Wednesday, January 27, 2010

January is Jenn-uary!!!

So this January I shot three times with Jenna, or basically four times in a five week period, thereby dubbing January as Jennuary.   Jenna is on break from a Nursing School program and we figured we'd help each other out.  It's been a pleasure to collaborate with Jenna since she is easygoing, and has a quirky sense of humor, like me.

Back in December when we did our Holiday Session, we shot an implied Santa's Helper image, and although it was really well done it never made off the Memory Card.  Since that time, a friendship built on trust was established and Jenna felt comfortable participating in my "White Sheets" series at her own request.  We chose January 24, as the date of our shoot unbeknown to me that the New Orleans Saints would make it to the NFC Championships.  Thankfully she was running a little late and didn't make it to my house until Half-Time.  My girlfriend kept me updated as I Jenna and I worked.  At one point we needed to take a break so Jenna could fix her hair, and as luck would have it I was in time to watch Hartley kick the game winning Field Goal.  Wow!!! what a tangent.  

Pretty simple lighting for this shoot.  One monolight was equipped with a silver umbrella and placed behind my white cotton background, about 6 feet up and slightly angled downward to simulate the sun,  and triggered with my Pocket Wizard.  The key was softboxed and placed about 60 degrees off camera to "short light" Jenna, and then fill was basically behind me at all times, softboxed, too.  I used my Sekonic Light meter to ensure that the background light was about one full-stop brighter than the key and the fill about a half-stop darker than the key.

We also did some low key shots, but I really like the contrast between her tattoos and the high key white.  During our shoot , when the Saints won, Jenna agreed to do a cheesecake pose with my Reggie Bush jersey, but I was struggling after awhile and forgot, so it might have to be someone else wearing number 25.  I did manage to capture a candid shot of Jenna being herself.  It was pretty cold in my garage and so C.J. let her use his Peacoat.  As I was setting up for the shot, I asked her to pose so I could test my lighting and here is the image I got of Jenna. This image truly captures her personality.

What Did I Learn?
  • Put out all the props you want to use ahead of time and have a checklist to make sure you get the shots you want.  As I mentioned in my blog, I really wanted a pin-up shot of Jenna wearing my Reggie Bush Jersey.
  • Have all your clippings and tearsheets of poses you want to re-create or emulate on hand.  At the C.O.M.P. event, one of the photogs I respect had a notebook full of killer poses he would have the models emulate.  Smart.
So ends my January shoots with Jenna, we don't have anything scheduled in February since I'll be doing some low pay shoots for some of Tonya's friends, but heck up until now everything has been free.  This upcoming Saturday I'm doing an On Location Fashion Shoot  for a local Bakersfield Clothing Store, so stay tuned and...

...That's A Wrap!!!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

First C.O.M.P. Group Shoot of 2010

My associate Tim, a.k.a. PhotoCPA on Model Mayhem, and I started planning our next shoot for 2010 as we were wrapping up our Group shoot back in October of 2009.  During our discussions he suggested that we put together an organization dedicated to Model Photography that was outside the guidelines and stipulations of Model Mayhem.  Tim came up with Collaboration Of Model Photography, or C.O.M.P. for short.  C.O.M.P. is comprised of a core group of photographers, make-up artists and hair stylists all contributing to the development of everyone's portfolio.  Models do not need to be from Model Mayhem, but show the desire, drive and commitment to excel at their craft while leaving the "diva" status at home.

January 17, 2010 was designated as the first C.O.M.P. Event of 2010 with ten sets available.  Invitations were sent out, Casting Calls were posted on Model Mayhem and a week prior to the event we had 20 models, 20 photographers and 5 Hair and Make-up Artists.

I was able to get an invite for a fellow photographer and four models.  I told the models not to expect me to shoot any pictures of them since we work together all the time and the purpose of this event was to work with people from the Central Valley.  We even had photographers from the Bay Area join our event.  The image on the right is of two modeling newbies, Kao (I met him on MySpace) who is a friend of Danielle and Makayla.  The last Group Shoot was my White Sheets Theme, this time it was Winter.  I told all models to bring something wintry and that the set would have a blue background and during post I would lighten it and them by using an "ice" filter to really cool the look down.  As you can see in the photo on the left, color memory makes us struggle when we see something that doesn't seem quite right.  So I left the Icy Filter on the background and unmasked it on Danielle, but I'm still not sure which one I prefer.

