My First Go Round with High Speed Sync

Being someone who likes action oriented photos as much as I like the static ones, I have always wanted to get into high-speed sync. The Canon 430 used on camera does a decent job, if you are close, but I have always wanted something with a bit more juice to it. Not having the budget to purchase a desired Profoto or Broncolor unit, I went all in on the Flashpoint Xplor 600 Pro, half the cost of the others.

There is quite a bit for me to still learn about it, but as soon as I got it I secured my test subjects and went into HSS mode. I will go over more of the features in a future offering, this one was all about fast shutter speeds.

The majority of my outside sessions involve a setting sun, I love the combo of a lit subject and a colorful, scenic background so these images are some of what went down on the first day of tests. This image is one of the last of the evening, and while you do not necessarily need to shoot HSS to achieve it, I did it anyway. f4.5 at 1/1250.

Allie used to be one of my dance girls so I have known her for a number of years, but never had the opportunity to get in a session with her. Allie does not dance competitively anymore, but she does cheer so she still has those pliable abilities and of course we got them out.

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Solid result. Crisp, mid-air edges. I think I was still using a soft box here so we got some pretty good flash coverage area. Funny thing, these images are six weeks old and it is the first time I am noticing that yellow sign.

Since we seem to be going in reverse order here, this next image was shot at f4, 1/2500th of a second. It did not make the final selections – I am all about the face – but I am impressed with the stopping power. The light provided just enough detail in the image and 1/2500th caught Allie with hands just off the ground and the sand in the air.

I originally thought this next image could be obtained just using a reflector. After studying it, I do not think it would be possible. F3.2, 1/4000th of a second. Soft box just above head and pointing down.

One of the first images of the evening while we were getting dialed in with light and position. Another at 3.2 4000.

I was very happy with my first foray into high speed sync and the Flashpoint xplor600 pro. Be back soon with our next adventure with the new gear.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

No Tolerance for Ignorance

I need to get back and pay attention to this area of my life. Growing up I thought life was supposed to get easier as you got older, it seems to be steamrolling right along, without a chance to step back and relax. I have started to make time for doing nothing, just to try and clear the mind and body. Gym time stays in the loop three or four days a week, but certain things have definitely taken a back seat as of late. When you sit in front of a computer for most of the day, you kinda want to stay away from it at night. It just saps your energy.

I was sitting outside tonight, watching the sun set, it was pure and peaceful. I always want to find somewhere to capture it, but I have shot at most of the good locations around here and have no desire to drive more than needed. [discovered a couple new locations last week!] Plus I have run out of room on the walls and the last thing we need are more digital only images. I like to hold and remember the moment, not just look and move on.

Anyway, what prompted me to get going here is a comment that was thrown at a coworker I recently shot. Melissa has busted her ass for two years, transforming her life and her health during that time to become an award winning body builder. TWO YEARS. In her first competition she did not place, this was around one year after she began her journey. In her second one, another year later, she placed second in two different categories! Busted her ass, full time job, mom, wife, homeowner and she got it done!! If that is not bad ass I do not know what is.

So just a few days ago someone told her she looked like a man. Ummmmm, not. Why, because she is fit?  Just stop. Intimidated perhaps? Should be, I am and I am fairly confident with my appearance. (The over 50 belly and loose neck skin has made its way forward) What is wrong with people these days. I would challenge anyone to put in half the effort that Melissa has put in. So that comment kind of bothered me and was just the spark I needed to get going here.

During the actual competitions, it is all bikinis for these ladies, but for the sessions I like pure fitness. This may be adjusted if we shoot again, just to stick it to a few people. I have never appreciated shooting scantily clad bodies for the simple fact I feel it degrades the person. How is that for old fashioned thinking. Eyes, hair, face and shoulders are all I need.

We tried a couple of different looks during the session, played with some gels a little and even got the atmosphere aerosol out for a long burst. I am still feeling a bit confined in my space, the low ceilings especially weigh on me, but Grids are good and light is just light after all. I just added one to the inventory for my favorite outside shoots. Touch base on that one in the next offering.

Thanks for stopping by, get out and get it done!

Phil

Shout out to Dance Olympus/Dance America for keeping it real.

We have been traveling to dance competitions for the past ten years now, and I continually hear the same thing when it comes to capturing photographs of my girls – “no photos allowed to protect the dancers and the choreography of the dances”. While I have yet to understand how you can figure out choreography from stills, I do agree with trying to protect the dancers. Some joe schmo off the street walks in and starts popping away at the kids, not cool.  While I have mentioned this a few times, restraint and respect has curtailed me from unleashing a spree about the competitions only using this as an excuse to get more money from their attendees by selling them pictures. Which has led me to take a stance of refusing to purchase photos from any of them. Me taking photos of my team will not affect their sales in the least.  As much as this has infuriated me, I have dealt with it and not captured the girls on stage. Openly anyway.

