Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harley Cowgirl

Driving home from the Hart Park shoot back on Feb 15, I passed by Ethels' Old Corral Cafe and thought that it would make an interesting theme. My girlfriend's, co-worker's wife, Cindy owns a Halrey Soft Tail Classic and agreed to let me use it for the shoot. I then contacted Ethel's to let them know I was going to be shooting in their parking lot. The last thing I needed was a model. So I called a fantastic Model that I worked with at the Hart Park shoot; MalyJ. She agreed to work on my Deserted Western Town Harley Shoot. So the March 29 was a go. I also had to newbie models lined up for later in the day, so I called two other photogs I've worked with to see if they were interested. Frank, and Brian, both Model Mayhem and Flickr Photographers, agreed to join with me for my shoot. Thanks for the HELP guys!!!

The only new thing that I didn't plan for was using my new Nikon D700. I brought along my D60 just in case I couldn't figure out all the gadgets and gizmos on it. I can tell you that using it with the Pro Grip, extra battery, and new lens makes it pretty heavy.

Well, just like the last time I shot with MalyJ, Sunday was a cold and windy day, by Bakersfield standards. We started about 9:00 AM and ran until 10:30 AM. The Harley owner, Cindy and Mark not only let us use their Harley, but also helped with lighting MalyJ. Thanks Cindy and Mark!!! Once we were done with the shoot, we headed back to "Studio in the RAW" to finish shooting other looks for MalyJ and shoot pictures of the "newbie" Model Mayhem models: Stephanie and Sam. The rest of Malyj's photos are on my web-site and also on Frank's web-site. If you ever get the chance to work with MalyJ, I suggest you do. She is very professional, brings a great attitude and is very cooperative.

Not much shooting information to share on this shoot, I cheated and left the D700 in Auto Everything. To borrow a phrase from a dear friend, "YUCKERS!!!"

That's a wrap!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

I'm committed

Well I took the big plunge today and purchased a new Camera and lenses. Decided I need to spend my Tax returns before the new California Sales Tax goes into effect April 1. So I shopped around and picked up a new D700, 24mm - 70mm lens and a 70mm - 200mm lens. I was originally going to buy just one, but my girlfriend talked me into buying both. This photo was taken with the D700 in Program mode indoors at a local Jeep dealer. The reviews are correct about the picture quality, burst speed, focus points, etc... I'll be using it tomorrow for another model shoot, but I'll bring my D60 in case I get confounded with all the dials, buttons and menus.
The shoot is at 8:30 AM, so it's off to bed.

To be continued...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Keisha - Kern County Wildflowers

Keisha - Kern County Wildflowers
Keisha - Kern County Wildflowers,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
Well after an abundance of rain this past year, the wildflowers have returned to Kern County in full force. Two ladies from the Kern Photography Association (KPA) invited me out to shoot lovely Keisha, another fellow member of KPA, Tuesday around 6:00 PM. I figured I would bring my tripod, Cactus V2, mini softbox, and my SB-900 speedlight to do some dusk Strobist stuff, but with the recent time change it was still bright enough to shoot at ISO 200. I pretty much relied on my camera's light meter and manually bracketed some shots.

This was a little bit of a challenging shoot since we had partly cloudy skies. one moment I'd be shooting at 1/250 shutter and then have to drop to 1/60, while leaving the camera at f8. The other challenge was to shoot on uneven ground with our props, contend with red army ants and be aware not to trample on the wildflowers.

The ladies are so organized, they brought a wicker loveseat, table, wine glass, wooden frame, drapes and white sheers. I love shooting with them.

I managed to shoot close to 200 pics and capture the beauty of the wildflowers. If you are interested in photographing them, they are off HWY 223 in Arvin. If you are coming from L.A., just exit Bear Mountain Blvd, off the 99 and continue eastward for about 20 - 30 minutes, once you start the ascent you will see the wildflowers on the right side of the road.

There's probably at least a good couple of weeks left before they disappear. So head on up, and take the time to stop and photograph the wildflowers.

That's a wrap!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Finished Processing Pics from March 14, 2009 Model Shoot

Heavenly Emily?
Heavenly Emily?,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
I finally finished processing pics for the other Model Mayhem model, Emily Cowart. It was definitely a trying week, with deadlines at work and the desire to focus on the Ragdoll and Geisha project, and trying to make good on a promise to Emily. I use Capture NX2 and Color Efex Pro 3.0 from NIK Software to process my pics. NIK software also has plug-ins for Adobe products. The photos of Emily were pretty straightforward since I used Vincent Versace's method for processing portraits. However, taking a bad picture cannot be fixed regardless of your software of choice. There is one of Em where she is leaning backwards and the right-side of her face is black, and therefore no detail. I should have used a strobe 1/8 power to fill.

