Flash Forward: Blog https://studioflashforward.com/blog en-us (C) Flash Forward [email protected] (Flash Forward) Mon, 20 Feb 2023 04:04:00 GMT Mon, 20 Feb 2023 04:04:00 GMT https://studioflashforward.com/img/s/v-12/u452083889-o1072118164-50.jpg Flash Forward: Blog https://studioflashforward.com/blog 120 80 It's Girl's Night - Woo Hoo! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2014/2/its-girl-s-night---woo-hoo I received a call from the nice folks at Girl's Night Salsa (http://girlsnightsalsa.com/) about doing a shoot featuring their 2014 line up of products.  I jumped at the chance as I have enjoyed their salsa, they support cancer research with their profits, and -most importantly from the point of view of this here blog - it's an exciting photographic challenge to get that great, naturally creamy light on a glass surface instead of a hot spot look that you would normally expect from a strobe.

I decided to use what is called the double-diffusion technique.  The general idea is to take a diffused light, like a softbox, and shine it on a large opaque surface, in this case a scrim, creating a very large and even lighting source.  Here is a shot of my set up in the studio.

My product box photography tent setup


It’s a little cluttered looking since I just had one large scrim that didn’t want to cut, so I ran it under the background paper the product is sitting on.  To the left and right you see the softboxes to light either side.  A diffused beauty dish overhead gave it the subjects a little more pop.  This worked great on the jars, but cause a serious hot spot on the bottle, so was not used for those shots.  Once the light levels where set, the only tweaking involved was with the forward or backward position of the lights to adjust the reflection on the subject.   I did have a little trouble with the general orientation of the products.  I was shooting alone and a assistant would have been a great help so I could have kept my eye through the lens.  With all that glorious glow bouncing around, shadows in multiple product images really weren't an issue. 



I was a little bit taken back when the client wondered if I could get rid of some of the "glare" on the bottles!?!?!?!  Of course I did, as she is the client and this is the representation of her product, but a little bit of my artist's soul died...   

This is a really neat and easy set up.  Give it a try and keep pushing yourself!

  • mike
[email protected] (Flash Forward) lighting photograpy product tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2014/2/its-girl-s-night---woo-hoo Tue, 18 Feb 2014 19:42:27 GMT
Capturing the Blinding Light Show https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/10/capturing-the-blinding-light-show I really like shooting concerts.  It certainly is technically challenging with the movement, the dynamic lighting, the subs rattling your brains!  This past week, we had the Gulf Coast Seafood and Music Festival for the first time at our new outdoor stage.  I have friends in the concert production business, so managed a photo pass for the weekend.   It gave me a good chance to go over my approach to shooting shows, and reminded me of the pitfalls and challenges you face in doing so.



My thoughts on concert photography:

  1. Its all about excitement and energy!  I set the camera to shutter priority and crank the speed up to freeze the action.  This has a few side effects.  On the good side, you most likely will end up with a shallow DOF as your camera tries to get as much light as possible.  This will make give your images depth.  It's hard to separate elements in an image that are in the same, colored lighting, so this helps.  On the bad side, you're most likely going to have to push your ISO as high as it will go to keep the shutter speed up.  Expect a lot of noise in an already noisy environment.  Find yourself some good software to help with this.  I use Nik Define2.  
  2. Location, location, location!  The closer you can get the better.  There is so much in the air, the lights are funky, you just aren't going to get cool shots from distance.  Get in the pit if you can.  Try to get the light rig or stage gear in the background.  "And how do you get a pass" you ask?  The answer is simple.  You have to know somebody!  Introduce yourself to the venue staff or promoter BEFORE the event.  Make it a win-win for them to go to the trouble of giving you special access.  Follow the rules on where you can go and how long you can shoot.  Most bands will only want you to shoot down front for the first two or three songs.  There are several reasons for that.  They get sweaty and nasty after a few tunes, you can be a distraction for the band and the crowd, etc.  Be cool and be ready to share your photos and you will be invited back!  Works for me!
  3. Zoom in tight to get individuals, go way wide to capture the show.  This sounds pretty strait forward, and it is, but so often I catch myself missing out on a really cool picture of a performer by leaving a bunch of dead space, gear, blurry band mates, etc in the background.  Something I would never do in portrait photos.  Crop it down and see what you can get that's unique.  Dedicate some wide shots to capture the lights, staging, and the grandness of the show.  Dedicate some shots to portrait shots and some to stage shots.  They will all come out better.  Good performers will blur the lines for you and create magic moments!
  4. Get Lucky!  I can't image doing this type of work for a living!!!  Unless you travel with the band and learn the show, it's really a crap shoot on the right amount of haze to get light beams, positions, cool little things they do together, etc.  Just start the shutter snapping and be prepared to delete a good 40%+ of your shots as trash!  Yeah digital photography!

Enough of that, here is some shots from the weekend:

Friday night was Collective Soul.

Collective Soul-14Collective Soul-14

Collective Soul-21Collective Soul-21

Collective Soul-23Collective Soul-23

Collective Soul-26Collective Soul-26

Collective Soul-40Collective Soul-40

Saturday was Loverboy and Foreigner.












Get out there and Rock 'n Roll!



[email protected] (Flash Forward) concert photography tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/10/capturing-the-blinding-light-show Mon, 28 Oct 2013 13:00:00 GMT
Still Trippin' - To the Pumpkin Patch! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/10/still-trippin---to-the-pumpkin-patch Fall is in the air and the giggly – ghostly days of Halloween season are upon us.  The family loaded up for a drive up to Dothan, Alabama and Alpin Farms (www.aplinfarms.com) for some old fashion fun in the pumpkin patch!


Pumpkin Patch-8Pumpkin Patch-8

Pumpkin Patch-9Pumpkin Patch-9

Pumpkin Patch-20Pumpkin Patch-20

Pumpkin Patch-31Pumpkin Patch-31


Pumpkin Patch-53Pumpkin Patch-53

Pumpkin Patch-74Pumpkin Patch-74

Pumpkin Patch-79Pumpkin Patch-79

Pumpkin Patch-90Pumpkin Patch-90

Pumpkin Patch-101Pumpkin Patch-101


Final, just to show that Alabama isn’t the only place with interesting appreciation for various forms of wildlife, I give you Wausau, Florida, self-proclaimed Possum Capital of the United States!  (http://realfloridamedia.com/wausauflorida/)  Oh, the excitement than runs through the local young ladies at the thought of being named “Possum Queen” for the year!


Pumpkin Patch-4Pumpkin Patch-4 Pumpkin Patch-3Pumpkin Patch-3

Just how many possums can you put in a five gallon bucket?

[email protected] (Flash Forward) flowers interesting markers photography road trip https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/10/still-trippin---to-the-pumpkin-patch Wed, 23 Oct 2013 16:17:40 GMT
Road Tripin'! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/9/road-tripin I had some business in North Alabama to attend to last week, so I did a little roaming off the beaten path to see what kind of interesting things I could dig up.  I stumbled across the little town that time forgot...  Mooresville.  One little roadside restaurant, no stores.  Very cute town.  I get the feeling it's inhabited by well-to-dos out of Huntsville have crave the simple life.  It does boast the oldest Post Office in Alabama. 

