Friday, November 25, 2011

PLM = Pretty Lame Moment

I have been doing the "Dad Thing" lately, and teaching Drew to drive his semi-new car.  He wasn't quite ready a year and a half ago to start driving, but recently he's been showing motivation to drive.  So for today, I told him we would make the 35 mile round-trip drive to Hart Park with the condition that we stop and shoot him and his car.

I figured we would need a break for two reasons: 1) to go over the drive and talk about any events that happened along the way, and 2) to let me practice some Noon day sun shooting.

We made the trip safely with no close calls or with me pretending to press on an imaginary brake pedal.  We parked in a dirt spot and I proceeded to unload my gear.  I brought along my AB1600, 86" PLM, Combi-Boom and my Vagabond 2, which weighs about 19lbs.  I setup the PLM, attached the battery to the light stand and headed back to the car since there was no apparent wind.  As I was looking in the trunk, Drew said "Dad, your light fell."  I looked over to the spot and saw the light stand on the ground resting on the PLM.  The shaft was bent at about 45 degrees.  It was still usable, but couldn't be freely rotated.  I realized I had placed the battery on the same side as the PLM.  I usually make sure I place it opposite to counterbalance the stand, which means placing the battery on the windward side of the lightstand.  At least the PLM cushioned the fall of the AB1600 and spared me an additional expense.

After propping up the light stand and adjusting the PLM, I proceeded to shoot.  My metered settings were f/11, 1/125, ISO 200 with the AB1600 set to 1/16th power.  I decide to use my 24mm  - 70mm so I go wide, I used my Pocket Wizards trigger the set-up.  I was also playing with my Sekonic Light Meter to get a mix of 70% Flash/Ambient .  We shot for about 20 minutes and then wrapped as the sun never came out and the wind started getting stronger.  We packed up the Scion and made the drive back home.  Again, Drew did very well and we arrived safely home.

I checked the Paul C. Buff web-site and found out that replacing my PLM will cost $92 with S&H, but most likely I call Customer Support and see how much it'll be to repair it.  I guess I'll have to use my 64" PLM for tomorrow's White Sheet shoot.

What Did I Learn:

  • Even if there isn't any wind, always set-up your modifier opposite the battery - I knew that and had done it on four other shoots, but most likely I was still thinking about teaching Drew.

Hoping everyone had a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for reading.  BTW, yes the car color looks different in each image, which is due to me playing with different warming and cooling filters.  The middle image matches the car's actual color.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Back Alley


After my marginal model shoot in Vegas, I really needed to get out and shoot "On Location" again. Fortunately a tatt'ed make-up artist (MUA) responded to my inquiry about being part of my "Tatt'ed Sheets" session, but to make her comfortable I suggested that we do a "test" shoot just to see if she felt comfortable working with me. We discussed the wardrobe and met downtown. After looking around for wet pavement(it rained earlier in the day), I chose the alley behind Stars Theater. The alley is narrow enough with sufficient light and a gritty feel.

I brought my three speed lights, brolly, SABER STRIP and my traveling suitcase. First I wanted to re-create car headlights to give the alley an added sense of place, so both SB-600s were set down the way on Nano stands about 2.5' high and even with each other.  No modifiers and no Pocket Wizards, just Nikon CLS to trigger the speed lights. The brolly was set-up Camera Left with an SB-900 and a full cut CTO gel. I figured I would set the White Balance to Incandescent so the available light would be "cool" and evoke a cold winter's night.

Purple Rain
After a few shots, I then photographed Heidi up against a wall and gel'ed the SB-600s with purple gels and set the power to 1/32.  The lower the power, the better the color from the gels show.  However, they were still too white, so I added a second set of gels and the color was satisfactory.  Again I used the brolly as key.

For the last image I used the available light from three fluorescent lights in the alleyway.  I had Heidi walk towards me until the I felt the light was close to create a butterfly pattern.  I had to up my ISO to 3200 and shoot at f/1.4.  If you look at the shadows, you can see the noise.


So What Did I Learn?
  • Nikon CLS has it's benefits - I mentioned it before that Manual control provides consistent control of your lights, but since it was dark and the available light wasn't changing, CLS worked perfectly.  I use Manual Mode on controlling the lights and not TTL.
  • Buy some hair bands - I had to rig the second set of gels onto the speed lights by using clips, hair bands are cheap and light.

In the end, Heidi and I worked well together, so hopefully our next shoot will be a breeze.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jesi Gone Wild!!!

Time flies, and it's hard to believe that the last time Jesi and I collaborated was June 2010.  My original shoot fell through last weekend, but I received a message from Jesi asking if I wanted to shoot.  She was supposed to attend a "Rave" wearing a Native American Indian costume, but her plans fell through, too. 

Jesi arrived ready to shoot, in her wardrobe and makeup done. We left Bako at 10 AM and made the drive up to Mt. Pinos, which took about 2 hours.  I've wanted to shoot up in the Los Padres National Forest for quite some time and wanted to use the forest for my Red Riding Hood shoot. Jesi's costume was perfect for the locale and she was available. 

We arrived at the Nordic Base, which is about 8,300 feet above sea level and headed down a trail to the nearest campsite.  Thinking that it would be a simple hike, I brought along my lighting bag and camera backapck (30lbs of gear).  Huge mistake!!!  I figured all the cardio work I've been doing at the gym would help, it didn't.  Actually at first it wasn't a big deal, but then with all the squatting, to get low and standing up, by 3 hours into it, I was getting tired, but I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Planning on arriving at Noon, I figured we could scout around and look for some decent areas to shoot, and with the tall trees, we would have enough shade to provide for some dramatic lighting.  As usual I brought my SABER STRIPS, speedlights, Nano Stands, all my HONL modifiers and gels, and sandbags, and just in case it wasn't windy my Sunbounce.

Along for the shoot was fellow photogs, Brian Redden and Joe Vasquez.  We all liked the idea of getting out and shooting somewhere else besides the flatlands of the Central Valley.  Brian brought his new PEN Camera and his TLR, Joe brought his Canon and some lighting gear, too.

We decide to set-up near the campground since there was enough fauna befitting of a wooded area and the first thing I noticed was the clarity of the air and the blueness of the sky.  Albeit, the contrasty nature of shooting at mid-afternoon is difficult when trying to maintain shadows and highlights, so I opted for my SB-900 and bare flash at full power to lift up some of the shadows.  After a few images, we moved into the shade, where I bogart'ed Joe's Umbrella.  I brought my Westcott umbrella, but since he had his set-up, I just put my flash next to his.  I also decided to use Nikon CLS instead of my Pocket Wizards because 1) I paid for that feature, and 2) because I'm lazy and didn't want to exert any extra effort, getting up and down adjusting the flash's power settings.

We shot for about three hours, and after taking a break to give Jesi a chance to eat and warm-up, we called it a wrap.  Mainly because I was getting tired, Jesi was getting cold, and Joe mentioned he was getting light-headed a couple times.  Overall, we agreed that we got the images we wanted and the shoot was a success.  Then came the difficult part, hiking back to the car.  It really wasn't that bad, but  it reinforced my "travel light" mantra.

I shot with a bare speedlight, umbrella-modified speedlight, handheld reflector and available light. See if you can identify the light and/or modifier used in each image.

So What Did I Learn?
  • Travel Light - I blogged about it after my Santa Monica Beach shoot with Darnah.  With this shoot I could've used my 85mm Prime, one speedlight, a Nano Stand, Ankle Weight, and Umbrella to achieve what I wanted with a total weight of 10 lbs.  My excuse? I haven't shot up there and didn't know what to expect.  I probably should have left all my gear in my vehicle except that I drove the Jeep and having a soft-top, it doesn't make sense to lock it up, or keep valuable items in it.
As a side note, I seem to be plagued with cancellations when posting on Facebook the name of a model, or when I'm shooting, so from now on it'll be a surprise.