Sunday, October 23, 2011


There are times when you first work with a model that something clicks, whether it's a shared vision, or a concept, and then the finished image meets that expectation. I have come to recognize that "click" when after shooting I'm left feeling discouraged; I know that sounds counter intuitive, but I get a  feeling that I should've done something differently, that I didn't bring my "A" game and start doubting my abilities. When this happens, I usually put the camera away and not look at any images until the next morning.

That "click" happened with Anahy, Tonya, Torey, and Darnah. Okay, maybe not with Darnah, but definitely with the other models. Well, that same feeling happened when I photographed Lara last weekend. I felt that the images never really materialized into what I envisioned.

We decided to do some White Sheets images followed by One Light on Black and then some Twiggy type photos. That meant white, black and grey backgrounds. I also told Lara that she could bring back her humongous suitcase, basically her closet-on-wheels.

Once we selected the wardrobe, we began shooting at 4:00 PM and worked on the White Sheets for about two hours.  I used the 86" PLM behind my White Muslin and then used a strip box for the key light.  Usually I have the model on a bed, but this time I tried something different, I placed the bedding on the garage floor so I could shoot downward from a ladder.  I think that slight change in lighting configuration made our shoot take a little longer than usual.

We then moved on to a black background and a single light (43" Brolly) with a reflector.  Lara picked out some fun clothes to wear and we shot for about another hour and a half.  I know I overuse the term "fun" when speaking about working with models, but Lara is both energetic and relaxed when shooting.  At that point it was getting late and we originally wanted to do a "Twiggy" theme shoot.

So as Lara changed her make-up and hair, I removed the black backdrop and put up the grey seamless paper.  An acquaintance, referred to as Old Pro, told me how they used to shoot those 60's style images.  Basically a key light, my Beauty Dish and a huge softbox for fill, my 86" PLM, and that was basically it.

I went in to check on Lara and review some of the clothes for our 60's style shoot.  After a quick break, we shot for another hour and a half.  Holy crud, it was almost 10:00 PM.  Lara was great and worked right up until I called a wrap.  She neither complained, nor asked me to hurry up.  As Lara left to put "ALL" her clothes away,  I decided to review some of the images and got discouraged.  While walking Lara to her car, I began apologizing for not keeping my end up of the shoot, that I felt the images I captured were mediocre at best.  She said, "No worries, we'll shoot again in two weeks."

In the morning I downloaded the 400+ images and began reviewing them.  I was surprised to find some images that were a bit better than mediocre, so I did a quick edit on one, converted it to Black and White and posted it on FLICKR.  That same night, my iPad kept beeping every time I got an e-mail.  I woke-up and checked to see that several people had commented on, or favored this image. Then on e-mail said "Stunning! Congrats on Explore."  Seriously, EXPLORE!!!  I just posted the pic to get some comments and critiques.

In previous posts, I've mentioned that FLICKR uses an algorithm to determine Interestingness, which is based on views, favorites and comments from all over FLICKR land.  FLICKR estimates that 5,000 images are uploaded every hour, and they select 500 everyday to showcase in their EXPLORE category.  We hit position #149 out of the top 500, not bad because usually I add my image to Photo groups on FLICKR, but this one I only posted.  I messaged Lara, and she responded "Mediocre turned out Most Interesting!! ...FAR OUT...!!"  

So What Did I Learn?
  • That's an easy one - Keep your thoughts as thoughts.  Even if you don't feel good about your images after the shoot, keep it to yourself.  Lara did a GREAT job and for me to admit anything less than being pleased with our session before really viewing the images was totally inconsiderate.
I've got a shoot coming up in a week, keeping my fingers crossed that I can execute, but more importantly I'm going to make sure that I keep a positive attitude throughout the entire process.

*** UPDATE *** 
Apparently the image with Lara jumping (above) also hit EXPLORE on the same day.  That's a first for me, two images on EXPLORE in one day.  With that good news, here's one more image from our shoot. 

This was part of our White Sheets, but decided I add both the actual image and an Outtake to show Lara's personality.

- Posted using BlogPress from my Illusive iPad

Eye Spy

Last week Brian reminded me about the Eye-Fi SD card that allows you to wirelessly transfer images from your camera to your computer via Wi-Fi. I checked into it about two years ago, but dismissed it since my D700 uses CF cards for storage. Since then I've acquired my Olympus PEN e-PL1 and iPad and didn't look to see if that technology had advanced.

After visiting their site, I discovered that they released the Eye-Fi X2 Mobile which works with Apple IOS and Android operating systems. So during lunch, drove to Best Buy and picked one up.

Installation has to be done on a computer connected to your own Wi-Fi network for the purposes of "pairing" the card with your mobile device. Once the software is installed on your computer, you then download the app for your Mobile device, my iPad, and then pair the device with the SD card.

