Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Hike in Sedona

A stormy, rainy day in Sedona - hiking Broken Arrow trail out to Chicken PointAfter checking the forecasts in a various parts of the state (AZ), we determined there should be sufficiently crappy weather in Sedona and we should spend Christmas Day there hiking and camping. I realize this sounds counter-intuitive, but we have so much nice weather here in Arizona that it can often be a lot of fun to bundle up in the weather gear and head out into the rain.

The weather broke long enough for me to get this shot from Chicken Point. But just because it wasn't raining doesn't mean I didn't contend with with weather - WIND! The gusts were strong enough that I could lean forward into it and stand at a diagonal.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What Are You Thankful For?

Tattered American flag blows in the wind caught in a treeI told myself I would not get stressed this Holiday Season; not get swept up in all the madness, consumerism, and misguided notions of what the Holiday Season is all about. Well this morning I failed. I got stressed about money, gifts, traffic, and every other fool-thing that I resigned to avoid getting worked up about this year.

When I returned home and gave another look at this photo I edited last night I was given a bit of a reality check. I have the gift of freedom; I have the gift of my family, I have the gift of my health. Not everyone, whether here or abroad, has these gifts - these "little" things we take for granted many of the days of our lives. These are really the big things, aren't they?

With this, I am thankful for all the love behind the gifts that will be exchanged this year and I hope you are too.

So while concerns of money, gifts, and bills vie for our attention, let's remember that we have the control to choose where to place the emphasis in our lives during this and every season.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Sorry, I just couldn't resist . . .

. . . the stupidity of this post. Whatever, let the stupidity roll . . .

Awkward night-time feeding behavior  ;-)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lovebirds Outside My Office Window

Feral Lovebirds outside my office in Phoenix AZToday has been a gray rainey day here in otherwise normally sunny Phoenix. For some reason, it is the gray bleak days that I think to use the color shift technique of setting my camera's white balance to tungsten causing the outdoor ambient light to have a blueish hue. The strobes are color corrected using CTO (orange) gell so as to appear white to the indoor light balanced camera.

This bird feeder is outside my office window and I try to keep it full because as you can see, I get some pretty cool birds that come by to feed. This was a test run on a concept that I have been wanting to try for some time now. Perhaps a more photographically interesting example will surface in the near future.

Strobist Info:
There are 3 SB800's placed circularly around the bird feed all set to the same height as the bird feeder. They were fired 1/2 power and CTO gelled. Interestingly enough, the birds were not frightened off by the firing strobes.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Corporate Headshots

These are outtakes from a recent photoshoot that I was lucky enough to be able to shoot at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a great location and I would like to shoot there again.

Corporate Headshot - FemaleStrobist Info:
SB800 behind umbrella camera-left.
SB800 camera-left pointed at background camera-right (gobo'd to control spill into darker background space)

Corporate Headshot - FemaleStrobist Info:
SB800 behind umbrella camera-left.
SB800 behind subject on the ground aimed up at background.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I Lick the Bowl and Nobody Gets Hurt

Young boy guarding his bowl of batterThis is the look of a child that is one serious bowl-licker. You take your life in your own hands standing between him and his bowl of pumpkin bread batter.

Hooray Autumn!

Strobist Info:
One SB800 camera-left
Ambient light camera-right

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy Halloween

To everyone reading this, whether by design or fortunate mishap, 'thank you'. Have a great autumn season and let's not forget to celebrate life while we have it.

Skull monster creeping up behind a well-dressed zombie
Strobist Info:
SB800 camera-right behind white bedsheet acting as diffuser fired full power.
SB800 cameral-left behind subject for slight rim light fired 1/32 power.
SB800 on ground between subjects facing upward with red gel fired at 1/4 power.
Vivitar 285 camera-right and high providing light on 'face' and shoulder of left subject.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Zombies Eat Brains

Young boy showing off his Halloween costumeOctober is an incredible month. On the one hand, it is the beginning of all the wonderful weather here in Phoenix. On the other, it is the beginning of the end of all the wonderful weather here in Phoenix.

