Tuesday, December 29, 2009


A FLICKR friend and KPA member did a shoot just recently with a goth/pin-up style model named Missy Van Gore.  She definitely has an interesting look and I asked him to let her know I would like to work with her.  Well within an hour she e-mailed me back saying she looked at my port and would like to collaborate with me.

We scheduled the shoot for Sunday, but got the times mixed up.  Missy called at 1:00 PM and said she would be in town at 1:30.  Ugh, Drew has guitar lessons at 1:30 PM.  So I told her to come over and that she could hang out with Teresa and the dogs, which she did. -- DIGRESSION -----

Anyway, when I got home, Missy was decked out in a leopard 3/4 length jacket, stockings, black heels, black bag, a very Film Noir look.  She showed me what she brought and we began to shoot.  Our first set-up was a high-key shoot, but I just wasn't feeling it.  I think her stark look was too much for a high key session.  We managed to get some decent photos, but as I mentioned earlier, nothing really grabbed me.  I took a couple of Polaroids of Missy and used them in this shot.  The Polaroid film is 10 years-old, but looks decent.  I used my AB1600 with the 64" PLM camera right at 45 degrees and two RPS Monolight strobes pointed at the background. The background strobes were a 1/2 stop lower than the key, which was set at 1/4 power. I ended turning the background strobes off since they didn't do anything for the background, and reset the AB1600 to 1/16th power.

About 45 minutes into it we did a costume and background change.  This time we changed up the lighting, a softbox 90 degrees camera left and a gridded monolight camera left 45 degrees.  This created some really nice texture lighting on Missy, but I think it still was too light for her complexion and wardrobe.  We shot for about another hour and then did the final background.  This time we switched to black, which I really wanted to start with.  Moved the Softbox directly above camera and threw a reflector on the ground to just kick some light backup.  I also placed another monolight about 110 degrees camera left, but with a frost gel and a grid to create a more diffused accent light.  That was the ticket.  the rest of these shots were done using that set-up.  I have to say that I kinda liked the low-key pictures, which is rare since I usually find faults with each one, but I guess this time I was lucky.

All in all, this was a very fun shoot, Missy was phenomenal with her wardrobe, posing and make-up.  She was a delight to work with and her attitude was so easy going that I felt creative and not restricted to focus solely on making her look hot, like some of my other models.  I highly recommend working with Missy if you are a photographer and want to try something different.  She can be found on Flickr and Model Mayhem

So what did I learn
1) Make sure you get the model's phone number before the shoot.  I usually ask, but for some reason I didn't.  It would have spared Missy an hour of just sitting around waiting for me
2) Go with your gut.  I should have started with the Black background and would have saved at least an hour of shooting, which leads me to number three
3) Have an idea before starting.  Looking at her port, I already had the idea of how I wanted to light her, dramatic and low-key.
4)  Use your light meter every time you move your lights, move your position, or if the model moves a few feet in any direction.  The low key stuff required very minimal editing.  these were shot at f/5.6 1/160 at ISO 100 using my 70 - 200 Telephoto lens.

Well this was my last shoot for 2009.  I find it hard to believe I've been blogging since March 1, 2009 and started shooting models February 15, 2009.  Thanks to my seven followers, I appreciate the comments and support throughout the year.  It's time to take it up a notch!!!  So, Happy New Year!!! Be Safe and Get Healthy!!!

That's A Wrap for 2009!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Aliens have landed

I've been chomping at the bit to get a new set of Studio Lights after looking at the quality of light given off by different strobes, especially when photo editing is involved.  I purchased some RPS Monolights exactly a year ago and have been really happy with their performance.  In fact, all my Studio Portraits taken to-date, including at the Help Portrait event, were done using these lights.  So why look at something else?  Easy, first of all they only stop down to 1/8 power, which means the lowest f-stop I can go to is 5.6 at ISO 100 and 1/125 shutter.  Secondly, my garage isn't that large so distance from the light-to-subject and subject-to-background is an issue.  During the Help Portrait shoot, Jim (a.k.a. Weldon Shooter) used a set of AB800s and had them relatively close to the subject and also at 1/16 power.

 So I couldn't resist and I purchased an AB1600 and a 64" Parabolic Light Modifier, basically an umbrella.  The picture of Drew was shot with the PLM about a foot and a half away from his face at 1/32nd power, f/3.2, ISO 100 and 1/125.  He is less than three feet away from the background stand and yet it is nice and blurry. Also shooting through the umbrella created a nice soft diffused light without any hotspots.  This shot was done without any reflectors and yet the shadow side of his face isn't blocked up.  The next shot was done with two strobes, the AB1600 shot through the PLM camera right at 45 degrees angled slightly downward and one of my RPS Studio monolights as rim light approximately 110 degrees camera right with a grid and barndoors.  I forgot to mention, my girlfriend bought me a four pack of Pocket Wizard Plus II transceivers for Christmas, and I have to admit they work really well.  I'm not sure I'll use them with my Speedlights since they don't respond to TTL, but with group shoot,s where I bring my monolight,s they'll be indispensable.

