Test shootings with Shawna at Jillian's Piiholo Stables in Makawao

Whenever I need to test out a new piece of gear, Shawna is one of the first people I think of to call on. Not only is she an amazingly beautiful woman to photograph, she's also a lot of fun to work with and always down for getting together to create some awesome photographs.

We went to visit  Jillian's Piiholo Stables in Makawao.  This was my first time to this location so Jillian took us around the property and pointed out all the different locations that could be utilized.  My head was reeling from all the ideas that started to come to mind.

Shawna, we really have to go shoot here again someday. :-)

We started shooting around 4pm, when the light started to look really awesome.
For lighting we used 2 Yongnuo 560III flashes firing through a white shoot thru umbrella to enhance the existing light.

The light that comes through this place is incredible.  We found a spot behind one of the stalls that worked perfectly.  Even without firing the flash, the light that bounced off of the shoot thru umbrella created beautiful light on Shawna.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/200 @ f1.8

After a quick outfit change, we moved to spot against the back of the stall.

Love working with models who are not afraid to be total goofballs in front of the camera. ;-)

We added a third Yongnuo 560III on the other side of the stall, with a 1/2 CTO gel on it to mimic the setting sun and to add a separation light to Shawna's hair.

A lucky accident of shooting it through the wooden slats was that it created leading lines to draw the eyes to the subject.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/160 @ f1.8

Once we finished here we moved around to the front of the barn and switched to a third outfit.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/160 @ f1.8

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/160 @ f1.8

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/160 @ f1.8

Jillian's Piiholo Stables in Makawao is one of those locations where you could literally spend days shooting at. There were so many spots we passed up this time that we utilized probably less than 1% of the property.  I'm looking forward to the next time we can make it up there.

Review - Think Tank Urban Approach 15 Mirrorless Backpack

The Urban Approach 15 Mirrorless Backpack is a new camera backpack by Think Tank Photo which is targeted at the growing mirrorless camera market.  I was interested in this bag ever since it was announced and the folks at Think Tank were gracious enough to send me one early for this review.

The Urban Approach 15 is similar in shape to the Streetwalker series of backpacks, but with a shallower depth designed to accommodate smaller mirrorless cameras.

Like all Think Tank bags, this is solidly built - very clean lines and low profile appearance that doesn't scream "Expensive Camera Gear Inside".

 There are stretchy pockets on both sides of the bag, enough to fit a water bottle or a small strobe in them. The included rain cover fits easily into either one.

There is also a strap included which lets you attach a small tripod to the outside of the bag

The shoulder straps are comfortable to wear, even when the backpack is overstuffed with gear.

The chest strap is height adjustable, and pretty much stays in place once you set it in the desired position - don't have to worry about it shifting around while in use.

The tags on the zippers for the laptop section says that it will fit both an iPad and up to a 15.4" laptop.

Since I use my iPad on location shoots, I have it in an Otterbox Defender case, which ends up being a very tight fit into this iPad slot.  Would have liked it to be a little more open.  My Macbook Air 13" with Speck case slides into the laptop compartment easily with room for the AC Adapter.

There is just one thin pocket on the front of the backpack.

It's also very shallow - about 4 inches deep. It'll hold a Pixel Pocket Rocket,  but not much else.

The back of the bag has a loop that you can slip over the handle of your roller bag, such as the Airport Navigator.  A nice feature that I hope Think Tank will incorporate into all their future backpacks.

The zipper pulls to the main compartment have loops that can be padlocked for extra security

 Opening the bag you'll see the standard insert that Think Tank includes which shows a typical gear layout.

Once you remove the insert, take a good look at the interior, cause that's all you get.  The bag I received for this review did not come with any additional dividers.  Though to be honest, there isn't much more space you could divide up anyway.

 The main compartment is much shallower compared to how it looks from the outside because of the iPad/laptop compartment underneath.

The top of the backpack tapers downward so it will fit a smaller camera like an a6000 or an A7 series camera without a battery grip.

 If your camera has a battery grip attached, it will fit in the second camera section in the lower half of the bag .

For a typical wedding shoot I'll take along the following:
2- Sony a6000 bodies ( I usually use an A7mkII with a battery grip and one a6000, but the A7mkII is currently out for repair). Each body is outfitted with a Really Right Stuff L Plate, a Peak Design Capture Plate , Peak Design Clutch Hand Strap and Micro Anchors for the Peak Design Leash
Magmod flash modifiers - Mag mounts, gels, grids, Magsphere and Magbounce
ND filters
dust blower
LED headlamp
business cards
2 - Ziplock Freezer Bags (emergency rain covers for off-camera flash units)
 Amazingly that all fits into this bag. It ends up being a bit snug, especially on the side with the 70-200, but it does fit.

Compared to the other ThinkTank Mirrorless-specific backpack, the Perception Pro, the Urban Approach is more customizable. The Perception Pro's pouches each have internal dividers that can be adjusted but the pouches themselves are hard sewn in to the bag whereas with the Urban Approach you can move all the dividers around to fit your needs.

When compared to the Streetwalker Hard Drive, the interior dimensions of the Urban Approach 15 is several inches shorter in both length and width. While I do appreciate the shallower depth, I really wish they had kept the width and length comparable to the Streetwalker Hard Drive as there were a few more things I would have liked to put in, such as a Yongnuo 300 II LED light. Also, in order to get the flash units to fit into the bag, I had to remove the MagGrip attachments from the flash heads (In the photo above, the MagGrips are stored underneath the Mag Grids). A slightly wider bag would have allowed me to keep the MagGrips attached to the flashes.

Note to the designers - It's ok to make the bags shallower, but please don't scrimp on the length/width - we can always make use of that space. Even though mirrorless cameras and lenses are smaller, we still take a lot of gear to weddings - 2 bodies, 2 flashes (yes 2 flashes - always gotta have a backup), flash modifiers, radio triggers, extra batteries, etc.

I think if you had taken the Streetwalker Hard Drive, just made it shallower, lighter and added the roller bag handle attachment to the back of the bag, that would have been just perfect.

I've now used this backpack on several beach sunset wedding shoots and other than the slightly limited space in the bag its been working out pretty well. The depth of the bag helps to keep smaller cameras from bouncing around too much and there's "just enough" space to carry the basic gear I use on a typical shoot.  

The handle on the back that slips over roller bag handles should be standard issue for any camera backpack. I never realized how useful it was until I found that I would usually pair it with my ThinkTank Airport Navigator which now holds most of my extended lighting gear. Would like it to be just a skosh wider so that it would more easily slip over the roller bag handles when the bag is fully loaded with an iPad and laptop.

Overall this is a great backpack that I think a lot of mirrorless camera shooters would be happy with (unless you like to take a ton of extra stuff like me). If you decide that the Urban Approach 15 suits your needs, I would greatly appreciate it if you use the links provided above as a small portion of sales will go towards supporting this blog.

