Berlin in Temecula

Last Friday I had the chance to photograph a concert by the famed 70’s-80’s group Berlin. If you’ve seen the movie Top Gun then you know the song that (I think) they are most famous for, “Take My Breath Away”.

DSC_0579  Well they sure did take my breath away. It was a really awesome concert!  Enjoy a few shots from the evening and if you want to check out the full gallery click here.

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A special thanks to Wiens Family Cellars for giving me this opportunity; to the Forty Nineteens for being such a wonderful support act; to sponsors such as Paradise of Temecula and Golden Crown Productions for making it all possible!

Finally, let us not forget what we were really there for – to support the charity Hospice of the Valleys.  It was a successful evening of entertainment!

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Now… where is my Top Gun DVD!!!

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I love Night Time Wedding Shots!

There is something so glamorous and slightly mysterious about night time wedding pictures. There are a couple of challenges in getting it done right. The first is inter-personal. You usually have to extract the couple from the dance floor in the heat of the reception frenzy. That can be fun!!DSC_6555

The second is technical. Balancing your artificial lights with the ambient light takes work, practice, and experience. The results can be so worthwhile though! What do you think?

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Choosing a Camera

Just recently I was in the market for a new camera. Our little family are going on vacation to Europe soon and I did not want to bring the trusty Nikon with it’s panoply of lenses, speedlights, memory cards, etc. The total weight is somewhere the other side of a neutron star and it is so uncomfortable and restricting that 9 times out of 10 you’ll end up leaving the whole lot back in the hotel room.

I did still have a few requirements for a walkin’ around camera. Interchangeable lens, shooting in program auto mode as well as manual and aperture priority mode. A few other “like to have” items filled out the wish list so off I went to check out what was available.

Oh my! I fairly quickly started to whittle the list down. Several likely looking options from Nikon, Canon (yes I even looked on the dark side lol), Leica etc were dismissed because of cost. So I start looking at Sony and Samsung, as well as some cheaper options from Nikon.

It became apparent fairly quickly that mirrorless was the way to go. Also at that point I insisted on a viewfinder. I just cannot see how anyone can compose properly using the lcd screen and holding the camera at arms length. Perhaps on a tripod, yes. Hand held in front of the Eiffel Tower… not so much!

By now I was scouring web sites and comparing features as only a photographer can. Checking review sites, weighing options….

Finally I ended up with the Sony NEX-6. Mirrorless, electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens and an APS-C sized sensor. It has a 10mm-50mm lens and while this kit lens is nothing spectacular more research led me to the Sony store.

And there I found the gorgeous 50mm Planar T F1.4 Zeiss lens. This was pared to a Sony Alpha 7R full frame camera. Oh boy. I was shocked at just how good this tiny camera felt in my hands. The camera oozed quality through its all metal construction. I should not have to tell you that the lens is just optical butter…and bacon! Just gorgeous!!! At $1,500 not too bad if you say it quickly!

There is a fully range of lenses and accessories for these cameras and I have to say that I am seriously considering making a swap to Sony in the near-ish future. The quality of image from these small cameras is amazing and the size means that you can get into places that you’d struggle to with a full frame full sized dslr. As a veteran of well over 20 years using Nikons this is not something I would undertake lightly but….. I’ll keep you posted!

Pop-Up Studio

It’s been a while and it’s been a busy summer for us. One of the things we have been working on (aside from the new web site, check it out at www.museandcreator.com) is a “Pop-Up Studio” concept. Basically we hijack (well actually sub-lease, but hijack is more dramatic, right?) a space and set up an entire studio in it.

So if you head for the Burn at the Barre studios in Old Town Temecula (full address below) you book a 1 hour slot for your portraits in a real-as-can-be studio environment complete with strobes, backgrounds, the whole nine yard!

Take a look at some of the fun stuff we got up to at the last Pop-Up event!

Question Time!

First may I take the chance to wish everyone a very Happy New Year

No, this is not a discussion about the British political talk show, my question to you as photographers is what fashion company is your ‘guilty pleasure’? I mean, which company’s advertising shots makes you go all weak at the knees and a little drool-ish?

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Guess by Marciano
Models: Evandro Soldati & Heide Lindgren
Photographer: Alix Malka

Yep, I confess that for me it’s Guess (actually there are at least two as I’m also very excited by what Bottega Veneta get up to!)

Why do I get all misty eyed about Guess? Well I guess that it is the fact that they still hold on to shooting monochrome. I am also smitten by the 50’s Italian look that the generate with such ease.

