One lovely reader asked to see my images from the LES MISERABLES dress rehearsal at Zach Theatre.

You know, the ones I took and ran through post production late into the night just before I left town for Colorado for eight days. I finally had time to go back and look at them and now I want to go see the musical again, but this time without a camera stuck in front of my face.

Technical Details: No big news here. No tripod, no monopod; all just handheld from the top row of the orchestra setting about half way into the theater. Two cameras and two lenses: Sony a99 and Sony a850 cameras. Mostly shot at 3200 and 1600 ISO. 70-200mm G f2.8 on the a850 and a Tamron SP 28-70mm f2.8 on the a99. All images shot as Large (24mp) extra-fine Jpegs. Breath out slowly and massage the shutter button. Recompose and repeat. Wait for the "peak of action." Shoot again. I generated about 2200 files over the course of the show (it's a longer one) and someone else edited them down. Delivered on a pixie sized 500 GB hard drive. Great show!!! Wonderful actors. Cool lighting.

Wanna see em bigger?  Keep clicking on them...

Studio Portrait Lighting

Studio Portrait Lighting


I'd been fighting a camera. Then I went into the studio and we became friends.

Jill. For Zach Theatre. 

I took a chance today and took my new, pre-release, Samsung Galaxy NX camera to Zach Theatre as my only camera. Well, not entirely true....I took a second Galaxy NX along as a back-up. When I first got the camera I looked at the huge screen on the back and immediately thought that this particular camera was just begging to be used in the studio. Working with art directors and controlled light. Sharing the huge screen with my fellow collaborators. And I was right.

We were shooting some pick up shots today that will be used in the 2013-2014 season brochure for the theater. Nothing earth shattering but I did light the set with three Elinchrom flash units. A main light in a 48 inch umbrella (black backing, of course) and a 60 inch umbrella as a fill to the other side. I also tipped a third light (eight inch reflector, on low power) over the top of the seamless to work as a backlight/hair light. It was the perfect set up for the Galaxy NX camera.  The art director and I were in a darker area so the massive screen on the back of the camera was bright and detailed. I used a little black card on a stand to block light from the back light from hitting the lens. We comped up the shots and started playing around with poses and expressions.

It's the second time I've ever done a studio shoot entirely without looking through a view finder or an EVF. But with the enormous screen and the dark surroundings behind the camera there was absolutely no reason not to. The art director could see exactly what I was seeing and she and I got into a good rhythm, going back and forth with suggestions and on the fly approvals. Every once in a while we'd stop and check the frame in review. Just like the screens on iPads and cellphones you can pinch and unpinch to magnify or shrink the image and you can scroll around the window by touch. Something I disregarded in a street shooting camera but came, in a few short hours, to love in a studio tool.

Even though I shot the whole project in Jpeg I think the flesh tones are nice and there's no banding I can see in the backgrounds. I took some esoteric lenses with me but wound up using the 18-55mm kit lens for everything. Using the camera like this harkens back to the way we used to use view cameras but with a much more useful rear screen which doesn't (in these kinds of situations) require a hood or a dark cloth.

I must eat a bit of crow with my friend, Andy. With the right screen on the back of a camera this kind of composition can be a convenience and a plus during shoot. It was certainly easier to see the details of the image in the frame.

I have no idea how the images will finally end up being used in the brochure and on the web but I'm pretty sure the art director will be dropping the main part of the image out. By that I mean Jill will end up on a white or colored background. I shot mostly at f8 so we'd have enough depth of field to give her a nice edge with which to use PhotoShop's powerful selection tools.

At the same shoot we did some fun images with Jaston Williams (of the Greater Tuna fame). He's written a new play called, Marian, and we did a ton of tongue in cheek images to use in promoting it next Spring. We loved sharing the images on the back of the camera and the five inch screen kept me from having to go to all the bother of tethering with a laptop and working with two computer systems at once. 

This is a whole new ball game for me and now I'm excited about dragging my family and friends into the studio to play around with everything. Another plus today? Face detection AF. Easy as pie.

Studio Portrait Lighting


Sharing some night time images from the Galaxy NX. Just for fun.

There's were taken on the first night I arrived in Berlin...

These were taken in Berlin with the Samsung Galaxy NX camera and either the 30mm f2 (nice) lens or the 18-55mm kit lens (really nice for a "kit" lens). I think the camera is a great low light shooter. No problems with focus or exposure even though there's a lot of light and dark.

I now have two of the Galaxy NX cameras and I'm starting to use them for some of my client projects. I've gained confidence in the camera and even more so in the lenses.

