Author: Anjanette

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?

 

 

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!

My Day of Versatility

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, it was nothing but back-to-back shooting. It was also the MOST versatile day of shooting for me.

I started the morning shooting two gorgeous models at a house with a backyard pool. The owner of the house specifically decorated the entire house for photographers. I was so overwhelmed with all the possibilities this house had to offer, that I was embarrassed I wasn’t very prepared. Throughout the shoot, I used my new Orlit Rovelight strobe with my Nikon D300 and 18-55 kit lens. It brought back memories to “Pump My Portfolio” back in 2013, in a sense where I was still making great shots with inexpensive gear and great lighting. The 18-55 lens sufficed. I didn’t need any fancy lenses.

The next shoot was a portrait session with Staysi, a talented dress designer whom I’ve mentioned before, and her family. Her and her husband were renewing their vows, and because the chapel didn’t allow outside photographers, they wanted to do a quick shoot before the ceremony. Staysi created pink matching dresses for her and her daughter, and came up with a retro pink flamingo theme. To use these pictures for a possible bridal magazine submission, it had to feel like a natural wedding. Therefore, I did this shoot in all natural light with my Nikon D750 and 24-120 f/4 lens.

The last and final shoot was a wedding reception at Skyview Banquet Hall. I was asked to work this reception at the last minute so the owner, who is also a photographer, can put on her “event planning hat” and spend the whole night making sure everything ran smoothly. My favorite part of the night was a little dance by the groom before the garter toss. It was funny to watch! I shot this event with my Nikon D750, 24-120 f/4 lens, and a Yongnuo TTL flash on camera. The venue already had great up-lighting and low ceilings, so I was able to bounce the light from my flash.

The Back Story

Back in the summer of 2013, during the early stages of my photography journey, I attended a studio photography workshop called “Pump My Portfolio”. It was a great day of portfolio-building and learning about studio photography. Most of the photographers who attended the event were also early into their photography journey, while some were seasoned wedding and portrait photographers.

Since I was a naive aspiring photographer at the time, I was intimidated by the seasoned photographers at first because of their experience and high-end full-frame cameras and lenses. I was feeling inadequate with my lowly entry-level Nikon D3000 and 18-55 kit lens. I thought my 50mm f/1.8 lens would bring me into the “Cool Kids Club” with the seasoned photographers, especially during the boudoir portion where it was all natural window light.

To my surprise, the seasoned photographers were just as clueless as I was about studio photography.

I was also producing pretty kick-ass shots with my “lowly” entry-level gear, especially with the strobes that were provided. They were pretty much ready to go straight-out-of-camera. Everyone had awesome shots that day. Based on the portfolio sharing, it was hard to tell who were the seasoned photographers and who were the newbies.

As the months went by, I’ve noticed something about the photographers whose work I’ve been following. They mostly shoot with natural light during golden hour. I hardly see their shots taken any other time of the day or even at night.

In that same year, I attended another photography meetup and received a quick crash-course on off-camera flash. I remember taking a couple of shots with my newly learned skills and was amazed at the results.

By the end of 2013, I realized that I needed to stand out as a photographer and step up my skills by learning off-camera flash and shooting in the harshest lighting possible.

Over the years, I had a mantra that a photographer should be able to work in any lighting conditions given to them, whether it’s during golden hour or high noon with the sun above everyone. I would practice in areas that had no shade with the harshest lighting, so I would be forced to shoot with whatever I’m working with. I had the mindset that clients only cared about “their hour” and not “golden hour”, and needed to prepare for any lighting situation.

As I was utilizing off-camera flash more and more, I felt it was the greatest thing since slice bread. It made workflow much quicker and I was able to take portraits with pretty skies straight out-of-the-camera. Since I wasn’t using natural light, I didn’t have to worry about using Photoshop to create a sky overlay. I was wondering why hardly anyone was on board with OCF.

Okay…enough throwing shade to the “natural-light photographers”. Let’s start throwing shade to the “strobists” and “OCF-ers”!

Throughout my journey, I noticed strobists had awesome work with their strobes and lights, but when it came to natural light, it wasn’t as strong. As an “OCF-er” that didn’t own strobes, I was falling into that group. I remember posting some natural light stuff on my Facebook and a friend told me that she didn’t believe it was my work because it wasn’t as “constrast-y” as my usual work. She wasn’t putting down my natural light stuff, but she did say it wasn’t as strong as my usual OCF work. That conversation made me want to go back to shooting with natural light and be better at it.