Overall this was a fun shoot, we left Bakersfield at 7:30 AM and got home at 10:00 PM.  The girls couldn't stop talking about how chaotic and exciting the event was, and how they really want to attend the next one.  The real benefit of the event for me was to network with photographers outside of Bakersfield, which means there were no egos and attitudes, and of course the variety of Make-up Artists, Hair Stylists and Models was just icing on the cake.

A local photographer once asked why would I travel two hours when we have qualified and talented people here in town.  Being a competitive person, you don't grow by staying in your own area, that's why people move abroad, or to big cities, to work with an array of skilled artisans.  Okay, off the soapbox, but I had to have my first rant of the year.  The picture of me and models Danielle and Jenna was taken by a fellow photographer and now friend, Josh Martinez, who I met at the last event.  Very skillful and creative and someone who doesn't mind sharing his craft.  Josh and I had our sets directly across from each other at this shoot and everyone who watched us worked were so intrigued.  Basically Josh and I were facing each other with our 70 mm -200mm lenses as if we were photographing each other.  One of the models likened it to a showdown.  It was pretty funny.

So what did I learn?
1) From a lighting perspective, keep it simple, which I did.  Three lights was all I needed to get my shots done.  I was focusing on purely 1/4 and 1/2 shots.
2) Realize that group events are for sharing more than getting killer images.  I shared my set, but I really didn't feel comfortable leaving it alone for fear of losing my Pocket Wizards.  Someone did walk off with my 77mm lens cap, so I'll need to put my initials on them.
3) Go back to a standard backdrop.  I received a lot of mixed critiques about my backdrop.

Overall it was another great event, with plenty of talented people to network with and fun memories.  The next C.O.M.P. shoot will be either April or May and will be an outdoor shoot, so speedlights and reflectors. 

That's A Wrap!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Send Me an Angel

Okay, so that was a song by Real Life released in 1983.  Last Wednesday I received a call from Angel asking if I could do a Hair and Make-Up shoot for him.  Apparently he interviewed for a Reality Show called Hair Wars that airs on VH1.  Well he got the call and the nod, and needed to submit some photos before Jan. 17.

I was able to get three models lined up for the shoot.  Two would arrive at 1:00 PM and the third at 3:00 PM.  Angel was ecstatic and we arranged the shoot for Sunday, Jan. 10.  Thank goodness my New Orleans Saints had a bye.  Model Sammy, Sammy's friend Jackie and MM newbie Carlye were all excited, however, two of the three models have never participated in a Model Shoot.

Angel arrived at 1:00 PM as we discussed with another model in tow.  Apparently there was some miscommunication, and Angel thought I only found 2 models.  The more the merrier, I told him.  The only drawback with the model he brought was that she has black hair.  Black Hair really absorbs the light and you lose detail.  Anyway, Sammy's friend, Jackie was up first.  Being a blonde I figured a black or dark background would show off her hair better.    We shot some, but I didn't get the look I wanted, so I moved a strobe directly behind her hair, pointing towards the camera to really shoot through and rim light the hair. Aside from the adjustment, mostly clamshell lighting on Jackie.

Sammy was up next and same type of lighting for the headshots.  Since Sammy brought a dress and funky shoes, we did a few 1/2 and full length shots. This shot was done with two softboxes 90 degrees from Sammy and on opposite sides, heathered towards the white seamless paper.  I had the PLM behind me to act as fill.  Boy did that work nicely.  We also played around with some single light effects, specifically one to simulate a concert. This was easy lighting, single strobe and reflector.  Feather the strobe in front of the model and place a reflector bouncing back .  Overexpose about a 1/2 stop and voila.

Once we were done, the last hair model Jasmine came out.  She grew up with Angel and came along for support and because he asked her.  Similar Clamshell lighting with some rim lighting, but with jet black hair, it is really hard to get some detail.  I had Angel apply extra hair spray to produce a more reflective surface.

What did I learn?
1) Shooting light to medium colored hair is way easier
2) Set expectations - I told the models we were only doing headshots so just bring strapless, patternless and solid colored blouses.
3) Big Hair makes it easier to hide strobes with barndoors.

