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Monday, January 31, 2011

Another kind of design

A well known photographer whom I greatly admire advised an up and coming fashion photographer that he should not shoot everything and stick to his trade "fashion". What I mean by everything, is portraiture, club events, glamorous, landscapes, and all the other types of things we label under photography. Suddenly, I found myself at a cross road because I admire this well known photographer quite a bit. However, becoming a photographer for me meant being an ace with my camera no matter the situation. I am passionate about shooting fashion, but I eat, sleep, drink, think photography around the clock. The large variety of what, how, where and when I can put it to use is just too much to abandon, to buckle down to one style. Yet I was hearing it from someone who I really admire. My conclusion; be yourself, and do it how it pleases you first.

With that being said, a couple of days ago I got a phone call from designer Erica Plank; owner/designer of Unseen Hands (, a custom quilt making company. Our story is interesting because this was a second time around for us. I had gone out to take a photo of her work to be used on her website in her early days of going into business. It was also my early days as well and I don't think I made a lasting impression because I was probably at the time still finding my way through the fog. But I mention this because it had such a huge impact on how bad I wanted to be a professional photographer, and in reality I was still in my crawling stages. Everything I had learned in business school was on the line here and I walked away feeling like I had failed. On the inside, this angered me and made me hungry. On the outside it made me become one of the most determined shooters walking around the Seattle area. As I read about photography I kept my camera close at hand and practiced what the source was preaching. But I went further than that, because I tweeked everything in the settings, looking for better results. In my unortahdox approach I was reinventing my own wheel; and it showed. I soon had an impressive enough portfolio and it eventually brought me a bit of noteriety. Back onto to the subject, I get this phone call and Erica; immediately stating that she needed my help badly. I was flattered because I knew that my first impression wasn't a good one, so I knew she had to have seen some of my recent work thanks to a really good friend of mine who constantly talk about my work to everyone and he and Erica know each other well. I could hardly sleep from anticipating this shoot because I knew the second time around will be so much better than the first time. I climbed out of bed and drove to the studio at about 4:00 A.M. that morning. When I got to the studio, I handled my planning and staging for her product shoot, and Erica showed up at the appointed time of 9:00 A.M. This time the results ended with an agreement to shoot all her products. Now that is Bluestilling 101. Be sure to check out her website and let her know that you found out about her products through Bluestill Photography.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

High Key & Low light Photography

Yesterday, I was reading a very interesting forum about studio high-key lighting and doing low-light photography. First of all, I am a firm believer that photography is subjective, especially when it comes to interpretting dramatics such as high-key and low light (For those of you who are unfamiliar with what high-key it is defined as: a scene with delicate tones or pastel colors. A photograph which contains large areas of light tones, with few areas of middle tones or shadows). My model Kim V was my subject for some high-key photography yesterday evening. I shot this photo with the nikon 24-120 at an F8, 1/125 shutter speed, ISO 250 hand held, using the 86 inch PLM for my main light, about 6 ft away off and over my right shoulder, a strip box off the left side, and a small octabox as a hair light and two strobe lights to blow out the background. When I shoot high-key I don't particulary like to use grids although I could have gridded the hair light. In other words I like to bathe the entire area with pure undirected light, and prefer that my subject don't smile because I like to minimize the shadow areas (as if it can even exist with as much pure white light that is screaming all over the set when I shoot high key). This is my interpretation of high-key and because it is subjective, others might have their own way of doing it. I wanted to incorporate a ring flash into some of the shots, but I was having major issues with my Pocket Wizards last night not firing the ring flash, that I just became frustrated with it the idea. I think the look is cool, and would be a good look and shot for a page in a magazine or better yet; the cover of one because of all the white space that can easily be filled with unobstructed text. Maybe I will start Twittering my photos to give them more exposure with the ideas of how they might be used, and that might lead to a someone messaging me about using it. We'll see.

Low light photography in my opinion requires much less equipment, and a bit more creativity. Mainly because there is no strobe light involved and you are using the available ambient or introduced light to set the mood. Low-light is very good for capturing the vivid colors displayed at night time, especially in club settings. You're photographing it exactly how it appears to the naked eye. Low light doesn't exactly have to focus on any main subject except for the lighting itself, so other subjects in the photo need not look their very best or can look beautiful, but the lighting is what makes the photo and the mood of it. There are no real particular settings for shooting low light except for the basic rules, always shoot in manual mode and that your camera should be able to handle high ISO settings relatively easy to reduce the grainy dots better known as noise in digital photography.

