Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Summer's Almost Done (Thankfully!)

I know many of you live in places where summer rules. But here, for me, in Southern California, where summer lasts practically the year round, summer represents ridiculous heat, increased energy costs, and too much time on my hands because there's not much work. Leastwise, that's how it is for me.

In the industry where I ply my photographic trade, summer represents a yearly Great Depression. From a "bookings" point-of-view, July and August are the worst months of the year. For seasonal lack-of-work, they are followed closely by December and January. (Those mid-winter months also suck, but for different reasons: Holidays and trade-shows and more.)

There are more than a few reasons why summer work for photographer guys like me goes into the toilet. Too many to list. Just accept my word that it does. And it does in a big freaking way!

Summer 2008 has been especially brutal! The heat? Not ridiculously bad. Energy costs? Well, yeah. Lack of work? Precisely.

Thankfully, September, my birth month, is about to arrive. I already have more work booked for September than July and August combined and, well, it's not even September yet. A good omen, I hope. October should follow suit. (Assuming history repeats itself which I expect it will.) In fact, I'm expecting October to trump September. It always does.

If I were smarter and more fiscally responsible, I'd save for the summer doldrums. But I don't. The optimist in me always believes each new summer will beat the odds and not present the same financial challenges it presented in summers past. It never does. Nope. Apparently, I don't learn from previous mistakes.

Because summer sucks, July and August are usually the months I make resolutions. Forget about New Years Eve: Making resolutions on New Year's Eve might be traditional but, since necessity is the mother of invention, I find the need to search out new inventions to meet my necessities means summer is the time to strain my brain for ways that will insure future summers won't suck.

Sounds reasonable.

Maybe my resolutions, born of July and August, 2008, won't go the way of previous resolutions made in summers past? Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Okay. I'm done whining.

A commenter in my last update, LSC, asked it I could post a few more pics of Kori. So, that's what I did. Kori up top and below, snapped and processed back in the days when my PS skills were sorely lacking and somewhat heavy-handed. (Not that they're so great now.) I suppose I could re-process these pics but it's still summer. In fact, today's an especially lazy summer day. My energy level is always influenced by lazy summer days--and not necessarily in good ways--and today is no exception.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Guide to Taking Sexy (Arty) Photos

Richard Kern is a photographer, writer, (former) underground filmmaker and, in the minds of a few (perhaps more than a few) a pornographer. The 50-something Kern traded his North Carolina country-bumpkin roots for the mean streets of New York and has made NYC's East Village his home for a number of decades.

As a photographer, Kern shoots fashion for Purple, smut for Hustler, and a whole lot more. (Who says art, porn, and couture can't all get in bed together?) The UK's Asylum website recently ran an interview with Kern where the photographer talks his way through a Guide to Taking Sexy (arty) Photos.

Worth the read, methinks, whether your pretty girl shooting skills are neophytic, well-seasoned, or somewhere in between.

The caged pretty girl is my friend, Kori, from a couple of years ago. It was the second time she'd ever modeled. Here's another from that set, sans the B&W treatment.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lighting Sacrilege? *UPDATED*

I had a feeling I might provoke a Strobist with my post, Reflectors: The Other Way to Light. (Oh well. At least it gives me something to write about-- "something to write about" being one of the hardest things about maintaining a blog... for over three years now.)


As a result of the aforementioned update, someone named "Anonymous" commented: "I would agree that some of the Strobist lighting "look" is repetitive, but you have to remember, yours is already SO much so. To me, it's boring."

Although I went out of my way to praise David Hobby and his Strobist site--his site is, after all, one of my faves and I admire David greatly--I still made a comment that was slightly critical of, what seems like, an oft-seen, generic, Strobist lighting style.

Sacrilege? Hell, I don't know. Dishing a dis? Certainly not intended.

You see, it seems that more than a few Strobist readers follow the lighting doctrines and gospels of David Hobby with near religious fervor. Nothing wrong with that. As a result, many formerly average and pedestrian snapshot takers are now producing images of exceptional quality. Personally, I think the world is a better place with less "photographers" who suck at photography. Go team!

