Monday, June 18, 2018

Remembering Joe Denardo

This past weekend Pittsburgh lost an icon, retired WTAE (channel 4) weatherman Joe Denardo passed away.  Much was made of his forecasting skills and broadcasting career.  Much was also made about his community and charity work, especially Project BundleUp and the Moon Township Parks & Recreation Board.  But I knew Joe from another charity:  The Myron Copy/Foge Fazio Golf Classic to raise funds for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh, which I have been photographing for the last 7 years.  Joe and Myron were broadcasting colleagues at WTAE, and Joe always made it a point to come out for the event.  In recognition of his many years of support, the Autism Society of Pittsburgh gave Joe a green jacket (like the Master's Tournament) in 2012.  The 2018 outing as held last Monday.  Sadly, Joe was not there.

From a photographer's standpoint, Joe was the best.  He WANTED to have his photo taken.  Almost every year, I would get to the country club and walk into the lounge where coffee and pastry were set up.  Joe would see me and immediately call me over to get a photo with whomever he was talking to.  If he ever noticed me pointing my camera at him, he would stop what he was doing and pose. 

Everyone who met Joe always has a favorite "Joe Story" to tell, so here's mine.  Every year, at the start of the golf outing,  Joe would always take the microphone and give the golfers his weather forecast for the day.  One year rain was predicted all day, but Joe told us that the rain would hold off until 2 pm.  It was a bold prediction, and looking at the sky, I thought there was no way that was correct.  Sure enough, right at 2, it started raining.

Joe said it would...

Monday, June 4, 2018

Gabby's Senior Session

How cool is it when a girl that wants to include her pet lizard in her senior photos!

Our shoot was at Gabby's favorite spot, the working farm at Round Hill Park.  This is a very nice shooting location, with plenty of great spots to shoot at.

Unfortunately on the day we had scheduled it was a cloudy day, with no chance that the sun was going to peak out for us.  So I made it a point to bring along my flash equipment, and we made out own sunshine.  I used one flash with a full CTO gel to one side and slightly behind Gabby.  This was my "sun".  And then used a second flash on camera with a 1/4 CTO filter and a bounce diffuser for a slightly warm fill light.  Increasingly this has become my go-to setup for outdoor portraits.  It is easy to set up and move from location to location.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

"Game of Thrones" Themed Photoshoot

Because I am a bit of a lighting geek, when I see a photo that I like, I will study it and try to reverse engineer how the lighting was done.  I've done it since I was in college.  Back then, if you had found a hypothetical copy of Playboy in my dorm room, there were lighting notes scribbled in the margins next to the photos.  Hypothetically, of course.  Serious geekiness, what can I say...

And this geekiness applies to TV and movies as well.  I will totally lose track of the plot because I get caught up in studying how a scene was lit. Fortunately there are DVRs, On Demand, and YouTube, so I can go back and get the plot points I missed.

A couple of months ago I was watching scenes from "Game of Thrones", and I noticed how they use color casts (white balance) to accent certain locales.  Scenes that take place in the desert usually have warm yellow/orange tones,  while scenes in "the North" (especially Winterfel or Castle Black) have a blue cast that emphasizes the cold.  And I thought "I know how to do that!"  That was where the idea for this shoot was born.

This was a bigger production than the personal photoshoots I've done in the past.  It was a challenge to pull together everything I needed for this shoot:  A red-haired model who was interested and available, a location that could pass for a castle, appropriate clothing and props, and of course, snow.  As it turned out, the biggest problem was the snow (or rather, the lack thereof)!  Even though it was officially winter, the weather here in Pittsburgh didn't want to cooperate.  We had lots of warm weather and lots of rain, which resulted in a lot of flooding and landslides in the area.  As the weeks passed and we got closer to spring, I was about ready to give up on being able to pull this shoot off.  Then a freaky series of storms blew through, and we had snow!  It wasn't going to last though, so I had to scramble to schedule the shoot on short notice.

A special shout out to my model, Hope Marie.  It was our first time working together.  She came prepared, ready to shoot, and didn't complain about the miserable weather conditions (25 degrees, no sun, and 20 mph wind gusts).  A true professional who was a joy to work with.  I look forward to working with her in the future.

For my fellow lighting geeks, here's the technical details. Godox AD200 main with Full CTO, 1/2 CTO, and a MagSphere. Godox V860ii-N rimlight with 1/2 CTB. Both lights full power. Nikon D800E. 80-200/2.8 at 135mm. ISO 100, 1/250 sec at f4.5. WB 2200K, tint -30.  Pullback for the first shot included above.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Recreating a Sunset Using Flash

One of the problems we have as wedding and event photographers is that we usually don't have any control over the environment we are shooting in.  If the church uses their Kindergarten room as their bridal room, you can't ask for another room.  If the weather isn't to your liking, rescheduling the wedding for another day isn't an option!  You have to play the cards you are dealt, and still capture the day the way your bride wants to remember it.

Off-camera flash (OCF) can be a powerful tool in these situations.  You can use lighting to accent some things, and de-emphasize other things.  You can use both the intensity and color of lighting to create a specific mood for your photos.

Last year I was second-shooting a wedding the same weekend that the remnants of Hurricane Harvey blew through our area.  The sky was solid overcast, and I knew early on that there was no way we were going to get any sort of nice sunset.  The venue had a small pond with a dock that stuck out into it.  It was a great setting, but the bland available light wasn't going to do it justice.  Nothing that adding some flashes couldn't cure.

I put my most powerful flash (a Godox AD200) on the shore near the dock, facing the couple standing on the end of the dock.  This was going to be my "sun".  I didn't raise it up too high, because I wanted to mimic a low sun right before it dips below the horizon.  I put a Full CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on it to give a warm glow.  I had a second flash on my camera to provide  a little fill, so the side of the couple facing away from the "sun" wouldn't be in complete shadow.  I used a 1/4 CTO gel to warm it a little, but not as much as my "sun".

The resulting photo had a nice warm romantic feel to it, but the sky was still an ugly gray.  I lowered the white balance of the image from normal daylight (5500 degrees Kelvin) to 4000 degrees Kelvin.  This cut down the orange somewhat, but it added a wonderful blue tint to the sky and water.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Taylor's Night Shoot

Shooting portraits at night can be one of the most challenging assignments.  Lighting can be tricky, because you want to make sure your subject is properly lit, while still seeing lights and other details in the background.   But it can also be one of the most rewarding, providing a wonderful contrast between lights and the darkness.  I wanted to try shooting at night down at the Waterfront.  During the holidays their central square features a lot of lights and decorations, making it the ideal background for this type of shoot.  It was an interesting challenge trying to balance the light from my off-camera flashes with the Christmas decorations.

Taylor is a relatively new model going to school in the Pittsburgh area.  It was our first time working together, and I don't think it will be our last.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sheldon's "Mommy and Me" Shopping Session

During the holiday season I scheduled a shoot with one of my favorite models, Sheldon, and her daughter Adalyn.  I wanted to try doing a "Mommy and Me" shopping shoot.  The Waterfront has some nice Christmas decorations in their central square, so that would be a convenient place to shoot.

We had an unexpectedly bright sunny day for our shoot.  My go-to setup for shooting in sunlight is to shoot with the sun behind the subject and having a flash in the front to fill in the shadows on the face.  I've literally used some variation of this for 40 years.  The sun makes a nice hairlight/rimlight on the subject.  But sometimes a regular flash struggles in this situation to have enough power to fill in the shadows.  Fortunately I had my Godox AD200 super-flash along, with three times the power of a standard on-camera flash.  Plenty of power to fill in the shadows, even at a distance.

Sheldon is also a photographer, in addition to being a model.  I think this gives her an edge and helps our sessions to flow easily.  Adalyn, meanwhile, is perfecting her "Diva Model" impression (which is actually pretty easy for a 2-year old).

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Bettis Holiday Party

Earlier this month I photographed the kids in Santa's lap and the annual Bettis Holiday Party at Salvatore's in Baldwin Borough.  It is hard to believe that the first time I did this particular event was in 1983!  That's long enough that the little kids I photographed back then now bring their children to see Santa.  That first year we has no idea how popular it was going to be.  The line for Santa literally went around all four sides of the room.   Back then I shot it on film, and we had to get every employee's name in order so we could deliver the prints.  Now of course I shoot it on digital, and post the files to an online gallery that the parents can download from.  I still keep the previous years' digital file online, and every year I have at least one family that goes through those older files and finds their family's photos going back several years .  It is neat to literally see their kids grow up in five years' worth of photos.