Archive for the 'L-358' Category

Video 3: Using a Light Meter

September 29, 2010

Mark Wallace is back with the third Adorama video of a four-part series on metering. This installment focuses on how to use a light meter. He breaks down the key elements of the “exposure triangle,” which are aperature value, shutter speed, and ISO. By entering any of two of the values into your light meter, the meter will produce the missing variable, enabling you to dial in the correct exposure on your camera.

Wallace demonstrates the Sekonic L-358 meter throughout, and explores the four different modes available on the meter: ambient mode, cordless flash mode, cord flash mode, and wireless flash radio triggering mode. He goes into detail on two modes, basic ambient metering and wireless triggering.

For ambient metering, he provides both outdoor location and indoor studio examples, along with many handy tips, such as a multitude of issues when positioning your meter in front of a model, and settings galore. Thanks for both the overview and the details, Mark!

Don’t forget to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this four part series.

After you’re done learning from one of the masters of metering, check out all the Sekonic meters to step up your game and nail your exposures in-camera, saving you countless hours trying to tweak them in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Wall-E & the Sekonic L-358, by Ernest Pagarigan

September 27, 2010

Shooter Ernest Pagarigan may have posted the the cutest shot of a Sekonic light meter ever. Don’t show this to your children, as they’re bound to ask you for a Sekonic L-358, along with the Wall-E action figure.

Hook up with Ernest on Facebook. He’s got quite a collection of gear you can peruse.

Ronald N. Tan’s Flying L-358

August 4, 2010

Sekonic often gets unsolicited stories about the quality and durability of our meters. One which comes to mind is the email from Ron Plasencia when he wanted to share with us the story of his thirty-five year old Sekonic L-28c light meter, which still functions perfectly for him.

We recently were contacted by Ronald N. Tan, a photographer in Los Angeles and San Francisco, who is the proud owner of a Sekonic L-358 light meter. He shared a remarkable story demonstrating the products strength and durability.

As Tan, a former Applied Physics and Pre-pharmacy major recalls, he started teaching himself photography from scratch in 2007. At that time he purchased a new L-358. Within the first year of owning it, he had a shoot with a model at U.C. Davis and drove the 30 minutes to get there. “After our shoot, I accidentally left my L-358 and my color checker card on the roof,” he reports. “I know this because I have a habit of leaving things on my Maxima 2000.”

When he arrived home, he couldn’t locate the L-358 or his color checker card. “After searching my house, I finally drove back to U.C. Davis,” he says. “At the trunk of the tree located near the parking structure, was my L-358 along with my color checker card. I was able to spot my color checker card from afar due to its bright colors. Since then, my L-358 works perfectly. A good samaritan probably found my items and relocated them off the road and placed them at the trunk of the tree.”

The kindness of a stranger has not been in vain. Tan continues to meter his shoots with his L-358. “Since the accident, my L-358 has traveled with me to El Mirage Day Lake in Los Angeles and the beaches on the Pacific Coastal Highway in Malibu,” he reports. “It got sand on it and some moisture from the water, but it all works well three years later.”

Tan sent us a late email with the following quote. “Great investment!!! I stand behind that as a testimony of L-358’s durability! My L-358 hasn’t been serviced either. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”

Ronald N. Tan Photography

Ronald N. Tan’s blog

Ronald N. Tan on Facebook

Ronald N. Tan on Twitter

Sean Armenta’s One Light Beauty Setup

August 2, 2010

Fashion, beauty, and lifestyle photographer Sean Armenta has released a video detailing how he sets up one light (a beauty dish) and some homemade reflectors to light a typical cosmetics campaign ad. That’s right. You heard correctly. One light for professional results you’d see in any fashion magazine.

Along with the beauty dish, Armenta also utilizes a Sekonic L-358 meter. At the ready is a bank of PocketWizard Plus II units.

Sean Armenta | One Light Beauty Setup from Sean Armenta.

Armenta put this video together for the FStoppers.com behind the scenes video contest.

We had previously checked out Armenta’s career and work in “Sean Armenta’s Ornaments of Women.” You can see more of his work and writing at the following links.

Sean Armenta Photography
Sean Armenta blog
Sean Armenta on Twitter
Sean Armenta on Facebook
Sean Armenta on Flickr
Sean Armenta’s Workshop

Written by Ron Egatz

Sean Armenta’s Ornaments of Women

June 22, 2010

A famous quote attributed to Martin Luther reads like this: “The hair is the richest ornament of women.” This 500-year-old quote is something Sean Armenta intrinsically knows and understands. Although capable of a wide variety of fashion portraiture, it’s the exotic hair and makeup sessions where Armenta truly shines. Paul Mitchell, the North American Hairstyling Awards, and a host of hair salon magazines have all benefitted from Armenta’s expertise at capturing complex hairstyles, from the elaborate to the outrageous.

