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!!!