What Did I Learn?
1)  Use that Light Meter - cant's stress it enough, especially when in the studio.  Lighting rations just work so much better.
2) Buy Good Studio Strobes,  especially if you have limited space, and make sure they have a variety of light modifiers.

 I have a shoot tomorrow, at 3:00 PM, so hopefully I can put the light to the test.  Be safe and enjoy the time you spend with loved ones.  That's A Wrap!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Baby - Happy Holidays

 As you may have noticed, I've been doing wintry shoots lately, starting with Ashlee Rose back in November.  So to continue that trend, I messaged Model Mayhem Model Jenna Sherrill to see if she would consider doing a shoot with me back in mid-November, but we couldn't sync our schedules until Dec. 20.  I figured she had already worked with better photographers and was only being nice to me.  Anyway, we figured Dec. 20 would be close enough to Christmas, so why not turn it into a Holiday themed pin-up shoot.

Jenna made arrangements to have her hair done by Model Mayhem Hair Stylist Aundrea.  I mention Aundrea since she was wonderful enough to donate her Hair Stylist time and materials to the Help Portrait shoot December 12.  Jenna called me at 4:00 PM and said she was finished with Hair and Make-up and ready to shoot.  Upon arriving, Jenna showed me her wardrobe, which she did an excellent job putting together.  Jenna has only been on MM since June of this year, and yet she is very good at posing.  It was refreshing to work with a model and not have to give her directions.  A majority of the lighting was clamshell, but with an accent light.

We worked on several different looks with the Santa's Helper Outfit, some "typical" pin-up and some Glamor.  After an hour, Jenna changed into a white sweater and we moved inside my house.  Two months ago I purchased some bamboo wood flooring (chair mat) to give our floor a warmer look for model shoots.  Our house is floored with 20" tile, so it looks great, easy to clean, but kinda looks sterile, too.  The lighting set-up was similar to my Black and White Lingerie shoot with Tonya.  I placed a softbox outside at full power pointing back through a window towards the camera.  I placed another softbox about 30 degrees camera left and at 1/4" power for fill point at Jenna.  We worked for another hour or so and then called it a wrap.  Jenna had worked that day and drove down from Porterville, which is an hour North, NorthEast from Bakersfield to work with me.  So we called it quits around 7:30 and while Jenna was waiting for her ride, we reviewed the pictures.  She is definitely hard on herself, but no more than I am about my photography.

So what did I learn?
1) Really communicate with the model regarding theme, wardrobe, and poses prior and during the shoot.  Jenna and I didn't have any problems with any of the issues cited, but we could have had a lousy shoot, too.  There are plenty of  "I should have"s  for this shoot, but again they are minor in my opinion.

2) Don't be afraid to videotape parts of the session.  I wanted to video the set-up for both sets, but forgot since I was too busy working with lighting and trying to keep things moving.  I managed to record about 13 seconds of the session prior to the shot above, but I really needed to show the lights.  I promise to do this for my next shoot.  Here's the video. .

Have a Happy Holiday, whichever one you and your family choose to celebrate.
Peace Out and That's A Wrap Until Next Year

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Pimpin' Me Out

I received a PM on MM (that's Private Message on Model Mayhem) from Model Mary asking me if I would like to shoot. A little background first. Mary and Tonya went to school together and also work at HOOTERS. Mary mentioned that she ran into my son, C.J., at a restaurant and that C.J. stated that "Me and my Dad photograph models." After a few exchanges and several weeks we finally nailed down a date.

Anyway, she wanted to do a lingerie shoot for ... Hmmmm.... not sure if it was for her or her boyfriend. Oh well, I just finished shooting Tonya the other night and figured I would crank out another lingerie shoot. Red Flag #1, when my shoots become repetitive then I need to take a break, or I'm getting burnt out, which makes sense. As we began to shoot Mary asked where was the bed. Bed? Mary said that we agreed to do a "White Sheets Session". I responded, "Really?" Red Flag #2. Thankfully C.J. came by the house and set-up the bed  while I changed the lighting. Mary was very patient, so we did a couple Head shots to pass the time. you guessed it "clamshell" lighting.

