Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Photographing Goddesses

Heart & Soul 1*

I thought I would take a moment and talk about one of the other subjects I often photograph, Belly Dancers. I have been photographing dancers for a couple years now. It came about by chance actually I was brought in to temporarily fill in for a resident Belly Dance photographer who was transitioning into motherhood. I had at that time zero experience with dancers but was more than willing to diversify my skill set. As I stepped into that world I found something so beautiful and that is the sisterhood that brings all these talented women together from all over the world. The western world often has a very superficial view of what a beautiful woman is but these dancers know that true beauty comes from diversity, creativity, artistry, friendship, love and confidence in who you are.

The Wings of Isis 2*

To understand the culture I must make note of the head instructor Suspira. Suspira has been a professional dancer all of her adult life. With the help of her husband Mohammed, she founded Orlando Bellydance in Winter Park, Florida. Unlike any other professional dance studio I know of, her doors are open to all women. Her students are perhaps the most diverse I have ever met: nearly every age, every size, ethnicity and background. She charges a very modest amount for classes, and she is there everyday giving all these women tremendous self-confidence and strength though the art form of dance.

She gives each dancer the opportunity to perform in large-scale dance venues for the public (that quite often sell out). Her dance studio also performs at many events for charity such as the American Cancer Society and the Special Olympics.

This woman, her vision and compassion, are extraordinary. The world needs more people like this.

Serpentina 3*

To capture the personality of a Belly Dancer you must first step away from the camera and go see a few performances. Each dancer has their own style, and each group of dancers have their own collective style, much like a tribe. It is only by examining the artistry of their dance that one can pull together the ideas on how to bring out the best visual representation for each group or dancer.

Zana_03 4*

Either in the studio or on location the most critical element to capture a dancer is the ability to capture movement. As a photographer you have two choices: High ISO’s or Strobes to ensure you can capture that perfect moment in the motion. Posing works ok but you will never witness the energy of a dancer while they stand still. I recommend having music on hand.

Jessica 5*

The other trick to Belly Dancers is their exotic clothing that is often covered in bright colors and shiny beads or medallions. Over saturating the colors can really kill the detail of the costume so there is always a fine balance in post process.

Nahema 6*

Lighting is one of the very best ways to bring out the personality of the dancer. Someone who is a bright and cheerful dancer could be lit from a higher perspective with diffused light. A dancer that has a dark style could be dramatically lit from the side or lower without as much diffusion to create theatrical contrast and shadows.

Arielle 7*

I find it helpful to talk with each dancer about what they hope to see in their final image. I try not to over direct since when a Belly Dancer is in her element pure magic can happen in front of the lens. It’s totally different than working with models; the photographer does not influence the shot as much as the dancer.

Kendy 8*

Now that I have been doing this a few years I can say the Belly Dance shoots are some of the most creative and fun. You never know what will happen when they dance; the colors and movement always come together with the light into something so incredibly artistic I often find myself saying “Wow, Look at this!” when the shot comes up for review.

True Grace 9*

The lighting set ups for these shots:

Heart & Soul 1* I think this is my best black and white photograph. “Heart & Soul” was shot with a single mono-light at full power through a white umbrella. The mono-light was about 6ft up on the left side just 4ft away from the dancer's shoulder. This was shot next to an external doorway and sunlight bouncing off of white marble provided the subtle fill. The motion was danced not posed.

The Wings of Isis 2* No flash was used on “Wings of Isis”. This was shot in the morning on a pretty clear day. The reflection off the wings created the gold light needed to light Suspira on this shot. The sky was replaced in post with a sky from a different photo.

Serpentina 3* Serpentina was lit primarily from the sun in the late morning. A wireless strobe fired at full power in the hallway behind the dancers to separate them from the shadows under the arches. A 12mm Lens was used to get the wide look.

Zana_03 4* “Zana” was lit at night by two full power mono-lights. The first light was set up at about 5ft high on the left side of the photo just behind the white pillar. The light was reflected in a silver umbrella to create even dispersion.

The second strobe was set up at about 7ft on a landing near the right side of the photo and was aimed in a more direct line to the dancer. The result was an image that had didn’t have any real harsh shadows as the two lights provided a more naturalistic balance.

Jessica 5* “Jessica” was created with a single Mono-light shooting through a white umbrella at about 1/200th of a second on the left side of the photo about 3ft from the camera. Jessica created the pose by rotating the wings up and back.

Nahema 6* “Nahema” - The lighting was done with a full power bare studio strobe shooting through narrow metal barn door (vertical shield) about 6ft up on the right side. A secondary strobe at 1/16th power through an umbrella (right side) gave a hint of the surrounding costume. I would like to say there was some great technical formula for a shot like this but sometimes magic just happens.

