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.

Tuscany 2018 - Day Three

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuscany 2018 - Day Two

After an amazing first day of the workshop with Damien Lovegrove and Terez Kocova, I had wondered how the second day would compare. I was not disappointed!

Our second day began with a boudoir shoot in one of the rooms at the villa. I’d never done a boudoir shoot before, so was apprehensive about it because it was new to me. And while I’ve gotten into people’s personal space before while taking photos, it wasn’t a boudoir theme. But Damien, as he did the day before, led the session with much thoughtfulness and care.

This first shot of Terez led off the session.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/180 sec

The above and below shots were lit by all natural light. It may look like there was a speedlight used, but that’s because I burned the corners of the image using the vignette preset in Lightroom. I chose black and white because — well — because Damien did. The color image I took looked pretty good, but after seeing Damien’s version of it in black and white, I decided to imitate him.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/350 sec

For this next shot, Damien had Terez lower the straps of her nightgown, and then by pulling the sheet up in such a way, it gives the impression that she’s naked underneath. Damien described it to Terez as her being asleep, naked under the sheets, when suddenly her friends entered the room and surprised her.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/220 sec

Again, it’s all natural light. Beautiful, eh? Natural is just stunning!

This next image though appears to be my most popular one on Instagram.

ISO 200 * 35mm f/1.4 lens * f/1.4 * 1/60 sec

Damien had Terez stand in front of the mirror and that’s really all it took to make the shot.  It’s again all natural light coming through a window to Terez’s right.  The mirror was angled just a little bit so that we could capture Terez and her reflection without obstruction.  I really love this shot for its simplicity in design, but complexity in composition.  By complexity, I mean there’s foreground interest (Terez), background interest (her reflection), and balance in the shot such that everything is harmonious in terms of placement and spacing.  Of course, I didn’t realize that at the time.  I was just consciously thinking of framing and trying to get a quick shot since we were all taking turns.

One thing Damien shared with me — well, it was one of many things over those days, but I really remembered this bit of advice — was to trust my little 35mm f/1.4 lens. This lens has the equivalent field of view of a 53mm lens on a full frame camera.  The reason he told me to trust this lens is because the focal length allowed me to get really close to my subject, at basically a conversational distance.  Being that close helps with the intimacy of the moment, and that’s what’s important when it comes to boudoir.  I’m still digesting that to this day.

After completing the boudoir session, it was lunchtime, and then we headed off to an abandoned farmhouse for more shots.

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

It may not look like it, but the above shot was again done with natural window light.  The light source (the sun) was so strong as it was coming through and being shaped by the window that it could almost have been mistaken for either the Lupo Superpanel or the Godox AD600.  The texture behind Terez is absolutely marvelous.  And the shadows that fall across her face and upper body are well defined.

ISO 200 * 16-55mm f/2.8 lens @ 25.7mm * f/2.8 * 1/125 sec

For the above shot, we did use the Lupo Superpanel as a lighting source.  It’s located directly in front of Terez.  The light from the window above her head acts as more of a part of the scene rather than a light source.  It’s too high up, and she’s too close to the wall for it to actually serve as a backlight. 

While that ended the day, there were a lot more shots taken than displayed in this posting.  But those photos are art nudes.  In fact, there were even art nude shots taken on the first day as well.  It wasn’t exploitative in any way, but I like to keep this blog family-friendly.

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.

 

Of Things to Come - Tuscany

I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Tuscany recently to work with one of the photographers who has been a major inspiration to me: Damien Lovegrove.  How often can someone say they had the chance to learn from someone who’s inspired a major portion of their work?  I’d never been to Italy, and since I had the time and the funds set aside, I went for it!

Our base of operations was a villa just outside of Volterra, Italy.  Most of us had gathered on the patio of the villa after having checked in.  And as the sun was going down, Damien encouraged us to take some photos at sunset.  I saw these two glasses set up on a barrel, and with the sun going down, I took the shot.

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm f/11 1/240sec

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 50mm f/11 1/240sec

I liked the above shot a lot! But Damien came over to me and saw what I was doing. He asked one of my fellow photographers to pick up a wine glass, and Damien took the other one, then he told me to take this next shot.

ISO 200 50-140mm f/2.8 lens @ 110.6mm f/4.5 1/240sec

Voila!  Damien looked at the shot on my camera’s screen and said, “There! You just took a wonderful editorial shot!”

That was all Damien.  I had no idea what I was doing.  Or at least I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time.  During the following three days, I learned a lot from Damien about photography and light, some of which I’ll be blogging about over the next few weeks.  It was a wonderful three day workshop and a dream come true for me.  Damien is a generous person, freely giving his knowledge away.  Our model, Terez, was one of the best models I’ve ever worked with.  And my fellow photographers were such a joy and pleasure to get to know.

