Film Noir Model Portfolio Shoot St. Petersburg Florida with Alexandra

These are actually post office steps! The neon in the background is real, though modified - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/5.6 ISO 400 1/160th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 Speedlight @ 1/4 power in 43" brolly to frame left & Nikon SB-600 Speedlight @ 1/2 power with diffuser cap to frame left

I cannot say I explicitily intended for my model portfolio shoot with Alexandra to turn into a film noir style, but through editing of the images it certainly turned out that way.  We were shooting in the late evening from about 7:45pm to 8:25pm mostly around the Arcade in downtown St. Petersburg.  The Arcade is a great location offering a variety of shot opportunities, especially at that late time of day with all its shadow opportunities.  The above shot was actually the very last shot of the shoot.  The background features the neon sign of a cafe across the street with the contrast selectively turned up so that only what is illuminated by my speedlights and the neon remain visible.

Using long shadows created by a speedlight outside the gates - - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 400 1/160th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 Speedlight @ 1/8 power in 43" brolly to frame left & Nikon SB-600 Speedlight @ 1/2 power with diffuser cap to frame leftI chose the Arcade as a shooting location because of the great, very tall, ornate, iron gates.  I knew they would make for a fantastic background and/or prop.  For the above shot I placed a speedlight outside the gates to frame left in the alley to help cast long shadows in the foreground.  I composed so to accentuate them.  Alexandra came up with a great pose taking my one small suggestion to create space between each arm and her body, something I always make sure is set otherwise the model will appear to have a lumpy body or strange attached arm.  Alexandra in fact did a great job overall allowing me to focus on creating mood and atmosphere with my lighting and composition.

The 43" brolly creates soft shadows, I love it - - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4 ISO 400 1/160th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 Speedlight @ 1/8 power in 43" brolly to frame left & Nikon SB-600 Speedlight @ 1/2 power with diffuser cap to frame leftThis shot features the same gates and lighting setup.  Without the speedlight outside the gates providing backlight, the gate on frame right would appear dull and lack the reflective light on it.  Additionally, the same speedlight provides rim light around the model, especially her hair, right arm and right side.  A photographer can do a lot with just two speedlights positioned in key spots.  I could carry all my strobist and photography gear that I used for this shoot myself, following the "lighten up and shoot" philosophy.

A single strobe setup with intentional background shadow - Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm @ f/4.5 ISO 400 1/160th Strobist: Nikon SB-800 Speedlight @ 1/8 power in 43" brolly to frame rightThis shot is different than all the others in that it features only one speedlight positioned to create Rembrandt lighting (nose & cheek shadows touch leaving a little light under the eye) on the model.  I wanted to include one soft feeling image in the shoot as most of the others were really strong from a posing and overall feel perspective.  

Thank you again to Alexandra.  You can follow her work on Model Mahem and Facebook.

Photography Tip - seeing a different reality - kapok silk-cotton tree

The famous kapok silk-cotton tree of downtown St. Petersburg in sepiaWhy did I make this photograph?  Because of the shadows the branches were burning into the ground.  That interested me.  As it was close to mid-day the shadows were vividly dark.  They appeared to me to be separate from the tree itself, not so much shadows, but rather an alternative existence for another kapok silk-cotton tree bordering two realities.  This I saw for just a moment in between a lot of other things, like teaching a DSLR Photography Lesson and cars passing by and people jostling past on the sidewalk and the sun uncomfortably heating my skin.

The photography tip is this:  see a different reality

My favorite artist is Van Gogh because he saw a different reality, not in his imagination, but through his normal eyes, or was his mind imaging what he say and his eyes believed it to be the reality of others?  Regardless, I believe he literally saw the world as he painted it.  When he looked at a night sky, it was all swirly.  Thus, his paintings are now masterpieces and hold the interest of millions.  If he had painted the sky exactly as it appears to look for most people, he would not be an artist of any significance.  

Being able to see a different reality is an extremely valuable skill to any artist, to any photographer.  I believe these different realities are not constantly around us though, they exist only for a moment.  Take the above photo for example.  If I returned to that spot a few hours later, the alternative branch shadow reality would not be there.  

To me an interesting artist/photographer skillfully and creatively shows others the different reality he/she sees on a daily basis.

Photography business tip - give your client a little extra

Nikon D300 Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D lens @ f/8 ISO 200 1/800th processing Silver Efex ProIt is commonly heard in the business world to under-promise and over-deliver.  In this way a business can impress a customer or client.  How can this apply to the professional photography business?  One simple way is to just give the client extra photos than stated in the package they bought.  Which photos to give as bonuses?  Well, they will of course not be any of the best of the best because those will have already been included in the initial product to the client.  

One way to know is to listen to your client's feedback once you delivered the promised number of photos.  If they say they like shots of one particular person a lot (often a child) or like one certain style of shot or if they say they really like the black and white versions, then any of those can be your clue on which photos to include as bonuses.  

A recent client said she especially liked the photos of her daughter.  So I went through my remaining unedited 3-star and even 2-star photos from our portrait session to see if there was anything I thought still good enough to put into the hands of a client.  I found the above shot and made it work to my satisfaction by applying a sepia landscape filter to it in Nik Silver Efex Pro.  

The result?  The above image was included in the prints she later ordered, the direct business benefit to the photographer.  Even more important, I was able to provide the client with another image of her daughter that will brighten a desk or shelf in her home.  Thus, satisfaction for the client and satisfaction for the photographer knowing his/her work provided some real world benefit.

