September 12th, 2014
Some folks have emailed me asking about my upcoming lighting workshops, and I do have some on my schedule that will focus on lighting. To start next week I will be in Australia speaking and teaching at the Shimmer Photography Festival. My time there will include classes on portraits and action lighting, with lots of time using the new Elinchrom ELC 1000s. In March I will return to Shooting the West to teach some portrait/lighting classes. Then later in March Dave Black, Dave Tejada and myself will teach lighting in Las Vegas for the Mentor Series, including a visit to the Neon Boneyard and Las Vegas showgirls. In April I will be teaching lighting in Arches National Park for American Nature Photography Workshops. This class will focus on photographing rock climbers in the desert. Hope to see you at one of these events!
September 8th, 2014
One of the first tools a photographer uses to modify light is a reflector. They’re simple, inexpensive and create a nice look if used properly (i.e. not to close to your subject!). White and soft gold make sense, these bounce light back onto the subject to reduce contrast and create nice soft fill light. But why use a black sided reflector?
Recently I shot a good friend and incredible model, Jeremiah, on a bright sunny day. We were using available light and diffusing it with overhead silks and reflecting it with soft gold reflectors. Jeremiah switched into some edgy clothing for a new look, and this required different lighting. Remember, use and modify light to match your concept. I could have used a white reflector on the top shot, but this would have evened out the lighting on his face for a soft almost flat look. Wearing a ‘gritty’ coat required gritty lighting…i.e. lighting with more contrast. To achieve more contrast and grit in the image, I placed a black reflector near the right side of Jeremiah’s face. Black subtracts light, and in this case created shadow on the right side of his face. More contrast in the image better matched the gritty look we wanted to achieve.
September 5th, 2014
My friend Bill Donavan at Dangerous Circus Pictures created a cool video behind the scenes of our half pipe shoot in Salida Colorado. I was trying out the new Elinchrom ELC Pro HD 1000 lights, and having a blast shooting off rapid fire bursts. I was so amped up at the end of the shoot, he said tell me what you think about these lights and left the camera rolling. Check out this video, the rapid flash action of the ELC 1000s, and the incredible skating of Shea Donovan.
September 2nd, 2014
I teach a lot of lighting classes, everything from speed lights to big strobes, one light to multiple light setups. Recently I condensed down a lot of technique into three basic, but proven, lighting techniques for Digital Photo Magazine. If you are just starting out, you will really get a lot out of this article. If you are thinking about shooting portraits as part of your photography business, then this article is for you. You can check out the article here.
August 28th, 2014
Okay, if you have been reading this blog, then you should have my book….and if you don’t now is the time to get it at a bargain price. Peachpit is having a labor day sale on their books, including mine; 40 percent off titles using the code at this link. My book covers tons of information including steps to enhance your creativity, workflow, flash technique and shooting the northern lights…to name a few topics. I hope you enjoy it!
August 27th, 2014
Backgrounds can make or break any photograph. And the separation we get from the background is also critical for many photographs, especially portraits. Key to creating separation in a photograph is your choice of aperture and depth of field. Choosing F2.8 with a telephoto will give you a nice blurry background. But the quality of those out of focus elements, known as bokeh, is what really matters. Not all lenses are equal when it comes to bokeh. So what lens has the best bokeh?
My choice is the 85mm 1.4 Nikon. Of course this is a subjective opinion, but there is just something special about the bokeh created shooting the 85mm at wide open apertures. The image at top was shot using this lens at F2.2 at 1/30. The slow shutter speed ensured the background burned into the shot, and the shallow 85mm aperture created the soft silky bokeh. The background helps set the scene and mood of the shot, and the tack sharp subject pops off the background. I have other lenses that create pleasing bokeh too like the 70-200 F2.8, but my choice is the 85mm.
Here is a behind the scenes shot of our set up with one of the models we shot (thanks Casey and Jeremiah!). We used 4 lights for this shot. One overhead Elinchrom ELC1000 shot through a small deep Rotalux octabox to illuminate the model from the front. Next, two Rotalux strip banks with grids were used to add accent light to the sides of the model (the grids kept the light from spiling into other parts of the scene). We used two Elinchrom Quadras for this job. And last, an Elinchrom Quadra shot through a 30 degree grid added accent light to the model’s hair.
