The Digital Photo Guy

Art Nudes in Sedona

by on Jan.26, 2016, under Articles, Monday Morning Tips

A Different Kind of Nude Shoot

In December 2015, I was in Sedona to make a presentation to the Sedona Camera Club (SCC.) At the meeting, I met Bonnie Miller, a local wedding photographer and irrepressible soul. During our conversation, the topic of art nudes came up and Bonnie was all over it. She and a few other members had been trying to organize such a shoot. I offered to help if she found a studio and other interested parties.

After a few false starts, we pulled together a shoot at the Sedona Art Center Art Barn, a large meeting room behind the main Art Center this past Friday, 1/22. I didn’t know what to expect since this was the first time the other six photographers had participated in a nude shoot and four of the five models were new to nude modeling. My fears were unfounded as everyone (5 models, 7 photographers and 1 cat herder) got into the spirit and created some amazing art.

I haven’t yet processed all my images but here are a few to give you an idea of what I captured. All photos were made with a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 24-105/4L IS lens. Postprocessing was in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6. Initial starting point was LR B&W Filter Presets, Red Hi-Contrast Filter. For lighting, I used my new BFF, two Yongnuo YN-685C in an Impact Luxbanx 12″x36″ Strip Box. My only boo-boo was failing to set up a hairlight for M’s beautiful hair.

M_bodyscape-101   M_final-112

Z_bodyscape-102   Z_bodyscape-101

A_bodyscape-101   A_bodyscape-102

None of these three models have ever modeled nude before. Yet, they were all so enthusiastic and fearless that I would never have known that. The top two are M, a young lady of Mexican heritage with an Egyptian name (I didn’t ask how that happened.) It wasn’t until later that I noticed her long, gorgeous legs. I plan to engage her for a future shoot where I can feature and emphasize her legs.

The next two are Z, a bubbly, fun woman of indeterminate age (she has grown children) who, after seeing my BW bodyscapes, rushed up to me and exclaimed, “I love your work!” Z is of Czech ethnicity and she lives in the moment. A published author and belly dancer, Z wants to participate in a future project I’m designing about women of different ages.

The last two are A, a strong, fearless young woman of Asian descent who has hitchhiked across the country by herself and sports a Burning Man “brand.” Thinking the tattoo-like brand on her hip was simply a henna or ink creation, I asked, “Is that temporary? She casually replied, “No, they used a blow torch and branding iron.” I nearly dropped my camera in shock. I have more of A and I hope to work again with her in the future.

Stay tuned for more photos from the shoot. There are also photos of Cayleigh, the only professional model of the bunch. Cayleigh was terrific, not only as a model but also, as a mentor to the other models. She offered them tips and helped them express themselves. The last model was K who was still a bit shy and wasn’t sure she wanted her photos posted online. We agreed we could work together in the future when she’s more comfortable.

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Canon 300/2.8L IS: The Best Little Big Gun

by on Jan.15, 2016, under Articles, gear, Monday Morning Tips

All Good Things Must Come to an End

With heavy heart, I announce my favorite “Little Big Gun,” the Canon 300/2.8L IS USM is on the block. Why do I call it a “Little Big Gun?” While Canon defines supertelephoto lenses as 400mm or longer, the 300/2.8 is so sharp that it can easily be extended to 420/4 with a Canon TC1.4 teleconvertor or, even, 600/5.6 using the TC 2.0. At a svelte 5.6 pounds, the 300/2.8 is eminently handhold-able for bird-on-wing or running critter shots. I used it for birds, critters, sports and glamour photography.

This is the original design with a date code UU0916 meaning it was manufactured in Sep 2006. It is also a USA model, not a “gray market” unit. This lens comes with everything that was included from the factory including lens hood, leather lens cover, carrying strap, trunk w/ keys, user manual and original shipping box with styrofoam inserts. Most 300/2.8L IS lens hoods are missing or scratched, dented, cracked or otherwise damaged. All the others I’ve seen for sale have dings, scratches, marks or dents on the magnesium and titanium body. I’ll just let the photos below speak for themselves as to how well this lens has been maintained.

Left side w/hood   Left side, Control Panel   300-2.8-4   300-2.8-5 300-2.8-9   300-2.8-6   300-2.8-16   300-2.8-15   300-2.8-14   300-2.8-13   300-2.8-7   300-2.8-8   300-2.8-12   300-2.8-11   300-2.8-10300-2.8-17

For the photos of the front and rear elements, I used a flash in Multi Mode to evenly illuminate the entire area. That’s what created the odd reflection patterns. These photos cover every inch of the lens. Let me know if you want other photos.

