Sunday, January 31, 2010

Beautiful models and fun workshop makes for an awesome day!

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the workshop Studio 101 at the Charleston Center for Photography led by the talent Amelia Phillips Hale.  It was a great way to spend a rainy day with fellow photogs in what I believe to be the largest studio in the state.

During the class we had the opportunity to learn and practice with studio equipment that one wouldn't normally have access too, along with a beautiful model as our subject.

If you are interested in photography and want to improve your craft I highly recommend trying out some of their classes or workshops.

Here are just a few of the shots from the workshop.  The model is Jennifer Tokarev who is a truly talented model and a pleasure to photograph.

I must admit that I am really struggling with post processing.  Other than cropping, these are pretty much straight out of the camera.

While some of the other students were shooting with the strobes I had a chance to use the High ISO capabilities of the D700 to shoot the following shots.  The only lighting available for these shots were from the modeling lamp of a white lightning B800 (IIRC) and nothing else.  The noise reduction is strictly from the built in capability of Lightroom 2.  Every day this camera impresses me more and more.

ISO 6400 anyone?  :)

ISO 3200, very little noise reduction applied!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shooting Tethered and Studio 101

Nothing much today, just wanted to mention some things.

This weekend I get the joy of attending the workshop Studio 101 at the Charleston Center for Photography led by Amelia Phillips Hale.  For anyone that has never been to CCforP or would like to learn more about photography, I highly recommend them.  The Center is ran by a fabulous group of passionate professional photographers.

I really look forward to this one!

Are you a mac user that shoots Nikon?  Don't want to spend $300 dollars for Camera Control Pro?  Why do we have to pay so much for something that should come with the camera? (Canon provides their tethering software free of charge).

Check out  Sofortbild is a really simple yet powerful application that allows you to shoot tethered.  It's interface is really clean, and lightweight.  The best part is, it's cheap!  Sofortbild is donationware, if you like it you simply donate some money to the creator.  It's really worth it!

I've been playing with it myself lately, and was up and shooting in less than 5 minutes.  It allows me to shoot without having to constantly dump memory cards or rely on a tiny LCD to preview my images.  Instead, nothing is written to my CF Cards and they are automagically imported into Lightroom with my presets automatically applied!.

Please check it out!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Redemption from my last post?

After the last post,  I wanted to post something a little better to redeem myself from that failure.

My wife just had her hair done and was so happy she asked me to take a few shots for her real quick.

These were shot simply with an SB-800 with umbrella camera right front and reflector camera left rear.

ISO 200, 1/250th, f4, 1/16th power on flash

ISO 200, 1/250th, f3.5, 1/16th power on flash

high winds and lighting gear....or failed location strobing.

Failed lighting attempts from yesterday.

nothing like 25mph winds with umbrellas and lighting gear and 30deg windchill....

After watching the 1st disc of Zac Arias's OneLight workshop DVD and finally having the equipment I need to go portable I was so stoked to go try out some of what I learned.

Sadly, what he didn't talk about in his DVD was crazy high winds with umbrellas, numbingly cold temps, and uninterested subjects.

I could go on and on making excuses on why these pics sucked, but ultimately I shot them.  Though they are horrible they teach us a lot, we learn more by studying our failures than reveling in our successes.

So here they are for all too see, my biggest blunders so far this year.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New toys! Woohoo

This past christmas was a tight one.  Money being tight and kids presents get more expensive as they get older, my wife and I decided to forego christmas for each other this year.  It was still a really good year for gifts though!  For Valentines she got a house, later a new car.  I got my dream camera body, a Nikon D700 and the most awesome Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX II.

I've been researching wireless flash triggers a lot lately as the ones I have are really unreliable.  I finally came to the conclusion that the CyberSyncs from Paul C. Buff gave me the best reliability for the price.  I had been talking about it a lot around my wife.  Today, I had the pleasure of receiving a package from UPS.  It was a set of cybersyncs!  I love my wife!  To go along with it, my new reflective umbrella arrived that I scored from a gent on Ebay for $10 after shipping.  To my surprise, it's not a cheapie chinese one either.  It's a Calumet 40 reflective that's the heaviest duty I've ever seen, it even included a leather case.

Of course I just had to take some pictures to try everything out :)

Before I blast you all with the pictures, I want to tell you about a friend of mine...

Stacy Pearsall

Stacy is an acclaimed photographer that got her start in the U.S. Air Force as a Combat Camera photographer.  She now owns and operates the Charleston Center for Photography which is a non profit studio and center dedicated to the low country photography and art community.  Her dedication to arts and community shows that even though she has left the AF, she has not left their core values!

I had a chance last August to attend a workshop at CCforP on Model Coaching (by the most awesome Diana Deaver) and I must say that the center and courses/instructors are all top notch!

She and her husband, also a talent photog, are working on a 365 which they are documenting on their blog at  Please check it out.

Now on with the pics!!!!

These are just some simple fun shots trying out my new cybersyncs and reflective umbrella, nothing serious.

My wife was showing me someones wedding album an asked me what this effect was, so I had to show her how to do it.  Of course, I was rather familiar with it but never really tried it myself before.  It's called shutter dragging, basically long handheld exposure with flash to freeze the subject.

For this one I used a 2 second exposure and a bare SB-800.  During the exposure I rotated the camera 90 degrees to get the effect from the blinds in the background.

D700, 2 secs, f11, iso100, 1/8th power

Same method as above, but instead of rotating the camera I used rear sync flash (slow sync for the canon crowd), starting out 70mm and zoomed in during the exposure.

D700, 2 secs, f11, iso100, 1/8th power w/ rear curtain sync.

I shot this with a bare flash pointing up at the ceiling to light the whole area, direct bare flash is the DEVIL!!!

D700, 1/125th, f2.8, iso100, can't remember flash power setting.

reflective umbrella with SB-800 camera left.

D700, 1/125th, f4, iso100, 1/8th power if I remember corretly.

She was asleep in the chair and just starting to wake up as I was finishing with my son.  I quickly sat my lighting up by her to grab this shot real quick!

D700, 1/80th, f8, iso400, can't remember flash power though.

Of course, this is what happened when my 7 year old got ahold of ahold of my  D700!  An eye for composition but I may need to get him a VR lens :)

Keep shooting!

Monday, January 18, 2010

For those that keep asking...

Are you a professional photographer?

No,  I pretend to be one though :)

Do you plan on ever being one?

Though I don't admit to it, in the back of my mind I do secretly wish too eventually.  Who knows what may happen but I'm having a good time trying!

What's stopping me from trying?

Lots of things!  Fear, skills, talent, taxes, etc...

Fear of failure!  I have a beautiful wife and kids of whom I am the sole supporter financially.  My personal success or failure determines whether they have feast or famine.  I don't mind starving myself a little for my dreams (I could stand to lose a few pounds anyways), but I must set these dreams aside from their reality.  They are the most important things in my life, far more than my camera.

One of these days I really want to do this, but I want to do it right!  It's going to be hard, probably one of the hardest things I'll ever do.

I refuse to be the dreaded mom/guy with camera, the bottom feeders of the photography industry.  You know the type I'm speaking of, the ones who get a dslr and two weeks later they call themselves pro by just adding the word photography to the end of their name.  They charge so little money they might as well be paying you to take your photos.

How do they do it?  I'll tell you! they don't pay their taxes, they don't properly register themselves as businesses to their local governments, they invest less time in developing their skills than the cost of their equipment.  They use software illegally to process your images.  They have the images you paid for developed at Wal-mart (if that).

They almost always fail quicker than start.

These people hurt the industry.  In this economy it's easy for the consumer to be so blindly by the price that they can not see the quality they are getting.  All too often I see Brides/Grooms spending thousands of dollars on their outfit, catering, entertainment, etc.  All these things they spend 1000's of dollars on for one day, but they always spend the least on the least on they one thing that will last them a lifetime, their wedding images.

I love studying wedding photography, there is an insane amount of skill involved in good wedding photography.  But I personally refuse to do wedding photography.  Why?  There's no do over's, you get it right once or you get nothing!

Why am I saying all this?

I want to get it right.  I want to be able to pull off the lofty goal feeding my family as a photographer  all while paying my taxes, business expenses, overhead, equipment without going into debt. I need to learn to be a good business man while being an even better photographer.

because it's all I think about!  I no longer look outside and think, "man it's bright out here!".  It's more like "man, the sky is 5 stops lighter than every thing else"  People are reaching for their sunglasses while I'm reaching for a graduated neutral density filter.  I lay awake at night planning out my ideal photo shoots in my head.

When I'm not dreaming up my ideal photoshoot, I'm reading the latest how-tos to better my skills.  When I'm not reading the latest how-to's I'm looking at other peoples images to figure out how they did it.  When I'm not pouring over other peoples images, I'm researching gear to accomplish those shots I just poured over.

I could go on and on.

It's a disease that I hope is never cured :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Playing with lights at home.

My son decided to sit for me while doing some exercises after watching Zac Arias One Light DVD.

This shot is using a 400w monolight at 1/2 power camera left of the subject.  The room was fairly dim, since I was shooting at ISO 100 I needed 1/125 of a second shutter speed to get a proper flash exposure.  To get rid of the ambient light I picked a somewhat small aperture, f11 in this case since I was already shooting on a black background.

Just for fun I wanted to try balance my fill flash to get a 1 to 1 ratio with the light outside.  I decided to take a different approach than Zac.  I Cheated at balancing by taking a reading with my lightmeter on the outside, than upping the power on my strobe til I got the same reading on my subject...Not perfect but close to illustrate my point.

ISO100 f5.6@1/250th for both shots.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

a small handful of my favorite shots of 2009

So, let's get this blog started!  What's a blog about photography good for if there isn't any photos?

This is a shot of my little guy helping my test out my first set of studio lighting, boy do I have a lot to learn!

So one day I found this stellar deal on a Sekonic L-758DR.  This was right after we finished meeting the young lady I bought it from sitting at a coffee shop.  I decided to try it out while he was sitting there.  (we had also just bought this hat earlier this morning, he's so proud of it)

Of course, my son can't hog all the limelight!  I took this one day just playing around with my new camera and teaching my wife some basic photography skills.  It was a total capture, but how can you not love her eyes?

My little photo assistant!  Took this shot of Mat while he was helping me out while exploring the lighthouse end of Sullivan's Island

Out with the old.
When I took this I had just gotten a Nikon D700.  To part with my beloved D90, I wanted to take a shot in which I could do something with it I couldn't do with my D700.  I shot this on a D90 with a Sigma 70-300 lens.  Due to the crop factor and 35mm equivalent it was as if I was shooting at approx. 480mm.

The new park in Mt. Pleasant.
These I took while checking out the new park in Mt. Pleasant SC.  What a great way to test out the macro features of my then new Sigma 70-200 2.8 EXII.

While we were at the park, my wife's group ( was having a play date.  This little girl had the prettiest eyes.

My lovely Wife!
Getting her in front of the camera is a rarity, she doesn't know how gorgeous she is.

Wide Open Portrait.
Again my wife wanted to learn more about photography.  She knew what she wanted to accomplish but didn't know how.  As she would tell me what she wanted I would show her how to do it.  This was shot wide open using a Nikkor 50mm 1.8 Lens.  The Post processing was done strictly as she desired.

We have some of the coolest cloud formations here in SC.

My Ugly Mug :)
This is a self portrait done by holding an SB-800 1/32 power in front of me down low.

Lydia Muller.
On my Birthday I was able to have the best gift ever!  An awesome photo shoot with a great model.  Thanks Lydia!

RiverFront Park
I captured this while on a photowalk with my brother while he was visiting during his leave from Iraq.

Connecting with your subject.
These are a couple photos I shot during a workshop at the Charleston Center for Photography taught by the talented Diana Deaver.  Thanks Diana and Anna Davis.