Model Shoot: Diana Sunday, Sep 26 2010 

Here’s another set from a shoot I had with a few other photographers and models in downtown Dallas. The model is Diana Graves, who specializes in horror, fetish and alternative pin-up modeling. I’m normally a straight-forward portrait/headshot photographer, so I wasn’t really sure how to approach Diana’s unique look.

I caught a lucky break a few minutes into the shoot. It was late afternoon and the sun was close to the western horizon, so the light was very warm. As it bounced off a skyscraper, it caught her hair from behind, wonderfully enhancing its fiery red color. We worked with that a little bit, trying to find the best way to capture the flowing waterfall of red hair. I think this shot shows her fierce presence the best.

A little later in the shoot, when the sun was even lower, I tried using sunlight even more, with and without flash. It was a bit difficult to wrangle the harsh shadows, but I found that this shot looks very good, with Diana’s silhouette and the red mane dominating the frame.

Diana was very easy to work with and actually smiled quite a lot. Although I think smiles are usually great for portraits, her intensity was better used in different ways. Shooting with her made me work outside my comfort zone a little, but at the same time reminded me to quickly identify the model’s best features and build the set around them.

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Model Shoot: Elizabeth Wednesday, Sep 22 2010 

About a year ago or so, I joined Model Mayhem, a web site where photography professionals and enthusiasts get together for creative purposes. My goals were modest, to connect with some local people who like to do the same types of things I do, and maybe get involved with some fun shoots, and hopefully learn something.

Elizabeth contacted me and offered to set up a shoot; after she gave birth to her son earlier this year, she was looking to get back in front of the camera. Her “port” (home page) looked very versatile and interesting, but we could not get our schedules lined up. Then, in July, another model I shot with before, Crystal, set up an impromptu shoot with three models and three photographers in historic West End in Downtown Dallas. Elizabeth showed up wearing a tight-fitting retro dress and a winning smile.

We had a great time with different poses, from which I picked four for my Flickr gallery. She was a terrific sport – not only did she indulge my insane idea to come out into the scorching July sun for a few minutes for some natural light portraits, she even deftly changed into another tight-fitting retro dress. That dress is featured in this shot where her curvaceous body is highlighting the banner for the “Bodies” exhibition (“An Exhibition of Real Human Bodies”).

There’s also this shot where she’s framed by a service elevator opening; that one was a real pain to clean up. It was taken from very close distance with a very wide angle lens, which is usually a no-no for portraits, due to the distortion those lenses create. First I used the lens distortion correction, based on the numbers published by a photographer and blogger Ken Rockwell to get the lines straight. But then I had to change the vertical and horizontal perspectives to get everything properly lined up. I doubt the haywire lines would have distracted from what’s a very nice portrait of Elizabeth, but I’m pretty pleased to have helped keep the focus on the model.

Cloth’d In The Sun Friday, Sep 17 2010 

This is my buddy John. By occupation, he’s a philosopher. By conviction, he’s a rocker. Ask him about Allister Crowley, or Roger Waters, and he’ll tell you all you need to know, and more. He’s provided me with more workplace-related motivational quotes than anyone else. Just enough of an idealist to inspire some serious introspection, even for a cynic like myself.

So, the story goes a little like this: John walked into a Guitar Center one day with his better half and immediately fell in love with a curvaceous beauty that appeared before him. His better half encouraged the adulterous relationship, probably because she didn’t feel too threatened by a bass guitar.

Cloth'd In The Sun

His Rickenbacker is indeed gorgeous, and John put it to good use. He reinvigorated his progressive rock band, “Cloth’d in the Sun”, they worked hard on their songs, and they were invited to appear at a festival in Flower Mound, TX back in June. I offered my services as the unofficial band photographer, partly because I have a secret craving about stage photography. They, in turn, offered a vibrant set of original songs and lit up the crowd like the setting sun.

That setting sun made this shoot both interesting and challenging. It’s the ultimate spot light – small, strong light source very far away. The shadows are harsh and the contrast is high, but the color is warm and pleasing.
The black and white Rickenbacker looks great in front of John’s Ohio State football jersey. There’s a little too much stage clutter even with the f/3.5 aperture, but I liked this shot as a portrait of an artist as a young man.

For the bonus shot, I picked this closeup of John and his Rickenbacker locked in a passionate embrace. It may be love at first sight, but something tells me these two will live happily ever after.

Spotty, Age 14 Thursday, Sep 9 2010 

I’m not really sure it would be prudent to elaborate where exactly was I when I took this picture. Let’s just say I was at the CARE facility in Bridgeport, TX; CARE stands for Center for Animal Research and Education, and it’s a large rescue shelter for big cats. The man in charge Derek was kind enough to show me around and introduce me to most of over 50 big cats they have on the property.