But we all know what happens when you question, even question in such a minor way, a religion's beliefs... even a religion whose precepts are all about photographic lighting-- Often, it ain't pretty.

Perhaps some of you might be thinking I'm overreacting to the comment made by the anonymous reader? Well, perhaps I am. Or, perhaps I'm just in a pissy mood today. (It happens.) But I think I've written confessed, numerous times, that my work is often repetitive and boring, i.e., because I shoot the same shit over and over and in similar ways.

The difference between so many Strobists and yours truly is that my livelihood depends on me shooting much of this stuff in that same boring and repetitive manner the anonymous commenter mentions. My clients don't pay me to try out new approaches to pretty girl shooting. They have specific uses for the images I capture and they want them captured in a specific way. My clients continue to hire me for the CONSISTENCY of my work. They're not interested in gambling or risking their money when they hire me. They know they're going to get what they're paying for, namely, competent, glamour and tease images of pretty girls in sexy poses with and without wardrobe and shot in a dependably CONSISTENT style... boring as that style might be to some.

You think shooting in a consistent style isn't a paramount reason so many working fashion and commercial shooters are hired, over and over, by the same clients? Photographers, please. As a rule, clients want to know what they're going to get before they hire a specific photographer. Clients don't like surprises unless those surprises are exceptional and exceed their expectations and, frankly, most photographers aren't willing to risk an ongoing client relationship to experiment on someone else's dime. You want to try out something new? Try it out on your own dime. And then, take the results to your clients and see if they like it. If they do, great. If not, they still know you can shoot in that old, dependable style that they're counting on you to deliver... plus sometimes , as a bonus, with a few of those tricky secrets of the pros [sic] tossed in.

BTW, if a client were to suddenly materialize and hire me to shoot some B&W art nudes--however unlikely that might be--you watch how freaking fast my shit looks different, way different from what you see here. And guess what else? My B&W art nudes won't look like experiments. They'll look like I've been shooting that stuff for years. How so? Because I'm confident I could take all the crap I know about lighting and composition and exposure and adapt it to other genres. That's called experience.

If I were a hobbyist and/or new to photography (like so many Strobists are) I would be trying out all kinds of different approaches to my work. I would develop different styles. My work wouldn't look consistently familiar and, once I knew I could competently shoot using newly learned techniques, I'd be moving on to other new techniques. But I'm not a hobbyist. And I'm not new to photography. I make my entire living with cameras in my hands. And I'd like to keep doing so.

Let's say I were a guy working on the auto assembly line in Detroit. (Perhaps there are a few Strobists who make their livings that way?) I don't think it would go over real well if I walked into work one day and decided to make a different car than the one my employer was paying me to make. If I did so, I probably wouldn't last long on that job. Besides its obvious statement, does this analogy also hint at me saying I'm more a mechanic than anything else? I suppose it does. My clients don't pay me to create art or to deliver images that don't look like the images they expect. They pay me to create a specific make and model of pretty girl, if that makes sense.

Does all this mean I'm content making repetitive and boring pictures of pretty naked women? Nope. And I'm fairly sure I've written about that as well. I will mention that I'm always looking to expand my photographic horizons. I'm always looking for new and different opportunities. And I'm convinced I'll reach some of those other goals. But, in the meantime, I need to keep food on the table and a roof over my head so, as banal as it all might be, I'll continue making repetitive, boring pictures of sexy women until I can earn my keep making some other sorts of pictures, hopefully, of the non-boring variety.

The boring and repetitive pretty girl image at the top is Kat from a year or so ago.

*UPDATE* Wow! A few hours after blogging this post and, suddenly, I have a Google Content Warning on the site! Over three years of posting my babble along with my pics and now Google has a warning posted which, BTW, takes someone filing a complaint for that to happen. Religious and other moral zealots, a.k.a. asswipes! Just what the world needs LESS of.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Pics Show Up in the Darndest Places!

It seems the folks at Claviné (pronounced kla-vin-nay) have both good tastes in sexy, celebrated women, as well as pretty girl photography.

Claviné selected the Goddess of Glam, Ms. Tera Patrick, as the U.S. spokesperson for their herbal male enhancement pill. ("Europe's #1," they say.)

