I was asked to take pictures for a company Christmas card again. The card turned out OK but a few people couldn't make it and got left out and I didn't feel the final picture represented what the company does well. It would have been great for a heavy equipment supplier or a group that trims trees or something but this is for a telecom that provides voice and data services to some of the largest companys in the south. I didn't want another normal group shot again and it's pretty hard to get 30+ people that work in a 100+ mile radius away from their desk at the same time at a time of day where the sun won't make harsh shadows. I couldn't control the background where we were going to be and I definitely can't control the sun with a group that large. This time I decided to shoot each person full length on my version of a white seamless and composite the all together as a large group. This was going along great until I was told some people wouldn't let me shoot full length shots so plan A was scrapped. I don't remember plans B through somewhere around Q but finally decided to just shoot headshots on white. This would be easy to control the lightning and I can concentrate on each person to make sure I get a good shot.

 Everything was shot in the lobby of the main office over a few days as time allowed. I had to tear the "set" down each day and put it back the next when I could shoot another group. I made it easy on myself by taking iPhone pictures of everything including flash settings. I was able to get set back up in less than 5 minutes this way.  For the background I used some white ripstop nylon I have with a Alien Bees AB800 on 1/4 power shooting through it from behind. This made a clean white background and I didn't have to worry about any of the wrinkles showing. The main light was a 60" shoot through umbrella with a Nikon SB900 set to 1/2 power. I have a SB-800 and another umbrella but decided not to use them to keep it a simple as I could. I only have two PocketWizards so I put one on the camera of course, the other on the AB800 and put the SB900 on SU-4 mode. I only had 1 shot where the 900 didn't fire. I never figured out why but this isn't a wedding or a sports event so it didn't matter. My shutter speed and aperture were set to knock out the ambient light. I set my camera on a tripod and just had to get a good expression and hit the button. The expression is the hardest part. The button pushing part is the easy part.

The dog works here too. She's the official "dropped food disposal supervisor" and she takes her job very seriously.

 Here is a test shot just to check the lightning.
 I may try to use it. I'm digging the pocket.

I plan on doing more like this but play with the lighting a little, colored gels on the background light and maybe bring in the other umbrella. I have a few ideas.

Here are two iPhone shots of the set up so I could remember where everything was set. Simple and clean. 

We threw this guy in here just for fun and in case we missed anybody we have a replacement employee fror the card.
Fitness Silhouette 

The new Nikon D4 and D800 have finally come out. I have been holding out replacing my D300 and waiting for the D700 replacement for over a year. I was getting pretty excited and saving my money because I knew it would be out any day. When I started reading the rumored specs I had my doubts about it really being 36mp. How in the world could they get a 36mp sensor to beat the D700's lack of noise and not sell it for more money. Well they didn't, sort of. It looks like the noise is as good or better than the D700 but it cost more, and the stinking battery grip is like $600. I thought about it and I can't justify $3000 for a camera and another $600 for the grip. I don't have that much saved up anyways. I can get a used D3 for under $3000 and that's still a really cool looking..., I mean excellent preforming camera. I'm sure if I had a chance to play with the D800 I would get the wants for it but it's not going to happen anytime soon.

 I've been really busy doing non photography stuff and a bit bummed out that I can't keep a current piece of equipment in my bag. My cameras are a few years old. My lenses aren't the newest versions and my SB900 I just bought, thanks American Express points, has been already been replaced with the SB910. My Pocket Wizards aren't the cool new ones with the built in TTL or the new Plus 3 version. My biggest CF cards are the 4G Lexar Professional 300x models. I can only get like 150 pictures on a card before I have to swap it out. What am I going to do with just 150 pictures on a card. That's almost embarrassing. My light stands are hand-me-down Colortran brand. Anybody ever heard of those? I just remembered I do have some of the frio cold shoes Robin and I got from the David Hobby/Joe McNally Flash Bus Tour. I don't think they have been changed yet. These are awesome by the way. While I sit here and sulk that my camera gear won't work anymore because it's all so old I though I'd share a picture I made yesterday with my old outdated gear. 

