Author: Anjanette

What I’ve Learned From Photography Groups

I’ve been a participant of photography groups since 2013. I’ve joined various photography groups of all different types, such as all-around photography groups and genre-specific groups. I’ve attended group events, ranging from workshops to “shootouts”. I was even a leader of a group. Here is a random list of things I’ve learned from photography groups as either a member/attendee and as a group leader.

  • Leaders have different leadership styles. As a former group leader who planned many events, I was more of an organizer than leader. I was very easy-going with how people wanted to attend my events. I was fine with attendees either following my plan or doing their own thing. However, not all leaders are like that and are the complete opposite of me.
  • Good luck trying to get portfolio-worthy shots as a leader or event host. You will spend more time organizing and dealing with participants than actively shooting.
  • If you have specific goals or want to try something out, it’s better to set up a shoot by yourself or invite one to two people to come with you.
  • As a leader or event host, you can’t make everyone happy. There will be someone who will complain or criticize you, telling you how they would have ran the event. However, if you reply back with “Then why don’t you host an event yourself,” 9 out of 10 times they will refuse to step up and make excuses for themselves.
  • There will always be cliques within a group, especially if a model and photographer has already worked with each other in the past.
  • No matter how many rules you make to ensure that no one gets left out, photographers would still gravitate to the same model/s and models will typically gravitate to the more assertive (less-shy) photographer/s.
  • The term workshops, shootouts, and meetups are used interchangeably, when they should not. In my opinion, here are the differences:
    • A workshop is an event when you’re learning a new skill. Typically the leader will be the one teaching the skill or feature someone who will.
    • A shootout is just a group of photographers taking pictures for their portfolio.
    • A meetup is similar to a shootout, but sometimes people treat it as a networking event or just to hang out with people of similar interests.
  • Organizing a photography event will take plenty of your time, regardless of how organized, formal, or informal you want it to be.

Facts About Me…as a Photographer

My Beginnings

  • I received my first digital camera in 2003 for my birthday, a Canon PowerShot A60 point-and-shoot.
  • My love for photography started when I used that digital camera while studying abroad. I was attending the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Croix for a semester.
  • My poor Canon broke, as the lens would not retract and got stuck. Months later, my boyfriend (now husband) gave me a Fujifilm FinePix E550 point-and-shoot for Christmas.
  • My Fuji got stolen, so I purchased my first DSLR in 2006, the Nikon D50 and Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-f/6.3 lens.
  • From 2003 until 2012, I was only interested in landscape and architectural photography.

My Start as a “Professional Photographer”

  • I’ve pawned my Nikon D50 many times. After getting it out of pawn and finding out the wheel to change the settings were broken, I had to get a new camera. In 2012, I ended up getting a Nikon D3000. Unfortunately, it did not autofocus with my Tamron 18-200, so I immediately also purchased a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 lens.
  • My first subjects were my husband, friends, and family members. Because my husband was camera shy, I had to find other people to practice with.
  • My first TFP (trade-for-print) shoot was for a model who was chosen to appear on a calendar for the lifestyle brand HauteButch. I did this shoot for her 2 years in a row.
  • I would initially find models through Craig’s List and Model Mayhem.
  • I started a 365 photography blog in September 2012 and finished in September 2013. After that achievement, I tried doing a 52-week project and then another 365 project for 2014-2015. Both were huge fails.
  • My first official wedding was in 2014. Prior to that, I was only accepting post-ceremony wedding portraits.
  • My first large wedding was in 2015. After that, I put myself out there as a wedding photographer, especially after purchasing a Nikon D750 full-frame.

