Snow White and the Witch. Shoot date: 24 Jan 2015. Models: Roberta Snyder and Claire Bryan.Read More
So, I've been away for a while... Much longer than I had thought, it seems. When popping into the blog page to see when the last post was made, I'd expected to see a post from a couple of months ago. It has been almost exact six. Wow. Time flies when you're, um, well.... I was going to say "having fun" but the latter half of 2014 was quite a roller coaster ride. The roughest patch of the year occurred on December 16th. I was admitted to the hospital for observation (nothing serious - I'm fine), but my wife ended up in the emergency room after being hit by a reckless driver in an extremely high speed highway accident. Thankfully, she survived and is doing well. Needless to say, that situation squashed any desire to do photo work. Now that things are getting back to somewhat normal, I'm dusting off the lenses and considering new projects. More information to come on those. For now, I'll show a few images from shoots conducted since my last post.
The first image shown below was from a shoot conducted in a small, well-decorated bathroom at a bed & breakfast in downtown San Angelo. The size of the room limited lighting options, so I went for a single 650 watt Arri tungsten fresnel light.
I brought the fresnel light back out for a studio shoot.
I went back to the studio for a shoot with a number of lighting setups. This one was a simple Westcott Skylux LED light aimed at a large shoot-through umbrella. This was the first time that I had an opportunity to use the Nikon D810 for a studio shoot. Loved it!
I'll end the post here for now and follow up with another few soon!
This shoot was short, spontaneous and completed in about one hour around a month ago. It was the result of a short message to a friend and makeup artist, Jessica Morales, on a Thursday evening about putting together something to do with the camera on Friday evening. I've been having fun with shooting along the lines of an old film noir look using a 650w tungsten fresnel light and wanted to give the same style a go on location using strobes. The original plan was to go with a female model but Jessica suggested changing it up by sending Dan Stubbs in a suit and tie. Sure, why not?
Dan showed up around 8:45, minutes before sunset and a short time before blue hour began. He was already in the suit and ready to get started. We picked a location very familiar to photographers in the San Angelo area, often called the "Art Alley". The spot has earned some minor contempt from photographers due to the frequency of its appearance in family photos but it felt like the right place to be for this theme -- old brick warehouse, dirty lamp casting a conical pool of of light down the side of the building, metal bars over windows with an antique look. Shooting at night gave us the opportunity to breath new life into an often-visited location.
The lighting setups were simple and quick:
- Strobe in a 22" beauty dish with 20deg grid.
- Strobe in a standard reflector with 10deg grid.
The second setup in particular allowed for a lot of light control, providing the ability to shine a harsh light on Dan's face for that noir look. In some shots, the beauty dish was used as fill. In others the beauty dish was added as fill or used as a key.
I'm starting at the end and working my way backward through some recent photo sessions. This shoot is from a few days ago in downtown San Angelo. It almost didn't happen. I managed to come down with a mild bit of food poisoning and had to bring in a replacement photographer. Toward the end of the day the decision was made for me to go ahead and attempt the shoot, alongside the replacement photographer. This turned out to be a good choice, with the session stretching to a little over an hour after full sunset. The deep shadows set the stage for a very moody lighting, ideal for conversion into black and white or some gritty color images.
Abigail Robertson stepped into the role of model for the evening, wearing a black dress and matching gloves for the contrast of elegance against the rough textures of San Angelo's aged storefronts. A native of San Angelo, she also models in Austin and other locations. This was the first opportunity I'd had to collaborate with her and she was wonderful to work with.
The first location was an open parking lot surrounded partially bordered by the rough stone wall of a commercial building. I went with the standard one light configuration, setting up a monolight inside a 22" Mola Demi beauty dish fitted with a 20 degree grid, no sock. To give just a tiny bit of detail in the far background for the first couple of shots, ISO was increased and the shutter speed was lowered to bring up the ambient. Once we moved to using the stone wall as the entire background, strobes provided all of the light in the scene and the higher ISO setting was no longer needed.
The second location wasn't very far from the first. We found a nice storefront window wrapped in a string of lights. These were sufficient at high ISO to act as a key light when Abigail looked inward toward the window or a rim light when she looked away. I attempted a little fill with the strobe but wasn't able to get an acceptable result even at the lowest power setting. The workaround was to shine a bright LED flashlight through a bit of diffusion material held near Abigail's face. It worked! Hey, whatever it takes to get the shot...
