Drifting Away (…the “joy” of autumn is drifting away.)

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

Autumn 2016 is starting to wane here in New Jersey. While out for my bicycle ride today the weather was nice, certainly sunny and not too chilly. I was testing my new camera and trying to enjoy what I know is inevitable… While autumn season is not truly over until December 21, I have always found that by mid to late November the “joy” of autumn is drifting away. Like a small boat that has come detached from its mooring and starts to ever so slowly drift with the current, drifting till it is further and further downstream. At some point you look away and when you gaze back the boat is gone.

We will have our nice days and we’ll have our rainy days. The rainy days are the times we look away and when the sun shines again… the days are colder, shorter and less color till soon we enter the “grey days” of late November early December. The only cheer at that time is to look forward to the Christmas  and New Year season.

I will leave for Thailand the day before Thanksgiving and miss the whole Thanksgiving holiday. 40 straight hours of hell as I travel from my home in Linvale, NJ to Ko Chang (Chang Island). That is 40 hours with no bed, just a plane seat and or an airport floor or bench to sleep on. Yes I will have fun in Thailand… I sure hope so after 40 hours of travel. But when I return back home to the USA autumn 2016 will be of just a memory.

Photo taken with the Canon EOS-M3 with the 18-55mm lens and I did apply my personal Photoshop recipe. Camera settings were 1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm.

Only a Year Late (So being a guitar player in another lifetime I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat…)

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

1/125 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 70mm
Nicole Gallagher, makeup by Jasmine Benton

It has taken me well over a year to complete this “behind the scenes” video of a shoot I did with model Nicole Gallagher. Why? Because I am stubborn and when I want something to be a certain way… well I want it that way. Childish? Maybe. So the problem was… ok so here is where you can laugh, smack my head and call me crazy. I couldn’t get the music right. I wanted a certain piece of music, I wanted Santana/Everlast “Put Your Lights On” and while I have that version done, it was done two days after the shoot, I could not get it uploaded. And rightfully (pardon the pun) so because Youtube, Vimeo and Facebook all threatened to ban my accounts if I tried to upload it again. What a bitch and I really can’t complain because I know the copyright laws very well when it comes to intellectual property, after all I’m the guy that makes everybody sign a model release to protect my images.

But then I had an idea… ahhh… what if I record the song myself. All I wanted was the music and not the vocals. So being a guitar player in another life time I pulled out my trusty Fender Strat and fires up my GK amp and laid down a fairly decent instrumental version of  “Put Your Lights On” and edited it using Adobe Audition CC (which by the way I love Audition CC). But still no luck, YouTube slammed me with even nastier emails. …oh well I tried.

So then I got discussed and I set the project aside. I revisited the project no less than 8 times since June of 2014 and to no avail. So my last attempt was the other day and like all the other attempts I crashed & burned after an 2 hours of sifting through clip after clip of “royalty free” music. However tonight I hit on a song that I liked and the video has been uploaded. Did I win?.. hell no, but I do like the song “Hey Girl” and it seems to work. Check it out and hit “Like” if you would please, you can also subscribe to the Channel too.

 

Good But Not What I Wanted (realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter)

Nicole Smoke Dress Final

I would like to talk a little about this image that I recently created… well maybe talk a lot about it and what it really is. Ok so the truth be told it is not at all what I wanted to create. What you see here is the “second draft” so-to-speak, but there were four of five more versions and I tossed them all out of frustration. It was like back in the day when a writer would sit at a typewriter trying to make something happen and half way through the page realizing you have written nothing but drivel and ripping the half written page from the typewriter, crushing and crumpling and tossing it into garbage can in the corner. The garbage can that is overflowing with dozens of other half written pages. I saw something that inspired me and it gave be a vision and an idea for a really cool image… well at least I thought it would be cool. So I headed into my stockpile of images and I knew exactly where to look. But when I found the images I was thinking of, the wardrobe was all wrong. I wanted to create an image of a model with a rather “moonscape” like background, but I wanted her dress to be blowing away in the wind and turning to smoke. Similar to the piece I did back in 2013 called “Shattered” where the motocross racer’s helmet was shattering and blowing away.

I just could not get it to happen and keep it looking like a dress. Why? Because in this particular image the model is not actually wearing a dress, she is wearing a shirt and a skirt. So now after two nights of working I end up going back to the second version that I created in about 30 minutes and I said “done.” Done, but not at all satisfied. While many people love this image and I received good feedback across all platforms of social media, I myself am not satisfied. Not satisfied because I wanted something very different. With all that said… this is a good image. Model Nicole Gallagher is striking a stellar pose as she can so easily do and I have blogged in the past about her eyes and her talent of “posing with her eyes.’ This is a perfect example, I mean all we see here of the model is her arms and her face and her eyes. And for me the eyes say it all in this pose. So to recap, there is nothing wrong with the model or the pose, but the wardrobe is not right to complete my vision. So we know what that means… “project shoot!” If I am going to complete this vision I have in my mind I need to shoot the model correctly with the correct wardrobe. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading.

People with Cameras (“Millennial Digital Era” has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them)

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

Double exposure from an awesome shoot I did last fall with Greg Sampson.

“Everybody is a photographer!” In this day and time of digital photography we hear it all the time. I hear many of my photographer friends say the phrase all the time and most times it is in a venomous tone because they’re angry. I too at one time was guilty of this opinion, but have really learned to just let it go because it truly is a “false” statement.

Sure today cameras are everywhere and everyone has a camera… it’s almost as if the younger generations are born with a mobile device in their hand that has a camera lol. But seriously if in fact “you are a photographer” you are a creative person working with a vision and a set of rules. Rules that you learned, concepts that you have crafted and skills you have honed to a razor’s edge. You know when to follow the rules, when to break the rules and at the end of the day you’re a “photographer.”

So what are the labels are there for all the other humans walking around with these soul capturing devices? Of course this is just my opinion, but let’s looks a little closer; I think it’s safe to say the majority of images on social media are “snapshots” or documentary style; they have no creativity attached to them in any way. Selfies, food shots, the dog or cat, the baby smiling, these are just aiming the camera and snapping the shutter. All the pictures of your vacation just document that you stood on that spot in the world on that day at that time. Now of course I know that statement will make a lot of “selfie” shooters angry because they spend hours perfecting their facial and butt selfies. Perfecting a facial selfie or butt shot is not creativity, all it does is say “hey I’m a millennial, I have an iPhone and a lot of time on my hands… oh an I love my own butt and you should too.” I have seen people in restaurants spending 10 minutes on a food shot of their beautiful meal, all the while the meal is getting cold. More “insane” then a photographer if you ask me. “Yes” I love to take a photo of a meal and share it on social media with family and friends; however I fall short of believing I just captured a work of art. So again, I think it is safe to say “most people are taking snapshots” and that is very similar to what people did in the 70’s with their little Kodak 110 Instamatics, but without the facial and butt shots lol. In the film days we had albums and shoe boxes full of senseless photos that nobody ever seen unless we wanted to torture them. With that said; those images are important on a personal level because they are our memories, but most times mean very little to anyone else.

Now we look at the guy/gal with the DSLR and we can’t be too critical here, because if in-fact you are a photographer you had to start somewhere, we all start somewhere. But there is a big difference here because this new “Millennial Digital Era” (as I like to call it) has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them to the likes of something we have never seen. I say “people who capture” rather than use the term “photographer” because this species is anything but a “photographer” although they are not taking snapshots. This species utilizes a DSLR or higher end point & shoot along with various software and social media to create (for lack of a better word) “crap” as in shitty garbage. I have heard Scott Kelby (along with many others) say “Instagram is for photographers” and while that may partially be true, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Instagram is for people want to be photographers.” The very nature of Instagram with its “one click” filters offers a feeling that the person uploading the image actually created something special… ok if you say so lol. Vimeo does a similar thing giving the ability to add effects to uploaded videos.

