Category Photography

Scarlet Overkill in New York

After buying tickets for the first time to Comic-Con New York 2015, I’ve been thinking about what cosplay would be best for Olivia. While watching the movie Minions, it was obvious that Scarlet Overkill, the glamorous villain with a simple red dress, black choker and gloves, hosiery and stilettos, would be perfect for a beautiful girl like her. Scarlet’s pinup look she wore to Villain-Con would also be perfect for Comic-Con.

The dress was designed by Hardley Dangerous on Etsy. The rest of the accessories were ordered on Amazon. Scarlet tries to take over London in the movie, so it is only natural her next target would be the great New York City. We imagine where Scarlet would visit on her trip to the Big Apple, from the iconic Flat Iron building to the Empire State Building, and finally Times Square. Every villain needs to take a food break, so in comes Shake Shack. By the end of the tiring day of taking over the city, Scarlet sips on a Starbucks before taking her cute little red ride back to read her favorite Minion a bed time story.

The photos were taken with an Olympus OM-D E-M1, with Canon Speedlites in a Westcott Apollo softbox with Pocket Wizard triggers. A lot of post processing done to make sure our villainous Scarlet is the center of attention. Bonus behind the scene shot at the end!

To see a before and after, click here.

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New York Air Show 2015

This weekend was my second annual New York Air Show event. While I only had my Canon 70-200mm to capture planes far up in the sky, the 21 megapixel sensor from the Canon 5D Mark III allowed some safe cropping buffer. My favorite part of the show was the F-22 Raptor, showing off the most advanced flight maneuver capabilities in the world. The thrust vector engine allowed impressive low speed turns that would otherwise stall any other jet. I’m pretty sure it could out maneuver a lot of stunt planes too. The most exciting part was hearing just how loud the engines were, which also translates to how much power 70,000 pounds of thrust feels like from the ground. Fighter jets have always been awe inspiring to me, and will never get old even as an adult. Maybe next year I will try low shutter speeds with tracking, and rent a super telephoto lens!

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Summer Days

One of the best days this summer was going on a top-down spirited drive on windy mountain roads in perfect weather with your buddies, enjoying multiple scenic and food stops along the way. Imagine your own Top Gear challenge not without the close calls with police that usually comes with a car chase as you can see in the video screenshot below. The photos taken are one of my favorites with just the right lighting, ND filters on an Olympus OMD E-M1 camera at low shutter speeds and a steady hand.

Our destination was Perkins Memorial Observatory in Bear Mountain, followed by a hearty brunch at Billy Joe’s Ribworks. Our mid-day dessert for some extra driving boost was amazing pie from my favorite place, Pie Lady & Son. That was only our first half of the day, as we later carpooled to Brooklyn for the evening to enjoy the amazing weather.

Nothing puts a smile on my face like the freedom of being on the road with good music, good company, and speed! Like I always said, who else can buy bliss at $2.22 per gallon?

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Ferrari 458

It was a beautiful Saturday morning driving in various formations with Greg in a Ferrari 458 with my BMW Z4 M Roadster as the chase camera car. Maintained speed, a steady hand, and low shutter speed makes for some great car photography that helps make the car pop, but a little extra filter and editing makes it polished. I just wish we could close down the entire highway for my own photo projects.

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Skye Under the Sky

The unusual east coast weather this summer has caused some amazing skies lately. I took the opportunity to snap a few photos with my Olympus OMD E-M1 with ND filters, and did some post processing through Lightroom 5, then Photoshop CS6. Shooting in RAW helped enhance the shadow details from the car, and highlight details from the sky. It’s always safer to shoot a slightly darker exposure since you can always retrieve more shadow detail than you can from blown highlights.

It’s normal to get all kinds of ambient color reflections from the environment onto the car, so I desaturated the car and pavement to a neutral gray (don’t forget to keep the turn signal colors intact), but left the windows slightly tinted from the sky. The final steps included sharpening, more Shadow/Highlights to bring out some more details, and final highlight dodging of the car to make it pop.

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Olivia in Los Cabos

I recently took a strictly vacation only trip to my timeshare in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. No weddings, no clients, just Olivia and I. Being on vacation is a very different experience compared to shooting on location no matter what most people might think. There is significantly less stress, no itinerary, and no post production work deadline. The only thing missing is the fact that the travel is paid for.