It is 2018 now, and although I’ve had a great photography journey these past 5 years, unfortunately, it has not translated into a successful business. Do I want it to make it a business? I’m not sure at this point. I’m very happy with my employment at UNLV and I know it’s better in the long run. Maybe a side business perhaps?

However, I can safely say that my photography has shown versatility over the years. I may be better at a few of the many skills I’ve acquired, but I can at least produce adequate results. There is always room to grow in order to make something “adequate” extraordinary.

It’s hard to express how important it for me to be versatile without adding my own personal back story, so now that’s over, let’s move onto the present!

Double Published in Vegas Runway Magazine and ELEGANT Magazine

Model / Makeup Artist: Katia (Instagram)
Stylist / Creative Director/ Jewelry Designer: Elena (Website)

To create content for Vegas Runway’s Spring Edition, we did a shoot all the way back in February 2018 during the China Lights Festival at Craig Ranch Park. Presented by Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc., it was the first year Vegas held such an event.

The lantern displays were beautiful and a great setting for a shoot. Throughout most of the duration of the festival, the weather was warm. Unfortunately, we visited the festival as the weather dropped down to its normal temperature for February. Katia was such a trooper dealing with the cold. Luckily for her, she wore a kimono between takes.

View Vegas Runway Magazine Spring Edition online.

Doing this photo shoot was an automatic publication for Vegas Runway, but Elena had other publications in mind. She submitted these images to ELEGANT Magazine, which had a much higher following with over 37,000 followers on Facebook and over 43,000 Instagram followers. Because of the higher social media following and therefore, more submissions, it is harder to get published. After many unsuccessful attempts by Elena the past, they finally accepted this submission!

View ELEGANT Magazine March 2018 Fashion #3 issue online.

Dirt in the Skirt 2018

Dirt in the Skirt (a.k.a. DITS) is an event where “outdoor lifestyle meets the world of digital photography”. Organized by Mike Lee of Polarpics, he invited people to bring in their off-road vehicles, as well as models and photographers. It was a fun day filled with food, babes and hunks, dirty toys, and friendship.

This was my second year attending this event. It was held at the dry lake bed in Jean, which is more secluded than Boulder City, where last year’s event was held.

Dirt in the Skirt has gotten bigger over the years, and this year was no exception. All attendees, regardless of their role (as a photographer, model, rider, etc.), paid a fee which went towards catered food, a porta-potty, raffle prizes, and firewood.

All weapons (that were used as props) were provided by Empire Armory.

Locations in SoCal I Would Love to Revisit

I usually get tired of the same locations in Vegas. Whenever I go to Cali to visit my parents or just to get away from Vegas, I always try to squeeze in a shoot with anyone who is willing to get in front of my camera (preferably an aspiring model).

Throughout my photography journey, I have done at least one shoot at these locations and I’m dying to do more, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.  I mostly blame traffic, distance, and simply just time. I can only spend weekends in Cali, so my time is limited.

Here are the locations I would love to revisit, in no particular order:

“Urban Light” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

“Urban Light” is pretty much considered LACMA’s landmark, located right on Wilshire Boulevard. It’s a very popular location for photographers and gets pretty crowded, especially on the weekends. The last time I visited LACMA, there were people in my shots, especially rude pre-teens trying to “photobomb” my shot.

I would love to revisit this location, but there are many reasons why I haven’t. First of all, I would love to do an epic high-fashion shoot with beautiful, flowing evening gowns, but it’s very tough to find the right people and wardrobe to pull off such a shoot. Also, I would have to do the shoot very late in the evening or early morning before dawn to avoid people in my shot. Second, the location, traffic, and parking make it cumbersome just to visit. It’s right in the heart of LA after all!

Hermosa Beach

Hermosa Beach is one of my favorite LA County beaches. It’s a clean beach and not overly crowded, unlike Venice Beach or Santa Monica. The pier is very nice too. It’s not as popular as the pier at Manhattan Beach, but it’s still nice.

Again, location, traffic, and parking are the biggest reasons why I haven’t revisited Hermosa Beach. It’s close to the LAX airport, which makes traffic even more annoying!

Disney Concert Hall

Disney Concert Hall is an amazing place to shoot. I love the architecture of the building, and you can do so many different things at this location. However, I haven’t revisited this location mostly because security told me to stop shooting towards the end, which put a damper on everything. They were okay with doing a shoot there, but tripods and stands were not allowed. I was using off-camera flash the last time I shot there. Next time, I will have to just shoot with natural light.

Disney Concert Hall shares the same characteristics as the other two locations. You have to deal with traffic and parking, especially since it’s located in Downtown LA.