August 25th, 2014
I’m always looking for new tricks and techniques to improve my photography. Maybe it is new software to use in post production, a new lens to get the ultimate landscape or just doing something different with a familiar subject. Recently I have been experimenting with a new element in my portraits….motion. Adding moving elements, but keeping the subject still, creates different moods and concepts. Sometimes moving elements create tension and drama, other times mystery and suspense. Adding smoke to film noir creates mystery. Adding water adds drama.
These two portraits are good examples. Jeremiah, my model, is the best…he is game for anything, and has lots of creative ideas of his own. And he also is multi-talented, check out his book. For the first shot at top I had Jeremiah stand on our driveway right below the roof of our house. My wife climbed onto the roof, and poured a big bucket of water onto Jeremiah’s head…since it was already raining outside, he didn’t mind getting a little more wet.
For this image I had two assistants stand on either side of him, and spray him with hoses. But there is one important aspect of this shot. I was shooting my new Elinchrom ELC 1000s at 8 frames a second. This allowed me to capture the water and spray at just the right time before Jeremiah was soaked. Shooting the ELCs around 500 watts gives a flash duration of 1/5000, plenty fast enough to freeze the droplets. Next time you are trying to liven up a portrait, try adding motion, you might be surprised at the results.
August 21st, 2014
I have continued to shoot with the new Elinchrom ELC 1000s, and I just can’t stop shooting these bad boys. Why? The need for speed, or in this case, firing off 500 watt pops at 8 frames a second.
Recently I worked with an incredible rider (thanks Chance!) who caught enough air to make me dizzy. I mean every jump and this guy is running into bird migration patterns. Our crew of Cree, Casey and myself had a blast shooting Chance as he did trick after trick. Here is a short video of the shoot…check out how fast those lights are shooting.
I have gotten some questions on powering these lights in remote locations. Since they are AC units, you need to bring a generator on your shoot. But not just any generator. These lights suck power to keep up with their lightning fast recycle times (up to 20 flashes per second!), so I recommend a 2000 watt generator or bigger. I’m using a Honda 2000 watt generator right now. We shot two lights off it on this shoot, and it worked like a charm. Can’t wait to try some creative portraits using these new lights.
August 19th, 2014
News flash…I’m arriving in Australia on Sept. 15! Very excited to be the ‘artist in residence’ at the Shimmer Photography Festival. I’ll be doing a number of presentations during my stay, including teaching the latest on Hypersync using lightning fast Sandisk cards and the incredible Elinchrom ELC 1000s for some stunning action photography. I love these events, so much collaboration and inspiration from everyone gathered to talk photography! I’m honored to be invited, and plan to share my latest work and teach some power-packed classes. Stop by if you can, and I expect to see my Aussie friends (you know who you are!) to show me around down under. Thanks to all my sponsors, and especially Samantha Oster for making this happen!
August 15th, 2014
If you have read my earlier posts, you know I love the Df. I have been using this camera extensively this year from humid jungles in Peru to chilly glaciers in Alaska. I love the files, retro styling, lightweight, quiet shutter and incredible ISO performance. I just shot over 4000 images on a big assignment, and the Df was the only camera I used.
In talking with Nikon last spring, a great idea emerged; how about combining two classics, historic Route 66 and the Df. Uh, where do I sign up for this job!? Soon after this I found myself logging over 2000 miles and shooting thousands of images through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Just me, my Df, a few lenses and a couple speedlights. I haven’t traveled this light on a job in years, and it was very liberating. Just explore the highway, meet the colorful people along the way, and chase the light. Nikon just posted the results of my trip at Learn and Explore on their website.
This assignment had some unexpected results. It had been a long time that I shot an assignment without assistants, lots of gear and detailed production. On Route 66 I just roamed, followed the highway and watched the light stretch across sandy hills. I’d sit in diners and listen to old timers talk about change, the weather and local gossip. I ate some of the best pie I’ve ever eaten. I watched ravens soar through indigo skies in the Painted Desert. Time slowed down for me on this assignment. I really got a chance to explore my own photography, and remember why I like creating images. Route 66 used to represent freedom and hope to many travelers back in the day. For me, this classic highway led me back to my journalistic roots, and the simple joy of clicking the shutter at just the right moment.