On Tuesday, March 17, I took a break and after work I drove out to see the wildflowers blooming, but I'll share that on another post.

The best news from the Ragdoll Geisha shoot, was a compliment by artisan Eric James Swearingen, who is a photographer, graphic artist and filmmaker. He wrote the following about the Ragdoll picture,"Mesmerizing! Excellent technical execution and implementation of concept. Love how the cool under tone of the blue fill light compliment the key. Anahy’s gaze is thought provoking and brilliantly understated. Ramona’s make up creates a character with an eerie almost ghostly atmosphere. Well done by all!" Needless to say, Anahy and I were both elated by the comment of a veteran and accomplished artist. Thank You, Eric!!!

That's a wrap!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Project AAA: Geisha Ragdoll - Anahy

What a day!!! I got up early (5:45 AM) to prep for the shoot. My eldest came over around 9:00 AM to help me set-up the lights, backdrops and run last minute errands. I used all three lights, a red, yellow and blue gel. On some shots I used the softbox, on others just a single strobe with a honeycomb grid.

The girls (since they are under 30) left Fresno at 8:00 AM and arrived promptly at 10:00 AM. Models Anahy and Emily were ready to go with dresses and props in tow. This is the second time I've had the privilege to shoot with these two lovely ladies, and I knew I wouldn't be disappointed.

We started with Emily in a cocktail ensemble, simple high fashion lighting using softbox, reflector, hair spot, and secondary fill with diffuser. I'm getting to know my strobes, better because I set the camera to ISO 100, f8 and 1/125 and again no clipped highlights and preserved the shadows. We then moved the shoot from Studio In The RAW, to my backyard and finished shooting Emily in her cocktail dress. During our shoot, Ramona, the MUA, arrived and began her magic of transforming Anahy into the first of our three Project AAA themes; Geisha. Anahy and I really owe a lot to Ramona since she ended doing double duty on today's shoot as both the MUA and Hair Stylist, so a HUGE thanks to you again.

Roll commercial: If you are ever in Bakersfield and want to get that retro look, or something cool and hip, go to a "real" pro, and visit Ramona at Norma Jean's Atomic Kitten Salon & Boutique in downtown, Bakersfield. Call her at 661-323-7653.

While Ramona and Anahy were doing make-up and hair, Emily changed into a burgundy summer dress and we kept the shoot strictly outside under my new covered patio. Light meter was displaying f8 at 1/60 for ISO 100, so the only clipped highlights were from the sun's reflection off the pool, but who cares, the pool was not the focus. I probably should have used my polarizing filter and will try it next time. After Emily's summer dress session, Emily changed into a gray dress for a single spot session that was full-body single spot with a honeycomb grid at full power set at camera right. We covered a ladder with the black backdrop and had my son hold it so Emily could lean into it without falling. Again, we really got some interesting shots that I think Emily will really like.

At that point, Anahy was ready to go. You can see two of the photos on my photography web-site. We did several variations on the Geisha with all three colored gels (red, blue, and yellow)and several props, including a fan, parasol, katana and a sai. We shot a majority of the Geisha inside and then several more outside with just the fan as a prop. I employed my typical studio lighting, which consisted of three lights and reflector, key, background, hair and reflector fill. We really played around with lighting to evoke a range of emotions. Outside, I used a lot of backighting to show off Anahy's beautiful red hair. Once satisfied with the amount of captures, it was time for another change of make-up and onto Anahy's favorite, the Ragdoll. During this time Ramona and Emily were working on a puppet-themed look for a close-up session.

Emily and I shot the close-ups pics to showcase her eyes and expressions. This lighting was strictly softbox directly behind the camera turned horizontally at about 6 feet high with no other lights. We got some great captures, which will also be posted on my web-site this week and that ended my photo sessions with Emily.