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Micro Four Thirds First Test

I’ve been very tempted to get a Micro Four Thirds camera for travel and day to day life photos. I like the idea of compact bodies with prime lens options, although not a big fan of how the equipment costs almost as much as DSLRs. I borrowed a friend’s Olympus OM-D E-M1, with a 12-40mm f/2.8, and a few primes. This body is on the bigger side of M4/3 bodies, but it allows it to be packed with dials and buttons easily accessible, along with a sturdy grip and flip screen. Coming from DSLRs and a 6 year old Canon S90, I was very impressed by the focusing speed and sharpness of the images. The entire kit of body and 4 lens fit in a small pouch that I can easily take anywhere, much of an improvement from my Lowepro backpacks.

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Focus Stacking Tutorial

Most of us love the 3D pop effect of a shallow depth of field photo. It’s practically impossible to get these effects with a phone camera, so it’s crucial to use a DSLR or a higher end compact camera to achieve these effects. Even with a prime lens at the widest for the best bokeh, it means you may not get the entire subject from front to back in focus either. Focus stacking technique lets you keep the beautiful bokeh background while having full control of what objects to keep in focus.

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Lexar Card Reader

B&H (who takes all my money) had a sale on this Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader for $12.95 recently, and I decided to jump on it since the micro USB 3.0 connection on my previous Inland 3.0 card reader snapped off. The micro USB 3.0 connection feels weak and easily broken if not careful. The Lexar card reader has the same micro connection, so I hope it isn’t built as flimsy as the cheaper Inland brand.

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Intro to Adobe Lightroom

While Photoshop has become a household name and even used as a common verb, the term is usually vaguely defined as fixing up an image. While Photoshop is an industry standard photo editing software, and probably one of the most powerful tools out there, not all images require a heavy duty tool just to tweak or enhance the image. It’s comparable to always rolling out your $30k Snap-on tool chest with all shelves loaded with tools just to replace the battery on a toy that needs a Philips screwdriver.

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Blackened Salmon

As a bachelor for most of my life, without spending much time at home and eating out with friends often, I never really got into cooking until recently, with help and support from my best friend to teach and guide me. My favorite tool in my kitchen arsenal is the cast iron skillet. I’ve begun to create some delicious steak and decided to try salmon. The recipe looked easy enough, with just four ingredients: salmon, butter, lemon, and blackening spice. The method is pretty much like making a steak, two to four minutes per side, however I did not anticipate how heavy and spicy the smoke would come from the rub at high heat. My house will smell for days! Perhaps I will photograph more cooking adventures enough to create a new category.

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What Happens in Vegas

Here are some leaked images of what happens at a Vegas bachelorette party! Maybe that’s not what really happens when there are a bunch of girls in a hotel room, except when you add me into the mix, I will make it happen. So don’t let your next Vegas memories be a bunch of boring sorority-sister-hands-on-hip poses with a drink. Let’s do something you’d get in trouble if your boss finds out.

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Correct Print Sizes

Dear clients, please read your contracts and packages carefully, especially when you’ve paid a few thousand dollars for the professional to deliver products to you. So far, my most common complaint (even if only 3 times so far), is the apparent incorrect sized prints I provide the clients. Apparent, because the clients seem to read 8×10 inch prints, when it is written 8×12 inch on my package. I have clients demanding that I send them new images in the correct size. While I understand it seems to be a common consumer print size and most picture frames sold are 8×10, it is not the correct print size directly out of professional cameras. So here is a brief lesson on proper image ratios and why 8×12 is better for you.

I offer two print sizes in one package, 8×12 and 4×6. You can do the math, it’s the same ratio of 2:3. That means when you get the prints in either size, nothing is cropped and nothing is missing. You are getting everything you see. If you decide to get 8×10 photo, you have to crop 2 inches off, that’s 16.66% of the image you are losing, and it becomes a 4:5 ratio.

