• Archives
  • Oct31

    Trick Or Treat
    The big night is finally here!

    I wanted to quickly wrap up my favorite holiday of the year with some family pics. As you may have read in my last 2 posts (here & here), we’ve had a very busy Halloween weekend.

    Halloween Costumes 2011
    Trying on the Costumes

    Above is a shot I took when the kids got their costumes. Below are the portraits I made during one of the photo booths I did this weekend.

    GhostWalk - Mac Portrait GhostWalk - Amy Portrait GhostWalk - Kegan Portrait
    Photo Booth Portraits

    We planned on getting our pumpkin carving done on Sunday, but we did not know there was a pumpkin shortage going on! We went to all of the local supermarkets and Walmarts trying to find some pumpkins. We settled on a couple of heirloom pumpkins which were not good for cutting up. I went and got some paint and the kids went to town making their own creations. It turned out to be a creative break from the normal tradition! The kids did awesome.

    Pumpkin Painting

    We went Trick or Treating with our neighbors. The adults have decided that we need a similar holiday where you knock on everyone’s doors and ask for beverages. Drink or Treating has all the makings of a great tradition – everyone who participates stocks up on their favorite beer and you just walk around town tasting each other’s brew of choice. No need to call a taxi, as you’re on foot & not far from home. I think we could make this work. Who’s with us?

    Trick or Treating

  • Oct30


    This post is going to look strikingly similar to yesterday’s, that’s because I used the same setup with some slight modifications. For the WHAIES Masquerade Ball, I had a little problem with my backdrop for the booth. I didn’t have a backdrop! UPS was very tardy with their delivery (next day does not mean next night!!) and I had to head out to the party with a makeshift backup plan. Nothing a little black gaffers tape can’t fix, MacGyver style. I used the school’s stage curtain and some black fabric to make it work. Unfortunately that meant time spent in post production correcting the color shifts between the different black elements. Booooo. This time was different!

    Armed with a proper backdrop, I headed out to Summerville, SC for the Ghost Walk/ Harvest Fest/ Harvest Moon Hayride. The new challenge that arose for this booth was being outdoors and contending with very windy conditions. I was positioned up against a brick wall, but the backrop was still about a foot or so away from it. I had to bring down the height of it a bit so that it wouldn’t sail away and I used a combination of tent spikes, stones, and clamps to secure the backdrop. I also left out my umbrellas and used cardboard to flag a pair of bare flashes as the rim lights on either side. Umbrellas are pretty kite-like in the wind, but I actually like the way the non-diffused flashes look for this application. I used a softbox on a heavy-duty c-stand as my main light.


    Because this photo booth was sponsored by Prudential Southern Coast Real Estate, I didn’t have to worry about collecting money, which meant the tethered laptop stayed at home and I was able to shoot away without administrative concerns (who paid for how many, associating file numbers with names, etc). I shot over 100 portraits in 3 hours! You can check out all of the photos here.

    Mistress Mira Battles Harry (Kegan) Potter!

    With that, I’m done with Halloween photo booths for now. Time to carve some pumpkins in preparation for my absolute favorite holiday of the year!

  • Oct29


    This evening I had the pleasure of sponsoring & running a photo booth for an event at Windsor Hill Arts infused Elementary School for their Masquerade Ball. I tried to do something different this time by bringing a portable photo printer with me to print out photos on the sport for the kids. Boy was that a challenge! I wasn’t prepared for the backlog of photos that needed to be printed as I concentrated on shooting. By the time my wife Amy realized we weren’t going to be able to print everything by the end of the party, we were scrambling for ways to service everyone in a fair and timely manner.

    Most of the kids and parents were really cool about the delay, and I’m deeply sorry to those who had to wait. For those who opted to get their photo delivered, your child will get them this week at school. In the mean time, please feel free to browse the gallery here. You can purchase different sized prints or share the photos on Facebook with your friends! Amy & I are proud to be able to raise some extra money for the PTA while providing our community with this service at a minimal cost. We’ll keep trying to find the best way to make it work while keeping the costs for the families low!

  • Oct28

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Much like last year, the year before that, and for 50 something years before that, the Coastal Carolina Fair has come to Exchange Park in Ladson, SC. Actually, they’re celebrating the 55th year of the fair in the Charleston area this year – that’s over a half-century of fried Kool-Aid (or Oreos, Twinkies, sticks of butter). This year I went with the family, but I still managed to get a bunch of shots of the fun. I also wrote up a similar post last year, so feel free to check that out.

    Times Square

    This photo of the taxi cab tourist in NYC won an honorable mention in the Division 1 photography contest! Just thought I’d share that with you in case you aren’t able to check out the art exhibits. If you do go there, please notice (and laugh at) my giant self-portrait that is keeping a half-bearded eye on the exhibit hall. Thanks.

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    We arrived just before sunset, and I have to say that I was disappointed by the sky this evening. The clouds were perfect for a spectacular southern light show, but just after I took this shot, they vanished and we got one of those shapeless sunsets. Oh well, there’s always next year 😉

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011 Coastal Carolina Fair 2011 Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    I did try to compensate for the lack of definition with a graduated pink Cokin filter that I held in front of my lens. I also tried to get creative with this shot:

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Something about this guy in front of the balloons caught my attention. I wonder how many times Old Man Jenkins here had his plans foiled at the old amusement park by some meddling kids before he took a road gig?

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    The big star of the show for me is always the big Ferris Wheel. I just love the patterns of light and the plethora of angles to capture them. This year I decided to go head on.

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Kegan found out that he does not like heights on the skylift.

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Here he is, holding on like a trooper:

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    The kids made good use of their “all you can ride” hand stamps.

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    I’m pretty sure I’ve taken this same shot of these same ducks every year I go to the fair. As fun as the fair is, it really is very consistent. And by consistent I mean it’s the same dang thing every dang year!

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    In the petting zoo, I thought I would get all artsy with this close-up of a cow’s head:

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    But then she did this, and I couldn’t resist:

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    The fair wouldn’t be the fair without some of that newfangled country music I didn’t grow up listening to. From where I stand, the new country folks basically took all of their cues from 80’s hair metal but got rid of the distortion pedals and added a fiddle. But, there was a huge crowd of people there to see Colt Ford, and I snuck up to the stage to grab a couple of shots and see what all the commotion was about. By the way, the security are always really cool at the fair if you ask to take some shots first!

    Colt Ford - Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    Good old Colt must be a big deal around here, because even the people not watching the concert were singing along as they walked around the food court in earshot of the show. We started to head to the car when I got taken by surprise by the fireworks show. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, because they do it every night at the fair. It was a pretty good excuse to pull the camera back out.

    Coastal Carolina Fair 2011

    And with that we hurried to the car so we could wait in traffic. Another successful family trip to the fair. I can’t wait until next year!

  • Oct23

    BarCampCHS Group Photo
    Group Photo of the BarCampCHS attendees

    Yesterday was the 3rd annual BarCampCHS event, and like last year it was held over at the College of Charleston campus in downtown Charleston, SC. As mentioned in an earlier post, I held a session on Off-Camera Flash. Before I talk about the highlights of my presentation, I wanted to share a bit of the BarCamp experience.

    30 Seconds To Pitch

    After you register and get your bag o’ swag, the attendees gather in an auditorium and the people who plan on holding sessions get 30 seconds each to pitch their idea. As you tell everyone what you plan to do, a counter is counting down behind you (a few people did have to get the mic taken away from them mid-thought). In reality, you only got about 25 seconds to pitch since people started counting down the final 5 seconds. I found it quite entertaining, especially when some mouthy participant trying to hawk a couponing network-marketing scheme went over his 30 seconds and tried to continue without the mic. He was followed by @CaananTully who pitched a session on saving money at the supermarket without using coupons. The crowd applauded loudly. Afterward, the attendees lined up to vote on which sessions they’d like to attend.

    With that, sessions began about a myriad of topics, although it was highly concentrated on computer programming. Some of the more popular sessions focused on geek culture, including a session about modifying old Nintendo Entertainment System games such as Super Mario Brothers.

