Jessie’s Venice

 

f/4, 1/9 sec, at 19.1mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

A rainy evening in Venice.

 

I haven’t posted photos by Jessie (my daughter) in quite some time. Frankly, it is because she hasn’t been shooting. School kind of gets in the way of photography. But while traveling Italy she has found the time and seems to have gotten her mojo back. Again, I am very proud of her images.

PS. Jessie’s loving the X-Pro1 and the 18-55 mm.

 

f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 52.7mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Afternoon

 

f/9, 30 sec, at 32.9mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

Evening

 

f/22, 1/350 sec, at 34.3mm, 1600 ISO, on a X-Pro1

The graphic’s angles of Burano.

Florence at Night

 

It goes without saying many people have photographed Florence at night. But I haven’t. So here is my contributions to an already large body of work on this beautiful old city. I hope you enjoy these. Tomorrow we are off to Venice. Ciao!

 

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

 

The Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall)

The Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall)

 

A panorama of the the Palazzo Vecchio on the right and Il Duomo on the left.

A panorama of the the Palazzo Vecchio on the right and Il Duomo on the left. (click for larger resolution)

 

A broader panorama of the the Ponte Vecchio then the Palazzo Vecchio, Il Duomo and finally the the Basilica di Santa Croce.

A broader panorama of the the Ponte Vecchio then the Palazzo Vecchio, Il Duomo and finally the the Basilica di Santa Croce.

How to Photograph and Still have a Family Vacation.

f/6.4, 1/680 sec, at 14.5mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of Florence from atop the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Florence is the capital of the  Tuscany region of Italy. The city is viewed as a cultural, artistic and architectural treasure. Florence is also known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It is the home to such wonders as Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and countless other historic works of art. Of course, when you are on a family vacation the goal is to see all these wonders and stuff yourself on gelato, pizza, prosciutto and still have time to shop.  If you’re like me you also want to try to grab time to take memorable photos in the midst of all this.

I often get emails from photographers asking me how do I balance taking photos with the need to focus on the family while on a vacation? One answer is marry an understanding wife. My wife Alou, is more than accommodating with my need to take photos at every place we visit. But the other answer is don’t confuse your family vacation with a photo workshop. For me the vacation always takes precedence over the need to photograph. This is not just a bunch of photo ops for you, it’s family time. So I don’t stress out the family to get photos. Better to schedule a photo workshop (try my Rajasthan workshop in Feb. 2015 ;-) ) than to obsess over your photos opportunities.  The truth is, if I see a photo as we walk from one museum or cathedral to the next I stop and take it. If I can work out a photo from a viewpoint that we all want to see then I do – otherwise I let it go. Let me encourage you to do like me and enjoy your family and relax. If you make this your priority then more than likely you will still walk away with some great and memorable photos from your trip.

 

f/8, 1/10 sec, at 19.1mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of Il Duomo di Firenze from street below.

 

f/16, 1/140 sec, at 56mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

A view of the Great Synagogue of Florence or Tempio Maggiore from Il Duomo.

 

f/5.6, 1/4000 sec, at 56mm, 800 ISO, on a X-T1

A view of the Tuscan hillsides with the Basilica di Santa Croce in the foreground.

 

f/6.4, 1/640 sec, at 22.9mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

The terracotta roofs of Florence.

f/6.4, 1/350 sec, at 24mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of the Ponte Vecchio, a Medieval covered bridge over the Arno River.

 

f/14, 1/18 sec, at 86mm, 800 ISO, on a X-T1

Cherubs glow in the setting sun reflect in the windows of an apartment across from the San Gaetano Church.

 

f/11, 28 sec, at 24mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of the Florence Central Market from our apartment balcony.

Buongiorno From Roma

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

 

We left Rome today and are now in Florence for the next few days. Rome was everything I had dreamed it would be. Well, almost. Everyone said the coffee would be the best I have ever tasted. So far I have not had a bad cup of coffee. But I don’t find it head and shoulders above the rest of the worlds cappuccino’s and espressos. Now the gelato… that’s another story!  I am sure there is no better ice cream on the planet!

I think literally half of Rome is under construction. Most of what we wanted to see was under scaffoldings. Seriously, the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, The Spanish Steps and more all under renovation. Oh well, looks like we will just have to visit again! Here are a few images from Roma! Arrivederci Roma,

 

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

 

Our neighborhood Trattoria.

Our neighborhood Trattoria.

 

Inside, St. Peter's Basilica.

Inside, St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

One of the smaller domes of St. Peter's Basilica.

One of the smaller domes of St. Peter’s Basilica.

 

A pano of Rome from atop St. Peter's Basilica.

A pano of Rome from atop St. Peter’s Basilica. ( click to view larger)

 

Light hitting a piller collum the Roman Pantheon.

Light hitting a collum inside the Roman Pantheon.

The Colosseum.

The Colosseum.

 

 

 

 

A Tribute to Hollywood Glamor

 

Humphery Bogart by George Hurrell

Humphery Bogart by George Hurrell

 

Hedy Lamarr, 1940, byGeorge Hurrell.

Hedy Lamarr, 1940, by George Hurrell.

 

Our family is sort of obsessed with the Hollywood film classics of the 1930′s and 40′s. Even as a kid I had old movie stills of Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart on my walls. I am sure this is part of why I am so into fedoras. I always thought the glamor shots of those classic Hollywood beauties were amazing. But for some reason I never tried to emulate it until this week. Maybe because of the British drama Indian Summers, for which I have been shooting. The drama takes place in the 1930′s, so I thought it might be fun to make some stills of the actors in the style of George Hurrell. Hurrell almost invented Hollywood glamor shots. He used strong directional light, so no soft boxes in his work. This is lighting we would call harsh and something we would not normally use today. Hurrell and other photographers of this time often used something called Paramount lighting, which cast a small butterfly like shadow under the model’s nose. The lights, while sometimes complex, were most of the time pretty simple – A key, a hair and a background light.Often the background was shot through a gobo (go between) to create a shadowed design thrown up onto a wall behind the actor. Of you study these photos long enough you see certain tell-tail signs like strong harsh black shadows around the nose and eye lash shadows on the women. Another characteristic is that often only a portion of the model is lit, leaving the body in shadows. With all this in mind I decided to play around and see if I could recreate this effect using myself and Jessie as models.