©Sean Armenta

Born in Vancouver, B.C., Armenta was raised in Los Angeles and Orange County of Southern California. Now living in Santa Ana, he became interested in photography during his childhood, when his mother was constantly taking pictures of him. “I have albums upon albums of childhood photos my mom took of me,” he says. “Looking back, she was a really great portrait photographer. She taught me all the basics of camera operation and the fundamentals of exposure and depth of field. I learned off her Nikon F2 and basically shot that into the ground.”

While Armenta worked to build his own portfolio, he assisted a variety of professional shooters, including commercial, portrait, and fashion and beauty photographers. First exposed to fashion photography in the 1990s, Armenta’s immaculate, elegant style was originally influenced by giants such as Herb Ritts, Patrick Demarchelier, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, and Peter Lindbergh, who then ruled the industry.

©Sean Armenta

“I love their clean, classic style, and their work to this day is absolutely timeless,” Armenta says. This timeless quality is something he strives for in his own work. “I definitely have an appreciation for a classic and simple aesthetic that’s iconic in nature. We rarely see a purity in photographs today that was definitive of their work. As far as more contemporary photographers I am inspired by Sarah Silver, Steven Meisel, Mario Testino, Javier Vallhonrat, Eugenio Recuenco, and Solve Sundsbo.”

Armenta uses some very interesting lighting effects in his portraits of models. Reflections from a mirror ball, or edge lights with colored gels quickly come to mind from the range of images he’s known for. When asked how he deals with these different intensities of light, he’s very straightforward. “Iʼm not a very technical or mathematical person,” he declares. “I light organically and visually. Having an amazing tool such as the Sekonic L-358 at my disposal has given me the advantage I need to merge the technical aspect of lighting with the creative and visual aspect of it. Being able to precisely measure light throughout the entire frame is key when using multiple lighting sources and achieving challenging effects.”

©Sean Armenta

When Armenta was building his portfolio early in his career, he worked with Tania Russell, a well-known makeup artist in Los Angeles. Experimenting with a new makeup style, it called for a closeup. His results caused Russell to comment he had an aptitude for beauty photography. “I’ve been passionate about shooting beauty ever since,” he says. “I attribute my love for beauty photography to her.”

The Allure series on his site features some truly artistic makeup work, using models faces’ as if they were blank canvases. The photographic challenges these different colors and textures produce can be formidable. “Different cosmetic products will have different reflective properties,” Armenta explains. “A dewy foundation on skin will have a different reflectance to makeup that has more of a metallic finish. Pre-visualization and proper conceptualization of lighting is so important. Choosing the right lighting modifiers, lighting position, and careful metering are all essential parts of dealing with these challenges.”

©Sean Armenta

Along with incredible makeup, elaborate hairstyles is an area Armenta excels at capturing with his cameras. He often works with two talented Paul Mitchell hairstylists, Noogie Thai and Lucie Doughty. Most of the work they’ve done together has been nominated for various categories in the North American Hairstyling Awards. Canadian Hairdresser International, Modern Salon, Studio, Vibra and other hair magazines have featured shots Armenta has captured of their work. “It’s definitely a challenge lighting different hairstyles, different types of hair textures, and different hair colors and finishes,” he states. “Trying to get the hair to move the way you want and photograph the way you intended also poses its own issues. When you provide a collaborative environment and get everyone involved in the creative process, it becomes much easier to overcome obstacles.”

©Sean Armenta

Armenta has no preference regarding shooting in studios or on location. “Each offers their own challenges,” he says. “I shoot according to what the situation calls for.” He cites living in Southern California and its weather as definitely making things easier for location work. Aside from the lack of precipitation and benefits of temperature, the lack of humidity helps with controlling hair, particularly the more elaborate sculptures hairstylists create.