 Robin was exercising in out 3rd bedroom or home office or as the kids call it Dad's computer room, Mom's exercise room. I was sitting on the floor petting one of our dogs and thought I would see if my camera still worked. Seems it still does. Robin doesn't like working out around other people but as proof that I can still get lucky with a camera every so often she let me share this one. This set up was pretty fancy. Not really. Bare SB900 on a stand behind her on the left and a bare SB800 on a stand on behind her on the right. I used the pop up flash shooting a high dollar light modifier also known as a coffee filter for a touch of fill and to trigger the other flashes in manual mode. They were powered way down to keep from lighting up the back wall to much. It is painted dark grey which helped. My desk and iMac are actually behind her. I had to paint a little negative exposure to knock them down to black. I used the trial version of Lightroom 4 to make it B&W and the Beta of Photoshop CS6 to put the two images together. I really like both of those pieces of software a lot. Hopefully they don't expire too soon. She's looking pretty good for the mother of two boys but anyone that can run 10 miles without passing out has earned it. Now if I can just get myself motivated to get up and walk to the couch I think I'll make us some tea and call it a night.

My Car

I had the '89 CRXsi when I was younger and it is my favorite car that I have owned. It was like driving a go cart everyday and was perfect for Robin and me at the time since we didn't have any kids or any reason to have a bigger vehicle. A few years ago I read that Honda was going to rerelease the CRX again but as a more modern car with airbags, antilock breaks and all the new technology and such. The concept car images were awesome and I said if they come out with anything even close to that I want it.   I had said I wanted a black one but had pretty talked myself out of getting a two seater "sports" car considering we have kids now. Robin knew how much I wanted one and told me I would regret not getting it. Robin, Conner, Collin and I went to the Honda dealership in Daphne, AL. and I was really just wanting to see one in person and maybe test drive one. They only had 3 and only one of those was a manual transmission. It was a pearl white, I got to test drive it and convinced Robin to test drive it. A few hours later were signing the paperwork on my first new car. I've had my CRZ for just over a year now. We actually bought it 2 days after the dealerships got them and the first day they put it out on the show room floor. When we registered for the tag the state didn't even have it in their database. The lady at the DMV told me I it was the first one in the state to register one. I didn't win anything for that. Considering I was driving a 2001 Chevy Tahoe Z71 that gets around 15 mpg this car's savings in gas makes up about about half the monthly note. The sticker stated about 37 mpg and I was ok with that but I've averaged just shy of 42 mpg and have had tanks average over 45. Oh yeah, it's considered a hybrid. At the time I didn't really want a hybrid. I knew they are heavier and slower. They don't handle all that well and I don't have the urge to hug on trees but that's the only way it comes. After having it for a year, I like how the motor turns off at a stop, I like getting the 40+ mpg without really trying and as far as the speed and handling, it's damn good enough. It really reminds me of my old CRX, just nicer. Conner and Collin see it as a treat to get to ride in the CRZ and Robin even likes the way it drives. It's not as fast as my CRX but the CRX didn't have power steering, a pile of airbags or traction control. My CRX did have power windows and locks but I did that myself, I had mad 12volt skills back then. Conner even said he want's the CRZ as his car when he is old enough to drive. Err... we'll see about that. We still have the big Tahoe for now and use it for road trips with the kids and to carry stuff that won't fit in my car. I can still drive the Tahoe when I need to get my redneck on too. 

    The picture below is my actual car and yes Mom, I took the picture myself. Conner helped. 

The two below are old film photographs I took of my CRX. My photography skills have improved a little since then. 
See the "Just Married", that was 17 years ago last Saturday.

This was on our honeymoon to Gatlinburg, TN. I know Robin looks like she's 12, she was old enough to drive. Check out those cool shades. 

Atlantic coast trip.

We went on vacation a few weeks ago and ended up on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina. We couldn't pass up a chance to let the kids play in the Atlantic. The beach was totally different from what were used to on the Gulf Coast. It was great!

I'm still here

I've been crazy busy lately. I know I haven't posted in a while but I didn't realize I haven't posted anything in almost 3 months. I knew I haven't been keeping up with other blogs I normally read but mine has been seriously neglected. I'll try to get some picture up soon but for now I throw up a few from the past month or so.