We moved up the sidewalk a little ways and did a handful of shots with Abigail sitting on a stool, illuminated by a 10-degree grid mounted in the standard strobe reflector. It worked remarkably well... The evening was rounded out by some shots against a wooden gate in a stone wall.
It turned out to be a great session.
I stepped outside my typical look to pursue a bit more of the glamour/boudoir style at the request of Shanise, the model in the photos. The intent was to produce images that are sexy but still classy. I think it was a successful attempt.
We headed out to an abandoned garage without a roof in the downtown area. It's a favorite spot for local photographers due to the interesting textures, the weeds growing in one end of the structure and the rusty metal crossbeams that once supported a roof. The chosen time for the shoot was very late afternoon, approaching sunset. The sun was streaming through the empty roof and hitting the far wall, producing a very warm light against a very complimentary tone of on the wall. Shadows crossed the wall from the sun hitting the roof supports. It looked like a perfect opportunity for a first round of images. Shanise was a little late in arriving due to some issues with the makeup but it ended up being perfect timing -- she went straight over to the wall and we immediately began shooting with the sun as a key light and the Setti 28" dish as fill light.
The photos were turning out well right from the start. The whole shoot went smoothly and wrapped up after shooting at several spots within the garage.
In April our group headed down to Middle Concho Park, a little-known location tucked away in a far corner of San Angelo's rapidly-diminishing Lake Nasworthy. It's a beautiful park, stretching out along a mile or so of land bordered by a tributary of the lake and overshadowed by the Twin Buttes Dam. Back when the reservoir that shares a name with the dam had some water in it, the earthen dam was used to hold back millions of gallons of water, some of which were periodically released into Lake Nasworthy via an enormous spillway at the farthest end of the park property. The spillway itself was carved until a natural bluff formation. This was our location for the day -- the spillway and bluff near the golden hour.
Our model for the day was Misty Taylor, with makeup done by Jessica Morales. We shot primarily in three spots -- On a graffiti-covered boulder with strong backlighting, partway up the bluff with a wide view of the surroundings and on a large boulder with shade in the background (see header image). Natural light or a mix of strobe with direct and ambient light were used at each location to get the desired look. We were fortunate to have a great quality of sunlight to work with that day but in shots putting the sun behind Misty or requiring some fill of shadows, the Mola Demi 22" beauty dish with a Paul C. Buff Einstein strobe attached were brought in. Through a coordination of effort between Erick Shriver, Colin Feldhaus and I, the full assembly of strobe and stand were hauled up the side of the bluff. We spent roughly 30 minutes or so up there taking photos using natural light and strobe before heading back down to the boulders and brush at the base of the bluff for a final set of Misty looking contemplative on a shaded rock. I hauled out the 28" Mola Setti dish with 20 degree grid and placed it about 20ft from Misty at a moderately high angle to produce an effect similar to a late day sun beam highlighting her.
It started to get chilly, so we packed up and put the lid on a successful April 2014 meetup.
What an excellent shoot this past Saturday.... I put out a call for a model to help with a conducting a practice session for my friend Erick Shriver, an up and coming photographer in the San Angelo area. Jessica responded that she'd like to step in front of the lens for a fitness-themed shoot; a departure from her experience as a makeup artist. We chose a location downtown that is frequented by photographers -- there were at least two other shoots going on in the area that evening -- but ended up moving down the block a little to an abandoned parking lot with metal support beams and no roof. In addition to providing a little relief from very strong winds, it has some amazing texture on the walls.
Erick and I did a little scouting around the area upon arriving around 6:00pm and, after deciding to move up the block, began to unload the car and talk lighting setups. Most of the session focused on a 3-light setup with a 22in Mola Demi beauty dish fitting a 20 degree grid mounted on an Einstein as the key light. Dual rim lighting was provided by two 12x36in strip boxes with grids. Once all of the gear was unloaded and set up, I began dialing in the ambient light -- it worked pretty well at 1/250 on the shutter speed and f/8 throughout the shoot. Once the sky was underexposed, I began adding in the strobes. It all came together and we asked Jessica to step in front of the camera for some shots. It was apparent from the first set of images that things were going in the right direction... The light was where it needed to be, Jessica's husband Dan was helping out with some great advice on proper form and Jessica was doing an amazing job of conveying both strength and beauty. The entire event lasted until around 9:00pm with a total of about five different setups. It was a blast to spend a while collaborating on making photos with some great people. Looking forward to the next shoot!