Once C.J. finished with the bed, we proceeded with the White Sheets.  This time I moved my lighting closer to 75 degrees camera right and not left.  Why?  Based on Mary's facial structure, I needed to do short lighting, which is to move the light farther away from the camera to create more shadow on the side closer to the camera.  This produces a more flattering and slimming effect to the face.  I learned that from Don Mason (a.k.a. Old Pro at KPA)  the first shot is using three monolights, two with softboxes to create the clamshell and the third as a background light but with barndoors to create a little rim lighting on Mary's backside.

After the white sheets, we Mary changed into another outfit and we did some more high-key shots.  Mary was easily entertained with my dorky behavior and we had to stop  at times from laughing.  However there is one question she asked, which made me pause.  Mary asked if she could smile in the pictures.  I kinda looked at her and said, "Sure, if you want to treat this like Senior Portraits"  I expressed to her that when I see a model smiling at he camera, Mommy and Daddy paid big bucks to fix that smile, so show them for the camera.  However, not many Fashion magazines feature "Cheshire Cat" grinning models.  I told her I prefer serious, sexy, sensuous, or emotive looks.  I did take some of her smiling, but you can visit her MySpace or Facebook account to see those.  I'm not posting them, well okay, just one.

What did I learn?

1) Models don't read my "About Me" section on MM - I'm pretty up front about how many pics I'll process and yet the models ask for more.  How many pics of the same pose, wardrobe and hair do you need?  Okay so you're smiling in one and not in the other.  Seriously, you only need one awesome image not five similar ones.
2) Set expectations and review details of the shoot. - I totally spaced about the White sheets and wasted 20 minutes of our time

Well we're getting close to the end of the year and as a present to myself, I bought one Alien Bee 1600 with a 84" Parabolic Umbrella.  It'll work with my RPS Monolights since they work as optical slaves. So look for some different looking lighting in the next couple of weeks.  I have a shoot Dec. 27 with Missy Van Gore, a tattooed gal from Delano, and then a break.  Yeah Right!!! 

That's a Wrap!!!

Cold Steel

My last "model" shoot was back on November 22, with Ashley and Gaby, but with less daylight, colder weather and the fear of H1N1, my creativity and desire to photograph models has taken a backseat.  About a week ago I messaged Tonya to see if she felt like shooting and she agreed, Tonya also asked if a co-worker from HOOTERS could join us.  She wanted to do some lingerie shots and since I haven't shot in my studio in awhile I figured I could use the practice.

Tonya and her friend, Charlayne, arrived around 5:30 PM, Filipino time, which means she showed up around 7:00 PM.  It dawned on me that I haven't shot more than one model at a time.  Yes I've done group shots, but not posed more than one model.  A challenge, and boy did I suck at it.  Tonya is pretty tan and really thin, and her friend is fair complected and voluptuous, a la Jayne Mansfield.  So I definitely struggled trying to come up with clever poses and realized that I still have a long way to go.  In fact, I didn't post any pictures of the two of them since I was too embarrassed with the work.  I'm thinking if I shot "On Location" and had some props, background, etc... I might have pulled it off.  Anyway, a new challenge for 2010, shoot more than one model in a scene.

Pretty much simple clamshell lighting for all the shots in the series.  However, sometimes I would move it 45 degrees camera left or right and place a reflector opposite and out of camera frame.  Two monolights with softboxes were used to create the clamshell, with the top monolight set at 1/4 power and the bottom at monolight at 1/8 power. We shot for about two hours and the ladies were happy with the results.  Similar to shooting with Sammy, it's always interesting to listen to a twenty year-old's perspective on life.

So what did I learn?
1. Match your models more closely.  I perused a couple Fashion mags and it appears that when more than one model is in the shot, they look pretty similar.

2. I'll beat myself with this one.  Have an idea and spend a little more time up front prepping.  This premise of this shoot was to have a wintry, cold feel.  I wanted to pick-up some additional materials for the background and use my fog machine, too.  Tonya is wearing the P-coat and lingerie shot against  a blue gelled background, but it still doesn't feel cold. I could use an Ice Filter, but I always feel like I'm cheating when I use Photo Editing software for more than the simple stuff.

Thanks to Tonya and Charlayne for working with me, and of course to my wonderful girlfriend who lets me shoot scantily-clad women and doesn't give me grief about it.

That's A Wrap!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Holidays

I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and may you have a safe and healthy New Year. It's that time of year at work where every department circulates Holiday cards. This year we were a little behind the curve in getting our departmental card done. We tossed around some ideas about shooting outside at the XMAS tree lot, but as I looked at all the computer equipment in our department I suggested we do a humorous shot. My Senior Systems Administrator is a Photoshop Wizard and so he knew what I wanted.