The ballhead visible in some of the above product photos is NOT included in the sale. The Markins Arca-Swiss compatible mounting plate, PL-75 IS included ($55 value.)

The price is $4100 plus USPA Priority Shipping with insurance. Cash is king. Cashier’s check drawn at your bank in my presence is next best. For out of area buyers, four USPS Money Orders for $1000 each plus $100 cash. The lens will ship as soon as USPS validates the Money Orders.

An Amazing Service Experience

Cullmann-1   Cullmann-2

About 8 years ago, at PMA (Photo Marketing Association,) I bought a Cullmann Magnesit 30Nm Ballhead #40190 (love those German product names!) It was a good ballhead but not in the same league as my Markins which cost twice as much. Over the years, it sat on my small Gitzo 1228 and served as my travel tripod.

Recently, I needed the Cullmann for a specific project and discovered the friction control had frozen. This control sets the amount of “drag” so the camera doesn’t flop around when the main locking knob is released. This isn’t a major hassle but something I wanted to fix.

I sent  Cullmann an e-mail asking if I could still buy parts for this ballhead. To my surprise I received a reply almost immediately from Marion Derbali, a real human being at Cullmann, offering to send a FREE part. To say I nearly fell out of my chair is an understatement.

Within days, an envelope arrived from Cullmann, the friction control is working better than ever (they had improved upon the old design) and I was happy as a pig in slop! This is what I call service above and beyond.

If you’re in the market for a new tripod, ballhead or other support devices, Cullmann products are carried by B&H and Adorama.

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A Flash of Inspiration

by on Jan.11, 2016, under gear, Monday Morning Tips

More Great Yongnuo Products

A while back, I wrote about my love affair with Yongnuo YN-622C-TX Canon E-TTL compatible triggers and YN-622C transceivers. Back in July 2015, Yongnuo announced a new flash, the YN-685C (for Canon) with an integrated YN-622C. In other words, the 622C transceiver is built into the flash. It wasn’t yet shipping and I had enough doubts about Chinese knock-offs so I didn’t give it a second thought.

After my experience with the YN-622 triggers, I saw that B&H now had the YN-685 on back order, meaning it could be ordered and B&H would ship when they received their shipment. Giddy with excitement, I ordered from B&H and waited like a kid waiting for Christmas. Well, B&H missed the first ship date causing me to go into a tizzy. I had already sold my Canon 550EX flashes and only had one 580EX-II left in my flash stable. I found Adorama listed the YN-685 as “in stock” so I went ahead and ordered one from them.

As soon as the Adorama order was delivered, I spent an hour testing the YN-685 with the YN-622C-TX on my Canon 5D MkII. I’m happy to report that the combo works perfectly in every flash mode including E-TTL (which I hardly ever use,) 1st curtain, 2nd curtain, HSS and Multi-Mode. The control panel and interface are well designed and easy to use although, with the YN-622C-TX on my camera, there’s really no need to walk over to the flash to fiddle with controls.

In a side-by-side comparison, the YN-685 has about 2/3 stops less power than my Canon 580EX-II but at just $109, I can deal with it. Even if the 685 dies in 2 years, I’m still ahead compared to $250 to $300 for a used 580EX-II on Craigslist. Compared to a Canon 600EX-RT for $469, the price delta is laughable.

The only nit I can find is that it’s a bit “porky” compared to the Canon 580EX-II but, then again, the 685 has a complete wireless trigger integrated into it. The 685 feels substantial and well built but only time will tell if it’s as robust as it appears.

It’s scary to think that the Chinese products I deprecated in the not-so-distant past have improved so quickly. I’m too old to be learning Chinese when they take over the world.

Yongnuo685-1   Yongnuo685-2   Yongnuo685-3

For Whatever Reason, AOL Sucks

My Monday Morning Tips constantly get rejected by AOL. Since I no longer conduct photography classes nor sell photographic products, all rejected e-mail addresses will be deleted. If you wish to continue to receive notification of new posts, you’ll have to resubscribe with a more modern e-mail address.

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Another Great Model

by on Nov.23, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos

A Model with Real Curves (Nude Photos)

Eva Forte is another model I recently worked with. I selected her because she’s a bit older than the usual 20-something women I’ve been photographing. As Eva says, she has “real curves.” I enjoyed working with Eva because she’s down-to-earth and practical (must be her Hungarian heritage.) She doesn’t try to be something she’s not! She comfortable in her skin and isn’t trying to prove how “cool” she is.