I would like to give a big shout out to the folks at Dance America/Dance Olympus for keeping it real and allowing photography during their events. Their rules are No Video – makes perfect sense as this is how choreography really gets stolen, and no flash.  Absolutely agree there. Despise the use of flash when performing. We used to attend their events every year, and then the past three years or so the studio has had scheduling conflicts coinciding with the DA/DO events. The folks put on a very professional show and the last day is all workshops, which are required of dancers that compete. This is how you make money the right way. I will pay for good education any day. This organization allows me to do my thing, help promote our studio and give the girls a few chuckles while they look at their faces on the back of the camera.

As my daughter and her teammates have grown as dancers, I have grown as a photographer. I owe so much to them, many were my guinea pigs while I learned how to shoot in the studio. Each year we create a book for the dance school from whatever has been recorded, and a few of my prints even grace the walls. As I am sure someone is wondering about this, yes, I have full consent from the parents and our director.

And that is what I do, document our year. It is never easy capturing these dances, a style of shooting I am a bit rusty with. I did “cheat” during the solos and changed bodies to my high-speed crop sensor. When your environment is uncontrolled it is a must. If I was head on and had no distracting objects in my path perhaps I would have made a different decision. Eh, Probably not. Use the tools you have, that is what they are for. I was talking iso with  one of my music photographer friends and he was surprised when I told him that for my music stuff I am always at 5000. I can, it works for me so I do. The dance stuff I never go above 2500, especially with the crop body. Normally hanging around 2000 for this stuff as long as I can keep a decent shutter speed.

Our next competition that policy is in place so I will be gritting my teeth the whole weekend while I deal with that inane rule. My plea would be for the organizations who have this policy to state what it really means instead of hiding behind the attendees. The only thing that is being protected is the company that is selling the photos of a public event in a public place.

Well, I ended up teetering just a little bit there. Do not want to get carried away, so I am going to leave it be.

A few more from the fun filled weekend. This first dancer is the youngest on the team, she put in an outstanding solo hiding behind that mask. I get the feeling she has no idea how good she really is.

I have always loved those looks when you can tell they are fully immersed and invested in the number. Combined with the right music, it often will bring me to fatherly tears of joy. Yup, I admitted it.  My wife says I am a sap….  So be it.

Managed to capture one or two of the daughter that will be going on our walls. “But my arm is not straight” she says, exactly why it works. It is funny when they critique themselves though photos. Don’t do it. At the pinnacle of your movement it may have been perfect, I just did not record that point. Look at the video the organization is going to send you to do a critique. Just enjoy what we have in stills, and don’t worry, the bad ones do get deleted.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil

 

The Final Season Begins

The final year for this era of competitive dance is now firmly upon my family as we head towards our first big event of the year. The team is smaller this time around, the daughter is a senior now, and she will be jamming out on stage with her four teammates about six more times before all is said and done. She has already been accepted to the dance program at the college she will be heading to in September, now she just needs to try out for their dance team. Yeah, I am confused about that too. Academic vs Elective?

Spent my normal run up to our first event of the year in the studio with the girls during rehearsals, and sat in for the dress rehearsal as well. I am always envious of the flexibility they have and continually say I need to do something about my own. Goals….

Even though the team is smaller this year the excitement is no less, especially with Britt doing a solo number. If I may have a father moment, I am incredibly proud of my young love, she has grown in to such a kind, caring and beautiful young lady.  Her dancing is full of expression and filled with passion.

On the flip side of this equation is the youngest dancer on the team, appearing quiet and a bit reserved, she has a smile that lights up a room and puts in a great solo of her own.

We have a nice mix of dances this year, a gorgeous lyrical number, couple of hip hop routines, a jazz and a tap in addition to the two solos. The dances are very different from what the girls are used to. For the first time in, well forever, they have a couple of different instructors bringing in some new styles and influences. Loving the fresh approach and I think the girls dig it too.

I actually called Tap predictable the other day. Compared to the other styles, photographically it is. BUT, Tap is incredibly difficult and watching it is a thing I marvel at. Shooting it is easy is all I am saying, still bunches of fun isolating the feet.

 The girls were questioning the gold jackets, but they look really sharp and fit the dance to a tee. I also think they are going to look great on the stage.

