All posts in Photography

  • 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

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  • Photography lesson #1 – Don’t be a lazy bonehead

    Always be prepared when shooting.  This is great advice; too bad I blew off the most important rule of photography. Recently I went to Washington DC to photograph the area and see what I can add to my PLACES Portfolio.  In prepping for the trip I wanted to pack as lightly as possible so I could be mobile and traverse the city to see what I could find.  I took my DSLR and two lenses (24-70mm 2.8 and a 14-24mm 2.8).  My goal was to be as versatile as possible in shooting and moving around and thought those lenses would give me the best opportunity to do just that.  I made a conscious decision NOT to take my tripod as I thought it would take up too much room and I didn't want to carry it around all over the place.

    Apparently I left the dog behind along with my tripod. Sorry Albert!

    Well, that was a complete bonehead, rookie mistake on my part.  Case in point, this image below was a great opportunity to make a great shot.  But since I didn't have my tripod with me I couldn't do any long exposures when the light was better or to create multiple exposures (for bracketing NOT HDR - My motto: Death before HDR!).  This is a nice image but as you can see there is too much clutter in the background that could easily be eliminated by shooting at night (long/longer exposure) or with multiple, bracketed exposures and then layered together in Photoshop.  By darkening the background by 2-3 stops I could have easily made this a better image where the point of focus is solely the carousel and not everything else around it.

    Breakdown of why I don't like this image and wish I had my tripod.

    In this image of the DC Metro I was able to rest my camera between a wall and a rail to get a 1/8th shutter speed (long exposure) for this image.  If that rail wasn't there then there's no way I could have held that camera with my bare hands to get a sharp exposure.  Hell, I can barely get a sharp exposure at 1/30th shutter speed by hand holding the camera.  Glad that rail was there so I could make this image.

    Love the lines and architecture of this area. I couldn't do this without some stabilizing element.

    Lesson Learned!  It takes a conscious effort to make sure a good photographer has everything he/she needs to bring an image to life.  And, because of my laziness I couldn't get what I wanted.  The good news is I am going back to DC in January and this time I will not forget to take the tripod so I can redo this image and add to my portfolio.  Lesson here - don't make a bonehead move like me... be prepared and don't be lazy.  It's always better to be have it and not use it than to not have it and need it. No more laziness... SH

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  • Advice for new photographers – SLOW DOWN

    The onset of digital photography has certainly revolutionized the photography world.  It's made making images so much easier and quicker and it has leveled the playing field by putting a camera in anyone's hands.  To own a great camera in the past one would have to drop thousands of dollars but now people can get into an entry level camera and lens package for a few hundred dollars.  And, sometimes you can find great deals on high-end used cameras and lenses at a considerably lesser price.  There is no question that digital imaging has changed the game of photography. That said, I still get asked by a number of people about how to make good images.  I get asked what camera to buy, what lens to use, what settings are best and how to compose the best shot?  I will openly admit that I rarely answer these questions because photography is, inherently, an independent vocation/hobby.  I don't mean to be rude but what I may offer can and will be different from someone else may offer or advise.  Moreover, my style of shooting is and will be different from that particular person's style of shooting so my advice may never be relevant to their question(s).  Then again, it may be completely relevant but I would hope no one shoots just like me and they find their own creative voice.  I do, however, offer advice with another piece of advice I learned when I first switched to digital imaging.  That advice is this...

    Slow Down! Treat your CF or SD card as if it were film

    SLOW DOWN!  Even though your Compact Flash (CF) or SD cards allow you to shoot HUNDREDS OF IMAGES doesn't mean you should!  Treat your CF or SD card as if it were film, only take one with you and give yourself a certain number of exposures to get your desired image.  By giving yourself some limitations you won't have to go through hundreds of images looking for the best image.  The term used to describe the people who just shoot and hope for the best is called "Spray and Pray."  The sooner you can get away from Spraying and Praying the better you are going be with your photography and it will help you find your creative voice. Lastly, by planning to give yourself goals and limitations you cannot help but become a better photographer.  You will have less images to go through and you can try a variety of settings to see what worked best - one image at a time!  When you slow down and plan you create goals.  Goals without plans are just "wishes" and you will never grow, learn or improve if you just keep wishing to be a good photographer.  Remember, just because you CAN shoot as many images as you want with digital photography doesn't mean you SHOULD.