Pretty quick set-up, we used my studio strobes and I did a group shot. Two umbrellas at 45 degrees camera left and right, angled slightly down at full power. ISO 100, 1/125 shutter and f/8 to ensure we were all in focus. Once we got the group of all of us holding up pa monitor, or tablet, I did individual shots using clamshell lighting.

Once all the shots were taken, I processed them and turned them over to Ty. He worked his magic, by using layers, cropping, resizing and cloning. The gentlemen with the Santa hat needed a portion of his shirt inside the monitor cloned too match the rest of his shirt.

All in all from start to finish this creation took about 3 hours. Not bad for a spur of the moment idea.

What did I learn?
1) I need to take a Photoshop Class for fun stuff.

Once again, Happy Holidays, and...

...That's a Wrap!!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Time to Give Back

About two months ago a couple Kern Photography Association members posted similar links regarding HELP PORTRAITHelp Portrait is a movement of photographers who are using their time, equipment and expertise to give back to those who are less fortunate this holiday season. As a group, KPA  decided we would join the worldwide event on Dec. 12 by doing our part and giving back to our community.  There was plenty of hype to be found on the web and even a couple local Bakersfield groups attempted to organize their own event.  However, at some point toes got stepped on and egos got in the way and I never heard anything from either group.

So a small group of us KPAers got together, found a local organization, secured a location, and received assurances from local Hair Stylists and Make-up Artists from Model Mayhem and Federico College. We met several times to iron out the details and as the deadline got closer, more people started dropping out, and the weather forecast was calling for rain.  Even I was feeling under the weather, and the night before the shoot, Dec. 11, I spoke with my friend Teresa.  She noted stress in my voice and a bit of frustration.  I explained that when we started this journey we had a lot of people stating they wanted to help, but as of the night before the event, we weren't sure if the Hair and Make-up people would show, how many photogs would make it, would it rain, could we handle the 67 individuals/families without burning out, did we have enough equiipment, etc...  Teresa reminded me that this was a woorthy cause and that everything would work out as it was intended.

The next morning I woke up, got ready, packed my vehicle, and waited for Brian (a.k.a. strvngartst01) to arrive.  The sky was cloudy, but didn't look like we would get any rain. So far, so good.  Brian arrived at 7:30 AM and headed to the location.  We unloaded and set-up four stations within 45 minutes. We had 5 Make-Up Artists and 6 Hair Stylists arriving as we were getting the last minute details addressed.

We began photographing the men first while the women went for Hair and Make-up.  Everything was moving smoothly, no glitches, hiccups, or debacles.  The only problem we had was the tripping of each others studio lights, but no big deal.  We took turns letting other photogs shoot and gain some experience, all the while interacting with our newly found friends.

The point of Help Portrait wasn't to rush through the event and churn out pictures, but rather to spend some time getting to know someone and share a laugh, a smile, a hug and mostly some hope.  It was about listening and promoting humanity.  Before we knew it, we were down to the last two people and it was only 2:30 PM.  We cleaned up, bid farewell to the organization and decided to have a Wrap Party to share our experiences from the day.

As we sat in the Pizza Parlor, still juiced from the event, it began pouring rain.  We knew that we had done the right thing, everything went extremely well and not a single issue stopped us from completing our goal.  We were so excited that we decided we will do a similar event more than once a year.

What Did I Learn?
1) There is a bigger picture out there - all the little trivial things that irritate me about Model Mayhem pale to the real needs of people who may be struggling with self-esteem issues.
2) I belong to a wonderful association of photographers in KPA - Those that participated showed strength, courage and above all commitment.
3) Do more of this type of photography - I already give my work for free on ModelMayhem.  We "Trade" time, materials, expertise to help build each others portfolio, but honestly, I have a career, so why Trade?  I don't need a portfolio.

If you are a photographer, please try to participate in this event next year, you won't be disappointed.  Make it a personal challenge to hone your portrait skills.

Thanks for reading and That's A Wrap

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We Are Family

One of Teresa's friends from her hometown of Bellefonte, PA came out and spent Thanksgiving break with us.  Her friend now lives in North Carolina and she has two daughters, ages 15 and 11.  Prior to coming out, I asked the girls if they wanted to do a photoshoot, there was no hesitation.  Simple "cosmo" lighting with a softbox and reflector as the key, and a grided monolight with barndoors for accent shot against white seamless paper.  I used my other softbox as a fill light just to ensure I had smooth
lighting.  As you can see, the youngest one is definitely not shy in front of the camera.

Really not much to write about on this shoot.  I;ve done this lighting a lot, but I do need to do something different.  I'm hoping to do some light painting this week with Tonya against a black background using an LED flashlight.