Roadside RestrauntRoadside RestrauntMooresville, AL

DropboxDropboxMooresville, AL


HengesHengesMooresville, AL


Post SignPost SignMooresville, AL


Knobs and LocksKnobs and LocksMooresville, AL


Ancient HardwareAncient HardwareMooresville, AL


WindowsWindowsMooresville, AL


No trip through South Alabama is complete without a stop by Enterprise.  Not sure the story behind it, but they do love the Weevils!

All Hail the Weevil!All Hail the Weevil!Enterprise, AL


Our Lady of the BugOur Lady of the BugEnterprise, AL


Yes.... That woman is holding up a big bug...  It was a simpler time...  

Ramble on and be exceptional!



[email protected] (Flash Forward) Alabama Enterprise Mooresville Photography Road Trip https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/9/road-tripin Sun, 22 Sep 2013 15:52:01 GMT
Getting Noticed Hell, Let's Get Published! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/8/getting-noticed-hell-lets-get-published There is an old adage in music that if you want to get signed, get in the studio and record all you can.  I've applied this same thought process to my promotional photography.  But who is going to want a photographer with no credentials???  It's the same old problem, if you don't have experience you can't get work, but how are you supposed to get experience without getting some corporate type work?  Get out there and sell yourself and shoot some!

I looked around in the areas that I want to work in and approached the people I saw that were doing something and going somewhere.  Bands recording CDs, new business owners, sports teams getting there marketing together.  Then I started shooting, sometimes for cash, sometimes for trade, usually for  *gasp*  free.  By showing them that I could shoot their live events, shows, etc. well, when it was time to shoot something real, they came back to me.  That's the payoff.  To date, I have images on the covers of three CDs, a bunch of band promo shots, several business marketing packages, and even a semi-pro soccer team.  Today, however, I found out that one of several of my photos have been published in an international magazine!   Whoo-hoo!  How did I manage that you ask???  I did it by working with people that have vision.  I never even knew that an article was being done.  One of the first musicians that I worked with, Todd Sparks, has BLOWN UP in Germany with his beach-cajun-southern rock-country sound, go figure...  He posted his latest CD, Party in Paradise, which we discuss the shoot for in a previous blog entry, on a web based service that provides music to independent radio stations around the world.  They picked it up and spread it around and "BLAMMO!", armed only with a batch of good tunes, some fine pickin', and some rather snazzy promo shots, Todd is being interviewed on Skype!  His work was making enough of a mark to be noticed by the editors of the services magazine, Direct Buzz, and thus, with his interview and included photos, I got published!


Direct Buzz article on Todd Sparks


The morals of the story:  

1) All work is good work (when you're starting out), but target the areas you want to work in, it's WAY more fun!

2) Find people with vision and see if your vision fits theirs.  If it does, take a chance, invest some time, and run with it.

3) Make sure you thank those people of vision when their hard work turns into your reward - THANKS TODD!


Love what you're doing, and be exceptional!




[email protected] (Flash Forward) background music photography published tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/8/getting-noticed-hell-lets-get-published Tue, 06 Aug 2013 01:45:00 GMT
Moving to CS6: Drinking the Cool-Aid, and boy, is it tasty! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/7/moving-to-cs6-drinking-the-cool-aid-and-boy-is-it-tasty I have been using Aperture on my Mac for organizing and editing my images, and have been pretty happy with it too.  It always drove me nuts that I had to export an image to get it into Photoshop for heavy lifting, and then import the resulting edited image back into Aperture.  Very clunky.

With my recent client signing on for long term promotional support for their recording artists and facilities, I signed up for the Creative Cloud subscription.  Like most things that are monthly fee based, the Creative Cloud is a good deal IF YOU USE IT.   Signing up for it gave me access to all things Adobe.   I decided to give Lightroom a chance to woo me away from Aperture, and it has!

First, it has seamless integration into Photoshop.  Just right click and “edit in”.  When you save, it’s saved back in Lightroom.  The way it should be.   Also, Apple chose to store its images in libraries.  A library is much like a single database file that has your images and the edits.  You can get in there and dig around but it certainly isn’t an intuitive set up.  Lightroom just stores the images in a good ol’ folder with no voo-doo attached.  Lightroom also supports the Nik software suite which is what I really use for editing, so I didn’t give up any convenience or capability there.  On the down side, if the folks at Apple know anything, it’s how to make an intuitive GUI.  Lightroom still has me hunting and pecking a bit.  It also runs noticeably slower on the same machine.  It’s an easy trade to relieve two of my major pet peeves for a little hourglass aggravation.

Photoshop CS6 is nothing short of amazing – yeah I know *News Flash*.  While it is still a power user’s power tool, the developers are good about finding the things photographers are doing all the time and making them work better, which equals easier in the long run when you figure out how to do them.  I’ll give you a few examples of things I find myself using regularly.

So you have this great concert photo, but it’s a bit flat looking and the subject isn’t jumping off the screen at you.  Just auto select the guitar player, then refine the edges – this is where the magic happens!  In days gone by, wispy hair  and background changes would have had you squinting at the screen to clean up your images, and then they still looked “cut out” and unnatural, at least for me.  With the new refining edges algorithms, Adobe has really taken a leap forward in making clean natural looking cuts.  In the photo below, I used this process, then added a little blur to the background just to give it a little DOF and made it a more agreeable image. 

Gretchen WilsonToadlick2013-118-Edit-Edit

These photos of the lovely Skylar on the beach are an example of my two other favorite feature in Photoshop, Content-aware fills and Liquefy.  Do you have some extra foot prints that need removal?  No problem, select the area and CS6 figures out what should be there based on the surrounding image.  It’s not perfect.   It still may require some touch up, but boy it gets you close most of the time.  Liquefy is… well… either the best or worst thing ever depending on your photographic philosophy.  I personally find perfect people quite boring and tend to not try to idealize my subjects, however, I do want to show them at their best and often a pose or angle or lighting can produce a bulge or shape that detracts from the overall impact of the image.  Skylar is a hard core fitness trainer and competitor, but in my infinite wisdom and creative ability, I managed to pose her so that we created less than optimal lines.   And hey – if I can do it to her, I can do it to anybody!  So, a little light touch with the new, improved and easy to use liquefy feature and she looks like the fitness queen that she truly is.


Skylar the fitness model on the beach

Skylar with her pigtails on the beach

Subtle use of these toys is the secret to a natural look.  I do struggle from time-to-time on the nature of modifying people for images.  Everyone wants to look good in a portrait.  If the shot is for them, then they should look their best.  Also, as I continue to delve into advertising, the goal is to create an image that your client wants to project – whether its reality or not.

Lastly, God bless Youtube!  There are loads of really good tutorials on most things that you want to do in CS6.  Most are focused, thorough, and free!

Have some fun with it and do something neat!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) aperture cs6 editing image lightroom photoshop software https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/7/moving-to-cs6-drinking-the-cool-aid-and-boy-is-it-tasty Mon, 29 Jul 2013 13:00:00 GMT
Studio812 Promo Shoot https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/7/studio812-promo-shoot My friends/clients at Studio812 Recording Services have embarked on an effort to promote their top-flight facilities and staff experience for making great music.  To that end we discussed concepts for their website and other promotional materials.  There were a few requirements we wanted to make sure we addressed for the client.

