The Grand Canyon .... The name pretty well sums it up. Although I have been to the Grand Canyon before, this visit was more focussed on photography. I arrived around noon and as I walked from the parking lot to the rim i was greeted by a group of Chinese tourists armed with more photo equipment than a National Geographic supply house - carbon fiber tripods, lenses as long as my arm, expensive cameras and of course all wearing photo vests and safari hats as part of a fashion statement. Yes, I’m being smug but I had to laugh. Despite the haze and the position of the sun on this summer day the view of the canyon was still impressive. I intensionally left my equipment in the car - I was pre visualizing views and best times to return. The south rim has many potentially good locations for photography - the trick of course as with all landscape photography, is being in the right place at the right time. Some of this is luck and some is the result good planning. I admit, i was lucky on this trip. Most of my favorites came fro ma 2 hour stretch of time in an area on the eastern edge of the Park called Desert View. What made the location so visually powerful were the afternoon thunderstorms fueled by strong monsoon weather from the Gulf of Mexico. It was exciting and energizing to be out there on the edge of the world surrounded by powerful forces of nature. The dark clouds and heavy rain sweeping the canyon to the west added intensity and drama to the scene.
Perched on the edge of the canyon stands a 70 foot stone structure known as the Indian View Watchtower. The tower was built in 1932 and offers some great lookouts as well as Hopi Indian art and jewelry making demonstration. You can see the Colorado River winding through the canyon.
A few weeks ago I got a request to shoot four OB/GYN physicians for their website. They had originally wanted the doctors shot against a green screen but once I understood how the shots were going to be used we decided to go with a 12 foot wide white seamless background. The doctors wanted a number of looks which included white lab coats so I knew that shooting white against white could be a problem. In reality white lab coats are in very light grey so I knew that as long as I lit my background to a true white, the white coats would separate well from the background. I did this by putting i stop more light on the background. Another important consideration was to make sure I had even illumination all the way across and from top to bottom. Since both ceiling and walls were white I used 4 lights with reflectors and aimed them at the walls – 2 lights on each side of the seamless, one about 3 feet off the ground and the other was 3 feet below the ceiling. By bouncing light off the white walls and ceiling I was able to get a nice even light all the way across. I set my background to read f-16 with a light meter ( yes, i still use a light meter ! ) For those of you that have never used a light meter you can use the histogram on your camera to check how white your background actually is. For my subjects I used two 3 foot soft boxes positioned on my left as key lights which I set at f-11 and I added one additional light with a reflector in back and slightly to my right to act as a fill light. That light i aimed up at the ceiling being careful not to allow the light from the strobe to hit my subjects directly. So all together I used 7 lights and it worked perfectly.
The light that was in back illuminating the white seamless was also giving me the added benefit of some very nice highlights. If you look, especially at the faces you will see. This ads shape and tonality to the subjects and gives the shot some extra “pop”. I captured about 200 images in 2 1/2 hours which was pretty fast considering all the clothing changes and combinations we made. You can see how the images were used by going to the website http://www.encinitasobgyn.com/index.html. The designer did an excellent job clipping and dropping the images onto various backgrounds for the website and promo material.
I was asked to photograph a Holiday event a few weeks ago for a client in a fancy hotel in the Gas Lamp District of downtown San Diego. They had reserved a lovely courtyard and as luck would have it was the very night the weather forecast was calling for heavy rain. Bye the way, heavy rain in San Diego is what people in other parts of the country might refer to as "scattered showers". In any case, my assistant and I had scoped out the location a few days earlier which was a brilliant decision on my part since it gave me a few photo options should the weather turn out to be a problem - which of course, it was! The party had a Prohibition theme which made it a lot more visually exciting. Instead of using the traditional canvas backdrop, I used the flavor of the hotel to give me a realistic look of the era. There was a great bar with a killer staircase that worked perfectly for group shots. My assistant and I worked together with a 2 light portable flash setup combined with the ambient light of the rooms which gave us the lighting and the look we were after. The client had requested to have the option of black and white and color prints so it was important to use dramatic lighting. Later that night I photographed the entire group from the balcony above down onto the courtyard …. fortunately right before the big rains came. The rest of the night we took photos in the backup room, complete with an old time jazz band, gambling tables and a lot of foolish behavior. All in all, a fun night!
I love the art and architecture of Santa Fe and was excited to get a request from an artist who has a unique take on this style. The artist, Sara Finegan creates a variety of sculpture pieces - using everything from the skull bones of animals and musical instruments to religious wall tiles - all of which she richly embellishes with colorful stones, beads and metallic objects. She travels the southwest collecting artifacts and brings them back to her studio in Vista, Ca. to make her amazing creations. I predict you will see Sara's work hanging in high-end galleries throughout the country within the next 5 years. Time will tell.
October means the holiday season has begun for many photographers. With billions of digital cameras in everyones purse and pocket it has become increasingly difficult to convince the masses the value of a professional family portrait – So, if you are going to attract potential customers you better have something to offer that is likely to be better than what they can do themselves. Although everybody wants sun, there are a few big advantages to shooting on an overcast day. Number one – you and maybe one other lonely person are the only ones likely to be out, so you have the whole beach to yourself. Secondly, the lack of direct sun is very flattering for skin tones and minimizes distracting shadows. The difficulty was I had to work twice as hard and twice as fast in order to protect my equipment from the rain. I was constantly wiping the mist off my lens and was praying the water would not damage my camera or my electronic flash which I had mounted high on a light stand. If there was ever a time to have an assistant, this would have been the time. Fortunately this was a family I had photographed twice before so we were all familiar a comfortable with each other which made my job a lot easier. Even so, an assistant with good people skills and an eye for expressions and composition would have been helpful. I try to keep a certain spontaneity to all my shots which i think is what most people are looking for.