Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Beauty on the Stairs

There’s an interesting story behind these stairs. It’s the one thing where Damien actually gave us all an assignment and asked us how to best shoot it. Needless to say, I had no idea, partly because I didn’t know what Riona was going to wear and partly because … well, I just didn’t know.

Thankfully, Damien did.

And after Damien set up the Lupo for lighting, and Riona took position on the stairs, that’s when I started to see the possibilities. I saw angles. I love angles. And so I used them to the best of abilities.

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

The above shot is my favorite, with Riona’s lines complementing the stairs and the railing.

I like the next shot too, with the shadow of the railing. Although the image is missing something, and I’m not too sure exactly what. It’s almost perfect. Perhaps it’s the angle of Riona’s body? Perhaps she could have been angle in the other direction, forming an opposing angle to the railing?

ISO 200 — 16mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/125sec

Next are two more photos of that day.

ISO 200 — 16mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/60sec

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

And that’s a wrap for day one. And what an amazing day it was! It was cold and rainy outside, so Damien had to improvise our indoor shoots for this day. He came up with so many different looks that it was a fabulous learning experience.

Day Two brought some interesting looks as well since we were able to work outside. We’ll visit those looks soon!

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Boudoir with the Lupo Superpanel Dual

Boudoir is one of those themes that I don’t practice that much. In fact, this is only the second time I’ve shot boudoir, the first being at Damien’s workshop in Tuscany in 2018. This time around, in France, I got to experiment with it again.

For this particular look, Damien set up the Lupo as the primary light source since we were shooting further away from the window and the natural light — which was diffused due to the storm outside — didn’t provide nearly enough light beyond the window itself. Riona sat atop the dresser and this first shot turned out to be my favorite.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/125sec

I love the symmetrical angles that she’s making with her body and I tried to frame the shot so that the angles extended to the edge of the frame. Not quite to the corners, but close enough that the angles appear pleasing enough to the eye. It’s amazing how a simple dresser made for a lovely boudoir photo.

Here are some more pictures from the session itself.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/125sec

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/160sec

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/160sec

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Day for Night

How do you exchange day for night? I always thought it was neat in the movies when interior scenes were shot during the day, and yet it was made to look like night. Damien did just that, while also using the natural light to his advantage.

The below setup looked absolutely amazing to the naked eye, but how to capture that same look in camera?

ISO 250 — 56mm f/1.2 lens — f/1.2 — 1/1000sec

One of the beauties of the Fuji system is the live view, and we took full advantage of it for this look. Here’s how I remember Damien setting it up:

The window in the background was left open, but to achieve the nighttime effect, we took the temperature down to give the image a slightly colder feel. The blues took the appearance of moonlight. (Although it’s actually true that the moonlight in its raw form seems to come across as bluish - greenish.)

Damien set his Lupo Superpanel Dual (I’m growing quite fond of that lighting kit) and set it to a more purer white, thus it worked well with the cooler temp of the Fuji.

The only thing I added in post processing were two gradient filters at opposite corners. Riona, being as tall as she is (5’10”) found the dress a little too short. She had hoped that it was long enough to flow on the ground. It does — at least for me — distract from the beauty of the image, so I decided to hide it a bit.

Putting it all together … have a look at the following photo to see what the image would have looked like without the temperature change.

ISO 250 — 56mm f/1.2 lens — f/2.2 — 1/1000sec

Definitely much better the way Damien set it up!

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Beauty by the Window

I love natural light. When I first starting working with models and taking pics for people for free, I always told them that I loved working with natural light. But that was because all I had in my photography arsenal were a couple of speed lights. Yes, it was just an excuse I used because I couldn’t afford the gear at the time. But when I first found out about Damien Lovegrove and how he worked with natural light, I came to realize that it’s really important to know how to shape natural light. And once you learn how to do that, then you can start using artificial lighting more effectively.

