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Category Archives: Light

Lensbaby composer and 10x Diopter

As usual, I’ve compiled a list of gear I want to bring with me on this trip. This brings up my next decision, which offering from bag mountain should I choose to carry all the gear I want to bring with me. Since we’re traveling by train, I can hope we’ll be able to carry more bags than when flying, but there are still some complications.

We have a roomette for the 25 hour train ride. These tiny spaces are private and are well thought out, but they also make some of the tiny cabins I stayed in on cruises seem downright roomy. Almost every space in a roomette is designed to pull double duty. Storage is limited.

Often, when faced with a photo trip marked by differing exploits (landscape photography versus hiking photography) I take more than one bag with me. I’ll use a camera backpack to carry some clothing while putting most of my gear in my carryon along with a computer and other must not check items. I can also pack an empty camera bag to fit in my luggage. (My old Domke F3X with its removeable and foldable inserts is perfect for this).

It’s tempting to take this approach again, perhaps substituting a bigger LowePro bag for the Domke and using the camera backpack (a LowePro Mini Trekker AW) for clothing and other stuff. Since the camera backpack has removeable inserts that can be positioned in a variety of ways, it still gives me lots of options.

The problem is I haven’t been using any of these bags in quite some time. These days I’ve been preferring bags from Think Tank Pro’s Urban Disguise series. The company has provided me with several bags for review and illustration purposes, and I’ve become quite fond of them. Besides being solidly constructed, and wonderfully designed, they also don’t look like camera bags making them a less attractive target for potential thieves. I’m just not sure even the biggest one in my collection can handle all the gear I want to take this trip.

Normally I use a Think Tank Pro Retro 20 bag as my main E-5 bag. I love how it doesn’t look like a camera bag and still manages to hold a fair amount of gear. This time around though I need something bigger. Fortunately, I still have an Urban Disguise 70. I’m not done packing yet, but it looks like this bag is going to do the trick. So far I’ve got my E-5, three lenses an FL-50R flash and a full Lensbaby kit packed plus memory cards, and other accessories. There’s still room for the E-P2 and 14-140 and a few other pieces of kit as well.

While I don’t expect to do a lot of flash work this trip (except to play with the flash in the Ewa Marine rig) I’m not bringing much lighting stuff with me. This was another reason for choosing the E-5 over the 40D. The E-5 has a wireless flash controller built right in, so I won’t have to bring my ST-E2 for wireless flash. As blogger/shooters David Hobby ( and others have noted, getting your flash off camera make a big difference in your photography. I’ll bring either a small portable light stand or a super clamp for mounting the flash where desired. I’m also bringing my Vertex light modifier (here’s my Brighthub review of this nifty gadget). This is an awesome device for manipulating the light from your flash indoors and it’s so small I don’t even notice it in my camera bag.

Lensbaby is another company that’s provided me gear. That’s fine with me because I honestly love working with the company’s products. Some of my favorite photos have been made using a Lensbaby and its accessories.

I’ve created a web gallery of images of Stephanie at

These photos were created with the Olympus E-P2 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1.

Images are NSFW btw.

Attended a really cool meetup last night. For those of you aren’t familiar with the meetup concept, it’s one of those things that wouldn’t be possible without the affordances of the internet. Meetups give people of similar interests a way to connect with each other coordinate activities. There are many meetup groups on the web (check out to see what’s in your area).

Last night I joined up with an established meetup organizer, Kat and her Fortress of Solitude studio in Northern Philadelphia. I was one of about a dozen photographers working with four models and some helpers to create painting with light and ghosting images. If you’re not familiar with these techniques, stay tuned. I’ll described the process in another post later today or tomorrow (Easter get together with the family may serve as a distraction). I’ll also be bouncing back and forth between blogs since many of the shots we made last night are NSFW and I’m trying to keep my MFT blog SFW at least in part because I’m using it as a teaching tool as well as a blog.

