Friday, June 27, 2008

Mission accomplished... least on my side!
Early this morning I dropped the package with the selected photos to the Pasadena Playhouse Association. I had to go there in person is the deadline for the early submission so....I saved $50!
I'll keep my finger crossed and see what happens.

On a different note, a good friend of mine just opened up a new website. Check him out at I also put his link over to the right, among those of other suggested photographers. He's a really good one. We met him during John Free's class at Pasadena and occasionally we bump into each other while aiming the camera in the same direction. He has some remarkable stuff on his site. Unfortunately at the moment he's having problems with his home page, but everything else works fine.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Elements of Dance...completed!

Wow, it's good to realize that...we made it!
Elements of Dance is complete and you can enjoy the photos that have been selected by just scrolling down here.
You might want to start from Cesar's images that are 4 posts down...and work your way up to Deborah's. This way you follow the development in time of those images.
I was asked by some of you to make the photos a little bigger and add more of my personal perspective that contributed to creating those images so... enjoy and let me know what you think by leaving a comment so we make this blog more lively!

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Deborah on "earth"

Finally... earth, that along with fire, water and air concludes our "Elements of Dance" project.

With Deborah I wanted to represent a really earthy landscape, so after thinking about it for some time... Marta came up with the idea of the oil wells... like a place were there is a connection between the surface and what is underneath... and I liked it a lot. So, I went around looking for a nice spot... until I found this place near Culver City. I believe Deborah represented this idea very well indeed. I love her pose in the first photo where it looks like she's slowly coming out of the ground, like she's being born...

In the second image instead she's making the first step in this unknown territory. I love her foot strongly planted on the ground. That gives me that idea of robustness and stability I wanted to achieve with her.

But not everything was as nice as it looks like. First there was an ugly fence all around those wells. Second this place is right at the edge of a very busy road with a lot of traffic... at least around sunset! So I needed to set up the lights so that you wouldn't see the fence or other distracting stuff all around... including the road.

Anyway, beside some people yelling at us stuff I can't repeat from their cars... it worked! We managed to "hide" all the unwanted stuff from the images by playing with the lights. I underexposed the sky to make a silhouette out of the oil well until it was dark enough not to see the road behind Deborah.

As for the lights, I had a flash right over her with 1/2 CTO and one camera left with a red gel on it. This time I used cloudy WB to keep the real colors of the sky. Everything was fired by the on camera flash as usual. I wanted an image that overall looked really warm, also to make contrast with Bradley's photos that are very "blue".

After all I'm very pleased with the results of this little project of mine. I learned a lot experimenting with those two lights... who knows, maybe it's time to get a third one...
But most of all I started learning to work in the field, with the sun moving fast, the batteries of the flash dying on me... very different from a studio... very different!

To conclude, I want to thank again Cesar, Caitlyn, Bradley and Deborah for allowing me to work with them; thank you guys!
And last but not least, thanks to Marta for helping me out all over LA in doing this, your help was precious!

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Bradley in "air"

After fire and water, it's time for the third element: air. As you know, I found this spot sometime ago, when I was looking for a place to take Bradley's photos. And here's what we got.

In the first photo, Bradley has a great look! He's looking right into my camera and he seems like he's got there effortlessly. In this shooting I liked the idea of having him flying "over" LA in the image. You don't see the foreground, so that you don't have a reference and you don't know how high he actually is.

While the first shot is very intense, the second is more dramatic. In this image I like the fact that I tilted the camera and that you don't see his face. These images were taken at sunset. I was hoping for some clouds to make the background more dramatic but as you can way!
So, I decided to set the WB to incandescent and to underexpose the background by one stop. This way the sky turned into an intense blue, almost electric, and I liked it for this.

To light Bradley I used the usual two flashes. Both camera left opposite to the sun that was setting on camera right. One flash gelled with 1+1/2 CTO is the key and it's positioned 3/4 on Bradley's side. The other, with a red gelled on it, is strongly underexposed and gives that little red that helps Bradley to pop out of the bright blue sky.

There were other images that I liked a lot but at the end we chose these two for their distinctive look: one were he look at you right into your eyes and one in which he's very dynamic and dramatic. I think they both fit pretty well in this collection.

PS: after we finished shooting and it was getting dark, guess what, a wonderful full moon appeared at the horizon and took some more nice shots of him dancing (not flying this time...) with the moon in the background. We got some good shots but I'll show them in the near future. now I want to move on to the next element...

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Caitlyn in "water"

Since I proposed this project to Caitlyn she was so excited about it that working with her was really fun. Her photos represent water and as I said in a previous post we went to downtown LA to shoot them.

Since water was the topic of these photos, we chose a proper outfit for her. The idea was to have her dancing literally "on" the water...and I can tell you that we actually tried...without much success though. So, we decided that close to those beautiful fountains was actually good enough.
In this photo, her tutu' seems to wave on her like...water... and her grace and elegance are just outstanding.
I like the fact that she's framed by the fountains and the skyscrapers seem to be the audience of her wonderful show. Finally, one detail I really like of this photo is her profile that beside being almost completely in darkness is outlined by the blue light on her left arm.