  1. They wanted to shake their image (subtly) as a gospel studio.  While they have certainly established themselves as the go-to gospel style studio in the area, they also have experience with blues, rock, country, and jazz. 

  2. They are fairly conservative in nature.  We wanted to make sure we provided them with choices that are appealing, even compelling, but not too sexy, edgy, or unnatural, i.e., it needed to look like a real recording session.

We came up with some concepts and I called in one of my favorite models to work with, Miss Blaize La Roux.  Blaize has a history in theater and a love of pin-up style photography, so I knew we would get wonderfully natural and expressive images with just a touch of over-the-top delivery.  She has had quite a bit of art work added to her skin, so I wanted to make sure we did some shots with it exposed, and some with it hidden.  Again, to let the client choose what was appropriate for their image.  All of this was discussed both with the client and model ahead of time.  Surprises are generally bad in this game

You can see it all here: www.studio-812.com


Say hello to the Bea....  uh, Blaize!812 Promo-224-Edit

Singer - Songwriter812 Promo-243-Edit

Featuring video production812 Promo-294-Edit

I love the vintage look and the way her personality shines through in this shot!812 Promo-299-Edit


Get outta here and shoot some pictures!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) clinet photography promotional recording studio studio812 https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/7/studio812-promo-shoot Tue, 23 Jul 2013 00:40:05 GMT
A Walk Around the Park https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/3/a-walk-around-the-park I've been fighting a dose of the winter blahs here for the last week.  With the time change, I have a little more daylight to play with afterwork, so I decided to just head over to the State Park and roam about to see what there was to see.  What a great idea.  Nothing planned, just strolling around with the camera to see what caught my eye.  It was a wonderful exercise to blow out the old creative cobwebs and get back to basics.  Give it a bash!

Here are some of the best from the day.

As a note, if your gonna shoot nature and you don't have a plan, GET THE HELL OUTTA THE CAR!  All but one of these shots I would have missed if I had been rubbernecking out the window.  Of course, there is a geographic size to consider.  If your trying to get around Yellowstone, well you might need some quality time behind the wheel.  For the rest of us shooting our home town, hoof it!  For good portraits you want to connect with your subject.  Well, its the some thing here.  Connect with nature. Get those feet in action and slide quietly into its domain.  As for the buck, I only counted six points.  He's not the big boy I caught last time I was sneaking around out there.  The Boss was a twelve point and a husky fella at that.  This guy is the up and comer, but has some growing to do.  He was running with a doe and a spike when I saw him.

Any-hoo, when you get a little burned out on all the planned shoots and details of lighting gear and such.  I simple walk about is a great remedy for the blahs.  Oh and its good for your photography too!  :-)

Get out there and be exceptional!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach hiking nature photography https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/3/a-walk-around-the-park Thu, 14 Mar 2013 02:07:55 GMT
Party in Paradise - The BIG Shoot https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/1/party-in-paradise---the-big-shootr The Story...

One of my long time friends and party-mentor, Todd Sparks (toddsparks.com), is a talented musician and great guy.  Last Christmas, he released a tropical holiday song to celebrate and asked me to shoot a promo photo to go with it.  We had a great time working up the concept, working with one of my favorite models, Wendy, and getting the shot.

Todd is getting ready to release his third album and has asked me again to work with him to develop the album cover.  I, of course, jumped at the chance!  Todd is great to work with because he is open to ideas and likes to hear your input and then develop the concept from there.


The Plan...

He sent me an early mix of the title track to listen to.  It's a really catchy trop-rock number called "Party in Paradise".  I pulled some of the elements of the song out to work the concept.  We came up with a concept of having a vintage convertible with Todd standing in front of it, a model standing by the open passenger door, and some select friends having a colorful party behind the car

Now for the technical challenges of interest:

1) This will easily be the largest group of folks I've ever needed to light.  and they will be layered in the composition.  Most likely we will have a nice sunset in the sky behind them, so shadow control will be critical for a natural look.

2) I want to make sure the car is lit smoothly and shows a nice, creamy reflection, not a harsh single point.

3) Need to make sure the focus of a busy photo stays on Todd.

4) I plan to use a big, gorgeous sky and a few palms for the background.  Nothing like building in uncertainty and a lack of control into a planned shoot that will require coordinating people, a model, makeup artist, a borrowed car, and a Bongo Man.  What can possibly go wrong?

Here is my initial lighting plan.  

To get the creamy reflection and minimal shadow on the car I am going to need a really large light source.  For this I am going to use a white video screen material stretched across a frame.


The Big Day...

The once again reinforced that as photographers, one of our prime tasks is herding cats, wrangling yaks, and wrestling alligators.  From chaos cometh magical images, though!  To start with, Ma Nature made her presence felt.  It was a beautiful day, but the breeze kicked up and modifiers were flying everywhere.  Onlookers, makeup artists, and assistants where drafted to "control" the situation.  The rest of the zaniness was pure fun.  Todd showed up with a fairy, stilt walker, juggler, chief, the world famous Conch Lady, a noted Nashville producer and his friend that has written 16 (count them, 16) number 1 country hits!  Oh yeah, and the Bongo Man that was recruited from the Wal-Mart just that morning!  

I was in charge of arranging for a professional Model and a makeup artists.  The model selected was Skylar Vanel, and she was excellent!  Very professional and nailed the look and energy.  With all the pieces and parts going on, it was reassuring to have a model that got the vibe of the shoot and had the experience to get the look we were looking for.  This is where paying a pro really pays off and saves money in the long run.

Here is the original image selected fir the cover by the client:

Then it was off to my good buddy and a heck of a artist, Victor Strickland (vicartist.com), for a dose of un-reality!

It's a Party in Paradise!


The Take Away...

This shoot was sure a lot of fun!  Met some great new interesting folks, got to work with some old friends, and some real pros.  My thoughts?  

  • Planning a necessity for a shoot, but be prepared total dance some when you arrive, because you just don't know what you will run into on location.  
  • Working with pros will save your bacon!  Having a pro model let me concentrate on dealing with elements that need extra attention, like bikers, jugglers, and inflatable porposes. 
  • Have a concept, no, a vision to sell to your clients, but don't be so attached to it that you can't let it morph into the end product the makes your client happy!
  • Finally, if you're going to be goofy, crazy, or different with a shot, embrace it!  Don't be a little different, but REALLY different.  That makes for a fun shot and a fun shoot.

Here are the other images (untouched) that Todd is going to use for box and CD art.

Go shoot something fun!




[email protected] (Flash Forward) lighting location photo photography portrait tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/1/party-in-paradise---the-big-shootr Thu, 31 Jan 2013 17:50:49 GMT
The Tyranny of the Moon https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/1/the-tyranny-of-the-moon I have been getting some great results recently shooting long exposure images at night.  So I got all excited when the full moon came around, thinking that I would have a chance to get some really interesting photos.

First of all i have to tell you about a GREAT application called The Photographers Ephemeries that I use that gives you the sunrise/set and moonrise/set times and angles for anywhere in the world.  All this is overlaid on a map.  Really nice piece of work.  I have been using it on my Macbook, but now have it on my iPad.  Check it out here: http://photoephemeris.com

Back to the moon...

The moon is like a really good looking girl at the prom.  When it's out full, it's great to take pictures of, but it doesn't really care about how anything else looks.  So the full moon, in its vanity, washes all the rest of the colors out in a bright glare which ruins the great dark blues and such that make night shoots so cool.  Stars?  Forget about it!


ISO 800, 17mm, f/11 29sec


The interesting light glowing in these shots are actually from the building down the beach more than the ambient light.  Pretty cool, but limiting, and certainly not worth getting out of bed at 2:30 AM.  It also turned the sugary white sand our beach is famous for into a brown shade worthy of the Texas oil coast.  I guess I could have adjusted the colors, but it's a different look than what I usually get, and I kind of like the bronze tones.  At least it wasn't too cold...


ISO 800, 26mm, f/11, 24 sec


ISO 800, 17mm, f/11, 29sec

Even though the moon was a small light source relative to the subject, the reflection off the dunes really made a great, creamy light for this impromptu shot of the planet-killer.


ISO 2000, 25mm, f/11, 9sec

So, go outside and kick around in the dark.  I'll probably never be a really good photographer because have way more fun experimenting with new things than I do perfecting anything.  Oh well, guess I will have to seek fulfillment and enlightenment through meditation and watching black and white horror films!  :-)

In honor of the full moon, tonight is a screening WereWolf of London.

Lock your doors and shutters!   Aaaaaoooo!

- mike

[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach lighting long exposure night photo photography tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2013/1/the-tyranny-of-the-moon Mon, 28 Jan 2013 02:18:49 GMT
It was a cold, dark night.... https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/it-was-a-cold-dark-night Merry Christmas all!

A few days ago, I was surfing around looking for ideas and inspiration.  I found an article on long exposure photograph at night with the goal of making it look like day.  I really liked the idea, having done some long exposure work before, and set off last night to make it happen.

Upon getting to the location, I decided that I wanted to keep the mystery and magic of the night scene, but bring out all the colors that are hidden in the dark.  Remember, there is no such thing as darkness, only a lack of light.  You just have to dig a little deeper for the blue of the sky or the emerald green of the ocean.  That's what makes it fun and makes the shots jump out of the little LCD on the back of the camera at you.  After shooting these, I couldn't wait to get them on the computer to see what I had captured!  

I shot these at about midnight and it was COLD - I mean freezing... ok well it was 39 degrees according to the little meter in my truck, but, hey!  I'm a thin blooded Floridian, so cut me some slack.  The cold front that just moved though made for a beautiful clear night with little wispy clouds.  It was  about a 3/4 moon fairly low in the sky.

I LOVE this first shot!

This one hints at the biggest problem you run into shooting in the dark.  IT'S DARK!  Your trustworthy friend the auto focus will just pack it up and go home in this environment.  The focus point in this image is not the normal one I wold have selected, but the sky and the water more than make up of it in this image.

Stars over the beach.  I love it!  :-)

This last one just came out dreamy.  A little more color in the water would have been nice, but the brightness of the moon kind of whacked that out.  Still a very unique look.  As always, unique = good.

Techie info:

You're going to need a timer and a steady tripod.  These were all shot in the 15-30 second range on bulb mode.  A hood with an eyepiece is a great tool to help you dial in that elusive focus point.  Also, wear at least one more layer of clothing than I had on last night, and some nice gloves to keep your digits nimble.


As a parting thought, take a look at this new Canon commercial (even if your a Nik-fan).  Can you see yourself in there?  If the answer is anything other than "heck yeah, I did three of those things on my last vacation!", then maybe you need to shake it up a bit and get outside your comfort zone for a little fun.  In the words of a current beer commercial, it's only crazy if it doesn't work!


Go be creative.  Go have fun.



[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach lighting long exposure night photo photography https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/it-was-a-cold-dark-night Sun, 23 Dec 2012 15:24:06 GMT
A Gray Day on the Gulf https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/a-gray-day-on-the-gulf It was a foggy morning here on the coast of Florida.  I decided to hop out of bed and make a run out to the State Park.  The fog was thick and the sky heavy.  It put me in a black and white mood.  When it comes to B&W photography, contrast is king.  I looked for compositions that would take advantage of the limited visibility and the negative space.  It was an interesting exercise in visualization to look a scenes from a new point of view!

Its always good to try something new.  Give it a bash - go grow - go be extraordinary!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach black and white negative space photography https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/a-gray-day-on-the-gulf Mon, 17 Dec 2012 03:35:12 GMT
Weekend Wrap-up https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/weekend-wrap-up I Had some fun this week shooting gigs and friends.  Friday night I caught my buddies' band One Track Mind at the Whiskey Saloon on PC Beach.  I always like catching these guys, cause the front man, Mickey, has been one of the corner stones of the local music scene for as long as I can remember.  Good players and a good time.  From a photography point of view, it's another chance to work in low light.  I set my camera to the Sutter Speed Priority setting, TV on my Canon.  This allows me to work my shutter speed without worrying about aperture settings.  Yeah, you give up some control, but in a highly dynamic setting, it really helps get the best result.

And here is a little stylistic fun I had with a slower shutter speed.  Kinda cool.

Saturday, I shot a great family at the beach.  And while I restrained from anything too wild, they were more than willing to try some fun things.  Really nice folks, and some great kids.  We had a blast!

And to be filed under the "never miss an opportunity to shoot", I spent a little extra time out at the State Park just seeing what there was to see.

Have a great week and do exceptional work!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach photo photography portrait weekend wrap-up https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/12/weekend-wrap-up Sun, 09 Dec 2012 04:31:55 GMT
New gear and a boat trip! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/new-gear-and-a-boat-trip Just a quick thought here.  Picked up a new piece of gear and made a last minute run by boat to the little island across the Bay.  I remembered how much I enjoy shooting pictures, looking at the world in terms of compositions and light, and just how much I love my little island.  No plan, no set up, just go and shoot what you see - just fun! 



Go have fun and be excellent!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach fun photography sunset https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/new-gear-and-a-boat-trip Thu, 22 Nov 2012 16:57:34 GMT
You mean I have to worry about what they wear too!?!?! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/you-mean-i-have-to-worry-about-what-they-wear-too When setting up and executing a shoot, we as photographers have a lot of things to keep in mind.  Its easy to overlook the details of what your subject wears and how it fits into the composition of the image.  

I have been working on techniques for black and white or minimal-tonal portraits.  I very much admire the low-contrast, shallow depth of field style that makes the subject just glow.  I studied up, read some, examined photos that I liked and experimented.  It became clear very quickly that what the model is wearing makes a major impact on the final result of the image.  Ok, I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but maybe not for the reasons you may think!  It's all about contrast in your composition.

Here is an image from a recent shoot I did for Todd Sparks supporting his new CD release, My Window Faces the South.  We discussed the project and came to the conclusion that he wanted a black and white image with a bit of a vintage feel.  He was to wear a white button up shirt and jeans.  He wanted boots, a cowboy hat, and a cigar.  We came up with a location that offered some woods, a railroad track, and a dirt road.  The day of the shoot Todd showed up with a jacket that had sentimental value and he really wanted to use it in the shoot.