I shot these on my Fujifilm X-T1 using the 56 mm. We used three speed lights (i.e. small portable camera flashes.) Two were the radio flashes made by Cactus, the RF 60 and the Phottix Mitros for Canon. I used two Cactus V6 wireless Transceivers - one to fire the flashes and set the power remotely and the other to make the Phottix compatible and be a part of the group. The V6 can learn your flash and then shoot it wirelessly. I started with them all set equally to about 1/68th of full power. I put a David Honel snoot on the key and hair light to narrow the throw of light. I also put a David Honel honeycomb grid on the background light and shot it through an old wooden window lattus we had from India to give the background pattern. Both the hair and the key are pretty high above Jessie. I lowered the key for me as I had too much shadow from the hat’s brim. When shooting with speed lights it is hit and miss, because there is no modeling lamp to see where the shadows are falling. So, it is a lot of trial and error. I then edited them in Lightroom and gave  several a 8×10 crop which was the crop of choice in those days. Over all, I am happy with this look. Any thoughts?

Editors note: After reviewing these photos I fear I posted them too soon without enough reflection. Fernando (see the comments below) was right, they were too sharp. I have since re-edited these by adding to each a -15 clarity factor in Lightroom. I hope this gives it a much softer and more film like feel and look. Thanks Fernando.

 

jess1

 

jess2

 

jess3

 

matt1

 

matt2

 

matt3

 

 

 

I Don’t Know

 

On the set of Indian Summers.

On the set of Indian Summers.

 

Recently, I listened to a Freakonomic Radio podcast by Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt. This episode was titled The Three Hardest Words in the English Language. So what are these three words? Not “I love you” and not “floccinaucinihilipilificationpseudopseudohypoparathyroidism and pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis“. According to Dubner and Levitt they are “I don’t know”.  I think I agree.

Why do we have such a hard time saying these words? I can only assume it is because we don’t want to come off ignorant. Everyone wants to appear competent. Fair enough. Let’s face it, we do need to be good at what we do. We need to put in the many hours it takes to become an expert or at least well qualified in our field. Then do we risk coming off as ignorant and incompetent if we say I don’t know? I guess to some people we might. But I have found that often the people who can’t admit to others that they don’t know something live in self doubt about their own abilities and struggle with their own esteem issues. We should not let others control the way we act and think. If you have put in the time and are obviously good at what you do, when the moment comes, and someone asks you something you just don’t know, I think it shows maturity and confidence to answer truthfully.

I know a few photographers who would never admit they don’t know or understand something about photography. These photographers are talented and are very good at their craft, so what do they lose by using these three words? In my eyes, nothing. In fact they gain everything. They now gain a truly humble demeanor and are much more approachable. If there is anything I want besides being good at my craft, it is to be approachable by people.

Several times on the set of Indian Summers I have found myself in situations that are unfamiliar to me. If I am honest, my first reaction has been to fake my way through. But maturity got the better of me, and I found myself just admitting, this is the first time I have shot something like this. It’s OK. Everyone has firsts. We learn from firsts. If I would have pretended to know all about set photography, I would have risked looking even more the fool when I made the inevitable mistake. Instead, I ask questions, and have found people understanding and ready to help.

By fearing these three little words, we risk more than by the admission of them. Of course, living in ignorance is not acceptable either. We can’t take pride in not knowing. That’s just silly. So, we have to strike a balance. Work hard at learning while admitting where you lack or fall short.

One of the biggest areas of weakness in my photography is in the use of flash. I can never get my head around the numbers and values. Yet, once I admit that to myself and others I can freely and honestly seek help. I even got a camera flash maker excited because I am not the expert. They figure, if a hack like me can use their product anyone can. By the way, they are really easy to use. But that is for another post.

 

How I modified my X-T1 with Sugru

 

The Sugru rubber make the 4-way selector buttons finally usable.

The Sugru rubber make the 4-way selector buttons finally usable.

This is going to be a short and to-the-point post. I have been using the Fujifilm X-T1 now for a few months and have come to appreciate this camera. I know this sounds nothing like other peoples reviews of this camera. Everyone seems to love this camera but me. For me it has been a love/hate journey. I have never been thrilled with this camera’s form. I liked the rangefinder look of the other X-series cameras. So from the very start, I was disappointed. Continue reading

Indian Summers in Penang

My gear used to shoot Indian Summers. The Fujifilm X-E2 with the 10-24 mm f/4 and the X-T1 (taped up for pertection) with the 56 mm f/1.2. Plus my new PeakDesign Straps. Both cameras and lenses are working to perfection.

I am excited to say that I have been hired as the Still Photographer for a new British drama by Channel 4 and PBS TV called Indian Summers. It takes place in 1932 in Simla, India, a English hill station. Hill stations in India like Simla and Mussoorie (where I used to live) were used as getaways from the heat of New Delhi during the summer. They were a “little Englands” in the Himalaya. Complete with quaint manor names like Annadale, Woodstock or Rokeby Manor. In fact, the whole of the British government literally moved office and people from Delhi to Simla every summer. Thus the title, Indian Summers. This series has been described as an Indian Empire version of Downton Abbey. Continue reading