This photo is less dynamic compared to the previous one but she's just so beautiful in her ballerina outfit. Also, the fact that she's more to the right but looking left I think makes a nice composition.

As far as technical details, in this case they are pretty simple. I exposed for the sky, dropped two stops and then fired the flash camera left with a 1/2 CTB on it. The flash was also snooted to converge most of the light on her. Its position is obvious if you look at the shadow made by her feet. WB was incandescent and the remote flash was fired by the usual on camera flash.

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Cesar on "fire"

I finally managed to finish my first personal project entitled "Elements of Dance" and I'm here to show you the results of my efforts. But, before I do that, allow me to thank Cesar, Caitlyn, Bradley and Deborah that kindly agreed to work with me on this. It was a pleasure to work with you all and I look forward to do it all over again for another assignment.
So, as you know, I want to submit these photos to the Pasadena Art Walk committee and together with Marta we chose two pictures per dancer.
The first two are those of Cesar dancing under the moonlight. In the framework of this project he represents fire for me and I hope he shows it.
You might have seen these already on flickr, but I want to re-propose them here with a few more details about how I made them and in a larger format so that you can better appreciate the images.

This is the first image. Since he represents fire, we chose it because his look makes the picture. I also love his pose, the detail of the dancing shoe appearing from behind the post and the dynamic. I can see him dancing around that post and I like the intensity of his look and the elegance of his movements.

The second image was shot with the same lighting scheme and we liked it better than others because there is a lot of movement in it. The moonlight shining on the floor and the intensity of his performance.
Cesar is a very talented dancer and I hope my photos render justice to his capabilities.

Moving on to the technical details, I used the lamp post as key light, one flash camera left (snooted and gelled for a warm tone) as fill aimed directly over Cesar's upper torso and another one right behind the post set on a wide angle and gelled to give a light bluish tone on the ground as if it was illuminated by the moon. Actually the moon light wasn't strong enough to do that but I gave it a little kick with the flash. WB was incandescent, so the lamp light appeared neutral, the flash camera left was gelled with 1+1/4 CTO and the other one just with 1/2 CTO, that given the WB setting on camera game a nice light blue tone. Everything was fired remotely by the on camera flash. Unfortunately, since one flash was right behind the post, sometimes it was difficult to trigger it, since I had to be in a spot were on camera flash had a direct sight of the flash sensor but the lens didn't. So I had to play a little bit on my position (and Cesar's) to avoid misfiring that light. Also that light helps me rim Cesar with a nice bluish color from the back so that there is a better separation between him and the background.

As usual, if you click on the image you'll see a larger version, but this time is big enough to appreciate it.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Elements of Dance

I finally find the time to tell you about my personal project that lately kept me pretty busy.
Not long ago, Deborah, whose photos we are about to take tonight, told me about the Pasadena Art Walk and suggested me that I should try participating. Essentially you need to submit your art work, whatever it is, to the Art Walk Committee and if you pass their screening then you get a 10'x10' booth where you can show and sell your art pieces to the public during the Art Walk weekend. Incidentally they also have a photography category so, I said, why not! I just needed a topic or a theme or... something!

I thought I could send them something I shot in the past. But then, this was an occasion to try something new too good to pass.

So, talking with Marta we came up with this idea...Elements of Dance...sounds nice, doesn't it?!

We thought about the fact that I love taking photos of dancers while they perform, that's how this whole thing started. Then I thought it would be nice to put a dancer doesn't belong to, meaning outside the dance floor/theater/studio/whatever. Then, since all the dancers we know have different styles, we thought about highlighting the specific character of each one of them and that's how we came up with..."Elements of Dance". Think about four elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Air. Think about four dancers (that kindly volunteered for this): Cesar, Caitlyn, Bradley and Deborah. Four elements, four styles, one goal: perform and express their vision... dancing.

So, on my side, I needed to find a proper location for each one of them. Think about a lighting scheme (because I wanted to experiment some lighting techniques I had been reading about) and finally get the shots!

So far, I must say, I'm pretty satisfied with what we have achieved. Some times I made some mistakes, some other times something didn't work properly, but after all... I like those shots a lot!

On the other side, you are here to tell me what you think, right?
So, let me work a little more about this and then I'll present you the official entries that I will submit to the Pasadena Art Walk committee.

In the next few days I will prepare a new post for each dancer with the two photos I have chosen to submit.

I look forward to hearing your comments!

New stuff coming out...

Just a quick note to let you know that yesterday I went back to the spot overlooking LA and the Dodger Stadium with Bradley. We took some shots that will be part of my personal project of which you will see the results very soon.

Tonight I'm going out with Deborah to take some more photos and then I'm done, I have all of the four elements I need for my project...hopefully!

Then, I wanted to explain my friend Erika from Italy the reason why her photo shot at night in Florence looks green. It's the lamp post in your photo that makes it green. The light emitted by those lamps have a lot of green in it and even though our eyes "filter" it and they appear yellow-ish, in reality they are more green than yellow and your slide film saw that. To compensate for this in your slide you either need to put a filter in front of your lens...or go digital and simply adjust your WB.