All went well until it came time for transmitting the images. So I'll jump to the What I Learned.

  • Make sure you disconnect your mobile device from any wireless networks
  • Make sure you can save your image in RAW + Small JPG
Once I did that, everything worked flawlessly. I was able to shoot from 20' away with my PEN and the image took 5 seconds to show up on my iPad. After it transfer, you can upload  your images to a multitude of sites, including FLICKR, Facebook, etc...

The user interface on the iPad looks pretty much like iPhoto, but what's cool is that once the transfer occurs, the image pops up full size. 

Q1) So when would I use this?  Good question.  I planned to do a model shoot tonight using PEN, speedlights, Pocket Wizards and some modifiers and have the iPad near the model, so we could shoot and she would get instant feedback, without having to "chimp" on a 3" LCD screen.

Q2) Aren't there SD-to-CF adapters out there? Yes, and that is my next purchase so I can use this on my D700.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lighting Lara

A few weeks back one of the photographers, that is a member of our Facebook Models and Photographer Group, got upset that one of her clients was added to the group. She posted a RANT accusing members of stalking her clients and coercing them to join our group.  My take, don't post photos of your paid shoots.

The posts got pretty ugly until the "Admin" stepped in and re-iterated the goals of the group.  Then mysteriously the photog's rant was deleted. So why am I writing about this incident?  I found out while photographing the model in question that she asked to join the group.  Rewind - while Brian and I were looking at her photos, Brian commented that she looks a lot like Taylor Swift.  Uhhh...who is that? I asked.  To me she does look like Taylor Swift crossed with Claudia Schiffer.  Fast Forward - so I messaged Lara and she agreed to shoot with me after much stalking and coercion.

Turns out that Lara modeled in the past and is working on re-establishing herself.  She has great cheekbones and eyes.  She has a very free-spirited attitude and an outgoing personality, at least based on my sole experience.  We discussed wardrobe/themes and a fellow Photographer, MUA, H/S joined us for the shoot. I enjoy having other photographers join me on my shoots, especially women because they have an eye for detail.  Also, I see my backyard everyday and don't notice opportunities for backgrounds.

This shoot included Natural (Natty) light and Mixed light, and also included reflectors and speedlights. We had Lara change several times and it was great having a MUA/HS on-site. During the shoot I shared what I know about lighting with the other photographer.  It was a memorable shoot and I think we captured some  decent images.

I shot in Aperture-Priority Mode, Manual Mode, used CLS, used Pocket Wizards, used scrims, reflectors and speedlights.  We played with all the tools and tricks intentionally so the other photographer could see the difference between light and modifiers, and the mood each creates.  We also used a grey card and a light meter, in addition to our in-camera meter.

What Did Learn:
  • Be specific with wardrobe - Lara brought a suitcase of clothes that basically contained her closet.  When she laid them out for us to review, the floor disappeared
  • Look at routine locations with fresh eyes - I would have never thought about shooting by my Birds of Paradise because they've been there for 5 years.
  • It's a bonus to have a MUA/HS during the shoot - They are constantly looking at the model's appearance which frees me up to concentrate on posing, lighting and composition
  • If possible, work with experienced models if you are starting out - Experienced models require very little direction, understand posing angles and can work the "key" light.

As I wrote earlier, Lara is a fun model to photograph because she doesn't take herself too serious and her playful attitude keeps the atmosphere light.  Hopefully we'll get to work together again. Here's an outtake from our shoot, and "yes" the finger tattoo is legit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Ahoy Mayte

So this post has nothing to do with pirates, but instead with a model named Mayte.  I photographed Mayte back at the end of June this year and since she lives near Los Angeles, I called to see if she was available after my Photowalk. We discussed wardrobe and the two locales I wanted, Los Angeles Union Station and the Walt Disney Concert Hall (WDHC).

Earlier in the day I was warned by our Photowalk compadres that we might have some problems shooting at the WDCH based on their previous experience.  Apparently they brought reflectors and as soon as they started shooting were told to move along.  Well, I brought a nano stand, a mini-softbox and my pocket wizards, but with the latest information on restrictions, I'd have to shoot using Available light.  Not a big deal, I brought my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4.

Shine After lunch we headed to Union Station, and upon arrival I asked the security guard if I could shoot inside.  He said as long as I don't use a tripod or lightstands I was good to go. Mayte went to change into the first outfit while the five of us photographers looked for places to shoot.  Having shot there a year ago, I knew there was a mix of window light and warm fluorescent light, so all I needed to do was place Mayte where the Window light would be the key.
My original idea for Union Station was to have Mayte stand in the center of the Main Hall and hold a pose for about a 1/15 of a second as passengers strolled by.  I fired a couple test shots with Brian as a stand-in and achieved what I envisioned.  Mayte and I set-up and waited for the people to start walking by us.  As the first wave came upon us, they dispersed and moved away.  We waited for the next group of people and again same result. that idea went down the drain.

