Friday, March 25, 2011

Forest shoot

This week in my Location Photography class, we watched a documentary about Helmut Newton. I was inspired by him and some of the work he has done, so I asked the supremely-talented model to bare it all and freeze in the middle of the forest. Miraculously, she accepted, and we made the following photographs.


I am extremely happy with how these came out - exactly like the vision I had for them. Miss Model is an absolute trooper - the temperature was about 40 degrees, and the wind gusted around 15 mph at times.

As time goes on, I find that I am able to more easily replicate the concept I have, which makes me very happy.

Setup: As usual, I used the Einstein up high with a 20 degree grid, powered by the Vagabond Mini. After 450 frames at half power, in the cold, the pack still reads 3/4 full. I can't recommend it enough!

0.45x Adapter Review

I bought this lens on Amazon after repeatedly finding myself in need of a significantly wider lens.

It is a screw-on filter, so it will attach to any 52mm thread. I keep it permanently attached to my 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

The 0.45x means that it turns my 18mm into 8mm. It does have a fair amount of distortion, and the aberration is definitely noticeable. BUT - the alternatives are significantly more expensive

  • Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 fisheye, which will set you back about $600
  • Nikkor 10-24 f/3.5-5.6 will lighten your wallet by nearly $800
  • Sigma and Tamron 10-20 both cost $450 or so
I paid $8 for mine when I ordered it, and it's currently (March of 2011) on sale for $4.78 on Amazon. For what you get, that's an absolute steal.

Since I got it, I've used it for all sorts of fun projects. I used it exclusively for my first day on thevisualCollective Death Valley Trip.

 I also used it almost all day for my recent Free Running shoot with DAFT Free Running.

Focus is still fairly quick - which surprised the heck out of me. Granted, the focus on the 18-55mm (non-VR) isn't very fast to begin with - but this adapter doesn't slow it down much, if at all. 
There is a very apparent vignette with this adapter. It gets more and more pronounced the more filters you have, so if you have a UV and a Polarizer, and then you add the superwide, you get a LOT of black corners. I like a healthy vignette in almost all of my images, so that doesn't bother me at all. Because the front element moves when the 18-55 focuses, the degree of the darkening in the corners changes depending on how far your subject is from the camera. Like I said - doesn't bother me.

For what you're getting - I cannot see any reason *not* to buy one of these. Heck, splurge on next-day shipping and it still costs you less than $40. No brainer, especially if your kit lens is just wasting space in your camera bag.

I've got a fair number of fast, beautiful lenses. As such, my kit lens usually stayed in the bag, collecting figurative dust. Since I bought this adapter, I've actually used the 18-55mm a lot and I've been getting great results.

Anyway. That's my two cents. TGIF!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Waiting For Superman

I just finished watching the film "Waiting for 'Superman'"

I can say without any hesitation that it deserves the awards it received, and then some.

If you haven't seen it yet - I suggest you rent it and take a gander. Nothing is more important to the future of our country than a well-educated populace. Economic stability, innovation, and general quality of life all depend on our kids getting the best education possible.

That isn't happening.

Not yet.

I believe it can happen - if we all do our part to facilitate the sweeping changes that are necessary.

While we're on the topic - I'd like to thank all of the fantastic teachers I have had throughout my education. High school, in particular, found me sitting in front of some of the most motivated and talented teachers I have ever known.

Generally, I don't like to name names - but these people deserve recognition for what they have done, and continue to do for children.

Karen Keeler
Emily Rundell
Pam Bond-Simmons
Paul Carter
Jim Keller
Rose Lupinacci
Denise McCleary
Ron Revier
Don Stensrud
Jay Stott
Rebecca "Trainor" Feeney
Theresa Reali

Each of these educators not only taught me something about the curriculum they were assigned to teach, but they taught me something about the world and about myself.

Thank you all.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Free Running

Thanks to Bryan Kinkade over at The Schlepper, I got in contact with a free running group based in Phoenix. Six members of DAFT Free Running braved the cold and the wind in Flagstaff yesterday to be photographed. There is no photoshop trickery here - these guys are serious athletes. Wall runs, wall flips, flag maneuvers, spins, flips... you name it, they can do it. Andrew Paffrath of thevisualCollective and lanternCity Media was also on hand to catch video.


20 feet up. No crash pads.



I admit to having a bit of a fetish for wall flips (running up a wall and backflipping off) and wall runs (running along a wall). Those were the two shots I was really after when I asked the group to come up to Flagstaff. I got far more good images than I thought I would - I hope the group is pleased, because I sure am!

I used my Einstein 640 with the Vagabond Mini all day. The two were a great combination at all kinds of power levels. My buddy Ozzy acted as a VAL for the day, which made me nearly as mobile as the athletes (though considerably slower).

I had my 18-55mm on the D300s, with the .45x adapter for a super-wide angle look. I'll do a review of that adapter sometime in the near future.
For now I'm off to enjoy some hot chocolate as I watch the snow coming down!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trip post guide

Here are the links from thevisualCollective Death Valley trip - in order.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

I also managed a few random posts from the road at

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

thevisualCollective Death Valley trip - Day 4

The final day of the trip. Monday morning we woke up around dawn in order to get everyone out to the sand dunes for one final shoot.

The hike was harder for some...

From there we left - back to Flagstaff by means of Las Vegas

And so it ended.

We are already planning another trip - probably to ZION, with some new participants. Keep an eye out here, at and lanternCityMedia for photos and videos!

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thevisualCollective Death Valley trip - Day 3

Day three saw the entire group up at sunrise, furiously pawing at the instant coffee. Death Valley mornings are beautiful.

We left camp fairly early and headed out to the abandoned mine town at Rhyolite. 

Fuel in Death Valley is insanely expensive - upwards of $5.25/gallon for regular unleaded gasoline. So, after the mine we left the park and headed to Beatty, NV. We got fuel at a reasonable price and hit up an awesome local eatery for lunch.

quick tour of The Happy Burro

To-die-for chili burger

This may have been my favorite part of the trip. The people at The Happy Burro - Chili and Beer were some of the most authentic, fun, nice people I've ever met. Most were missing a fair few teeth, all were drinking beer and smoking as we pulled up around noon.

One of the owners - Fred Summers (i think) playing a game with the ladies of the trip. 

After lunch, we headed back into the park towards the Salt Flats. Along the way we stopped in the middle of a (mostly) abandoned road to do a quick photo shoot. 

The most awesome destination, and the entire reason I decided to go to Death Valley in the first place was the Salt Flats.

Andrew, Taylor and Dahlia had a salt craving...

Damn Tourists kept getting in my shot!

We had a lot of cloud cover for our afternoon at the Salt Flats. Not quite what I had in mind, but it turned out OK in the end. In retrospect, it was quite warm with the clouds - I can only imagine how hot it would have been with sunshine.

After leaving the salt flats, one of the cars hit up the dunes for a sunset shoot while the others went back to camp to start setting up dinner.

 Dinner on day three was a superb Macaroni and Cheese bake, with a big helping of booze to finish off a long day the right way.

thevisualCollective Death Valley trip - Day 2

Day two saw much of the trip up at dawn, getting some great sunrise photographs. I had a blast shooting manual white balance at 10,000K

some funky double-exposure stuff

We left Lake Mead behind us and hit up Henderson, NV for some shopping

Wal Mart

Snacks, and finding room for the $200 in groceries

Some of the participants found themselves hankering for batteries, or more gear in general. We stopped at the Ritz Camera in Henderson to contribute to the economy.

Andy bought a Hoodman Loupe for his T2i, which he rubber banded and hair-tied to the camera to facilitate manual focusing in the blinding sunlight

All that shopping had us hankering for food. Schlotzsky's provided some great sandwiches

Food coma. 

I made it my pet project to photograph motorcycles, jeeps, and muscle cars that we saw on the road...

Eventually we found ourselves entering Death Valley National Park. It's $20 per vehicle to get into the park. That buys you a week of fun in the sun. We snagged a map and set about figuring out a campground. 

Surprisingly (to me at least), the big campgrounds we saw were quite full. Most people made reservations. We had to pull up and ask people if we could share their space. Luckily, we found a group of super-awesome adults who (apparently) never really grew up. We bartered a couple of the donated 13% abv. Doppleganger brews from Flagstaff to stay in the very back of their campsite.

 Before we had camp set up, we started shooting. I dragged out my Einstein 640 and the Vagabond and went at it with the afternoon light. This was Ashley's first time really modeling - she did a great job following directions and dealing with five photographers at a time. Kudos!

At some point, we did get camp set up. Dinner on night two was Dutch Oven Pizza. Lots of cheesy goodness and super delish. We also played a bit with fire - adding some funky color-changing powder to the fire. Didn't work very well, but still fun to play with.

And so ended Day 2.