I'll be speaking about and demo-ing the camera at the Samsung booth in a couple weeks at Photo Plus in NYC. If you are heading up for the show be sure to come by and see me. I think I'll have plenty of time to chat and meet. Coffee is just assumed. I'll be there the 24th-26th.

Hope to see some VSL readers. 


Monday's location. Red Rock. Wow!!!

The Pentax K-01 lived on the passenger seat of my Fiat 500 rental car all week long. The only lens I have for it is the 40mm pancake so of course all the images were ones that worked well with a slightly long focal length. The video crew loved the yellow camera. We even used it in a shot...

I have to admit that it was fun to drive the tiny roller skate car around the curvy roads. With a little more power to play with we might have been able to out accelerate that ancient tour bus....

Fiat 500 not recommended for any photographer with more gear than a cellphone and one of those hipster hats....the Pelican case almost didn't fit in. We used some teflon grease as a last resort.

Yes. It's the latest technique to sweep through the photo world. Ghostly imaging.

My camera was banging around at the end of the strap and the universe was randomly pressing the buttons and changing my menu items. Instead of my usual austere and pensive images I ended up becoming an unintentional master of HDR......Far beyond the realm of Technicolor Spew.

I call it "Out of body and heading to the dark side on the streets of Denver."

I am back in Austin putting the studio back together and hanging with the Dog. Some observations...

"Life is like a box of chocolates....."

I have been on location, in Denver, Boulder and at Red Rock Park for the last eight days. I'm not sure how clear I've been on the assignment in previous posts but there is a company called, Craftsy.com and they make instructional videos about a bunch of different subjects. Everything from crafts (hence the name) to gourmet cooking and, of course, photography. People go to their website to find out how to do something, find a course they like and pay to watch it. It's an online experience. Once you've paid for a course you can watch it over and over again as many times as you like. And, unlike many other online education resources Craftsy has discussion areas for students and students can ask instructors questions about the content and get answers from the actual instructor. Students can also post work and get peer reviews and input from the instructor of the course.

Earlier this year they asked me to be an instructor for several photo classes. These are not live workshops with students in attendance, instead they are constructed like television shows that teach. We have outlines and we cover all the points cogent to the subject at hand in a direct and conversational style. The entire production takes time and a crew with expertise in video, audio, lighting, graphics and producing. The production values are first class all the way through. I am not the director or producer for my classes, I am the expert/actor who stands in front of the camera and speaks and demonstrates. I work with models to show lighting and shooting concepts and demonstrate how they work. Neil Van Niekirk is another one of the instructors as is Rick Sammon.

For the last eight days I've been working with a crew on multiple locations to create two new courses. I'm very excited about both of them and I had an absolute blast being on the other side of the camera. Now I feel as though I have a truer, 360 vision of video production, shooting, audio and more.

I want to talk about some of the stuff that might seem incidental but which made this adventure much easier and more comfortable. It's the little stuff that makes a difference.

NUMBER ONE, BEST NON-PHOTOGRAPHIC TOOL: After the cameras and what not the number one tool that made my participation more fun was my iPhone with iOS7 loaded on it. No, I didn't use the phone camera for anything but I did constantly use the latest mapping feature. It was bullet proof. 

I'm an anxious, nervous traveler, especially when a whole production depends on me being somewhere on time. I'd never driven in Denver before but we had lots of locations and crew members coming from different areas and we decided it would be best if I rented a car and got myself where I was supposed to be. I'd plug in a street address, hit "start" and the "Siri" woman would give me turn by turn driving instructions. If I screwed up and missed something because I was messing with my coffee or daydreaming the program would instantly calculate a new course and correct my path. Stunning. 

Probably old news for most of you but amazing for me. And totally free. I especially appreciated the guidance at 5:30 am this morning on the way to the Denver airport...

And then there's everything else on the phone. My cinema light meter, Easy Release model releases, Kindle, and the usual e-mail and texting stuff...

NUMBER TWO, CONVENIENCE ITEM: Everyone in the crew liked my Banana Republic, grey T-shirt best out of all my wardrobe. I wore it.... a lot. And I worked out in the hotel gym.....a lot. So I was happy to find that the Magnolia Hotel (which I called home for 8 eight days) has a self-service laundry on the first floor. Yes, I did a load on Sunday and I did wear the grey shirt again.

NUMBER THREE, SCADS OF STUFF EVERY BUSINESS HOTEL SHOULD HAVE: Where do I start? The Magnolia Hotel (at 17th and Stout in downtown) starts each day with a free breakfast for guests. Not a tacky, stick you pastry in the toaster or make your own waffle thing, but great eggs, breakfast sausages, bacon, all kinds of toast, fresh scratch oatmeal, good coffee, a couple dozen types of tea and more. On sunday they had eggs Benedict as an option. One good breakfast at 6 am and I was good till two or three in the afternoon.

Wine and beer happy hour from 5:30 till 6:30pm in the same dining room. I sure didn't make it to everyone but if I did my parts well and we didn't need to do too many takes I could sometimes make it back in time to sit in one of the big, puffy chairs or on the couch, have a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or a Killian's Red and a big glass full of pretzels. On Saturday night I actually had two glasses of wine. It's fun and a nice wind-down feature of the hotel.  But it doesn't stop there...

From 8:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. the hotel puts out a spread of fresh cookies, milk and decaf coffee. Cruise by and grab some cookie happiness and eat it there or take it up to your room. Nice. And happy.

Next up, the hotel has a couple of big black SUV's and they'll take you anywhere downtown at the drop of a hat. Free. I was coming back late on evening and I had a dinner date with a business client at a trendy restaurant in a busy part of downtown. One of the those downtown areas that are a parking nightmare. I cruised into the hotel, they valet-ed my rental car, bell hopped my equipment cases up to my room and put me in one of the big, black cruisers simultaneously. I was three minutes early for my dinner engagement instead of half an hour late.

Final hotel perk? 25% all coffees at the Starbuck's adjacent to the hotel. Loved that. A Grande drip coffee for $1.44. I thought I'd been teleported back to 2003.

I'll start with the Thunderbolt to HDMI adapter for my MacBook Pro. Then I'll move along to my Thunderbolt to DVI adapter and I'll end up with my various card readers. Yes, we were productive not only in the shooting but also in moving content around and displaying it on different devices. I'll finish up with my Swiss Army Knife which came in handy for fixing a flash shoe, cleaning a connection and also trimming nose hairs. 

I loved being the object of production. I didn't have to mess with hotel reservations, car reservations, airplane reservations, location scouting, model releases, logistics or figuring out where to eat while working. All I had to do was bring the content. I'm spoiled now. I could really get used to that.

Anyway, now I'm back in Austin. I've picked up the boy from school, reheated my family's Chinese food from last night for a late lunch and I've even given the lovable and stinky dog a bath. Yep, I'm back home and ready for tomorrow...

For the last eight days life was like a box of chocolate with none of the filler options that no one really likes. In my mind it was all brandy truffles with toasted almonds.

Studio Portrait Lighting


I wrote an article about lighting for Photo.net. You can read it there.

Here's the link: http://photo.net/learn/lighting/going-big/

If you read the blog you already know the punch line.  Something to do with really big scrims....

I'm still in Denver. We photographed kids on horses today and I spoke lots of words about photography into video cameras. It all went very well. We wrapped a little early so I was able to drive my rental car, a very small Fiat 500 back to the Magnolia Hotel in Denver without jousting with rush hour traffic. Which, apparently, Austin doesn't hold a patent on.......

I'll be back in Austin this week and at the end of the month I'll be heading up to NYC to attend all three days of PhotoPlus. Should be an absolute blast!!!

My "new school" hippy friend, Noellia
Shot with the Samsung Galaxy NX camera.
No incense sticks were harmed in the making 
of this portrait.


I'm a sucker for pillars and the last light of the day reflected off distant buildings....

I don't know about you but when I'm in another city on assignment and have a day off I head out the front door of my hotel and explore all day long. I'm in Denver right now and I found one building just a few blocks from my hotel that has really cool pillars. I walked by the building yesterday in the early evening and even though the building faces east parts of the pillars were all lit up by the reflection of the setting sun off the mirrored windows of a giant office building. I shot them from as many angles as I could. Even though I am largely a portrait photographer there's something about this kind of architecture that I like. Maybe it's the repeated forms and maybe it's a reference to the temples of the ancient Greeks but it's a type of structure that I find photographically fascinating.

Today has been a recovery day. I've actually done laundry in the hotel self-service laundry room. Why? Because my production team seems to think I look best in one of my gray t-shirts and we used them up last week. Makes me wonder why I bothered to pack those ten other nice shirts....

Tomorrow morning we get started again. I'm driving an almost comical Fiat 500 to Morrison, Colorado to do video production for my newest class on portrait photography. The Fiat 500 is definitely NOT a photographer's car. I can barely fit my single Domke bag in what passes for a trunk and getting a fully loaded Pelican 1650 rolling case into the back seat (two door car....) is like Tai Chi weight lifting and muscle popping puzzle solving. When I get wedged in between two giant Colorado pick up trucks the car gets lost entirely. Finally, the stereo in it kinda sucks. I don't understand why I didn't get the Bentley convertible. Maybe Martha Stewart can help me figure that one out....

Monday is coming at me fast...