SF Maritime Museum’s Beer Fest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This next shot also required the same flash technique.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And now some pinecones.

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

Very sharp!  The texture was captured!

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

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

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

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

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

Tender, by Flyaway Productions

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

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

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

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

Three Point Lighting with Tere Casas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busy Bumblebees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How sharp?  Here's the cropped version.

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

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

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

Regal Gray Ladies

Is this a portal looking back in time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here we have the Jeremiah O'Brien herself.

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

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

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

Coelho & Ridnell at the Cadillac Hotel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Unexpected Visitor

How often do you get this lucky?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rock, Country, Soul Express

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Captured Memories - The High Five Before the Race

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

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

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

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

1960s Boho Girls - Galyna

It's very rare that you get to test the limits of your camera's mechanical shutter speed, but when you do, the end results can be pretty neat!

Earlier, I blogged about a boho shoot with Jennifer Franco.  On that same day, I also had the pleasure of working with  pro model Galyna Yershoshenko.  Galyna has done catwalks back east, so this was a real treat!

It was a really bright day outside.  And as you can see from the shutter speeds listed below, it was a real struggle to shoot wide open while also not having the image so overexposed that it was unworkable in Lightroom.  And I didn't want to use an ND filter because that would have reduced the quality of the image.  Thankfully, even at 1/8000 sec, the images were not so overexposed that they weren't unworkable in Lightroom!  Whew!

Our theme for below was designed by Marebeth Gromer and the lighting design, which mostly consisted of a reflector, was designed by Cedric Sims.

This first shot with the chain gun shows just how harsh the lighting conditions were.  The reflector was  being used as a fill off to the right side.

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

I’m not big into bokeh, but I did want the background to go completely blurry, but to also preserve the colors as much as possible, and you can see the blue sky and green trees in the background.  Having that high mechanical shutter speed really helped.

With this second shot, the colors really popped out again!

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/6400sec

Of note is that this was one of those rare instances where I had to use Photoshop.  The reflector was showing up in the left lens of Galyna’s sunglasses, so I had to cover that up with the "content aware" fill tool.  But overall, the colors in the shot really popped out, thanks again to the high mechanical shutter of the X-T2.

(I’ve never actually played with the electronic shutter of the X-T2 as I’ve read that it’s not as ideal as the mechanical shutter. I suppose I’ll have to experiment with it eventually.)

The next shot is rather interesting.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/3800sec

Granted, I wanted to get a good shot here of Galyna, but cheated my angle a bit off to the side for obvious reasons.  This is probably my favorite shot of the entire set, because of her pose and overall composition.  She's personifies the carefree nature of that time, but there's also a bit of defiance in her face and pose.

This next shot is basically unedited, so you can actually see where the reflector is.  If there was one thing I would have changed in this shot, it would have just been the composition.  I would have backed up a little more or quickly swapped prime lenses so that I could have captured her entire body.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/5800sec

This next shot is my second favorite, mostly because of the composition and her pose.

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

This one was also hard to get and it was sort of rushed because I was at one of the other themed sets at the time, waiting my turn to shoot with the model.  Since there were two photographers ahead of me, I decided to rush over to get this one.  You can see that the lighting is extremely harsh.  Dark shadows and high contrast.  I had to take down the highlights just to make it look closer to what my naked eyes saw.  I’m wondering, looking at this shot, which shutter speed would have helped.  I’m guessing somewhere around 1/10000th sec as it was really really bright.

This final shot was taken during a break and costume change.  This was just an improvised shot -- no light modifiers or reflectors at all -- and Galyna had just finished checking her phone and decided to pop into character so us photographers could get the shot.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/2500sec

I toyed with converting the above photo to black and white, but then realized that the background colors weren't too distracting.  Our eyes are drawn directly to Galyna, and her surroundings are sufficiently blurred out enough that our eyes cue in on her since she's completely in focus.

And that's a wrap for this portion of the boho-themed shoot!

Captured Memories - Hold My Hand, Dad, and Lead Me

It's Father's Day -- yes, this blog posting is a day early -- and I wanted to share this particular shot which I took during a race three months ago.  It was taken a few moments after the runners took off on their 5K out and back in Pacifica in March 2018.  I have no idea who this father and son are, but the image says so much about fathers and their children.

