Category: Behind the Scenes

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?

 

 

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.

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!

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.

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.

Shooting on a Budget – Introduction

I’m not sure what prompted me to join yet another Facebook photography group, especially targeted towards beginners, but I joined this specific one because a friend is a member. (Unfortunately, she’s not very active, LOL!) I’ve been trying to find ways to re-gain my passion for photography and I joined the group in hopes to get some inspiration. I also wanted pay it forward and help people with their own photography journey.

The most common questions posted are, “What camera should I buy?”, “What camera should I upgrade to?”, and “What lens should I get?”. Many people in the group are convinced that upgrading to a new camera (especially to a full-frame) will help make their pictures better, and that the “Nifty Fifty” (50mm f/1.8 lens) is the magical lens that gives you a blurred background in your pictures (known as shallow depth of field).

There’s this admin in the group (bless his heart), that is constantly telling people the best camera is the one you have in your hand and that you can achieve a blurred background with kit lenses (the lenses that comes with your new camera). Whenever someone posts about upgrading, he asks “Why?” Some people perceive him as rude because he is truthful and direct with his responses, but for the most part, him and I agree on almost everything. Also, when I try to play the voice of reason in the group, he always likes my posts, so I guess I’m not off the mark!

Since I joined around Halloween, I’ve been very active in this group. As I got more and more involved in the group, trying to help people out and answering questions, it made me think of a local Vegas photographer who created a blog about shooting with budget gear (Shooting on a Budget). Thanks to both the group and the blog, it inspired me to do a personal project where I only shoot with minimal gear.

I’m putting away my $5,000 gear! (Except the 50mm)

Gear List

Here is my list and how much I’ve spent out-of-pocket on each item:

    • Nikon D300 and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 “kit” lens – $180 from OfferUp
    • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens – $150 from Craig’s List
    • Yongnuo YN-560III speedlight – $60 from Amazon
    • Yongnuo YN-560IV speedlight – $75 from Amazon
    • Yongnuo YN-560-TX receiver – $45 from YongnuoUSA.net
    • White shoot-through umbrella – $8.50 from eBay
    • Beauty dish with sock – $58 from eBay
    • Lightstand – $30 from Amazon
    • S-type Bowens mount – $17 from eBay
    • Flash bracket – $7.50 from eBay
    • Working on getting a Nikon D50 for under $100

Rules

  • The value of all equipment used must be $400 or lower COMBINED!
  • 3rd party equipment (external lighting and modifiers, light stands, tripods, etc.) are allowed just as long as it stays on budget.
  • Cannot pair Nikon D300 lens with 50mm f/1.8 lens unless it’s a low-lighting situation.
    (Even though I’ve spent only $180, the D300 is not considered an entry-level camera. Only the 18-55mm lens is entry-level. I feel using the Nikon D300 with the 50mm lens will not stay true to the project.)
  • 50mm lens can only be used on low-lighting shoots.

Yes…My Ass is Still Shooting

So a few months ago, I was in a slump. I was debating whether or not to hang up photography in 2018 after finishing any outstanding photo shoots scheduled for the reminder of 2017.

At the time when I started feeling the slump, I told myself I wasn’t going to take on any more projects or work in 2017 other than what I have previously scheduled, unless it’s paid and I really needed the money. Well, lo’ and behold, I really needed the money, so I took on MORE paid work!

My paid work came from various sources. I’ve done a few photo shoots for tourists from Mexico through a travel photography website that connects tourists with local photographers worldwide. I’ve also done a couple portrait sessions and weddings as the second shooter.

I have also done a couple unpaid projects. I did a couple shoots to test out my Nikon D300, in which I re-acquired. I previously had one a couple years ago and I regret selling it. This particular D300 was from Offer Up and it’s not in the greatest shape, but at least it’s working and I have a backup. I did a few head shots to test it out.

Yes! One of the pictures in the gallery is a person standing in front of the milky way. It’s was a very tough shot and the night was very COLD to boot!

J Summer Fashion Show at the Hoover Dam

The J Summer Fashion show was produced by model and “Queen of the Catwalk” Jessica Minh Anh. She’s had experience turning the world’s most iconic locations into her own personal fashion runway, including the Eiffel Tower, London’s Tower Bridge, One World Trade Center, and the Grand Canyon Skywalk. This summer, she added the Hoover Dam to her impressive resumé.

