Beautiful Images Printed on Aluminum Sheet!

I am excited to announce a couple of new products to my product line offerings. I’ll break this into two postings. First, this is an image that it actually printed on aluminum sheet — the print quality is amazing, and you really need to see it to appreciate how beautiful it really is. This image will go up on my wall as soon as I am finished writing about it!

Beautiful Aluminum Prints Now Offered!

Trashing the Dress

I am always looking for beautiful ways to make art and have fun at the same time, so when Alexandra contacted me to do a Trash the Dress session, I was all over it. Not only is she extremely beautiful, but we had the perfect location in mind and everything — weather, light, temperatures, and location — came together in a perfection that is truly rare. There are so many shots I love from this session that it’s almost impossible to choose which I love the best. So here is a small sampling.

The thing about Trash the Dress sessions is that it’s not actually necessary to destroy the dress; most times, and soiling that happens to the dress will come right out with a quick brushing or a cleaning, and in this case that’s exactly what happened. Alexandra’s dress, even though it was in the river, cleaned up just fine afterwards. So if you’re planning on keeping your dress, we can always find a way to do a unique, fun shoot in it and not do irreversible damage to it.

Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session
Alexandra Trash the Dress Session

I LOVE Maternity Sessions — and This One ROCKS.

I love shooting maternity sessions; I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than a new mother. She has a glow around her that can’t be found anywhere else, and that happiness is contagious. Please contact me for information about my Maternity sessions and products available.

I was blessed last Saturday to be invited to shoot a maternity session for Trina and her little girl Brynlee, who is doomed to be the most girly-girl little baby on the planet! Trina’s adorable and can’t take a bad picture, and we just laughed and laughed and laughed during the shoot. She wanted to shoot with all the food she’s been craving during her pregnancy, and also with the (seemingly) MILLIONS of pairs of shoes Brynlee already owns.

Trina's Maternity Session<br?
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session
Trina's Maternity Session

Equipment Review: Yongnuo YN-560-II flash unit

I have been playing with off-camera flash for a while now, because I find that it’s far more versatile than on-camera flash. I already have Canon 580EX-series flashes, and wanted two more for almost exclusively off-camera work. So I did some research, and settled on the Yongnuo YN-560-II flash. I ordered two from Amazon, and eagerly awaited their arrival.

Yongnuo YN-560-II
(image hotlinked from Yongnuo’s website)

My initial impression of the YN-560-II is of a good solid build quality, a little larger than the 580EX flash. The Omnibounce-style flash diffusers fit just fine over the flash head, and it’s not so much bigger as to be noticeable when mounted on a camera. As with the 580EX, there is a bounce card and a fresnel diffusion screen built into the flash head, which swivels through 360 degrees (one way).

The YN-560-II is a manual-only flash, meaning that it is NOT TTL. All adjustments are done through the flash, and it does not talk to the camera; it has a single pin on the hot shoe, making it compatible with (almost) any camera. More on that later. The buttons on the back of the flash have a good feel and the adjustments are really easy, at 1/3-stop increments from 1/1 to 1/128 power. The zoom head can be controlled with simple pushbuttons from 24mm coverage to 105mm coverage.

The LCD screen on the back is large and easy to read when viewed from behind the flash, but not so good when viewed from an angle such as from below when it’s mounted on a lightstand. Then again, neither is the 580EX, so I’m used to constantly dropping the stand to adjust the flash.

The hot foot is metal, which may or may not be good; I’ve not dropped a camera in a long time, but I have a couple of extra feet for my 580EX in case, and I don’t know what a metal hot foot will to do a hot shoe if it’s dropped. It’s nice to slide onto the camera or onto a radio trigger, though. It feels sturdy.

It also has a PC jack, which is very nice, and a power socket that an external power pack can be plugged into (such as a Quantum Turbo). These features are VERY nice and desirable for me, as I occasionally do use PC cords and a Turbo Compact.

There is a clear red lens on the front of the flash as on the Canon flashes for the focus-assist beam, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to get it to emit a focus-assist beam. In the Quickstart Guide, it is shown as “Optical Control Sensor,” whatever that means.

Apparently the flash can also be controlled as a slave via radio, but I have not experimented with that function, being somewhat of a troglodyte and used to my radio triggers. I’ll play with those functions later.

After a few months of fairly regular use, reliability seems good, and power output approximates that of the 580EX. Recycle time is a little slower with rechargeable AA batteries, but I don’t shoot machine-gun style anyway with them so that’s not relevant. Battery life appears to be a little less than the 580EX, though, so you’ll want to carry more batteries with you than you would normally, until you work out how it works with your shooting style.

