Where I have been, what I have done, and why I did it


10/4/11 – Behind The Scenes – Off Camera Flash

About a month ago I did a shoot for my niece.  She wanted some pictures with a car that has been in our family for many years.   On a Saturday I dove a few hours south to go visit them and to find a location to complete this shot.

Luckily there was a road nearby that did not have much traffic on it so we got things ready and set up.  I used a vivitar 285 ½ power camera right thru an umbrella and a LumoPRO 160 ½ power camera left and behind.

I was having trouble getting focus on my niece’s face so I had my brother point my handy flashlight on her.  You can see this in the raw picture below.

And in this raw picture below you see where I had my camera left flash setup.

And now some different pics from this lighting setup that have been post processed-


9/27/11 A Band Shoot

A few months back I received a call asking if I would do a band promo shot.  I had not heard their music yet so I was kind of in the dark as to which theme I would try to achieve.  So after the call I started researching techniques/ideas for band promo shots.  I came across some neat photos that had different looks that I knew I could handle.  This gave me enough ideas so when I arrived and saw the band I would know how I would capture the mood.

I did not know how much time I would have to get the shots.  So I had planned on just shooting around their studio.  However just to be safe I pulled up google maps street view of the town I would be shooting in to find some areas that would make good backdrops.  (I’m glad I did this as it comes in handy!)

I arrived at their studio the afternoon of the shoot a little early to look around.  Immediately I saw a lack of space.  Luckily the band was running late from getting ready and I had some more time to go check on the other locations I had scouted out on google maps.  These spots were only about 3 miles away and were much better.

The band arrived at the studio and I convinced them that this other location was much better.  We loaded up and took shots at a few different spots.  Below is a diagram of the shot they are using-

And below is the shot straight from the camera-

And below is the shot after I processed it-

More pictures from this shoot can be found here. (By the way their band name is now Artifas… it was New Skin)

8/1/11 Low Light + Slow Shutter Speed + Off Camera Flash = Neat Effect

Back in April of 2011 my cell phone rings, “Hey… can you come down to Martin Tn and shoot this Soles for Souls event I’m putting on?”  I accepted the request and gathered the preliminary information I needed to prepare for the shoot.   I need to point out that during this time I was mainly setup and focused on individual portrait type work- in other words a 50mm lens, off camera flashes on a still target in a controlled environment.  This job required catching moments out of my control while moving around crowds in different light conditions. I accepted this offered as a learning experience and I knew it would push me to find ways to get the job done.

My main concern was how I was going to incorporate off camera flash in a crowded venue.  I knew I could raise my iso and get some decent band shots from the lights around them, but I wanted to achieve something more.  I spent some time researching night club photography and I came across a technique that I have not read before.  In basic terms the technique is to lower the shutter speed below the safe zone for hand held sharp images (for me that is anything below 1/60) and use a flash as the sharpening tool.  What is happening is the slower shutter speed is allowing for more ambient light to be processed and at the same time because of the slower shutter speed movements are blurred.  The interesting part of this is when you add an off camera flash to the equation.  Whatever the flash hits will keep it in decent focus as if the shot was like 1/1000+ shutter speed.

After I read this, I came up with a plan to have my wife hold one of my flashes with a grid on it to concentrate the light on the face of a band member.  She stood off to the side in the crowd as I worked my way around to the other side and this is the effect I was able to achieve at 1/10 shutter speed-

Now for the same angle at 1/80 shutter speed-

Below is the diagram of the setup-

6/26/11 First Impressions of the Apollo 28” Softbox

I first came across the Apollo softbox when I was watching an episode of the “Backpackers Studio” from Mikey and Andy of Lightenupandshoot.net.  I liked the fact that this modifier can control the light much better than an umbrella.

I received one a few weeks backs and I used it for several senior sessions. From these sessions I have gathered a few opinions from it so far.

First the negative (and there is only one) – the latch that keeps it open is not very sturdy and without the use of some pliers to ensure it catches, it will give away and close. Basically it has the shaft of a very cheap umbrella.

The positives  –  does not catch the wind near as bad as an umbrella and the recessed head really helps in the directional lighting.