Other Facts

  • I’ve owned the Nikon D300 twice:
    • In early 2015, I shot a paid boudoir party. My Nikon D7000 was malfunctioning during the party, so with the deposit I earned, I had to quickly take my “entry-level” Nikon D3000 out of the pawn shop and continued the shoot. Knowing that I needed a comparable body to my Nikon D7000 but couldn’t afford a second D7000 at the time, I bought the Nikon D300 on eBay. I then officially sold my D3000. Once I repaired my D7000 and got my D750, I sold my D300. In hindsight, that was a big mistake!
    • In 2017, due to financial hardships, I had to sell my D7000, only having my D750. Later on that year, I ended up buying a D300 through OfferUp because I needed a second camera for a wedding. This camera was not in good shape as my first D300, but it still did its job!
  • I would have continued to shoot with a crop-sensor camera if I wasn’t going into weddings.
  • Despite trying different editing styles, like moody/muted edits or the ever-popular orange and teal look, I prefer bold and bright colors.
  • I prefer to be a versatile photographer, trying to do well with both natural light and off-camera flash equally.
  • I’ve been using Yongnuo speedlights since 2013. I have no desire to switch to Godox/Flashpoint.
  • I have never shot at f/1.4 because I have never owned such a lens. Even with a f/1.8 lens, I hardly shoot at f/1.8, unless I’m in a low-lighting situation.
  • My go-to lens from 2015 through 2020 was the 24-120 f/4 lens, which was the kit lens that came with my Nikon D750. I finally purchased a 24-70 f/2.8 lens in July 2020, so that is now my go-to lens.
  • My work has been published in many magazines (e-magazines), but I still don’t call myself a “published photographer”. It doesn’t make sense to me for a “published photographer” to pay $25-$30 to get a printed copy of the magazine.
  • I’m a firm believer that “it’s the person behind the camera”, not the gear itself. The most expensive, high-end gear can only help make your job easier, but you can still get great results with whatever gear you’ve got.
    • The boudoir party I’ve shot in 2015 helped proved that theory. Even though I was shooting the party in the evening with no window light, my “entry-level” Nikon D3000 paired with OCF produced better results than my D7000, in my opinion. The colors were spot on and I only had to do minimal editing.

Photography Musings During Pandemic

(The featured image was the last shoot I’ve done before the lockdown. The lockdown actually happened the day after!)

Because photography was not considered an “essential” business, sadly many photographers had to shut down their businesses for two months. With social distancing rules still in place, wedding and event photographers still cannot work because of events being postponed or cancelled.

Since many photographers now had plenty time on their hands, it was a great time to take advantage to improve their craft or business, whether it was trying out new styles, learning different techniques, or learning about business. I, on the other hand, have used this time to take a break from photography. With the exception of trying out different editing styles, going through RAW files of weddings and events I’ve shot in the past as either an associate or second shooter, and FINALLY editing cell phone video footage from my South Dakota road trip, I haven’t done a shoot or even went outside to take pictures!

At the time of writing this blog, I don’t miss photography very much, especially the type of photography I’ve been doing prior to quarantine. There were times I wanted to visit The Strip and take advantage of its emptiness, but I haven’t gotten around to doing it. It was probably because all the parking garages were closed and I didn’t want to walk the entire Strip to shoot anything. I’ve also thought about learning how to do time-lapse photography on my “new” Nikon Z50, but I barely found my tripod about 2 weeks ago. Even when I found my tripod, the motivation still wasn’t there.

When Nevada’s “Phase 1” started on May 9, it allowed photography businesses to re-open. I had moments of wanting to find models and do shoots again, but sometimes the motivation came and went. Throughout this time, I was being so indecisive of what I really wanted to do that it became overwhelming.

Why is this back and forth happening? It’s because I lack empathy for photography. The goal, need, and want to become a working, professional photographer is barely there. Other than needing to fulfill contracts of two postponed weddings and one other obligation as an associate photographer, I’m not going to push it as much. It’s weakened the drive so much that I now blame the pandemic for “ruining my photography business.”

Before I left the casino industry in 2016, being a full-time photographer was my ultimate goal. Working in the casino industry for 10 years felt like being in a tumultuous relationship. After working as a paid, professional photographer for almost 8 years, I can say the same thing about photography!

One thing I know for sure – being a photographer would have affected my life in the worst way during this pandemic. It has not done any good for my life so far in 2020!

I haven’t fully given up on photography as a hobby though. I invested so much time, money, and energy on photography that I can’t give it up completely yet. The pandemic has put my mind in a funk, and hopefully as it eases, my mind will slowly get out of that funk!

Is it Natural Light or Flash?

As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs and social media, I want to be a versatile photographer. I want my natural light work to be just as good as my off-camera flash / strobe work. Even though I started off with natural light, when I first learned and gained experience with off-camera flash, my natural light work was faltering. A photographer friend of mine even told me to stick to off-camera flash ONLY at one point!

In 2019, I was diagnosed with early stages of endometrial cancer, which greatly affected my health. Because I was getting tired during shoots and experiencing hot flashes, I knew I had to keep things simple during my shoots. I put away my wagon that carried my speedlights and strobe, and hardly took it out. I would only bring my camera and my old Nikon 80-200 f/2.8 tank of a lens.

During shoots, I had to thoroughly read the light and adjust my model accordingly in order to get the right composition in camera. During the editing process, I tried new Lightroom settings to give my photos the “pop” that OCF would normally give. I mostly played around with the curves tool and radial filter in Lighroom until I got the desired effect.

