The Digital Photo Guy

A Day in the Life of Wickenburg

by on Nov.23, 2014, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Topaz Labs

Photographs from Around Town

The Wickenburg Photography Group promoted an event to create photographs showing life in and around Wickenburg. For my part, I made arrangements to photograph at Date Creek Ranch, a working ranch where Mary & I get our beef and pork. Four intrepid photographers from Prescott, Sun City West and Goodyear joined me at Oh-Dark-Thirty. Fortunately, there was a cloud cover so the morning temps were around 45F instead of the 32F it had been the day before. Here are a few of my favorites from the shoot.

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Chaparral Moves Into New Location

Chaparral Homemade Ice Cream, a real Wickenburg success story, has moved out of it’s historic but crumbling building to a spiffy new location right off the busy highway leading into town from the south. Doubly cool, it’s now located in the same plaza as the Arizona MVD so people renewing drivers’ licenses or registrations can calm their nerves afterwards with a sweet treat at Chaparral. Tony & Pam Rovida are among the hardest working people I’ve ever met and I wish them huge success in this new store.

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The shelves are still a bit sparse since they’re not yet officially open but they were kind enough to stock the display case and soda barrel for my photos of A Day in the Life of Wickenburg. Marah is the cute cashier who was one of my first models in Wickenburg.

All the photos on this post were made with a Canon 5D MkII and Canon 24-105/4L IS. Although I carry the Canon EOS-M mirrorless 98% of the time, I still find myself grabbing the 5D MkII when heading out to a shoot. It never fails me except when I screw up which is often. All photos were processed in Adobe Lightroom 4. I have a few more that I’ll post after PP in Topaz Labs Adjust.

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Lights, Lighting and the Never-Ending Quest

by on Nov.19, 2014, under Articles, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Alyssa Caitlain, Round 3!

Last night, I sat in on a studio lighting workshop at Tempe Studios in Tempe, AZ. It’s 70 miles from home and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make the drive but it was well worth it. First off, unknown to me, the model for the workshop was Alyssa Caitlain. Until two months ago, I had never met Alyssa. Now, suddenly, I’ve photographed her three times and I’ll work with her again on November 29. She is the sweetest, nicest natural talent I’ve met in ages.

As much as I enjoyed making great photos of Alyssa, what I learned (actually relearned) was amazing. Learning is a bit like building a house. Sometimes, the roofing materials arrive before the walls are up so it sits there unused until the walls are in place. In learning, sometimes, we learn something that can’t be used because the underlying foundation isn’t yet in place.

I’ve taken enough workshops, read enough books and watched enough videos to know most of the moving pieces in flash photography. I’ve made enough flash photos to know how the parts fit together. Yet, in the workshop, I was  flummoxed by some nasty problems that I had read about but never experienced. Here’s an extreme example.

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Notice the dark bar along the right side of the frame? That’s the bottom of the frame because I’m holding the camera in portrait mode. The dark bar is caused by the flash not keeping up with the shutter speed. In other words, the shutter curtain was already closing by the time the flash fired. When the shutter speed is too fast, the top and bottom are moving at the same time, causing the edge to be covered when the flash fires.

As soon as I noticed this, I assumed the 1/200 max flash sync on my Canon 5D MkII was not as fast as the specs called for so I dialed it back to 1/160, a 1/3 stop reduction. That created the 2nd image. Close but no cigar. There was still a noticeable dark band along the bottom. After scratching my head, I decided to ignore it for the moment since I was there for lighting techniques and camera problems were low on the list of priorities.

After thinking about it, I suddenly realized the big, honkin’ studio strobe was taking too long to reach peak power. That along with the wireless trigger induced delay was what caused the dark stripe. Sure enough, I went to The Strobist my “go to” site for all things flash and found an article that exactly explained my problem.

You may never run into this problem but, if you do, I hope you’ll have this article lying about among all your building blocks of photographic knowledge. Better still, try some tests with your Speedlite (SpeedLight to you Nikonians) and see if the spec sync speed is real on your dSLR.

The last photo is simply to show you that I did manage to make some good photos of Alyssa. As one of the guys said, “We need to photograph ugly models to see if we’re really any good.” It’s impossible to make a bad photo of Alyssa.

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Good Golly, Miss Molly, I Forgot These

by on Nov.18, 2014, under Articles, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Wickenburg Fly-In Photos

Last month there was a fly-in at the Wickenburg Municipal Airport (Betcha didn’t know podunk USA had its own airport!) I don’t know the final numbers but there were approximately 40 aircraft and 70 classic cars at the airport. The weather was a bit hazy but, overall, I was impressed that so much was on display. I wish I had thought to take a photo of all the planes on the tarmac.

