Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ambient Light - Part 2

I continue to experiment with ambient light; I also continue to be surprised by how cool shooting ambient can be.

As you know, my normal M.O. is to figure out what I am going to shoot and then build the lighting scheme accordingly. Shooting ambient for me, however, is a completely opposite process. When shooting ambient I first search for the light and only then does the subject matter reveal itself; it's as though the subject matter takes a back seat to the light.

Amazing subjects with uninspired light create dull photographs - and that holds true whether I am shooting strobe or ambient. The biggest difference is whether I create the light or chase the light.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ambient Light - What a Concept!

I did something yesterday for the first time - I completed an entire commercial photoshoot using only the ambient light. This was a new and unusual experience for me.

Even the drive to the shoot was odd - my gear list consisted of 1 body, 1 lens, a tripod and an extra battery/CF card. Even though I had exactly what I needed it was waaaay less than the normal kit that includes multiple strobes, light stands, modifiers, clamps, etc.

It was almost a liberating experience from the standpoint of being able to change directions and regroup mid-shoot without having to recreate the lighting set.

Don't get me wrong - I still very much love the lighting element of the photographic process; this was just a cool learning experience for me who has up until now only saw the world around my lit by millisecond bursts of strobe light! ;-)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Morning Light As Seen By My Cameraphone

I have been using my phone and my point and shoot more and more to create artistic photographs and as a result have been chasing light more and more and looking for content less and less. [how many 'and's in that sentence?!?]

The simple reason is because when using these tools I am typically shooting only with the ambient light which is a huuuuge departure from my usual strobe-centric style.

These simple tools have provided tremendous inspiration specifically related the artistic process of creating photographs and I am learning that 'better light' trumps 'better content'.

There is no doubt in my mind that running around with a cameraphone chasing ambient light has already begun to improve my studio-lit big production photographs.

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

Monday, September 14, 2009

Public Art

I really enjoy seeing public art - there is something very gratifying about having the privilege to see the personal artwork of different artists at no charge and out in the open-air public.

I am unsure if this piece was created and installed with the intent of being framed visually they way I have done here in this photograph but it certainly does seem like such a natural fit so as to appear intentional by the artist.

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

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Waterjet Cutter

Until having to photograph one, I really didn't know what a waterjet cutter was. Turns out they are pretty cool but I arrived day of shoot site unseen and wasn't sure how I was going to set up the lighting. Hmm . . .

The working area of the facility was lit with overhead florescents so I pretty much nuked away any ambient with strobes and spiced up the lighting a little by having one strobe 1/2 CTO'd (a little warmer), one strobe 1/2 CTB'd (a little cooler), and one color neutral. Adding tension by including opposite color temperatures (in this case yellow/blue) usually entices longer gazes.

Once the basic lighting configuration was set up I was able to move it around and prepare subsequent shots fairly quickly.

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 snooted and 1/2 CTO'd pointing back at camera
1 SB800 snooted and 1/2 CTB'd high and camera-left
1 SB900 in a Lumiquest III softbox camera right
All fired w/ PW's

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

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Residential Interior - Sitting Room

This photograph is an excerpt from a recent photoshoot. I must say I really do enjoy putting together the puzzle of interior lighting for design and architectural purposes. This image demonstrates how much texture can be highlighted in a scene using minimal yet strategically placed lighting.

Strobist Info:
2 SB800's (1 left and 1 right) about 6' high bounced back against the unseen wall fired full power and angled slightly inward and upward.

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

Having Alternatives In Cameras

Photographically speaking, the thing I am currently most grateful for is the choice of cameras available to me and the very different types of photographs I get from each. This shot was taken with my cameraphone and is a shot I would have unlikely taken had I been carrying a different camera.

The reason is because of how fundamentally different I view the world around me based on which camera I have in my hand. It is equal parts 'cool' and 'freaky' to experience such a drastic shift in perception of my surroundings - especially familiar ones.

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

Strollin' The Hood

I am stoked with my Canon G10! This little powerhouse is so versatile and powerful. [should be getting paid to say that]

I shot these two images hand-held at ISO1600 and a respectable 1/30th second shutter speed. With a little work in Photoshop I was able to reduce the noise and get solid images even at that high ISO.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Twitter Ate My Blog

JellyfishMan alive! It has been over a month since I posted to my blog!

"Bad blogger, bad blogger!"

Unfortunately I have been spending so much time focusing on Twitter as my social media outlet I have let my blog go stale. Twitter has been like these giant jellyfish and my poor blog has been the teensie little fish that gets enveloped on all sides and consumed by a merciless predator.