©Sean Armenta

Some spring cleaning once brought about one of Armenta’s most unique shoots. I asked him about the fashion series with natural textures and abstracts projected onto a seamless white background. “I was cleaning out the studio one day, and I came upon a box of old transparencies I had shot several years ago,” Armenta recalls. “At that time, there was a fashion photography trend of projecting images over the model and using that as the key light. I wanted to try something different and actually light the model and the background separately. I used an old 35mm slide projector to project the transparencies onto my studio cyc, then I used a 22” beauty dish with a grid to light the model while keeping the strobe off the background. In addition, I gelled two umbrellas on either side of the model to provide some colored rim lighting, but I did not have those heads fire. Instead, I simply used their 250 watt modeling lights in order to introduce motion blur as the model moved around on set. To arrive at my exposure, I first determined what my continuous lighting was reading at, for both the projected background image and the gelled umbrellas, taking into account that I wanted to drag my shutter to produce motion blur. I believe I decided on 1/8th of a second for my shutter speed at 400 ISO. After that, it was a matter of adjusting the output of the beauty dish to match the f/4 aperture that the continuous lighting produced at that shutter speed and ISO. Not only was I trying to introduce motion blur, but I also wanted to shoot at a shallower depth of field in order to blur the projected image behind the model. The images were shot on a Canon 5D with a Canon 50mm f/1.4 tethered into Capture One.”

©Sean Armenta

Armenta credits his mother with teaching him how to use in-camera meters, but has taught himself handheld incident light meter reading. “When I bought my first set of strobes, I also bought a very basic light meter,” he recalls. “When I progressed and graduated to a Speedotron lighting system, I wanted to be able to trigger the strobes wirelessly. The best option for that is using a PocketWizard system, and of course, Sekonic offers the RT-32 Radio Transmitter Module for the L-358, so I also upgraded my light meter with that and I still use the same meter today.”

The L-358 Armenta uses has been in his gear bag for six years. “That in itself is a testament of its build quality,” he says. “It’s held up to studio use, the beach, the desert, and travel. The technology used in Sekonic meters helped me immensely in producing the quality of lighting I strive for in my work. I’m looking at upgrading to perhaps a Sekonic L-758DR. I’m also looking to purchase the Sekonic C-500R color meter in the near future to help make it easier experimenting more with mixed lighting scenarios.”

©Sean Armenta

With his six-year-old purchase, Armenta feels his Sekonic investment has paid off. “I canʼt sing enough praises when it comes to my L-358, especially in difficult shooting situations,” he explains. “Just being able to trigger my lighting from far away is amazing to me. I try to go out to Joshua Tree National Park at least once a year for a location shoot, and that’s where the L-358 really pays off—when we are trying to balance ambient light with strobes. I can position my lighting exactly where I want to nail down my exposures easily and accurately, regardless of what the environment throws at me. When youʼre high up on a huge boulder and the power pack is out of reach, you donʼt have to have someone fire the pack for you to get a reading. The L-358 also shines when it comes to determining lighting ratios when using multiple lighting sources. Sekonic meters make you more efficient and precise. This translates into less time spent adjusting lighting in the shooting stage and also less time and money spent in post production having to fix lighting issues.”

©Sean Armenta

Although primarily known for his unique beauty photography, Armenta is game for almost any subject matter. Celebrity and music are two areas he cites which he’d eventually like to try his hand at. “I love photography, period,” he emphatically says. “Even though I focus on beauty and fashion, if anything outside that realm should come across my table and interest me, I would definitely shoot it. While beauty is my focus, I love shooting fashion and lifestyle.”

©Sean Armenta

In the future, Armenta is interested in larger beauty advertising campaigns for larger clients such as major cosmetics manufacturers. He’s nothing but bullish on his goals. “I want to be the next big name in photography—the next Steven Meisel or Mario Testino,” he says. With work this strong so early in his career, there’s no reason why this can’t happen. Until then, we’ll be satsified with his continued beautiful portraits of the richest ornaments for women.

Sean Armenta Photography
Sean Armenta blog
Sean Armenta on Twitter
Sean Armenta on Facebook
Sean Armenta on Flickr
Sean Armenta’s Workshop

Written by Ron Egatz

Photojournalistic Babies and the Val-tilt

March 25, 2010

In tough economic times for all, Valerie Wallace-Camp is living her dream. She’s found her niche as a photographer, creating work she’s passionate about. Teaming up with her friend Kellie from Across the Miles Photography, they’re sharing studio space in Argenta, Illinois.

A 1999 graduate of Southern Illinois University in with a Bachelor’s in Visual Communication Design, she always knew she wanted to have a career in the arts. After just one black and white photography class in college, she had found her calling. Unfortunately, it was too close to graduation to switch majors, and she graduated the following semester.

