Wednesday, October 31, 2007

New tools and new projects...

I'm going to the Apple store today (Thursday) to get a new MacBook! The computer I currently have is on its last legs. If the computer is on for more than 20 minutes, the hard-drive starts making this terrible asthmatic noise. On slow days, it sometimes takes me about 2 minutes to open up a file. Ugh!

I can hardly wait.

I've also put in an order for a Zoom H2 digital sound recorder. I'm going to start experimenting with field recordings when I go out on assignment, capturing ambient sounds and short interviews to make more immersive presentations.

So stay tuned for some awesome new projects coming in the next few weeks!

Habitat for Humanity...

Habitat for Humanity is in town and so is Jimmy Carter. I photographed the opening ceremony last weekend but was stuck in the media pen which was quite a distance away from the action.

Today I visited the site as the photographer for Conduit Development, a company that specializes in ICF construction (no wood, more environmentally friendly, efficient, etc.,) and was able to get closer to the President. There was still an invisible line I couldn't cross for fear of becoming the bottom layer of a Secret Service sandwich, but it was much better than the opening ceremony.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My new 3-speed steed....

I haven't put up a bike specific post in a while because I've been pretty slammed with photo assignments the last few weeks (that's a good thing!). However, I have been able to sneak in a few moments to play bike mechanic, usually when my slow computer is processing RAWs to JPGs.

Anyway, here is my latest new/old bike. You may remember it as a fixed gear that was even on Fixed Gear Gallery. I decided to make it a bit more utilitarian. I rode fixed and it was fun but wasn't really my thing. I'm more of a simple bike commuter/tourist than a fixie nut or roadie.

I took my Surly Steamroller and turned it into my urban hack version of the English 3speed. I got hold of a Nexus 3speed hub with a coaster and built a wheel around it. Got some neat swept back Nitto handlebars and cork grips.

I shellaced the grips and twine I put on the top tube to give it a nice brown woodsy feel.

The toughest part was the cable routing. There is none. So I had to McGuyver it and use zip ties. It has been fun cruising around town and doing errands with it. The shifting works fine and the gearing gives me around 50 gear inches on the low end, 70 in the middle and 90 in the high. Basically, a low enough gear to cruise Long Beach while carrying small to moderate loads.

Jimmy Carter is in town!

Got the great opportunity to work with Conduit Development again. I photographed some assets for their new website a few months ago. Now they're building homes for this year's Jimmy Carter Work Project! Their company is the lead contractor on the Los Angeles site.

Here are some pics from the opening celebration.

The police of tommorrow, today!.....and a boat doing something.

Sunset in San Pedro

I was a little far from the action...they told me if I left the media holding pen the secret service was going to tackle me. I stayed put.

A CSO! Carter-shaped-object. I'm glad I brought the 80-200.

Portrait Session

The slideshow from the fun portrait session I shot a few weeks ago...check it out HERE.

Did I mention orange is my favorite color?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Some snaps from the fire...

Firefighters walking down the street at the Santiago Canyon fire.

House narrowly averts disaster.

A Long Beach firefighter looks on while waiting to be deployed.

Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster and Rex Pritchard from LBFD survey a burning hillside.

After four days of fighting fires without a shower, small comforts like a new pair of socks bring great relief.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hot hot hot...

Short post, but couldn't resist throwing up a few self snaps at the scene today. Rode the bike to Station 17 and carpooled with Mayor Foster up to the Santiago Canyon fire. Lots of waiting for the LBC crew to be deployed. Their specialty is in protecting structures.

Rode with Rex Pritchard a director at LBFD, who was extremely good at explaining how to diagnose a fire by watching the wind and smoke signatures (grey and billowy is good = burning organic matter, no wind; flate smoke is bad = means winds pushing the flames, etc.,).

All in all, not a dull day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Out of the frying pan into the fire!!!

Just got a pretty sweet assignment. I'm going to be part of a pool that is going with the mayor in the morning to the fire line! I'm going to ride my bike to a fire station where I'll meet up with the mayor and his staff and carpool with them to the fire.

It's actually a little funny because when Laura and I were driving back from Big Sur we drove right past some of the fires. I was thinking aloud and wondered what it would be like to photograph a fire like that and lo and behold I'm going into the thick of it tomorrow.

I hope my cameras don't melt :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

One more from Big Sur

Last but not least, a self-portrait of Laura and I at the cove in Limekiln. The bridge above us is the 1 that winds its way up through Big Sur.

A Big Sur Wedding...

Just came back from Big Sur today. Laura and drove through some crazy winds and smoke on the way back and for a second entertained the idea of going back :) It was nice to get out of Long Beach for a few days and apparently this crazy heat, wind and fire.

