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 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.

Lovegrove France Workshop - Day One: Telling a Story with Natural Light

Sometimes while shooting a specific look, you get that one shot that just says it all. This was only the second look that we did on day one, but the way Damien set things up and the way Riona chose a specific pose gave me a shot that stuck with me for the rest of the workshop.

There are some images that just beg to be converted to black and white, and the below shot was just screaming for the conversion.

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/1.4 — 1/1500sec

It was done with natural window light streaming in from the right of the frame. The moment I saw this image, I knew it had to be black and white, because it told a story. A story of sadness or grief. Initially, I had the image a lot darker, with more brooding shadows, but I didn’t want it to be gloomy. But I did want a sorrowful emotion involved.

You’ll notice that this is actually the same room as the first look. We just changed our perspective and voila! An entirely different scene.

It wasn’t all sadness though. I’ve included two more images from this look that show just how well the light was playing with us.

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

ISO 200 — 56mm f/1.2 — f/1.2 — 1/1400sec

It’s amazing how the carpet acted like a natural reflector and sent a little bit of light into her. In some instances it gave her a hard look, while in another it gave her a softer look.

Gettysburg - Little Round Top

During this trip to Gettysburg, no other place had a bigger impact on me than Little Round Top. It was in this area where in a single day, 10,000 soldiers died … on each side! Can you imagine the loss and the grief? The few cannons that are on display here ominously point out towards the fields where so many men died.

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

In your mind’s eye, can you see the flash of the cannon and men in the distance scattering as the cannon ball strikes the ground, ripping up chunks of earth, and taking lives with it?

You can also see the strategic importance of Little Round Top with its high position.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 33.2mm — f/2.8 — 1/1000 sec

Here’s a statue of General Warren, who is considered the hero of the battle. It’s said to be bad luck to stand up on that rock with his statue!

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/4700 sec

I took a bit of an artistic approach to this close-up of Warren’s statue. It adds to the drama.

ISO 200 — 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at 55mm — f/2.8 — 1/7000 sec

That was it for my brief travels to Gettysburg. There’s a lot to see, and if you’re a history buff like me, there’s a lot to learn.

For this entire tour of Gettysburg, all I had was my Fuji XF 16-55mm f/.28 lens. I’m learning more and more that it’s a perfect lens for travel and taking portraiture for travel. This was the first lens I got when I switched over to the Fuji system, and it’s the one lens that consistently gets the most use. It is a bit heavy because of the amount of glass in it, but it’s a workhorse!

Casulo - A Brazilian Jazz Concert at the Cadillac Hotel

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

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

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

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/18sec

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/25sec

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

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

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/40sec

And now a view from above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

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

ISO 200 — 90mm f/2 — f/2 — 1/8sec

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

ISO 200 — 35mm f/1.4 — f/5 — 1/30sec

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

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


PoppySeed Dancer: Sunset Jump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Florentine Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Women in Early Music

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gettysburg - Scenes from the Battlefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lest We Forget - A Holocaust Remembrance

May 8, 1945 was the day the Holocaust came to an end, and it’s that period of our modern history that many people often think is just a part of history and that’s it. Something that happened in the past and has already been recorded in the history books. But has to be more than that. If history is just a measure of Time + Events, then we, as a people, are walking down a dangerous cyclical path. If one measures history as Time + Relationships + Experiences, then it means something more. I wasn’t even born when the Holocaust occurred, but photography has taught me that moments are important, especially the experiences of people within that moment.

I just happened to be at San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza and saw this amazing display, a Holocaust Remembrance created by German-Italian photographer, Luigi Toscano. It’s 68 portraits of living Holocaust survivors. It’s a beautiful testimony to those who survived it, but a mournful, cautionary memory about the dangers of nationalism that lacks restraint.

The photos need no real description. They are as they are. Of note is that I ran across this exhibition on May 8, 2019, exactly 74 years after the Holocaust historically came to an end.

By the time this blog is published, the exhibition will have moved on from San Francisco. I urge you to find out if it’s coming to your area, and to visit it and lose yourself in the history of it. And shed a tear for those who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

Shot with my iPhone SE and edited with the Lightroom App.

Colonial Williamsburg - Firing of the Noon Gun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colonial Williamsburg - Ghosts Stories

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

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

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

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

But is one of them a ghost?

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

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

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

PoppySeed Dancer: The Power of Black & White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Dancers & Villagers & Roman Soldiers!

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

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

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

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

And there are dancers as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next we have two shots from the small Jewish school.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Favorite Angel Shots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethlehem AD 2018 - Shepherds Tending Their Sheep at Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.