I think it is really fair to say that when people hear the word “photographer” it gives them a sense of someone who knows how to capture a good likeable image. If they hear the term “professional photographer” it most times conjures up the thought of someone who makes money with a camera. So why then are professional photographers venomous about this genre of “people with cameras?” I think it is because “people with cameras” sometimes steal paid work from the professionals. This is where I stand strong on who I am and my confidence as a photographer. Sure professional photography has changed immensely with the coming of the “digital age” and it has made what was not an easy craft a whole lot harder and that is life. A guy gets into a car accident and loses a leg or arm or both. Terrible situation without a doubt and he is now forced to face major decisions; do I give up on life or do I use what I have to keep going? Kind of a harsh metaphor I know, but life does not come with a guarantee, it never did and it never will. Nobody gave a film photographer back in the day a guarantee that “hey learn this craft, learn it well and things will always be ok.” So to be a successful professional photographer today you need to first make a choice of “is this what I want and if I want it, it will never be easy.” Like all businesses you need to keep up with technology, keep learning, learn to diversify as time changes the world around you and somehow keep it fun. Or go sit in the corner and boo hoo lol.

Thanks for reading.

 

Quarry Office Shoot with Kendall (Lots of windows and wood.)

Kendall at the Quarry House 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 105mm

Kendall at the Quarry House 1/125 sec at f/3.2 ISO 50 105mm

Been awhile since I shot with Kendall, but this shoot wasn’t really planned until the last-minute. I had planned to shoot another model at this location, the shots were all planned out with a mood board, it was to be a “catalog” style shoot with bright high energy shots. At the last-minute the model fell sick (as they always do) and I was left with an empty time slot. So a quick text to Kendall and it was a done deal.

Kendall is amazing and always has been from the day we first met and worked together on that hot summer day in Bethlehem Pa. Everybody sees the images we create, but what you do not see is how professional she is. If I say “two looks” she bring three or four, she is always on time and well prepared. I give her an address and she is there… easy to do when you’re a young teen and you’re being chauffeured by mom and dad, but now Kendall is an adult ad drives herself to the shoots.

When it is a public location as this shoot was I like to arrive early and scout the premises for anything that will be a problem. The location was the Prallsville Mill property although we were shooting in part of the old Quarry Office/House. Lots of windows and wood. So I arrive early, but no chance to scout because Kendall arrives early too and we get right to it. It was hot inside the building, I opened windows, turned on the ceiling fan, but still it was a sweat fest.

The technical: Shooting was done the whole day in manual mode except for a few shots that were natural light. Manual mode because I was using flash. All my indoor shots were made at either 50 or 100 ISO, so I used a manual radio Speedlight to light the room. Most times I bounced the flash off the opposite wall from where the model was located. Or I bounced the light off of the ceiling. At one point I found some brochures that were all white on the back, propped them against a window and placed the Speedlight aiming at them and bounced the light to Kendall. This allowed me to give fairly even light and not reflect off of the glass windows.  In-fact I wanted to see out the windows… it worked.

As for lenses; I used the 70-200mm f/2.8L and a 50mm f/1.4 prime.

The second portion of the shoot was a fitness look and those shots were all done outdoors. For those shots I used a Paul C Buff 640 watt light and a white beauty dish powered by a Vagabond battery. I’ll put a post up from that part of the shoot another time.

So needless to say we had a lot of fun… as we always do.

Thanks for reading.

Old Coffee Shop (Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. )

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

Coffee Shop 1/100 sec at f/3.2 ISO 400 B&W conversion via Silver Efex Pro 2

It was a beautiful morning I was up early and out at 5:00am. I’m lucky enough to live close to the small city of Lambertville and when the light and weather is good I’ll get out early and capture a few shots of interesting buildings or people.