By this time it was approaching 5:00 PM and we needed to get some outdoor time with Ragdoll Anahy. We drove to our Association's Community Pool and Park and shot some scenes on a playground, park bench and sidewalk. As we were walking from one location to another, a father with his little boy and girl (ages 5 and 3, respectively) stopped and looked at Ragdoll Anahy in either terror or fright. I'm bad, because I got a kick out if. Once we lost the light, it was back to the studio for some last minute indoor shots and one backyard shot. During the day, Anahy and my scruffy dog, Breeze became friends so she decided to use him at the dumpster scene. Again, single spot, camera left, to simulate a street light. Anahy was seated next to the dumpster, among an old tire, cardboard and other "clean" pieces of trash. By the time we finished it was 8:00 PM and everyone was tired, so I'm saddened to say that we didn't get to shoot the Dark Princess theme, but that will be completed before the year is out. The girls still had a two hour drive ahead of them so they finally got on the road by 8:45 PM.
(Above Picture Note)
This photo of Model Anahy as a Ragdoll, was shot with a strobe 45 degrees from camera left with a honeycomb grid, barndoors, 6 feet high and set to full power and a background strobe with barndoors and a blue gel set to 1/8 power. My light meter suggested f8 at 1/125 for ISO 100. As you can tell the photo is pretty well exposed, no clipped highlights and no shadow detail lost.

... and That's a Wrap!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Project AAA - Prelude

Well it looks like Project AAA is definitely a "Go" for Saturday, March 14. I received confirmation from the Model and the Make-up Artist (MUA)/Hair Stylist. The MUA owns a retro-salon in downtown Bakersfield called Norma Jean's Atomic Kitten Salon at 2507 F Street, and her work is phenomenal.

This will probably be one of the most challenging shoots to-date for me. It'll be both indoors and outdoors, at Studio In The RAW, and at various locations throughout Bakersfield. We'll have three different looks, wardrobes, hair, make-up, props and lighting. So far the only drawback is the time change. One of the locales closes at 6:00 PM, and the sun is still fairly bright. I may need to use a "day for night" filter like they do in the movies to give the appearance of night.

I'm testing my "off camera" flash equipment tomorrow night to make sure I can trigger my SB-900 with my SB-400 mounted on the hot shoe. If not, I'll rely on my Cactus V2 transmitter, my SB-900 with softbox, and reflector to create a simple low-key lighting effect. Or... I may go to Wal-Mart and buy a portable GenSet so I can bring all my studio lights with me; that would be cheating.

36 hours and counting down, and the nerves are already starting.

Stay Tuned...

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Project Sabrina: March 7 - Part 2

Sabrina Harley
Sabrina Harley,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
After Saturday morning's Model Mayhem shoot I sped home to set-up for my 2:00 PM shoot with Sabrina. A couple of female photographers asked if they could tag along from the MM shoot, so I complied. Boy was I glad they were there to help out.

My buddy Phil showed up with his Harley freshly detailed wearing his Bad "A" riding gear and ready to lend a hand. The girlz arrived pretty much ready to shoot, with some last minute touch ups. It was cute to see the girls all dolled up and lookin' hot. Usually at work they wear medical scrubs, sneakers and daytime make-up.

The Set-up: It was not a difficult shoot from a lighting perspective, at first. ISO 100, f8 and between 1/60 to 1/125 shutter speed. I played around with "stopping" up and down to get a better exposure, but with Capture NX2 I can go two full stops either way for exposure.

The shoot went from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM and all those in attendance were great sports. Especially Phil, since he had to move his 800 lb Harley several times. I used my softbox for the key light, a strobe with an umbrella for fill, strobe with diffuser for backlight or hairlight and the silver side of my reflector, opposite the softbox also for fill. It didn't make sense to use the gold side since the strobes emit a white light. I also had a fan and fog machine for atmospheric enhancement. The entire shoot took place at Studio In The RAW (my garage) which provided me with valuable lessons about the constraints of my garage and my backdrops.

What did I learn?
1) If you can find a a huge "lazy susan" for the vehicle, get one. lol
2) Oil tattoos to enhance their look
3) Pay attention to details, like the models earrings, placement of clothing (i.e. what is it covering) hair if it is parted, reflection of your lights, or yourself on chrome and mirrors.
4) Buy a curtain track to hang your backgrounds, it'll make it easier if you are using big heavy objects that are 10 feet wide to photograph. In some shots, I had to process the background to hide my vaccuum cleaner, storage cabinets, etc...
5) Test your equipment the day of the shoot one more time. I plugged in the Fog machine on Saturday and everything worked great. Yesterday, plugged it in and Nada, zip, nil. Arghhh!!! The fan I used was more like a mild breeze. Oh, BTW, the model of the fan is a Hawaiian Breeze, should've guessed the output wasn't too variable.
6) Take your time with each shot, review the capture after you change something, especially lighting. I lost a good series of shots because the hairlight was no longer pointed in the correct direction. Especially because I like to move around when I shoot.
7) Have an extra set of eyes, especially a woman to help out. It makes female models more comfortable, and they give you great feedback from a female perspective.

