Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Older Eyes

This past week I photographed Ashley V.(see previous post) and I decided I would shoot a couple frames from my 35mm FE2, just to see if I had the discipline to shoot like the old days. I used my D700's on-board light meter to get the readings and figured if I overexposed it would be okay, since on film you expose for the shadows, as opposed to digital where you expose for the highlights. So this shot is at f/2.8, 1/30 shutter, ISO 400, and 50mm focal. When I finished the roll, I took it to CVS Pharmacy and they developed the film, made prints and burned it to CD-ROM for $12. Of course I knew the quality would be dicey and grainy, but really I wanted to shoot my 35mm for two reasons:

1) To test the foam seals on the back cover for light leaks. The roll I used the first time was 12 year-old film, and probably wasn't a good test.

2) I wanted to see if I could manually focus a lens and get a tack sharp picture.

This picture of Drew was shot in Aperture Priority Mode at f/1.8, using my Nikkor 1.8D 50mm prime, and outside around 6:00 PM in shade. I have to say that it looks fairly sharp, but again it is a second generation JPG.

Going forward, I'm going to bring my 35mm along with the rest of my gear just to keep my skills sharp. It's kinda like using a typewriter without correction fluid. You have to do it right, otherwise you waste a lot of time trying obtain the desired results. Same with digital, some people rely on Adobe Photoshop as a crutch for poor, fundamental, photography. I believe creative solutions arise from constrained situations. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox.

So what's next? I've got a studio shoot this weekend and I'm going to shoot a roll of ISO 200 film in addition to my digital camera. I always use a light meter, so I should be able to get some usable pics SOOC (Straight-Out-Of-Camera).

That's A Wrap!!!

Monday, September 28, 2009


Another week of 100 degree weather in Bakersfield makes it difficult to shoot outdoors, or even in my studio. Model Mayhem Model Ashley V. asked if I would be interested in doing a bikini shoot with her. I've had my share of bikini shoots recently (Devon, Sammy and Tonya)and although most men like them, I prefer something a little more artistic and emotive. I agreed to do the bikini shoot with one stipulation, that Ash would also do some Natural Light shots wearing a black sweater.

I invited my friend Teresa, a.k.a. HyeStyleShots, to come and shoot with me. We last shot together on my Dark Princess session.

Ashley and her hubby, arrived at 1:30 PM and we started with the black sweater shoot. My son C.J. helped me move some furniture around positioned our love-seat next to the window. Our house has windows facing East and West, so we get some really nice cross lighting, especially with the vaulted ceilings. I also placed a white sheet on the couch to act as additional fill.

Pretty simple lighting, window light camera left and reflector just camera right. The reflector was literally right next to me, and of course the white sheets bounced light all over the place. However, the strobist in me had to throw an punch of light from the windows on the left by placing my SB-900 outside pointing through the window. It looked good, but I prefer the softness of the natural light. I did shoot at ISO 400, but again the D700's sensor is excellent at even ISO 1600 with very minimal noise. I shot at f2.8 a majority of the time and shutter 1/60. I tried to keep myself at 50mm focal length for no reason. During a break, I pulled out my Nikon FE2 and fired off a couple frames of film on Ashley. The picture in this paragraph was shot with my 35mm film camera. Not too bad.

Once we finished the black sweater shots, we moved outside around 3:00 PM. Harsh sunlight, worse time to shoot, right? I brought out my 40" x 60" reflector, but had my son remove the material to expose the diffuser. We basically shot about half the pictures with the diffuser, the other half with an SB-900 at Auto FP 1/250. This shot was f/5.6, focal racked out at 190mm ISO 100 and 1/200 shutter. I was lying on the ground and asked Ashley to close her eyes. Again, I prefer more emotive stuff, probably just a phase, but I do like this picture of Ash. The top picture was a similar shot. I asked Ash to wet her hair for the remainder of the shoot, and as she was leaning back I fired a few shots from almost ground level.

I'd say that models have it rough, but with our last two shoots, Ash got to lay in bed, and cool off in my pool while it was 100 degrees outside. We finished up by 3:30 due to the heat. I can't wait for Fall to really come, which according to the forecast, we'll be seeing temperatures in the mid-80's by this upcoming weekend. Just in time for my two shoots. In fact, I'm pretty booked for the month of October and one of these days, I'm going to start charging.

