Of Things to Come - Abby Div at the Cadillac Hotel

I’ve photographed many a musician at the Cadillac Hotel, but never a model. When I found out that Abigail Div was coming back to San Francisco, it was like everything coming together. So we met on an afternoon at the Cadillac Hotel and set about creating some magic.

No, she’s not in the shot below, but I took it as I was testing both composition and lighting. This was my first time using a Lupo Superpanel Dual 1x1 on my own, after having previously been exposed to it twice at two Damien Lovegrove workshops. The results with Superpanel as the key light were outstanding! In fact, Abby was surprised by the power output of the panel.

I chose the image below though because I liked how she had left her shoes in the right spot on the floor.

The pool of light is actually the radial filter in Lightroom used to create the shape. I wanted to isolate the shoes a little more. The shadow is the real shadow being generated by the light of the Lupo.

Just a teaser for now!

Casulo - A Brazilian Jazz Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

Casulo - what does the word mean? It appears to be a Portuguese word that could translate into “cocoon” or “pod” or “chrysalis”. I like the idea of this band’s music emerging from a cocoon-like pod and bursting forth with colorful beauty, just like a butterfly. And that’s exactly what this concert was like!

I’ve photographed, perhaps, two dozen different musicians at the Cadillac Hotel our the past three years and the caliber of those bands — many of whom are just kind of getting started — is amazing! Casulo was no exception.

First, as always, let’s briefly get a look at the tools of the trade.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/18sec

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/25sec

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/2 — 1/30sec

Next we’ll have a bit of a reveal. I’ve been trying to nail this shot for a while, and the band’s leader, Paolo, was in just the right spot for me to get it.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/40sec

And now a view from above.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/2.8 — 1/12sec

I rarely am able to get the above shot, but this time the musicians were positioned perfectly and filled the space Normally the piano is turned in a different direction, making this shot a bit awkward, but I like how Paolo positioned the piano for this performance.

Dropping back down to ground level, here we see the drummer, in the zone and focused.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/1.4 — 1/75sec

The next shot was taken with the 56mm f/1.2 which on a full frame has a field of view of an 85mm and roughly the depth of field of an f/ 1.8. I just absolutely love the effect here. The saxophonist, Rueben, pops out of the shot while everything else behind him just melts way. But it wasn’t just the lens that did this, but also the lighting. Both worked together to create this nice, pleasing effect.

ISO 200 — 56mm f/1.2 — f/1.2 — 1/20sec

Normally, I would make the above photo black & white because when shooting in that direction, the colors of the curtains are often a distraction in the image. But not this time around. Somehow the sound and lighting engineer, Max, arranged the lighting differently and the background colors became pleasantly muted.

Next we have our acoustic bass player. Black and white was the best option for this shot because I think it adds to the focused look on his face.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

And finally we have the band leader, Paolo, playing and singing lively ballads for the audience.

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

Prior to the start of the concert, I had introduced myself to Paolo and he asked if I could take some group shots of the band, so we spent about five minutes getting some static photos.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/5 — 1/30sec

ISO 200 — 23mm f/1.4 — f/5.6 — 1/40sec

If you’re interested in booking Casulo for a gig, have a look at their website and send Paolo a message!

Casulo

Of Things to Come — Riona Neve, from a Lovegrove Workshop in Southwest France

This is just a teaser, of course.  When I first saw one of Damien Lovegrove’s videos on YouTube, I was absolutely intrigued.  I was wondering who this guy was and why he knew so much about shaping light around models.  That was back in 2015.  Flash forward to 2019, and as I type this I am actually on my way home from attending my second workshop with Damien.  Twice now, I’ve felt the need to remind him that it’s his fault that I’m a Fuji user.

This workshop was held in the small French town of Le Temple Sur Lot, which is deep in the countryside of southwestern France.  It’s rural, though not as rural as the location of the workshop in Tuscany last year.

Our model was the amazing Riona Neve, from Belgium.  She’s got 15 years as a model under her belt, and it definitely shows!  I’ll have several blogs in the forthcoming weeks.  For now though, here’s a teaser of things to come.