Cute Hat - Caesar Head State Park, South Carolina

I grabbed this shot of Robin in the mountains in South Carolina. All natural light and and totally unplanned. Sometimes those are the best.

Sometime I just take pictures of things I have around me. This image is my computer's desktop now.

House Family Portrait - Mobile, Alabama

Robin and I have been friends with Robert for over 10 years now and Layne was my son Conner's favorite school teacher before he even knew what school was. Now they have the newest House family member. This guy is super cute and he knows who should get the most attention. Conner came with me for this shoot and I volunteered him to be my assistant. You know, really important stuff like carrying bags and light stands and stuff. I did have to bribe him a little with the promise to go to Game Stop on the way back. The thought of a new Xbox game seemed to greatly improve his willingness to help me out. I'm going to pretend he came along just to help out his Dad so don't spoil my delusions and remind me the cost of these new Xbox games.
Layne had decided she wanted a brick wall with ivy for the background but this turned to be harder than I thought to find this time of year so we decided to hold off on the ivy hunting until the weather warms up a bit and get half of the background she wanted.
Little Robert was way more interested in what was going on around us and considering his Dad is a photographer too he is probably too used to having a Nikon in his face all the time.
I was laying on the ground most of the time while we were shooting and I had Conner adjusting the light output as we were loosing daylight fast and trying to act like an oversized, insane chicken monkey to get little guy's attention. The first picture above shows the look of a kid when he sees a 11 year old jumping up and down making weird noises while another guy who is obviously not right is laying on the ground in a parking lot. I think the third photo is when he heard this circus act of a photo shoot was almost over. Robert should enjoy the little rest he gets now because the baby delivery stork is stretching it's wings to bring another little Robert to the House family. Watch out ladies....

A "Professonal" picture of my kids.

Robin wanted a Picture of Conner and Collin to put in with the Christmas cards we sent out and I realized I didn't have a very recent one for her. About the same time I also realized she was stuffing the Christmas cards in envelopes so I had to figure out something fast. I grabbed my camera sitting next to my desk and yelled out for Conner and Collin to come into the room. They had no idea I was going to take their picture which is probably why they actually came in the room. I told them to stand a few feet away from the wall in the only spot they could find that didn't have a light stand, tripod, or some sort of light modifying apparatus thingy in it. I put the flash on my camera and pointed backwards into a big white reflector. I got about 3 pictures when they decided I was done. So of the 3 this was the best one. We sent it off to the local high end printing service WalMart via their online ordering site. When we got there to pick them up the photo department lady wouldn't give them to us saying they can't reproduce professional pictures without written consent from the copyright holder. I said "Great, that's me." I don't think she believed me until Robin showed her other pictures I took of them on her phone. After which she let me sign their copyright release. Woo hoo, the lady at WalMart thinks my quickie snapshot of my kids taken in my home office was taken in a professional photography studio. I didn't even get out of my chair when I took it. She said she could tell by the lighting and professional background. "The background is a wall in my office" I told her. She didn't look happy. So a few dollars later and my head swelling from my expanded ego, just kidding, we had our Christmas card pictures. It's not the most Christmasy picture and really it's not even that great of a picture but it's what my kids look like everyday so we were happy with it. And yes they are both standing up, Conner is that much taller than Collin. Maybe next year we'll rent some reindeer, have some snow brought in and ask Santa Clause to drop by early again. I do know Santa by the way.

Brecken - Mobile, Alabama

This guy is a ball of energy. I started the shoot away from the playground and I'm lucky I did because once we made our way over to the slides and climbing whatevers there was no way I was keeping up with him. He had already figured out he could throw giant handfuls of the grass that had been recently cut at me without mom and dad stopping him so somehow I must be OK. I even had fun taking pictures of him then jumping up to avoid getting covered in dead grass. I didn't always jump up in time and I had the dead grass down the back of my shirt to remind me I need to move a little quicker. We shot this in a park in Mobile, Al. a little before sunset and between the tall grass around the water and the playground it turned out to be the perfect spot for me to get pictures and Brecken to enjoy being there. I will be doing this again.