Author: Anjanette

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. If you view my profile page, you can see what pictures I’ve submitted that didn’t make it to the top 10%-30% and what categories my top images were entered into.

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!

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

Credits:
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, dirt 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.