They also do color and they do it so very well. I love the high contrast look and the super-saturated colors, emphasizing blues. Yep, much love for Guess here so if you want to experiment and throw an ad campaign in the direction of a young (humm actually not so young) Temecula photographer, please give me a call!

Build your own lighting and other stuff!

The LEDs Lighting Project

A while ago I was chatting with a colleague and he showed me a web site of a guy who had built his own led lighting array. Given the advantages of continuous lighting, especially as more DSLR’s have pro video capability, it was worth taking a look and that is what did. It did take me a while though…

Now to build an led light panel you need…. LEDs! I checked out amazon.com and found a 5 meter (16.4 feet) reel of ‘warm’ white LEDs for a ridiculous price. Here is the link warm white LEDs

So that was the LEDs taken care of, I know they are not daylight balanced and I found that daylight LEDs did appear to be a lot more expensive. Given that I always shoot raw I knew I could white balance in post.

Next was what to put them in. I have an electronics store nearby so I went browsing their shelves and found a small metal project box, something like this project box. I think mine was a little cheaper though, wink!!

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I found a deal on Amazon where you’d get the LEDs and a power adapter for a very reasonable price and then I had to get a soldering iron, wire, and solder.

Yep, you have to do some delicate soldering to get this thing to work. In my past, my WAAAAAY back past I used to ‘do’ electronics but its probably been at least 25 years since I soldered anything. However, it’s like riding a bike, right?

Well, I’d got all the bits assembled but with one thing and another, and summer, I really didn’t get around to this project for a few months. The parts were kicking around on my desk and it was getting embarrassing. Something had to give! Last weekend I had finally had enough and got to work.

The nice thing about these LEDs is that they are self adhesive so sticking them in the box was a breeze. I also got some black spray paint and painted the outside of the box black and the inside silver to reflect as much light as possible. I also had to drill a hole in the side of the box to accommodate that power lead. Now it was a case of sticking down strips of LEDs. You can easily cut the reel into a minimum of 3 LEDs. I found that I could use strips of 6 comfortably in the box and that 8 strips would fit giving 48 LEDs total, plenty of light!

The strips have tiny solder pads for the positive and negative terminals and I got the thinnest wire I could find but it is REALLY fiddly in there! A girls tiny hands would have been immensely useful instead of my great big mitts! However….

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This was the initial progress! Looking okay so far, right? Another 45 mins or so… Oh, gotta tell you that drinking a lot of strong coffee while doing this project was NOT the right thing to do. Surprising how your hands bounce around when you’re trying to be cool and collected! Anyway, 45 mins later…

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I know this picture is a bit jumpy, blame the coffee. I think my iPhone was struggling to figure out how to expose that shot. Also I think it was sulking about the iPhone 5 release!

So there you have it! These things cost at least $90 and up so I figure I built this for about $35 and have enough LEDs left for at least another one.

I’ve tested the panel and so far it works great. I’ve run it for several hours and it barely gets warm. I deliberately chose a metal case to act as a heat sink, just in case, but maybe a plastic case would have been fine. However metal should last longer!

Other Ideas
I intended this to be used as an ‘accent’ light that I could throw into a scene somewhere to light a foreground or background interest. To use it as a light you’d need to add either a hotshoe or lighting stand adapter to the box. Buying a defunct strobe and cutting the hotshoe adapter off to screw or glue to the bottom of the project box would work, same with a light stand adapter. I think I might need a drill stand to attempt that.

Also I am thinking of a completely self contained version, using two project boxes screwed together with the second containing a battery pack, that would be cool!

Also adding some kind of frosted diffuser to the front would be nice if I were to use this as a primary lighting source for portraiture. The fact that there are 48 light sources spread over a 4 inch by 6 inch area means that it does not behave like a contrasty point light source which is good!

I would apply a layer of varnish or protection to the outside as we’ll as I suspect the paint is going to scuff up a bit!

The Other Stuff

I’m very happy to announce that I’m going to be attending superstar wedding photographer Jasmine Star’s November workshop in Irvine, CA.

I am VERY much looking forward to it, of course there will be extensive reporting in my Nov 11th blog post. Jasmine, I have many questions! 🙂

Relocation

All being well in three weeks my wife and I will have the keys to our new house. It really is new, it’s been under construction since May of this year and we’ve monitored every inch of the construction! When we move in ill post a little montage of the whole process. It’s been fascinating to watch!

It will also open up a few more interesting possibilities photo-wise for me! I have some more construction projects I want to tackle for my own personal work (hint, distressed copper sheeting and acrylics anyone?).

