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

The Back to My Roots Tour

The Back to My Roots Tour, as I am labeling it, has led me out of retirement and back into the local music scene. Well, sort of. For this go round, rather than me being on the stage and performing, I am in the crowd, camera in hand, documenting the nights groups for the web based music review site Speak Into My Good Eye. A big thanks to Chris and Mike for bring me on board. I have been introduced to some great bands, met some fantastic people and witnessed some of the frenzy that has reemerged in the Asbury Park, NJ music scene.

If you are familiar with me, you may know that I shoot with a Canon 7D which is not the greatest camera when it comes to low light captures. Night clubs/bars are small and the lighting is less than stellar for photographs. Red Wash is a bitch. Many, if not most of the other photographers I have shot with have used flash. So to be different, I did not. I did not to a point of stubbornness. This resulted in some very soft images. Yes, I overshot a bunch in order to get the right combination of red/green/purple/blue/yellow lights in the image to satisfy my desires and I tried not to take the easy way out and just convert them to b/w unless they really screamed convert me!

Some of my favorites from July’s shows:

There came a point sometime in the later part of September in the main club I shoot at that they changed their front lights and gelled them. I had to break down and start using a flash to compensate. Even though I have a Rogue Grid attached to retain some of the color depth on stage, I still am very hesitant with using a supplemental light source due to the effects it has on the performers. The ones I have spoken to say they do not even notice but stealth mode is no longer possible. The good thing about it is that I am shooting 50% less than I did without a flash. And color wash is not as big of a concern. Trials and tribulations.

I have never been all that comfortable with on camera flash, much prefer having them off camera. Maybe one day when I am not the new guy on the scene anymore I will be able to set a few up around and on the stage and really create some drama. A 5DIII is not anywhere in my near future but how I would relish the chance shooting at 6400 iso without a worry at all.

Some shots using flash:

And sometimes, you just never know what will appear during a set…

The Bull Fight

Thanks for stopping by! Till next time…

Phil

The Pointe of the Matter

I have been wanting to try a particular lighting style for a couple of months now and since we are in the middle of competition season my subjects have been a bit busy. This is the first time I have tried using a couple of lights with grids to point the direction of the light towards specific areas of the frame. For my first attempt I would say not too bad, but I am no where near where I want to be with this. (I am not counting the ten minutes my daughter gave me a few weeks ago, but that was a good starting point). There are still a few too many shadows and the lights are not concentrated exactly where I need them to be. So next time I will try one grid and a different modifier. But that is what this journey is all about, experimenting, learning and improving with every opportunity you get.

One more competition to go then a little refresh before recitals then nationals in July. The big question is who is going to be the next volunteer to join me in my quest…….

Remember, my daughter gave me a whole ten minutes, but ten minutes was enough for me to get a baseline to start from.

First attempt

This next young lady is one of the dancers at our school and she happened to see a couple of those pictures of my daughter and decided to be a willing participant in my education. If you have been following along you know that I am very intrigued by the art of Ballet. When you are young however, Ballet and Pointe are separated because of the difficulty involved. The faces on these girls after their pointe classes says nothing but pain. But they love it!

 We had a moment during the session where we were doing a bit on lacing up the shoes. Without further ado…

The delicate nature of the ribbon made to secure to those who its given,

Ribbon presentation

Wrapped around and placed for beauty and grace,

The Wrap

But satin can be slippery, uncooperative,

Not Cooperating

At times frustrating and annoying,

Frustrating

Give me some strength!

Little Break

In the end it is about the love of dance,

A little love

For now the knot complete, it is time to be…

It all works out

Up on Pointe!

On pointe

And on all pointes…..

Back Bend

Thanks to my dancer for being the star of this post. For great personal inspiration I must give a shout out to Jordan Matter. I have been following his work recently and it has certainly motivated me. Jordan released a book a few months ago call Dancer’s Among Us. If you are interested in dance at all I encourage you to check it out.

Thanks for stopping by, till next time!

Return of the Crystal Skull

Indiana had his adventures with a Crystal Skull and I have been eyeing up the one my wife received for Christmas, just waiting for it to be emptied of its tasty contents. I have been wanting to see how light reflects through it when it is empty as well as when it is full of liquid. A little experiment to satisfy my curiosity and to help me understand the effect of water as a diffusion device. It has been empty for a couple of weeks now, just waiting for me to make my move on it wondering what I had in store.

The Crystal Skull. Empty, its contents consumed by worthy adults.

emptywithcapphilshepherd

I finally decided to try my experiment out but it took motivation from another object to really get me going with this. A little get together, a nice fire and a warm house prompted  our guest to remove an article of clothing………… a sheer, fashionable scarf. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!  While it was being folded I noticed it was see through……ding, ding, ding…diffusion device! Grabbed the camera, the scarf in between my lens and a vase of roses, SHABANG! Yes, I stole that word from a head shot photographer I follow. Seem to fit though. So, today the skull, my wife’s purple scarf (with black skulls on it no less) and I became acquainted.

