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. 

The Lighthouse and the Heavens

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is an amazing place along the coast of California, near Pescadero.  It’s along Highway 1, about a half hour south of Half Moon Bay.  I found myself in this spot courtesy of a meet up group that had gathered to photograph the nucleus of the Milky Way rising over the lighthouse.

I brought along my ol’ Fuji X-H1 and just two lenses:  Fuji 16mm f/1.4 and Fuji 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6.  The latter is a monster of a lens that I got back in June of 2018 and obviously has a crazy-long reach.

This first photo is looking to the northwest as the sun was starting to go down.  There’s a layer of fog at the top of the frame that thankfully started to dissipate along with the sun’s rays, thus granting us an unobstructed view of the night sky.

ISO 200 * 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ 100mm * f/22 * 1.0sec exposure

I wasn’t expecting the sun to dip low enough to capture this next shot, but when I saw it happening, I moved quickly to try to get it.

ISO 200 * 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens @ 400mm * f/22 * 1/8000sec

When I look at the above shot, I often think of the Eye of Sauron!

Here’s one of my first shots of the Milky Way galactic center. There was a lot of mist in the air from the ocean and probably due to the uncondensed fog, and it made for a nice effect with the light beams coming from the lighthouse.

ISO 400 * 16mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 22.0sec exposure

ISO 400 * 16mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 22.0sec exposure

The only thing is that my exposure is too long and you can actually see some motion blur from the stars.  It’s possible too that the wind might have been a factor.  I had my camera bag hanging from the tripod with the 100-400mm lens inside it, so it was weighing the tripod down.  But I’m wondering if it was heavy enough to steady the tripod.  I use a MeFoto Travel Tripod made of aluminum, so it’s not the same as using something solid as a Gitzo or Really Right Stuff.  The details of the lighthouse appear to be fairly sharp, so I’m guessing the exposure just might have been too long...

In fact, the exposure spanned two bursts of light from the light house.  The lighthouse had a frequency of 9 seconds, and I needed that second burst in order to make the light beam more prominent.

I thought it was pretty neat with the light beams and I noticed that most people had long exposures and were pretty satisfied with what they had and decided to head home.  I wasn’t satisfied though, and thinking that my long exposure was causing the star motion, I decided to try a shorter exposure to see what things looked like without the light beam from the lighthouse.  Hence, the following photo…

ISO 400 * 16mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 8.0sec exposure

ISO 400 * 16mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 8.0sec exposure

I do like the no-light version over the lighted version, but the lighted version actually seems more popular on Instagram. And I can understand why because of how the galactic center looks; it’s more solid. While in the no-light image, it looks less prominent.

Prints of both photos are available for purchase. Just click on the “Photos for Sale” button up top to see them and others for sale.

Of Things to Come - PoppySeed Dancer

I’ve always dreamed of photographing a ballerina, and when I found out that PoppySeed Dancer was coming to the San Francisco, I reached out to her immediately and set up a shoot! This is just a teaser, but after the new year there will be a blog posting or two on our shoot together!

94AD4B68-52B0-45E8-88CE-4CB429169A08.JPG

Evelyn Sinclair - A Lesson from Tuscany

It’s hard to believe that the events detailed in my three Tuscany blogs actually took place three months ago!  So much had happened and there was so much to digest, but not too long ago I was contacted by traveling model, Evelyn Sinclair, who wanted to know if I had an interest in shooting with her.  I figured, why not!  It would be the perfect time to see if I could put into practice what I had learned from Damien Lovegrove, specifically about lighting.

So ... I packed up my X-H1 and Godox AD200 and went off to meet with Evelyn at a pre-determined location.

Here’s our first official shot.  You can see that I forgot to get away from shooting wide open with the flash, but it actually turned out okay.  As there was nothing around her, shooting wide open didn’t take away from the shot.  Her face is about as sharp as it should be.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/1.2 * 1/2000sec

This next shot was an attempt to duplicate a shot that I did with Terez Kocova on Tuscany Day Three when we were on the streets of Volterra. The Godox AD200 is to the left of the frame with a 7 inch reflector and grid affixed to the bare bulb head. This time I shot at f/5.6 so as to get some texture of the wall behind her. I could have gone with f/8 in order to pull out more details fo the wall, but as you can see from the shutter speed, it was getting quite low and I didn’t have a tripod to mount the camera on (yet another lesson learned).

