Saturday, April 25, 2009

Katrina - Strobist Attempt #5

Katrina - Half Shot (Strobist)
Katrina - Half Shot (Strobist),
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
A co-worked asked if I would photograph their niece, Katrina and because both Sandman and Steve's Reflection attended a workshop on using off-camera flash, I was forced to try shooting with my Speedlight outdoors. Thanks a lot guys!!! Actually, I've been wanting to test it out and Katrina was eager to help and get some pics to start a portfolio.

Katrina arrived at 6:00 PM, as scheduled, and we just talked about modeling, music, movies, kids and other things just so I could figure out her personality and have her relax. Thank goodness she isn't a reserved kid, she was demonstrating what she does when she listens to music, and that's when I fired off this shot.

After some indoor shots with window light and a gold reflector, we moved outdoors. This time I used the sunlight (ahhh, Golden Hour) as my Main and my gold reflector as fill. Once the sun began to set I pulled out my SB-900 Flash, light stand, 5lb. ankle weight* and umbrella to do some "strobist" stuff.

I wanted the off camera flash (set in iTTL) with the 1/4 CTO gel(Main/Key light)to boost the existing sunlight and then stepped down my on camera flash to act as a fill light. The sunlight was used as a background light to create separation from the background, too. See, a simple Three-light studio set-up used outdoors. Honestly, it's trial and error and remember, Photography is about painting with light.

Strobist Info:
iTTL SB-900 camera right 45 degrees and about 6 feet high with 1/4 CTO gel shot thru umbrella with Zoom set to 70mm.
On camera-flash set to -2.0 E/V Commander Mode for fill
Addtl light: Flash mixed with Ambient sunlight at 8:00 PM also camera right.

*Great idea Brian to keep the stand from toppling over with my Flash.

What did I learn?
1) Back off the on-camera flash another E/V, or even turn it off, I would've liked to see more shadow camera left.
2) It's digital and not film, so shoot until you get it right.
3) Check your camera settings one more time before you shoot. I was photographing my girlfriend's aquarium and set ISO to 1600. Ooopps, thank goodness the D700 is a full-frame sensor so little digital noise showed up in the pictures.

That's a Wrap!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Beautiful Anahy - Dark Princess...

...and so ends the Dark Trilogy Sessions with my mouse (inside joke), Anahy. For me, this picture represents the apex of our collaborative experience. The expressiveness and beauty of Anahy, the excellence of Ramona Potts' make-up, and my photographic education in lighting and posing.

This picture was a simple set-up as far as lighting:
1 - strobe full power with medium honeycomb grid attached to a Manfrotto boom held by Anahy's beau, John (Thanks for the help!!!)
2 - strobes on 1/8 power 45 degrees on camera right and left pointed at the lower part of her dress.

Processing was very minimal, I turn off in-camera sharpening on my Nikon D700 and shoot in Standard Scene Capture. I use Capture NX2 to perform traditional photog type stuff, like dodging, burning, etc... so I only needed to subtly Sharpen this picture to show the detail in her dress.

Photo info:
Aperture: f16*
Shutter: 1/125
Focal: 38mm
ISO: 200
* Wanted to shoot at f/16 to keep her entire body in sharp focus

A special thanks to the other off camera crew:
Hair: Lacey of Norma Jean's Atomic Kitten Salon. in Downtown Bakersfield.
Second Set of Eyes and Blow Dryer Handler: Teresa a.k.a. HyeStyleShots
Props: Barbara a.k.a. redhatgal.
Support: My girlfriend and friends on FLICKR who keep me motivated and constantly questioning the rules of photography.

What did I learn:
Purchase a portable air conditioner for my garage, it got pretty warm even though I use strobes
Purchase a heavy duty light stand for my boom, poor John got a nice work out holding it aloft
When someone asks what can they bring, tell them everything -lol

That's a Wrap!!!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Strobist Attempt #4 - Group Shot

I've been wanting to shoot my company's Server Room for awhile. We just re-modeled it and now have more space for cooling and additional equipment. A server room is the central nervous system for most organizations. The room is climate controlled, runs on dedicated power, secure access, and contains computers, switches, routers, appliances, etc...that you don't find at BestBuy or CompUSA.

