Tuesday, July 31, 2012

City of the Angels

Jenna at Union Station

My buddy Rob posted an article that the owners of Los Angeles' Union Station were soliciting bids to renovate the aging station.  I've shot there a couple times over the past two years and haven't really captured the charm of Union Station.  The art deco architecture and warm tones takes you to an era long gone and my previous attempts fell short.


I decided I would attempt to do Union Station justice and contacted my favorite pin-up model, Jenna, and asked if she would be my model.  As luck would have it, she and her fiancee' were heading to Anaheim to catch an Angels Baseball game and would be available to shoot.


Few models really "prep" for a shoot, most just ask ''What's the Theme?"  "What should I wear?" I love working with models who throw ideas around and actually know how to execute.  There have been three models that I have worked with that have that ability, Anahy, Jenna and Taylor.  On this shoot, Jenna kept sending me images of her outfit, hair, wardrobe and props that she would bring.


We (Rob, Brian, Monica and I) met Jenna and Kelly at Union Station at 10:00 and wandered around the complex, stopping and shooting.  I brought along an SB-900 Speedlight, Monopod (for the flash), and a 1/8" grid as my light modifier.  Traveling light is key in areas where you aren't too sure how Security will react.  Turns out, we were left alone throughout the two hours we shot, well t least Security didn't bother us.  However, visitors to Union Station kept asking if Jenna was someone famous and if we were shooting an advertisement of some sort.


I wish I had some sort of epiphany, or gleaned some tidbit of wisdom while shooting, but everything fell into place and we had a really rewarding shoot.  The light was nice, not too harsh, and Jenna was spot on.  After we wrapped, we headed to Phillipes for French Dip and the a quick stroll down Olvera St.


I always enjoy a shoot that's collaborative, filled with laughter, good food and expected results.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Under Pressure

Danielle Diptych
Although photography can be a solo endeavor, working with others can be an exciting experience and a way to stimulate creativity.  Brian mentioned that he wanted to do another Photo Contest and recapture the fun and energetic atmosphere our photography group's initial Photo Throwdown.

KickBrian came up with several challenges that would be decided at the time of the shoot.  The first requirement was 1) we would work in teams, Models and Photographers, and 2) that we were members of the Photo Group.  Originally, I was going to show up and help Brian out, but a model, Danielle,  asked if I was interested in pairing up.  We (7 Teams) all gathered together at 5:30 PM on Saturday at a local coffee shop to "meet-n-greet" and pick the challenge.  The official start time for the Challenge was 6:00 PM and the temperature was 97 degrees, sheesh.

Initially Brian was going to pick one challenge, but after the first challenge was read, the models wanted one, too.  So the photographers' challenge was, "Pros and Amateurs" which meant that all photographers had to set their cameras in Automatic Mode, or Program Mode.  The models' challenge was "Up, Up and Away", that meant that the models could not be touching the ground in the photo.  Both feet had to be in the air and the final requirement? A one hour time limit.

Danielle didn't bring any clothes with her so we had to drive to her house, select her wardrobe, find a locale, "get the shot", and then report back to the coffee shop.  Thankfully Danielle lives about 5 minutes from the coffee shop and she mentioned we could shoot at a nearby park, I asked if she played sports and she said, "Yes, Soccer!!!".  Easy, grab shorts, tank top, headband, soccer socks, cleats, and a soccer ball.

However, Danielle also wanted to do a Fashion shoot, too.  WHAT!?! 2 Looks in 45 minutes!!! Seriously? Fine, she showed me a couple dresses and I picked a nice off-the-shoulder black and white patterned dress with white heels.  Now while all this was going on, her parents came out to meet the photographers.  Danielle is only 19 and the youngest of three children. So talk about a flash-back to dating days.  "Yes sir, we will have your daughter back by 7:30 PM.  Here is my cell and we will be shooting at these two locations.  Nice!!!

We drove to the park, and as Danielle put on the soccer outfit, I scouted for a clear space to shoot.  I brought a speed light and my Flex system, which works fairly well in Aperture Priority Mode and more reliably in Manual Mode, but in Program Mode.  Holy Crud!!! The Aperture and Shutter was all over the place and so unpredictable.  My buddy Rob acted as my VAL (Voice-Activated Lightstand) and he held the SB-900 at the usual 45 degrees and up high.  It wasn't working, even when using E/V Compensation.

Fine, instead of using the sun as a rim light, it will be the key light and the speed light will be my fill.  I decide to use my 24mm - 70mm lens and zoom way out.  To make the model appear higher up, I laid on the ground and was about two feet away from the soccer ball.  After 15 minutes we got the athletic shot.

Onto the next image, change of wardrobe, hair style and locale. It was 6:50 when we were ready to shoot the "fashion" look.  This time no mucking around with speed lights, or reflectors just pure available light.  Luckily the alleyway runs East and West, so all Danielle had to do was look towards the sun and jump off the curb while wearing heels.  All I had to do was lay down on the hot asphalt.

I must say that she is a real trooper and kept doing take after take in the 97 degree heat.  Finally I put the shutter in Continuous Mode and then on the count of 3, I just held down the shutter.  It took about 25 frames to capture the final picture.

Just like the first Photo Throwdown, this one was really fun, Danielle really did her share of the work.  Aside from the two challenges (Pro and Amateur, and Up, Up and Away), there was our self-imposed challenges, Two Looks and Two Locales.  Do I love pressure, you bet!!!  Honestly, it doesn't matter if we win, the best part was the actual shoot.

Here's an outtake of Danielle getting ready to jump and me yelling, Wait, Stop, Okay Go!!!

What Did Learn?

  • Program Mode has it's place, but it's definitely not for me.
  • Sometimes the best light is to have the model face the "setting" sun.  Albeit, it wasn't quite the Golden Hour, but it worked.
For my Photo Challenge submission, I created a Diptych, showing Danielle's versatility.  Can't wait for the next challenge.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Summertime in Bakersfield is relatively hot, usually we hover close to, or just above the century mark.  The only consolation is that our humidity is below 40% on average, and yes a "dry heat" is much better than a wet heat.  During this time of year the models want to shoot in their bikinis and since they know I have a pool I receive many requests to shoot, but deny most of them unless I know the model.

One such model is Nikki, we talked about working together towards the end of 2009 and finally did our first shoot in March of 2010.  Since then, we have worked together a total of 7 times.  So instead of talking about the latest session with Nikki, I'm going to take a stroll down memory lane.
Darlin' Nikki
First shoot was in mid-March 2010 with Nikki.  This was a "get to know you" shoot, which helps me understand what type of lighting works with the model.  Of course the first thing that hits you about  Nikki is her piercing pale blue eyes, followed by her lips.
After our initial shoot, my buddy Rob, mentioned that we could shoot at his friend's Salvage yard, which birthed my nickname for Nikki, "Junkyard Jane".  This is one of my favorite, all-time, images.
Junkyard Jane Shoot - No Borders
About a month later, we did a studio shoot just so I could work on my lighting for both High Key and Low Key Images.
Then during the Summer I got busy and tired of shooting models, so I took a break.  A friend wanted to  do a Trash The Dress shoot and the dress we found was pretty small, so Nikki was selected to wear the gown.  I wish this shoot would've gone better, but the location was "Off Limits", so we had to make due.  This was September and Nikki later shared with me that she was pregnant with her second child.
Then after eight months of not shooting together, Nikki called and asked if I would shoot her Maternity pics.  We tried to find a place and time, but ended up shooting it in her neighborhood.  It was a slightly rainy and windy day, but I did get the image I wanted.
Nikki White
It was about two weeks after we shot, Nikki gave birth to her son. Another eight months would lapse before we would shoot again.  A group of us wanted to shoot at Red Rock Canyon and Nikki was itching to shoot again.  Being a trooper, we met at 6:00 AM and headed to the site. Red Rock
This brings us to July, when Nikki asked me if we could shoot her brand new bikini.  There isn't much to discuss since the lighting in our session was the same setup used in my previous post with Ashley.

Now what isn't known by a majority of people is that Nikki and I have a very sarcastic friendship.  I mostly give her grief and crap, but we both know it's all in fun and that we don't take each others jabs seriously. She tells me that I'm "the Dad She Never Wanted", and I tell her that she is "the Daughter I'm glad I Never Had".

Whenever I shoot with Nikki, I know I will get some good images and have a humorous time doing it.  Thanks again for working with me and making it a fun experience.
Junkyard Jane: Outtake

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Still Physical

Ashley Color?

I've been trying to re-create a bikini image I saw on FLICKR, but I couldn't find the right model to pull it off, then I remembered shooting Ashley back in Feb. 2011.  I haven't spoken to her since and was wondering if she would be interested in working with me again.  As luck would have it, Ashley remembered me and agreed to model.  The bikini on FLICKR was made from Burlap and thick twine, but as I attempted to shape the bikini, I knew it wasn't going to work.  Thankfully I asked Ashley to bring a couple bikinis.


I messaged Clara, who did the make-up for my "Fishnet" shoot with Taylor and she agreed to help out.  Clara does excellent make-up work and uses an airbrush for the foundation.  She also has a very good blending style on eye shadow.

VS Bikini

Earlier on the day of our shoot, I was at the gym and as I was heading to the Treadmills, I ran into Ashley, who was prepping for her fitness class for kids.  She assured me she was excited and would be at my house.  At 5:00 PM, Clara and Ashley showed up and began their work while I was getting out my lights.  Originally I was going to use a soft box, but realized I really wanted something more specular and with the backyard in full shade, the light went flat.  The image above was actually shot with a brolly just camera right and above the the model at 0.3 E/V,  just to add a little modeling to the light.

Turqouise Ashley

Clara asked if I was using Natural Light and I chuckled to myself and explained that I do at times, but with the way I wanted the light to look, I would use studio strobes and speed lights.  The rest of the images were shot with my Einstein 640 using either a 22" White Beauty Dish, or an 8.5" Reflector.  I also used my SB-900 with a 1/4 CTO Gel and no modifier as my rim light.  To help create a sunset feel, I set the Camera's White Balance to Shade., for two reasons. 1) Strobes are usually balanced for Daylight (Noon), I wanted the rim light to be a bit more orange.


As you can see by this "Behind The Scenes" picture taken by Clara, the light is pretty flat.

What Did I Learn?

  •  I still wish I could view my backyard with "new" eyes, but I keep seeing limitations on my compositions due to distracting elements.  I did get the shots I wanted, but I think I really need to shoot somewhere more exotic (wink wink).
  • I probably should have used a speed light to light the pool up a little more.  I think I did that on my first shoot with Lara

Ashley and I shot for about two hours when the light finally disappeared.  Hopefully, we will work together again, at least a lot sooner than 18 months. Of course a HUGE "Thank You" to Clara for being our MUA/HS on this shoot.  I appreciate your skills and creativity.