What did I learn?
1) Experiment more with shooting in broad daylight by combining my huge diffuser with a strobe. It was just too hot to mess around with both tools
2) Purchase a Hoodman Loupe, it's just to hard to read the back of the LCD in bright daylight.
3) Continue to have fun when shooting. My friend Teresa took this picture of Ash and I, which I really like. Ash is fun to work with and has funny sense of humor.
4) Don't be afraid to ask for help. My son really helped out with holding the reflector and speedlights. Makes it easier since I don't need to worry about lightstands, or holders.

Ash and I tease each other about not calling each other to collaborate, I complain that my phone must be broken since I never get her calls and she accuses me of drinking Hatorade. Kid slang for being a Hater.

That's a Wrap!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Anywhere But Here

After finishing my last model shoot on Sept 3, I needed a break and figured I'd post *** ON HIATUS *** on my Model Mayhem page. I was receiving a lot of requests to shoot, but I really wanted to do something for my port. Apparently on Model Mayhem, some models only look at two things; 1 )your photos and 2) your title. I was still receiving shoot requests, and although I did have a couple shoots lined up, I figured the ON HIATUS. status would deter anymore requests. Wrong!!!

Anyway, I've been trying to move away from the normal "pretty" or "Hot" shots and move towards more emotive pictures. My first attempt was in San Luis Obispo with my Runaways series, but the lack of grungy, or rundown scenery made it hard to evoke the feelings of despair, discontentment or isolation. So I figured, why not shoot it in Bakersfield. There are plenty of abandoned and dilapidated areas to shoot. It dawned on me that the old International Airport would make a nice backdrop. I drove by there a month ago to check it out and it was definitely in a state of disrepair and neglect. The bonus was that the signage and the Jet statue that marked the entrance was still there. PERFECT!!!

I called the Marketing person at the Airport and she informed me that I needed a $1 million dollar Waiver and the proper paper work completed and submitted before shooting there. BUST!!!, so I contacted the models and canceled the shoot. One of the models, Tonya, still wanted to shoot and said she would help me with an "emotive" shoot.

So we planned two locales for Sunday Sept. 20. a straight and abandoned road and the train station, Downtown. We met at the road and it was mostly natural light except for a reflector and one speedlight, my trusty SB-900. this shot was done with only a reflector. I made sure Tonya was partially facing towards the sun, which I used a my key. The reflector as fill. So the picture above was the result of basic lighting.
Photo Info:

We wrapped up at 6:00 PM and headed to the train station, Downtown. We did alot of natural light shots until the sun began to set. At that point, the ambient light was perfect, along with the light from the train station. This shot, my favorite, was really simple lighting, really. Just an SB-900 in a mini softbox with a 1/4 CTO Gel. The SB-900 was set to TTL Mode and +0.7 E/V. and the camera was set to -0.3 E/V.

I was asked by many photogs, "How did you get permission to shoot there?" I didn't, but the last time I was there, I asked the Security Guards and they said a lot of people shoot there. I decided that my son would be my human lightstand and would alleviate the need for lightstands and other items that people might trip over, or even take. There was definitely enough ambient light which would act as fill and rim lighting, so all I needed was a key light.

So what did I learn?
1) Travel light and have an assistant if possible. I don't think I would've got the shot if my son hadn't come along, so "Thanks C.J.!!!"
2) Know the locale - Since I've shot there before, I knew there would be sufficient ambient light, I just needed to make sure my Key overpowered any stray shadows or color casts.
3) Have a model who isn't afraid to take direction - Tonya was reluctant to jump on the train, but I promised that she wouldn't end up in Tehachapi.

I had such a good time, that Samantha-Elizabeth and I are planning to shoot there Sunday, Sept. 27.

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

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No Picture Preview?

No Picture Preview? (Explored)

So this will be a real quick post. As a parent and a forty-something year-old, who grew up with a father who loved photography, and someone who took photography in High School and College, I really enjoyed my youngest son's latest observation.

