Blog

Here you'll find various things relating to photo shoots. Behind the scenes pictures, video, and some commentary. 

Megan and Manuel - Backyard Wedding

      At the beginning of September I photographed Megan and Manuel's wedding. It was a small wedding in her parent's backyard which made for a relaxed evening. It was nice that it was getting to be the end of summer so it wasn't too hot. Just about the perfect temperature here in Santa Cruz when the sun sets and people can hang out in the shade, still basking in the residual warmth from earlier in the day. 

      After having done some weddings before this, I kind of had an idea of what to expect. Although each wedding/event is different, I'm getting more comfortable with being there and taking photos. The bride and groom and their family were super nice and easy to work with which made it easy for me to just fade into the background and do my thing. Trust is such an important thing for people to have when working with photographers (or any artist really). Although I didn't know them before, having seen examples of my wedding work, they trusted that I would be able to do my job and mostly let me have free reign over what/where I was shooting. I feel most comfortable when I can just walk around and casually take the photos. I'm not one to call a table's attention and ask for a smile. Not that I want to get into a discussion of value regarding that kind of work but its simply not my style.  

      Also cool about this wedding was that I was able to acquire a few new lenses beforehand which turned out to be awesome. I added the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 and 90mm f/2 to my kit. Including those, I have 35, 50, 85, and 135mm equivalent primes for my Fuji system which covers the majority of any kind of event work I would want to do. Though I could see possibly getting a 24mm equivalent some time to be able to go a bit wider. The Fuji 16mm f/1.4 is supposed to be great. Both the 56mm and 90mm lenses are fantastic. Even from the first test shots I could tell they were clearly better than nearly all of the other lenses I've ever used and they are definitely the sharpest I've used wide open at 1.2 and 2. The Fuji gear continues to impress and I hope to get a new X-T2 some time, it looks like an awesome machine. 

      Below is a selection of photos from their day-

Nicole and Marco - Intimate Home Wedding

      Continuing my experiments with wedding photography, I recently shot Nicole and Marco's wedding. I've known Nicole since early in high school, remain friendly acquaintances since, and have seen each other periodically at local art events. I didn't realize until more recently that we both had a close mutual friend (Alison, who some may recognize from various shoots and behind the scenes things) and when I heard that Nicole was getting married, I offered to see if she needed photography. 

      The wedding was at a beautiful family property in the Soquel mountains. It being mid summer here in California, the light was mostly bright and harsh until it set. That said, I think having to shoot in light like that is making me get a bit better at finding ways to make it work. Often that means shooting people backlit and trying to take advantage of any sort of bounce from walls or other people's light clothing. 

      After using my Fujifilm system for a couple weddings along with my Canon, I have started to get a decent feel for its strengths and weaknesses. I really enjoy the form factor and controls on the Fuji bodies. The 35mm F1.4 is also fantastic and can be relied on, even wide open, to be super sharp and beautiful. Slightly disappointing is the 23mm F1.4 that I got a little while ago. In general its still pretty good, maybe great, but it definitely isn't as consistently sharp wide open as the 35. Whether that is the lens design, manufacturing variance, or autofocus related, I'm not sure. (Probably a bit of all three). Even so, its probably as good if not better than the Canon 35mm F/2 that I have for my Canon bodies, and very good when stopped down a bit, so I'll keep using it for now. I do love the look of a wide aperture 35 and hope someday to get the new Canon 35mm F/1.4 II.

      Every time I shoot and edit a wedding I notice things that I want to improve or try next time. As with any art, the more you do and the more you learn, the larger your vocabulary for creating becomes. 