Sunset & Glamour Photoshoot with Mai Mao and Tia Kai

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso800 1/160 @f5.6

Its always much easier to do an implied nude photoshoot if you work with a model who is comfortable with nudity in the first place.  When you work with professional models that are at ease both in and out of clothing, you don't have to constantly worry about trying to crop out or hide underwear or bikinis in the shot and later having to edit it out in post production.  It allows the model to pose more freely and just makes the shoot go a lot smoother.

Near the end of last year, I was contacted by Mai Mao, a model I had worked with previously worked with. She was planning to visit Maui again and asked if I'd be interested in shooting with her again.  She was also bringing another model, her friend Tia Kai, and suggested we do a joint shoot with her.

Two stunning models at the same time? How could I refuse?

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso100 1/500 @f4

Our first session was at Makena Cove in the late afternoon.  We were lucky enough to have a couple of assistants with us this day, so we were able to use a silver California Sunbounce Pro, a Sunbounce Mini, and a Lastolite TriGrip diffuser panel to direct and diffuse the natural light for the first half of the shoot while we waited until sunset.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso100 1/1250 @f4

Mai is a great model to work with, very laid back and easy to direct.  Really enjoyed having the chance to work with her again.

Tia was also amazing to work with. An experienced model, Tia was able to come up with a lot of her own poses, freeing me up to just focus on lighting and shooting. Like I've said in the past, I like it when models are so skilled at posing that I can go into chimpanzee mode and just concentrate on shooting.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso100 1/200 @f4

She also manages her own website that she is constantly adding content to, so the majority of the images from this session will be available to view on Tia's website.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso100 1/500 @f4

For sunset, we used the Cheetahstand CL360 in a silver Cheetahstand Beauty Dish.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso100 1/160 @f8

This was actually my first time using the Cheetahstand Beauty Dish in the field and it performed quite well.  It collapses down for transport and the quality of light from it worked well for our needs.  I think I'll be using it a lot more on future location shoots.

Sony a6000 18-105 F4 G OSS lens iso800 1/160 @f5.6

Our second day was spent in their hotel room where we focused on more boudoir-style images.  Shooting two models together in a bedroom setting was something new to me, and I relied heavily on Mai and Tia for posing ideas.  Thankfully they have a lot of experience working with each other and had no problem with posing together.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso400 1/125 @f5.6

The hotel room was quite small, with very little room to maneuver and set up light stands.  The one good thing we had going for us was that the natural lighting we had in this room was much better than what we had the previous year at this same hotel.  The room that Mai and I had shot in the previous year was on the ground level, and the surrounding greenery blocked a lot of the light coming in from the lanai.

This time since we were on a higher floor and it was a bright sunny day, there was a lot of light streaming in from the glass doors to the balcony.

The hotel had recently remodeled their rooms with a more modern decor, so I took a few minutes to look around and see how we could best set it up to shoot without disturbing the furniture or their belongings too much - they were on vacation after all. ;-)

A few tips I learned from photographer Dean Capture when shooting in a hotel room - keep the lighting simple and avoid shooting blank walls in the background.  Find a background with some character and then think about how to incorporate that into your shots.

We settled on two setups on the bed, and two main angles.

To start off, we set up a Kessler Pocketjib Traveller to position a Sony A7mkII with a 24-70mm f4 Zeiss lens as high as possible and aimed down at the bed for an aerial POV shot.  The camera was triggered using the Sony PlayMemories app on an iPad.

Some tulle material was spread over the bed to try to hide the fine lined pattern of the bedsheet and give the shot a softer look.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso800 1/125 @f8

We supplemented the existing light by adding a Cheetahstand CL-360 and a white shoot thru umbrella on the lanai, shooting in the same direction as the existing natural light.  Fill light was provided by our assistant holding up a white bedsheet just out of camera frame to the left.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso800 1/125 @f8

Had to be careful about centering the position of the camera above the bed.  Since the ceiling was rather low, we had to play around in the wider range of the 24-70mm lens. Moving the camera too far off in any direction distorted their bodies too much.

The second setup was angled so that the framed painting on the wall behind the two models could be used as a framing element in some of the shots.

Sony a6000 35mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/100 @f1.8

Sony a6000 35mm f1.8 OSS lens iso100 1/200 @f1.8

Working with these two beautiful models from California was a great way to end 2014. Really looking forward to working with Mai and Tia again in the near future.

To view more images from these photoshoots, visit TiaKai.com.

Sony a7mkII FE 24-70mm f4 ZA OSS lens iso400 1/125 @f5.6

Little Beach Photoshoot on Maui with Floofie

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f2.8

Floofie is one of the most interestingly named models that I've had the honor of working with in my career.  We had both been wanting to shoot with each other for several years, but the opportunity never presented itself.

That's the problem with being trapped on an island in the middle of the Pacific.  Nobody wants to come out here. ;-)

This past December, things worked out where she would be visiting Maui for the first time and I had an opening in my schedule so that we could finally arrange a shoot together.

I had just returned from Oahu on a Friday night, and had a sunset wedding scheduled the next day, so Floofie and I scheduled our shoot for early Sunday morning at Little Beach in Makena.

Really early.

Like 6 am before the sun comes up early.

Mental note - piling that much on your plate in one weekend can be hazardous to your health.

Thankfully my friend Ronald was available to assist us on this shoot.  It's a good thing he was there too, as I twisted my back near the end of the shoot and barely made it back to the car when we were done.

Yep, I'm gettin' old...  Shaddup.

We were the first ones at the beach that morning and once we got to the top of the cliff that separates Little Beach and Big Beach, the sky was starting to get some really nice color to it. We decided to start there with a few fashion shots with Floofie modeling a BCBG Max Azria dress.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso 100 1/50 @ f5.6

For lighting we used 4 Yongnuo 560-III strobes ganged together firing through a Westcott White Shoot Thru umbrella. We remotely adjusted the power levels of the flash from the camera position by using a Yongnuo YN560-TX controller.

The entire session was photographed using just 2 Sony a6000 bodies.

Lenses used for the shoot were primarily the Sony 18-105mm f4 G50mm f1.8 OSS, and the 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS.  Video footage was shot with a Sony DSC-RX10.

These little workhorse cameras have replaced my Canon 5D mkIII and L lens collection on virtually all my professional shoots now. I'm still amazed at the quality of the images that come out of these tiny cameras which are a mere fraction of the size and weight of our old Canon system.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f8

Applying what I learned from photographer Rolando Gomez at his first Maui workshop, we adjusted our lighting for the sunrise in reverse of how we shoot a sunset. Usually when we shoot a sunset session we start with a higher flash power setting and faster shutter speed and work our way down, but for sunrise it's the opposite.  When the sky was still relatively dark, the flash power was set low and we used a slower shutter speed so that the background didn't get too dark. As the sun started to get brighter, we raised the shutter speed and then the flash power until the sky got too bright.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f8

We alternated between some fashion shots and some nude/implied nudes to mix it up a bit.  I don't have a whole lot of experience shooting nudes yet, so it was great working with an experienced model like Floofie who could come up with a variety of poses that worked well with each of our setups during the shoot. She pretty much nailed every pose in every shot, so that it made it difficult in Lightroom to select our favorites.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f5

Once the sun got too bright for this spot, we moved down to a shaded area on the rocks near the water to get some shots with the waves crashing up behind her.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f2.8

I would had liked to have experimented with putting CTO gels on the flash and setting the white balance to make the surrounding area more blue, but gels were one of the things I forgot to pack.