The techy, geeky stuff: On camera flash for Laura stretching, bounced off the mirror, Britt has the direct  light with a Rogue Grid attached. No flash while they were doing their routines – 2.2, 1/500th, 2000. I was done shooting when I remembered I had my 85 with me.  So of course I had to break it out and see what I could get. From that, this happened. Hey, I am a portrait guy and no matter if I shoot dance or music, I am always looking at the face.  Jamie has been in front of the lens a bit.  She has such a great look.  I tried to distract her and get her laughing but she was totally engrossed in the theme of the number.

Best of luck girls!

Thanks For Stopping by!

Phil

Jumping clear and sharp at 1/160th of a second

Photographers always want something more, something different. I am no exception. My desires lie with obtaining a system that will afford me high-speed sync capabilities – to shoot with a shutter speed surpassing my current flash sync speed of 1/200. Simply put, if this number is breached, you will get a lovely black strip on the bottom of your frame. While that wish is nowhere near budget allowance, I am now wondering just how much I need them. I know there would be massive benefits for outdoor stuff, but inside? I am thinking probably not. Now me thinks I have known this for a while, but have refused to accept it. All comes down to confidence really.

I recently completed some promos for one of our local dance schools and after we were done with the formals we naturally had to get in some of that stuff that dancers do.  I will frequently shoot dancers in my little home studio, but with seven-foot ceilings we are very limited. This shoot was at the dance school so all cylinders were firing.  Five dancers of varying ages and skill levels and a couple of my trusty Alien Bee 800’s.

Geeky stuff: Cross light, One light had an 8″ reflector with a 30 degree grid, and the other had a white beauty dish with reflector plate.  f5.6, 1/160th, iso 100.  Cyber Sync triggers.

First Light with the grid,  Camera Right:

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And Both Lights:

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There is a slight ghosting of her left foot and shin, she is turning incredibly quick, but the rest of her is great. Maybe HSS could have prevented this, I think it is more because of the light hitting her than anything so it would not matter. I love the fact that her fingers are curled in and she is spotting her landing point.

It still cracks me that they look at themselves in the mirrors. Self critique at its finest. Digging the shadow on the wall.

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Tell ya what, I used to be flexible, but never could I do this. She is not even in maximum gumby mode, I think I was a hair off in my timing.

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So the moral of the story is, and I am sure we have all heard it before, use what is available to you instead of investing in more stuff. You may be surprised. What you have will probably work just fine.

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Yes, I still have desires for a B1. Thanks for stopping by!!

Phil

 

 

The Beauty of the Face and its Subtleties

My favorite thing about portrait photography is capturing the subtleties of the face. How micro expressions develop out of the smallest of movements and adjustments.

A little twitch, a minor change in posture, the smallest rise of the eyebrow can bring an image from ok to wow in a fraction of a heartbeat. This is beautiful. What landscape photographers possibly wait an hour or more for, those who capture people can attain in seconds. Now, of course in both instances the subjects have to cooperate and both could strike out and gain not a thing but one has control over their subjects and the other is at the mercy of mother nature.

My last session of 2015 was with a dancer that had a look I noticed down at the school while shooting rehearsals last spring. A look that screamed to be captured. This has happened more than once for various reasons, but this instance spoke volumes, moved me quite a bit. And it was all about the look of the face.

Christmas Holidays gave her mom and I the time needed to schedule the session. Fanfreakintastic is was. Still going through all the images but I came across this series of eight successive images that reveals what drives me in creating portraits. Each frame is different, each look unique. Some work, some do not.

The first two images are the concluding run of some keepers, then I lost her for a minute before getting her back. Processing was just some minor tweaks in Lightroom, none of these have been retouched yet. Kylie_PShepherd-23-2Kylie_PShepherd-24-2

I started losing her here a bit as we transitioned into a different feel. This is where the subtle movement comes in. I always capture the transitions, you never know what will come out of them. The fortunate thing about the digital age. Kylie_PShepherd-25-2Kylie_PShepherd-26-2Kylie_PShepherd-27-2

Those times when you wish you remembered what you said to get this reaction. Probably threw out a Hurleyism. Kylie_PShepherd-28-2Kylie_PShepherd-29-2

Transition complete, we have a winner. A completely different look seven images later and some fun in the process. How beautiful is that!  Kylie_PShepherd-30-2

Looking forward to many great things in 2016. I wish all of you a great transition in to the new year as well.

Thanks for Stopping by, drummers will be coming soon! Till next time…

Phil

Honing In

The past couple of years has been a whirlwind of learning for me while pressing that little button. I think I am close to developing  a consistent style, but am still searching for that consistent look to my images. The last couple of months I have been narrowing down that look a bit trying to hone in to something concrete. I think I do not shoot enough in the studio yet to really dig into something viable, being only part time, but I have created many images I am proud of.