The shoot came together pretty quickly and Angel was spectacular as usual.  We plan to do some really wild stuff in a couple weeks with paint.  So stay tuned, be civil toward sone another, keep shooting, and That's A Wrap!!!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Black Widow* - First On Location Shoot for 2010

* click on each image to see a larger version

I received a TXT from Jenna asking if I wanted to work with her again, but this time with a classic car.  As long as we have a theme, I replied.  We threw out some ideas and the initial thought was to shoot at the abandoned Porterville Drive-In.  Jenna also contacted a friend, Ashley, to see if we could use his '55 Chevy Bel-Air.  Turns out Ashley is very knowledgeable about the area, and after shooting at a couple places, he took us to an abandoned farm.  Talk about stimulating the creative juices for my first "On Location" shoot for 2010.  Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual.

Winter is a frustrating time in Bakersfield, especially after growing up in the San Fernando Valley where just yesterday it was in the 70's and clear.  The forecast for the shoot was dense low-lying fog, which means you pray that on the drive up to Porterville you don't get into an accident because some idiot thinks they have x-ray vision in the fog.  On the 90 minute drive I was talking to my son, C.J., and said, what if we do a "Black Widow" theme? We planned some shots as far as lighting, etc...  When I arrived at Jenna's, she had me go through her closet and pick out some things.  Naturally I went for some Black stuff and explained the theme to her.  She liked it, too.

We headed to the Porterville drive-in and shot a majority of the pictures in the foggy and gray skies.  I had C.J. use my SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel, and in a mini-softbox without diffusion to create some hard light.  Those of you who enjoy photography know that shooting on overcast days is similar to using only diffused light in a studio, no modeling, no contrast, or specularity, basically flat light.  Once I got the shot, we headed to an abandoned gas station and then the abandoned farm.

As an aside, it was probably 40 degrees, misty, and a slight breeze.  Jenna was a trooper throughout the entire shoot.  She was shivering and her hands and feet must of been frozen.  As we walked around the farm, the guys and I noticed that are shoes and pant legs were soaked.from all the moisture.  Poor Jenna didn't complain and trekked through the weeds, unstable ground and filthy grounds to get the shot done.

We wrapped up around 2:00 PM, shot at three locations and headed home just in time as the sun started breaking through.  Definitely a challenging shoot in that kind of weather, but all the guidance I received from friends helped make it a decent shoot.

What did I learn?
1) Scope out the location before hand to see what kind of lightning you'll need.  Some of the areas we didn't use many light modifiers except the SB-900 and mini-softbox, I should have grabbed a reflector, at least.
2) Bring my Sekonic Light meter.  I really could've used it and not relied on the in-camera meter.  Some shots got a little blown-out or were a bit dark.

A few good things came out of the shoot, I learned how to light better in overcast days, found some really cool locations, and I made some good friends in Porterville.  Stay tuned, Jenna and I will be shooting a White Sheets series on January 24, and That's A Wrap!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

First Publication

Real quick post.  Back in November I was contacted by a Flickr member requesting use of an image I posted.  Since I was happy that someone asked, ?I told him "No Charge" just photo credit for me and the model.  Well here is the final Advertisement.  It is on the back inside cover of the Annual Camp California Magazine that is distributed throughout the State at RV Parks and Welcome Centers.  Over 250,000 copies were printed, so I guess that beats being published in Bakersfield's little local rags.  Anyway, many people told me that this photo was "well done" and would make a great double truck.  In Publishing terms, it refers to a two page spread. So rush out and get your copy, today!!! lol

Thanks friends for all the support and ...

...That's A Wrap!!!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Right after I posted the pics of Missy Van Gore, I received an e-mail from Sarah Lynn asking me if we could do a shot using my black background.  I agreed with a one stipulation that we also do a High-key shoot, too.  I really watned to try out my Alien Bees Ring Flash and the PLM on a model shoot and not just on my boys.  We really didn't have a theme since she wanted to shoot kinda quickly, but she did bring a couple outfits. After having her hair and make-up done by Angel, we began shooting. 

I used my PLM and silver reflector for the first shot.  The PLM was feathered towards the camera and set at about 45 degrees camera left and about two feet from Sarah. Power was set to1/32 and triggered via my Pocket Wizard.  The silver reflector was just out of frame camera right about 60 degrees.  Of course, I used my Sekonic L-358 Flash meter to dial in the exposure, which I'm starting to carry with me for On Location shoots.  That's a whole other post.

