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Pentax 645Z Portrait

A Nightmare Before Christmas

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A Nightmare Before Christmas

My good friend and make-up extraordinaire Matt Goodlett, Mattgoodlettmakeup.com, asked me to photograph him and his make-up team for a haunt industry party to celebrate the end of the haunt season. Matt manages the make-up team for The Devil’s Attic, a local award winning haunted house. Of course, a haunt party for a haunt make-up team is not only the perfect opportunity to but almost necessarily a time to flex. Matt did a wonderful write up on the demon themed make-up on his site so be sure to check that out. So how does one photograph demons?

My approach to photographing make-up/body paint concepts is to highlight the theme with lighting and/or environment while being sure to clearly present and focus on the make-up. After all, with these types of photos the make-up is of paramount importance. I want the lighting and environment to enhance the theme without drawing attention away from the make-up itself. With demon make-up I wanted to avoid the usual accompaniments such as utilizing red, heavy shadows, or editing in fire. One they’re cliched and two, in the case of heavy shadows and fire, I believe it draws attention from the make-up. What I wanted, was a bit of chaos (thank you Warhammer 40k).

Rebecca - Subject/MUA

Rebecca - Subject/MUA

Chaos in a portrait, at least in this case, to me means movement. The challenge is that motion blur or movement must balance with showcasing the make-up. I decided on using a one second exposure with the modeling light of a Profoto B2 gelled blue behind barn doors to give ambient light for the motion. I manually trigged a Profoto B1 in a beauty dish with a grid at the end of the exposure, and subject movement, to freeze and capture the subject clearly. Took a bit of trail and error to get the subjects movement right and to trigger the B1 at the right time but we got it in the end.

Portia - Subject/MUA

Portia - Subject/MUA

Also, sorry but not sorry about that title.

Matt - Subject/MUA

Matt - Subject/MUA

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Adama

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Adama

A few photos of a fresh face in the Louisville area.

Model: Adama
MUA: Kelsey Eisenhut

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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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Dani

Dani is a local model I've been wanting to work with for some time. Again, it became a game of matching schedules so luckily last month we were able to find a time we were both available. This is also the first time I've used my home studio. There's still work to be done to get it full ready for clients and other work but it's getting there!

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Kesley

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Kesley

Kesley is a local model that I've wanted to work with for some time. She's done a ton of work and always nails the look. The problem, as there always is one, is that my work with models has been few and far between lately. Editorial work has taken up the majority of my time, not a complaint!, so finding time, much less coming up with ideas, has been a difficult task. Luckily one evening I was caught up on edits and had a bit of free time when Kesley invited me out with to shoot with her and another local photographer, Blake Randall, in a local downtown area. Although we did get rained out on the original concept for the shoot we did find an overhang to create the photos below.

The most interesting part of the evening was shooting with another photographer. This was my first time working when another photographer was shooting and it was an enlightening experience. Blake does great work and shoots much differently than I do. While I, for better or worse, nearly always use a flash or strobe of some sort Blake is, I believe, primarily a natural light shooter. I learned a lot watching his approach to model placement and use of available light. It's an entirely different approach than my own and a good reminder that there's an innumerable amount of ways to approach taking a photo that I should keep myself open to.

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Brittany (NSFW)

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Brittany (NSFW)

Getting schedules to align sometimes is more of a waiting game than it is actually planning. Such is the case with working with Brittany. It's not that we didn't try to get things to work out, but our schedules just never really worked. Luckily, a few months after we first met to discuss the shoot our schedules aligned and we were both available on the same day. The up side of this is that I had plenty of time to plan what I wanted to do. Brittany was on board and nailed every look we tried. Below are the results:

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