You see, my son (pictured here trying out the zombie Halloween costume we bought today) has his birthday in October, then Halloween, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years, then Valentines, then Easter, then 'poof!' summer's back!

It all goes too fast.

Strobist Info:
2 SB800's 50 degrees left and right behind subject 1/128 power.
1 SB800 slightly camera left 1/64 power

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Glad to Be a Dad . . .

. . . or more accurately, glad to be Shannon's Dad. It is important to express gratitude - today mine is for my son, he makes parenthood easy.

My son playing Spore on the computer
For this photo I used separate planes of light for each each element of the image. There are 5 strobes illuminating the scene - it is explained here.

Paradise Valley / Scottsdale Home Interiors

Just as I started getting geared up for some cool location-graphicy-poppy yoga stuff I get thrown a curve ball - interiors. Turns out shooting interiors is pretty dang fun and one heck of a lighting puzzle.

I have had lots of fun on these shoots; have learned a lot; and am I ever improving my Photoshop skills! ;-)

It seems the real challenge lies in getting the proper mix of ambient and artificial lighting - which turns out can be a rather complex series of options.

For the Powder Room, the light casting the textured shadow around the mirror is ambient. I added a bit of light up high to bound the top of the image with an SB800 CTO gelled. I also hit the pedestal of the sink with an SB800 set to 105mm and CTO gelled.
Custom interior design - powder room / bathroom

For the Dinette I used two SB800's behind umbrellas to minimize the hot spot reflections on the many shiny surfaces. I also used a snooted SB800 to shoot a bit of light against the tiled backsplash (a bit too hot I might add).
Custom interior design - kitchen dinette

For the sitting area in the Master Bedroom I cross-lit the alcove using 2 SB800's fired at 45 degrees diagonally across the space - about 6' high. The highlights on the TV and to the right of the sofa are from the natural light coming in from the right.
Custom interior design - a rather big nook in the master bedroom

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Afternoon Yoga in Tempe, Arizona

Yoga model posing beneath a bridge in Tempe ArizonaSecond photo from shoot detailed below. This time processed more graphic-y and commercial.

Strobist Info:
2 SB800's left and right of subject fired at full power and gobo'd to prevent lens flare.
1 Vivitar 285 fired full power directly back at subject (in frame).
1 SB800 on camera fired at 1/2 power to provide fill and allow high speed synch hack.
Vivitar fired with PW's and SB800's fired optically (and at 1/1000th!).

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Twilight Yoga in Tempe, Arizona

Yoga model poses on public art in Tempe AZ
I recently decided to create a targeted marketing campaign aimed at yoga studio owners, instructors, and enthusiasts. Only problem - I had zero yoga photography in my portfolio. Using my social media networks I was able to schedule 5 yoga models in just a few short hours. Kyna Rosen was my first victim . . . er, um . . . volunteer.

Let me just say, if you are local and have any interest at all in hiring a personal trainer, this gal is far and away your first call. She posed for me for over four hours - and that was after a full day's work training and instructing!

Strobist Info:
2 SB800's left and right of subject fired at full power and gobo'd to prevent lens flare.
1 Vivitar 285 camera left and 45 degrees to subject.
All fired with PW's.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kitchen Photography

Custom kitchen in Scottsdale Arizona
Custom kitchen in Scottsdale Arizona
Some recent client work has had me photographing kitchens. It turns out creating a balanced, evenly lit, and interesting photograph of a kitchen can be rather difficult. There are many reflective surfaces in which you don't want to see the reflections of strobes and umbrellas and the like. There are also lots of islands and cabinets to block light from evenly filling (and illuminating) the room.

The kitchen photography is definitely improving my skills as a photographer, but sadly, it is improving my Photoshop skills even more! ;-)

Strobist Info:
Both photos utilize strobes bouncing up into corners for a soft key light as well as a strobe below the camera to illuminate the foreground.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Photographing a Motivational Speaker

Corporate headshot - Motivational Speaker seated in boardroom
I recently had the good fortune to create some corporate headshots and environmental portraits for a motivational speaker. It was very interesting to actually get to know someone (even if only a little) in this particular profession. Previously my only 'interactions' with motivational speakers have been seeing them on stage, in videos, or in books. Meeting 'the man behind the image' was interesting. Funny enough he and I are both from the East Coast and both Type A personalities. This can combination can go either way but in this instance I believe it worked to our mutual benefit - we both moved pretty quickly and neither stood still for more than very short periods of time.