Some other general observations – I typically have to power up one more stop on my flash than what I use with a shoot thru umbrella.  It is bigger than I had imagined and because I’m using a larger light stand for it(8 foot), I have to be more alert to check to be sure it or the stand are not in the shot.

Now for some shots using the Apollo 28” softbox-


5/17/11 Light Is…Light

A few months back, one of the photographers (Bert Stephani) that I keep up with made a post on his blog that I found interesting.  The article goes into detail on a 70 Euro lighting studio setup.  What I found interesting about it, was the fact I did something back around last November that was similar. I was just starting to research off camera lighting and I wanted to start learning how to work with it.  My flashes had not arrived yet, but I did have some work lights and a shower curtain.

Since then, I have been focused on soaking up as much information on off camera lighting with flashes as possible- the inverse square law to lighting, separating the subject from the background, directional setups, etc.  I have had many sessions using 1 to 2 off camera flashes with umbrellas, grids, snoots, and reflectors and I felt like each time I went out I was improving.

When I read Bert’s blog, I had one of those moments that made me stop and think for a few minutes.  I had gotten so engrossed in the technical aspects of lighting, it all comes back to- light is … light.

I went out to my garage and cleared out some space and set up my shop lights behind a shower curtain.  Below is what the lighting setup looked like-(disregard everything else…I changed it before I did a couple of sessions)

Now for some of the pictures from this light setup-

For this one I used a single flash behind the curtain-

4/28/11 Monitor and Adjust – Recent Sessions

No matter how much planning you do for a photo session, you have to be ready to make adjustments.  My wife likes to poke fun at my OCDness (yes… I made that a word) but that drive helps me to be ready to make changes on the fly.  I have a few examples that I want to cover in this post.

Example #1- Spring had arrived and warm weather with great sunsets was in abundance. As long as the weather stayed like this I had my next location selected for a photo session. The location was going to be a long bike path that cut through the forest.

The day arrived for the session and the weather was spot on during the day.  About an hour before the shoot though, the weather started to change.  I still wanted to try the location but I was ready to move to another one just in case.

I set up and began taking pictures and clouds rolled in killing my sunset.  The wind also picked up and it was starting to get a bit chilly for the outfit my subject was wearing.  We took a break.  I was contemplating moving to plan B, when my subject put on a red coat.  I looked at it and in the back of my mind I was thinking “Little Red Riding Hood”.  I didn’t say anything about that but I did say “Hey keep that on for some shots!”  I changed my lens to a long one to get compression in the background with the trees.  I told my subject that I’m going to be about 60 feet away and I wanted her to walk a certain way thru my lights.  She immediately said like “Little Red Riding Hood”?  I said yep and we laughed.  We did several takes and this one was the keeper.

Example #2- This session was going to take place inside a cabin where I was going to use a 2 flash setup.  We got to the location and I started setting up.  I quickly noticed that I had left one of my flashes out of it containers and back home.  Since this shoot was just for fun and last minute, I didn’t do a check list and just grabbed my gear bag.

Since it was an overcast day and the cabin was fairly dark, my options now were to (a) drive 30 minutes roundtrip to get my 2nd flash, (b) go with a tried and true single flash setup, (c) look for a spot that I could use the ambient light as my main light and my flash with a grid spot as a back/side light.

I went with choice (b) for a while till the overcast light started to brighten.  I then switched to a different location in the cabin where light was coming in from the window nicely and I went with option (c).  Below are a couple of pictures from this option-

3/22/11 Scouting Locations

My daughter, who just turned 21 months loves to ride in vehicles.  For the past year, just about every weekend we go on a Saturday morning drive while we let Mommy get some much needed rest.  This has provided me a lot of time to scout roughly a 100 mile radius of Paducah Ky.

As I have had more opportunities to photograph people, I have been going back to some of the places that I have written down as neat locations.  Just recently I did a shoot with Nick Moore where I wanted to go to Cario Illinois.  I explored this area about a year ago and I was itching to go back.

Cario is an old river town that relied much on the Mississippi River for trade and reached a population of 20,000 in 1907.  As industries moved and the riverboat trade ceased, Cario became a ghost town.  As of 2010 the population was listed around 2,800. A majority of the buildings located on the river are now abandoned and provide a neat backdrop.

Here is a diagram of the lighting I used for one of the shots here-

Here is the shot-