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Archive for July, 2009

Island Light…

Jul 13

In Friends, history, On Location, Seminars & Workshops at 5:48am


Had a blast in St. Lucia this week, hanging and shooting at one of the most amazing places I have ever been, the Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain Resorts. I fell in love with the place from the very first time I went there, some 15 years ago. And just this week, during our first annual hot shoe flash lighting workshop, came the news that lots of other folks really love it, too. Travel and Leisure named Jade Mountain the number one resort in the Caribbean, and number three in the world. Anse Chastanet pulled in at number four in the Caribbean.

And here the place was letting us run around with a bunch of cameras and speed lights. Considering it’s the occasional home of celebs, famous football players, and even more famous “girls next door,” all of whom were in attendance last week, we could have been built in, go to paparazzi corps. No need, though. We had great subjects, witness the pic above.

Victor is the best dive buddy you could ever have. He had, by last count, a bit over 27,000 dives. He’s on a first name basis with most of the fish who abound on the Anse Chastanet reefs. He is one of those hardy souls who defies time, and gravity. This portrait was done with a new unit I am pretty batty about, the  Elinchrom Quadra. At 400 watt seconds, it is small and incredibly light (the heads weigh .5 pounds each)  and it can fit onto a big light shaping tool, like the deep Octa. Check out Scott Kelby’s blog for a cool production shot of this pic. Another episode in my ongoing adventure with expensive electronic equipment and large bodies of water.

What was even more special about the week was my wife Annie surprised me by just showing up, unannounced and unexpected. And my dear friends Scott and Kalebra Kelby came down as well. Scott took over the reins for the last afternoon of the class, doing real time Lightroom magic that had everybody jazzed. Scott’s artistry with that program defies belief.

We had thirteen participants, and we cruised through lots of flash stuff…..blending exposure, light shaping tools, hi speed sync, rear curtain, flash and blur, portraiture, you name it. Then we wrapped the week with real time shooting in Soufrieres, the little fishing village a short boat ride from the hotel.


Way cool. Even in this tiny little Carib town, there is the power of the internet, and the reach of Scott Kelby’s voice. We wandered into the local fire department and met a wonderful guy with the improbable but terrific name of Garvey Charlemagne, firefighter, photog, PhotoShop enthusiast, and…reader of Scott’s blog.


Scott walked into Garvey’s firehouse and I thought we were going to have to turn the hoses on him to calm him down. It was just great. They rolled out the red carpet for us, and a bunch of the class had a blast shooting around the house.


Then, on Friday afternoon, it was time for Junior and the flambos. Lighting up the beach at Anse Chastanet is a long held tradition, just a bit longer than the tradition I have of photographing Junior doing it. He is remarkably patient with me, seeing as the first time I shot him firing up flambos was in 1994.


Once again, Junior lit up the beach and the sky for our class. I first did this with him 15 years ago, shooting with a Fujica 617 Panorama camera. Times have changed, and this was done on a D3 with 7 SB900 units, running on manual and triggering off of a Pocket Wizard. No going TTL here. It would have been possible, I think, with a little sleight of hand at camera, but we hadn’t tried PW triggering of manual flash during the week, so we played with that.


Following light in one of the most beautiful places on earth. You know, sometimes, when you don’t have a client or a deadline to worry about, and you haven’t got a wire service editor calling you names, and the gear is working as well as your eyeballs, and the world just plays out in front of your lens in a wonderful way…..being a photog….doesn’t suck…..more tk…..

So This is Like, 347 Speed Lights…..

Jul 9

In On Location, Seminars & Workshops, Travels at 12:12pm


Joe make joke. This is not small flash. This is not a job for small flash. This is the kind of job that makes your speed light start calling those internet 800 numbers that promise, well, enhancement…..

We were in the neighborhood of 30,000 or so watt seconds on this one. This is the LBT, or Large Binocular Telescope, which is the largest ground based telescope in the world. Shooting this observatory was the lynchpin of the telescope story I just shot for Nat Geo’s July issue. It sits atop Mt. Graham in Arizona, at about 12,500 feet of elevation, or just enough elevation to make climbing steel catwalks with a couple large power packs in hand a dizzying experience. Size wise, it is the equivalent of a 22 story building.

Vantage point is from a 175 boom crane, which in the wind at 12,500 feet gives new meaning to shimmy, rattle and roll. The crane operators on the ground were watching the boom pole dance around in the sky and were saying novenas that the wind didn’t pick up and exceed limits. If that happened, they woulda pulled me outta the sky. Bye- bye picture.