Sometimes, brevity is a good thing. So That's A Wrap!!!

During their shoot Drew can home and I managed to get a shot of him, too.  He hates it, but at least he'll stand in as long as I tell him, "Don't worry, I won't post it."  Hahaha

Tonight's The Night

It's funny how I always start my blogs with a communication from a model regarding a collaborative shoot.  So this will be the same.  I was contacted by AshleeRose, from Model Mayhem, asking if I would be interested in a shoot back in September.  It took us about two months to sync our schedules.  She wanted to do a fashion type shoot and On Location, but with the shorter days I figured we'd do a night shoot.  Recall that I did my first night shoot with Devon back in August, which was prompted by my Flickr friend Steve.  I also contacted my friend Angel, Hair Stylist and Make-up Artist, to see if he would work his magic on Ashlee, to which he agreed.

We started around 4:30 PM, downtown as the sun was starting to set.  My buddy, Brian (a.k.a. strvngartst01), joined me for the shoot.  I owe this shot to him.  Brain saw a Bale of Straw in front of a store and convinced my son to drag it into the crosswalk.  We both squeezed some shots off.  However, Brian had to leave a little early.  No big deal, but being naive I forgot about the transients and street people of downtown.  During the shoot a guy, his girlfriend and their assumed daughter were walking down the street towards us.  We attempted to ignore him, but apparently he felt I needed to pay him $45 for mouthing off and calling Ashlee names.  What a jerk!!!  So we wrapped and moved to another location about a couple blocks away.

I decided to shoot at the Fox Theater even though the marquee was off.  I looked around and convinced Ashlee that the stoplights and other lights would look really cool if they were out of focus.  We shot for about another hour and then called it quits.

What did I learn?  - One main thing -
1) Get an Assistant to help with On Location shoots - C.J. had to go to work, so that left me to lug around the lights, stands, etc...  I guess Drew will be helping on the next one, but I think the run-in with the street person put a damper on the shoot, I was to nervous to have too much equipment set out.

Anyway, I think we got some decent shots, and Ashlee and Angel really liked the photos, in fact, they are using them as their avatars on Model Mayhem.

Hope everyone is staying healthy and photographing anything as often as possible. Learn by shooting and being a tough critic on yourself.

That's A Wrap!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Meanwhile, back in the Studio

It's been about a month since I've shot in my studio, and with the weather getting colder and somewhat unpredictable, I figured I'd brush off my monolights and do my next session in the garage.  Model Mayhem model Jesi messaged me that she wanted to do some lingerie stuff and that she could only shoot when she wasn't working or attending College.

About a week earlier I received a call from an instructor at Frederico College who teaches Hair and Make-up.  He asked if I would be willing to TF* so he could build his portfolio.  Great timing, since I've been looking for a Make-up Artist (MUA) and Hair Stylist (HS) to help with my shoots. So I did a shoot for him using one of his students and also provided him with some prints.  I figured I would ask him to collaborate on my Jesi shoot, which he did willingly.

Jesi met with Angel at the salon and by 6:00 PM was ready for our shoot.  Jesi is a mix of French, Native American Indian, Hispanic and African American.  We decided to do three outfits, black lingerie, white and one she made from candy.  Yup, edible candy.  I think I need some different backgrounds in addition to the muslin and paper, not quite sure what, but maybe some kind of textures.  Anyway, pretty basic shoot using two softboxes, a reflector and accent light.  I use a softbox as a fill light, which is more controlled than an umbrella.  Mostly "Cosmo" lighting and some dramatic lighting, too.  The shoot lasted for about two hours and Jesi was really good with her posing.  For reference purposes, she is 5' 4" and probably 100 lbs when wet.

So what did I learn?

1) Open up one-half stop to a full stop for Jesi since her complexion is a little dark, but I knew that.
2) Get a "space" heater for the garge, it was pretty cool in there to have the fan running.
3) Make snoots for my monolights - There is some spill on her face even though my lights have barn doors.

It was a quick mid-week shoot, and as Jesi was leaving she said I was a good photographer.  My usual response was, "Don't say anything until you see the finished photos."

Quick post, but figured it's been awhile.  Hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving and is staying healthy.

That's A Wrap!!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tashah Toxic

I received a message from a Model Mayhem model who lives in Selma, CA last month.  She asked if I would be willing to work with her and that she was willing to make the two hour drive to Bakersfield.  It's a mixed emotion in agreeing to do the shoot since I felt honored that someone would drive the two hours, but the other was an anxiety to perform. We were originally going to do a "Forbidden Love" themed shoot with Tashah and another female model, but Tashah's friend couldn't make it.  Oh well, the best laid plans...

We started shooting around 3:00 PM in the Kern River bed underneath the 99 HWY.  When we arrived, the city had decided to paint over all the graffiti, which was a minor setback.  We still found some interesting repetitive patterns and some nice lighting.  Most of the work was done with either natural light, or a "strobe on a steek, " as Brian Redden refers to his boom mounted SB-800.  We also fired some shots with Tashah laying on the thistle and thorns of the dry Kern River bed.  This shot was done using Auto-FP 250 via hand-held SB-900 by my son C.J.  It's nice to know that Nikon CLS works even in bright sunlight at about 5 feet away.

Once we finished at the river, we moved to the local skate park.  A lot of kids and skateboards made us leave our gear in the car from fear of either theft, or obliteration. Again, the lighting was mostly hand-held.  This pic has nothing to do with the shoot, but was my first attempt at an Action shot using Rear Curtain Sync,   I believe Canon brands it as Second Curtain Sync.  Basically the BMX rider was doing some cool acrobatics.  I asked C.J. to shoot from 90 degrees and point it at the apex of the ramp.  Anyway, pretty nice effect, so I'll need to try some more action shots at the park.  Anyway,  the light was fading fast and Brian red gel'ed his SB-800 and pointed back towards the camera to create some flare while C.J. used my HONL 1/4" grided SB-900 to light Tashah.  We decided to move to the final location after a half hour of trying to get the right composition, but after arriving the alley was full of cars. 

So off to the brick wall on 19th and "N" streets. Finished up there with the same kind of lighting: SB-800 with HONL 1/4" grid and 1/4 CTO gel. Two SB-600s for background, both gel'ed and gobo'ed. This is one of my favorites because of Tashah's sister's expression.We shot for about an hour and then called it quits.  Afterwards we all went out for sushi, reviewed pics and had a good time.
So what did I learn:
1) It's okay to use Manual Mode with Nikon CLS during night shoots, previously I would use Aperture Priority and mess around with the E/V, but just switching to Manual made the shoot go faster.
2) Use that fourth Speedlight if you need it, and have it.  Not that I have four speedlights, but combined, Brian and I have six speedlights.

Fun shoot with Tashah, and I'm glad she drove down from Fresno to work with me.  Have a Happy Holiday and ...
... That's a Wrap!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Medicine Woman

This past Saturday, I had a shoot with a co-worker who wanted some photos for her husband.  I won't disclose her age, but she is older than my usual models.  IMHO, her youthful appearance is probably due to her Korean-American ethnicity.  I've been told that we, Asians, appear younger than our years.  I know, digression. Anyway, we planned the shoot about two months ago and finally the day arrived.  The weather was overcast, breezy and in the high 40's, but was a nice 45 minute drive up to Tehachapi, CA.

Upon arrival, she gave me a tour of the house and rooms we could use to shoot.  She also showed me around her property which is built on a hilltop and overlooks Tehachapi and Keene.  Back inside she showed me some photos she pulled from a magazine that she wanted to emulate and also a quick review of her chosen wardrobe.

We did mostly indoor shooting due to the weather, but managed to get some nice natural light shots.  I used my new Interfit Tri-reflector portrait holder/stand.  It worked really well since it has two swiveling arms aside from the center mount reflector holder that allows you to create wraparound light.  The above shot was done with all natural light coming from the French doors camera right, at about 1:00 o'clock.  The reflector was stand was at about 7, and each arm was positioned at 9 and 5, respectively.

The next shot was done with two strobes.  One in a mini-softbox and 1/4 CTO Gel Camera left 45 degrees with the reflectors in the same position.  I placed another flash outside pointing back in at about one o'clock facing the reflectors and just high enough to create lens flare.  Lens flare, as I mentioned in my shoot with Sarah seems to be a fad right now in photography.  I still haven't honed it in yet, but I'm getting closer.The flashes were both set at 1.0 E/V TTL and the camera E/V was set at -0.7.

After awhile she changed and we went outside to shoot in the weeds.  It was still chilly and breezy, so we only spent about ten minutes outside to get this next shot.  It was done with an SB-900 in a mini-softbox and a 1/4 CTO Gel camera right about 45 degrees and a gold reflector placed on the ground below the flash, just out of camera sight. Flash was TTL Model 1.0 E/V and Camera at -0.3 E/V.  I made sure that we shot at 1/60 of a second to make sure we brought in some ambient light on the weeds.  I really like this photo because it reminds me of a 1940's Technicolor film.  Although not identical to the Jane Russell pin-up shot, it has that same kind of feel.  Anyway, we both were freezing, so we ran indoors to finish the rest of the shoot.  I'll amend this post once I finish processing a pic from her last wardrobe change.  That series consisted of all three speedlights, two for key and fill and the third for accent.

