Monday, December 13, 2010

My Top 10 from 2010

This was a radically diverse year for me in photography; I artistically explored everything from barren landscapes to the world of flamenco dance. I learned so many technical skills in the area of lighting and post production that it took all I had not to just try to update old photos but rather try something completely new.

So of everything I have shot this year what were my top ten favorite photos? Well here you go:

#10 "Super Bowl XLI - 2"
Super Bowl XLI  - 2
A project conceived in the mind of body painter Kyle Vest before the Superbowl just a few days before the event. This photoshoot came together in a living room on the south side of Orlando in 7 hours; the majority of that time was for Kyle to paint our model Jennifer to look like a Jersey wearing Colts fan . We flipped a coin to decide what teams Jersey to paint; we picked the wrong team but Jennifer made this shot a winner.

# 9 "I will shelter you from any storm"
I will shelter you from any storm
A trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom offered up a rare shot as a mother brought her baby out into plain view for only a moment; this was all about being in the right place at the right time.

#8 "Life"
Life 05
Likely one of the most unusual maternity photo shoots out there, Kyle vest brings a mother to be into the alien realm with a life force reminiscent of "2001 - a space odyssey" growing inside a translucent belly. Only one half of the model was painted and the photo shoot was actually fairly tense as the mom to be was being photographed on her slated delivery day. Little Mollie came two days after this shoot.

#7 "The Green Veil"
The Green Veil
A talented Yugoslavian Dancer is captured at the perfect moment by an array of 6 mono-lights and precision timing. After this shot hit the viewfinder I knew it was the best in its series.

#6 Shadows of Splendid China 01

Shadows of Splendid China 01

A tiny two foot temple takes us back to the ancient Chinese East. A fragment of the once spectacular "Splendid China" Florida Amusement Park found in an industrial suburb. I shot this photo and the rest of the series as an experiment in Macro Photography.

#5 "Starry Starry Night"
Starry Starry Night
Lost in the back roads of Arches National Park around midnight; three photographers aimlessly seek out "Turret Arch" but are unable to find it in the darkness. We hit a dead end and were pretty frustrated until I noticed the Milky Way shining down on us. I could have stayed there staring at this all night.

# 4 "Puerto Rico Pier"
Puerto Rico Pier
A visit to Puerto Rico yields a ton of amazing photographs as my now girlfriend and I dared to explore its vast Rain Forest . As we returned from a wonderful native dinner we walked hand and hand down this pier at sunset; the dog raced by me and started trotting along near the end. There is very little post in this shot, it was truly a cinematic shot waiting to happen.

#3 "Tamara"
I had never photographed a flamenco dancer before doing this series and when I asked what reference they may have to achieve the look they were after I was given a number of old painting's of dancers as reference. I spent a considerable amount of timing researching impressionistic lighting to get the art like look the dancers wanted. This shot gave me goose bumps when I saw it for the first time on the monitor; Tamara just radiates elegance.

#2 "The embrace that is the divine"
The embrace that is the divine
A descending rainstorm is trapped in the sunset during a trip to Arches National Park. The contrast rain trails were very faint at first but were fully exploited in this 3 shot HDR image with the help of bleach bypass contrast effects.

#1 "The View From Dead Horse Point"
The View From Dead Horse Point
Honestly I traveled to Utah dreaming I could create this shot after many failed attempts in my youth. The canyon lands have a very special place in my heart and I wanted to capture my own version of the canyons untouched yet colossus vastness. I used a motor drive to snap six sequential HDR sets to bring together this one image. I have this framed above my art desk now, inspiring not only in how it looks but how I felt as I stood there many times in my life gazing on something so much grander than anything man could build.

Well that is the list, feel free to click on the images to see the larger versions and read more detail on some of them. What adventures await me in 2011? I have no idea but I will for sure have a camera in hand.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So what do you shoot?

So what do you shoot?

As a photographer your likely going to hear that question a lot. When I got back into photography in 2007 that question was so easy...I shot cars and that was about it. Through the years and as I explored deeper and deeper into photography it stopped being so clearly defined. Just as my perspectives on life changed in these years so did my photography.

