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Nikon d810

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Changes

I haven't sat down to write a blog in some time. There's been plenty I've been wanting to write about including switching lighting kits from Paul C. Buff to Elinchrom then to Flashpoint and switching camera systems from the Nikon D810 to the Pentax 645z. I still plan on writing those posts but life, both personally and professionally, has been busy lately so writing those posts have been difficult to say the least. But today, I'm making a point to write a post about my camera kit and switching from the D810 to the 645z... and then to a Sony A7RIII. Yeah, that last one surprised me too.

Nikon D810

Nikon D810 - ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/125th sec

Nikon D810 - ISO 250, f/6.3, 1/125th sec

I've written before how the D810 was my end game camera. When I first started professionally that was the camera and after making enough to afford it I did put a lot of work in with it. I would be hard pressed to come up with any negative about this camera, it worked and it worked well. In a lot of ways, I think Nikon had made a perfect portrait camera. It wasn't the best all around and I wouldn't have recommend it for many genres of photography but it absolutely shined for portraiture. There wasn't an upgrade path for me with this camera, I was going to use it till it died and then pick up whatever the newer version of it was. But like most plans, it fell apart early one morning, before a second cup of coffee early, while browsing eBay.

Pentax 645z

The 645z wasn't a camera I saw myself getting primarily due to cost. Brand new the body itself starts at around $6000, lenses start around $1000, and, due to its size, new cases, which aren't inexpensive, would need to be bought. Medium format just seemed financially out of reach but, of course, I would still occasionally check eBay prices. I mean, no harm done by just looking right? Again, I loved the D810 so I didn't feel any need or want to buy a new system. But here's the deal, I'm browsing eBay in the morning and I find a post for a 645z for a great price. It's nearly half the cost of one brand new and although it has a scuff or two and it's closer to 20,000 clicks than 10,000 it still seems like a crazy good deal especially considering the amount of accessories it comes with. I send a few messages to the seller and she is willing to throw in two lenses for, again, great prices. Prices that put the whole system lower than what I know I could sell my D810 kit for.

Ordinarily, this sort of purchase would have been fraught over for days and probably up until the point that someone else bought the auction and it was no longer an issue. But life had taken a path out of ordinary and with everything else in chaos I thought, why the hell not. And like that, I became the owner of a Pentax 645z.

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

But... Why?

I don't have a great answer as to the switch. Don't get me wrong, the Pentax 645z is a goofy good camera. The files are incredible, the amount of detail it captures is insane, the dynamic range is huge, and overall it's just an amazing camera. Its build quality is also second to none, I'm pretty sure if it was large enough to fit a human inside, Indiana Jones could hide in it to ride out a direct nuclear blast. I've heard it called a good entry point or introduction to digital medium format and I think that completely undersells how impressive this camera is. If you look at it from a completely technical, spec to spec comparison it blows the D810 out of the water. But as a photographer, it's not always about being completely technical and as impressed by this camera as I am, it wasn't the camera for me. 

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

Pentax 645z - ISO 200, f/4.5, 1/30th

I could and have made the excuses that the camera is too heavy, that it's bulky, that it's exhausting after a long day of use. There's been more than one occasion where I just sigh at the bag with the body and lenses because I know how heavy it's going to be when I put it on and make the walk to my next shooting location. And while I don't feel like those aren't invalid complaints they're not the real reasons I decided to sell my kit. The real reason is simple yet hard to explain because there's no real factor I can point to to say that this is why or this is the cause. To be honest, the camera simply wasn't for me and I don't have a specific as to why. I could spend the rest of this post giving analogies and explanations as to what that means but in reality its just comes down to personal preference with no objective reasoning.

Sony A7RIII

At the time of writing the Sony A7RIII hasn't released and I haven't used it. I have it on preorder with a set of lenses but without using it I of course can't write about any experience with it. I've liked Sony cameras since the release of the A7 but I think it's only been recently when they've become a viable professional option. And before too much is read into "professional" I simply mean two card slots, viable zoom lenses, reliable battery life, and a line of servicing that caters to those who make careers with their cameras. I wasn't interested in the A9 as it seems geared more towards work I don't do so I would have been paying a premium for features I won't utilize. The A7RIII seems much more in line with what I want out of a camera. One question I am nagged with though is, why not the D850?

Choosing between the D850 and the A7RIII was a hard decision but it came down to a single feature, image stabilization. If the D850 had in body stabilization, or more of their lenses had it, then perhaps I would have went back to Nikon. But this feature is one that could be the difference between getting the shot or not or one of not feeling required to always pack a tripod. It is possible it won't have any impact at all on my shooting but only through use will I know.

Conclusion

I've made a big deal out of camera choice but in reality any of these cameras, and nearly all cameras manufactured today, are capable of creating beautiful photos. There's been plenty of ink spilled on whether or not gear matters and while that's a good discussion to have it's not one I'm interested in right now. I don't expect any gear to make my photos better or me a more capable photographer. But I do want tools that work with me and that I am comfortable with and confident in.  Is the Sony A7RIII the right tool? Well, I guess I'll find out. 