After viewing photos a colleague took with a 35 mm film camera, I decided I would shop on eBay and buy a used Nikon FE2 35mm Film camera, to replace the one I sold back in 1997. I won the bid for the FE2, that came with two lenses, two flashes and an assortment of junk and a roll of Kodak Royal Gold ISO 200 Film with an Expiration Date of 10/1997, that's right 1997, coincidence? Total price $90.
Drew Guitar 35mm
It took me awhile to remember how to use it and thank goodness for the Internet. I found an Instruction Manual for the FE2 that I downloaded. Anyway, as I was burning through the included roll of film to check for seal leaks, I asked Drew to hold still so I could take a picture of him. I clicked off several frames and then proceeded to walk out of the room. Drew looked up at me and said, "Hey Dad, can I see the pictures?" I laughed and said, "This is a 35mm film camera." Drew responded, "What does that mean." I said, "I have to finish the roll and take the film in to be developed." Here's the kicker, Drew said, "What!!! there's no picture preview? How do you know if the picture comes out good?" I realized that film has gone the route of 8-track tapes, LP records, typewriters and other things we knew as kids, teens, and even young adults.
Pizza Time - 35mm Film
Above is a picture from the 12 year-old film shot in Aperture Priority Mode with a 50mm lens at f/1.8. No EXIF data to recall the rest of the photo info. I've been told the the Green and Magenta get wonky over time, and the Red loses Highlight detail. Atleast the camera seal is good, otherwise there would have been overexposed streaks on the print.

What did I learn?
Easy, that although I enjoy digital, I really miss shooting film.  Film definitely makes you stop and compose the shot, double-check your exposure and slow down.

Grapes of Wrath

I decided to take a three week break from shooting models after my hectic six models in two weeks shoot-a-thon. A friend, and previous co-worker chose to retire and decided to open a deli in Petaluma, California. We were invited to her Retirement Party and also to take some shots of her deli, or more likely I was invited to take pictures. Awhile back they bought a home on five acres of land, which is covered with vineyards, and as part of the deal, the vineyards on their property is maintained by a winery with a portion of the harvest bottled under a private label.

As many of you know, I rarely shoot flora or fauna, but I really wanted to do some strobist stuff in the vineyards. I brought my D700 and an SB-900 along to see how creative I could get with only one flash. This first shot was taken around 3:00 PM with the sun camera left. I set the camera to f/3.5, ISO 100 and Focal and Aperture Priority Mode,nice picture, but with so much ambient light the right side of the grapes were black and the background clipped. So I removed my flash from the hot shoe and turned it on. I set the Flash E/V to -3.0 and fired a shot. Wow!!! Blown out!!! so I set the Camera E/V to -2.0 and BANG!!! It was an awkward shot. I held my camera with my right hand and pressed it against my left collarbone for steadiness and used my left hand to hold the flash and point it towards the grapes at almost a 90 degree angle. It was definitely a keeper.

Apparently I wasn't the only one who liked the picture, after posting it on FLICKR, the picture made it as high as #23 on Explore. I believe there are some 5,000 pictures posted on FLICKR every minutes and to make it on Explore there is some algorithm used to calculate your photo's status ir interestingness (a term they coined, not me). I believe it is based on who comments (i.e. where they live), the TAGS you use, the number of favorites and some other intangibles. The irony is that only two of my model pics back in March made it on Explore, two of which I didn't really like. I guess there's no accounting for taste.

This next shot was taken the following day along the Petaluma River using my 50mm Prime Lens. My childhood friend, Mark lives in Petaluma and we decided to have breakfast and catch up. He was the Best Man at my wedding, and I was the Best Man at his wedding. We've known each other since 1969 and shared many experiences together. As we were walking along the river there was a section fenced off, apparently wood rot has made a section dangerous for foot traffic. So I reached over the fence and set my camera on it's side and pressed the shutter. I didn't do to much processing to the picture, it was a cloudy morning so I boosted the contrast. This is not an HDR image, just a Tonal Contrast filter from NIK Software.

BTW, Here's a picture of my buddy Mark.

What did I learn?
1) I can still take a decent non-model photo
2) One off-camera flash and the sun is all you need to qualify as a Strobist. Hahaha
3) Take a break from stuff you are comfortable with shooting

If you read this entire post, then you truly are a follower and a friend, so a big Thank You

That's a Wrap!!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Beauty Meets Brains

Quick post about my shoot with Model Mayhem model Tonya Greer. I can't recall what prompted our initial communication, but I believe it was on MySpace, where I also have an account to showcase my pics. After a couple exchanges, I found out Tonya is a Computer Engineer student at a local university and half Filipino. How could I turn down photographing a fellow Pacific Islander? I look at her portfolio on ModelMayhem and agreed to work with her. As we were planning our shoot, Tonya also mentioned she likes video games, comic books and anime. Wow!!! a geekette. So I had an idea about including her in my White Sheets series and also throw in some props that us nerds/geeks would recognize. This shoot was really about having fun for me, and to give Tonya some nice pics for her portfolio.

