Sunday, December 30, 2012

Illusive Photography 2012 - Year in Review

Another year has lapsed and as usual it's time to review my growth as a photographer and set goals for 2013.  This year, I'm going to post the most popular image for each month based on FLICKR stats and provide my own critique about each image.

Ice Blue

January - was my second shoot with Taylor and first collaboration with Heidi (a.k.a. The Makeup Monster).  The shoot was Heidi's idea and she loved Taylor's look.  Since Heidi wanted to try some really cool blue eye shadow, blue gels made sense.
Critique: I like the fabric, but would've preferred to have it draped over her bare arm and also come across her face to only expose her eyes. I do like the lighting.

Kayla (Explored)

February - This was my first shoot with Kayla and also using Fuji Pro 400H film.  It was shot in the afternoon using Available Light.  This image made FLICKR's Explore page.
Critique: I really like Kayla's look, but there is nothing about this image that is interesting.  The light is flat, the Rule of Thirds doesn't add anything and the background has some distracting elements.


March - Third shoot with Taylor and second collaboration with Heidi.  All Natural Light shot at The Padre Hotel.
Critique: The images are pretty clean with regard to lighting ratios.  I left all the windows open and didn't pay attention to light direction. Just typical glamour lighting


April - I had three shoots specifically to learn my new PocketWizard Flex System, which to this day I REALLY dislike.  I want my Pocket Wizard Plus IIs, back.
Critique: I wrote a review about the Flex system and I stand by that review.  This was the only image that fulfilled what I hoped the Flex system could do, but just like Nikon CLS, too inconsistent for my liking.


May - More Flex System practice and a couple paid gigs (Senior Portrait and Engagement Session).  WE had a mini-meetup and I had the chance to shoot with Meg, briefly.
Critique: I really needed to boom the light since it's a bit hot on her legs since they are closer to the brolly.  Honestly, I used Nikon CLS and not the Flex system since it was getting dark and CLS works best when it isn't bright out side.

VS Bikini

June - Not being a quitter, I decided to practice some more with my Flex System and called up Ashley and Make-up Artist Clara to help me work on Bikini images.
Critique: I really should have added a rim light, bare SB-600s on both sides of Ashley and also moved the light into a Clamshell position,  The water acts like a reflector.


July - My buddy Rob shared a link that Los Angeles Union Station would be refurbishing the interior, so I decided to shoot my favorite pin-up in 1940's attire to match Union Station's Ambiance.
Critique: All most all Available light, but I did use a  SB-900, gridded on a monopod and triggered via Nikon CLS.

August - So feeling a bit inspired and wanting to mimic more Herb Ritts style of shooting, Josh was cool enough to let me photograph him.  All Natural Light against a semi-white wall.
Critique: I needed a little more separation camera right as you see his white pants merge with the white wall.  Just a floating torso.


September - Realizing I had not done any themed shoots, my co-worker reminded me his wife was taking POLGA classes, so a Gentlemen's  Club themed-shoot
Critique: Really needed more space for this shoot.  Although we did have some good images, I really wanted to pull back more and create a more "club" feel. I felt the lighting was good considering I used 5 speedlights. 


I have to admit, this is one of my favorite images this year in September, specifically working with model, Joy.  No critiques, just thankful I had the opportunity to work with her and also have one of the images used on a billboard.


October - This was an easy one to choose, all Natural Light with Eddy at the Padre.
Critique: Poor control of the light, albeit; I do like the image a lot, but I needed more "gobos" to help control the amount of light hitting the subject, or background.  I should have brought a black muslin in addition to my scrim and reflectors.

November - Working with One Light and an Apollo Softbox it was pretty cold, we got this shot in 5 minutes.  Subject was basically in shade with the sun filtering through the trees.
Critique: Needed to move the softbox just bit father back and angled down to light her legs a bit better.  There was some falloff on her lower extremities.  I also do not like her right hand breaking at the wrist, should have had her rest her wrist on the post.

Draped December - I was really busy in December with 5 models shoots and two work-related shoots.  It's really hard to pick just one image that was highly-rated on FLICKR, but this one had the most Favorites with 40.  Available Light image with all drapes opened.
Critique: Wow, really? I find the table and lamp distracting.  Also the variance in color between the headboard and the sheets are distracting.  My guess is that men liked this image, because it is sexy, but the composition is bad and the lighting somewhat flat.  Color looked even worse.  the model is gorgeous, but this could've been shot by a GWC.

Apparently last year I didn't post any stats, so this year, as I did in 2010, here are my BLOG stats since I began blogging in March of 2009.

... and some Facebook stats for my FAN Page, which is always confusing to interpret.

Goals for 2013
  • Create Dramatic Images -  I will shoot one dramatic image per shoot
  • Available Light - Include one Available Light image per shoot
  • Have one session every fourth month that is "epic" - To me that means something that is really well-planned and requires more than a model, photographer and make-up artist/hair stylist
  • Photograph more Men - Increase the number of shoots that feature a male model, or my son ;)
  • Shoot more film - One session in a month will be shot on Film
Thanks for all the continued support!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012



It's hard to believe that the last time Darnah and I worked together was back in June of 2011.  Darnah has been very busy running her father's business and has had little time to do any photo-shoots.  After many months of my begging, Darnah finally agreed to work with me.  Similar to Sarah, Darnah and I used to chat on Facebook, but over the past year we communicated less and less.

We decided we would shoot in her apartment and she sent me several ideas.  I arrived at 3:00 PM expecting to capture some Natural Light images, but she warned me that her apartment gets very little light expect for early in the morning.  She was right, I really had to bump up the ISO for a majority of our images.


We then moved to the Kitchen and I noticed that the lights were slightly different color temperatures, so I noticed she had some vertical blinds and enough room on her patio to set-up a bare flash.  I had her get up on her counter and placed my Orb opposite the window and pointed toward the camera to create a consistent Fill.  After a few lighting adjustments we were able to capture some interesting images.


We then moved to the Dining Room, cleared off the table, had a wardrobe change and started shooting.  Darnah has a painting that her father gave her, so I decided to include it in some images. The set-up required three speedlights, key, rim and background.


Darnah mentioned she wanted to take a few images that she could send to her "Mum", or at least be family-friendly.  I used her table lamp for the Christmas tree photos and then asked her to change into something a little more provocative.

The lighting was basically the Apollo ORB overhead and then fill flash bounced off the wall behind me.  By the time we finished it was 8:30 PM and I still had a two hour drive ahead of me.  We reviewed the images, shot some video, laughed and joked the entire time.


As with all shoots with Darnah, the time flies and the results speak for themselves.  I rarely like my images, but it seems that whenever I work with Darnah, I feel rejuvenated.

What Did I Learn?

  • For the Natural Light Images, I should have cheated and put my Apollo Orb on the patio and shot back into the bedroom.  The images wouldn't have been Natural Light, but the end result would have looked natural.

Finishing Touches

Aside from that one change, this was one of the most enjoyable shoots in 2012.  Thanks "D" for being "real", witty and down-to-earth.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rub a Dub, Dub...

...Three Women in a Tub.  A few of my friends know that I've been inspired by T.J. Scott's "In The Tub" series on FLICKR since August.  His control and use of light to evoke emotion is phenomenal.

My first attempt was back in August with my friend Sammy and although she was prepared, I totally sucked.  I used a Beauty Dish as key and thought dry ice would help create the drama and mystery while providing depth to my images.  Well neither one was the right choice.
Test Tub Diptych
Not to give up, I called Sarah and asked if she would be willing to be my next subject.  This time I figured I'd use a grid'ed speedlight as key and then a gel'ed speedlight for rim, and another as Fill.  Why speed lights?  They are small and the output is easily controlled in a small space. I also used a Fog Machine that I purchased for my Pole Dancer shoot.  Sarah came over and we tested out the new light set-up sans fog.  It looked good, so we scheduled to shoot that Friday.


Sarah wanted to do something a little different, so I picked up some Sexy Bites fangs for her to wear and three gallons of whole milk to mix with the water in the tub.


We shot with the empty tub and then decided it was time to fill it up.  After 20 trips of warm water from the kitchen to the garage, the tub was more than half-filled.  I started pouring in the milk and stopped after half a gallon.  The water was opaque enough to hide Sarah's body.  I kicked on the fog machine and continued shooting.


Finally we did the last shot, which was basically Sarah coming out of the tub.  We asked my girlfriend to help out and after three attempts we got the best image.   The bath water was getting cold and Sarah began shivering, so we called it quits.


The following day, I had a Throwdown shoot for a Facebook Model/Photography Group.  I told the model I was paired up with that we could use the bathtub and she liked the idea.  I also asked a fellow photographer/Make-Up Artist if she would be willing to collaborate, which she agreed.  The theme was "Inspiration" and this time I asked the model to share with me one of her inspirations.


The image only took about 6 tries and we achieved what I think we all envisioned.  Big thanks to Sammy, Sarah, Ali and Ande' for helping me out with my "Tub" series.  I can't thank all of you for your patience and support.

What Did I Learn?
  • One more speedlight would help create more depth between the tub and the background, especially with the fog
  • Speedlights are excellent studio lights in a very small space - My studio strobes and large modifiers are excellent for lighting, but their size and power are harder to control when trying to get narrow beams of light
  • Don't Give Up - I basically scrubbed the "tub" series after my shoot with Sammy, but after really looking at TJ's images, I figured what I did wrong
I still have more things to try to get better results with my "tub" series, but at least I'm on the right track.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sweet Child O' Mine


My son has finally accepted the fact that I want to photograph him and in the month of December he agreed to do two shoots with me.  The first shoot was to emulate James Dean and the next was a 1930's style shoot.

For the James Dean shoot, I recall seeing photos of him wearing a black Peacoat and also carrying around a Twin Lens Reflex camera, since I own both I figured that would be an easier series to emulate then trying to find Dean's trademark red jacket.


At 9:00 AM, I left my house to meet Drew at the Amtrak station, fog had rolled in, and visibility was about 1000 feet, which would be perfect for the shoot, but as I got closer to Downtown the fog had burned off.  Maintaining my "Traveling Light" and shooting with Available Light goals, I brought my 24mm-70mm Lens, an SB-900, Apollo Orb, light stand and a reflector.


We shot both inside and outside the Train Depot, and then headed to "the" alleyway.  All the images inside the depot and at the alleyway were done with Natural Light.


Then about a week afterwards we talked about doing the 1930's style shoot, but the building I wanted to use is only available during the week.  We decided to shoot over the Christmas break, and in preparation, Drew bought a suit, while I picked up a fedora and suspenders.  I also brought my London Fog Trench Coat.


As we headed out to shoot, I decided we could shoot inside The Padre since the interior was refurbished with a 1940's feel.  I assured Drew that it would be okay to shoot inside and after some coaxing, we started.  What I didn't know was The Padre was decorated for Christmas, with trees and decorations throughout the lobby. Very distracting.


We left The Padre and headed to an all too familiar alley that you may recognize in several of my other images.  This portion was shot with a gridded SB-900 and my pop-up flash.

It was pretty cold out, so we shot for about an hour and then packed it up as the sun broke through the clouds and made shooting with speed lights difficult.

Trench Coat

What Did I Learn?
  • I love photographing my Son - There is no better Christmas present then spending quality time with your children.  Of course, I already knew that.


The Long and Winding Road


It's been since May of 2011 that I had an opportunity to shoot with Sarah when she was back visiting family in Bakersfield.  Sarah moved back to Bakersfield in November and called me to say that she was itching to shoot.  We decided we would find some open space to shoot as part of her theme.  We headed towards Glennville in search of "the spot", after two hours of only finding fenced in pastures with No Trespassing signs and some intermittent rain, we decided to stop for lunch.  We ate at a Pizza joint in Glennville and had a chance to warm up and dry off.  As we ate, the rain continued and the skies grew dark and thoughts of canceling the shoot became inevitable.


As we headed back to Bakersfield, Sarah spotted a section of fencing that was open.  I pulled over, put a plastic bag over my SB-900 and realized I left my Apollo Orb at home.  I always bring my small suitcase filled with Nano Stands, Umbrella holders, a ton of HONL Modifiers, and a collapsible Westcott umbrella.  About half of the images were taken with the umbrella and the other with Natural Light.  I didn't bring a plastic bag for my D700, but knew that it was weather-sealed.  As an aside, I keep a bad of desiccant in my backpack.


We shot next to the fence line and then Sarah spotted an eroded tree across the field.  Now Sarah's wardrobe consisted of a black slip and a thin camouflage jacket.  No shoes, or cold weather clothing.  Sarah is very petite and weighs less than 100 lbs, even after eating Pizza.  I carried her across the field to the tree, where we shot for about 30 minutes.


I carried her back to my truck soaking wet, packed up and headed back to Bakersfield.  After a year and a half of occasionally chatting on Facebook, it was a wonderful time just driving and catching up with Sarah.

Show me your "O" face

What Did I Learn?
  • Just Do It - We probably could've have shot earlier, but I kept looking for "The Spot" and was also reluctant to shoot in areas marked with No Trespassing signs
  • Triple-Check Gear -  I always put my gear on the garage floor before I pack and mentally walkthrough a shoot. When I returned home, the Apollo Orb was still laying on the Garage FLoor, so I'm not sure how I missed packing it