Strobist Info:
Two Profotos left and right positioned slightly behind subject for rim lighting.
One SB800 shot into umbrella in front of and above the subject for key lighting.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

3 Nights Alone, 2 Striplights, 1 Headache

One helluva headache!I am a fairly social creature - as such being alone for extended periods of time is not my favorite thing. So for me, what is worse than being alone for an extended period of time? Why, of course, having a raging headache while being alone.

I was sitting on the couch earlier coddling my headache, got bored of watching TV, and started setting up my camera equipment. I had no plan; hell, I didn't even know why I was setting up or what I was going to shoot. It had been a while since I played around with my striplights and thought perhaps pulling them out would be good fun.

This is what I ended up with - a photo of my headache. Enjoy what I didn't.

Strobist Info:
One Vivitar 285 in a DIY striplight camera left and 1/2 CTO'd.
One Vivitar 285 in a DIY striplight camera right and 1/2 CTB'd.
Both fired w/ PW's at 1/16th power.
The background although seemingly lit with a snooted strobe is illuminated by the incidental light from the striplights.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Monday, August 11, 2008

End of Summer Break and All is Well

My smiling boy - B&WTo say the least, this has been one very interesting summer so far. Shannon visited his Grandparents on the east coast for a month and a half. He was missed dearly but it also gave me time to dive head-long into my work; staying on point well into the evenings and weekends. It was a very productive time for me and I was able to learn an incredible amount.

Shannon returned 3 days ago; the rules have changed. I now have to ensure I am cutting off work at reasonable hours so as not to miss out on wonderful times with the boy that makes me proud every day to be a parent.

I was lucky to have Shannon run through my studio space just as I completed a few corporate headshots. The strobes were still in place so I asked if he would oblige and let me take a picture. I sure missed having him around.

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 behind a shoot-through umbrella camera left providing the key light.
1 Vivitar 285 shot into a refector umbrella behind subject and camera right.

To see more of my work visit my commercial photography website.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

In Every Line a Story

I was recently doing some portrait work for a client - the portraits were actually of my client's clients. The photos were all pretty 'safe' shots - nothing too crazy or experimental as I only had each person for about a minute so I didn't stray too far from center on the lighting, angles, or composition.

This shot, however, is a little different than the rest. About 1/3 of the way into shooting this gentleman he stops me and asks me if he can tell me a story. "Sure" I replied. As he was telling me the story I was holding the camera pressed up against my chest but still aimed at him. I pressed the shutter release; no idea of the composition, no idea of the focus (although I was hoping autofocus would do its thing). Anyway, this is what I got - it is probably the single most expressive shot from the day. I didn't send it to my client for review as it didn't fit the purpose of the shoot but it may be my favorite picture from this shoot.

View my website at Stevenson Photography

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Joy of Kitchens

I had the great fortune to do a shoot for Joy of Kitchens. She is a designer who specializes in transforming space in the home with the use of customized built-in cabinets. She has a great talent and is a true artist.

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 behind a shoot-through umbrella CTO'd and fired 1/4 power in front of and below camera.
1 Vivitar 285 bare CTO'd and fired 1/4 power above camera backward into the wall/ceiling behind the camera.

View my website at Stevenson Photography

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vacationing in Woods Hole, Cape Cod - Part II

The five photographs in Part I of this post further below were all shot using a mix of ambient and artificial light. As you know, my primary M.O. is the use of portable strobes to enhance the existing light or, in some cases, completely replace the existing light. The following six photos were all shot using only ambient light. This is feels unusual for me; it is rare I shoot ambient-only and even my post work seemed out of sorts. I hope you enjoy them nonetheless and perhaps I will try shooting ambient-only a little more often.

While I subscribe to the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, it seems I often use a thousand words to describe a picture. Not tonight though - I am off to bed because I don't have the horsepower upstairs to write much more than I have already.

