While planning my trip to California, I booked a photo session with the amazing Gypsy Love. Gypsy is a Bellydancer/Entertainer/Singer based in San Francisco. We had done a shoot a few years ago inside a restaurant, and this time Gypsy found a beautiful location near the VA hospital in the Sutro Heights area of the city. Gypsy had 2 assistants and I had my friend Chuck as my lighting assistant. Gypsy is so much fun to work with and also very professional. She knows what she wants out of a shoot and works great with the camera. We have made many beautiful images in the two shoots we have had so far, and I hope to be able to work with her again and again! The learn more about her, check out Gypsy Love Productions. Here are a few images from our most recent shoot.
While walking on the Strip the other day and getting used to the Sony A7II camera, I came across a real talent. Not just another person who might resemble a celebrity or a person that bought a costume and expects tips for taking pictures of them in costume or character. This girl was spinning not one or two, but up to 4 hoops at the same time choreographed to music that she had playing on a portable player. She did not ask for tips or get upset if someone stopped to take a picture and then keep walking. She just kept hooping with a smile on her face. She was just doing what she loved and appreciated each person that showed her that they also enjoyed what she was doing. Her name is Miss MichelleBell and she just recently relocated to Las Vegas. I talked with her briefly after her performance in front of the Bellagio and found out she also loves spinning fire and came from Illinois. She has a great personality and a positive outlook and you could just tell from being in her presence that she loves what she does and the reactions from her audience shows her they do too! I hope to collaborate with her in the future on a few shoots that involve her LED hoops and also possibly some Fire one day! 🙂 I was able to capture a few images of one of her many nightly performances with the Sony A7II, but I didn’t want to obstruct her audience’s view. To see her show in person, find her by the Bellagio fountains and if you appreciate what she does, tell her – or show her.
The Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas is a fun place to shoot a Fashion Show every weekend They have a 10 minute show that features a store in the mall every hour on weekends. The catch is: you cannot take a huge camera into the mall and expect to shoot. I have been asked to leave using a 6D with a battery grip and the Sigma 24-105mm Lens. When I talked with security about why I was asked to leave but many other people that were shooting pictures were allowed to stay, his reply was I had a “professional looking” camera and that I was the only one that looked like a professional. I later confirmed that same policy with Mall Administration and was told anyone can take photos as long as their camera did not “look professional”. Since then, I have been in the mall shooting with my Canon 70D and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens, but with no grip and no lens hood – and guess what? I did not get asked to leave. I actually shot an entire show (they have one every hour from 12-5pm Friday – Sunday) standing pretty close to a security officer. Now I have not been in the mall in some time, but decided to take the Sony A7II with the Zeiss 24-70 this weekend and see how it would perform. I wanted to try the Focus-Following feature and also see how it would do with the lighting conditions that the Runway has on it. I removed the Lens hood to make the camera look even smaller in my hands than normal, and stayed for an entire show. This weekend, the Fashion Show was from Macy’s and was all Juniors dresses (probably going after the Spring Prom market). The lighting was actually better than I have seen it here in the past, but still is mostly lit from directly above and behind the models as they walk towards the end of the runway. There are huge LED panels that flash the name of the store during the show, and no front lighting on the models. I set the Sony camera to Continuous Focus and to Focus Track the subject that I select. I was in Manual Mode and my core settings were f/4 and 1/250th of a second (to prevent motion blur as the models were walking), and Automatic ISO. The ISO settings in the images fluctuated, but mostly stayed within the 200 – 640 range. The focus tracking was really easy to set up and use and actually tracked each model accurately as they walked towards my position at the end of the runway. I did notice that if I let my finger off of the shutter, it did take a second to re-focus and sometimes that would cause me to miss the shot I was going after, but for the most part the focusing system was fast and very accurate. Here are a few images that I captured from the show. I hope to soon take it to a concert soon to see how it does in extremely low light conditions. Overall, in comparing my images with past ones I have shot at the Fashion Show Mall, I would have to say that the Sony has much more depth and a higher dynamic range in camera than the Canon 6D and 70D. The Focus Tracking is very impressive and was easy to learn how to set up. I also think the focus system is more accurate than that of the 6D and seems similar in speed and accuracy to the 70D. The more I use the Sony, the more I learn what it can do. There are so many features, and only so many places to put buttons, so Sony has made it easy to customize each button to a vast assortment of settings that normally would be found in the cameras menu. Oh, one last thing… as far as “Professional Looking” camera – the Sony has a 4mp advantage over the Canon and is smaller and lighter. It has a great feel and the grip does fit to my hands for the most part. I do wish I had the battery grip, for a vertical shutter release, for an even better feel in my hands, and also for the extended battery life.