Out of school she worked for a photographer as his graphic designer, eventually shadowing him in the studio. She began shooting a few baby portraits, then assisting at wedding shoots. “The time eventually came where I had my own ideas and decided to start up my own business,” she says. “Just weeks later I was signing up my business name with the county.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

The past several months have found Valerie and Kellie sharing a new studio space. “It works just like a hair salon,” she reports. “We have our own businesses but share the space and share our props. We each have our own days of the week when we’re using the space. The things we don’t share are Web sites, printing labs, and business names. Luckily our style is so similar that you can’t tell the difference between Kellie’s canvases on the wall and my canvases. And then our design style is just alike, too, as we both have an eclectic, vintage, contemporary decorating style. It all works so well. It’s just kind of melted together quite simply, even better than we had envisioned. We are lucky we get along so well and support each other like we do. I can see where sharing a space wouldn’t work. Luckily, it works for us.”

Geographically, Valerie has found herself adapting her style of photography to her locale. “My style is very photojournalistic. While my style is getting more popular, I still find there are a lot of people who prefer the posed traditional style,” she says. “And that’s okay. I still manage to get some of those candid shots, and they are the ones that usually sell. It won’t be long before most everyone around here will prefer and appreciate the popular photojournalistic style.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

Argenta is so small it’s considered a village. Accordingly, Valerie is attempting to stand out the best she can throughout central Illinois and beyond. “I love to have my work printed on canvases,” she says, “which I really do believe is very new to my area, so if you see my work in doctors’ offices or in the studio, you’ll see canvases. They are very new and modern to many people in my area. I also try to do things that aren’t standard for a lot of professional portrait photographers around here, like moving past portraits by designing billboards and shooting photos for Thrive magazine.”

Valerie is quick to point out how social media has helped her grow her new business. “Facebook, Twitter and blogging have been truly amazing for me,” she says. “I put up my VWC Photography page on Facebook in 2009, and half of my clients that year came from there. It’s not just word of mouth anymore, but word of online social media. Everyone is intertwined somehow, and it’s changing the world for all photographers and businesses all over the world. It’s especially been useful for the small, home-based businesses. Of course, it can probably work against you if you don’t keep up with Twittering, Facebook statuses and blog entries, but luckily I try my best to keep up on all these things and it most certainly pays off.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

Blogging is in a category by itself. “Blogging is so important to me,” Valerie says. “I began blogging with a personal blog quite a few years ago. It was my outlet as a stay-at-home mom. As a photographer, I’ve realized the same thing–blogging is another creative outlet for me. I love to write, so it gives me the opportunity to combine writing with my photography. Blogging for my business has been tremendous.” She often approached by people who tell her they’ve been following her blog for years. “I don’t see blogging for photographers as anything but powerful and positive. It’s great for us personally and business-wise,” she says.

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

While Valerie has worked with more traditional-style photographers in the past, she was eventually interested in applying her own approaches to shooting. With a slight tilt of the camera or getting on the same level as her subjects, she’s helped define herself. “Mike Judge, the photographer who taught me so much, would say things like, ‘some of my photos are different now because I did the Val-tilt.’ I didn’t even realize I was doing these things until he called me on it. It was kind of neat to realize I really did have a particular style.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

When your main photographic subject is children, uncooperative kids are a reality of the job. Valerie has a few tricks which help. We asked her to share them with our readers. “When on-location, if I have one who won’t cooperate, I just let them be,” she says. “If the parent needs to step in, of course I allow that. If it’s just a child not wanting to interact with me or the camera, again, I let them lead. I’ll let them take me somewhere and I ask them about the place they’re taking me. If we are near trees, for example, I’ll play peek-a-boo. I try my best to let them take the initiative, and it almost always works. A lot of times they act uncooperative because of the parent, not me. That’s why when we do go on location, or even in studio, it’s best for there not to be many people watching and fussing over the child. That’s when the child becomes uncooperative and not be themselves. In a photographic situation, it’s almost always best to let the child lead.”

The youngest of children present their own set of challenges for photographers. “With newborns,” explains Valerie, “it’s ideal to have a sleepy baby. Quite often the baby just wants to be awake, so we deal with what we get. I take as much time as possible to get the perfect shot, as long as Mom and Dad are okay with that.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

A typical session lasts about an hour. Newborns and engagement sessions are longer. “Each child is so different, but I can usually figure out their personalities and work well with them,” she says. Personal experience is applicable when shooting children, she explains. “My daughter is very spunky, strong-willed and busy. My son is very introverted, hates the camera, and hard to get a smile out of. I mother children on both sides of the spectrum, and I think that really works to my advantage when shooting children on location or in the studio.”

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

Valerie is currently shooting a Nikon D700 body. Her most-used lenses are a Nikkor 85mm 1.4D, a Nikkor 60mm 2.8D, a Nikkor 50mm 1.2, a Sigma 28mm 1.8, and a Tamron 17-50mm 2.8. She has a D200 as backup. She also owns a Sekonic Flash Master L-358 light meter. “I purchased it in 2002 and it’s held up perfectly! I use it every time I do studio work, weddings and probably 30% of the time outdoors,” she says. “I also use the PocketWizard Plus II. When doing weddings, this has been a lifesaver. I can’t imagine my life without a wireless system. Now having a studio, I use the wireless system and again, it seems like the most ingenious invention for the photography world. It’s made life so much simpler.”

She does some post-processing in Lightroom and occasionally Photoshop. “Bright and colorful is how people expect my work now. I guess it’s kind of branded me in a way,” she says.

©Valerie Wallace-Camp

In the future, Valerie would like to do more commercial photography. “I am the photographer for Thrive magazine in Decatur, which is a free magazine focusing each month on different upcoming businesses, events, outstanding businesspeople, etc. I’ve had the opportunity to do product photography, architecture, people, dogs—the list goes on. I’d love to continue exploring outside of the normal portrait in realms such as this.”

Valerie Wallace-Camp Photography

Valerie Wallace-Camp’s blog

Valerie Wallace-Camp on Twitter

Valerie Wallace-Camp on Facebook

Written by Ron Egatz

Simon Gerzina in the Sweet Spot

December 16, 2009

Simon Gerzina shoots film and digital, fashion and beauty, corporate portraiture and a little reportage. No matter the assignment, Sekonic meters are always with him. “Even for events, I carry a light meter for everything. I don’t like relying on in-camera meters or the histogram. I prefer to make lighting decisions based on numbers and not on a guess.” Gerzina carries a Sekonic L-358 meter with the PocketWizard module. “It’s never left the meter since I got them together. It’s been indispensable. I don’t know how I could ever go back to tripping over cables. You don’t have to worry about fragile little PC-synch terminals. It’s a real godsend. The 358 is at an amazing sweet spot. The cost is negligible once you start talking about studio equipment. It’s small—it sits on my hip until I need it. Since using a Sekonic I’ve never wanted to use anything else. I actually bought a second one when out on a shoot because I couldn’t find my original. I later found my first one the next day and was not bummed at all I owned two of them.”

©Simon Gerzina

In the time he’s been shooting professionally, Gerzina has developed some strong feelings about the use of lightmeters. “It bums me out there’s people today getting into serious photography who, as opposed to five or ten years ago, have a new mentality that light meters are unnecessary luxury. These people are often entirely self-taught, or they pick up tips on blogs and tutorials. They don’t recognize how much faster and easier it makes the work. The idea of manufacturing light without a meter is like a carpenter working without a ruler. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

©Simon Gerzina

Gerzina also uses a Mamiya RB67 a Mamiya 645AF, Profoto Acute2 and AcuteB strobe packs, and PocketWizard Plus II’s.

Simon Gerzina Photography

Simon Gerzina’s Twitter feed

Simon Gerzina’s Facebook Fan Group

Fashion Shoot with Ford Models

Simon Gerzina’s Flickr Photostream

Behind-the-Scenes on Flickr

Written by Ron Egatz

35 Years and Counting

November 16, 2009

Thirty-five years ago a young Ron Plasencia walked into Click Camera in Springfield, Ohio and bought a Sekonic L-28c light meter. A serious hobbyist and lover of photography, Ron has been shooting with his Sekonic ever since.

Cades Cove Morning

©Ron Plasencia

Things have changed in the past thirty-five years. East Tennessee has been his home for twenty years, and he currently resides near the Smoky Mountain National Park, where much of his nature photography is captured. Ron has also ventured into high school portraiture and team sports photography. Even his old favorite camera retailer has changed, with Click Camera becoming part of the Dodd Camera family. Through it all, one thing has remained the same: Ron’s Sekonic L-28c. “This instrument has been the most consistently reliable photographic accessory I’ve owned,” he states. “I use it to calibrate the in-camera exposure meters of all the other cameras I’ve ever owned.”

Berry Red

©Ron Plasencia

Currently shooting film with his 1979 Mamiya M645 J and digitally with an Olympus E-3, Ron still relies on his Sekonic meter. “When I shoot the E-3, I use the L-28c to measure the light for all my scenic and landscape work, and to tweak all other critical exposures. The Sekonic is always consistent.”

