Lest We Forget - A Holocaust Remembrance

May 8, 1945 was the day the Holocaust came to an end, and it’s that period of our modern history that many people often think is just a part of history and that’s it. Something that happened in the past and has already been recorded in the history books. But has to be more than that. If history is just a measure of Time + Events, then we, as a people, are walking down a dangerous cyclical path. If one measures history as Time + Relationships + Experiences, then it means something more. I wasn’t even born when the Holocaust occurred, but photography has taught me that moments are important, especially the experiences of people within that moment.

I just happened to be at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and saw this amazing display, a Holocaust Remembrance created by German-Italian photographer, Luigi Toscano. It’s 68 portraits of living Holocaust survivors. It’s a beautiful testimony to those who survived it, but a mournful, cautionary memory about the dangers of nationalism that lacks restraint.

The photos need no real description. They are as they are. Of note is that I ran across this exhibition on May 8, 2019, exactly 74 years after the Holocaust historically came to an end.

By the time this blog is published, the exhibition will have moved on from San Francisco. I urge you to find out if it’s coming to your area, and to visit it and lose yourself in the history of it. And shed a tear for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Shot with my iPhone SE and edited with the Lightroom App.

Mother's Day 2019

To all of the moms out there

Thank you! We don’t say it often enough.

The weekly blog will be back on its usual Monday schedule in just over a week. In the meantime, if your mom is still present on this earth, give her a call, visit her, talk with her. The days are very precious, so never let that chance go by to tell your mom you love her.

Colonial Williamsburg - Surveying His Domain

Sometimes you just get lucky when a shot presents itself. And sometimes if you don’t think fast enough, you’ll lose that shot.

I had just exited the Governor’s Palace and one of the interpreters bid me farewell. Since I was the only one around him — it was near closing time of the palace at 5pm — after he bid me farewell, he turned away from me, presumably to look at something. I didn’t think anything of it until I turned around and took one last look at the Governor’s Palace to try to catch the sun’s setting rays hitting the building. But what I saw instead was the below pose.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/3800sec

I quickly walked back to him and asked if I could take his picture with that same pose and he agreed.

I took the saturation down a bit because I felt that it aged the photo a little, plus I added a vignette. Colonial Williamsburg is full of wonderful colors, especially blues and reds and whites that can dazzle the eye. But in this instance I thought things needed to be a little softer and more mellow.

Colonial Williamsburg - Lost in Thought in the Wythe House

I actually started my day tour in Colonial Williamsburg at the home of George Wythe, who I learned was a mentor to Thomas Jefferson.  I was in this house the night before for the Haunted Williamsburg tour and decided to return because I wanted to explore the home more.

I found my way to the second floor where I was met by an interpreter who told me a little about the history of the house, and also talked about some of the architectural designs behind the home.  It was an eye opener for me.

Before I bid her farewell, I asked her if I could take her photo and she obliged.  But I was trying to figure out a good shot.

On a table were some items dealing with entomology.  I wasn’t interested so much in what the items were exactly, but they were interesting and had texture.  I positioned myself so that I could get a little backlight from the window and took the following shot.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 42.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/210sec

I didn’t want her entire body in front of the window, otherwise the backlight would have blown out all of her features.  I also increased the shadows in the room, processed it as sepia, and added a vignette to give it an older feel.

Colonial Williamsburg - Firing of the Noon Gun

The firing of the noon gun was a daily event that marked the end of the morning’s training and the start of the noon-time meal prep for the continental soldiers at Colonial Williamsburg.

I spent a few minutes wandering around the area of the Magazine in Colonial Williamsburg, wondering where this was going to take place.  I’d seen several cannons in the magazine yard, but those were pointed at the magazine itself, so that told me I was in the wrong spot.  It would be odd to fire a cannon — even with just powder — at a structure!

But a few minutes later, I saw this trio walking from around the side of the Magazine towards a cannon that was at the base of a small hill.  They walked in silence and with purpose, as you can see from the photo below.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/2500sec

Without a doubt, these three were going to fire the noon gun!

I shot the above image with the Fuji Provia Standard Film Simulation, but in post-processing, I switched over to the Velvia Film Simulation because I wanted the colors of the uniform and a hint of the blue sky to pop out.  When I shoot sporting events, I’m normally using Velvia, and for portraiture I’m usually using ProNeg Standard.  But Velvia seemed to be appropriate in this instance because I wanted the uniform colors to pop as much as possible.  They’re just pretty cool to look at when the colors become more prominent.

For the actual firing of the noon gun, I opted against using video and then capturing still frames.  Instead, I decided to shoot it using the burst mode of the X-H1.  I set it to high speed burst, which was 8 frames per second.  Shutter speed was fixed at 1/4000 and the aperture at f/5.6 to keep enough of the action in focus.  The shot was handheld as I decided to leave the tripod at home on this trip so as to be as mobile and unencumbered as possible.  I’m not exactly sure why the ISO ended up being 1600, but since it was daytime, there’s no noise that I could detect.

If you click of the image below, it will open up a brief video clip showing the firing of the gun.  You’ll notice some camera shake at the end, and I think i was my reaction to the firing itself.

1/4000 sec was the perfect speed to capture the muzzle flash and burning of the powder!

If I could do things a little differently next time, I would definitely use a tripod and cable release.  I might also set the FPS for high speed burst to maybe 12 instead of 8.  I might also use a prime lens like the Fuji 90mm or even 80mm in order to get a sharper image.  Focusing itself was done manually.

Colonial Williamsburg - Ghosts Stories

As with many old cities, particularly on the eastern seaboard of the U.S., there are tales of hauntings and restless spirits.  Colonial Williamsburg is one place where such tales abound!

I decided to hear about such stories and went on the Haunted Williamsburg tour.  It’s held at night, though I made sure to sign up for the tour that was well past sunset, starting at 8pm.  We had two guides that night who took us inside some of the haunted homes in Williamsburg.  They led us by lantern-light to each house and told us stories of the ghosts who have haunted those homes.  It is a bit of a creepy tour because in the darkness of those homes, it seems like there’s something lurking in the shadows.  In fact, one of our guides was wary about going into one of the homes because of an incident that happened to her in broad daylight while she was alone there.

After the tour ended I asked our two guides if I could take their picture.  I improvised the shot below because I didn’t want to keep them too long in the cold.

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

But is one of them a ghost?

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

The above shot is only the third time in 2019 that I’ve actually used Photo Shop to alter an image.  I wanted to see if I could create a ghost.  Mind you, I only had a single image to work with.

Did we really have two guides that night?  Or was one of them a ghost?

Colonial Williamsburg - Aggy’s Sorrow

I’ve stated many times that there’s a certain power to black and white photography. I like how it takes an emotion and enhances it. As soon as I took this shot, I knew it had to be black and white.

Why is this called “Aggy’s Sorrow”? It’s because the interpreter, Mary, is presenting the real-life historical figure of Aggy, a slave. Not only was she a slave, but she was also an interracial slave. Aggy’s father was white while her mother was black. So she existed in both worlds, more-so in the world of the slave than in any other world. Aggy also had two children with her master.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/4000sec

I suppose the use of black and white is also symbolic in that it also implies the internal struggle within Aggy.  You’ll notice that a majority of the color is a much darker shade, versus the lighter shade, showing which world she was forced to live in.

With her head down, and brim of her hat angling toward the Union Jack, which world does she really belong to?

This scene has been indelibly burned into my memory, probably my most prominent one during my visit.

I did make a few minor enhancements to this photo.  First, I used Photoshop to digitally remove Mary’s wireless microphone, which was located on the right side of her face.  It’s only the second time in 2019 that I’ve had to use Photoshop for anything since I always try to do my absolute best to nail the photo in-camera (exposure, DoF, etc).  I also burned the corners of the image with a heavy vignette to darken it even more, thus increasing the gloom.

The photo would have looked fine in color, but black and while tells Aggy’s story more than any color photograph ever could.

Colonial Williamsburg - Anticipation

If you’ve seen my Instagram, or have caught snippets of my blog, you’ll know that I really enjoy photographing live recreations, like Bethlehem AD in Redwood City which I photographed in 2016, 2017, and 2018.  I had heard about Colonial Williamsburg, but, having been to the Washington D.C. area numerous times, had never made the three hour trip south to visit.  This year I did.  And I’m glad I did.

Colonial Williamsburg is a living museum!  And it’s a museum that covers several city blocks, with restored colonial buildings and costumed volunteers (known as interpreters) in the buildings and walking the streets, eager to share their knowledge of a time just before the American Revolution.  Where Bethlehem AD is a seasonal event, Colonial Williamsburg is open year-round, and there are seasonal additions too, which are too numerous to mention.  So one could visit it annually at different times of the year and experience many new things!

What will follow over the next few weeks are photos — sometimes one and sometimes many — that each represent a different facet of my experience during one day at Colonial Williamsburg.

And it all starts with this specific shot. 

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/180sec

Whoever she’s waiting for, she’s excited.

Why this shot?  It’s the one that stuck in my mind after I took it, and it’s the one that I showed several of the interpreters when I asked them if I could take their photo.

I was doing a self-tour of the Governor’s Palace — I’d missed the guided tours earlier in the day — and I spotted one of the interpreters staring out the window.  This inspired me and I knew I had to get the above shot.

I only brought one lens for this visit: my trusty 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, which would have the field of view of a 24-70mm on a full frame camera.  For travel and events, this lens has never let me down.

How this shot was achieved:  I shot it at f/2.8, but at 24mm, which on a full frame would be more like 36mm.  Why not at 55mm?  Because I didn’t want a shallow depth of field.  I felt it important to pull out the details of not just her face, but also her dress and the details of the window and the swords mounted on the wall behind her.  ISO 200 is the base ISO for the Fuji X series cameras and I kept it at that.  1/180sec shutter speed gave me the look I wanted with darker shadows; there were no electric lights back then!

The light is all natural from the sun.  I didn’t bring a flash for this trip, instead relying on just the found light.  And the buildings seen outside the window, those are real.  I just used the dehaze tool in Lightroom to bring out the details just a bit.

As for the sepia tone, that was more of an artistic choice — one that I made on the spot —since photography didn’t exist in those days just before the War of Independence.  In fact, it wouldn’t be for another 50 or so years that the first known photograph would have been produced.  I could have left it in color, slightly desaturated, but I wanted the photo to not only evoke an emotion, but also a time and place.  Sepia seemed to suit this image because immediately the mind associates the contents of the image as not being in the 20th or 21st centuries.

Next week, I’ll blog about another Colonial Williamsburg photo that I think speaks volumes about the use of black and white and how that technique can take an emotion and deepen it.

PoppySeed Dancer: The Power of Black & White

This week we have a series of black and white photos from my shoot with Anna (aka PoppySeed Dancer). I don’t know what it is about black and white, but sometimes when I do a photo session with models or musicians, a majority of the photos will turn out to be black and white. There’s just something about the drama of black and white that adds more punch to the image, like in the first photo.

Anna was wearing a white ballet skirt and cream-colored leotard and the background behind her was a mixture of grass and rock. Under normal circumstances the colors would be amazing, but the greens were so bright that they would have taken the focus off of her. With the black and white conversion, there’s no doubt that she should be the focus of our attention.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

For the first three shots in this blog, the lighting source was a Godox AD200 on the Avenger Alu-Baby Light Stand. It was 90 degrees to the camera, providing a perfect side light.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

I love the graceful pose of this next one, and also the fact that you can see her muscle tone.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/200sec

For the next series of shots, I added a fill flash, although I’d forgotten to bring along a second light stand! So the fill light, which was a Godox TT685, was actually sitting on the ground off to my left. I just angled the flash head so that so there would be minimal spill across the ground. And thankfully that worked!

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/320sec

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/6.4 - 1/320sec

So with a decent fill light, she really popped out of the picture! But the nice thing is that it didn’t sacrifice the hint of muscle tone, which you can still see above.

This next photo is one that has blown a few people away, just because of Anna’s pose.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/4 - 1/320sec

Her balance and strength is absolutely amazing! And her patience to hold that pose long enough for a photographer to take a shot … let’s just say I was a little slow…

Finally, we have a jump. This took a bit to get just right for reasons I mentioned before regarding the disadvantage of the mirrorless camera for fast action. But we eventually got it!

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/4 - 1/320sec

With that jump, we wrapped up at this location, but the day wasn’t over yet. Anna wanted to see if we could somehow capture a shot of the sunset, and I knew the perfect place! But that’s a blog entry for another time.

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Dancers & Villagers & Roman Soldiers!

Bethlehem AD has angels and animals, and a real baby in the feeding trough in a manger, but it has much more than that. All throughout the entire venue are volunteers in costume, playing roles from dancers to villagers to Roman soldiers. Each person has a unique part to play in this marvelous re-creation.

What follows are shots taken over several nights that capture some of those special moments.

These first three shots were actually taken out on the street as people are lining up to enter the Bethlehem AD venue. Many are greeted by Roman soldiers, plus Herod the Great being drawn along in a carriage.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 25.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

And there are dancers as well.

ISO 100 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 21.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/8sec

Despite using a flash that I held in my hand and triggered via remote, I think got some motion blur due to my low shutter speed. I’m not exactly sure why my shutter was so low. It’s possible that the dial might not have been locked in place.

ISO 100 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 21.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/8sec

Next we have photos of the inside the town itself. I consider some of these to be more moments than events, some of them personal and intimate ones.

ISO 1250 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

I actually staged the following shot. This is supposed to the inn where Mary and Joseph are told that there’s no more room. You can see a light source in the upper right which I didn’t digitally remove from the shot. But the real light source is actually behind that and out of frame. I used my Godox AD200 on the Avenger Alu-Baby nightstand to give the necessary light to the shot. It was the bare flash bulb with a 5 inch reflector, thus creating deeper shadows and harder features.

ISO 200 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 20/6mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

Next we have two shots from the small Jewish school.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

ISO 1000 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

Another magnificent part, which I didn’t get too many shots of last year, are the dancers. I actually saw some of their rehearsals and they put a lot of work into learning the traditional Jewish dances of the time. With the exception of the first shot, which was all natural light, all of the other shots were lit with the AD200.

ISO 800 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 53.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

I had learned from last year that I needed to bring a light source, because without the light I couldn’t achieve the necessary shutter speeds to freeze my subjects while they were dancing. Motion blur had ruined most of my shots from last year. This year, thankfully, the story was a little different.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

This next shot was a favorite of the Bethlehem AD coordinators. And it’s one of mine as well.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

In the above shots, sometimes I used the fresnel head and other times the bare bulb with the 5 inch reflector.

What follows next are some staged shots. When the coordinators for Bethlehem AD asked if I could get a good shot of the shepherds and the sheep, I decided to take things a step further and also see if I could get some decent advertising shots as well.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/125sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 22.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

I’m amazed at how the X-H1 was able to capture the above shot without a flash! You can see just how low the shutter speed is. The X-H1 has in body image stabilization (IBIS), which helped keep the shutter speed low enough. Also helpful as that the shepherd stayed perfectly still as I shot this, so the image is sharp!

The next shot told a nice story, though in retrospect the colors are too vibrant. In the future, I’ll have to dull it down a bit.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 42.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

I’ve always wanted to capture the below shot. I hadn’t seen it done before, but I liked the idea of the townsfolk standing atop the guard tower, looking at the angels on the roof across the street. Next year, I’ll need to work on getting a Roman soldier up there.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

This final shot is my absolute favorite of all for 2018. This was an unexpected and sweet moment. I was looking for a shot in the marketplace and one of the townsfolk saw me with my camera. She paused for me and we shared this brief moment together.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

I remember showing this shot to one of the Bethlehem AD coordinators and she remarked that it reminded her of a Nat Geo moment that one might have gotten on the street in an old city.

Such wonderful memories of Bethlehem AD 2018. Can’t wait for next year!

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Favorite Angel Shots

It’s always the angels that catch everyone’s attention at Bethlehem AD. They dance above the manger and on the roof, rain or shine, in light winds and stormy gale. This year, they were blessed with days of no rain, though the winds did pick up one of the nights, but they kept on dancing.

What follows are my favorite angels shots from Bethlehem AD 2018. They need no real explanation, so I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

ISO 250 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/125sec

ISO 640 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/5.6 — 1/125sec

ISO 320 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 25.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

ISO 320 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 22.7mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 16mm — f/2.8 — 1/15sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

ISO 640 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/4 — 1/60sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 47mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

ISO 1600 — Fuji 50-150mm f/2.8 lens @ 124.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/2000sec

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Shepherds Tending Their Sheep at Night

I was given an assignment during the first night of Bethlehem AD: Take photos of the shepherds and the sheep in the field.  The Bethlehem AD organizers needed a more current one for their pamphlet.  I had a rough idea what I wanted to do and shot the below photo and made sure to light the scene up with my Godox AD 200 mounted way high up on my Avenger Alu-Baby Leveling Light Stand.  That stand got a workout during Bethlehem AD and it goes with me now whenever I know I’ll be shooting outdoors with a flash.

But I digress…  Below is the photo I took of as the doors opened during the final night of Bethlehem AD.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 33.2mm — f/5.6 — 1/30sec

But I wasn’t satisfied with it.  Yeah, it was a decent shot and I showed it to the head photographer for Bethlehem AD and she liked it because it matched what she had in mind, especially with the angels in the background.

But … I really really wasn’t satisfied with it.  It looked too artificial to me.  I mean, yeah, it has all of the elements that I wanted, but the lighting looks too artificial.  I suppose that I could have taken the temperature up a little bit to give it what torchlight or candlelight glow, but still…  I wasn’t really satisfied with it.

And that stuck with me most of the night.  I knew there had to be another way to shoot that concept; I just hadn’t thought of it yet.  And also it was closing night, so I figured that I might not have a chance this year, but perhaps next year.

That is, until about an hour later, when I was wandering around the back of the set, taking pictures of the villagers, that I saw it.  I just happened upon this scene by accident and was quick to position myself, and took the following shot.

ISO 1600 — Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

Bingo! Got it! It has the shepherds, and the sheep. The sheep are out of focus in the background, but you know exactly what they are.

I can’t help but think that if I’d been a few minutes earlier or later, I would have missed this completely. It’s one of my favorite shots of the 2018! More Bethlehem AD shots over the next few weeks!

Playing with Light - It's a Kind of Magic!

Can you capture pure light and pour it into a glass? What trickery is this?

“It’s a kind of magic!’  That’s such a memorable line if you’ve ever seen the extended cut of the original Highlander movie.  Have a  look at the below shot.  How do you think it was done?

ISO 200 — Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/60sec

This was a totally spur-of-the-moment, get-over-there-now-or-you’ll-miss-it shot.

I was at the Villa D’Este Restaurant early in the evening. The singer for the night was just getting set up and I saw several of the restaurant’s servers setting up the tables for the evening’s dinner guests. Suddenly I look over at one of the servers and she’s pouring a glass of water. The back door was open at the time and sunlight was streaming through the door and hit the pitcher and her glass perfectly, illuminating both with a fiery glow. I rushed over there right away and snapped a shot while she had the “what are you doing, dude” look on her face. Another moment later, I would have lost the shot! And you know how us photographers get when we have those regrets of having missed something like that. In fact, we have more regrets at missing a shot than almost anything else.

Can’t wait for something like this to pop up again, and hopefully I’ll be just as fast then as I was for this shot!

Gettysburg - Tears in Rain

If "Tears in Rain" sounds familiar, that's because it's a famous monologue spoken by Rutger Hauer as the replicant Roy Batty in the movie Blade Runner.

I had the opportunity to visit the Gettysburg battlefield on a stormy day, and one image which sticks out is this statue of Abraham Lincoln.   I thought it appropriate to share on Presidents’ Day. 

ISO 1000 - 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm - f/2.8 - 1/2000sec

It was at this very spot that Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.  If you’ve never read it, you can find the text to it here

ISO 1250 - 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm - f/2.8 - 1/2000sec

Perhaps it’s appropriate that it was raining that day when I visited Gettysburg. So many lives were lost in an effort to prevent the shattering of a nation.

And perhaps this final image says it all.

ISO 1250 - 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm - f/2.8 - 1/2000sec

If President Lincoln could speak to us today, I have no doubt that the tears he would shed would be masked by the tear-shaped raindrops falling from the sky.

Tears in rain, indeed.

PoppySeed Dancer - A View of the Bridge

After a fun shoot at the Legion of Honor, Anna and I moved on to get a quick shot of her with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Anna had remembered a spot at beach level, but we couldn’t find it. But we did find this spot. I needed a little help with the lighting, so brought along my Godox AD200 and Avenger Alu-Baby light stand.

I love how her leotard pretty much matches the color of the bridge itself. It wasn’t intentional; she just happened to bring that particular one for this shoot. It’s an amazing leotard custom made for her by LeosbyKat.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/11 - 1/420sec

We were so lucky that this day it was nice and sunny. We had actually planned to shoot a few days later, but had to move the shoot up due to conflicts in her schedule and this worked out quite well!

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/11 - 1/340sec

We didn’t spend too much time here as the wind was picking up, so we grabbed a few shots and headed off to our next location. More on that next time!

Sperenza - In the Style of Mad Men

I was looking at some of the travel notices on Model Mayhem and I ran across Sperenza’s profile. We tried to connect for a shoot the day after Thanksgiving, but the weather was atrocious and she was just getting back into town. So we postponed the shoot about two weeks and the day we ended up shooting, the weather was just absolutely gorgeous! I’d envisioned something like this first shot, but never really figured out how to pull it off.

ISO 200 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/8 - 1/350sec

Sperenza turned out exactly the way I wanted her to, lit perfectly by my Godox AD200.  Though a lesson learned for me in this one is that I should have opened up the aperture a bit more.  At f/8, the windmill looks too much like it’s a prop in the background and she looks like a giant!  I think with less depth of field, the windmill would have looked a little more “real” in a sense, even with the odd perspective from shooting low.

The next two shots were an attempt to take advantage of the texture of the windmill itself .  The AD200 was on a Avenger light stand with leveling leg, off to the left of the frame.  I’d forgotten to bring my grid with 5 inch reflector, so I had to zoom the flash head manually, and then used the gradient tool in Lightroom to get the effect I was looking for.

ISO 650 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/7.1 - 1/250sec

I actually like the above photo more than the black and white image. Sperenza had chosen a Mad Men theme for the shoot and the slightly de-saturated colors seem to match more with the time period of her costume. However, I think too that the below image also presents a sense of time as well.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/7.1 - 1/500sec

Next up are my two favorite shots of the shoot. I’d been wanting to get a shot of a model set against a mottled sky and the sky conditions were just absolutely perfect for it! I had a little help again with the AD200 to add a splash of light.

ISO 640 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/4.5 - 1/1250sec

The perspective also works a lot better in this one because of the way the windmill dwarfs her. Color or black & white? Which one do you prefer?

ISO 640 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/4.5 - 1/1250sec

So more lessons learned, which was the goal of this shoot. Perspective and depth of field combine quite well to make a decent shot in one instance while perspective totally made the image look strange in another instance.

I might return to this location again with another model to play around more with perspective and see if I can get the first shot right!

PoppySeed Dancer: Form and Grace

It had always been a dream of mine to photograph a ballerina, and when I found out that Anna (aka PoppySeed Dancer) was passing through San Francisco, I set up a shoot with her right away. I chose the Legion of Honor as our first location because it’s always served me well due to the columns and leading lines, and it’s a place where I’ve seen other ballerinas photographed.

For these first two shots, I just wanted some static posing, as if she’s just revealing herself to us for the first time, peaking out from the columns.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/4700sec

I intentionally kept her to one side of the frame in order to give the image some depth, with the columns and the walls receding into the background.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/3200sec

Next we moved on to more poses on en pointe.  You can see the strength in her feet and the gracefulness of the lines that her legs form.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/6000sec

I actually liked that pose so much that I moved in for a close-up. The lighting is all natural, with the sun streaming in behind her. If you go back to the above photo, you can see the shadows that the sun is casting.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/5400sec

Moving on to even more dynamic poses, Anna now goes on en point with a high kick. I just worked out that way, but I really liked how her left foot pointed right at the globe light in the ceiling.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7500sec

A shot now from behind as I get her a little more centered in the hallway. both hands reaching for the lines on either side of her.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/2 - 1/5000sec

And here again, centered in a powerfully dynamic pose, hand reaching up, one foot pointed down, and the other touching a line on the wall behind,

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7000sec

This final shot was actually the hardest to do. You can actually see how high my shutter speed is! Anna’s speed was amazing and it took several tries to freeze her in the proper pose, but she looks weightless!

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7000sec

I was actually beginning to question at this point if using a mirrorless camera was a good idea for shooting subjects in motion.  There’s obviously a delay when taking into account human reaction time and also taking into account the mirrorless camera’s reaction time.  I’ve photographed sports often with my Fuji camera and really hadn’t considered that question until this shoot (and one that followed at a friend’s martial arts promotion).  By and large, I don’t do pics of subjects in really fast motion — and instead do mostly portraits — so my Fuji is more than enough.  Whew…

It was a great time here at the Legion of Honor with Anna, but the day wasn’t over.  More on the rest of the day in the coming weeks!

Reclaiming Our Heroes - Dr. Martin Luther King

I ran across a wonderfully-painted mural in San Francisco’s Mission District of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was painted by local SF artist Rigel “Crayone” Juratovac and can be found at the corner of 22nd & Mission Street.  When I saw it, I was thinking, how often do we stop and think about the sacrifice Dr. King made?  He would have been 90 years old this past January 15th had his life not been cut short by an assassin’s bullet.  But how often do stop and think to remember him?  When did the holiday named after him turn into a commercial holiday for shopping?

I urge you to stop and think, on this day, even for just a moment of reflection, about this great American hero.  And remember, regardless of what’s going on in your life now, how your life is changed for the better because of the path this great man walked.

Sentinel in the Mist

There's a reason I always bring one of my cameras to a race, because of shots like the below one. It was a foggy morning in Golden Ears Provincial Park, just east of Vancouver, British Columbia.  I'd gone to that park to run a 9 mile trail race.  When I got to the park, the fog was as thick as a San Francisco summer.  But when the fog started to clear over Alouette Lake, I saw the following.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm f/4 1/6000sec

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm f/4 1/6000sec

I call it the Sentinel in the Mist because of the life guard tower sitting out there in the lake, it's reflection cast on the still lake waters.