Sinister Clown in Renaissance Context (…To be able to work with such a person is a true pleasure.)

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister clown shoot is done! Yay team! Yes it was a team effort as it should be and it was a lot of fun. Our model Nicole Gallagher sat through an intense and extensive 3 hour makeup process. Our makeup artist Jade Alexandra Brown and her assistant Jordan applied a stellar HD look that was nothing short of amazing. The look was exactly what I wanted.

So the look was inspired by the images of the new “Pennywise the dancing clown” that will appear in the remake of the Stephen King novel titled “IT” that will be released in 2017. However in my conversations with Jade I stated that I wanted to make it our own look and not an exact replica. Jade did exactly that and I was awe-struck.

The wardrobe was a renaissance period piece that was rented from OSF Costume Rentals out of Talent, OR. Bruce hooked me up and the personal service was nothing short of amazing. He helped me with shirt choice and shoes. Although I ended up pulling boots from my own model wardrobe stash. The inspiration behind the renaissance  look came from Sacha Goldberger a photographer who had shot all the superheroes and villains in period renaissance attire. I thought it would be nice to bring that little piece of inspiration to this project as well.

The shoot started with portrait lighting and meandered through different creative lighting styles, some as simple as one speedlight placed on the floor. Other styles were more complex using strobes & colored gels, softboxes with grids and more. There was a short outdoor portion that used available light and some fill flash using a hand-held speedlight.

But once back in the studio things kicked into high gear and the really creative shots started to come together. Side lighting achieved with strip boxes & grids and was the most awesome shots of the whole session.

The shoot was not without incident; Jade’s airbrush crapped out half way through her application, although she worked her magic and recovered quite well. I on the other hand dropped a Paul C Buff Einstein 640 strobe while I was removing it from a softbox. I could not catch it, although I did slow the fall enough to dampen the blow. However it loosened the Pyrex dome that covers the flash tube and then the dome fell and shattered. $10 for the dome is not too bad vs $500+ for the strobe. The strobe worked fine just a little brighter lol.

In the end we were all ready to call it a day and we did. Kudos to Nicole for sitting all that time without as much as a whimper and huge props to Jade & Jordan. Jade is a true creative and a talent. To be able to work with such a person is a true pleasure. Thank you Jade and Nicole. Also many big thanks to “Tiny” my assistant who is like having not one, but two right arms. Tiny would always be there when you need him, the perfect assistant.

Please enjoy the image and there will be more and hopefully an image that will have some “pink” for breast cancer awareness. Thanks so much for reading.

Life… A Series of Problems. (But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence…)

 

 

 

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

Shantae Taylor 1/125 sec at f/16 ISO 50 70mm

It started off as a photo shoot to update headshots in a studio and it ended as classic car shoot outdoors. But aside from the strange twist from how it started to how it ended, the really amazing part was being able to work with model Shantae Taylor. I had not worked with Shantae for just over two years and although we stay connected through Instagram I knew the day would come… and it did. Finished with school and carving her way into a broadcasting career it is amazing to follow a person as they make that journey to follow a dream. Sure it sounds easy and fantasy like when you write about it or as you are reading about it. But we all know the true reality is that life is not easy and things never come fast. It has been said that “life is nothing more than just a series of problem and our job is to solve the problems.” That statement when read makes life just seem “so easy,” and the statement could not be any truer, life “is” a series of problems. But somewhere between the written words of some wise sage and our actual daily existence this so-called “series of problems” is really nothing more than a murky abyss. A place where you cannot see through to the other side, a place where some days you can’t see your hand in front of your face, a place where moments of clarity appear and happiness abounds, but never stays. A place where sometimes nothing seems real and yet in the blink of an eye it can all becomes so real it hurts or even kills.

Maybe this blog post seems a little off pace for a photographer who just had an amazing shoot with an amazing person. We talked about all kinds of things, her career path, creativity, jobs, and life and so on… But all the while I’m working with her my mind drifts back to a mere 24 hours earlier where I sat with a wonderful and courageous friend who was recovering from a horrible motorcycle accident that was no fault of his, in which he sustained massive injuries and worst of all he lost his wife. A problem that came into his life with no wrong doing of his own. While my friend is on a long road to getting life back to a somewhat normal state it was a drastic contrast to my conversation with Shantae. She is young and full of energy and focused… As we finished up our shoot and she departed, I just sat there thinking… “Life… just a series of problems… all we have to do is solve the problems.” I wish her the best.

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

Shantae Taylor posing in a 1957 Chevy 1/25 sec at f/7.1 ISO 200 85mm

I Love My Blog (When I first started up with my blog it seemed almost pointless, but as time passed…)

Model Whan Nasert-Corrente 1/125 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 105mm

Model Whan Nasert-Corrente 1/125 sec at f/8.0 ISO 50 105mm

I miss writing blog posts. Although I did not write them every day I still miss doing it. I have spent so much time the past few weeks working on the new YouTube channel and trying to populate it with content. Trying to get the channel up and moving so to speak so it won’t be so pathetic and boring. However in the past 3 to 4 years that I have been writing periodic blog post I feel I have improved my writing skills somewhat and I have learned to keyword and hashtag and all that other fun stuff that sometime feels like you’re doing nothing. But when I Google a model’s name and my images appear at the top of the list or at least in the ten results I guess whatever I’m doing is working.

When I first started up with my blog it seemed almost pointless, but as time passed I found that writing blog posts did more than promote my images, it helped me think more about my photography and what I wanted to accomplish. It gave me a “focus” (pardon the pun) of sorts. It also gave a platform for people to rip-off my images and “yes” that has happened too, but I think that happens to almost every photographer today who has somewhat interesting images posted to the internet.

So while video is the thing of the future I will still continue to write posts and attach images to them. I like writing because it is a time when I sit down and relax, collect my thoughts and focus on an image. Vlogging is very different because I have to edit the content and render the video and then upload to YouTube or wherever. Either way vlogging is very different. I thought it would be easier because I would not have to type… I type slowly and I am constantly checking my grammar and spelling, however once the post is written and completed and ready for upload all I have to do is proof read and hit “publish.” As opposed to the editing and rendering of video that takes time. So I know my written blog will never go away and meanwhile the YouTube and Vimeo channels will continue as well.

Thanks so much for stopping by and 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.

Independence Day (The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. )

Ryan Flag Over Shoulder

Independence

It’s the 4th of July, it’s Independence Day and today those words really weigh heavy in the air and in the hearts of many Americans. As we go about our celebrations of parties with food and beer, as we go about our travels to entertaining events, we do it all in the name of “Independence” and while many Facebook and other social media memes will try to make us out to be bad people for having a party or drinking a beer (or two or 10) while we have troops who are away from their families, I feel differently. I feel we should celebrate as we see fit.

It is because of our forefathers and our troops that we have independence. So we must pay a deep respect to our troops as well as our forefathers. The bravery of our men & women in our armed services will always be our power. Sure we live in a time of drones and robots, but it is still (at least for now) the bravery of an American to stand up and fight for what he/she believes in, to put their selves in harm’s way so that we can have that party on the 4th of July. Our freedom was not given to us and many times we have heard it said “freedom is not free” and nothing could be truer. The price for freedom is not paid in gold or silver, diamonds or gems; it is not bought with checks or currency. Freedom is acquired when we fight for it and in that fight, simply put… humans die. Both men & women give their life because they believe in freedom. It really is kind of strange to think of it that way, but there really is no other way to look at it. The bravery of the American who stands up and answers the call to go and serve is paramount and deserves the utmost respect. Say a prayer, shake a hand, buy a coffee, give a hug and help their families. All of the aforementioned are miniscule to the price that a brave soldier is putting forth for his country… and for you. Also take care of him/her when they return with visible and hidden wounds that will stay with them for the rest of their life. The battle for many soldiers does not end on the battlefield and many have hidden wounds that we’ll never understand. There wounds hidden or visible is “the price” that they have incurred. Don’t try to understand it, but rather comfort it and most of all give respect.

So it with that feeling I created this image montage to celebrate this year’s Independence Day. The model Ryan McNally is a former soldier himself and it was his idea to bring this American flag to the photo shoot. The very first thing I said to Ryan when we first connected on social media (Instagram) was “Thank you for serving our country.” His reply was “Oh no problem, I was happy to do it.” Ryan is an awesome young man and a pleasure to shoot with. I was also amazed at his knowledge and respect of the flag. While yes we did use the American flag as a photo prop at no time did it touch the floor or was disrespected in any way.

So here we have a six element montage. A young American patriot draped in a flag with our fore fathers, our eagle, our constitution, troops on patrol, a returning soldier holding his daughter up high and lastly the long dreary road behind the soldiers. All of this put together as Ryan gazes over his shoulder while looking out over the heartland of America. My thinking that goes into this kind of montage is a kind of “make it as I go.” When starting I did not really have an idea other that it had to say something about independence. While it may not be the most striking image I’ve ever created I do like it because it conveys what I wanted to say.

Happy 4th of July weekend everybody. Please be healthy, be safe, have lots of fun and shake a soldier’s hand and say “thanks” they’ll know what you mean.

Creating With Analog Efex Pro (It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters.)