Erika, if you need more details about this, just leave me a comment on this blog and I'll try to explain it better.

By the way, Erika, if you send me your best shots, I'll post them on my blog for everybody to see!

Stay tuned, hopefully I'll post my latest shots soon...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I love LA!

What can I do. I mean, I love the skyline and finding new spots all the times. I never get tired of it. To me is like looking at the waves of the ocean or the flames of the fire place, I can do it for hours. So, lately I've been browsing around searching for locations for my personal project about dance and I found a few nice spots that I've never seen before.

The photos down here aren't anything special, I know, but if you put together a good subject with a nice background and a good sunset, well, there is the potential for a good shot. Here I'm just missing the subject...and the nice sunset!

This one was taken from the top of a hill off the I-110 close to Ave 26th. I ended up there just to see how the view looked like. I liked it but wasn't impressed. So I moved on and went up the hill above the Police Academy, behind the Dodger Stadium and from there it looked a lot better, I think.

Finally I went downtown and found the spot where eventually I shot Caitlyn. I really like those fountains and that's so far one of the best views of downtown LA I ever seen.

I'm planning to use one of these spots soon for another shoot. Hopefully, I'll be showing something here pretty soon.

First time here?

Ok, so, you ended up on this blog and maybe you are wondering why? Well, to see some cool photos, that's why, right?! I mean....right?!

So, I'm a photographer, actually I'm learning, but let's assume I really am a photographer. What you'll find on my blog in a nutshell are some good photos, I hope, with a description of how I got them and the story behind those photos. Some will come from my professional work, some others from shooting my family and friends, it doesn't really matter. What matters to me is Photography as a medium to tell a story, strong stories, but even funny stories, anything that one way or another ends up in front of my lens. And beware, I can spend hours shooting lichens on the bark of a tree!

I started casually with a digital point and shoot camera and eventually I moved to professional digital SLR's bodies. I always loved the capability of capturing the moment with a still frame and yet let it live forever.

Marta and I were fortunate enough to attend once a class about street photography held by John Free and his son Scott. They eventually became our friends and even shot our wedding. They taught me about seeing, not just looking, and that's really important for ... a photographer.

Since my background is in electronic engineering (I'm a geek, I know) then I started experimenting with anything I could (photographically) until I found out the power of light. Just give a look at what Joe McNally and the Strobist are capable of doing with a few (read bunch of...) speedlights to understand what I mean. To me it's just outstanding. Oh, and no, they don't pay me for this, I just admire them, really!

The very same idea that with just a few speedlights you can light essentially anything you want and, most of all, remotely, to me is just great. Then, you know, between doing a great job and just wasting your takes some skills. But the fact that you don't need super expensive professional gear to do's priceless.

So, to cut the story short, the purpose of this blog is to show what you can do with some basic gear and a little bit of patience...

Enjoy, and I look forward to hearing your comments about how I wast... hem... invest my spare time!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's going on?

Just a quick "picture-less" post today to let you know that, I know, I'm messing around with this blog since I'm changing it every other minute.

I'm working on it, in my spare time, and I promise it will be presentable and little more complete soon. I'm also involved in a few things that will generate some good shots, I hope. So, stick around and check me out in the next few days for some "stability" and some news!!

Thank you!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Forza Vale!!

In congratulating Valentino Rossi for his second spot at the MotoGP in Spain today I want to post a photo of Cesar Cazares dancing under the moon light. We took these photos some time ago and probably you saw them on-line on my flickr page already but since now I have a blog...why not!
Here I used the lamp post as key, a snooted and gelled strobe camera left as fill and another gelled strobe behind the post to "kick" the moon light on the ground. I think it turned out nice. Maybe I should have shot this image when there was still some light in the sky but unfortunately Cesar wasn't available at that time and maybe the background would have distracted the viewer. After all I think it's a good image, what do you think?
You can see some other photos from the same set here.
After a few photos we changed the lights' set-up and we moved the back light to camera right to cross light Cesar. They also turned out ok I think but then the floor was drying out and ... the guard told us it was time for us to get lost...
Next time you go buy grocery at your local Trader Joe's in Pasadena (Del Mar and Lake), check this spot out, it's right beside the entrance.

Oh, by the way, using water on the ground it's a trick I freely took from Joe McNally. His work is of inspiration to me as to many other photographers that like to play with small strobes and make them look like big ones (and here I just quoted him). I'm obviously not anywhere close to his results here but I'm learning and surely having fun doing it. Check out his blog for his latest adventures.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Here it is!

Welcome to my blog!

Marta was right, I needed a blog more than a website so let's put it to good use right away! I want to start my blog with this image, Caitlyn dancing in downtown LA.

This is one of a series of photos I recently took with her and they are meant to be part of a personal project of which I will tell you later. Here, she's dancing on the edge of the pool that surrounds the DWP building here in LA. Besides the view is astonishing, those fountain are just amazing and look like lava flowing out of the water. You can see some other images from the same location shoot here or watch directly the slide show here.

After, we moved to another fountain close by and there we took a few more photos always with the help of my two little SB-600. I'd like to tell you everything about the set-up but...I've gotta go now so, I'll get back to you with a new post and a few more details.