UNLV Bridal Shoots

People don’t think too much about the UNLV campus as a place for photo shoots because from the outside, it doesn’t look like it has much. However, once you walk around the campus, you suddenly realize how clean and well-maintained the campus is.

Spring is when the campus is at its most beautiful. All the flowers were in bloom, especially the small rose garden. The trees and grass were green and lush.

The UNLV campus also has an interesting desert garden near the library, with small bridges and a Spanish-style wall.

The most notable thing about both shoots with Savanah and Cristina (which were done on different days), was that I mostly shot with natural light (with the exception of a couple shots in this gallery). Because most of my better work in my portfolio has been shot with a strobe or off-camera flash, I wasn’t confident with my natural-light shooting skills until this shoot. In fact, it’s actually hard to tell if I used natural light or a strobe on some of these shots!

Credits:
Models: Savanah (Instagram) and Cristina (Instagram)
Savanah’s Hair/Makeup: Shawanda (Instagram)
Dresses: LV Bridal Boutique (Website | Instagram)
Bouquet: Jatcoia Floral Design (Website | Instagram)

Mojave Madness 2019

Mojave Madness (formerly known as Dirt in the Skirt) is an event where “outdoor lifestyle meets the world of digital photography”. It was a fun day filled with babes and hunks, awesome vehicles, “dirt toys”, and friendship.

This was my third year attending this event, and it was held at the dry lake bed near Boulder City. I prefer this location because it’s easier to find and is closer to the highway.

This year, more people stepped up and took the reigns of organizing the event, including Stefanie of SMJ Photography. Mike, the mastermind of the whole event, was very instrumental in screening all the attendees, including photographers, models, and vehicle owners.

The most notable thing about this event was that I helped bring a person out of her shell by putting her in front of the camera. Her confidence grew over time throughout the event, as more photographers worked with her. By the end of the night, she was comfortable posing topless and doing implied nude shots with the male models.

Unlike previous Mojave Madness / Dirt in the Skirt events, I actually had a plan of what I wanted to shoot. Unfortunately, that fell by the wayside and just shot whatever was in front of me. Luckily, I was able to do more figure shoots (a.k.a nude shoots), and edit them in black and white.

It was a warm day. Combined with the hot flashes I was getting (as a side effect of a medication I was taking), I was feeling tired and tried to get as much energy as possible!

I Love Color! Gosh Darn It!

Before I get into this blog post, let me preface by saying that I’m not trying to bash any photographer who edits this way. You edit however you want, just as much as I edit however I want.

The current editing trend I’m referring to is the retro, film-looking edit with muted and de-saturated colors. It feels like everyone is doing this and if you don’t edit this way, then you’re missing out on jobs and bookings. Already I feel like I’m doing the wrong things in my photography and feel that it’s heading in the wrong direction, so not conforming to this editing style is just another thing I’m supposedly doing wrong.

Here are some comparisons of the bright and bold colors of my usual work versus editing in the latest “conventional” way. I’ve edited both natural light and strobe shots.

I guess it doesn’t hurt to try, right? Well, that’s true, but I’m sorry…I LOVE COLOR in my pictures. I love that my photography is bright, bold, and contemporary. I love that my editing stays true to color.

I’ve always been a non-conformist and have never followed the crowd. I rarely followed trends in practically every aspect of my life. This has affected me in my personal life, especially with friends (or lack-thereof) and family. The failure to conform to this style in order to book more clients will just be another example of how I run my life, and I’m okay with that!

Shoot & Share Contest – The Results and My Thoughts

The Shoot & Share Contest is known as “The Only Free and Fair Photo Contest”. When people vote during this contest, the photographer’s name is omitted. The only information viewed is the category. Four pictures in that category are displayed randomly at a time, and voters have to select one from those four pictures. Then, the cycle starts all over again with a new set of four random pictures to vote from. The category also changes during each cycle, but the voter can filter out which category to view.

Prior to submitting my images, I viewed past winners from previous years. I was hesitant to submit because my style did not fit in with the top images. I did not want to waste my time if no one voted for my images. However, because the contest was free, I was just curious to see what happens without any expectations.

Almost two months later after going “all in” and submitting 50 images, the results were finally calculated.  Eight of my pictures made it to at least the top 30%. Below is a gallery of the pictures that made it to the top 10%, 20%, and 30% respectively. These were screen grabs from my Shoot & Share profile page.

My Thoughts

I have mixed feelings about this contest.

I’m happy with the results, considering it was my first year entering this contest. I’ve seen photography friends and peers enter this contest in the past, and felt I’ve missed out, so I’m glad this is a yearly thing.

