I recently assisted good friend and fellow photographer Charles Schoenberger with an engagement session for Salwa & Martin.
Salwa and Martin live high on a hill in a beautiful forest. In a clearing under the oaks on the top of the hill, Martin has built a swing. Here is Salwa enjoying the swing.
and Martin smiling from the distance…
Chuck really planned ahead for this shoot. He brought an entire pickup truck of lighting equipment, plus a few helpful props, including a fog machine. It was an amazing experience to have an entire studio full of equipment in an isolated clearing in the forest. Even better, Salwa had a makeup artist and hair stylist prepare her for the session. Not only does she have beautiful features and perfect skin, but her makeup and hair was beautifully done, which made our job easy.
First we arranged Salwa & Martin in a romantic reclining pose.
Naturally, you can shoot this in more than just one way. Here is a facial closeup.
and a simple head-and-shoulder pose…
Just before the main event, here is Salwa in one of her many outfits…
The main event was a reenactment of the famous fairy tale, “Little Red Riding Hood.” Salwa’s role is to carry apples through the woods to feed her sick grandmother. Unfortunately, she encounters an evil wolf who threatens to eat her alive. Fortunately, Little Red Riding Hood is rescued by a lumber jack, played by the ruggedly handsome Martin.
Here is Salwa as Little Red Riding Hood in the foreground with Lumberjack Martin in the background with the evil wolf.
and Martin standing triumphantly over the wolf, with Salwa resting on his shoulder.
and finally Salwa is relieved because Martin has successfully defended her from the wolf.
Thanks to Salwa, Martin, and Chuck for a great session!
It pays to always carry your camera. I was hiking near Lake Poway in San Diego with my wife and my mom when we spotted a pair of Ospreys at fairly close range. Ospreys have a 6-foot wingspan. It is rare to see birds of this size in the wild at any reasonable distance. In this case, one of the Ospreys had a successful hunt. Here it is flying right overhead.
And then approaching the perch high atop a tree, in full braking mode, with the fish dangling, bringing the fish back to its offspring for a nice family meal.
Remind me to never leave my camera at home!
I recently had the opportunity to photograph Oliver Black, local artist and print maker. Oliver’s style is very modern, capturing the essence of contemporary art with an edgy urban flair. Oliver employs a variety of techniques: line drawing, water color painting, screen printing, and digital offset printing. His style combines two interesting directions, avant-garde paintings rooted in surrealism and some striking posters that capture modern city life. His poster work reminds me of rock-and-roll posters of the psychadelic age that have today become collectibles (Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane).
See it for yourself. Check out Oliver’s website. Some of my favorites are:
- this painting — reminds me of René Magritte
- Basel Castle — Monty Python anyone?
- 37 Cigarettes — this is not cubism, but it looks like it is… or is it? and it reminds me of one of Picasso’s most famous works ”Guernica”
- this gallery of Oliver’s posters reminds me of 1960s psychadelic age … this one is my favorite … is the crow Oliver’s mascot? or his Avatar?
- Oliver’s watercolors combine Escher’s intricate fitting of compositional elements with some clever modern representations — it’s a very nice body of work
I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Oliver’s work. Below are three photos I took of the artist himself.
First is a side view of Oliver wearing his signature hat and glasses.
Next, we are peering right into his piercing blue-green eyes.
Last, we have Oliver in a thinking pose.
And before I close, I should mention that Oliver comes from a long line of visual artists. More than 100 years ago, Oliver’s great grandfather Alexander Black invented the “Picture Play” which is one of the earliest incarnations of motion picture technology.
I recently photographed 125 people for CSIX. CSIX is a professional networking group, founded by Hamid Saadat. Hamid has received a Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate for his tireless efforts to help people find jobs. Hamid is a kind, soft-spoken, and insightful leader who has made a great contribution to Silicon Valley by helping many individuals make successful job transitions. Here is my photo of Hamid.
125 is a lot of portrait sittings so I had to break it into three separate sessions. Each session took a day for the shoot including setup and teardown plus another day for post-processing.
Most of the portraits were standard executive portraits — head and shoulders with a dark muslin cloth background. I used a few softboxes for lighting plus grids, snoots, barn doors, and honeycombs where necessary. I adjusted the lighting based on each person’s features, how they wanted to be portrayed, and the industry and role they are working in.
The executive pose suits project management and operations executive Evelyn Axelrad-Espinosa well.
Applications developer Natalie Burgess brought her iPad. Including Natalie’s iPad in the portrait allowed me to capture Natalie’s personality, profession, and passion.
Fountain, Frank, and Patrick are three of my favorites.
You can see a gallery of my executive portraits here.
I just had one of my bicycles repainted at Joe’s Bicycle Painting in Watsonville, CA. Joe’s paints all the bikes for Calfee, Leopard, and Kestrel, as well as a bunch of us locals who admire their work.
As my bike is a Leopard, it was originally painted by Joe’s. The original paint was translucent green, beautifully displaying the carbon fiber through a translucent coat of green paint, and had decals with the name of my old bike club. It was a truly beautiful paint job.
I repainted my bike because I switched clubs from Webcor/Alto Velo to Team San Jose/San Jose Bicycle Club. I decided to paint the frame matte black with clearcoat decals. This paintjob would work well for a 1970s muscle car and looks good on my bike, too.
Driving home from Joe’s, I took the newly painted frame and fork to the beach and photographed it with a background of wet sea algae. The overcast sky turned the sun into nature’s softbox and gave me beautiful highlights in the matte black paint.
I took the new frame to Cupertino Bicycle Shop and had them rebuild it. Just two days later, my bike is ready and looking sharp. Here is a quick studio photo of my almost new Leopard. I used three softboxes with my studio strobes — a strip light camera left, another strip light camera right, and a large rectangular softbox above and slightly to the right — and seamless grey paper for the background. Not bad for a 2 1/2 year old bike!
A big thanks to George, Joe, and the crew at Joe’s Bicycle Painting for giving my old bike a new skin!
I just got back from the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) 2012 conference in Las Vegas, NV.
In addition to the trade show floor where manufacturers exhibited their new cameras, studio and lighting equipment, software tools, wedding albums, etc., I had the opportunity to take seminars and workshops from some of the world’s best photographers.
People I took seminars and workshops from include:
- Maryland-based wedding photographer and portrait scientist Clay Blackmore (he was Monte Zucker’s assistant until Monte passed away in 2007)
- SF-based portrait & wedding photographer Bambi Cantrell
- Pulitzer Prize winning celebrity portrait photographer Brian Smith
- Beverly Hills wedding photographer, classically-trained Flamenco guitarist, and recent author Roberto Valenzuela
- Atlanta-based wedding photography legend and advocate of the photojournalistic movement Denis Reggie
- NY-based fashion, portrait, and wedding photographer Lindsay Adler
- Australian fashion, portrait, and boudoir photographer Sue Bryce
- NY-based wedding photographer & teacher Doug Gordon
- Washington, D.C.-based wedding photographer Moshe Zusman
While the scientific aspects of photography are well documented in books, the art of photography is not well covered in books. It is much easier to learn lighting, composition, and especially posing hands-on. I’ve taken many local seminars, but the expertise and instruction at WPPI is world class plus the opportunity to take 12 such classes is like getting knocked down by a firehose. What a great learning experience! What’s more impressive is that in this competitive industry, the very top photographers are so secure in their own craft and business that they are willing to pass on their knowledge plus they are interesting and down-to-earth people.
Above and below are a few photos I took during a hands-on workshop with the inimitable Moshe Zusman. Moshe took a small group of us outside onto the strip to teach us how to do an evening glamour shoot. The first photo was just as the sun was setting, making the light very soft. Every bride wants to look her best, so Moshe instructed us on how to pose our brides and grooms as though they were models.
After the sun set, all we had was street lights and neon lights, so we used a small radio-triggered softbox as our main light and a simple speedlight for backlighting. With the sky still slightly blue, we got a beautiful mix of studio lighting and a nighttime look.
I also used a technique known as the “Dutch tilt.” I have avoided this in the past because it can look cheesy when misused, but Moshe and others at the show taught me how to use it effectively.
Once the sun had fully set, we had to rely on city lights for ambience, so we posed the bride dramatically with the groom out-of-focus in the background. This is one of the most popular looks in wedding photography. The combination of her pose, the obedient groom waiting in the wings, and the busy city lights gives the photo a high fashion look.
A big thanks to Moshe for his excellent instruction. In addition to being insightful and a wonderful instructor, he is an absolute nice guy to boot!
Good friend and fellow photographer Charles Schoenberger and I got together in his studio to produce a concept image of a Martini flying through the air. The idea was for the Martini to fly out of the glass, as though the glass had been thrown.
The concept turned out to be tricky. At first, we tried to make the liquid fly away by throwing the glass into a bucket lined with soft towels. After the missing the shot because we could not predict where the glass would be when the splash occured and breaking a few expensive glasses, we decided to try another concept. This time, we clamped the martini glass to a table and then poured a “martini” into the glass with sufficient force to cause it to splash out. We experimented with funnels, schedule 40 pipe, turkey basters, and all sorts of contraptions before we finally settled on a working idea. One of us would throw the contents of a shot glass at the martini glass while the other person photographed the result.
After quite a bit of practice throwing water all over the studio floor and trying to press the shutter at the right time, here is my result:
You can see Chuck’s version on his site by clicking on “THINGS.” You can also see more of his beautiful work.
For my photographer friends here are the technical details:
- The lighting setup was pretty simple. We used 2 lights, one in a striplight softbox camera left and one to illuminate the background through a blue gel. To get some rim light on the water droplets, we used a reflector fill on camera right.
- To freeze motion, we cranked the power down on Chuck’s Profoto light heads. This gave us the minimum flash duration.
- For good depth of field, I set my aperture to f16.
- An aperture of f16 required ISO 800 to get the correct exposure. Fortunately, my Nikon D3 has excellent low light performance.
- My lens was a 105 mm f2.8 AF micro, prefocused on the glass. I bought this lens new in 1993 and it has been one of my most useful photographic tools for nearly 20 years.
The olives were real and yes, we had to pick them up from all over the floor, but the “martini” was not. No gin or vermouth was harmed in the producti0n of this image. Instead, we used water as a stooge.
I’d also like to give credit to Noella Vigeant my photoshop instructor. Yes, this image is not S-O-O-C (straight-out-of-the-camera). Throwing water at the glass, we had water drops flying everywhere, so I had to clean it up with Photoshop’s healing brush using content-aware fill. Thanks Noella!
That was a fun shoot. A big thanks to Chuck for making this happen!
I recently had the pleasure to photograph Arielle and Tyler for their parents Sonya and Joey. Arielle and Tyler are fraternal 5 year old twins.
Clearly Arielle and Tyler were looking forward to their portrait session. As I parked my car, Arielle and Tyler were waving at me from the yard. As I walked up the steps, they ran excitedly towards me. Before I could even pull out my camera, Tyler was showing me his castle, and a roomfull of other toys.
Apparently, I had already broken the ice and established rapport. The credit really goes to Joey and Sonya who were telling Tyler and Arielle for three days that I would be coming. Tyler and Arielle knew they would be center stage and this day would be all about them. Wow, this is going to be a fun photo shoot!
So, here’s a look at excited young Tyler who just met his new best friend.
Arielle dressed up especially for the occasion with a beautiful bow in her hair and a necklace and bracelets of pearls.
These two five year olds are clearly inseparable best friends. They shared the “U chair” in the hallway and this photo shows how close they are.
I took a short break to assemble my soft box. I told Tyler it was a “light tent” and he had a great time helping me put it together.
Tyler then wanted to show me the green spiral staircase his daddy just had built to connect the upstairs to the office and the garage. It was the perfect foil for a near-far ultrawide shot which works so well with kids and especially for Tyler’s inquisitive personality.
Meanwhile, Arielle discovered my iPad and had a great time looking at photos, exploring the games, and using the camera. Here she is dem0nstrating her computer skills, while Tyler patiently waits his turn.
Finally, here is Arielle’s beautiful smile.
What good kids! It’s an absolute pleasure to work with such charming, inquisitive, and fun kids.
Thank you Joey and Sonya!
Living in California is wonderful. You can have a wedding in December with the ceremony outdoors and everyone can be warm and comfortable.
Maria and Erik were married this Sunday at the Eagle Ridge Country Club in Gilroy, California. The golf course is beautiful and the winter light with the sun low on the horizon made the setting even more stunning.
After everybody was seated, the wedding party walked down the aisle. The last of the procession were these two adorable children, Nate and Alexandria carrying a magic wand of flowers. It turns out these two little tykes are very talented dancers, but they were admirably proper and adult for the ceremony and held their energy and excitement until their stunning post-wedding dance exhibition.
The maid of honor and bridesmaids anticipate Maria’s grand entrance.
And a grand entrance it was as Maria, angelic in her wedding dress, arrived arm-in-arm with her loving father and beautiful mother, beaming with pride and excitement for their wonderful daughter.
Maria and Erik now stand before their minister, about to become man and wife.
After the ceremony, there was a great celebration. Maria changed into a smashingly beautiful evening dress and proceeded to dance the night away with Erik. Here they are after one of their turns.
Erik was jumping for joy after the first dance and went parading around with his best man Rafael, both beaming smiles of happiness.
Maria danced with her own inimitable style and the energy of a thousand women thanks in part to her glamorous princess shoes. Have you ever seen more sparkle than these? Beautiful!
It was indeed a festive night for the girls, who enjoyed every minute of the celebration.
Congratulations to Maria and Erik for tying the knot. Your love is so deep and apparent in everything you do. Your commitment to each other and the strength of your character will be the foundation of a lifetime of happiness. I wish you a relaxing honeymoon and a wonderful marriage.
I just got back from photographing Kristin and Matt for their engagement session this Saturday. Kristin and Matt are film students so they have a a flair for the dramatic and a great interest in photography and the history of film. Kristin and Matt are especially fond of animation and explained to me the process of rotoscoping whereby animators trace film frame-by-frame to create cartoon animations. In addition to the still photos for the engagement session we had a little fun making an animation sequence of a Ninja battle in the park.
Now back to the engagement! Tilden Park in Berkeley gave us a good variety of backgrounds. I love photographing engaged couples in the winter because the low angle of the sun makes for very nice light.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the session.
Here they are at Tilden Park’s “Little Farm.”
The water tower nearby was decorated with a wreath which was perfect to set the holiday spirit!
Heading down the stairs…
we found a quiet corner in the forest with a peaceful park bench where Kristin and Matt could relax.
To find some sun, we headed to the Brazil room which is a popular venue for weddings. I surprised Kristin and Matt by bringing a 10-foot long ribbon of lace.
This lace is the same material used to make veils, so it set a very romantic tone for the session. Kristin and Matt decided to wrap the lace around themselves and giggled as they practiced tying the knot.
Finally, to celebrate their accomplishment, they practiced a “dip” which is a common dance step at the end of a couple’s first dance. Kristin, Matt, are you taking dance lessons?
And finally, I’d like to thank Kristin & Matt’s friend Homer who helped me with lighting. In most engagement sessions, I have to rely entirely on natural light, which can be very nice, but with Homer’s help I was able to use an Octa-bank softbox for some of the photos. Here’s one of my favorites, where using a soft box allowed me to make a dramatic studio-style portrait outdoors.
Thank you Homer! And thank you Kristin and Matt for a wonderful engagement session! It was a joy to work with you and I look forward to planning your 2012 wedding with you!