Photo information: (Left) L Lawless, Panasonic DMC-GF1, f16, 12 seconds, 100ISO, Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42 lens at 42mm, helpers standing behind waving rope lights, model also illuminated from the front via a studio strobe. (Model: L Lawless,

(Right) Stephanie Beattie, Olympus E-P2, Panasonic 20mm 1.7, f16, 15 seconds, 200ISO, camera mounted on tripod, model illuminated by a low power video light (for video camera) and painted with a flashlight. (Model: Stephanie Beattie:

Sam "Old Hollywood" grayscale IMG_3321Got together with Sam in my studio on Sunday to work on a variety of images. One of the things we wanted to try was another take on the “Old Hollywood” style glamour photo. Since this was a TFCD (Time for CD) shoot, we were interested in trying some ideas and experimenting with different looks.

One of the things I wanted to do was create a shot similar to the one I’d done the day before with Lisa, but this time instead of using studio strobes, pull off a similar effect with a shoe mount flash unit.

For this shot I used a Canon 40D with a 580exII mounted on it’s own light stand and fired via an ST-E2 controller. I used a Zoot Snoot (see my review at: to produce the spot light effect seen here. This $23 light modifier is a handy tool for when you want to restrict the spread of light from your flash. (Camera settings: ISO 200, 1/125th, f11, 35mm, flash placed off camera about 2 feet to the left of the camera, see next image for setup.)

Sam flash illustration IMG_3369

Lisa on couch grayscale IMG_3129Brought the “Old Battle Axe” into the studio yesterday to do a Hollywood glamour style shoot. This is a new style I’m experimenting with (I get the occasional request for this look) and I’m still working on it. This was a two-light setup using an Alien Bees B400 at 1/2 power snooted  head on and an Alien Bees B1600 with Softlighter II (the big one) off to the camera’s right at 1/4 power to provide some fill. Camera settings were: Canon EOS 40D, ISO 200 1/250th, f16, 28m focal length. While this shot was made with studio lights, it’s not that hard to do something similar with a portable shoe mount strobe, although getting the strobe off camera is necessary for best results. I’ll write about this technique tomorrow.

Worked with Zowi on Monday for the first time. This nice young lady was a responsive and versatile model and we worked on a variety of shots (including illustrations for a couple of my Brighthub reviews).

I’ve already discussed the flash versus ambient considerations in an earlier post on this site, so this time will cover some figure lighting images we made. You can see a larger selection at my pbase site at:



This shot was entirely about controlling light shape and direction. I used a single Alien Bees B400 strobe on a boom arm to direct the light downward and at an angle to Zowi. To keep the spread narrow, I used a snoot on the light and positioned it fairly close to the model. Because she’s on a black background and there’s very little light spilling in any direction, very little of Zowi is shown to the camera.

While this is a nice shot in its own right, it’s also a building block for an image I’m planning with another model later this week. (You’ll have to wait until the image is created and posted to see what the idea is.)

The process often works this way. You work on learning a technique for controlling the light and then look to adapt it to more complicated images. I did another shot with Zowi under this light that is providing a starting point for a different concept (a kind of “Old Hollywood” glamour shot where it looks like the model is illuminated by a spotlight. I’m doing a shoot for this idea on Saturday with my wife. If things work out, I may do something similar with Porsche some time in the future.


Zowi with flash

Zowi with flash

Zowi available light

Zowi available light

Worked with a new model today — Zowi.

Nice girl from Lancaster, Pa., who posed beautifully and took direction well.

I worked on a variety of shots with her today including figure study images in the studio and then experimenting with ambient light and off camera flash in the stairwell outside the studio (same location as the crying shot with Porsche). There are plusses and minuses to each image. While I like the mood created by the ambient light better, the slow shutter speed necessary for a good exposure resulted in a little ghosting with her left foot and a slightly softer image (ISO 800 1/30 f4 28mm focal length). The flash photo (made with a Canon 580 EXII on a flash stand to the model’s left) provides a sharper image and greater depth of field and produces a more dramatic lighting effect, that is also a little harsh. This light is a little hard for a thin model like Zowi (ISO 400, 1/60 f13 41mm focal length).