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I was told (unconfirmed) the old WWII fighter (Avenger?) costs ~$400 just fire up and prep for flight. Then it cost another ~$400 per hour to fly. I thought photography was expensive! All the photos were made with either a Canon 5D MkII or the EOS-M Mirrorless and processed in Lightroom 4. Editing was limited to crop, levels, WB and sharpen. Sorry for the sorry composition but I know next to nothing about airplanes so I grabbed what I saw without much regard to making it “pretty.”

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Something a Bit Titillating

by on Nov.17, 2014, under Articles, Composition, gear, Monday Morning Tips, Workshops

WARNING! Scantily Clad Women

I added the photos at the end in case you’re viewing this with your kids/grandkids. None of the photos are anywhere close to pornographic or even mildly risque. In fact, my wife says the images are about what one would see at the mall or any high school or college campus.

This past weekend I participated in the Fall 2014 Arizona Shootout (aka, AZSO.) It was conducted at Robson’s Mining World, a tourist “ghost town” about 30 miles west Wickenburg. The organizers rented the whole town for the weekend so 30 glamour models and 45 photographers could make photos ranging from mildly titillating to full frontal nudity. None of it was the least bit offensive but, of course, offense is in the eyes of the beholder.

With so many possible combinations and permutations of models and photographers, the whole event quickly devolved from chaos to utter chaos. I’m amazed how many great photos were made. Since I wasn’t sure of what to expect, I only signed up for Saturday but went back on Sunday to help a new friend Jerry (link is Not Safe for Work.) I know it’s difficult to believe but Jerry and I spent a lot of time talking about his new studio strobes (Neewer 180W,) the huge umbrella and various posing tips. All this while surrounded by gorgeous women in various stages of undress. Actually, most of the women simply walked from one set to the next in the buff because, as one explained to me, “It’s too much trouble to dress, walk 30 feet and undress!”

OK, I’m running out filler to push the women to the 2nd page so I’m gonna throw in another ad for my Winnebago View motorhome built on a Mercedes Sprinter diesel chassis. You can see all the photos on Craigslist but, for the totally lazy, here are some pics for your edification. Notice the cool places we’ve been with Arbey the RV. We always had our own bathroom, bed, kitchen and solar power.

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On to the AZSO Photos

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The first two are Brianna during a workshop conducted by Dan Howell, a multi-talented NYC photographer. This is his general website but if you Google his name you’ll find other sites where he showcases glamour, wedding fashion, tattoos, kids, corporate advertising and portraits. The first shows my interpretation of a setup by Dan. His setup (2nd photo) was too busy for me so I made one that had a clean, simple background. There were no lights on any of these photos, just reflectors.

Speaking of reflectors, I always thought of them as pretty basic tools but discovered a multitude of uses for this type of shoot. I especially loved how my Photoflex soft gold reflector warmed up all skin tones from dark through alabaster.

You’ll notice on the 3rd photo that I’m still not watching out for glamour issues such as the roll of skin under Amelia’s right arm. Trust me, she doesn’t have a roll, it’s only because of the contorted position I asked her hold. Chrissy, on the other hand, looked great in both the 3rd and 4th shots. Notice the diagonal boards behind Elizabeth? I made a real newbie error in later shots and had that sticking out of the top of her head. What a dummy! Gwen is a very intelligent lady who has a Euro look to her. She’s actually a fine art model and does glamour for a bit of fun. We talked about a possible workshop in San Diego next year. I think she would be a hit at the Deer Park Winery and Auto Museum in Escondido. It’ll be a small workshop of 4-6 photographers so let me know if you’re interested.

I’m thinking of posting some of the more risque photos in a hidden, password protected folder. If I do, I’ll let you know in a future post and you can e-mail me for the URL and PW. The e-mail will be your consent to view those photos.

One Spot Open for Alyssa Caitlain Junkyard Shoot

On Saturday, 11/29 from 8AM to noon, we’re photographing Alyssa Caitlain at a huge junkyard. There’s just one spot left so if you’re interested, send me $75 via PayPal. This is strictly a break-even proposition for me, I’m not making money, just organizing the shoot. Alyssa will be doing a bikini against a row of truck tailgates for a concept I’ve had for several years called “Arizona Surfer Chick.” Next, we’ll have her in an LBD (little black cocktail dress) complete with pumps, seamed stockings w/garter and a tiny patent leather clutch as she steps into an old junker limo. Finally, if we have time, we’ll ask her to change into pin-up/rockabilly style. It should be a great time and a super learning opportunity.


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It’s Been a Busy 6 Weeks

by on Nov.12, 2014, under Monday Morning Tips

Weather in Eastern Sierra Was Boring So…

We went to Whitewater Draw, AZ and San Antonio, NM to photograph (nonexistent) sandhill cranes. Leading up to Oct 15, weather forecasts for the Eastern Sierra called for endless days of clear, blue sky with temps between 70F-80F. Since my Fall trip is an opportunity to catch early snow in the mountains, these conditions weren’t exactly conducive to snowfall and angry skies.

