A Long Way Home

Back To The Futuro

I was thinking about this Futuro House on the way back home. I wished in a way that we had arrived after dark but then my tripod was buried under a pile of things in the trunk of the car and there was a bike rack and the bike in the way as well.  I only had one flash with me so I threw a red gel on it and started blasting away. A big storm was coming towards us but there was still a lot of light in the sky.  I shot this at ISO 400 but I think an extra stop darker would have brought out more detail in the sky. It’s sort of a balancing act getting the flash and ambient light working together.

I shot this at 1/250th, f/4.5 with the SB900  cranked up to 1/1 power in manual mode using the RF602 wireless trigger. Multiple flashes would have been better or I could have used the tripod to take some multiple exposure shots.

I’m just happy that I finally got to see one of these fiberglass wonders from the future up close.


Vacation Notes


It’s been a pretty good week. Lots of great food and company. Last night we went out for Mexican food and it was decent enough but the poor waiter didn’t have a clue. To begin with he brought us six filthy menus (not a good way to start) and couldn’t figure out to bring us a second basket of chips even though we ordered double salsa and guacamole. So we kept sending him back and forth for more chips the whole time.

Taylor drowned his GS650 when he went to explore the sand dunes at Silver Lake and then we spent the better part of the afternoon picking him up (a three hour round trip) and another half of the next day bringing the engine back to life.

There is an internet connection at the rental property but it does not work very well or very often. So not too many things got done on-line this week (not that it matters much).

I did get to edit a few photos but really didn’t find much spare time for that either. I practiced taking sunset photos at the beach one evening and we launched some of those paper sky lanterns another night before the moon rose. It was completely black outside by the time we got down there.

I never got to go canoeing but I did hear that there was some sort of oil spill and clean up operation on the river so it may have been for the best. We always talk about sunset sailboat cruises but as usual that never got organized. So lots done and lots left undone. It’s almost time to exit Michigan.

Like A Complete Unknown

with no direction home

I’m on vacation at the lake this week and I’m not required to do much of anything. On the way up we stopped for gas and I spotted this abandoned sign waiting for me to take a photograph. There are things that have no particular meaning to anyone but for some they represent a favorite memory or experience. A friend of mine had a brother who bought a new motorcycle one summer shortly before joining the navy. It wasn’t long before we were borrowing it and cruising all over town while our parents were at work each day. Back then a gallon of gas cost around twenty five cents and at sixty miles per gallon you could make a pretty good day of it for the amount of money you could find between the couch cushions or by returning glass bottles for the deposit. We were young, fearless and foolish. Somehow we never got caught or stopped for speeding.

The weather and the water are perfect today. I spent a lazy afternoon just soaking in the sun and breeze, then I went for a swim and played catch. The girls are making a peach cobbler to go with the ice cream for dessert.  Dinner tonight is salmon cooked on the grill and pasta with home-made pesto.

Saturday Sunset

As I was walking down the stairs to the beach last night a woman standing on the landing looked towards me and said, “Not much of a show tonight.”

I replied, “Yes, but it’s still a show.”

She probably didn’t realize that the final act is often the best and most satisfying part of the show. I forgot the mounting plate to attach my camera to the tripod (hey I was tired) but I was still able to use the tripod to steady the camera and get a couple of shots I liked. It’s not like the world needs any more photos of sunsets but I always like taking them or at least trying to take them.

Warehouse Inferno

Is it hot in here or is it just me?

It was very hot on Sunday but in spite of all the discomfort it was a great day and a great photo shoot. The lighting on this shot turned out mostly as I had planned with one exception. The SB600 on camera left at ground level did not fire. At least it didn’t fire during this exposure but it was firing at random intervals for no known reason. The Henna gels were actually a little more red in color than I thought so it may be better with just the one coming from camera right. The key light on camera left is a Nikon SB900 in a 15×15 popup softbox with a 1/2 CTO gel. The white balance is set to cloudy. The fill is from my DIY ring-flash adaptor with an old  Sunpak 383 flash and another 1/2 CTO gel. I was going for a rust or sepia color hue and this worked out pretty well. That blower housing in the background is silver or light gray in color and the combination of warming gels and cloudy WB give it all a nice unifying patina.

The model is Nori. She is a complete pleasure to work with. Never a complaint about the heat, humidity or dust.  She simply took it all in stride (a very long and lovely stride). She would go from one pose to another like some sort of super modeling machine. There were several times when I was actually stopped dead in my tracks by her creativity.

Now I have a lot of photos to sort through and hours of editing to do but not a lot of time to get it done. I guess I’ll be packing the laptop when I go out of town and hammer away  at photo editing whenever I get a few spare minutes.