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We are mainly talking about people here. People in my studio. My nature images are beautiful, I think, but not my forte. They come from an allure of being smitten by what mother nature presents to us. Soulful and heartfelt. Though now whenever I feel the follicles raise, I make sure and capture something I can use with my portrait work as well. I suck at making selections, but I love blending textures and overlays. This I am sure will lead to composites sooner than later. Growing in to that one slowly but surely. Love Joel Grimes, and I have been following Renee Robyn lately. She is the definition of cool.

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I love the music images, but we are so dependent of the venue for usable light, I throw away more than I keep. For the record I think flash in rude in this scenario. Yes, sometimes, when allowed, it is necessary. But then you lose what you see. I have not used flash at a gig in forever, but when I did, or when I will, I utilize a rogue grid to maintain as much ambient feel as possible.  Defined direction of light. And while this is for a different post, the majority of the time, gear does matter!

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I love head shots for the purity of the image. There are many definitions about what a head shot is and how it looks and I have seen images that have been called head shots but I call a portrait. It’s all in the application of the image I suppose. I am a disciple of the Peter Hurley style of head shot. Pure, head and shoulders, simple background. All about the expression. And in this age of social imaging, having a good head shot is so important. Yup, I still need one too.

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And usually at the end of a session, before we go, things get a little unpredictable

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The journey will continue. I will continue to grow, everyday is a learning experience which is embraced and cherished. There are a few people who are on my radar, some visions I need to fulfill and I am expanding into a few different arenas. I think 2016 is going to be a fantastic year.

Happy Holidays!

Thanks for stopping by, till next time!

Hanging Out with Lowlight

I have been shooting a lot of music over the past 18 months and have witnessed some incredible musicians in the process. I have been wanting to shoot promos for bands for a bit now, however I had never marketed that side of me to the groups. To most of them I am just a photographer who takes bad ass photos at their shows and posts them on the music blog I shoot for. The portrait side of things have been getting busier for me and this has coincided with landing my first musical client.

Lowlight is self-described as Roadhouse Chic, which in my words means a mixture of folk, NJ country and good old rock n roll. I see vocalist Renee Maskin quite frequently at The Wonder Bar for a weekly series called Happy Mondays. I have also seen them perform numerous times at a few different venues in the area. We got to talking one night and the next thing you know we were looking for dates for all of us to get together.

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The hardest part of course was finding a date that worked for all of us and the selection of a location. We both preferred a woodsy setting but weather and time of day were not going to allow that to happen. We will be hitting up the woods in the spring though to fulfill both of our visions. They are also looking for that elusive and steady fifth member so it will be perfect timing. We settled on a small ranch house that was teaming with antiques, paintings, pictures and some very interesting artifacts.

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This gang is a very chill bunch, laid back and easy-going so the house setting worked perfect. Managing to utilize a few different areas, we achieved our objective of material for them to utilize in their upcoming projects. And even had a few extras to boot. I was working with one light and an umbrella for all the shots for those interested.

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Be sure and have a listen and if you are in NJ go check them out. Make sure you buy them some whiskey too. Really fun times.

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Bands interested in a session give me a shout at – info@pshepherdphoto.com. Love to hook up and get you going.

Thanks for stopping by! till next time…

Phil

Anatomy of a New Smoke Machine

Life does have its weird way of coming back around. Back in the early nineties, the band I was playing in had no interest in playing at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. For whatever the reason back then, it had no appeal to us. And now I am there on a regular basis.

About 18 months ago I picked up a gig with the music review site, Speak into My GoodEye, and this started a regular weekly adventure for me shooting bands every Monday night at the Wonder Bar. The Wonder Bar is one of the premiere music venues in Asbury Park, offering some great local music as well as national touring acts coming through.  Recently, sound man extraordinaire Billy Colledge from Asbury Audio installed a new smoke machine and I came across a set a shots that perfectly emulate its nature.

I love smoke. It makes everything look so much better, giving depth and personality to the photos.  Tough when it hides the drummers, but so cool under the stage lights. And for those on stage right, we are almost guaranteed of a good photo. Red lights still kill, but black and white is beautiful.

The following shots depict the beginning of the waft of smoke and finally overtaking the stage and creating some striking images as a result:

Just Before:

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and here it comes

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My two favorite images from the whole sequence

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I often find it is the simple things that excite me, but there is nothing simple about capturing images conditions.  The musician in the photo is Andrew Milea, front man for Wild Americans. He has a great look and a super groove. If you are local, stop by on a Monday night and check out the tunes. And keep your eyes peeled for some other great shows that go down at the venue.

Thanks for stopping by!

Phil