Florentine Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

The Brian Byrnes Trio at the Cadillac Hotel

I’ve been photographing concerts at the Cadillac Hotel for the past two years now, but in those two years, I had never experienced something as magical as when I was there for a Saturday concert by the Brian Byrnes Trio.

I’ve seen people clap during the concerts, mostly at the end of a song. But this was the first time ever, that the audience clapped in the middle of a song because they were moved so much by Brian’s solo with the harmonica, or the solo by pianist Lee Bloom. I call that pure joy! That’s what Brian, Lee, and Peter brought to the Cadillac Hotel that day. Joy!

So let’s begin at the beginning, with the tools of the trade. When I first met Brian, he had joined Coelho & Ridnell at the Cadillac Hotel to provide vocals and play the harmonica.

ISO 800 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/75 sec

These are Brian’s instruments, from the harmonicas to the guitar.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

And the acoustic bass below belongs to Peter Barshay.

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

For this opening shot of Brian, I used the 56mm f/1.2 lens, which on a full frame camera would have the equivalent field of view of an 85mm lens. I like the compression offered by the lens, and even at wide open at f/1.2, there’s a lot of detail. You can see the focus in Brian’s face.

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

Next is pianist Lee Bloom. I wanted to take some photos of Lee’s hands as he was warming up at the piano, but he saw me on the edge of his periphery and turned to pose for a photo. Again, shot wide open at f/1.2.

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

This next shot is of Peter Barshay, playing the acoustic bass.  I went for the black and white conversion for this photo, specifically Acros-G for the Fuji camera, because I really liked how the lights were hitting Peter’s face.  Black and white gives the shadows more contrast and also makes Peter’s already focused look, look even more focused.  You can also see more details of the bass’s scroll and machine heads.

ISO 640 - 56mm f/1.2 lens - f/1.2 - 1/80 sec

I typically bring three lens for shoots at the Cadillac Hotel: 56mm f/1.2, 16mm f/1.4, and 90mm f/2. Those three lenses pretty much cover everything I need at the Cadillac. While I could use a zoom lens like the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, which would be the equivalent of a 24-70mm lens on a full frame camera, nothing matches the sharpness of a prime lens, and I often like to give the musicians the sharpest images possible. Also, since most prime lenses tend to be wider than f/2, I can use a slightly higher shutter speed, thus freezing most of the motion of the musicians.

Swapping out the 56mm for the 16mm, I decided to get a wide shot of the Cadillac Hotel’s lobby. There were a fair amount of people there for a Saturday.

ISO 320 - 16mm f/1.4 lens - f/1.4 - 1/60 sec

For the next two shots, I decided to experiment a bit with angles. Tilting the camera in a such a way is often taboo in most instances, but for musicians, it often enhances the image because it implies additional motion. For the first shot, I tilted the camera in such a way that it went in the direction Peter was looking.

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

For this shot of Brian, I wanted to try to line up the neck of the guitar horizontally. Again, the motion is going in the direction in which Brian is looking. I think the tilt draws a little more focus to Brian and the guitar.

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

I really like this next shot of Lee. He was getting so deep into the music, putting all that he was into it. You can feel the intensity in his posture.

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

This final shot of Brian was taken with the 90mm f/2 lens, which on a full frame would have a field of view similar to a 135mm lens. You’ll see that I shot the image at 1/125 sec, but the image doesn’t have the hand-shake blur, thanks to the In Body Image Stabilization of the Fuji X-H1. This is my favorite of the shots because not only can Brian play the harmonica and guitar, but he’s got a great singing voice as well.

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

If you want to listen to the music of the Brian Byrnes Trio and purchase their CD, head over to this website.

ISO 640 56mm f/1.2 lens f/1.2 1/80 sec

Also, the Brian Byrnes Trio will be performing on November 23rd at Armando’s, along with saxophonist Jules Broussard.  You’re guaranteed to hear music that will get you to clap your hands and stomp your feet!