Here we see a sepia toned image that takes on the feel of another day and time. This is one of the things that attract people to this town. I say “one of the things” because the little city has changed with the times; it was once a working town with industry and music attractions. But as the times have changes so did the city. Long gone is the music circus and the luggage factory along with the hobby store and little eateries, bike shop ect… In their place are now antique shops and art galleries. Long gone are the little old cozy neighborhoods and the working class people and in their place is artsy shops and hipsters. Not that it is a bad thing it is just different. Plus it all makes for great photography.

Back To 1987 Canon EOS 650 Film Body (Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. )

Jake just chillin' Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

Jake just chillin’
Canon 650 film body, 70-200mm lens. 1/200 sec at f/2.8 ISO 100 200mm Kodak Tri-Max 100 B&W

It’s not about whether digital is better than film, but rather it is about the fun of shooting with film. The fun and the challenge, sure I think anyone who ever picked up an SLR and shot film, and then switched over to digital will agree “digital” is easier and more forgiving. So if you are struggling starting off with a DSLR you have no idea what it was like shooting film. Now don’t get me wrong I am not one of those bitter film guys who tells the tales from back in the day about how hard film was. How you had to “walk ten miles uphill both ways in the blinding snow to process your film.” Of course I am kidding and yes film was a challenge and I think that is what I miss a little bit about my personal photography. Now please know when I was shooting film I was strictly an armature and I was not that great of a photographer at all.

So I have found that revisiting film cameras is fun and challenging and nostalgic of course. It is kind of like getting into and old car and taking a ride down a back road. And just like old cars are not a 100% old, after all some will have a few newer things to make life a little easier, like modern tires for a smoother ride, same is true with the film cameras. We can scan our film and tweak with Photoshop or other software. But we soon come back to our digital world, take a deep breath and relax. However there could be something to be gained by stepping back into the days of darkrooms and film canisters.

So in this image of my Pug “Jake” I was using a Canon EOS 650 (film) body (1987). I have two of these bodies and I’ll usually put ISO 100 in one and ISO 400 or 800 in the other. I’ll switch between a 50mm f/1.4 and my 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses. On this day I was using Kodak T-Max 100 B&W 36 exposure. This image has very minimal processing. It is a hi-res scan and in Lightroom I pushed the white balance temp 9+ to give a slightly warm (yellowish) tint. I love it, and one of the things that film photographers loved about their film was “grain.” Grain could be found a few different ways. There was ISO grain and there was grain found in the many different papers used for printing. Now if we wanted we could talk about “film grain” to the year’s end and still not cover all there is to talk about. But grain is what I miss. It is so funny that we (as digital photographers) are always searching for the holy grail of shooting high ISO and trying to eliminate “noise.” We want the cleanest possible images, when back in the day it was acceptable to have some noise or grain. Grain is mood, it gives an image character, it creates a visual “feel” to the image. It really is funny how if you look in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop there are controls to add grain. Sure I have added grain to my composite images many times. Why? You may ask. To give a feel, to create mood and character. So now I ask myself why am I not doing this more with regular images. Huh… good question. I wanted to revisit film for fun and a challenge and it looks like I learned something more about what could be lacking in my digital. I like most love the clean images that digital produces, but that clean could be taking something away. Kind of like cooking on a gas grill vs a charcoal or wood fired grill. They both cook the food, but the taste of the wood adds flavor while the gas just cooks… and is cleaner.

Till next time.

Double Exposure Fun (…getting accidental double exposure would almost always upset me)

Double exposure created using Analog Efex Pro 2

Double exposure created using Analog Efex Pro 2

Double exposure photography can be fun and creative and something I like to play with from time to time. I remember back in the day getting an accidental double exposure with a film camera would almost always upset me because the image I wanted was ruined. Imaging somebody posing in front of your camera and getting the prints back only to find a double exposure of your intended photo, but with a bridge or building or birthday cake exposed into the image. Sometimes it was like this prolific image that everybody was amazed by, however most times the image was a flat-out mess.

Now back in the film days I knew a few photographers that actually loved to create double exposures and they did it quite well. For me it was a nuisance.

