Saturday, January 14, 2012

Red Rock Jane

It's been nine months since the last time I photographed Nikki, and more than a year since we've done a "model" shoot.  Nikki gave birth to her son about three days after our Maternity shoot back in May, and I've been waiting for her to get back to modeling.  We finally agreed to shoot and both wanted something "On Location."

My buddy Brian and I have been talking about shooting at Red Rock Canyon State Park for over a year and decided that this would be a good place to shoot if we could find some models. Red Rock would be the first "Boys Club" outing for 2012, so Robert, Brian, David (local Bako photog) and I, secured models for January 8.


We decided to leave Bakersfield at 6:30AM so we would arrive by 8:00. I would have preferred to leave at 5:00, but I knew there was no way we could convince the models to be up and ready that early.  BY the time we all assembled and grab a quick bite, we were on the road at 7:00, we made pretty good time and reached our destination by 8:30 AM.  The sun was already pretty high up and the shadows weren't nearly as long as I had hoped.

Nikki and I broke off from the group and found a cove and some North facing ledges.  How to light?  Well I figured I would try bare flash, so I mounted my SB-900 on my combo boom and set it to 1/4 power.  Knowing that it would be too bright to get a shallow DOF,  I put a ND4 filter on my 24mm- 70mm lens, that allowed me to shoot at 1/320 and f/4.0.  I know you might be thinking that 1/320 is too fast for flash and that I might get some of the "curtain" displaying in my image, but since it was really bright and I composed for the curtain, I was confident I could get the shot.

Red Rock
I had Nikki stand up on a picnic table and raised the speed light as high as I could.  It only took about 2 test shots to get the exposure I wanted.  In post, I adjusted the White Balance to Flash and the image took on a Sunset feel.

After a few images in this outfit, we switched to some bikini images in the cove.  I brought my speed light to create some background separation and used Available as "key."  I really liked the images, but Nikki wasn't feeling comfortable with the way she looked.  She is too hard on herself, so those images won't see the web.  Sorry, well maybe this one that has been cropped to protect me ;)

The sun was getting brighter and harsher,  and we needed to move quickly since I wanted to be on the road by noon.  Nikki had three more wardrobe changes, including a leopard print dress that I figured would look good among the scattered Joshua Trees.  Simple lighting using my Westcott as a shoot-thru, SB-900 and my Pocket Wizard.  As an aside, Brian was struggling with his Radio Transmitters so I let him use my spare set of Pocket Wizards.  Nikki and I began shooting, but I noticed my Flash was going off without me triggering it.  I yelled back to Brian to have him switch the Pocket Wizards to a different channel.  Brian was over 800 feet away.  Those triggers are awesome!!!

Nikki and I finished shooting by 11:30 as the sun was too harsh and shade was becoming a premium.  We packed up and waited for the group to finish their sessions. This Behind-The-Scenes (BTS) image was taken by Brian Redden.  Thanks, buddy.

What Did I Learn?

  • Sometimes things go really well - I had no equipment malfunctions, no interruptions by State Rangers, no equipment mishaps (i.e. blown over light stands) 
  • Do more On Location shoots - There is a   feeling of apprehension and excitement when shooting at a new location.  It forces to really explore your surroundings and be creative with the environment.
Hard to believe this was my sixth shoot with Nikki and we're already planning for our next.  January will definitely be busy with two more scheduled shoots and also two scheduled in February.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Illusive Photography 2011 - Year in Review

Art, Mom and me

It's hard to believe that 2011 has ended, which marks my third year back to Photography.  At the close of 2010 I had some family issues that pushed me to the point of hanging up my camera and focusing on the more important things in life.  Waxing nostalgic, I found some old pictures my Dad took of my brother, Mom and me back in the Philippines.  It's interesting how a single picture can bring back a flood of memories that would normally lay dormant in our everyday lives.

As with previous "Year In Review" posts, I'll pick at least one image per month and either explain the lighting or why it means something to me.

January: I received a call from Yesterday Sportswear, a silk-screening company based in Paso Robles.  The owner had seen my work on Model Mayhem and wanted me to shoot some samples for his catalog.  As luck would have it, a model I shot in 2010 had a friend who was interested in Fitness Modeling.  Two birds with One Stone.  Simple High-key lighting and Ashley wearing a Purple Hoodie from Yesterday Sportswear.  I used the Paul C. Buff 22" Beauty Dish and two strobes with barn doors to blowout the White Seamless Paper.  Thanks to Micah for doing Hair and Make-up.
Purple Poly Hoodie

February: A very slow month, nothing was inspiring and I just couldn't get into photography.  So I decided to do some Landscape stuff and use my PEN camera more often.  In fact I heard a photographer quoted "The best camera is the one you have with you."  So I began carrying my PEN camera in my car.  This was shot with my PEN Camera as I was driving down Coffee Road, just north of Snow Road.  It almost looks like an IR image.


March: I've been toying with all the cliche ideas that seem to make their rounds when photographers hit a rut.  Seven Deadly Sins, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Lewis Carroll, etc...  I purchased a red cloak for a Red Riding Hood shot, but hadn't selected a model.  At first I was thinking of Sarah Lynn, but then decided to go with my favorite tatted pin-up, Jenna.  She has that sweet and innocent girl-next-door look, but with tattoos.    This images was shot with a Cowboy Studio Silver Beauty Dish for Key and a SABER STRIP for accent, or maybe it was the sun.  We drove up to Porterville and found a spot along the river to shoot.  This is definitely one of my top five favorite images of 2011.


April: After our Little Red shoot, Jenna asked if I would be willing to do a Elizabeth Taylor Tribute shoot. No hesitation, I agreed.  This would require Hollywood style lighting which with today's gear, requires snoots, grids, and minimal diffusion.  Hollywood lighting requires the model to be really still while you sculpt with the light.  Movements in any direction creates hard shadows in areas that are less than desirable.


May: One of my favorite models, Sarah Lynn called and said she was in town for the weekend and asked if we could shoot.  I really love her tattoos and her new "do."  This was all Available Light, spot metered, and using my 85mm f/1.4G lens.  Love this in Black and White.


June:  After still suffering from a creative block, I signed up for Zack Arias' One-Light Workshop in Los Angeles.  Although I really didn't learn anything new, I did meet another photographer, Tim Chong, who drove in from Bakersfield, too.  If you have some time, please check out his work.  It's well composed and exquisitely lit.

June also reunited me with Aussie model, Darnah.  Gosh, I really enjoy working with her, even if she is losing her accent.  We decided to shoot around the Santa Monica Area , 3rd Street Promenade, and then walked down to the Santa Monica Pier.  Simple One-Light shot, SB-900 in a 43" Brolly and one lens (85mm)  All triggered with Nikon CLS, but in Manual Mode.   Darnah's eyes are just hypnotic.


July: I have to post a picture that I didn't take, but it was one of the most memorable vacations in a long time.  We headed to Hawaii in mid-July for some relaxation and fun in the sun.  This image was taken at the Luau and is a treat to have me, Drew and my girlfriend enjoying ourselves.  

Luau Time

Once we returned from Hawaii, I had a C.O.M.P. shoot to attend in Clovis for a Make-up Artist.  The female models were being snapped up by the photographers, so I asked the male models if they would be interested in shooting with me.  This image is of Hair Stylist Joe.  SB-900 in a Beauty Dish, two SB-600s pointed directly at the camera, bare flash and one SB-600 on the ground pointing at the rims.

Joey Ferrari

August: More One-Light practice shoots.  Brian, Rob and I happened to pick a summer night with clouds and several models joined us for a quick shoot.  Lighting was done with a SB-900, 43" Brolly, and triggered via Pocket Wizards.  The model is fellow photographer Keisha who was interested in learning about using one light.  This shot was actually an outtake, but Keisha's laughter makes me smile every time I view this image.

Laughter - Explored!!!

September: Brian had an idea for a Photo Contest, or as he referred to it as a Photo Throwdown.  This was the winning image.  Purely "Available Light" and then converted to Black and White and Grain added.  It's always a pleasure to work with Model Natalie because she has an eye for detail and style.  This was a collaborative effort and without Natalie, I wouldn't have pulled it off.