We went to Big Sur with some friends for their friends wedding. It was a nice simple ceremony in the woods at Limekiln. The couple didn't hire a photographer so I took a few snaps. They were very earthy and organic and it was only fitting they would get married here.

The father of the bride assembling benches that he made for his daughter. At each end of the bench is a carved C and S for Chris and Sarah.

The bride, Sarah, with some awesome looking dreads!

The couple enjoying some time together at a bridge over a stream that runs to the river.

Sarah's silhouette as she sits with the wedding party watching the immense waves break at the cove.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The District Weekly gets a facelift

The District Weekly updated their website! It's got a lot more content and will apparently have some video content as well. Pretty snazzy.

I went to the District's "Best Of" party last night at Smooth's. It was ok, I felt a little out of place. I was hoping to meet other people from the magazine since I only knew a handful of writers, but it was hard to discern the guests from the staff. The most contact I get is usually an email on my Blackberry with a name of the person I'm suppose to photograph, a phone number and a deadline :)

Ah, the joys of the virtual office.

When I left the party however, I found that someone stole my front light off my bike. A real cheap shot. To make things worse when I was riding away I hit a big hole in the street (got to love what passes for streets in Long Beach) and got a flat and walked the rest of the way home.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another version...

Here's another pic from the session last night...The original picture was a bit wider and had city hall in the back. However, I decided to crop in close to focus on the expressions. Also applied some post to give it a grittier/hard light feel.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back to City Hall...

If you happen to be watching public access in Long Beach this week you might see me taking snaps at the city council meeting. I was assigned to take some photos of a woman named Star Harris who was speaking at the meeting. She was assaulted 3 years ago at a 7-11 while in line and no one did anything.

Her mother was at the meeting and broke out into tears when Star recounted the events again.

After the meeting, I took some quick portraits outside of city hall. It was dark and I had to light it. Not too bad considering I shot it in 15 minutes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

My Eco-Friendly Bicycling Girlfriend.... :)

Riding a bike around gets me strange looks sometimes, so it's nice to be with someone that understands what I'm doing and is supportive. Laura has been commuting to work by bicycle five days a week for several months now. Whenever we go someplace that is in Long Beach, we'll ride there. Groceries. Movies. Farmer's Market.

This past weekend she was participating in an art show selling her jewelry in Signal Hill. Of course, instead of packing things in a car, we loaded it all up on my Burley flatbed and attached it to her bike. She was able to carry all her jewelry and display materials via bike and trailer. Awesome!

It didn't help that there was a bit of a hill between us and the art show but it brought back memories of huffing it up the coastal mountains in Oregon.

So if you want some jewelry (as a gift or for yourself this holiday season), check out her etsy store and click away :) She works with silver and non-traditional materials, combinging things like leaves, seeds and even bark with silver and copper. Cool stuff.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Couple portrait session....

Shot a fun couple portrait session this afternoon (thanks Emily and Andy!). It became a mini tour of Long Beach. We started at the Pike and worked our way to the lighthouse. It was a good session and I really tried to work the environment into the pics. This is a nice snap at the base of the ferris wheel at the Pike. I had to shoot quickly while we were down there because we were starting to get funny looks from the security guards (what can you do?).

I was wearing my jetpack (my Lowepro backpack with light stand and umbrella poking out). I set up the light pretty quickly (Nikon strobe popping full blast into a silver umbrella) and took about half a dozen shots trying to overpower the ambient. The final exposure was a little under exposed because the strobes couldn't pop enough light but it was easy to correct in post.

It was a fun time and a great way to spend an afternoon.

Looking for an extra 5k in the couch...

I don't get excited by digital cameras too often (especially Nikon ones). However, I just about messed myself when I read about their latest offering, the Nikon D3.

I guess I've been under a rock when it comes to Nikon's new offerings. I never thought they would offer a full frame camera, but here it is!

And let me tell you, it's beautiful.

It's full frame. Did I mention that? That means when you're on 17mm on the lens it's 17mm and not 25mm. For wide angle shooters (like me), this is a godsend.

As if having wide angle return to Nikon wasn't enough, the darn thing can shoot up to ISO 25,000!!!! I've seen sample shots of it at 6400 and it's beautiful (for 6400). I was an available light shooter when I was shooting film (Leica and Neopan 1600) and now I can be an available light shooter again with digital (without a tripod and noise).

Downside is that it cost $5000, which isn't too bad considering everything you get. The first shipment comes out in November for those who have already pre-ordered. I'll have a long while yet of saving pennies until I get my hands on one, unless there's an extra 5k hidden in my couch somewhere.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Oh Snap! A cover!

