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Archive for June, 2009

Windows and Doors in Dobbs….

Jun 30

In Seminars & Workshops at 8:38am


You never know how things go, right? My friend Deb at Corey Glass in Hastings has been doing my framing for 15 years. She’s always got a good sense of color and dimension when it comes to hanging something on the wall, probably because she’s a really good painter. She has done of couple of paintings of Lauren, her stepdaughter, over the years that are really beautiful, so I mentioned to her that hey, you know, if Lauren’s around, maybe she could come and pose for the workshops? Lucky us. The scene on the dilapidated sofa is created by one Ranger battery unit, literally placed up high on a bridge outside the building, and being driven by a skyport radio trigger. It has a half CTO on it, hence the warm feel. Lauren looks up towards the light, and we were done.


For Bethany, we did an exercise in controlling exposure inside and outside with EV at the camera, and TTL control of SB900 units. Never left the camera for this. Just placed the lights, and we were able to wrangle the scene by simply plus-ing and minus-ing the amounts of flash relative to the ambient light level. day_5_0356-web1


So much for the window. Down at the loading dock, Phil, who’s got one of the great faces of all time, came in and posed up against a garage door. We simply blasted one light at him from about 60 or so feet away. Came through plastic draping, and had nice, natural fall off. Then we flipped it up and had Phil menacing Kyra. One light in the doorway…more tk…..

Rub A Dub Dub in Dobbs….

Jun 29

In Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 11:09am


We really gave small flashes a run for their money at the one day workshops over the weekend. Kristen showed up and it seemed like a good idea to put her in this wash basin. It was a difficult setup , and at the end, we were totally drained. (I’m goin’ straight to hell for that one.)

Actually it was easy. The existing light pattern was already pleasing. All we had to do was supplement light, gently, which is where TTL really shines. There are two SB900 units overhead, through a 3×3 Lastolite panel, and another, very low power, bounced off a silver reflector on the floor. Add Kristin, with her bubbly (I deserve a beating now) presence in front of the lens, and we were done. Clean light. Ouch.



Onto more water sports. Nathalia in the same location, this time with a Elinchrom Ranger ring flash. Ring flashes are cool, in small doses. Considering it is used mostly by orthodontists, it is a light with specific intent, and should be used sparingly, and carefully. Keep it beam onto your subject, and make those hard shadows it produces disappear exactly behind them.


Then Aaron, who is just an amazing physical presence, stepped in front the lens. We are on the second floor of this building, not a particularly conducive height to lighting from the outside, but I had a notion we could push two SB900 units to the max, so we put a hi roller out there by the railroad tracks, about 50 or 60 feet from the windows. Hi rollers, or hi-boys, or hi-hi’s, go to 24 or so feet. Seemed mildy demented to put two of these tiny flashes on the end of a stick that can support a big ass movie light, but in the interest of ongoing experimentation, it was potentially worth the effort.


Of course, some issues presented. Aaron’s main light is an EzyBox Hot Shoe soft box, camera left, boomed up and away from him. We had to trigger that interior light along with the exterior set of 900’s. Hmmmm….. Took two SC-29 cables and hooked them together, and ran it to another 900 on a stand, camera right, out of frame. That way, the TTL signal raked across the soft box light and continued outside to the pair on the hi-boy. TTL control of lights inside and out. Cool. Not as cool as Aaron, but cool enough for the geek behind the camera. (Uh, that would be me.)

Other things had to get solved, too. See the shadow, camera right, on the floor. That’s a Lastolite 3×3, with an opaque reflector on it. Had to block the sunlight that was hitting Aaron. A Tri-grip did the job, but left a curved shadow on the floor. Forensic lightologists would immediately see this as the footprint of the photographer. “Lookee here, Sam, a curved shadow in the shape of a Tri-grip! Yep, and that shadow’s not two hours old. We’ll catch ‘im. Carrying all that gear, that sumbitch can’t get far on foot.” Spit tobacco juice on the floor.

So we went with the imperfect solution of the 3×3 cause it is rectilinear, and fits to a degree the grid pattern coming from the real sun that is hitting the floor. There’s also the touch of it on the far right wall. But it wasn’t gonna stop me from shooting this picture, one of my favorites of late. And, lighting this with 3 SB900 units, at these distances and scale….well, surprising just ain’t the word.

I also knew we were going here….


Moved the soft box down and to the left, and had Aaron basically look at it. But, you know one of the great things about working with Aaron? He shows up with Valarie, his girlfriend.


Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is a plus 2 EV smile. Valarie just walks in and lights up a room. She and Aaron are among the sweetest, most easy going and physically gifted people I have ever met. We were just jazzed by their presence on the set. Got me jumping, trying to show Nathalia how to get some hang time, which was perfectly ridiculous. Will is there on the set, aiming a cannon of a wind machine at us…..


Having fun in Dobbs.  More tk.

