Thursday, February 25, 2010

Amanda x2

Same quick setup as the headshot for Sarah. One light, camera left, pizza box softbox

I had another final, but looking at it again I don't much like it.

Amanda usually wears glasses, so when I noticed she had contacts in I knew I had to photograph her, especially with the eye theme I've been on recently.

Also, as of today, the white and black borders will be discontinued. It was brought to my attention that the border distracts significantly from the image, and I can't have that. As such, I'll work on a new (much thinner) border that I like and photos in the future will be presented with that.

While we're at it, I have my final edit of a different Amanda.

We photographed her in my Advanced Digital Workflow class and spent the last couple nights learning (or re-learning) retouching techniques. This is very different from the rough draft I posted on Facebook a while back, and I like it a bunch more.

That's all for today. I have another shoot in the studio with profoto lights on Saturday. Sweet!

Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


As promised: shots from the hookah sesh on Monday night.

French Inhale

This last shot was the whole reason for the series - my Visual Communications class requires that we do a graphic for a fictitious restaurant. I chose a nonexistent hookah lounge. Part of the requirement for the final graphic is that we combine 3 images into one using various blending modes in Photoshop. This is the final product.

I'll save the portraits of Amanda for tomorrow - give you something to look forward too :-)

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Headshot: Sarah

Quick 'n' easy. Sarah needed a headshot (she's an actress) and I was happy to oblige.

It was difficult going from the profoto setup to my single SB600 speedlight, but I think the result is fantastic all the same.

One light - pizza box softbox.

I've imposed a 50 frame minimum on myself. It makes me think about different angles and light positions, etc. So far it is working out wonderfully.

Also did some awesome shots of my lovely roommate Amanda and then some fun shots of us smoking Hookah. I'll post those tomorrow.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Showcase her eyes

Here are a couple more photos from my shoot with Dahlia.

I went through the whole shoot again and while I like the concept of a bunch of what I shot, some of it just didn't turn out the way I would have liked.

One of my goals for this shoot was to really showcase her eyes. To do that, you just have to see them in color. Click to enlarge.

We didn't do very many of these zoomed out full body shots, but I totally dig this pose.

I'll spend most of today shooting tennis... then hopefully I'll be able to do a few shots for my Visual Communications project that's due on Tuesday... If those turn out anything like I hope they will, I'll be sure to post them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beauty Dish: Dahlia

I'm trying to familiarize myself with using big strobes. Yesterday I managed to get my hands on a set of Profoto D1 monolights and some fun light modifiers.

I used three lights. One in a beauty dish (key), boomed above the model. One in a strip box camera right (fill), and one with a simple reflector, nuking the background.

Setup was about 25 minutes, and I'm sure I could bring that down further as I get used to the lights.
Lacking a PocketWizard or other radio trigger, I had to use a PC sync cable. I am not a fan of PC cables. There were a lot of black frames while I learned the specific position the cable had to be in. Annoying.

I shot tethered to my macbook pro with my new 10 foot USB extension cable. I angled the computer so that my model could see her poses and how the light hit her. This was great because she got instant feedback, but not so great because she kept moving off her mark to see the computer.
My only gripe with shooting tethered is that I can't turn off the camera... because when I turn it back on it re-imports all the photos I've already taken. I'm used to turning off the camera whenever I'm not shooting, so it took a few re-imports for me to get used to leaving the silly thing on.


Not a whole lot of post going on here. Sharpening, vignette, contrast. I tried to do some minor skin cleanup in Aperture, but that program is such a PIG that I gave up and moved into photoshop for blemish removal.

Dahlia is a fantastic model and her eyes are absolutely gorgeous. I'll post some color images in the future after I've had some time to edit those.

Feedback is appreciated, as always!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Out Of Focus - OOF.

I think there is a lot to be said for photos that have absolutely no edge detail. No focus. Mistakes.

I shoot a bunch of crappy photos just like every other photographer out there. Nobody is afraid to admit it. I embrace my terrible photos - rather than deleting them because I was going for a different look, I try to evaluate them to see if they can be used in some other capacity.

This photo is one of my many OOF shots. A mistake that I've kept around because I think it is beautiful in its own way.

Eventually I'll post a whole series of these kinds of photos... but getting mistakes that look good is harder than it sounds, so it may be a while.

Also - for those of you on Flickr - please check out what I have uploaded there! Flickr is a great place to leave comments, suggestions, and get a feel for my photography. If we aren't "Contacts," please add me so I can see your photos as well!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Eskimo girl

I love hoods with fur. I had one myself until I took the fur off and managed to lose it.

Anyway. Janelle is the liaison between the photo department and the A&E section on The Lumberjack. My boss did a portrait of her, then the other section photo editor did as well. Not to be left out, I asked her to model for me.

Again, this shoot was hastily planned. I decided on the look that I wanted around midnight. She agreed to model for me the next morning. I showed up to find out the studios weren't open (surprise surprise) so I set up shop against a blank wall. Shot tethered to my macbook pro, using my trusty pizza box softbox as my only light.

I'm happy with them, though as far as competition is concerned it wasn't really fair to either Jenn or Chad, who both used only available light.

I'm also getting back into the habit of putting borders around my final photos. I stopped for a while and as long as I can remember to do it, my photos will have borders from here on out.

I'm off to coffee and hopefully to plan another shoot before class!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Personal Projects

I promised photos, and I shall deliver.

These photos are the rare exception to my preference of black and white over color. I made black and white versions of all these photos... but the color really makes them so much better.

This shoot was a prime example poor planning. Around noon that day Sarah sent me a message telling me she wanted to shoot. ASAP. I spent a few minutes coming up with a concept and we planned for a 6pm start. I figured I would be able to get into NAU's studio, grab some C-Stands, some lights, some softboxes, and we'd be good to go.

Turns out that the studios close at 4:30 on Fridays and the building closes at 5. Something I probably should have known, but didn't.
No big deal - I have an access card to the building so I can get in. I could not, however, get into the studios. Right away that means no C-Stands, no lights, no softboxes. I could have let that be the end of my shoot right there. Instead I called my friend Casey Myrick who I met in one of my photo classes. He recently acquired a set of Profoto monolights and was happy to assist me and to bring his gear. I definitely could not have done this shoot without him, or his lights. He held the key light and acted as a Voice Activated Light stand for me. We set the fill on a blanket on the ground. He also expected we'd be shooting in the studio, so he didn't bring any light modifiers. We shot bare-bulb.

I purchased the hat and the cigar (Cohiba Limited) specifically for the shoot. I also added a 10 foot USB extension cable to my gear bag. It allows me to shoot tethered to Aperture so I can check focus and exposure on my 15" monitor instead of the 3" LCD on the back of my camera. Shooting tethered is something I will do as often as possible in the future for several reasons: I get instant feedback about my histogram (exposure) and focus. It also automatically stores the files on my HDD, so I instantly have the files on my CF card and on the computer. If I face the computer the right way, the assistant, model and hair/makeup artist all know what the photo looks like instantly and they can make any adjustments they need to make.

Speaking of hair/makeup, the lovely Angelica Olmedo was my go-to girl for this shoot and I plan on asking for her services in the future as well.

Tomorrow - another finished project that I'm quite happy with.
Until then, have a great Monday!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Draining and Rejuvenating

I finally managed to start shooting some more creative stuff.

Real photos will come later.

Shooting personal projects again is mentally and creatively rejuvenating in a way that I desperately need.
It is also physically exhausting on top of my work, class and sleep schedule. Something has to give and recently that has been sleep. I still get 4 to 5 hours of solid sleep every night... but I'm used to double that. The transition is supremely amusing to watch and very interesting to experience.

I haven't had time to do anything other than load and backup the photos from these personal projects. I expect I'll spend the majority of Sunday editing before I start the whole process over again on Monday with classes and trying to squeeze in something fun.

Today I'm covering Track and Basketball, and hopefully getting a little nap in somewhere.

Here's a photo from the assignment I was working on until 2:30 this morning.
Mad Chad Taylor juggling three running chainsaws at the After Hours event on Friday night.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Action - interviews at NAU

After such a great response to my post yesterday, I've decided to get the ball rolling, get off my arse, and do something about the state of the NAU photo program.

The first step in my solution process is to interview students and faculty with a standard list of questions. My goal is to get a fairly comprehensive view from each person I talk to. In doing so, I can determine if a small group of people are unsatisfied, or if a lot of people in the program aren't happy with what they're getting.

With that in mind - I'd like YOU to help me make a list of questions that I can ask both the faculty and the students in the program. I have a few below, but please leave a comment (or two or three) with your suggestions either about subtractions from my current list, or additions that should be made.

1) Name. Title. Organization.
2) Do you think the photography program at NAU does a good job teaching its students?
3) Do you think the program prepares students for a real-world career in photography?
4) Does a bachelors degree in photography help in the real world?
5) What is the biggest strength of the photo program?
6) What needs the most work?
7) Do you think all the instructors have real-world experience working in the industry?
8) Are there any instructors who you think should not be teaching?
9) Are there instructors who you think teach really well?
10) Do the instructors care about the success of their students?
11) What do you think about the in-class critiques?
12) Are the instructors accessible for out-of-class critiques? Are these critiques helpful?
13) Do the instructors and the program in general keep up with current technology and market trends?
14) Do the current instructors still photograph on a day-to-day basis? Are they producing work?
15) Are the facilities available to students enough?
16) When students need equipment, is it easy for them to get access to it?

That's my list so far. I need your feedback! Send me what questions you'd like to see answered and I'll make sure that answers are forthcoming.

Monday, February 8, 2010

NAU's photography program

For those of you who don't know, I'm a sophomore at Northern Arizona University.
I am currently double-majoring in photography and marketing. Two entirely separate colleges, two separate cores, two entirely different mindsets.

The photography program at NAU is a joke. I'm being honest. The truth hurts sometimes. 
There are a few instructors who know what its like to work as a photographer. I'd say about half of them are up to date with digital and what the modern market is like. The other half are out of touch - they suck at teaching and they barely know what to teach us because the market is constantly changing.

I did a portrait session with a client the other day who expressed interest in switching his major from Exercise Science to Photography. I told him not to bother. Straight up - it isn't worth the money or the time.

There are two great ways to learn photography. The first (and best) is to do it. A lot. Nothing beats taking literally tens of thousands of pictures. The second is to learn from experts. People who live and breathe photography and who are good teachers. Learn from a photographer you respect and whose work you admire. The internet is full of photographers just giving out information. The tough part is finding someone who does it well. People like David Hobby, David duChemin, Zack Arias, Scott Kelby etc.

Chase Jarvis has a mantra of sorts - Create, Share, Sustain. Note that the central idea is to SHARE. Photography may be a super-competitive field. There may be millions of people who call themselves photographers and you may all be competing for the same clientele, but when it comes down to it, the only way we can learn is from each other. Chase knows this and so he does behind-the-scenes videos to show how he preps, shoots and closes with a client. Start to finish, he doesn't hold anything back. There are many photographers out there who are willing to sit with you and teach you the next step. If that's learning the basic functions of a camera, lighting setups, or advanced post-processing technique, you can find someone who has something about it on the internet.

The program at NAU doesn't do very well with teaching, but it does have decent facilities that give students the opportunity to use equipment that is well beyond a student's budget. Once you get access to those facilities, the program isn't so bad. Whenever I want to learn how to do something, I ask Google, not my instructors at school. Once i've figured out the basics of how to do it, I go use the studio at school to try it out.

In the industry, a degree in photography doesn't mean squat. So if a university is giving you a useless degree, doing a poor job of it and taking your money in the process... I don't see what the point is. If you want to make a living as a photographer, get a BS in business! If you know business, you can make a living as a photographer, even if your photography skills are lacking.

The only reason I'm still in the photo program at NAU is for access to the studio and computers. If things continue the way they have in the last two years, I may well drop the major, get a minor with the classes I've already taken, and call it quits with the photo program. There have been rumors that some of the older professors are retiring. With any luck, the system will hire younger instructors who are up to date with photography and the real world - and most importantly - how the two come together.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Classroom shoot

Most of the time when one of the photography professors decides to do a demo on how to shoot in the studio, it is 100% boring-as-can-be. The prof usually shoots, one of the students generally models. Everyone else gets to stand there and wait until the demo is over.

That's not quite how Jess does things.

Jess Vogelsang (who we've heard about before here) brings teaching photography to a whole new level.
He brought in a bunch of his personal lighting equipment and set it up before the students arrived for class. He arranged to have a hair/makeup artist work on a model for three hours before the shoot.
When all 33 of the students showed up for class, each of the us got at least 50 frames shooting with the pocketwizard or Jess' own camera, using a six-light setup. It was my first experience using big professional strobes, and my first time using more than three lights. I think six lights may have been a little excessive, but my style is much more contrasty and moody than the look we were going for with this shoot. I hear in the future we'll be doing more dramatic lighting setups.

We cranked up the music (Britney Spears channel on Pandora, at the model's request) and had a blast sitting around, talking with one-another and photographing a model who (we hear) is about to be signed to a big agency in Phoenix.

I got a few decent shots - but most of us are going to have very similar photos. To show you what it was really like, I took a video on my Blackberry. The quality is miserable, but I think it gets the idea across.

I'm off to spend today photographing the NAU Track meet, then Men's Basketball.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Late night shoot

Finally... the moment you've all been waiting for!

I really enjoyed making these photos, Sarah and Andrew - two models who are crazy enough to work with me - are an absolute blast to be around.

We took over the laundry room in one of the dorms on campus. To do that with a minimal amount of traffic, we chose to do the shoot at 2am (and yes, people do still do laundry at 2am).

Here are a couple of the end-products!



Sarah and Andrew

Shown in order of increasing light complexity.

The most important light in this shoot was my pizza-box softbox.

It attaches to my SB600 (or any speedlight) with velcro. Made out of a pizza box from Papa Johns, covered inside and out with copy paper. Really simple. Amazingly inexpensive. To keep the light moderately even, I put a piece of aluminum foil in the center. The flash fires directly into this foil, which then bounces the light around to the rest of the softbox. The catchlight (specular highlight reflected in a person's eye) that this creates is much more interesting than just a solid white one.

The first shot above of just Sarah was taking only with this pizza-light. It was used as the key light in the rest of the photos, with various other speedlights as rimlight and background light. Check out the series on Flickr to see a few more photos and some more in-depth light explanation. (Please note that some of these photos are not quite work-appropriate)

Most of the photographers I know trigger off-camera lights with Pocketwizards. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to trigger all the lights for this shoot with just the pop-up on my D300 in "Commander Mode." I used an SB600, SB800 and SB900 and they all triggered flawlessly.

Have a great Wednesday!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February Backgrounds

Whew! February totally snuck up on me!

You've seen both of these pictures in recent blog posts - Now they have been resized and optimized for your screen!

Just click to enlarge and right-click to set as your desktop background.
I'm using the water-droplet photo right now - reminding me that both my monitors desperately need to be calibrated because the photo looks completely different depending on which screen I look at.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Portrait - sneaky style

Photographed this gentleman at the track meet on Saturday. I didn't have the huevos to ask to photograph him, so I used the Live View feature on my camera while appearing to look in a different direction.

My late-night/early-morning photoshoot turned out pretty well. I'll post a few of those in the near future!
Stay tuned :-)