I will apologize in advance for all photographers who do not mentally think about a 4:5 ratio in their viewfinder while busy shooting a hectic wedding day. In the worst case scenario where you happen to buy an expensive custom frame that is in the incorrect ratio, I can always do some Photoshop magic and shrink the photo to fit a 4:5 ratio and reconstruct the missing edges with the clone tool. That is if you don’t start the message with an angry and demanding tone of voice telling me I owe you a completely new set of photos.

Summer!

What do you do when it’s scorching hot outside with unforgiving sun? Jump into the pool of course! Considering I don’t like the water nor do I know how to swim, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to practice some outdoor flash techniques. Nothing advanced here except for two remote Canon Speedlites on each side, and one on-camera Speedlite, although more powerful studio strobes would have been easier. It’s great to have subjects who are so willing to endlessly jump into a pool of water on your command. Hope you enjoy the photos!


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Update on new Aputure Trigmaster Plus II 2.4G

For the past few years I’ve been using the Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G wireless flash remote systems. They’ve been working very well with no radio interference or distance issues compared to my PocketWizard Plus II’s. If you read my review, the only issue I had with the TM’s was the channels changing whenever you moved the lightstand, compressing the transciever body, thus inadvertantly changing the channel. While this wasn’t an issue with modeling shoots, it was annoying for weddings. The wonderful guys at Aputure sent their newest transcievers for testing and so far they are definitely an improvement. Here are some shots of the new Trigmaster Plus II 2.4G.

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Consumerism Destroying Art

Before the days where everyone could afford a professional DSLR and have access to cookie cutter portfolio websites, finding a wedding photographer was a local search, usually through word of mouth. It’s easy to see how saturated the internet is with aspiring wedding photographers, anyone with spare change can start up their own business and practice at friends’ weddings. The competition is fierce, the selection is overwhelming. We are in the age of smart digital shopping, the days of Fat Wallet turned to Groupons, getting the best value for your money, seeking discounts while expecting highest quality. This is good practice for mass produced products where it drives costs of products down due to demand, however, this is killing the art of photography, specifically wedding photography.

Back in the days when digital was only slowly taking over film, and internet portfolios were rare, wedding clients did not complain about not getting their money’s worth. Considering you get married once with one set of photos, how could you really know if someone could have done a better job, or even shot it differently? You accepted what you got. This is not to say you should accept low quality work even if you have nothing to compare it with, but also not to expect the entire wall found on your Pinterest to be in your album.

There was Google, and now there are massive wedding forums and Pinterest that showcase the world’s most beautiful wedding photos all in one convenient collection. As brides continue their research and soak in all these images contributed from thousands of photographers, they get more excited at the fantasy of what their wedding can and will look like if they just hire that “perfect” wedding photographer for the lowest possible cost. Brides will even go as far as sending a photographer images shot by someone else they would like said photographer to emulate. Offensive? Probably just a little.

In the bride’s defense, most of my clients are not like this. They have followed my work for years or have a personal connection with me just by looking at my work. They have not been saturated with fantasies. They accept reality and respect an artist’s personal vision. I am talking about the brides that try to be a smart shopper and think too logically. They want the photographers to be robots and artists at the same time. They want high quality portraits, artistic vision, unlimited group photos, a documentation of every face, and a customer-is-always-right mentality. You should see the typical photo-list that clients used to show me, it’s a joke how long it is. I personally don’t believe you can have it all.

If you want an artistic vision, an artist needs space and room to breathe, relaxed, and not feel the pressure to also include cookie cutter portraits. If you want full documentation of every guest, then hire a studio with 5 photographers and you’ll get 250 great passport photos. Do not expect a photographer to have the ability to switch on and off the artistic side to match your hectic wedding schedule. Your entire day will set the tone for a specific mood, and a photographer will inherently feed off of that mood. These brides do not treat photographers as artists, they have no feelings for people they paid to serve them on the most important day of the entire world. They are never “satisfied customers.” There is always something to complain about, and when they do, it’s a poopstorm. As a smart consumer, there is no excuse for a photographer who tried his or her best. Disregard the fact that this person was willing to spend 10 hours documenting your silly little day, and that he or she took some amazing photos, but maybe had difficulty with certain situations. Mind you, weddings are not an assembly line of the same product, it is a day of unlimited combinations of lighting, environmental, and personal factors that change how a photographer works. For a bride to nitpick what she sees as faults in her wedding photos and have the audacity to say her memories of the entire day is forever lost or ruined because one or two photos cannot be cropped to her liking, really says something about her character and how she treats her friends and others.

Finally to my point, brides, be realistic about the unique circumstances every wedding photographer has to approach on a weekly basis, and are trying their best to produce something they would be proud of. You cannot expect a 100% success rate on all of the images, and you have to accept each artist for their strengths and weaknesses. This is the human element. If you research a photographer, really get to know his or her work instead of congesting your mind with the “best images” from the internet. Art requires you to have an emotional attachment or a personal connection with the artist, not a checklist of requirements. In the end, you are only doing yourself a disservice to yourself if you love to find the faults in everything. If you appreciate the positive things in life, then you will cherish the moments captured by even the simple photographs.

Evacuated City

Two years in a row New York is being hit by a major storm caused by a hurricane, and this year’s Sandy will be a lot more devastating than Irene. The night before the storm, New York City forces public transportation shut downs and evacuations. While the weather is still relatively calm, the city is mostly dead with only a few souls roaming around. This was my perfect opportunity to capture empty streets of a city that “never sleeps”. I drove to some of the more well known spots, from Times Square, Columbus Circle, Apple Store, to Herald Square, Union Square and Meatpacking District.

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Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G Review

Here is my long over due review of a wireless flash trigger system I have been using for the past year. I was lucky to get in touch with Jesse from Aputure (yes, Chinese brand), and I was given samples of the Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G transceivers for my Canon system to review. They work exactly like my previous Pocketwizard Plus II system, each device can perform either as a transmitter or receiver. The purpose of a wireless trigger system is to use off-camera flash for either a more flattering, natural, or even dramatic lighting – basically anything but on-board camera flash! The system allows for 1 or more flash, in my case I use up to 3 flashes.

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South Africa: Favorite Photos

South Africa is definitely a beautiful country with all seasons to experience, from hot summers to cold winters. I was able to feel it all in one trip, the hot sun beating down on us in the village, to the cold winter frost on top of the mountains in Drakensberg. The most unforgettable sight was the stars and Milky Way galaxy at night. The night sky was so bright it felt unreal.

The prints are up for sale and all profits will go to Zimele.

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South Africa: Saint Lucia

One of the must-do’s in South Africa is to see the wild life. Our first stop was the town of Saint Lucia to see crocodiles and hippos. Surprisingly hippos are probably the most dangerous animals in the area, but I assume it’s due to the fact that these large beasts are allowed to roam the city streets day and night. Nothing was cuter than seeing the baby hippo take a nap next to mom and stretch his little paws. If you come to South Africa, you can expect to eat very well, just look at the photos! After lunch we visited a beach that meets the Indian Ocean where the sand is littered with titanium deposits.

Our next stop was the cheetah farm where we saw wild cats and cheetahs feed and pet them after they weren’t so hungry. Don’t be fooled by the cute cats on the fence, they look and sound ferocious in person. The only actually cute cats were the cheetahs. A few simple rules, never approach from behind, and don’t play with their paws. They were so fun to pet and rub, I wanted to hug it like Hobbes.

Our last day out was to the safari in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi. We started off early in the morning, and drove around for 8 hours trying to spot animals. The most abundant were the impalas and zebras, and it was always a joy to see some giraffes. The lions were quite a distance away and they usually just lay in the sun, so not much action there. We were all hoping to see some elephants all day long, but it wasn’t until the final hour on our way back did a male elephant stopped us on our path. Our driver informed us it was angry and it started walking toward us as the driver slowly backed up the truck so we could maintain a very uncomfortable yet close up viewing distance. Seeing a giant up close and personal with unknown angry intentions really puts the fear in you. Imagine wanting to let your mouth release your fear but knowing you have to be silent so you don’t agitate the elephant even more. We were all done with seeing elephants ever again after this experience! When we finally got passed the elephant, our last spotting gave us a chuckle – the ever so tame and harmless donkey!

Fore more info on the safari trips, check out Heritage Tours & Safaris

All photos taken with Canon 5D Mark II and processed through Lightroom 4


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