Cut to today with Photoshop and software like Nik/Google Analog Efex Pro 2 you can control your double exposure to maximize you creative power. Also most DSLR’s have a double exposure mode that many photographers never explore.

I leave with a double exposure created in Analog Efex Pro 2. I used two images of Kendall that were actually shot on film and then scanned.

Romancing With Film (…he posted an image that just captured my photographic heart.) Part 2

Shot on CineStill ISO 50 film using a Leica M3 with a 50mm. Photo credit Madajoshua on Instagram.

Shot on CineStill ISO 50 film using a Leica M3 with a 50mm. Photo credit Madajoshua on Instagram.

(continued from previous post)

So the other day he posted an image that just captured my photographic heart (see above). Sure there was a very beautiful lady in the photo, but that was secondary to what was pulling me into this image. It is Instagram… you look at something for a second or two and you move on, not to mention I look at hundreds of images every single day. But this crazy photo was stuck in my mind; I kept going back to it throughout the day. Finally I private messaged Joshua and inquired about the photo. He said it was shot on film. “No way” I replied. He said all his images are shot on film and I was blown away. He shoots with a Leica M3 camera and a 50mm lens, certainly a classic film camera that has a stellar performance. His image encouraged me to revisit film shooting once again.

So this weekend I will play around some more with film. I say “play” because digital is where I make my images and that is where my creative heart & mind is at this time. However it really is fun shooting a little film now and again. It gets really fun when I shoot a person who has never held a film camera nor has ever had their photo taken on film. Even funnier is when I push the shutter and the person asks to see the image on the back of the camera. I show them the back of the camera and the look on their face is priceless. Then they ask “how do you see the photo” and I reply “you don’t it’s a guessing game.” lol Even myself it is natural reaction now to push the shutter and look at the back of the camera… only to see… “the back of the camera.” 🙂

Romancing With Film (…I never intended to put film in the cameras.) Film fun part 1

Kendall shot with a Canon 650D film body and a EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens. Fuji ISO 200 color film. Cropped and minor color edit in Lightroom.

Kendall shot with a Canon 650D film body and a EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM IS II lens. Fuji ISO 200 color film. Cropped and minor color edit in Lightroom.

Remember the film days? We have been digital for many years now. I stopped shooting film back in 1999, hard to believe it has been that long. So August I had purchased a few old Pentax cameras off eBay to be used as props in a photo shoot and I never intended to put film in the cameras. However when the second camera arrived it had a roll of unused film inside and that got me wondering. I started to think about the film days and how much of a struggle it was for me. Of course as time passed I was leaning more and more about all aspects of photography and then along came digital. So things became a little easier and a lot more creative. Because as time passed I found Photoshop and I found a creative medium that was for me.

So I though “hey it will be fun to run a few rolls through these old cameras.” I picked up some black and white film and went out and enjoyed me little romance with a Pentax Spotmatic and an ME. Then it bit me a little and for $26 I bought a Canon 650D film camera. Nothing special about the 650D other than the nostalgia that they (whoever they are) claim the very first photo uploaded to the internet was shot with a Canon 650D. Best part about the 650D is all my current Canon EF lenses fit and focus on this body.

So back last September while shooting with the amazing Kendall Strampel we had a little fun and in the middle of a planned shoot we took a little side trip and played for a few minutes with the film cameras. I handed a Pentax to Kendall to use as a prop and I put my awesome 70-200mm f/2.8L on the 650D and fired off a few frames of Fuji ISO 200 color film. I later finished the roll while shooting Melina Martin in the studio back in March.

Now today we do have the option to scan the negatives into out computer and then edit in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Ok so I thought it would end there, but it didn’t. (To be continued)

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Split tone edit in Lightroom.

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Split tone edit in Lightroom.

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Canon 650D, Fuji film no editing.

000021970011-Edit

A lite cross process edit using Photoshop.

Canon 650D, Fuji film with basic color edit in Photoshop.