The gents featured in this shot handle the day-to-day operations and support of our entire computer network (300+ users), including the desktops, laptops, tablets, printers, faxes, telephones, and somewhat "off-the-shelf" software.

This photo plays on one of the common misconceptions of an I.T. group.

This is my fourth "strobist" shoot using Nikon's Creative Lighting System (a.k.a. CLS). The shoot was a 3 light set-up with my D700 acting as the Commander. It took 15 minutes to set-up the lights and 5 minutes to shoot 8 pictures with different lighting positions and light output. So, the total session time was 20 minutes.

Strobist Info:
SB-900 (Group B: +1.0 E/V) Camera Left, Zoom at Zoom-75mm and Even distr. pointed at Server Rack
SB-600 (Group B: +1.0 E/V) Camera Right, Zoom at Zoom-75mm (I think) even dist, pointed at Server Rack
SB-600 (Group A: -1 E/V) Bounced off Monitor at Zoom - 50mm
ISO 200
Shutter 1/60
Focal 40mm

What did I learn?
Do this on a weekend when you have more time to plan the shoot, but as you have read, I like to work under pressure.

Have the guys do more comical poses.

Purchase some gels. I would like to re-shoot using blue gels on the background flashes to give the room a cooler feel.

Please feel free to comment.

That's a wrap!!!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter Orchids

Happy Easter Orchids
Happy Easter Orchids,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
Just a quick note to wish all readers of my blog, a Happy Easter. These orchids were an Easter gift to my Mom before she passed away. It's been eight years since she's been gone, but these orchids make their annual appearance every Easter to remind me, my father, and my son of how beautiful she was.

Happy Easter and make sure you tell your loved ones how much you appreciate them.

Photo Info:
f 2.8
ISO 200
Shutter 1/1250
Focal 56mm
Conditions: Cloudy
Subject: In Shade

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strobist - First Lame Attempt

Since the weather was windy, my shoot with Stephanie was postponed. However, after watching the Nikon CLS DVD, I figured I'd play around. I set-up my SB-900 on a light stand with a softbox and put my D700 in Commander. I set the on Camera E/V to -.3 and left the on-camera flash -.3. I thought I set my SB-900 to +1, but after reviewing the metadata it was also at -1.0. I did set the Shutter Sync Mode to Rear Curtain, but for some reason the Flash Exposure Comp came out to -3.3 E/V. The settings were: f8, 1 second, 24 mm focal length and ISO 1600. Also after reviewing the metadata I had High ISO NR and Long Exposure NR set to OFF. So this is the best picture I got.

What did I learn:
1) Don't shoot at 1:00 AM after working a full day
2) Review all your settings, twice.
3) Think about what you are trying to compose. The moon is high above me, so I probably should have brought the camera in closer and tilted it up to have the moon over my shoulder
4) Re-read the Camera manual to have the D700 Autofocus on timed mode, and make sure AF is switched "ON" on my lens. lol
5) Use a tripod, which I did.
6) Keep playing around with E/Vs
7) Re-watch the Nikon CLS DVD

For those photographers who read my blog and think I'm giving away secrets, or disclosing my shortcomings Get a Life!!! To quote one of my favorite photographers Alfred Eisenstaedt, "Once the amateur's naive approach and humble willingness to learn fades away, the creative spirit of good photography dies with it. Every professional should remain always in his heart an amateur."

That's a Wrap!!!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Busy Bee - Stephanie

Busy Bee - Stephanie
Busy Bee - Stephanie,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
Model Mayhem, not a newbie, Stephanie Ikeler and I decided to collaborate on some themed pin-up style photos after our last shoot. We figured we could help each other out by building her port and helping me learn some more lighting styles. So this week's theme was Spring!!! Simple shot as far as lighting, Softbox (key light) 30 degrees from camera left, at about 7 feet, fill at 45 degrees from camera right with umbrella, and background light with yellow gel. Shot at f11, 1/125, shutter and 62mm. My flash meter said f9, but it was clipping the highlights, so I bracketed the shot and this combination had the best exposure on the histogram, a nice pyramid. I wish I would have given her a pair of pruning shears to make this a little cuter, but it still works.

