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!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Model Mayhem Group Shoot - Take Two

It's been a long time since I've attended a Model Mayhem(MM) group shoot, to be exact it was February 15, 2009, and figured it was time for me to test my skills, again.  If you are a photographer that wants to take a shot at photographing models and don't know where to begin, I suggest finding a Model Mayhem Group Shoot and get yourself invited. It isn't like your typical Meet-N-Shoots.  There is a high margin for error when you have to coordinate among locations, models, wardrobes, hair stylists, photographers, sets, food, props, etc... and where time management is everything.  However, the variety of models, sets, make-up, props and expertise is worth it.

I believe it was around September, while on a two-week hiatus, I messaged a buddy, MM photographer (Tim a.k.a PhotoCPA), and noted that he hadn't updated his port in awhile.  We began talking and he promised to kick my butt if I didn't attend this next MM Group shoot.  How could I refuse an offer like that?  The scheduled date was October 18, and I began contacting other models, make-up artists, hair stylists and photographers to see if they would be interested in attending.  As the time drew nearer and the Talent list was sent out, I started communicating with one particular model, Danielle.  I really like her exotic look and wanted to include her in my "White Sheets" series.  She agreed to it and so when Tim provided the layout of the facility, I requested the set against a wall with two floor-to-ceiling glass brick insets.  This would make for some real simple lighting, all natural window light and reflectors.  I did lug my studio equipment along, and only needed to use it for two shoots.  As you can see from the images, the lighting worked out pretty well.  No flash needed, but I did request that the overhead sodium vapor lights be turned off, they were bright enough to cast that yellow-greenish tint.

The event officially started at 11:00 AM, but I figured I needed to set-up my gear and make sure I found the place, so my son, C.J. and I left Bakersfield a little before 8:00 AM.  We ran into some fog that cut visibility to 300 feet for about 30 miles along Hwy 99, and then made it to Kerman by 10:00 AM.  It took about 30 minutes to unload and set-up our spot.  While we were waiting for the event to start I met with other photographers from S.F. Bay Area and surrounding cities.  Also, Tim and Alex (Fax Photos) invited a local camera store to the event, "Boots Camera", and they brought a plethora of lights, modifiers, and other toys for us guys to play with. Nice!!!  I demo'ed and ended up buying an Interfit tri-reflector holder.  It's a really sweet device.

By the time 11:00 AM rolled around, all the sets, props, models, wardrobes (including bridal dresses from a local Bridal Store) and vehicles were in place.  Yes, vehicles, we had motorcycles, a 1940s Lincoln Continental, and a trike?  It was like being a kid in a candy store.  Just a lot of visual stimulation. Danielle arrived on time and as soon as I saw her I introduced my self and said, "Let's Get It Started".  She changed into a cream colored sweater and we began shooting.  I used my light meter and the exposure info was F/2.8, ISO 200, and Shutter 200.  Although it was a sunny day, there were still some clouds to contended with while shooting.  During my shoot with Danielle, Tim asked if I would impart some info with the newbie photogs. "No problem, Tim."  It really wasn't a problem, but the only downside in helping out other photogs is that you set-up the shot, lighting, pose, and the newbies click away at my concept.  Okay, so my concepts, or shoots aren't unique.  After a half-hour Danielle decided it was time for a wardrobe change.  She spotted a white wedding dress with a red ribbon sash.  We figured that would look sweet on the all black Harley.  I set-up the shot, brought over one strobe, but again was surrounded by other photographers.  So I stepped aside and let them photograph Danielle. Yeah, I'm rambling.  At one point Tim mentioned that the gentleman who brought the 1940 Lincoln Continental is still sitting outside with no one using his prop.  Fortunately, models Dave and Diana were ready to shoot, so out to the car we went, but one thing that struck me was that the car's white paint would act as a nice reflector.  Sweet!!!

So there was still plenty of models to shoot, but it was getting late and having a two hour drive still ahead, my son and I left at 5:45 PM.  It was a great shoot and definitely worth the drive.  Fresh faces are always fun to work with and the photographers, regardless of skill level, were willing to share knowledge and provide feedback.

Shout out to Tim and Alex for putting together an AWESOME event!!!

What did I learn?
1) If possible, go for the easiest lighting set-up possible. I can't tell you how many Pocket Wizards were on the same frequency and were getting tripped.
2) Don't get hung up on one model, work with as many as possible since they'll get plenty of shots to choose from.
3) Have an idea of what you want from the shoot.  A fellow photog, Josh Martinez, got some really great shots from the event.  He was a madman, running around from set to set.  Check out his slideshow from the event:

That's A Wrap!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Feeling Gaby

I've been wanting to return to the Bakersfield AMTRAK Train Station and shoot the interior.  It a nicely lit structure with a lot of windows that provides for really nice ambient light.