That's a Wrap!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Model Mayhem Shoot #2 - March 7, 2009: Part 2

I decided to attend the Model Mayhem model shoot today at Joylyn's house, especially since an associate asked if I was afraid to shoot men. Suffice it say, I shot over 200 pics of Shane. For the shoot I brought my Nikon SB-900 speedlight, LumoPro LP679 Umbrella Swivel, light stand, Cactus V2s Radio Slave Set , and my Photoflex LiteDome Q39 XS Kit 1 w/shoe mount, so I could use off-camera flash. The shoot was scheduled to start at 10:00 AM, but was pushed to 11:00 AM. I decided to do some "Behind-The-Scenes" shots of the Hair Stylist Leperkon and MUA Kristine Sinclair.

Since I had a shoot scheduled for 2:00 PM today, and I wanted to include a Male in my Model Mayhem port, I asked Shane if he was ready to go. One bonus of shooting men, he said he just woke up, but would be ready in 5 minutes. Guess what, he was ready in 5. No Make-up or Hair Styling needed. Just a few push-ups and stretching and Shane was ready. All of the shots were done outside, so I didn't need my gear, just my 55mm - 200mm lens and hood. I shot at f8, ISO 100 and between 1/100 to 1/500 shutter speeds. A majority of shots were around the pool, so the reflection created a natural fill light. While all the other male photographers were waiting for the female models to get ready, I was clicking away. Shane is a great kid, and traveled all the way from San Marcos for the shoot. So I felt he needed to get some attention. Fellow KPA member RedHatGal was kind enough to apply some sheen to Shane's body, I don't think she enjoyed it. Yeah right.

Once we were done shooting with Shane, it was approaching 12:30 PM and still no female models were ready, ughhh. So it became a water cooler session with the photogs. Guys with cameras that were more expensive than some cars, and lighting that would rival Hollywood shots, and there I stood with my Nikon D60. It was reminiscent of being in Gym Class and having to go shower with all the other guys. Egad. A quick look at my watch and it was 12:45 PM, oh well, no models ready so I left to prepare for my 2:00 PM shoot. Anyway, I got what I came for, a picture of a male model for my MM portfolio.

So what was the takeaway from today's Model Mayhem shoot?
1) Although a generalization, Male Models are "ready to go" as opposed to Female Models. No further comment since I don't want to inflame anyone, or sound sexist.
2) Don't be intimidated by shooting Male Models, think of it as photographing a Mr. Universe contest or shooting athletes if need be.
3) Use your light-meter, I did.

End result, Shane wants to work with me again. I'll be processing the shots tomorrow and publish them on my photo web-site. That's a wrap!!!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Model Mayhem Shoot #2 - March 7, 2009: Part 1

Tomorrow I have another Model Mayhem shoot at Joylyn's house. It's a Shoot and Texas Hold'Em Meet. I'm going with two fellow KPA members. They have scheduled 10 photogs and 5 models, which includes a dude. Hmmmm....do I have the ability to shot a guy? or desire to shoot a guy ? It starts at 10:00 AM and goes until 2:00 PM. At that point we can have one-on-one time with each model until 4:00 PM before the poker game begins. I'll be bailing early to get back and shoot Project Sabrina. Joylyn has several rooms (NASCAR, Bar, Bedroom and Card Room) we can shoot in and for exterior shots she has a pool with patio furniture.

What to bring? Well, I'm bringing my Nikon SB-900, light stand, Lumpro Umbrella Holder, and a mini-softbox for lighting and of course my Light/Flash Meter. I plan to do all off camera strobe for both interior and exterior shots to see if I can get some interesting captures. I'll probably bring my reflector, too. Boy, do I need an assistant, and "no" Drew is too young to help especially since they may want risque pics taken.

Stay Tuned for Part 2...