Right now I feel like I am doing something that I definitely don't want my blog to do; read like an instruction manual. I am not instructing just venting from the forum I read yesterday and just how really subjective I guess one would have to be to understand high-key and low lighting.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Which Do you favor

Tonight a friend of mine and I were discussing a recently shot photo of mine. Coincidently, the subject was on one of my favorites; black and white photography. A good friend will give you constructive critisism. A great friend will get up at 2:00 A.M and log onto his computer to talk photography with you. I think if my buddy Sherman Snyder lived any closer than the 110 miles that seperate us, he would drive to my front door to give me constructive critisism at 2:00 A.M. Sherman, never sleeps like me, and is great for troubleshooting anything photography. He has disected everything from lighting setups to assembling the 86 inch PLM from Paul Buff. He looked at the photo and immediately thought it would be more dyanmic as a black & white. While the client I shot it for love it in color. Therefore this is more of a Chase Jarvis question to the public, "Which do you prefer photo A or photo B". Hit me back and let me know. I will tell you this much, my client definitely loves the photo one particular way over the other. I am curious to know how many other will agree with that style. I will follow up in this blog by posting the client's preference only after comparing the results of your choices. So show this blog around the office, take it to Starbucks with you, discuss it at the dinner table during family time, or make it a school project. Just give me your opinions.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Focusing on Fashion

So one of my biggest focuses this year in 2011, is to get published in bigger and bigger fashion magazines. It's amazing because a fee days ago I had just twittered (follow me on Twitter: bluestilling101) that I was bored and needed a contest to enter. Incredibly, suggestions that poured in from total strangers made me appreciate how far technology in the right hands, can take us. I eventually ended up here: , the answer to two desires. I immediately began making phone calls, checking, then rechecking resources, and networking to ensure that I have an undefeatable A-team of go-getters, to bring home the gold. My right-hand man is back from deployment, we spent the day consulting and test shooting for this contest, while accomplishing work for one of my most loyal clients; ALTOM ( I shot model Jesse and Kristy using all natural light (what little there was. But I shot with the Nikon D700 which is notorious for being its nightstalker capabilities). A small bit of Lightroom post edit and I knew I am on course to be a contender in this contest. I shot this with the Nikon D700, using a 17-35mm f2.8, ISO 1600, at f2.8, hand-held.
So basically I am pondering what it takes as far as location selection goes, as well as team member selection, to put together a winning team, (designer, wardrobe stylist, hair-stylist, model, assistance). The most essential element is the attitude of the photographer. Regardless of how the team is assembled; friends, family or complete strangers; they will feed off and take queues from the photographer. If you are weak at making decisions, then it is best that you utilize or even higher someone with project manager experience to delegate and get the tasks assigned and checked off early. It is very important that the photographer envision the planned shoot, and rally the team to visualize the concept as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Modifying light beautifully

I was given an unbelievable gift by an exceptional friend who keeps me motivated and shooting. That gift was the long awaited Paul Buff 86 inch Parabolic Light Modifier (PLM). Just the fact that he had waited almost a year to receive it, never got a chance to use it once it arrived, and then to send me a text message that I can have it as a xmas present when he know damn well I don't do the whole holiday thing, makes him a super friend for life and strenghten my belief that friends are more comforting than food.

Secondly, my discovery of this girl; Jaela (aka Queet), with incredibly high cheekbones and such natural movement that I had to shoot her, would be the first person I would use this new gift on. Unknowing other than what I have read on forums about the PLM, I was excited to find out if the rave was going to be an episode of myth buster. Thank you Queet, for being my guinea pig. The results blew me away. I am by far no lighting expert, but I would consider myself a warrior willing to try anything once; twice if I like it. Queet & Lila dreamed up the looks and in I set up and metered the lighting. Deciding I would shoot this PLM at a big number. f16 at a distance of about 10 ft and about 8 ft high. shutter speed of 1/125 and ISO 250 on a Nikon D700 mounted on a tripod with a 7-200 f2.8 lens at about 150 mm with a sliver bounce reflector at about a 20 degree angle about 2 feet away on a table top at the models chin. Now I am sure some some will disagree totally with this setup for one reason or another, but it is what I chose to do; so let it be said. I gave the entire shoot a grade of A+. The PLM is definitely worth the wait. Queet exuberates beauty, even if I am not on my A-game during the shoot, and Lila's makeup talent really brings the results to life.

Monday, January 17, 2011

When your weekend goes crazy; shoot somebody

With a camera of course. Then study that photograph for a few minutes and make mental notes about things you like about it and things you wish you could have changed before you took the shot. Digital photography allow us that change; yet we sometimes still bypass the opportunity to get it right for whatever reason. How can we get around this mental block?

