Thursday, June 28, 2012

I really enjoy doing photo sessions for happy families,

It was one of those homes where as soon as you walk in the door, you're immediately engulfed with all the love and positive energy that seems to have become part of the physical structure of the house. And while completing introductions with the family members, one family member was determined to make an impression on me. He's a beautiful black labrador and is introduced to me as "still thinks he's a puppy".

The plan for the afternoon was, headshots for business use and then family portraits, both inside and outside. Then later on more family portraits with a larger group.

I was equipped with strobes and a backdrop and soon had a mini onsite studio set up in their living room. Everyone was well prepared allowing for a smooth shooting transition from shooting headshots  on to indoor family portraits.

I had elected to do this assignment without an assistant and got a great mental workout balancing the light outdoor with a handheld flash in one hand, camera in the other, and moving around constantly adjusting for the high sun position and a very boisterous labrador!

When the extended family arrived, they turned out to be just as great as the immediate family members and even after the shoot was over, another hour of stimulating conversation passed before I started to pack up my gear and start my journey back to San Francisco, about 50 miles away.

Even though I was being plied with food and offered drink (which I declined since I was driving), I really needed to pack up my gear and begin my journey home.

But thank you happy family for  allowing me to be a part of you for a little time. And enjoy the secret of happiness that you have all found and share with each other!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Make sure all your gear stays with you...

I've been looking for a bag for a while that I can travel with to do editorial assignments which means being able to pack a reasonable amount of gear plus my laptop so that I can work on site and prepare and send pictures from anywhere I happen to be.

I also am one of those people that enjoys the less is more approach to many aspects of my life. So what I wanted was a bag that could hold a large amount of gear, but packed into a reasonably compact and neat size.

After doing a lot of research online, I felt that Kata may have the solution for me. I already own another model of their bags and am still really pleased with it.

I happened to be out in Golden Gate Park one day and saw someone with the bag I had become more and more interested in and after speaking with him, he was kind enough to let me give the bag a once over. It was the Kata Bumblebee range, model DL-210. .

I had an international trip coming up and decided to take the plunge on this model.

I was happily surprised at just how much this back can eat up. In practice, I found that it was more a limitation of how much weight I wanted on my back rather than how much the bag could actually hold!

I think Kata have been conservative in their specs when they say how much this bag will hold and probably they are right to do so. But here is the list of what I actually carried on my trip and a photo of all the items.

3 pairs of glasses/sunglasses in hard cases.
18 - 105mm Nikon lens.
50mm Nikon prime lens.
35mm Nikon prime lens.
17 - 55mm Tamron lens (Shown on camera).
Camera body cap and lens dust cap.
2 Speedlites - (SB600)
MacBook Pro power cord and adapter.
40GB hard drive. (with power adapter).
Battery tray adapter for camera.
Pack of Strobist colored gels.
Various rechargeable batteries.
Wireless remote camera trigger.
SD Card reader.
Back up charger and power pack for iPhone.
Tripod mount.
Nic Cad Batteries charger.
2 wireless receivers and 1 transmitter.
USB cable and iPhone charging cable.
Nikon camera battery charger.
Spare SD cards.
Spare iPhone USB cable.
Canon SD900 camera and waterproof housing.
20 various door keys.
My apartment keys.
Canon camera battery charger.
Air blower.
Pack with batteries and more memory cards.
Pocket size packet of tissues.
15 inch MacBook Pro in a laptop cooling pouch.
4 magazines.
Model releases.
One DX format DSLR.
Wallet, iPhone, and travel documents (Not shown).

Fully packed, the bag was comfortable and easy to wear and I was able to carry additional suitcases while wearing the pack. Interestingly, if you do decide to go crazy and pack it "heavy", Kata offer a set of wheels and pulling handle that can be purchased as an optional extra.

You can also pack it so that you have a little less photo gear and use the top compartment for some clothing or refreshment or some other need. It's ultimately versatile in it's offering.

Once on the plane, it fit easily under the seat in front of me so I didn't even have to worry about whether or not there was space in the overhead lockers. Regardless of the airline restrictions, I still see very large packs being hauled onto planes and stuffed into the overhead lockers and many others that just don't fit at all…

Anyway, with this bag it was never something I had to concern myself with.

You can see the full specs and accessories for this product at

If you're looking for a quick shooting bag, this is probably not the right solution for you, but if you're traveling or doing assignments in the field, I definitely recommend it.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

When the weather's this good in San Francisco, get outside

I had a shoot at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco today. The weather was gorgeous and the tourists were swarming all over the site like excited insects. The main difference was that instead of antennae, most of these "insects" were sporting cameras .

Many of the folks were on bus tours and you could see from the way they were practically running from site to site, they were locked into a schedule. And a tight one at that! As I sat waiting for my clients to arrive, I couldn't help wonder just how much of the experience of just "being there" all these people were getting. There was so much focus and concentration going into posing friends, relatives, and trying to get good compositions, you could see that many of the people behind the lenses were fairly oblivious to what was around them.

A large proportion of the poses I watched being set up were by the water. After releasing their shutters, many people immediately focussed onto the monitors on the backs of their devices before scurrying on to the next spot with a water view in the background while still looking down at their camera monitors flicking through the pictures they had recently snapped.

I imagined that many of these people here at the magnificent structures at the Palace of Fine Arts had paid good money for their visit to San Francisco. And yet, even though they would return home with hundreds if not thousands of digital images, some of them may never have really seen the place and savored the beauty of it with their actual, naked eyes!

Prior to my shoot, I had made a special trip without using my camera, taking in the architecture and the layout of the place. The position of the sun and the way shadows were casting and just feel the atmosphere.

In the next few minutes my clients would arrive and I will need to capture images that meet their brief, are beautifully composed, and technically correct. So no time for sightseeing then.

The shoot went great and I had very happy clients. I'll let you in on it in a future blog — but in the meantime, the weather's great in San Francisco. Get out there and snap it all up — with or without your camera!