Claviné also selected one of my pics of Ms. Patrick for the product's packaging. That's so cool! And even if they did choose a pic with a cliché, finger-in-the-mouth thing going on, it's STILL cool! Besides, what do I know? Maybe Tera's just demonstrating where the pills are supposed to go when people use them? You know, showing they're to be taken orally and not, uhhh... never mind. Whoa! Waitaminute. I am probably wrong here. Tera showing people how to take the pills by putting her finger to her mouth wouldn't be too complimentary to the average group-IQ of Claviné's consumers. Insulting your customers ain't the best way to brand and market a product. So, yeah, I guess I am wrong about why they chose the finger-in-the-mouth pic. Maybe they just thought its a sexy image of Tera?

What really tickles me are all the photos of the Claviné Car: A Smart Car "wrapped" with my pic of Tera. They're like "tears on wheels." Check 'em out!

Not that I need that male enhancement stuff or anything (*cough* *cough*) but I wonder if I can get my hands on some free samples of Claviné? I am the product's packaging photographer after all. I might even be willing to do a testimonial! Maybe I'd even be willing to drive the Claviné car while doing the testimonial? Better yet, maybe I could demonstrate, in the backseat of the Claviné car, that the product works? Wait. Do those Smart cars have backseats? Regardless, there has to be some way to try out the promised effects of Claviné in or on that little car.

Later on--much later cuz that's how I'd probably roll on male enhancement pills--and while kicking back behind the wheel, smoking a cigarette, and cruising around town with my demonstration partner, I'd pull up somewhere and do the testimonial while parked and smugly sitting in the Tera-wrapped Smart Car. How's that for marketing? Here's a more important question: Would I get to choose a hot-model/co-star for the demo/testimonial? Maybe they could hold auditions? I've got some free time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Reflectors: The Other Way to Light

When photographing people during daylight in the great outdoors, it's important to remember that those people you're photographing aren't two-dimensional, cardboard, stand-ups. That means various parts of their faces and bodies will produce shadows.

Shadows, of course, can be very cool and are often effective for producing mood, showcasing a style, and more. Some photographers have built their entire portfolios on creative use of shadow. Often, though, especially when shooting people, shadows aren't always what you're looking for, especially when the work is more of a commercial nature. So, in order to reduce unwanted shadows you need to provide fill light, i.e., light that fills in the shadows. (Duh.)

One of my favorite blogs, David Hobby's wildly popular Strobist is dedicated to using small, inexpensive, off-camera strobes. There's more than a few articles there that talk about using these small, highly-portable lights during daylight conditions and, I might add, using them to great effect: As mainlights, as fill lights, as accent lights. Hobby, in many ways, has had a big impact on photographers, new and used. The term, "Photo Hobbyist" has taken on a whole new meaning. He and his blog have almost singlehandedly raised the artificial-lighting consciousness of a new generation of photographers, especially those who are new-ish to the craft and who use the web to learn and refine their skills.

I'm confident David doesn't dismiss the use of reflectors (to bounce sunlight) in favor of ALWAYS using small, portable strobes. His blog, however, has created something of group-style amongst many of his fans. As an example, if you peruse the Strobist Flickr site and search out the many images where strobes were used to overcome daylight, you'll see a lighting style that is often dramatic, effective, and memorable but, in some ways, is already becoming repetitive to see.

I'm not ashamed to say that, in many ways, I'm an old school shooter. That doesn't mean I prefer to shoot the way photographers of yore shot their stuff or that my work looks like it was captured 20, 30, or 50 years ago. Leastwise, I don't think it does. Instead, it means I embrace many of the basics, the tried-and-true stuff, when it comes to photography and especially when it comes to lighting. New approaches to lighting are great but, sometimes, the classic styles are just as effective.

One of the old-school ideologies I subscribe to is the less is more way of doing things. Included in those less is more lighting techniques is the simple, low-tech, reflector. In fact, whenever I can get away with simply using a reflector to finish off what the sun and the ambient are already providing, I'll go that way rather than depending on using strobes. Reflectors, of course, are only effective when there's suitable light to reflect or bounce. (Duh again.) And yeah, I'm still talking about sunlight, not artificial light.