What shocked the heck outta me was that we did it in a day. Rob Stephen from San Diego, Dan Bergeron from LA, Drew and myself hauled 40 plus cases of gear up there at dawn, had the crane truck blocked into the side of the hill, staged the lights, tested, clamped the cameras into the basket of the boom, got the position, did a lot of light tweaking over the radio, shot the picture, had dinner, boxed everything up and drove over 100 hairpin turns off the mountain at about 2 am the following morning. Life inside the the yellow border…





Great workshop going here at Anse Chastanet, Jade Mountain in St. Lucia. We are having a ball. The island is so beautiful every turn you make just astounds. Yesterday Claudette posed in spiritual fashion for class in the jungles by Anse Mamin beach. The gang hit the beach and Drew and I got into the pool with the Sylinator. Scott Kelby shows up today to start his Lightroom magic. The class is stoked……

So, We Tied Everything Up at the Workshops…

Jul 6

In Seminars & Workshops at 8:53am


Alright, so I’ve got a bit of an imagination. It usually resides somewhere on the meter between “outright strange” and “he’s lost his marbles.”

I’m also tenacious. Saw this discarded bunch of rope back in January and tried a pic with it that didn’t work very well. Cycled it through my head again for this one. First worked with Nathalia, who was very patient while Veronica, Will and Lynn circled the heavy hemp around her. She did great. I didn’t.


The overhead I used here just doesn’t have enough punch to bring out her smoky eyes, all made up for glam and drama. I used a small softbox, but it ended up not having enough push of light to spark her eyes and face. She’s smokin’. I, you know, pretty much, uh, failed. I’ve gotten a bunch of pix I like over the years just by trying them again. Can’t tell you how many times Bill, my editor at Geographic, has rolled his eyes and checked the budget when I have begged to go back somewhere and try something again.

So Tabia showed up and we talked through this idea. Would she mind being tied up? She was blasé. Not to worry, she indicated. “I’ve been handcuffed to a box spring for a picture.” Okay! This is easy then! It’s great when you have conversations like this on the set.



Faves, and Diagrams…..

Had a couple questions on the wash basin. Okay, here’s what it looked like, available light.


Pretty, right? So first question in my head is how do I not screw this up? But things had to be done. If you’re shooting a still life of the plumbing, you’re good to go. Put a person in there, adjustments have to be made. Witness Andrew.


He’s hatchet lit. Nothing in the eyes. Tried an Ezybox Hotshoe softbox, but no go. Kristen is so close the wall, anything that is not pretty diffuse is gonna cast a shadow. So went with a 3×3 overhead Lastolite panel, moved in close, with two SB900 units through it. Made it just soft enough to have a bit of the existing character. Brightens a bit, but doesn’t slam dunk the scene into being radically different in terms of look and feel. Felt Kristen’s face needed a bit of a spark, so skipped another 900 off the floor, with a reflective silver Lastolite panel laid down. Very weak fill light, but important. Here’s the select, and the diagram.



While on the subject of Kristen…she had amazing symmetry to her face, so we mixed and matched. This is an overhead Elinchrom beauty dish, with a floor skipped SB900 running on manual slave mode, or SU-4. Do this all the time. Big lights, small lights…they work together well.


Aaron by the windows….


Really threw TTL wireless a curve here. Had no idea what would result with 2 SB900s out by the railroad tracks. Worried about triggering them and an interior light. But what was pleasantly surprising about the setup was how much power and clarity was achieved with small flash at a distance of easy 80 feet or so. The shadow pattern on the wall defined itself, even competing with the sun, coming from another angle and hitting the floor. Now, people will say, hey, there’s only one light in nature, the sun, and you can’t have two grid patterns like this. It ain’t natural. Point taken. But I like the two grids. Good graphics, and gives me pause and thought about future experimentation.

Aaron is looking up and into an Exybox Hotshoe softbox. Why the softbox in this iteration? Punches light in a contained way. Doesn’t scatter and spread. Less spread, less interference and softening of the shadows we worked hard to create. See diagram…..


The Light in the Hallway……


Lauren looks quite amazing here. One light, down the hallway. F2 on a 200mm f2 lens. Man, tough to manage sharpness for this. Finally locked it into manual focus and tried to hang in there. Razor thin depth at f2, and of course, they’re moving. In retrospect, a small hot light down the hall would have helped. Small, though. A hot hot light would have changed the exposure pattern, cause wide open I am picking up ambient hallway lighting.