    Just because you can shoot as many images as you want doesn't mean you should!

    Until next time, SH

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  • Changing White Balance for a Better Look

    About a month ago or so I was shooting a model for a personal portfolio shoot.  We went into the studio for a series of shots that I had thought about, sketched out and planned prior to the shoot.  It was a great, full day of shooting this gorgeous woman.  I had seen a recent post on The Slanted Lens about changing white balances and I thought I would try my hand at it based on memory from reading that post and seeing that video. One of the shots I had planned incorporated a nice window with sheer curtains.  However, we were shooting at around 11am and I knew the light would be very bright and overpowering when coming through the window and I wanted a darker, night time look to the image to create more of an elegant, moody scene. What to do...? I could over power the light coming in with my massive Elinchrom Rangers and try to darken up the area with a really high aperture and strong lights but then I would run the risk of blowing out my model too in order to make the scene work.  Or, I could just use the natural light coming through the window for the shot.  But neither of those sounded great to me and didn't make for an interesting image.

    The camera is on AUTO white balance here and while the image is not bad and looks nicely balanced it's just not as interesting as I would like.

    So I chose OPTION #2! Option 2 was to change the white balance on my D3s to a TUNGSTEN white balance in order to turn the white light coming through the window to blue and make it look more like a night scene than a day time scene to make a more interesting shot.  This shot shows how I took the light from day light to night without all the lights in place on the model.  If you look very carefully on the right on the image you can see my assistant, Judy, moving the curtains and getting everything ready for the shot.

    Changed the white balance from AUTIO to TUNGSTEN to get this look and start to make the image more interesting and colorful.

    VOILA!  There's the shot and look I am going for here.  Something as simple as changing the white balance can completely alter a scene like it did here.  Even though the lights are not in place and adjusted I already have a more interesting scene that can now be built with lighting, (IMPORTANT POINT) It should be noted here that in order to make this shot work I need to add a CTO to any of the lights hitting the model (Key and Rim).   If I were to use my strobes "as is" the color of her skin would be way off and she would look just as blue as the background.  In order to make this happen I placed a full CTO gel on the rim and key lights to ensure her skin tones are preserved and to create a nice separation from the scene.  I prefer to use these Rosco Color Corrections Gels but you can find large size CTO/CTB gels at most photography retailers. The lighting set up here was pretty simple and I will provide a diagram at the end of this paragraph.  All I used to get the desired effect were two lights since I had an abundance of window light coming through to camera right and creating a nice, but subtle rim light on the model's left shoulder.  More importantly, I used that light to do the heavy lifting for me by lighting the scene.  Because I had so much light coming in from the window I could concentrate all of my lighting efforts on the model.  The light modifiers used were a Calumet medium softbox (30" x 40") with a Grid placed to camera right and a Westcott Bruce Dorn Strip Bank with 2/3 of the light flagged off so that only the top 1/3 of the light would directly light the back of the model's head and shoulder on her right side set behind the model on camera left.  This was so that the strip bank acted more as a really small softbox than a strip bank for my desired effect.  The last piece was a 48"x72" Scrim Jim Large White Reflector used to fill in shadows on her right hand side. Here's the diagram

    The lighting diagram from the shoot.

    And, after a little touch up in Photoshop to eliminate a gap in the wall by the curtains and  cloning in the foliage outside to window so that it covered the entire window I pretty much had a finished image.  I did do a little retouching to the face - very little retouching needed here though.  Other than that, there was very little extra work done here because I was able to get the lighting precise and controlled after planning for this shot and visualizing the shot  well in advance.

    Here's the final image processed with the lighting set up chosen for this shot. The clients were extremely happy with this shot and, frankly, so am I. Better look all around.

    I hope this inspires you to try this trick outdoors as well as indoors so you can create a mood within the photo and not just settle for what the light is giving you.  We have the power to control most every element of light when we pick up the camera by changing color, look and feel right within the camera so that we don't have to spend too much time in Photoshop. Until next time, SH

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  • VIDEO TUTORIAL: Freezing Water/Splash Photography

    I have been asked about getting the Diet Coke/Water Splash images from several people so I decided to create a video tutorial.  This is my first video tutorial so please go easy on me.  Let me know here, on the blog, if you have any questions so everyone can learn from the questions and discussion.  Enjoy this short video tutorial - I hope it helps!   SH

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  • 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

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  • RAW vs. JPEG Debate – Why RAW RULES!