The Spyker & The SLR

In a recent photo club meet I discovered many veteran photographers hit this realization, that while they have great passion for one subject within photography, as you grow you also grow more diversified; This is likely because there is this strong desire to learn and grow as an artist . I discovered when photographing landscape and portraits at first did not seem to influence my automotive photography, it did. Many of the critical items of photography such as composition, harmonious color, lighting and mood are learned at a greater scale when I diversified by subjects.


I look at my early automotive photos vs newer ones and I see a major style influence from my other photographic ventures.

Garage Fukui MR2 Turbo

Acura NSX 2

Perhaps this is nothing more than refining ones artistic skill; like an athlete who trains and trains becoming more librated as their body becomes this case building the artistic skill to push the creative soul into realms once thought beyond reach; mentally more agile than before.

Hot Rods & Autumn Nights,

I find myself intrigued a by a variety of subjects now and all the influence and passion I learned from another aspect of photography sits there in my bag of tricks for the next project.

Dead Tree,

If you are hitting a creative rut, talk to a fellow photographer about what types of projects they are shooting now or assist them. The more dynamic your become artistically the harder it will be for you to drop into a rut creatively.

Castillo de San Marcos

Friday, October 15, 2010

The musical side of me

Lo Fi Epic Featured in The Mass Effect 2 - Lower Afterlife Music

Check out my latest music mixes here: YouTube

Anyone watching my Flickr Photo-stream has probably recently noticed a number of album covers with links to original music on You Tube. Those who know me would tell you long before I was a photographer I started as a sound designer and musical composer. I am now 17 years into my professional career in audio and flourishing well in the world of video game sound design (32 video game credits under my belt).

Chandra Cover

My love for sound design heavily crosses over into my music composition as for me it’s as much about the sound of the instruments as it is the notes played on them. I often avoid traditional sounds and try to build a musical soundscape that immerses the listener into a world of ethereal ambient tones and striking rhythms. I am also completely fascinated with ethnic instruments and often sneak in worldly overtones and supporting rhythm tracks. I like to take the listener on a journey


My early influenced were Jean Michel Jarre, Vangelis and film composer Michael Sterns (Most notably his extraordinary film score for the IMAX film Chronos; a film that tremendously inspired my visual creativity as well).

Under Fire Album Cover

My later influences were electronic type bands such as Delirium, Enigma and DJ/producers such as Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold and BT
I have had several successes with my music such as being nominated in top 10 local artist of the year back in 1993, co-producing a #1 billboard hit for Joi Cardwell with DJ Dealer in 1996 under the alias Kid Sonic.

Thrash Trance Cover

I started composing for video games around 2005 for “NASCAR 2005 Chase for the Cup” and since I have contributed to a number of titles musically including recent tracks on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 and Mass Effect 2 (the lower club afterlife music)

Eye of the Storm Cover

The album covers that are appearing on Flickr are all original photographs or artwork that I have created to represent the video game music I have produced under Electronic Arts Music Label.

Kuroi Tsuki Album Cover

There is considerable detail about how each track was made on the You Tube links that the songs actually play from. It’s pretty cool to have two of my creative worlds come together and be shared publicly.

Enceladus Cover

My complete discography of video game sound and music is:

-Arena Football - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-Henry Hatsworth – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-Mass Effect 2 – Featured Music Artist (Club Afterlife on Omega)
-Madden 05 - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-Madden 06 - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-Madden 09 - SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Speech Editor ,Audio Team Lead
-Madden 10 - SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Speech Editor, Audio Team Lead
-Madden 11- SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Audio Team Lead
-Madden PSP - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-MMA 11 - SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Audio Team Lead
-Need for Speed Underground – Sound Designer
-Need for Speed Pro Street – Sound Designer
-NCAA Football 04 – SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NCAA Football 05 – SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NCAA Football 10 – SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Audio Team Lead
-NCAA Football 11- SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Audio Team Lead
-NASCAR 04 – SFX Integrator, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NASCAR 05 – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NASCAR 06 – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NASCAR 07 – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NASCAR 08 – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-NASCAR 09 – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-NASCAR PSP – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-NASCAR Sim Racing – SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-NFL Street - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-NFL Street 2 - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-NFL Head Coach - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer
-Superman Returns – SFX Integrator, Sound Designer
-Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound Designer, Audio Team Lead, Speech Editor
-Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 - SFX Integrator, Music Composer, Sound -Designer, Audio Team Lead
-Warhammer The Age of Reckoning – Sound Designer, Speech Editor
-Warhammer Tomb Kings – Sound Designer

