Thursday, September 29, 2011

Review: ExpoImaging's Rogue FlashBender

When it comes to a shoe mount flash, light modifiers seem to be a dime a dozen. I played around with a few before finally deciding that the ExpoImaging's Rogue FlashBender would keep a permanent spot fixed atop my SB800.

There's much to like about the Rogue FlashBender. First off is it's size. It packs perfectly flat so it fits nicely right on top of your gear packed in your camera bag.

Second is it's construction. The back side is made of heavy-duty durable nylon. The white reflective surface is also a very high quality durable material. According to expoimaging, the reflective surface has been tested for neutrality so it doesn't affect color temperature. It attaches to your shoe mount flash via a strong elastic and velcro combination.

Third is how it allows you to twist, bend, and roll it to provide numerous options for light modification.  The FlashBender's ability to contort itself is enabled by rigid, but flexible internal skeleton.  Need some basic diffusion?  No problem!  Just leave it straight up and flat and it nicely throws out a soft, wide, light.  Need a harder light?  Again, no problem!  Just roll it up and form a snoot.  There's a strip of velcro along the side edges for this precise purpose.  And it works!

The numerous ways the FlashBender can be manipulated provide a photographer with many options when it comes to diffusing the light from a shoe mount flash.  I've used mine on Red Carpets, during small venue concerts, and while shooting candids at a large event.  It allows me to place the light where I need it, unlike some other modifiers that throw out omni-directional light, and thereby effectively lowering  flash output.

FlashBenders come in a few different sizes, so think about how you'll be using it before making a decision.  If you're unable to decide on just one, no worries!  ExpoImaging sells a three piece kit, containing the three different options of FlashBenders.  I, personally, went with the small reflector and it suits my needs perfectly. For $34.95, it's one of the best light modifiers you can own for your shoe mount flash!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Las Vegas Weekend Photography: Concerts & Celebrities! Part 4

Sunday night, I was fortunate enough to check out the Las Vegas Tenors performance at the South Point Casino.  These three guys have vocal talents that will blow you away!  Their next performance is scheduled for New Years Eve, also at the South Point.  If you're looking for a great way to ring in the new year, an evening listening to these amazing voices should be at the top of your list!

The Las Vegas Tenors perform at the South Point Casino
The Las Vegas Tenors

The Las Vegas Tenors perform at the South Point Casino
The Las Vegas Tenors

Las Vegas Weekend Photography: Concerts & Celebrities! Part 3

Saturday night!  Nightclubs!  Las Vegas!  Celebrities!  I posted previously that I had been invited to attend the birthday party of Josie Stevens and photograph the launch of her new clothing line.  On Saturday night, my wife and I headed over to Vanity Nightclub in the Hard Rock Hotel where we got to meet and hang out with Josie Stevens and her husband, legendary guitarist and rocker, Steve Stevens.  Both of them are incredibly friendly and extremely down-to-earth.  A huge thank you to Josie for inviting us to spend the evening with her and Steve!

Josie Stevens looking fierce!
Josie Stevens on the Red Carpet at Vanity Nightclub
Josie Stevens and Steve Stevens
Josie and Steve Stevens

Josie Stevens and the girls of Fantasy
Josie Stevens and the girls of Fantasy

Josie's new clothing line
An outfit from Josie's new clothing line

For the full set of photos, click here.

Las Vegas Weekend Photography: Concerts & Celebrities! Part 2

Saturday and Sunday I photographed the Asian Harvest Moon Festival concert celebration at the Riviera Casino.  Both days drew about 1500 spectators.  Everyone was there to see two famous Asian Singers:  Peter Chan (Chan Ho Tak) and Cecilia Fong (Fong Yi Kei).

Harvest Moon Festival
Peter Chan and Cecilia Fong
Peter Chan performs during the Harvest Moon Festival at the Riviera Casino
Peter Chan (Chan Ho Tak)

Cecilia Fong performs during the Harvest Moon Festival at the Riviera Casino
Cecilia Fong (Fong Yi Kei)

Las Vegas Weekend Photography: Concerts & Celebrities! Part 2

On Saturday and Sunday, I photographed the Asian Harvest Moon Festival concert celebration at the Riviera Casino.  Both shows packed about 1500 people into the Riviera showroom.  Everyone was there to see two famous Asian singers:  Peter Chan (Chan Ho Tak) and Cecilia Fong (Fong Yi Kei).  While I couldn't understand a single word they sang, I was able to appreciate their talent.  Both have beautiful voices and sing with great emotion.  I've already caught myself humming some of the melodies to the songs!  However, attempting anything beyond humming or whistling would just be futile.