There are many types of reflectors and I've probably used them all. Some of them are a bit pricey and some are quite cheap. The best reflector for the job is what I try to use, even if it's a piece of white styrofoam. I've used white reflectors, gold reflectors, silver reflectors, and even black reflectors. I've used reflectors made of paper, fabric, metal, and glass. I've used reflectors for fill, for highlights, and for accents. I've used single reflectors and multiple reflectors. Sure, there were many times I could have gone the Strobist route or even the expensive packs-and-heads route... and I have! But there's plenty of times, for one reason or another, I opted for using reflectors.

The image at the top is from a fashion shoot last spring. It was lit with the sun and two reflectors. That's it. No strobes, either of the Strobist variety or the expensive variety. Just a couple of reflectors.

Here's another (below) from the same shoot. We were shooting at a bus-stop near a train station. The sun was low in the sky and behind the bus stop. (Not Golden Hour low, but still, late-ish in the afternoon low.) A couple of reflectors, artfully wielded by assistants, were all that was necessary to bring a nice glow to our models and to fill the unwanted shadows. As I recall, I chose gold reflectors for the image at the top and silver for image below.

Sorry about the models being clothed. It was a fashion shoot after all. Also, these pics were the first ones I came across while searching my hard-drives for images that illustrate what I'm writing about. Models are Faye at the top and, uhhh... Damn! I forget the pretty young lady's name at the bottom. My bad! MUA/Hair by Jennifer Jackson.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My Other Blog

What? You didn't know I had another blog? Neither did I. Until today, that is.

Yep. It's official. I've lost my mind. So, in my good-sense-challenged current condition, I've decided to start up another blog. But this time, instead of concentrating on all things related to pretty girl shooting, I thought I'd venture into deeper waters. Well, maybe not "deeper" waters. Let's just say "new" and "different" waters.

Uh-huh. You guessed it. My new blog is going to cover the photography-beat in greater depth including much more than glamour and tease photography! I will, however, try to stay away from photo-subjects I know little about which, I suppose, will make this "photography-beat in greater depth" stuff quite a bit shallower. But there's still plenty enough to write about and discuss and to craft another blog with.... At least I think there is.

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned, probably an ad nauseum number of times, that I have other photographic interests besides naked women. I know, I know, "Jimmy!" You say. "Say it ain't so! You're killing us here!" But there it is. Sometimes, I shoot other stuff; other than disrobed, sexy women, that is. Sometimes they even pay me to shoot this other stuff and, of course, sometimes not.

So there you have it. I'm writing yet another photography blog. (Obviously, I DO have too much time on my hands.) And I'd appreciate your support for this new undertaking. I'll be writing about some of the same stuff, lighting and interacting with subjects and all that, but applying those discussions to other genres: Genres like portraiture and fashion and family and event photography and more. I'll also be writing about subjects that just don't seem to match up with the general topic of this blog. Oh yeah, I suppose I should let you know where my new blog resides. Well, it's right HERE.

The photo at the top is Cindy from a couple of years ago. I call this picture, "Insanity." Shamelessly, I'll just go ahead and mention that it won a no-big-deal award or two. (Patting self on back.) I'm posting this image because it kind of represents how I'm feeling right now about this new blog-project I'm embarking on.

Monday, August 11, 2008

How Much Gear Is Enough Gear?

Clicking on my usual web destinations today led me to some enviable images of photographer Vincent Laforet's gear.

Laforet headed off to the Olympics on behalf of Newsweek but, before leaving, he snapped some pics of the camera equipment he'd be taking along to Beijing. It isn't the images themselves that I envy, it's the freaking gear! Holy crap! Now I feel like a pauper-azzi!

I get why Laforet believes he needs so many cameras and lenses and accessories: He'll be photographing a wide range of Olympic events and he wants to be prepared for just about anything and everything. But still, that's a lotta gear!!! And I want it. I want it all! I even want the stuff I'd probably never use.

