All posts in Inspiration

  • Keeping the important things in perspective…

    Here's a touching, sad, poignant and loving photographic history of one man's wife and her courageous battle with cancer.  Its' amazing photography that documents her fight and serves as a reminder of what's really important in life. http://mywifesfightwithbreastcancer.com/

    Like what you see? Why not share it?

  • The 5 Things I Learned Photographing Mono Lake

    This past weekend I traveled from my LA home to Mono Lake in Lee Vining, CA.  The drive to Lee Vining is a wonderfully beautiful 5.5 hours and it takes me through Lone Pine, Mount Whitney, Bishop and Mammoth Lakes.  There are so many great colors and landscapes that it's hard to keep my eyes on the road at times.  I knew it was going to be cold, cold, cold there since I had been tracking the weather and moon so I could make some images with snow, ice, stars and of course the star of the images the Tufa of Mono Lake.  I packed my Nikon D3s, the holy triumvirate of Nikkor lenses (14-24mm 2.8, 24-70mm 2.8 and 70-200mm 2.8) and my tripod.  I also packed some serious winter gear as the temperatures were dropping into negative degrees during that weekend.  All that considered, here are the 5 things I learned photographing Mono Lake in the winter.

    This was shot in the parking lot at the South Tufa entrance. I wanted some of the buildings in the foreground of this shot.

    1.   I really only needed 2 lenses Although I packed three lenses (well 4 but I never really use my 60mm Macro lens in situations like this) I found myself only using the 14-24mm and 24-70mm lenses on a regular basis.  Along with my 14-24mm lens, I purchased the Lee Filter set (which comes with a hard-edged gradient ND filter - don't ask me why they ship the filter set with this truly useless filter.  If I were only shooting oceans and flat horizons then the hard-edged ND filter would make sense but the majority of this world doesn't have a flat horizon - I also bought the 3 stop ND filter and used this filter on every shot I made) so that filter set was always on my lens when I used it and for some shots when I needed to zoom in a little closer I would switch to the 24-70mm lens fitted with a Circular Polarizing Filter AND a Variable 8-Stop ND Filter.  I looked around for things to photograph with a longer lens but since I was focused on the Tufa around the lake the closer, wider lenses really worked best. 2.   Hotels and dining in Lee Vining are extremely limited This time of year is the slow time of year so my choices lodging and eating options were very limited.  I stayed at the Lake View Lodge and there was no "Lake View" nor was it a "Lodge."  It was a motel at best.  The door to the room would latch but not close all the way so the negative temperatures were constantly creeping into the room all hours of the day.  So, to combat this I would turn up the in-room heater that would make it either super hot or super cold.  The bed was as hard as concrete and their in-room television selection was limited.  They didn't even have ESPN as one of their channels but they did have 2 History Channels (the same channel on two different stations) and a couple of shopping channels.  I mean, REALLY, who doesn't have ESPN?  And, I had to run the hot water for 20 minutes before any hot water would ever emerge.  At one point I called the front desk to ask if I had to pay extra for hot water so I could shower.  Also, the one restaurant open (Nicely's) during this time of year was actually really good.  They had homemade soups that were very tasty but they close at 8pm so if you don't get some food you may have to survive for the night on whatever you brought with you (or you can kill a rabbit or two, make a fire and have your own meal). 3.   Weather: Expect the unexpected... always! This time of year the weather is brutally cold and can change in an instant.  I had been tracking the weather for 2 weeks prior to departing for Mono Lake.  I knew it would be bitterly cold but January 11th was the "New Moon" and perfect for photographing the night skies and stars.  Once I passed Mammoth Lakes (24 miles south of Lee Vining) I experienced a horrific snow storm while driving over Dead Man's Summit.  I couldn't see 20 feet in front of me and was white-knuckle driving my wife's Nissan Maxima (my four wheel drive Jeep was getting repaired at the time of the trip) the last 24 miles to Lee Vining.   Once I finally arrived at the hotel the snow had completely stopped but the clouds were still blocking the stars from being photographed that night.  According to all news and weather reports, there was not supposed to be any snow or clouds in the forecast until Sunday.  So I settled into my hotel room and went to Nicely's for dinner where I spoke with the locals about the weather.  I learned quickly that neither they nor I should ever rely upon news and weather forecasts for the area since it can change at any moment.  The day I shot all these images had some great clouds and as soon as the sun settled behind the mountains surrounding the area the clouds disappeared showing me the most stars I have ever seen in my life and allowed for the Milky Way to come out and play. 🙂

    This was shot in the parking lot at the South Tufa entrance. I wanted some of the buildings in the foreground of this shot.

