Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alexandria the Great

After our Boudoir shoot, Alex and I decided we needed to do another shoot, but this time with Alex clothed.  I shot downtown the previous week with Mary against a brushed metal wall, but I just didn't like my lighting.  I had the key light and the rim light on the same side of the model, which didn't really add enough depth for my taste.  This time I decided to use my Beauty Dish and SABER STRIP on opposing sides of the model. The flashes used were Nikon SB-600s and triggered with Pocket Wizards.

Earlier in the day, I posted on our Facebook group that I would be downtown and a few photographers showed up to see how I light during my shoots.  We originally intended on shooting at two locales, the brushed metal facade and the AT&T office with the green walls.  I asked Alex to bring two dresses, one red and one black.

There were a total of five photographers that ended up coming out and we all took turns photographing Alex.  I showed them how I set my lights and how I use my light meter (Sekonic L-358) to determine the percentage of Flash to Ambient. We played around for an hour and half and then digital artist David Karnowski showed up on his motorcycle.  As I was letting the other photographers shoot, Brian said we should use the Motorcycle as a prop.  Across the street was an open parking lot, so David graciously moved his motorcycle and we moved our gear.  It was only 7:00 PM, but Alex had to leave by 7:30PM.

How could we light the motorcycle and make it look interesting.  The parking lot had two white walls adjacent to each other and the sun was setting behind us.  The light was pretty flat and the sky was cloudless.  I could go "Natural" and maybe overexpose the image for a dreamy and soft mood, but this is a motorcycle and a model in a red dress.  Dramatic lighting!!! 

I suspended my SABER STRIP over the model and feathered it toward the camera.  I took a shot and liked it, but the lower half of the bike was blocked up, I took two speedlights and set them 45 degrees camera right and left, and pointed them towards the wheels of the bike.  I also stepped up the shutter speed to minimize the amount of ambient light.  I took a couple test shots and wished that I had set-up one more light, but it was 7:20 PM and Alex had to get going.  This was probably the best exposed image, still a little blocked up, but overall I was nominally satisfied. 

Big thanks to Alex for being a patient and fun model to shoot, the guys for helping with the lights and gear, and David for letting us use his bike.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Boudoir Anonynous

Hi, my name is Alan, it's been eleven months since my last Boudoir shoot. Hard to believe my last shoot was with Halston, back in October of 2010.  I got bored, my work seemed repetitive and rife with complacency.  After joining a Facebook group last month, I decided I would return to my Tattooed White Sheets sessions.  I posted a "casting call" and received several comments from interested models. One model, Alexandria, and I have been trying to sync our schedules and shoot, but just couldn't.  She posted that she was getting her tattoo filled and so we decided we would shoot the following day.

My usual model request for the Tattooed White Sheets session "look" is smokey eye make-up, red lipstick and hair down, if it's long. It's funny when the models ask what should they wear.  "Uh, sweats and nothing else."  Why the strange request? because if they wear anything tight prior to shooting, we'll have to wait at least 20 minutes to have the strap lines disappear. Alex brought an array of clothes, but we really didn't need that many, it's a Boudoir shoot, right?

 My concept for this shoot was to have her start out dressed and then work our way to the White Sheets part, basically a strip-tease. To pull this off, I would "attempt" to create a bedroom setting and simulate window light.  Well that was my vision.

Figured I could at least use three lights, one for the window, one for fill and the other as a kicker, or rim light. Here are the lights and modifiers used: 
  • Window: Alien Bee 1600 bounced in an 86" PLM with Front Diffusion panel, metered at f/5.6
  • Rim: Einstein 640 with PCB Stripbox, gridded and diffused at f/4.0
  • Fill: Alien Bee Ring Flash bounced off garage wall behind me at f/2.0

The lighting looked good, but I shot at f/4.0 instead of f/5.6 because I wanted the window light to be bright, however; what I didn't do was check my light meter.  I had left it at ISO 100 and was shooting at ISO 200.  I caught it later on in the shoot, but these images were all overexposed, no clipping aside from the white scrim.  However, I still wasn't liking the results. c It just didn't look like a room.  I also placed my black backdrop perpendicular to the white scrim to keep the light from spilling onto the garage walls and refrigerator.

