Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Strobist Boot Camp II

Strobist Boot Camp II - First Assignment

David Hobby of the Strobist blog has fired up the Strobist Boot Camp II. Since I was a late discoverer of the Strobist blog and didn't get to participate in the first Boot Camp, I was chomping at the bit to participate in this one.

For the first assignment you were required to shoot a headshot (using off camera lighting of course) of someone, then have them take a headshot of you. Ideally, the headshot you take would help someone else out and also give you a chance to hone your off camera lighting skills.

I've been Strobist nutz over the last few years learning how to maneuver my Nikon speedlights and now I find myself looking for shots that would require a little off camera lighting love. When I first started shooting, many moons ago, I hated on camera flash and would get the fastest lens I could so I could get enough light to do the shots I wanted. Now that I've got a pretty good handle on off camera lighting, I've learned that I don't necessarily need the latest and greatest, fastest lenses to get good shots ...although they certainly don't hurt.

I digress..

For this assignment, I asked a friend of mine and his wife to pose for me as they were needing new headshots for their business. This was a double bonus for me as it gave me subjects for the assignment and I got to work with friends if the photos turned out like poo, they'd still like me. =)

All of these shots were taken with a three Nikon speedlights and a Botero #23 Collapsible background. The key light was an SB-800 camera left in a 36" shoot thru umbrella in close. For the hair light I used an SB-600 in a Lumiquest SBIII about a stop or two lower than the key and for the background, I used another SB-800 at the same power as the hair light and sometimes used a blue gel.

In this shot my friend took of me, you can sorta see the setup. This setup works great in close quarters and in my opinion gives you just as nice of light as if you were using big monoblocs. Plus, this setup tears down in minutes and you can carry it over your shoulder.

I'm a fairly creative guy, but I like the Strobist assignments because they usually give you a specific set of parameters to follow which for me is a bit more of a challenge. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


As many of you know, I am a resource hound! The more information I can get my hands on, the better, especially when it comes to photography related information.

Since I haven't posted some new links for a while, the vault has been piling up so I thought I would fire off some of the most interesting things I have ran across lately.

First and most importantly:

1. Strobist Boot Camp II is kicking off on the Strobist blog. David Hobby of the Strobist blog did this a while back and it was a fun exercise. He basically gives out four lighting assignments over the course of the summer, you do your homework, complete the assignments, post to Flickr ..and this time, you can win prizes!!!

That is cool. Just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE read the entire post and the assignments closely as everything you will need to know is laid out in those posts. There are a lot of people posting questions in the Flickr forums that could have gotten the answer by reading the post.

2. One of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, has updated his website/blog and it is definitely worth the look!

3. For Nikon shooters, if you're not watching D Town TV, then you are missing out! Its a weekly video show by Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski that covers EVERYTHING Nikon. The clips usually run around 10-15 mins and are chocked full of useful information from lighting to lens choices.

4. Discovered a new photographer who's work I really dig, Greg Sims, check him out!

5. Dustin Diaz is a professional photographer who is not only doing a Project 365, but he is doing it the Strobist way, by lighting every one of his shots for the Project. So you're not just seeing namby-pamby-couldn't-think-of-anything-else-better-to-shoot style shots. He's cranking out some seriously cool stuff. You can also get him on Flickr.

That's all I have for now, more to come...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

David Ziser's Digital WakeUp Call 2009

Jenn and I went to see David Ziser's Digital WakeUp Call last night in Louisville, Kentucky and I have to say, this was the single most informative photography seminar I have been too yet, and I've been to a few!

In four hours (maybe just a tad over) he packed in information on shooting; composition, lighting tips, marketing, business management, software and workflows. He also gave out a ton of prizes! ...of course of which I won nothing. =) I'm a lucky guy, its all bad luck.

David is a prolific blogger and an excellent teacher and has been one for many, many years. He makes you feel at home, cracks a few jokes and shares information with you that years ago, you would have to threaten a pro photographer to part with this kind of information.

If you're a wedding photographer, a portrait photographer or ANY kind of photographer, do yourself a favor and try to attend this tour. Its definitely worth the money and if you are a more financially successful photographer than I am, you can afford to attend one of his Digital Master Classes. I haven't been to one of these, but I suspect its even more informative and inspirational than his Digital WakeUp Call tour.

Also, David was gracious enough to pose for a few portraits with Jenn and myself and had time to answer one-on-one questions with us. What a very cool guy!

David A. Ziser
Digital Pro Talk
Digital WakeUp Call 2009

Thursday, June 4, 2009


f/13 at 1/15 sec ISO 200

Sometimes you have an upcoming shoot already planned out in your head. You know what your model will be wearing, how she looks and what light would look best on her. You've already scouted your location, checked to see where the best light will be at what time of day, and have found a few perfect spots for your session.

BUT, what if something unexpected happens?

That was the case with my last shoot, with fellow photographer Nina. We knew where we wanted to shoot, and I had already come up with a few cool lighting setups that would totally rock.

We picked this abandoned train station that had every square inch of it covered in graffiti. It had windows on both sides of the main building, tracks on either side running East/West and many cool rooms full of urban decay.

So we get there and I immediately start setting up a few lights. I always do this on a shoot because I know I will be using at least one light (if not more) so it just makes since and saves time to go ahead and set one up. I had my friend Nina standing roughly where I wanted her, and then off in the distance I hear...

WHOO-WHOO! ....holy crap, here comes a train! I had no idea that the train still ran through this station! It was moving fairly slowly so I turned around, dialed my shutter speed down to around 1/15 sec. composed and took a few frames. I tried to keep the building in focus but still show the train as moving blur.

I liked this look so well, that I asked Nina to quickly jump next to the train, I turned my Nikon SB-800 around, zoomed the head to 50mm, pointed it at her, set my flash setting to Commander Mode TTL and banged away. That's how I got the image above.

I normally will manually select my flash power and use either my Nikon's D300 built in Commander Mode to trigger my flashes or use my CyberSyncs. However in a situation like this, I needed to work fast so I relied on my camera and flash to do the heavy lifting for me. At close range, this is something the Nikon Creative Lighting System absolutely excels at, with no other devices used.

So remember as a photographer, it always pays to be prepared and have everything planned ahead as much as possible, but what separates the pros from the amateurs is the ability to respond to a given situation, take the bull by the horns and go with it!

I liked the photo above so well, that I never even did my "planned shots". ....although I did squeak one or two more different ones in ....before the cops ran us off. We were trespassing. :)