Archive for October, 2009


School Fair


What would you guess for the shutter speed of this image?

The picture was taken at the Tokeneke School Fair here in Darien this past weekend. The cars on the merry-go-round were not going very fast. I did intentionally use a slow shutter speed to show some motion in the cars. If you could see the image in a larger size than the blog allows, you’d have a sense of even more motion blur on the two cars in front.  Notice that, while the nearby cars are blurred, the cars on the side and back are reasonably sharp. How did this happen? I used a fairly wide-angle lens and was much closer to cars in the foreground than it appears. So, their motion was much greater than the side and rear cars, on a relative basis. It’s sort of an optical illusion or perhaps a trick of physics.

I like the gaudy colors. I like the implied oval framing the image, with the track of the cars on the bottom and the edge of the umbrella on top. Even though you can’t see the kids’ faces, it’s easy to imagine they’re having fun on this ride, and indeed they were.

And the shutter speed. Would you guess a second? A half second?  The actual shutter speed was 1/15th of a second. But because I was so close in on the foreground cars, the blur results.

Photo Tip: Try different shutter speeds on action shots and see what the result is. The closer you are to a moving subject, the more blur you will see for a given shutter speed.


2010 Photography Exhibit!

I’ve just learned that I’ve been accepted to hold a solo photography exhibit at the Darien Library. The exhibit will be mid to late 2010 – date to be determined. I’m thrilled! The new Darien Library is a beautiful, modern state-of-the-art building, with a wonderful exhibition space.

Now, I have to create some new work.  As faithful readers know, most of my recent focus has been on portraits. While I’ll have some portraits in the show, I want to come up with a varied collection of work that will hang together in some way- literally and figuratively.  Just beginning to mull over some ideas.

This is a great opportunity for me – not just to have the show but the gift of knowing I have to work consistently over the coming months to build some new images – try new techniques, new subjects to shoot as well as develop new ways of looking at and seeing things. There is always a risk that a photographer – or any artist – can get stuck doing the same kind of work over and over.  I trust this show will be an incentive for me to break out of any ruts I have fallen into. A time for creative new beginnings!

We’ll have an opening reception – details to be announced – and you will be invited!


Beauty Lighting


One of the most flattering portrait lighting setups, called beauty lighting, was used in this image of Holly, a model I photographed recently.  With beauty lighting, the light is placed above the camera and aimed down at the face at about a 45 degree angle. 

One trick to figure out a lighting setup is to look at the catch lights in the eyes. You can see in this shot the catch lights just above the center of the eyes.  if you get in the habit of looking for the catch light, you can tell a lot about how an image was lit.


I tend to look for the catch light in every portrait – in magazines, on the web, even in the movies – to try to determine how the lighting was done. A large catch light means a large light. In the first image I used a big softbox light, 48 inches across.  A smaller light source might appear in the eye as a pinpoint of light.

But for a flattering look, a big light source is better. The light wraps around the face and provides a soft, smooth texture to the skin.  Holly has lovely skin to begin with, but the big light always helps the skin to look beautiful.


In the image to the left, I used a very different lighting setup.  Two lights were set, one on each side of Holly, coming in almost 90 degrees to the camera sightline.  The idea is a more high contrast, dramatic look. This approach can have a feeling of theatrical lighting.  In this image, there really aren’t any catch lights, but the whites of Holly’s eyes on the sides are highlighted.  The outside edges of her arms and hair are bright, which gives some depth to the image, especially with a dark background.

 To see more images from my shoot with Holly, click here.




Food Shoot


Like many professions, photography is becoming increasingly specialized.  One of the specialties is food photography, and the people who specialize in food typically don’t shoot anything else. So, it was with some trepidation that this mostly portrait shooter accepted the invitation of a top-notch cookbook writer, cook and all around food expert to do a food shoot. I read up on it and thought – I could do this!


 Pam Anderson, author of “The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight and Eating Great” and other best-selling cookbooks, is starting a new food blog, along with her daughters Maggy and Sharon. 

I spent a wonderful afternoon with Sharon and Pam, shooting about 10 dishes for their blog.  We had great fun “styling” the food, moving around props to get just the right look, figuring out lighting, and doing a bit of tasting along the way.

_DSC0020 In photographing food, making to food look delicious is, of course, the overriding goal. Everything Pam and Sharon made that day not only looked good but tasted fabulous. As you can see in these pictures, we just used a few props – placemats, napkins, a fork, a bottle of olivc oil, etc.

For lighting, I mostly used one side light coming in from the right side, up high, to mimic a nice soft window light coming into a kitchen. The actual day was overcast and dull, so we needed to create our own atmosphere. In some pictures, I put an orange gel on the flash to warm up the light. To reflect a bit of light onto the left_DSC0015 side of the food, we held up white posterboard on the left, so one flash unit could do the work of two.

Although portraits of people is still my first love, I look forward to more food shoots. 

Check out the new blog, entitled “Three Many Cooks in Pam Anderson’s Kitchen”  by clicking here. There are wonderful stories about cooking and great recipes by these three very dynamic and talented women.