Monday, May 31, 2010


After wrestling with this image for a while I figured it deserved a little commentary.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Icon Interviews: Steve Gottlieb

There is nothing like the completion of a really big project. One of the pieces of advice I would give to advanced amateurs is always have some kind of project in mind so you’re always looking at the world, when you pick up your camera, from a little bit of a distinctive perspective. That doesn’t mean every picture must be part of your project, but that bit of focus lets you build a collection of pictures that really makes a statement about how you see the world.

Part of a bigger interview with Steve Gottlieb with whom I very much identify. Click
here for the full interview.

Virgin America: Pay for dial-up

I had the opportunity to ride Virgin America this weekend to Washington DC. I should tell you right now, this post has nothing to do with photography other than the fact that I'm about to post some iPhone pictures.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Influences, Concepts, and Spontaneity

Matthew Jordan Smith said:
There are only three ways to improve yourself: through the people you meet, by the books you read, and by the places you go. If you can't get to a seminar (the places you go) or speak to a professional photographer you admire (the people you meet), then read, read, read!

Today I went to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in an attempt to broaden my influences such that I'll be able to incorporate them into my work. It was interesting, but I didn't see anything that I really wanted to incorporate into my work...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Cameras: Line filling

While you'd think that the camera market is becoming saturated, manufacturers seem to be able to find gaps in their lineup where they might be able to attract another marginal percentage of the overall market.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Magic Pill

There's no magic pill... not even a H4D-60 or P65+ will make your photography better.

I remember when I used to hang out a lot in the forums at (nope not gonna link you). It was full of lens-lusters, pixel-peepers, armchair quarterbacks... you get the idea. A bunch of people arguing about nothing and least of all actually shooting.

I can explain that: Hasselblad USA

I demoed a Hasselblad H3DII-31 with 80mm f/2.8 today in studio from Matthew Frary, Hasselblad's area representative. We took a few pictures of Lyz and compared them to the same relative images generated by the Nikon D3 with 24-70mm f/2.8G. Needless to say the result was more dynamic range and a lot more megapixels.

Attached is the processed H3DII-31 image retouched:

I'm a little bothered that the image somehow decided to insert a logo on the bottom left hand corner of the image upon exporting from Lightroom. I don't know how that was inserted into the image and it's rather disturbing. This means that the Hasselblad files are messing with my Lr export functions and I don't like that.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A wee bit hot... MacBook Pro 6.2 i7 temperature

Photoshop CS5 crunching away at a blur for a few minutes on the MacBook Pro 6.2 2.66GHz i7 processor...

In case you don't see it, it says "198ยบ" Fahrenheit. I seem to remember the bottom of my screen becoming discolored from the heat vent!

Tip of the day: Feathering

I remember learning about feathering a long time ago.

But it took me a long time to employ feathering.

I don't know why, but a lot of times I read things and understand it conceptually and then fail to implement it. I think I've got a thick skull...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Learning, breaking, and making the rules

This could probably be classified under TOTD but it's much broader and general philosophy than an actual tip. Without getting into specifics the three adjectives above are how I think about "rules" that govern the "game". The game could be anything from photography in general to lighting or to even the specifics of photography as a business.

Whatever your game is, you have to learn, break, and then make the rules.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tip of the day: Confidence

There's this new product out there, it comes in a 12 oz. can called "Confidence". If you drink it, you'll perform better and everyone will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Well, not exactly.

Peacocks and Performance

Sometimes I get to work with talented individuals and other times I get to work with amazingly talented individuals.

Recently I had the honor of working with La Dauphine who is not only a fashion stylist but also a fashion editor for Beauty Verve. With the help of Danielle Wells (makeup) and Adeel Kahn (stylist), we transformed Jacquelynn King (Pinkerton Morgan II) with a gamut of styles that ranged from peacock to badass.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Tip of the day: Copying layers

When I'm retouching a series of images sometimes I like to keep the look and feel consistent throughout the images. As such, it's a waste of time for me to re-engineer every layer adjustment for each additional image.

The love affair continues... Scrim Jim

Yesterday I talked about how the love affair with natural light has continued. Today I received my used medium Scrim Jim in the mail.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The love affair continues...

Above shot 1/100th, f/2.8, ISO400 @170mm.