Arielle 7* “Arielle” - The only real daylight in this is in the background but had some ambient light coming through the trees. I used a bare mono-light strobe on a stand on the far right side above her to get the main effect. I used a wireless Alien Bee's transmitter to fire the strobe. The water and reflection was completely computer generated.

Kendy 8* “Kendy”
- A Vivitar 285HV was on a stand to the left of the camera, shooting through a white umbrella that was my primary flash.
- On the opposite side of the camera was a Lowell pro video light. (Fill light)
- In the back I had the SLS -006S slave flash attached to a stand near the ceiling bouncing light off a reflector as a hair light.
- A SLS-015S slave flash was placed behind the backdrop
- Another Lowell pro light was on a stand just to the rear left side aimed at the backdrop as a standard back light.
- The 285HV was triggered via sync cable, Slaves were light triggered.
This photo was then processed with an effect called “Bleach Bypass”

True Grace 9* “True Grace” – The dancer was illuminated by two stacked mono-lights in the right side (2ft & 5ft heights) and one additional strobe dedicated to the backdrop on the left side. All strobes were firing full power off reflecting umbrellas.

The art on the left side was done in post using various pattern brush tips. The colors in the patterns were sampled from the dancers costume for each layer to balance the color composition.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The 2009 Orlando Festival of Speed

Recently two of my trusted fellow photographers and I covered the Orlando Festival of Speed. For those of you who are fans of Exotic automobiles this event is like a weekend trip to heaven. This was my fourth time covering the festival so I had a pretty good idea what I was getting into but it was still a wonderful photography learning experience.

Friday night was the opening ceremony at the jet port reception. This is a very elegant party where guests were treated to music, art, amazing food, tours of private jets, luxury tour buses and of course the worlds most amazing exotic cars. Upon entering the venue I was greeted by the sight of two Bugatti Veyrons, including the new Grand Spot (the topless version of the 253 MPH supercar). My goal was to capture the wonderful theatrical style lighting of the venue but also highlight the Veyron. Rather than setting up an elaborate studio lighting rig (that I did have with me) I opted to light paint with a 3 million candle power spotlight as taught to me by photo artist Ivonne Bonett. It worked like a charm with exposures in the 10-15 second range.

As the guests started to come into the event I was finding myself with less and less space to set up long exposure shots. I was shooting with Canon’s newest pro camera the 7D that night and opted to try out its higher iso abilities, which to my surprise handled visual noise remarkably well.

My fellow photographers Ivonne and Dave focused on different aspects of the venue such as the guests themselves, some stunning models and the displays the sponsors had set up. Both offered creative composition and wonderful perspectives on the party.

Lamborghini Murcielago SV Saturday I showed up for the ride and drive event but was expecting a Bugatti Veyron. The Veyron was parked along other exotics but the vehicle being shown was the newest Lamborghini LP 670 SV. The 670 SV is an amazing vehicle, perhaps the most beautiful edition of the Murcielago theme. Against the fountain backdrop of the Ritz Carlton entrance I was able to capture some wonderful shots.

Sunday was the main automotive event showcasing a huge variety of exotic automobiles from around the world. Some of the standouts for me were the Veilside RX7, Mosler MT900, Jaguar XJR-15, the ultra rare Bugatti Sang Noir and a white Ferrari FXX evolution.

The event for me was pure automotive bliss. Despite the heat I worked my way through the show and found myself in a field of supercars by the end of the show as people left. I got a chance to spend some alone time with my favorite exotic the Saleen S7 as well as the legendary Ferrari 288 GTO…the exotic that sparked my interest in sports cars so long ago.

My fellow photographers also covered the venue acquiring some wonderful aspects of the show. Dave Calabrese even got some photo time with a Maxim Magazine model and a Ferrari 430.

Three wonderful days of automobiles, models, fine products on the grounds of the world class Ritz Carlton equaled three days of high fun behind the lens.

View the large image gallery from The 2009 Orlando Festival of Speed

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Savage Land to cover the 2009 Orlando Festival of Speed

I have been one of the official photographers for the Festivals of Speed for a couple years now. It is certainly the premiere exotic automobile and luxury lifestyle event in the United States. It’s organized by a person who is very much an automobile enthusiast and views these vehicles as works of art. I couldn’t agree more and that is why I went from simply attending these events to actually working at them.

I have certainly done some very stylized photography at these events in the past to try to bring out the very best in these exotics. I have done everything from elaborate lighting with long exposures, massive panoramas, HDRI and digital enhancements. I have also learned so many new techniques in automotive photography that I have applied to other projects such as my recent “Most Wanted” gallery. For me this is a couple days in Heaven and every event I look for a way to raise the bar on what I did last year.