    Eugene Mah Flaunts His Bathrobe Style

    Eugene Mah took a lot of great photos of the days events, and they can be seen here. There is a BarCampCHS Flickr Group to check out, as well as my full set of photos. Twitterer @Pataford has a Ustream channel with some video he took. If you have some content I missed, please let me know in the comments! Now, on to my creative session:

    Off-Camera Flash 101 Session

    Slides from my BarCampCHS presentation

    I started off the presentation by a short introduction and recap of my session from last year on photo editing. I showed some of the photos we made and edited and started talking about the creative use of lighting in the shots. This led to a brief discussion on why you would want to use off-camera flash. I also touched a little on why you would ever use your on-camera flash, and showed an example of fill flash outdoors during a bright and sunny day.

    Next, we talked about shooting in manual mode – both on the camera and on the flash. We talked about the benefits of TTL as well as its shortcomings and why it’s important to know how to use manual flash, especially when working with light modifiers. I explained how when dealing with off-camera flash, you can control your ambient light with your shutter speed and your flash power with your aperture settings. Someone asked about ISO settings, and I explained that you want to shoot in your camera’s native ISO when dealing with lighting to produce consistent and clean images.

    The next part of the session dealt with the different methods of getting your flash off of your camera. The first method was using bounce flash. I explained that even though the flash is still technically on the camera, the light source is now whatever you are bouncing the flash off of, which is indeed off of the camera. @TheKingOfGames volunteered to be our model as we took some sample shots. We started with a shot with the flash on the camera to reference the difference.

    Straight Flash on the Camera

    As you can see, the shot is not all that flattering. Someone in the class said “It looks like something you might see on Facebook”. I then showed the differences when bouncing the flash off of the ceiling or wall. In the following shot, I used the projector screen to bounce off of, which was really bright and reflective:

    Bounce Flash Off A Wall

    You can immediately see the difference in the quality of light. I talked about the softness and direction of the light, which made for a more defined image whereas the straight flash shot was very flat.

    Next we talked about using a wire to move the flash off of the camera. The benefit being reliability while being able to cheaply transmit TTL information, with the downside being limitations of the cable’s length. We briefly talked about the different standards in cables, including PC Cables, 1/8″ Audio-Style Cables, and TTL Cables. I had a TTL cable that I use with my bracket, so we took a test shot using the bare flash:

    Bare Flash Using a TTL Wire

    Since I only had a short cable, I was able to demonstrate the limitation of the distance I could place the flash away from the camera (about arm’s length).

    We then talked about wireless flash. I covered the three main methods of shooting wireless: Optical, Infrared, & Radio. We discussed the benefits and issues with each method. Optical is cheap but unreliable. Infrared can transmit TTL information, can be cheap depending on the hardware you already own (it also can be quite expensive if your camera doesn’t support it), and how you can control the flash settings from the camera. It’s also limited to line of sight and is very unreliable outdoors. I took a test shot using the pop-up flash on my D90 in commander mode to fire an SB-600 on a mini tripod to camera right:

    IR Wireless Flash Test Shot Using an OmniBounce Diffuser

    I spent the most time on radio triggers. I talked about the Pocket Wizards and Chinese knock-offs. I explained that you can buy about six Cactus v5 triggers for the price of one Pocket Wizard Plus II and according to many reviews and tests, the Cactus v5 is more reliable! I also touched on the newer Pocket Wizards and Radio Poppers that are able to transmit TTL information. I explained that for the cost of that convenience, you could be investing in some great lights! Sure it would be nice to justify having the top of the line triggers, but there’s no shame in buying a set of reliable knock-offs when you can achieve the same end-result for a fraction of the cost.

    Photo by Daniel Vice @sharpstick on Twitter

    I started doing some shots using an umbrella. I demonstrated how to control the flash power by changing the aperture, and then mixing ambient light with flash by adjusting the shutter speed. I showed how to match the ambient florescent lighting and flash lighting by gelling the flash with a green gel and setting the white balance in the camera to florescent.

    Umbrella Look

    I also talked about sync speed. I demonstrated what happens when you shoot faster than your sync speed:

    Shooting Faster Than Your Sync Speed

    I then changed the umbrella and set it up as a shoot-through umbrella and showed how it created a different look.