However, voting is not efficient at all. You only get to see four pictures at a time per category, vote one of the four, and then repeat the same cycle again. During this process, I’ve seen the same images over and over a few times, so I’m wondering if the selections were truly “random”. Also, people would need to spend hours on this site to vote because of how the systems works. With over 500,000 submissions, it would have been better to see at least ten images at a time and vote for more than one image out of the group.

As mentioned before, I was viewing the past winners and most of the styles seem the same to me. These images were shot with natural light, edited with the muted/moody/matted film look with de-saturated colors, crushed blacks, and skin colors that are not true to their actual tone. My style is actually the opposite of what’s currently trendy with photography styles. The images I’ve entered were a mixed of natural light and off-camera flash, but the colors are bright and vibrant (where they need to be).

Also, I see a lack of diversity with the subject matter in the photos. Most of the people in the top pictures are good-looking White people, which makes me wonder if these are actual people or models. Sure, there are some Black, Asian, and people of mixed race in the top spots, but there is clearly a lack of diversity.

One notable thing I’ve noticed in this contest was the lack of awareness of certain cultures. I submitted three quinceañera pictures under “Teens and Seniors” (because the subjects were 15 years of age), but they didn’t do so well. I guess people not familiar with quinceañeras were confused to see teenage girls dressed up in elaborate and frilly princess-like ball gowns.

At the time of writing, I’m still considering whether or not to share the photos that were placed in the top 10%-30% on my Facebook pages. To me, the contest wasn’t a huge deal. The only time a contest would have been a huge deal is if the accolades were given from the top photographers in the industry.

Published in ELEGANT Magazine December 2018 Issue

I guess you can call this part 2 of my “Who Would Have Thought?” blog entry. At the time of writing that blog, ELEGANT Magazine has accepted my submission, but I could not release it anywhere until the magazine launched. Now that it launched, my team and I can now share it!

I first heard of Kristine and her Tale of Esther brand through mutual networks. I did behind-the-scene photos for another photographer in Vegas, and the model was wearing clothes from Tale of Esther. The stylist did a few pulls when she was in the LA area and brought them to the shoot in Vegas.

After the shoot, I contacted Kristine through email and then Instagram. We contacted each other for months before finally settling on a photo shoot date. Because I always wanted to do a shoot in Walnut (my hometown) or around, I thought of the idea of doing a rustic bride themed shoot. Kristine loved the idea, and we both ran with it.

I initially did a model call on Facebook and Model Mayhem, but I was scared of the uncertain (a.k.a models flaking), so I went with people whom I’ve worked with in the past. Ashley is my go-to model whenever I want to do a shoot in Cali (especially in the Orange County area). I’ve worked with Karenn when she was living in Vegas, but she moved to Cali and was available in the area.

We did hair and makeup at my parent’s house, which was also my childhood home, and then a 2-hour shoot at Snow Creek Park.

Kristine spoiled the entire team! She brought in sweets for us to snack on, and then treated all of us to a late lunch / early dinner, and then gave us gift bags. Because she spoiled us so well and was very generous with everything, I wanted to make sure the shoot was worthwhile. I’m very glad and happy that happened when ELEGANT Magazine picked up our editorial!

Credits:
Models:  Ashley (Instagram) | Karenn (Instagram)
Dress Designer: Kristine – Tale for Esther (Website | Instagram)
Makeup Artist / Hair Stylist: Irma (Website | Instagram)

Here are some images that were not submitted or did not make the cut.

Who Would Have Thought?

Although I’ve been living in Vegas for over 12 years (as of time of writing), Walnut, California has always been home. My parents are still living in the same house, and have been for almost 32 years. I’m very lucky I can always come visit them whenever I want to get away from Vegas.

One of my favorite spots in Walnut was Snow Creek Park. I would always visit this park whenever I wanted to get away from the house and go to a place to relax. I remembered it being a pretty small park with a baseball field taking up the majority of the park.

For the past few months, I was planning a rustic editorial shoot with an awesome designer. Originally, I was going to do the shoot either at Cal Poly Pomona or Lemon Creek Park, since I’ve shot at both places before. However, I threw in Snow Creek as a third option because I was very concerned with the harsh mid-day lighting of our shoot.

On the way to my parents house, I was able to quickly scout Cal Poly. With the construction and the fact it wasn’t “rustic” enough (even though we were going to shoot at some old horse stables), I quickly took that option off the table.

It was between Lemon Creek Park and Snow Creek Park. Because I never shot at Snow Creek Park and haven’t been there in awhile, I met up with an friend whom I’ve known since elementary school and did a quick shoot with her and her family. The minute I arrived, there were about 4 other photo sessions going on and learned that Snow Creek was a hot spot for photography!