My wife and I again had the opportunity to work with our friend Jeska Bailey for a fun shoot at Sealy Flats' "band house" -- a practice area and hotel for bands stopping to perform in San Angelo. The hotel portion of the building is decorated with some incredible music memorabilia but that area wasn't available to use for this shoot. Instead we took two of the front rooms in the practice area: kind of a den area and then the practice room itself. The texture on the walls was what made it stand out as a place with potential for photos... The den had some old block walls with a reddish color (salmon?) and great texture. The practice room was brick, painted blue and covered in small band posters.
The rooms had a lot of potential but the small space in the den made it a real challenge to get the lights wedged in and working the way I wanted them to. We had to do a little furniture rearranging just to get an open spot to shoot in. Once that was done, it was a matter of figuring out how to do a three-light setup in a small space. Ultimately it was a 22" Mola Demi beauty dish as the key light up and to camera left, a 28" Mola Setti with grid off to camera right as fill and a light directly behind Jeska on a short stand pointed at the wall for a background light. A fourth light -- 7" standard reflector with 10deg grid -- was added in as a hair light. Nicole was kind enough to hold that one while sitting on a desk just out of the frame.
In the second setup we headed into the practice room... Fortunately, there was a good bit more space to work with in there and there was a couch! It's not often I get to do a shoot while sitting comfortably on a couch. Jeska piled up a collection of music instruments at the far end of the room while I set up the Demi on a small grip arm and the Setti on a normal stand. The background light was positioned camera left with a 10deg grid pointed at the wall. I later had Nicole point a strobe at floor along with some careful side-flagging using black foam core to throw a little extra light on the left side of the equipment pile.
Everything worked out on this shoot and we had a lot of fun, but one of the main takeaways from this session was just how amazing the grids were at controlling the light in a small area. No grids would have resulted in light flying everywhere, killing the shadows and contrast that these images needed... I accidentally left the grids locked in the band house following this shoot and really felt the lack when doing some photos downtown a couple of days later.
While you're here, feel free to head over to Sealy Flats' Facebook page and see the latest happenings there. Jeska is one of the co-owners and has been working hard to get it ready for the grand re-opening of this iconic San Angelo restaurant and music venue.
Out to the lake to conquer the afternoon sun! The header image of my wonderful wife was taken around 2pm under a cloudless sky. We hauled some of our new photo gear out to the lake and set it up to see if it would do what I'd hoped it would -- overpower mid-day sunlight for a very dramatic, contrasty look. I set up a Matthews combo stand and hooked up a 40" Kupo grip arm to it. A Mola Demi 22" beauty dish was fitted to the end of the grip arm and an Einstein monobloc was fitted to the back of the dish. I slapped a Hoya variable neutral density filter onto the 70-200mm lens and tried some shots at f2.8. They turned out great... The background fell away into a smooth blur with some amazing bokeh from the sun sparkles on the water.
The 24-70mm lens went on for some wider shots, including the one used as the header for this blog post. I stopped the aperture down to about f16 and did a little fiddling with the neutral density filter to get the light dialed in just right. It turns out the Einstein has just enough power at 640 watt seconds to cope with having the sun in the frame.
All in all, I'd call it a very successful test of the Demi, Einstein, stand and variable ND filter. I'm looking forward to using the Demi again this afternoon for an indoor shoot with friend, model and fellow photograher, Jeska Bailey.
