Friday, March 30, 2007

Erotica Lee2: A Horse of Another Color

When Dorothy enters Oz, the Emerald City, one of the first things she encounters is a horse that magically changes its colors. Dorothy is enchanted by this chameleonlike carriage-horse and, after inquiring about it, she's told it's the proverbial "horse of another color."

When it comes to images of naked women, the web site, EroticaLee2, offers digitally manipulated photographs of women -- many of which are focused on their holiest of holy assets -- that are, to my mind, abstractly akin to horses of another color.

Sure, I've seen plenty of images of pretty girls manipulated in many different ways. But this photographer/artist has a unique vision that I don't remember encountering before.

EroticaLee's imagery might not be for everyone. I'm not even sure if it's for me. But I find myself quite captivated, even enchanted, by quite a bit of it.

Check out EroticaLee2 and see if you agree.

The pretty girl at the top is Rebecca. I shot Rebecca, who comes from Spain and who speaks almost no English, sometime last fall in the entranceway of my friend's home in Huntington Beach, California. The entranceway had a huge skylight as it's roof. I added a couple of lights to fill and accent the very soft and creamy ambient-- A large umbrella in front of her and a small one, behind the French doors, on her left side, for highlights.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Lines Keep Blurring

I've come to the conclusion (or, at least, it's my opinion) that the lines between fashion photography and pretty girl shooting (a.k.a., sexually-driven glamour photography) have become blurred like never before. It's also my opinion that glamour photography is having a greater impact on fashion photography than the other way around.

It seems to me that fashion shooting often tries to hide behind a veil of moral legitimacy: While it routinely uses sex (appeal) to sell its wares, it maintains a facade that pretends sex ain't what it's about or ain't what's being exploited to sell the products it represents. If that were true, of course, fashion models wouldn't need to be uber-beautiful and/or uber-sexy men and women, captured in ways that focus on those sex and beauty qualities. Agencies, for instance, would simply recruit marginally attractive men and women from local Walmarts to act as flesh-and-blood coat-hangers in the images that sell fashion's products.

Glamour photography is more honest. It's designed to sell the model. It sells the model's beauty and sex appeal. It's up-front and straight-up in its intent. The responses it strives to evoke in its viewers aren't deceptive and they don't pretend to be something else. When such images are used to sell something, the something it's selling is, for the most part, right in line with what the image is selling in terms of the model, i.e., sex!

Since glamour modeling has become more and more accepted or, at the very least, routine and often-seen by many, the fashion industry has jumped on the sexy-glamour bandwagon like never before. They no longer seem preoccupied with concerns about provoking a moral backlash. (Which might once have had a serious negative impact on the products it touts.) Heck, even pornstars like Paris Hilton and Jenna Jameson have become legitimate subjects for use as vehicles to sell fashion products that, just a few years ago, Madison Avenue would never have used. (If you don't think Paris Hilton qualifies as a "pornstar" you don't know much about Paris Hilton's resume.)

The pornstar-model, captured in something of a fashion-like manner (in the first image but not so in the second) is Jennifer. MUA was Katy. Image captured with a Canon 5D, 28-135 IS USM, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. Mola Beauty Dish for the main with two strip boxes, either side, from behind. In the first set of images I shot with Jennifer, I specifically said to her, "You're not a pornstar. You're a fashion model and that's what you keep being until we get some of those clothes off and I tell you otherwise." I got a big smile from her in response to that direction and then she did her thing.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

New Photo Forum: California Photo Forum

A new photo forum has been created. This one's called the California Photo Forum. It's been created by the same good folks who run the Texas Photo Forum.

It's about time someone created a California-specific photo forum. I know that other regional forums hold meets, get-togethers, group shoots, and other events from time to time and I'm hoping this forum might eventually spawn some of the same. There's certainly enough photographers running around the L.A. area and I'm sure there's plenty more in and around other, major, metropolitan areas up and down the state.

This forum is brand spanking new. It looks like I'm one of the first ten people to register. Registration, by the way, is free and you don't have to be a California photographer to join. Stop by the California Photo Forum and check it out, register, and participate! Here's an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a new forum and help create it's cyber-personality.

The pretty girl at the top is Sascha. She's another model I shot last week and I'll probably post more of her in an upcoming post. MUA was Katy. I captured Sascha with a Canon 5D, 28-135 IS USM, ISO 100, F/5.6 @ 125th. Three light sources were employed: A 33.5" Mola Beauty Dish for the main and two medium-sized strip boxes behind her at about 45 degrees to each side.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Sometimes Ya Gotta Do What Ya Gotta Do

Circumstances sometimes dictate shooting in ways or in places that are not one's first choice. For me, last Monday's shoot was no exception. As I mentioned in my last update, there was a major concern regarding my strobes spilling onto the video imagery. Time was also of essence during the shoot; the video shooting couldn't take a break while I shot the pretty girl pics.

