8 Models in 8 Hours: A good time was had by all.

I had used the very capable Ashley Rihel: Hair and Makeup Artist on several corporate, meetup and model portfolio assignments. She is always on time and ready to work. During a recent studio session Ashley asked if I would do some trade work with her to develop her MUA portfolio. Always willing to help I said “Sure, let me know”. Soon it went to off into direction I hadn’t expected.Thank you ladies


The original conversation with Ashley was for ‘a’ model and we’d split the studio cost. As time passed it went to 2 models. No worries – headshots only – in and out in under 2-3 hours with makeup.

A few days after setting up for the headshot portfolio session for Ashley I got a message from Gaylee. A friend and fellow photographer; owner of Urban Chic Designs Photography Gaylee had found a studio for rent closer to her home than Dallas and asked if I would go look at it with her. Always willing to help I said “Sure, let me know”.

The studio was on the smallish side but well equipped with background sets. Unfamiliar with the provided lighting equipment my monoblocks and modifiers would work well enough. Gaylee’s a wiz with props and clothing and Ashley wants images for her port – right? The hourly and day rates were very reasonable so we decided – after a beer stop at the local Fuzzy’s – to rent it at the day rate – 8 full hours. Now – all we needed were models.[pullquote align=”left”]Now – all we needed were models.[/pullquote]

Coordination between Ashley and Gaylee worked well and we booked 10 models fully understanding grandmothers tend to pass away on TF shoot days and we’d end up with 4-5 models.

We had 8 show up over the course of the day.

The models, at left, ranged in age from 17-~35ish. White, black, Asian and Hispanic. Experience levels were just as diverse – from brand-new to very experienced. Quite the mix, I was very pleased with the subjects for the all day shoot.

This started as simple session to help a friend’s business. Photographing 8 models in 8 hours for portrait portfolio development taught me a few things also.


Models: (Left to right – top to bottom)

  • Cynthia Ann
  • Ms Click
  • Jonna
  • Alisha Lee
  • Natalie
  • Krystle
  • Pocky Pants
  • Amanda Rose

Thank you ladies for the experience – you were all great to work with.

Nikon D300 & SB-800 Speedlight Flash Diffusion Test

On camera flash photography has always challenged me. I learned photography, in West Germany during the early ‘70s, using natural light only, black and white film and developed my own prints. My first experience, in the early ‘80s, with a flash gun was a reunion of flight school classmates and our families. We paraded the kids through the living room, onesies, twosies, you know the drill, and I took whole family photos too. The garish, over exposed pictures with that damn hard edged shadow (like the top center picture) was embarrassing when the color prints arrived. Who needs a flash? Not a REAL photographer anyway; so, back to natural light for more than 2 decades.


My take on the $35 iPhone 4 Telephoto Lens

I honestly do not remember where I read about the Photojojo iPhone Telephoto Lens but remember thinking it must be a joke.

Photojojo iPhone Telephoto Lens

Chuckled and went to read about it anyway. After reading their humorous write-up and looking closely at the images provided. I realized I had no use for it at all. But of course I bought one anyway.

“But of course I bought one anyway.”

The iPhone 4 kit was on back order and took nearly three weeks to arrive. If you order the iPhone 4 kit today (March 6, 2011) it won’t ship until March 21st.

Mine arrived last night. First thoughts:

  • Well packaged.
  • Comes complete with;
    • lens (front and rear caps)
    • stand
    • cleaning cloth
    • back case
    • small black cloth carrying bag
    • instruction manual
  • Surprisingly well build components. Not Nikon level craftsmanship but pretty well done.

My only real complaint is the back only case – I prefer a case with front and back coverage for my phone. A smaller disappointment is the minimum focus distance of  3 meters.

Today I took it out to play a bit. I mounted the iPhone onto the  supplied stand and braced it upon a garden fence in my front yard. (yeah – I know.)

Click on the following images to enlarge:

iPhone 4 only lens at widest setting

iPhone 4 only lens maximum zoom

iPhone 4 with Photojojo 8x telephoto lens installed

iPhone 4 with Photojojo 8x telephoto lens installed AND maximum digital zoom

Pro D/SLR quality it ain’t: but it is functional.  And would be very handy if you were a spy. Well, except for the 3 meter focal distance thing.

I will carry it and look for opportunities to use it.


Using Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS) in daylight

SB900 using the sun as a hairlight.

I have heard and get asked a lot of questions about Nikon’s CLS’ ability or inability to function in bright daytime conditions. In my experience it really have not been an issue. I pay attention to the speedlight’s position and its sensor location relative to my camera and SU800.

Today’s metering technology is a great asset so I normally let it take the first ‘shot‘ at what it sees in a scene. While I have studio lights and a Vagabond II, there is little I haven’t been able to do with my SBs. The above shot was taken with a single SB900.

It was very sunny in California the day I shot Candice – notice the shadow on the lower left of the umbrella even though the speedlight fired for this behind the scene picture.

In the photograph of Candice above I metered for the shaded portion of her face and let Nikon TTL do the rest.

In the event it does not produce the result I want I adjust the stop (by 1/3 steps) on the speedlight.

Distance is another concern CLS nay-sayers bring up.

In this photograph Jason is holding a 42 inch Wescott umbrella with a SB-800 tucked up in the open ribs point towarded the camera to get the light reflected back to his face.

Behind him is a SB-900 shooting into another 42 inch Wescott umbrella. That c-stand is a good 50 feet away and up the hill about 10-12 feet above Jason’s head.

Line of sight is important – so just pay attention. But I have used the SB8 & 900s behind glass, reflected the signal off of windows, mirrors, cars just about any reflective surface. I have also ‘staged’ the lights to ‘see’ another but not the SU800.

Think of the IR signal like a billiard ball.

I also use the Nikon CLS to fill on cloudy daylight sessions.

While in Phoenix last week I did the entire shoot with these tools:

The result:

Single SB900 camera left - TTL triggered with SU800.

The only time I have trouble with the system is when I position myself on the wrong side of the speedlight’s optical sensor or move in front of the flash. I use a ballhead so I can quickly rotate the speedlight into the correct position.

Things that go Bump during a shoot: A solution for strobists

I have tripped and bumped my way through a lot of shooting locations; the act of repositioning the speedlights on stands with modifiers, while not the biggest challenge of any photo session, was an annoyance I didn’t like. Between the umbrella, open or not, and the open legs of an 8ft light stand I have said ‘Excuse me’; Pardon me’ a hundred times.

Indoors; the knocking around furniture, people and doorways is a headache. Outdoors; moving through people, parked cars, shrubs, trees and rocks presents its own challenges. The act of closing the umbrellas and legs every time I want to reposition the lights is both time consuming and then reversing the process at the new position can a bit unprofessional looking. Sometimes while balancing my camera gear too. I’m not as graceful as I used to be.

I’ve been doing the strobist thing for a couple of years and am always looking for a better more efficient way to get the job done. I was shown a Kwik Stand about a year ago by a studio photographer and liked the idea, but soon found out the Kwik Stand Company had gone out of business. Over the past year two companies have come to market with their versions of the folding leg light stand: Denny EZ Stand and Cheetah Stand. I have tried both and chose the Cheetah Stand for several reasons:

There is no real comparison if you take the time to see the differences. The all metal construction of the Cheetah with its slim solid metal legs and rubber rib-footed feet beats out the thin walled tubular legs of the EZ Stand with its flat smooth plastic ones. The EZ Stand feet appear larger but only one edge actually contacts the floor and it slides easily on smooth shiny floors. Maybe it’s a feature and not a flaw; in any case I didn’t care for it.

The legs of both extend on contact with the ground but the EZ Stand does not compress back to its body as closely the Cheetah. Not a huge deal but depending on the space, think church pews, you’re navigating – it just might. The all metal locking clamps and thumb wings of the Cheetah appear to be better suited to hold up over time with field use.

My copy of the EZ Stand did not smoothly extend or compress, the bottom (largest) pole section was very stiff in fact. It’s supposed to be an air cushion stand, why I’m not sure for such a small stand, which may be the reason for the gummed up feel. Fully extended, the EZ Stand is about an inch taller. The tubes are not internally secured (more on this in a minute). The Cheetah on the other hand is quick and smooth without being a hazard to your equipment with common sense and normal equipment care.

In field use neither stand met all my needs. Because of the inherent design required for this type of stand, the center post must extend down to within an inch or so of the surface. This is only a problem, for me anyway, when shooting on very rough uneven terrain like a rocky ledge near Lake Grapevine.(Let me add that neither stand was designed nor intended, as far as I know, to be use exactly the way I describe here.) But this is how I found out that the EZ Stand’s main extension tubes are not internally secured.

During a two speedlight shoot, one Cheetah and one EZ stand, I was unable place the opened legs of either stand on the uneven rocky ground. So, in my get the job done mode, I placed (gently wedged/balanced) the stands in-between some rocks. Worked like a charm; got the pictures; time to move on. When I reached out to grab the EZ Stand by the middle tube, balanced upon another rock, to lift it out of the crevice I had half a light stand in my hand. I did not jerk or twist it; it just ‘plop’ came apart. Ten minutes later I moved on with two complete stands. Good news, the tube went back in as easily as it came out.

Now here is a completely mox nix point I noticed, the EZ Stand could be used as a wind chime with all the hollow metal racket it makes when you walk around with it.

So the Cheetah Stand works for me, I now have four of them and they go where I go. Quite, reliable and built to last.

Strobist ballhead and umbrella test

In Joe McNally‘s CLS video it showed him using a ballhead to align the flashhead along the umbrella stem axis. Made sense that it would distribute the light more evenly; so I bought the rig. Here’s the test results – you decide.

As pointed out in the note above, I forgot the diffuser.

Single SB800 set to TTL into Wescott 42″ shoot through umbrella.

The ballhead is the Manfrotto Lite Tite Swivel+Umbrella Adapter 26
The coldshoe is the Stroboframe Shoe-type Flash Mount Cat. No 300-SHO

I consider this as a ‘nice to know’ experiment only. With the inherent spill associated with shoot through umbrellas and with the difusser on the speedlight the coverage appears to be good. One additional advantage I found with the ballhead set is the ability to quickly rotate the flash body to align the IR sensor to face the camera.

I’ll know better after I field test it.



Bokeh: How we love thee

I shot a corporate annual conference dinner the other evening, then posted the images on-line for the attendees to download. We used flash at the start of the event. In an attempt to capture the feel of the evening I switched to my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 IF-D and shot wide open at f/1.4 in the dimly lit rooms.

I love the lens for it’s sharpness and speed. It works amazingly well with the high ISO capabilities of the D700 which I had set to ISO 1000.

Nearly all of the feedback I have received were on the photographs with the heaviest bohek.

“Bokeh (derived from Japanese, a noun boke 暈け, meaning “blurred or fuzzy”) is a photographic term referring to the appearance of out-of-focus areas in an image produced by a camera lens using a shallow depth of field.”

I like the bokeh too but the comments got me to thinking about why. I will hazard a guess that it most closely mimics the human eye’s ability to sharply focus and isolate upon a single subject within a busy field of view.

Pay attention to your vision the next time your gaze is fixed on just about anything. Notice the ‘bokeh’ effect of the background when concentrating on your morning coffee cup; the sharpness of the person across the room while all else seems to disappear.

Let me know.

Hassled by the Washington, DC Park Rangers for taking photos

I’ve spent the last three days here in Washington, DC on business. Meetings with the Emily at the WW II MonumentFAA, HHS and the WAAS office. Long times between meetings and I’ve been done pretty early in the day. So, I placed a casting call on ModelMayhem to see if I could pass the time doing what I like to do, take pictures. 5 or 6 TFCD models responded and I set up sessions with two of them. As my luck would have it – both at the same time. That wasn’t a problem for me (read assistant) or them though so we met at my hotel and headed for the National Mall to shoot. The plan was to use the monuments as the background. Sounded way cool.

We chose the new WW II monument because it had a nice water fountain. We got there around 7pm, good light, not huge crowds. As one model was getting her ticket from the Park Police (wrong way on a One Way street) the other model (Emily) and I set off to set up and shoot along the granite outside wall of the monument. I used 2 SB800s, at first to fill then to light her. Nikon CLS is so cool. So far so good. I get about a dozen shots off when the other model, Danielle walked up. She dismissed the ticket as part of life in DC and we starting posing her along the same wall Emily had used. About 10 minutes later I hear:

Sir – Sir:


Young girls and tattoos

I have photographed many young females with massive tattoo displays recently. Most all of them were strikingly colorful; both the young lady and her tattoos. They have held all sorts of jobs, been from various backgrounds and nearly all under 21.

Examples: Nathalie and Emily.

The young never see themselves growing old or their bodies wearing out and loosing its youthful firmness. Although I do not have tattoos, almost got inked one night in Army boot camp back in ’72 though, I can understand one, two or a few tats to mark an occasion, person or event. To have massive, highly visible sleeves at 18 or 19 is not looking beyond the rebellious moment of youthful freedom.

I did encounter a young woman about 2 years ago, she was in her late twenties, who realized life, to include her body, moves on. She asked if I would photograph her tattoos, after a short discussion we agreed on date, time and place. During the session she explained to me her body was ‘failing her’, her words and she wanted to memorialize them as her body is now and not as her children and grandkids would eventually see them.

I am not against tattoos, I enjoy the photographic challenge of lighting them and posing the model to achieve the best effect. I never mention my thoughts about the years to come and how I have learned life and bodies change. I simply take the photographs for their grandkids.