While I can't speak from personal experience since I'm not a dad, I do know that fathers are the ones who serve as the authoritative anchor for their children.  It's a tough job, especially when some fathers are under-appreciated.  To all the fathers out there, we see you and we thank you for being that anchor in our lives, for showing us what justice and mercy are.  And thank you most of all for leading us, for holding out your hand to us and moving us forward, wherever the road may go.

Undone in Sorrow at the Cadillac Hotel

We're back at the Cadillac Hotel, this time with a very special performance!  For as long as I've been taking photos there, Max Lopez has always been the sound-man, but it wasn't until recently that I found out that he was also part of a bluegrass band known as Undone In Sorrow.  They're a fairly new band, consisting of Max (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Katelyn Kimmons (vocals, banjo), and Susan Sullivan (fiddle, guitar).

Let's take a look at some opening shots.

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

It's bluegrass so we have to use sepia, right?

ISO 200   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125sec

I used the 90mm prime lens for the above shots as I didn't want to get too close because they were warming up.

Now we switch to a little black and white for the band members themselves.  First is Katelyn.  She does most of the vocals for the group.

ISO 320   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/60sec

Next is Susan.  When she plays that fiddle, it comes alive!

ISO 320   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/60sec

And here's Max Lopez.  As I mentioned before, I would always see Max at the soundboard, making sure everything sounded just right, but it wasn't until about a month before this performance when I saw the flyer that I realized that Max was himself a musician!

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

And now, here are a few artistic shots.

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

I normally don't tilt the camera, but decided to experiment it more, based on a recommendation from a fellow photographer.  I can see the benefits to doing so because it changes the perspective while also framing things better -- if you're too close -- and also balances out the lines.

For this next photo, I lined things up and realized that Susan's bow looks like it is splitting the frame in half, which provided a neat balance to the photo.

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

My only regret was that I didn't get as many photos of Max.  There was a column in the way -- you can see it in the next shot -- so it was hard to get a good angle of him head on.  But the ones I did get, I still made sure to frame and balance the image.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.6   1/125sec

And finally, here's the entire band together.

ISO 200   23mm f/1.4 lens   f/2.5   1/125sec

Keep an eye and an ear out for the name "Undone In Sorrow".  They're an amazing group and the emotion of their music filled up the lobby of the Cadillac Hotel that day, and people left the lobby enlivened and enriched.

1960s Boho Girls - Jennifer

We're back to the Boho theme again this week, this time with a focus on Jennifer.  Jennifer has done some modeling and also acting work in the corporate realm.  This is the first time I've worked with her and it was easy to draw certain looks from her.

The below shot was inspired a musician photo I saw by Samantha 'Annette' Schannon several years ago. It's a neat pose.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/6000sec

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/6000sec

The next shot was in front of an old World War Two jeep.  Jennifer just happened to pick up the shovel, and I thought, "Why not tilt the camera?"  I hadn't done that to any effect in a while so I gave it a go.  The result was great!

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

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

The above photo, you can see that the shutter speed is really high.  The X-T2's max mechanical shutter speed is 1/8000 sec.  If I've had a neutral density filter, I would have used it, but I didn't.  Then again, I prefer sharpness over all and the ND filter would have taken away from that.

Gear used:  Fuji X-T2 with 56mm f/1.2 lens

Grant Levin Trio at the Cadillac Hotel

We’re back to the Cadillac Hotel again, this time with the Grant Levin Trio!   

As always, I like to set up the piece with the tools of the trade... 

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

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

And here’s Grant Levin himself!  I wasn't sure who he was at first because when I looked at his website, prior to the concert date, he had longer hair and a much thicker beard.

ISO 500   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/160sec

The above shot was actually taken as Grant was warming up before the concert.  I always like to do shots like the above while the musicians are warming up because it helps me get the lighting and color temperature right.  The lighting configuration at the Cadillac Hotel tends to shift around each time based on how many musicians and singers are performing, so it's always good to do several tests because some of your performers could end up in areas of too much light or too many shadows.

ISO 800   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/160sec

As you can see as well, I'm once again shooting at a fixed shutter speed of higher than 1/125th sec in order to freeze motion and prevent camera shake.  Those shutter speeds seem to work the best for me, regardless of which prime lens I use.  And then in post-processing, I'll adjust the exposure so that all photos will match.  If you compare the above two photos -- it's very subtle -- you can actually see the light fall-off / differential between the 56mm and the 90mm, thus necessitating the need for a little exposure compensation during post-processing.