I often recieve emails from pretty girl shooters who are still somewhere on the learning curve and who tell me they only have one light to work with. I always tell them that plenty of great images have been captured with a single light source. The sun, after all, is a single light source and I think quite a few shooters have made good use of the sun, single light source that it is. Having a single artificial light source can also produce pleasing images and countless shooters have proven this over and over. Sometimes I think too many photographers are overly-consumed with capturing that really great image, rather than capturing consistently useable images. That's not to say shooters shouldn't aspire to greatness but give yourselves a break. Shoot for excellence, yes. But shoot for consistency too. Don't drive yourself crazy always striving for that one, killer shot. The killer shots will come and there's a lot of elements that will make them happen (or not make them happen) and you, the shooter, don't always have control of everything in your viewfinder or everything that might produce a truly killer shot.

Back to Monday.

Because of the video shoot going on in the studio's main area, I had to grab Jassy and pull her into the "Green Room." Yeah, I know it ain't "green." That's just a term. The room had low ceilings, was oddly decorated, and didn't afford much room to work. I realized I was going to have to work with a single light source as there was nowhere to place other lights. Also, I had to get the job done quickly... very quickly.

I pulled my Mola Beauty Dish into the room and set it up. Fortunately, I mount it on a "junior" stand, with wheels, so that part was easily accomplished. If I had some help, I might have had someone wield a bounce board for some fill. But no one was available to handle those chores. So, it was just Jassy and me in a small room that wasn't particularly exciting... except for Jassy's presence. Don't get me wrong, I rarely object to being in a small, confined area with a pretty girl who looks as good as Jassy. But I'm a professional, right? It's about getting the job done, not enjoying a few fleeting, primal feelings. Hey! I ain't no GWC!

Images of Jassy captured with a Canon 5D w/28-135 zoom. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. Single light source compliments of a Mola Beauty Dish as the main (and only). Here's another so no one complains I didn't post a pic with, uhhh... a few of Jassy's charms exposed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Time Ain't On My Side... No It Ain't

Sometimes life -- personal and professional -- gets in the way of blogging. Not that that's such a bad thing, I suppose.

On Monday, I had to be at a studio, in downtown L.A., with a call-time of 8:00 A.M. That meant, of course, I arrived around 9:30. I mean, c'mon! The first model is there at 8:00 A.M. and she goes into makeup. That's assuming she's not late and the MUA is also not late. Even if she arrives on time, she's not going to be out of make-up until 0930 at the earliest. Why do I have to be there the same time as the model? For the stale bagels and shitty coffee? (Okay. Maybe the bagels weren't stale.) Anyway, I can set-up my lights in about 15-20 minutes and be ready to shoot. As it turned out, the first model wasn't ready to grace my viewfinder till a bit after 10:00 and I was ready for her. Nope! The production day was not slowed because of JimmyD's tardiness!

And just so you know, I didn't simply NOT show up at my designated call-time because I didn't feel like doing so, which I didn't. I'm not THAT cavalier about it. I had an excuse... a pre-planned excuse... a legitimate excuse: Traffic heading into downtown L.A. at that time of day -- on a weekday -- is ridiculous. It's beyond ridiculous. It's absurd. I can't believe so many masochists make that trek every day! I would have had to leave at 6:00 A.M. to get there at 8 even though it's a drive that, in a perfect world, should only take about 30 minutes. Besides, is the sun even up at six in the morning? I have no clue as I'm not either.

I knew it was going to be a long day and it was. We didn't "wrap" until almost eleven at night. It was a video shoot with me capturing stills. The studio was cool. A lot of music videos are shot there. But the problem was I was limited in terms of where I could shoot (i.e., while they were shooting video) where my strobe flashes wouldn't spill onto the video. I hate when that happens! Don't they realize my stills are more important than... well, than anything else?


I guess they don't.

But that's okay. I'm flexible. I can adapt to difficult environments and make-do. Sometimes the job requires being a pretty girl shooting ninja. That means you have to blend in and be low-key -- stealthy -- to get the job done.

The pic at the top is Gwen. She wasn't the first girl I shot on Monday. In fact, she was the last. I'll post more from Monday's shoot in subsequent updates. Images captured with Canon 5D, w/28-135 IS USM zoom, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. Three lights were utilized: Mola Beauty Dish for the main with two strip-boxes working from either side behind her. I might have drove the color saturation a little too hard on the first one. Oh well. Here's another.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Pride in Pretty Girl Shooting

Very recently, I had a conversation with someone I've become close with and who's opinion of me, what I'm about, and how I'm perceived (by her) has become, personally, important. She commented, rather off-handedly, that I sometimes seem apologetic for the general subject matter of my photography.

Her comment caused me to pause and think. (I hate when that happens!)

I collected a few thoughts and tried to explain why I might sometimes seem that way when it comes to my work.

In the wider world of photography, glamour and tease and a few other pretty girl shooting genres -- imagery that is intended, for the most part, to elicit male arousal -- garners less respect, for the most part, from professional peers and critics (as well as much of the general viewing public) than other photographic pursuits. As an example, a lackluster fashion image, published in a national publication, delivers far more respect, juice, and professional-credibility (to the shooter) than a killer shot of a sexy, semi-nude, chick who, in the image, is artfully captured, effectively seducing the viewer as she struts her stuff and displays her wares.

