Sunday, October 31, 2010

Greastest American Hero: First Saber Strip Shoot

Well, I received the three Saber Strip Lights on Oct. 22nd, but was too busy working at our company's Flu Clinic to use them.  However, my co-worker mentioned that he had purchased The Greatest American Hero (GAH) outfit for Halloween, so what better way to put the Saber Strip lights to the test than photograph a Super Hero!!!

I contacted my friend Brian to see if he wanted to play with the Saber Strips Lights since he was the one who showed me their web-site. We set-up all three lights using my two Nikon SB-600 speedlights and one SB-900 speedlight  This Behind-The-Scenes shot is Brian's for the above GAH image.  The key light was set at 1/16th power and the fill was set at 1/64th power.  The speedlights are cold-shoed in the Saber Strip lights and triggered by my Pocket Wizards.

This next image was Brian's idea, he wanted to highlight the chest emblem, but since we were shooting against my black seamless we needed to rim the GAH.  We kept the key light in it's 90 degree, camera left position, but raised it up so it was parallel to the floor.  We made the fill light a rim light and changed the power to 1/32nd and placed it behind the GAH.

What Superhero shoot would be complete without one of the GAH flying into action.  This time the lights were set at 1/16th power, placed 90 degrees on both sides of the GAH, and feathered towards the camera.  We needed a little bit of fill so I used my SB-900, at 1/64th power, and bounced it off the garage door.

I've already had several questions from FLICKR and Facebook friends about these cool light modifiers and here is what I can tell you:
  • They are lightweight and feel very durable
  • The quality of light produced is very clean and consistent throughout the tube
  • My assumption is that their narrow profile will make them indispensable on windy days, unlike brollys, umbrellas,or any other parachute-profile modifiers.
 So what did I learn?
  • Like any light modifier it takes practice and shooting under different conditions to learn their limits - in a controlled studio set-up the Saber Strip lights parallel my Paul C Buff Strip lights, but win hands down in the area of portability
  • The lights can be configured in a multitude of configurations.  Please check out the FLICKR Group for Saber Strip Lighting and be Wowed at what the creator has achieved..
I was planning to do a shoot this weekend, but with it being Halloween, I couldn't find any sober models.  Ha ha ha. Stay tuned for more Saber Strip Light sessions and "That's A Wrap!!!"

Friday, October 29, 2010

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!!!

My photographer friend shared this photographer's FLICKR site with me, his name is Christopher Peddecord and has a series of Ballet images shot in Black and White.  So I was on a quest to do my own version, but with local ballet dancers.

After contacting the Bakersfield Ballet group and placing calls to other Dance studios, I still had no subjects to shoot.  I then  posted a couple Casting Calls on Model Mayhem and received  some responses, but when I'm ready to shoot and I have to plan ahead, I end up moving on to something else.

I contacted Vanessa, a local model who has a billboard of her on display in town, through Facebook.  I shared the theme with her and she said she would do her best to meet my expectations.  In addition to the dance-based shoot, I wanted to try and mimic stage lighting again after my shoot with Jeff, of Fluidity Photography.  So I decided we would do a Cabaret-themed shoot.

I also wanted to make sure Vanessa didn't have to worry about make-up and hair.  I contacted my friend, Angel, and he agreed to do the Hair and Make-up for this shoot.

The lighting for the Cabaret shoot consisted of four lights.  The key was outfitted with a 8.5" reflector and a 40 degree grid to simulate a spotlight, a strip box without diffusion, but gridded to provide a rim light, a hair light, bare bulb, with barndoors and a fill light bounced off the garage door.  The key light and hair light were metered at f/8, the rim at f/5.6 and the fill at f/4.

We shot various poses and then after an hour decided to switch to the lighting scheme used by Peddecord.  Grey seamless and a fairly large key.  We replaced the reflector with my 64" PLM and removed all other lights except for the fill.  We shot for about another hour and then called it a "wrap."