When I go to work, I carry two camera bodies (my 5D and a 20D for a backup) and two or three lenses. I also pack a few speedlites, a meter, some Ebay transmitters and receivers, two or three monolights, stands, various modifiers, a couple of reflectors, and some expendables like tape, gels, etc. That's enough to make me feel like a pack-mule when I show up at a location. But Laforet, heading off to Beijing, makes me feel like I go to work naked. Well, metaphorically naked from an equipment point-of-view.

The candid triptych at the top is Devin showing off her bubble-gum blowing skills. It has nothing to do with today's post unless some clever, naked-chick-pic, art critic can find symbolic, artistic, meaning in it. But if not, who cares?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Vision and Skill -- Who Needs Which?

I've mentioned this more than a few times: I spend an inordinate amount of time surfing the web for all things related to photography. Yeah, sometimes I have too much time on my hands. And, I guess I'm either obsessed or obsessive with this stuff. (Is there a difference?)

My frequent web journeys aren't limited to glamour, tease, and all-around pretty girl shooting. In fact, I probably spend more time reading about (and perusing images related to) editorial photography and photo-journalism than all else. As a result of all this informal cyber-research, I've come to a few, personal, conclusions about this thing we do. This thing called picture taking.

The many types of photographers can be lumped, IMO, into two, broad categories: A) Those whose work requires photographic skill, craft if you will and B) those whose work, for the most part, requires vision, i.e., story-telling, if that makes more sense.

In my view of the world of photography and photographers, heavily influenced by all the stuff I've read and viewed as well as what I've learned through my experiences, people like editorial shooters, photo-journalists, and environmental portrait photographers fall, for the most part, into the latter category while most everyone else, from glam shooters to fashion shooters to beauty and wedding photographers to commercial photographers and beyond, mostly fall into that first category.

I'm not saying there isn't a great deal of overlap between type "A" and type "B" photographers, there is! Truly talented photographers have unique vision as well as tip-top skills. But if you have to draw a line somewhere, a line that segregates many shooters by some sort of observational criteria, well, that's where I'd draw the line.

Some might say that the perfect photographer finds a balance between these two benchmarks and excels at both. I would agree with that. But are there any perfect photographers?

Uh-oh. Here comes the stream of consciousness photo-babble. (I know, I know, lay off the funny green stuff, Jimmy.) Apologies in advance.


We've all seen photographs that we might label as perfect. But that doesn't mean that a perfect image's auteur is a perfect photographer who always produces consistently perfect images. (National Geographic's shooters routinely capture tens of thousands of images for those dozen or so selected for publication by NatGeo's editors.) Instead, it simply means that a given photographer managed, by luck or skill or guile or many thousands of captures or what-ev-er, to capture a perfect photo. Supposedly, we're all traveling the road to photo Nirvana. Leastwise, we should be. But perfection is an elusive and subjective thing. What is perfect to one person is flawed or imperfect to another. That's how the laws of subjectivity work. So, from that perspective, photo Nirvana may be as elusive as perfection itself. (Wow! This is getting way too philosophically complicated. I'm giving myself a headache.)

I've viewed many images captured by editorial photographers or photojournalists which are decidedly imperfect from a technical POV. In fact, a few of them seemed seriously lacking much technical expertise at all. Yet, the images were powerful in terms of vision and storytelling! (Powerful point-n-shoot images anyone?)

Conversely, I've viewed many images captured by renowned fashion shooters or commercial photographers which are technically perfect yet boring as hell. The point is, assuming there is a point to this update, if you're determining where you want to go as a photographer, you'd probably do well to take an honest skill and talent inventory of yourself and figure out where you excel, photographically excel that is, and where your mojo needs work.

Again, this is not to say an overlap factor doesn't come into play. It does. Often, in big ways. Have I mentioned it might be a good idea to determine your overall strengths and weaknesses and to apply those strengths and do something about those weaknesses? I guess I did. But I don't think it hurts to say it again.

Can photographers be taught vision? Hmmmm... I dunno but my gut says no. If you're lucky enough to have strong vision and story-telling skills, editorial or photo-journalism might be the photographic row to hoe for you. That's not to say, of course, that vision isn't a major ally for photographers of all genres. But I've seen enough powerful editorial and news photographs where vision carried it all.