What did I learn? Honestly, noting comes to mind that is worth noting.  I really didn't struggle with anything during our shoot aside from the weather.  Things I would like to have for my next shoot are:
1) My eldest to help with my gear, set-up and breakdown.  Our actual shooting time was about two hours, but I spent an hour setting up and breaking down equipment and lighting gear.
2) The combo dolly/stepladder too keep all my stuff together and also to get a higher vantage point when shooting
3) That darn Hoodman Loupe

So ends another fun shooting session with a fun co-worker and more experience with "On Location" photography.  Thanks for reading and ....

...well you know my usual closing statement.  Peace Out!!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

That's What Friends Are For

I had a make up shoot Sunday, November 1 with Model Mayhem Model DieForSarahLynn.  We were supposed to shoot back in September, but some how got our messages crossed.  Anyway, we scheduled the shoot and my key grip (a.k.a. my son C.J.) had to go to work, so fortunately my photographer friend Teresa (a.k.a. HyeStyleShots) was available.  I scheduled the shoot for 3:00 PM since we had to fall back to Standard time, and I wanted to get some Golden Hour shots.  This shoot consisted of three locations and three wardrobe changes for Sarah Lynn.  I did my usual deserted road stuff, but really wanted to get some lens flare and heavy backlighting.  One caveat with shooting directly toward the sun with an Autofocus camera is that the sun deflects the light returning back to the sensor.  So basically it's better to go Manual.  I used a trick my Dad showed me and that's to Zoom all the way in on the eyes and try to get tack sharp, and then zoom back out.  As you can see in the first pic, I got some flare, but not enough to create the colorful spheres that you see in some shots.  Also, Teresa used a gold reflector to act as a fill and the sun provided some killer rim lighting.  Sarah's hair is bleach blonde, so it gets easily blown out.  We had some really good shots and some funny ones, especially when an 18-wheeler blew by Sarah and the wind almost knocked her backwards.

We shot for about 40 minutes and moved to an abandoned auto repair shop.  Again, mostly ambient light, but did use an SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel and 1/4" honeycomb grid.  I liked this local, but it was really close to a busy street so I couldn't far enough away for some full body Selective Focus shots. Sarah definitely attracted the attention of passing cars with her beautiful looks and killer tattoos.  I must say that I'm not attracted to women with tattoos, but Sarah has a sleeve that is very beautiful and similar to  Yakuza-style tattoos.  We did mostly mixed lighting, with the sun acting as a key light and the SB-900 as the fill light.

After about 45 minutes the sun began setting and I really wanted to get to the abandoned motel to finish our shoot.  I've eaten many times at the restaurant that sits on the corner of the street, which blocks this old Bates-style motel (constructed like the Motel in the original Hitchcock movie Psycho).   I knew I wanted to use my SB-600 with a green gel to give the motel an eerie feeling.  My friend Teresa suggested I try to light the Motel sign.  So, I laid on the ground positioned the green gelled SB-600  speedlight out of frame, camera left and had Teresa hold the SB-900 (in a mini-softbox and 1/4 CTO Gel) camera right 45 degrees, and vertically.  We shot for about another half hour until it was 5:30 and called it a day.  I went manual mode instead of Aperture Priority because I needed to drag the shutter and get more ambient light into the shot.  Interesting thing about Bakersfield air pollution, it makes for purplish haze at dusk instead of a deep indigo. Teresa has a great sense of humor, which makes her a fun person to shoot with. As I was laying down on the dirty, broken glass strewn sidewalk, Teresa yelled, "Watch out!!! you are laying on a condom!!!"

So what did I learn?
1) An the roadside shoot, don't go to 24mm, the vignetting stinks and it's hard to control the exposure. Several of the shots had some blown highlights.  I did remove the lens hood since that creates some real intense vignetting.
2) Purchase the Hoodman Loupe and get the other SB-600 repaired.  The bright sun makes it hard to see the LCD panel, and I really wanted one more gel for the motel, but since I broke my other SB-600 I've been sacrificing some of my creativity

Anyway, thank you for reading my blog, and I  hope you learn some stuff along the way.  Shout out to both Sarah Lynn for being a GREAT and patient model, and to Teresa for being a great assistant!!!  Hopefully Sarah will work with me again.  She is definitely photogenic and I'd like to do some "softer" type looks with her.