So What Did I Learn?
  • On the Cabaret shoot I need more distance between the model and the background.  Although the curtains created some separation from the balck seamless, it still was too close.  I also needed to move my key farther away to create a better spot light effect, or at least try a snoot.  We did use Black Wrap on the 8.5" reflector to create a harder edge.
  • For the Black and White dance images, I need a taller space.  Vanessa is tall and when she jumped, I could see the ceiling in my images, even when I stood on a step stool and shot at a downward angle, the limited space made it difficult to show "air."  I definitely need to find a bigger space to shoot the ballet images.
This was another good shot with decent results, and once more I learned some more.   I'm glad I got to work with Vanessa and now I know why she is in demand.  Working with Angel is always a pleasure and I love his work!!!  So this was another busy four days, with three shoots: Halston, Nicolette and Vanessa.

Stay Tuned, I am playing with some new light modifiers that aren't on the market, yet.  They are called SABER STRIP and are just the tools I was looking for to provide a nice narrow, but beautiful quality of light.  To see more photos shot with these exciting modifiers, check out the SaberStrip Lighting Group on FLICKR, and "That's A Wrap!!!"


We saw Daughtry in concert back in May and Drew said I should watch some of his videos.  In Drew's words, "Daughtry's videos are kinda emo and remind me of your photography."  So I was watching his video for Over You and was intrigued by the bathroom scene. So I've been trying to figure out who, where and when could I try a bathroom shoot.

I volunteered to help with our Flu Clinic at work and found out I had to travel to Pismo Beach for the weekend of Oct. 23rd.  Not wanting to waste an opportunity to shoot in a hotel, I called my usual "fave" place to stay, the Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach.  If you recall, I photographed Darnah at the Cliffs Resort, but after thinking about the "look and feel" I wanted a more spartan looking bathroom.  My co-worker suggested the Motel 6, which is down the street from the facility where  the flu clinic was scheduled.  I made the reservation and contacted a model I met at our Portfolio Jam shoot back in May; Nicolette.  We didn't get to work together at the Jam,but I really liked her style.  Nicolette liked the Daughtry video and the concept.

At first I planned to use speedlights, but found the cramped quarters of the bathroom to be a hindrance and ended up using my 50mm prime for almost all the shots.  I did use a flash to bounce light around the bathroom, but a majority of the images were shot with available light.  we shot for about 90 minutes, and Nicolette was able to convey a range of emotions.  I stepped out for about a couple minutes and when I returned she was in tears.  Very cool, and at the end of the shoot she decided we should shoot some with the water running.

So what did I learn:
  • Working in a small environment with mixed lighting is a challenge. A fast prime with a close focusing distance is preferable.  In addition to my Nifty Fifty, I'd like a 35mm to achieve a wider field of view and a close focusing distance.
  • Steam - well this was hilarious, the bathroom steamed up in about five minutes and the mirror fogged up too.  Keeping the mirror fog free was a challenge and trying to keep the reflection of her face tack sharp was a challenge. By opening the door a bit kept the steam moving enough to keep the mirror clear.  the other thing was to remember to wipe my lens.  Nothing was tack sharp because the steam also collected on my lens.  Hahahaha, wipe that, too.
  • Shoot Black and White when you have types of light. I wasn't about to replace all the lights with the same type of bulb.
  • Travel lighter.  I brought all my gear and only needed my 50mm, SB-600, light stand and a STOFEN Omnibounce.
Another shoot where I learned a lot of tricks and stuff.  By the way, this was shoot number two

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I spoke with Halston back in April of this year after my Junkyard Jane shoot with Nikki.  She wanted some photos and if I recall we were going to shoot at our April KPA Meet-N-Shoot.  However, one thing led to another and we missed the opportunity to work together.

I messaged her last week and asked if she was still interested in a shoot, and without hesitation we scheduled a mid-week session.  I usually don;t like shooting during the week since I have to build and tear down my lighting gear for each garage session.  However, since we were doing "one look", I figured it would take about three hours total.

