Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Rebecca Guenther on Light Meters

August 27, 2010

Rebecca Guenther of M5A1 Photography has a video out entitled “How to Use Light Meters.” A photographer in Austin, Texas, Guenther was filmed by Todd Green.

For those of you looking for a very basic explanation of how to use a light meter from a very talented photographer, check out this video!

Guenther also has another great video which showcases some of her work and ideas about creative lighting.

Getting Real with Rachel Rebibo

August 25, 2010

Moving from New York to Paris six years ago, Rachel Rebibo has had image-making in her for a long time. Previously a resident of Washington, D.C. and New York, she now finds herself in sync with the European lifestyle, despite the byzantine maze of French paperwork she’s often required to navigate. Finding herself behind a camera since she was ten, this photographer is hitting her stride in a big way. Often carrying four cameras and a light meter in her handbag, she’s ready for any photographic happening. “I’m one of those chicks who rocks a really big purse,” she laughs.

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Women and their fashion accessories is something Rebibo knows a lot about. She loves to photograph women. In particular she has shot a woman named Julia, a professional makeup artist, in a wide variety of styles and locations. “I feel like the camera loves her. She can’t take a bad picture,” she says of her muse. The two became close friends after meeting as students. “I’m sort of addicted to taking her picture, I think she’s beautiful,” Rebibo says. You can see more of these images on her site.

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Not content to just photograph female models, Rebibo drove around the United States for a month and a half, creating images for her Americana series. Rebibo didn’t simply document landscapes, buildings, and still life studies. She also got to meet citizens who took her into their homes and fed her. She’s chronicled misspelled signs, trailer park life, bar-be-que joints, and taxidermy examples of two-headed mammals. Her images of this largely unseen yet common America are moody, sometimes disturbing, and partially askew. Her untypical camera angles and composition help emphasize a land and a people not wholly content or at peace.

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Estimating ninety percent of her fashion and commercial work is shot on film, Rebibo also shoots digitally. Not a fan of retouching, she proudly states, “I don’t use the healing brush and I don’t Liquify at all, ever.” Utilizing Photoshop to only color correct, tweak contrast, and eliminate dust, she says, “I refuse to deform women’s bodies. I don’t use the Liquify filter in Photoshop to make them thinner, make her boobs bigger, make their eyes pop, and then make their lips fuller. I just don’t do that.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Rebibo finds clients gravitating toward her film photos. “When people are looking at my book and they go, ‘I love this photo.’ Nine times out of ten, it’s a film photo,” she says. Because of this preference of paying customers, she finds the need for accuracy in her exposures to be even more critical. “In black and white and color printing—that’s when you really realize how important it is to expose correctly. When you’re trying to print, it’s not the same as what you can do in Photoshop. When you’re trying to print you really need a correctly exposed negative where you’ll spend hours and hours and hours trying to get the image you had in your head. Because of this, when I went to school it was required you had a light meter.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

It’s an amorphous quality that a well-metered film photograph holds. “It’s just got something you can’t quite put your finger on. It’s not flat, like a digital photo, but there’s something else to it.”

“Something else” might just be the quality her photographs hold. She uses Profoto and Mamiya gear, but she’s especially keen on Sekonic meters. “I use my Sekonic light meter all the time,” she says. “It’s a beast. I wouldn’t mind at all telling people how much I love that product.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Using a Sekonic Zoom Master L-508, and it hasn’t failed her yet. “When people ask me advice about equipment and stuff, they always make remarks light meters are really expensive,” she explains. “My answer is they have always been expensive and they will always be expensive, but it’s possibly the most sound investment besides your heavy duty professional camera body because you use it forever. I think I’ve had my light meter for ten years. It’s held up the whole time for me. I’ve taken it all over. It’s been to Asia four or five times. It’s been across the United States. It’s been in rain and swamps and sand and all sorts of stuff. It’s slept with me in a tree house in Vietnam. It’s never, ever malfunctioned ever, it’s never had a problem.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Rebibo has strong feelings about the practical use of a meter by serious photographers. “I think people get too used to looking at the screen with digital photography, and I feel like that’s a big problem because you can’t look at the screen for exposure,” she says. “If you’re street shooting, you can sometimes get away with not using a light meter because you can sort of gaze, but in a studio I think it’s shameful to not use a light meter,” she laughs. “I think it should be illegal to not use a light meter in the studio.”