So, we headed for Whitewater Draw, just outside Douglas, AZ to check out the sandhill cranes. The weather in southern AZ was the same, 70F-80F under clear blue skies and only a few thousand cranes had arrived. To further complicate matters, a local told me the water in the draw was the highest he’s seen in 11 years. With so much water and so few cranes there’s more room for the cranes to loaf on the west side of the main containment pond which means they’re further away than usual. My 300/2.8 with a 2x TC for an effective 600/5.6 just barely picked up details. Not very satisfying. I’m going back in December in hopes that more cranes will have arrived, crowding some to the east side.

However, all was not lost. T the Cat enjoyed his new collapsible, portable “catio.” Also, before we got to Whitewater Draw, we spent a few fun hours (and dollars) in Bisbee, AZ, an island of hippie-dippee, liberal-leaning Blue surrounded by the sea of Arizona Red. As usual, we stocked up on olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Bisbee Olive Oil. They also have a new store that stocks hot spices and steak rubs. I couldn’t resist and picked up a bottle of Bull S**t, a spicy seasoning rub guaranteed to “kick it up” a notch or two. Normally, I never put anything on my steaks except salt & pepper but since we started buying grass fed beef from a local ranch, I’ve found that rubs can help bring out the natural flavor. Unbeknownst to us, we got there on the day of The Bisbee Great Stair Climb, a crazy foot race up and down 1000 stairs located throughout town. This was the most people we’d ever seen in Bisbee at one time. The photo of the north end of town was after the event so everyone is in a bar, sucking down cervezas.

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Onward to Deming and San Antonio, NM

From Whitewater Draw, we took a leisurely drive along US Rt 80 and New Mexico SR 9 to Deming, NM where we had the steering stabilizer checked out by Steer Safe. If you drive an RV or any large vehicle that tends to “wander” across the lane, SS is the answer. When I ordered it, they sent it without advance payment with a note that said, “If you like it, send us $375, if not, send it back.” Talk about business on a handshake!

We then meandered our way to San Antonio, NM to check out the sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache. Someone forgot to tell the birds because there weren’t any, not just sandhills but ANY birds. We drove around Bosque but the only living things we saw were other tourists. However, we found an incredible camping site on BLM land just west of San Antonio. It’s only about 3 miles from the freeway but it may as well be 100 miles because it’s so quiet and isolated.

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So far, the photography had been a bust but we were having a great time. We also managed to eat green chili cheeseburgers at the two competing joints in San Antonio, The Owl and The Buckhorn Tavern. In the end, we determined that both were just OK but nothing to write home about. When we’re in the area in the future, we might eat at one or the other again but they certainly aren’t high on our list of Culinary Delights on the Road Award.

Speaking of Culinary Delights…

We made our way back to AZ along US Rt 60 from Socorro, NM to Globe, AZ. Eighty three point three miles due west of Socorro we passed through Pie Town, NM. As one might suspect, there are pie shops in Pie Town. The Pie Town Cafe was closed so we opted for the Pie-O-Neer. The pies were so good, we stayed overnight at the town RV park across the highway so we could go back the next day and I’m not really a pie guy! They also served green chili pork stew that was amazing. I was certain it was homemade but they just laughed and said they buy it frozen by the gallon from a place in Albuquerque. I got them to sell me a gallon and it’s still sitting in my freezer while I try to figure out how to cut it into 6 or 8 chunks since I can’t eat a gallon at one sitting.

Along the way to Pie Town, we stopped at VLA (Very Large Array,) a government installation that just looks like they’re doing something nefarious. It has huge radio telescope antennae and was the location for many sci-fi movies. The best thing was the herd of pronghorn antelope that gave us the once over as we left.

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On the Way Home, We Took Stupid Pills

We saw an ad for a 30′ Winnebago Vista Class A motorhome in Surprise, AZ. Since we were driving right by, we stopped to look. To make a long story short, we bought it. Now, we own two motorhomes and we’re very motivated to sell the 2006 Winnebago View 24′ Class C built on a Mercedes Sprinter 3500 chassis. That’s the RV you’ve seen in previous photos of our trips. If you know of anyone looking for a clean, well maintained 24′ RV, PLEASE point them to my Craigslist ad. The new Vista photos are below. I didn’t make these photos but I felt justified copying them from the original ad because the rig is now ours.

The cool thing about this rig, other than the extra 6′ of space is that it has two opposing slides in the middle of the unit so the living area is much larger. The downside to this rig is 8mpg vs 17mpg in our View. Everything is a trade-off and we hope we made the right decision.

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