Now, off to Triple Scoop Music to pick out my prize music all thanks to Tamara Lackey and my terrifying dance performance at Photoshop World. Tamara, I do hope the nightmares have stopped by now? 🙂 Thanks Roy!

Finally, finally, in the next two months (don’t hold me to that, it could be three) I intend to offer a custom framing service. It’s something I have always wanted to do and it’ll mean I can produce as many funky sized prints as I want!!

Shooting Heads

I love shooting portraits or ‘head shots’. i REALLY love, love, love shooting portraits! I guess this is one reason why I love the work of Richard Avedon, especially his work from the 50’s. I think I’ve always loved to shoot ‘heads’ but it took me about 10-15 years to realize it. I think you get the message, right? Lol!

To me there is something very pure about shooting portraits in a studio environment. There is you, the camera and your subject. There is so little ‘in the way’ allowing you to access the the heart ‘n’ soul of whoever it is you’re shooting.

I’m not going to spend much time on technique in this weeks blog. You can find do much info out there that my additions would likely be repetitive and boring! Then again….

Whenever I’m shooting portraits I always start with the eyes and when I say that I mean that as I ‘construct’ a shot I’ll start with the eyes. I think this is influenced by my fashion background, but who knows….. Or cares! Lol.

When shooting ladies and if at all possible, I’ll try to book a makeup artist. It is rarely possible to do this however so I will work with my clients on what ‘look’ they a seeking. One great trick if you’ve not got access to a makeup artist (MUA) is to use the services of the wonderful staff at MAC stores and counters. If my clients expressed the desire for ‘something different’ I’ve sent them off to the MAC store/counter many times and the results have always been stellar! All you have to do is buy product and hand over a tip!

Lighting, well can I put this clearly as it is a very complex subject? Oh yeah, KEEP IT SIMPLE! The best light you can get is window light so if you’re in a persons home and its not Alaska in winter, use the window, maybe a reflector. In a studio, windows might be harder to find so I mostly use one light with a “beauty dish” in your classic ‘Rembrandt’ style and maybe a reflector for the unlit side, depending on how much light or shadow I want there. That should be all, remember that all this ‘stuff’ can be very frightening and intimidating to those not used to photography.

Want some physics? Remember something called “The Inverse Square Law”, does that sound complex? Well it’s simply this. Twice the distance, a quarter the light. Great for moderating the shadow side of your portrait, just move the reflector in and out. Also great for turning a white background into a perfect 18% grey card. That’s for another day perhaps!

So it’s time to blow ones own trumpet lol.

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I won’t bore you with the whys and when’s but this shot was taken at a time when I had VERY limited lighting kit. Basically a single off-camera strobe, an old SB-80 (bought at Harrods in London actually) and a bunch of reflectors. Add to that the fact that this shot was taken out doors in Arizona in Fall, which as any Arizonans will tell, is like other people’s high summer! I hope you like the image, I do. Now I’ll tell how it was done.

First, look for any natural shade. There were trees in this courtyard so that was easy. I just had to position her under the trees and i also found that in certain spots I could get nature to provide a little hair lighting? All good so far. However there were massive shadows under her eyes and this is where my multi-reflector set up came into its own. Fortunately there was no wind however you can deal with that in two ways, firstly get an assistant to hold your reflectors or use sandbags on your light stands.

The setup I got used the strobe on a light stand (I had an adapter) positioned to point into a big 48″ gold/silver reflector. The strobe was on manual of course and set to about 1/2 power. This gave me a wonderful big, soft, gold-tinted light, not a nasty pointy strobe light! Finally I positioned a Lastolite Triflector just out of shot under her chin, wrapping it around the unlit side of her face more than the ‘lit’ side for some fill. Voila!

So today’s one and only top tip is, never feel constrained by a perceived lack of equipment, get your thinking process going and you can achieve great things!! 🙂

I have a few book selections for those who want to explore. Firstly Scott Kelby’s “Professional Portrait Retouching Techniques” and also from Scott, “Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It” (hey Scott, any chance of some kickbacks here for all the times I’m plugging your books lol). Next up is Kevin Ames book “The Art of Photographing Women”. Remember who 90+% of your clients are and who need to be kept happy? 🙂 Finally, “The Luminous Portrait” by Elizabeth Messina which has some great tips and ideas and a very contemporary take on all things portrait including a little on wedding portraiture.

Next week, I’ve finally completed my led lighting project, explanations and pictures!