Spruce Flats HC

©Ron Plasencia

“I’ve shot at Smoky Mountain when there were twenty other photographers lined up. I was using my Sekonic and some young guy asked what I was doing,” Ron laughs. “I ended up giving a lesson right there on what light meters are, how they work, and how they can help serious photographers.”

Harvester

©Ron Plasencia

Although Ron’s L-28c is still going strong, he’s not stuck in the past. “My next Sekonic will be the L-358 to assist me with studio lighting.” Recently retired from his job as a teacher for at-risk children, there’s no slowing him down. “I plan on doing serious portrait work,” he says.

Spruce Flat Falls II

©Ron Plasencia

Along with his portrait work, Ron will continue his nature and sports photography. He’s also partnering with several other photographers to begin local photography seminars, and will have links posted on his sites to classes he’ll be offering. No stranger to teaching photography, Ron has been holding classes at a local art center for the past five years.

Zack

©Ron Plasencia

Although the original leather case of his L-28c has recently been retired like Ron himself, the meter shows no signs of stopping, and neither does Ron. “Thank you, Sekonic, for a super product,” he says.

Ron’s Nature Photography: Photoartique.com
Ron’s Portraiture and Sports Photography: One Man, One Camera

Written by Ron Egatz

Norman Kushner’s Niche and Gear

November 5, 2009

A professional photographer for close to 30 years, Norman Kushner has seen trends, technologies and studios come and go. Getting his start in Brooklyn all those years ago, Kushner now enjoys a deep knowledge of both the history of the New York and New Jersey photography scene and the gear pros use, including the modifications which he’s known for. This post is the first of several detailing his practices and custom alterations of gear he uses to get the job done.

Starting at a time when the wedding photography business was controlled by large studios, as opposed to freelancers operating on shoestring budgets, Kushner found himself apprenticing for a well-known photographer who taught him many aspects of the business. Weddings and bar mitzvahs not only bring about technical challenges unique to any photography assignment, but atypical social interactions (how to deal with caterers, what to do with film wrappers in the old days) and logistical queueing issues (best positions to shoot from during wedding ceremonies, what happens next in a bar mitzvah, etc.).

As Kushner learned the ropes, he crossed paths with Tony Armato, a photographer and machinist who achieved legendary status for his New York-area hardware modifications and brackets. Soon Kushner was working for Armato and making similar hardware modifications and fabrications. With necessity the mother of invention, Kushner began to build custom solutions for situations he encountered in the world of bar mitzvah photography.

boy

©Norman Scott Photography

Kushner is often called upon to shoot his bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah subjects in synagogues against stained glass windows. To properly balance the backlit windows and light on the subject, Kushner has come up with the following solution.

Referring to the above photo, Kushner says, “My Sekonic L-358 is invaluable when producing images like this. To get this type of shot, all ambient light must be turned off. The exposure is based solely on the stained glass and your flash. You don’t want the walls around the stained glass to be lit artificially at all. Start by measuring the ambient light coming through the stained glass. Make sure you measure through the lightest or brightest color of the stained glass, as this will set all the other colors in the window correctly. If the darkest colors are exposed for, the lighter colors will become overexposed.”

Depth of field is critical, he cautions. “Keep your subject fairly far from the stained glass window. This will keep your flash from hitting the glass and contaminating it, which will ruin the glow. It also creates a nice depth to your image. Set your flash off to the side to create a nice side lighting. Set your exposure so as to underexpose the stained glass slightly. You don’t want the colors to overpower the photo. Since the f-stop is controlling the flash exposure, use your shutter speed to control the exposure of the stained glass. By using the Sekonic meter and PocketWizard combination, it’s very easy to set your flash exposure. By taking your reading the Sekonic will fire the PocketWizard, setting off the flash. The flash exposure is adjusted by setting the power on your strobe or by actually moving the flash closer or farther away, or a combination of both.”Kushner has developed a series of hardware for his craft. Among pieces he fabricates from scratch is a custom-made solution which mounts both a PocketWizard and a softbox.

©Norman Scott Photography

Here is the same hardware with a PocketWizard MultiMAX, Nikon SB-800 and softbox mounted.
(C)Norman Scott Photography 732 536-5111  009

©Norman Scott Photography

Norman Kushner has made a living taking photographs full-time for close to 30 years. We look forward to learning more techniques from his vast experience in future posts.