October:  This month deserves two images because I met a local model who really makes photography easy.  She knows how to pose, knows which angles work best,  has a great sense of humor and also a hint of perfectionism.  Lara and I shot twice in a two week period and we created some memorable images. This image was available light and a reflector where I used Aperture-Priority Mode.


This image was from our second shoot which was all studio work.  I used my 43" Brolly as the key and a strip box for accent.

November: November was a busy month at work, but I managed to squeeze in three sessions, however; this was my favorite session all year.  Can you guess why?  Key was an Alien Bee 1600 bounced into an 86" PLM.

Drew's tC

December: Also a busy work month with a lot of commitments and charity work.  I did get to cross off one item on my Bucket List and that was to own a Vespa Scooter.  I also got to do one more shoot with Jenna. I couldn't think of a more perfect model to showcase my Vintage scooter than Jenna.  She is so good with styling and she has started to do her own Hair and Make-up.    This pose was all Jenna's idea and my have from the shoot.


As I was wrapping up the year and looking forward to 2012, I received a message from Taylor.  She wanted to shoot and so on New Year's Eve, Brian, Taylor and I knocked out some decent pictures.  I've been dying to emulate some Herb Ritts lighting and Taylor has the perfect face for it.  As an aside, Taylor submitted the pictures Brian and I took to a Couture Magazine.  She posted that she will be in their next issue.  Way to go Taylor!!!!


As with every Year in Review, I look to see if I have grown and then set new goals for the upcoming year.  The one main goal I have for 2012 is to really set-up a shoot and not be so spontaneous.  This means preparation, securing Hair Stylists, Models, Make-up Artists, location, wardrobe and even some design work.

Thanks for the constant support and I hope your 2012 brings you all that you need.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

...The Good Life


I've been trying to cut back on my photography until I could feel inspired and get passed this feeling of mediocrity.  I go through this phase annually where everything I shoot looks repetitious and formulaic.  I even dropped out of a couple photography groups because they didn't provide any sparks of creativity, just a bunch of other photographers asking if they could "tag" along on a shoot with me.

My Dad always told me that in order to excel in sports, you need to challenge yourself by playing against people who were better than you.  The same applies with photography, I need to work with photographers who's work I admire.  Unfortunately most of the photographers I idolize are dead, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon.


After scheduling my shoot with Jenna, I told all other models I was done shooting until further notice.  Then I received a message from Taylor.  She is a "noob" and started modeling the first week of December 2011.  My friend, Tim, shot with her and after reviewing his images, I really liked her facial structure and her mesmerizing eyes.  I agreed to shoot with Taylor and to make her my last shoot of 2011.

Taylor and I tossed some ideas around and decided on a few looks, but in the back of my mind I really wanted to emulate Herb Ritts.  I invited my friend Brian along and asked for his input regarding Ritts' lighting style.  My initial thought was to bounce a strobe against my 86" Silver PLM and use a reflector for fill.  Brian stated that to get the hard shadows, the light had to be "hard" and far away.

No Softboxes? No Diffusion? No!!!  Just a single strobe at the farthest corner of my garage, with a 8.5" Reflector to concentrate the light, and my California Sunbounce about a foot away from the model to provide the fill.

However, I'm getting ahead of myself.  Taylor arrived at 9:30 AM and we headed downtown to do some Natural and Mixed Lighting.  Taylor mentioned that if the modeling didn't take off, then it was off to the Military.

Our first destination was the Padre Hotel and all Natural Light except with the occasional use of a diffuser.  We shot in the lobby, on the stairs and on the second floor patio.  During this portion, Taylor loosened up and we started clicking.


After an hour we headed to one of the numerous alleys downtown, but after a much needed break at the local Coffee Shop for a quick bite and to download the images to my iPad.

Taylor changed to her blue outfit and I brought out my AB1600 with a Beauty Dish.  It was already Noon and one of the harshest times to shoot.  My college photography instructor always told me to avoid the noon day sun, but being the rebel decided I would shoot anyway.  I placed Taylor with her back to the sun and used the Alien Bee as a key light.  I checked my light meter and the Flash/Ambient ratio was 40% because I wanted a stronger rim light.  We then moved to the alley and after an hour, packed up and headed back to my garage.

This was my favorite part of the shoot because I used one light and a reflector; really simple and clean.  We'd shoot a few images, let Taylor "chimp" and then shoot some more.  Once we got the shots I wanted, we changed to a clamshell set-up and moved Taylor away from the background so it would go grey.  Again, no diffusion, just "hard" light.  We wrapped after another hour and sent Taylor on her way back home.

Note: a model must have a great facial structure to pull of hard light, if there are any shortcomings with their skin or face they will definitely show up.  

High-Noon Blues

What Did I Learn:

  • Finding a Good Fashion Model is Challenging - From the multitude of models I've photographed, only one comes to mind that could make it as Fashion Model; Taylor.  She has the height and look of a fashion model.  This is not to discount my beloved Darnah, she is drop-dead gorgeous, but she doesn't meet the height requirement.
  • Hard Lighting has it's Place - Again, it takes the right model to be able to pull it off, high cheekbones, proportionate eyes-to-nose ratios, etc... The lighting is pretty easy to emulate, just make it specular and keep it as far away from the model as possible.

So now I can finally put the camera away until I feel inspired and know that 2011 was a good year for my photography.  Thanks Taylor for helping end the year on a high note, and Brian for being a good friend.

Below are some more images from our shoot that I like, so enjoy!!!

Grey Card

Monday, January 2, 2012

Jenna and Sophia

December was definitely a busy shooting month, filled with charity and goodwill projects.  It started with Holiday Events and ended with Christmas Eve at the Bakersfield Rescue Mission.  Here's a quick breakdown of my shoots. Remember that I have a full-time job and photography is supposed to be a hobby.  However, as I joke with my girlfriend, sometimes I need to use my photography for good instead of evil; occasionally.

  • December 7: Company Party in Bakersfield
  • December 10: Help-Portrait
  • December 15: Company Party in Pismo Beach
  • December 16: Winter Wonderland Gala Fundraiser for the LGBTQ
  • December: 18: Fellow photographer and her brother
  • December 24: Bakersfield Rescue Mission on Christmas Eve
  • December 27: Jenna S.
  • December 31: Taylor B

I received a message from my favorite pin-up model, Jenna, asking when we were going to shoot.  She was on Winter break from Nursing School and wanted to to see if we could come up with something different.  We'd been tossing ideas around since November, but nothing really gelled until I realized that we could do a vintage shoot with Sophia (Yes, I named my Vespa, Sophia).

After several back-and-forth TXTs and image links, we picked out her wardrobe.  Now where to shoot, since I only have a Motorcycle Permit and very minimal riding gear, we decided to do a studio shoot.

I used two lights for this shoot, my 64" PLM as a shoot-thru and a strip box.  I also used the remainder of my White seamless backdrop, which was a mistake.  I knew that I would have to reposition Sophia several times during the shoot and rolling her around the paper would leave marks and even tear the paper.

We shot for about 4 hours, which is about right for four wardrobe changes.  My buddy Brian asked if I would shoot any lingerie images as a joke, I responded that it wasn't my intentions.   During our shoot, Jenna said that she brought some red lingerie and wanted a couple images of her wearing it, twist my arm.

What Did I Learn:

  • More Ceiling Space - Yes, I have said it before that a 7' ceiling really limits my ability to get the light up and out of the way.  As you can see in the images, the diagonal light/shadow was created by the strip box boomed up against the ceiling
  • Get White Wallboard - Zack Arias showed how you can create really cool high-key images by placing white wallboard on the ground which provides a real nice reflective surface.  Most likely I would still have tire marks, but at least the ground wouldn't have ripples, or tears.

This last image was Jenna's idea, which I absolutely love.  Although I'm not pleased with my execution, at least the idea comes across. Also, I try to stay away from "filters",but decided I wanted a vintage feel for the images.  I applied a Portra 400NC filter and a Cross Processing filter.

It's hard to believe that 2011 has come to a close and I have had the good fortune to work with Jenna three times.
3) Sophia

Although Jenna and I haven't scheduled our next shoot, I'm sure we'll do something cool, or "retro" for 2012.  I <3 Jenna!!!