That's not to say sex doesn't play a prominent and starring role in many fashion images. It does. Sex sells. There are few things sex cannot sell and the advertising world has known this for a very long time. But when sex is used to sell, well, to sell sex (by showcasing the sensual and sexual allure of the model and little else) it becomes something else. And that "something else" doesn't always, in the eyes of many, seem worthy of sincere respect for the skills it might take to accomplish its goals. It's kind of strange: In many ways, sex drives the world. It's how we all got here. And sex is okay if you're selling almost anything other than sex. When sex sells sex, it's dirty. When sex sells handbags or perfume, it's accepted and admired and, sometimes, even trendy. Go figure.

This doesn't hold true for all sex selling sex images. If you're shooting for Playboy or Maxim or a few other periodicals that routinely feature sex selling sex imagery, you get plenty of respect from across the photographic board. But if your SSS images routinely appear in lesser media or doesn't appear anywhere other than a photo forum or a personal collection, you're not going to be perceived, as a byproduct of those images, as a truly professional and accomplished shooter by the majority of people in the photo trades. The possible exception to this is Fine Art Nudes. That's because, I'm guessing, Fine Art Nudes aren't about selling sex. They're about art that happens to feature the sex-related parts of its subjects. The sexy parts of the subjects I shoot aren't featured to promote art. (Whether they're artistically captured or not.) They're featured to provide stimulation and that stimulation isn't confined to the cerebral, aesthetic, and artistic senses. Of course, a fair amount of what tries to pass itself off as Fine Art Nudes doesn't remain in those realms either.

As a shooter of sex selling sex images, I sometimes find it more difficult to experience, in a larger sense, true pride in my work: Not because I don't think some of my work is pride-worthy, not because I think the skills and the expertise it takes to capture these images is pedestrian, and certainly not because I have morality-issues with the subject of my work. It is because, in general, it doesn't often garner much professional respect except from others who shoot (or are involved in producing) the same sort of stuff.

I know I'm merely scratching the surface of this subject. There is far more going on in my head (than things like professional respect) regarding the occasional, semi-apologetic, manner I might display -- in private and with those I trust and am close to -- than what I've written today. Since I don't want to turn this it into an overly self-indulgent thesis, I'm going to quit writing about it for now. I guess I'll close by simply mentioning that I don't feel any shame whatsoever for what I do. The only shame that might be associated with it is the shame other people sometimes attempt to heap on it. And for that and them, I have no apologies. Those people are not the catalysts for my occasional and semi-apparent angst and, frankly, I don't much care what they think.

The pretty girl, featured at the top in a pic that is something other than a sex selling sex photo, is Nautica. She's the same model featured in my last update which is, most definitely, a sex selling sex image.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Hat Tip to Graphic Designers (UPDATED)

Sometimes I like what others do with my work. Sometimes I'm not so enthused about it.

The "others" I'm writing about are graphic designers. These are people whom shooters like myself rarely meet, nor do we often know their names. At least, that's how it is in my world. But, whoever they might be, when they do a good job, I'm appreciative. Why? Well, that should be obvious: How well they do their jobs reflects on how well I (seemingly) did my job. If I snap some good images and they don't do such a great job processing them and making graphic presentations with them -- trust me on this one -- it's often me, the shooter, who many viewers of that image will have a lesser opinion of. I can't tell you how many times I've been VERY appreciative of NOT having my name, as the photographer, credited on the artwork!

I didn't post the accompanying graphic to pimp some company's porn even if the image is a JPG of an 11x17, glossy, marketing, "slick" for a Larry Flynt Publications (Hustler) adult DVD product. (Sheesh. I think I just pimped this product.) If you didn't know, a "slick" is a high-gloss, printed, mini-poster used to market such things. If you semi-regularly read this blog, you're probably aware that a whole lot of what I shoot is destined to feed the art, graphics, web, and publicity machines of many adult company's products. Hey! It's a living, okay? Someone's gotta do it!

BTW, some of you might be wondering, "Where's the porn in that porn product image, Jimmy?" Well, porn packaging has become softer and softer over the years. It's become something of a dichotomy considering what's inside the packaging has become harder and harder. These days, much of porn's outer shell, i.e., the packaging, is not much racier than what you'll find in an average issue of Maxim or FHM. (And often-times, IMO, better shot and processed.) There's a lot of reasons for the "softening" of adult products' packaging, not the least of which is the fact that retail outlets like Fry's and Hollywood Video and others now carry adult DVDs. The internet aside, you don't have to don an over-sized raincoat and a big hat and sneak off to a sleazy adult bookstore these days to feed your appetite for porn, assuming you're hungry for such stuff. What all this means is that the photography and the allure of the model -- for the product to be competitive -- has had to become better and better, at least in terms of glamour photography.