What if you're strong with the technical skills but your story-telling abilities are less than hoped for? It ain't the end of the world. An abundance of photo-genres are still waiting for you to make your mark. Quality always trumps mediocrity when it comes to the craft stuff.

Of course, if you're really, REALLY good with technical skills AND you possess a unique and extraordinary vision, well... BINGO! EUREKA! CONGRATULATIONS! You might have the stuff of which perfection is made.

Okay. Now I'm convinced the point of this post is as elusive as perfection itself. I suppose what I'm writing is akin to a stand-up comedian's improvisational riffing. When this post is all said and done, I guess I'm just saying. (And filling space on the blog.)

Fortunately, the image at the top does have a point-- Point being, Sofia is way easy on the eyes!

Diptych images of Sofia captured with Canon 5D, 28-135 IS USM, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125, color temp set to flash default. Three lights employed: 5' Octodome for the main, two strips, either side, slightly behind the model. Shot in front of a neutral wall at a location in Las Vegas.

Mixing Window Light and Artificial Light

Often, while shooting in interior locations, I find myself needing to mix natural light, coming through windows, with artificial light. Everyone from editorial shooters to photo-journalists to wedding photographers (and more) often find themselves in the same situations.

Photographically, window-light can be a wondrous and beautiful thing! Often though, there's not enough of that window-light filling the model unless she's posed quite near to the light-producing window and in such ways that the natural light fills, uhhh.... wonderfully and naturally. This can be tricky and sometimes limiting. (In terms of posing and blocking the model.) Many photographers, of course, use reflectors to bounce back the light coming through the window, thus providing appropriate fill. But when you're in a hurry, using reflectors can be time consuming and require assistance. For those reasons, i.e., since I'm usually in a hurry and I rarely have an assistant, I turn to my strobes for the easiest and quickest solutions.

First, I need to know what exposure the background--the light outside the window--is reading. To accomplish this, I take an ambient light reading and that becomes my starting point for lighting the model. (Note: Since I'll be using flash-sync, I'll need to shoot using an appropriate shutter speed: That means a shutter speed of less than 200th with my Canon 5D.) Generally, I shoot at low ISOs. This means I need to find an exposure that balances ISO, shutter speed, and an aperture that makes sense for the image. If you don't have a light meter and you're serious about photography, shame on you. But, if you don't, you can still determine the outside light's exposure by bracketing with a few shots, reading the histograms, and adjusting as needed. I'm not going to write about that technique, i.e., finding your exposure without the help of a light meter, because... well, because I always use a light meter.

Once I know what I need to know about the light outside the window, I know I'm going to be artificially lighting the model at least to that exposure. Otherwise, she's going to silhouette to some degree against the background. Yeah, there are times when silhouetting is the photographer's intent but my clients usually want to see the model in all her glory; naked glory and otherwise.

I set my mainlight in position and, by taking a few meter readings, I adjust the strobe's output until I match that of the natural-light reading I took at the windows. Since I almost always want to "pop" the model off the BG, I'll usually set my mainlight a bit hotter than the BG's reading. In other words, I flash more light on the model to capture her with a slight over-exposure. Of course, that's not the only thing I'll be doing to "pop" the model off the BG, but it's one of the techniques I generally use.

Okay, let's say I'm going to expose my images to the reading I obtained off the natural light coming through the window. To get some subtle "pop," I adjust my mainlight to slightly over-expose. (With aperture, that is.) There are times, of course, when I want to under-expose the BG for dramatic and/or aesthetic effect. When that's the goal, I expose with more artificial light than the BG is providing. In other words, I use strobes to overcome daylight.

Adjusting the recorded ambient in your exposure, BTW, is easily accomplished by changing the shutter speed. The aperture (in your exposure) remains the same since the strobe is firing bursts of light at shorter durations than the shutter remains open. Changing the shutter speed, therefore, has no real effect on the level of exposure provided by the strobe. Man, I hope I'm not wandering all over the place here. I tend to ramble. I don't think I could ever be effective as a technical writer. (Note to Self: Cross technical writing off list of potential, future, career-changes.)

