Welcome Back. Happy New Year.

Portrait of Belinda. December 30, 2012

I trust everyone had a restful, relaxing and fun time over the holidays. I missed writing the blog but I really needed the time off just to refresh my brain and spend some time shooting just for myself. I'm working on my portraits this year and I thought I'd start a little bit early with this image of Belinda.

I'm always trying to simplify my lighting set ups and this was no different. It's the simplest lighting design I can imagine. I set up a light gray seamless paper in the background and lit it with one small LED panel on a short stand. The main light consisted of a 48 by 60 inch translucent panel (a cheap pop up type) with three of the same type LED panels pouring light through the white material. There's no fill on the opposite side.

I used three panels through the diffuser just to get an even spread with the right amount of power. The LED panels were the Fotodiox 312AS panels I've been buying this year. I centered the white balance dial midway between daylight and tungsten and eyeballed each one to make sure that I was getting the same color. At the center point between tungsten and daylight the light output is at its highest. If I were shooting for color it would be a simple step to make a custom white balance measurement. Since I knew I'd be aiming toward black and white I set my camera to AWB and blazed away.  My basic exposure was f2.8 at 1/30th of a second @ iso 200.

I shot with the Sony a99 and the ultra cheap but really nice 85mm f2.8 Sony lens. The camera was on a tripod with a ball head. The a99 is much quieter and less frantic than any conventional DSLR  with which I've shot. It calls less attention to itself. Couple that with continuous lighting and you've got the recipe for a laid back and non-intimidating portrait session. One of my favorite sitters pronounced it: "Much more comfortable."

The image started life as a raw file, saw some remedial action in Lightroom 4.3 and then was converted to a jpeg which then headed into PhotoShop for some mild retouching before jumping over to SnapSeed for a painless conversion to black and white.

Blog Notes. I'm back in the office and gearing up for an exciting year. After an intense intra-holiday session with senior management at the VSL there was general agreement that I should focus on my core interests and keep pursuing portrait photography in earnest. You'll probably have to wade through more and more blog posts that revolve around portraiture but we'll sneak in a camera or accessory review from time to time. If I find an interesting book or website we'll toss that in too....

Not much will change from last year. I think we've hit a nice groove and I intend to keep honing the messages I think I concentrated on last year: Gear is great but knowing what to do with it is even greater. Tools and technology continually change and you need to keep an open mind to new ways of doing photographs. Art has value beyond money: Art teaches us what it is to be human. Style comes from continuous work. Having a style trumps having a nice bag full of cameras. And...What passes for common knowledge is almost always outdated and now wrong.

Agree, disagree and argue. That's what the comments are for. But keep it civil and on a collegial  level. Ad Hominem attacks will be flushed. Too much attitude (meanness masquerading as humor or presumptive expertise or pithiness) won't be tolerated. We don't censor, per se, but I do have an itchy delete finger. Don't make me use it.

My predictions for 2013. The economy will continue its recovery. More cameras will be introduced. More social media sites will come online. We'll continue to work professionally. Photography will continue to evolve. I will make little movies. I will swim.

Cheers.  Kirk


  1. Thanks for keeping it real Kirk! May you have a great 2013 filled with love, happiness, work and new toys to play with!


  2. Yes!!! more portraits.......

    May you, Belinda and the 'big young man' have an excellent 2013.


  3. Love the portrait! Best happy new year greetings to you and those you hold dear!

  4. Thanks for continuing your blog.

    Always a good insight across a range of topics.

    Happy New Year.

  5. Yes - best wishes for Belinda, Ben, and you from us here as well. And thanks for keeping it going - your blog is still the one on top of my list. So have a great 2013, all of you.

  6. I am Relieved to see your blog up again. It is a "Desert" out there on the Internets without your insights and questions. This portrait make me smile. I wonder what she is thinking about? Kind of a modern Mona Lisa... is she smirking? Wonderful 1st morning up here in Missouri. Happy New Year to your family.

  7. Happy New Year to you, Belinda and Ben. I am looking forward to another year of thoughtful and thought provoking posts and images. Thank you in advance.

  8. Ditto on what Bob just said. I read VSL with my morning coffee and take in the portrait "tutorial" Glad you are back.

  9. Happy New Year VSL! Wonderful portrat.

  10. Happy New Year and thank you for VSL.


  11. Good to see you back. Your portraits are amazing, so I'm happy to see you'll be concentrating more on those. Do sneak in some food photos occasionally though — you have a real feel for those IMO. Happy New Year!

  12. Thanks for providing technical details about your portraits, including exposure and ISO information. Having read your book on LED lighting, I'm tempted to move from Canon radio triggered speedlites to LEDs. My main concern has been diffusion of the light. My studio is too small for diffusion panels. Have you any suggestions for the use of LED lights with shoot-through umbrellas or portable soft boxes?

  13. I won't go into any of the technical stuff. It's probably interesting, but in the case of such a powerful sample of art, irrelevant. This potrait has some totally mesmerizing powers. For me, it is the essence of a Portrait, as in, making me intensely curious of the subject matter. There is a lifetime wanting to be told and expressed in her eyes and expression, her kindness, empathy, patience, radiate through her face, yet she remains mysterious as well. Incredible portait Kirk, thanks for sharing.

  14. The world is right again - you're back on, Kirk. May you and the family have a tremendous PMYO.

    PS. PMYO = Post Mayan Year One

  15. I predict this year you will make more posts ... and I will like them too. :)


Comments. If you disagree do so civilly. Be nice or see your comments fly into the void. Anonymous posters are not given special privileges or dispensation. If technology alone requires you to be anonymous your comments will likely pass through moderation if you "sign" them. A new note: Don't tell me how to write or how to blog!