Anyway, I kinda like what the graphics people did with my images for the product featured by the slick at the top. (You can click it and see it big... bigger than what I usually post.) So, whoever you are... you graphics gurus you... thanks for not F-ing up my stuff! (Leastwise, not this time.)

UPDATE: Reader Don asked if I'd post the original pic. Here it is below, originally captured as a Large Fine JPG and resized to 400px by 600px and saved for the web at high quality for this update. No other post performed other than the addition of a copyright watermark.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Help Wanted: Glamour Photographer

Here's a job listing for a Glamour Photographer if anyone's interested in submitting:

Job Title: Glamour Photographer
Employer: Digital Playground
Location: Van Nuys, California
Employment Type: Contracted
Experience: 3 - 5 years

Description: Seeking a talented photographer to work as part of a fast-paced and exciting creative team. You will work closely with leading industry stars, producers, directors and our publicity department on projects ranging from high-end feature films and publicity campaigns to box artwork and marketing collateral.

You will coordinate both small and large-scale shoots, some with significant attention from press. You will be working with top-notch award-winning producers, directors, publicists and graphic designers, with our company exclusively owning all images. Candidate must be flexible to work within budget and time constraints, have good vendor/location relationships and be willing to travel.

Since this is a creative, fast-paced, project-focused environment, the best candidate will be an extremely focused, well-organized individual, who can juggle multiple tasks and meet deadlines, with minimal supervision and all in coordination with our in-house staff. Therefore, a GREAT attitude is essential.

Candidate should have 3 to 5 years professional photography experience with a great eye for locations, art direction, makeup and wardrobe, along with post-production details such as exceptional color correction and re-touching skills. Adult industry experience is NOT required, and fresh, outside-the-box approaches are welcome.

Candidate must also be proficient with Adobe Photoshop.

E-mail resume, introductory image samples (not just links please) and salary requirements. Please write PHOTOGRAPHER in the subject line.

Please, no phone calls or MySpace links.


The pretty girl at the top is Destiny. (I'm not sure if she's Destiny's Child's Mom -- Sorry. Lame joke.) I shot her the other night for DVD packaging art at my friend's studio. Canon 5D w/ 28-135mm IS USM zoom, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. Mola beauty dish for the main, two strip boxes, either side, from behind. Piece of foamcore for fill.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dishes and Grids

Just got off the phone with John, my lighting-guy friend. He just completed working 11 production days for some Brits shooting whatever they were shooting. I've worked for these guys before but, this time, they brought their own photographer: Another Brit.

Sometimes, it goes that way.

Anyway, John was telling me how unimpressed he was with the photographer's work. He kept emphasizing what a nice guy the guy was but how lackluster the images were. (And I'm being kind using words like "lackluster." John wasn't so kind.)

John told me the Brit shooter had a dish, not a Mola, and John could only describe it as a big salad bowl although it seemed to be professionally manufactured. The shooter was using this dish as his main and rarely had any other lights working. He also mentioned the guy had put a 30-degree grid on the front of the dish and that made things bad. In almost every shot, the models had big hot-spots on the center of their bodies with everything falling off to dark from there. Apparently, John tried to coax this nice guy into losing the grid but the guy wouldn't go that way. John finally convinced him to use an on-camera strobe, figuring that would help things out, and the guy went for that. Of course, now the pics all looked like they were shot with an on-camera strobe... on the camera... but this was, believe it or not and according to John, an improvement.

Grids are wonderful modifiers. You can use them to direct the light and keep it from spilling. But there's times when a grid just ain't going to do the job effectively. In fact, when misused, they can take the effectiveness of your images down more than a few notches.

In this case, the problem with the grid was that the shooter, while trying to contain the light, was also directing the light more narrowly and, since the bowl was centered on the model's torso, that's where the hot spot became very evident. Why? Because the grid was destroying the usual effect of the dish. Normally, a dish will provide very even fall-off from its center. But the grid made the the light fall off too quickly and radically and, because the grid directs the light more narrowly, the hot spot on the model's torso was plainly evident. And, according to John, it was a really noticeable hot spot. Using a grid on a dish, BTW, might be effective when shooting head-shot/portraiture where you might want the light to fall of more dramatically because your framing a smaller area of the model's body, i.e., her head.

Assuming I have a point with this update, the point might be that just cuz you have some cool lighting gear and modifiers and such to throw at your visions, you still need to be selective and use the right tools for the job. Sure, a dish is a cool tool and can seem impressive to some people. And a grid can make things (and you) seem even more impressive to the average onlooker. But it ain't about looking cool with your gear. Your skills are defined by the output of your work, not by the gear you use when capturing it.

The pretty girl at the top, with a fan pointed at her nicely rounded butt and blowing her wardrobe, is Aveena. No grids were used in the production of this image.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Blurring of Genres

On the forums, I've noticed that more than a few shooters sometimes seem preoccupied with categorizing, labeling, and defining the various genres that comprise the gamut of pretty girl shooting. That's why I like the simple and direct term, "pretty girl," when defining an image of, well, of a pretty girl captured in some evocative way.