    Photo by Daniel Vice @sharpstick on Twitter

    I took a few shots as I moved the light around to get a softer look.

    BarCampCHS Lighting Session
    Shoot-Through Umbrella Look

    I also altered the model’s position a bit and added another flash onto my camera at its lowest power setting to try and achieve a small catchlight in his eyes. This was our final result, which will hopefully make for a nicer Facebook profile pic than what we started with 😉

    BarCampCHS Lighting Session
    Final Shot

    We did some Q&A, and I shared some resources for learning about camera lighting. Here’s my list:

    joemcnally.com – Joe McNally
    strobist.com – David Hobby
    zackarias.com – Zack Arias
    kelbytraining.com -Scott Kelby

    I also wanted to add a pair of new eBooks by Piet Van den Eynde on Craft & Vision. You can pick up each of the two eBooks for $5 each, or buy them both at the same time for only $8. He’s done an excellent and thorough job in the first book of introducing the reader to off-camera flash, and takes you much further in the second one. I think it’s definitely worth more than $8!

    Tech Specs For My Presentation

    Camera: Nikon D90
    Lens: Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 VC
    Flash: Nikon SB-600
    Light Stand: Manfrotto 5001B
    Umbrella: Photek Softliter II
    Wireless Triggers: Cactus v5
    Gels: Cokin Photogels
    Mini Tripod: Jobi GorillaPod

    I ran the presentation on an iPad hooked up through a projector using Keynote for the slides and Photosnitch for the live demo. I used an EyeFi wireless SD card to transmit the photos to the iPad sans cables.

  • Oct9

    As I mentioned in Saturday’s post, I have a wedding shoot on the beach this coming weekend. The challenge is that it is going to be an outdoor event – both the wedding and reception! I’m going to be thoroughly tested on my lighting skills because I’m going to need to light most shots in some way. It gets even more challenging when you realize that it’s a whole hell of a lot windier on the beach. That means umbrellas and soft-boxes are going to be near impossible. Not that I won’t try – I ordered a set of tent spikes and rope to add to my sandbags. I also ordered some stronger metal umbrella brackets.

    Lets get back to the subject at hand. As I ran through the day’s schedule I started envisioning each setup. when I thought about the reception, which will start around sundown, I realized that I will not be able to rely on a light stands and off-camera lighting. I spent some time researching various methods. I have a Flash Bracket, which allows me to move the flash up and off the camera at about arms length (I usually have it set about 12″ to the left as well). This is perfect for these kinds of events. The light is still pretty hard, but at least it has direction. I also have a Sto-Fen Omni Bounce, which is fantastic if you’re indoors as it lets you bounce the flash off of the ceiling or a wall while throwing some light 360˚. Alas, I’ll be outside!

    Sto-Fen Omni Bounce

    I started doing some research. There are quite a lot of solutions out there, and the ones that looked most promising were also well over $100.00. I liked the idea of the Lastolite 20″ umbrella that’s meant to be handheld. My bracket actually has a hole for an umbrella shaft and I could easily mount it. Perfect! Except it’s no longer available. B&H does have a kit with it, but from the reviews it would appear that there are quality issues with it and that makes me think there is a valid reason that it’s on backorder. What to do now?

    I started to look for DIY softboxes and modifiers, There are a lot of great options out there, and I was going to have to try something. I have a week to get ready, so that gives me time to figure it out. After dinner, we stopped at the local Publix grocery store and I saw this plastic flask hanging on a hook in one of the isles. The curvature of the white translucent bottle reminded me of a modifier by Graslon. Speedlights started to pop in my head (OK, lame), and I threw the $4.00 flask into the cart.

    DIY-1 The Pedrini Wine & Bar 10oz Plastic Flask
    The Pedrini Wine & Bar 10oz Plastic Flask

    I was delighted to see that the silver cap was false – a much smaller white plastic cap was hidden underneath (which makes it look slightly less obvious that I’m sticking a plastic bottle on my flash). I grabbed my flash and outlined the two longer horizontal sides on the back of the flask with a Sharpie. I then put a line in the center to make an H. This is how I marked my incision:

    DIY-2 Mark Your Incision DIY-3 Cutting Time
    Mark Your Incision

    I used a locking straight razor to cut the H. The plastic is pretty thick, so I had to give it a bit of pressure to make the cuts. Take it slowly and cut away from your body. I still have a 1″ scar on my wrist from a razor incident that I got from cutting up a cardboard box when I was a teenager. 1/2″ to the left and I might not be here today!