Peter Chan performs during the Harvest Moon Fest at the Riviera Casino
Peter Chan (Chan Ho Tak)

Cecilia Fong performs during the Harvest Moon Fest at the Riviera Casino
Cecilia Fong (Fong Yi Kei)

Las Vegas Weekend Photography: Concerts & Celebrities! Part 1

This weekend, my adventures in photography took me on an adventure spanning various musical genres, cultures, and lifestyles.  I started off with a local manic-depressive, gloom-pop, Indie band and finished with a musical trio who's vocal talents are a force to be reckoned with.  Throw in a celebrity birthday party and a little bit of Asian culture, and that describes pretty much what I photographed this weekend.

Friday night I was at the Cheyenne Saloon photographing the the local band Dreamwire as they took the stage.  If you check out their Facebook page or their website, you'll quickly get a feel for their music.  They've got interesting rhythms with bi-polar lyrics.

Dreamwire performing at the Cheyenne Saloon
Dreamwire performing at the Cheyenne Saloon

Thursday, September 22, 2011

My pending celebrity encounter

This Saturday evening will be the first time I get to mingle with a celebrity.  Vanity nightclub at the Hard Rock Hotel is hosting the Josie Stevens' birthday party, and my wife and I have a personal invite!  Additionally, I'll be photographing the launch of Josie's new clothing line.

I first had the opportunity to photograph Josie along with her husband, Steve Stevens, on the Red Carpet at the Vegas Rocks! Award Show, which took place last month at the Las Vegas Hilton.  As a result of this event, I was able to learn first hand the true power of Twitter and the internet—I received an email directly from Josie, in which she enquired about any pictures that I may have taken of her an her husband.  I was quite pleased to be able to provide her with whatever photos I had.  Surprisingly enough, I eventually received follow-on email from Josie, in which she invited my wife and I to attend her birthday/fashion line launch.

Needless to say, we're extremely excited!

Here is the official poster for the event along with some of the pictures I took of Josie and Steve at the Vegas Rocks! Awards Show.

Josie Stevens
Josie Stevens on the Red Carpet at the 2011 Vegas Rocks! Awards Show
Steve Stevens
Steve Stevens performing at the 2011 Vegas Rocks! Awards Show
Steve Stevens
Steve Stevens performing at the 2011 Vegas Rocks! Awards Show

Vegas Rocks After Party
The After Party!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Adventures in HDR (kind of)

Here's another shot from the wedding I was working last weekend.  This is the Chapel at Ravella in Lake Las Vegas.  The lighting was a bit of a challenge with the large windows in the front of the chapel providing ample amount of backlighting and the limited overall lighting provided by the chandeliers.  A few tweaks in Lightroom on a virtual copy of the properly exposed foreground photo provided me with a nicely exposed window, which I painted in using a layer mask in Photoshop.  Using the HDR toning option in Photoshop provided me with the photo below, which is almost a perfect render of what the scene actually looked like.

Ravella HDR Chapel
Ravella Chapel at Lake Las Vegas

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Latest Issue of Las Vegas Weekly Seven Out Now!

The latest issue of Las Vegas Weekly Seven is out today.  It features my photos of Close To Modern and Hammered Satin--two bands I initially posted some pictures of on Sunday.  You can view the online write -up of Hammered Satin at the Artifice here.  Similarly, the online write-up of Close to Modern at the Hard Rock Cafe can be found here.

So check it out!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Levitating Groom & Groomsmen

Here's a fun picture I took at a wedding this past Saturday.  The Groom and his Groomsmen were a great group of guys who obviously have a lot of fun whenever they get together.  They certainly made my job extremely easy.  All I had to do was take pictures of a bunch of friends having fun together!  

This picture was captured during a high speed burst.  Shutter speed was at 1/350.

Levitating Groomsmen
Levitating Groomsmen

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Las Vegas Friday Night Concert Photography

Friday night I shot three bands at two different venues here in Vegas.  The first band was Close To Modern.  They performed at the Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip.

Tip: Click on a photo to view the full gallery in my Concert Photography Portfolio!

Close To Modern
Close To Modern
Close To Modern
Close To Modern

Prima Donna and Hammered Satin both performed at the Artifice, located in the Arts District near downtown Las Vegas.  Both bands are out of LA and were in town for the Neon Reverb Festival.  Simply put, they both completely rocked!

Prima Donna
Prima Donna

Prima Donna
Prima Donna
Hammered Satin
Hammered Satin
Hammered Satin
Hammered Satin

Friday, September 9, 2011

Sites from Photoshop World 2011

Photoshop World is taking place this year in Las Vegas.  It wraps up today.  This was my first year stopping by to check out the expo.  It's a really nice exhibit with the guys from Wacom, Nik, onOne, B&H, Westcott, Adobe, and numerous others.  The expo offers some free seminars, the chance to buy some stuff at really great prices, and opportunities to shoot various types of models.  Here are a couple pictures of two different models I was able to capture at Photoshop World.

Beautiful Model in White
Beautiful Model in White

Tree Nymph
Tree Nymph

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Photo of The Day

Who doesn't love a good air show?  Fortunately, here in Las Vegas we happen to have Nellis Air Force Base which puts on an amazing air show each year.  This year, you can catch all the excitement Nov 12-13th.  In the meantime, here's a picture of the Thunderbirds performing last year.

US Air Force Thunderbirds Over Las Vegas

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top Tips for Concert Photography

Ever since I started shooting concerts, I've always been interested what advice others give on the subject.  It just so happens a group I belong to on LinkedIn has a discussion going on pertaining to this very topic.  So I thought I'd take what I've learned, along with others have shared in this discussion and compile them here.  Please feel free to comment and add your own advise!
  • Fire away!  Especially if the music and the artists are lively.  There's so much that will be happening (movement, lighting, emotions) that you're bound to capture something if you shoot in burst.  Remember, at most venues you've only got three songs to work with.

  • Use a fast lens.  The faster the better!  You really shouldn't be using anything that's slower than 2.8 unless you're using something like a D3S with superior high ISO performance.

  • Crank the ISO.  This depends on your camera body and how well it handles the noise produced from the higher ISOs.  I don't like to go over 800 on my D700.
  • Shoot in RAW.  You have more options tweaking the photo in Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture if you use RAW.

  • Play around with different depths of field and different vantage points to alter the mood in your shots.  Try to bring in your subject as close as possible, either physically, or with a zoom lens.  You want to convey a feeling of closeness.

  • Get group shots, individual shots, instrument shots, and fan shots (if your publication is interested in those).  I always try to get a few photos of every band member.

  • Freeze the action.  You generally want your shutter speed to be a 1/250.  You can lower it based on tone of the performance.

  • Use blur creatively.  After I've snapped a good number of pictures that I know will be super sharp with frozen action, I drop my shutter speed a little to capture some creative photos.  Hair whipping and the hand jamming a guitar produce some very dramatic photos if everything else is sharp.  A shutter speed of 1/180 will usually produce this result.

  • Spot Meter.  The lights are constantly changing and using a spot meter on your subject will help you nail your exposure.

  • Shoot Manual.  This is a personal preference, and takes some time to get used to, but after you shoot concerts long enough, you'll be able to quickly adjust your exposure to compensate for the rapidly changing lighting.

  • Know the artist.  Find videos of them performing on YouTube.  If you can learn how they perform ahead of time, you can try to anticipate those "money shot" moments.  Does the lead guitarist like to jump around or hold his guitar high in the air?  Does the drummer like to throw up his sticks and catch them?  Does the singer have a signature move?  A little research goes a long way!

  • Be aware of things like mic stands and monitors.  Depending on your vantage point, they can be a distraction in the shot.  Pay attention to how the singer holds the mic stand and the direction of the lights.  The shadows cast from a mic close to a singer's face can be very phallic and will result in a useless photo.

  • Know your venue.  Are you right up against the stage or shooting from the soundboard?  What type of lights does the lighting technician prefer?  If you know these types of things, you can better determine the type of lens to use, if you need a teleconverter to give a little more reach, whether you need to bring a small step-stool, or if auto white-balance will work.

  • Be aware of your composition.  It's better to shoot a little wider and crop then to shoot too tight and cut off something that's an important part of the picture.  If shooting a guitarist, you want to capture the whole guitar and avoid cutting off the headstock.

Patrick Monahan with Train at Mix 94.1 Petapalooza
Matt Hires
Poison—Rikki Rockett, CC DeVille

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm a Pop Artist!