Note: Images were white balance corrected and cropped and my watermark was added. No other post-processing was involved.
In the last couple of weeks, my photography world has changed quite a bit. I have been using a new camera (to me): the Sony a7ii, with a mission to self-learn it’s functionality while traveling on the road and using it as my Primary camera system (actually not even taking my full lineup of Canon gear out of the camera bag). During this road trip I covered 3062 miles from Las Vegas to San Diego and then all along the California coast to about one hour North of Fort Bragg. Many of these locations I have never been to and had one time slot to get an image that I would be happy with. This was a very interesting self-imposed challenge. I ended up shooting over 4000 images (I think this count includes bracketed shots) along the way and learned through trial and error some of the distinct differences between the Sony and Canon brands, and also the way a mirrorless full-frame camera works compared to a traditional DSLR full-frame camera. I will be posting a few blogs about this mental and physical journey here in the near future, so stay tuned! 🙂
Also, when I returned to Las Vegas, I finally caved and bought into the Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) for Photographers. I did this because I am an active user of Lightroom and the newest version, Lightroom 6 – now called Lightroom CC, was just released. The price for the standalone upgrade would have been $79, but for $20 more I got an entire year of the Creative Cloud which includes the newest versions of both Photoshop and Lightroom. The normal price for this service is $9.99 a month, but B&H photo offered it for $99 total if prepaid for the entire year. I installed the 30-day demo version for now while awaiting the activation code that B&H shipped to me for free (not sure why this was not an email transaction). Including the trial, I think I will get 13 months for the price of 10 when all is said and done. The reason I mention this on this posting is this is also a major change. I think the new features in Lightroom CC will be an easy transition for me, but I just upgraded from Photoshop CS5 to the 2015 CC version and it looks completely different! Anyway… time to get into these new applications and see what I can figure out! 🙂
This year at WPPI, I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Sony booth and see firsthand the technologies that I have been hearing so much about. While talking with a Tech rep, I overheard that there was an opportunity to sign out a camera and lens for a night to shoot with. I was put on the waiting list and was able to get a Sony A7s with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens for one night of shooting. I tried my best to familiarize myself with the camera while taking a few afternoon classes (it was WPPI) and like a kid waiting for recess, I ran out of the MGM for a full night of shooting. Normally I shoot nightlife and concerts, and that is just what the A7s was supposed to be the best at. I did not have any shows lined up as I was supposed to be attending WPPI all week, so I headed down to Fremont Street where I know the stages always have free entertainment to test the camera out with. The Sony rep. gave me 2 batteries and it was my intention to shoot until both were completely drained. I started with a show called the “Hardwood Hotties” – a themed song and dance on the 3rd street stage for March Madness. I ended up staying for 2 hours worth of the show and then went on my quest for neon and then finally a walk on the Strip. The next morning, before returning the camera, I went to the IceLight booth and captured a few images of their models. All images in this post are completely unedited. I wish I knew more about the camera features and settings, but using a camera for one night was fun and the basic settings were easy enough to figure out for a night on the town.
Here are my thoughts and observations of this camera and lens: First off, it is much smaller than the Canon 6D with a battery grip that I am used to holding! I am also not used to using an electronic viewfinder.The controls and dials almost came naturally to me (but I have been around cameras since the early 80’s). The focusing system was also very fast to respond. When you take the lens off of the camera, the sensor looks huge and is visible, right inside the body opening. There are tons of controls and lots of menus to figure out, and if given another opportunity, I will do my best to do just that. From looking at the images that I captured, I can say that they are sharp, the color is very accurate and the low noise at higher ISO settings is amazing! For my shooting, I had the camera on the manual setting, with the exposure at 1/200th f/4 and on automatic ISO as I wanted to see what the low-light capabilities were and I had no tripod, so everything was handheld. I loved this experience and hope I get to shoot with a Sony again in the near future! Oh, one last thing… the batteries outlasted me, I was worn out and quit shooting with over 50% of the second battery left. 🙂
The story behind the image.