Spotty, Age 14

Spotty here is a gorgeous adult leopard male, who was just lounging around on a warm Saturday morning. You have to be a little careful about overusing the adjective “gorgeous” when you talk about CARE cats, but they are extremely well cared for, in stark contrast to their immediate pasts. Most cats were kept as pets and either neglected or abused; some kept in extremely small enclosures or even dog kennels. The more fortunate ones were kept in zoos, until those zoos became victims of a tough economy and the cats had nowhere to go. Now, at CARE, they live the good life, playing and napping and pouncing on their favorite treats – chicken leg quarters.

Raven, Age 13

Spotty’s room mate is Raven, seen in the photo to the right. Raven is a slightly younger female black leopard who took the term “lounging around” to a new level… literally. She was up at an elevated shelf looking lazily over at Ace, their third neighbor. Spending some time at CARE reminded me why I love cats, even though I’m a dog person. These guys, just like house cats, are athletic and aloof, lazy but playful. If you’d like to see them, visit CARE as soon as you can – and remember to donate; those chicken leg quarters don’t buy themselves.

Sydney, Age 7 Wednesday, Sep 8 2010 

This past Labor Day weekend, I wanted to drive around North Texas and find interesting photographic subjects. By chance, I found a website for CARE – Center for Animal Research and Education, a refuge for big cats just outside a small town of Bridgeport, TX. Having heard of a few similar places in the area, I expected a few tigers, maybe a couple of bobcats, and not much more. Once I got there, I was stunned to find more than 50 big cats, most of them gorgeous tigers, like Sydney here.

Sydney, age 7

It was a slightly cool morning compared to the heat waves we’ve had the past month or so. Most of the cats were out and about, and the host, Derek, played around lovingly with each of them as he was showing us around. Sydney was on a platform in her enclosure, and when I first saw her, she was in the middle of a sleepy stretch which you can see below. Shortly thereafter, she perked up and assumed this regal pose you see in the main photo. Truly a gorgeous cat, and according to the CARE web site, she’s available for adoption. They also accept donations… Hint: tigers love chicken.

Sydney, stretching

Since I now shoot JPG, it was a bit of a challenge to nail down the white balance on the shot. Straight out of the camera, it looked very blue because my Canon 7D probably got confused with the warm shadow of the foreground with the cooler light seeping in from outside. My friend Tyler taught me this interesting Photoshop technique (too elaborate to go into here), so I managed to warm up the beautiful oranges on Sydney.

In the coming days, I’ll post a few more shots of beautiful cats from CARE. Until then, get on over to their web site and donate a few bucks or simply volunteer. The cats will love it.

September Manifesto Thursday, Sep 2 2010 

July was okay in terms of my involvement in photography. I took a few photos on my trip to Bosnia, I polished and posted a few photos from my June trip to Yosemite, and I even managed to participate in a mini-meetup session with a few models and photographers just before the month expired.

August, on the other hand, was terrible.

My shutters were completely silent; not a single exposure was made. I barely even got my gear out of the bag since that July 31 model shoot.

This could not go on. Therefore, I made some quick notes about how to reclaim my zeal for photography in September. Nothing big, just a few basic things to get things going. Here they are, in no particular order.

* Post 5-10 portraits. Model shoot with 3 models, studio maternity/pregnancy shoot, as well as the rock show I shot for my good buddy…. there’s got to be 10 good shots in there somewhere.

* Write 7-10 blog posts (not counting this one). I only wrote a few posts in August, and I know I could have written more, even without posting new photos. They don’t have to follow the portraits mentioned above, I have things to write about.

* Make several 11×14 prints for the portfolio. This is what I do to show people my work, and also to evaluate the possibilities of making even larger prints. All the Yosemite shots should be in here, as well as a few others; there are serious candidates for drum scans there, I just need to be able to visualize what I want.

* Read a total of one book on photography. I already have the books to choose from: “The Camera” by Ansel Adams, and “First Light” by a group of authors/photographers (including Scot Miller, who signed my copy!). The way I worded this leaves some wiggle room; since I like to start more than one book at the same time, I can read half of each book or any similar combination.

* Shoot at least one roll of medium format film. Digital snapshots are easy, but you know you’ve been out shooting when you have a roll of exposed medium format film in your bag. On my Mamiya, that means 15 exposures. I actually have a plan for this, but I’d really like to go beyond the minimum of one roll and shoot more. I have many films to choose from, but they’re sad and lonely in my fridge, their only company a carton of eggs and a bottle of tonic water.

One of my September 2009 shots...

That’s about it. Nothing too fancy, just a pledge to get out there and shoot, come back and post, think and write. There could be a few minor additions to the list along the way (my Flickr page needs a makeover), but these are the main objectives.

What’s your plan for September?

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