With the creek, the bridge, and the horse trail, combined with plenty of shade to hide underneath in harsh mid-day lighting, I decided to do my epic editorial shoot at Snow Creek.

The day after my editorial shoot, I visited Snow Creek once again to do a shoot with another friend from my hometown. Since we were doing the shoot on Veteran’s Day (observed), once again, the park had a few photo sessions going on.

The lighting at Snow Creek, whether in the morning, mid-day, or close to sunset during golden hour, was absolutely gorgeous. Who would have thought such a wonderful place for photography would be in my hometown? Who would have thought that non-Walnut residents from nearby cities would have chosen this pretty small and obscure park for their sessions?

 

 

Published in Obscurae Magazine Fall Issue Volume 37

Credits:
Models: Megan – TNG Models (Instagram) | Francesca (Instagram)
Dress Designer: Carolina – Veteran Couture (Website | Instagram)
Makeup Artist: Michelle – Nu Reflections (Website | Instagram)
Hair Stylist / Assistant: Amanda (Instagram)

I met Carolina in a Los Angeles Facebook photography and models group. She was looking for people to collaborate with. When I saw how awesome her work was, I jumped at the chance and immediately sent her a message.

The shoot originally was going to be at The Smith Center, but when Carolina saw the mountains and desert landscape near my house, we decided to do the shoot in the desert, hence the name “Couture in the Desert”.

My favorite outfits were the final set with the pointy headpieces and flowy fabric. It reminded me of Chronicles of Narnia. I was amused that the outfits and the headpieces made our models even more tall, especially Francesca. With her 6-foot height, 2-inch heels, and 6-inch headpiece, Francesca stood about 6’8″!

View the digital magazine here. Purchase the print version here.

Here are the images that were submitted, but didn’t make the cut.

Neon Lights – Alt Light Project Recap

The beauty of the Alt Light Project is that you can do some much with different light sources, especially neon. With Vegas being the city of lights, the possibilities are endless!

I kicked off my project by doing various shoots on Main Street, just south of Charleston in the Arts District of Vegas. Main Street has plenty of neon on their windows. Many of them were within eye level, which worked out for my project. Main Street also had larger strip lights that hung across the street, creating an even greater bokeh effect.

It was getting a little repetitive after doing 4 individual shoots on Main Street on different nights, so I somewhat “retired” that area and moved on. I found more neon lights at a location with a very fitting name on Fremont Street…Neonopolis. However, with the amount of people visiting, not to mention having to pay for parking, shooting on Main Street was much more desirable. Perhaps after a break, I may do a shoot on Main Street again.

My Alt Light Project portfolio is growing, so view the rest of the images here.

As I’m growing my gear in reference this gear list, I’m looking to try daytime shots with alternative light. Prisms, kaleidoscopes, decorative items with interesting patterns, and sun-catchers are next on my list!

It’s Good to Have a Muse

By definition, a muse is “a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.” However, in my case when it comes to photography, a muse is just a fancier work for “guinea pig”.

Whenever I want to try new things, I always seek out people who are not only comfortable in front of the camera, but patient with me when I want to experiment. A huge plus is someone who is readily available with very short notice, especially when I have that last-minute creative itch.

Hannah is a great muse. I first worked with her during  Dirt in the Skirt with other photographers back in February. Since then, she’s been willing to be my muse whenever I wanted to try something out.

My first project was the #michaelschallenge. Because Michaels Stores officially announced the challenge on their social media, they are probably the only store that gave legitimate permission to do such a project. (Hobby Lobby did not.) Hannah and I only spent over an hour at the store.

At the time of writing, I’m not sure why I only did the Michael’s Challenge once. Perhaps I just lost focus and wanted to try other projects. I may want to do it again, especially with fall and holiday merchandise currently in their stores.

I was in a creative rut and wanted to elevate my photography, so I started the “The Alternative Light (Alt Light) Project”. I originally called it the “B.W. Project” after photographer Brandon Woelfel, but as I was working on this project, I realized I didn’t want to completely imitate his work. Woelfel’s signature editing style usually has cyan blue and pink tones with crushed blacks, but I didn’t fully incorporate that into my project. I was mostly inspired by his whimsical way of using fairy lights and other light sources.

After receiving the Star Master projector night light and a couple of fairy lights in the mail, I was very eager to try them out, so Hannah came over to my house for a last minute shoot. I first had her try the fairy lights and then the night light. I also had these pink-to-purple ombré round sunglasses from Torrid that I rarely use (because I don’t wear sunglasses often) as well as a glass in the shape of a light bulb with a straw. My front porch uses a blue LED light, so we incorporated that into our shoot.