Okay, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but nonetheless I will be posting much more to my blog in the days and weeks to come so please don't stop visiting . . .

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hell's Gate Wilderness - Tonto Creek

The two photos above of Liz show two very different faces of Tonto Creek. This past weekend we hiked through Hell's Gate Wilderness and down into the deep canyon carved by Tonto Creek.

We camped right near the edge of a great water hole and after swimming up river through slot canyons for 1/2 hour discovered multiple waterfalls, grottos, and more water holes.

This place is made out of magic and awesome - I can't wait to go back and it's only 90 minutes from Phoenix!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Strobist Boot Camp II: Interior Lighting Assignment

David Hobby over at Strobist recently posted the details of the third assignment of Boot Camp II which is to create an artistic, well-lit architectural interior.

It had been a while since I photographed any interiors so for the first pass I wanted to create a 'safe shot' just to see if I still had the techniques required to create an even blanket of light within a space without creating any gnarly shadows. First pass was a success from a lighting standpoint but the image wasn't overly interesting.

For the second pass (the assignment and image above) I wracked my brain trying to think of a creative lighting technique that would result in a more interesting image than what the 'safe shot' yielded. I decided to challenge myself by lighting the entire scene with one strobe. The twist is that I decided to only light one element of the scene at a time and composite the individual results into a finished product that shows lots of light coming from lots of directions.

This has proven to be a fun exercise in experimental lighting and the finished product ended up being a composite of 10 separate images.

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 fired at specific elements within the scene over the course of multiple exposures and layered together in PS to create a finished product that has the appearance of being lit by many light sources.

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Camera Phone Part 2: Dog Against the Machine

We are the dogs in leisure suits.
Let's get down,
Don't let the baby drown.

Why waste time as a dog against the machine.
You are the start of our new American Dream.

Excellent little bit of 'found art' I stumbled across. I was actually ducking through some bushes to explore under a billboard (curiosity hard at work) when I found the image above painted on a wall.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Bryce Canyon, UT

We recently spent several days camping and hiking in Bryce Canyon, UT. What a magical place - and the temperatures there were about 30 degrees cooler than Phoenix!

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

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Is The Best Camera?

Now more than ever the debate over megapixels, dynamic range, color balance, etc. is raging in the marketplace. We are being overloaded with camera data and being lured into the habit of 'pixel-peeping' to see really how good the camera we want/need/have is.

I recently read an article written by Chase Jarvis who said the best camera is the one you have with you. Well, when I came upon the scene above the camera I had with me was my 5 year old, 3 megapixel piece of crap half-dead point and shoot. What to do? Why, take a photo, of course!

The technical quality of this image may be shitty when viewed at full resolution, but you know what? I came home with a cool photo nonetheless.

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em! Metaphorically of course ;-)

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

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bedtime Reading

As a commercial photographer I rarely capture those fleeting moments that photojournalistic photographers are such experts at recording. Rather I create moments that never existed; I fabricate reality to tell stories that never happened.

This shot is different - he was really in bed and the scene was really lit this way as opposed to my creating a complex lighting scheme to replicate the light a child might read in bed by.

I got lucky this time and am interested in periodically incorporating a more photojournalistic approach to making photographs - sometimes its nice to reflect on an actual moment or experience that really happened in my life as opposed to the stream of fiction I usually create to demonstrate an idea, product, or service.

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

Home and Garden

As an artist and photographer, I repeatedly push myself both creatively and technically. For this image, I wanted to create something that had a Better Homes & Gardens type of imagery - something light and ethereal; an image that could be used to support an article about gardening or yard improvement.

I think I achieved that with this backlit image of a landscape detail.

Strobist Info:
N/A - all natural light (backlit by the late afternoon sun)

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

Little Girls Have Big Eyes

I recently hosted a photography party at my house. The idea was to get a group of photographers together to prepare and subsequently photograph appetizers. I had the best intentions complete with recipe ideas and lighting concepts all worked out in my head beforehand to make some great food photographs . . .

. . . so it only makes sense that I would neither prepare nor photograph any food - but I got a shot of a little girl. ;-) Oh well, the best laid plans . . .

Strobist Info
1 SB900 behind a shoot-through umbrella high and camera left.

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

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Corporate Headshot

I made a series of Corporate Portraits this morning. I am rather pleased that I was able to use creative lighting techniques to turn this fluorescently lit office into a more inviting environment.

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 behind shoot-through umbrella camera right
1 SB900 camera left and bounced off the ceiling for fill
1 SB800 behind the frosted glass aimed at the black wall behind the "C" with a CTO gel to warm it up
1 SB800 camera right and behind subject for rim/edge/texture

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

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lower Case "i"

I have a Corporate Headshot type portrait session this afternoon and wanted to mess around a little with some lighting and such.