    People love to debate gear and processes in photography more than any other profession I have ever known or seen.  Maybe with the exception of car parts, photographers love to take pride in ridiculous debates over what camera is better with Nikon vs. Canon, what lighting equipment produces better results with conversations about Elinchrom vs. Profoto vs. Dynalite vs. Alien Bees/White Lightning/Einstein or they get even more ridiculous with conversations about Strobe versus Continuous Lighting.  The bottom line is this... WHO CARES!  All that should ever matter is that you know your equipment well enough to get the results you want and need.  I know photographers who use Canon and ones who use Nikon and can light the hell out of an image with just one Paul C Buff Einstein flash head or an entire scene with 5 or 6 Profoto strobes.  The one thing everyone has in common here is that they know their stuff.

    War, good God. What is it good for?

    I have often heard the same debate about shooting RAW vs. JPEG.  Of course there are several instances when shooting JPEG comes in really handy.  Sports photographers or photojournalists shooting in 4-9 frames per second can't worry about the buffer in their DSLR slowing them down while they are trying to get the shot.  I also can imagine that some Wedding Photographers would shoot in JPEG for the very same reasons.  So, by my deductions, it seems as if JPEG shooting is great when you really only have one chance to get something that's happening quickly and you (the photographer) may not have the chance to capture that frame again.  For those instances I can see why JPEG is necessary but as a Portrait Photographer I always shoot in RAW so I never lose the information imbedded in the image file on my CF card.  Let me show you why...

    This is the RAW, untouched image SOOC (Straight out of the Camera) opened in Camera RAW.

    I made the above image of actor, Steve Durgarn in the middle of the day on a very bright afternoon.  Now before anyone gets on me about shooting people in the middle of the day I can just say, "save your lecture."  I know all about the pitfalls and problems of a midday sun, harsh shadows, lens flares, etc.  Sometimes schedules are such that those times of day are the only times when people can get together for a shoot.  Such was the case here.  While armed with only an Elinchrom Quadra and a 39" Deep Octa I had to make this image.  I didn't have an assistant with me as I was traveling and to keep costs down to my client I knew I could use the tools I had to make this image.  While this image is fine and technically solid I am not completely satisfied with the final image and post processing in Photoshop is in order.

    As you can see, there are details just waiting to be extracted from this fence/railing here that I can easily extract from Camera RAW.

    As you can see above, there is not a tremendous amount of contrast between Steve's clothing and fence/wood behind him.  We actually had to find shelter from the sun as it was surprising ferocious that day in October.  We were standing in a wide open area and I couldn't hold my camera, a Lastolite Tri Grip as my scrim to shade the sun from his head and trying to maneuver the 39" Deep Octa at the same time.  Fortunately, I found this area on the path we were walking that provided some shade and knew we could get the photo here.

    Here you can see the light on, above and below the right ear that will need correcting in Photoshop as to not distract from the image.

    I think the image of Steve is pretty nice and balanced for the time of day and my lighting setup but something needed to be done to separate him from the background and create some contrast in the image or to make it at least a little more appealing.  There a couple of things I instantly notice I will have to remedy in Photoshop like the bright sun spot just above his right ear and the fact he wore two different socks that day and those things are somewhat easy for me to do in Photoshop.

    Didn't notice this until I opened the RAW file... UGH!

    But the real magic comes from opening up this image in Camera RAW in Photoshop knowing I have a tremendous amount of vital information I cannot get from a JPEG file.  One of the things I love about still shooting B&W film is that even after the negative is developed I still have close to 5 stops to work with either way within the image.  I like to think of working in Camera RAW the same way.  I know I have 5 stops of light to play with in post processing and I can create contrast where none seems to exist.  That's one thing I desperately needed to do here.

    Plus 5 Stops of Light allow for lots of freedom and information in processing

    Lots of light to play with here.

    Lastly, I started playing around with my settings in Camera RAW and got the image close to how I wanted the final image to look and then opened it up in Photoshop.  The first things I did were to match his socks and get rid of the bright spot on his head above his right ear.  After that it was a matter of retouching.  I needed to make his skin less red, darken the background a little more, bring out more detail in his clothing, hair and beard and remove the junk from around his feet.  Below is the final image and while I could have done some of this with a JPEG file I know I wouldn't have had as much information available to me without compromising the image quality.
    Indiana Actor Steve Durgarn

    Here is the final image once processed in Camera RAW and Photoshop.