The rise of digital photography has increased the general population of people, mostly guys, shooting women in various ways: Glamour, art nude, boudoir, portraiture, and beyond. Quite often, it's difficult to categorize a pretty girl image as being, purely, a part of one genre or another. The lines that differentiate the various categories of pretty girl pics keeps getting blurred. And frankly, who cares? Is it glamour? Fashion? Art nude? A bit of all of those? What does it matter?

Bottom line-- It's a great image, a mediocre image, a completely forgetable image, the model is easy to look at, not-so easy to look at, and so on. Sometimes, I purposely attempt to capture models while borrowing from multiple genres. I like to steal from differing styles, whether through lighting, pose, whatever. In my opinion, it's all good if the resulting image is good and I'm not too concerned whether the image fits neatly into one category or another.

I often see new shooters (or those new to pretty girl shooting) posting pics with a title in the subject line like, "My First Attempt at Glamour." Sure enough, some more experienced pretty girl shooter comes along and comments, "That's not really glamour." Personally, I don't think the newbie (pretty girl) shooter was all that interested in learning if his image perfectly qualifies as "glamour" as much as he was interested in hearing if others think it's a decent capture.

The term "glamour" has radically evolved into something other than what it originally intended. Today, "glamour" is a politically-correct way of describing images that are sexually-charged while depicting models in various stages of dress and undress. I think glamour pioneers like George Hurrell understood the "sexually-charged" elements of their images, but the times in which they lived and worked dictated something different in the the way in which their subjects were presented. (Note: I wanted to link the official Hurrell site,, but it doesn't seem to be working. I don't know if that's temporary or what.)

Today, especially with the public's easy access to pornography, images that would have once been categorized as "soft core porn," or worse, raise fewer and fewer eyebrows and seem perceived as being "softer" than ever before... soft to the point they are now called things like "glamour images."

Everyone, it seems, doesn't see the current iteration of glamour as being so innocent. One major publisher of today's brand of glamour pics is apologetic for the content of the images they publish.

According to the NY Daily News, "Sports Illustrated's racy swimsuit issue is being kept off library shelves across the country."

This didn't happen because libraries were objecting and censoring SI's "racy" content in their annual swimsuit edition. It's because Time-Warner, SI's parent corp, decided NOT to send the swimsuit issue to 21,000 "institutional subscribers" last month. In a world where hard-core porn--and a lot of it--is so easily accessed with a couple of keystrokes, who would have thought the publisher of a magazine featuring bikini shots would be overly concerned about certain segments of the public's reaction to their very soft, yet fleshy, content? BTW, more than a few librarians objected to SI's act of self-censorship and SI has devised a way in which libraries can receive the swimsuit issue which they paid for with their subscriptions.

The sapphic pretty girl image at the top is of Lorena and Selena. I guess it's glamour. Hmmm... maybe it's soft-core porn? Like Rhett Butler once told Scarlet, "Frankly, I don't give a damn."

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ostentatiousness Observed

At the risk of sounding ostentatious (by using a word like "ostentatiousness" in today's title), I am often amused by discussions regarding what is appropriate language when commenting on pretty girl pics.

Currently, on Photo Camel's Glam/Erotic Forum, a heady discussion ensues regarding the appropriateness of comments like "nice ass" in response to a glam/erotic pic of a girl with, well, with a nice ass.

Obviously, the comment "nice ass" says nothing about the photo-quality of the image other than the "nice ass" in question was exposed and focused with enough clarity and resolution to label it as such.

I do understand that photo forums are photo forums and many participants would prefer to see comments limited to the photographic aspects of the images. Sounds reasonable. Certainly, that's all well and good for landscape pics and other photo-genres. But we're talking about pretty girl pics here! What should also be obvious is the impact of a "nice ass" on a viewer's overall appreciation of a pretty girl image. That's why, as rule, shooters don't post pics that prominently feature big, fat, sloppy, distorted, cottage-cheese-dimpled asses! It's why you won't find -- if I have anything to say about it, and for many reasons other than I'm neither pretty nor a girl -- my fat ass publicly and prominently featured in an image.

Like it or not, pretty girl shooters are often judged by the quality of the pretty girls they shoot. Sometimes moreso, it often seems, than the photographic-qualities of the images. Perhaps, in a perfect world, that wouldn't be the case. But since the world ain't perfect, images that include things like a "nice ass" will actually blind many viewers to some otherwise-obvious photographic flaws in the image.

Comments like "nice ass" are always welcome by your's truly. Yeah, I also appreciate technical and other aesthetically-oriented comments. But if someone looks at an image I've captured and all they can say is, "Nice ass!" I'm okay with that!

The pretty girl at the top is Faith. Nice tits. (Faith also has a nice ass, although it's not featured in this particular image.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Blame Leesa

Basically, it's her fault you're not seeing an image or two of scantily-clad models today.

Leesa, it seems, has managed to get me more interested in pointing my camera at things other than pretty girls. So, instead of tits-n-ass, I'll first offer you Bob, as he whiles away the day on the porch of his quaint, desert-establishment, "Cowboy Bob's Curio Corral," located in the ghost-townish hamlet of Randsburg, California.