PoppySeed Dancer: Sunset Jump

After we had wrapped up at our previous location, Anna (aka PoppySeed Dancer) said she wanted to try to capture a shot of her with the sunset, and I told her I knew the perfect place! I actually had envisioned a different type of shot at this location with a model, but seeing that I had a ballerina with me, I was immediately inspired!

I set up the Godox AD200 to the left of frame, about 60 degrees to the camera, and placed the 5” reflector and grid on it to isolate the light spill.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/7.7 - 1/500sec

For both of these shots, Anna was wearing the same tutu and leotard from the previous blog entry, except that previous one had black and white photos. Here you can see the actual color of what she’s wearing.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/7.7 - 1/500sec

I took the temperature up in-camera to give the sunset a little bit more of a punch. The above shot is my favorite. Her lines almost line up with the rays of the sun!

The jump shot took quite a few takes to do. It was getting cold and the wind was picking up. Anna wanted to get it just right, and thankfully we did!

Florentine Memories

By the time this blog is published, I’ll be somewhere in the Lot Valley of France, at another Damien Lovegrove photography workshop. But I wanted to share some photos that I took during my brief stay in Florence, Italy. They were taken over a period of about 16 hours, from the evening I arrived to the late morning the following day before I headed out to the ancient medieval city of Volterra. All of the photos were taken with my Fuji X-H1 and my always handy 16-55mm f/2.8 lens. That lens is on my camera 90% of the time.

This first set of shots were taken in the vicinity of Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s most popular bridge.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/500sec

Storm clouds were brewing to the east, but thankfully they didn't head our way. I wasn’t eager to test my X-H1’s weatherproofing in a thunderstorm.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 38.8mm — f/2.8 — 1/110sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/80sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/80sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/480sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 40.1mm — f/2.8 — 1/480sec

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 53.3mm — f/2.8 — 1/300sec

Next I worked my way over to where the Cathedral and Duomo were. I was actually looking for dinner at that point, but with so many options, I wasn’t sure what to eat. So while I was trying to figure that out, I decided to try some extended exposure shots.

I didn’t bring my tripod with me, so I mounted my camera on anything I could find, from the tops of trash receptacles to the backs of benches.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 16mm — f/11 — 5sec

The tripod / no tripod choice was a bit of a tactical choice on my part because I would be doing a lot of walking and would clearly look like a tourist on the streets. But then again, there were tons of tourists around me as well. I decided that the unencumbered way was best.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 18.7mm — f/9 — 7sec

Since I was unencumbered, my compositions were basically dictated by where I could firmly mount my camera. In the case of the Duomo below, I really did put the camera atop a trash receptacle.

ISO 800 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 16mm — f/2.8 — 1/8sec

The long exposures helped eliminate the moving people in the shots. I hadn’t done a long exposure of street scenes before, so this was an interesting experiment. I was worried that the X-H1’s in-body image stabilization might interfere with the shot, but thankfully it didn’t.

The following morning I headed out to find some souvenirs and brought the camera along with me again.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 18.2mm — f/7.1 — 1/1900sec

I love these morning shots because there were less people on the streets and in the water, and I was able to capture some wonderful reflections.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 37.6mm — f/6.4 — 1/1000sec

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

Florence is a wonderful city. It’s smaller than what I’m normally accustomed to, which is why I think I may have found it to be quite comfortable and pleasant. There’s so much beautiful history and architecture in the area. It’s definitely worth exploring again.

Colonial Williamsburg - Women in Early Music

While at Colonial Williamsburg, the last event I attended was a presentation called, “Women in Early Music”. It was late March and the program was quite appropriate for Women’s History Month.

Photography was not allowed during the performance itself, mostly because the room was really dark and the camera would have been a huge distraction/disruption during the performance. But afterwards I asked two of the ladies if I could take their photos and they excitedly agreed!

To say that the shooting conditions were difficult is an understatement. I was having to push what I thought were the limits of my camera’s ISO!

This first shot is of the flautist. What I found so amazing about her performance was the distinctive very deep breath she would take at the beginning of each song (or movement). You can see from the size of the flute just how robust it is compared to modern day flutes. But the music she drew from that flute was strong and steady, which is a testament to her stamina and skill!