    DIY-4 Ready to Attach
    Ready to Attach

    Now, slowly fold the two flaps outward. You should be able to snugly slide your flash head right in. Self-adhesive velcro or gaffer’s tape would work perfectly to hold it on. I actually put my Omni Bounce on my flash and slid that inside the flask. I shook it pretty hard and the thing wouldn’t budge! It’s not necessary if you don’t have an Omni Bounce, but it sure does make things easy.

    DIY-7 Attached

    DIY-5 It Works!
    It Works!

    OK, now it’s time to test it. I put the flash on a Cactus v5 wireless trigger and fired her up. She’s a thing of beauty. The flask adds about 5x the surface area of the Omni-Bounce to the flash. Larger light sources = softer light. Let’s try it on a person. My daughter was practicing her keyboard in her room, so I shut her lights completely off and snapped this:

    DIY-6 Test Shot of Mac
    Test Shot of Mac

    She looks great! There’s direction to the light from being on my flash bracket, there’s an even spread, and it’s a bit softer than a bare flash head. Mission accomplished! Now I’ll have to see how she performs in a real shooting situation. More to come…

  • Oct8

    Day 251 - Sullivan's Island Lighthouse Sunset

    This is the best time of year to capture sunsets here in the Charleston area. The weather is beautiful and the sky seems to catch on fire for a brief moment. There’s also no shortage of fun stuff coming up, such as corn mazes, haunted house attractions, hayrides, and pumpkin picking. Halloween just might be my favorite holiday ever – it brings people together. What other holiday makes you go out and ring on your neighbor’s doorbell so they can give you treats?

    Kegan Digs Out a Pumpkin

    I have a busy month ahead of me as well. One of the highlights include a wedding shoot this weekend on Folly Beach. I’m pretty stoked about getting some sunset portraits of the happy couple. October 22nd is BarCamp! If you remember, I did a session last year on photo editing (you can check out the post about that here). This year I’ve proposed a session called “Off-Camera Flash 101

    BarCamp Session Portraits Color

    If you’ve never been to or heard of BarCamp, it unfortunately has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s a conference where the attendees are the attraction. Basically anybody who attends can pitch a session to teach. It’s really fun and you get a kick-ass T-Shirt. It costs a mere $10 to participate – get a ticket now!

    Mira The Fortune Teller

    Next up, I’m doing a photo booth for the Summerville Ghost Walk/ Harvest Fest/ Harvest Moon Hayride sponsored by DREAM and Summerville JSL. That’s on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011 from 6:00PM-9:00PM. I’ll be on the side of the Prudential Southern Coast office at 112 W Doty Ave in Summerville, SC. I hear that Mistress Mira will be doing some fortune telling as well 😉

    Coastal Carolina Fair Sunset

    October 27th-November 5th is the return of the Coastal Carolina Fair. Check out my recap rom last year. I just ordered my prints for the Photography Contest. This year they have changed the rules slightly from last year as you can only submit 3 photos now. I guess the contest has grown a bit! You can see the official rules here.

    Of course, I’ve saved the best for last. Just read my rundown of last year’s CupcakeCamp event. It was the single most amazing event ever conceived. All you can eat free cupcakes, no questions asked. If you don’t want to go to this, you’re not human. CupcakeCamp will be on November 5, 2011 3:00PM-5:00PM at Spirit Moves. Check out the Facebook event page here. Look at the sweetness:

    CupcakeCamp Charleston

  • Oct5


    Taken on my iPhone in Best Buy seconds after I got the phone call from my wife that Steve Jobs passed away

    Where to begin? What to say? I guess the only way to express how I feel about the man behind Apple is to share my own relationship with his contributions to modern life as I know it.