Damien came up with this very simple look using the exact same room we were in. All it took was for Riona to change outfits. Natural light was streaming through the window and the lamp behind her turned on for just effect, to lift a little bit of the shadows behind her. It was an overcast day outside, so the filtered light was nice and even.

Riona’s pose is absolutely lovely, with the shadows accentuating her figure.

ISO 250 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/1600sec

That 35mm f/1.4 lens is amazing for intimate shots like this.

For the final two shots, I used the 56mm f/1.2, but you’ll notice that the exposure is overblown just a bit. That was entirely my fault, not trimming the exposure by increasing the shutter speed. It’s a common fault that I do on occasion when switching lenses. I’ll have to be more cognizant of that.

However, despite that, the image came out nicely.

ISO 250 — 56mm f/1.2 lens — f/1.2 — 1/500sec

If I could change one thing about the above image in post-processing, is that I would tone down the colors even more. The colors of the landscape outside the window do actually distract from the overall composition.

In this next image, you can see just how much light the 56mm f/1.2 really pulls in.

ISO 250 — 56mm f/1.2 lens — f/1.2 — 1/500sec

Still way too over-exposed, but a lesson learn. Thankfully the first image turned out perfect!

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Flowers and the Lupo Light

This week we move from light and airy to more dramatic.

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

Same location as last week. The only difference is that all Damien did was close all of the curtains in the room and he lit Riona with his Lupo Superpanel Dual.

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

So by closing all of the curtains in the room, it took up the contrast and also created a much more dramatic image which was further enhanced by the Lupo since it was a single light source.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/500sec

Since Riona also understands photography and lighting, she made our job easier, striking poses that she knew would work with the light.

Next week, more natural light work, but with a slightly different theme!

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Flowers by the Window

I am always amazed at how Damien can shape any type of light he finds. This was only our third look for the day, and we were already achieving wonderful results!

These shots were created with just simple window light. One of my fellow workshop members — I don’t remember who — placed the flowers in the shot to add a little more interest to it.

For this first shot, I opted for the Fuji ProNeg Standard film simulation. To my eyes, at least, that film simulation mutes the colors just a little bit and for some strange reason I felt like desaturating some of the images taken during this workshop. I love how Riona is looking out the window, as if expecting someone.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/600sec

For this next shot, I took the temperature up a little bit in order to bring out some of her skin tones. It was a cloudy day outside, with rain spots of heavy rain predicted. But the sunlight was more than enough for the look Damien was after. I think it was a good choice initially for the temperature to be increased instead of the saturation or vibrancy, because those two options would have made the color of the flower pop out too much and it would have been too distracting.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/800sec

For this final shot, I was reminded of a magazine spread. Had it been shot in landscape instead of portrait orientation, it could have been a spread for some type of perfume, maybe. Looking at the image though, i though the shadows could have been taken up a bit in post. Unless it were an actual magazine spread, in which case the item being marketed would be sitting on the table with the flowers.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 lens — f/1.4 — 1/500sec

Next week we’ll actually look at this exact same look, but with artificial light instead of natural light.

Alouette Lake - Blue Skies and Mountains

Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park, east of Vancouver, is one of my favorite places to run. In fact, there’s a race held that annually that’s one of my favorites. But this lake is amazing! It narrows to a strip in the distance, then widens a little bit after that. I like to think of it as a portal to the mountains beyond.

Shot on the Fuji X-H1 and 90mm f/2 lens. I had everything mounted on my Three Legged Thing Tripod just for additional stability.

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

ISO200 — 90mm f/2 lens — f/16 — 1/240sec

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.

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!

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 - 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 - 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.

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.

Sperenza - In the Style of Mad Men

I was looking at some of the travel notices on Model Mayhem and I ran across Sperenza’s profile. We tried to connect for a shoot the day after Thanksgiving, but the weather was atrocious and she was just getting back into town. So we postponed the shoot about two weeks and the day we ended up shooting, the weather was just absolutely gorgeous! I’d envisioned something like this first shot, but never really figured out how to pull it off.

ISO 200 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/8 - 1/350sec

Sperenza turned out exactly the way I wanted her to, lit perfectly by my Godox AD200.  Though a lesson learned for me in this one is that I should have opened up the aperture a bit more.  At f/8, the windmill looks too much like it’s a prop in the background and she looks like a giant!  I think with less depth of field, the windmill would have looked a little more “real” in a sense, even with the odd perspective from shooting low.

The next two shots were an attempt to take advantage of the texture of the windmill itself .  The AD200 was on a Avenger light stand with leveling leg, off to the left of the frame.  I’d forgotten to bring my grid with 5 inch reflector, so I had to zoom the flash head manually, and then used the gradient tool in Lightroom to get the effect I was looking for.

ISO 650 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/7.1 - 1/250sec

I actually like the above photo more than the black and white image. Sperenza had chosen a Mad Men theme for the shoot and the slightly de-saturated colors seem to match more with the time period of her costume. However, I think too that the below image also presents a sense of time as well.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/7.1 - 1/500sec

Next up are my two favorite shots of the shoot. I’d been wanting to get a shot of a model set against a mottled sky and the sky conditions were just absolutely perfect for it! I had a little help again with the AD200 to add a splash of light.

ISO 640 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/4.5 - 1/1250sec

The perspective also works a lot better in this one because of the way the windmill dwarfs her. Color or black & white? Which one do you prefer?

ISO 640 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/4.5 - 1/1250sec

So more lessons learned, which was the goal of this shoot. Perspective and depth of field combine quite well to make a decent shot in one instance while perspective totally made the image look strange in another instance.

I might return to this location again with another model to play around more with perspective and see if I can get the first shot right!

PoppySeed Dancer: Form and Grace

It had always been a dream of mine to photograph a ballerina, and when I found out that Anna (aka PoppySeed Dancer) was passing through San Francisco, I set up a shoot with her right away. I chose the Legion of Honor as our first location because it’s always served me well due to the columns and leading lines, and it’s a place where I’ve seen other ballerinas photographed.

For these first two shots, I just wanted some static posing, as if she’s just revealing herself to us for the first time, peaking out from the columns.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/4700sec

I intentionally kept her to one side of the frame in order to give the image some depth, with the columns and the walls receding into the background.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/3200sec

Next we moved on to more poses on en pointe.  You can see the strength in her feet and the gracefulness of the lines that her legs form.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/6000sec

I actually liked that pose so much that I moved in for a close-up. The lighting is all natural, with the sun streaming in behind her. If you go back to the above photo, you can see the shadows that the sun is casting.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/5400sec

Moving on to even more dynamic poses, Anna now goes on en point with a high kick. I just worked out that way, but I really liked how her left foot pointed right at the globe light in the ceiling.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7500sec

A shot now from behind as I get her a little more centered in the hallway. both hands reaching for the lines on either side of her.

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/2 - 1/5000sec

And here again, centered in a powerfully dynamic pose, hand reaching up, one foot pointed down, and the other touching a line on the wall behind,

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7000sec

This final shot was actually the hardest to do. You can actually see how high my shutter speed is! Anna’s speed was amazing and it took several tries to freeze her in the proper pose, but she looks weightless!

ISO 200 - 35mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.8 - 1/7000sec

I was actually beginning to question at this point if using a mirrorless camera was a good idea for shooting subjects in motion.  There’s obviously a delay when taking into account human reaction time and also taking into account the mirrorless camera’s reaction time.  I’ve photographed sports often with my Fuji camera and really hadn’t considered that question until this shoot (and one that followed at a friend’s martial arts promotion).  By and large, I don’t do pics of subjects in really fast motion — and instead do mostly portraits — so my Fuji is more than enough.  Whew…

It was a great time here at the Legion of Honor with Anna, but the day wasn’t over.  More on the rest of the day in the coming weeks!

The Lighthouse and the Heavens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn Sinclair - A Lesson from Tuscany

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hearts in David's Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll leave you with one more shot.

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