This shot is actually outside at 9:00 a.m. (granted, it's in the shade but it is still outside nonetheless). I chose an exposure that would send the ambient light down very dark to make the background very low key. The lighting is coming from one umbrella and one bare speedlight. I fired both with Nikon's wireless system (which I am pretty stoked about because the strobe behind the umbrella was successfully triggered despite line-of-site being blocked by the umbrella).

Strobist Info
1 SB800 behind shoot-through umbrella camera right and high
1 SB800 camera left and behind subject
Both fired by on-camera SB900 (set NOT to contribute to the exposure but only to trigger the off-camera flashes.

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

Monday, June 1, 2009

Camera Phone: Part 1 of . . . ?

I've been toying a lot lately with the idea of whether or not to include photographs I take with my phone into my stream of blog posts. Consider this one an experiment.

Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chihuly Glass

Chihuly: The Nature of Glass is the traveling art installation of Dale Chihuly that is currently nearing the end of its term here in Phoenix at the Desert Botanical Garden.

This long exposure night photograph is HDR processed using the highlight and shadow detail from separate multiple bracketed images. This process allows images to display a wider range of highlight and shadow detail than can be captured by a camera's chip in single exposure.

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Enough Speedlights and Kids; Not Enough Time

I had an idea for this picture and this isn't it. You see, I ran out of time. Gee, does that ever happen to photographers?!? Naaaahhhh! ;-)

In my minds-eye I pictured the red light on the background, hard side lighting coming from slightly behind the children, and an underexposed fill light to open up the shadows. I barely got the background and side lighting set up when I heard grandparents starting to say their 'good-byes' - I knew I was out of time.

The biggest problem I still had to solve was adding the fill light for the children which had to be completely blocked from contaminating the red light on the background (the red would have turned pink if contaminated by white light). I knew the exercise of blocking the fill light was going to take some creative thinking and unfortunately I now no longer had the luxury of time.

The result? No fill light. But I couldn't use the edge lights where they were because since they were behind the children there was only an edge light on them and no frontal detail. So my lightning fast solution was simply to pull the edge lights from behind to in front of the kids and cross-light them. This gave me enough light to reveal their faces but at the expense of very hard shadows.

Oh well - time was not on my side and even though my solution was less than perfect, I was still able to get a shot I could use (albeit not exactly what I had in mind). You gotta be able to think on your feet and change directions pretty quickly as a photographer - the world won't hold still for you, that's for sure.

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

Saturday, May 2, 2009

3 Speedlights; 1 Softbox

I have been very interested in all types of light modifiers for a long time now. Despite having a small army of snoots, grids, gobos, umbrellas, gels, etc. the one big hole in my lighting inventory was a softbox . . . well, at least until now.

But the problem with softboxes is they are designed to be mounted to big powerful monolights using special speedrings, not my small portable Speedlights. So after some thought I devised a way to mount and use 3 Speedlights with 1 softbox.

Paul Morton (mortonphotographic) and I made this short video tutorial showing how to accomplish this.

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Plays with Fingers; Runs with Scissors

So, riding high on the self-portrait post from last night [interpretation: no better photos to post] I decided to put up one more.

I am loving my new softbox and have been experimenting a lot with it. This tool will fast become a very valuable piece of lighting equipment.

Strobist Info:
3 SB800's fired at 1/32 power into a 3'x4' softbox directly overhead with a silver reflector on the floor directly in front

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Glasses: Eyeball Shrinking Distortion

It has been quite a long time since I've been up to my old antics of being the last one awake at night playing with my photo gear.

The further I pulled my glasses from my face the smaller my eyes appeared but it became difficult to keep them centered when they got too far from my face. I could imagine an entertaining portrait series like this . . .

Tonight's portrait is thanks to my newest toy - a big 'ol softbox.

Strobist Info:
3 SB800's fired at 1/32 power into a 3'x4' softbox directly overhead

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

Monday, April 27, 2009

Coyote Buttes - Paria Canyon, Arizona: Part III

On the last day of our camping trip at Coyote Buttes, we visited White Pocket (pictured immediately above). As with this entire area, White Pocket was unique and amazing.

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

Friday, April 24, 2009

Coyote Buttes - Paria Canyon, Arizona: Part II

Here are a few more from my Coyote Buttes camping trip. I hope you enjoy these.

Coyote Buttes - Paria Canyon, Arizona: Part I

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the desert Southwest, specifically areas near the Arizona/Utah border, take it! What an amazing place! This area is a natural wonder in every way.