When out to capture an image there are two distinct ways of thinking for me. The technical side of things and the creative vision. On Saturday night, I decided to travel to a location I haven’t been to in a few years – Cima, California. I had a few ideas of combining some new techniques with some desert scenes. When I arrived in Cima, four of the five locations I had envisioned were still in tact, but a shack that had been withering away in the desert for years, had collapsed. I still had four locations to work with, and a beautiful clear night to enjoy.
I started at an abandoned corral. I brought two cameras with me – one for star trails and one for shorter exposures to capture the Milky Way. After that, I continued on to a train track vignette for a capture of the Milky Way and an idea to simulate a ghost train that I need to go back and improve upon one day in the future.
My third location is what this blog is really about; a phone booth along Kelso Cima road. The original idea for this location was to capture the Milky Way dropping down behind the phone booth. When I thought back to previous visits to the phone booth, I envisioned a small booth along the roadside. What I did not remember was that there were metal mailboxes that were too close to the phone booth for the composure I was wanting to achieve. In order to capture the phone booth and not have the mailboxes in the frame, I had to have my camera really low and lay on the ground to see what the framing would look like. The composure was still skewed by the lens distortion and the angle of the lens to the phone booth. I tried a few different exposures and attempted to paint the phone booth with light using several techniques and finally saw in the back of the camera roughly what I had envisioned it. I was able to correct some of the distortion in post, but I may return to the scene and capture this vignette in the summer months, when the Milky Way is more prominent in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere.
The fourth and final location and idea had me among some of the tallest Joshua trees I have ever seen. The composition was to be a panorama of the Milky Way arching across the sky with silhouettes of Joshua trees in the foreground. I ended up photographing a 10-image pano and later combined it in Photoshop. While shooting the Joshua trees, I also captured a handful of images to create a star trail. Here are a few images from this adventure on Valentines Day.
Almost forgot the technical details of the image: Canon 70D, Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens, 15 seconds, ISO 1600, 18mm.
Here are some other images from the adventure.
Here are the details:
Sessions are from 6pm, Monday the 24th of November until 10am, Wednesday the 26th of November. Availability is based on bookings. It is a marathon so if you do not get out of work until 1am, there is still a possibility to shoot at 2am. (This is Vegas!)
To book your session, please call: (702) 366-5636 or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are some sample images (used with clients permission):
Recently, I flew back home to Pennsylvania to visit family and capture the fall foliage. The area I grew up in bases around a small town in the Northeastern part of the state. While in the area, I always love revisiting places that provoke memories of my youth and spending time with my family and friends. It is great getting back those feelings and memories from a time that seems forever ago.
I also was on a mission to get some images of some of my favorite locations from the area during the peak of the fall foliage. This year I timed it perfectly as the colors were spectacular and the weather was perfect for shooting (usually overcast with very little wind and an occasional mist or rain to keep the colors vibrant). Also on this trip, I had the opportunity to play tour guide to one of my friends, a fellow photographer from Las Vegas. Showing someone new around opened my eyes to a different way of seeing some locations that I have shot again and again in the past.
It also had me want to get to my core basics in photography, where it all started for me. I have been shooting as long as I can remember and learned as a young shutterbug through trial and error how to make adjustments manually – back in the film days before the instant feedback, looking at the back of the camera. I made the commitment to shoot all images this trip in the M-mode on my camera. Adjusting ISO, aperture, and shutter speed for every image while focusing manually. For those that know me, I am usually an AV-shooter, letting the camera choose my shutter speed based on my selection of the aperture because I find this method works with concerts and low light.
Tooling around the backwoods of PA, hiking through Ricketts Glen, spending a day in New York City, and capturing a few portraits manually for three weeks, all while rarely looking at my camera back, brought back some of my first memories with photography. Now on a flight back to Las Vegas looking at the images I have captured, I am more than pleased with my results and cannot wait to share. I have been posting teaser images captured with my phone during my trip, but they definitely pale in comparison to what my cameras and I have created… all while getting back to my roots.