Like I said, too early in the morning...;-)

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/1000 @ f2.0

Climbed up the hill and found a spot where the light was starting to come through the trees. Backed up a bit to put some branches out of focus in the foreground to add some depth and to try to frame Floofie in the morning rays of the sun.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/500 @ f1.8

For this reclining shot in the water, there was some direct sunlight that was starting to create a small hotspot just on the top of Floofie's head.  We used a Lastolite Trigrip Diffuser Panel just out of the right side of the frame to diffuse the light and bring out the color in her hair.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/640 @ f1.8

For our next set of images we moved further down the beach into a grove of kiawe trees.  We found a spot where the trees naturally curved and the light would have been perfect for shooting Floofie in a couple of shots.

Unfortunately we also noticed a huge swarm of bees flying in and out of the tree that we were going to use.  Since bees and nude models don't play together nicely, we decided to play it safe and looked for a different spot further away from the bees.

It's always a good idea to make sure to keep your models safe during a photoshoot.  If you can manage to keep them from ending up in the emergency room in a full body cast by the end of the day, you greatly improve the chance that they will want to work with you again in the future.

The lighting in the spot that we chose was kind of flat, but it was kind of nice the way the rough texture of the tree contrasted with the smooth skin of the model, so we needed to tweak the lighting a bit.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f5.6

To supplement the existing natural light, we set up the lightstand behind her and aimed the flashes at the back of her hair.  We then had Ronald hold up a Silver California Sunbounce Mini to bounce the light back into her front. This resulted in the highlights in her hair and the edge lighting along her back that you see in these images.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f5.6

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/160 @ f6.3

We took a short break to film some footage for "FloofieFriday" a short travel video segment that Floofie does every week for her fans.  You know you're working with a top professional model when they're willing to eat a raw Opihi live on camera. ;-)

Returning to the photoshoot, we did a few swimwear shots using a silver California Sunbounce Pro to fill in the shadows and the 55-210mm lens to compress the ocean in the background so that it would fill the frame.

We were lucky enough to catch a couple of really good waves crashing on the rocks behind her. It took several tries to get the timing of the waves right, and Floofie was a real trouper, holding her poses until we got the shot that we wanted.

Photographers - if you think it's easy for a model to pose on hot jagged lava rocks in bright sun and staring into a bright reflector while waiting for you to get your shot, YOU try doing it yourself sometime.

Sony a6000 55-210mm f4.5-6.3 OSS Lens iso100 1/1000 @ f6.3

After quick outfit change to a J.Crew top, Floofie got in the water for our last few sets.

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/3200 @ f2.0

Sony a6000 50mm f1.8 OSS Lens iso100 1/2000 @ f2.8

Throughout the shoot, we alternated between shooting stills and video footage.  It's very challenging to try to do both at the same time, but thanks to Ronald's assistance and Floofie's great work in front of the camera, we got lots of great images and a killer video as well.

Floofie In Maui from Todd Mizomi on Vimeo.

Really glad Floofie and I finally had the chance to collaborate after so many years. She is a fantastic  model to work with (and a fellow cat person as well) ;-) and I'm looking forward to the next time we can shoot together. To contact Floofie for bookings, visit her Facebook page. She also now has an Etsy shop where you can order quality signed prints from her many photoshoots including a few from our Maui shoot, so please check it out.

2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Glamour Video Shoot with Elizabeth

The private shoot day is always the highlight of Rolando's workshops as you have the opportunity to collaborate with each individual model and work on all sorts of ideas. For the private shoot with Elizabeth (Invy Rose), we both agreed to focus on just creating a single video rather than a series of photos.  Wished I could have done both, but I only have two hands.

We unfortunately did not have Andrew as an assistant this year, so a lot of the setups that I had originally planned on shooting had to be simplified so that it could be done with a single person crew.

I also had to keep track of time so that I did not go over each models' scheduled session, which would have affected their session times with the other workshop participants. Since session time also has to account for travel to and from locations, it further limits the amount of shooting time you actually have. Thankfully Elizabeth and I already had a few shots completed from the previous day of shooting, so we were able to resume right where we left off.

This time we got a very early start, returning to Ironwood Beach first thing in the morning to shoot the rest of the footage we would need for the video.  All of the footage was shot with the Sony DSC-RX10, on a Manfrotto tripod & Edelkrone SliderPlus.

We started shooting in the same spot and same direction we had shot previously, but it wasn't until we flipped the setup around 180 degrees and shot with the sun behind Liz that the footage really started to rock.

Backlight from the sun and reflected light from the sand in front of her looked so amazing that I had to stop and take a few stills with the 5DmkIII.

Liz was simply stunning in front of the camera, and very determined to help me make the shoot a success.  Even when the odd tourist would walk by during our shoot, she told me to continue shooting until we got what we needed.

There were a lot things we shot that day that I really wanted to have stills of as well, but because of the limited amount of time we had and the fact that this was a single person crew, we had to prioritize getting just video footage. We simply just did not have the time or the crew to set up additional lighting and reflectors to really get great stills.

My apologies for the low quality of the screen grabs. Will probably be upgrading to 4K video in the near future to get higher quality stills from the video.

Editing in FCPX, once I had found and licensed the right music through Songfreedom.com, the piece started coming together surprisingly quick. The final version became one of my favorites of this year.

Invy Rose from Todd Mizomi on Vimeo.

See more of model Invy Rose's work by visiting her page on Facebook. To learn more about how you can sign up for future Beauty Glamour and the Nude workshops by Rolando Gomez, visit rolandogomez.net.

2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Sunset Shoot with Ashley

Our private shoot session with model Ashley Alexiss was a sunset shoot on the beach in Kaanapali.

Lighting was with 2 Cheetahstand V850s in a Lastolite Ezybox Octa Softbox. Photographed with the Sony DSC-RX10.

It was great to end the private shoot day with Ashley.  She had a lot of energy and a great attitude. 
 Even after getting pummeled by a couple of waves, she kept on going...

You really need to bring your A-game when you shoot with her because she is simply amazing in front of the camera.

For this last shot, it was so dark that I literally could not see Ashley at all. In order to set the focus, we had Liz hold an iPhone in front of Ashley's face so that the camera could lock the focus on the screen.

