Monday, May 28, 2012



  If you follow my blog, you know I stick pretty much with glamour, Boudoir and portraiture, but occasionally I get out of my comfort zone and do other types of sessions.  About a month ago, one of my "fave" Make-up Artists got engaged and asked if I would shoot her "Save The Date" pictures.


Heidi wanted to shoot in the evening and wanted to stay away from the typical, light and airy kinda Engagement Shoots, so we met downtown and she brought along their English Bulldog, Capone.


So a majority of shots were done with my newly repaired SB-900 and an RPS 43" Brolly.  If you recall, my SB-900 took a tumble when I was shooting Jessie and I finally got it back.  I set-up the light stand and began shooting, but it wasn't triggering the Flex TT5 system.  Later I discovered that the MODE on the SB-900 was set to AP, but for the Flex system to work it needs to be on TTL.  I did the rest of the shoot using Nikon CLS, which works really well when it's dark.

What Did I Learn?
  • Review all your gears' settings before a shoot, even your speed lights - as I noted above, if I would have checked my Flash, I could have used the Flex system instead of relying on CLS.

We moved for place to place setting up and breaking down.  Had a fun time shooting Heidi and Sergio.
Congrats on your Engagement!!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Au Revoir Taylor


This photo session closes my collaborative chapter with Taylor.  She ships out May 13, for Great Lakes, IL.  This young lady joined the U.S. Navy, but before she left for Boot Camp she wanted to do one last photo session.  She's been wanting to re-create an image taken by Herb Ritts and Brigitte Nielson and we decided to shoot it the day before her left.  I wish I could say I did my part to duplicate the photo, but there were a few faux pas that happened:
  1. We didn't get started until 7:00 PM  - If you review Ritts' image you can tell it was around noon based on the shadows
  2. The $10 Fish Net had a lot larger openings than the one in our reference image
  3. I should've brought a step ladder to get a similar angle
There were two positives, 1) I did manage to bring a rake to help sculpt and smooth out the sand since we shot on the Kern River Bed, and 2) I found another Make-Up Artist (MUA) named Clara Torres.



To compensate for the  lighting, I brought an SB-900 and cranked it up high above Taylor and instead of using the Pocket Wizard Flex system, I switched to Nikon CLS and even used the on-camera pop-up flash for fill.  We really had to move fast since Taylor had to be on the road by 8:30.

We shot some Available light images as the sun was setting and then once it set, I switched to the the speed light.



I tried using a second Speed Light to fill in the background, but it didn't look right.  We shot until 8:00 and then packed up the gear and headed home.

What Did I Learn?

  • Clarify with your Model what you mean when you say, "Let's shoot at 5:00 PM"  To me, that means, "Make-Up Ready"
  • Bring the freaking step stool - I bought one that doubles as a dolly and a 4-Step ladder, but I'm not too sure how stable it would've been in the sand.


So farewell to Taylor, thank you for working with me on four shoots in the last five months.  I'm sure you will do well in the military and maybe you'll get stationed nearby.

Thursday, May 10, 2012



Needing to take a break from shooting with my new Pocket Wizard Flex system, I figured it was time to shoot more film and focus on composition, colors, textures, etc... instead of dialing in artificial light. So Brian and I met Devin Downtown to finish off some Portra 800 35mm film, Portra 400NC 120mm film and my last roll of Tri-X.


I forgot how shallow my 80mm f/1.9 lens can be and how I struggle when shooting my Mamiya with the Prism Viewfinder.  During this shoot, I decided to only use the Waist-Level viewfinder and almost all of my images came out tack sharp.  We shot in shade and direct sunlight and the latitude that film provides is excellent.



I then pulled out my Nikon FE2, which still had some Portra 800 that I loaded for my shoot with Taylor and Sammy at The Padre.  The images were shot using a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens.  I do like the graininess  and the soft colors.  All images were taken with Available Light since I needed a break from wanting to enhance the light with strobes and reflectors.




Buddi and the Pocket Wizard Flex System - SOOC

My girlfriend bought me four Pocket Wizard Plus II transceivers back in December 2009, and I've used those devices reliably and consistently ever since.  My only complaint was that they couldn't control the flash power remotely like the the RadioPoppers, until last year.  Last year Pocket Wizard released their Nikon version of the Flex system, which has been fairly successful for Canon shooters.  At the end of March, my buddy Brian sent me link for a deal on Pocket Wizard's Mini TT1 and Flex TT5 wireless trigger system from Amazon that basically cut the costs by $50 per device.

Buddi and the PW MC2

I decided to take the plunge and buy the two devices. The image above was shot in the early evening in Aperture-Priority Mode with the flash in TTL Mode.   Previously I used to use Nikon CLS to remotely control my Nikon Speedlights, but since they require Line-Of-Sight, they wouldn't perform consistently due to light modifiers blocking the sensor, or the distance between flash and the camera was obscured by bright light.  Because the Pocket Wizard system uses radio signals, Line-Of-Sight is not an issue.  The flex system mimics the Nikon CLS, which means it still suffers the same issue when your composition contains both bright and dark areas, or you are shooting in very low light in Aperture-Priority Mode.

Rose - TTL

This image was shot outdoors into the sun using AP mode,  the flash was too bright, so I had to set the flash power to -1 E/V, however; switching over to Manual Mode worked much better.  The real test would be to shoot in broad daylight with a model.

I called a new Member of Kern Models and Photographers, Jessie, and she agreed to meet with Rob and I to shoot.  Based on the results, I think it worked out really well since I was able to shoot images at f/2.8  and 1/1250 of a second using my SB-900 shot-through an umbrella. These images were shot around 12:30 PM through 1:30 PM all using Aperture-Priority Mode and TTL mode.  IMHO, Nikon CLS works better than Pocket Wizard's Flex system when it comes to automatically determine the correct exposure.


Josh - SOOC

I then ordered the MC2 which was made to remotely manipulate my Einstein Strobes.  This was really a pain in the arse to use.  The MC2 needed to be set to -2 E/V so that the pictures weren't over-exposed.  Further, since they are studio strobes, you can't push them above 1/320.   I'm missing my Pocket Wizard Plus IIs.  The image below was shot using my Einstein in a Beauty Dish.  Thank to Katheryn for being a patient model.


After my shoot with Jessie, a small breeze blew over my light stand which sent both my SB-900 and Flex TT5 toppling over on to the pavement.  The Flex survived, but the SB-900 cost $185 to repair the flash tube.   While my SB-900 was out for repair, I photographed a friend's son using two SB-600s controlled by two Flex TT5s and the Mini TT1 with the AC3 controller.  As the sun was setting, shooting in Aperture-Priority Mode was unreliable, so I had to switch to Manual and everything looked much better and was reliable.

Teen Wheels

I'm second-guessing my Flex System purchase, but I won't give up and will continue to use them until I hone my skills, or sell them and buy the Pocket Wizard IIIs.