Archive for May, 2012

  • The Salton Sea Excursion

    Today I am going out to the Salton Sea for the first time since moving to CA.  There is so much history, lore, myth and legend about this once wonderful California destination.  It's not what it was 30 years ago and has become a shrine of decay to days gone by.  There are so many stories about the Salton Sea that I don't need to go into them here since this is a photography blog and not a history blog.  But, in short, the Salton Sea is a man-made lake in Southern California just south of Coachella, Palm Desert and Palm Springs.  From LA, it's about a 3 hour drive.  I have been wanting to get out here for a number of years after seeing some incredible images of the Salton Sea from the '80's and a documentary on the sea made in 2004.  The decay and abandonment seen here remind me how precious life is and also reminds me of a different time in history.  Unfortunately, most of the are around the Salton Sea is completely abandoned, neglected, decaying or, at the least, already dead.

    An abandoned trailer at the Salton Sea

    What's the purpose of going here, you ask?  Well, I don't really know.  I just like things that are weird, strange, historical, unique and interesting and this place has it all.  I am not sure what to expect but I am taking a break from my recent shoots to have some Seth (me) time.  I am loading up my Mamiya RZ67, along with 6 rolls of film and a couple of lens.  I did buy a 25A Red Filter to use on my film (only using B&W film) so I can pull out the sky and make it as dark as possible.  I am taking my Neutral Density filter as well so I can shoot here during the midday and into early evening.  I am also taking my new Fujifilm 210 Instax camera for some fun shots.  I had to get this camera because it reminds me so much of the first camera I ever had (Polaroid One Step).  I love shooting film but grow weary of having to develop my own B&W film.  I have become spoiled and lazy with digital camera technology.  I don't have to slow down, compose a shot or think about anything before I press the shutter release (I do pay attention but I am using this analogy to talk about how easy and lazy digital has made a lot of photographers).

    Here's the stuff I bought at Freestyle Photo for my trip. Sorry for the blurry iPhone photo.

    In fact, if anyone new photographer asks me for advice about getting started then one of the first things I tell them to do is to get a film camera and learn from shooting slowly.  Film forces you to slow down because every release of the shutter costs money.  Unlike digital, the only costs are up front with the camera, batteries and CF or SD cards.  Once you have those then every subsequent exposure is free.  Film doesn't afford us this luxury.  Every time you release the shutter you incur costs associated with film, developing, scanning and cataloging.  Film just forces you to slow down.  So, I am taking an opportunity like my Salton Sea excursion to slow down, scout, explore and shoot with no preconceived agenda.  Two of my friends are going with me to shoot as well so hopefully we can find some great moments to shoot and see at this historical but dilapidated site in SoCal.  I think it's a good idea to slow down and focus on seeing what's around you that may make an interesting image.  After all, good photography requires us to "see" on a regular basis and remember any monkey can push a shutter release button.

    This abandoned motel has since been razed and no longer exists in Salton City

    Once I get the images developed and if they're good or interesting enough then I will post them here for you to see. SH

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  • Totally Rad Deal for Mother’s Day

    For a limited time you can get $50 off any product at Totally Rad for Photoshop or Lightroom.  Just use the code "MOMSDAY" and you can get a tremendous discount on any of their great Photoshop Actions, Lightroom Presets or, my favorite, RadLab. Click on the banner above to learn more, purchase or check out their products. On a personal note, I don't use a lot of extra plug-ins within Photoshop or Lightroom but have found the tools from Totally Rad to make my workflow so much more efficient.  If you can only have a couple of plug-ins in your arsenal then anything from Totally Rad will help make your life easier.  Don't take my word for it though.  Check them out and use the code MOMSDAY and save big.  Oh... you're welcome! 🙂 If you have any questions or thoughts about Totally Rad then please don't hesitate to ask me or them. SH

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  • Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 2)

    As I mentioned in my previous post about this subject matter - Studio City Tattoo Project (Part 1) - I had already knocked out the individual shots of the artists and now I am left with making a photograph (well, two to be exact) of the owner of Studio City Tattoo, Clay Clement.  Clay is not only a really great guy but he is also an author of a highly received and award-winning children's book.  So going in, I knew we were going to make an image for the Studio City Tattoo website as well as a publicity photo for his PR team to use in promoting the book to magazines like People and US Weekly.  Simple right?  Well, nothing is really ever that simple.  We had 30-40 minutes of his time and he was only available to shoot at the most unflattering time of day at 11:30am.  We had our work cut out for us but fortunately I was able to be somewhat creative in the process of where we shoot and the overall look.