Very simple lighting, the Key was an Alien Bee 1600 with a 40" brolly usually metered at f/5.6 and my Alien Bee Ring Flash bounced off the garage wall metered at f/2,8 for fill.  I use my Manfrotto 420B Combi-Boom all the time so I can get the light really close and still have an unobstructed path to shoot.

The shoot lasted just over an hour and a half and we were done by 8:00 PM.  Halston loved the photos and wants to shoot after she gets her braces off.  This was a really fun and nice way to break up the work week.

So what did I learn?
 Hmmm...sometimes I learn things based on feedback I receive when I post my pictures, but with this series of photos, I really didn't get any negative comments.  The only comment that comes to mind was from my friend, Don, a commercial photographer.  This image of Halston needed a touch of glamor processing., but that was it.

I usually don't like working with newbies, because of all the posing instructions, etc.., but Halston required very little guidance.  So thanks Halston for making it an easy and enjoyable shoot and That's A Wrap!!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Out of the Blue

Last year I was browsing Model Mayhem for local models to photograph and came across Micah Blue's profile page.  I planned to Private Message (PM) her until I read her Profile page that stated she is a signed agency model and only does TF work if she initiates it.  TF is an acronym  Time For or Trade For, I can't recall, but basically it is a collaboration among photographer, model, make-up artist, hair stylist, and others where no one pays for the shoot, but rather trades their time for prints from the photo shoot, or a CD-ROM of images, etc... (e.g. TFP = Time For Print, TFCD = Time for CD-ROM)

On September 25, I received an e-mail on Model Mayhem from Micah asking me if I would be interested in working with her.  Hmmm.....I thought long and hard about it before responding and after 12 minutes sent her a message with a resounding "Yes!!!"  Originally we planned to shoot at the beginning of 2011, but then Micah decided she didn't want to wait.  We went over some ideas for wardrobe and determined we would shot in my garage, uh, Studio.

On the day of the shoot we did four different looks and used my Beauty Dish as the key light in all shots except for the low-key tuxedo shirt, where I used my 40" brolly.  The Key was metered at f/8, except for the low-key shot, which was metered at f/5.6.  I used my Ring Flash as a fill light and usually set that three stops below the key, so for this shoot it went from f/4 to f/2.8.  Other lights used was my strip box, barn doors and even my SB-900 with a HONL Purple Gel for the Sensuous Noir look.  We started at 1:30 PM and finished at 4:00 PM and cranked out 100 images, which all came out decent.

It was a very productive shoot and Micah's experience as a model really showed.
So what did I learn?
  • I can use my Speedlights "in studio" with some predictability
  • Shoot with trained models - they make it easier when it comes to working the key and posing
  • Keep that fill light going even if it looks good chimping - Histograms and LCD displays are deceiving
No more shoots lined up for October since I'll be busy volunteering at work helping distribute Flu vaccines. On that note, Stay Healthy, Get your Flu shots if you fall into the high-risk group and "That's A Wrap!!!"

Saturday, October 9, 2010

For Our Children

My photographer friend, Tim, called me back in July to see if I was interested in volunteering for a Fund-raising project at Children's Hospital of the Central Valley.  After speaking with the hospital's Marketing Team, it sounded like a wonderful cause.  So, I enlisted the help of another photographer, Brian, to join me for the time slot I requested, which was Midnight to 6:00 AM.

The project was titled,"One Day @ Children's" and the purpose was to visually document all the activities that happen in a 24-hour period.  There were a total of 30 photographers who volunteered their time to this project, in addition to the Hospital's Administrative Staff of two per photographer, to assist with getting the release forms signed and the correct spelling of each person photographed.

A long day was in store for us, especially having worked earlier that day, Brian and I left Bakersfield for the two hour drive to Madera, CA.   We were greeted by the Welcoming Committee and assigned to our respective teams.  All the formalities were covered with regard to photographing the patients and staff and which areas of the Hospital were assigned to capture.

