Archive for January, 2015

  • How I Got This Shot – June Lake at Night

    Night photography, photographing stars photographing mountains, landscape photography

    Silver Lake, CA on a moon-less night to photograph the night stars and reflections in the lake

    Whenever I am not photographing people I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to get out into the California landscape and photograph the mountains, water, sky and, lately, stars.  I have really fallen in love with following the moon phases so I can photograph the night sky during a New Moon.  That was the case here.  My wife and I love driving up the less-traveled Highway 395 on California's eastern side and seeing all the sights along 395 like Lone Pine, Big Pine, Bishop, Mammoth, Mono Lake, Bodie (Ghost Town) and Bridgeport.  There's something romantically haunting about the area.  I can't quite put my finger on why I love the area so much but I just do... it speaks to me and resonates with me.  I think one of the reasons I admire this area so much is that it reminds me how small I really am in this world and in this life and that I am just here for a very short time (compared to the amazing landscapes and history of the area). We planned a trip around the December holidays to get away from LA for awhile and to just take in the beauty and awesomeness of the area.  We went to Mammoth and did a little tubing and wanted do ride some snowmobiles but the weather hadn't provided enough snow at the time.  But, we'll be back and will have that chance to get on the snowmobiles in January or February.  That being said, I love to photograph the landscapes of this area and to take a break from a year of photographing people.  Don't get me wrong, I love what I do for a living but it's nice to just set up the camera, admire my surroundings and try to capture the amazing beauty in a photograph. We drove up to and stayed in June Lake, CA (about 9 miles north of Mammoth).  I had never stayed in June Lake before but was blown away by this quaint little village at the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It's gorgeous (or as the kids say... GORGE!!!). 🙂  Upon arriving I immediately noticed "Oh! Ridge" (see below) and there's a reason it's called Oh! Ridge; when you come over the ridge and see the lake and mountain you cannot stop yourself from uttering "OH!".  It really is that awesomely beautiful.

    Oh! Ridge - Photo credit by The Haven June Lake and IshCreatives.

    So I waited until the perfect night where I could see stars and the Milky Way and the wife and I started driving around June Lake, Mono Lake and Silver Lake looking for the right opportunity.  Unfortunately the wind was not cooperating at June and Mono Lakes.  The slight breeze was not allowing me to get the reflection on the water and I really wanted that to be a part of the shot.  On a whim, I said that we should check out Silver Lake to see what was going on there and if there was any opportunity to get the shot.  When we arrived I noticed that this lake is protect on all sides by rolling hills and mountains.  The water was so still and clear that I stepped in the water thinking I was still walking on rocks.  At that point I knew I had the right location.  The moral to this story is to move your butt and explore your options.  A 10 minute drive allowed me to make this image when I was on the verge of walking away and not getting the shot I wanted of this beautiful, inspiring landscape.
    June Lake, Landscape Photography, Milky Way Photography, night photography, photographing stars

    Getting a great shot of the Milky Way around June Lake, California

    It's important to use a tripod, use Mirror Lock UP if your camera has the setting and a shutter release cable.  Also, I am including the incredibly useful 500 Rule PDF in this post for use when and if you want to photograph the night sky. TOOLS USED:
    • Nikon D3s Camera
    • Nikon 14-24mm 2.8 Lens
    • Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
    • Nikon Shutter Release Cable
    • Flashlights (only for adjusting settings on the camera)
    • My "500 Rule" Guideline for Night Photography Available for download 500 Rule*
    *The 500 Rule for Night Photography is a set of calculations for use with specific focal lengths in order to get the best exposure without getting blur from moving objects (like stars) during the earth's rotation.