Two Lights and a Reflector: The Set-up and Results

Rico Suave

Sunday night, March 1, I was experimenting with my lights for an upcoming project, affectionately named "Project AAA". The session themes will consist of Geisha, Rag Doll and Dark Princess. So I decided to see what lighting patterns work best.
I'm using RPS Studio Monolites - 450W strobes. The set-up:

Softbox - 60 degrees from camera left and 6' high at "full"
Silver reflector - 6 inches from Drew camera right
Back light - 1 foot off ground behind Drew at "full" with barndoors narrowed for the spot effect.

As you can see from the photo of Drew, the lighting came out pretty good. There is a hotspot along the slope of his nose, should've stopped down 1/2. Remember, with Digital, set your exposure for the highlights. That's a Wrap.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Project Sabrina: March 7 - Part 1

Saturday, March 7, at 2:00 PM will be an all studio photo shoot and the theme will be "Tattooed Girl." I'll be working with a young lady who wants some pictures of her tattoos, which are located on her shoulders, collar bone, upper back and lower back. I decided to enlist the help of a friend who owns a Harley that I plan to use as a prop.

So what are the considerations for this shoot:
1) Her skin tone is light brown, so proper exposure will be essential to ensure that the tattoos stand out. Do I need to open up 1/2 or a full stop?
2) The motorcycle is dark blue so using High Key lighting might create undesirable lighting patterns reflected from the motorcycle.
3) What colored background should I use, black, white, or grey? Right now the thought is black in order to de-emphasize the motorcycle.
4) Should I use a fan to simulate motion and have her hair floating around? Most definitely
5) How many lights should I use, 2, 3 or 4? It really comes down to the effect I'm after and getting the tatts to pop-out. I'll start with 2 lights(one with a softbox and the other with a grid) and a reflector (silver, or gold side?) and then determine if I need additional light.

This is the exciting part and stressful part of shooting with different variables, but in the end it is worth it.

... and Thanks Dad for your advice, too.

More to Come

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Model Mayhem Shoot #1 - Feb 15, 2009

This was my first Model Mayhem Shoot (http://www.modelmayhem.com/). It was coordinated by a fellow MM'er, KPA, smugmug and Flickr member, Deb Connors . She invited a handful of models, photographers, MUAs and Hair Stylists to participate in this photo shoot. Everyone was basically trading time for photos and recognition. To say that it was fun would be a disservice to Deb and an understatement . We shot all over Bakersfield's Hart Park http://www.co.kern.ca.us/parks/hart.asp which has landscapes that range from the Kern River to Sharktooth Hill. there is also a barn with AC Power for studio lighting, and excellent exteriors such as creeks, lakes, shacks and plenty of mature trees.

The shoot started at 11:00 AM and went past dusk. All of my pics were taken with my Nikon D60 and a hot shoe mounted Nikon SB-900 Flash. I used bounce flash for all indoor stuff, for outdoor shooting I set my "flash" to 90 degrees and on Fill mode -.03 EV. I also carried a "5 in 1" reflector, which has a built-in diffuser for all direct sunlight shots. The majority of my gear, (i.e. stands and reflector holder) was unusable due to the 20 mph - 30 mph winds, so I enlisted the help of fellow MM photographer Brian to assist. Thanks, man.

I really cheated on this shoot, which means I put the camera in "AUTO" mode for almost every shot. I really need to build my confidence regarding shooting in Manual mode, which was more self-imposed than mandated. I even brought along my Sekonic L-358 light meter so I wouldn't rely on the built-in metering, but I never used it. So some of the indoor shots are at ISO 1600 which accounts for the graininess . I was never rushed with the time spent shooting the models. Being my first time, I was really nervous and I didn't make good use of my time, or the models time. I found myself thinking how much easier it would be to shoot at my Studio, but that wasn't the point of this exercise. We had to deal with Mother Nature: sunlight, wind, temperature, foliage, etc... By 5:00 PM, I had run out of gas and decided to pack it up. I was too tired to even look at the pictures from the day's session. You can view the captures from the Model Mayhem session.

What did I learn?
1 ) Have an idea of what you want to shoot with regard to the environment. Go scope out the location before the shoot during the hours of the shoot.
2) Review the models portfolios ahead of time so you can see which angles accentuate their beauty.
3) Arrive at the shoot while the models are getting prepped for any last minute assessments, such as their physical appearance, i.e. height, weight, skin color, etc. and for any enviromental changes.
4) Don't be shy, if you are looking to create a unique image, chances are they'll want something different, too.
5) Bring everything your vehicle can hold.

On my next shoot, which is this Saturday, March 7, I know what I'm looking to do and defintely have a plan. That's a Wrap, for now.