Before I continue, I should review the equipment I brought with me.  I knew we would be shooting in the wee hours and wanted to travel light.  Aside from my Nikon D700, I brought my 24mm - 70mm f/2.8 lens and my 50mm f/1.8 lens, an SB-900, and few HONL modifiers (grid, snoot, speed strap and gobo). All items fit in my small LowerPro backpack.  I figured the Admin Staff could act as VALs (Voice Activated Lightstand).

The shooting started out a little slow, but then it began picking up and by 5:00 AM we realized we only had an hour left to shoot.  Brian and I met numerous patients with varying medical conditions, their parents, and the compassionate and considerate clinical staff in charge of providing care.  I met children who visited the hospital for follow-up care and others who were born at the hospital and only had months to live.  Last December I participated in the Help-Portrait project, which was a rewarding experience, but this was completely different. More raw and definitely more emotional, and an experience that will last me a lifetime.

As the sun began to rise, our support staff reminded us that our shift had ended.  The six hours flew by, and we were back on the road again with a two-hour drive ahead of us as we headed back to Bakersfield.  Physically I was tired, but my mind was still focused on those children and the hospital staff.  I was still amp''ed after the shoot and instead of sleeping I culled through the 600 images I took and prepped them  for burning to CD-ROM.

So why did it take me so long to blog about the shoot?  We signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that prevented us from talking, or posting any images from the Fundraiser until the book was published.

Please visit their website, the on-line, condensed version of the book "One Day @ Children's" can be viewed.  If you have the time or resources, please help support any Childrens' Hospital.  Our Children are Our Future.

That's A Wrap!!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

All the World's a Stage

I received an e-mail from a fellow KPA member, Jeff, asking if I would like to participate on a photo shoot at local Dinner Theater.  The theme was based on Cirque de Soleil and the model, a gymnast, would have her body painted and adorned with twigs and dried moss.  This sounded like a real creative shoot and working with a body painter and a gymnast has been on my photography "Bucket List" for quite some time.

Although we were shooting indoors, I brought my studio equipment and my "on location" gear just so we had enough lights and modifiers.  Jeff had already planned out some images he wanted to capture and how he wanted them lit.  He also mentioned that we would have access to the theater lighting if needed.  I shot at the Dinner Theater back in May of 2009, but stayed in the Dining Area to photograph Samantha.  This time we would be using the entire stage, or so we thought.  Apparently the Dinner Theater is putting on a production of play, titled Deathtrap and so the stage was cluttered with props and the set.

After testing the theater lights we decided to simulate our own theater lighting. The image above, with the model in front of the curtains was done with three lights.  The key was an Alien Bee 1600 with an 8.5" reflector metered at f/4 and 30 degree grid.  The rim /accent light is an Einstein 640 with a blue gel and barndoors metered at f/8 and the background light is a White Lighting 800 with barndoors skimmed off the curtains metered at f/5.6 to provide some detail.

Honestly I struggled during this shoot, too, specifically due to the limited  amount of space on the stage, we really had to shoot tight and the electro-magnetic interference created by the Einsteins rendered my Pocket Wizards unreliable.

After we completed the low-key shots, Jeff set-up his high-key equipment.  These shots were done with two Einsteins, metered at f/11, pointed at the White Seamless paper and a White Lighting in a 40"+ octagonal softbox camera left 45 degrees and metered at f/8.  This set-up is based on Zack Arias' configuration.  the set-up is very inexpensive and provides some great results.

Again, a challenging shoot, but still an excellent exercise in planning and being flexible.  thanks Jeff for the invite, I hope you got the shots you needed for Kristin.

Huge Shout Outs to:
  • Kristin Rene' "Triple Threat" she did hair, make-up and the body paint.  
  • Tarin for being the awesome model on her first gig
  • Jeff for putting together a very well-conceived and executed session
I have a shoot scheduled for October 9 with an experienced model who is also a Make-up Artist and "No" it isn't Darnah.   Until then, "That's A Wrap!!!"