Cal Poly Pomona

I may use location and traffic as my excuse for the other three locations, but I cannot use it as an excuse for Cal Poly Pomona, especially since it’s only five miles away from my parent’s house! I can only blame the “It’s always going to be there” attitude when it comes to locations nearby.

The last time I did a shoot at Cal Poly Pomona, it was dark and I didn’t really get to utilize the area very well. The shoot was at the Union Plaza, a beautiful courtyard area with Spanish-style horse stables and a fountain. However, these horse stables have been converted into offices for the various student clubs around the campus.

I have been wanting to do a shoot at “the stables” and the Japanese and rose gardens near the administration building (a.k.a. “the pointy building”), but I haven’t gotten around to doing it because I want to set up a styled shoot. Again, it’s tough to find the right people and wardrobe to pull off a shoot. Also, Sundays would be the best day because weddings are held on campus as well.

Honorable Mention – Dana Point Harbor

As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Dana Point Harbor is my go-to place because it’s peaceful and easy to access. Distance-wise, it’s just as far as Hermosa Beach, but I hardly run into traffic, so it’s not as annoying.

Fashion Magazine Look on a Budget

One of my most favorite looks in photography is the bright and flashy look that you see in fashion magazines and editorials. Typically, the model is brightly lit and pops out from the background. I can thank watching America’s Next Top Model for that.

When I first got into fashion photography, I would watch re-runs of Top Model. The drama among the contestants and the challenges were ridiculous to watch, so I just skip to the photo shoots.  While watching a few episodes, I have always wondered why they would need a strobe in the daytime.

Throughout my photography journey, I’m glad to say I finally figured out why photographers would need a flash or a strobe in the daytime. It is used as a fill light, especially in harsh lighting with no shade.

I attended a photographer-model networking event at the Arts District. During this event, you basically grab a model or “human subject” and start shooting. Because the event was held earlier in the day, the lighting was harsh. There was plenty of shaded areas around, but I didn’t want to shoot the same thing as every one else, so I brought my models out in the sun.

It was one of those instances where I wish I brought more speedlights and a diffuser to spread and soften the light, but you work with what you have. So in both instances, I just used one bare speedlight at about 1/2 power. It didn’t spread the light as I hoped, but it did an alright job.

Credits:
Models – Landon (Instagram) | Reyna (Instagram)

Shooting with Natural Light on a Budget

I’m looking to shoot more natural light in 2018. As much as I love off-camera flash, it’s annoying to bring a light stand to every shoot. I can get away with shooting with the flash on camera if I don’t have a light stand, but sometimes the lighting can be a bit harsh and flat.

I pride myself in being able to shoot with both natural light and off-camera flash, but my goal is to make my natural light portfolio just as good as my off-camera flash work.

A small group of photographers and I spent the day in Mt. Charleston to shoot in the snow. One of the photographers brought her aspiring model friend to be our “subject”. Vegas people get very excited about snow, so Mt. Charleston was pretty packed. My car was parked far and I didn’t want to haul my light stands while walking up the hill, so I just left it in the trunk.

I felt a little out of my element for various reasons. First of all, I’ve been so used to off-camera flash, that I felt it’s been my “crutch”. I now had to read the light and move the model accordingly. Second of all, I was using my Dad’s Canon Rebel T1i, which I still have from my Philippines vacation. I’m still trying to get used to the dials and buttons, but they’re so much different than my higher-end Nikons. Back-button focusing (BBF) felt weird on the T1i, so I switched and re-learned shutter-button focusing. Finally, I only had the kit lenses, which are sometimes not ideal with shooting natural light portraits because of it’s not-so-wide apertures.

Many photography beginners think that shooting at an aperture of f/1.8 with the 50mm lens is the only way to get a blurry and “bokeh-riffic” background. However, depth of field is also determined by the distance between the subject and the background, as well as the subject and the photographer. To get the blurriness, there needs to be a good amount of distance between the subject and the background and the photographer. With that in mind, I used the 55-250mm kit lens only.

My Trip to the Philippines

I’ve spent the first 2 weeks of 2018 in the Philippines. New Year’s Eve was spent in a plane with free champagne from the flight attendants. By the time my parents and I arrived, it was already the evening of New Year’s Day.

The last time I’ve visited the Philippines was during the holidays in 2001, arriving back to the States on New Year’s Day 2002. Things definitely changed 16 years later. The most notable changes were paved roads within the neighborhood (or “village” as they call it) of my Aunt’s house, working and flushable toilets 99% of the time, and my little nieces and nephews who were around 1-6 years of age in 2001 are now young adults. Unfortunately, what hasn’t changed is the major traffic around Metro Manila and the nearby provinces.

The first week in the Philippines was mostly spent with family, seeing relatives I haven’t seen in a very long time. The week ended with a beautiful outdoor wedding with the bride wearing a dress that would put Kate Middleton’s wedding dress to shame.

The second week was spent with more family, especially on my Dad’s side. We ended the week spending it at Boracay, which is a huge tourist destination.

I didn’t want to bring my bulky Nikon cameras that I normally use for paid work, so I used my Dad’s Canon Rebel T1i during this trip. It was a great camera to use, but also frustrating because this camera is entry level, and therefore had less features than my Nikon cameras. Some pictures were from my cell phone, a Samsung S7 Galaxy Edge.

Yes…You Can Shoot a Wedding with Budget Gear

But I highly DO NOT RECOMMEND IT!

There is a saying that “it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer behind it.” That’s true for the most part, but when it comes to weddings, it’s a different story.

Wedding photography is expensive for a reason. It’s because you are paying for the photographer’s experience and their usage of high-end equipment, as well as the photographer’s time coordinating before the wedding and editing the pictures after. In 2017, I have booked 4 weddings on my own and have worked as either the main or second shooter for other people. For all these weddings, I have used my higher-end Nikon D750 (with my Nikon D300 as a backup) and quality lenses with fixed apertures. A few lenses alone were way over $400. Per my “Shooting on a Budget” project, all my equipment had to total at $400 or less!

During my cousin’s wedding, not only I used “downgraded” equipment, but I also used a system I was not very familiar with. I did not want to use my money-making equipment during my trip to the Philippines, so I used my Dad’s entry-level Canon Rebel T1i and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-250mm f/4-5.6 kit lenses. To ensure I had decent shots, I had to quickly learn how to use the camera prior to my trip. I also had to adjust my way of focusing. I was using back-button focusing (BBF) on my Nikon, but it was a pain to do BBF on the T1i, so I had to re-learn how to use shutter button focusing.

It was extremely frustrating using my Dad’s camera. It was a pain setting the focus points, so I had a few out-of-focus shots. Because of the lenses’ changing apertures (if you’re shooting at its widest possible) as you zoom in and out, I had to constantly adjust the shutter speed to get a well-exposed shot. I missed the first kiss because of this. The closest thing I got was the bride and groom about to kiss, but the shot was pretty under-exposed. Thank goodness I shot in RAW!

Even though I was shooting this wedding with entry-level Canon gear, I would have just as much frustration shooting with comparable entry-level Nikon gear. Learning the Canon wasn’t that much of a huge learning curve for me.

In summary…yes, you can shoot a wedding with entry-level gear. However, it’s best to use that gear if you’re sitting in the audience as a guest, NOT as the main shooter.

I hope I didn’t lead you all to believe I was the main shooter of this wedding! Fortunately, I was just a guest and took pictures from my seat in the back rows. The wedding had 2 photographers and 3 videographers in a pretty small space, so I didn’t want to get in their way!

I know the main photographers did a much better job than I did, but here are a few shots I took during the ceremony.

Holiday Shoot at the Smith Center

I wanted to do one holiday shoot before the end of 2017, so when Kayla posted on a Facbook group that she was looking for a photographer for holiday shoot, I jumped at the chance.

I chose the Smith Center as the location because there was plenty of lighting at night and it’s one of the most photography-friendly spots in Vegas. Also, there was a 30-foot Christmas tree at Symphony Park. My goal was to get a couple “bokeh-rific” shots with Christmas lights.

I have not purchased any additional gear since I started the project. Unfortunately, I did not purchase the Nikon D50 yet because I’m still looking for one at the right price. However, I’m looking to forego the Nikon D50 because I really want to take a slimmer camera for my trip to the Philippines during the first 2 weeks of January. I’m looking at either a Sony A6000, a GoPro, or something with better video capabilities.

During this shoot, I used the same equipment as before.

  • Nikon D300 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens – $180
  • Nikon 50m f/1.8G AF-S lens – $150
  • Yongnuo YN-560III speedlight – $60
  • Yongnuo YN-560-TX receiver – $45
  • White shoot-through umbrella – $8.50
  • Lightstand – $30
  • Flash bracket – $7.50

Total = $481 ($81 over budget)

I bought this camera somewhat on a whim because I really needed a second body for weddings. However, when I first used this camera, it just didn’t feel right to me and it was so beat up, I regret selling my first D300 in 2015. Because I didn’t really like the camera too much, I just kept it around just in case my Nikon D750 would malfunction.

Thanks to this project, I’m actually appreciating my D300 more. Using the Nikon D750 really has spoiled me prior to the project, especially when it comes to high ISO, but I think I will be okay. I’m not too bothered by pushing the ISO on the D300 to 1600.