ISO 1600 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 26.6mm — f/2.8 — 1/30sec

This next shot was the most difficult one of my entire time at Colonial Williamsburg, and also of the two shots taken that night.

Our singer positioned herself in a very dark portion of the room, perhaps too dark in most circumstances.  However, I trust my Fuji, especially the X-H1 with it’s IBIS.  So I did my best at guessing the exposure and trusting the fact that the dynamic range of the Fuji sensor would allow me to bring this image up a whopping 5 stops!  And here’s the final image.

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

At ISO 1600, the image was grainy, but not so much that i wasn’t able to use the noise reduction in Lightroom to do some decent correction. The sepia conversion was done to primarily help mask the remaining noise, and also to make the image look older. It seems that when we think of sepia, we think of older photos and we think of grains so hopefully worked!

I’m glad I was able to catch this performance because it was actually the final performance, since Women’s History Month and the March of month was coming to a close. If I could go back next year and catch this performance again, the only thing I would change would be to bring a small flash and a flash sync chord!

Gettysburg - Scenes from the Battlefield

I hadn’t intended to discuss Gettysburg on Memorial Day, the day which we honor those who lost their lives defending their nation and their freedom, but this year it seemed appropriate.

I had the opportunity not too long ago to visit the Gettysburg Battlefield. Obviously, being a battlefield, the area is immense, encompassing more than just the city of Gettysburg, but a significant portion of the outskirts as well. As with many of the American Civil War Battlefields, the loss of life was at a tragically large scale. It’s also in this area that President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address.

On the day I visited, it was a rainy day. The skies were dark, and there was a steady light rain falling all over the area. I had no worries because my Fuji X-H1 was weather resistant, as was the 16-55mm f/2.8 that was mounted on it. That lens has the equivalent field of view of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera. It was the only lens I brought with me during my visit to the battlefield.

I’ve come to learn through the wise advice of a good friend, who served as a combat photographer with the U.S. military, and also through experimentation, that for just touring around and doing photo walks, the 24-70mm zoom lens is really all you need.

The first shot gives a sense of isolation and solitude. It’s a lone branch and a single water droplet. Behind you see the dark storm clouds covering the land, and the drab colors of the landscape.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/480 sec

Next we have two shots: one a closer-in shot that has the tell-tale look of a part of a cannon, and then a shot from the front of the canon itself.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/180 sec

Standing near the front of one of these, you can just imagine the power of the blast emanating from the barrel, and cannon ball being expelled, destroying everything it touches.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 48.5mm — f/2.8 — 1/160 sec

Can you imagine having to run up against this barricade, with bullets coming right at you?  It may not look like much, but truly, if you had a rifle and a pistol and extra ammo, and some gear, trying to get over even part of this would be difficult while under fire.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/120 sec

Here’s a stone wall that was probably used as cover for soldiers shooting at their opponents.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/5.6 — 1/90 sec

One must remember though, that while Gettysburg is a battlefield, but it’s also a memorial that’s littered with cemeteries. And all over its grounds, precious blood was spilled. Looking through the lens of history, we hopefully don’t see the same lines of division that they did.

ISO 100 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/400 sec

Hopefully, what one sees at Gettysburg is not only the dangers of a nation divided, but also the memorial that it truly is. Whatever side the American soldier fought on during this war, they were still Americans. And we can only their memories on this Memorial Day by remembering their sacrifice and also doing what we can to prevent an already divided present day nation from spiraling down the path that led our forefathers to war in the first place.

Colonial Williamsburg - Surveying His Domain

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Lost in Thought in the Wythe House

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Firing of the Noon Gun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Ghosts Stories

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

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

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

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

But is one of them a ghost?

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Aggy’s Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Anticipation

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

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

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

And it all starts with this specific shot. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PoppySeed Dancer: The Power of Black & White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Dancers & Villagers & Roman Soldiers!

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

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

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

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

And there are dancers as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next we have two shots from the small Jewish school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Favorite Angel Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Shepherds Tending Their Sheep at Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gettysburg - Tears in Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

And perhaps this final image says it all.

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

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

Tears in rain, indeed.

PoppySeed Dancer - A View of the Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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