Tuscany 2018 - Day Two

After an amazing first day of the workshop, I had wondered how the second day would compare. I was not disappointed!

Our second day began with a boudoir shoot in one of the rooms at the villa. I’d never done a boudoir shoot before, so was apprehensive about it because it was new to me. And while I’ve gotten into people’s personal space before while taking photos, it wasn’t a boudoir theme. But Damien, as he did the day before, led the session with much thoughtfulness and care.

This first shot of Terez led off the session.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/180 sec

The above and below shots were lit by all natural light. It may look like there was a speedlight used, but that’s because I burned the corners of the image using the vignette preset in Lightroom. I chose black and white because — well — because Damien did. The color image I took looked pretty good, but after seeing Damien’s version of it in black and white, I decided to imitate him.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/350 sec

For this next shot, Damien had Terez lower the straps of her nightgown, and then by pulling the sheet up in such a way, it gives the impression that she’s naked underneath. Damien described it to Terez as her being asleep, naked under the sheets, when suddenly her friends entered the room and surprised her.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/220 sec

Again, it’s all natural light. Beautiful, eh? Natural is just stunning!

This next image though appears to be my most popular one on Instagram.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/60 sec

Damien had Terez stand in front of the mirror and that’s really all it took to make the shot.  It’s again all natural light coming through a window to Terez’s right.  The mirror was angled just a little bit so that we could capture Terez and her reflection without obstruction.  I really love this shot for its simplicity in design, but complexity in composition.  By complexity, I mean there’s foreground interest (Terez), background interest (her reflection), and balance in the shot such that everything is harmonious in terms of placement and spacing.  Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.  I was just consciously thinking of framing and trying to get a quick shot since we were all taking turns.

One thing Damien shared with me — well, it was one of many things over those days, but I really remembered this bit of advice — was to trust my little 35mm f/1.4 lens. This lens has the equivalent field of view of a 53mm lens on a full frame camera.  The reason he told me to trust this lens is because the focal length allowed me to get really close to my subject, at basically a conversational distance.  Being that close helps with the intimacy of the moment, and that’s what’s important when it comes to boudoir.  I’m still digesting that to this day.

After completing the boudoir session, it was lunchtime, and then we headed off to an abandoned farmhouse for more shots.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm * f/2.8 * 1/30 sec

It may not look like it, but the above shot was again done with natural window light.  The light source (the sun) was so strong as it was coming through and being shaped by the window that it could almost have been mistaken for either the Lupo Superpanel or the Godox AD600.  The texture behind Terez is absolutely marvelous.  And the shadows that fall across her face and upper body are well defined.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 25.7mm * f/2.8 * 1/125 sec

For the above shot, we did use the Lupo Superpanel as a lighting source.  It’s located directly in front of Terez.  The light from the window above her head acts as more of a part of the scene rather than a light source.  It’s too high up, and she’s too close to the wall for it to actually serve as a backlight. 

While that ended the day, there were a lot more shots taken than displayed in this posting.  But those photos are art nudes.  In fact, there were even art nude shots taken on the first day as well.  It wasn’t exploitative in any way, but I like to keep this blog family-friendly.

Tuscany 2018 - Day One

I’ve been admiring the work of Damien Lovegrove for about four years now, basically ever since I got my first camera, the Canon 70D.  I’m now a Fuji shooter, currently with the Fuji X-H1 as my main camera.  I have to credit my going with Fuji to Damien, something which I told him when I met him in person during his lighting workshop in Tuscany.  The fact that I actually had a chance to train with him still resonates with me today.  How often does one get to meet one of the people who has inspired the bulk of their work?

What follows are some photos taken during the first day of Damien’s lighting workshop in Tuscany.  Our model was Terez Kocova, who Damien had worked with during one of his lighting workshops in Prague.  Terez is one of the most amazing models I’ve worked with.  While she’s not the first professional model I’ve worked with, she certainly is a standout.

Our journey began at an abandoned farmhouse near the medieval Italian city of Volterra.  It was probably about 80 degrees mid-morning and we did a small amount of driving and walking to get to our site.  But once there, magic started to happen.

These first set of shots we lit with the assistance of a Lupo Superpanel, although I did use the Acros-G black and white film simulation as I liked the look of that versus the color version.  While I’ve used speed lights, this was my first experience using continuous lighting.  The Lupo Superpanel is amazing bit of kit, and the beauty of its design is that the color temperature can be adjusted from warm to cold with the turn of the dial, so you can see instantaneous results.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/1000 sec

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/500 sec

This next photo was purely natural light. I’ve always admired natural light and love to use it, but I didn’t know just how powerful of an effect it would have on photography when used correctly.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/500 sec

What makes the above photo is - I think - Terez’s six pack abs. Initially those didn't show when I first looked at the shot in Lightroom, but decreasing the highlights just a little bit brought them out.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/3.6 - 1/60 sec

You’ll notice that in the above shot, I’m actually getting away from shooting wide open at f/1.2 and instead opting for f/3.6 because I wanted to capture more details, not just of Terez, but also the texture of the stone surrounding her.

The light source is once again the Lupo Superpanel. While there is natural light streaming through the doorway in the background, it wasn’t actually enough to light Terez, other than perhaps providing a backlight and leaving her entirely in shadow. If you look at the shadow cast by her legs, you can see where the Lupo was positioned.

I was really amazed by Terez’s discipline at this point. There were seven of us photographers, plus Damien, and each of us took turns shooting, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes individually. And Terez held a lot of these poses for minutes on end!

ISO 1250 - 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 40.1mm - f/2.8 - 1/60 sec

When the above shot was taken, it was really dark in that space. There was just natural light streaming through a window and that was it! It’s in instances like this where the Fuji’s live view shines bright, no pun intended … maybe. Damien’s preference for this shot was black and white, but I really liked the texture on the wall behind Terez, and playing with the settings in Lightroom managed to bring out some colors on the wall itself. Just like the wall, Terez looks like part of a painting.

ISO 1250 - 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm - f/2.8 - 1/60 sec

The above shot was also taken using natural light. I was amazed at just how well the Fuji X-H1 was performing. Even in that low light situation, the camera’s dynamic range was able to produce a fairly crisp image!

We spent the morning at the abandoned villa, then returned to our base of operations for lunch. Afterwards, we did a quick shoot at the pool.

ISO 200 - 50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 75mm - f/2.8 - 1/8000 sec

ISO 200 - 50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 75mm - f/2.8 - 1/8000 sec

I don’t exactly remember why I was using my 50-140mm f/2.8 lens for the pool shoot.  This lens would be the equivalent of a 70-200mm lens for a full frame camera.  (And it weighed a ton in my backpack when I made the trip to Italy!  I had that lens, plus the 16-55mm, and three prime lenses, plus a whole bunch of other stuff in that backpack.)  I think initially for this shot we were all set up a bit far from Terez and had planned to photograph her from a distance.

The above shots were done with the Fuji Velvia film simulation which I then duplicated in Lightroom because we wanted the colors in this image, from the red dress to the blue sky and green hills, to pop out of the shot.

Next we moved indoors for some indoor beauty shots.

ISO 200 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/250 sec

This was just a very simple shot taken inside our actual villa as we were escaping the afternoon heat. All natural light, which was actually behind me, and yet it was enough to create this soft, lovely photo of Terez.

It was about an hour before dinner time when we wrapped up this portion of the shoot. It was supposed to be the last look of the day, but then Damien saw how the sun was setting over the olive trees and rallied us all together. Terez threw on the dress from earlier in the day and we rushed out to take a few shots.

This final shot was something that I’d always envisioned taking. For the past year, I’d had something in mind that I was calling “summer reading”, in which I saw a girl sitting on a bench or wooden structure, reading a book in the waning days of summer. Instead of getting that, I got something even better…

ISO 200 - 90mm f/2 lens - f/2 - 1/2000 sec

It has such a fairy tale quality to it. It was even better than I had ever envisioned! The color temperature was increased for this shot to give it that golden hue. That was done both in camera and also when post processing in Lightroom.

After I’d taken the above shot, I knew that this workshop was going to bear much more fruit that I had first imagined.

And that’s a wrap for Day One. It was an extremely productive day and Terez went through many looks. After the day’s shoot, we gathered at our villa’s patio to enjoy the final sunset and a home cooked meal under the stars of Tuscany.

SF Maritime Museum’s Beer Fest

In April, I was asked by a friend if I had time to photograph the San Francisco Maritime Museum's Beer Fest.  The Maritime Museum needed some new photos for their website and social media.  And since it has been a while since I visited Pier 45, I agreed.  Also, I figured, why not get some practice in!  Pier 45 is home to two World War Two Era fighting ships: the U.S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien and the U.S.S. Pompanito.  The O'Brien is the more famous of the two, having last seen action during Gulf War Two as a supply ship.

As this was an event, I brought along the XF 16-55mm f/2.8.  It's the equivalent field of view of a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens on a full frame camera.  No prime lenses for this event because quick reaction time, and speed in getting good framing would be essential.  Wouldn't want to miss the shot!

I like the first shot, and kinda don't like it at the same time, but I needed an intro photo for this blog entry.  What I like about it is that you can see the little beer steins and you have a pretty good idea of what the event might be.  What I don't like about the shot are the Office Depot raffle tickets.  I should have flipped the ticket around because the printed lettering of the ticket takes away from the lettering that should actually be the focus of the shot.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm f/4 1/250sec

At least in this next shot, I got it right, and with the ship in the background as well.  I could have left out the first shot, but this blog is about both the good and the bad, and lessons learned from the latter.  Everything in the first shot actually works as far as composition, it's just the lettering from the ticket that gets in the way.

If there's a key photo for the event, it's definitely this one.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 53.3mm f/9 1/450sec

I lit the above shot with a quick burst from my Nissin i60 speedlight that was mounted directly on the X-T2.  The flash was set to TTL mode.

For the next shot, the beer bottles were lined up so I decided to use the leading lines composition technique.  Why?  Because it was there so why not?  

ISO 640 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 48.5mm f/5 1/500sec

No speedlight for the shot, but you can see that the ISO was increased to 640.  Depending on the situation, I might trim the exposure using the ISO, especially if I think the shutter speed is too low.  In this case, it was.  X-T2 photos still look fairly clean to me, up to ISO 1200, so I wasn't worried about any grain.

The next set of shots definitely needed some help from the speedlight.  The event started officially at 6pm, so there were some strong shadows along the pier.  You can tell sun position, but looking at how dark the pier is compared to the ships.  The light is even in all of the shots -- no noticeable flash spots anywhere -- because while the flash was mounted atop the camera, I tilted the flash head up about 45 degrees and bounced all of the light off of the white card on the flash.  This meant increasing the flash exposure by two full stops, and that happens to be the max (+/- 2 stops) for the Nissan i60.  I find that rather odd, but because the i60's older brother, the i40, has a +/- 3 stop power adjustment.  But the flash output is definitely much stronger on the i60 vs the i40.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 29.2mm f/4 1/1000sec

For the above and below shots, i really wanted to get some background interest.  I was able to stage both shots the way I wanted because the event had just started and there weren't a lot of people on the pier yet.

Again, in the next shot, no direct flash on the subjects, hence the even lighting.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 45.5mm f/5.6 1/250sec

This next shot also required the same flash technique.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 25.7mm f/2.8 1/250sec

I was hoping to get a close-up of their hands exchanging the little beer stein, but it's just hard to get that close.

And, of course, our final shot, a toast!

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 31.2mm f/2.8 1/1100sec

This was an interesting event.  There was another photographer there, shooting with a Sony A7R III and she had an assistant with a  soft box on a boom.  Their technique also produced some nice, even lighting that evening,  The soft box is a great way to diffuse the light, especially with a large group.


The Brian Byrnes Trio at the Cadillac Hotel

I’ve been photographing concerts at the Cadillac Hotel for the past two years now, but in those two years, I had never experienced something as magical as when I was there for a Saturday concert by the Brian Byrnes Trio.

I’ve seen people clap during the concerts, mostly at the end of a song. But this was the first time ever, that the audience clapped in the middle of a song because they were moved so much by Brian’s solo with the harmonica, or the solo by pianist Lee Bloom. I call that pure joy! That’s what Brian, Lee, and Peter brought to the Cadillac Hotel that day. Joy!

So let’s begin at the beginning, with the tools of the trade. When I first met Brian, he had joined Coelho & Ridnell at the Cadillac Hotel to provide vocals and play the harmonica.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/75 sec

These are Brian’s instruments, from the harmonicas to the guitar.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

And the acoustic bass below belongs to Peter Barshay.

ISO 320 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

For this opening shot of Brian, I used the 56mm f/1.2 lens, which on a full frame camera would have the equivalent field of view of an 85mm lens. I like the compression offered by the lens, and even at wide open at f/1.2, there’s a lot of detail. You can see the focus in Brian’s face.

ISO 320 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

Next is pianist Lee Bloom. I wanted to take some photos of Lee’s hands as he was warming up at the piano, but he saw me on the edge of his periphery and turned to pose for a photo. Again, shot wide open at f/1.2.

ISO 250 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

This next shot is of Peter Barshay, playing the acoustic bass.  I went for the black and white conversion for this photo, specifically Acros-G for the Fuji camera, because I really liked how the lights were hitting Peter’s face.  Black and white gives the shadows more contrast and also makes Peter’s already focused look, look even more focused.  You can also see more details of the bass’s scroll and machine heads.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

I typically bring three lens for shoots at the Cadillac Hotel: 56mm f/1.2, 16mm f/1.4, and 90mm f/2. Those three lenses pretty much cover everything I need at the Cadillac. While I could use a zoom lens like the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, which would be the equivalent of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera, nothing matches the sharpness of a prime lens, and I often like to give the musicians the sharpest images possible. Also, since most prime lenses tend to be wider than f/2, I can use a slightly higher shutter speed, thus freezing most of the motion of the musicians.

Swapping out the 56mm for the 16mm, I decided to get a wide shot of the Cadillac Hotel’s lobby. There were a fair amount of people there for a Saturday.

ISO 320 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.4 - 1/60 sec

For the next two shots, I decided to experiment a bit with angles. Tilting the camera in a such a way is often taboo in most instances, but for musicians, it often enhances the image because it implies additional motion. For the first shot, I tilted the camera in such a way that it went in the direction Peter was looking.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

For this shot of Brian, I wanted to try to line up the neck of the guitar horizontally. Again, the motion is going in the direction in which Brian is looking. I think the tilt draws a little more focus to Brian and the guitar.

ISO 320 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

I really like this next shot of Lee. He was getting so deep into the music, putting all that he was into it. You can feel the intensity in his posture.

ISO 800 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/125 sec

This final shot of Brian was taken with the 90mm f/2 lens, which on a full frame would have a field of view similar to a 135mm lens. You’ll see that I shot the image at 1/125 sec, but the image doesn’t have the hand-shake blur, thanks to the In Body Image Stabilization of the Fuji X-H1. This is my favorite of the shots because not only can Brian play the harmonica and guitar, but he’s got a great singing voice as well.

ISO 800 - 90mm f/2 lens - f/2 - 1/125 sec

If you want to listen to the music of the Brian Byrnes Trio and purchase their CD, head over to this website.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/80 sec

Also, the Brian Byrnes Trio will be performing on November 23rd at Armando’s, along with saxophonist Jules Broussard.  You’re guaranteed to hear music that will get you to clap your hands and stomp your feet!

Of Things to Come - Tuscany

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Tuscany recently to work with one of the photographers who has been a major inspiration to me: Damien Lovegrove.  How often can someone say they had the chance to learn from someone who’s inspired a major portion of their work?  I’d never been to Italy, and since I had the time and the funds set aside, I went for it!

Our base of operations was a villa just outside of Volterra, Italy.  Most of us had gathered on the patio of the villa after having checked in.  And as the sun was going down, Damien encouraged us to take some photos at sunset.  I saw these two glasses set up on a barrel, and with the sun going down, I took the shot.

ISO 200  50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm  f/11  1/240sec

I liked the above shot a lot! But Damien came over to me and saw what I was doing. He asked one of my fellow photographers to pick up a wine glass, and Damien took the other one, then he told me to take this next shot.

ISO 200  50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 110.6mm  f/4.5  1/240sec

Voila!  Damien looked at the shot on my camera’s screen and said, “There! You just took a wonderful editorial shot!”

That was all Damien.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Or at least I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time.  During the following three days, I learned a lot from Damien about photography and light, some of which I’ll be blogging about over the next few weeks.  It was a wonderful three day workshop and a dream come true for me.  Damien is a generous person, freely giving his knowledge away.  Our model, Terez, was one of the best models I’ve ever worked with.  And my fellow photographers were such a joy and pleasure to get to know.

More to come on the workshop, and — of course — there will also be an “On The Run” blog entry as well, because … hey, it’s what I enjoy!

The G.A.S. Files: Testing the Fuji XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro

This was an interesting lens purchase because I'd always wanted an actual macro lens, so I ended up getting the Fuji XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro lens.

I should digress for just a moment and talk about G.A.S.  I’d first heard the term after reading one of Damien Lovegrove’s blogs.  G.A.S. stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome.  It’s an awful compulsion to start to acquire stuff.  It’s a want vs a need, and if you’re not careful it turns a person into someone who knows their gear more than they know how to shoot.  I better stop here before I spend too much time on the soapbox.  So back to the 60mm lens...

All of the below photos were shot wide open at f/2.4 and the X-T2's ISO and shutter were set to auto.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/420sec

The above bee stayed in place long enough for me to get this shot.  And below is a cropped version.  Sharpness is pretty decent enough to see the individual hairs on the bee.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/420sec

Here's a feather I found standing upright amongst some mulch.  The wind was blowing at the time so the top of the feather is blurring while the bottom part is anchored to the mulch.  It's an interesting effect.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/4400sec

The next few shots show just how sharp the lens is.  I used the X-T2 to take these shots, and just like my 90mm f/2 experiment, it would be interesting to see how this lens works with the X-H1 since none of Fuji's prime lenses has image stabilization.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/5000sec

I threw the next photo in because it's fairly sharp, but I also don't really like it because of the bright red.  Red really gets rendered as really really bright, almost like you're looking at an explosion of the color.  It makes it hard to make out some of the texture of the flower.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1700sec

The next four photos demonstrate the sharpness of the lens.  There's the image and then a cropped version showing the sharpness.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1500sec

I saw this garden statue in the neighborhood and just had to take a photo of it.  The cropped image really shows how sharp the lens is and the texture that it brings out.  I would never have thought how sharp it wold be, being an f/2.4 lens, but it did not disappoint!

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1500sec

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1250sec

A lovely yellow flower.  I wish I could identify flowers.  I only know a few of them...

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1250sec

And now some pinecones.

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1900sec

Very sharp!  The texture was captured!

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/1900sec

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/280sec

Again, another lovely type of flower, and I have no idea what it is...  But the image is so sharp that you can see spider silk in the cropped version!

ISO 200 60mm f/2.4 lens f/2.4 1/280sec

I really enjoy using this lens for walking around.  It's small and I've used it for portraits too with some effect.  On a full frame, it would be the equivalent of a 90mm lens field of view.  Autofocus is a tad slow, but that's to be expected for a prime lens, but again, just like the 90mm f/2 lens, this one isn't made for fast action.  Fuji does have an 80mm macro.  I've not tried it, but I'm pretty satisfied with the 60mm!

Orion's Joy of Music - Jazz Sextet

When you have several musicians and less than thirty minutes to capture their concert, you really have to think fast and work hard.  Thankfully, "Orion" Edmunson and his team -- some of whom are familiar faces -- had so much dynamic movement during that time that it was so easy to take shots that captured the whole thing.

ISO 250 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/80sec

I like the shot of the individual drum above because it shows how well-used it is.  And below we see a wider shot of the drums and cymbals.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

And here we have a saxophone.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

Or perhaps two saxophones?

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

It's actually just one sax player, but the different view of it in his hands how his fingers were laid out was interesting.

And what's this in the next photo?  Something a bit out of the ordinary.

ISO 1250 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

While I take photos, Kathy Looper also shoots video of the musicians and gives it to them, plus uploads it to YouTube as well.  Here you get a hint of the different band members.

ISO 1600 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here's the man himself, Orion Edmonson.  I don't know why, but seeing him on the drums reminded me of Mick Fleetwood.

ISO 400 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

And no, this is not a TRIBU performance, but this next shot definitely is the multi-talented Steve McQuarry of Mandala Productions.  Steve had told me that was helping Orion out that day as Orion was in need of pianist.  For the below shot, I felt the need to make Steve's back line up so that it was parallel to the left edge of the frame.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

I'm continuously experimenting now with different angles, tilting the camera to see if I can not only get better framing of the subject, but also trying to make the tilt look natural, meaning that the lines line up in a pleasing way.

Next is our bass player.

ISO 640 23mm f/1.4 f/1.4 1/60sec

For the above shot, I had to tilt the camera because I wanted to show most of the bass, but also because I was too close -- even with the 23mm lens which has the field of view of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.  I couldn't actually back up any further so had to tilt the camera to fit everything in.

I took a lot of shots of the trumpet player because just the way he held the trumpet and the lines it created was neat, but the below shot is my favorite.

ISO 200 23mm f/1.4 f/1.4 1/60sec

And here we have another TRIBU band member who was there that day to help out.  I tried to get the line of his flute to be as horizontal as possible.  It was the flute player's hands that were -- in an earlier shot -- holding the two sticks.

ISO 1000 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here's our sax player.

ISO 400 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here you can see just how tight the space was, and yet, that didn't deter these guys from bringing forth some really great music.

ISO 500 23mm f/1.4 lens f/1.4 1/60sec

It's amazing how, when all of the instruments come together, the power and beauty of sound itself comes to life.  From the piano to the flute, to the two sax players and the trumpet, and the bass player and the drummer, all coming together for one single purpose: to create something wonderful.

Check out Orion's Facebook page for more info about him and his contact info if you want to book him and his group for an event.

Abby Div - Patterns and Light

Abigail Div first contacted me in late summer 2017, asking if I wanted to collaborate with her on a shoot.  At that time, I had just gotten back into trail half marathons and had been busy tidying my mom's affairs after she passed away, so we ended up not having a chance to work together.  Flash forward to one year later and not only did we have a chance to work together, but our brief time shooting produced a powerful set of images!

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/4000sec

You'll see that with the exception of one shot, I stuck with the 16mm f/1.4 Fuji lens.  I needed that lens because I wanted to capture the width of the space around Abby, thus giving the photo some depth.

First off, let's meet Abby!  This next shot just happened to be while we were setting up the above shot.  I saw the light streaming in through the high window and how it was highlighting her hair, so I immediately slapped on my 56mm f/1.2 lens and took this natural light photo of her.  If you check out her website you'll see that she's a New York City-based model who also travels.  She's very professional and has a photographer's understanding of light, which made this collaboration a special pleasure!

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.4   1/100sec

This was my second time experimenting with three point lighting, the first being with visual artist Tere Casas a few weeks ago.  Though unlike the shoot with Tere, where I didn't tell her until the end of the shoot that I hadn't done three point lighting on my own until that day, I mentioned to Abby at the beginning that I was still trying to figure out and practice the technique.

This next shot shows the actual color of the carpet.  It's the carpet itself that actually got my attention.  I'll explain more about this shooting location later on.  But just like in the first photo, at least there's the illusion that the separation light behind Abby might be coming from the upper window behind her, when it's in fact a Godox TT685 flash on a small light stand directly behind her.  The key light to the left of the frame was provided by a Godox AD200 flash.  And there was one more fill light, another Godox TT685, on a Gorilla Pod to the right of the frame.  One reason I stick with Godox is because the flashes can do high speed sync up to 1/8000sec.  And as you can see, I'm using a high shutter speed in order to produce a cavernous effect like in the photo below.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

In the next two shots, I decided to do two contrasting temperature settings.  For the first one, I took the temperature up bit and also added some temperature to the window behind Abby to give the shot a warmer tone.  I was trying to give the impression that the space she was in was a lot warmer than normal.  The flashes to the left and right of the frame stayed in the same spot as the other shots.  And for the flash behind her, I simply took the flash off the lightstand and placed it on the floor.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

For this next shot, I decided to go with a colder feeling, and instead of hiding the background and making the room look cavernous, I opted instead to reveal parts of the background.  You can tell that it has an industrial look to it and I was hoping for a freezer-like feeling to this shot.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

The space we were shooting in is, in fact, an old fire station in Oakland, California that was built in 1909.  The fire department vacated the building and moved to a bigger one just across the street.  And the old fire station is being used by an engineering firm.

When we were discussing the shoot a few weeks earlier, Abby suggested that I use Peerspace to find an indoor location to shoot in.  After doing some searching, I ran across the firehouse and was immediately smitten by the large space and the carpet on the floor.  You can check out the actual listing on Peerspace here.  It's been used for meetings, conferences, and commercial shoots!  Once I saw the pattern on the carpet, I knew I had to shoot there!

This final shot is my favorite of the entire day.  Initially, the first photo of this blog entry was my favorite because when I quickly perused the photos after getting home from the shoot, that photo stood out right away.  But this last one really got my attention, especially with Abby's shadow in the background.  I wasn't expecting the shadow to be as defined as it was.  And using the B&W low contrast filter in Lightroom not only brought out the details of the shadow even more, but it also gives the photo a very dramatic punch that makes the scene all the more interesting.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

If there's one lesson though that I learned from this shoot, it's that at least for studio work, I need to get away from shooting with the aperture wide open.  I think a majority of the photos would have been much sharper had I shot at f/5.6 or even f/8.  That would have made things tack sharp I would have still be able to control the ambient light with the shutter.

Everything is a learning experience!  But there are two things I do know: I will definitely be shooting at this location again and look forward to working with Abby the next time she's in town!

The Free Press -- A Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

More fun at the Cadillac Hotel, this time with a band known as The Free Press!

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/900sec

One of the beautiful things about the concerts at the Cadillac Hotel is that it attracts singers and bands who have been established in the Bay Area for a while, and also bands that are just getting started.  Most important, the concerts are free, so these musicians are donating their time to bring some life to the hotel and to the residents who live there.

ISO 1600 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/125sec

This concert gave me a chance to finally test my Fuji XH-1 and the camera's In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS).  Since I've only used prime lenses for shoots at the Cadillac Hotel, the IBIS would come into play since none of my prime lenses have any type of image stabilization, and Fuji's 16-55mm f/2.8 lens -- which on a full frame would have the same field of field as a 24-70mm -- lacks the image stabilization as well.

Here we have lead singer, Christie Harbinski, really diving deep into the emotion of the song.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/900sec

For the above image, the IBIS didn't come into play because of the bright background, but in the next shot, I was able to drop the shutter speed considerably.  You can see that the pianist's face is really sharp while his hands are in motion.

ISO 320 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/80sec

The general rule I've always been taught about working with primes on a non-IBIS body is that the shutter speed should be twice the focal length to avoid hand-shake, although one pro photographer recently told me it should be four times the focal length.  I've been able to get away with maybe 1.75 times the focal length, but that's been risky.  Of course, the downside to a high shutter speed is a darker image.  Thus far, the Fuji's dynamic range is good enough that there aren't too many images that Lightroom can't handle, but the result tends to be either a grainer image or loss of color at the expense of exposure.

This next shot of the guitarist was taken as he was warming up.  At this point, I don't think he wasn't actually aware that I had gotten this close to him, but I saw this look and had to capture it.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/120sec

I've been tilting the camera a lot lately, per the advice of a friend who learned his technique while he was a combat photographer in the Navy.  It doesn't just change the perspective, but it does something else: sometimes there are lines that you want vertical or horizontal that the eye would find pleasing.  Like in the next shot where the saxophone is vertical.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/90sec

I converted the above photo to black and white because the colors were too distracting, and I just wanted the focus to be the saxophone and the man playing it, with further focus on the sax itself since it has the defined vertical line.

This next photo was one of those instances where one of the spotlights was hitting the wall behind the pianist / drummer.  (Amazing that he's doing both!)  I had to move quickly to take this shot because all of the band members were moving. 

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/125sec

And here's our final shot.  I put a little extra work into this one in post-processing because it was such a lovely image and vignette keeps our focus on her.

ISO 100 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/40sec

Definitely looking forward to hearing more from this band in the future!  Check out their website for booking info and more on the band itself!

A Fond Farewell to Turk & Larkin Deli

The area known as the Tenderloin in San Francisco often gets a bad rap, but there are a lot of sweet nuggets there as well, one of the most cherished being Turk & Larkin Deli.  But after 39 years of making sandwiches and salads, Mike and Jean Aburahma have decided to retire.

Their presence will be missed in the Tenderloin.  Often I've walked into the deli and without fail, Mike says, "Hey, handsome, same thing?"  He always remembers my standard order:  the Veggie Special on pita bread, with cheddar cheese, mayo but no mustard.  There might be a few months or a year gap when I see him, but he still remembers.  

The diner hadn't changed in the 39 years it had been open.  In addition to Mike and Jean, the other thing folks will remember is the food display, full of salads and meats and cheeses.  It was here that I had my first taste of their hummus and falafel sandwich in pita bread, or the dolmas.  They even had their own Turk & Larkin hot sauce!

ISO 250 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 41.4mm f/2.8 1/60sec

The menu had a wonderful mix of foods there, and in the past 20 years, the prices really hadn't increased much.  And always at the end of the day, any leftover perishable foods always went to the Coalition for the Homeless for distribution to the needy.  Several times, I'd seen a few homeless people stagger into the deli, not sure where they were, only for Jean to kindly walk up to them and give them some food and a drink, before sending them on their way.

ISO 1250 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 25.7mm f/4.5 1/40sec

You can tell from the lighting in the below photo that I bounced the flash off the ceiling.  Thankfully, the ceiling was white, so it worked well.  For all of these photos, I used my Fuji X-H1 with 16-55mm f/2.8 lens and the Nissan i60 flash.  I like both the Nissan i40 and i60 because they're compact, but powerful flashes.

ISO 320 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.9mm f/2.8 1/40sec

For the next shot, the flash still bounced off the ceiling, but the reflection in their glasses are actually light from the street streaming through the front windows of the deli.

ISO 320 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 22.7mm f/2.8 1/30sec

And here's Jean, as many of us see her, behind the register.  She's ringing up orders and often filling containers with salads or soups.

ISO 640 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 33.2mm f/2.8 1/50sec

And, of course, Mike, as everyone is used to seeing him, making sandwiches with rapid efficiency.

ISO 2500 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm f/2.8 1/80sec

Below are some photos of their daughters, plus the SF Chronicle article linked above, regarding their retirement.  On the far right of the wall are two older photos that we'll see in a moment as part of a montage.

ISO 1250 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 21.3mm f/4.5 1/30sec

And here are Mike and Jean outside their deli.  Both in their 70s, they tackle each day at the deli with much joy.

ISO 200 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 24.2mm f/3.6 1/250sec

The following is a photo story that I had produced by ZNO.com.  I felt moved to create something for them and gift it to them on the occasion of their retirement.  With all of the kindness that they've shown to the people who either work or live or just pass through the Tenderloin, I felt it appropriate.  It's how I want to remember them too.

Turk & Larkin will officially close its doors and Mike and Jean will officially be retired at the end of September 2018.  Drop in for a bite if you have a chance to bid them farewell and a happy retirement.

Thank you, Mike and Jean for everything!

Tender, by Flyaway Productions

Imagine dancers zipping about above street level and that's what happened over a two week period outside the Cadillac Hotel.  Just like music has had power since the beginnings of human history, so has movement and dance.

What happened above the street that day was an aerial performance titled "Tender", by Flyaway Productions.  As always, I was there with my camera, not to document the event for Flyaway Productions, but for Kathy who hosts the concerts at the Cadillac Hotel.  "Tender" describes Kathy to a "t".  She's kind and giving, and cares deeply for the people who live at the Cadillac Hotel.  The final dance set -- there were three -- was named and dedicated to her.

I used the Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 lens exclusively and shot wide open at f/2.8.  I set the shutter speed to auto since it was bright outside and the shutter speed never dropped below 1/1000sec.  The 50-140mm lens has the equivalent field of view of a 70-200mm lens on a full frame camera.  Shots were taken over two days.

Normally, I comment about each photo, but in this instance I'll let the photos speak for themselves.  Hopefully you'll see the story unfolding in the photos and come to the end of this blog entry with as much awe and respect for the work that went into this production as everyone who witnessed it did.

Three Point Lighting with Tere Casas

It's interesting how connections are made.  I took several photos of Tere Casas at Pliates ProWorks Burlingame and she liked my photos of her so much that she asked me if I could take photos of her painting.  She's a visual artist!  So I went over to her studio, which isn't too far from Pilates ProWorks.  I told her that I was going to bring some speed lights to light up her studio.  What I didn't tell her until the end of the shoot was that I had never done three point lighting before!

Here's our first shot.  It's a fairly blank canvas right now, which is a great starting point for our story.  I did have three Godox speed lights set up, but the below photo was converted to black & white for one primary reason: just above Tere's head is a bucket, which is bright red.  It was a huge distraction so I did the black & white conversion using the green filter, which is my favorite.

ISO 200   23mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.6   1/105sec

The next shot is an interesting one.  Yes, you can see the red bucket, but it's in the shadows.  I was thinking ... how could I really give this next shot a studio-like feel?  One of the beautiful things about the Godox flash system for the Fuji is that the Godox has high speed sync (HSS) capability, up to 1/8000sec, which is the max mechanical shutter speed of the X-T2!  So what do you do when you want to control the ambient light?  Increase your shutter speed.  I knew that Tere wouldn't be dark because I had three speedlights focused on her, but I definitely needed the background to be dark.

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 20.6mm   f.2.8   1/2000sec

You can get a rough idea of the lighting setup from this shot.  One light behind her, serving as a separation and hair light.  One light high and to the right.  That light was a Godox AD200 with small grid attached because I wanted a bit of a spotlight on Tere.  The third light was directly to the right of the frame, providing a little light for fill and also on some of the background behind Tere.  The AD200 was the only light with a modifier on it.

The next shot now shows her artwork starting to form.  I had the same three light setup and didn't have to move the lights.  I just changed my perspective.  From this angle, you can better see what she's doing, and the light is actually filling her face much better.  I had only shifted over about five feet to my right.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 47mm   f.2.8   1/4000sec

Tere had set up three different canvases that day and would alternate between them as each one was drying.

I initially wasn't sure how much she was going to get done in the two hours I was there.  But like I surprised her by telling her that I had never done a three light setup on my own before, Tere surprised me by how quicky she got the painting done!  

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 45.5mm   f.2.8   1/2000sec

In the above shot, it was now the AD200 that was serving as the separation and hair light.  And you can see the distinctive shadow caused by the AD200 and also the Godox TT685 that was behind me and being used as a fill light.

Tere's artwork that day was a mix of paint and textured paper and stencils.  And at one point, she had done something to one of the paintings where the contrast in colors had such depth of field that it looked like a real hole in the canvas.

Another shot, now showing the location of the AD200 on a light stand off to the left of the frame.  And if you look even closer, just behind Tere's right hand is the other light stand with yet another Godox TT685 mounted on it.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 45.5mm   f.2.8   1/2000sec

This final shot utilized the three point lighting one more time.  I had to move fast to get this shot because I wanted to shoot the paint (mixed with a little water) in motion.  You can tell from the shadows where the lights were set up.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 21.3mm   f.2.8   1/4000sec

The above shot is one of my favorites, not just because I was able to freeze the paint as she was pouring it, but because the lighting scheme was such that it accentuated the muscles in her arms.  It's always a great victory when using speed lights if you can actually make the features of a person stand out, otherwise things just look flat ... and featureless.

Throughout the entire shoot, I used a whole bunch more lenses than listed above.  I used the primes initially, but then switched over to the 16-55mm f/2.8 because as Tere's paintings started to come to life, I needed to be able to zoom in and out in order to compose the image properly.

Check out Tere's website and artwork!  As of this writing, she's actually in Mexico where her paintings are currently being displayed at an exhibition!

Busy Bumblebees

I've always wondered how a bug like a bumblebee, with a huge body and small wings, can actually fly.  I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around it, but it certainly does fly!  Perhaps the bigger question might actually be why I was getting so close to the bees in the first place!

All of the below shots were captured with the Fuji XF 90mm f/2 lens.  It is awfully slow to focus, but it's a prime lens, and thus made for portraiture, not fast-moving objects.  Even with the X-T2 set for high power, it wasn't focusing that fast.  Supposedly, the X-T2's latest firmware increased the camera's autofocus phase detection just like the X-H1, so I'll eventually have to go back and experiment.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/550sec

As you can see from the above and below photos, these little critters really move fast!  I was surprised that even at 1/550sec, it still wasn't enough to actually freeze their wings in place.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/550sec

What's interesting about the above two shots and the next two shots are the pollen sacs (are those what they're called?) on the bumblebees.  They must secrete something to get the pollen to stick together like that.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1700sec

Here we have a cropped version of the above so you can get a closer look.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1700sec

I'm not sure exactly where the focus point was for the above photo.  I've been trying to find it, but I think it might actually a quarter of an inch in front of the bumblebee itself.  The autofocus point was basically where the bee was a half second earlier.  Yeah, they really move fast!

Have a look at the next photo.  Even at 1/1700sec shutter speed, I still can't freeze the wings in place!

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1700sec

The next few shots focus on a single bumblebee, and it was a big one.  I was a bit worried about getting close to it because something that big probably had an even bigger stinger!

