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!

Casulo

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.

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!

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…

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.