I made (at least) two mistakes here.  First, the busy pattern on the shoulders doesn't stand out enough on the splotchy natural background.  Sorry Todd, you need to loose the jacket for this shot!  Next, he is wearing a white shirt - which you can't see, so it really doesn't matter in THIS photo, but would have if he didn't have the jacket - and a light colored cowboy hat.  In this image, what stands out?  What draws your eyes?  I'm not really sure anything does... maybe the panels on the jacket?  The hat?  The secret to getting that classic portrait look is to make your subject's face the highest contrast element in the photo to the background.  A solid, dark, long sleeved shirt would have been best here.    Accordingly, this photo was not selected for use, and rightly so.

Here are some examples of a more effective use of wardrobe in a natural background.  Here, Britney is wearing a knit sweater with a minimal pattern to it.  It is a light color on a black background which takes some of the attention away from her face, but the lighting and her dark hair really make her glow.  I dig it!


Here she is with all the concepts working together.  My eyes are draw immediately to her face and the rest of the image is what it is supposed to be, background.

Finally, one more with a light background and a light sweater.  This shot was taken with natural night so it doesn't have as much pop as the others - which you might think is good or bad - but she still is the center of attention.


So, to recap:
1) Britney is prettier than Todd (sorry big guy, but...)
2) plain closes on busy backgrounds
3) dark on dark / light on light
4) make the subject's face the highest contrast part of your composition
5) go be excellent!



[email protected] (Flash Forward) background contrast photography portrait tips wardrobe https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/you-mean-i-have-to-worry-about-what-they-wear-too Wed, 14 Nov 2012 00:31:57 GMT
San Diego Views https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/san-diego-views I'm not much of a big city guy, but San Diego is always a pleasing destination.  I made a point this trip to work some photo time in at some of the locations I have been to before.  These shots were taken around town, out on Coronado Island, from up the coast in La Jolla, and Balboa Park.


[email protected] (Flash Forward) california diego log photo san trip https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/11/san-diego-views Fri, 09 Nov 2012 22:10:39 GMT
Theatrical lighting for a theatrical effect. https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/9/theatrical-lighting-for-a-theatrical-effect I show some work as a visiting artist at the City Arts Cooperative  here in Panama City.  The Coop is a great resource in town and some wonderful folks dedicate time and money to keeping it active.  It hosts painting classes, a photography group, and several dance classes and groups.  One of the most interesting groups is Panama City Belly Dance.  These ladies work hard and put on a great show.  Most importantly, they are just fun folks!

When Jessica, one of the directors of the Coop and a member of the dance group, called me about collaborating on a shoot knew I really had to get the wheels turning and come up with something special.  We discussed some ideas, corresponding costumes, and colors.  We decided to create a very theatrical look in the lighting, and to attempt to capture the motion, energy, and a touch of the mystery of their performance.

For the background, I decided to use a theatrical lighting set up called a Leko, with a gobo and colored gel.  The Leko produces a tight, focused light beam.  The gobo is a stencil that goes between the lenses of the light and produces a crisp light pattern.  I picked, what I thought looked like, a Middle-Eastern fire pattern.  Since I chose fire, red was the color of the gel.

The trick with using a continuous light along with flashes is that the strobes are MUCH brighter and will washout the background if any light spills on the background.  I added barn doors to the lights placed either side of the subject control them.  An orange gel to the left created a complimentary accent light, and a naked bulb on the right gave a strong, dramatic split light.  Jessica did the rest!



One thing I had working for me, was that I wanted to capture some motion via a subtle blur.  To get the background looking good, I had to lower the power of both my strobes to the minimum, and leave the shutter open for 1/30 of a second.  Because Jessica is a pro, she had no trouble getting her head around a still, while the folds of her skirts where still whirling.  If she hadn't done it, we wouldn't have been able to get the crispness of her face.  That would have really sapped the pop out of the shot.


Below is the diagram for the setup.  There is an error on it.  The AB800 on the right is noted as having a defuser on it.  That was originally my plan, but I pulled it to get the sharp light on Jessica and better control the light.



In the end, a talented and creative subject, and a adventurous plan made for a really fun shoot and an interesting photo set.  I will certainly keep continuous lighting effects in mind for future projects.

Go be exceptional already!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) belly dancer lighting theatrical https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/9/theatrical-lighting-for-a-theatrical-effect Sat, 22 Sep 2012 23:32:00 GMT
Gear Review: My first portraiture light rig https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/8/everyones-favorite-topic-gear Ok, so you have your camera and a growing lens collection.  Now you're ready to invest in accessories and studio gear to really start spreading your creative wings.  This can be a confusing and intimidating time - I know it was (and still can be) for me!  Some folks have given me some good information along the way.  I've learned a some things, been pleasantly surprised by some items - and let down by others.  In a series of posts, I plan to group together bits of gear and let you know what I've experienced along the way.

So, I read and watched videos of pros getting great results with their $3,000 lights and $500 stands.  ugh.  I'm just getting started, I want BASIC functionality, at an entry level cost, so I can start learning about portraiture lighting - oh, and I don't want it to be a piece of crap, if possible.

I read Ed Verosky's great introduction to flash photography, 100% Reliable Flash Photography.  It's a great place to start.  Ed stresses simplicity, repeatability, and the concept that light is light!  You don't have to have high-end gear to get high-end results.  So, I decided to take his advise on a two light system based on speedlights.  I already had a Canon 420ex speed light so I need to answer some questions.  First, should I get an upgraded flash for a new main, and next, is there a wireless trigger solution other than the Pocket Wizard that will still get the job done.  

At this point, I really have to plug the good people at B&H Photo.  I called them on the phone and they were more than glad to take the time to explain options, talk me into lesser priced products, and helped me make sense of the road ahead.  If you have questions, call them!  As a note, I don't have any connections to the companies that create the products I discuss or the dealers that sell them.

Wireless triggers

I was looking for something reliable that didn't carry the price tag Pocket Wizards do.  The magic question here is are you using your flashes in manual mode?  By that I mean, do you plan to NOT send TTL data to the flash?  If your answer is "no", like mine was, then the Impact PowerSync16 might fit your needs.  

The impact line is carried exclusively by B&H and is targeted at the entry level studio photographer.  The components are much smaller than Pocket Wizards and you can get both transmitter and receiver for about what you would pay for one PW.  It features multiple channels and a nice little build in hot-shoe design on the receiver.  Want to add a second, third, or more lights to your rig?  Just buy a few more receivers.  Good range and I have never had them fail.  Like I mentioned, you CAN NOT send TTL info, but that's what you're not paying for.  They work as advertised and are very reliable.  

I have to give these 5 little happy bald guys out of 5.


A second flash

The next item on the list was another flash.  If it's going to be your secondary flash, and you don't plan on using TTL (which we already decided when we went with the trigger above), then the venerable Vivitar 285HV is the way to go.  Ok, it's made out of plastic, has this funky little wheel on the side that doesn't control anything, and is blessed with, let's call it a "retro" look, but, its tough, reliable, consistent, fast and best of all.... wait for it... $85.