February's meetup was a success! We had a great turnout with about a dozen people showing up to photograph our two models, Lindsey and Chelsea, both of whom were gracious enough to show up on a little more than an hour notice. The group met on the beach (*cough*) at Lake Nasworthy and promptly abandoned it for a small outcropping of rocks surrounded by clipped reeds. The weather was hovering somewhere around perfect when we started, with temps in the high 70s and little wind. The sun proved to be a challenge for a while -- in the cloudless sky around quarter after 5pm it was still very harsh and casting some bad shadows. I tamed it with a 5ft diffusion umbrella held off to the side for Lindsey and a 7ft reflector blocking the light for Chelsea. Easy fix! As always, I had the giant salad bowl (28" Mola Setti beauty dish) out there to add a little light. In retrospect, adding a diffuser to it might have been a good idea but it's easy to become distracted at a group event. Really enjoyed being out there...
I think there's something to be said for those times when you line up a good location, a good model and all of the right gear.....and things go a little differently than expected. Yes, unexpected obstacles are a good thing. They certainly don't feel like a good thing but why not use them for a positive purpose?
I recently put together an impromptu gathering for some members of the Photographers of San Angelo group in the form of a sunset shoot atop an earthen dam. It's a great spot -- easy to get to and it affords a wide view out over the landscape. Unfortunately, the weather didn't feel like cooperating. The temperature took a very sharp drop from the comfortable level we had around mid-afternoon and the wind picked up to an unbearable 25mph+ sustained with higher gusts. Samantha, our brave model, did the best she could to bear the cold and wind for the duration of the shoot. Setting up lighting gear was near impossible. In that kind of wind, absolutely everything becomes a sail. Still, the Setti dish went up on a light stand with some heavy weighting and under the watchful eye of a photographer who didn't bring a camera with him.
We all made the best out of the situation but when it came time to download the images into Lightroom, I could see that many of the photos weren't turning out as well as I'd hoped. It was no fault of our model -- she did an excellent job under extremely challenging conditions. Our group received a harsh lesson on the unpredictable nature of weather and the importance of having a solid alternate plan to cope with unexpected circumstances. It was a cold and windy experience but made us a little more aware of how to avoid these situations or deal with them if they can't be avoided. All in all, a net positive.
The story does end on an up note. The ratio of "keepers" to throw-aways was a little skewed toward the latter but there were some nice photos in the set that Samantha ended up liking quite a bit.
A good location is worth revisiting! A friend of my wife and I needed a few promotional shots, so we headed downtown to re-create the beautiful bokeh shown in my photos of Brittany from last weekend. The time of year is perfect for it... For a short period of time, the sun shines almost directly down Concho Ave at sunset, illuminating the storefronts and streaming light through the old-fashioned wood pillars holding up the awning. I thought that the effect would work well for the look Jeska wanted.
The Photographers of San Angelo had the benefit of good weather for our monthly meetup down at the Visitor Center. The sky was clear when we got started around sunset this past Sunday and the temperature was hovering around the "just right" point -- perfect ingredients for a successful meetup. It turned out to be just that, with about eleven attendees altogether. The focus this month morphed into high school senior portrait practice. I say that because it tends to shift according to the availability of models and location each month.
This time, we were photographing Logan, a local high school student. She arrived with her mother, Kim, and got started posing for portraits straight away as photographers showed up one by one. It was a pretty dynamic event, with photographers climbing all over the rocks and paths leading down to the riverwalk area in an attempt to find the best angle. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, model and mom included. The meetup accomplished what it was meant to in a few ways... It provided a chance for photographers to get out of the house and practice their technique. It gave our portrait model some images to share with friends and family, and it generated enthusiasm for next month's meetup down at the lake where we'll have someone standing on the water!
Had the opportunity to help a young model begin building her portfolio this past Saturday. Brittany, her mother and I headed to downtown San Angelo's Concho Avenue for some portraits around the colorful shops down there. The store fronts are built up in an old West style with darker colors and wood posts. Even the walls around the parking lots offered some great backgrounds with their rough stone construction.
Nicole helped set up the lights for a few one, two and three-light configurations. We started on the edge of an old stone wall with some portraits against the backdrop of an old brick building illuminated by late afternoon sun. We next used the wall itself as a backdrop and added some color using a gelled light to get a dramatic background. Finally, we headed over to the front of the building for some shots of the setting sun streaming through the support beams attached to the cover over the sidewalk. We were lucky to catch the scene at exactly the right time of year where the sunset lines up with the street, making the front of the buildings glow.