The studio shots were done with three strobes, two in softboxes (Key and Fill) and one strobe with a 1/4" grid for accent. I also used the silver side of a reflector below bed level to provide for my typical Clamshell lighting. Tonya was actually attending school down in Florida, but circumstances had her return to Bako. While attending college, Tonya worked at The Wing House, so the first image is dedicated to her employer.

We also did some bikini shots, which came out well, too. Anyway the next two images in this blog were my idea and she happily complied. They are dedicated to the nerds, geeks, gamers, or however you decide to categorize yourself, around the world.
What did I learn?
Well aside from getting to know Tonya, not much, except for the fact that I either need a bigger space for more creative lighting, or a new set of lights that will stop down to 1/64 or better 1/128. Which is cheaper? Adding on to a house, or buying some new Alien Bees? Oh, I wish Tax Refund season was here again.

Sorry, lost my train of thought. We had a great shoot and I do plan to work with Tonya some more, just need to find the time and ideas for something creative. If you are a photographer, check her out on Model Mayhem, she is GREAT to work with.

As my favorite comic book writer used to say, "Excelsior!!!
Postscript: Yes she is actually holding my #1 Iron Man Comic Book, published in 1969

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Summer Time = Bikini Time

The first week of September started out busy for me. I had two shoots lined up for Model Mayhem models, Devon and Tonya, who wanted bikini pictures for their port. I've done four bikini shoots in the past and really needed to work more on my lighting and posing.

For both shoots I used the sun for ambient light and three speedlights, an SB-900 as a key and two SB-600s positioned either horizontally, or stacked vertically and shot through my 40" x 60" 5-in-1 reflector with the cover removed. Most reflectors have a removable cover that reveals a diffuser panel. I also used assorted light modifiers, mini-softbox, grids, gobos, snoots, and of course some 1/4 CTO Gels to Full CTO Gels depending on the mood or time of day, from HONLPhoto. A professional photographer reminded me that a little color can go a long way.

This image to the right, of Devon, was my attempt at something creative. After careful review and processing, I needed a little more contrast during the shoot to establish a usable white and black point, especially since I wanted this image to be in Black and White. I'm also not happy with the pose I asked her to perform, I think either both of her legs should have been bent at the knees, or better yet, bent and leaned to the side. I appreciate Devon allowing me to experiment with my lighting when we work together, unfortunately, she doesn't get a lot of useful pics for her port. Devon did manage to find a couple pictures she liked.

This one is my favorite from the shoot with Devon from a technical perspective, I like the color and flare from the flash. SB-900 in a mini-softbox camera right, 45 degrees and Full CTO Gel. SB-600 (no Gel) to my immediate left shot through an umbrella and an SB-600 with 1/2 CTO Gel, snooted, and shot across the pool to act as an accent light. Why different Gels? when I processed this pic I changed the White Balance to Tungsten to get the pool even bluer.

Big thanks Devon for being my model, I always appreciate your willingness and patience to work with me, even if I'm a nerd.

That's a Wrap!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Torey Connection

As I wrote in my last post, I had to work in San Luis Obispo Aug. 27 - 28 for my "real" job. I messaged a couple models on Model Mayhem to see if we could shoot during my downtime. One of those models was statuesque Torey Nicole. Recall we worked together back in July during the Worldwide Photowalk in Paso Robles. She commented that she loved my latest "White Sheets" series and wanted to participate. The only day that would work was Friday, Aug. 28, so we agreed to do a quick noon shoot while my co-worker and I headed back to Bakersfield. We decided to shoot the series at her house, which made me nervous since I didn't know what kind of lighting I would need.

After meeting Torey at the door we checked both bedrooms for space and lighting. Torey had the beds ready to go, white sheets and pillowcases. I chose the room with two windows, one facing North and one facing East. The room was about 10' x 12' with a queen-sized bed pushed up against a corner. I brought along my travel bag, but only needed a reflector. I chose to shoot at ISO 400 for two reasons, shutter speeds above 1/30th at f/2.8 and the D700's Full Frame sensor would compensate for any noise.

We shot for about an hour, with total set-up and break-down about half an hour. There's not too much technical stuff to write about since there were no Speedlights used in this series.