What you give up with this beastie:
1) Power control.  It only has settings for Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/16, purple, blue, red, and yellow.  I have no clue what the color settings on the "vari-power" dial do.  Might have something to do with the "Thyristor"... 
2) Any credibility as a cool, cutting edge photographer.  It looks like a brick.  This model is only for those that are a) very secure in their gear-manhood, or b) not cursed with self-awareness.  

What you get in addition to the important stuff I've already mentioned:
1) Zooma-zoom.  It has a neat tele/normal/wide pullout lens in the front of element.
2) Simple.  You got a switch, a button, and a dial.  Knock yourself out.
3) $500 in your pocket.  Cha-ching!

I have to give this jewel of days gone by 4 content bald guys out of 5
(4 for performance - 3 for being so damn ugly  - 2 for confusing me with that little side wheel + 1 when I finally figured out that it doesn't do anything + 4 for the $85 price tag!)

Shoot-through umbrellas

Noting too fancy here.  I picked up a pair of the Impact small umbrellas.  25" I think, but they don't even carry that size anymore.  Here is the deal on these.  They are about the quality of a little parasol that my 8 year old daughter would play with.  BUT, the are small, light, and CHEAP - $11 I think.  For that price, they are disposable.  However, I almost immediately bought the 45" version which weighs in at a whopping $15 and gives much better light.  If your rough on gear, they just won't last.  Show them a little love and you're good for a while.  I have had mine a year and they are going strong.  They do have a removable cover that converts them from shoot-through to reflective.  That gives you a few more things to play with.  They provide a nice, all over the place kinda light source.  That being the case, bigger is better.

Don't forget, you will need a bracket with to mount this rig to your light stand.  That will set you back another $25.  Any of them will do, here is the Impact version.

Being cheap (as in flimsy) is balanced out by being cheap (as in $) for a rather ho-hum 3 out of 5 satisfied enough bald guys.


Light stands

I am tempted to title this section "pay me now, or pay me later!"  I was buying small umbrellas, I was putting a Speedlight on it, and I wanted to do all on the cheap.  I bought aluminum Impact 8' Air-cushioned Light Stands.  They worked fine.   They are small and easy to carry.  Now that I have studio lights and larger modifiers of various types, I really can't use them much as they just aren't sturdy enough - and my Alien Bees just aren't that big.  

For an extra $20 I could have got the "heavy-duty" ones instead, and I recommend you do.  I have one of those now that works fine with my boom or larger modifiers.  

I have to give the lighter stands two scores to be fair.  In the short term, with the gear I have listed above they got a 4 happy to be taking "real pictures" bald guys out of 5, but in the long run, they can only get a 2 told you so bald guys out of 5 cause I just can't use them for much anymore.


Well, that is the rig that got me rolling.  I am not unhappy with the gear-path that got me to where I am now.  Pretty cheap, pretty flexible.   I'll talk about some of the modifiers I have purchased since then and the impact they have had on my images.  Until then....

Go be exceptional!!!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) flash gear light modifier review speedlight stand https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/8/everyones-favorite-topic-gear Thu, 09 Aug 2012 04:57:11 GMT
Don't Forget Why They Came in the First Place! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/7/dont-forget-why-they-came-in-the-first-place How many times have I heard the same concern, bitch, discussion - "Is the digital SLR the end of the working photographer?"  It is true that its becoming easier and easier to take good photographs thanks to new technology.  Heck, my little point and shoot Canon captures great exposures.  It is also true that there are a lot of people charging a lot of money to take photos that are, well frankly, not very good.  I put a little thought into it and came to up with a parallel to the local music business.  I've been playing in bands since I was in high school.  There are always new bands coming and going on the scene.  Some are really good, most aren't.  But there are a few bands that just have to walk into the best clubs and they get on the schedule right off.  Why is that?  Because they bring something special that all the others don't.  A unique sound, style, show, there just... good.  They have something special to offer.  The same is true with photographers.  There are a lot of them out there, but the really good ones will always get work - and they will get the best work too.  Because they bring something special to the table.

So, I built my portfolio.  I experimented with light and color and composition.  I started finding things I liked and things I didn't.  I started to develop, dare I say, a style of my own.  Then the phone rang.  Its a lady who had seen some really cool promotional shots I did with a local classical pianist and really liked the way they turned out.  She was starting a new medical consultation business and need some professional images to promote it.    

My first reaction was to discuss what she wanted, needed, the image she wanted to present.  In my head, I started down a road for the standard, well-lit, professional, conservative head shot.  I forgot that the reason she came to me was that she likes the style I applied to my previous images.  Why would I ever want to give up 1) the unique thing that she came to me for in the first place, and 2) the type of art that I find interesting and fun anyway!?!?!?    I came to my senses, made sure to shoot a few "safe" head shots to make sure she would leave the shoot with something she could use, and then started being creative and having fun.  I found that she enjoyed the process too.  In the end, she likes the more creative of the shots.  Go figure.

The lesson learned is: When you find that unique look that is you, don't be afraid to use it, even if it is not what most people would do.  It's what brought clients to you in the first place!

Go be unique, bold, exciting, exceptional... but most of all, be yourself.


As for the technical, my AB800 at 1/4 power in a 50 inch soft-box above and to the right.  A reflector underneath to help with the fill.  The background was a second AB800 at 1/32 power with a blue gel and some barn doors to keep it off my subject.


[email protected] (Flash Forward) background lighting photography portrait tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/7/dont-forget-why-they-came-in-the-first-place Sun, 29 Jul 2012 02:58:23 GMT
The Sincerest Form of Flattery https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/6/the-sincerest-form-of-flattery  

I have the privilege to be part of an active photography group on Facebook cleverly titled “About Photography Group” ( facebook.com/groups/aboutphotographygroup ).  There are some very creative people on there regularly, and I get many ideas and much inspiration from discussing and appreciating their look.  Two particular posts have really caught my eye.  And the photographers that took them have been very gracious in explaining how they created them.  This is my experimentation with trying to reproduce the looks.


Photo By Joe’s (photographybyjoe.com) ”signature” colored background

First of all, I finally found a Styrofoam modeling head at a local beauty supply shop.  It’s a great way to have a subject that doesn’t get bored while you woodshed in the studio.  For under $5, you can’t go wrong.  They are white which makes them VERY reflective and more of a challenge to not overexpose, but field goal kickers practice on skinny goal post for a reason.  I will look into painting them with something flesh tone though to make it more realistic.

Here I’m using a combination of a 40-degree grid and a purple gel above and just behind the subject and focused onto a black backdrop.  He uses paper, but these are on fabric.  The fabric doesn’t work as well, and I will be using paper in the future.  I used a 10-degree grid on my rim light behind and to the left of the subject.  If I had a full person, I most likely would go with a small umbrella or softbox since i don't own a strip light.  The key light is a beauty dish with with a diffuser on the front.  

Joe’s genius really kicks in when he gets the colors and compositions with his models working in concert with the cool background.  That will be my next step.