We shot with that set for about 90 minutes and then went to the White Sheets portion.  The White Sheet set-up is the same one I've used in previous shoots.  Alexandria went to change and while she was getting ready, I opened my dryer to make the bed.  I opened the dryer and it was empty, I asked my girlfriend where she put the sheets.  Surprised, she said, "I didn't do anything with them."  ARGHHH!!!  I forgot to move them from the Washer to the Dryer.  Yup, they were wet.  Change of plans, Burgundy sheets instead.  Oh well, they did add a nice texture to the shoot and provided a different mood for the shoot.

What Did I Learn?
  • Check you Light Meter settings - Fortunately the images weren't too overexposed.  I almost always check my camera setting before each shoot, especially White Balance and ISO.
  • Change the scrim - What I mean is that I had flattened out the white scrim instead of gathering it and creating some vertical lines and denser areas of light.  
  • Extended the Burgundy drapes to form an "L" shape  which should give a little more depth to the set.
  • Use similar lights - By using the AB1600, Einstein 640 and AB 800 Ring Flash the color temperature from each light is different and it gives off a noticeable color cast.
I'm not giving up on my Boudoir shoots, just need to do a few more "test" shoots before enlisting a model.  Thank goodness Alexandria was patient.

One last comment, always use a Grey Card to make sure you achieve the proper exposure  :)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Girl of Steel

A local photographer posted on Facebook that Bakersfield offers little variety for shooting. Initially I agreed with the comment, but as I looked back at at some of my images and others posted on FLICKR shot around our town, I realized that what we don't have is a metropolitan feel. "What We Don't Have". Another photographer posted that you just have to look for it.

There are plenty of alleys and buildings Downtown along with the Kern River, Lake Isabella, and open spaces that we do have. I moved here in 1994 and never really felt part of this town, but as I began scouting for locations the past two years, I've found comfort in the quaintness of Bakersfield.

This week, Brian, Rob, Tim and I decided to hold another impromptu shoot, Downtown for two reasons: 1) to scout locations for an upcoming Photo Throw-down, and 2) burn through some film. Luckily a new model posted on our Facebook group that she was available to shoot that same night.

I sent the new Model, Mary, a request for wardrobe based on a brushed metal facade I saw on a Downtown building. I also wanted to try-out a lighting configuration for the Throw-down. The configuration is a brolly on an extended Combi-boom arm and a SABER STRIP mounted vertically. By placing the boom 105 degrees from the focal plane, I was able to use the SABER STRIP as a rim light and use the extended brolly as a key light. This configuration is easy to carry, setup and breakdown.

The main drawback with this setup is that the Key light and Rim Light are on the same side of the subject, which means the opposite side of the subject can get blocked up. The "fix"? Shoot against a reflective surface that has at least two surfaces that will allow you to bounce the light. If the background looks familiar, it's because I photographed Sara against it during our Skater Shoot.

I also brought my RayFlash Ring light for my SB-900 and played around with it, figured I spent the money on it so I might as well use it. I'm not sure if I really like it since it looks very similar to on camera flash with the exception of soft shadows and a cool catchlights, you decide.

After I got the shot I wanted, we moved to the alleys of downtown and played around with "dragging the shutter." I switched from Pocket Wizards to Nikon CLS and re-experienced an issue with CLS. A brolly has a front diffusion panel, which blocks the Line of Site communications between the camera and remote flashes. So why did I switch from the consistent triggering of the Pocket Wizards? Because I was just being lazy.

What did I Learn?
  • Quit being lazy and use the Pocket Wizards, they are reliable and work consistently
  • Go to black and white when you have mixed lighting conditions (Kidding). With mixed lighting, you really need to look at what color the ambient light gives off and "gel" for that color.  I left my gels at home

Thanks for Reading!!!

- Posted using BlogPress from my Illusive iPad

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mystery at The Nile

This past Sunday, Mystery and I finished our two location shoot for building her portfolio at Bakersfield's Nile Theater. Many photographers have shot there with some good results, however; my attempts were mediocre at best. This time I wanted to use the Nile's, often photographed, cobalt blue tile like a studio background. The difficulty in shooting the tile is the highly reflective surface, so controlling light spill is a challenge.

My previous attempts were done using Nikon CLS and Aperture Priority Mode. If I recall, I got pretty frustrated because the in-camera meter readings varied and the images were either too dark, or blown. I know Nikon CLS works for Joe McNally, so why not for me? Oh yeah, he's been shooting for decades and is sponsored by Nikon.

On this go round, I asked Mystery to wear a black dress, black heels, smokey eye shadow, either red or black lipstick, and really tease her hair out.  She arrived and looked completely different from our "Field" shoot.