More to come on the workshop, and — of course — there will also be an “On The Run” blog entry as well, because … hey, it’s what I enjoy!

Orion's Joy of Music - Jazz Sextet

When you have several musicians and less than thirty minutes to capture their concert, you really have to think fast and work hard.  Thankfully, "Orion" Edmunson and his team -- some of whom are familiar faces -- had so much dynamic movement during that time that it was so easy to take shots that captured the whole thing.

ISO 250 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/80sec

I like the shot of the individual drum above because it shows how well-used it is.  And below we see a wider shot of the drums and cymbals.

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

And here we have a saxophone.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

Or perhaps two saxophones?

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

It's actually just one sax player, but the different view of it in his hands how his fingers were laid out was interesting.

And what's this in the next photo?  Something a bit out of the ordinary.

ISO 1250 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

While I take photos, Kathy Looper also shoots video of the musicians and gives it to them, plus uploads it to YouTube as well.  Here you get a hint of the different band members.

ISO 1600 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here's the man himself, Orion Edmonson.  I don't know why, but seeing him on the drums reminded me of Mick Fleetwood.

ISO 400 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

And no, this is not a TRIBU performance, but this next shot definitely is the multi-talented Steve McQuarry of Mandala Productions.  Steve had told me that was helping Orion out that day as Orion was in need of pianist.  For the below shot, I felt the need to make Steve's back line up so that it was parallel to the left edge of the frame.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 f/1.2 1/60sec

I'm continuously experimenting now with different angles, tilting the camera to see if I can not only get better framing of the subject, but also trying to make the tilt look natural, meaning that the lines line up in a pleasing way.

Next is our bass player.

ISO 640 23mm f/1.4 f/1.4 1/60sec

For the above shot, I had to tilt the camera because I wanted to show most of the bass, but also because I was too close -- even with the 23mm lens which has the field of view of a 35mm lens on a full frame camera.  I couldn't actually back up any further so had to tilt the camera to fit everything in.

I took a lot of shots of the trumpet player because just the way he held the trumpet and the lines it created was neat, but the below shot is my favorite.

ISO 200 23mm f/1.4 f/1.4 1/60sec

And here we have another TRIBU band member who was there that day to help out.  I tried to get the line of his flute to be as horizontal as possible.  It was the flute player's hands that were -- in an earlier shot -- holding the two sticks.

ISO 1000 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here's our sax player.

ISO 400 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/60sec

And here you can see just how tight the space was, and yet, that didn't deter these guys from bringing forth some really great music.

ISO 500 23mm f/1.4 lens f/1.4 1/60sec

It's amazing how, when all of the instruments come together, the power and beauty of sound itself comes to life.  From the piano to the flute, to the two sax players and the trumpet, and the bass player and the drummer, all coming together for one single purpose: to create something wonderful.

Check out Orion's Facebook page for more info about him and his contact info if you want to book him and his group for an event.

Abby Div - Patterns and Light

Abigail Div first contacted me in late summer 2017, asking if I wanted to collaborate with her on a shoot.  At that time, I had just gotten back into trail half marathons and had been busy tidying my mom's affairs after she passed away, so we ended up not having a chance to work together.  Flash forward to one year later and not only did we have a chance to work together, but our brief time shooting produced a powerful set of images!

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/4000sec

You'll see that with the exception of one shot, I stuck with the 16mm f/1.4 Fuji lens.  I needed that lens because I wanted to capture the width of the space around Abby, thus giving the photo some depth.

First off, let's meet Abby!  This next shot just happened to be while we were setting up the above shot.  I saw the light streaming in through the high window and how it was highlighting her hair, so I immediately slapped on my 56mm f/1.2 lens and took this natural light photo of her.  If you check out her website you'll see that she's a New York City-based model who also travels.  She's very professional and has a photographer's understanding of light, which made this collaboration a special pleasure!

ISO 200   56mm f/1.2 lens   f/1.4   1/100sec

This was my second time experimenting with three point lighting, the first being with visual artist Tere Casas a few weeks ago.  Though unlike the shoot with Tere, where I didn't tell her until the end of the shoot that I hadn't done three point lighting on my own until that day, I mentioned to Abby at the beginning that I was still trying to figure out and practice the technique.