Credits :
Model – Kayla (Instagram)

Trash the Dress at Dana Point

Dana Point Harbor, especially the Ocean Institute, is my favorite spot to visit whenever I’m in Cali. Even though it’s 50 miles away from my parent’s house in Walnut, it’s well worth the drive. It’s peaceful, calming, and the water is easy to access. It’s also a great place for photo shoots!

I did a casting call on Model Mayhem, looking for a model with specific measurements. I have a used wedding dress I purchased on eBay for only $50. I previously bought it for a wedding simulation workshop with my photography group. Because the dress is inexpensive and just sitting in my closet, I’ve always wanted to do a trash the dress session. It was very important for the dress to fit the model like a glove. Luckily it did!

I was able to get my hands on my Dad’s camera, which is a Canon Rebel t1i with the 55-250mm f/4.0-5.6 kit lens. He received the camera and lens brand new as a Christmas present back in 2009. I researched on eBay and the lowest price the camera now is selling for is $155 and about $70 for the lens, so everything totals about $225. The pricing is based on the “Buy It Now” price.

I studied the Canon’s button layout and menu a little bit prior to the shoot. Thanks to a Google search, I was able to setup back-button focusing. During the shoot, I had the model stand near the water, which was far away from me. With the waves crashing in, it was hard for her to hear my voice and the camera’s shutter. I felt a little bit out of place shooting with the Canon, especially with the focus points. The button functions were much different than what I’m used to. I had to stop periodically to make sure I had her in focus. I didn’t want to use my off-camera flash system because I needed to gain more familiarity with the Canon.

I switched back and forth between the Canon and my same Nikon setup, the D300 with the 50mm f/1.8 lens and Yongnuo YN-560III speedlight. Since I didn’t use the 18-55mm kit lens, even though it came with the D300, everything totals slightly over $400.

I also switched back and forth between using natural light and off-camera flash. In addition to my “Shooting on a Budget” project, I also wanted to scale back and just use natural light. Unfortunately, because the lighting was a little harsh (even on a partly cloudy day), I wasn’t enjoying the washed-out white skies and flat lighting that comes with shooting with natural light. Lighting was much more gorgeous when I shot away from the sun, with the model having to look at the sun.

Credits:
Model – Katie (Model Mayhem)
Dress and Veil – All purchased from eBay

Camera description is included in each pictures. The first 3 images are from the Canon camera and the last 3 images are from the Nikon camera.

 

 

Harley Quinn Balloon Shoot

My “Shooting on a Budget” project got off on a rocky start. First of all, I was supposed to do my first shoot for this project last Sunday, but my model cancelled at the very last minute. Second, I was not successful with getting the Nikon D50 within my budget. I made bids for two separate eBay auctions, but unfortunately they were not the winning bids.

I’m part of many local Facebook modeling/photography groups. If I need to do a shoot with a model, these groups are great resources to find models. Within an hour’s notice, a model posted that she was looking for a photographer to do a Harley Quinn-inspired shoot. While posting, she was wearing a dress made out of twisted balloons and was hair and makeup ready. All she needed was a photographer on a trade-for-print (TFP) basis.

Since I had my equipment ready from last week’s cancellation (just needed to throw in my 50mm), I was ready to drive to the Arts District near Downtown Las Vegas to meet with the model and the balloon dress designer. I brought the following equipment with me:

  • Nikon D300 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens – $180
  • Nikon 50m f/1.8G AF-S lens – $150
  • Yongnuo YN-560III speedlight – $60
  • Yongnuo YN-560-TX receiver – $45
  • White shoot-through umbrella – $8.50
  • Lightstand – $30
  • Flash bracket – $7.50

Total = $481 ($81 over budget)

I did the majority of the shoot with my Nikon D300 and 18-55mm kit lens. Because it was already dark, the lens had some limitations. I struggled with exposing for the ambient light because I wasn’t able to lower my f-stop to f/2.8 or lower. I need to increase ISO, but I didn’t want to crank it up past ISO 1600 because I didn’t want so much grain in my shots. Because of the lens’ specifications, I would have to adjust the power of my speedlight if I were to zoom in at 55mm, as well as adjusting my camera to a slower shutter speed. The more I zoom in, the less light the lens allows. I was at f/5.6 zoomed in.

I was reluctant to use my 50mm lens, but in order to get the Stratosphere in the backdrop, I had use it because of its low-lighting capabilities.

Credits:
Model – Charlie (Instagram) | Balloon Dress Designer – Ronnie (Instagram)