There is a clear method to why she feels so strongly. “Our studio teacher at the School of Visual Arts made us do these horrible exercises shooting white on white, reflective metal on white, reflective metal on black, and all those types of things to learn proper metering for products and clothes. If you’re shooting a white dress on a white background, looking at the screen is not going to guarantee you that you have the right detail in both.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Meters and film are not the only two tools Rebibo sees as superior for photographers. “Most digital prints become pretty yellow and gross within three years of printing, no matter what the manufacturers claim,” she says. “You need to print it again, but you don’t ever have a tangible item, a finished product in your hands the way you do when you have a set of negatives.” Referring to very professional labs, Rebibo has been dissatisfied with today’s prints, but doesn’t blame the labs. “It’s the materials they’re sold by manufacturers. Whereas for instance, fiber prints I printed myself in high school still look as crisp and as clear and as white and black as the day I printed them.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Rebibo shoots several Mamiya cameras, including a Mamiya C330, her very first medium format camera. “I dream of owning an RZ67,” she says, her goal being able to provide film-phobic clients with images from a digital back. A fan of natural light when shooting outside or on location, in the studio, Rebibo exclusively uses Profoto lighting gear. “I shoot really fast, even when I’m shooting film I can kill 30 rolls of film in 45 minutes without blinking an eye,” she says. “One time I was borrowing a friend’s studio, and I don’t remember what type of lights he had, but they definitely weren’t the most expensive professional lights, which is what I’ve been used to using. Every other shot was black because I was firing too fast and the recycle time wasn’t fast enough. I’d end up wasting so much film with black shots that it’s always worth it to just go with Profoto and then I know that won’t be a problem. I can go as fast as I want.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Leaning towards film and hand-printing her work, it’s not surprising to learn Rebibo’s overall goals in photography. “My philosophy of shooting is getting back to something real and honest,” she declares. “I think that’s probably where my attachment to film comes from. I don’t want to see a 15 year old girl selling me a pair of shoes that’s aimed for me when I’m 28, and then I don’t want for an agency to send me a 15 year old girl and then ask me to Photoshop out her bones because she weighs 90 pounds and almost fell over at the end of a ten hour shoot.”

What bothers her most about the state of commercial photography? It’s what today’s consumers don’t know. “They don’t realize every single image you see, from children on cereal boxes to every other image you see has been retouched. It’s been Liquified, it’s been airbrushed, and people are not conscious of that. I think it’s really dishonest. I definitely say my philosophy is getting back to something that’s real.”

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Rebibo won’t be offended if you say she operates from an photographic era in the past. “I’m sort of an old school thinker, I guess,” she says. “My favorite photographers are Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts and also Joel‑Peter Witkin on the very fine art side and they’re real photographers. They made their own photos and I think when you have a creative director and an art director that’s designed everything for you, you’re just someone who’s executing someone else’s idea and that’s not necessarily being a photographer. Photographers take pictures of everything they love—not just fashion, not just advertising, not just documentary, not just portraits, not just fine art.”

In the future, we won’t try to pin Rachel Rebibo down. We’ll watch whatever further developments come from the lenses of this photographer who has a vision no matter the subject matter at hand. Bonne nuit.

 

©Rachel Rebibo

 

Rachel Rebibo Photography
Rachel Rebibo on Behance Network

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

Cara Tobe Taking What She Gets

February 24, 2010

How did a nice young woman from Madison, Wisconsin wind up in Paris, where, she reports, “it’s cold and rainy?” Photography is the culprit. “I absolutely love it here,” says Cara Tobe. “It’s a great place to be a photographer. Everything is so beautiful and inspiring. Even the small things, like traveling in the Metro and the people you see there. Nowhere else in the world matches up.”

©Cara Tobe

Currently she’s attending Spéos Paris Photographic Institute, a small international school centered around career photography. “Photography has opened so many doors for me,” she says. “It brought me to Paris and changed my life. I want my career to be in photography.” Tobe has also lived in Switzerland’s Alps and Milan.

In Wisconsin, Tobe was shooting film up until eighteen months ago. She now has an all-digital workflow. Currently working on a portrait project, Tobe is scouring the city with a black mask and asks strangers to be photographed while wearing it. At school she’s creating product photography for local glassware artisans.