    People can have the spirited debates over cameras, lighting and gear.  I always enjoy reading the zealousness and passion they have for their brands.  But to me there is no debate when shooting anything other than sports and photojournalism images... RAW RULES EVERY TIME! Until next time, SH

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  • Salton Sea Images/Recap

    A couple of months ago I went with my friend, Crafty, to the Salton Sea.  I took my trusty Mamiya RZ67 film camera as I think there are certain locations that are just better shot on film than with a digital camera.  I loaded up the camera with 2 rolls of Ilford Delta Pro 100 B&W film to capture the gritty, earthy and solemn feel of the Salton Sea.  Again, if you don't know the tragic story of the Salton Sea then please check out this page HERE.

    My Mamiya RZ67 film camera

    Don't get me wrong, I think I could have made some great images with my Nikon DSLR but I truly believe that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot replicate the look of B&W film from a digital shot.  Yes, Nik Software's SILVER EFEX PRO 2 is an amazing piece of software that comes pretty damn close to emulating a true B&W film look.  Also, Vincent Versace has some great tips for converting digital images through the ACME Educational website.  But, if you were to ask most photographers I think you will find the vast majority will tell you that nothing you can do in Photoshop can compare to the final image you get from using your favorite B&W film. Crafty and I spent several hours driving around and looking for the best locations for shooting.  One of the first places I wanted to see was Salvation Mountain.  A devoutly religious, Christian man created this "mountain" over 25 years ago as an art project.  He was only going to stay one week but has since made it his home.  Unfortunately, the creator, Leonard Knight, suffers from dementia and has been placed in a long term care facility and is no longer on site.  I was hoping to meet the man who dedicated his life to this project but took solace in knowing we could see the project at least.  There are plans to keep this project alive and hopefully there will be enough paint, sweat and volunteers who can keep his vision alive long after he is gone.  While I am not a deeply religious person, I do respect any artist who has dedicated his/her life to their passion.  Knowing Mr. Knight wasn't around I wanted to create an image that signified his passion and desire.  I asked Crafty to pose for me here, put the Red 25A filter on the lens to completely darken the sky and made the image below (Yes, the starlight/God's light was added in Photoshop as that was what I was thinking about when I made this image).

    Redeemed by Salvation Mountain.

    Another place I wanted to visit is the old Red Hill Marina.  This used to be a thriving marina but now there is nothing left but busted up concrete, rocks, hills and dead Tilapia.  While walking around here I noticed these lone trees sitting in the dried up area that used to be part of the Salton Sea (the sea levels are diminishing year after year).   I found this sad and wanted to make an image of this tree.  This tree and marina reminded me of everything that used to be thriving and vibrant with the sea.  But if you look closely you can still see some large bird nests in the limbs and that actually gave me hope that this beautiful area can, once again, be alive with tourists, homes, people and life (Editorial note: But I am sure if a lot of people start coming back to this area again then I am sure they will figure out a way to screw it up. - Now I am stepping down off soapbox). 🙂

    A lone tree at the Salton Sea.

    When we wrapped up walking around the Red Hill Marina we found this little driving trail leading us to another side of the area.  Being the explorers that we are, we wanted to see what was on the other side.  After following the path we came to (what appeared to be) an abandoned trailer park/RV area.  There was a posted sign stating that no cars were able to drive past this marked area without permission.  So I got out of the car and started walking around yelling for someone or anyone to come out.  After about 15 minutes of walking around and asking if anyone was around we decided to drive past the marked area, park the car and get out and walk toward the Salton Sea to explore possible shoots.  Around 20 minutes into our walk we notice a car coming from the area we had just left.  The vehicle was coming toward us and I knew we were in trouble.  As the old Chevy Blazer approached and stopped, this diminutive man of 70+ years steps out of the vehicle and starts to inquire as to why we were there, what we were doing, didn't we read the signs, etc.  It felt like an interrogation.  However, after about 10 minutes of talking and letting the caretaker of the property (if you saw this area you would scratch your head wondering why there was a "caretaker" of the area) introduced himself as J.J. and started telling us stories about the area, his life as a Marine and his passion for living at the Salton Sea!  He showed us the arsenal he had in the back of his vehicle in case he needed to use it on us.  One of the items he pulled out was a Samurai sword and I knew I had to get a shot.  Here's the image I made of J.J.