Not too long after my son was born—when we moved to Las Vegas, were no longer confined to a 1200 sq ft apartment in downtown Philadelphia, and were living in a house that was large enough for an appropriate nursery— I wanted a creative piece of art that I could hang in his room.  It had to be something that he wouldn't outgrow before he was a teenager, yet something suitable for a nursery.
One fall morning, my wife and I were walking around an art festival in Boulder City.  There were some great local artists displaying some beautiful pieces.  One piece, in particular, caught my eye and I knew I could take the idea and make it my own.  So I spent a few days scouring the web for the content I needed, and then finally fired up Photoshop and got to work.  This is the result.  Can you guess all the logos?


TIP: There are some items on my website available for purchase.  If you see something you like feel free to order a copy for yourself!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Levitation Photography: No photoshop required!

There are a few photographers who specialize in making people look like they're levitating. Quite frankly, they're pretty amazing, when you consider all that has to happen to make the picture look real. And they're beautifully surreal.
Sometimes, though, you happen to snap a picture that's just as beautiful and requires no photoshop at all!

Levitating Cheerleader

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sights an Average Las Vegas Visitor May Not See

Happy Labor Day Weekend!  The long weekend means that the Strip is a busy place to be!  Celebrities are in town, the hotels are full, the restaurants and casino floors are busy, and a lot of the big shows are sold out.

So many people visit Las Vegas, but most people never get off the Strip to see what else Las Vegas has to offer.  Red Rock Canyon has beautiful scenery and hiking and is only 25 minutes west of the Strip.  Mount Charleston offers equally beautiful opportunities and is 35 minutes north west of the Strip.  The downtown area has it's own bit of interesting sights.  Don't forget the Hoover Damn and surrounding areas, the Valley of Fire, and various ghost towns.  The list goes on and on.

Here are two pictures taken in or very near Las Vegas.  This first one is of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.  It's near downtown Las Vegas.  The architecture is extremely unique and is definitely worth taking a peek at if you happen to be wandering around in that area.  While you're there, be sure to eat at Mundo, one of the best restaurants in Vegas, that you wouldn't know about unless someone told you!

Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health

This second picture is taken near the Valley of Fire.  The valley, named because of the color of the rocks, offers some extraordinarily beautiful scenery.  It's a must see if you've got access to a car and don't mind one hour road trip.

The Valley of Fire near Las Vegas, NV

So the next time you visit Las Vegas, take some time to get off the Strip and experience a few of the other great things the area has to offer!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 Lightning Review

So I begin my adventures in studio lighting with an Einstein 640 by Paul C. Buff. At $500 it seems like a steal for all the features you get compared to some of the other more expensive brands available. If you've already invested in a PocketWizard system, then throw in an MC2 at $99 (which is significantly cheaper than a PocketWizard transceiver) and you're almost ready to start snapping some pictures! The Einstein doesn't come with a light modifier, so I bought a soft silver 64" PLM. Additionally I bought Vagabond Min Inverter for portable power on the go.

I was immediately able to test out the Einstein in the field.  Yesterday I completed a photo shoot of a hotel here in Las Vegas for Groupon.  I knew this would be a great opportunity to test out my new toy.  The Einstein packs a lot of power.   Combined with the 64" PLM, it definitely throws out a lot of light.  Here's a sample of one of the pictures I took with the Einstein providing all my lighting.

Paul C. Buff Einstein 640 Lighting Example

As you can see, it nicely fills the room and easily kills the light coming through the window, allowing the details outside the window to become visible.  There's some minor shadowing in the left of the picture which I probably could have fixed with a reflector.  Additionally, you can see the PLM in the bottom right picture frame hanging on the wall.  I could have fixed that using the White Diffusion Fabric available from Paul C. Buff, but in this case, a little bit of photoshop will be used to swap out the picture frame.

One of the really nice features of the Einstein is the digital power control on the back panel.  You get up to 9 stops of power, adjustable in 1/10 increments.  Plus that fact that the MC2 pretty much makes this a plug-n-play light, you really can't go wrong!

Like I said at the beginning, this is my first real studio light.  I've got a lot to learn, but it's so nice to have a tool like the Einstein 640 at my disposal now.  I definitely see one more in my immediate future, and a third as I fully progress into portrait work.  But right now, armed with my SB800 on a stand with an umbrella reflector, a set of PocketWizards, and my Einstein, I can handle a good number of lighting situations.  I feel I have a great platform to hone my strobe skills.

Soft Silver Parabolic Light Modifier

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Where did the year go?

September 1st!  Wow!  Where did the year go?  Something I'm sure everyone asks themselves as we close out summer and move into Fall, Winter, and the Holiday Season.  So what better way to spend the final days of summer than a trip to the beach!

Child playing at beachChild playing at beach