Vanessa, Times Two…

Jun 25

In Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 2:41pm


Days 2 and 3 in Dobbs. Still playing with that mask I got in Venice, and I promise to stop soon. It just seems to me there are certain faces that belong on stage, or perhaps in another century. Vanessa has one of those. A magnificent dancer, we have worked together now over 4 years. She has danced, posed, gone on pointe, been tied up with ribbons like a marionette, had SB900 speed lights attached to curlers in her hair…..geez, she is patient with me. She’s even flown on the set occasionally, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a camera in my hands.


Yesterday I asked her to be two people, masked and unmasked. Nikon D3, two SB900 units into matching (well, almost matching) Ezybox Hot Shoe soft boxes. Gary Astill, the lead designer for Lastolite, has flown over from England to be here, watch us work, get field feedback and ideas.

Speaking of faces, one that belongs right here, right now, is my bud Kent Miller. We’ve known each other for years, and I shot his wedding to his wonderful wife,  Amy. I always ask him, “How’d you end up with Amy, dude?” He counters. “How’d you end up with Annie, bozo?” We both shrug and accept life’s wonderful mysteries.


He came by the workshop, and we lit him with two Tri-grip diffusers, each with an SB900 running through it. Sent different power levels to both from the commander at the camera. Converted to B&W with NIK filters. (Amazing! Mongo push slider good! Though he still remain pawn in game of life.)


We did some high key, kinda commercial looking stuff with Jillian….


Low key with Mariana….dobbs_09_workshops_day_3_0228

Simple, soft lighting for Nathalia……dobbs_09_workshops_day_3_0161

The scene in the studio, and on the loading dock, courtesy of Jeff Snyder at Adorama……



And Kent ended us with a leap…doubled up CTO warm gels, leaving him warm, while the stormy Northeast goes drab and blue (been nothing else lately around here) with the D3 programmed to incandescent white balance, B4, which is really, really blue. The loading dock itself was the light source, as we just draped an old 12′ silk on the garage door with A clamps.


We’re having fun up in Dobbs….again, a big thanks to our sponsors….Nikon, Adorama, Bogen….tip of the hat from all of us. More tk…..

They’re Back….

Jun 23

In Seminars & Workshops at 10:33am

Yep, we are back at that hulk of a building hard by the Hudson River, which for a time was my studio, and for a shorter time, was my home. The one day lighting workshops are up and running again, and of course, the inimitable Andrew, he with the heart tattooed on his chest, is back helping us out…..


This was 4 SB900 Speed Lights. Used a combo of small flash tools to produce a look reminiscent of what I saw through the lens in ambient light conditions. Lemme s’plain…. Andrew was standing there with his jarhead haircut, backlit by window light that was doing highlight skips off his temples. Unlike Clint Eastwood, who has a pulsing vein in the middle of his forehead, Andrew has one just by the left side of his forehead. Saw this, made a kind of soft, flat ambient light pic of the scene, and then thought, we could sharpen this up with some flash, albeit small flash, placed in a way that would mimic the existing light pattern.

So, the temple lights were produced by two speed lights, both outfitted with Lumiquest Mini Soft Box 3.0. Played with those for a bit, and then stripped them off and went with hard light produced by just the flashes, both zoomed to 200mm. The hard, shadowy face light was another SB900 zoomed to 200, and hand held high and in front of Andrew’s face. The chest light was another zoomed 900, this one with a tight Honl grid spot. Four lights, wireless TTL, and Andrew’s lookin’ like a bad man. Which he distinctly is not. Good guy, good shooter, great on a Mac (learned all his computer stuff from me) and a tremendous help to any and all at the workshops.

Moving on…..Jasmine came back! Again! Is there anybody out there as sweet, sultry and talented as she in front of the lens? Hailing from Emmanuel Models in NY, she gets in front of the lens and just rules. She mentioned to me she needed kind of high key, fun stuff for her book, so we conjured the white set. This is my first experience shooting on one of the new vinyl drops made by Lastolite and marketed here in the US by Bogen. Great stuff. Walk all day on it, takes a beating, and has a real rich, matte white feel when you light it. We switched up for this to big flash–real big flash–meaning the Elinchrom Octa. The big fella took over the set, and coupled with a floor bounce directly under it, coming from a Ranger pack, it gave the white on white Jasmine just the right lighting pick me up. Soft light, but general (as opposed to the hard spotlights for Andrew, which meant he could barely move an inch) this broad, beautiful light allowed Jasmine to be Jasmine, and she could go ahead and conjure all the beautiful moving geometry she always does when a lens is pointed her direction.



Later that day, in the last 5 minutes or so of the workshop, we collaborated on an impromptu set. Take one battered old room on the ground floor, mix in a Ranger pack with 1/2 cut of CTO, outside the windows near the train tracks, with a long throw reflector. Throw in an Elinchrom Skyport for good measure so you can run the pack and control the power rating from camera. Hook all that up with Will running a wind machine, and let Jasmine start moving, and, I think this is the type of shoot that the term “shooting fish in a barrel” was coined to describe. You cannot miss. Shot on D3, Lexar media, 70-200 lens, auto white balance, auto focus, cursor smack on her face.