Yesterday, Leesa and I ventured out on another one of our foto-field-trips. This time, it was my turn to decide on the destination and I wanted to go out in search of ghost towns and other ruined remains of Californians' attempts to survive and thrive in the desolate and unforgiving Mojave Desert.

It was a really fun day! Every time we thought we'd found the middle of nowhere, we soon discovered we were merely on the edge of nowhere with the elusive middle beckoning from somewhere down the road.

For most of the day, the cloud cover was fairly dense. There was even a bit of brief precipitation. We were hoping to roam from location to location under more dramatic, billowy-cloud-filled, azure, skies, but that wasn't in the cards. That aside, we still found plenty to shoot and, by the end of the day, the skies did provide more drama. Below, is a candid of Leesa as she makes her way to a better vantage point to shoot some old, collapsed, heap of someone's former dream-home. Leesa's a bit elusive as a camera-subject so, for the most part, I have to catch a pic of her on the sly.

One of the high-points of the day, at least for me, was the discovery of the old, Randsburg cemetary. Many of the graves are from the 19th Century and there's more than a few that are old -- very old -- and unmarked. The grave of one Evelyn Anne "Tonie" Seger, 1897 - 2003, was particularly interesting.

The image below is Tonie's gravesite. That's her actual bed above it, helping her to rest comfortably in peace. There's a lengthy, etched inscription, on a marble slab in the dirt, that recounts Tonie's life. And what a life it was! It even ends with a cryptic and mysterious comment regarding some secret that Tonie apparently kept and took to the grave about the disappearance of Amelia Earhart. An image of Tonie is on the marble headstone. In both Leesa's and my opinions, Tonie, in her middle years, bore an uncanny resemblance to -- what we might imagine -- a middle-aged Amelia Earhart would have looked like had she not famously disappeared. I stress the word "uncanny."

I snapped a ton of pics yesterday. I haven't closely gone through them all yet. Besides, there would be way too many to post to give you a good idea of the variety of photo-worthy locations we stumbled upon. Plus, I figure many of you might be thinking, "Very interesting, Jimmy. So let's get back to the pretty girls, shall we?" I don't want to bore the readers of this site, but please bear with me: I'm still shooting pretty girls but I'm also discovering other avenues to pursue my photographic passions and who knows where they might lead?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pretty Girl Shooting: Capturing Reality or Fantasy?

I regularly peruse the work of other pretty girl shooters. From hobbyists to seasoned pros, I routinely make a habit of checking out what others are producing when capturing feminine beauty and mystique.

Many photographers, working in the pretty girl genres, seem to fall into two camps: Reality shooters and fantasy shooters.

Reality shooters are preoccupied with portraying truth in their imagery. They shy away from, what they perceive to be, contrived and pretentious lighting techniques, over-reliance on make-up and hair artistry, the use of props, and various post-processing applications. These elements, in the minds of reality shooters, devalue the images.

Fantasy shooters, on the other hand, work to manipulate reality, using all the above-mentioned ingredients at their disposal... and then some. These elements, in the minds of fantasy shooters, enhance the images.

I reside in the fantasy shooter camp. That's not to say I don't understand the value and power of truth in pretty girl shooting, but I'm also of the opinion that, often times, reality sucks or, at the very least, it needs some help.

Reality shooters often rely on the intellectual capacities of viewers to appreciate the impact of truth in their images. Fantasy shooters rely on more primal instincts to evoke an appreciative response by viewers.

There's definitely a balance between reality and fantasy that most shooters, myself included, strive to capture. Although we're often reminded we live in a digital world and, were told, our world can be viewed and reflected and decyphered in digital terms like zero/one, black/white, yes/no, photography is about the shades and frequency and gradients that reside in between these things. In other words, I'm not saying reality shooters strictly adhere to capturing reality while fantasy shooters strictly rely on manipulating reality. It's a frequency thing. It's about capturing shades of each. It's about finding balance and harmony between the two even though, quite often, which camp a shooter principally resides in is fairly obvious by their work.

Although I'm sure many of you are disappointed I didn't post another landscape shot (yeah, right) I thought I'd get back on topic with a gratuitous pretty girl pic. In this case, it's the Goddess of Glam, Ms. Tera Patrick. Tera is one of those models who requires somewhat less manipulation of reality to convey her beauty and allure.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More Regarding Why I Shoot People

This update could also be titled, "Why I Don't Usually Shoot Other Stuff." Again, the answer should be simple enough: For the most part, I suck at shooting other stuff.

Saturday, I called my friend, Leesa, and asked if she wanted to do something. (I was thinking a movie or that sort of thing.)

Leesa said, "Sure. I want to go to Echo Park and shoot some night shots."

It wasn't exactly what I had in mind but that sounded interesting. Besides, Leesa's a fun and engaging person to hang-out with regardless of what we might be doing. And who knows? There was a full moon. Maybe I'd get lucky and snap a werewolf or two? (If there are werewolves in L.A., locations like Echo Park would be a likely haunt for them.) At the very least, I thought I might catch some cool candids of homeless junkies with broken needles in their arms as they loitered about the park.

"Hey buddy, spare some change?"

"Sure. Let me snap a few pictures of you, okay?"

Leesa, on the other hand, wasn't thinking werewolves or junkies. She was thinking long-exposure, nocturnal, cityscapes.

We arrived at Echo Park, situated between downtown L.A. and Dodger Stadium, well after dark. It's not the best part of the city -- probably moreso at night -- but that was no big deal for me. I'm no stranger to the seamier sides of cities. Besides, in some ways, with my long-haired, scruffy, somewhat barbaric appearance, I might be scarier looking then the actual scarey people. It was also no big deal for Leesa. She certainly doesn't look barbaric in any way, but she's a brave, adventurous, free-spirited woman and night-time in the big, bad, city ain't scaring her off.

Did you know that the word, "barbarian," originated from the ancient Greek? It referred to anyone who wasn't an ancient Greek.

Back to Echo Park: The first thing I notice is the distinct lack of junkies or werewolves around the park. Oh well. It looked like I'd be shooting nocturnal cityscapes as well.

So we plop ourselves down on the ground, Leesa with her tripod, camera, and everything needed to properly capture long-exposure, night-time photography. And me without a tripod, using an apple box (which was in my trunk) to lay my camera on and not having a clue what I'm doing.

I hear Leesa's camera beeping away as she was using the timer to engage the shutter. "Where's the button for the timer?" I asked.

"You mean you don't know how to use the timer?" Leesa asked, rather incredulously.

"No." I admitted. "When would I ever need to use the timer?" I asked. "I shoot pretty girls, hand-held, with strobes and reflectors and all that. If I was gonna use the timer, it would probably be to put myself in the pictures and no one wants to see me with the girls!" I added.

Here's my point, assuming I actually have one: Just because a photographer knows how to do one thing, maybe even do it quite well, doesn't mean they know how to do everything. For those of you who don't like admitting to that, get over yourselves. Yeah, a good shooter knows the basics and beyond. And sure, many of those basics, as well as advanced skills, can be adapted and extrapolated to shoot other things, i.e., other things other than what they usually shoot. Above average knowledge and skills gives a photographer an edge over tourists and snapshot shoooters but that doesn't mean their knowledge and skills are so easily adapted to all those other things. And it doesn't mean that being able to shoot in one genre, even exceptionally well, means they can shoot exceptionally well in all genres. There's a learning curve for each style and genre and it ain't automatic simply because someone might know their stuff when it comes to *their* stuff.

The mundane, touristy snapshot at the top was captured with my Canon 5D w/ 28-135 mm zoom at a focal length of 28 mm. ISO 100, f/11 @ 30 seconds.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why I Shoot People

I know the answer seems simple enough. After all, the vast majority of the people I shoot are sexy, pretty, girls in varying stages of dress and undress. Since I'm straight and have a healthy-enough libido, the answer would seem to be a no-brainer. But it's more than that.

The inter-personal aspects of shooting people is something I find uniquely satisfying and challenging. I'm a people person. As a rule, I'm not shy around strangers. I can strike up conversations with almost anyone and I don't need intros or obvious starting points for those conversations. Instead, I'll introduce myself or simply invent starting points for intercourse... social intercourse! You knew what I meant! Anyway, they might not always be clever and witty starting points but they're natural and friendly and, generally, they serve their purpose. I don't shy from speaking in front of groups and I'm often the first person, in a group setting, to smile, move my lips, make noise, and break the ice. Sometimes I fall through the ice but that can work even better. Everyone loves a clown, right?

Okay, some people hate clowns but you get what I'm saying.

I think these are important qualities for pretty girl shooters. When photographers shy away from interaction, the work often suffers. At a minimum, it probably makes it more difficult. I realize everyone doesn't possess extroverted, people skills, i.e., they don't naturally and instinctively possess them. Frankly, I often wonder how socially-timid, introverted, or generally quiet and withdrawn photographers ply their trade? (That is, if their photographic trade is all about shooting people.)

The other day, when I was shooting for those new producers I wrote about, someone on the set was looking at some images I had already shot. I was currently snapping away with the next model but the guy approached and interrupted me to pay a few nice compliments about my photography skills. I don't usually care for being interrupted when I'm shooting but my ego almost always trumps my concentration and I turned to him and said, "Thanks!" Then added, "But it ain't all about photography, it's more about psychology."

The model, Shyla, smiled broadly and quickly added, "You got that right, baby!"

For the rest of the set, Shyla was model-putty in my hands. That simple, impromptu, comment said more to her than to the person I was speaking to-- It said, simply enough, that I was as interested, make that more interested, in the rapport between Shyla and me than worrying about F-stops, S-curves, and the thrust of Shyla's bust.