CONCERNS

My primary concern with this flash is that it’s off-brand Chinese, and support for cheap Chinese stuff tends to be spotty. I shoot a lot, and I have blown up flash tubes, broken feet off flashes, and so on, and I am not confident that I would get anywhere NEAR the level of support from Yongnuo that I get from Canon. Yes, this unit is cheap, so it would cost nearly as much to simply replace it as to have extensive repairs on a Canon flash, but I feel that it would be wasteful to just trash a flash that might need only a minor repair. So I would never consider this unit as a primary flash until I find out whether support is even offered.

Also, I was out shoot with a Canon Elan 7E film body yesterday and put the YN-560-II on the camera and it COMPLETELY locked up the camera. As in the camera would not fire at all — the mirror would click open, and that’s where it would stay until the camera was turned off. Turning the camera back on would reset it, but it would do exactly the same thing each time, not advancing the film. I had just replaced the batteries in the camera grip and thought it was the camera, but when I took the flash off the camera the camera resumed normal operation.

I put the second YN-560-II on the camera and the symptoms were repeated. Putting a 580EX on the camera resulted in perfectly normal operation. Repeating the above with a second Elan 7E body resulted in exactly the same results, so I know for a fact that this flash does NOT like to put on that model of Canon film camera.

Overall I’m quite impressed with this flash unit, and I recommend it to those who want to get a second flash unit or one for off-camera use. However, if you’re a film shooter, PLEASE make sure it works on your camera before you shell out the money.

“Evil” can look GOOD…

So a good friend invited me to participate in a project shoot, that would be taking place in two locations: Oregon and Arizona. The theme was contrasting “good” vs. “evil”; our end was the more fun side — evil. So we grabbed models Willow Rayne, Rachelle, and Jeremy and went out into the dark forest and had some fun. It’s always a blast to shoot stuff like this, because not only do we get to just hang out with good friends and good people and get great pictures, but we also get to experiment with themes and techniques as well.

The funny thing is that we were shooting in a public campground, and there was a large group of boy scouts there as well as all sorts of other people there, so shooting with an audience was a little weird. I am grateful to be invited along on this shoot. Thanks friends!

Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil
Evil

Morgan and Brian Engagement Session

Having been around weddings for a long time, it’s easy to tell a couple who is truly good together, and Morgan and Brian are very much the definition of “good together.” What a delightful couple. We met at Tempe Town Lake and discovered that the places we wanted to shoot were occupied with a bicycle race, a wedding and a quinceanera, so we punted and found locations to shoot anyway, and got some lovely stuff. I am excited for their wedding in April!

Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session
Morgan and Brian Engagement Session

Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race

I love bicycle racing. I used to do quite a bit of it when I was younger — I managed a bike shop, ran a club, raced myself as a Category 3 racer back in the day. I’ve forgotten more about bikes than most people ever know, so when it comes time for the racing season to start up here in Arizona I try to go out and hit a couple of races to stir the blood again. I’ve been riding my bike to work on occasion as well, and it REALLY feels good to be back on two wheels. Or rather, it really feels good now that my butt is once again used to the saddle. It hurt a LOT for a couple of days until that happened.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I went out to the Avondale Criterium in Avondale, AZ and shot some of the early races, and had a lot of fun. Bikes haven’t changed that much since I was riding seriously, but there sure are some good riders out there. There’s another race on the 26th that I may try to hit as well, just for fun.

Shooting cycling is a great way to practice a number of photography skills. First and foremost, it helps with controlling motion. The shutter’s function on the camera (as part of basic exposure) is to control motion. Shooting with a fast shutter speed will stop motion, while shooting with a slow shutter speed will allow the motion to register on the image. It’s the photographer’s job to decide what the final output needs to be, and in order to determine this it’s vital that the photographer understands the camera. So shooting bike racing is a good predictable way to experiment with shutter speed choice and control. Second, cycling is a great way to practice focus control and panning, meaning experimenting with the continuous focusing function of the camera and also following the rider with the lens as he zips by. See if you can figure out what my settings were in these photos!

Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race
Avondale Criterium Bicycle Race

Update 2: Equipment Review — Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G

After my post on the Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G, I received a very helpful comment from Chris at Christographer in the UK (cheers, mate!) who gave me some tips on what to do to reset these units to not hop channels. I followed his steps, and mine are apparently different to his, because they still hopped channels. So I started playing with the things. I discovered that pressing hard on the front of the built-in hot shoe would make the channel skip, which indicated to me that it was not related to the flash but to the basic structural design of the Trigmaster Plus. I could replicate the channel skip across all four of my Trigmaster Plus units, so I could confidently state that it was definitely a basic design flaw.

Replicate the Problem

So, bravely defying the warranty gods, I decided to go upstairs and disassemble one.

Those of you who know me know I’m a fairly competent modeler, meaning I build plastic models, and I am a fair hand at scratchbuilding. So armed with the knowledge of how plastic works, here’s what I did. You can see the bits of the Academy P-38F Lightning I am currently working on around this project.

1. Remove the batteries and cover, and remove the two screws that hold the Trigmaster Plus 2.4G together. (actually, it’s not really necessary to remove the batteries and cover, but I did anyway to avoid possible damage to the units)

Remove the screws

2. Pop the Trigmaster Plus unit apart. The top by the antenna are snap-hook type attachment points, to GENTLY pry it apart starting with the hot foot base end. It should just pop apart. BE CAREFUL that the switches do not pop out and become sacrifices to the Carpet Monster.

Pop it apart

3. Notice the little fins in the middle of the upper half of the unit, with the circuit board towards the hot foot. This is the problem area. The fins are not long enough to reinforce the shell of the unitl; all they do is separate the channel indicator LEDs so that you can clearly see what channel you’re on (before it randomly changes, of course). Here is where the reinforcement will be done.

Problem Area

4. Take a piece of thick card stock plastic (I have no idea what gauge it is; I have so much scrap card lying around it’s not funny and grabbed the thickest I could find) and cut it into a strip that is deep enough that it extends a millimeter or so beyond the ends of the fins. I did not measure this depth; I found a depth that worked and cut all four from that strip, so you can do this by trial and error too. In addition, I cut a smaller piece to glue at a right angle to the reinforcing strip as a brace.

Create the reinforcing bulkhead
Create the reinforcing bulkhead

5. Make sure that the main reinforcement bulkhead is short enough that it does not interfere with either the silver electronic component or the black plug on the other end. Glue this in place with a liquid model cement (NOT superglue or any other kind of cyanoacrylate cement — this stuff gasses off and can damage the circuits in the unit). I used Tenax 7R. It sets up quickly and is odor- and fume-free.

Install the reinforcing bulkhead
Install the reinforcing bulkhead

6. CAREFULLY reassemble the unit. It goes back together pretty easily, but just make sure that all the little wires are not being pinched (and are still connected), and that the antenna is correctly installed.

7. Replace the screws, install the batteries and the battery cover, and retest the unit to see if your handiwork has had its desired effect. In my case, they all seem to work perfectly – I cannot replicate the previous issues, but only time will tell whether the modification was totally successful. I will be using them at a shoot tomorrow night, so I’ll post on their performance when I am finished with that shoot.

Update: Equipment Review — Aputure Trigmaster Plus 2.4G

For those of you who have been following this, i have been struggling with these radio triggers I bought through an Ebay seller. I used them again for a shoot on the 15th of January and the darned things just kept changing channels on me. I ended up giving up on them and going back to the old ones I had been using.

I e-mailed the manufacturer and, can you believe this, they told me that there was something wrong with that design and that they had fixed the issue in the current model. So… they told me that I can return them to the seller for a replacement.

So I e-mailed the seller. I was told — this is even better — that it was Chinese New Year and that I would have to wait until after the 31st of January to get any response from the seller. Go figure.

When I finally got a response from the seller, it turns out I will have to mail the triggers to CHINA at my OWN expense for a replacement. Which I will do, since I paid $130 for the things and I don’t want to fight with them. Though if it’s too expensive to send them back, I may file a complaint with Ebay for resolution. I don’t see why I should have to pay MORE to get something that works as originally advertised.

So anyway, the update is this: Don’t get these triggers unless the new ones actually do work. I would not recommend them as it sits; if the replacements work, I’ll let you know.

BLOONS!!

With the windows and doors open in the beautiful weather, we heard what sounded like small jets overhead. I grabbed a camera and went out to find three hot-air balloons overhead! The people in the gondolas were waving at me as I pointed my long lens at them, and one friendly soul called out “Howdy, Neighbor!” as she floated overhead. These balloons were so low that I we could see the flames from the burners. And then they drifted out of sight.

Hot Air Balloons
Hot Air Balloons
Hot Air Balloons