I don't recall the details of the communication, but one of my Model Mayhem Model's friend, Gaby, and I became friends on MySpace.  I bounced the idea off of her and she agreed to help me out.  She has never modeled before, but she has a really exotic look. We figured two looks, one in a white dress at the Train Station and one a little edgier in a back alley of Bakersfield. We set the date for Oct. 17 and figured we'd meet at 10 AM.  I think I need an assistant, because at 9:10 AM I received a TXT from Gaby asking me where I was.  Well, I had been volunteering at my work's Flu Clinic and lost track of time.

Anyway, I called Gaby, apologized, tried to blame her, and got to the Amtrak by 9:30.  We began shooting on the main public area, and then I asked an AMTRAK employee if we could shoot in the Station.  He informed me that I shouldn't be shooting on their property, but that he would look the other way.  As we were getting ready to leave, I decided we would go into the station and shoot anyway.  "It's easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission"  We shot about 20 frames and then left.  These pics were done with Natural Lighting and the ISO set at 400.
We wrapped up at 10:30 and then headed downtown.  I found the alley I had seen in other photog's pictures, and figured I'd use one Speedlight since there was enough light bouncing around the buildings.  I tried using Auto-FP so I could set my Aperture at f/2.8, but for some reason I was getting some weird color casts from the Speedlight.  I ended up shooting this pic at f/8, which explains why the background is pretty sharp, instead of the usual blurred background I prefer. Even one of my FLICKR friends pointed it out.  Oh well, this was shot with an SB-900 using a HONL 5" Snoot.  The sky was actually pretty light and there was some light fog.

For this being Gaby's first time, I think she did really well.  We'll probably shoot a few more times. There's plenty I learned on this shoot, especially with lighting, but I had only two hours to shoot and I definitely don't like shooting when I feel rushed.  Quick shoot out to Gaby for being a "pro" and a sweetheart to work with, and of course to C.J. for helping out, as always.

Anyway, quick post, I have a Model Mayhem Group shoot up in Fresno tomorrow, so it's time to hit the sack.  Thanks for reading and ...

...That's A Wrap!!!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

To Be or Not To Be, Obscene

I decided to take today off so I wouldn't lose Vacation Time at work.  Although I had a shoot scheduled at 6:00 PM today, I figured I could squeeze in a quick shoot.  I messaged Tonya and luckily she had today off, too.  We discussed my ideas and she agreed to shoot with me.  Again, my fave is Black and White pictures, so I wanted to do some more emotive work.  The theme was "The Other Woman, "  which would include some rope, a cigarette and a glass of Crown Royal.  Tonya was cool with the idea and is always professional, well aside from her "Power Ranges" text alert.

I checked the ambient light from our West Facing windows, but decided it needed a little bump.  I grabbed one of my studio strobes along with a 24" x  28" softbox and placed it outside the window.  I placed a reflector  just to my right to bounce light from the softbox back at Tonya.  All these shots were pretty much done the same way with the reflector acting as a fill.  Also, all shots were done in Manual Model since Aperture Priority Mode and Nikon CLS doesn't work with my Studio strobes. We wrapped after an hour and about 75 pictures.  This shoot was purely for me, but I did manage to get one shot Tonya could use for her Model Mayhem port. I'm hoping she likes it, but so far other FLICKR friends like, too.

So why the title of the blog?  Well the picture above was posted on MySpace, yeah I know, on my Photography page.  Within an hour of posting I received an e-mail from the MySpace admins stating that my picture violated their Terms of Use Policy for containing one, or all of the following, nudity, pornography, violence and that the site is for children 13 years of age and older.  If any of you have cruised around MySpace, there are plenty of women in poses that are truly pornographic, or degrading with little cutesy stars covering their nipples or their genitalia.   So what are your thoughts?  Does my picture portray women in a negative way?  Is it degrading, or depicting violent and abusive behavior?

The remainder of the pictures were left alone including the second one in this blog. So I'll get off my soapbox and post pics elsewhere, in the little niches of the Internet.

What did I learn?
Don't be lazy and get that other light - I had little time to shoot today, but I should have grabbed one more light to act as an accent light.  There are some pics where Tonya's hair is blocked up.