This year I decided to not only be inspired by the vehicles but rather some influence from two of my favorite artistic comrades, the master light painter and photo artist Ivonne Bonett as well as my assistant from the “Mirror’s Edge” and “Most Wanted” projects - David Calabrese who’s work helped in perhaps one of my most awe inspiring shots of the ultra rare Jaguar XJ220:

Being that some of the exotics slated to be on display at this event include the ultra rare Ferrari FXX, Bugatti Sang Bleu Veyron (the only one in the world), and one of my very favorites the Maserati MC12, you can bet I will be bringing my creative game to the show along with some brand new state of the art photo gear and lighting

Fans of my flickr automotive photo stream, get ready for some wonderful new images of the worlds most exciting and beautiful automobiles.

More info and previous pictures from the Festivals of Speed can be found here:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mirror's Edge photos rack up 407,000 views & international attention!

Mirror's Edge

Here is the in depth story about a video game themed project I did known as "Photographs from the Mirrors Edge" Be sure to check out the actual photos Here

The short story behind this project: For about a year now I have wanted to do a movie style photo shoot. My background is in independent & documentary film and I have always been heavily influenced by Hollywood films. I chose the Mirror’s Edge because aside from it being a fantastic video game with an iconic character, it was a plausible world to recreate for the camera.

I had brainstormed this project with a fellow Photographer A.J. Pomales for several months. We gathered shot ideas on the Internet based on the video game itself, screen shots and concept art for Mirror’s Edge. We discovered we were not the first to try this: had already done this twice (and quite well) but it didn’t discourage us as much as give us some new ideas and inspiration. We were going to try this with our own twist and try some action shots as well.

Faith was played by Yen Ryder a professional model hairstylist who had recently worked with a friend on another photography project. My friend called me and said she had found the perfect person to play the character. Yen was fantastic to work with as a model and I really felt brought the Faith character to life.

Still Alive

Kyle Vest from Universal Studios who is known locally for his exceptional makeup and body painting skills transformed Yen into Faith over four hours. He removed several real tattoos, added the runner tattoo and even painted the red glove on since we were unable to find and exact match.

The S.W.A.T. team outfit was created by Jennie Gritton and many parts were authentic police equipment. Kyle Vest and I each wore this costume to put together some of the bigger group shots (coming soon). For those shots we shot the background and characters separately as elements for a larger composited image in the end.

Airstrike - The Mirror's Edge

The weapons were replicas and did make us a bit nervous during the shoot because we were concerned some random person might see them and call the real S.W.A.T. on us even though we shot this at a private location and security knew what we were doing.

This project was done simply to see if it could be done, to challenge all those involved artistically and help me explore some new realms in photography and post processing.


The project gained international attention on several video game forums as well as a feature in a UK Playstation magazine. On Flickr the images racked up a whopping 407,00 views in about four months. In my widest dreams I never thought this project would go so far.

Some of the articles about the project:

Also Check out A.J.'s photostream for the making of "Photographs from The Mirror's Edge"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Wish Granted

Wish Granted

View large <-- Click this link to see large and on black

Yep, that is pretty much every exotic you could ever want. Here is the kicker, all of them are owned by one person! That Ferrari F1 in the back is Michael Schumacher's 2002 F1.

The story behind this photo is actually pretty crazy. This was the final shot of the 2007 Festival of Speed that I was covering. My client came up to me at the end of the day and requested the shot; I only had a few minutes to prepare. I walked over to the area and security had cleared everyone out. Right away I knew this was going to be a challenging shot to get all the automobiles in. There was no high vantage point around me but I knew the shot would have to be taken up high to get all the automobiles.

Security brought over a golf cart and I claimed up on top of it. The roof was very flimsy so I could only stand on the very edge with four people holding the cart for support. The camera was on a monopod extended all the way up and I was holding it as high as I possibly could. I am very fortunate that the Olympus camera I was using had both live view and a LCD screen that came off the camera and flipped downward so I could frame the shots. The camera was controlled via self timer. With the sun racing down behind me I was concerned about shadow movement, I had only 12 seconds to get the camera in the right position for the next shot before the shutter clicked. I did three passes of six shots to make sure everything was covered for the panoramic stitch.

In post it took nearly 14 hours to correct shadow movement, blend the shots together and remove a few people in the distance who had snuck into a couple of the frames. This photo for me was a technical milestone and perhaps my most memorable moment as a photographer.

The car collection left to right:
Ferrari F430 Spyder
Ferrari F430 Spyder
Ferrari 599 GTB
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
Ferrari 575 Superamerica
Ferrari F430
Ferrari FXX
Ferrari F1 2002
Ferrari Enzo
Ferrari 360 Challenge
Ferrari 575
Saleen S7 Twin Turbo
Lamborghini Murcielago
Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder
Rolls Royce Phantom

Bugatti Veyron