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Makeup Inspiration Challenges

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Makeup Inspiration Challenges

Over the past two weeks my friend and amazing makeup artist Matt Goodlett, MattGoodlettMakeup.com, has taken part in makeup inspiration challenges issued by another local makeup artist. I've worked with Matt on several occasions and regardless if it's SFX, beauty, or anything else there's never been a time when he hasn't absolutely nailed the look for the photo. So when he asked me to photograph the makeup for these two challenges I quickly accepted as I knew he would kill whatever look he was going for. But even after having worked with him multiple times before and seeing him work on other ideas it's still incredible to see how quickly and skillfully he draws from a source photo and creates something beautiful. 

Mandarin Duck Challenge

Matt did a great write up of this challenge on his site here that I suggest you check out. Photographing this one was fairly straight forward, Matt knew how he wanted the photograph to look and I knew how to get that look. This was more or less a simple clam shell lighting setup with a gridded beauty dish as key and a silver reflector for fill. Using a gridded light with a reflector can be tricky but it does create a beautiful light when done correctly. If I had to do this one again I would probably try an even tighter grid on the beauty dish for an even more directional light. The beautiful Kaylynn Nyree was our model here who I suspect you'll probably see doing big things soon. 

Drawing Restraints Challenge

This challenge, to me, seemed a bit more complicated. No colors, no defined shapes, white background, and a ton of possible interpretations. Going into this shoot I wasn't quite sure what Matt had planned. I thought we might go with a high-key look but after seeing the makeup Matt was doing I knew that wouldn't quite work. So white was out but I also wanted to avoid a pure black background as well. With the makeup as dark as it was I was worried that the model would get lost in so much blackness. Luckily the room we were shooting in provided a solution. Behind the model was white shelving which, when tilting the key light up slightly, is barely discernible but enough so as to help separate the model from the background. 

Lighting this was a bit more complicated as I wanted to, of course, not only highlight the work Matt had done but help bring out it's character. For the face, a 24"x24" softbox provides soft, beautiful light but it's a small source so it quickly gives way to the harsher rim lighting from the 10"x36" stripboxes behind the model. This contrast between the softer and harsher light matches the contrast between the the chaotic nature of the body makeup and the more controlled beauty makeup on the face. Our model, Bec E. Bien, nailed the looks and helped create one of my new favorite photos. 

I love being a part of these challenges and seeing Matt's interpretations of the inspirational photo as well as all the other makeup artists who participate in these challenges. Their approaches to the same subject are all different yet equally creative and well done. Be sure to check out more of Matt Goodlett's work at his website MattGoodlettMakeup.com and pop over to my Conceptual gallery to see more work we've done together.  

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

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Lenore - Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe

Matt Goodlett reached out to me last month and asked if I would be interested in shooting a body painting he was doing for a documentary. The idea he explained was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe and his poem The Raven. Never passing up an opportunity to work with Matt, I quickly agreed with nervousness about the shoot. Even with his explanation I had trouble visualizing the outcome which made figuring out the lighting difficult. Lighting a body painting, like many other types of portraits, is all about brining out the best in the subject. Here's a few things I keep in mind when lighting a body painting.

  1. The body painting is just as much, if not more, the subject than the person wearing it. Lighting should compliment the painting, e.g. not put details in shadows, like it compliments the person
  2. Consider the mood. The lighting should work with the theme. In this instance, a gloomy Edgar Allan Poe body painting is probably going to look better low-key rather than hi-key
  3. The lighting should not be noticeable. The lighting should enhance, coincide, compliment, but never distract from the subject(s).

With that in mind, I created the portrait below. Matt and team did amazing work and I'm happy to have worked with so many talented people!

Makeup Artist: Matt Goodlett. MattGoodlettMakeup.com
Head Piece: Jane Danielson, Velvet Rose Vintage
Model: RN
Assistant: Tia Marie

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Halloween 2016 - Team Demon Fabulous

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Halloween 2016 - Team Demon Fabulous

I wanted to do a Halloween themed shoot this year so I reached out to to the wonderful make up artist Matt Goodlett. I've worked with him before on several shoots and wanted to get his opinion on an idea I had. It wasn't so much an idea as it was a question of what would a team of makeup artists do if given free reign on a Halloween theme. Matt suggested the makeup team from Devils Attic, a local haunted house, Team Demon Fabulous. The amazing team came up with four distinct looks that I couldn't be happier with. 

In order (Model; Makeup Artist):
Victoria Nolley, Mary Proctor
Katya Estes; Matt Goodlett
Kat Rist; Lauren Bradley
Rebecca; Kelsey Pombo Eisenhut

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A Shoot with Kitty (NSFW)

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A Shoot with Kitty (NSFW)

One of the most fun parts of photography is working with new people and ideas. This is my first time working with Kitty but I reached out to her with an idea to play with mixed color lighting. Along with that we tried out double exposures in camera which taught me the importance of buying proper triggers for strobes. It was a great shoot so enjoy the photos below:

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