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  • How I Got This Shot – Broadway Ballerina Stephanie Kim

    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting I have been wanting to do a shoot with a ballerina for quite some time.  When Stephanie contacted me asking me to make some images of her I was ecstatic since I have had several ideas for a ballerina shoot floating around in my head for almost 8 months.  The main idea was to capture her in motion and then freeze her at the end of the shoot.  I have seen, hell, we all have seen too many shots of ballerinas in static poses.  Beautiful poses, of course, but static and a little cliche at this point.  The biggest issue is to find a location with fresnel lights and the space to capture her overall motion. The location for this shoot was at a place with a massive stage and stage lights.  These are constant lights, fresnels with various colored gels on them (red, blue, neutral, purple and green).  Once we arrived at the location I started scouting the stage and lights to see the overall space with which I have to work and how best to bring my vision to life for Stephanie.  When I talked with owner of the location, Steve, I was informed that all the fresnels are on a board and can be individually controlled.  After I learned this I was running up the stairs to the control room to start playing with the various combinations of colors and intensity so I can make my vision come to life.  After a little trial and error I found the right combination of lights that I wanted to use for the shoot.  They were a combination of red, blue and neutral (lights without the gels). The whole purpose of making certain I had constant lighting for this shoot is because I want to create the motion with the constant lights and then freeze her with the strobe lights at the end of her movements.  By running up and down the stairs to the control room for the fresnels I wanted to make certain I had the overall look I needed for the "moving" parts of the shot.  I knew the strobes I place at the end of her movements would freeze her motion and I wanted to keep those lights daylight balanced (no gels or coloring) to create a nice "POP" or separation from the other lights.  I am also a HUGE fan of late night infomercial barker Ron Popeil and his "Set it and Forget it" mantra.  So, by setting the lights to get what I want allows me to just focus on the ballerina, her moves, expressions, gesture, etc.  The more you can learn about "Set it and Forget it" the easier it is to make the photos you want. In case you are not aware of the infamous infomercial from Ron Popeil then you can see it below I truly believe in the "Set it and Forget it" principle especially when it comes to something like this type of shoot.  That way I can focus on getting the image we want from the shoot.  The finished shot above was the SECOND in the process.  The first shot (below and in RAW format) was used to get the feel of the shoot.  And, when I first started I only set the camera to a :02 second exposure.  I quickly learned (after one image) that I needed to be in BULB mode with my remote trigger so I can pop the flash when she finished her movement.  I say that because by only letting her move for :02 seconds limited her in her movement.  It's like trying to time, to the EXACT tenth of a second when she will finish her movement.  Rather than rely on chance, I stood back and watched her movement and then let go of the cable release as soon as she finished her movement.  In the image below you can see a little bit of trailing movement but in the image above you can see her more clearly and crisply.  That's because I fired the flash as soon as she was done with her movement.
    Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting

    This is the first, RAW, image from my shoot with Stephanie. This image relied on timing and chance rather than precise firing of the strobe. Fortunately I recognized that and quickly changed things a bit.

    Perhaps some of you are wondering why I just didn't make one image of her with the fresnels and then another image from the strobes and then combine them in Photoshop.  I could have done that and did, for the purposes of this blog, make images to demonstrate how those images look separately.  But as you will see, I believing getting the image right in camera and in one shot saves me a TON of time in post production.  Plus, why make extra steps when I can get it right in camera and have a better, more organic image.  The sequence below shows what the images look like with just fresnels, just strobes and when I made one single image from getting it right in camera. Fresnel lighting to create movement in a photograph Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic Lighting Broadway Ballerina Dancer Stephanie Kim Body in Motion Cool Photographic LightingLastly, I wanted to provide a quick description of what gear I used, the settings and the lighting set up for the shoot.  Please feel free to ask any questions or comment on this process.  I would love to see your images like this as well. SETTINGS
    1. Nikon D3s (Manual Mode)
    2. 70-200mm 2.8 Lens (Manual Focus)
    3. Really Right Stuff Tripod and Ballhead
    4. Bulb Mode for Shutter
    5. Aperture f8.0
    6. Nikon Shutter Release Cable
    7. Had model stand in roughly the finished location of her movement and pre-focused
    8. Rear Curtain Sync
    9. Broncolor Move 1200L Pack (both lights)
    10. Broncolor 5-Foot Octabank
    11. Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank
    LIGHTING/SHOOTING SET UP Stephanie-Kim-Lighting-DiagramUntil next time... SH

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