We moved around the station and ended up shooting outside.  It was about 2:00 PM and the sun was still a little high, so I asked one of the ladies to be my Voice-Activated Lightstand (VAL).  I gave her my SB-900 with an Omni Bounce and had her position 45 degrees camera left high and pointed downward.  I believe I set my camera to -1 E/V and the flash at 1.7 E/V and used Commander Mode from my camera.
After struggling with the light we packed up and moved on to the WDCH.  It's about a three mile drive from Union Station and we had Mayte change into a black dress.  Knowing ahead of time that we might get booted out, I brought  my camera equipped with a 24mm - 70mm f/2.8 AF-S G lens.  We made our way up the flight of stairs and was amazed by all the light that was bouncing around.  Who needs reflectors when the building is basically a silver reflector.

We moved around from walkways to corridors and never had to worry about light.  We shot for about another hour as the sun began to set and got some really warm images.  I really want to go back there again and shoot, but I need to come up with  concept.  I just needed to test the waters with regards to security.

What Did I Learn?

Hmmm...well not much aside from sometimes shoots don't always go as planned, but I am satisfied with what I did get.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Going Home

On October 1 -2, 2011, the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk was held.  The first Photowalk I participated in was back in July 2009 and I signed up for the Paso Robles Group.  Last year I participated in a local Photowalk on the Downtown streets of Bakersfield.  So this year I signed up for the walk that was held in Downtown Los Angeles.  There were 1,116 Photowalk organized with over 28, 041 walkers participating.

 Growing up 20 minutes from Los Angeles, I wanted to photograph a city I visited often and also (here's the real reason) photograph some models at Los Angeles Union Station and the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  More in another post.

I coerced Brian and Rob to join me on the walk and even two photographers that I met on FLICKR.  We had to leave Bakersfield by 5:00 AM so we could make the drive and save some time to eat at my favorite "Big Bang for Your Buck" eatery, Philippes. Phillippe's is known for their Beef Dip sandwich, but they also serve breakfast.  The walk began at 8:00 AM and started down Olvera Street and since we would be doing a lot of walking, I wanted to travel light, so I brought my Olympus PEN e-PL1 with the 20mm f/1.7 lens.

 The shopkeepers were busy opening up their stands and the restaurant cooks were prepping food.  After we finished walking up and down Olvera Street, we then headed towards Union Station and boarded the Metro Link for a brieft one stop trip to China Town.  We walked through the shops and malls of China Town, but were told many times, "No Pictures".  So I basically tried shooting from the hip and did a real lousy job, but at least I've got a new challenge: "Learn To Shoot from the Hip."

The walk ended at 10:00 PM, so we hung out on Olvera Street with our two new friends,  Lynn and Sharon ( who happen to be sisters that grew up in the San Fernando Valley the same time as I did), until lunch time. We then headed back to Philippe's for Beef-dipped sandwiches with our Model in tow.

Was it a great Photowalk?  Not really, but it was definitely a change from Bakersfield and the diversity of people is always energizing to me.

What did I Learn?
  • Order an extra drink at Philippe's -  because the glasses are only 8 ounces and served half full of ice.
  • Get Blue Cheese with your Beef Dip - Much better than the regular sliced cheese
  • Carry Cash - Philippe's only takes Cash

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Naturally Natalie

My friend, Brian and I, belong to the same Model/Photographer Facebook group, and two weeks ago he suggested a Photo Contest to help promote collaborating between Models and Photographers. Dubbed the Photo Throwdown, the premise was simple, a team of one photographer and model would shoot for an hour starting at a per-determined time and they were allowed one prop. There were no restrictions on lighting, lenses, or post-processing as long as it wasn't overly done.

There were eight teams competing for the this competition, I decided to ask my friend Natalie to be my teammate since she has such a flair for style, posing and just overall cuteness. Our concept was a "Want to be Starlet"@ and we would shoot at the Bakersfield Fox Theater. We discussed wardrobe and props, but Natalie, being so competitive, said that she really wanted to nail it.

On the day of the shoot the weather was a bit warm, but Natalie looked "HOT!!!" and we set off to shoot. I originally brought a few strobes and a SABER STRIP and brolly, but as we began to shoot the light was too dramatic, even with it properly balanced. I decided to use Available Light and we got our shot within 30 minutes. We then shot for another 30 minutes with another KPA member to see what other images we could give Natalie.

We had until midnight Monday to post our pictures in an album. Members would then LIKE as many images as they wanted and who ever had the most likes won. I beat out the closest competitor by ONE vote.

So I get to keep the trophy until the next Throwdown.

- Posted using BlogPress from my Illusive iPad