The Infectious Groove - Album Cover

Full Film Scores:
MR2DIE4 – The Extreme Machines

Breaking Pandora Cover

Solo Albums (12” Vinyl):
Kid Sonic – The Sandman/ Enceladus
Kid Sonic – Seduction
Kid Sonic – Mixes from the 3rd World
Kid Sonic – Technology 101

Twisted Cover

Co Produced:
Joi Cardwell / DJ Dealer – You Got To Prey
DJ Dealer - Deliverance
DJ Dealer - Free Yourself
Sonic Integrity – Real To Reel
The October Revolution - Frantic

LA V8 Cover

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shooting Stars

Those following my Flickr photo stream have likely spotted a very unique set of starry sky shots. These shots are part of a much bigger project I have been working on for months now based on a photo journey I took across Utah’s scenic backcountry in June of 2010.

Desert Night 1
The first of these shots is called “Desert Night 1” the first successful result of many failed exposures trying to capture the night sky with my Canon 7D while my fellow photographer Jeff DeHaven captured great shots with his 5D MKII. The problem I was facing was I was trying to expose the night sky the way I would have traditionally photograph a city skyline; a long exposure with a low ISO to reduce noise. Starlight works differently, to make a long story short a much higher ISO in the ball park of iso 2500 for around 60 seconds was offering up constantly beautiful shots at a wide open aperture.

Desert Night 2

For the project I was using the Tokina ATX Pro 11-16mm F2.8; a choice lens for this type of imagery. Of course once I figured out the secret recipe for the starry sky shot I was completely hooked since I had wanted the ability to take images such as these for so long but never had the proper equipment (I have been out to Moab about six times, believe me I have tried.)

Desert Night 3

In the Shot called “Desert Night 3” I had the extra luck of having two trucks drive down the nearby highway as the shutter hung open thus capturing the light trails and the illumination of the massive canyon walls.

Desert Night 2

Just as I was getting the hang of that night photography stuff reality kicked in that my fellow photographer and I had been hiking all day and had not eaten. We retreated back to town for a late dinner and returned to the Arches National Park a few hours later for round two.

Desert Night 4

Desert Night 5

Of course the park was pitch black except for the starry sky, so seeing where we were going even with the bright lights on the car became an issue. Our first stop was a place called “Park Avenue” where we met up with another starlight photographer. I was using a Satachi TR-a to run the 7D in bulb mode and was getting some impressive results but I really wanted to get a shot through Turret Arch as I had seen in the Ron Fricke film “Baraka” so I talked the other two photographers to venture out in the dark to find this arch.

Desert Night 6

Sadly it was too dark to successfully navigate to the turret arch on a moonless night in the desert. So we drove lost into the darkness to the far side of the Arches park not having a clue we had passed our destination a long ways back. We were frustrated when we came to a dead end but as I stepped out of the car I noticed something in the sky that I hadn’t seen for many years…the Milky Way spread out in its glory before our eyes. Suddenly getting lost on some crazy back road became a blessing as our shutters aimed upward and open. Being a huge astronomy buff I was in heaven. The fun ended about 3am in the morning from plane exhaustion; we navigated the dark highway and returned to the soft lights of Moab not far away.

The Milky Way 1

Starry Starry Night

It would be a couple days before I got another chance to play under the stars but that day came in Zion National Park. That day was a total marathon photo day, Jeff and I had hiked all day shooting pictures on various canyon walls and the last stop was some natural pools in a cave system nearby. The sun went down on the hike back and we had to navigate the narrow rocky path with a flashlight. We had a beautiful view across the Zion Valley floor. There I snapped “Starlight over Zion 2” showing the Zion lodge as the only light source on the valley floor under a sea if stars; it was beautiful.

Starlight over Zion 2

Starlight over Zion 3

Starlight over Zion 1

Starlight over Zion 4

Starlight over Zion 5
Shot six was done as we waited for the park tram to pick us up (last run of the night) and 7 and 8 were taken in the Zion visitor’s centers parking lot.