I'm practically a wedding photographer now with all the ambient light pictures that I've been shooting. Really. :)

These few of Sarah (with hopefully more to come), were all shot ambient on a semi-overcast day in a gorgeous house in Santa Monica. With such soft lighting I was able to to turn my focus towards capturing images with a different look and feel than the ones that I'm used to doing in studio.

It also opens a huge can of worms as far as exposure and focus are concerned.

RE: VisibleDust sensor swabs

When swabbing the sensor, don't use the same swab for multiple passes over the sensor. It took me 4 swabs this time (the first time it took 3 swabs). The more I swabbed the sensor, the more streaks I saw. Finally on my 4th swab I swabbed it one with one side and once with the other side and just stopped there. Streaks gone.

Also, don't drench the swab with the cleaning formula. It takes longer to dry and is partially responsible for the streaking. Although in theory it makes absolutely no sense why there would be any streaks at all. Mmkaythanks.

Tip of the day: Expose to the right! (continued)

Really want to drive this point home because it is critical to maximizing the best results from our sensors.

this as it refers to the following table:

Within the first F/Stop, which contains the Brightest Tones
2048 levels available
Within the second F/Stop, which contains Bright Tones
1024 levels available
Within the third F/Stop, which contains the Mid-Tones
512 levels available
Within the fourth F/Stop, which contains Dark Tones
256 levels available
Within the fifth F/Stop, which contains the Darkest Tones
128 levels available

Tip of the day: Retouch backwards

I used to get all excited and upon opening the image up in Photoshop, immediately start processing skin.

Nowadays, I want to see the general idea of the finished product before I commit hours to an image. So what I do now is play with all my layer adjustments before I process anything else. This includes my B&W conversions, levels, curves, saturation/desaturation, gradient maps, exposure, etc... before I go into dodging and burning and skin smoothing techniques.

The reasoning is simple: How do I know A) if this image has "potential" and B) how the final picture will (generally) look without applying these major layer adjustments?

Tip of the day: Expose to the right!

I'm creating a new part of my blog called "Tip of the day". These are tips that I find useful in my own photography that you can use to see immediate results.

Most of you already know this and some of you don't. Then there are those of you that know this and like me, fail to do this regularly.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Nikon D3 Long-term Update

ISO6400 1/6th, f/2.8, @28mm D3/24-70mm f/2.8G

That's funny because there was never a short-term update for the D3.

I've been in love with this camera since day one. No other camera I've ever shot has outpaced my ability to grow as a photography. In other words, it took a damn long time before I started realizing the limitations of this machine.

To this day, if you treat it well... it should be more than enough camera for nearly everyone's needs.

Monday, May 17, 2010


To my left sit 2 magazines. One W and one V (not Vogue but V Magazine).

Until earlier today, I didn't know V Magazine existed. I knew about W. I subscribe to neither at the moment.

I should be ashamed of myself. Actually I know so little when it comes to fashion, beauty, modeling, photography, retouching for that matter. Part of the problem is that I'm too busy creating work rather than reading about the work of others.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

MacBook Pro 6.2 update

It may not score higher than the Mac Pro or the best iMac on GeekBench but I can take it wherever I want.

Vogue Diaries

Quite interesting actually... click the image:

The desert revealed

In "Things to do in the desert" I posted 5 pictures and at the end of the post asked, "Can you guess how lit each picture?"

The answer to each might surprise you!

Medium format madness (continued)

This is the second portion of the medium format post that I generated a couple days ago. I'm going to list out my considerations for going to medium format digital in comparison to shooting 35mm full-frame digital.

White wall wonders

The white wall is the ubiquitous panacea for fashion photographers. There's so much that you can do with one white wall that I could do a whole workshop with just 1 light and 1 wall. In fact that might very well be the title of the first (and potentially second) workshop :)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Medium format madness

A couple days ago I mentioned I rented a Mamiya 645AFDII with a film back and 80mm f/2.8 for the weekend. Here are some results for comparison.

The results are shocking. The film was processed at Samy's and then scanned into a digital file. The file itself is a 4.3MP JPEG 8-bit. My D3 outputs 12.1MP RAW 14-bit files.