We shot this with a long exposure (unlike our shoot in Hana, there were no red fire ants crawling all over Ashley this time) to bring up the exposure of the lights in the background.  It's something I've always wanted to try with city lights at night, but since we don't have big cities here on Maui, the hotels on Kaanapali Beach were the next best thing.

Really enjoyed this year's workshop and looking forward to the next one!  To learn more about Rolando's upcoming workshops, visit rolandogomez.net.

2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Boudoir Video with Brittany Rhea

For the private shoot session with Brittany Rhea  I decided to work on creating a boudoir style video - something short, playful and fun.

We shot the majority of her footage with the Canon 7D on a Manfrotto monopod. For lenses, both the 85mm f1.8 lens and 24-105mm f4L IS lens were used.

For safety issues, the one shot where the camera was suspended above the model, the much lighter Sony RX10 was used.  Did not have the jib available, so we improvised a camera boom arm by using a Konova slider with one end attached to a Manfrotto tripod. The camera was then panned across the model from above.

For lighting we relied solely on the existing light that filtered throughout the bedroom.

Also played around with reflections in the mirror and some tulle material I had leftover from a previous shoot.

Brittany just rocked it in front of the camera. Whether stills or video, she was very confident and able to take direction well.  Although we only had two hours to shoot all of her footage, it turned out much better than I had planned.

The final video came together pretty quickly once I found the right music to go with it.  Edited it in FCPX on a Macbook Air.

Really enjoyed the opportunity to work with this amazing model, and hope to collaborate with her again in the near future!

See more of Brittany Rhea on Facebook

2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Building a Headshot with Heather

Heather is always a fun subject to photograph.  At the luau the previous evening, I noticed that she really liked the tuberose flowers in her lei and kept smelling them throughout the evening. For our private shoot session together, I decided to focus on just creating one image - a headshot with tuberose flowers in her hair.

Went to Safeway and picked up a few flower leis.  Also chose some leis that had different kinds of flowers in them to add some color variety to the shoot.

The original concept was to weave individual flowers throughout Heather's hair, and then have her lying in some tulle fabric on the bed.

Our makeup artist Stephanie came up with the idea to turn the flower leis into  a haku lei by simply pinning it around her head.  It saved us a lot of time and actually turned out much nicer than what I had originally envisioned. Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best!

The change in the flower style also dictated a change in the shooting location and pose.  Instead of lying down on a bed, the flowers would look better in an outdoor setting in a standing pose.

Picked a spot out on the lanai in open shade for the shoot.

There were tennis courts and a parking structure in the background so a Canon  5DmkIII with the 70-200mm f2.8 was used to compress the background and blur out the distractions.

In the photo above you'll see the two light stands on the right which were left over from the lighting setup that was originally planned for the bedroom.  We ended up not using those two lights, instead relying on the existing natural light for our main light.

Two Canon 600RT flashes were used to supplement the natural lighting.  One was Justin clamped onto the railing behind the model for some edge lighting.

To add a bit of glow from underneath Heather's face, a white bedsheet was placed on a chair as a makeshift reflector and the second 600RT flash fired into it.

Wanted to put something in the foreground to add some depth to the image, so we found this decorative plant near the kitchen.

This was carefully balanced on top of a tripod which was placed between the camera and the model. Lucky for us there was no wind that day.

We started with a few test shots, but didn't have the right feel to it.  I was looking for something a little different, something other than the typical model pose. After Heather and I reviewed some of the images, I suggested that she try snorting those flowers really hard, like a little kid would do.

I'm finding that a lot of times if you can get your model to do something really silly or unexpected- something that makes her laugh then start shooting immediately after, you can get some great natural expressions. :-)

Since Heather was able to nail the look I was after in just a few shots, it was a short but very productive shoot.  Could have played around with adjusting the distance of the flowers in the foreground to bring them more into focus or more blurred out for different looks, but was very happy with the results we got.   Looking forward to working with Heather again for the next workshop. :-)

Experiences at the Rolando Gomez 2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Day 3

Since we were all exhausted from the Hana shoot, we took it easy on the third day and stayed on the west side of the island. Our first stop was at Ironwood Beach.

For this day I was partnered with Elizabeth.  We had previously talked about what she could use from me for her portfolio and video was a priority for her. So on this day, we didn't shoot many stills, and mainly concentrated on using the Sony RX10 to gather video footage we would need for her video.

The sun was already high up in the sky by the time we got to the beach, which limited the types of shots we could do.

I knew that I wanted the opening shot of the video to be a crane move so we set up a lightweight DSLR-Devices camera jib arm.

This was set up on a hill overlooking the beach.  I had Elizabeth down by the water, walking into the wind.  Because of the distance, we relied on using hand signals to communicate - Start, Stop, Repeat. Took several tries before we got a usable take.

Once that was done,  I had Elizabeth repeat her walk along the shore, but this time used the Varizoom Stealthy stabilizer for some steadicam-style shots following her.

We then attempted to get a few slider shots, but the wind kept blowing sand into the track.

Since the group was getting ready to leave, Liz and I agreed to come to this location very early the next morning on the private shoot day to shoot some more stuff.

After a quick stop at Honolua General Store, we drove around past Kapalua for additional locations to shoot and ended up at Nakalele blowhole.

It was a bit of a hike to get down to the blowhole so instead, Rolando pointed out that we could use the compression of a telephoto lens to bring the distant blowhole closer to the subject in the composition.

To fill in the shadows, we used 2 Cheetahstand V850 strobes.  No softbox this time since it was pretty windy here.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 800 1/500@f8 

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 800 1/500@f11 

In hindsight, I should have shot some video footage here too to incorporate into the video, but there were too many tourists down below and I haven't figured out yet how to take out people from video like you can in Photoshop.  Maybe someday....

Sunday ended with a trip to the Old Lahaina Luau and some much needed R&R before the following Private Shoot day.

Experiences at the Rolando Gomez 2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Day 2 - Hana Waterfall shoot

For this year's workshop we got a bit of a late start to Hana, so we ended up skipping the Black Sand Beach that we shot at last year and went straight to 'O'he'o Gulch in Kipahulu ("Seven Sacred Pools" to the tourists) to shoot at the waterfall.

The Waimoku Falls.

A 400' high waterfall.


Now some people you ask around Hana town might tell you it's an easy 1 mile hike to get up to these falls.


To get up to the base of this waterfall, it is a TWO MILE HIKE. 



All along the trail as you're going up, the people coming down from the opposite direction will smile and tell you "It's just a few hundred yards more" or "oh, you're almost there".

These are cruel and sadistic people - don't believe a word they say.

You're not even close until you see this:

And even then, you've still got a LOOOOONG way to go.

It's a beautiful hike - you will cross bridges and hike through bamboo forests. Lots of places that would make awesome settings for shooting a model in.  But if you're gonna suffer through this hike, you're gonna want to shoot AT the waterfall.

It will take you about an HOUR AND A HALF just to get up to the waterfall.