I just returned from a week of camping near Coytote Buttes - what a breathtaking place. Two of the days we hiked in areas that require permits but only a maximum of 20 permits are issued per day! Amazing to have such solitude in such an amazing place!

Stay tuned . . . I will post a few more photos when I get a chance . . .

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Excited About Lighting Workshop

I enjoy photographing interiors. They weren't something I planned for - more just sort of accidentally stepped into shooting them. For you Strobist readers you may remember a post about Scott Hargis - well that one stuck out in my mind because of the similarity to the work I had been doing with interiors (like the one above).

I am excited to say that I am taking the Interiors Lighting Workshop this Saturday offered by Scott Hargis and Thomas Grubba. I am very excited to be taking my interior lighting to the next level. Stay tuned, I will post an image or two from the workshop . . .

Strobist Info:
2 SB800's high on stands camera-left and bounced off (high) ceiling.
1 SB800 outside low aimed up at red wall
1 Vivitar 285 outside low aimed up at the orange wall

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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Trains, Planes, and . . . well, no Automobiles

I was out scouting locations today for an upcoming shoot; fail! I had no luck and went home frustrated and cranky. After dinner I decided to continue my scouting efforts and was able to get this photo along the way.

The image was created using a long exposure (30 seconds) allowing the sky to burn in and get the trails of both the airplane and the train. During the exposure I walked along the bridge popping an SB800 strobe to illuminate the bridge a bit.

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

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Daffodil

Soft pretty things are not my typical subject matter - I usually steer clear of photographing puppies and babies and flowers and such. However, the daffodils we brought home this week have opened into near perfect specimens and so I broke stride to embrace this soft pretty thing (at least photographically).

Strobist Info:
1 SB800 camera-right in a Lumiquest III Softbox fired at 1/32 power
1 SB800 camera-left gridded and fired at 1/32 power against background
1 SB900 camera-right fired at 1/64 power

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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Being In The Moment

I don't have much to say about this image other than making it was the moment I wanted to be in that moment and so that is where I put myself.

Strobist Info:
1 SB900 @ 1/8 power behind shoot-through umbrella directly above subject
2 gridded SB800's @ 1/64 power behind subject left and right fired back towards camera and into a Vcard arrangement

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

Saturday, March 28, 2009

More Strobe-lessness: The Ophelia Project

What's going on here? Two consecutive posts of strobe-less photos!?!

Well, I guess as I said in my post below, I want to challenge myself with something different.

I was invited to photograph the dress rehearsal of a performance called the Ophelia Project which is a play that intertwines stories of and commentaries on Virginia Woolf’s and Anne Sexton’s mental illnesses and the emotional trials that led to Sylvia Plath’s infamous suicide.

This photo shoot was a lot of fun because of the constantly changing house lights. And they changed not only in intensity but also in color. At first I just figured to set white balance to Tungsten and forget about it; but the color temperature swings were so dramatic that this approach wasn't going to cut it. It took some trial and error but I found that setting my white balance to Kelvin and jumping back and forth between 2,500 and 10,000 depending on whether the house lights were purple/blues or yellows/reds worked well - this particular photograph was shot with white balance set to 10,000 Kelvin.

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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Departure From My Normal 'Strobe-Centric' Work

I have grown very accustomed to all the planning, setup, and lighting that goes into the photographs I generally create - I am creating and capturing moments that never really happened. So while some photographers are amazing at capturing life's fleeting moments, others create those moments fictitiously (like me).

I wanted to challenge myself to do something different so I put my 50mm 1.8 lens on the camera and hit the streets. No setups, no models, no lights. I thought perhaps I would see a street fight or an impromptu performance or the spontaneous kiss of a couple in love. I didn't see any of those things. But I did see the two images above as I walked the streets and captured those instead. Granted, those moments weren't fleeting and the subjects didn't threaten to dash off if I hesitated, but I was able to capture them nonetheless.

Most of my work is commercial; I will call this 'art' and see if it sticks. ;-)

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

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Morning Run in the Desert

Here is a shot from my second 'runner-in-the-desert' photo shoot. Even though this shoot was staged at the same location as the photos in the two posts below, I knew the images would have a different feel because this time instead of shooting at dusk I was shooting just after sunrise. I was not prepared, however, for exactly how different they would be.