Posted from my Samsung Galaxy S5 using WordPress for Android
Many people have asked what gear I carry with me in different situations so I decided to start a series of blogs to share what I use and a brief explanation of why. In this edition, I will share what equipment I use with Concert Photography.
Concert Photography is a different beast in the photography world. The venues are dark, the photo pits are especially cozy, and there are security, rules, and policies in place for the safety of everyone. I carry specific equipment for these situations that help me maximize my imaging potential during the usual 3-song limit (some grant more generous parameters, some even less) that I have to get “The Shot.”
Here is a list of what I carry (to see info, I have made each a link to the item, when possible):
Canon 6D (full frame) camera body (with Battery Grip) – Used with all lenses below, INCLUDING the Sigma 18-35mm lens using a Kenko 1.5x extender to remove all vignetting.
Canon 70D (crop sensor) camera body (with Battery Grip) – Used with all lenses below, but usually will have the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 mounted to start the night.
Sigma 15mm f/2.8 lens – Can be used as a true fish-eye on the full frame body and as a 24mm on the crop body. Great for up-close shots from the photo pit!
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens – The fastest zoom lens on the market with an f-stop of 1.8 through the entire zoom range. Primarily used on the crop body camera, but I will, if needed, use the Kenko 1.5x extender on the full frame camera for an effective 27-52.5 f/2.8 lens.
Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens – I love this lens from the pit or from the sound board. All around top lens used on both camera bodies. Some people shy away from a prime lens, but this is my favorite of this list.
Sigma 120-300mm lens – When shooting from back of the room or soundboard, this lens is a MUST.
Kenko 1.5x extender (not listed as an active product) – Used with Sigma 18-35mm lens on a full frame body. This is small, thin, and only adds one stop to a lens but gives 1.5x the distance of a lens! Using this with the crop body and a long lens from the back of a big room is a lifesaver for me!
Manfrotto 695 Carbon Fiber Monopod – I only use the Monopod when I am using the Sigma 120-300 mm lens because it is very heavy.
Arcatech Ballhead – The best head I’ve found to mount my camera/lens to the Monopod.
PNY Elite Performance 64gb SDXC cards Fast and have not failed me yet!
Q-Strap – Camera strap (Yes, I prefer this over the BlackRapid products)! I use this with the heavier of the 2 cameras I carry (based on which lens is mounted).
Spider Holster This is used with the lighter of the 2 cameras that I carry (based on which lens is mounted).
ProDot – Shutter Button Upgrade (Yes, they work!) Helps with shutter control.
EarPeace Ear Plugs – High Fidelity Hearing Protection.
B&R Folding Step Stool – Gives a height boost when shooting from behind or in crowd only (not for use in pit)! I painted the non-textured areas of this with glow-in-the-dark paint for my UV flashlight.
Sigma branded lens Cloth – Performers love to throw water (and drinks) into the crowd. This is a necessity!
Inova UV Microlight – A flashlight is helpful, but the bonus of UV comes into play with the painted step stool above. The UV light is not overpowering bright (that can get you yelled at by security), and the UV reacts with the glow-paint on the stool to eliminate tripping issues as people try to find their way in the dark.
Credential Carabiner – This attaches to my belt loop. On it is a clear pouch for my photo credential, the UV flashlight, lens cloth, and EarPeace hearing protection case (see photo below).
Many people have questioned my Camera body choices recently, quoting shutters-per-second and many other arguments, but my reasoning for the 6D and the 70D are a personal preference. Both bodies have WiFi built in, which makes sending instant proofs a major advantage ( I have to do something while waiting between bands anyways). The 6D is Full Frame, and therefore gives me a wider perspective with many standard lenses. The 70D is a crop body that is used mostly with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 lens (which is the fastest zooming lens on the market currently). The controls on both cameras are very similar, which makes it easy to switch between the two seamlessly in the darkness.
So there you have it, my gear essentials when shooting a concert. Maybe one day I will give details about how I shoot concerts and handle low light settings.
Here are the details:
Sessions are from 6pm, Sunday the 7th of September until 3am, Wednesday the 10th of September. Availability is based on bookings. It is a marathon so if you do not get out of work until 1am, there is still a possibility to shoot at 2am. (This is Vegas!)
To book your session, please call: (702) 366-5636 or email me: email@example.com