    4.   Pack smart, warm and be able to move quickly I had three bags with me when I walked from the parking lot to the tufa area.  I had two ThinkTank Camera Bags and a Camelbak backpack.  The next time I go back I will only have two bags and one WILL NOT be my ThinkTank Airport International bag.  This bag is great for traveling since it's on rollers but horrible for snow and can get heavy when I am not rolling it and carrying it.  Fortunately there weren't a lot of people here this weekend so I could leave my bags in one location without having to worry about whether or not anyone was rifling through them to taking things.  But the number of bags made it difficult to move quickly and get the right lens/filter combination for the photograph I wanted to make.  When I wrapping things up and leaving well into the night I had to carry the bags back to the car and my right hand started to get numb and tingling from the brutal cold (I did have very warm mittens but they prevented me comfortably carrying things so I had carry the bags without these) and I had to stop three times to warm my hands and prevent frostbite.   I am buying a pair of glove liners so I can have a small amount of protection next time. 5.   I can't wait to get back I have visited this area once before but during the summer.  There were tourists with cameras everywhere!  People were jockeying around the lake and the tufa to get that wonderful sunset shot so tripod space was a premium.  On this trip there were only three people trying to photograph the sunset and it was a welcome relief.  We all had our own spaces and areas and "vision" of what we wanted to capture.  It was nice to have that much space and freedom to move from one location to another and not have to worry about missing a shot because I couldn't get to the exact position I wanted.  Furthermore, there was something really peaceful and serene I experienced on this trip that wasn't experienced in the previous trip.  It was quiet, calm and I could sit and listen to the water and wind for hours.   If you travel here and are curious as to what else you may need then here's another list of items I would highly recommend:
    1. Flashlight/headlamp
    2. Extra batteries for your camera and flashlights
    3. Bear Pepper Spray (unlikely but just in case you need it)
    4. Knife (again, just in case you need it)
    5. Winter Boots (not just hiking boots)
    6. Ski Pants (I was on my knees a lot and never got cold from kneeling in the snow)
    7. A really warm, down-filled coat
    8. An intervalometer or other cable release
    9. Water/Food
    10. Patience - The right shot will come but you have to wait and expect the weather to change for the better (at times).
    I look forward to going again and hopefully can get to the Ghost Town of Bodie and photograph it in winter but I need to find someone with a snowmobile who can give me a ride there since the road to Bodie is closed in winter (anybody have a contact?). Until next time, SH

    Like what you see? Why not share it?

  • One of my favorite LIFE moments

    In 2006 I was hosting a television show in Indianapolis called Doing Indy.  This show allowed me to go all around Indianapolis and show off the cool things the city had to offer.  I met a lot of celebrities and got to do some pretty cool things during my three-year run as the show's host, creator and executive producer.  However, there is one memory that sticks out in my mind more than any of the other experiences and that was when I had the chance to rap with Public Enemy's very own Flavor Flav.

    The one and only Flavor Flav!

    Flav was in town for Indiana Black Expo and I had been a fan of Flav's and Public Enemy for many, many years.  I knew I had one shot at this so I asked his management team if I could get an interview.  While asking about getting the interview I also told them about the show and how it was a fun and silly look at what's going on in Indianapolis.  Once I shared that with them I asked if Flav would be up for rapping with me.  His management team said, very emphatically too I might add, YES!  They went onto say, "Flav loves to do that sort of thing."  So I interviewed Flav and then proceeded to rap with him.  Here's the video of me rapping with Flav back in 2006.  Please don't ask me what was growing on my chin at the time.  I am still amazed at my many, varied and questionable facial hair decisions. The one thing I think that needs to be said here is regarding how I got to do this with Flav.  I don't have an elaborate answer... I just asked.  Never be afraid to ask a question about being able to do something cool, fun, exciting, challenging or important because sometimes the answer is an emphatic YES! Bring tha Noise! SH

    Like what you see? Why not share it?

  • Some great FREE learning tools/inspiration from Profoto

    Here's a really quick post about something I discovered a while back but never got around to sharing.  Check out Profoto's Masters Series on lighting from some of the best photographers working. PROFOTO MASTERS SERIES LIGHTING VIDEOS If you are a working photographer or someone building a business in photography then you have to check out this site.  It doesn't matter if you are a Commercial, Wedding, Portrait or Pet Photographer.  There are great tips to learn about lighting, visualizing the scene, being prepared for all kinds of shoots and knowing how and where to place your lights.  And, the best part... THEY'RE FREE TO VIEW! Most of these videos are relatively short so with today's Attention Deficit Society they won't take up too much of your time.  However, I think these are worth watching and you'll find yourself watching several of these videos in one sitting because they are just that great.  Make sure you check out the video by Kareem Black on his shoot for Burger King.  Not only is it HILARIOUS but it is brilliant too. There's lots of great stuff to learn here so make sure you check it out and bookmark it as it is a great source or learning and inspiration. Until Next Time, SH

    Like what you see? Why not share it?

  • 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

    Like what you see? Why not share it?

  • A great model & inspiring location

     

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything. I wanted a futuristic look here.

    A client of mine asked me to photograph her in my studio a couple of weeks ago.  It was, however, during this shoot that I noticed something great about her.  She has an insanely unique look and a very fit figure so I thought I needed to get her out of the studio and shoot her up against one of California's most unique areas in El Mirage and the Dry Lake Bed.  I threw out the idea to Anna (the model's name by the way) and she loved it.  So we coordinated schedules and set a shoot date for Sunday, February 26th.  I am glad we set that date because the rest of this week has been bone-chillingly cold - well, it's cold for California. I have become a CA pussy in the sense that when it drops below 60 degrees I start to shiver.  Fortunately, we didn't have that problem Sunday. I grabbed my friend and assistant, Crafty and had Anna come over to the house so my wife could do her makeup.  We got started at 9:30am and finished with the car loading and makeup about an hour or so later.  Anna and I got into my Jeep and picked up Crafty and then drove to El Mirage.  I had never been here before but knew a lot about it.  Actually, I had been wanting to shoot here for a year now but haven't had the time or the right model.  Working on the documentary had a lot to do with my availability but now that it is in the hands of an editor my photography business is back to almost full strength with 7 shoots already this year.

    El Mirage, CA at sunset

    When we arrived at El Mirage I was a little apprehensive considering my last shoot in the desert (Joshua Tree) proved to be a challenge with wind, dust and cacti.  I noticed a lot of dust initially but then realized the dust was from the off-road vehicles driving around the dry lake bed.  I knew we would be stationary and that's when I got really excited.  There was some wind swirling around but nothing like Joshua Tree. For this shoot I wanted to pack light knowing wind could be an issue and I wanted to spend more time shooting than setting up and tearing down softboxes.  That said, I packed only a few stands and light modifiers.  Here's the list of what I brought for the shoot:
    • 4 light and C-Stands
    • Nikon D3s and D300
    • Elinchrom Ranger RX, Elinchrom Quadra, Elinchrom RX600 (with external power supply)
    • 27" Beauty Dish with diffuser
    • Paul Buff 86" PLM (My new favorite light modifier)
    • 2 SB-800 Speedlights
    • 1 Elinchrom shoot through umbrella
    • 3 Lastolite reflectors/scrims
    • 8 stop variable ND Filter
    • Nikon 24-70mm 2.8 lens and 70-200mm 2.8 lens
    While this seems like a large list it really is not.  It's about half of my gear but all of these light modifiers are easy to put on and easy to take off.  But the BEST item I had in my arsenal that day was my Singh Ray variable ND filter which allows me 8 stops of light with which to play.  On a day like this where we were dealing with sunlight from 12:30pm to night, the light is bright, harsh and challenging.  I knew going in I needed something to combat this sun and allow me to shoot at a shallow depth of field while being able to see detail in the sky and the surrounding hills and texture of the dry lake bed.   It was very, very bright considering the earth at this location is a light tan color and was reflective.  Looking toward the sun always caused me to squint even when the sun was starting to set.  It was considerably brighter than I had expected. Here are the images from the shoot.  The first 5 images are from my assistant shooting the D300 with everything averaged out.  He was not trying to make a picture just wanting to document the day.
    Annalyn posing at the Jeep

    Annalyn posing at the Jeep

    Annalyn getting shot at sunset

    Annalyn getting shot at sunset

    Shooting Annalyn with the 70-200mm lens

    Shooting Annalyn with the 70-200mm lens

    Annalyn getting shot at diusk wearing the gas mask

    Annalyn getting shot at diusk wearing the gas mask

    Annalyn wearing the gas mask at dusk and looking somewaht apocalyptic

    Annalyn wearing the gas mask at dusk and looking somewaht apocalyptic

    These last images are what I shot and post processed.  Enjoy and thanks for reading; I hope this location and images inspire you as much as it inspired me.
    This is RAW and straight out of the camera.  This was taken at 1pm with an incredibly bright sun.

    This is RAW and straight out of the camera. This was taken at 1pm with an incredibly bright sun.

    RAW file taken straight from the camera showing the great detail I got with a ND filter and the right lights

    RAW file taken straight from the camera showing the great detail I got with a ND filter and the right lights

    Another RAW image taken straight from the camera with NO processing

    Another RAW image taken straight from the camera with NO processing

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything.  I wanted a futuristic look here.

    I processed this one to make it look more like a MOVIE SET than anything. I wanted a futuristic look here.

    This was processed to look like a TV promo piece

    This was processed to look like a TV promo piece

    I call this Apocalypt-chic

    I call this Apocalypt-chic

    Until next time, SH

    Like what you see? Why not share it?