It was a privilege to accompany Victoria of Fashion One to this event. We arrived at the Hoover Dam a little bit after dawn and met at Hoover Dam’s event space, the Spillway House. After having breakfast and cooling off before heading outside in the heat for the fashion show, we took our seat right on top of the Hoover Dam.

The show lasted about an hour and featured designs by various designers all over the world. The models who walked in the show with Jessica were represented by LA Models and TNG Models. Despite sitting in the heat with the sun facing us, it was a enjoyable show.

After the show, we went back inside the Spillway House to meet with the designers and Jessica, as well as cooling off. The fashion show received a great amount of publicity with the local Vegas news, Telemundo, a Vietnamese news network, among others present.

This is the official video of the fashion show, recapping the event. It’s easy to spot me in the audience because I wasn’t using an umbrella for shade. It was hard to hold the umbrella and take pictures at the same time, so I had the sun blazing at me to the point where it almost overheated my camera.

I’m at a Crossroads…

Normally, when I launch a new website, I announce it on all my social media accounts with enough fanfare to hopefully get visitors.  Then I go about my business and start updating my brand-spanking new site.

Last night, on August 16, 2017 at around 11pm, I did my obligatory “Visit my new website” post with the link on my personal Facebook. That same night, I was going to announce it on my newly changed Instagram account, @anjanettearnold, but unfortunately, I was watching “So You Think You Can Dance” clips on YouTube in a zombie-like state. This eventually put me to sleep at around 4:00 in the morning.

Today, I was about to announce my new website on IG, but I think I need to explain to my combined few-hundred social media followers why little ol’ me has THREE photography websites and Instagram accounts.

Here is a simple answer to a complex situation…I’m at a crossroads!

I was originally was going to call this blog post “See You at the Crossroads” like that Bone Thugs-N-Harmony song, but I held back because, well, that song is about memorializing death or at least the end of something. Don’t worry, I’m physically fine and I don’t think I’m going to die any time soon. However, I’m at a crossroad where I’m contemplating ending something that consumed my life for the past 5 years…photography.

This all started back around May or June when I announced to my 600+ friends on Facebook that I’m going to hang it up after finishing all my outstanding shoots for 2017. At the time, I was feeling burned-out and felt it was showing in my work. I was also getting mad at myself for not opening a book to study for the GMAT (to apply for grad school) because I said to myself I was going to start in March. I basically was “over it”.

Since then, I was trying to make a conscious effort not to add on any more work on top of my other photography obligations, and I think I’m doing a pretty decent job. I haven’t added more trade-for-print (TFP) shoots lately and I may try to continue that for the rest of the year. I’ve also stepped down as an organizer for my Aspiring Photographers group on Meetup.com and just demoted myself to just a member.

Sorry for rambling, but every reason needs a back story. I’m now going to cut to the chase and explain why I have added more work with 3 websites and 3 IG accounts. I have decided to make 2018 my last-ditch effort to actually making some REAL money with photography, and assess from there whether to make it a business or just a hobby.

I love all aspects of photography, but I can’t be the jack-of-all trades photographer. I need to find my niche.

I really want my niche to be fashion photography. It’s my ultimate dream is to be on the same level of the people I look up to like Nigel Barker, Matthew Rolston, Herb Ritts, Russell James, etc. Unfortunately, the chances of reaching that level are the same as becoming a celebrity. I’m going to be doing TFP’s for the rest of my life and resort to teaching and conducting workshops to earn money, which I absolutely don’t want to do!

Well, what about wedding photography? It’s great and all, and I can make decent money out of it, but it’s so much hard work and stressful! Also, I live in the wedding capital of the world…Las Vegas. It’s hard to compete with the chapels and more established wedding photographers. To be honest, I don’t see myself doing only wedding photography long-term.

I asked for advice in a Facebook group on finding a niche, and someone suggested I do glamour photography, which really resonated with me. Instead of working with models, I can make potential clients feel like a model for the day. They were so popular in the 80’s and 90’s. I just need to bring a 2010’s spin to it!

From that point forward, I decided to do a whole re-brand overhaul. I plan to re-brand Vogue Shots (@vogueshotsphoto) as a boutique glamour photography “studio”. Once the Vegas weather cools down in the Fall, I may do a few model calls to help market my new brand and get up and ready for early to mid-2018.

With 2 more weddings down the pipe for 2017, including one in the San Francisco area, I may still want to do weddings every now and then. I have great wedding and engagement work to share, so I made a new IG account, @photosbyanjanette.