The easiest way to understand this, I suppose, is by remembering that, when shooting with strobes, aperture is dictated by the strobe's output but shutter speed, which is not really controlled by the strobe's output unless you exceed maximum sync speed, can be adjusted to limit or increase the amount of ambient captured on the sensor. Does that make sense?

Where was I? Oh yeah. Once I've determined my exposure by reading both the natural and the artificial light and adjusting to taste. I make some decisions about highlights to further "pop" my model from the BG and the environment. (My clients love it when the model's "pop," especially since they're not so big on moody, shadowy, dark images... and the clients, of course, are always right.) Anyway, since I'm often slightly overexposing the model (due to my clients' preferences) from the BG, the natural light isn't going to provide much in the way of back-lit highlights. No problem. I'll simply use another strobe and set it in such a way that I get those highlights and, hopefully, get them in ways that don't look like they're too-obviously and too-magically coming from some too-mysterious of an unknown source. Often, the strobe providing the highlights doesn't need to be set much, if any, hotter than the mainlight as the physical laws of angle-of-reflectance will insure the highlights "read."

In the image at the top--not a particularly great image but one that adequately serves the subject of this post--I posed Sascha in the middle of the room. Duh, Jim. Like they can't see that for themselves. (Note: In the spirit of stating the obvious and my self-critique aside, Sascha looks great in almost any image.) That room, BTW, was the only place in the house available to me to shoot in. (Someday, they'll set me free to shoot anywhere I choose!) I set my mainlight, modified with a 3'x3' scrim, slightly "hotter" than the reading I took through the windows. It was mid-day on a hazy, overcast, smoggy(?) day. Since there was neither blue sky nor puffy white clouds available, I figured I'd expose merely to get some read on the landscape outside the window. I didn't want to completely blow out the windows and I sure as heck didn't want Sascha silhouetted against them. I set a strobe modified with a small, shoot-thru umbrella, camera-left and behind her, to provide some highlights: Easily-digestible highlights that don't require too much suspension of disbelief for viewers to accept.

Sascha captured with a Canon 5D and a 28-135 IS USM Canon lens zoomed out to 56mm. ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 160th, color temp set to "flash" default. MUA Melissa. If I was paying more attention to detail, I would've noticed that shopping bag on the floor in the BG. Oh well. My bad.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Wit and Wisdom of Ken Rockwell

I'll bet you're real glad NOT to still be eyeballing my mug! (Which graced[?] the lead article on the PGS site for a few days.) I may not be a total affront to the eyes--although some might disagree--but Brea (and I'm guessing most would agree) is definitely easier on them, way easier on them... on the eyes, that is.

It's been a wacky few days dealing with car problems, family stuff, and some pretty girl shooting in a hot studio with an on the fritz air conditioning system. As usual, I've spent a fair amount of time on the web. Also, "as usual," the vast majority of that web surfing has been focused on photography. As a result of my most recent internet adventures, I stumbled on the wit and wisdom of photographer, Ken Rockwell. Click on his link, "How to Make Great Photos," for a comprehensive list of illuminating articles by Rockwell.

Many of you may already be acquainted Rockwell's occasionally controversial take on photography. His website has been up since 1999. I wasn't aware of him or it and I'm not sure how that happened. But now, I am... aware of the guy, that is.

Rockwell writes about all kinds of things related to photography: From product reviews to "how-to" articles to his own, personal view of the business of photography and the opportunities available to photographers-- Wanna-be photographers (of a "pro" nature) and otherwise. It is the stuff I'd categorize in that latter part of the previous sentence that I've found most enjoyable to read.

Amongst my fave Rockwell articles are, "The Seven Levels of Photographers," an incisive satire, and "How to Go Pro." Both articles include some very useful info, altho it's not always the kind of stuff people want to hear.

There is lots to discover on Ken Rockwell's site. I'm still checking out the articles. I think you'll find much there worth the time to read.