Which is the better photo? I like the ambient light shot a little better. The light is softer and more flattering to Zowi, and I can live with the image being a little bit soft.


Amanda sees the light

Amanda sees the light

I talked about dragging the shutter in an earlier post. Now I’m going to talk about building on the technique by adding a carefully controlled light with a colored gel to make even more of the shot. 

Once again, my studio’s stained glass windows came into play, but this time the main light was powered way down and fitted with a snoot instead of the Softlighter II. I used a yellow gel to add to the glow coming from the stained glass windows and gently light Amanda (another wonderful model I get to work with from time to time).

The trick on this type of shot is to reduce the amount of light from the strobe so it doesn’t overpower the ambient light shining through the window coupled with a slow shutter speed (ISO 200 1/8 second, f16, 28mm focal length, Sigma 28-300 ).


A work of art

A work of art

Porsche and I got into the studio on Friday for the beginning of a long term mixed media project. While I’ll update this site on our progress, I’m keeping the nature of the project under wraps. You can try and figure out what we’re up do from my occasional update.

This shoot involved a concept I’ve used before, a beautiful model posed kneeling on mylar with paint drizzled on her body. The model then paints herself. 

Normally I choose the colors and distributions for these images, but since this is a much bigger project than usual, I wanted to get Porsche more involved in it (as an equal partner rather than just a subject of the photography). So for this image, I asked her to come up with a color scheme and ideas for how much of each color we should use. Her choices were red for anger, blue for sadness and yellow for happiness and she determined how much of each paint I drizzled on her. It was then up to her to move the paint around her body and create the final pattern. The combination of bright colors, dark background, reflective surface and engaging model combine to produce a compelling image.

Some comments on the technical side. This was a fairly simple lighting setup. I used an Alien Bees B1600 shot through a Photek Softlighter II (the big one) and used a pair of strobes bounced off my studio’s white ceiling for fill. Camera details were: Canon 40D, Sigma 28-300 lens, ISO 200, S/S 1/250 F13. One other thing to note, the mylar kicks a fair amount of light back up into shadow areas producing a nice, even exposure.

I chose not to use a background light because I wanted the effect of Porsche coming out of the darkness. Using a background light would have provided separation between her and the background. Was that the right decision? Well, I’m happy with the image, but you’re welcome to disagree with the choice.

I’ve only posted this image to my pbase galleries so far and my port, but I will be adding some others when I get the time. It’s been a busy couple of days and I’ve have some catching up to do as far as editing images from this shoot plus another shoot I did yesterday, plus I have some studying to do too.


Lonely girl

Lonely girl

I was in the studio with Lindsey today. She’s another terrific and versatile model. While we didn’t work on it during today’s shoot, one of her great strengths is that Lindsey is very comfortable being silly, a rare talent. 

We sometimes joke about models who only have one expression — the “gas face” — as we call it. You know the look, mouth half open, staring intensely into the camera. It’s supposed to be sexy, but usually isn’t. 

Today was kind of a winging it sort of day. We didn’t have any kind of plan in mind at the start of the session, so I ran some ideas by Lindsey. One of these was for a body painting I’d wanted to do earlier in the week with a new model I’d scheduled for Tuesday night. She unfortunately flaked on the shoot, and so I offered the painting to Lindsey who loved the idea. 

Lindsey and I have collaborated on several body paintings before, usually full body paintings, which make some kind of social commentary. This time I was just painting her back and rear end and going for more of an artistic design. Once that painting was done, we cleaned her up and posed several other shots including this one in the stairwell of my studio building. The window light, color and texture of this stairwell corner make for beautiful images. Lighting, just like in the photo of Porsche crying, was just simple window light plus a little bounce off the side wall. The shot was handheld at ISO 400, 1/45th of a second at f4.