So why write? Well I've been shooting a lot lately, and within the last two weeks I've photographed five different models, each with different styles and modeling experience. Torey really hasn't worked a lot in modeling, and I believe she has worked with three other photographers aside from me, but during our first shoot we spent five hours working, conversing, laughing and being cynical. We've messaged back and forth on just personal stuff and built a friendship, or connection.

This shoot only took an hour, and the pictures are just wonderful, IMHO. The outtakes showcases her personality. Why did I enjoy this shoot? Because we laughed and joked, but we also knew which angles worked best. At one point she asked if I needed a step stool, in reference to our height differences. Recall that Torey is 6'2" and I'm only 5'5". This is one of the outtakes when she wouldn't stop laughing, so I took the picture.

What did I learn?
1) I guess you need to ask yourself, "Do you always need to establish a friendship with your models?" I don't believe you do, but you'll get a different quality of picture if you both have an understanding of each other. With a good rapport, there's a level of comfort and sense of security that is conveyed in the pictures. I treat all my shoots professionally and some might think that I have naked woman parading around in front of me. I always turn my back to the model and ask them if they are ready if we are shooting implied or semi-nude. I never take advantage of the situation and treat them with the respect and trust they afford me.

2) Follow Scott Kelby's WHIMS acronym:
White Balance
Highlight Warning Turned On
ISO Check
Mode Check - Aperture, Shutter, Manual, Program
Size - Image Size and Quality
I mention this because I forgot to switch my white Balance from Incandescent to Daylight/Shade. Again, the benefit of shooting in RAW format. I was able to quickly fix all of them in Nikon Capture NX2

Again all pics were shot with Natural Lighting and use of a reflector when needed.

That's a Wrap!!!

Torey was asked to work as a greeter the Playboy Mansion Party Aug 29. She is also appearing in the 2010 Central Coast Hot Women Calendar. Busy girl, but glad she wanted to work with me.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


It's been awhile since I've shot something themed. I had to travel to San Luis Obispo(SLO) for work on August 27 and 28, and decided I would contact some models who would be interested in doing a shoot that wasn't glamorous. I belong to Model Mayhem, so I messaged Mallory Ann and she agreed to do a shoot with me. She asked if she could bring along a kid named Tyler to join in the shoot. After checking out his MySpace account, I agreed.

The day started out with a heatwave in SLO, reaching 104, and by the time we met for our shoot the temp was 100 degrees. Apparently Thursday nights in SLO, is Farmers' Market night, so the streets were packed and nowhere to park. After meeting at a local hangout, we walked around town looking for a deserted and rundown area to shoot. Apparently the city keeps every street in the downtown area well maintained. Fortunately we found a brick wall to use as a textured backdrop. the only problem was it the brick was new and clean. Arrrggghhh!!! Anyway, this shot was done using three flashes and my 24mm - 70mm lens.
Strobist info:
SB-900 Red Gel TTL 1.0 E/V Camera Left 4 degrees with 1/4 grid spot
SB-600 Blue Gel TTL -1.0 E/V Camera left 90 degress and set on ground
SB-600 Blue Gel TTL - 1.0 E/V Camera Left pointing at Mallory Ann on light stand

We then decided to use the seedy motel I intentionally stayed at for the remainder of the shoot. This shot was done with on camera flash set to -3.0 E/V for fill and the global E/V set to -0.7. The red light is from a red gel mounted on my SB-600, set to +1.0 E/V and pointed directly at the window from outside by HAL (Human Activated Lightstand and co-worker, Corey Russell. Thanks Corey!!! Great job as my Key Grip

This shot took several takes to get the lighting, pose and mood to our likings. We definitely had a fun time, and the sushi was really good, too. If you are ever in SLO, go to Shin's Sushi, good quality Sushi at an affordable price.

What did I learn?
1) Make sure you scope out the town first and pin-point areas of interest for shooting
2) Meet your models ahead of time and get in a test shoot. Unless you are really experienced with photographing different facial structures, which I am not, you end up taking many pictures. But heck, that's the beauty of digital, memory cars are relatively inexpensive.
3) Practice shooting in mixed lighting environments, too, so you really understand the capabilities of color correcting gels.

All in all, it was a worthwhile experience, fun shoot, good company, excellent sushi and I made a couple of new friends, too. Hopefully they had a good time, since I look forward to working with them in the future.

That's a Wrap!!!