For lighting, I decided to use my Alien Bee Ring Flash on this shoot since I haven't used it as a key light.  On a couple test shots, it was blowing out a fair portion of the blue tile, so I decided to treat it as a beauty dish and mounted it on my Combi-boom.

We started at about 6:45 PM, but as it got darker the flash power of the Ring Flash was too much and the ambient light was basically non-existent, so I switched to my 43" brolly and SABER STRIP.  We worked on some poses and by the end of the shoot we got my favorite image of the night.

The key light is an SB-600 mounted in a 43" brolly about 45 degrees camera left, at 1/16th power.  The rim light is from an SB-600 in my SABER STRIP about 105 degrees camera left, at 1/8th power.  The SABER STRIP reduces the flash power by almost a 1/2 stop, and I wanted it to be a little brighter than the key light, so that is why it is a full stop brighter than the key.  Make sense? 

What did I learn?
  • Don't give up on the Ring Flash - A lot of pictures in the magazines use some form of Ring Flash, and it has a really nice look.  I think I need to try it on less reflective surfaces and come up with poses that focus on the head and shoulders.
Mystery and I have another shoot planned with a different look. I'm also planning to continue my White Sheets Sessions, I just need to find models with lots of tattoos.  So if you know of any, please send them my way.

As an aside, today is my youngest son's 17th Birthday.  When did he get older, wiser, taller, and more handsome. Love you Drew!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The 5 Minute Portrait

I was asked to photograph a two person portrait at work this past week, however: I never bring my gear with me. I ran home and grabbed my camera bag, that has been pared down to:
  • D700
  • 85mm lens
  • SB-900 flash
  • Cold shoe with mono cord
  • HONL SpeedStraps, grids, snoot, and gels
  • Spare AA batteries
  • Foldable Gray card
  • L-358 Flash Meter
  • 2 Pocket Wizards
  • Dust Blower and lens cleaner
I also grabbed my traveling light kit. The kit is composed of:
  • Manfrotto combi-boom
  • 43" Westcott collapsible white shoot-thru with black cover
  • 43" RPS Studio Brolly
  • Umbrella swivel
  • Bungee ball cords to keep all the goodies cinched together
I remember after my beach shoot with Darnah that I needed to travel light, so this setup has enough flexibility for quick portrait shoots and total weight is about 20lbs.

While waiting for the Executives to prep themselves for the shoot, I decided I would time myself to see how long it would take to do a portrait. I had to leave the lights on since the light switch controls more than the room.

Five Minute Time Breakdown:

  • 90 seconds - to setup the light stand, modifier, and mount the speed light.
  • 120 seconds - to shoot the portrait. I started at 1/4 power for the speed light and set the camera to f/5.6, 1/250 at ISO 100. Close, but still there was some ambient light. Closed down 1/3rd stop and moved the model and modifier away from the back wall. One more shot and the flash power was a bit to low. This is where I like Nikon CLS, I didn't need to leave my spot, just changed the flash power from the camera and I achieved the exposure I wanted.
  • 90 seconds - to transfer the image to my desktop, quick levels and curves adjustment, dodge a part of the image, and upload to the Internet.

As an aside, the Executives didn't like their appearance, so the shoot was postponed for the following day. Bad Hair Day?, WTH!!! I called them Divas and asked them to be camera-ready the following day.

- Posted using BlogPress from my Illusive iPad

Friday, September 2, 2011

Forgotten Treasures - Random Post

Found this image on my cell phone that I took back on October 25, 2009.  I think I just got rid of my Motorola Razr and bought the LG Touch.  So state of the art, back then, and now new cellphone models are released every 3 months.

Smple Natty light at the Waffle Shop in Bellefonte, PA.  Drew was 15, listening to his iPod Touch.  This image is actually better than my first digital Point-N-Shoot, which was Kodak DC210 with 1.3 Megapixels.

I also found another image on my phone, it was taken on the day my Dad gave me his Rolleiflex TLR. I love using this camera, in fact there is a roll of 120 Fujichrome in the magazine right now. I need to send it in to have the shutter fixed, it gets stuck at anything slower than 1/30th of a second.  The repair shop will also swap out the viewfinder for a much brighter version. This image was taken with available light and the white balance set to fluorescent.

So why the blog? I was just testing out my old cameraphone's ability to send and post to blogger.  I won't use it since I can do this from my iPad, I just wanted to get my pictures off of the phone.

Yes Brian, the horizon line is off on the Rollei image. Sheesh, I might as well have processed it using Selective Color, too.