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!

Tender, by Flyaway Productions

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

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

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

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

An Unexpected Visitor

How often do you get this lucky?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1960s Boho Girls - Jennifer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1960s Boho Shoot - Three Girls and a Jeep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theme and Styling by Marebeth Gromer Photography

Lighting by Cedric Sims

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

Bethlehem AD - Romans

Yes, Romans!  If there's one group that really catches the attention of the crowds visiting Bethlehem AD, it's definitely the Romans.  While the villagers are within the walls of Bethlehem AD, the Roman soldiers and dignitaries are everywhere.  You'll find them walking the line of people waiting to get in -- just as in the photo below -- or walking through the village.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   50-140mm f/2.8 lens at 140mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

For the most part, the soldiers are always in motion, and thus hard to capture, except for moments like the next photo where they stopped and posed for the crowd.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 28.3mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

There's even a small Roman camp located within the walls of Bethlehem AD.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

Along the line of the crowd, one of the more interesting things is how some of the actors interact with folks.  Below is an actor playing King Herod's valet.  He's asking the little boy if the little boy has any information about the one called "the King of the Jews".  In his left hand, he's got some pieces of silver.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 17mm   f/2.8   1/50 sec

And the next shot are King Herod and his entourage.  Herod and his valet have to stay in character for the photos!

Fuji X-T2  ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 24.9mm   f/2.8   1/50 sec

Next is a neat shot I took of the Roman soldiers just before the gates of Bethlehem AD opened.  I used just the available light and really cranked up the ISO because I knew the flash wouldn't make things look too good.  I wanted to make the shot looked natural.  I also used the 16mm Fuji prime lens for the shot.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 2000   16mm f/1.4 lens   f/1.4   1/125 sec

The high ISO and the slightly higher shutter helped me freeze them in action, and most importantly, eliminate any camera-shake on my part.  They were standing as still as possible for the shot, but I needed that extra buffer just to make sure because it really was dark.

Fuji X-T2   ISO 800   16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 25.7mm   f/2.8   1/60 sec

Next week we'll take a look at the stable and the manger itself!

Morning Dew and a Lens Flare

A slight detour this week from blogging about Bethlehem AD as I'd like to talk about the following photo that I took with the Lightroom Mobile App.

Sometimes you don't have your DSLR/mirrorless camera with you, but you see something that -- if you don't jump on it now -- will be gone forever.  All I had on this cold morning in Mountain View was my iPhone SE.  And I didn't want to let this shot get away.

I didn't realize that there would be a red lens flare in shot, but it doesn't actually take away from the overall image.  In fact, because it's red, it adds to the sunrise image!  I did a few minor tweaks on the image after I'd taken it, like using the de-haze tool, increasing the shadows just a bit to bring out the dew drops, and then adjusting the temperature so that the image looked like the way my eyes saw it that morning.

And you know what?  I'm glad I snapped the shot when I did, because when I went back the following morning with my Fuji X-T2, the entire area was fogged over, bathing everything in a dull, boring gray...

Many a time I've seen a shot I've wanted to take, but didn't have my Fuji with me, and I didn't think it would look good if I captured it with my iPhone.  And many a time I've had regrets because the shot was only there for the briefest moment, kinda like some rainbows behave: here one moment gone the next...

If see a shot that you know, deep down, it’s the right one then take it.  That chance may never come again. 

Gigi

I was going to use this space to write a blog about a musician, but some things just happen.  In this case, it was Gigi.  And I'm smitten.

Gigi appeared out of the blue as I had wrapped up a morning of shooting, and she just captured my heart.  If cancer hadn't taken my mom away recently, I'm sure mom would have been excited to hear the name, "Gigi".  My mom probably would have thought, "Wow, finally!  A nice young lady has taken my son's mind off of his running obsession, and martial art sword-slinging obsession, and photography obsession, and sci-fi/fantasy obsession. Don't let her get away! You need to start your own litter of puppies!"

Well, I am smitten; I must admit.  But mom would have been a wee bit disappointed.  Because while Gigi might like to run, I don't think she'd want to run very far.  And her petite stature would make it difficult for her to wield any of my martial arts swords.  I've a feeling Gigi would probably only increase my photography obsession.  And I really don't think Gigi has any concept of lightsabers and hobbits and TARDISs.

Meet Gigi!

ISO 200   56mm lens   f/1.2   1/950sec

Isn't she adorable?

I just happened to have my Fuji 56mm prime lens on my X-T2 when Gigi came through the door of Pilates ProWorks in Burlingame with her owner.  The 56mm is my favorite portrait lens because at wide open, the depth of field is amazing, and its sharpness -- and the sharpness in general of all Fuji glass -- is stunning.

She has the look of love, don't you think?

Dirty Cello - Bluegrass and Blues at Old Mill Park

If you've not heard of Dirty Cello, check out their website.  Their music is amazing!  I hadn't been exposed to much bluegrass music until I listened to some of their work.  They're a lot of fun!  And this past summer they wrapped up a summer tour of Europe!

I photographed cellist Rebecca Roudman when she performed a free concert with pianist Noel Benkman at the Cadillac Hotel in early 2017.  Classically trained, Rebecca started Dirty Cello to play the other side -- so to speak -- of the cello.  After talking for a bit, I asked if she wanted to do a trade shoot and she agreed.

Rebecca chose Old Mill Park in Mill Valley as our shoot location, and what a wonderful location it is!  I'm very familiar with the bridge at Old Mill Park because it's the turnaround point for the Double Dipsea, and I've run that insane race three times.  We met on Labor Day afternoon and the results were stunning!

Enjoy the photos!  As always, I've included the camera settings for reference.  I also had to use a speedlight for all of the below shots because it was a bright, sunny day with a lot of dark shadows.  I had the ISO set to auto for the entire shoot.

First up is Rebecca.  I chose to shoot at a slight upward angle as if she were on a stage and you're looking up at her.

ISO 200   23mm lens   f/1.4   1/25sec

The wood of the Old Mill Bridge is absolutely amazing.  It has great reflective properties, although it did also present a challenge because it was bouncing a slight yellow tint into the camera.

Next is Jason.

ISO 320   23mm lens   f/2.0   1/125sec

You can see by the shadows where the speedlight is located.  My shutter speed was a little too low here so as Jason moved his head, his face went slightly out of focus.

This next shot is one of two that Rebecca chose for the Dirty Cello website.

ISO 200   16mm lens   f/1.4   1/250sec

The speedlight was located in the upper right hand corner of the frame, being held by a young lady who happened to be walking through the park with her mom.  (An interesting side note is that her mom just happened to be a fan of Dirty Cello!)  I was balancing on one of the thick wooden beams, and because it was so close to where Rebecca was, I had to use my 16mm prime lens to get all of the band members and the bridge's structure in the shot.  I later converted the image to sepia because ... hey, it's bluegrass so it needs kinda that older country feel to it!

Next was a nice solo photo of Hannah and her mandolin.

ISO 200   56mm lens  f/1.2   1/250sec

I didn't notice it until I started taking her photo that the frame of her glasses also matched the color of her mandolin.  I used the 56mm prime lens for her shot because I needed the background greens to fade out a bit.

Next we have Colin, the bass player.

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

I stuck with the 56mm lens again for Colin so that I could get a little subject isolation and make sure he was separated from the bright background.  The speedlight also helped with the added contrast.

Next is the second photo Rebecca chose for the Dirty Cello website.

ISO 800   35mm lens   f/4.0   1/125sec

Again, the sepia conversion to give it that bluegrass feel.  I also shot at f/4 just to keep everyone and their instruments in focus.

Here's a bit of a light-hearted moment with the band.  Not sure who was telling a joke, either Jason or Colin.

ISO 800   35mm lens   f/2.8   1/125sec

After Colin and Hannah left, I took some additional shots of Rebecca and Jason.  Here's a sweet moment between husband and wife.

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

Since I was using the 90mm prime lens, I had to stand pretty far back in order to get this shot.  And since I wanted to shoot wide open at f/2, I had to line them up just right to get Rebecca, Jason, and their instruments in focus.  I took the temperature up just a wee bit in Lightroom in order to achieve that warm feeling.

This is the first time I've ever had the honor of photographing a band, and it was a fun experience!  Rebecca provided some lovely classical pieces for my website in trade for these photos, and I'm still trying to figure how to get them on the site so that they can play automatically, but below is one of the classical pieces she recorded.  Hit PLAY and have a listen!

Gear used:  Fuji X-T2, 90mm f/2 prime lense, 56mm f/1.2 prime lens, 35mm f/1.4 prime lens, 23mm f/1.4 prime lens, 16mm f/1.4 prime lens, Yongnuo flashes and remote triggers.

Pilates ProWorks Burlingame - A View from the Outside

When I found out that a fitness studio was looking for photos for trade, that piqued my interest.  As you can tell, 99% of what I've done has been for trade or volunteer work.  Still dripping wet from an REI Advanced Standup Paddle Board class, I visited Pilates ProWorks Burlingame and its owner, Annabelle Jones.  Annabelle wanted some shots of her establishment and I rarely turn down an opportunity to get in some practice with the camera.  After chatting about her fitness studio and her classes, I showed up the following day to take some photos.

Below is one of the first photos of the day.  

ISO 200   16mm lens   f/1.4   1/4700sec

How was this achieved?

Initially, I didn't think much of the lettering on the window, though I did take photos of it.  But then I saw one of the customers walk right through the letters's shadow and the idea hit me.

It was 9am and the sun was shining right through the front window, so I knew I didn't have much time before the sun rose higher, thus moving the shadows from mid-level to the floor.  I asked one of Annabelle's employees who was working at the front desk to "model" for me.  I placed her in the best spot so that I could get as much of the lettering on her back, while also making sure the letters were in focus.  I slapped on my 16mm prime lens, made sure the aperture was wide open and ... voila!

ISO and shutter speed were set to auto.  I needed f/1.4 in order to isolate just the letters on her back.

I did the black and white conversion because the lettering on the window were both blue and reddish-orange, and the latter was really bright and would have drawn attention away from my model and the letters projected on her back.

More photos from Pilates ProWorks Burlingame in the next few weeks!

Gear used:  Fuji X-T2 and 16mm f/1.4 prime lens.

Joel Tepper Piano Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

It's summer at the Cadillac Hotel and concert season is in full swing.  Last month, pianist Joel Tepper dropped by to entertain the residents and passersby.

One of the inherent challenges of photographing pianists is that they're always in a fixed position, unless they're talking to the audience.  So it's always a challenge to photograph them in such a way that it looks interesting.

As always, I shot the entire concert with prime lenses, specifically the Fuji 23mm, 56mm, and 90mm lenses.

In an effort to counter motion-blur, my shutter speed was fixed at 1/125sec.  ISO was set to auto, but capped at 800.  And more often than not, I shot wide open.

Camera settings have been provided for reference.

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

Above is the Patricia Walkup piano, over 100 years old!

ISO 800   90mm lens   f/2   1/125sec

ISO 800   56mm lens   f/6.4   1/125sec

The above image is the only one where I shot at other than wide open.  I wanted not only the details of the pianist in focus, but also the sheet music.

ISO 800   90mm lens   f/2   1/125sec

ISO 800   90mm lens   f/2   1/125sec

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

As always, I like photographing from the back of the concert venue because the mailboxes provide such a nice leading line.

Stay tuned for more concert photos in the next few weeks!