After seeing my shoot with Chauntel, Hannah wanted to do a shoot with the neon lights. With Hannah’s lighter skin tone, I discovered the lights didn’t project as strongly as with Chauntel, especially with the pink neon at Koolsville Tattoo. With Hannah’s sweater and glasses, along with the editing, the images reminds me of the “Stranger Things” advertisements mixed in with Scooby Doo (Hannah reminded me of Velma).

My Great Basin Weekend

I’ve been living in Las Vegas since 2006 (12 years now). Prior to that when I was living in California, I have visited Vegas as a tourist. Because of this, all I knew about Nevada is Vegas.

Over the years, I’m been shocked to see there is more to Nevada than just Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe. The little towns between these cities have some charm and history to them.

My friend and I made plans to do astrophography at the Great Basin National Park a couple months in advanced. When it came time for our trip, the skies were pretty hazy due to clouds and smoke from the wildfires of nearby states. Because this was a concern for us, we changed our plans and went to Pioche instead.

While driving on our way to Pioche, my friend (who is a country girl) saw a flyer advertising a rodeo. After having lunch at Pioche, we drove a few miles back to the town of Panaca to attend the Lincoln County Fair and Rodeo.

When we arrived at the fairgrounds, there were high winds and thunder. We had to wait in the car for about an hour because of the bad dust storm. When the winds died down, we watched the rodeo for a few hours. I attempted to try a technique called panning, where you give your pictures the feeling of motion. The outcome was pretty decent, but not the greatest.

The original plan was to camp at Cathedral Gorge in Panaca right after the rodeo, but it was still windy and cloudy. Since it was my turn to drive, I decided to drive another 100 miles more to the Great Basin like we’ve originally planned.

Because it was new moon, meaning the night skies are at its darkest, it was hard to find a spot at the Great Basin at night because it was so dark. However, the skies were clear and we were able to see the stars.

Because we arrived close to midnight, we did some astrophotography and light painting, but we were tired. While my friend went to sleep, I tried to take 30 shots of the stars and skies (to stack them into one star trails shot), but I was too tired to even do 8. After doing 8 shots, I stopped for the night.

The next morning, we made a detour to Ely (pronounced EEE-LEE, rhyming with freely). On the way, we ran into a field of wind turbines. Since I was driving, we went down an unmarked road to get a closer view of the wind turbines. I was able to get a sweet picture of my friend and her dog.

In Ely, we visited the Nevada Northern Railway Museum and the Ward Charcoal Ovens. Because we were back-tracking 10 miles to get to the Charcoal Ovens, at first, I thought about taking the same highway back to Vegas, which entailed going through Pioche and Panaca. However, we only had less than 100 miles left until empty, so I made the decision to go back to Ely to fill up on gas, and then take a different road to Vegas. According to the GPS, it was quicker to go on NV-318, so we drove on that highway. It was a nice drive, but very boring and flat. Luckily, the drive was more interesting once NV-318 ended at US-93 in Alamo.

Chauntel and Neon Lights

I officially kicked off my Alt Light Project with a neon shoot with Chauntel. Prior to the shoot, Chauntel modeled in a hair show, in which her hair was dyed blue. She was supposed to be my first subject for another project I’ve had in mind, but haven’t started yet (“The Blue Project”). However, at the time of the shoot, she just finished modeling for another hair show that re-colored her hair into a teal-green color.

During this shoot, I left all my strobe equipment in my car. I was just using the ambient light, finding various light sources to illuminate Chauntel’s face. I was mostly using the neon lights from the store exteriors along Main Street.

Because I was working with low lighting, I used my Nikon D750, which is a dream in low-lighting, and 50mm f/1.8 lens.

I was playing around with the editing. Some shots had the blue and pink hues that Brandon Woelfel’s work is known for. Not wanting to completely copy his style, I took bits and pieces of his work and make them my own. For instance, I preferred not to have the heavy matte look on my photos. I wanted my blacks to be a bit more richer, and not used a crushed black style of editing. I also did not want the vintage film effect.

At the time of this shoot, I didn’t have any gear listed on Brandon’s website, especially the fairy lights. This explains why my shots didn’t have as much bokeh.

Credits :
Model – Chauntel (Instagram)

The Alternative Light (Alt Light) Project

I’m in a huge creative rut. I’m at a point where I can’t make up my mind of where I want to take my photography.

A few months ago, I’ve been wanting to go back into using natural light, only to find out I recently purchased a strobe.