If you are not in good physical condition, DO NOT attempt this hike because this trail will BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF YOU.

Wear shoes. SHOES! No slippers.

Bring water, bug repellant, and PACK AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE - bring MINIMAL gear.

Like a dummy, I ignored that last sentence and schlepped up a backpack with 2 cameras (Sony RX-10 and Canon 5DmkIII with a 85mm f1.2L lens), a Manfrotto light stand, 2 Cheetahstand V850 strobesLastolite Ezybox II Softbox, tripod, and a StealthyPro video camera stabilizer.

Yes, yes, I know -  I've been meaning to have my head examined.

If you do survive the hike up to the falls, it is VERY worth it.

However, it is not advised to get too close to the actual waterfall.  With a waterfall of that height, a rock falling down from the cliff most likely will KILL you.

Ok, so now, time to get to work.

This first shot was with the Sony RX10 on the tripod - using a long exposure to blur the water.

Sony RX10 24-200 f2.8 iso 80  .5 sec @ f8

Our model Ashley deserves special recognition for this image. To do a long exposure shot, the model has to hold her pose completely still for several seconds.  What you don't see in the shot are the THOUSANDS OF RED ANTS that were swarming all over the rock she was sitting on (which I didn't realize until she told me AFTER we took the shot).

Modeling - it's not just a job, it's an adventure. :-)

Second setup was with 2 Cheetahstand V850 strobes in a Lastolite Ezybox II Softbox.  I figured since I was crazy enough to hike all that gear up there, I better darn well use it.

Soon after setting up the lighting, it started to rain and we had to pack up and leave, so we only were able to grab a handful of shots.

Canon 5d mkIII iso 800 1/160 @ f8.0

Canon 5d mkIII iso 800 1/160 @ f8.0

Got some great images, but don't know if I'll be crazy enough to attempt this hike again next time. ;-)

Experiences at the Rolando Gomez 2014 Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop - Day 1

This year marked the 3rd time that photographer Rolando Gomez hosted his Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop in Maui, Hawaii.   Stephanie Dawn was our awesome makeup artist again this year and we had four amazing models to work with - Elizabeth, Brittany, Heather, and Ashley.

Remarkably, I did not run into any major mishaps this time like I did last year, like killing my 85mm f1.2L lens  or my wardrobe malfunction, so I was pretty happy about that.

The morning of our first day of shooting was at Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley.  I shot with Heather in the Japanese garden area of the park.

We positioned our model across the pond in the shade of a tree.

For lighting we used 2 Cheetahstand V850 strobes in a Lastolite Ezybox II Softbox which we set up next to the camera position on the opposite side of the pond, about 15-20 feet away. Because of the distance, the front face of the soft box was removed and both strobes were set to full power.

Most of the images below were shot using a Sony DSC-RX10 which can reliably flash sync up to about 1/1000 without the use of a High Speed Sync mode.  This made it possible to keep detail in the bright sunlit area behind the model for this shot.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 200 1/1000 @ f2.8

The light weight of the RX10 also made it possible to get angles that would normally have been difficult to shoot with a regular DSLR.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 400 1/1000 @ f2.8

In the shot above, in order to get the model's reflection in the water framed between the foreground plants, the camera was handheld at edge of the pond one-handed just barely above the surface of the water.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 200 1/1000 @ f2.8

The second setup was underneath another tree, next to a stone lantern.  Once again the RX10's ability to flash sync at 1/1000 with a manual strobe without losing much flash power made it possible to use flash to illuminate the model while still holding detail in the sunlit areas behind her.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 200 1/1000 @ f2.8

Surrounding the Japanese garden was a low rock wall.  Rolando pointed out that the wall could be used as a leading line in the composition of a photograph.  He directed Heather to stand on the wall next to a tree. The light was positioned on the outside of the wall to camera left.  After Rolando took his shots, I shot a few frames to see what he saw.  

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 200 1/200 @ f2.8

You know, I've been to this park many times before and always stepped over this wall to get to the garden without ever giving it a second thought.  It never occurred to me before to think of it in the way that Rolando explained.  

This is one of the reasons why I keep attending his Maui workshops - I  always learning something new. :-)

I also grabbed a few closeups of Heather before we left the park.  Switched back to using the 5DmkIII and the 85mm f1.2L to get a shallower depth of field than the RX10.

Canon 5dmkIII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/250 @ f1.2

That afternoon the group met up in the lobby of the resort in Kaanapali where the workshop was based at so that we could shoot at sunset on the beach.

While we were waiting for the sun to get lower in the sky before shooting the sunset, I decided to look around to see if there was some good light to shoot in while we were waiting.  The wall outside the lobby made for a nice giant natural reflector.

I asked Brittany to stand in the shaded area on the pathway with her back to the sun and we got some pretty nice results. Used the Canon 5DmkIII and 85mm f1.2 lens to throw the background out of focus.

Canon 5dmkIII 85mm f1.2L iso200 1/8000 @f1.2

There was a nice breeze channeling through the walkway which made for some nice motion in her hair.
Canon 5dmkIII 85mm f1.2L iso200 1/2500 @f2.5

We also experimented with putting objects in the foreground to add more depth to the image.

Canon 5dmkIII 85mm f1.2L iso200 1/2500 @f2.5

Found another spot in front of the resort's entrance, on the opposite side of the main lobby. Since this area was totally in shade, we used 2 Cheetahstand V850 strobes in a Lastolite Ezybox II Softbox to add some direction to the light and give some sparkle in her eyes.

Canon 5dmkIII 85mm f1.2L iso200 1/160 @f1.2

Down on the beach at sunset, we used the same lighting setup for most of our sunset shots.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 80 1/320 @ f4

Never realized how hard it is to capture a wave splash with all four models engaging the camera especially when there are several other shooters all trying to get the same shot at the same time.  ;-)

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 400 1/500 @ f4

For this final shot of the day, we were squeezing the last bit of light out of the sky.  This was long after the sun had gone down behind the horizon.  Light was positioned just out of frame to camera right, feathered off just a bit.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 800 1/20 @ f4

Could have played around more with dragging the shutter to see how much more we could push it, but it was time for dinner.

Stay tuned for Part Two - the Hana waterfall or "How to totally beat yourself into a pulp just to get one shot".

Maui Photoshoot with actress/filmmaker Paige Lauren Billiot

Canon 5DmkII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/800 @ f2.0

Paige Lauren Billiot is an accomplished actress/filmmaker/writer that I was fortunate enough to work with on a short morning photoshoot session on the beach in Wailea.

We were lucky enough to have a full crew on this shoot, thanks to her family whom she drafted who were kind enough to volunteer to assist us with the shoot.  It's always great to have a lot of assistants on a shoot as it makes things go much smoother.

Since we had multiple assistants, we were able to use two California Sunbounce reflectors for most of the day's lighting - a silver/white Sunbounce Pro for the main light and a silver/white Sunbounce mini for edge lighting.

