Color and Light

March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dawnn Declue (right) looks through her orders while Patty Creason (left) whisks past at 63 Diner on Rangeline Wednesday, March 21, 2012. The small 50’s diner was full of people and their orders, but Declue said it can get even busier, “It gets so bad we get people standing in the parking lot.”


Balancing and Filling

March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tianna Bracey points out one of the shirt designs lining the wall at ACME Hot and Fresh T-Shirts to her friends Chantel George and Taylor Robins. The three Missouri journalism students were there getting quotes on t-shirt prices for their new talk show "Verve."


Lighting Diagram

Jubilee of Light

March 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Mike Holder, left, Kalei Holder, center, and Katie Zimolzak don masks at the True/False Film Fest Jubilee at the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts on March 1, 2012. The Holders' law firm sponsored the film "Undefeated," which was showcased that evening.

I’m not going to lie.  I’m a little disappointed with myself on this assignment.  Not only did my photographs not turn out the way I had hoped, but I felt like a nuisance using flash.  I chose to pull my selects from the True/False Film Fest Jubilee last Thursday, which I had been assigned to cover for the Missourian.  I thought, “Perfect! What a fantastic opportunity to get into a lowlight situation for me to test out my flash photography skills!”  My enthusiasm waned quickly after entering the Theatre.  Flash documentary photography…is…hard.  I don’t know if maybe I just got extremely intimidated by the idea of flash, or felt uncomfortable trying to juggle equipment, or awkward in blasting people with light (I was oh so conspicuous), or perhaps all of the above, but I was such a spaz that night running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  At first all of my pictures looked artificial and either blown out or too dark.  The one above is my first select for direct flash.  I was attempting to zoom my flash to create a similar effect to last years’ gala portraits, but it came out a little underexposed.  However, my strobe is in fact the only light hitting them in that picture, so I was proud to have achieved that.  The lighting diagram below shows where I was standing in relation to my subjects and how I had positioned my flash.

I found bounce flashing slightly more successful.  The light looked less artificial and created a subtler effect.  For my select below I had pointed my strobe down and away since we were on the roof of the Missouri Theatre and the only wall close enough to bounce off of was red, as you can see in the background.  This most likely would have created a weird red cast on my subjects.  The hardest part of the assignment, for myself was coordinating the flash and composition at the same time.  Normally I would take as many pictures as I needed to get the shot I was looking for.  However, with flash I didn’t have that option because a) I couldn’t waste my battery life and b) because I didn’t want to permanently blind anyone. Though I guess this will make me a more thoughtful and smarter photographer.

Chris Davis, left, stands off to the side as his wife, Heidi Davis. and Heather Mysenberg adjust their masks on the rooftop of the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, March 1, 2012. The three attended the True/False Film Fest Jubilee which is sponsored by the festival.

I was surprised that evening that many people did not mind the flash.  In fact, I was probably more annoyed by its presence than they were.  This might have been due to the festive atmosphere and the expectation of a media barrage but I honestly expected many more irritated glances than I received.  This just goes to show you can never tell what people are thinking, so don’t underestimate their willingness to put up with you.

Side Note: The last link for the lighting diagram I posted to the blog will take you to the site where I found the tool, however Kevin’s Lighting Diagram Creator seems to have been disabled “due to licensing issues” since I last used it.  My most recent lighting diagrams were created using Don Giannatti’s Lighting Diagram Tool.  You don’t have as many options with it as you did with the last, but you can create and download your diagram straight from his site rather than use photoshop which complicates things.

Food For Thought on Lighting Metal

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

In the U.S. balancing your health and nutrition can be tricky, but with the unveiling of the new Food Plate to replace the classic Pyramid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2011 eating the right portions is easier than ever. While five servings of fruit has traditionally been the standard, doctors now recommend a daily ration of eight or more servings to prevent heart disease.

Well, food finally found its way into my studio work.  For those of you who don’t know me very well, I’m a major foodie (staying true to my West Coast roots).  I’m also interested in health and nutrition, so for this shoot, with the materials I already had, one of the first ideas to pop in my head was mimicking the food pyramid but using only fruits and vegetables.  I really liked the shape of the brioche tins I had at my apartment but thought the fork was necessary to give the illustration more marketing appeal and to show off my use of light a little better than the partially hidden cups.  The lighting set up wasn’t complicated at all and through trial and error managed to find the right placement for my reflectors and soft box light.  I had the soft box shining directly over head and infront to move all shadows to the back and used a silver reflector to the side and a gold reflector to the bottom front to lift some of the shadows and bring out definition in the fork.  A gobo to the back kept the background from turning gray thanks to Peter and his multitasking skills.

So you see, simple!  What was not simple, however, were my props.  Turns out fruit is pretty slippery when you cut it open…especially when you set another metal tin also filled with fruit on top.  Yes, I did practice this at home before shooting in the studio, but Murphy’s law win’s every time (damn you Murphy!).  Stacking five cups of fruit on top of each other turned into a little bit of a fiasco for a while and I was worried we would get the shot at all.  Three times my tasty tower collapsed all over the table, and each time Peter and I rearranged it to make it beautiful again.  Finally, finally we got it steady (I think the grapes were the source of most of our frustration) and were able to make enough frames before we had to leave.  If I had had more time in the studio I would have experimented a little with another gobo to the front to give the metal more dimension, or a light to highlight some of the translucence in the fruit.  Instead, with our remaining two minutes Peter and I thought it would be fun to knock over the tower we had so painstakingly constructed.  The sequence below did not actually happen as you see it, but from the various shots I have recreated for you the behind the scenes frustration of dealing with sticky, slimy falling fruit so you can better appreciate, as Peter and I already do, the finished product.

One final helpful hint.  If you were wondering how I did my lighting diagram check out Kevin Kertz’s Lighting Diagram Tool that you can download for free.  If you’re not as familiar with Photoshop it can be a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will make Advanced Techniques and life in general so much better.

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