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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

From the Low Desert to the High Desert

Mar 15

In Travels at 9:11am


Rick, Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Dockworker, Dubai.

That was the week that was, surely. No blog post last week. Anything I might have written would have been just as incoherent as my schedule. I never plan it this way. Only an idiot would actually plan it this way. Hmmmm…….

But I had a bunch of stuff just box car up last week and bump into each other, mostly in the air, in the middle of some time zone my body and my noodle was completely unaware of. But have been shooting a lot in between my travels, and pretty happy with a few things. Up top, the formidable Rick is shot with an overhead Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox, and a Ray Flash ring light fill. The fellow on the docks was very simple, straightforward–Lastolite Tri-grip diffuser and an SB900. 50mm lens at 1.4.




Had a blast at GPP in Dubai, and was once again able to get together with the extraordinarily talented faculty that gathers there every year.  At the end of the week, one highlight was a shoot out with David Hobby, Zack Arias, and JoeyL. I was appointed moderator, kibitzer, and all around pest. It was all in good fun, but, as I pointed out to the audience, if they read between the lines, what they saw in with David and Zack were two extraordinary photogs working out a problem and coming up with a good picture in a matter of minutes. Hopefully folks noticed how DH built his picture and his exposure scenario piece by piece, and how Zack meticulously directed his subjects. Very cool. Drew and I hadda boogie to the airport, so we missed JoeyL, and his Polaroid performance.

Then zapped straight through to Santa Fe to hook up with the Mooster, and DLWS. And of course, up top, the famous Rick, keeper of the keys at the former New Mexico state pen. This week, I’ve got my regular lighting class at the Santa Fe Workshops. As I mentioned, have done some fun shooting lately, will be blogging about it during the week.

And, trust me, I haven’t forgotten all the sins! There were just a whole bunch, so here I am, committing the sin of lateness. They’ll be up soon. 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……

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…..

Notes from the Flightline….

Jun 7

In Rants, Travels at 10:46pm

Man it was rough at Kennedy. I mean, it’s never easy at that nexus of sweat, angst, nerves and fatigue nestled near the Brooklyn shoreline. It’s a classic case of way too many of the frayed, obnoxious and demanding being serviced by way too few of the disinterested and disgruntled.

The cafeteria line was really long, made longer by people demanding specialty food alterations that really didn’t have a prayer of making anything that had been baking under glass for several hours in the noxious JFK terminal air taste any better.

One of the guys slinging food behind the counter did a quick, mostly covert move and appeared to get his finger so far up his nose as to indicate there might have been something truly valuable up there, but, ahhh, relief, he turned around and put on gloves. Thank goodness….with the motley and colorful variety of pizzas served there it would be tough to pick out a booger.

I got stuck behind two pleasant ladies who insisted on debating the various tantalizing merits of almost every offering, but then got themselves one slice of cheese pizza to split and moved forward. I was right behind them at the register when they sparked a lively debate with the cashier about getting the pizza/salad combo price and were informed the discount didn’t apply to a piece of plain cheese pie.

It was all cordial and chummy, but it took several minutes to agree to the ala carte pricing. And then! Drumroll please! The search for the wallet begins! Both of these ladies had shoulder bags the size of say, a large turkey. They were both crafted in that puffy, fabric-y style that looked like they were stitched together from the also rans at last year’s county fair quilting contest. Colorful is the kindest word I can find at this writing.

Eventually, the wallets were found, and the aforementioned pizza was bought. Why do women do that? Wait for the cashier to tell them the total and have a hand out before they in turn reach for the dough? I mean, they hadda zip open these bags and begin a rummage that would make the search for the holy frikkin’ grail look as easy as a connect the dots game on a Denny’s placemat.

I would not have put my hand inside one of these bags. The innards were spilling out and looked a bit reminiscent of that plant in Little Shop of Horrors. I was waiting for one of them to belch “Feed me!” in guttural tones. I’m surprised these women had all their fingers.

See, men don’t do that. They belly up to the counter, $20 in hand, and just fork it over. Like Robin Williams says, you get your McBurger and fries, grab your McChange and get the McFuck outta there. Maybe it’s cause we all remember our first illegal beer bought at a bar and we had no idea what it was gonna cost so we had a twenty ready to go so as not to get embarrassed by having to fish out some extra dough on the spot. Dunno. Might be genetic. Might be that chromosome right next to the one that causes Male Refrigerator Blindness.

Back to the ladies. Oh, we’re not done!  They also asked for cokes with lots of ice cause they had just got back from Europe, and you know, “In Europe, they just don’t serve anything with ice! I mean, really! They drink their soda warm! Can you imagine? And you can’t get tap water anywhere, it’s all in bottles, they cost like $6 each! I tell you, we’re glad to be back in America!”

And by golly, we’re glad to have you back…

I got on the plane and was seated next to someone who was part of a group that couldn’t get seats together so they were shouting to each other over the aisles. Pleasant. My neighbor allowed in a loud voice as he probably shouldn’t have just had those 4 beers. It was a swell flight. More tk…..