Grandmother's Kiss in Sepia

I would never have made this shot if not for attending a photography meeting

You never know where you will find photographic inspiration, but then sometimes, you do.  I attended a TAPPA (Tampa Area Professional Photographers) meeting late last year and the guest speaker for that night almost exclusively made square-shaped, burnt sepia portraits, on 3 foot x 3 foot canvas . . . for $3,000.  Though my skill level is not great enough to charge that much for a portrait session, I did learn a lot from that photographer that I can and have applied to my own photography business.  I am not ashamed to say that I have fallen in love with the burnt sepia look for portraits, and I do also crop in a more square-ish style now for some shots as well.  

Photographers inspire other photographers.

To make the portrait above it took my entire current skill set from shooting to processing.  Everything I have learned through intense self-study, through attending lectures by other photographers and even a free lighting workshop, I applied to this shot.  In light of all this, do I think it is perfect?  Not even close.  However, I am pleased from a personal level to know that I could not have made this shot this time last year.  As a photographer I first aim to please myself because I know know one has higher standards for my work than I do myself.  So if I am pleased with an image, I am pretty darn sure the client will be too. 

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  • Sepia Senior Portrait in St. Petersburg

    High School Senior Maria posing with a jacaranda flower in downtown St. PetersburgA large jacaranda tree resides in downtown St. Petersburg next to the Museum of Fine Arts.  Its bright red blossoms fall to the ground still in full possession of their dignity, making for prize souvenirs for passersby, or the random senior portrait shot.  As you can see the tree has been defiled with carvings.  Someone declared their love in a large heart upon the poor trees vast trunk.  Perhaps now in hindsight I did a dishonor to the tree for using the carving in my portrait.  I will make it up to the jacaranda tree the next time I see it.  

    How I made this shot:

    • Nikon D300 with Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8
    • f/11 ISO 200 1/30th
    • strobist:  Nikon SB-600 Speedlight on light stand to the above left of frame
    • processing: Aperture 3, Color Efex Pro 3, Photoshop CS4, sepia in Silver Efex Pro 3

    High School Championship Soccer Photography at University of Tampa

    Pre-game introductions for a high school championship soccer match at the University of Tampa field.

    Networking works.  I attended a Chamber of Commerce networking event on a Wednesday, then received a phone call the following Thursday from someone I met at that event asking if I could photograph his son's high school championship soccer match because I made a connection with him via a real conversation.

    My assignment was to photograph #6 as he made defensive moves that helped his team beat and shutout their opponent.

    The night soccer match under the uneven lights at the University of Tampa field were the most challenging photography conditions I have shot in to date.  Of course I was shooting at f/2.8 and had to set my Nikon D300's ISO to 1600 just to get shutter speeds in the 1/300th to 1/400th of a second range.  This was the first time on any photography job that I did not feel absolutely confident from the start.  However, since I arrived early enough to the location, I was able to determine the more well lit spots along the edge of the field.  I noticed that the far side had three large light clusters, while the stadium side only had two.  Most other working photographers were on the stadium side shooting, so I am glad I did not automatically assume it was the best position to shoot from.  Only one other photographer came over to the far side where I shot the whole game from.  

     Soccer players are always looking into the field of play, making photographing their faces a challenge.

    After delivering the photographs to the client, I was thrilled (and I must confess relieved) to read his e-mail stating his love for the photographs and thanking me for a job well done.  I pushed my photography gear to the limit and pooled all my post-editing skills to make this happen, and now I will go into any future night sports photography jobs with the same confidence I do all other daylight jobs. 

    Philosophy of Antiques in the Park Gulfport Florida

    Lots of glass items at Antiques in the Park. It seems Cs were in short supply in 1945.

    I recently put on Facebook this statement that popped into my mind, "Only things that are old have any value."  One person commented, a 40+ year old guy, "tell that to my wife."  I meant it to be a serious statement though on the extremely disposable and commodified nature of all items, goods and personalities being created in 2010.  In 40 years will anyone admire a 2010 Toyota Camry the way they would a 40-year old Shelby Cobra today?  

    All wonder over air travel has now been replaced by fear and routine, making a trunk like this one all the more valuable.

    How is this for you?  iTunes DJ has just selected a classic song from the Amelie soundtrack to play.  The most modern form of playing music choosing a classic tune from before computers even existed while I write about the past on a wireless keyboard in front of two digital screens.  Perhaps this is the way of the future . . . using modern technology to help preserve the value of the past.

    Hard to imagine a world only as big as the distance a wagon wheel could take you.

    And by no means do I believe technology is advanced at all right now.  Computers and the Internet are still very much in their infancy.  How rough is it to use a computer still?  Not even my Mac "just works."  

    This collection of old circus tumblers fascinated me. If I had $39 cash on me I just might have purchased them.

    While browsing the tables of Antiques in the Park in Gulfport I came across the very green glass goblets my mother used to fill with pudding and jello when I was a child.  I had a very strong reaction to seeing them.  So strong I did not even thing to photograph them.  I was probably going to purchase them as I passed back by the entrance/exit on the way out.  I did not even have the chance as someone else, perhaps wanting to eat pudding from them once again, had already bought them and carried them cheerfully home as I would have done.

    Nothing made now will rust like this oxidized tractor.

    This was the first antiques show I went to in the south and I was surprised to see the legacy of slavery and racism in explicit messages on several antique decorative plates and even old 8x10 advertisements.  One recurring theme I saw was black people being pursued or victimized by alligators, suggesting I guess that white people would never be attacked by these apparently discriminating creatures.  It was a bit surreal and uncomfortable to see these items.  

    I plan to visit a few more antique shows in the near future and I hope to find perhaps another set of those pudding goblets and maybe an old camera or two for decorating my desk with some photography history.