You and I, of course, know that's not true: F-stops, S-curves, and Shyla's bust were as important to me as the development of our rapport. But it made Shyla feel like it was more about her... not merely the images of her and her assets, but her herself.

Like I said, model-putty in my hands was the result.

BTW, I've re-thought my position on not posting a single image from that shoot. I'm gonna post just one. Hey! I'm the creator of the image! I might not have commercial-use rights but I have copyrights and posting a pic on this site ain't a commercial-use, it's a promotional use. Plus, I've appropriately watermarked the image. And besides all that, it's a freakin' out-take!

If you haven't already figured it out, the pretty girl at the top, the one with the bust that thrusts, is Shyla.

Image captured with a Canon 5D w/EF 24-70 mm "L" zoom at a focal length of 51 mm. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125th. 33.5" Mola Beauty Dish for the main, white foamcore for fill, a Chimera medium strip and a small, silver-lined, umbrella working either side from behind.

Friday, March 02, 2007

How Was Your Yesterday? Mine Was, uhhh.... Interesting

Yesterday was a long day. My call-time was 9:00 A.M. and I didn't get home till almost midnight. My clients were very new to producing and I'd never worked with them before. The production's video shooter, however, was someone I've known for many years and had worked with, plenty of times, back in the day. I haven't seen this guy for quite a while and I really enjoyed working on a production with him again.

They were producing a 3-D flick which, I'll admit, is a bit unusual. For some reason, they were very close-lipped about the 3-D technology they were employing. They claimed it was proprietary. No problem. After all, no one's ever shot a 3-D flick before.

During a lull in production and simply out of curiosity, I asked a few questions about their camera and recording rig. They declined to answer and, seemingly, became a bit agitated. I was told my questions indicated I'm a little too knowledgeable about production and post-production for them to feel comfortable answering me. After all, it's proprietary, right? Funny, it was like they were saying their rig was a state secret and I might be engaging in espionage or something.


I was just a guy on the crew asking a few innocent questions.

Anyway, they seemed so enamored with their "proprietary" technology they only ocassionally thought to have the performers doing anything that would "play to" 3-D's potential. You know, like creating plenty of opportunities to move the performers, or have them wield props, towards the camera and back away from it... that kind of stuff. Alas, another example of people allowing their love-affair with technology to trump creativity instead of enhancing it.

Earlier in the day, when I first arrived, they told me I was going to shoot with their gear. OK. That's a bit unusual but no problem. I'm a go with the flow kind of guy. They handed me a 5D with a Canon 28-70 f/2.8 "L" zoom attached. I told them I had a 5D with me but they insisted I use their camera. Whatever. BTW, that lens is very sweet, although its min/max focal lengths aren't my first-choice for this kinda work.

Later in the day, one of the producers asked me if I was dumping the cards onto my computer. "Of course," I told them. "That's your backup." This caused a bit of stir. As the conversaton continued, I felt more than a little like they were infering, in a not-overly-subtle way, that I might steal their content. Did I mention the producers were also lawyers? They were. Please note that my laptop was in plain site of them (and everyone else) and I wasn't sneaking over to my computer and dumping the CF cards onto it in any secretive way. I explained it's standard practice for the shooter to back-up the work. In fact, most clients wouldn't hire me if I didn't back-up their images. (Or they wouldn't hire me again if they found out I didn't.)

So, okay, whatever, I told them I wouldn't be using their images (that I'd already backed-up) for anything other than a bit of promotion--for their benefit as well as mine--and, assuming I did so, it would only be a couple of images and I'd properly watermark them. They seemed satisfied with this. But, since it became an issue, I stopped backing-up whatever I shot from that point on.

Fast-forward to my arrival home last night.

I thought, before going lights out, I'd look at some of the stuff I shot and backed-up. That's when I discovered someone, apparently, deleted everything I saved to my drive! I gotta tell you, I felt fairly insulted when I realized what had taken place. At the very least, someone could have asked *me* to erase the stuff off *my* computer or, at the very VERY least, told me they had done so. If, by some quirk of fate, their computer crashes and they lose all the images I shot -- which has happened a few times in the past or, at least, something similar happened -- oh well.

Just for a bit of personal satisfaction, I used file recovery software to recover the deleted images. Yeah, I felt a little better just doing so. I've been doing this a long time. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Can you imagine how long I'd be working for most anyone if word got out that I was ripping people off for the images they hired me to shoot?

Sorry, but no images from yesterday's shoot to post along with this. I could do so if I wanted to but I'm not going to post anything from that shoot anywhere. Not because I can't. Not because a few of the models weren't exceptional. Not because I'm concerned about legal ramifications. And not because I'm overly preoccupied with these guys hiring me again -- and I will mention that I worked hard for my money, remained upbeat and enthusiastic throughout the production day, and snapped some pretty good stuff for them -- but simply because I have a bitter taste in my mouth over a few of yesterday's events.

Other than all that, it was a pretty good day, I (for the most part) enjoyed myself, and I look forward to working for these producers again. Assuming that happens, I will, as always, strive to be an asset to the production and deliver exceptional work.