    I didn’t grow up with computers. Sure, my brother had a Commodore VIC20 that we would hook up to a small black & white TV that we had in our bedroom, but other than that I grew up with minimal technology. I was an art and music nerd in my teenage years. I cared more for Gibson guitars and Marshall stacks than this AOL phenomenon my other less artsy friends were into. When I first attempted to go to college right out of high school, it was for graphic design. It was the first time I laid my hands on a Power Macintosh. I found it threatening. I spent all of my free time playing scales and writing lyrics, how would I ever have time to learn how to use a computer? Needless to say, I failed at that first attempt at higher education within the first semester when I dropped out to go on tour with my band.

    Fast-forward 5 years and the band was winding down. I got married and my wife, unlike me, grew up with computers. The first major purchase we made together was an iMac in glorious translucent green. It only took a couple of days before I was a full fledged, card-carrying Apple fanboy. In fact, I was so engaged by the iMac that I wanted to learn as much as I could about computers in general. I went back to school to do just that. I built PC’s and talked endlessly about the latest technology with anyone who would listen. I was baptized in the “Steve Jobs reality distortion field”. Some people think that phrase is an insult, I think it is the ultimate term of endearment for the one man who could bend what we think of as possible into something we could feel in our soul.

    I’ve made a living from technology and it has provided my family with almost everything we have today. I can’t think of another company that could have transformed this music lover into a technologist. Steve Jobs is a man who changed the world as we know it, and more importantly to me, his contributions to the world changed me.

    Thanks, man.

  • Oct2


    Scott Kelby has organized the 4th global photowalk this weekend, and this year Charleston had two groups of walkers. After sweating my way in the daytime during last year’s photowalk, I opted for the evening walk led by Eugene Mah.

    The group met at the fountain by Charleston’s waterfront park. I swear, I never made it out of the park! While we were setting up to take our group photo, I noticed some dancers practicing in the grass. As soon as the walk started, I walked up to the dancers and asked them if I could take some pictures of them. They were no strangers to the lens, so they were more than helpful models! Taz started out by doing leaps over me as I laid down in the grass:

    Taz B&W

    Natalya was up next. I decided to mount my SB-600 on my tripod to try and illuminate her face as she was jumping. It was not easy trying to time the leaps – I’ve got about a dozen shots of her just before or just after the precipice of her jump. I did get this one though, which is all I needed 😉


    While I was rolling around in the grass with a camera to my eye, a familiar face popped up – It was my local photog buddy Marty! He got some great shots of the girls as well.


    As Natalya was resting, I made a casual portrait:


    The sun was setting, so we moved over to the barrier wall to take advantage of the beautiful sky. Unfortunately there were no clouds, but I think the clear sky definitely influenced my compositions.


    The light was quickly fading, I focused on shooting Natalya, while Marty was shooting Taz. We were both using off-camera flashes to light out subjects. I shot most of my shots with a Tokina 11-16mm ultra wide angle lens wide open at f/2.8. Natalya was doing splits (pictured at the top of this post) and stretches on top of the wall that would make a parent squeamish. She was awesome at this!


    At this point, Marty and I realized that we spent almost the whole walk in one spot! More like a photo shoot than a walk – so we headed over to the fountain to get some long exposure night-shots of the water.


    After that we went to the rendezvous point, a cool bar/grill called The Griffon. While waiting, we decided to shoot the old Chevy parked in front of the gelato place next to the bar.

    Belgian Gelato Chevy Grill

    I do love to take long exposures of people walking. This group of sailors made this shot:

    Vendue Range Street

    We met up with some other walkers and went inside the Griffon to tell our war stories and watch the last half of Clemson’s trouncing of Virginia Tech. I shot the table next to us just because I had the shooting bug in me and found it hard to stop.

    The Griffon

    Marty, Eugene, & I went up on the roof of the parking garage where we were parked and tried to get some last minute shots. I had nothin’. It was late, surprisingly cold, and I was tired. My tiny little travel tripod was not having the wind up on the roof, and the shots I took up there are proof! Instead of making excuses, I made my way home 🙂

    You can check out the full set of shots I made on my Flickr set. Also check out Marty’s set while you’re over there! Chuck Boyd was also on hand as were many members of his 21st Century Photography Group.