©Cara Tobe

Her free time is taken up with street photography and she’s very drawn to Fashion Week. “I’d like to get more involved with creative portraiture, something a little more creative than catalog shooting. I love being around everything happening with Fashion Week. There might be fifteen or twenty different venues, unlike Fashion Week in New York. They’re all around the city, and in each venue the lighting is completely different, the runways are different. One show might start at nine in the morning, and the second one is an hour later in a different arrondissement. You have to immediately figure out your position to the runway, what the light is, what your settings should be. It’s very fast and very exciting. You don’t have control over your lighting, like in a studio. A lot of times there’s a light show, or the lights may go out altogether. You have to take what you can get.”

©Cara Tobe

To make sense of these rapidly changing conditions, Tobe relies on her Sekonic L-308s. “I absolutely love it,” she says. “It’s consistent, and not too big and clunky, so I can fit it in my backpack and it takes up no space. It works perfectly. I always have it on me. My camera’s in front of me and my light meter is always in my pocket.” Tobe shoots a Canon 5D with a variety of lenses. For runway work she’ll typically bring a 70-200mm and a 24-70mm.

©Cara Tobe

“I don’t like the way a lot of people shoot these days with a huge amount of contrast. It looks too digital to me. I started out using film, and that’s the look I’m drawn to. I miss it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of holding your print from the darkroom or looking at your negative held up to the light. I hope film doesn’t die off. The look is less artificial, and that’s what I try for.” Tobe achieves this look in-camera, as opposed to post-processing in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Tobe’s plans are to stay in Paris “as long as the Parisians will have me,” she laughs. Watch for future runway shots with a film-look twist from the City of Light. Merci beaucoup, Cara.

Cara Tobe’s Web site

Cara Tobe on Flickr

Cara Tobe on Twitter

Written by Ron Egatz

Yung-Jing Hsu: Products and People

January 27, 2010

Clean lines. Well-lit products. Effective use of depth of field. Rich, but not overblown saturation. These are some of the initial impressions taken from the work of Yung-Jing Hsu. In 1995, Yung-Jing Hsu graduated from Tamkang University in Tam-Sui with a degree in Mass Communications. In his second and third years there, he studied commercial photography and photojournalism. He currently lives and shoots in Taipei, Taiwan.

©Yung-Jing Hsu

When asked about his product photography, Hsu says it’s more difficult than when he takes portraits. “I have to use all my concentration when taking pictures of products because they never ‘talk’ to me,” he says. “I can communicate with models, but you can’t do that with products.” Eager to make products look as good as they possibly can, he sees the challenge of shooting inanimate objects which are straightforward photographic assignments, yet have an absence of rapport with this particular shooter.

©Yung-Jing Hsu

As a full-time professional photographer, Hsu’s main clients are newspapers and magazines. Previously, he shot exclusively for the Taiwanese newspaper Apple Daily.

Often working in a deliberate methodology, Hsu typically composes and arranges the elements of his photographs before shooting. There is not much shooting from the hip at a Hsu photoshoot. His main camera body is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. His post work sometimes includes color correction or saturation enhancement in Photoshop.

©Yung-Jing Hsu

“I’m using a Sekonic L-758DR meter right now,” says Hsu. “It’s the most powerful and convenient tool for light measurement.” When asked how the L-758DR helps his photography, Hsu says, “the multifunctional control of measurement helps me in all situations. The sensitivity and correct readings let me control the light perfectly. The large display panel gives me all the info I need, and it’s really easy to read.”

©Yung-Jing Hsu

“I use Broncolor when taking pictures in studio,” Hsu continues, “and Comet for a backup system. I use different lighting control equipment for different subjects. In product photography, I prefer lightform panels with standard reflectors. Sometimes I add a honeycomb. In beauty photography, I prefer a beauty dish with a lightform panel or softbox. In fashion or portrait photography, lighting depends on what the editors want, or which atmosphere is suitable. Sometimes it’s just bare florescent tubes.”

©Yung-Jing Hsu

“I use a sync-cord to connect with lighting gear and L-758DR. The incident-light measurement for exposure value and every independent lighting control. Using reflective light (spot-meter) measurement for lighting condition inside the scene. Eventually, I will buy a PocketWizard for wireless flash triggering to improve my work efficiency.”

In the short term, Hsu is looking to take on some projects that will expand his ability to handle different subject matter. In the long term, he hopes to “combine photojournalism and commercial photography in order to have my own photography style,” he says.

Hsu Yung-Jing on Flickr

Hsu Yung-Jing on Facebook

Written by Ron Egatz

Gage Thompson, There and Back Again

January 21, 2010

Located a half-hour south of Salt Lake City, Utah, Gage Thompson has known what he’s wanted to do for a living since taking photography classes in high school. While shooting black and white film for high school functions, Thompson got a part-time job working for Cory Adams, “a high-volume portrait photographer,” Thompson explains. “He shoots schools and Little League teams. He shot all-digital Nikons, so I was able to learn about that world there.”