I have one more shoot this week and then I'm off until Oct. 18, which will be a group shoot up in Fresno.  there's plenty of Models who have been messaging me to work with them.  that will definitely be a tiring day.

Thanks for reading and putting up with my rant, and That's a Wrap!!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sincerely Selena

I had the opportunity to photograph a wonderful young lady and non-Model Mayhem model this past Saturday, her name is Selena. Aside from FLICKR, Facebook, and Model Mayhem, I also have a MySpace account which was originally set-up by my 15 year-old son a couple years ago so I could keep an eye on him. I rarely use the account since it's geared toward teens, but this year I decided I would use it to attract potential clients and models.  Word of Mouth, or more aptly, Word of Post, has afforded me a supply of young attractive people, such as Selena to use for my photographic endeavors.

She professed to not being a model, but she has such an outgoing and positive attitude, I decided I would shoot with her.  We worked out the details and she liked my departure concept.  Earlier in the week a fellow KPA (Kern Photography Association) Member, Jeff,  asked if he could help out on one of my shoots.  Instead, I told hm to bring his gear and shoot with me so he could add to his Model Mayhem port.

We met at the first location near the Airport, where I photographed Tonya.  The difference is we would add a "hitch hiking" shot which included two wardrobe changes.  We spent some time going over the poses, which means me demonstrating them.  That's worth a good laugh to watch me "strike a pose".  This shot is similar to Tonya's pic, but not nearly zoomed out as much, and I should have had her stand closer to the front of the stripped yellow line.  The problem with this shoot was that the street was heavily traveled and we had to qickly set-up and shoot.  Set-up means me laying on the ground, get Selena positioned properly and C.J. to get the reflector angled properly.  Knowing that the sky was clear and that the sun was setting, I had C.J. use the gold reflector side and I changed my White Balance to Tungsten.  This would turn anything orange, blue.  This photo is not doctored, the sky looks bluer than normal since I also had my Circular Polarizer on my lens.

As the sun began to set we packed up and headed Downtown to "H" street and 19th., but on they way there I noticed I could see the Greyhound Bus sign.  We quickly pulled over, got out and set-up to take a couple shots near the Bus Station.  This is simple lighting, an SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel in a mini-softbox, held 45 degrees camera left and above the models head point slightly down.  Again, thanks to my son C.J. for being my Human Lightstand.  I dragged the shutter, which mean I was shooting at about 1/30 of a second so I could pull in the purple haze from the setting sun.  Figured she needed a prop, so I brought along my classical guitar.  I sold my acoustic awhile back and had to make due with the classical.  Quick note about Greyhound, you cannot shoot on their property, or even across the street from their front window. 

Once we wrapped up near the bus stop, we headed back to the vehicles to move to our original destination, but I noticed a glass brick store that we could use as a cool backdrop.  Jeff suggested we gel the strobes to light the wall, so I grabbed my SB-600, slapped it on it's mount and got it into position.  Well as I was moving the flash, it fell off the holder and hit the ground, AARRRGGHHH.  It didn't explode when it hit the ground, but is didn't Power On. Fortunately I had a spare SB-600 and Jeff brought one of his.  We strapped some HONL Gels on the flashes.  we also had to switch out the Mini-softbox and used Gobos to redirect the SB-900 through an umbrella.  The problem with an umbrella is that it is difficult to shape light  without it spilling all over the place.  Originally we tried a 1/4" grid, but it was too concentrated.  Anyway, this shot contains three flashes and came out nicely.  I received one comment on FLICKR suggesting Selena looked tense in this shot, I disagree.  I think her expression is one of impatience with a hint of playfulness. What are your thoughts?

What did I learn?
1) Find a more desolate road so it doesn't interupt your flow when photographing.  We literally had about 20 seconds to shoot on the middle of the road
2) Be sure to secure your flashes and move the lightstand with two hands, 1 on the stand and 1 on the flash
3) Be flexible, if I would have headed directly to our Downtown locaiton, I would have missed the Bus sign
4) Bring as many light-shaping tools you can carry.  Thankfully the HONL stuff is small, lightweight and easy to use

We wrapped up around 8:30 and everyone was starving.  Good thing there's a Sushi Bar nearby.   We sat around discussing life in general, the shoot,  what we would do differently, or what we liked while sharing a good meal.

Quick thanks to Selena, for being a fun young lady to work with.  Thanks to Jeff and my son for their help, patience and positive attitudes.  That's what makes night photography fun. Note: the picture above where Selena is holding her necklace was shot with my 35mm.

That's A Wrap!!!