The first two side-by-side comparisons are unretouched images. The 3rd comparison was adjusted only for color and exposure so you can compare the images without the difference in color cast and tint. Which ones are which? The ones that look like they were taken with a Canon Powershot belong to the D3. I'm going to go cry now. I'm still surprised at how different the files are. The medium format files handle shadows and highlights so much better with respects to dynamic range.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Need more megapixels? How about 45 gigapixels?

World's largest photo: 45 Gigapixel Image of Dubai Sets Record as World's Largest Photo

Welcome to the great outdoors... Hoodman HoodLoupe Review

I open the door to the studio and step outside. As I mentioned before it's bright outside.

Did I mention, it's
damn bright outside?

Inside, I'm shooting in pretty much darkness so my 150W light bulbs can be visible and accurate without a ton of ambient fill contaminating my WYSIWYG lamps. One step into the afternoon sunlight and I'm looking at
"the sunny 16" rule in full effect.

I'm suddenly presented with 2 new challenges:

1. I can't see my modeling lamps anymore. This is okay since modeling lamps drain my Vagabond II within minutes anyway. Besides, I can always just shoot with ambient or reflectors. Lastly, I can always check the LCD to see if I...

2. You can't see what's being displayed the LCD screen

LOL! Okay, that's troublesome.

On the day we went to the desert, the only way to see anything was getting back into the car and/or pulling a jacket over our heads to see the LCD. Increasing the brightness of the LCD failed me miserably and furthermore altered the perceived exposure. I rely quite a bit on the LCD display to read the histogram (which is more easily visible in broad daylight) because I check the actual picture itself since sometimes


You can't imagine how many times I've heard, "all your stuff is the same" or "you should really shoot outside". I heard it so often I was starting to wonder, "maybe I'm just a one-trick-pony?"

Well, here's to being a one-trick pony :)

I'm falling in love with shooting outside... making amends with my reflectors, that I've ignored for so long... oh and Sarah showed me another "secret spot" to shoot here around our neighborhood ;)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I know a secret spot...

I know a secret spot
Paradise by the sea
We'll find a place to park
That's kinda cool after dark

Lyrics from the song
Still Cruisin' by Beach Boys in 1989. Incidentally that was my first audio cassette :)

Sarah Series

Okay I have to do this correctly because if I don't the following pictures will import into FB and be removed for being too "sexy" LOL!

So sometimes I have shoots that are just "spot-on". As a photographer/retoucher, I'm looking for pictures that have "retouch potential". How do I define "retouch potential"? On the surface it's exactly how it sounds. However this also includes certain photographic elements like evoking emotion, standing the test of time, amongst other things that I can't verbally explain.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Photoshop CS5... unbelievably slow (update)

So I tested Photoshop CS5 on my friend's MacBook Pro 5.2 (2.4GHz 4GB RAM) and I was surprised, that the liquify tool on his machine was faster than it was one mine.

So I grabbed my computer and placed side-by-side I compared my liquify tool in CS5 on my i7 MacBook Pro 6.2 with 8GB RAM. Surprisingly, the tool worked much better...


Cultivating the art of retouching...

I can name a handful of legendary photographers, yet I can only name 1 famous retoucher...

How many famous retouchers can you name?

Consider that. And then consider how important retouching is to photography. Just as important as hair, makeup, and wardrobe if you ask me.

When I need to up my retouching game, here's where I go: RetouchPro

And if you're too lazy to read, watch some youtube rentals in the comfort and privacy of your own home :)

Disclaimer: Not affiliated with Retouch Pro in anyway, although I think I'm a forum member.

Katt: Williams: Haters

This is a gem! And perfectly applicable if you ask me :)

Where I've been...

I've been away from blogging for a while.

So much has changed and yet nothing has changed.

My commitment to producing great pictures is still as strong as ever.

But I'm much deeper in the rabbit hole than I'd ever expected.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mamiya 645AFD

Rented a Mamiya 645AFD from Samy's today. $50 for the weekend. $35 for 4 rolls of Fuji 220 ISO160. It feels weird shooting film again. I'm constantly looking at the back of the camera expecting something to appear.

Photoshop CS5... unbelievably slow

On my MacBook Pro 6.2

It makes no sense. It was recoded from ground up for as a 64-bit application. Futhermore, I've given it 4GB more RAM, an SSD and an i7 processor to boot.

What gives?

Birds and bird-flu

So the morning of my shoot with Sarah, I find a feather on the front lawn of my house. Figuring it would make an interesting prop, I brought it to the shoot. I'm a big fan of feathers, furs, shiny things, textured materials, hoods, etc... pretty much anything interesting.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Things to do in the desert

Went to the desert with Lyz, Melissa, Kat, and Ren this past Saturday. Here are my take-home notes for the desert:

-it's bright as hell
-it's windy as hell
-the Prius is not an off-road vehicle
-a large reflector can be a kite
-only drive as far as you're willing to run on foot (just in case something happens)

So we were at an undisclosed location in the Lucerne Valley. It's undisclosed because I really don't know where we were. I mean, I couldn't find it by myself since I was driving with the directions provided by Kat and Lyz.

Here are some pictures from that day. I'm still working through the rest:

Interestingly when I look through these retouched pictures I think to myself, "Are those my pictures?" Sure feels like I'm changing again...

Can you tell how I lit each picture?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Nikon D4 Wishlist

I've had this conversation with a couple of my friends now and it's always the same. There are a few things that I would love to see on the next iteration of Nikon's flagship camera. Without further ado:

-Focus points on the frame's extremes. I'm big on tack-sharp focus so focus-recompose often just doesn't cut it especially at larger apertures. At f/2.8 @200mm (on the 70-200mm f/2.8G) I'm looking at millimeters of depth of field. Recomposing loses so much sharpness that I usually have to scrap the frame. Focusing with the nearest focusing point however doesn't provide me the proper composition for the frame. Hence, I would love love love to see Nikon give me some focusing points on the edges of the frame so I don't have to focus-recompose. Or give us Hasselblad's True Focus system!

-Better autofocus in low-light situations. I shoot in the dark some 90% of the time these days and it's frustrating when the camera can't acquire a focus-lock on the model's face. This ruins the tempo of the posing which is unacceptable.

-Better wireless tethering capabilities. This includes writing to the CF card in addition to sending files to the computer, potentially an integrated wifi card, or at least just an SD slot like the 1D series so I can use an Eye-Fi card!

-At least 24 megapixels. I don't think this is too much to ask!

-A larger LCD screen. How about 3.5-4" so I don't have to tether to a computer?

-Zoom-histogram capability. I don't always need the histogram for the whole frame, how about a histogram that varies with the magnification when I'm zoomed in on my subject on the LCD?

-Built-in wireless strobe triggering (not from a pop-up flash). At least for the Nikon CLS system, but ideally for all systems via RF. Of course this would never happen because Nikon doesn't have RF strobes.

-Sensor shaker. Not really that useful from what I've heard but the other cameras have it and it would prolong my having to swab my sensor.

-Firewire 800 port.

-GPS geotagging.

Basically we're headed where no 35mm has ever been before. We're encroaching upon the limitations of the sensor size and I would love to see us overlap into medium-format territory. That being said, I don't know if I can wait that long!

L U C I M A for iPhone and iPad!

Dripbook has made the L U C I M A experience on iPhone and iPad possible by converting the flash based website into a device friendly experience! And to think I almost cancelled Dripbook in search of an Apple-friendly alternative!

Disclaimer: I have no affiliation other than being a subscriber to Dripbook. If they suck for you, it's not my fault. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

L U C I M A... the Facebook page

If you're reading this on FB then you're already at the L U C I M A page...

But if you're reading this on Blogger, then there's another page you can check out over here.

This is a test. From now on, these posts should automatically feed into the Facebook L U C I M A page. What I'm attempting is a conversion of different systems. I'd really rather not repost the same material manually over multiple sites.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sometimes you can't trust the histogram

Yeah, the histogram lies... sometimes.


You could have a completely even histogram, apparently no blown highlights, no lost blacks... yet your subject could be too bright or too dark.

In the case of my work, the background is often irrelevant to me. I don't care that much if it's lost to blacks or blown out in whites. What I do care is that the skin tones are well exposed.

So when I zoom out and get lots of background, the histogram can look pretty jacked... most of the time to the skewed heavily to the left because I light so selectively.

But the histogram is only part of the story. If I relied on it solely to expose the subject, then based upon the situation above (where most of the data is in the darks on the left), I'd have to increase the exposure to even out the histogram... yet in doing so, I'd overexpose the skin tones.

Just remember, not everything is what it seems. Use your eye to figure out what looks good.