Right from the beginning, I had no thoughts of retouching her features and skin to make her look like anyone other than Eva. I like her scars, stretch marks and curves just as they are because she likes them. When something didn’t look quite right, it was usually my fault because I hadn’t more carefully considered the light or angle.

All these photos were made with a Canon 5D MkII and a Canon 24-105/4L IS. The lighting was from two Canon 580EX II SpeedLites in an Impact Luxbanx 36″ strip light. For horizontal poses, the light was suspended about 24″ above the model while, for vertical poses, the light was on a stand about 24″ to one side or the other.

One of the cool things I found for this shoot was a LumoPro Double Flash Bracket Speedring. It was a bit pricey since Midwest Photo charged nearly 30% for S&H but it allowed me to attach two flashes to one strip light. That way, I could set both lights to 1/2 power to speed up recharging and still get full power. I had originally planned to use a 2nd light hair light but decided to forego that in keeping with the KISS principle.

Eva Bodyscape-101   Eva Figure Study-101   Eva Bodyscape-107   Eva Bodyscape-106   Eva Bodyscape-105   Eva Bodyscape-104   Eva Bodyscape-103   Eva Bodyscape-102

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Test Strips, Bodyscapes & Figure Studies

by on Nov.23, 2015, under Articles, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photos

Test Strips in Lightroom

Test strips are a basic darkroom technique for adjusting the lightness/darkness of a photo without wasting time, chemicals and expensive paper. The concept is to divide the print into several pieces (strips) and expose each strip at different values. The print is then be developed and the different strips compared to find the one with the desired exposure. The final print is then be printed with the settings used for the best strip.

In the digital age, it’s much easier to print both color and B&W. However, the problem of getting the right luminosity remains the same but, now, with the added issue of color management for color images. This post describes how to create “test strips” (in reality, test patches) in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom so you can make one print with multiple patches and select the desired settings before printing a final version. This technique can also be used when printing through a commercial printer such as Walmart, CVS, Costco or other vendors.

First, open the file to be printed in LR and, with the Crop Tool, select an appropriate Aspect Ratio. I typically use 2×3 or 4×3 because that lets me to fit 4 to 6 patches onto an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper. LR doesn’t have a way to crop to an exact pixel dimension so keep the final print size in mind. For example, if your file is 5000 pixels wide and you plan to print at 16″ wide, your 2″x3″ patch should cover ~20% of the width )3″x5=15″.) Although LR uses an excellent resampling algorithm, there’s no sense in pushing things too far.

LR4_crop   LR4_crop_box   LR4_VC   LR4_print_VC

Next, select a color and/or exposure critical area of the image and press Return to crop. That will create a small patch of the image. Don’t make changes to this patch, keep it “as is” as a baseline.

Press Control (Command) + apostrophe (‘) to create a Virtual Copy. This is exactly what it sounds like, a copy that simply exists in LR. Apply any changes you want to this VC (increase/decrease exposure, +/- contrast, +/- Saturation, etc. Create 3 to 5 VCs, making changes as desired to each. When done, Select all VCs and go to the Print Module.

In the Print Module, select a template such as 2×2 Cells or create your own template like I did for 6 x 2×3. At this point, the 8.5″ x 11″ sheet (assuming that’s what you have selected) will be populated with the selected VCs. Now, print per usual and examine the small patches for the best luminosity and color. Remember to keep careful notes of what changes you make to each VC so you can replicate the settings in the final print.

B&W Nude Triptych Project (Nude Photos)

I recently worked with an outstanding model. Nymph (Gwen) trained as a ballet dancer and has the long, lean, lithe lines of a ballerina. What I appreciated most was her intelligence that made it easy for her to understand and anticipate what I was trying to accomplish. With most studio shoots, I hope for 35% keepers and about 10-15 final images but, with Gwen, my keeper rate shot up to over 65% and I’m sure my final images will be over 30-35. That alone illustrates the value of hiring a professional model versus relying on amateurs.

My B&W Art Nude Triptych Project is progressing nicely and I hope to start printing in early 2016. Prints will be available as loose prints on Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster in 16″ and 24″ sizes. Custom prints on 24″ Canvas and Canvas Satin will be available as Special Order. The images can be mixed and matched as you like, e.g. head, torso, legs or all of one kind. I can only accept PayPal. Contact me for price and availability.

Gwen Bodyscape-101   Gwen Bodyscape-102   Gwen Bodyscape-103   Gwen Bodyscape-104   Gwen Bodyscape-105   Gwen Bodyscape-106   Gwen Bodyscape-108   Gwen Figure Study-102


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