Archive for March 2010


Working with Salma and a flash

March 29th, 2010 — 12:03am

Today, Kathy, a Dallas photographer, and I met in front of the Meadows Museum to practice shooting in the middle of the day with flash.   We wanted to shoot in the shade and also full sun with light modifiers and flash.   It was fun and challenging to work today because it was windy outside and using light stands was not advisable.  So we use human light stands, with either Kathy and I holding a reflector or a small softbox to get the job done.   Salma, our model, was a beautiful and patient as always, and made the shoot possible.  Here are some images with comments on the lighting.

Salma fashion

Salma fashion

This picture above was done in the open shade, as she is the shade but there is light coming from camera right.  We wanted to produce a sunnier feel than the open shade was giving us, so we added a hand-held flash with a xsmall Photflex softbox to produce tgw short lighting.  The camera position, the model pose, and the colorful coat produce a fashion look.

Dramatic flash

Dramatic flash

Here we made a more dramatic use of flash by  underexposing the ambient by two f-stops and placing the flash very close to the model for dramatic light fall off.    As above, this was done in open shade.

Full sun

Full sun

We moved to full sun to challenge ourselves to make properly exposed images in full sun in the afternoon.  Here we positioned the model on the steps such that the sun is behind her, and there are no unpleasant shadows on her face.  We added the small flash, pretty close to her, and balanced it with ambient to create this portrait.  In postprocessing I darkened the steps a little to  make the main focus of interest stand out.

Another full sun

Another full sun

We used the same technique as above to capture a natural portrait of Salma in full sun.  She was facing away from the sun, which produced the hairlight.    The flash, held by Kathy, was pretty close to the model.

It’s not difficult to produce technically correct portraits in full sun.   The trick is to add flash and to doy in a way that meshes well with ambient light.

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Antique window shopping in Crockett, TX

March 21st, 2010 — 11:17pm

As I mentioned in a previous post, we spent the last Fri and Sat in East Texas, at the Big Thicket National Preserve, and also visiting some towns in this part of the state.  We enjoyed Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, and we spent time strolling around downtown and visiting antique shops.   Around 1700, the Spanish began establishing missions in and around Nacogdoches, and we saw some of the old buildings from the town’s past.   In looking around I also found some interesting cameras, like Kodak brownies.  I found several, ranging in price from $20 to $50.  I took a picture of this Six-16 model, apparently manufactured in the US between 1938 and 1942.  I loved the trapezoidal body and the metal construction!  I think the name Six-16 came from the type of film it used, Kodak 616 film.

Kodak Six-16 Brownie

Kodak Six-16 Brownie

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My son

March 21st, 2010 — 11:00pm

This week  I had access to my son as a photographic subject, given that he was on Spring break.  For the most part he was a willing and patient model, tolerating my interruptions and going along with ideas for images.   Below are some images we created together - some more spontaenous than others, but all of them with his collaboration and consent.

The first one was done outside the house.  Pablo was playing with a buddy and I asked him to have his portrait made on the grass.  He agreed, although not very enthusiastically, and after a couple of jokes he was giving me a natural, wonderful expression, which I capture on the image below.

Pablos natural joy

Pablo's natural joy

Pablo having his lunch - he was enjoying this Chinese plate with strange veggies and mushrooms, but it was really too much food… at the end he was visibly expressing his displeasure at having to finish his meal.  And I think he was acting a little for the camera too.

Do I need to eat all this?

Do I need to eat all this?

 A while later it was time for violin practice.  He was patient with me as I inserted a black background between him and the wall, and I used a reflector to bounce some of the window light coming from camera left.   I like his dignified look here, but I am sure he was thinking something like “Dad, don’t you have some real work to do?” - one day he’ll like this picture.

The violin player

The violin player

Today Pablo learned a new trick of cards, and he was happy to show it to me.  It required four aces and it was pretty neat - he did it so well that I didn’t quite catch how he did it!  This inspired me to create an image of him with the four aces.   He went to play with a friend and when he was back I had the two portable flashes ready and I created this image by merging two separate images.

The poker hand

The poker hand

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Spring break this year

March 21st, 2010 — 10:37pm

Last year we spent Spring break strolling in Trestevere, enjoying the Vatican Museums, and eating gelato at Piazza Navona.  It was great to spend an entire week in Rome!  This year, however, our Spring break was much more modest.  Stella is saving her vacation time for summer, and we decided to stay home.  The kids had fun, though, as they visited with friends, spent time playing and watching some movies, and just being kids.  This past Fri we drove to Houston to get some visa paperwork started for the trip to China, and decided to make the drive into a mini-Spring break vacation by spending Fri and Sat in East Texas.

We drove from Houston to The Big Thicket Natural Preserve, a forest in deep East Texas.  The visitor center where we stopped first was great, with lots of information and displays about the different ecosystems at the Preserve.  The kids enjoyed the interactive displays and the stuffed animals there.   We decided to walk the Kirby Trail, a not-to-long trail going thru the woods.   It was really beautiful and quiet there - Christina got a bit tired by the end of the hike, but she was a great sport, as she carried the map and the backpack and was the official guide.  Here are some pictures from our hike at the Big Thicket.  Click on any image to see a slightly larger version.

 

Cypress swamp at Big Thicket

Cypress swamp at Big Thicket

 

Mysterious Bog

Mysterious Bog

 

The branch

The branch

Warm forest

Warm forest

Our guide to ther wilderness

Our guide to the wilderness

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Did you like my piece, Dad?

March 2nd, 2010 — 1:51pm

My daughter Christina is learning to play piano.  My son Pablo is also learning piano and violin.    I really enjoy listening to them and slowly developing their skills.  Recently I caught my son actually enjoying his practice, as the piece was pretty cool, some sort of blues theme.   It gave me hope that all these scales and boring times in front of the piano will somehow translate into love for music.  Not just the joy of listening to it, but the pleasure of performing or even creating it.   When I was growing up I didn’t have any musical training, it was not available to me growing up in the 60s as a child in a working class family in Spain.  But my father loved music and he would sit me down and asked me to listen to his LPs - still remember Rachmaninoff’s piano concertos.  At the time I did it for him, because I loved him, but didn’t really enjoy it too much.  But it’s funny how these early childhood experiences get imprinted into your memory and your personality… now I love music, and Rachmaninoff in particular.  

Last night Christina was practicing his sonatina and I saw a picture of her from behind in front of the shiny black piano.  I set up a grid to her left, and later another behind her.  I shot the image I had seen in my mind, but I wasn’t pleased with the coldness of her back facing the camera.   So I asked her to turn and she gave me this natural, loving, pretty expression.   I love this little girl!

Did you enjoy my music, Dad?

Did you enjoy my music, Dad?

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