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Double exposure made in Analog Efex Pro. Self portrait at my house in Thailand. I love the wooden window shutters.

Let’s talk a little about Google’s Nik Analog Efex Pro plugin for Lightroom or Photoshop. I myself had over looked this at first. In my last post I talked about how I had bought just two products from Nik, but soon after Google acquired the Nik collection they sent download links to previous Nik customers for the whole Nik collection. This was long before Google made the collection available to the public.

So when I downloaded the whole collection I seen Analog Efex Pro but I thought I had no use for it. Actually the truth be told I never even opened it. Not until one day I was trying to open Color Efex Pro in Photoshop and I accidentally opened Analog Efex Pro in the fly out menu. It was at that time I started to explore this fun little gem. It basically gives you all these old camera kits from the film era and lets you create some really awesome stuff. Now I know if you are a Photoshop user your first thought might be that “it can all be done in Photoshop” and I would answer “yes & no.” Well actually “yes” but Nik’s algorithms are a lot different from Adobe’s and seem to produce the end results in a unique way with a different feel. So yes you could do it in Photoshop, but the feel of the end visual seems different to me.

The double exposure effect is a lot of fun and again one might think the “masking” in PS would produce the same effect, but AEP is so much more fun. It could be a “one click” and your done edit if you use the presets, but I really like to play with the controls and see what I can create on my own.

If you like Instagram and all the filter choices, you will love Analog Efex Pro. It’s like this is where Instagram created their filters. I really would like to see more people use it and play around and get real creative. You have so many options available; from light leaks, to dust & scratches, bokeh and many more.

So if you are a Photoshop or Lightroom user download the collection and dive in.

Ghostly Forest

Ghostly Forest created using Analog Efex Pro.

Google Makes Nik a Free Download (…for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow”)

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

B&W conversion using Silver Efex Pro 2

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

Final edit includes adjustments performed using Color Efex Pro 4, Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and more.

As many photographers may have heard Google has just made the Nik Collection a “free” download. Many photographers already know about the Nik plugins, however I personally have met many photographers who never heard of Nik plugins, even after Google acquired the Nik collection from Nik. I guess I was naïve to have thought everybody knew what they were. I have been using Nik for many years now. I had purchased Color Efex Pro 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2 from Nik and then after Google acquired them one day out of the clear blue I received an email from Google giving me a link to download the whole collection and this in turn moved me up to Color Efex Pro 4. Google stated because I was a current Nik Customer they were dishing out the love and it really was a beautiful day for sure.

Now real quick for those who don’t know the original Nik plugins were the “cat’s meow” especially Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro.

I fell in love with Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) for making black & white conversions. Although I have several methods for making B&W images SEP2 is by far the best and most creative. I love my color images, but at the same time I can get lost in playing with SEP2. Most important to me when working with images that have a face, is being able to see the zone mapping so I can apply my personal recipe for zone mapping human skin. I’m not going to go into all the details about the zone system, but for those who know about Ansel Adam’s zone system… well you know what I’m talking about.

Most important (in my opinion) is that if you want to create amazing black & whites you need to first create a great color image and then move into SEP2. So for those of you who have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, you need to get these plugins and get started learning how to use them. For me… if you asked me to choose one tool or plugin for Photoshop and nothing else. Hands down the Nik collection would be my choice, mainly Color Efex Pro.

Another source that increased my wanting for using SEP2 was famed photographer Vincent Versace’s book “From Oz to Kansas” but you must first read “Welcome to Oz” because it is all about making cinematic edits that can stop at being beautiful color images or… move to the next book “From Oz to Kansas” and that is taking those awesome color edits and moving to black& white. The books truly are worth reading, however so many people I meet who want to call themselves a “photographer” want instant gratification and reading a book is just too much trouble, or so it seems. Sometimes I will mention that I learned “this or that” technique from a book I read and I get looked at like I have two heads.  I want to be the best photographer I can be and when I look at anybody who has ever succeeded at anything I many times see people who know their craft inside and out and many will tell you that part of knowing your craft is studying the people who have traveled the road before you. When you think about it it’s a “no brainer,” but seems many have no brains. Every photographer out there in this big ole world wants better images and the Nik collection will get you closer to that holy grail, but do yourself a favor and read a book or take a class that is written or taught by a true master of the trade/art. Fuck those stupid Facebook advertisements and find somebody who is a master. I live in NYC/Philly area and when I know Joe McNally or Cliff Mautner or Lindsay Adler are in town speaking or teaching… well you bet your last dollar I’m gonna be there. And those are just a few of the masters photography has to offer.

So down load the Nik collection from Google and let your creativity move of to the next level. I did!