Returning to Bethlehem AD in Redwood City, California is like visiting family. They are like my extended family now. I had the honor of returning, officially, for a second year to photograph the event and it was more wonderful an experience than ever. I shot over 2300 photos, some of which I’ll be showcasing on this blog in due time. I also did a few things different, shooting and lighting-wise for 2018, which I get into more in future blog postings. Until then, enjoy the above photo!
It’s really hard to only pick 9 favorites. I had actually originally picked 14, but had to whittle it down to 9.
Here they are from left to right...
1) Photos for the band Dirty Cello’s 2018 album
2) Katelyn from the bluegrass band Undone in Sorrow
3) Two amazing instructors from Pilates ProWorks Burlingame
4) Aerial dance by Flyaway Productions
5) A stunning black and white photos with model Terez Kocova taken near Volterra, Italy
6) Multi-talented musician Brian Byrnes
7) The galactic center of the Milky Way over the Pigeon Point Lighthouse
8) The amazing Poppyseed Dancer striking a ballet pose
9) Mad Men style shoot with Sperenza
I’m definitely looking forward to another fun year of photography. Who knows where my camera will lead me this time?
Happy New Year!
Wishing you and yours all the best for this joyous Christmas season!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
This next shot also required the same flash technique.
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!
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.
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.
These are Brian’s instruments, from the harmonicas to the guitar.
And the acoustic bass below belongs to Peter Barshay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to listen to the music of the Brian Byrnes Trio and purchase their CD, head over to this website.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The next four photos demonstrate the sharpness of the lens. There's the image and then a cropped version showing the sharpness.
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!
A lovely yellow flower. I wish I could identify flowers. I only know a few of them...
And now some pinecones.
Very sharp! The texture was captured!
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!
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!
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.
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.
And here we have a saxophone.
Or perhaps two saxophones?
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.
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.
And here's the man himself, Orion Edmonson. I don't know why, but seeing him on the drums reminded me of Mick Fleetwood.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And here's our sax player.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
And, of course, Mike, as everyone is used to seeing him, making sandwiches with rapid efficiency.
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.
And here are Mike and Jean outside their deli. Both in their 70s, they tackle each day at the deli with much joy.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!