     Here is a selection of some of the photos-

7-9-16 Nicole and Marco - 38.jpg
7-9-16 Nicole and Marco - 163.jpg

Brooke and John - Bright California Wedding

      Recently, I had the opportunity to shoot my cousin Brooke's wedding to her husband John. Anyone who knows me will know that I've never thought of wedding photography as something I would really be interested in doing. For family and close friends though, sure, why not try it? I usually think of myself as more comfortable with more posed/styled/lit shoots (as you can see from my portfolio) so the idea of spending a whole day constantly shooting documentary style was a little daunting. Not that I would be unable to but just that it isn't something I have too much experience with. That said, after shooting this first wedding and having another that I am shooting soon (tomorrow, as of the day I'm writing this), I think I see wedding photography as something I may get comfortable doing more of. If not for the money alone. Beyond that though, I appreciate the freedom of being able to creep around during an event and just take pictures. It reminds me of when I was younger before I did "photography" and just took tons of snapshots of my life. There is a variety and energy to shooting events that is tantalizing after some years of much less spontaneous shoots. 

      In terms of equipment and processing, I shot most of the wedding with a 23mm f/1.4 mounted on my Fuji X-E2 and an 85mm f/1.8 on my Canon 6D. Also used 18-55 and 35mm lenses on the Fuji a few times. Having never done weddings, it'll be interesting for me to do some more and get an idea of what gear works best for how I like to shoot. It would have been nice to have a 56mm f/1.2 to put on my other Fuji so I could shoot the whole thing with two lightweight bodies that produce files consistent with each other but the Canon I have is no slouch and the 6D/85 combo produces beautiful images so it wasn't really an issue. 

      I took about 3000 photos in all which is more than any other shoot or event I've ever done. Took a while to cull down to the roughly 500 I am delivering. Did all the culling and base editing in Lightroom and then exported to PSD files that each got touched upon in Photoshop to finish them. Despite Lightroom still being relatively shitty with Fuji X-Trans raw files (or at least with the ones I have, maybe the X-Pro 2 and X-T2 are better in LR?), I wanted to use VSCO presets I have as a basis for editing so Lightroom was a necessity. People can argue all they'd like about the trendiness and overuse of film simulation presets but ultimately it sped up my workflow a ton. Being able to get a pretty good start on (and sometimes totally finish) images with a few clicks is critical when you have so many to go through. Pretty much the whole set was processed with a slightly customized version of the Kodak Gold 200 or 200- presets from VSCO 05. Of course, many of the photos had additional work done in Photoshop. The formal group portraits in particular needed more color and light work and even then aren't something I'm overly happy with. 

      The more I think on it, the more I could write about the experience of shooting a big wedding for the first time. I think overall, having never done this before, it went well. It'll be a fun change of pace and style for me if I choose to pursue this some more.  For now, I'll stop rambling and leave this with a smattering of cool shots from the day-

Brooke and John Wedding - 130.jpg
Brooke and John Wedding - 190.jpg

Putrefaction (Shoot BTS + 100mm F2.8L Thoughts)

While this isn't super sharp as it is a screenshot from the behind the scenes video we made, it shows the setup of lights and background around Cierra. 

While this isn't super sharp as it is a screenshot from the behind the scenes video we made, it shows the setup of lights and background around Cierra. 

      As most people who have seen some of my photography can guess, I'm into some slightly darker/creepy imagery. Honestly I don't really see most of what I do as "dark" since it is executed in a very lit and often saturated way but when it comes down to subject matter, I suppose a person completely bandaged with festering wounds isn't exactly a happy, smiling portrait.

      October is a pretty inspiring month with the weather finally mellowing out into cooler autumn and of course Halloween at the end of the month. I hadn't been taking a whole lot of personal photos/doing the fine art portrait thing recently and I hadn't really realized how much I missed it until finally doing a few new shoots. The model, Cierra, is a friend of mine who I've known for a while and used photograph a lot but for various reasons hadn't worked with in a couple years. Knowing her look and her ability to move in interesting ways in front of the camera, I thought she would be perfect to wrap up completely and turn into a kind of dead looking sickly person. 

      Shortly before the shoot I got a new Canon 100mm F2.8L IS lens that I intend to use for some product photography that I sometimes do but given the length and fantastic quality of the lens in general, I was looking forward to trying it out for some portraits. 

The Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro mounted on my 6D. While built of plastic, it feels modern and very well made. It is relatively large compared some shorter and squatter primes like my 50mm F1.4  or 85mm F1.8 but it still balances pretty well and feels great to shoot. The stabilizer seems to work very well. Even if you are shooting with strobes or high shutter speeds, it can be nice to have a stabilizer viewfinder to help with composition. Focus speed is very fast when you have the focus range limiter switch set to the correct setting for your subject. If you aren't shooting at macro distances, its best to keep it focussing from .5m-infinity so it doesn't spend any time hunting for focus at close range. 

The Canon 100mm F2.8L IS Macro mounted on my 6D. While built of plastic, it feels modern and very well made. It is relatively large compared some shorter and squatter primes like my 50mm F1.4  or 85mm F1.8 but it still balances pretty well and feels great to shoot. The stabilizer seems to work very well. Even if you are shooting with strobes or high shutter speeds, it can be nice to have a stabilizer viewfinder to help with composition. Focus speed is very fast when you have the focus range limiter switch set to the correct setting for your subject. If you aren't shooting at macro distances, its best to keep it focussing from .5m-infinity so it doesn't spend any time hunting for focus at close range. 

      In terms of image quality, I'm pretty impressed with it so far. As of this writing (Nov 8 2015) I've only used it for this one shoot but it was super sharp and performed basically as expected. I do a significant amount of research on camera gear/tech and all that I had read about this lens were great things so I can definitely say it seems to live up to its reputation. In fact, I think I saw a bit of aliasing in some of the files. Sure, I may have exacerbated it with a bit of over sharpening but still, this lens provides some really sharp results. Always better to have something too sharp than not sharp enough. I bet the crispiness/possible aliasing was a result of me being used to having to do much more sharpening on the files I get from my 24-105mm than the files from this lens and sharpening too much. Regardless, I'm happy with it and look forward to using it for some more shoots in the future.  

      New lens thoughts aside, this shoot was really fun. I'm always looking for cheap but visually impactful ideas and this kind of sick, decaying look was just what I was looking for. The gauze was acquired easily after a quick search on Amazon and the rest was mostly just staining it with a mixture of coffee and tea and then wrapping it around her. She did some makeup too of course but it wasn't anything too extreme. A lot of the grossness of the look comes from the overlaying and painting of textures in Photoshop. You can see the extent that retouching played here: 

There weren't any massive changes. Just a bunch of little things. It was fun being able to spend time retouching the skin to look more textured and gross as opposed to the usual cleaning and fixing that goes on with that. 

There weren't any massive changes. Just a bunch of little things. It was fun being able to spend time retouching the skin to look more textured and gross as opposed to the usual cleaning and fixing that goes on with that. 

      I was lucky to have a friend with me during the shoot who could take a bit of behind the scenes video too so I edited that together and you can see some of the shoot here:

      Overall I was pretty happy with this shoot. It was one of those things where I had a rough idea of how I wanted everything to look but hadn't really visualized it in detail and figured it would all come together during the shoot. Luckily, it did. I'm most happy with the the way the light looks and how the background worked out. There isn't anything particularly striking about the light, I suppose, but I think its well balanced and I love achieving that kind of soft, luminous quality with a few diffused sources. The background was made of a couple thing wall stands that I had used in years previous to show my work against when I was doing a little local art show. I weathered and stained them a bit and they looked perfect for this shoot. Clean enough to kind of look like a studio background but rough enough to hint at a kind of darker, creepy location. 

      Its funny, I had written half of this blog post in November of 2015 (up to the retouching before/after photo) and then never finished it until now, July 2016. I guess I just assumed that I had finished it and it sat there as a draft for all this time. Looking at this again makes me realize how much I need to do more creative stuff. The weddings I've posted about shooting this year have been fun learning experiences but my heart still lies with the more darkly beautiful things. Hopefully I can keep that going. 

      All of that said, here are the final images from this shoot: