Sunday, March 28, 2010


A couple months back I was perusing one of the many magazines I either purchase at the checkout counter, or subscribe to, and  a came across the Estee' Lauder advertisement for Sensuous perfume.  I thought to myself, what cool shoot that would be.  So, I went and purchased a white tuxedo shirt and bow tie, and then waited for the right model to come along.

After the two shoots with Nikki last week, I figured she was the right model based on her looks, relationship with the camera and our ability to work pretty well together.  She's pretty open to my suggestions and ideas, and best of all she does her own hair and make-up, so no need for a MUAHS.

This past Friday I was talking with Brian about my shoot with Nikki and how it was going to contain both High-Key and Low-Key images, with some images in Black and White and other images in Color.  Brian also shared Zack Arias' web-site with me; I actually have visited the site before when I was researching High-Key lighting.  However, I never finished reading the High-Key portraits.  My advice, check out his site if you are a strobist.  It'll help you improve your photography and at a reasonable price, too.  There's some DIY stuff that can be purchased at Lowes or Home Depot.
Anyway, I asked Nikki if she would be my model for the Sensuous shoot and she agreed. We planned the shoot for Saturday after I found out I didn't have to work due to work-related issues, but that's another digression.  As an aside, I promised I wouldn't blog about Nikki's punctuality for this shoot.  Actually she was on time and brought her daughter along, Haydn.  Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to be anywhere on-time with little ones in tow.  Of course I didn't make any promises about divulging Nikki's ability to eat.  Last week during our Junkyard shoot, she ate faster than us guys and this week she powered through two pieces of pizza while I was still finishing my first piece.  Nikki, if you are reading this, one word, "FORK!?!"

This shoot involved some pretty simple lighting, for the low-key images I used two RPS Studio 160WS Monolights.  The key was a in a 31" Brolly/Octabox 45 degrees either camera left or camera right, and the Hair/Accent  was a boomed monolight with the 24 x 28 softbox behind the model facing forward.  The high-key lighting involved three lights, two were used for background too light the Snow White Seamless paper and the third was the key, still in the 31" brolly/octabox.  I won't go into the light meter readings since you can find that information out on Zack's web-site, but for high-key suffice it to say that the background is basically one stop brighter than the key.

So what did I learn?  Hmmm....that's a good question.
  •  Probably should have moved the hair/light a little closer since Nikki's hair is dark, or at least pumped up the power.  The light meter readings were pretty good and matched the key.
  • Checklist: I forgot the hat Nikki was supposed to wear, she tried it on and we left it on the table in the house.
  • Replace my RPS strobes since they are starting to malfunction.  Oh that's right I'm waiting for Paul C. Buff to release the Einsteins. Again, hard to justify, for the price of one Einstein, I can buy another set of 3 RPS 160WS Monolights.
Okay so I don't have a shoot scheduled with Nikki for at least 17 days, whew, but she does make a good muse.  Hopefully I won't have to cancel anymore shoots since the weather is getting nicer.

Thanks for reading, and "That's A Fork!!!"  I mean "Wrap!!!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Junkyard Jane

It was only two days earlier that I shot with Nikki, and here we were shooting again.  Nikki is part Filipino, so of course I'll work with her and especially since I have such high standards for my models. Hahaha.  We actually started communicating back on November 6, attempting to set-up a shoot, but for some reason we never got our schedules synced up.  I think she didn't want to work with me, or maybe she thought I was just a GWC (Guy With Camera) who hit on young and pretty women.

A little more background, my friend Robert, and fellow photographer, key grip and all-around nice guy, did a band shoot at his friend's junkyard.  When he described the locale I decided to change my shoot with Nikki.  I can't remember what kind of shoot we were going to do, but probably something with Nikki scantily-clad doing awkward poses.

I also decided to invite young KPA'er and Strobist, Joe Vasquez (a.k.a. JOE-3PO on FLICKR) to join us on this shoot to show him how I light and work with models.  Three nerds and a Hottie!!!  Joe does some really good Strobist work, especially for his age.

We arrived at the location at 4:00 PM and met the owners, they are a wonderful and hospitable couple.  The sun was pretty high, so we looked around for some shade and stumbled on this garage.  Simple lighting, some with a zebra (gold/silver) reflector and some with my SB-900 and a 1/4 CTO gel, gridded, octaboxed, or bare.  I did have to go to Manual Exposure on the camera and Manual on the SB-900 since the splashes of light kept throwing off the AE and TTL readings.

We shot for about two hours and decided to take a break and let Nikki get some food since she hadn't eaten all day.  It was a relatively quick drive to the nearest fast food place, and by the time we returned it was 7:00 PM and the sun was setting fast.  I wasted time and set-up my Alien Bee 1600 with my 22"  White Beauty Dish.  I also boomed it so I could get a better angle, but that thing really kicks out some light, even at 1/64 power, it was like shooting in daylight, however; it was turning the ambient black.  So I moved the light at least 15 feet away from Nikki and dragged the shutter to get the sky to drop to a nice blue.

It sure didn't take long for the sun to really drop and make it difficult to see Nikki, especially for the Auto-Focus features of our cameras.  We resorted to one guy pointing a flashlight at Nikki while the others focused and fired away.  We ended up using a shot-thru as a key and my 64" PLM as a background light to reveal some of the junkyard.  Here's a link to some of the images Robert took using that set-up.

So what did I learn?
  • Hmmmm... well that I really like my speedlights for On Location shoots as opposed to my Alien Bees.  Mainly due to weight and speed of set-up.
  • Buy a helmet that can hold a flashlight for nighttime, hands-free shooting.  I know that sounds pretty funny.
I think we got some really decent shots of Nikki, and she claims to have had a fun time.  In fact, she and I will be shooting again this upcoming weekend if she can get a sitter. Oh, and here's an outtake from our shoot.  Yeah, she was getting tired and decided I needed a laugh.

By the way, someone asked me if I ever go back and re-read my blog.  The answer is "Yes", specifically if I am doing a similar shoot.  Prior to the night shoot with Nikki and Sean, I re-read my shoot with Ashley, back in November to see if I had any problems, which I did with CLS and gridding my strobe.  This time I used a octabox and got nicer lighting.  Wash, Lather, Rinse, Repeat and That's A Wrap!!!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


On Wednesday, March 17, I received an e-mail from Model Mayhem Model Sean Logan.  He's a Pro BMX rider who grew up in the OC and lives in Hollywood.  He happened to be traveling to Bakersfield to do a couple riding demos and messaged me for a quick shoot Thursday night.  I agreed, but decided I wanted to do a "couples" shoot and also a BMX shoot.  Sean agreed and decided we could start around 6:00 PM.  I called Model Mayhem Model, Nikki, to help out and she agreed.  Everything was falling into place.

Thursday arrived and I picked up Sean at his hotel.  Bad news, his buddies went out to lunch and hadn't come back.  Not a big deal except his BMX bike was in their van.  Oh well, no "action" shots.  As soon as we started heading to the location, Nikki called and said she was waiting for us; good sign.

First series was all natural light using my brand new 4' x 6' California Sunbounce with the Gold/Silver Zebra material and shot between 5:30 PM and 7:00 PM in the Kern River and Highway 99. The river is much greener than when I photographed NiTasha in the river back in November.

I invited fellow photographers Robert and Brian along to help shoot, besides earlier in the day I asked Brian to bring his 85mm f/1.8 lens for me to try.  So this shot was all natural light and probably around 7:15 PM and Nikki was facing towards the west with the sun already set underneath Hwy 99.

After we finished up at the River, Sean called his buddies to see if we could pick-up the bike, but apparently they didn't answer.  We decide we'd do some nighttime photography and headed downtown.  I still like using the "One Light" method and looked for other options to either provide for fill lighting, or accent lighting.

As we were looking around, we met with a new downtown business owner of the Doo-Wop Diner, a humorous and older gentleman.  Nikki noticed a black exterior wall on the side of the diner and so we set-up our gear and proceeded to shoot.   Simple lighting, all done with ambient and my SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO gel and my 31" Octabox from RPS Studio.  It doesn't really work with my speedlight, but who cares, as long as I can get some nice quality light.

So what did I learn?
  • Hmmm....Don't do a spontaneous shoot because it forces you to be creative in a relatively short period of time.  Actually, it should read "Do a Spontaneous shoot".  It was fun and everyone laughed and joked and no one was too serious.  It gave me an opportunity to work with Nikki and get the initial shoot out of the way.  Especially since we had another shoot lined up for Saturday, March 20 at a junkyard.
  • I really need to work on my Couples posing.  Although it was kinda awkward for both Nikki and Sean since they have never worked together.  I know, as models, that shouldn't be an issue, but they weren't getting paid.
  • Be careful when using my Sunbounce, during set-up I put a slight tear in the pocket.  ARRRGGGHHHH!!!!
Well it definitely was nice to get away from the Studio and do some On Location stuff again.  I can't wait for my Junkyard shoot with Nikki.

Peace and Love and "That's A Wrap!!!"

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Jessica: Suicide Girl

Suicide Girl: Jessica

I received a call about a month ago from a young lady named Jessica.  Apparently she got my name from one of the co-owners at Jezabelles Boutique.  Jessica was accepted as a Suicide Girl and needed some forty to sixty pictures for her gallery on the web-site. She explained that you get to keep your status as a Suicide Girl based on the number of hits your gallery receives.  I know Jenna applied, but was denied which doesn't make sense since Jenna is very attractive.  Maybe she is too attractive and exceeds their criteria. -- Digression Alert ---

Suicide Girl: Jessica

It turns out that Jessica and my friend Rob used to date, and back in January he mentioned that she needed some photos taken and asked if he could use my studio.  Did I lose you? Well one thing lead to another and Jessica ended up calling me to take her photos.

We looked for several locations that would mimic an abandoned locale and she found an empty apartment in her neighborhood.  I brought my On Location lighting gear, an inflatable bed and some white sheets.  Rob brought some posters and Jessica brought a guitar and some other posters.  We were supposed to shoot at 3:00PM, but didn't end up starting until 5:00 PM.  The apartment was probably a "Meth" house and man it was far from sanitary.

Suicide Girl: Jessica

We shot for about two hours, some with natural light, some with my RPS Studio 42" Octabox and some with two Speedlites and gels.  Overall an interesting shoot and I hope Jessica does well on Suicide Girls.
So what did I learn?
  • Well make sure that when you say 3:00 PM the model is ready to go at 3:00 PM.  Nothing like waiting around for two hours twiddling your thumbs while Hair and Make-up is being done
  • Shoot at 5.6 instead of 1.8 or 2.8 when doing this type of shoot.  Some images are just a little too soft for my liking.
  • Stop using TTL when using CLS, just too inconsistent when the D700 is trying to suggest a light setting.  At least keep the Mode in Manual on the Camera

Suicide Girl: Jessica - Directional and Diffused Ambient Light

Well I took two weeks off from shooting and I think I feel creative, but only time will tell.  Stay Healthy and Keep Shooting...

...and That's A Wrap!!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Blood Alley

I had to travel to San Luis Obispo (SLO) on March 4, to coordinate some computer and telephone projects with the local vendors.  In addition to meeting with vendors, I was asked to take some photos of the new office space we are leasing in downtown SLO.  Working in the Healthcare industry, our company is growing pretty steadily and the number of members we serve in the SLO County has almost reached the same number of members we serve in Kern County.

The drive to SLO takes about two and a half hours and goes from the Central Valley to the Central Coast, which means you drive from an arid climate to a semi-tropical climate.  The weather in California has been unseasonably wet and the forecast called for partly cloudy skies.  On the drive to SLO, I told my co-worker that we should stop and get some stock sky photos to superimpose on our typically brown Bakersfield skies.

These images were taken at 9:30 AM and around 3:30 PM while driving to and from the coast along Highway 46, also known as Blood Alley and between 1992 and 1995, there were a total of 976 collisions on the corridor, including 48 fatalities.

Was I nervous pulling over and getting out of my vehicle to take pictures?  You bet, but I would make sure that no one was behind me and when I did get out, I would move far away from my car and down the embankments.

It's been awhile since I've shot landscapes, but it was such a beautiful day, I figured I needed a break from the usual portrait stuff I've been doing.

What did I learn?
  • Break it up and add a little variety to my photography.  Shooting Landscapes is definitely challenging, which I know.  It's all about patience
  • Leave a tripod in my vehicle, even a cheap one.  There were some shots I wanted, but I couldn't stop down enough without getting camera shake.
It was nice to be outside, breathe some fresh air and shoot something other than people.  In fact, it was so refreshing, I'm contemplating on canceling the rest of my shoots for March.

That's A Wrap!!!

Kiss Me Kate

I've been wanting to photograph my latest Make-up Artist/Hair Stylist (MUAHS), Kate, since we first worked together at the beginning of February.  We finally picked a date, which coincided with the return of my refurbished Victorian Chair.  The thought was to do something similar to my white sheets, but instead make it a Low Key shoot with attitude.

This was definitely a more difficult shoot, with trying to light the chair and Kate, but still make her the dominant image.  I used my AB1600 with the 86" PLM for fill, the ABR800 with 20 degree grid as a key, but left the diffuser on.  Hindsight I probably should have removed it for more contrast and specularity.  I used my RPS160 with a frost gel and 20 degree grid with barndoors for the accent light.

I think we got some decent images, but I'm not sure if having extra people in the Studio made Kate nervous.  She began to loosen up towards the end of the shoot and she was being pretty hard on herself.  After we were done and I was reviewing the images, you could definitely sense some tension in her expressions.  So after a couple e-mail exchanges, we agreed to shoot again.  I still like some of the images and so did shhe, but I really wanted to do more of a Bodyscape session to really showcase her tattoos and body piercings.

So What Did I Learn?
  • Really share your vision with the model - discuss exactly what you have in mind. As I noted ealier, my vision was to do more of a "bodyscape" series.
  •  I need to buy/make some snoots and grids for my AB 1600.  The ABR800 is a nice on-axis fill, and great key, but for real Low-key images IMHO, it isn't the best even with the 20 degree grid.
Well I'm starting to burn out on Studio shooting, so I definitely need to take a break from Photography.  I just signed up on to learn Photoshop since I figured I want to try my hand at some hybrid photography.  I know, me using Photoshop.

Stay Healthy, Keep Shooting and ....

...That's A Wrap!!!