As mentioned, the easy-on-the-eyes pretty girl at the top is Brea. I was on a location shoot and the video production crew left few places for me to photograph her. The dining room table seemed an appropriate-enough place to serve-up a dish like Brea. I lit Brea with three sources: My mainlight modified with a 5' Photoflex Octodome and two accent lights, behind the model and off to the sides, modified with medium strip boxes.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Will the Real JimmyD Please Stand Up

Someone posted a comment today that included a link to a XXX clip from a movie I once directed. The clip included yours truly portraying himself. Well, not exactly me but "me" in the role of a porn director directing a couple of meatpuppets on a beautiful Southern California beach. No, I don't have sex with anyone in the clip and I remain fully clothed throughout. (The world should be thankful for this.)

I rejected the comment. I rejected it because this blog isn't a porn site. If I started posting links to porn clips Google might possibly censor this blog. More importantly, this blog is about photography, glamour and tease photography for the most part. Although more than a few people on this planet might consider the pics I post along with my ramblings as porn--and most of the models displayed are, in fact, porn stars--this still isn't a porn site. Leastwise, in my opinion it isn't. And frankly, it's my blog so my opinion is really all that matters when it comes to what sort of content is included in my updates and in the comments.

I'm not sure what motivated the anonymous commenter to include the link. Is he or she attempting to "out" me as a pornographer? I don't know and I don't care. I certainly don't think I've tried to hide the fact that I work in the adult industry. Perhaps the commenter merely thought the clip was funny? The clip is, in fact, a very tongue-in-cheek commentary on directing porn scenes.

I'm not overly proud of my XXX-rated resume--with the exception of some of the photography I've produced--nor am I ashamed of it. It is what it is and I've done what I've done. I have no moral issue with porn, leastwise with what's sometimes referred to as "mainstream porn." Again, it is what it is. If people are offended by porn, don't watch it. If people (i.e., adults) enjoy it, by all means, indulge yourself. Different strokes and all that.

Just so we're all on the same page with my XXX affiliations, here's a general account of my history in the industry:

For the past few years, I've worked, principally, as a still photographer in the XXX biz. I still hold a video camera on more than a few shoots. I occasionally direct, although rather infrequently. In the past, I have directed hundreds of XXX movies, I've shot thousands of scenes, I've edited countless movies and I've photographed many hundreds, probably thousands, of porn models. I've appeared in a handful of these movies, always in non-sex roles and almost always as some comic variation of myself, leastwise the self that works in the XXX business. The majority of the movies I've directed, including those I've appeared in, are sex comedies. I've always felt that porn is more humorous than anything else. It's not that I don't think porn is (or should be or can be) sexually arousing, I simply see something very funny in it. (In addition to its sexual components.)

I've been profiled, as an adult filmmaker, in People magazine and elsewhere. (In a positive way I should add.) I've also been interviewed in many more periodicals, magazines, and newspapers. I've appeared, as myself and in the context of what I do, on (to name just a few media outlets) CNN, ABC, NBC, and Fox. I've even been interviewed by the very-conservative, Christian News Network's, "700 Club," with Pat Robertson. I'm merely mentioning this stuff to underscore the fact that I've not tried to hide my work in the XXX biz from the general public.

For a number of years, I wrote a blog, SimplyJimmyD, about the porn biz. The blog was often critical of the XXX industry, but always in a humorous or satirical way. I guess I'm a comedian at heart. That blog attracted many thousands of visitors daily. For a time, SimplyJimmyD had an almost ridiculously impressive Alexa rating. (Assuming anyone's impressed with Alexa ratings.) Like an idiot, I did nothing on that blog to generate revenue. I wrote it as a way of relieving my porn-angst. I quit writing SimplyJimmyD mostly because it cost me work and money. Obviously, there are more than a few people in the porn biz who don't share my comic observations of the industry and, in fact, took offense at them. Words that are offensive to smut peddlers: Who would'a thought?

My whole life, I've been something of a social outlaw. I suppose it's possible I eventually ended up in the adult industry because it's one of the last vestiges of politically-incorrect, social outlawishnish; legal outlawishnish that doesn't usually conflict with *MY* personal sense of morality.

Well, there you have it. If anyone has been unsure about me, you now shouldn't be. You still don't know me. The real me. The person I am. But maybe knowing more about me will suffice? (Assuming anyone is all that curious about this JimmyD character at all.)

Maybe not.