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/2400sec

Even with the 90mm lens, which has the same field of view as a 135mm lens on a full frame, I got pretty close to this big bee.  The image is not cropped or zoomed in.  Same with the next one.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1250sec

However, this next image is a cropped version of the above.  The 90mm lens was really sharp this time!

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1250sec

It's kinda neat that in the above photo, the bumblebee almost has a face!

This next and final set is just absolutely beautiful!  There's just a ton that so right about it, from the nice circular bokeh -- if you like that stuff -- and also the sharpness of the image.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1400sec

How sharp?  Here's the cropped version.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/1400sec

The image is so sharp that you can see the strands of spider silk on the leaves and stem of the plant.

I had originally set out to capture bees with the Fuji XF 60mm f/2.4 macro lens, and I'll showcase some test shots from that soon, but the 90mm lens worked well.  It's a bit hit or miss with the autofocus, but some great shots really came out of it!

Regal Gray Ladies

Is this a portal looking back in time?

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/4  1/3800sec

I had the opportunity not too long ago to photograph the San Francisco Maritime Museum's Beer Fest.  I'll have a separate blog posting in a few weeks highlighting that actual event, but for this blog posting, I wanted to talk about the two ships below.

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/4  1/3200sec

When I thought about how best to capture the ships in one shot, it made sense to have the smaller ship in front with the much larger ship in the distance.  Perspective-wise you can definitely tell which one is the larger ship.

Both ships served during World War Two and now call San Francisco's Pier 45 their home.  The Jeremiah O'Brien is the most famous of the two.

Here's a shot across the stern of the Pampanito, looking towards Alcatraz Island.

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 36.5mm   f/4   1/1800sec

And here we have the Jeremiah O'Brien herself.

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8  1/4400sec

For these photos, I used the "aged photo" preset in Lightroom as it seemed appropriate for the subjects.  I wanted to create a feeling of truly looking at an old photograph from the World War Two era.

I highly recommend visiting these majestic ships and taking a tour if you can schedule it.  Such objects of history are worth appreciating in person.

Coelho & Ridnell at the Cadillac Hotel

Chico Coelho and Dave Ridnell... When they showed up to the Cadillac Hotel, along with Brian Byrnes, jazz and bosa nova music filled the air and whatever clouds may have been hanging over the rest of the Tenderloin on that day, at least in this hotel, it was all sunshine.

You know I like to start with a key photo, and in this case, here's a good intro.

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

The guitar belongs to Dave Ridnell, and you can see him in the below photo.  I just happened to be up on the second floor of the lobby and got this wonderful angle of him.  It gives just a hint of what he's doing.  Of course, if you just saw only this photo, you'd think he was on his own.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2.0   1/125sec

Ah, but now we see the rest of the band.  Chico and Dave on guitar, and Brian either on the harmonica or doing vocals.

ISO 640   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

And here's Dave Ridnell with a nice, reflective look.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2.0   1/125sec

I chose the black and white conversion for pretty much all of their shots (definitely all displayed here) because it seemed that my X-T2 was misbehaving as far as color temperature.  I couldn't figure out what was causing it.  It only happened that day and it hasn't happened again.  But somehow it was as if the temperature was too warm, turning skin tones into an odd orange tint.  It was the one and only time I've ever experienced it at the Cadillac Hotel.

Next we have the trio.  This is the only good photo I got of Chico.  When he sings, he really gets into it and moves, so for this shot I had the shutter speed high enough to freeze him in motion.

ISO 500   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125sec

Next up is Brian.  At this point he was doing the vocals and I like this moment because, just like Dave and Chico, Brian was in the moment.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2.0   1/125sec

Here's the final shot of the trio.  You can see that they filled up the lobby with a lot of folks.

ISO 640   90mm f/2 lens   f/2.0   1/125sec

I wasn't able to stay long while photographing the band, but got some great shots.

Coelho and Ridnell, as of this writing, have released a new album and are currently in Brazil for a few weeks playing a bunch of gigs.  Check out their website to see where they're playing next!

An Unexpected Visitor

How often do you get this lucky?

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

I don't remember what I was doing at the time, but I just happened to look out the back window of my apartment and outside was this massive bird, a Great Blue Heron.  It just stood there, looking at something.  I'm not sure what it was looking at.  It could have been a gopher, but if there was one, I didn't see it.

I quickly grabbed my X-T2 and mounted the XF 50-140mm f/2.8 lens, which has the equivalent field of view of a 70-200mm on a full frame camera.

The bird stood still for me for several minutes while I snapped its photo.  Have a look at the detail of the above image, now cropped.

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/680sec

Amazing detail, eh?  I'm continually impressed by the sharpness of the Fuji glass.  The beauty of the heron’s feathers — especially the lines — are amazing!

Here's one more, just before my friend took off into the sky...

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/1250sec

I'm not sure if this is a fighting stance or what...  But the heron wasn't looking directly at anyone in particular that I could tell.  There was no one directly in front of it, but something got it to ruffle its feathers!

Hopefully this heron will come back once in a while for more shots!

Black & White vs Color -- One Morning at Pilates ProWorks Burlingame

It was almost a year ago that I responded to a Craig's List posting for a photographer looking to do work at a fitness studio for trade.  I figured I'd volunteer and get in some practice.  I didn't realize that it would be so much fun and challenging at the same time!  I've been back several times since then and each time there's always something new that I need to find a solution for!

Here are two shots from the most recent shoot.  I went straight for the black & white conversion from a strictly artistic standpoint, primarily because the black & white photo produced a more dramatic look.  I'll provide the color photo first and the black & white image second.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/250sec   1/1 flash power, dual flashes bounced off ceiling

The first image probably works better for flyers and advertising, but I think the second one works better from a journalistic standpoint.  The lines become more apparent, especially with the angle of the arms of the lady in the foreground vs the lady just in front of her.  The angle of the arms stand out more.  Sometimes colors can actually be distracting, especially the pink and the red.

This next photo is actually my favorite of the day.  I think it works as either color or black & white, but again, the black & white one tells more of a story.

ISO 1600   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/850sec

What kind of story does the above photo tell?  I think it says grace and strength.  Again, at least to me, the color photo has, well, distracting colors.  The black & white photo draws my eyes directly to the subject and her form as she sits on the pilates reformer machine.  I like the way also that her fingers are extended, as some people do just before getting a firm grip o something; it just adds to the feel of the image.

Both images were converted to black & white using the green filter in Lightroom. 

I'm ever thankful to Annabelle, who's the owner of the Pilates ProWorks Burlingame franchise, for letting me get in much needed practice with my cameras.  My first shoot at her business was a rejuvenation of sorts for me as it was the first client shoot I did after my mom died.  You have to get back on your feet somehow, and this was a great way for me.

If you want to be a better photographer, you have to keep taking pictures.  It doesn't matter who or what, just make sure to take the photo and try to tell a story.  Each click of the shutter is another lesson learned.

Gear used:  Fuji X-H1 (yes, I upgraded), Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, Yongnuo 560 flashes and trigger (yes, in the first shot the light was bounced off the ceiling!)

Rock, Country, Soul Express

We're back once again at the Villa D'Este Restaurant for another concert, this time by Rob, who goes by the handle "Rock, Country, Soul Express", aka RCS.

I experimented with a little more bounce flash photography this time around, and then also mixed in my ever reliable 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, as well as the 56mm f/1.2 and 90mm f/2 lenses.  One of the interesting things about photographing Rob is that he does definitely take on the persona of an old time country and soul singer, so he gets a lot of emotion in his face.  He doesn't move around a lot, unlike some of the other musicians who’ve performed there because the emotion that everyone experiences.

This first shot is a little out of focus.  It was shot while Rob was warming up a bit.  I did bounce the flash off the wall to the left, and the light was also supplemented by the natural light streaming in from outside.  

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

I photographed Rob just as he started moving, hence the slight blur.  I could have cranked up the shutter speed at the time, but this was one of those moments where I had to think fast and just take the shot.

The next two shots are a lot sharper because I took the shutter speed up just slightly.

The first shot, I once again bounced the light off the wall to the left.  I was pleasantly surprised at how soft the light came out because, from past experiences, I was worried that the windows might reflect the light back in a much harsher tone.  I especially like the shadows that subtly show up on Rob's face.  It gives his face definition.

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/80sec

This next shot was done with the 90mm.  I was really close to Rob at the time.  As Rob was getting into his song, I wanted to get a closeup of his face to show some of the emotion.  Some may think it's taboo to have the top of someone's head fall out of frame, but in this case, it's the emotion I wanted to capture, so getting close and tight was what I was aiming for.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2.0   1/80sec

And that's a wrap for the first half of the year concerts at the Villa D'Este.  There will be more performances in the next few months with even more great musicians and singers lined up!

Rob actually did do a duet with a lady named Barbara, but since she'll be singing solo at the Villa D'Este in the future, I'll devote an entire blog posting to her when the time comes.

Captured Memories - Stars & Stripes 5K

The "Captured Memories" blog postings usually just focus on a single photo, but this time around I couldn't help myself.  Just like last year on July 4th, I volunteered as a photographer at Brazen Racing's Stars & Stripes 5K race in downtown Concord, CA.  It's a wonderful location for race.  American flags flying everywhere!  I had run the Armed Forces Half Marathon there at the end of May and the whole community seemed to be out there to cheer us on!

This first shot was taken early in the morning with the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my Fuji X-T1 while the race was being set up.  I wanted to try to get the officer while in motion so that I could capture an image of the flag unfurled.  I got pretty close to doing so.

 ISO 400   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 38.8mm   f/2.8   1/80sec

ISO 400   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 38.8mm   f/2.8   1/80sec

The next shot is the kid's run.  It's an approximately 100 yard dash that goes around the perimeter of Todos Santos Plaza.  I shot it with the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my second Fuji X-T1.

 ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 124.3mm   f/2.8   1/220sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 124.3mm   f/2.8   1/220sec

It's not just the bigger kids though who get to run the race, but the little ones as well.  I'm touched by the moms and dads carrying or walking with their babies, especially when the little ones start grinning from ear to ear.

 ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/250sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/250sec

After the kids race, the 5K race started.

The next three shots each spoke something interesting to me that can each be encapsulated in a few simple words.

This one says FRIENDSHIP.

 ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/350sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 54.1mm   f/2.8   1/350sec


 ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 115mm   f/2.8   1/450sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 115mm   f/2.8   1/450sec


 ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/480sec

ISO 200   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/480sec

This next shot was totally unexpected.  I had been taking photos of the runners as they were lining up at the post-race refreshment table and saw this lady chatting with various folks in the crowd.  At first I thought she was a nurse, but she was with Body Love Cafe, who were providing free sports massages after the race.

I'm not sure what her name was, but we locked eyes and then I brought my camera up and she posed.  As soon as I took the shot, I knew that I had a nice, impromptu, portrait on my hands.  It was taken with the Fuji X-T1 and 16-55mm F/2.8 lens wide open.  The lighting is all natural with no flash, and it just has a simple elegance about it.

 ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 36.5mm   f/2.8   1/180sec

ISO 200   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 36.5mm   f/2.8   1/180sec

And that's a wrap for Stars & Stripes 5K 2018!

You're probably wondering why I used the X-T1s for this event and not a combination of the X-T1/T2.  I decided a few months ago that for sporting events like races, I'd stick mostly with the X-T1.  The color rendition is amazing, and even though it's "only" a 16MP sensor, it captures images very well.  For sports, having something tack sharp is necessary if you're taking photos for publication.  But for a race like this, not so much because it's a community event, and most folks will download the photos and post them on social media vs printing them up.  And as you can see from this blog posting, the photos turned out appropriate for the medium that they're being used in!

Captured Memories - The High Five Before the Race

Just like the after-Father's Day blog post, this image was also taken at a small community 5K race that I photographed in March 2018.  If I could pick one image that represented the 5K race, this has to be it.

The photo is just a tad out of focus because the two ladies were in motion and also because my X-T2 cued in on their hands.  The depth of field was really shallow because I shot wide open at f/2.8.  But the sharpness, in this case doesn't matter, so much as the warm enthusiasm being exchanged between these two ladies, fellow runners. 

The above photo spoke to me because just before this race started, two runners were encouraging each other.  There was no talk about one besting the other on the course.  It was just pure, enthusiastic, honest encouragement.

A lot of folks think that racing is about getting out in front and crossing the finish line first, but it's not.  Having run one ultra marathon -- and as of this writing -- three marathons, and countless half marathons and shorter distances, it's not about finishing first.  It's just about finishing.  Yeah, there's a time limit, but every finisher is a winner.