To create the bar mitzvah image at the top of this post, the following equipment was used:

  • Sekonic L358
  • Two PocketWizard MultiMAX Transceivers
  • Nikon D3
  • Nikon SB-800
  • Light stand
  • R4108 Norman Umbrella Stand adapter
  • Attached to the umbrella stand adaptor is a Stroboframe Flash Mount Adapter, Standard Shoe-type
  • Gitzo Carbon Fiber Tripod
  • Really Right Stuff L Bracket
  • Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball Head
  • Small Rectangular softbox rotatable from vertical to horizontal
  • Nikon off-camera flash, softbox, PocketWizard, Sekonic meter with built-in PocketWizard.
Written by Ron Egatz

J.C. Lopez-Johnston, Toxinologist and Artist

August 28, 2009
It all started when J.C. Lopez-Johnston’s father brought him home rubber snakes when he was a boy in Venezuela. Although he doesn’t know why his father chose to bring him this type of toy, it changed his life forever. In 1986 for his 18th birthday, instead of getting a driver’s license, J.C. asked for a vine snake to keep in his bedroom. That was followed by coral snakes, racers, rattlesnakes, fer-de-lance snakes, boas, and tree snakes, among others. By 1992, well into his career in biology, he got a Nikon FG camera to document his work and field trips. Having already handled snakes for five years at that time, he found himself drawn to working specifically with snake venoms.
Not only are snakes creatures of beauty to J.C., but his work with them comes from a deeper sense of responsibility. “In tropical countries, from Mexico down to South America, snake bites are an important epidemiological problem,” he says. “It’s a serious health concern, especially in agricultural areas, and due to social and economical issues around the world. In Australia, 90% of the snakes there have venom capable of killing humans, but the snake bite incidents are very low. In Venezuela, 10% of the snakes are capable of killing people, but bite incidents are very high. The difference is due to proper education. In India a lot of people are killed every year, also. Because of this, I started to do workshops in Venezuela.”
When asked about his beautiful images of snakes, J.C. explains how his mission to educate drove him deeper into photography. “I wanted to portray snakes in a different way. Scientists can be very dry when presenting data. They present the animal, the scales, but with no sense of aesthetics. I truly believe as a scientist you can add extra value to your work. You can show a physiologically-proper documentation of a snake, but it can also be artwork. Before Jacques Daguerre and William Fox Talbot, explorers and scientists like Alexander von Humbolt had no cameras. They had to draw, and drawings are artwork. They made biological records on physiology, but it was artwork because they were accomplished painters.”
To help create the art of subjects he loves, J.C. specifically turned to Sekonic and PocketWizard. Although he also photographs people, events, and landscapes, his studio lighting equipment is set-up for the purpose of documenting snakes. He uses seamless white or black fabric for backdrop and on a table. “I put the snake on there and try to convince him to please stay there and smile for me,” J.C. laughs. A Sekonic Flash Master L-358 and PocketWizard Pluses are critical to this set-up, he reports. His main lenses are the Micro Nikon 105mm f2.8D and the Sigma 70-300mm f4 APO Macro “because I don’t want to get too close to the snake,” he says, grinning.
Between 2005 and 2007 as the curator and supervisor of the Natural Toxins Research Center serpentarium at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, J.C. had many duties. When not photographing snakes, he can be found extracting their venom, brushing their teeth, medicating sick ones, and practicing snake husbandry. His main focus, however, is venom research. Along with his science credentials, J.C. Degree holds a degree in Professional Photography from the New York Institute of Photography.
Currently working on a book for the center, J.C. will continue to shoot his silent subjects with careful handling and PocketWizards. Primarily, he shoots slide film. When asked about shooting film versus digitally, he states “with my snakes, I hope Fuji Film will not let me down by stopping production of film, particularly Fujichrome Velvia 100 ISO. With digital cameras, you have the freedom to be careless. With slides, I tend to think carefully, waiting for a decisive moment before I shoot.” Looking to the future, J.C. sees himself photographing snakes with a film-based medium format camera, possibly Mamiya. No matter the format, J.C. will continue to bring photographic art to scientific documentation.
J.C. Lopez-Johnston: http://www.lopezjohnston.com/
J.C. Lopez-Johnston Photography at photo.net: http://photo.net/photos/lopezjohnston
J.C. Lopez-Johnston at the Natural Toxins Research Center: http://www.ntrc.tamuk.edu/NTRCPersonnelBios/Lopez_Juan.swf
J.C. Lopez-Johnston Blog: http://lopezjohnston.blogspot.com/
The Natural Toxins Research Center: http://www.ntrc.tamuk.edu/