This next shot I left the PLM (texture/cross light), camera left but moved it to about 80 degrees.  I added a background light, camera left, with a frost white diffuser and a softbox (Key light), camera right at 80 degrees.  All units were triggered via Pocket Wizard.  The PLM was set to 1/16 power since my RPS Monolights only stop down to 1/8.

I really like the combat boots in this shot, along with the stockings. I've read that blondes look better with High Key shots and I tend to agree.  The next set of low key shots were done with traditional clamshell lighting.  Not much to write about, except that Sarah was more talkative this session, which hopefully means she was comfortable around me.

So What Did I Learn?

1) Have a plan/theme prior to shooting - Sound familiar?  To be fair, I really wanted to play with my light, so it was a win-win.

2) Use that Light Meter - There's a reason people have used them for decades, especially for Studio work.

3) Have another set of eyes, preferably female.  Notice Sarah's dress on the image on the left.  When I'm shooting, I'm looking at composition, expression and lighting.  the last thing I'm looking at are wrinkles, labels, tags, etc...

Well I did it again and booked four to five shoots for January.  One is a paid gig, so that is nice, and...

...That's A Wrap!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Boys Are Back in Town

Happy New Year family and friends!!!  If you follow my FLICKR stream, you'll notice I've been playing with my new lights and modifiers.  There is definitely a distinct difference in the actual light that is given off between the Alien Bee 1600 and my RPS 160 Monolights, which I've been using for one year in my Studio shoots.

Basically the AB1600 is better daylight balanced, while the RPS gives off a slight Magenta tint, but for the price of one AB1600, I can buy another set of RPS Monolights from Canoga Camera.  So is the quality of light really worth the additional cost?  Is it the Light Modifier, or is it a better understanding of light?  I don't know, you be the judge.  Here are recent pictures of Drew and C.J., I won't disclose which was shot with what brand of light, or the type of modifier used.  Some of the difference can be attributed to Photo Editing software.

For me, the real determining factors in choosing a set of lights are: customer service, brand reputation, tech support, cost of replacement parts, backwards compatibility, and availability of  light modifying tools.  The RPS 160 Monolights will only support a 20" x 28" softbox and 42" umbrella.  The AB1600 can support an 86" PLM, or a 30" x 60" softbox.  In the end it really depends on how much you want to spend on your lighting gear.

My struggle is do I spend more money on Speedlights? Or Alien Bees?  I do like "On Location" shoots which my compact/lightweight Speedlights will accommodate. However, Alien Bees makes a Portable Battery Pack that'll support up to six lights, but that's a lot of power cords, gaffing tape, power strips, etc... Only time and money will dictate which direction I'll head down, but I better start charging for shoots so I can pay for my gear.  Stay tuned for my post about my January 3, 2010 shoot with Sarah Lynn.

P.S.: Thanks Dad for the Alien Bee Ring Flash and light modifiers, Love You!!!

That's A Wrap!!!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Illusive Photography 2009 - Year in Review

Since I have no vices, aside from Photography, and don't believe in partying on New Years Eve anymore I figured I'd post some of my Favorite images from each month in 2009.  As a blog follower, hopefully you'll notice my progression, especially with Strobist stuff starting in April 2009.

January: Marina, my co-worker, which was shot while putting together a company Calendar.  Shot with two monolights with umbrellas, simple low-key image.  Nikon D60.

February: My First Model Mayhem Shoot.  What a stressful event for a newbie like me.  I left my camera in Auto for everything and had my flash on the entire time.  I did bounce it, or use the Diffuser, but the results were way sub-par.  This shot was on-camera flash bounced off a brownish ceiling, which is why it is Black and White.  Nikon D60 and SB-900.

March: During the Model Mayhem Group shoot, I met Model Anahy.  She asked if I would be willing to collaborate on a "Dark Trilogy" project, which included a Geisha, Ragdoll, and Princess.  We were able to get Ramona Potts, Hollywood Make-Up Artist to do Anahy's Hair and Make-up.  I still think this was my favorite project. Shot with two RPS Lighting Studio strobes, key with grid and fill with blue gel.  Nikon D60.

April: Saw the completion of our Dark Trilogy Project. This was shot with my brand new Nikon D700 and a new Manfrotto Boom, however; Anahy's boyfriend John had to hold the boom since my existing light stand weren't heavy duty enough to support it.  Simple lighting, one gridded monolight on boom, suspended over Anahy and two monolights shot thru umbrellas for light fill.

May:  Allowed me to collaborate with Brian Redden (a.k.a. strvngartst01 on FLICKR) for a third time.  I met Brian at the Model Mayhem model shoot on Feb. 15.  Brian has an outgoing personality, which means he and I became instant friends.  We worked together on a Harley Shoot March 29, and he really helped understand my D700.  Anyway, this was my first true Strobist attempt.  It was shot in the STARS Theater around 7:00 PM.  The fake window light was created with an SB-800 and Brian's homemade reflector with a CTO Gel.  Fill was provided by an SB-600 with a 1/4 CTO gel and shot-thru an umbrella all triggered by Nikon CLS/  I also got to work with Canadian-born model Sammy.

June: My Co-worker Marina (see the January image) was about seven months pregnant and wanted to do a different kind of Maternity shoot without the typical caressing of the belly against a window. Shot in my studio with simple Clamshell lighting.  It was a definitely a fun and different shoot.

July: Brian asked me to set aside July 18 for the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk in Paso Robles.  He also mentioned that we should hit up some models on Model Mayhem.  I sent out a couple quick e-mails and received a reply form Torey.  6'2" Torey Nicole agreed to shoot with me in the 107 degree heat.  This shot was done in an alley with my SB-900 in Auto FP and snooted and a bare SB-600 as a hairlight.  Syl Arena gave me the tip about the snoot and Brian reminded me of AutoFP.

August: Was a good month with regard to working with familiar models, Sammy and Torey.  Sammy wanted to do a pool shoot, so this was done with mixed lighting, Natural and Artificial.  Shot with a single mini-softbox SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel and a reflector for outdoor clamshell lighting by my pool.
Torey was all Natural light with the white bed sheets acting as a reflector. Torey's was a pretty quick shoot, I believe she had three wardrobe changes in an hour.

September: Still Summertime so I could shoot until 7:30 PM.  This has to be my all-time favorite shot with Model Mayhem Model Tonya.  In fact this shot was used for a California RV Ad.  Simple shot.  Hand-held (by my son C.J.) SB-900 in Mini-softbox and 1/4 CTO Gel.  Dragged the shutter to allow for the ambient train staiton light.  This shot was done in less than two minutes and right before the train pulled out of the station.

October: Was a very busy month for me shooting. One shoot every weekend, including a session when I traveled back to Bellefonte, PA for a wedding.  This is a tough call, because there were so many that I liked, so I'll post two images, one that made Flickr's EXPLORE.  All Natural lighting, no reflectors or speedlights.  It was shot at the AMTRAK Station and all the natural window light created some soft wrap-around lighting.
 This next image was from my second Model Mayhem Group shoot held in Kerman, CA (10 miles West of Fresno) A great bunch of talent from the Central Valley with no egos to deal with since I'm not a threat to their profession.  Had a great session with Danielle, who saw my "White Sheets" series and wanted some for her port. All Natural lighting and reflectors, no flash at all.

November was another busy month including a visit from Teresa's childhood friend and her two daughters.  This shot was done with the assistance of my Kern Photography Association friend and fellow FLICKR mate, Teresa, who acted as my Key Grip since C.J. was working.  I've been wanting to do an abandoned motel shot and found the right girl.  Softboxed SB-900 with 1/4 CTO Gel Camera right and SB-600 camera left with green gel shot up at sign.

December: Started off slow with me getting the seasonal cold and I didn't feel like shooting until Dec. 15 with Tonya, and then two shoots on the 20th and 27th.  Again, another tough call because I shot with two pin-up models, Jenna and Missy.  Since space isn't an issue I'll post two.  Both were done with my monolights.  Jenna's was done with two monolights, one outside the window and one 45 degrees camera left, and the wall was used as a reflector.

This one of Missy was two lights one monolight in a 28" x 20" softbox in clamshell position and the second as an accent light diffused and gridded.

What did I learn? A ton of stuff, but mostly you need to get out there and shoot, get critiques, and quit doing the safe stuff.  I've reviewed other photographers' images over the year and some play it safe. All their images look the same, their lighting is always identical and they try to disguise their work by using photo-editing software to make it unique.Snooze!!! How many filters are you going to apply? Then there are others who keep me addicted to their work.  I had to end with a slight rant, what did you expect? lol.

Thanks for reading and wishing everyone a Happy and Safe New Year!!! and...
...That's A Wrap for 2009!!!