Almost a year ago, I wanted to try to build my Vogue Shots Photography glamour and boudoir brand, but I’ve been shooting weddings either as a 2nd shooter or associate photographer.

With my brand-spanking new strobe, I wanted to create Annie Leibovitz or Vanity Fair-style shots, but I only tried it once. I was hoping to setup a small studio at my house, but that didn’t really happen just yet.

I was also supposed to start another project inspired by Lindsay Adler’s “Seeing Red” collection, but instead of red, I wanted to use blue (it’s my favorite color). Nope! I haven’t started at all!

Instead, I started a project called “The Alternative Light (Alt Light) Project”, inspired by Brandon Woelfel’s photography. I first heard about him a few months ago when someone was trying to imitate his work and editing style in a Facebook group. I Googled his name and loved his use of lighting props, heavy bokeh, and his neon lights images.

At first, I wasn’t really into his editing style, but it grew on me over time. I found a few YouTube videos on how to get a similar effect in Lightroom, and practiced them on a few nighttime shots I’ve done in the past.

I recently made quick trip to the Dollar Store to buy some items, so I can play with them for future shoots.

To kick off this project, here are a few before-and-after shots of my normal editing turned into Brandon Woelfel-inspired images.

Shooting on a Budget in Downtown Las Vegas

Susan walking the runway in 2015.
Dress by Wassa Wear.

I finally got to do a shoot with this gorgeous girl! I met Susan a few years ago through Facebook. I first saw her on the runway of a local Vegas fashion show where I was attending as a photographer. This show featured new designers. Susan stood out to me because she reminded me of model/actress Brigitte Nielsen in her prime, but a more demure version of her. Back then, she was a blond.

Thanks to the power of Facebook tagging by mutual friends, I was able to send Susan a link to download her pictures.

I’ve always wanted to work with her, but she moved to New York City for modeling and acting and lived there for a few years. We’ve been following each other’s work through social media throughout the years.

When Susan announced she was visting Vegas and was looking to collaborate, I jumped at the chance!

We did the shoot in Downtown Las Vegas at the Neonopolis. The area wasn’t very busy due to many businesses closing. We had free reign to shoot, especially this bridge area that overlooked Fremont Street.

I didn’t intend on doing this shoot for my “Shooting on a Budget” project, but the amount of gear used ended up matching my criteria. Also, I haven’t posted anything related to “Shooting on a Budget” in a long time.

Here was the gear list:

  • Nikon D300 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens – $180
  • Yongnuo YN-568EX TTL speedlight – Free!
    (A fellow photographer graciously gave me this flash, but it normally sells for about $97 new)
  • ‘Yongnuo YN-622N-TX  and YN-622N receivers – Free!
    (A fellow photographer graciously gave me these receivers, but it normally sells for about $85 new)
  • White shoot-through umbrella – $8.50
  • Lightstand – $30
  • Flash bracket – $7.50

Total = $408 ($8 over budget) or $226 (since 2 items were given to me)

I was having problems firing the YN-568EX off-camera. I normally use it on-camera for wedding ceremonies. Some of the shots were done with natural light, while some were with the speedlight when it did fire.

Credits :
Model – Susan (Instagram)

At the end of the shoot, we did an obligatory selfie. In true model fashion, Susan would change her position for each shot from her cell phone. She’s a model through and through!

 

 

You Work with What You’ve Got

I visited my parents in Walnut during the first weekend of May. A few weeks before, I gave back my Dad’s Canon Rebel, but I forgot to return his spare battery. Because my parents were leaving for the UK a couple weeks later, I decided to pay them a visit.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, I try to setup at least one photo shoot whenever I’m in SoCal. Since I had one whole day free (after giving my parents a ride to their friends’ house in Anaheim), I scheduled a couple of photo shoots at my usual spot at Dana Point Harbor.

To practice with my new Orlit strobe, I purposely scheduled two mid-day shoots with harsh lighting to see how well it overpowers the sun. I have never used HSS with a wider aperture as well (like f/2.8), so this was a perfect place to try it.

Unfortunately, I had to change my plans when I arrived at the tide pool. It was a bit windy and the tide was slightly higher than expected. It didn’t feel safe to use my strobe without an assistant and the risk of having it fall in the water.

So I had to work with what I’ve got. I had to use natural light in harsh lighting with no shade. I had to read the light and had the model adjust accordingly.

The first shoot was at 11am with Ashley. The sun was in a better position. It was easier to position Ashley and have her turn her back to the sun. After getting in a few wardrobe modifications at the tide pool, I grabbed the strobe from my car and set it up on a dirt trail away from the water. I loved her rainbow aviators, and the strobe made the picture “pop”.