It all started when J.C. Lopez-Johnston’s father brought him home rubber snakes when he was a boy in Venezuela. Although he doesn’t know why his father chose to bring him this type of toy, it changed his life forever. In 1986 for his 18th birthday, instead of getting a driver’s license, J.C. asked for a vine snake to keep in his bedroom. That was followed by coral snakes, racers, rattlesnakes, fer-de-lance snakes, boas, and tree snakes, among others. By 1992, well into his career in biology, he got a Nikon FG camera to document his work and field trips. Having already handled snakes for five years at that time, he found himself drawn to working specifically with snake venoms.

JCLJ_CXX_30_BothropsVenezuelensis

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

Not only are snakes creatures of beauty to J.C., but his work with them comes from a deeper sense of responsibility. “In tropical countries, from Mexico down to South America, snake bites are an important epidemiological problem,” he says. “It’s a serious health concern, especially in agricultural areas, and is linked to social and economic issues around the world. In Australia, 90% of the snakes there have venom capable of killing humans, but the snake bite incidents are very low. In Venezuela, 10% of the snakes are capable of killing people, but bite incidents are very high. The difference is due to proper education. In India a lot of people are killed every year, also. Because of this, I started to do workshops in Venezuela.”

JCLJ_CLI_08_CrotalusMolossusJCLJ_CXXXIV_5_AgkistrodonContortrix

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

When asked about his beautiful images of snakes, J.C. explains how his mission to educate drove him deeper into photography. “I wanted to portray snakes in a different way. Scientists can be very dry when presenting data. They present the animal, the scales, but with no sense of aesthetics. I truly believe as a scientist you can add extra value to your work. You can show a physiologically-proper documentation of a snake, but it can also be artwork. Before Jacques Daguerre and William Fox Talbot, explorers and scientists like Alexander von Humbolt had no cameras. They had to draw, and drawings are artwork. They made biological records on physiology, but it was artwork because they were accomplished painters.”

JCLJ_CXIX_37_BothriechisSchlegeliiJCLJ_CXV_21_CleliaClelia

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

To help create the art of subjects he loves, J.C. specifically turned to Sekonic and PocketWizard. Although he also photographs people, events, and landscapes, his studio lighting equipment is set-up for the purpose of documenting snakes. He uses seamless white or black fabric for backdrop and on a table. “I put the snake on there and try to convince him to please stay there and smile for me,” J.C. laughs. With slide film’s notoriously low tolerance for incorrect exposure, he relies on his Sekonic Flash Master L-358PocketWizard Plus Radio Triggers are also critical to this set-up, he reports. His main lenses are the Micro Nikon 105mm f/2.8D and the Sigma 70-300mm f/4 APO Macro “because I don’t want to get too close to the snake,” he says, grinning.

JCLJ_CXLVI_25_CrotalusTigris
©J.C. Lopez-Johnston
©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

Between 2005 and 2007 as the curator and supervisor of the Natural Toxins Research Center serpentarium at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, J.C. had many duties, including extracting venom, medicating ill snakes, and practicing snake husbandry. His main focus, however, is venom research. Along with his science credentials, J.C. holds a degree in Professional Photography from the New York Institute of Photography.

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

Currently working on a book for the center, J.C. will continue to shoot his silent subjects with careful handling and PocketWizards. Primarily, he shoots slide film. When asked about shooting film versus digitally, he states “with my snakes, I hope Fuji Film will not let me down by stopping production of film, particularly Fujichrome Velvia 100 ISO. With digital cameras, you have the freedom to be careless. With slides, I tend to think carefully, waiting for a decisive moment before I shoot.” Looking to the future, J.C. sees himself photographing snakes with a film-based medium format camera, possibly Mamiya. No matter the format, J.C. will continue to bring photographic art to scientific documentation.

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

©J.C. Lopez-Johnston

J.C. Lopez-Johnston: http://www.lopezjohnston.com/

J.C. Lopez-Johnston Photography at photo.net: http://photo.net/photos/lopezjohnston

J.C. Lopez-Johnston Blog: http://lopezjohnston.blogspot.com/

J.C. Lopez-Johnston at the Natural Toxins Research Center: http://www.ntrc.tamuk.edu/NTRCPersonnelBios/Lopez_Juan.swf

The Natural Toxins Research Center: http://www.ntrc.tamuk.edu/

Written by Ron Egatz