    The Salton Sea Samurai

    This man is so proud of this area and where he lives he took Crafty and me around the Sea to show us some of the best locations that only locals know about.  I also promised J.J. that I would print the image I made of him and get it to him.  As a side note, I did return to the area about 10 days later with my lovely wife, Lisa, and handed J.J. a 16x20 print of this shot.  J.J. also pulled out part of his arsenal of firearms and let Crafty take target practice.  You can see that below. Lastly, if you are wondering why there are only three images from my shoot, I have to admit that I discovered a massive light leak with the camera.  The bad part of shooting film is that you don't know about the dreaded "Light Leak" until you develop your negatives.  Now while some people like the light leak effect I don't particularly care for it.  I had to trash many of the images because the leak directly affected the area I wanted to have the viewer focus on.  But the leak has since been repaired and I am looking forward to going back to the Salton Sea for more images.  In case you don't know what a light leak is then here is an example.

    More to come,


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  • Now this is how to shoot wedding announcements!

    Here's something I never thought I would create that would end up as a wedding announcement.  If you know me, you know I don't shoot weddings but have the utmost respect for those who do.  This post is about creating something, knowing your clients and being able to adapt to situations that present themselves on location.  It's also about creating a rapport with your client's and earning their trust so you can get creative and make something memorable. While on my trip to NorCal to do some shooting for a winery and a new clothing designer, I contacted an old friend and someone I have worked with before to see if she would want to work together again.  Her name is Amanda Craven and I love working with her.  Sometimes you find those models who are willing to do whatever needed and have some fun working together.  When I have worked with Amanda in the past, we have just started shooting and before we both knew it several hours had passed and we walk away with some great images.  What I also like about Amanda is that I can throw several ideas her way and she is amenable to almost anything I suggest.  In fact, here's an image I created with Amanda a couple of years ago.

    This image was created in 2010 with the wonderful Amanda Craven in my studio in Northern California.

    This image is a composite.  I shot her in a studio and then placed her onto this background image I had, changed the lighting around a bit and made an image of an otherwise pleasant, sweet person into a menacing, pouncing monster wearing shorts and a shiny white shirt.  The idea behind the shot was to put someone who looks harmless into a position of power and fear.  Amanda is a sweet, nice, honest and sincere person and I thought having her in this pose/image is a complete opposite take on her (as I know her - some people may think this is spot on.) When I revisited her on this particular trip we wanted to do something that Amanda normally doesn't shoot.  Amanda is a beautiful person who has a lot of sexy images (did I mention she has A LOT of sexy images of herself) and I wanted to make some images that show the nice, sweet and interesting Amanda I have been able to get to know.  With that in mind we created some different and thoughtful images of Amanda like this one below. And, another image of here like this one here as well. But, after a while I realized that we have taken this image/look as far as we could go and I wanted something more interesting for her.  With her fiancee´present and at this great location, I thought it would be fun to get her fiancee´, Mark Davis, into the mix.  While looking around I noticed that Mark could hide in the weeds while Amanda stood on the rocks.  BTW, I loved these rocks and wanted to incorporate them into as many shots as possible.  While they are pretty to look at they are treacherous to stand on and I applaud Amanda for posing on these rocks in heels and barefoot.  So we had the water, rocks, sky and weeds and I thought this would be a great place to make a creepy image with Mark hiding in the weeds.  Once I had the idea I started to assemble the lights and position them around to get the shot.   Here's the final image... I used three lights on this shoot.  One was placed behind Amanda (camera right), the second was placed camera left to illuminate Amanda's face and Mark's right side.  The last light had a grid on it and was placed in the weeds and pointed directly back at Mark's face, chest and hand.  The lights and modifiers used are as follows:
    • 2 Elinchrom RX/AS 1100  (Full Power)
    • 1 Elinchrom Quadra 400 (Full Power)
    • 2 Paul C. Buff PLM White Shoot Through Umbrellas
    • 1 Elinchrom 8" Reflector with 30˚Grid
    They loved this final image and are considering using it for their wedding announcements.  Again, this is why I love working with Amanda and think these will make the most entertaining and memorable wedding announcements.

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  • 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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