Chancy, but like no depth here. The focus just drops, and the hallway goes from creepy and grungy to just being texture, light and shadow.

This light is a Ranger with a long throw reflector on it, by the way, with a Skyport trigger that navigated all that concrete quite well.

Lauren again—Window, no window?

Lotsa window….


Bit of window….day_5_0344-web

No window….


That’s the great thing about shooting. Reactions are never unanimous, and generally lively. Some folks love the window, some want it gone. Here’s three—big window, little bit of window, no window. You decide…

We’re wrapped…..thanks again to Nikon, Adorama and Bogen. And Joe Ventura, Jeff Snyder, Mark Astmann, Gary Astill, and Kriss Brungrabber. And huge thanks to Aristeo’s Emmanuel Modeling Agency, and Sao, their booking agent, who made everything happen, and sent wonderful talent our way.  Veronica, Nicole and Pia, you guys rock the world of makeup and hair.


Thanks again staff: Lynn, Syl, Drew, Will, Lynda, Andrew, Trevi, Hollie, Mike, Lindsey, Cara, Coby, Geoff, and Tommy.  You were all amazing.  Looking forward to more in the future..

Also, according to Our Assistant Will’s pedometer, during the workshops week, he averaged 4.9 miles/day, the setup day was 11.5 miles, and the total amount of walking for the week was 61.5 miles! wow.

more tk.

Workshops Wrap, Part One…..

Jul 2

In Uncategorized at 11:15pm

First off, many thanks to our sponsors for the workshops, Nikon, Adorama and the Bogen Corporation. Without them, their support, and the stuff they make for us to work with, these don’t happen. Happy and proud to have them with us for the adventure. Also, huge thanks to the staff. Lynn, Drew, Will, Lynda, Andrew, Mike, Holly, Syl, Trevi, and Lindsey. They were uniformly fantastic, and worked like crazy to pull off this series of crazy days. They all have huge amounts of talent in all areas of photography, from flash to Macs, to post, to grip work….you name it. And, most of them were there every day, so the amount of support available to a class of 14 or 15 folks every day was considerable.

And to our hardworking models! Many of them hailed from Emmanuel Modeling Agency, run by the irrepressible Aristeo. They were terrific, patient, and provided tons of beauty and drama in front of our lenses. They were polished and coiffed by Veronica and Nicole, perfectionists in the arts of makeup and hairstyling. More on them tk…..


Alas Nicole our hair stylist had virtually nothing to do when Kent Miller stepped in front of the lens. Kent’s a terrific shooter who, along with his wife Amy  helped out with modeling chores for a couple of days.  The two of them are below, with Kent, as always, finding a different angle.


And Bethany joined us as well. Kent and Amy are lit with a single Elinchrom 2400 ws unit, powered up full, and blasting through the windows. Below, Bethany is lit with a single SB900 out on the loading dock. All, as they say, food for thought.


This is a quickie post, due to fatigue, a glass of Merlot, and a looming 3:30 am pickup. What I’m gonna do is do a real wrap up post, some sketches, and a log of my favorite lighting approaches from the week. A few folks had some questions, so I’ll get after it presently. Write again from my usual office, an aisle seat on a Delta jet…..more tk…..

My Friend Joe Came By…..

Jul 1

In Seminars & Workshops at 10:57am

Up at the workshops the other day, my friend Joe Hodges came by. 27 year veteran of FDNY, and one the most hard working, decent, friendly guys I have ever met. We got to know each other a bit after 911, and since that time I have been a friend of his old house, Ladder 6 Engine 9 in Chinatown–the Dragonfighters. He always just waves me off when I say this, but he’s got a great face for a picture.


I always remember what he said to accompany the Giant Polaroid I shot of him back at 911 time. He could have easily retired back then and taken it easy. Instead, he stayed on. As he said, “Now’s not the time to leave. The older guys have to stick around and show the younger guys the way.”


He’s taking well earned retirement now. Went to his party the other night, and was very surprised and grateful when I got called up by the guys at the house and was given a plaque. I’ve done some photography and some other pretty inconsequential stuff for the house over the years, and it was a very nice thing they did. Trust me, nothing any of us could do would be enough in return for what these guys do for us every day.


Later in the day, we did small flash inside and outside…..3 small flashes here for Bethany…


And then a one light down the hallway treatment for Mariana. Here is where no depth of field is helpful. The Nikkor 200 F2, at F2. Lens is the sharpest thing I’ve ever shot…




more tk…..