That's a Wrap!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

By the Time I Get to Bellefonte

Last Thursday, Oct. 22, Drew, Teresa and I flew back to Bellefonte, PA for a relative's wedding on the 24th.  About a month prior, I posted a Travel Notice/Casting Call on Model Mayhem letting models that I would be available to shoot on Oct. 25, and I received a response back from a Penn State student stating she would like to work with me.  We went back and forth to make sure she wouldn't cancel and that lugging my camera gear on three jets wouldn't be in vain.  Hmmm...shooting gear.  Here's a list of what I pack in by Camera backpack that weighs 27 lbs.  I know, because I weighed it at the airport:
  • Nikon D700
  • SB-900 and SB-600 Flashes - Remember I dropped my second SB-600
  • HONL Photo light modifiers: CC Gels, Color FX Gels, grids, snoots, speed straps
  • Nikkor 24mm-70mm, 50mm, and 70mm-200mm lenses
  • Batteries and chargers
  • 48" collapsible reflector
  • Collapsible Gray Card
  • Sekonic Light Meter
To be honest I planned to take my camera since I wanted to practice shooting a wedding even though the relatives already had a photographer hired, but I also wanted some pictures of the Fall Colors.  We don't experience the full effect of the "Changing of the Seasons" in Bakersfield.

So we left Bako around 6:00 PM and with all the changes ended up in at the Philadelphia Airport at 6:30 AM Eastern time.  Drew was a real trooper, and didn't complain one bit with all the waiting around in the wee hours.  I whipped out my camera to take some shots of the airport, but none of them had any really nice architectural lines.  Of course I turned the camera on Drew, who was a good sport.  I believe this was shot at ISO 1600 using my 50 mm Prime lens at f/2.8 since I noticed that shooting at f/1.8 doesn't provide Tack Sharp focus.  Anyway, we arrived in State College, PA at 10:00 AM and headed to the parent's house.  The weather was cool and drizzling, but still a nice change from the dryness of Bako.

The following day we headed to the Church armed with my gear, I decided I 'd use my prime lens for a majority of the shots, but I really wanted to see how the photographer posed the wedding party.  She had two Canon camera bodies, one with a 50mm and another with a telephoto lens.  All of her shots were done with On-Camera flash and not even a bracket.  I managed to stay out of her way and keep all my Strobist comments to myself. LOL After the ceremony, as the photographer was posing the wedding party, the cloudy day gave way to intermittent sunshine. I happened to turn around and catch the Flower Girl fixing her bouquet.  This was shot with mixed natural and incandescent light.  No light modifiers were used to create the spotlight, but rather the window from upper portion of the church.  Anyway, the wedding went off with a hitch. Pun intended.

Sunday was photoshoot day with Penn State Alum, Kelsey (a.k.a. Bkklove on Model Mayhem).  I guess I must have silenced my cell phone because she TXT'ed me at 1:00 PM saying she was there and I didn't see the message until 15 minutes later.  Ooops. She found her way to the Fire house where Teresa's Dad volunteers his time.  We shot for about 2 hours in and around the Fire Hall, which gave her three different looks.  Kelsey is 5' 10" and exotic looking, with Hazel eyes and definitely outgoing and takes her modeling seriously. I always find it interesting to shoot a model taller than me, actually I enjoy it because I don't need to scoot down to give them the appearance of height.  We shot both inside and outside, for the indoor stuff we used an SB-900 with a Color Correction Green Gel, and a HONL Photo 1/4" grid to counter act the Fluorescent lights and control the spread of light from the flash.  For outside we used the gold reflector.  I definitely need to acknowledge my Human Light Stand, Tom, who is Teresa's Dad.  We have an inside joke that he has to learn to be my key grip so when I land the Sports Illustrated gig, he can accompany me.  For being his first time on a shoot, he did a really great job keeping the light where it needed to be.  Thanks Tom!!!

So what did I learn?
On the Wedding front: 1) Have a checklist of shots you want.  It is a pretty hectic day and you really want to deliver. 2) Have two camera bodies with different lenses and flashes and 3) buy the portable dolly/step-ladder that Kelby shows in Vol. 2 of his book
Honestly, I'm not confident enough to shoot weddings, but I'm sure I will be within a year.
On the model shoot: Only one real key thing for me and that was to relax.  It felt like I was on a deadline and I just couldn't get into the shoot.  I'm not sure if it was the environment, new model, or the guilt that I was supposed to be on vacation.

A big Shout Out to Kelsey for taking the chance to work with a perfect stranger. You're a brave and wonderful kid that reminds me of Megan Fox, but with normal thumbs!!! See you next year Bkklove.

Anyway, it was still a fun trip and I took some nice pictures.  Kelsey said she would be up for a shoot anytime I came to visit, which is cool, but I just don't know if I can lug that backpack across the country.  Maybe I'll just rent some lenses and only carry the body, an SB-900, and my prime lens.

Thanks for reading and That's A Wrap!!!