ready to go.  After Danielle, I photographed Timillia using the same Saber Strip light set-up, and then noticed it was 4:00 PM, and time to pack it up.  So I drove 2 hours, spent another two hours sitting in a parking lot and then another two hours setting up and breaking down.

Overall, was it worth the drive and time?  You bet!!! as I was packing many of the models were bummed that they didn't get to work with me, but heck, that's how you build up demand, right?

So What did I Learn?
  • Read the event schedule  - Nothing like wasting a few hours sitting on your hands
  • Pack a Philips screwdriver.  I needed to make some adjustments to equipment and only had a common screwdriver in my bag.
After thanking Tim and the other attendees, we finally got on the road by 4:30 PM.  Not much post work on the images, so I had five of them posted within an hour of arriving home.  Shoot it "right" in the Camera and you have minimal post work out of the camera.  I have a couple more shoots coming up and then Help Portrait and That's A Wrap!!!

It's a Small World


From November 7 through November 10, I traveled to Orlando, Florida to attend a "healthcare" conference.  The conference was held at two Disney resorts, the Coronado Springs Resort and the Contemporary Hotel.  The events are well-organized with plenty to do during the day and in the evening.


Back in 2007, the conference was also held at the same resort, but this time I wanted to bring my camera.  All I packed was my D700, my 50mm f/1.8 lens and one memory card. The conference usually kicks off with a Keynote Speaker and this year we were blessed to have Chris Gardner, who wrote the autobiographical book, The Pursuit of Happyness".  Definitely a wonderful speaker.


On the last night of the conference, the conference sponsors held a Client Event at Walt Disney World, and opened up the park from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM exclusively for the conference attendees.  The fireworks picture was handheld so there is some motion blur.  Oh well, I've never shot fireworks before so I figured I'd give it a try.


Not much learned on this trip with regard to photography except that a tripod would  have been useful in shooting the fireworks.  Basically, I was in "Tourist" mode, and "That's A Wrap!!!"