Starlight over Zion 6

Starlight over Zion 7

In post process I did shift the white balance to make the sky more blue rather than black for purely artistic reasons. I also did a high pass histogram pass on the stars to bring them out a tad more. The post process was done in Lightroom with some help from Nik’s Color Efex Pro.

Starlight over Zion 8

There are many more Utah pictures in the cue, expect more stories from the great trip out west.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Theatrical Lighting

Theatrical Lighting in Photography
S o f i a

Given the choice between high dollar lenses or lighting I would opt for lights every time, after all the camera is nothing more than a light gathering optic device. This past month I have been working a lot with dramatic portrait photography and the key ingredient of a dramatic shot is to use shadows as boldly as one uses light. Many photographers seek a very uniform lighting scheme to remove the majority of shadows to reveal the most detail. There is nothing wrong with a well balanced lighting array as it has many respectable uses, notably family and business portraits. Another example are  fashion photographers, primarily the ones working with the cosmetics industry favor lighting such as the ring flash to evenly flood a scene with clean shadow less light.


My clients as of late have been dancers of various world styles from Moroccan Belly-dance to Spanish Flamenco. These dancers have strong personas, they are performers at heart, and they are artists. They are looking for shots that symbolize their stage presence. Being that I worked a good number of years for the Denver Center of The Performing Arts, I spent a lot of time working on sets with lighting crews. I had always been fascinated by light design and often inquired how various lighting looks were achieved. What I gained from those conversations is that light can create a focal point to draw the viewer’s attention since in theater there is no such thing as bokeh blur (limited depth of field) to bring forward a subject as used in movies. I have used both blur and light in my photos to create focal points but I lean way more toward light as it gives my images a more distinctive style.
How is theatrical lighting achieved in a photograph? Well most studio photographers use massive soft boxes and high powered strobes to chase away shadows and create a soft feel of light. By contrast I use smaller directional lights and many of them to highlight specific areas on a subject rather than an overall one stop lighting effect. For instance I might use a high power strobe with a snoot and grid attached to only light the face (works wonders for chasing away wrinkles and creating a youthful face) and have another strobe just for the back or hair (isolated into a strip of light by a metal barn door) to separate the subject from the background. I may use a lower power strobe to light the torso of the subject. This array will draw the viewer’s attention to the face and the subject’s emotion not the body position or body shape. By selectively carving away shadows you trick the viewer into having to fill in the details they don’t see in the shot mentally. This type of viewer interpretation can easily make your shot stand out because it requires a longer glance to take it all in.
Light can also be modified as in theater to enhance your backdrop. As of late I have been using a grey and white tie-dye type back drop that is backlit by a high power strobe with a colored gel on it to allow many different looks with the same backdrop. When you are in a situation like I was with a day full of dancers to photograph you want to have the option to give them all unique “sets” without having to own $2000.00 in colored backdrops that you have to change out. To do this I purchased a cheap two dollar swatch from B&H photo and simply color match the dancer’s costumes to two or three of the swatch colors. I then tape the two or three swatches together in a square and attach this to the mono-light behind the backdrop. The dancer does not see this transformation during the shoot since the flash is so fast but on playback they can see the backdrop dramatically come to life in color.
lighting array
Another key element in creating dramatic light and shadow is how high the key light is. Most light stands only go to 6ft but in theatrical lighting many lights are way overhead. I started using a camera jib that I use to use for independent filmmaking to allow me to effortlessly move the key light from 6” off the ground to 12ft in the air; this allows me to dial in my desired lighting effect with a tap of the hand as a set of counterweights float the light anywhere around or over my subject.
Flamenco Del Sol 02

Though a jib is a costly light stand and not at all simple to set up and balance, the result is worth it.
I See You
The disadvantages of complex theatrical type lighting is that it takes a long while to set everything up and sometimes between shots there is a lengthy tweak. The plus side is that the photographer will not have to spend hours on end in Photoshop trying to make the shot look more dramatic as so much can be achieved with light. When you’re doing high volume photography (say 500+ portraits) you would not have enough time to Photoshop that level of drama into each shot so the effort forward is completely worth it.
Veil Dance
Theatric lighting takes time and lots of experimentation but in the end it will offer your clients exciting and dramatic photos they will love.