(Side note:  I am so tempted right now to get the Fuji X-H1 because of its IBIS capabilities, but we'll see if the budget and common sense will overrule the G.A.S. (aka Gear Acquisition Syndrome))

Next,  we have the drummer whose name I actually didn't get.  I was amazed at how quickly he set up his drum set and started playing.  Thankfully he had a nice, even pool of light around him so that my X-T2 didn't have to hunt too hard for focus

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

A view from the top!  I've found that whenever I try to get a shot from up above, the colors don't always turn out the way I want.  Hence, the need for the black and white conversion.  

ISO 800   23mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.8   1/125sec

Next we have the third member of the group for the day: Effervescence.  He rolled in a little late, but immediately lit up the room with his voice.

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

Here's the final shot I took before having to leave.  There was definitely some foot-tapping going on!

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

All three of these performers -- I've been told -- live within or near the Tenderloin neighborhood.  And while the Tenderloin has a bad reputation, there's also a lot of good going on there, from rescue missions to soup kitchens to men like these who can sing and play.  And I may have failed to mention it in the past, but all of these performers donate their time; they do it for free.

That's it for now from the Cadillac Hotel, but in the coming weeks we'll have a few more blog postings on the unique musical styles that are heard there!  In fact, in a few weeks, it'll be bluegrass music from the band "Undone in Sorrow".

A Young Soldier Off to War

So this photo is actually not related to any of the Meetup groups I've attended.  But it actually is a photo that I took.  Here we have a solder during the Second World War, shipping off to the battlefield.  You can see the San Francisco skyline in the background.

I never did get this gentleman's name, but he's an actual U.S. military member.  And he's wearing the old uniform because he's also one of the many volunteers at Angel Island who help recreate what it was like on the island during the World War Two.  I asked him if I could take his picture and he agreed.  It happens often as he's a recreation actor anyway.  And I aged the photo just slightly in Lightroom.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 200   35mm f/2 lens   f/4.5   1/3200sec

I never did get your name, sir, but thank you for your service to our country and also for helping preserve the history of Angel Island for many of us who visit.

Matt Helm Sings Dean Martin

It's back to the Villa D'Este Restaurant in San Francisco for more music!

This time we have a gentleman who goes by the name Matt Helm.  Matt is a Dean Martin impersonator, and he's very good.  I arrived early and ran into Matt already in costume, but he was no longer Matt Helm; he'd already taken on the persona of Dean Martin.  I have to admit that he was quite convincing!

I used bounce flash again, with the Nissan i40 flash mounted on the Fuji X-T2.  This time around, my homemade snoot was a much longer piece of foam, giving me a bit more control with the direction of the light.  The longer the foam, the less bleed of light to the sides.

This time around, too, instead of using primes, I stuck with the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens.  It's the equivalent field of view of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera.  I decided to stick with the zoom lens because I was also taking shots of people at each table, and that meant I need something that I could frame and shoot with quickly.

The first shot is, of course, of the tools of the trade.  Here we have a simple sound mixer and a laptop ready to play the music.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 38.8mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

I saw the next shot and had to go for it because I knew I only had seconds to get it.  Had I been using a prime lens - and at this distance it would have been the 56mm - I probably would have lost the shot.  Neat too that you can see a couple dancing on the left side of the frame.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 34.2mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

And here's Matt, as Mr. Dean Martin himself.  Complete with cigarette.  It was a prop cigarette, but Matt was so convincing that you thought it was real.

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

For this next photo, I decided to try an older style of color scheme, which was simple enough using Lightroom.  I was trying to match some of the photos of old.  I think in the future, I'd need to take down the exposure and the shadows as it doesn't really match the look of other yesteryear photos I've seen.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 28.3mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

Here you can see people in the audience as they're getting ready to dine on some of the fine cuisine offered at the Villa D'Este.  In order to make it look like it was complementing the window light, I bounced the flash off the wall to my right.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 17.6mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

You can also see that the ceiling of the dining area is rust-colored, so I had no choice but to bounce my flash off the walls, otherwise everyone would be bathed in a reddish-brown hue.  That effect is more apparent at night.

I call this my "hero" shot.  Matt's face tells it all.  He's focused, in tune, and projecting all that is Dean Martin towards the audience.