ISO 200 * 35mm F/1.4 lens * f/5.6 * 1/75sec

This final shot pretty much nailed it for me. Once I snapped it and looked at it in the camera, I knew that I had at least taken away something from my time with Damien.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/5.6 * 1/60sec

The tree is sharp and Evelyn is sharp, and I like the fall-off of light, plus the light in the background, which is just natural sunlight streaming through the trees. The AD200 was to the right and atop a light stand that was precariously balanced on uneven ground. I still had the 7 inch grid and reflector on it.

I much prefer the black and white version, but here’s a look at the color version, where the sharpness of the image is more apparent.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/5.6 * 1/60sec

I think both images work.  The color image would probably be best for print (hmm, perhaps this is the first image in what could be a calendar), but the black and white image lends itself nicely for social media.

So what could I have done differently?  First, I could have shot the above images at f/8; that would have made things much much sharper.  And I read that the 56mm f/1.2 gets sharper at f/2.8 and the sharpness really looks sweet between f/4 - f/8, so I was within the specs.  Of course, shooting at f/8 probably would have meant at shutter speed of 1/50sec or lower, and that would have meant the need for a tripod.  And finally, my light stand almost toppled a few times because of the uneven ground, so I’ve rectified that by getting my hands on an Avenger Alu Baby Light Stand with leveling leg, so no more uneven ground issues (hopefully) in the future.

So that’s sort of it for models for the year.  Maybe.  The holidays are now here, so I’ve got quite a few things on the docket, the most notable being a return to Bethlehem AD for their 26th year.  And hopefully, this year I won’t get affectionately slobbered on by a camel…

The Hearts in David's Eyes

In the early morning hours, on our departure day from the villa, I found myself on the road back to Florence because I’d signed up for an early morning tour of the Academia Galleria to see Michelangelo’s David sculpture.  I arranged the tour through Viator, which offered a skip-the-line tour with a coupon for a free Italian breakfast.

So off I went, on the road at 5am and arriving back in Florence a little before 7am.  I was to meet the tour guide at 8am, so had a quick breakfast consisting of espresso and an Italian pastry (that’s the customary breakfast) and then met up my guide.  We were a group of just under 15 and our guide was not only well-versed in Italian art history, but she was also a native Forentine.

David is obviously the big draw and also the main reason I wanted to see this well-known work of art.  All of the photos were taken with my 16-55mm f/2.8 lens.  There’s no flash photography allowed at all in the museum, so I had to rely on the IBIS of the X-H1 to help keep things steady.

Here’s a shot of the statute itself.  I find it so amazing that Michelangelo was able to envision this statue in a large mound of rock.  Even more amazing is the depiction of the muscles.

Probably most interesting of all, and the blog’s title mentions it, is that David’s pupils are actually hearts.  I did a double-take when I heard our guide say that and had to try to verify it myself.  My 16-55mm f/2.8 lens is the equivalent of a 24-70mm lens if used on a full frame, so I didn’t have the reach, but would at least have the sharpness, so I snapped what photos I could before moving on in the museum.

What follows are a succession of cropped images, moving in closer and closer until…

Voila! There really are hearts carved into David’s eyes!

I couldn’t tell how big the hearts were, but it doesn’t matter.  The level of detail that Michelangelo instilled into this sculpture is amazing.  He was a true visionary, able to see it in his mind’s eye before creating it in the physical world.  That’s true talent.

I’ll leave you with one more shot.

Most people just focus on the statue itself, but there’s so many other elements surrounding it, such as the skylight above.  The lines complement the statue.  A piece of art from the olden days set amongst the architecture of the modern.

Tuscany 2018 - Day Three

After a whirlwind two days at the workshop, day three proved to be even more fruitful! I’d been learning a lot, perhaps too much for my brain to process, at least at the time. Days One and Two kicked off at 9am and ended close to 7pm, so lots of shooting.

For Day Three, we spent the first part of the morning taking pics on the grounds of the villa. This first shot is all-natural morning sunlight. No artificial lighting, but just a slight bump in temperature.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/1.2 * 1/8000 sec

Damien’s version of the above photo had significantly less of a temperature bump, which made it look more like just before sunrise. I like his version, but also mine. I think though that it would have been better if the photo was somewhere in-between temperature-wise.

Next we walked over to the olive trees and to photograph Terez in a bathing suit and a hat.

ISO 200 * 90mm f2 lens * f/2 * 1/2000 sec

There was a nice line in trees in the distance behind Terez, so I did my best to line it up. Again, all natural light for this photo. You’ll notice from the shutter speed that it was fairly high, but it could have been higher, had it not been for the shading of the trees. I’ve been noticing that the Fuji 90mm f/2 lens is very sharp wide open! The other lenses like the 56mm f/1.2, those don’t start getting incredibly sharp until around f/2.8.

After shooting amongst the trees, we all hopped into our cars and hit the road towards Volterra. On the way, we stopped at a spot that overlooked the valley and took the following shot.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/13 * 1/1000 sec

We used a Godox AD600 at full power to light this shot. It was already super-bright out, but shooting at f/13 without a light would have made Terez a little darker, so the AD600 gave Terez that extra pop. The Fujifilm Velvia film simulation brought out the red dress even more. Using f/13 ensured that you could see the finer details of the landscape behind her.

Moving on towards the city of Volterra itself, Damien found this wonderful spot near the central plaza of the city. We used the Godox AD600 again in this spot, and again a smaller aperture in order to capture the details of the wall and the cobblestone.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/11 * 1/250 sec

The above photo definitely lended itself to black and white because of the corresponding black and white stone on the wall. Terez blends in with the photo better, vs the color version where she would stand out too much with her blue shorts.

This next shot though works well in color. It almost has a painted quality to it.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 28.3mm * f/8 * 1/160 sec

We left the plaza / town square and moved on to do some more street photography. Damien ran across this nice wooden door and set up the AD600. The above image looks nice in color because of Terez’s skin tone and matching tone of the stone wall. And the dark wooden door provides a nice backdrop.

Moving along about 50 yards we found another door and set up the AD600, this time with a softbox.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm * f/11 * 1/250 sec

It’s amazing what one can do with a simple old doorway that most people would ignore.

Next, as we were about to leave the walled city of Volterra, we can across this next scene.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm * f/9 * 1/30 sec

No AD600 this time, just natural light. The streaming water on the right side of the frame is coming out of the wall and pouring into a trough, and then goes into the small pool behind Terez. I shot this at 1/30 sec, handheld in order to make the water look as milky as possible. Thankfully, the X-H1 does have IBIS, so I wasn’t worried about shooting at that low of a shutter speed.

After leaving Volterra, we returned to the villa and Damien told us that we could either take a break for an hour or join him in the dining room to see how he works with Lightroom. I chose the latter and was amazed at how quickly he worked. Well, perhaps quick is the wrong word … because Damien has such a good eye for things, he barely had to do anything in Lightroom; his composition and lighting were spot-on when he took the shot, thus lessening his time post-processing.

After that quick Lightroom session, Damien had us gather by the pool for one more shoot. For the pool shoot, there was a AD600 to the right as the key light and a AD200 to the left as a hair light.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/16 * 1/250 sec

In order to achieve the above shot and the following shot, I actually had to lean out over the pool! My left elbow was probably a mere two or three inches from the surface of the water.

I loved the above shot, but then remembered seeing Terez practicing yoga earlier, so I asked her if she could strike a yoga pose.

ISO 200 * 56mm f/1.2 lens * f/16 * 1/250 sec

What a wonderful way for our photo workshop to come to an end! Afterwards, we stowed away most of our gear and met on the patio for dinner and enjoyed each other’s company as the stars came out.

I did take some time to do astrophotography, but it’s the memories of the past few days and the friends that I made, those will stick with me more than anything else.

My thanks to the amazing Damien Lovegrove for not only inspiring me over the past few years, but also for how he generously gave of his knowledge during the workshop. And many thanks to the very talented Terez Kocova, who helped us all get amazing shots!

Tuscany 2018 - Day Two

After an amazing first day of the workshop with Damien Lovegrove and Terez Kocova, 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.