This next shot shows the actual color of the carpet.  It's the carpet itself that actually got my attention.  I'll explain more about this shooting location later on.  But just like in the first photo, at least there's the illusion that the separation light behind Abby might be coming from the upper window behind her, when it's in fact a Godox TT685 flash on a small light stand directly behind her.  The key light to the left of the frame was provided by a Godox AD200 flash.  And there was one more fill light, another Godox TT685, on a Gorilla Pod to the right of the frame.  One reason I stick with Godox is because the flashes can do high speed sync up to 1/8000sec.  And as you can see, I'm using a high shutter speed in order to produce a cavernous effect like in the photo below.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

In the next two shots, I decided to do two contrasting temperature settings.  For the first one, I took the temperature up bit and also added some temperature to the window behind Abby to give the shot a warmer tone.  I was trying to give the impression that the space she was in was a lot warmer than normal.  The flashes to the left and right of the frame stayed in the same spot as the other shots.  And for the flash behind her, I simply took the flash off the lightstand and placed it on the floor.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

For this next shot, I decided to go with a colder feeling, and instead of hiding the background and making the room look cavernous, I opted instead to reveal parts of the background.  You can tell that it has an industrial look to it and I was hoping for a freezer-like feeling to this shot.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

The space we were shooting in is, in fact, an old fire station in Oakland, California that was built in 1909.  The fire department vacated the building and moved to a bigger one just across the street.  And the old fire station is being used by an engineering firm.

When we were discussing the shoot a few weeks earlier, Abby suggested that I use Peerspace to find an indoor location to shoot in.  After doing some searching, I ran across the firehouse and was immediately smitten by the large space and the carpet on the floor.  You can check out the actual listing on Peerspace here.  It's been used for meetings, conferences, and commercial shoots!  Once I saw the pattern on the carpet, I knew I had to shoot there!

This final shot is my favorite of the entire day.  Initially, the first photo of this blog entry was my favorite because when I quickly perused the photos after getting home from the shoot, that photo stood out right away.  But this last one really got my attention, especially with Abby's shadow in the background.  I wasn't expecting the shadow to be as defined as it was.  And using the B&W low contrast filter in Lightroom not only brought out the details of the shadow even more, but it also gives the photo a very dramatic punch that makes the scene all the more interesting.

ISO 200   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/8000sec

If there's one lesson though that I learned from this shoot, it's that at least for studio work, I need to get away from shooting with the aperture wide open.  I think a majority of the photos would have been much sharper had I shot at f/5.6 or even f/8.  That would have made things tack sharp I would have still be able to control the ambient light with the shutter.

Everything is a learning experience!  But there are two things I do know: I will definitely be shooting at this location again and look forward to working with Abby the next time she's in town!

The Free Press -- A Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

More fun at the Cadillac Hotel, this time with a band known as The Free Press!

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/900sec

One of the beautiful things about the concerts at the Cadillac Hotel is that it attracts singers and bands who have been established in the Bay Area for a while, and also bands that are just getting started.  Most important, the concerts are free, so these musicians are donating their time to bring some life to the hotel and to the residents who live there.

ISO 1600 90mm f/2 lens f/2 1/125sec

This concert gave me a chance to finally test my Fuji XH-1 and the camera's In Body Image Stabilization (IBIS).  Since I've only used prime lenses for shoots at the Cadillac Hotel, the IBIS would come into play since none of my prime lenses have any type of image stabilization, and Fuji's 16-55mm f/2.8 lens -- which on a full frame would have the same field of field as a 24-70mm -- lacks the image stabilization as well.

Here we have lead singer, Christie Harbinski, really diving deep into the emotion of the song.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/900sec

For the above image, the IBIS didn't come into play because of the bright background, but in the next shot, I was able to drop the shutter speed considerably.  You can see that the pianist's face is really sharp while his hands are in motion.

ISO 320 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/80sec

The general rule I've always been taught about working with primes on a non-IBIS body is that the shutter speed should be twice the focal length to avoid hand-shake, although one pro photographer recently told me it should be four times the focal length.  I've been able to get away with maybe 1.75 times the focal length, but that's been risky.  Of course, the downside to a high shutter speed is a darker image.  Thus far, the Fuji's dynamic range is good enough that there aren't too many images that Lightroom can't handle, but the result tends to be either a grainer image or loss of color at the expense of exposure.

This next shot of the guitarist was taken as he was warming up.  At this point, I don't think he wasn't actually aware that I had gotten this close to him, but I saw this look and had to capture it.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/120sec

I've been tilting the camera a lot lately, per the advice of a friend who learned his technique while he was a combat photographer in the Navy.  It doesn't just change the perspective, but it does something else: sometimes there are lines that you want vertical or horizontal that the eye would find pleasing.  Like in the next shot where the saxophone is vertical.

ISO 200 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/90sec

I converted the above photo to black and white because the colors were too distracting, and I just wanted the focus to be the saxophone and the man playing it, with further focus on the sax itself since it has the defined vertical line.

This next photo was one of those instances where one of the spotlights was hitting the wall behind the pianist / drummer.  (Amazing that he's doing both!)  I had to move quickly to take this shot because all of the band members were moving. 

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

And here's our final shot.  I put a little extra work into this one in post-processing because it was such a lovely image and vignette keeps our focus on her.

ISO 100 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/40sec

Definitely looking forward to hearing more from this band in the future!  Check out their website for booking info and more on the band itself!