Before we get to carried away, the original intent of this little project was to measure light refraction through glass, with and without water. The set up for these shots – an 85 1.8,  a glass end table, glossy black wrapping paper with a cut out of the base of the skull, a speedlite set at 1/4 power and zoomed to 105 mm and the Rogue Grid with the 45 degree head on. I also used some gels for added effect. The flash was placed on the ground, underneath the table and pointed of course, straight up.

I was not liking the look with the cap on so I removed it to decrease the bounce and to eliminate over cooking the top. So here is the empty skull without cap and a view of the cut out…..whoops.

emptywithoutcaprphilshepherd

And full of water:

withwaterphilshepherd

For overall appearance, I think I am liking the empty version better. The water does bring out certain facial features in the mouth and chin area and picks up the purple gel more but it dulls the top. It also carries the light through the hole in the top which is why I took the cap off. I bet a couple of drops of red food coloring would have been cool. Save that for another day.

Time to break out the scarf…..hung up on a stand about 8  inches in front of the skull. One more speedlite, through a 12″ octobox, was added overhead to assist in lighting the scarf. The skull was still full of water.

Scarf camera Close

Good stuff. The water gets dumped, changed the gel to red and I do not remember what prompted me to try it with the cap on. The scarf was moved closer to the skull so I could get more…..skulls in the shot.

Red cap on

And with the cap off, I also moved up.

Red cap off

I think it is very interesting the way the gel is coming through. Looks like it is bouncing all over and not quite sure what little crevice to fill. I did the red gel a couple of days after  we got this, lots of liquid still in it and it filled the entire skull up. The difference in that shot is that is was straight through a glass base and not directed by a cut out.

My final shot in the sequence with the scarf was placing the scarf against my lens hood – very interesting results. Had to focus manually as well.

against hood off A very interesting and enlightening time with the scarf and the skull. And…..possibly feeling the effects of this crystal skull too much, I decided to change colors one more time and see if I could make a happy skull. Believe it or not, this is a Pink gel……

Pink Gell

Pretty in Pink?  Whoa, Flashback……whatever happened to Molly Ringwald?

I hoped you enjoyed my little experiments. Thanks for stopping by!

Till next time….

A review of the Rogue Grid

A well respected member of a photo group I belong to requested I do a review of the Rogue Grid by Expo Imaging. Whom am I refuse such a request. I have never done a written review of sorts so this will be a first. But first –

Short worded reviews: yes it is worth it. What the heck does this mean? Worth it to who? OR: It is awesome! Its awesome is in the same category as – Its a piece of crap. Opinions, just opinions. Everyone has one, so if everyone has one the majority would rule so it must be good right? There is never a correct answer when it is an opinion. Except of course for the person who is stating that opinion…So here it goes. No opinions.

Being new to off camera flash photography the Rogue Grid by ExpoImaging is one of the first flash modifiers I acquired. I purchased it as part of the Rogue Portrait Lighting  package however it sells as a stand alone item for $49.95.

Rogue Grid by Expo Imaging (Flash not Included)

Slipping over the head of the flash and tightened down with a thick elastic strap it is anchored by a velcro strip and a metal snap with a choice between two contact points based on the size of your flash head.The housing or grid support as I would call it, is a thick nylon material reinforced with a couple of bendable metal strips. The interior is a nice bright white. Seems very durable. My only gripe with this part of it are the elastic loops that hold the grid housing on the nylon covering. They seem a bit loose and I am concerned that they may stretch out over time. This may be negated though because the actual grid head slides over the nylon nice and secure leading me to think the elastic loops are secondary devices to secure the grids onto the holder. The grids themselves come in two different sizes. 45 degrees and 25 degrees  When used together they produce a 16 degree light spread. They are made of an incredibly sturdy plastic, I can not see these pieces breaking, ever.

Light spread at 45 degrees:

Rogue Grid using 45 degree head

Light spread at 25 degrees

Rogue Grid using 25 degree head

Light spread using both modifiers. 18 degree light spread

Rogue Grid with 18 degree light spread

I know, I know, it fit the bill for an example…  Tebow is NOT the answer. 0-4 if he was at helm. Whoops….I stated an opinion….

Do I like it? Yes, very much. So much that I want another one. You can still fit a rectangular gel on the flash head but there are specific gels made for the grid. A set of 20 goes for $27.95 and includes a case with dividers/color description cards. I will be picking up a set of these soon.

I did some self portrait shots with the grid using the different combinations.Produced a very isolated lighting area, great for moody shots. I posted a couple of these already in various places, so here is one I did not put up. I was checking out the 18 degree grid here. The moodiest one by far.

18 degree test, self portrait style.

So why did I choose this over the other style grids? I like the circular pattern it provides, the other models are rectangular. This also amounts to a 3 in 1 product. The others may be less expensive but offer only one size. To achieve similar flexibility as the Rogue Grid you would have to buy multiple sizes and spend more money. Do it right the first time.

Well, thus concludes my review, I hope it helped. If you have any questions please ask. I have not come close to using this to its potential, but as opportunities arise I will be learning about its advantages even more. Robert Harrington does some really nice work with all the Expo Imaging Products and has some great examples.

Till next time..