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

Another favorite shot.  Matt had just ended one song and was reaching for his martini glass, but the folks just kept on dancing.  You can tell from the direction of the light that I bounced it off the wall to my right.  One thing I learned from watching the videos of Damien Lovegrove is that it's best to shoot into the unlit side of the face, so I did my best to do that this night, making a conscious decision to bounce that light as best I could to illuminate the far side of the face.

ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 17mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

If you'd like to hire Matt for a gig as Dean Martin, check out his website.  It'll be an experience you won't forget!

Vintage Travelers - Santi and Adam

I wanted to use this blog entry to continue showcasing some of the other Boho photos, but I ran across this lovely set of photos from the Vintage Traveler theme that we had during the same Meetup event.

Below we have Santi and Adam modeling in 1940s costumes.  The scene's lighting was by Dirk Dreyer of Dreyer Pictures and the styling and theme by our Meetup coordinator, Marebeth Gromer.  Though for the first shot, it was all natural light.  And the light was pretty harsh!  You can clearly see that from the shutter speed of my camera.  The X-T2's max mechanical shutter speed is 1/8000sec.  The tarmac at the airport provided some bounce lighting and filled in some of the shadows.  The look between Adam and Santi is perfect, with his indifference and her apparent rejecting of him.

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

And, of course, in this next photo, they appear to have made up.

The below photo didn't have some artificial lighting even though it was shot in an aircraft hanger.  Again, it's natural light.  Dirk had set up lights for a group of previous models, but for this shot, the lighting was off.  As always, per Damien Lovegrove, whose lighting techniques I've been inspired by ever since I got my first camera, always shoot into the dark side of the face, which I did here.  You can see the contrasting shadows on Santi's face provide a nice counterpoint to the even lighting on Adam.  Will she?  Won't she?

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

Gear used for the above two photos:  Fuji X-T2 with 56mm f/1.2 lens

San Francisco Recovery Theatre at the Cadillac Hotel

As you can tell, I really do enjoy photographing musicians.  Why?  I think because it's more challenging than photographing runners or models.  Maybe.  Regardless, I do enjoy taking photos of them.  I'm always out of my comfort zone when photographing musicians because of the high contrast lighting situation.

The San Francisco Recovery Theatre spent the lunch hour at the Cadillac Hotel recently to entertain the residents there with some lively music.  Some of the singers are recovering addicts, and they've channeled their former addiction towards the power of music, and powerful it is!

Mr. Geoffrey Grier heads up the SFRT and when he talks, it's like he's singing a tune.  

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

SFRT's music style harkens back to days gone by, but it still gets into your bones and makes you want to put your hands together and tap your feet.  There were more singers than captured below.  I wasn't able to photograph all of them as I was on my lunch break and couldn't stay long.

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

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.4   1/125 sec

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

Have a look at the pianist's shoes!

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

ISO 320   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/125 sec

ISO 500   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125 sec

ISO 500   90mm f/2 lens   f/2   1/125 sec

This final photo is Mr. Ben Bacot.  He's got such a powerfully deep voice.  

ISO 800   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/250 sec

That's all for this week.  Next week I'll profile another musician, but in the meantime check out SFRT's website for another show near you.

1960s Boho Shoot - Three Girls and a Jeep

This wasn't the first time I'd photographed hippie girls in bohemian-style, though this shoot provided some really great learning opportunities.  It was part of a Meetup group and we gathered at the Sonoma Valley Airport, which has several vintage planes.  And one of the plane owners also happened to have a World War Two era jeep.  We had three models:  Galyna (left), Jennifer (center), and Katie (right).  The props provided were great, to include the ammo belt and chain gun!  Naturally they were non-working props!  I shot the below image without an ND filter.  Lighting was provided by someone using a reflector.

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/6400

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.2   1/6400

The reflector actually showed up in Galyna's left sunglass lens, so I took it out using Photoshop.

A few lessons learned from taking this particular image.  Obviously, first it's good to make sure your lighting isn't showing up at all.  I also should have shot this at f/2 because Galyna isn't as in sharp focus as Jennifer, and Katie is definitely out of focus.  I've always wanted that out of focus background, but I forget sometimes that it would sometimes be at the expense of keeping everyone in focus.

I'll circle back to more pics from this day of shooting over the next few months.

Theme and Styling by Marebeth Gromer Photography

Lighting by Cedric Sims

Gear used:  Fuji X-T2, 56mm f/1.2 lens