Yay! Got another cover for The District. If you're in the LBC, be sure to grab a copy. There's a little "On the Cover" blurb where I think I let out a little about my Catholic past.

You can see the pics they didn't print here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Applying what I learned...

I got such a great response on the picture (below) on my Flickr page. 300+ views in two days! Awesome.

I took the light kit on the road with me the last few days to try out the new technique. It was definitely a lot trickier in practice than in the comfort of my own home.

For example, this picture of Tom, the manager/part-owner of Runner's High in Belmont Shore. I basically had 3 lights to trigger but only 2 pocket wizards. That meant one of the lights had to be triggered using a light slave. This was no problem in my small apartment because the light bounced around and was easy for a light slave to pick up. However, in this store there was a lot of ambient light and a high ceiling so the slave was popping 1 out of 4 times.

This shot of Debbie, the assistant coach of the women's volleyball team at CSULB was a little easier technically. This was another three light set up. 2 Nikons on either side as rim lights. One was on a PW the other was on a lightslave. Since the lights were practically pointing straight at each other it wasn't a problem. The main light, a nikon popping into a silver brolly, was on a PW.

I first dialed in an exposure that let some ambient light seep in so you can make out the arena and the stadium lights. Then I set up my lights and balanced it so it was 2 stops above the ambient.

It worked out pretty well. The stadium lights could have been bigger and that would have made for a more dramatic composition.

And yes...i carried it all on my bike. The funny thing with all this experimentation is that I'm carrying more gear now on shoots. I use to just bring one pelican case and a lightstand. Now I'm carrying 2 pelican cases and a bag with 3 stands, 2 umbrellas and a softbox. Ack!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Playing with myself...

Slow day today so I decided to play with my lights. I usually keep my lights pretty simple but after seeing a few videos of photographer Jill Greenberg at work on Strobist, I got inspired to experiment a little. So here is a portrait from start to finish.

The first set of lighting are two Nikon strobes that act as hard rim light.

The next light is a Norman 200b head with umbrella box that will provide the main light.

Another Nikon with a blue gel aimed at a thunder grey background.

The finished portrait with a little cleaning up.

The final image with some Photoshop to give it a Dave Hill sharpness to it. The whole image becomes a bit cooler (in temperature) and the highlights look metallic. Neat effect.

What it all looks like set up.

City Hall portrait.....

I had the great pleasure of photographing Rae Gabelich yesterday. She is the Councilwoman for the 8th district in Long Beach and is one of its more progressive members.

I didn't have much time but I knew I wanted a few different looks, so I decided to shoot a few quick ones in her office in City Hall. The room had large windows so the light was perfect. We tried a few with her sitting then a few standing. At one point, I noticed that she had a map of Long Beach on the wall so I positioned that as a background.

Simple. Nothing fancy, but a solid portrait.

After a few minutes we went downstairs. I had been playing with my Norman 200b and a borrowed umbrella box for the last two weeks and wanted to use it for the portrait. My thinking was to do some nice hard heroic lighting with city hall looming in the background. Unfortunately, it didn't quite pan out. The building was too tall and the angle I was getting wasn't too flattering. It seemed a bit over-dramatic.

I ended up submitting the available light pics because it seemed to better capture her personality better than the ones with the strobes. Like they say, "The best laid plans ..."

Friday, October 05, 2007

What it looks like in action...

I had a little downtime in between some art pieces so I took this quick snap of my set up.

2 Nikon strobes with shoot through umbrellas. I had to alter the angles and sometimes bounce the umbrellas into the ceiling and use a large reflector at the bottom to adjust for reflective oil paintings....

You can also see a flashlight that i gaffer taped to a light stand that I used as my focusing light. The room lights were shut off (from a circuit board convenient switch), so as not to mix light sources (tungsten and strobe).

Just off to the right you can see where I taped two long lengths of grey seamless paper from the ceiling. I shot from behind there when I was photographing images behind glass...the paper worked to hide me in the reflections. I also had to wrap my tripod with seamless.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Sometimes an Xtracycle isn't enough...

Had a shoot today at the Long Beach Museum of Art. I was hired to shoot some paintings for their catalog. This sort of thing involves a lot of gear. I tried to pack only using my Xtracycle but knew that I would need more. Fortunately, the Museum wasn't very far away and using my Burley Flatbed wouldn't be too much of a problem.

Suffice it to say, I wasn't moving very fast but I made it to my gig and was able to carry everything via bike (+some xtra carrying help:)