Many thanks to Darren Rutmanis (Rutster) who spent a lot of time planning and organizing this gathering of the St. Louis Strobist Group and to everyone else who was there sharing their skills and ideas. Check out their work over at flickr. http://www.flickr.com/groups/stlstrobist/

"Deliver us from evil."

Here is shot of the same setup featuring another talented model named Chinga. He is also a great pleasure to be around and I wish I had found more time to spend working with him the other day. I’m looking forward to the next time the St. Louis Strobist Group gets together.

I’ve included a couple of iconic images for reference that served as the inspiration for what I was trying to accomplish with my photographs. I don’t know if it works for anyone else but I  did come very close to what I had in mind and that makes me happy.

Leonardo's Vitruvian Man
Fritz Lang's Metropolis

Working For The Weekend

Not much happening around here. I’m mostly looking forward to the St. Louis Strobist Group meet-up, happening next Sunday. Right now the flash batteries are charging up as I daydream about all the different lighting setups I want to try.

I’ve got four decent flashes to use and four of the Yongnuo RF602 remotes to fire them with. For working in close-quarters I may fire up the Nikon CLS and use some reflectors with my new mini soft-box. I’ll also be taking my DIY Ring Flash adapter and whatever other junk I can squeeze in the car.

My main concern is about how hot it may get inside the warehouse we are shooting at. I’m planning to bring lots of water, a fan and a folding chair but of course the more you bring the more you have to carry in and out. Too bad my lovely assistant is scheduled to be out of town that day.

Happy Holiday Weekend

Three day weekends have to be one of the greatest inventions of our time though I know some people have to work on the holiday (like me). Last night’s highlight was when I was able to grab a few snapshots of the downtown fireworks through dirty double glazed windows.

DIY Flash Projects

I finally got around to making a flash bracket for the DIY Beauty Dish. It’s a lot more secure and the flash is centered in the bowl much better than when I used the Super Clamp and bungee cords to connect it to the light stand.

My methods are pretty rough since I don’t have access to a machine shop but I was able to beg the use of a large bench vise in the maintenance room the other day.

Making things is fun and saves a little money in exchange for some of your time. It also helps if you already have a bunch of parts and hardware laying around. I could have easily done without the flash holder shown here (saving another $8) since the radio trigger has a 1/4-20 threaded insert on the bottom but it seemed worth the extra money to do it this way for the sake of convenience. I could have bought a nifty adjustable bracket for around $50 retail and that would have been useful for mounting different sizes of flash units, which is a big plus if you have a a lot of different flash models like I do. Do it yourself projects can save money but sometimes saving time is actually worth a lot more. I think the best aspect of making your own flash modifiers is being able to experiment and try different things without breaking the bank. Just remember, black spray paint is your best friend.

I just got a new soft-box in the mail. It’s a pop-up or folding style 16×16 that is similar in design to a Lastolite EZYBOX. I say similar while some say rip-off. I decided to go to the camera store to check them out side by side. At the camera store there was also an Interfit Strobies softbox exactly like the one I bought online except that it had a Strobies logo silk-screened on the side. I got mine for about twenty dollars less (minus the logo) and free shipping. I call mine the CHEEZY BOX and I’m very happy with it so far. The quality looks about the same. To be fair the Lastolite EZYBOX is part of a larger lighting system with plenty of accessories and replacement parts available. Since I had no experience with this type of soft-box, I went the economy route to test is out and see if I could make good use of this type of modifier.

In the photo below you can see that the Yongnuo RF-602 triggers are a little long for the mounting bracket so I turned my SB900 flash sideways, which also happens to make the Nikon Creative Lighting System work pretty well with the flash sensor turned towards the back.  At least this seems to be the case in a medium sized room with a white ceiling. Using Nikon CLS in program mode with these small soft-boxes is so easy that it makes you wonder why anyone would bother to use radio triggers at all but they also come in very handy in the right situations. I’m still waiting on the production versions of the PocketWizard iTTL radio remotes for Nikon Speedlights.

The bracket on the no-name soft=box is exactly like the one on the Interfit model and has multiple adjustments to accept most hot-shoe flashes. The Nikon SB900 looks like the maximum size that will comfortably fit. In this photo I have the plastic dome on it for some good old double diffusion (and of course some blue tape I forgot to remove). None of these smaller sized soft-boxes have a second internal diffuser typically found in larger soft-boxes. The light is nice and directional but still not quite as “soft” as in larger light modifiers. It’s still a big improvement over a bare flash because of the bigger surface area of the light source. Just be aware that it’s not going to replace huge studio equipment but it is super portable and quick to set up. In fact it’s so quick, it might fly out of your hands the first time you try using it.