To see more of my work, visit Darren Stevenson Photography.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Vacationing in Woods Hole, Cape Cod - Part I

Liz and I have the good fortune to be on vacation as I write this. We are in Woods Hole which is a small village on Cape Cod, MA. The village is built around the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory) and is full of science-y types and the mega rich who have upwards of a few million dollars for a summer home here.

Liz's family has been on the Cape for generations and own the small house pictured below. It was originally built in the 1800's as a barn for the house across the street. Over the years her family has gotten rid of all of the many properties they owned except this one. The property alone is worth about a million dollars.

Below is our bedroom - it is one of three upstairs where the hay used to be stored and thrown down through the chute for the horses below.

This is the back of one of the MBL buildings that houses research laboratories and many, many tanks with every manner of fish, urchin, ray, and crab.

These are a few of the dingies tied up at the shoreline for the many sailboats moored in Eel Pond.

Strobist Info:
All photos lit with an SB800 fired using CLS. Top 3 photos shot using CTO gel and camera set to indoor white balance. Bottom 2 photos shot using green gel and camera set to flourescent white balance.

To see more of my work, visit Darren Stevenson Photography.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Shannon and I had another great time messing around with lighting last night. He has appointed himself the made-up super villian 'Evilocity' for this photo.

We experimented with homemade strip lights and light-painting using a bare bulb of a Mini-Mag flashlight. We took turns coming up with ideas and 'painting each other'. The photo to the left was my idea and I did the light painting. The photo below was Shannon's idea and he did the light painting.

Strobist Info
2 Vivitar 285's inside homemade strip lights placed left and right of subject fired at 1/4 power.
1 SB800 high and behind subject camera-right fired downward through a 1/2 CTO gel fired at 1/8 power.

Please visit Darren Stevenson Photography to see more of my work.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Harder Than It Looks

Shannon is pretty consistently a good model - he seems to come up with something new each time the camera comes out. I do think, however, he walks the line between thinking it's fun and wishing his goofy dad would just get the camera, and maybe more importantly the strobes, out of his face for a little while.

Strobist Info
Two Vivitar 285's lying flat on the floor camera left and right fired 1/16 power.
One SB800 behind a shoot-through umbrella camera left also fired at 1/16 power.

After I took of few shots of him doing that pose, I tried it. Holy crap - see if you can do it. It is wicked hard. I'm surprised I didn't pull anything . . . (Thank You to Shannon for taking the picture below).


Please visit Darren Stevenson Photography to see more of my work.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sport Towel

A client I am working with is currently creating new marketing material for a sport towel. I have taken many photos of this product and want to share two of them here.

The photo to the left is to show how small the towel is when rolled up. The picture below shows the towel in use by a young boy standing on a waterfall feature at a swimming pool.

You can see more of my work at Stevenson Photography

Sunday, May 18, 2008


The hat says it all! ;-)

My little boy isn't going to be a little boy for very much longer. I ended up working on this project with my friend Paul Morton and our model sure was a good sport about it - letting us set up strobes all around him, tripping strobes in his face, changing his clothes, etc. But the deal was incentified with pizza, wings, and video games. A fair bribe I think.

You can see more of my work at Stevenson Photography

Headspace Carving

A close friend of mine owns Headspace Carving and he can turn any old piece of wood into an incredible piece of artwork. The horse head to the left is one of a pair that sits on either side of the front door of a downtown house. The carving was made using the wood of the tree that previously grew from the stump on which it now sits - this is true of both carvings despite only one being pictured here. Visit his site and support a local artist.

You can see more of my work at Stevenson Photography

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Website is up, job has been quit, time to go

I have spent a little extra time this week working on my (other) site setting up a few galleries. While I recognize the need to continue improving and adding to the site, I am pleased with what I have been able to come up with so far (please have a look: Stevenson Photography)

Despite giving my resignation 8 weeks ago, I still find myself returning daily to the office. This has no doubt been the longest I have had to work post-resignation. So what does the photo to the left have to do with this post or quitting my job? Well, not so much - except I stumbled across it while looking for photos to add to my site and was surprised that I had previously overlooked it.

Enjoy, visit my (other) site, and return soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ebony Carved African Bust

I think I have written at least once or twice in the past about the fact that Liz's parents have done a wonderful job of collecting fantastic artwork during the course of their travels. This is a bust carved of ebony and was an interesting challenge to light because it is black. I had to balance the diffuse reflections and the specular highlights in order to show detail and dimension.

Strobist Info:
Because I took this picture some time ago, I don't remember the power settings but I used 3 flashes in total. One was aimed behind the subject to cast a bit of separation light on the background. One was above subject aimed down and fired through a diffuser (printer paper), and another was camera-right also fired through printer paper.

You can see more of my work at Stevenson Photography

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Website Is How Long Overdue?

Dub dub dot what? It's almost shameful how long it took for me to get a website up and running but I finally did it. The analogy of walking before running is appropriate here; it's up but it's not done. I will be continually adding to the site and growing the content. However, in the meantime, please visit and share your thoughts and comments ---> Stevenson Photography

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Home Alone (Part II)

This 'home alone' series just gets worse with each version, no? It's just too tempting after the family goes off to bed and I am awake - alone - and want to fiddle with my camera. This one actually started as an experiment with double diffused light because I have a shoot coming up that I think this technique will work well for. Then, next thing I know, I am monkeying around with crap like this. ; - )

Strobist Info
Viv285 camera left full power double diffused (once through umbrella then through bed sheet).
Bare Viv285 camera right 1/16 power.
Bare SB800 behind subject 1/4 power.

Learn how to light at Strobist

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Little Ping Pong and a Little Bitching

My son's friend Kendrick visited with us Saturday night for a little impromptu ping pong tourney. Great fun for all and I was even lucky enough that the boys' attention span was long enough to allow me to dash inside and get my lights and camera in order get this shot. Fun fun fun.

On the other hand, I am tired as . . . well, it rhymes with 'spit'. It's late Sunday/early Monday and I have been working like crazy tonight after the family got tucked in to print a 'spit'-load of photos for my physical portfolio that I will use for marketing purposes in an attempt to obtain some commercial accounts. I sincerely hope I am able to get some work lined up so I can continue paying the bills after my last day as a 15 year veteran finance professional on the 30th of this month. Quitting my job has been scary as 'spit' and it is pretty incredible how high and low one's confidence can be. Stay tuned . . . lot's more to come (and I can't even really speculate on what it will be).

Strobist Info
Two Vivitar 285's behind the subject left and right firing full power back towards camera gobo'd to prevent flare.
One SB800 camera right full power.

Learn how to light at Strobist

Monday, March 31, 2008

Wine Bottle and Glass (Part II)

The lighting for this photo was a lot of fun to construct but I am growing tired and unable properly explain the lighting setup. I will circle back around with an explanation after getting some rest. Stay tuned . . .

They're Outside


It has been a while since I last posted a photo that did not, in some form or fashion, include the light of at least one small strobe. For this shot I used only the ambient light coming through the windows and wanted to experiment with the concept of zooming the lens during the exposure. I started the exposure with the lens at 18mm and zoomed for the duration of the 1/3 second shutter speed creating the illusion of light beaming through the windows.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Late Afternoon Sunshine - Part II

Candle Holder V2

Truth be told - no sunshine at all in this image. Shot indoors w/ controlled lighting

Experimenting a little more with the concept I tried to capture in yesterday's post.

Strobist Info
Bare Vivitar 285 camera-right.

Learn how to light at Strobist

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Late Afternoon Sunshine - Part I

Candle Holder

Truth be told - no sunshine at all in this image. Shot indoors w/ controlled lighting

Truth be continued - tons of sunshine in my life. Super duper wicked excited that I quit my job and am going out on my own. Super duper wicked scared that I quit my job and am going out on my own. Stay tuned - it will only get more interesting . . .

Strobist Info
Bare Vivitar 285 camera-left feathered away from the wall (to maintain evenness on background).
Bare SB800 camera-right gobo'd to allow highlights but prevent spill on the background.

Learn how to light at Strobist