Tag Archives: strobist

Tuesday Viewsday XXV

The fiancé is on her way back from vacation this afternoon and I’m trying to finish up some projects both at work and here at home before she arrives so today’s post is short and sweet!

Over the past few days, I have read Joe McNally’s LIFE Guide to Digital Photography. This book, wrote as a project for LIFE magazine, shows Joe at his best: preaching the gospel of simple, easy, understandable photography. The small piece I was reading this morning focused (pun intended) on off-camera lighting or the use of a flash/strobe. Joe states that the beginner shooter pulls out the flash, uses it without any knowledge, doesn’t like the look of things, and puts it right back in the box, swearing to themselves “I’ll only shoot natural light!”

I have to admit that I was in that same group when I started, but then, I only had my pop-up, on-camera flash available and if you ask any photographer worth their weight in gold, they will tell you to never let that tiny box of light attached to the camera see the light of day (again, pun intended). As anyone who knows me can tell you, I don’t back down from a challenge, especially one self-imposed. I wanted to learn this strobe thing so I saved up and bought a Nikon SB600. To this day, it’s my go-to light machine.

That’s enough of a history lesson, but I told you that story to tell you this: when seeking out a photographer for portraits, weddings, or pretty much any reason, I would make sure to look at their use of flash. I’m not saying that those who shoot only natural light aren’t capable and can probably make some very beautiful images, but if a shooter has the ability to use off-camera lighting and use it well… then you have yourself a well-rounded, open-minded photographer.


Alexis (2011)

Alexis (2011)

I took this photo during my very first outing with Alexis. I’m not really sure how I stumbled upon her as a model (Facebook, maybe?), but I contacted her to look at doing a test shoot. I enjoy doing test shoots to feel out the personality of a model, their professionalism, and the look/feel/emotion they can bring to the table. Alexis had just graduated high school and was looking at a number of choices from college to careers and wanted to try modeling for fun and, if anything came of it, even better.

I have to say that every first-time model with a new photographer is shy and nervous as is the photographer. (Shhhh! You aren’t supposed to know that!) After the obligatory discussion/question period I have with all my models, we headed down to the location: a small park on the opposite side of the Illinois River that had flooded over a few weeks. What drew me to this place was the way the river water wasn’t too deep (definitely walkable with water shoes on) and the miles of tree groves sticking out of the water plus the sunlight, as you can see in the image.

Over the next couple of hours, Alexis and I had a total blast wading through the knee-deep water and shooting among the fallen trees, small “islands,” and still waters. I vividly remembering this was one of the first shoots where I felt comfortable with both the concept and the execution of the shots; they matched each other perfectly.

This image here is probably my favorite. It shows off the sweet, but mischievous side of Alexis and her sparkling blue eyes. Her pose is classic and the backlight, sun flare, and small spray of controlled strobe light mix together to bring out the color in the background plus the focus on Alexis’s face in the foreground… nicely done all around.

Since that first shoot, Alexis and I shot a couple more times and had fun every time. Her “career” as a model took off quickly (she is a phenomenal model – professional, takes direction well, and knows what she’s doing to boot!) and she has been featured all over Peoria in different venues. Her career took a different spin, however, after that summer when she enlisted in the Marine Corps. Wait a minute… that gorgeous girl is a Marine now? You betcha!

I’m very proud of what she does now, especially with my father being a Marine, and I’m definitely glad she is on our side. I’m also happy to have shared these modeling/photographic experiences with her in the short time that she participated. So, here’s wishing the best of luck to Alexis and her travels around the world; may all roads you travel lead back home.

2012 Strobist Modeling Workshop

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I like to talk and I like to share. All too often, my friends and family have to poke me in the side to get me to shut up. This “word vomit” stems from a drive I have to pass along my knowledge, the small amount I do have, and to share my experiences with others. Ultimately, it is this passion for the things that I love to do, whether it be photography, web development, music, or home improvement, that led me to teaching.

I remember the first time I knew I wanted to teach; it might be a little cliché, but for me, it was the final scene in Mr. Holland’s Opus. My mother had taken me to see it because of our mutual love of music and Richard Dreyfus and we both fell in love. If I ever need a good cry, this is still one of the movies in my “tear jerker” collection that does it every time. I love the idea that one person can impact so many in the world without fame or celebrity outside of a small group of individuals; that is truly powerful and inspiring to me.

As for photography, those who know me know that I push myself to learn, explore, and reach for every scrap of knowledge and experience I can to build that expertise in my craft and to provide adaptation to my creative vision as I move forward in life. While I will always hesitate to say that I’m good at this thing I do (it’s not my place and there are definitely better photographers than I out there), I think I have grown over the past few years. Okay, Mike, what’s the point of all this rambling? Here it is… these things have pushed me toward diving into doing a few workshops and education sessions when I can.

This year, I wanted to take the Peoria Strobist group, of which I am an administrator, and push it to another level of experience. My friend and fellow admin, Lily, and I came up with a schedule for meetups and, for the first time, two workshops. We wanted these to have small registration fees and would be designed to purposely bring in professional models in the hopes that everyone would learn and be educated from the experience.

So that’s what we did! Back in May, I organized and held the first Peoria Strobist Modeling Workshop and it was a total success! We had about 10 to 12 photographers attend and three professional models who were set up into different “stations” that we rotated every 45 minutes to an hour. I was even able to get Rachel, one of my lovely MUA/stylists, to come do hair and makeup. Everyone had a total blast and learned a lot. The portfolio building alone for both the models and the shooters was worth it.

I have a few other ideas for workshops for this year so stay tuned to the website for those. I also hope to hold another modeling workshop again sometime in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy the following images and the “Behind the Scenes” gallery above!

Final Modeling Workshop Images

Want to take a closer look at any of the images on my website? Simply click on the image to enlarge!

As the host of the modeling workshop, I didn’t have a whole load of time to work with the models myself. However, I was able to step in near the end of some of the shoots to snap a few images. With Amanda, our fitness model, I wanted something a little different from everyone else so I had her sit down on a wood palette. I put my trusty SB600 with a Lumiquest Softbox III (my preferred soft light modifier) on a stand off camera right, dialed in my ambient pretty dark and my flash up to 1/8th power, and captured the two shots above.

In case you’re wondering, Amanda wasn’t sweating; I had the forethought to bring a little spray bottle with me and created a little more of a “fitness” look with a little spritz of water! That’s a fitness photography tip if I ever heard one!

To go along with the fitness theme, I asked Amanda to bring along a couple of dumbbells. I used the same setup as above minus the softbox and turned my camera back wide to capture more of the environment. I worked with Amanda to get the right look on her face: determination, struggle, and a little teeth-gritting.

I knew that Amanda had recently been hitting the gym and focusing on her abs (can you believe she has a 6-month-old at home?) so I wanted to feature those during the modeling workshop.

I went back to my glamour roots and had Amanda sport her stylish sunglasses and black jacket, slightly opened to show her torso. Again, I threw the SB600 with the Lumiquest SB III up on the stand off camera left and had her look right into the light. To finish it off, I asked her for the standard “I’m a female badass” pose… hands on the hips!

The last images of the modeling workshop were taken as everyone was packing up. I asked Nick, our grungy outlaw/lumberjack, to run across the parking lot to a pile of concrete for a few last-minute snaps with his sledgehammer.

Once again, I threw the SB600 up on a stand with the softbox, dialed in my ambient exposure (I wanted moody lighting so I went pretty dark on the environment), and pumped the power on the strobe up to 1/4th. With Nick standing up there on the pile, and me being only 5’3″, I had to push the stand up to the very top of its reach, but we got the shots.

Monthly Happenings – May 2012

There’s loads of fun things going on this month as the summer art and shooting seasons get rolling. Here’s a few of the places you can join me for some photography and education or just to see some beautiful images.

Peoria Strobist Modeling Workshop

Melanie (2011)

Melanie (2011)

The Peoria Strobist group was founded about three years ago now as a sister group to the Peoria, Illinois group on Flickr. This was due to a rising interest in off-camera lighting techniques in the Peoria group. Over the past few years, interest has ebbed and flowed like the tide so my fellow administrators of both groups decided to chat about things to do to boost attendance.

While last year we spent most of our time hosting educational meetups and holding themed photo challenges within the group, this year we are taking a different tack. Along with the meetups, I am happy to announce that we are putting together a couple of workshops. These workshops are designed to be educational, but with a clearly defined goal and a higher level of models/teachers.

The first workshop will be held this weekend, Saturday May 12 and I’m proud to lead this event. The registration fee is $30.00 (all proceeds go to the models and stylist) and will feature five models, both male and female, with different themes including grunge/urban/outlaw, 1920’s glamour, sports/fitness, fashion, and more! If you’re interested in joining us, the details are over here on Flickr and you can shoot me an email to register.

PCC Retouching Class

Artsy (2012)

Artsy (2012)

Another group I am happy to be a part of is the Peoria Camera Club. Every year, I help with the marketing of their annual seminar and have been able to schmooze with David duChemin and Ben Willmore over the past couple of years. In addition to the annual seminar, their meetups, photowalks, and weekly meetings offer an outlet for local photographers.

Anyone who knows me knows I love to teach and I love editing/retouching portrait images so I’ve joined the two into a special retouching demonstration/presentation for the Peoria Camera Club meeting on Tuesday, May 22. Meetings start at 7:30 p.m. and are held at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Peoria. Anyone who is interested is welcome to join us for a solid hour or more of my favorite retouching techniques for portraits.

Whether it’s softening skin, removing blemishes, whitening teeth, slimming waistlines, or adding some pop or texture to a portrait image, I’ll cover it all. I’ll even share my secret “5 Retouches I Do On Every Image” so you don’t want to miss this!

Artists on the Boardwalk

The weather is warming up and the days are getting longer which can only mean one thing: the start of art fair and market season! I’m excited to share my images with all of you at even more venues this summer.

The kick-off event for me will be the Artists on the Boardwalk, held on May 25 at Junction City here in Peoria, Illinois. This event features the best local artists, amazing food, and a great atmosphere with live music floating through the air as you stroll along one of the only remaining boardwalk in central Illinois.

As for me, I’ve got a whole load of new images and new products to share so stop on out.

Mention this blog article and I’ll even give you 10% off any purchase in my booth!

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