Back to the white set. Not everybody’s got an Octa, so we stripped all of that out, and went back to basics with 2 SB900 units blasting on TTL through a hand held Tri-grip diffuser. Nothing else. Lauren’s never really modeled, but she has a wonderful, commanding presence in pictures. Simple, soft, done.


Onto the basement. Had this nutty idea. Gelled lights blasting down hallways. Beauty dish overhead. Ranger pack. Floor bounce off a gold Tri-grip from an SB900 in SU-4 mode (manual optical trigger). Jaira was our subject, and the up front light combo looked like it was meant with her in mind.


Lighting all day. Small flash, big flash. An even bigger thank you to our sponsors–Nikon, Adorama and Bogen. Jeff Snyder was up from Adorama, shooting and dispensing wisdom. Mark Astmann, the William Holden of flash lighting, was there as well, and he was able to bring and demo the new Elinchorm Ranger Quadra.

more tk.

Bedsheet Thief Strikes Yet Again, This Time In Venice….

Jun 15

In On Location, Seminars & Workshops at 8:21am

In yet another case of bedsheets disappearing from hotels, the suspected perpetrator of these thefts struck again, operating in unusually brazen fashion in front of 5 or 6 horrified onlookers in Venice’s historic San Marco Plaza. Going from hard light to soft light, he allegedly pulled the sheet from his equipment bag with a flourish, uttering what has become the bandit’s signature location phrase….”Let me just whip this out.”


Venice is a beautiful city. Amazing. It has a patina and character that is all its own, which might stem from the fact it is under water a great deal of the time. The Cafe Florian is undoubtedly one of the most historically significant places in the ville, and what makes it truly wonderful is that you can plop yourself smack dab in the middle of its beauty and character for the price of a cup of coffee. An expensive cup of coffee, to be sure, but still, one of the red velvet chairs in the joint can be yours’ for a cuppa joe. Anybody who has had the dubious privilege of spending 5 bucks in a Starbucks for a triple vente soy bean no foam iced latte’ knows that it don’t come with a red velvet chair and wall art dating back to 1720.

I’ve been thinking about shooting here ever since I first came to Venice 3 years ago. It’s just an amazing place, dripping with history and ornate detail. Given the way my noodle often operates, I was sitting in there and it crossed my mind that it would be an interesting portrait venue for maybe, I don’t know, lemme guess, a ballerina! Mongo like!


The opportunity here came about via the good graces of Marco Tortato, of Manfrotto, makers of all things to hang lights and cameras from. His wife, Sylvia, handles public relations for the cafe, and I was allowed to shoot there in the early morning, before any caffeine seeking crowds descended. Not only did Marco facilitate the shoot, he worked his magic all week with our VSP class, pulling and hauling gear, and providing us with C-stands, Manfrotto air cushion light stands, Justin Clamps, Tri-flashes, Lastolite tri-grips for diffusion and reflection….(Hmmm…..diffusion and reflection. Sounds like that should be a desk at the state department. “Department of Diffusion and Reflection, may I help you?)….

I digress. Anyway, our class was kitted out admirably with the gracious assistance of Marco and Manfrotto. We toodled all over various water bound locales, even shooting early am in San Marco……


The above is one SB900, zoomed to 200mm, and placed outside the columns on one of those little floor stands that come with the unit. Full cut of CTO. 70-200mm lens on the camera, and an SU800 linked to the hot shoe via 2 SC29 cords, firing just to the left of the columns. The light is maybe 40-50 feet away from the CLS trigger. Kinda set this up for the class, and everybody got a chance that morning to work with light and wonderful dancers. Thanks to Beatrice, Barbara, and Celeste who arose earlier than any other ballerinas in recorded history to make this shoot happen for all of us.


Shooting inside the cafe, the setup was a bit different. Gelled all the lights warm, and just let them rock at a 200mm zoom from about 20 or so feet from the glass. No diffusion, just hard, warm light.


That combo produced a slashing, shadowy light, and it pushed the color button pretty hard. Eventually I put a 4th SB900 in there, Justin clamped to an existing stand, and just banged that down into the ground, hoping a little bounce light might grace the ceiling, which was equally reflective and gaudy as the walls. Had a traditional Venetian mask on hand, which Beatrice graciously wore for a few frames.


Enter the bedsheet. We clipped it up with a couple of plastic A clamps brought by Frank Keller, who attended the workshop, and is on the very beginnings of an intersting photographic path. That big swatch of diffusion softened the light and filled the whole room with detail embracing, easy going photons.



As they say, a face in a place…..


Up early and off to the airport. Commercial job this week. Drew’s been in Nashville shooting the lollapalooza, or bananarama…something like that. It’s a music festival. As you saw last week, he’s a good music shooter who always manages to talk his way on stage somehow. He’ll pick me up at the airport. Had no choice but to get up early. Nigel’s been getting bigger. I think he’s about 21 pounds now. That boy is hungry all the time. He jumped on the bed about 3:30, and you can’t sleep through that. It’s like somebody just dropped a bowling ball on your pillow. More tk….