The second shoot was at 1pm with Patricia. Because the sun was right above her head, it was much more difficult to shoot with natural lighting. She had to do some adjustments in her posing, like putting her chin down so the light wouldn’t create a triangle on her nose.

We concluded the shoot at the harbor because her dresses matched the surroundings better. Also, shooting at the tide pool with natural lighting was so difficult, that I wanted to get out of there and go somewhere else!

My Strobe Dilemma

Throughout my photography journey, I’ve had mixed feelings about owning a strobe. Was it necessary or not?

I have used off-camera flash (OCF) since 2013. Learning OCF did wonders for my photography and have brought my work to another level.

At first, I thought I would need to buy expensive Nikon speedlights at about over $400 per unit, and then buy a PocketWizard set for another $200 or over just to fire those speedlights.

Thank goodness for Yongnuo products. Over the years, I have accumulated about 8 Yongnuo speedlights. Each speedlight had a triggering system built-in. All I needed was something for the top of my camera to fire off all those speedlights. The cost of my whole entire Yongnuo setup was STILL cheaper than one Nikon speedlight and PocketWizard set. What was even more sweet was that my Yongnuo receiver allowed me to make adjustments from my camera, instead of going to each unit and making adjustments from there.

I didn’t have much space in my house to setup a studio. Multiple Yongnuo speedlights sufficed and did its job.

I was able to survive shooting in very harsh mid-day sun without shade and only 3 Yongnuo speedlights. If I wanted a more shallow depth of field, I would just put an ND filter on my 85mm lens.

I was happy with speedlights for years, but still wanted a strobe. Why? Well, these were my arguments for not getting one:

  • As mentioned above, I didn’t have much space in my house to setup a studio. I didn’t need all that power from a strobe.
  • If I were to use a strobe outdoors, I would have to buy a battery pack because the strobe had to be plugged in. What a pain in the ass to haul!
  • I would also have to buy a new wireless triggering system, but it wouldn’t have the same functionality as my Yongnuos.

So what drove me to get a strobe?

Back in late 2016, I was assisting a wedding photographer who just purchased the wonderful Profoto B1. Because there was no time to set up a light stand, I HAD to be the light stand. I held the B1 above my head with my arms stretched out, similar to John Cusack holding his boombox in the movie “Say Anything”.

I thought the B1 was a cool thing to have, but unfortunately, I didn’t have over $2000 to spend. However, I still wanted a strobe that was affordable AND have these features that the B1 has (in this order):

  1. High speed sync (HSS), so I can shoot faster than my camera’s flash sync speed (usually between 1/200-1/250 seconds) and be at a wider aperture (at least f/4 or wider). I wouldn’t need to use my 85mm lens with an ND filter on it.
  2. An onboard battery pack, so I don’t have to deal with wires or a stand-alone battery pack. This makes it more portable for outdoors shoots.
  3. Powerful enough to over-power the sun, especially with large modifiers. Using 3 speedlights was great and all, but because I wasn’t using any modifiers, lighting was a bit harsh.
  4. TTL (through-the-lens), so the strobe’s power can be adjusted automatically with objects that are constantly moving, especially ones that are moving forwards and backwards like children and dogs. Because I haven’t used TTL as much in the past, this feature wasn’t as high in priority than the others. It would have been nice to have, but it wasn’t really a deal-breaker.

I did a Google search and stumbled upon the Godox AD600 (or the Flashpoint XPLOR 600). Then, I also saw the Godox AD200 (or the Flashpoint eVOLV 200), which was more portable, but less powerful than the AD600. However, one AD200 unit had more power than my 3 Yongnuo speedlight setup.

When I finally had enough money to purchase a strobe, I was set on getting two AD200 units because they were way more affordable. However, during a photographer’s meetup at Floyd Lamb Park, I was introduced to the Orlit Rovelight RT 601 and was able to test it out. It was comparable to the AD600 and had all the features I wanted (except for TTL, which was fine with me).

The next day, I visited Adorama’s website and saw that the TTL version of the Orlit Rovelight with the receiver was much cheaper than getting two AD200’s, as well as half the price of getting the TTL version of the AD600. Needless to say, I ended up choosing the Orlit Rovelight 610!

Orlit RoveLight RT 610 with a 40-inch brolly box (umbrella softbox).

Below are the images from the Floyd Lamb meetup, using the Orlit Rovelight and a 48-inch octobox. I love the softness of the light!

So how does a strobe affect me moving forward? To be honest, not much. I just got cool new gear! And it gives me more and more opportunity to be versatile and practice more with studio lighting!