Light from an earlier time


This still life depicts a soft moody setting, with the viewfinder lit much more brightly than the rest of the scene. Naturally, your eye will go the brightest part of an image, so make sure that the brightest part of the image is the most important part.

This image was taken in a very dark room with a 20 second exposure; the lens was set on f/22. Using a technique called Light Painting, the entire scene was “painted” with a small LED flashlight. I kept moving it around the center of the scene to give a brighter center and darkened, vignetted edges. I also held the light on the glass viewfinder for a couple of seconds to make sure it glowed brightly.

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Passionately Pink

I recently shot some images for a promotional campaign for the Sacramento Chapter of the Susan G. Komen Foundation – the campaign is called Passionately Pink. I photographed a few prominent legislators at the State Capitol; they are showing their support for the Komen campaign by wearing pink ties, boas, whatever.

These are some of the final images chosen for the campaign. On all photos, I used a single speedlight with a white shoot-through umbrella. I needed to move quickly so as not to interfere with their busy schedules. In some cases, I had less than 5 minutes to move into the office, pick out a setting, establish rapport with the subject, set up the light, test exposure, move them into position and get the right expression, take some shots, then grab everything and get the heck outta there. (Click on the images to see a larger version.)

Senator Darrell Steinberg’s office had this great old brown leather couch, so I asked him to sit on his couch. I positioned the main light to the left of the camera and attached a white reflector to the door that is just out of view on his left shoulder. Senator Steinberg was very relaxed and quickly jumped into the picture.

Assemblyman Dave Jones was a lot of fun. He was busy that afternoon, he was literally putting on the pink tie while he was walking around his office discussing things with his staff. There was not a lot of floorspace in his office, so I set up the light stand on the center of his conference table and let the reflective wood paneling on the wall take care of filling in light on the dark side of the image. (I used three business cards as coasters on the table to insulate the light stand feet from the surface of the table.) When I was ready, he stepped into the photo and was immediately relaxed and present as I shot away.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (top photo) was very receptive, in spite of her busy schedule. I set up the main light on camera right and let the window light provide fill and nice ambient light for the scene. This photoshoot was the fastest, yet we had time to include Assemblywoman Patty Berg (right) in some of the shots. Both women were very down to earth and the images show their genuine support for the Komen mission.

This assignment was a lot of fun. It’s always a pleasure to shoot for the Komen group, they are very committed to eliminating breast cancer. These images will be shown on video screens in restaurants, in movie theaters between movie screenings, and on websites. The final video presentation required that all images be taken in a horizontal format; usually portraits are taken in the vertical format. It’s always important to understand the final usage of the images before taking them.

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Night Fountains


Downtown Sacramento has a pedestrian mall that connects Old Sacramento with the Community Center. Some of the blocks in between are a little under-developed, but at the end of the mall near the Community Center, several restaurants and outdoor venues provide a nice open area for quiet time. These fountains have a nice calming effect among the city traffic. I also have a daytime shot of these fountains, for a different perspective.

This photo was a 15 second time exposure, which allowed the flowing water to take on a very silky look. It also converted passing cars into white and red light streaks. Time exposures require a very sturdy tripod and lots of patience.

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Portrait with two lights…..and an ice chest lid.


Every once in a while you have to make use of whatever is laying around. In this case, I took a portrait of Kenny in a small space in a cabin. I used the bookcase to hold a black fleece backdrop and a hairlight on a clamp. I had two lights and wanted to use the second light as a hair light to keep the top of his head from disappearing into the black background. When I took a few test shots, I noticed the right side of his face was too dark. I looked around the cabin for something to use as a white reflector to add a little bit of light to the dark side of his face. I spotted a large white styrofoam ice chest on top of the refrigerator. I used a large rubber band to attach the lid from the ice chest to the back of a chair and placed it just to Kenny’s right. See the setup photo below.
(You can click on this setup photo to open a larger one in a new window.)

Main light: I placed a Vivitar 285 on a light stand, at camera right, with a white shoot-thru umbrella. This flash was set to 1/4 power and was placed about 3′ from him. I set the light stand on a table.

Hair light: I then used a Home Depot squeeze-clamp to mount another Vivitar 285 to the bookshelf behind and above Kenny. This flash was set at 1/16 power and had a gridspot on it to localize the light just on Kenny’s hair and right shoulder (opposite the main light).

Reflector: I attached the white styrofoam lid to a chair and placed it to Kenny’s right side.

Camera Position: I placed myself about 5′ away from Kenny.

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AMGEN 2008 Tour of California


AMGEN’s 2008 Tour of California came through Sacramento today. The rain arrived just before the cyclists reached the edge of town. They rode three two-mile laps on city streets before sprinting to the finish line for Stage 2 of the race.
This shot was taken with my camera clamped to the end of an extended painter’s pole, about 12′ above the ground. It’s like a miniature aerial view.
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Environmental Portrait Using Three Speedlights


Does the background in this photograph tell you anything about the person?

An environmental portrait shows a person within a context that explains something about the person. Usually, the image includes elements of the environment and these elements are visual clues about the subject matter.

In this case, I took a portrait of a Lutheran Minister (Pastor Bill) and wanted to include some parts of the back wall of the church altar. This required that I light the background on a completely different plane than the minister.

(You can click on this lighting diagram to open a larger one in a new window.)

Background light: First, I placed a Vivitar 285 on the floor near the back wall and placed a snoot on the flash to localize the light on the wall in a small area. This flash unit was set to 1/4 power.
Pastor Bill was positioned in the center aisle of the church, about 40′ from the back wall.

Main light: I placed a Vivitar 285 on a light stand, camera left, with a white shoot-thru umbrella. This flash was set to 1/4 power and was placed about 3′ from him.

Kicker light: I then used a Home Depot squeeze-clamp to mount another Vivitar 285 to the top of a pew behind and to the camera right of Pastor Bill. This flash was set at 1/16 power and also had a snoot on it to avoid lens flare. This light provided enough separation to keep Bill from blending into the background.

Camera Position: I placed myself about 20′ away from Pastor Bill and used a longer lens to compress him with the background, yet leave the background slightly out of focus.

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