©Gage Thompson. Key light: beauty dish directly above model. Rim: two large softboxes on either side of model. Background: one standard reflector.

The part-time job not only solidified Thompson’s goal of becoming a professional photographer, but also gave him practical digital workflow experience. Higher education was calling, and Thompson began researching schools. He decided on Hallmark Institute of Photography in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Graduating in the top ten percent of the Class of 2009, he’s returned to his hometown to begin his career as a professional photographer.

©Gage Thompson. Key light: two white umbrellas on either side.

Shooting a wide variety of subject matter from slick product photography to gritty portraits, Thompson sees himself shooting movie posters or other commercial work in the future. Shooting all-digital now, Thompson uses a Nikon D700 body after formerly using Canon products.

©Gage Thompson. Tripod used. Key light: two parabolics on either side of model at 45 degree angles behind for rim but allowed to hit in front of his face to illuminate the smoke.

Currently, Thompson finds himself shooting for clients such as a high-end real estate photography company and the Canyons, a ski resort where he’s often “shooting family portraits on top of a mountain,” he says.

©Gage Thompson. All natural light.

At Hallmark, Thompson got hooked on using the lighting trifecta of Profoto, PocketWizard and Sekonic. He also shot with Mamiya medium format cameras. As he continues to build his own gear collection, one item which won’t get replaced soon is his Sekonic L-758DR meter. “I quickly found the light meters in-camera try their best, but often fail,” says Thompson. “The 758 does a great job. It’s the one with the spot meter and the incident meter. It has so much to it, I haven’t even finished the manual yet. I use it to set up all my lighting gear. I pop off a few exposures to make sure the ratios are all good, and I’m set for the shoot. I rely on it. It saves time of me looking goofy taking test shots, for sure, and you get perfect readings. I’ve had for a year and no problems so far. If it can live through a year at Hallmark of everyone dropping it, it’ll keep working fine for me.”

©Gage Thompson. One large softbox above and slightly forward of watch. Two smaller softboxes in front at 45 degree angles to the product.

“I do enjoy shooting everything,” says our young photographer at the beginning of his career. “Opening a studio would be nice, where I can have all my gear and do product photography or fashion work. My latest project is a 365 day shoot of self-portraits,” which can be seen on his blog.

©Gage Thompson. Tripod, Key light: beauty dish directly above model. Fill light: parabolic with white umbrella to camera left hitting torso. Foreground lighting: two 1x4 softboxes on either side of sweep hitting the foreground. BKG: two 3x4 softboxes on either side of background.

For now, Utah holds many photographic opportunities for Thompson. He honed his craft at Hallmark, and now the corporate clients and snowy slopes have called him back home. Stay tuned for more professional-caliber product photography and other assignments from a young talent simply interested in shooting everything.

All Thompson’s photos featured in this blog post were metered with the Sekonic L-758DR.

Gage Thompson Photography

Gage Thompson’s Blog

Gage Thompson on Twitter

Gage Thompson on Facebook

Gage Thompson on MySpace

Gage Thompson on Flickr

Written by Ron Egatz

Damaso Reyes on Understanding Fundamentals

December 14, 2009

Raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York by immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, Damaso Reyes has had some of the common experiences many first-generation Americans have had since the Dutch started procreating in the colony they called New Amsterdam. Damaso has grown up with all the common icons and habits of the plurality we call “American,” but he is distinctly aware of diaspora, and the baggage it brings metaphorically, economically, socially, emotionally, and—not least importantly—literally.

©Damaso Reyes

Artistically, Damaso has spent his adulthood as a photojournalist chronicling the dispossessed and asylum-seekers of the world. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Far Eastern Economic Review, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair Germany, Der Spiegel and TIME Asia, among others. Recipient of a J. William Fulbright Scholarship and an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship, Damaso has shot photographs around the globe. His current project, The Europeans, is documenting the changing face of Europe. Sponsored by Kodak, this series of black and white photos documents immigration, identity, economics, and the politics affecting these issues.

©Damaso Reyes

“I don’t like flat pictures,” says Damaso. “I like visually-rich images in all senses of that term. I shoot extensively in black and white, but I love saturation in color, as well. Honestly, part of it is about metering. That addresses how you see light and how you want to render light. I like photos based in reality, but maybe slightly richer. One of the goals of being a photographer, and any artist, for that matter, is to show things about the world we might be familiar with, but in a different way.”

©Damaso Reyes

“It’s a philosophical choice for me about whether to shoot black and white or color for a particular assignment. I made a conscious decision four and a half years ago to shoot The Europeans project in black and white. What’s important for me is shooting differently, depending on which I’m using at the time. If it’s color film, I see the world in a different way, and I’m trying to accentuate things accordingly. The same is true for black and white. It’s important to make choices. I will not shoot certain things if I don’t have the right film with me. I’m a big fan of the new Kodak Ektar 100. It’s got incredible grain. If I’m shooting models in lower light, I’ll use Portra 400. As an artist, you have to make choices about the cameras and film you use. Of course having a good light meter and understanding the light around you is integral to making good choices.”

©Damaso Reyes

Damaso received an excellent technical background in photography by attending New York University. Before that he learned on his own, starting with a subscription to Photographic, from which he followed the exercises, and tried to copy their sample photos. “When you really understand the fundamentals of your craft and are able to manipulate the tools in your repertoire, brings you closer to getting a great picture and not just a good picture,” he says. “The problem with all this great technology photographers now enjoy is people getting into the field feel they don’t need to learn the fundamentals. When I was in college one of the first things I learned was the zone system. To this day I still use it. It informs me and helps me take better pictures. You can’t really execute your vision if you don’t have the technical foundation.”

©Damaso Reyes

Feeling strongly about starting off with a great photograph is imperative for Damaso’s work. “If you want to create images which are visually interesting, complex and different, the light is your fundamental resource to do that. You can play with images in Photoshop and in the darkroom, but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. You can make a bad photograph good, but you can never make a good photograph great. When I have a properly metered and exposed photo, it means I don’t have to waste a lot of time working on it afterwards. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the more time and care you take up front, the better off you are in the long run.” Even though he constantly runs the numbers of the zone system through his head while working in chaotic environments like street shooting, Damaso says, “there are times I use the spot meter on my Sekonic L-508 Zoom Master. It’s great to have it when I need it, but most of the time I use the incident meter. I like having tools which give me the information to make the right choice for my work. A lot of photographers don’t understand built-in camera meters have serious limitations. They are not incredibly accurate devices. Most people who don’t know the zone system don’t understand how light meters work. Camera meters in the Program mode are always incredibly conservative. They are always trying to get you more light. You need to account for that and the best way is to use a light meter.”

©Damaso Reyes

“I just came back from overseas for months and I was using my Sekonic meter every day. It worked perfectly, and you have that peace of mind your exposures aren’t going to be wildly off.” This is important for Damaso, who “hasn’t used a strobe in a few years, now.” A big advocate of shooting with available light only, accurate meter readings are critical to his process. “If you want to increase, say, depth of field, you can’t adjust that in Photoshop. You need a meter while you’re shooting to make those kind of things happen.”

©Damaso Reyes

With a great passion for social justice on both national and small community levels, Damaso chronicles all he can on his seemingly constant travels. Exposing the plight of those forced to flee their homelands to capturing exotic flowers, Damaso continues to calculate light values in his head, checking them when he needs to with his “essential tool,” his Sekonic L-508.

Damaso Reyes Photography

Damaso Reyes’ blog

The Europeans

The Europeans blog

Written by Ron Egatz

Bobbi Lane: Thirty Years of Freelance Photography

December 10, 2009

Thirty years isn’t much in plate tectonics, evolution, or changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. In the world of freelance professional photography, thirty years is a significant achievement. Bobbi Lane has been involved with serious photographic pursuits since her undergraduate days at Emerson College and New England School of Photography. After graduation, she started an apprenticeship with Bill Sumner in Boston. In 1979 she became a freelance photographer and has been self-employed ever since.

©Bobbi Lane

Being an assignment photographer is not her only accomplishment for the past three decades. She is almost as equally well-known as a photographic educator, teaching seminars and workshops around the world in places such as Dubai and Costa Rica. In the United States, she’s often lecturing or teaching in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New York City, Boston, Chicago and Rockport, Maine. Five books, two DVDs, over a dozen exhibits, and many industry awards are a testament to her talent as a photographer and her instructional abilities.