1. By having a strong idea of what it is you want to capture ahead of time

2. By having the time to do a preshoot check (canvasing the area ahead of time, making small adjustments, directing the subject into how you see the shot).

3. By taking advantage of that opportunity that digital photography affords us; look at it and take it again (and again and again) until you get exactly what it is you know you want.
After the dreaded and disappointing lost of my favorite NFL team to its rival yesterday, I was totally bummed. Luckily I also had a photoshoot scheduled, which completely took my mind off of all the bashing I was due to receive as a result of my team bragging. Somehow I did manage to develop "this look" that I knew I wanted to shoot, and it was so clear in my head; a blueprint of what this shot was going to look like, and I got it, and was quite pleased. Pleased enough to do some editing, get a bite to eat and get a good night's rest and dream of other ideas I want to shoot. Hopefully this advice will serve someone. Maybe some of it might sound like something you already heard before but just never did. Well consider this is your second chance to get it right.

Friday, January 7, 2011

I guess it is better to have and not need than to need and not have; but what is the limit?

Today it is friday and rainy and I worked till about 1:00 A.M., so I am just sitting in my study looking out the window and getting myself together to head into the studio and take care of a few things. But as I sit here looking out, I just started laughing out loud. Laughing because I was thinking about a few things that occured this week, and they are freaking hilrious. Therefore I am going to blog something hilarious that occur during my week each friday.

One of my clients asked me to set up a test shoot with a few models. I contacted the models to schedule the shoots ( no I am not quite there where someone picks up the phone and handle that sort of business for me yet, and even when I get quite there, I just may continue to do this myself just because). One of the models seemed really excited and at the same time very cautious almost to the point of paranoid. She seemed over precautious about shooting with photograpers she had never met before (go figure). Well after ensuring her that it would be okay to bring an escort or an entire busload if she wanted since we were meeting in a public place, she got really excited. She continued to stay in contact up to the shoot day via email and a couple of phone calls. Then on the day of the shoot, literally minutes before the shoot, I get an email from her informing me that she would not be attending the meeting because one of her escorts would not be able to make it???? HUH?? I was only teasing about the busload. I am not at all anti-escort as many photographers I talk with are, but apparently she doesn't travel with just one anywhere, as she stated in her email. She then sent me another email later on apologizing again and assuring me that she definitely wanted to work together with me so wanted to know when she could reschedule. I informed her that she would need to contact the client that set up the meeting and not me, but not to expect too much sympathy because all the other models showed up with no problem for the meeting and without even having a single escort. I had to ask her how ever did she go to the grocery store or a doctor appointment. How do you deal with a situation like this? What would you have done differently?
I started this year off with some amazing shoots. As I stated I wanted to shoot a variety of challenging photographs that will definitely stand out from what and how I normally shoot. You know, getting outside of one's comfort zone. All 3 of the shoots I have done have all been FIRST for one reason or another, and that is a good sign. My first shoot for 2011 began with my amazingly beautiful and obnoxious friend Ms. Jessica Jazzmin. You never know what to expect from Jess, so when she said she was bringing a friend, I just smiled and said "of course". Well it turns out her friend is this amazingly beautiful love at first sight kind of woman with a resume of kick azz, take names list of accomplishments. We will be collaborating on a few projects that I hope to post about soon.

My next shoot happened from a "hello", and turned into one of the coolest and most creative shoots accomplished in a relatively short amount of time. I have always collaborated on and then scheduled to shoot someone. Well my newest friend Tara, started with a hello and the next thing I know, she was driving to meet me at Blue Studio, and we created some very awesome photos.

Lastly, my shoot with a woman who is a celebrity in every true right of the word celebrity. My photo shoot with the opera singer J'nai Bridges. J'nai is one of the sweetest and most humble female entertainers you will ever come across. Not being an opera fan, I didn't know who J'nai Bridges were, when I met her mother by way of another project I was working on, and one of the other women on the board, seemed eager to point that information out to me. I recall how they talked me into having dinner at her mom's house so I could meet J'nai. I could hear her reluctance to want to be introduced formally to someone, and how she thought it was a bad idea and she just wanted to relax at home. The meeting happened anyway, and she turned out to be one of the sweetest and friendliest people I had come across. By end of the night she wanted to shoot together next time she was in town, and last night we made it happen; and it was so much fun, I love the whole aspect of being a photographer because of people just like Ms. Bridges. And as a treat she sang for us at the end of the night and you cannot convince me that all of that came out of this woman who speaks so softly.Opera gained a new fan and I encourage anyone reading this blog to go check out her website ( and listen to this woman sing.