I really need to get around to picking up a white/gold zebra replacement fabric for the Sunbounces as I've been told it can be easier on the subject's eyes than the silver fabric.

Canon 5DmkII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/1200 @ f2.0

But thankfully, Paige was a good sport about it and was able to deal with the silver reflectors.

Having multiple assistants holding the Sunbounce reflectors came in handy for shots like the one below.  This is in full bright sun, with one reflector used to put our model in shadow and the other used to add direction to the light.

Canon 5DmkII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/1600 @ f2.0

Found a spot under the shade of some trees to do some swimsuit shots.  Paige had no problem climbing up trees to get the angles I was looking for.

 Canon 5DmkII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/500 @ f2.8

  Canon 5DmkII 85mm f1.2L II iso 200 1/1600 @ f2.0

We also did a few impromptu "Trash the Dress"- style shots down in the water.  Switched to the Sony RX-10 camera to utilize the higher flash sync speed and used 4 Yongnuo 560 III flashes for fill lighting.

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 100 1/1000@f2.8

 I thought Paige pulled off the look pretty well.  It's not easy to pose in the water in the hot sun with dozens of other people playing on the beach nearby. 

Not kidding - there were people like right next to us, just out of the camera view. ;-)

Sony DSC-RX10 24-200mm f2.8 iso 100 1/1000@f2.8

In spite of the hot summer sun and the crowded beach, It was a lot of fun working with such a talented actress. I'm looking forward to working with her again in the future.

Click on the link to view a trailer for her upcoming short film Alex.

Dona Lyann Photoshoot in Wailea

Canon EOS 5D mkII 70-200L f2.8 IS II lens iso 200 1/160@f8

I recently had the chance to work with professional bodybuilder Dona Lyann whom I met through Model Mayhem. This was a short sunset session we did on the beach in Wailea.

Canon EOS 5D mkII 70-200L f2.8 IS II lens iso 200 1/250@f2.8

We started off at Polo Beach Park, using a silver California Sunbounce Pro reflector to work with the existing light for the first few looks.

Canon EOS 5D mkII 70-200L f2.8 IS II lens iso 400 1/2000@f2.8

For sunset we switched to using two Cheetahstand V850s firing into a Lastolite Ezybox II Medium Octa. I also switched to using the Sony RX10 as it allowed manual flash sync at 1/1000 as opposed to the Canon EOS 5DmkII which only syncs up to 1/200.

 Using just one light and positioning it about 45 degrees off-camera axis lets the light rake across the model's front, adding definition to her abs. The light also really lit up the fabric quite nicely when Dona was able to catch some wind in it.

Sony RX10 24-200 f2.8 1/1000@f2.8

Bodybuilders are always fun to photograph because you can play around with light and shadow to really show off the muscle tones.  I think next time I'll see if there's a bodybuilder interested in doing a Conan the Barbarian themed shoot. :-)

2014 Rolando Gomez Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Photography Workshop in Maui, Hawaii

The 2014 Rolando Gomez Glamour, Beauty & The Nude workshop in Maui, Hawaii has wrapped and it was a blast to attend.  Four amazing models from all across the US flew in to experience life on Maui.  For 4 days we traveled around Maui, shooting in Iao Valley, at the waterfalls in Hana, and on the beaches of Kaanapali.

I'll be detailing some of the specific shoots in several upcoming blogposts, but for now here's a brief behind the scenes video.  This was shot mainly handheld with a Sony RX10 camera, with a couple of shots assisted by a Varizoom Stealthy Stabilizer Pro

Little Beach Photoshoot with LakeGirl

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/2000@f4.0

For our first photoshoot of 2014 back in January, I had the opportunity to collaborate with LakeGirl, a model I met through Model Mayhem.  This was a short swimwear photo session we did in the morning at Little Beach in Makena with the assistance of her husband Luke. The swimwear was provided by Wicked Weasel.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/2500@f4.0

The parking lot was empty as we were the first ones to the beach that morning, and the sun was just starting to peek out from behind the clouds. We started our shoot at the top of the cliff that separates Big Beach and Little Beach, where we attempted to capture some of the early morning light in the background.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso200 1/500@f4.5

To light her up against the morning sky we used a Canon 580EX flash triggered with the Phottix Odin.  A silver California Sunbounce Pro was held just out of the right of the frame to bounce back some of the flash to fill in the shadows.

We next headed down to a lava rock area away from the beach.  This location gave us some nice clear views of the horizon as well as some spots where the waves would crash and give us some nice effects.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/1000@f4.0

Once the sun got high enough in the sky to shine down on the spot we were shooting in, our lighting for the rest of the day's shoot was mainly the morning sun filled in with the silver California Sunbounce Pro.

Tried a few other shots like below where she was lying down on the rocks, but we were getting hotspots from the sun on the upper part of her body.  If we had a 2nd assistant available for the shoot, we could have held a scrim over her to block that out. Instead, we moved her closer to a spot in the shade.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 85mm f1.8 iso320 1/1250@f2.8

Little Beach is actually a really nice location to shoot at.  Gonna have to think about shooting here more often.  Nice variations in scenery to use.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/2500@f4.0

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/1250@f5.6

There was a spot on the rocks that we would get some really nice and large wave splashes, so we positioned our model right at the edge and waited.

For some reason while we were shooting, the paddle boarders and boats in the background seemed to congregate right behind us. . .

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/2500@f4.0

So it took us a while to get the shots we wanted without the background distractions.  But it was worth the wait.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso320 1/1600@f4.0

We moved to the sand and did a few more shots with the black bikini, being careful to hide the growing number of nude beach-goers in the background.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso200 1/3200@f4.0

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso200 1/1250@f4.5

To finish up, I had Luke join her in the water for an impromptu couples shot.

Canon EOS 5DmkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso200 1/2000@f4.0

Loved working with these two! Thanks you guys for making the first shoot of 2014 so much fun!

Glamour, Beauty & The Nude 2014 Maui Photo Workshop

Final highlight video from the 2013 Maui Beauty Glamour & The Nude Workshop:

If you're a photographer planning a trip to Maui this June, I highly recommend signing up for the next Maui Glamour, Beauty & The Nude photography workshop with Rolando Gomez to be held June 5-10, 2014 in the Lahaina/Kaanapali area.  Not only is it a great learning experience, you also get to work with amazing world-class models that will do wonders for your portfolio.

Rolando's work has appeared in publications worldwide including Rangefinder Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Maxim, & Playboy.  He has authored books on social media and photography and has presented many times at photography conventions such as PhotoPlus Expo. It is very rare to have photography instructors of this level come all the way to Maui to teach a workshop.

Instead of a classroom setting, this is a hands-on workshop with 3 full days of intensive shooting plus an optional 4th day devoted to private shoots. Since the workshop size is limited to just a handful of photographers, as opposed to much larger group, it's much easier to ask and get answers to questions you may have about photography and lighting.

The models that Rolando brings to his workshops are professional, very experienced and always willing to help you create great shots.  This is especially helpful if you are just starting out shooting models and have difficulty coming up with ideas or poses on your own.

The workshop is also supported by one of the top makeup artists in the country and an amazing assistant who goes above and beyond the call of duty on every shoot.

During last summer's workshop we shot all around the island, including Iao Valley, Lahaina/Kaanapali, and Hana. You can read about those experiences in the following posts:

Maui Workshop Day 1
Maui Workshop Day 2
Maui Workshop Day 3
Maui Workshop Day 4

Had a blast with Rolando and his team last year and can't wait for this summer. If you want to jumpstart your portfolio with great images with professional models, this is a workshop you definitely  don't want to miss out on.

There is currently a limited time $1000 early bird discount that you can take advantage of.
Visit rolandogomez.net to sign up for this upcoming workshop.

DIY Spider Holster alternative for the Canon XA-10 camcorder

Found this at Home Depot the other day and thought it might work for my small video camera, the Canon XA-10. It's similar to the Spider Holster system that I use for my still cameras, except that it uses ball bungies instead of a screw-in plate.

The short ball bungie fits around the handle of the XA-10 and can be tightened by pushing down on a plastic collar.

The holster clips onto your belt.  The backing is rubberized so it won't easily slip off your belt.

Drop the ball end of the cord into the holster and you're good to go. Unlike the Spider Holster system,  there is no locking mechanism (what do you expect for less than $10?).  As long as you aren't jumping up and down or anything, you should be fine.

Makes it easy for you to quickly get your hands free when you need to. I've been using this on both my Canon XA10 and XF100 camcorders for this wedding season and it's been working out great. 

Mai Mao Photoshoot in Makena

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso100 1/1000@f1.8

One of the things I've had on the back burner for a while is the creation of a 写真集 (shashinshū), or Japanese photo-book. I've been continually postponing working on this project mainly for two reasons - the cost of producing a high quality book and the difficulty in finding the right model.  It was only late last year, after a fellow photographer showed me a book he had done through MyPublisher, that I decided to finally start seriously working on making the photo-book.

Although I've attended a few glamour nude workshops in the past, I haven't had that much actual real world experience with shooting nudes.  Therefore for this project I wanted to sort of step out of my comfort zone this time and challenge myself to create a book that mixed in a variety of images - lifestyle, swimwear, lingerie, & nude/implied nude.

To do so meant finding a model that was both comfortable shooting nudes, and who I could rely on for coming up with a variety of poses on her own with little direction from me.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/2000@f1.8

I came across a travel notice on Model Mayhem which put me in contact with Mai Mao, a model who happened to be vacationing in Maui for a few days in December.  Luckily our schedules worked out and I was able to book her for this project.

Normally I prefer to work with a team, especially if the shoot involves partial or full nudity.  Because this shoot was put together on a relatively short notice however, I wasn't able to get a makeup artist and assistant this time.  Flying solo on this one meant keeping the lighting gear relatively small and quick to setup and break down.

We started in the morning on North Maluaka Beach in Makena, getting in a few lifestyle and swimwear shots. I kept her back to the sun and shot most of these with natural light.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/800@f2.8

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso100 1/640@f2.8

It would have been nice to get a few implied nudes on the beach, but since there were several tourists nearby, we chose not to take that chance.  Instead, I had her drop the shoulder straps of her swimsuit  top and just framed the shot in tight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso400 1/60@f5.6

To add a little highlight to her hair, I positioned a 580EX with a CTO gel on a light stand behind her.

While we were shooting, Mai pointed out an aerial camera drone flying overhead. Whoever the pilot was seemed to be VERY interested in what we were doing, as the drone circled over our location a few times including once when the model was changing outfits.

As I didn't have anything to take down the drone with at the time (I had left my spare rocket launcher at home since the darn things are just too big to fit into camera bags these days), we cut our beach session short and headed to the model's hotel room to continue the shoot.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.2L II iso200 1/200@f2.8

This was actually the first time I've shot in a hotel room.  For weddings I've shot bridal preps in hotel rooms before, but lighting and shooting a glamour session was a different animal.  Mainly because there's not a whole lot of room to set up  bunch of light stands and soft boxes.

We made use of the existing light as much as possible.  The morning light coming in from the balcony acted as our main light for most of the shots.  For backlighting, we used a Westcott Apollo Strip Softbox with a Yongnuo 560III flash triggered with the YN-603 radio triggers.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso200 1/200@f2.8

The same Westcott Apollo Strip Softbox setup was used here on the bed for fill lighting. The main light was still the window light.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso800 1/100@f2.8

Tulle netting was used to wrap the model for a few shots.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 50mm f1.4 iso400 1/160@f2.8

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 85mm f1.8 iso400 1/160@f2.8

We also shot in the opposite direction, switching to the Westcott Apollo Orb softbox as the main and the window light as her backlight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 50mm f1.4 iso800 1/160@f3.2

At the end of the session, I reviewed the shots we had and figured that I had about 75% of the images needed for the planned layout of the book.  Mai agreed to a second shorter session on another day to help me get the rest of the images I would need.

Our second shoot took place at a different hotel.  Since this room did not have as much natural window light as the previous one, we used two Yongnuo 560 III flashes, one in the Westcott Apollo Orb for the main light, and one in the Westcott Apollo Strip for back/hairlight.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/80@f5.6

For this hallway shot, the Apollo Orb was to camera right as the main light. At first, I put the 2nd flash without a soft box back up against the door to rim light the model, but it looked too unnatural.  I ended up putting the strip soft box back on the flash and positioning it in the bathroom off to the left of the hallway behind the model. It took a few tries of moving the  2nd light back far enough into the bathroom so that the light would not flare back into the camera lens but still rim light the model.

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/160@f5.6

Canon EOS 5Dmk II 24-70mm f2.8L iso400 1/160@f5.6

Overall the final printed book came out pretty good (for a first attempt). Sent a copy to Mai as well.

I wish MyPublisher offered different formats of books, like a portrait oriented one instead of the landscape oriented version you see above.  Will keep researching for the next book project.

Coloring backgrounds with gelled strobes

During a recent photoshoot at Kepaniwai Park in Iao Valley with local model Natily Taylor, I wanted to see if we could create some interesting headshots using flash.  Our setting was in a large banyan tree in the middle of the park.

Two Canon 580ex flashes were used for the shot.  The main 580ex was modified with a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe softbox.

The second 580ex was gelled with a CTO gel and Justin Clamped to part of the tree just behind the model.  To spread the light out as much as possible to light both the background and the model's hair, the flash was zoomed out to its widest setting and the diffuser panel pulled over the gel.

Both flashes were set to manual mode, and triggered with Cactus v5 radio triggers.