We also did some Natural Light, candid shots that will be posted on my web-site over the next two days. It was interesting that we really didn't get into a groove today, but after reviewing the pictures it appears that we captured some cool stuff.

Next week we are going to do a outdoors Nikon CLS type of shot around 7:00 PM. That's right, I'm not just a studio guy, I'm aspiring to become a "Strobist."

Thanks to Stephanie for the idea, costume and perseverance to put up with me.

That's a wrap!!!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Model, New Camera

Classic Photographer
Classic Photographer,
originally uploaded by Al@nAnT.
Sunday, March 29, proved to be a busy day with a shoot in the morning and a shoot in the afternoon. New to Model Mayhem, Stephanie Ikeler, and her childhood friend, Jess (MakeupbyJess) came over promptly at noon. That was a good sign for a new model to be "on-time". The girls set-up to do Stephanie's make-up and MalyJ changed into her next set of clothes. The afternoon proved to be pretty busy with both models changing, doing hair and make-up, but giving us photogs plenty to shoot with. Having two boys, the bathroom was never this busy. lol.

Both Brian and Frank took turns shooting MalyJ at Studio in the RAW, while I was making last minute changes to my backyard for the exterior shots. Once I was done, Stephanie came out in her white summer dress and was preapred to shoot. She was definitely shy, this being her first time. I don't blame her being nervous, she had three photogs snapping pictures of her, kinda like a paparazzi-fest. I bet you've heard me use that term before. After a little bit, Stephanie relaxed and began to enjoy herself.

I, on the other hand, was busy messing with my new camera and changed the White Balance to Flash, and forgot to change it back to AUTO or at least Daylight. CRUD!!! The beauty of working with RAW is that I can always correct the White Balance during post work. I also got to play with my two new lenses that my two FLICKR friends, I respect, suggested I try. Steve's Reflections and MISTUR, please check out their work, both are GREAT at what they do and have NO EGOS when it comes to photography. Anyway, the lenses worked flawlessly and I'm glad I did get them both. I also picked up the MB-D10 battery pack for the D700, so by then end of the day, my arm was tired.

After shooting pics of Stephanie, it was Studio time for me and MalyJ. I did some Low key shots with the softbox and one hair light. I whipped out my flash meter and checked, but knew it would read 1/125 Shutter, F8 at ISO 100. Brian suggested I try a faster sync speed so I could stop down to f2.8 and experiment instead of using the sweet spot all the time, but being new to the camera I didn't know how to adjust it. I do now!!! Thanks Brian for the suggestion and making me RTFM (Read The Flippin' Manual).

It was probably close to 2:30 and the other photogs had to leave along with MalyJ. However, Brian gave us some poses and artistic advice about modeling and use of space. Again, thanks Brian!!! With everyone gone, Stephanie changed into her zebra bikini and we did some studio work. I asked her if she was comfortable with doing a few implied nude shots and she agreed. Thanks Steph!!! I played with my lights to create some different looks since I've never done a bikini shoot, but didn't re-check my flash meter, ARRRGGGHHH!!! So this weekend, to make it up to Stephanie, we are going to re-shot the zebra bikini and also do some exterior shots.

What lessons did I learn?
I'm not going to generalize about working with newbies, especially since this was my first MM newbie. So when working with Stephanie, she told me she appreciated the constant feedback and telling her, "Hey, this is supposed to be fun", or being positive throughout the shoot.
Check the flash meter, more than once and don't only rely on histograms.

Above all, when purchasing a new camera, Read the Manual and play around with it to learn all it's "bells and whistles."

Finally, thanks to all the genuine, sincere, and creative photogs who have supported my growth into photography.

Be sure to stay tuned for my follow-up shoot with Stephanie.

That's a Wrap!!!