But then, I still have dreams and aspirations of being a fashion photographer too. This prompted me to change @anjanettearnold to a personal IG account. I may still want to do cool and exciting shoots that I would like to share. Maybe I will go the blogging route with this, if I can keep up!

Sigh…I’m truly at a crossroads indeed!

Jeneration Apparel Mansion Shoot

When I heard from a Facebook group about a fashion “shoot out” in a mansion, I jumped at the chance! I didn’t let a tiring and hot day of photographing soccer kids the morning before stop me from taking advantage of this event.

The location is in a quiet neighborhood near the Lone Mountain area of Las Vegas. It’s a spacious property that sits on about half an acre of land. There was a pool in the backyard, as well as a mini-tavern and gorgeous gates and doors with intricate designs. The biggest plus of the house was the clawfoot tub in one of the bathrooms, which is rare in many homes.

All the models wore dresses by Jeneration Apparel, a clothing company based out of Denver.

Staysi Lee Bridal Boutique – Designer Spotlight

Staysi Lee is a very talented designer, whose designs embrace vintage and pin-up flare. She started off designing and selling her ever-popular infinity convertible dress, where you can wrap and twist the dress to create many designs. Taking inspiration from her own personal style, especially from her wedding, she expanded into creating customized wedding dresses.

Her wedding dress designs takes elements of both couture and vintage, with a nod to old Hollywood glamour. Want a dash of color to spice up your wedding dress? It’s customized, so why not?

She took notes from clients that would only like certain aspects of a dress, but not the whole thing. To solve that problem, she designed 2-piece wedding dresses where you can mix and match the top and the bottom. The greatest thing is that you can use an overlay or sash to make it look like one dress.

Staysi is also a collector of vintage dresses, where she buys many of them from an “undisclosed” location, fixes them up, and sells them again. If you truly want a vintage wedding with styles from the 1940’s through 1990’s, Staysi is your girl!

Visit Staysi’s online shops:

Custom couture wedding gowns – https://www.etsy.com/shop/StaysiLeeCouture
Infinity convertible dresses – https://www.etsy.com/shop/StaysiLee
Vintage dresses – https://www.etsy.com/shop/localovespirate

Dana Point Photo Shoot

Whenever I visit my family in Southern California, I always try to set up shoots during my visits just to break away from the usual locations I shoot in Vegas.

I put up a couple posts in a Facebook group for Los Angeles area photographers, models, makeup artists, and anyone in the industry. Not only I found a great makeup artist, but a hair stylist as well. By coincidence, the hair stylist is originally from my hometown and graduated from my high school!

I found my model through Model Mayhem via a casting call I posted on my profile. She was the perfect fit!

Whenever you work with new people and ones you have never met before, it’s always a hit or miss, but my team was terrific! We worked very well together. It unfortunately rained in Dana Point, but my team stuck it out with me. I was grateful they were such team players!

Credits:
Model: Ashley (Website)
Makeup Artist: Karla (Facebook)
Hair Stylist: Rilesha (Instagram)
Dress Provided By: Staysi Lee Bridal (Website)

Sunset Portraits With Off-Camera Flash Meetup

When I first started photography, taking pictures of the sunset AND the subject with the correct exposure was a huge struggle of mine. Because I started off as a landscape photographer, I always wanted a scenic background behind the subject.

The problem with using natural light is your backgrounds will be blown-out and white, especially if you’re trying to properly expose the subject. If you expose for the sky, your subject will be dark.

Whenever I see ads on Facebook that sell sky overlays for Photoshop, I always smirk because I know there is a way to achieve the same thing straight out of camera. The solution is learning off-camera flash.

My Aspiring Photographers meetup group and I spent a Wednesday afternoon at Wetlands Park. We did a short walk to a pond area where the backdrop is a beautiful sunset.


Photo by Ken Elsner


Photo by Ken Elsner


Photo by Ken Elsner

I did not take very many shots because I was helping others out. But when I had a chance to shoot, here were my results.

Analisa Fashion Shoot

Analisa is a well-known fashion brand from Hungary. I had a wonderful time meeting Beáta (the designer), her husband, and friends. Beáta’s friend Charles, who is an American professional poker player, and his Hungarian wife Ilona were wonderful facilitators and translators.

Beáta chose to do the shoot at Eldorado Ghost Town in Nelson NV when she saw pictures I posted in a Facebook group. Nelson appears to be very American-looking and different from Hungary.

Credits:
Models: Taylor (Facebook) and Erica
Designer: Analisa (Website)
Behind the Scenes Photo Credits: From Analisa’s Facebook Page

Here are the final images: