I had wanted for a long time to bring along my silver reflector on a sunny day outing.  Just wanted to experiment with having the sun behind or at some angle to the subject and using the reflector to direct that light as the main light source.


Some great things about reflectors verses strobes are:
1)  They fold up into about a 10" square.
2)  They weigh less than a pound.
3)  They give a light source size that is similar to an umbrella.  Which means soft light-to-shadow transitions that are great for portraits.
4)  No batteries required.
5)  No radio interference.
6)  They weigh less than a pound.
7)  They fold up into about a 10" square.

A little repetitive but man it sure is true.  So it does come with some downsides.  My daughter thinks it is fun to play on for one.


And it turns out that a huge ball of nuclear fusion is no easier to look at when it is reflected into the eyes.  I think this picture is hilarious.  The squinting and covering of the eyes is classic.  I think that I've read that the way to do it is have the subject close their eyes and then open them on command at the moment you take the shot.


So I found myself directing that sunlight everywhere.  Cool shot into a rotten old log.  So if you don't want to spend the money on a bunch of lighting gear, just go to Wal-Mart and pic up an autoshade.  Give it a shot.

Be blessed.


Another Family Portrait Session

Family Portrait

I must admit that I really enjoy these family sessions.  It is informal and we take an hour or so to just hang out and capture some cool candid shots as well as some nice posed ones as well.  These are a few of my favorites from my most recent shoot.

Above is the only one that I included that is lit with flash.  I have my Vivitar 285HV shooting thru and umbrella camera right at full power.  Even though it was evening the sun was lighting the ocean quite brightly.  And I was using my 28-135 that starts at f3.5.  The 50mm 1.8 just wasn't wide enough to capture enough environment here.  This was at f5.6 to get some added sharpness from that lens.

This is just as sweet as anything with the baby doll. 

Me And My Baby

Here we have Daddy with his girls in the nice late evening sun.  I like the triangle formed with the three of them.

Daddy And His Girls

Someone loves Daddy.  This is a nice moment with a full up natural laugh.

My Daddy

I love the simplicity here.

Child Portrait

I was getting a little artsy here.  The heart kind of mirrors what the dress is doing.

A couple more sweet smiles and great curls like my daughter.

I hope you guys enjoy these photos.  I had fun capturing them.

Be blessed.


Fun With Black & White

Fun With Black & White

I really like good black and white photographs.  I'm not sure what makes a good one a good one.  I suppose I lack the artistic language to describe it.  I took these and had worked them up in color.  Just for fun I tried converting them to grayscale and to me they went from good to great.  The curly hairs (that Daddy loves by the way), the super sharp eyes.  You be the judge.

I haven't posted in a while.  Life is busy.  I am currently shucking my responsibilities as I type.  I have tile work to do in the bathroom, the cedar playground needs some repair, the pavers in the back yard need work, I have to mount an igniter to the burner I installed in the grill.  But it is just so much more rewarding to share photos. 

Fun With Black & White


Nasty Little Challenge

My friend Kevin has a blog

He apparently has a problem with creepy dolls.  Not sure what that means but I still love him.  So anyway he was asking for submissions of said creepy dolls so this is what I came up with.  Just in time for Halloween.  Note that I have his blog up in the computer screen in the background.

The lighting is a snooted 285HV for the key light and a bare, red-gelled 540EZ behind and below for the red accent.


Window Display

In an attempt to at least occasionally shoot for the daily challenge at I went looking for a window display.  Actually the whole family went.  We packed up the car and went to downtown Melbourne, FL looking for the right one.  My wife suggested the year-round Christmas store.  Which normally would be a great choice but the time of day wasn't very good.  The reflections in the window were stinkin' up the joint. 

So we drove on down the street and she spotted this one.  Excellent.  I didn't really like the street reflection but it was reduced some as I worked on it in LR2.  The colors are great.


Family Portraits At The Beach

Family Portrait

Here's my most recent family portrait session.  I had a great time with them.  What a great little family with the new (ok not so new) baby.  We met at the beach with about 45 minutes until sunset with another 30 minutes of twilight.  First we tried to take advantage of the direct sunset light up on the boardwalk.  I tried as many different light schemes as I could come up with.  We used the sun as direct light.  We tried using it for backlight as you can see in the following photos.  Awesome how the hair just blows out and you get nice soft light for the face.  I've been trying to do more of this these days. 

Family Portrait by you.

Family Portrait by you.

We used the sun for side lighting.  This has got to be one of my favorites of the entire section.  As a Daddy, I can relate so much to this shot.  I talk about capturing interactions later on and this is exactly what I'm talking about.

Family Portrait by you.

And for a silhouette.

Family Portrait by you.

Then we moved over to the west side of the dunes so that all we had was diffused sunlight which is of course soft.  This makes for good photos but honestly these days I like more of an edge in photographs.

Family Portrait by you.

Weights And Wind

Family Portrait

Then we even broke out the flash and umbrella.  The wind was blowing hard.  Earlier that day, while sitting in my office, I remembered the two times that my light stand had taken a fall because of the wind.  I knew I needed sandbags but I didn't have any and even if I wanted to buy some (I don't because that costs money and costs even more money if it is "made for photography") there was no time for them to be delivered.  So I'm looking around my office . . . I see my old A3 bag from the Air Force.  It acts as our scuba bag and has masks, snorkels, fins, and WEIGHT BELTS!  So back to the beach.  I set up the stand with flash and open the umbrella.  The only way this works is with the umbrella pointing into the wind.  Otherwise I would be asking some of you from California to ship it back to me.  Just latch the weight belt and drape it over the legs of the tripod.  Works great.

Family Portrait

Family Portrait

Only drawback is that once it is set, it is not trivial to reposition it because of the wind and the weight so it was easier to move the subjects around in the light.

I shoot a lot of pictures in hopes that I capture some moment that stands out.  Little interactions between parent and child.  I caught a few of those here along with the photo at the top and the one of Daddy kissing baby.

Family Portrait

To my friends - I hope you guys are happy with these.  I enjoyed spending time with you.

Be blessed.  Let me know what you think.  Leave comments.




Here's a quick one that I captured tonight.  I used the preset "Matt's Vintage New York."  I like the muted tones.  I added a little brightness in the eyes to bring out some detail that went away when I applied the preset.

Just used my Vivitar into a shoot-thru umbrella.  I slowed the shutter speed down until the incandescent light burned into the background.

Be blessed.


My Girl


What a baby!  Oh I love this little one!  Just another one from the backyard.  Used a Lightroom preset called Steller Guru Greengold.  I really like the overexposed look.  But most of the presets go a little overboard.  I like to turn down the exposure just a little bit to recover a little detail in the highlights.


In The Yard

Daddy's Hand

So we were just hanging out last night in the yard.  I had read an article from the Digital Photography School.  It mentioned getting out of the shade when shooting outdoor portraits.  The shade gives soft light that is easy on the face.  When you backlight using the sun, the background gets blown out.  Sometimes you don't want that, sometimes you do.  So I made it a point to try to take some with sun just out of frame.  I like the edge that it gives in the photo below.  You see the highlights are blown out on the camera left side of the face.  Some may say that is not a good exposure.  I say I really like it.

Oh Yes I Am Sweet


Another One I Like


Can't get away from that kids eyes.  Lighting here is just my Vivitar 285HV into a shoot-thru umbrella at 1/4 power.




I am really liking LR2 and all of the presets that are available for it on the web.  These shots started as decent photographs with cool lighting IMHO.  But the colors are just too stinkin' accurate!  What?  It occurred to me as I was looking at various effects to apply to these shots that I spent a lot of money for a camera that has incredible resolution, low noise, and represents colors accurately.  Now I am undoing all of that.  What does that mean?! 

It reminds me of the tube vs. solid state debate in music circles.  I have to admit that I used to be a solid state guy until I played my '74 Strat through a Fender tube amp.  It just does sound better.  I know as an engineer these days that it has to do with the harmonic content of the signals as you overdrive the devices.  Odd harmonics from tubes and even harmonics from solid state.  But that's a debate for a different time.

Anyway, I suppose that all that matters is the end creation.  Use whatever tools and techniques necessary to produce the outcome that you have visualized.

So the lighting is this: I have a home-made foamcore snoot on my 285HV @ 1/4 power for the key light, and for accent, my 540EZ, bare @ 1/32 power.

I found this great preset called "Matt's Polo/Ralph Lauren" available HERE.  I really like the desaturation and also the tone that is added. 



More From The Wedding

The Gazeebo by you.

Here are a few more from the wedding that I shot recently.  They asked me to capture the decorations so that's what I did.  It did look very nice.  The house is an awesome country house with a huge wrap-around front porch.  The grounds are covered with big oak trees.  Nice place to get married.  So the first one above is a shot of one of the flower arrangements with the decorated gazeebo in the background.  The flowers were in the shadow of the porch so I brought in my shoot-thru up close and camera right.  The ratio here with the ambient is pretty close.  It looks like maybe a half stop.

The Farley's

Here is the front of the house.  Ambient light only here.  You can see the challenge for portraits by looking at the light filtering through the oak trees and hitting the ground in front of the house.  Blotchy, contrasty light; not good for portraits.  So that's why I drug around my umbrella on a stand.


Here is another ambient shot of some decorations with the gazeebo framed by one of the oaks.

More Decorations

Great job to whoever decorated.  It really looked great.

The Cake

Oh yes, the cake.  Yummy by the way.  I hit this with the shoot-thru as well. 

Cactus Trigger Update
Just wanted to add that I am still using the Cactus Triggers and have been completely happy with them.  Had an experience here where when I moved inside the house with the flashes, they weren't firing at all.  I mean at all.  I switched channels about 3 times and found one that was clear and they fired every time after that.


The First Wedding

Bridal Portrait Indoor by you.

So here they are.  Some of my favorites from shooting my first wedding.  I showed them to the happy couple today so now I'll show them to all both of you :).

IMG_9658 by you.

Bridal Portrait Indoor Smile by you.

I choose these because they are definitely my favorites but they also are indicative of the different techniques that I used during the afternoon and evening.  The bridal portraits above were all taken indoors in fairly low light.  The top portrait was taken in a corner where there were two large windows.  One camera left and one behind the subject.  This gives some great light.  Nice soft light for the face and great accent on the face and shoulder from behind. 


This one is taken in the same area but the subject is now standing and we can see the bare bulb lamp and natural wood of the window frames behind her.  I like this one because the event took place in an awesome country house and this gives that feel.  And the rustic red walls go well with the blue in the flowers.

Bridal Portrait Outdoor


So next we have moved outside to the gazebo and I have broken out the Vivitar 285HV on a stand with my shoot-thru umbrella.  I underexposed the ambient by 1 1/2 to 2 stops so that the subjects pop.  And then bring up the flash power until I get a good exposure.  The shoot-thru allows you to get the flash very close to the subject which maximizes the power of the small strobe but also increases the apparent size of the light source.  This gives the nice soft transitions from highlight to shadow.

Bridal Dance

I have tried flash blur before without any success.  But I decided to try it again while the bride was on the dance floor.  I actually got a few shots that were good.  This is my favorite because the side of the bride's face is in focus but you get a sense of the motion of the clapping.  So I just really dragged the shutter here.  I got 1/8 of a second on this one.  So I would focus, start to rotate the camera, and press the shutter release while rotating the camera.

The Cake

So here is the cake smash.  For this I took advantage of the white ceiling of the front porch.  It was tight quarters with many people on the porch.  Not enough room to work my umbrella around so I fired my Vivitar into the ceiling.  I took one setup shot made an adjustment and took the rest.

I carried the stand with umbrella around a lot during the evening when shooting the special portraits.  But while I had light, I took many candids at ISO1600.  The noise reduction in LR2 took care of that and gives a great result. 

For processing I:
1) Did the noise reduction when needed.
2) Added some contrast by bringing up the black levels.
3) For the bride, I always \reduced the clarity slider a little for some added softness.
4) Added a little vibrance to bring out surrounding colors without affecting skin tones.
5) And added vignetting to taste.

That's about it.  It was a great experience.  They seemed happy.  I shot about 450 shots and processed a little over 200 keepers.  Wouldn't mind doing this again sometime I think.

Gimme Some Candy by you.

Be blessed.