Tim Skipper's (timskipperphotography.com) dramatic and moody side lighting

Tim does such wonderfully dramatic images.  It’s easy to get distracted from the fact that he is a lighting wiz by his composition work, which is striking.  Even in his most complex digitally enhanced images, the lighting of the subjects is spot on.  For this exercise, however, I was inspired by one of his simpler creations.  It’s a striking image of a young lady clutching a wrap with very directional, but still soft lighting.  Here is my take on it, and through in the idea of using the reflection of the wall to give the subject a little extra glow.  I have shot something like this before, but not with the directional lighting.  The key light was at 45-degrees above the subject and feathered well into the wall.  I controlled the light with a 40-degree grid, and used a reflector to lighten up the other side of the face.  I will raise it up a little higher next time as I seemed to have highlighted that magical fleshy region under the chin a bit much.



So, there you go.  A little woodshedding I did on two great looks that I picked up from artists that were kind enough to share their thoughts with me.  I’m still a long way from mastering these looks, but I really don’t have any ambitions of copying them exactly.  I am just learning what I can on their approach and then letting the ideas flow to hopefully find a look of my own.

Be extraordinary!

- mike


The lighting diagrams here were made with The Online Lighting Diagram Creator.  It’s a wonderful free tool that helps to collect your thoughts.  It’s also a great way to show concepts to clients!


[email protected] (Flash Forward) background lighting photography tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/6/the-sincerest-form-of-flattery Fri, 15 Jun 2012 04:00:00 GMT
Perfect Water https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/6/perfect-water Perfect water - the dark wind braids the waves.
The crazed birds raid the trees. Is this our destiny?
To join our hands at sea - and slowly sink, and slowly think:
This is perfect water, passing over me.


The rainforest of North Easter Queensland, Australia are the oldest in the world, even older than the mighty Amazon.   I recently managed to spend three weeks kicking around there, on the Tablelands, and in the outback.  The rugged environment, with rolling hills, beaches, and lots of rain make for a huge number of bays, creeks, rivers, and waterfalls.  So one of my goals for this trip was to capture some great water images!

There were a few things I knew I would need.   I would be shooting at long shutter speeds to get the motion of the water, so a tripod was a must.  A few filters would come in handy too.  I took a neutral density (ND) filter, which is a great tool that allows you to extend the time the shutter stays open without over exposing the image.  I also brought a circular polarizer, which like a good pair of boating shades, knocks down the glare and allows you to see into the wet spaces.  This is also a great way to bring the sky out and get foliage jumping.  I have a 2 second and 10 second timer on my camera, and my shutter speed was not going to be over 10 seconds, so I could leave my remote in the bag, which was nice as many of these locations required a substantial hike through the hot and steamy wilds.  The less I had to tote the better!  I was comfortable that the 10 second timer would allow any wiggle I had introduced into the camera and tripod while pressing the trigger to dissipate.

Do you know Jacques Cousteau when they said on the radio,
that he hears bells in random order, deep beneath the perfect water?
Love!  That is frightening, but still so inviting.
To drown inside a sound that lay so far underground.
And to think... and to think:
This is perfect water, passing over me.

Man, they have waterfalls everywhere!  After a while they all start to look the same, and the photos did too.  I was getting what I wanted mechanically - the flow of water - the mystic feel of fluid movement.  Nice photos, but not unique.  Just as a reference, here are the camera settings: 

17 mm
5s at f/9
ISO 100


As an artist, I started thinking how do I make something that will stand out, something that would really pop.  I went back to what I learned with my landscape experiments - composition is king!  I started looking for object to use in the foreground.  I looked for different angles.  Getting in the water and getting wet was very rewarding.  First, I got that Indiana Jones kind of combat cameraman grove on, which always makes me smile, and more importantly, I started getting compositions that are more unique.  And THAT is the real pay off.


Some of the scenes were just too big to capture the feel of in a single image.  This fall was at the head of gorge, on top of a series of falls, and originated from a concave wall that screamed “KONG!”  It is truly an amazing place, but how do you capture it.  There is a tall single fall without any cascades, which in itself is elegant, but a bit dull visually.  The curvature of the wall didn’t really present any leading lines.  There is this one tree at the trail head.  So a little digging in the underbrush and slipping on rocks and I was able to capture this.


Perfect water - I dream this dream within the deep and warm Gulf Stream.
Where two blocks of ice melt into my hands like dice,
and I roll seven on the floor of the sea!
And I roll seven on the floor of the sea!
And I feel the perfect water, washing over me.


After a few weeks of rainforest trekking, I was feeling a bit claustrophobic.  It was time for a little beach time down on the coast.  The same issues present themselves here.  How do I avoid the “nice picture on any beach” look and get something exciting?  I applied the same principles in composition. 

To flow inside the spiral tide;
to drown my eyes like a blind ride.
And to cross the perils of black water -
It waits for me like mother and daughter.
A life of perfect order!  A strange and perfect water!


This last photo was taken from my dinner table at an outdoor restaurant in Port Douglas.  It seems like a nice way to end this post.  Again, all the compositional elements are present.  And with a sky like that, it would have been hard to screw up!  :-)

Water is an amazing thing.  Fascinating in its complexity.  Thrilling in its vibrancy.  Soothing in its calm.  Each of those facets takes a little different technique to capture.  Like most things mechanical, the technical techniques with the camera, once learned, are simple.  The art comes when a good photographer uses their vision to breathe life into the image.  That is why good photographers will always have work.  That's why I want to be a good photographer.

Now, go take some exceptional pictures!


The lyrics are from one of my favorite BOC songs, “Perfect Water”.  Check it out here!

[email protected] (Flash Forward) beach landscape photography waterfall https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/6/perfect-water Mon, 04 Jun 2012 20:29:16 GMT
The Sky is the Limit https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/3/the-sky-is-the-limit This time around, I wanted to discuss a new technique I've been working on - using the sky as an exciting background for portrait images.  Zack Arias (www.zackarias.com) is a big fan of using the sky as the background of his portraits, and I am a big fan of Zack Arias.  So, I really wanted to start getting some of the looks he does.

I have experimented in the past using my usual mental approach of:

  1. Setting my initial desired aperture
  2. Lighting the subject
  3. Adjusting ISO / and aperture to get the proper exposure on the subject
  4. Dialing in the ambient light (including the sky) with the shutter speed

I was getting decent result, but never really getting the color, definition, and pop that I craved.  Here is a good example of the type of results I was getting.  Not bad, but neither the subject or the background are jumping out at you.

Here is Emily on the dunes.  I managed to get some good definition of the clouds but not that great eye-cather I wanted.

I got Zack’s book, the ONELight Field Guide and in the first few pages he discussed it.  His approach is as follows:

  1. Set your initial desired aperture (this is an artistic choice after all)
  2. Expose the image for the sky (the subject will most likely be severely underexposed)
  3. Now, bring up the flash to light the subject to the proper level

WOW!  When I explained this epiphany to a friend, and he commented that it was the same thing as I was doing before…  NO IT’S NOT!  Ok, mechanically, it might be, but in the inner workings of my mind, it is the exact opposite of the way I would approach a portrait in the studio. 

Once I got my mind around what was going on, the issues became composition images instead of lighting ones.  The lighting effects you get on your subject are much more a-kin to what you would produce in the studio.  I started getting images like the ones below soon and now it is my preferred method for outdoor portraits.