©Bobbi Lane

No stranger to preproduction, Bobbi often sketches her lighting design ideas before shoots. Arriving prepared is key to her methodology. This was employed in her most recent shoot: guitarist Will Hanza on a Manhattan rooftop. The objective in this shoot was to get that magic time of sunset when interior lights of buildings come on, but the sky still naturally lit. To help accomplish this, she used a Sekonic L-758DR meter. “There were several reasons why I needed to have a light meter during this shoot,” says Bobbi. “First, I was using two light sources—two strobes: a beauty dish and a strip light for the edge effect. I had to get the right balance between the two. I used the Incident mode to measure the main light. I placed the strip light in relation to the main light. In most circumstances I would put the background light about a full-stop less than the main light. In this case, I did it about one half-stop less. I wanted it to be a little stronger because I wanted more drama and edge-feel. We used the spot meter to read the sky in the background. You can’t take an incident reading of the sky because an incident meter measures the light falling on a subject. The sky is a light source. You have to have a reflective meter to take the reading off the sky. That worked perfectly.”

©Bobbi Lane

The L-758DR came through on all fronts for Bobbi. “The meter was so good. I always look at my histograms to double check everything and make sure I’m getting the amount of light I need—not losing shadow detail or not blowing out highlight detail. This meter was so absolutely right on. I didn’t have to adjust or compensate for anything.”

©Bobbi Lane

A contributor to stock photography agencies for twenty-five years, she recently left Getty Images for a small agency which was bought by Corbis. Although she describes the state of stock photography business “dismal,” There are still a few bright spots. “Most of what I sell from stock agencies is Travel, and most of that is American cities. No one is really interested in buying stock photos unless you have full model releases on all the people in the photo. Because of the royalty-free stock and these micro-stock sites, the value of rights-managed stock has really come down quite a bit.” The news is not all dismal, though. “I still think there’s room for photographers making high-quality images in rights-managed stock, but no one’s making the money they used to. I know several photographers who shot stock exclusively, and their income is half of what it was ten years ago. That said, I don’t think stock photography is going away. No matter how many people put their images on the Web for free, if someone needs a high-quality image, they’ll pay for it.”

©Bobbi Lane

Client-direct assignments for corporate photography, particularly on a local level, has become the majority of her jobs these days. Small advertising agencies and design firms fill out her work week, with environmental portraits, formal portraits, and related work for companies’ Web sites. “It’s very similar to corporate annual report photography,” Bobbi explains. “You’re doing people, facilities, and products. Every client is different, so I try to create a different look for each company I work for.”

©Bobbi Lane

Editorial work for local magazines like Ridgefield Magazine and Bedford Magazine keep her busy, as does national magazines. Trade publications like Brandweek Magazine call her for interpretive portrait work.

©Bobbi Lane

The clients have come and gone and come again. The face of the stock photography business has changed radically with the advent of the Internet. Digital technology steadily replaces film. Through it all, Bobbi Lane continues to earn a living on her own terms as a freelance photographer, an educator, and through stock photo sales. Photographers everywhere can learn much from this talented pro shooter.

©Bobbi Lane

Calumet Photographic at 22 West 22nd Street, New York City, hosted Bobbi Lane’s Metering Video Premiere Event on Wednesday, December 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. Educator and photographer Bobbi Lane premiered of her new video for Sekonic on metering techniques. The video features guitarist Will Pino on a rooftop in Manhattan during an incredible sunset. Lane will be in attendance to talk about her insights on the creation of these dynamic images using Sekonic meters and Calumet Travelites.

Bobbi Lane Photography

Bobbi Lane at Photofolio

Portrait Lighting Techniques and Portraits Unplugged, produced and sold by Calumet

“Portraits Unplugged,” an online class for the Perfect Picture School of Photography

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

Just Say Yes

September 15, 2009

Light meters. You remember them. Right?

Just say yes. Because every photographer worth his or her salt uses a meter. Even those who don’t admit it. See http://light-test.com if you don’t believe us.

© Charles Silverman

© Charles Silverman

The reasons are many, but they’re simple. Mostly, using a meter gives you a higher degree of accuracy (hence the ability to make judgments) than relying on the camera’s built-in system. See http://www.sekonic.com/classroom/classroom.asp for more of our admittedly self-serving propaganda, er, educational materials.

But, a-ha! There are lots of folks out there — and we mean lots — who will not only agree but spend a great deal of time and effort celebrating it. And light-test.com is one of them. A visit will soon have you both smiling and nodding. Hmmm. Yup. They’re using a meter all right.

’Nuff said?