Monday, December 30, 2013

Illusive Photography 2013 - Year in Review

Outtake: Tiffany and Jenna

At the end of last year I set some 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
As I evaluate each shoot, I'll include one goal and see if I achieved my goal.


January 1 started with a Dia de Los Muertes shoot with model Jenna and MUA Clara. This image is one of the more dramatic images from our session. Single strobe in an octobox. It's close to what I wanted, but it still misses the mark and I'm not sure where it's deficient.
Mayte Diptych
A couple weeks later I scheduled two shoots on a weekend with two models I hadn't worked with since early Fall of 2012, Joy and Mayte. Mayte's session was shot with Available light, but no film and again I missed the mark with something dramatic.
During Joy's session we had a few outfits to shoot and again we managed to shoot Available Light and a somewhat dramatic image.  When I think of "dramatic" images, it should be a Low-Key image with minimal beauty lighting and converted to Black and White with a a darker tonal range.


I was introduced to Jessica by my Friend/Model Taylor.  I told Jessica that our shoot would consist of Film Images in addition to digital.  She was agreeable.  This image was shot using Portra 160 with my "new to me" Nikon F5 camera.
Rust Diptych
During our shoot I attempted to create a dramatic image by using split lighting with Jessica standing between Shadow and Light.  I still don't feel it was dramatic enough, but the composition was decent.

Portra 160

March included two shoots with HOOTERS girls for the annual Calendar competition and with good fortune, Brittany made it to the Annual Swimsuit Pageant in Las Vegas.  Although she didn't win, she does appear in the 2014 HOOTERS Calendar, so congratulations Brittany.  However, neither shoot included a film image, nor a dramatic image.

Impact Blue
Later that month, my friend Shelli asked if I knew a couple models she could photograph and if I wanted to participate in a shoot with a couple published photographers.  I managed to sneak away from work and shoot with Jessica at Minter Field in Shafter.  Once again, this image is still not dramatic enough.  It was shot with a speed light through an umbrella with the background -2 E/V.


In April I participated in a group shoot and spoke with model Danielle about an idea to shoot with my Vespa and solely on film.  I shot a couple rolls of Porta and Superia with only Available Light.  Can you tell which is which?


Later in April, Joy was on Spring Break so we did a quick Little Red Riding Hood shoot at Riverwalk Park.  As I noted in my post about our shoot, we were walking through a path and I noticed how the sun came through the overhanging trees. 
I feel this shot was dramatic, but as Mikey would say, "A Little too Clean".  This was shot with 3 speed lights, the SB-900 as Key and in an octobox, the other two were in the Paper Lanterns.

The guys and I decided we needed a road trip and headed out to Pismo Beach on our motorcycles.  This really made us on traveling light, i.e. minimal gear.  I shot this with light from the Hotel room.  This doesn't meet my dramatic image, but it is emotive.
Later that month, Jenna hit me up to shoot, but with no theme I told her I wanted to shoot some film, so we just hung out and she let me play some more.  This was Available Light shot on Portra 800, using my Nikon F5

Earlier in the year a couple photographer friends photographed Sam for a local Agency, who turns out to share a mutual friend, Tonya.  Sam does her own makeup and is excellent at it.  Although not a dramatic image, this is my favorite film image from our shoot that was shot using Ilford Super XP2 400.

This was probably the most dramatic image I could muster and although emotive, it doesn't feel dramatic enough for me.  All images were shot using Available Light.

Personal stuff came up so I didn't plan any shoots except that I ordered some rolls of CineStill 500T rolls to play test.  Kodak CineStill is used in the Movie Industry and some cinematographers actually cut some for use on 35mm cameras and sell it on Etsy.  I ordered a few rolls and asked Jenna to help me test it out.  One thing I read later was to use gaffers tape over the film window.  The canister is not well sealed, so the film is prone to light leaks.
Jenna and Chris

I had the opportunity to shoot with model Erica in the studio this time and she let me play with some more dramatic lighting. This was shot with a gridded key, and then a couple rim lights with barn doors and a fog machine.
Smokey Grey
I also shot a roll of Kodak BW 400 CN with Available Light.  I should probably have my film developed at a lab, but my impatience drives me to my local Walgreens where I pay $8 to have it developed and burned to a CD-ROM.
Tub Film

Zip, Zilch, Nada, Nil for the month of September.


I heard from model Jessica, who happened to be visiting her family in Hanford.  I drove up for the day and we shot around town with her cousin.  I forgot to bring my film camera, but managed to do something a little different.  Shot with an AB-1600 and PCB 22" White HO Beauty Dish overpowering the mid-afternoon sun to evoke a night shoot. Dramatic? not really.

I heard from Joy who was back in town and decided we should shoot together.  This "One Light" image, shot with my gridded 22" Beauty Dish, camera right.  Joy is beautiful, but this was the best I could do.
After shooting with the Angel Wings we switched to a different outfit and I managed to squeeze off about 6 images on some Portra 160 using Available Light.  I converted the image to Black and White due to the different color casts coming from the the sun and the reflection off the pavement.

I began the year photographing Jenna, so how apropos would it be to end the year with Jenna. During our shoot, I attempted some more dramatic lighting.  Shot with a gridded 22" Beauty Dish, a kicker overhead (Paul C. Buff strip box) and again the fog machine.  I feel this was an emotive and dramatic image.  Its close to what I was envisioning in my head.

So did I achieve the goals I set for myself at the end of last year? Not really, but I managed to shoot more film than previously and at least attempt more dramatic images.  I didn't do any "epic" shoots and I didn't photograph any male models, so 2 out of 4 goals isn't bad.

Bite Several times during the year I felt like calling it quits and even as I blog, my passion for Model Photography is waning.  I still love photography and think I need to branch out into a different direction.

I usually post statistics from FLICKR and my blog about "views" and stuff, but really nothing outstanding happened, except I was published in the British Nikon Magazine, called N-Photo and I reached over 2 million views on FLICKR.

Thanks for the continued support over the past four years.


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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tub Thumpin'

Tatt'ed Bath

My dear friend Jenna sent me an image of a woman in a bathtub that she wanted in her portfolio, with much apprehension and reluctance I agreed.  This would be my fifth attempt to shoot using the tub and each previous shoot left me dissatisfied with my lighting results (See a previous post Rub A Dub Dub).


One difference from previous sessions is that we would use colored water as opposed to Milk Bath, or no water at all. At first it was suggested we use food coloring, but if anyone has every worked with food coloring would know that it does stain your skin and with having a job I figured Jenna didn't want to show up to work looking like a Smurf.  Jenna found some Sesame Street Bath Tub color tabs for the shoot and also provided a Make-up Artist, Sydniiee.


The top image was shot with only a gridded strip box with diffusion.  I kept moving the strip box to get it out of the reflection, but with limited overhead space it ended up showing in the final image. So in post, I colorized the blown highlights.


Once we got the shot, I had to try a pull back shot once more and try to get more depth in my image. I plugged in the Fog Machine, set up my Beauty Dish with gridded diffusion and placed it about two feet from Jenna and at about 90 degrees to shoot across the tub, but with a slight upward angle to minimize spill. I moved the strip box over her back shoulders for rim and then added a kicker to light up the fog and also hit some of the black backdrop.

Hazy Blue

This shot is basically the same set-up, but with the grid removed on the Beauty Dish.  I shot between F/5.6 and F/8, at ISO 200, and at 1/125 shutter speed.  I switched between my 24mm-70mm and 70mm-200mm lenses. If this picture looks familiar, it should since it is basically the same set-up, just different light modifiers and less fog than a shoot I did in August with model Erica.

What Did I Learn?

  • Communication is Crucial: Let models know upfront that some of the set-ups shot during the session are for personal education - As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the tub, blue light and fog was shot previously, and actually two times before.  This time I used less fog, gridded the beauty dish and changed the angle of the key light.  However, it is important to let the models know that they may see the same image, but with a different model. Get their approval before shooting.

I do have a lot of shoots planned, but with it being December I usually do charitable shoots so most likely this will be the last shoot for the year; most likely.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Joie de Vivre


I find it serendipitous that when I find myself struggling to find inspiration, someone I've forgotten about reaches out and asks to work with me.  A couple weeks ago, I received a text message from Joy asking if I had time to shoot with her.  Earlier this year,  during her Spring Break we did a quick Little Red style shoot.  It didn't take long to come up with a couple ideas and organize the shoot.  As luck would have it, one of the first Make-up Artists I had the fortune to collaborate with was available, too. I photographed Heidi (a.k.a. The Makeup Monster on Facebook) back in November of 2011 and realized what a great person she is both in front and behind the camera.


I really wanted to do some "On Location" stuff, but with time constraints and one of the outfits we ended up shooting solely in the studio.  The last time I worked with Joy in the studio, was back in September of 2012 when she won the LUSH Model Search and figured we could keep her from freezing.


The lighting wasn't anything new, but what I found out while setting up and taking the first few test shots was that I was really rusty.  Egad, my lighting was sucking big time and I apologized to Joy for being such a hack.  Although some of my lighting is pretty easy, it still requires practice to dial it in.

Joy Diptych After a few frames, I asked her to change and put on a different outfit so I could work out the kinks and shoot some available light images. I enjoy shooting tall models, since it makes easier for me and I don't need to squat down and make them appear taller.  Once we got the shots I wanted, we switched back tot he Angel Wings and finished up the rest of the shoot.


I have to admit that for the first time during one of my lingerie shoots, I was uncomfortable shooting Joy.  She is the same age as my youngest son and I just don't look at her in "that" way.  We still captured some quality images and had a fun time shooting.

Thanks again Joy for asking me to shoot with you, as it came totally unexpected and to Heidi for her willingness to work with me.

Snapchatting - Outtake

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Seeing Blonde - Reloaded

Outtake: Nikonian

Earlier this year I was introduced to a new model named Jessica, since then I have photographed her three times this year, but with conflicting schedules we didn't have an opportunity to shoot until the first week of October. Jessica posted that she wanted to learn how to use her Nikon D60 camera, so I figured I would teach her the basics and also hang out and catch up.



We really didn't have a theme, but she threw some clothes together, grabbed her cousin and we headed out. Most of the shots were done with available light and a reflector. I brought my ND4 Filter, Alien Bee 1600, white beauty dish and the Vagabond II. For those that don't know, I prefer shallow DOF and with shooting around Noon, I use the ND4 so I can shoot at F/4 to F/5.6 with a shutter speed around 1/250 to sync with my AB1600.


I wish I would've taken the time to dial-in the lighting better and found a spot that would lend itself to a better lighting angle, but with the limited space I had to make due.



I had a shoot the previous month that left me completely jaded and frustrated with Model Photography. I was definitely considering switching to Landscape and Street Photography when Jessica posted on Facebook.


I owe you a big THANKS Jessica for getting me back on track and reminding why I enjoy Model Photography.
Boney Ass

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

There Ain't No Cure...

...for the Summertime Blues


As with every year, I find myself at a point where I dislike my photography. I know that I have barely scratched the surface of this art form and yet I can't seem to get myself motivated to shoot. I tend to blame it on the constant 95-plus degree weather and the demands my job places on me. To shoot something that is somewhat palatable, I have to coordinate the shoot and come up with a theme. Spending time with my family, riding my motorcycle, practicing marksmanship, or even reading has more appeal than working behind a camera.

Black and Red

It has been over 8 weeks since my last themed shoot with Sam the Painter. I was about to shoot with Hooters' Server Brittany, but a family issue came up and the shoot was postponed. A few weeks later, Erica messaged me to see if we could collaborate. I shot with Erica back in April and was intrigued by her "look".  Back then, I was fortunate enough to have fellow Photographer and Makeup Artist Ande Castaneda and Hair Stylist Sarah Duke work with us, so when Erica wanted to shoot again both Ande and Sarah agreed to collaborate once again.  This was my favorite from the April shoot.


Erica had ideas for a few themes which included a Victoria Secret style shoot and Ande offered to bring some black angel wings.  Erica also suggested shooting in a bathtub, which I still have taking up space in my garage since last year.  Hmmmm....another opportunity to try and create a setting similar to Cinematographer TJ Scott.


The High-Key images were shot as always:
  • ISO 200
  • Shutter at 1/125
  • Key at f/8 (8.5" Reflector)
  • Fill at f/4 (64" PLM)
  • Background at f/11 (8.5" Inch Reflector bounced off white wall)
Smokey Grey

For the Bathtub images:
  • Key was a 8.5" 30 Grid
  • Background/Kicker was 7"reflector with barn doors and blue gel
  • Fill: Bounced 64" PLM
  • Fog: Party City Fog Machine
After 3 hours of shooting we wrapped as the outside temperature reached 100 degrees and the fog vapor was choking us out.

I really enjoy working with all three ladies, their skills, humor and professionalism makes my part real easy. Last but not least, an Outtake from our shoot:


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