    Sunny days in LA don't always provide great light.

    As you can see in the above image, the sun was really bright on Ventura Boulevard at 10:30am.  We arrive around 10:15am to start setting up so that when Clay was ready at 11:30am we could get him in and out with no other delays.  I knew it would take about an hour to set up and we used every bit of that time to get things ready.  For this shoot (See Images Below), I knew battling the sun would be our biggest problem so I brought out three lights, a 10" high performance reflector, a beauty dish and an 86" parabolic umbrella.  I needed as much power and reflectivity to overpower the hot, bright sun.   I needed to work with two Elinchrom Ranger packs and one Elinchrom Quadra pack for this Portrait/Lifestyle photography session.  The other essential element in this shoot was to make certain I would be able to get the settings I needed.  I wanted to get f8 - f11 and a shutter speed of 1/250.  For that the lights were still not enough so I needed to bring my Variable 2-8 stop ND Filter.  That way, I can specifically dial in the exact setting for the shots and the changing sunlight.  While most days in LA are sunny with no clouds, this particular day posed some changing elements because of the changing light with some small, wispy clouds overhead.  The changing light meant that my Variable ND filter would be the best tool in my arsenal for this shoot. HERE IS THE LIGHTING SET UP 
    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    Look at all the details going into this shoot under the noon day sun.

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    More details to deal with the only time of day I could photograph Clay Clement of Studio City Tattoo

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Taking off the diffuser realizing I needed more light

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting the van proved to be the hardest element to the day considering the brightness of the sun and time of day we had to work with Clay.

    Lighting Set Up - Specifics The Tree - We started with the shot of Clay as the owner of the Tattoo shop.  There is this great prop of a decayed, burned skeleton in a rusty cage.  This is a perfect prop of the "Pirate" themed tattoo shop.  In lighting this set up I wanted to make sure each element had it's own light since it was so bright outside.  There was a perfect parking space in front of the shop where I had Clay park his van.  Just to camera left is a nice tree that added some green and color to the shot.  So, it needed it's own light.  I put the Quadra here with the 10" High Performance Reflector at full power.  I didn't want to blow out the tree but just to add some color to the shot.  Adding a "kiss" of light to the tree was something I wanted to do since we would see other trees in the distance/background and it would help to brighten the image since a lot of the other elements are dark (the van, Clay's clothing and the black, burned out skeleton). The Van - Since the van is the largest element in the photo shoot I needed something big and bright to bring out the details on the van without giving me a tremendous amount of reflective highlights.  So I went with a Paul C. Buff 86" Parabolic Umbrella with the silver interior.  I positioned the light about 6 feet away from the van and raised it as high as my C-Stand and boom arm would go.  And, last, I angled the light down to a 45 degree angle so I could get as much coverage of the van and ground area around it.  Here I used an Elinchrom Ranger pack at full (1100 w/s) power. The Subject - Setting up the light for Clay was probably the easiest of the set ups.  I used a 27" Elinchrom BD with no diffusion sock and a silver deflector as to match the specular highlights with the BD to all the other modifiers used.  Also, Clay was being side lit by the sun as it was moving East to West.  The light on Clay was specifically placed to light his face.  I wasn't worried about lighting his legs because I knew the spill from the Parabolic Umbrella and ambient light would do enough.  The purpose here is to light his face and make a portrait with this photography session.  I also used a Ranger pack but only needed to use it at a little more than half power.  Below is the final image chosen from the shoot.  I did do a little work in Photoshop to darken the sky and make it look more ominous.  I also used a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad to give the image it's final look.

    Final Lifestyle/Portrait Photograph of Clay Clement

    PUBLICITY PHOTO For this image, I already had the lighting in place.  So we changed out the skeleton for Clay's "Pirate Santa" children's book.  I then had to just make some minor adjustments in camera to make this image more bright, warm and friendly.  I adjusted my shutter to allow a little more light into the image.  Once again, I finished the image with a couple of plug-ins from Nik Software and Totally Rad.  Once finished, I received approval from Clay and his team and sent the publicity photo off to them for their use.  I know these are going out to People and US Weekly magazines but I just don't know their timetable.  Believe me, when it happens I will let you know.

    The final publicity photo for Clay Clement and his book "Pirate Santa."

    SH  

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