This is what the tree looked like before we set up the strobes:

And this is the result:

 Canon 5D mkII 70-200 f2.8L IS II lens iso 800 1/100 @ f2.8

In the future, I'll have to remember to experiment with other colors of gels (like blue or green) Or maybe even mixing different colors.

Off-Camera Flash Radio Triggers - the Phottix Odin System

In order to overcome the line of sight limitation that Canon's wireless infrared flash systems have, I have tried almost every radio trigger that exists on the market for off-camera flash control.  Each one that I've tried has had their ups and downs, and in my opinion, no one company ever really "got it right". That is until I heard about these - the Phottix Odin system.

Before I get into these, here's a brief overview of what I've used in the past.

RadioPoppers were the first ones to come out on the market with their solution, which took the electromagnetic signal that the Canon flashes made and converted it to radio waves. It was ingenious at the time.  I went through the first version of those, where you literally had to take a fiber optic cable from the RadioPopper receiver and tape it over the IR receiver of the slave flash.

The next version (pictured above) eliminated the fiber optic and allowed you to mount the receiver directly to the flash.  First with velcro applied directly to the flash, then they later came out with plastic brackets which could hold both the receiver and the flash.

One problem I encountered with the RadioPoppers was that the plastic bracket was so fragile near the hotshoe mount, that you literally had to treat it like glass.  I understand that it's intentionally made that way so that the bracket breaks instead of your more expensive flash.  But I broke several of the plastic mounts within a single year of normal use.

In the above photo you'll notice the pieces of foam rubber - that is the part of the bracket that presses up against the front of the flash unit.  The IR signal passes through that little donut shaped piece.  Being in Hawaii and shooting under the hot sun most of the time, I've run into issues with the glue melting and the rubber pieces sliding around and obscuring the IR signal.

It also took a while to find a way to conveniently store these things in my camera bag without damaging them.  Storing them attached to the flash was not an option because it added a lot of bulk to each flash (and that's also how I broke two of the brackets).  I ended up storing them separately in a small Pelican hardshell case, which was really bulky and took up a lot of space in my camera bag.

The second problem I had with that system was no fault of RadioPopper - it was due to Canon's way of controlling off camera flash - the icon-based lcd interface on the back of the flash just was not intuitive for me to use when I wanted to quickly adjust a remote flash on the fly.

I next decided to go all manual on my remote flashes and picked up a set of Cactus V transceivers.

I really liked using these.  Very simple to use, because all they do is fire the remote flashes.  No TTL, no HSS (High Speed Sync), just plain vanilla remote triggers.

You set each remote flash to manual and if you want to adjust the power levels on each flash, you have to do so on the flash itself.  No remote controlling power levels from the camera.

Very rugged too.  Metal foot and a 1/4-20 mount.

Each Cactus unit is a transceiver, so they can be set to either be a transmitter or receiver by sliding a small switch on the side.

A dial on the other side lets you easily select between 16 channels, although the numbers are so small it is hard for me to see them in low light sometimes (old eyes).

I then heard about the Pocket Wizard Flex system. At first it sounded like someone had created the perfect solution. Small transmitter that sits on the camera hotshoe, full ETTL/HSS, etc.  Does everything the RadioPoppers do, but without the hassle of plastic brackets.  Just mount the Flex TT1 onto your camera, put a flash into the hotshoe of the Flex TT1 as your controller and another flash onto the TT5 for your off camera flash and go to work. Simple, right?

So I bought them.  And then the headaches began.

At first it seemed ok.  The units have a metal hotshoe on top, but plastic on the bottom. On the very first shoot I tried it out on, the plastic foot on the TT1 transmitter broke and I had to order replacement feet for it.  Having a heavy flash like the 580EX II on top of the TT1 just would not hold up to the rigors of run and gun shooting like at a wedding or event.

Then there were issues with it not firing during a wedding shoot.  It would work fine when we were setting up everything and testing, but when it came time to use it, there would always be the random misfire where it would dump the full power of the flash and nuke everybody, or it would not fire at all.

When the Pocket Wizard Flex system first came out, there were also issues with radio interference from the 580EX and EXII flashes (the old 550ex flashes have no issues), so Pocket Wizard came out with RF shields. You could purchase a hard shell version (which in their brilliant design did not allow access to the external power port of the flash unit - if you wanted to plug in an external battery pack to your flash, you are SOL.) or you could use the soft version which they included in the box with each Flex TT5.

You had to mount a small riser into the hotshoe of the Flex TT5, then mount your flash onto the riser, then put the saggy condom RF Shield over the flash and make sure it covered the flash and the riser.

Pocket Wizard people ------ seriously?!??!? WTF

Even after doing all that, there would always be the occasional misfire during a shoot.

If you didn't want to go that route, Pocket Wizard had other suggestions, such as using an off-camera camera cord to separate the TT5 from the flash by a few feet so that there would be less interference. While that kind of worked, it still would misfire and defeated the idea of a simple, uncomplicated off-camera flash solution.  The more and more things you add to the chain - risers, RF shields, off-camera shoe cords, the more there is to troubleshoot when things go wrong. And troubleshooting gear is not something you want to be doing during a photoshoot.

The only saving grace that the Pocket Wizard Flex had, and the reason I didn't smash them to pieces out of frustration, is that they work fine with the Alien Bees strobes.

With the addition of the AC9 adapter and the AC3 controller, this system lets you remotely adjust the power of up to 3 groups of Alien Bee/White Lightning strobes.

Canon did finally upgrade their flashes recently to the new 600EX-RT series, which incorporates built in radio control. They also upgraded the ST transmitter to make it more intuitive to control your off camera flashes.  I will upgrade to those eventually, but for now to stay within budget, I needed to find a system to work with my existing 580EX and 580EXII flashes.

That's where the Phottix Odin system comes in:

This allowed me to take this whole Pocket Wizard Flex system mess in my camera bag:

And replace it with this:

I was literally able to take these right out of the box, put the batteries in, and put them to use immediately on a shoot.  No reading a manual & no updating the firmware (there is a usb port on these to allow for firmware updates but none were needed for the camera I was using).

The system is so intuitive and easy to use that I have been kicking myself for not getting this earlier.

The Phottix Odins are 100% compatible with the Canon flash system - this means ETTL, High Speed Sync, 2nd curtain, modeling lights, remote power control in Manual or TTL, and remote zoom control are all available to the user from the transmitter unit on the camera.

 I have had ZERO misfires with this system. ZERO interference issues. IT JUST FREAKIN WORKS.

Photographer Gary Fong goes more into depth on the Phottix Odin system in this video I came across on YouTube:

He has a lot of other video tutorials and reviews that are really worth checking out.

With all the money I spent on assorted radio triggers in the past, I know I could have just saved it and waited for Canon's 600ex series flash system [sigh].  But after having the Phottix Odins perform flawlessly on my last few photoshoots as well as my weddings this past summer, I'm pretty sure I'll be sticking with them for quite a while.