Strobist Info:
3 Speedlights camera-right ganged together for extra power (key light)
1 SB800 camera-left and behind subject for rim light
1 SB800 camera-right and behind subject for rim light

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

Thursday, March 19, 2009

An Outtake - Running in the Desert

This photo is actually an outtake from the desert runner photo shoot (see post immediately preceding this one). I'm a little embarrassed to admit it but I was simply just late hitting the shutter release on this one - bug on my nose or something. ;-)

But the more I looked at it, the more I liked it until I finally broke down and edited it. For the Strobist Info it is basically the same setup as below except the runner has already passed beyond the 'light trap' and so the effect is a little different - essentially just not getting the rim lighting.

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

Twilight Running in the Desert

In an effort to build upon my lifestyle portfolio I have been seeking athletes, fitness models, dancers, etc. I myself am an avid runner and run past this very spot on a regular basis. I have been thinking for some time now that I wanted to photograph a runner here but in my mind's eye I envisioned doing it at dawn shooting east into the sunrise.

This shot happens to be at (after) dusk shooting west into the (what was) sunset. I like the effect despite quite different than the original concept of shooting at dawn. I am, however, shooting a female fitness model in this same location at dawn this Saturday - stay tuned for a photo from that shoot to see the difference . . .

Strobist Info:
One SB900 camera-right CTO'd; key light
One SB900 camera-left for rim light
One SB800 camera-right for rim light and PS'd out of the frame
I don't have the power settings - was moving too fast in quickly changing twilight

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

Friday, March 13, 2009

White on White on Black - SMoCA Nights

[EDIT: Since posting below, I have been educated to the fact that the 'weird white people' are a theatrical performance called TRANSFIX performed Vessel - thanks for the correction Rachel.]

Have you attended SMoCA Nights? No? Me neither - not until last night anyway. It's a very fun party at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art complete with a fashion show, DJ's, food, beverage, plenty of artwork, and weird 'white people'.

My passion for creating lighting setups has drawn me to photoshoots that allow me the luxury to take time 'modeling' the environment and subject using separate planes of light. Painting in the important elements; darkening distractions; working in layers. This, however, is often a time consuming affair.

I am trying to be more spontaneous in my photography - working from the cuff and capturing fleeting moments instead of painstakingly creating moments that never really existed. It is a very different type of work that flexes different mental muscles. Keep an eye out for more of this type of work from me . . .

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

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Study In Bronze

This shoot involved several wardrobe changes - all of which looked very nice. Initially I thought I would like some of the black and white outfits the best based on the contrast they would create against the bronze wall and chair. Funny enough though after looking at the proofs this was one of my favorites; bronze chair, bronze wall, bronze shirt. Heck, even accentuates the bronze in her skin tone!

Strobist Info:
1 SB900 behind shoot-through umbrella above subject and slightly camera right.
1 SB900 in a small Lumiquest III softbox camera left.
1 gridded SB800 on floor behind subject aimed up at wall.
1 gridded SB800 behind subject and camera right for hairlight

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Free Camelback Portrait Sessions - March Dates Confirmed

[EDIT: The March dates for 'Portraits at the Top' have CHANGED. The corrected dates are listed below and are 03/15 and 03/28.]

Some of you may already be aware that I am offering a service called 'Portraits at the Top'. For the benefit of those who haven't yet heard of this, I am hiking to the top of Camelback Mountain twice a month and shooting free portraits. The twist is that I will have portable lighting equipment with me and have a mobile studio set up to create portraits like the one above.

It would be great to see you up there for a free photo and to say 'Hi'. The dates for March are Sunday 03/015 and Saturday 03/28 from 9:00am until noon. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me here.

Strobist Info:
Exposure was 1/800 at f/16 to underexpose the sky
Two SB800's fired full power using CLS high and camera-right
One Vivitar 285 fired full power using PocketWizards low and camera-right
One SB800 fired full power on-camera to provide on-axis fill light

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

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sun Rising Over Watson Lake

The sun just moments after cresting the horizon - Watson LakeA friend (and fellow photographer)invited me to visit him up north for a visit and a photo shoot. We shot at Watson Lake outside Prescott, AZ starting just before the sun crept over the horizon. It was a beautiful cold Arizona morning and some of the snow from a previous storm remained despite a week of warm daytime highs in the 40's.

After shooting the ambient light of the rising sun, I wanted to try something a little different and use some strobes. The foreground of this image is lit predominately by strobes. As you might guess, shooting into the sun with the surfaces of the foreground facing away from the sun (toward the camera), they would have been very dark without a little help from artificial light.

Strobist Info:
2 SB900's and 1 SB800 camera right (needed lots of light to compete with the bright sunlight)
1 SB800 camera left to throw a splash of light on the left side of the main rock in foreground.
All strobes fired full power using CLS