Foreground and background elements become very important as they will be lit, not-lit, or shadowed depending on the angles and distances selected.  In this photo, it would have been hard to properly light the entire area behind the subject.  It makes for an interesting effect, but it’s a tad bit forced.  Cool sky though, huh?

The sunset under the snare is hip, but that sure is a lot of bush to try to light!

Now I have this big, beautiful sky to play with, how do I make interesting photos that feature my subject, not overpower them?  A couple of quick thoughts on that:

  • Always look to frame them if there are trees or structures in the background.  Trees have a offer lots of opportunities to create lines and angles to draw the viewers attention to the subject.
  • If it’s a clear sky, separate the subject from the background.  You don’t have to fight the clutter of poles, buildings, trees, etc…  I know this is contradictory to the first bullet, but take a look at the photos below to see what I’m talking about.  Besides, in art there is no right or wrong, only good and bad ideas.
  • Use a low angle to really put the subject in space.  If the ground is in the image, you start looking like a landscape shot again, besides, the near foreground will take some dedicated lighting to get right.

Todd gets the studio lighting look with the landscape sky.


Stacey jumps out of the image and you can really get a taste of her personality.

So, with just a different point of view and mental approach, I have really started getting shots the excite me.  Give it a bash and see what you can do with it.

- mike

[email protected] (Flash Forward) background photography portrait sky tips https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/3/the-sky-is-the-limit Mon, 12 Mar 2012 16:45:00 GMT
Spice Up the Landscapes https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/2/spice-up-the-landscapes  

November of last year I had the opportunity to travel to Germany, Wales, and the UK.  I was very excited about the trip, especially the chance to tour through Wales as my Great Grandfather had immigrated to the Pennsylvania coal country from there.   Dramatic landscapes abound, they actually have a region called Snowdonia (how great is that???), and there are no-foolin’ castles everywhere.  Wales surpassed even my lofty expectations.  I roamed from the far north where they still speak Welsh first, down to the coal country of the south.  I really was looking forward to upping my game and get some great shots.


I began researching on the internet for locations to shoot, places to stay and things to see.  While doing a Google images search I came across the most amazing images by a Polish photographer named Krzysztof Nowakowski.   Do yourself a favor and take a minute or an hour to look at his AMAZING work here!




After getting over my initial awe and intimidation from view his images I began to note the locations he had shot in and attempted to dissect his technique.  There were three things that I picked up on and began applying to my images that made for big improvements right off the bat:


1)  The use of foreground in compositions.

I had often struggled with my landscape shots looking rather flat and not having a dynamic of depth that gave you that “I feel like I could walk right into it!” feeling.  By using an object in the foreground of the image, the viewer gets a sense of distance and layers.  Be ready to get down on your belly to get a little patch of grass in the shot.  Keep in mind, a little bit goes a long way, and you have to be careful not to make the bush you add distract from the majestic mountain your trying to photograph!  A foreground object can also help in making leading lines where they are none present in the wider scene.

Just a little bit of rock in the foreground helps the give the old bridge some depth.

2)  Contrast – my new best friend.

I was initially going to call this “color and contrast”, but color is so…  Ah the heck with it – crank up your contrast and watch your images come alive!  I was always a little scared of overdoing the contrast, but in a landscape shot, it can really bring out the crispness and detail.  The most noticeable place is in the sky.  Clouds really start to pop.  As a side note, if you bring the brightness of an image up, try matching that with an equal amount of contrast and it helps to keep that washed out look to a minimum.

Every blade of grass, every stone, every cloud - the added definition gives that real feel that pops!

3)  Look at the world differently.

Once you get the shot you want, step back, take a minute and look at the scene for opportunities to capture a unique angle.  Karl Taylor talked about this in his video series.  He had a great tip on using Google maps and their street view to find angles before you ever go.  Its amazing how the views I found sitting at my desk in Florida jumped right out at me in the limited time I had on site.  I was able to find scenes that I would have never found just wondering around a location.  This fits with one of my mantras, different is good!

I found this angle - including the parking at the small store - via Google Street View.


I used to mentally divided my images into two groups, artistic and documentation.  There is nothing wrong with documenting going somewhere and captured the memory, but by applying the concepts above, I’ve started blurring the lines – and it makes me excited about shooting and traveling. 


Don’t shoot the same pictures everyone else does.  Go be exceptional!


- mike

[email protected] (Flash Forward) Landscape photography tips wales https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/2/spice-up-the-landscapes Thu, 01 Mar 2012 05:00:00 GMT
The Journey begins! https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/2/the-journey-begins-  

I often wondered, if I were to blog, what would I blog?     

I am not an overly technical photographer, and I certainly don’t spend much time trying to become one.  It’s just not the way I’m wired.  I guess that is probably a good place to start.  So you know who I am, where I’m coming from, and how I approach photography and the world. 

I take what I like to call an “organic” approach to photography.  I’m not big on light meters or Photoshop.  I have both.   I can use both.  It’s just not the way I think – it’s not what I find interesting in taking pictures.  I use Aperture to edit and organize my images and am a big fan of the Nik software suite for image adjustments.  I am certainly not a purist, but I really strive to get the image out of the camera.


So, what to blog?

I like to think out loud when I am working.  I find it helps to get the creative juices flowing, gets buy-in on what you’re doing from your collaborators, and helps me to work through things and collect my thoughts.  So, instead of enlightening you with technical gems of wisdom, or inspiring you with philosophical enlightenment, I will just talk through the projects I set for myself.  Hopefully, there will be some gems that you can apply to your own work.  Maybe, even some enlightenment that you will find on your own while pondering the steps I’m taking on my journey


So on with the show!

Friends of mine are serious professional photographers and rekindled a bug that my dad had lit in me as a kid when he gave me my Pentax K1000.  So I started a little study, and found a few folks that are working in a what that I really resonated with me.  So i wanted to pass that on here.  By the way, I don't get any kick-back for these references.  I'm just passing the things that really helped me out!


First, I found Ed Verosky's great ebook, 100% Reliable Flash Photography.  I highly recommend this as an introduction to get some basic lighting concepts under control and getting your flash photography to stop sucking.  it worked for me.  There were a few serious "ah-ha" moments that really go me rolling.  Ed's other ebooks are really good to and build on the principles he lays out here.
Get the ebook HERE!


Next, I dug through Karl Taylor's series on photography.  He is an excellent instructor and his videos are both informative and entertaining.  While he is usually working with high-end gear, he makes a point of stressing the concepts and approach that is applicable to the shots he is working on.  A little pricey, but really informative. 

Get the videos and see his on-line instruction HERE!


Last, but certainly not least, the photographer that has had the biggest influence on me in Zack Arias out of Atlanta.  His ONELIGHT DVD set is so spot on with the way I think that I just watched it over and over.  He also has a field guide that is a great book to throw into your camera bag for reference.  On top of all the good info, Zach is a hoot to watch!
Get it here!!!!


Well that's the short version.  I highly recommend all the above and if you get them, absorb them, and practice them, you too and be great like me....  ok, not inspiring enough?  Well how about this... you too can start making cool pictures which is WAY more fun than making crappy ones!

- mike

[email protected] (Flash Forward) https://studioflashforward.com/blog/2012/2/the-journey-begins- Fri, 24 Feb 2012 01:59:07 GMT