Workflow for Post Processing Photographs

Few things can be as contentious as a discussion of workflow for post processing photographs. I think the reason for much of this is because there is really no such thing as an incorrect workflow. The workflow one incorporates can vary depending on many factors; desired results and targets, software used, etc.

One thing that I think can be agreed on, however, is that most photographers who are serious will have a workflow that goes beyond simply offloading their photos and then calling it a day.

Over time I’ve massaged my workflow in various ways. Mostly because I’m a sponge and when I see someone doing something that works better I’m all over it. I have no pride that way.

The following is my workflow. It works for me. I don’t suggest that you do it my way. I’m simply describing it to give any ideas that may or may not be useful for you. Also, my workflow is Adobe centric because I use Adobe products. The foundation of my entire post processing workflow is Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. Yes, there are other solutions for post processing photos; some I hear are quite good. But for me, I made the decision to go with Lightroom and Photoshop years ago. I hate to even go into the reason, but here it is.

Long ago I experimented with various other software. The biggest problem I had with other software was that it was difficult to learn general post processing with it. No, Lightroom and Photoshop are definitely not easy to learn. In fact they are a downright pain in the ass in many ways. But what made them easier tools to learn post processing with was because of the sheer amount of resources for both Lightroom and Photoshop. Like it or not Lightroom and Photoshop are the industry standard to which all others are compared. Because of this there are almost endless learning resources and tutorials. If you Google anything related to post processing photographs you’ll find far more information from an Adobe perspective than any other software.

That alone saves a bunch of time.

If you’ve just installed Lightroom and getting started one thing that I highly recommend is watching this video that does a great job of explaining how to get started. It’s long, I know, but well worth it. When it comes to Lightroom how you get started will determine your future happiness. Trust me.

Anyway, my workflow.

The first thing I do is import my photos into Lightroom. All of my Lightroom catalogs and libraries reside on an external HDD that is constantly backed up to two other locations; one on site and one in the cloud (for this I use Backblaze). When importing I always create keywords for the session to easily find images later. Once they’ve imported I go through them and decide which ones are keepers and which ones are not. Personally I don’t use a rating system in the conventional way, they are either keepers or they are not. The keepers get rated with 5 stars, the non keepers get zero stars. I then go back through and delete everything that does not have 5 stars.

Note, I shoot everything in raw. You should too.

At this point, if I shot a white balance patch I sync it to all of the files; along with lens corrections and custom profile. I do this not for color accuracy. I do it simply to have a consistent starting point for all of the images from that particular session. At this point I then start working on the images themselves. I’ve never applied any editing globally. I know a lot of people do, but I don’t. That’s just me. I treat each and every image as a single entity.

I bring up an image in the Develop module and start making adjustments. Often times I’ll click Auto in the Tone section just to see what it does. About half the time it comes up with a pretty good starting point. It does a really good job with setting a white and black point. Either way I’ll always end up playing with the tone and presence sliders. I do it to my personal taste. One slider I’ve found that I almost always push up is the Dehaze slider. It always adds an improvement. Just go easy with it because a little goes a long ways.

Beyond this I do very little in Lightroom. If I notice some chromatic aberration or fringing I’ll deal with it in Lightroom, but that’s about it.

I then send it to Photoshop as a 16 bit TFF in the ProPhoto RGB color space (set that up in Lightroom; Edit > Perferences > External Editing). Whether you choose TFF or PSD doesn’t really matter. I personally choose TFF. But one thing that I highly recommend is that you always maintain the largest color space available during the entire post processing workflow which means 16 bit ProPhoto RGB. This article gives a good high level explanation as to why you should always do your post processing in 16 bit ProPhoto.

Anyway, I send it to Photoshop; right click > Edit In > Edit In Adobe Photoshop. It is here where I do the bulk of my post processing. The reason is because I like the control it gives me. With layers I can selectively edit different aspects of the image as needed. It’s not unusual for me to have several layers on an image. I’m not going to go into the particulars as to what I do in Photoshop as there are about a billion ways of doing anything in Photoshop (yes, I know, hyperbole), but once I’m done with the image I save the layered TFF; File > Save. This saves it back to my Lightroom Library (and the external HDD that’s always backed up that I mentioned above). Now, when I locate an image in my Lightroom Library I have easy access to both the original raw file and the layered TFF that is the completed image. The developed image if you will.

I do this with all of the images. Then, depending on the target I want to use an image on, I’ll open it in Photoshop from Lightroom; Right click > Edit In > Adobe Photoshop > Edit Original File. In Photoshop I’ll flatten the image and then convert it to the color space needed for the intended target. Typically I’m uploading the images to the world wide web which means that I’m converting them to sRGB. I then resize as/if needed crop, etc.

And that’s pretty much it. Again, this isn’t meant to be taken as the way you should do it. Or even a suggestion, really. It’s meant to simply show how I do it. If you are able to take something away from it, great.

sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB?

When post processing photos which color space should you work in, sRGB, Adobe RGB, or ProPhoto RGB? I’ve seen a ot of discussion on which one should be used. Some of it just plain wrong. 

It’s a common refrain to work in the space that your end target will be in. It goes something along the lines of “You shouldn’t work in color spaces that the target color space doesn’t use.” Or, better yet, it should be within the gamut that your monitor utilizes. 

To put it simply, that is completely wrong. You should be doing your post processing in the largest color space available (in this case, ProPhoto RGB), and then convert the end result to the color space required for the intended target. 

Rather than rehash why you should do that I’ll refer you to this article. It gives a very high level explanation as to why. You would be wise to read through the comments as well. 

If you want to dig deeper, I would recommend going to this site

Individual workflows can be as varied as there are individuals, but working color spaces need to be the largest color space available. 

In a later post I’ll go into my workflow. Not to convince anyone, but to give an idea for those who are new, newish, or just looking for some inspiration. 

Best Way to Upload Photos to Facebook

A while back I wrote a piece on the best way to upload photos to Facebook and still retain good quality. In a nutshell it basically was that you should resize your images to either 2048 on the long side if in landscape or 960 on the short side if in portrait 4:5 aspect ratio. You would then export to .png > and then upload that file. 

I hear that the reason that it worked so well was that when converting the image to .jpg, Facebook did not compress them. Bug? Intentional? Who knows? Either way it worked great. 

Now Facebook as once again moved the goalpost. Uploading images the above way results in absolutely horrendous compression artifacts. If I didn’t know better I would almost be tempted to assume that Facebook wants photos uploaded to their platform to look like shit. 

If you peruse the internet you’ll see various so called solutions to Facebook’s onerous handling of images. They run from sizing the images to Facebook’s suggested sizes with a little compression, to adding a noise layer to the image to “fool” Facebook’s algorithm. 

They are all wrong. 

After doing some experimenting I’ve found the new way to upload photos to Facebook and not have them look like utter crap. Actually it’s simpler, now. 

Here’s how: When processing the images crop them in either the original aspect ratio or 4:5 > convert to sRGB > Save As. Make sure to save them at the highest resolution possible (this is important). Then upload them. 

There, simple as that. They don’t look as good as the way I used to do it, but they are close. My guess as to why this method works the best is because whenever you upload a file to Facebook, Facebook is going to compress them no matter what. If you resize and optimize before you upload them to Facebook, the image actually gets two doses of compression; yours and Facebook’s. By uploading a full size, full resolution file, it only gets one dose of compression. 

Anyway, there you have it. If you want your photos to not look like crap when you upload them to Facebook, just upload full size and full resolution photos. 

Hollywood Glamour Photography

Lately I’ve been doing some research into a specific genre of photography known as Hollywood glamour. Typically, when one thinks of Hollywood Glamour it’s a given that we’re talking about publicity photos from the so called Golden Age of Hollywood. It’s a very unique style of photography that was pioneered by photographers like George Hurrell and Clarence Sinclair Bull. Though there were others these two really exemplify the style of Hollywood glamour of the Golden Age. Arguably, George Hurrell  is the defacto Hollywood glamour photographer that set the standard to which all others are compared.

One thing that is interesting to me is that although both Hurrell and Bull were both tasked with creating publicity photos and they were aesthetically similar at first glance, in reality they were actually quite different in some ways. Generally, although Bull could be as noir and contrasty as any of them, he tended to produce works that were less so; more open shadows than Hurrell. I have the feeling that Bull’s work is probably more aesthetically in line with today’s eye. That’s just a guess, though.

I will admit that, personally, I generally prefer Hurrell’s work over Bull’s, but they were both just amazing at what they did.

Hedy Lamarr by Clarence Sinclair Bull

The shot above of Hedy Lamarr by Bull is quite representative of his work.

The one below of Jane Russell by Hurrell is, I believe, quite representative of his work:

Jane Russell by George Hurrell

You’ll notice that Hurrell’s pic of Russell really hits the contrast. He wasn’t afraid of shadows in the least. Now, of course, there are plenty of shots by either that are practically indistinguishable. But I think that these two are example of how they did differ.

Something that I find interesting is that I bet if Hurrell and Bull were alive today, not famous, and posted these exact same images on a portrait critique forum, they would be heavily criticized for all kinds of reasons; too hard of light, over processed skin, wonky cropping, etc.

Another thing that is apparent that is almost anathema for modern portraiture is the often missing catchlights in the eyes. Yes, there were often catchlights, but there were often no catchlights, too. Whatever the criticisms may be, there is just no denying that these two gentlemen created amazing works. Though they both were different from each other, they both managed to create almost otherworldly beings; something that was required by the Hollywood studios of the day. Their goal was to represent their talent as beyond and above the average person.  And, boy, did they succeed in doing that.

Completely unrealistic, but oh so amazing.

Which brings me to the issue of post processing. Today a common refrain is the over use of post production. It’s often blamed on Photoshop or other post processing software; as if it’s a new phenomenon. We talk about the over use of Instagram filters and bemoan the lack of reality in today’s glamour portraiture. But the reality is that it’s nothing new at all. It’s just done in a different way.  Both Hurrell and Bull relied extensively on post production. They spent hours in the dark room dodging and burning, shaping arms, cheeks, and bodies, and smoothing skin; all in an attempt to create a sort of perfection beyond the reality. In fact the movie studios employed many more retouchers than photographers.

When it comes to gear they used mostly 8×10 portrait boxes and repurposed film studio lights. Looking at the photos, generally, there seemed to be a key light, a hair light, and a background light to light up the background adding a more dimensional quality. A big limitation of the gear that they used was the fact that they typically had to rely on long exposure times, perhaps up to a couple of seconds. This is one of the reasons you see most of the poses like they are; seductively lounging, reclining, resting their heads on hands, etc. Yes, these kinds of poses tend to appear sensual, but they served a purpose, too. They are the kinds of poses that are easier to hold for long periods. So, when you look at the photo of Jane Russell above, lying back with a “I’m waiting” demeanor, there was more to it than that. It’s the perfect pose to exude sensuality and hold for a long exposure time.

When it comes to closely replicating the look of Golden Age Hollywood glamour it can certainly be done with modern cameras and lighting gear. Some would have you think that it just can’t be done without a spot and a Fresnel lens, but that just isn’t so. For example, Robert Harrington shows how it can be done using nothing more than speed lights in this video:

Is it exactly like a George Hurrell photo? Maybe not, but it certainly is very close to the style. The key, really, is to use a three light setup and choking down the light. Harrington uses snoots on both his key and hair light, and a grid on the background light. In the old days they used Fresnel lamp lenses to focus and concentrate the light, and barn doors as well as flags. Today it can be accomplished using grids and snoots along with flags if needed. Yes you could use barn doors and Fresnel lenses, too, but it’s not really necessary.

The one thing that I might do differently than Harrington would be to use studio strobes rather than speed lights, at least for the key. I think a modeling light would come in very handy in finding just the right shadow.

Something else that I notice is how the talent performed. Typically when shooting models they tend to get in a flow. By that I mean they sort of sync with the photographer and are moving a lot. The flash pops and they switch to a different pose. Flash pops, switch it up. It’s easy to bang off a lot of shots and then comb through them for the keepers.

Obviously the nature of digital more easily allows for that. However, in the day of Hurrell and Bull, each shot was almost a production in and of itself. They could take several minutes creating a single shot. They would have the talent assume a pose and hold it. They would then move lights around to create just the right shadows. Sharon Stone has talked about doing a shoot with Hurrell in which she was lying on a bed with a tea service, in her pose. Hurrell moved some lights around, looked at the scene and then went up to Stone and adjusted one of her fingers just so. He then finally took the shot.

Anyway, I think the whole thing is extremely interesting. And I think that there is a lot to be taken away from these masters of the Hollywood glamour shot; something that perhaps has been washed away a bit by technology and the ease in which photos can be taken in today’s world.

 

Vintage Sunset Traveler Photo Project

Early this summer I had an idea of a photo project I wanted to do. First I wanted to do something with a vintage flavor to it; pseudo vintage, really. Beyond that I didn’t really know exactly where I wanted to go other than I wanted it to be a sunset portrait shot.

As the summer progressed my wife and were wandering through a little antique shop in a tiny town in central Idaho, New Meadows. It’s the kind of place that has a lot of things from the old ranches all over the valley and estate sales. We came across an old 50’s era suitcase and right away my wife said she wanted to incorporate it into some kind of shoot. That’s when my idea began to really take shape; a vintage style shot of a woman with the suitcase on a roadside.

No, not exactly original, but still fun sounding.

My wife was all on board with the idea so we bought the suitcase.

We spent the next few weeks trying to think of some kind of wardrobe. It definitely had to be a vintage style, but where to get something like that?

I did a search for local vintage clothing shops and found a great little place here locally called Retro Betty, a shop that specializes in vintage style clothing, mainly spanning what appears to be the 40s and 50s. Apparently vintage style clothing is a thing.  Anyway, we managed to find a couple of cool looking dresses. I told the owner of the shop what our plans were and she was pretty excited. I told her I would tag Retro Betty on Instagram when I got them done.

The next step was finding a good location. What I had in mind was a remote straight road. Paved? Unpaved? Who knows? I did want whatever stretch of road I used to run east and west so that I could fully utilize a setting sun like I envisioned, but that was about it.

Also, for what I had in mind, I was going to have to use off camera flash. Shooting a portrait directly into the setting sun was definitely going to require a good powerful flash to do it right. I also wanted to shoot with a fairly open aperture which meant that I would also either need to use a ND filter or HSS. Since I had just picked up a Flashpoint XPLOR 600 PRO, it seemed a bit like a no brainer.

So one day we loaded up the truck with the XPLOR, a heavy C-stand, and a 38″ deep parabolic softbox and headed to the west desert in Utah. Just as it was getting time to either shoot photos or go home we finally found a perfect location; a dirt road running east and west and the sun setting towards distant mountains. I set it all up and we took a number of shots:

Sunset Traveler
Sunset Traveler–Model Anna, ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1250

This is my personal favorite. I think because it seems to convey a bit of a story beyond a pretty woman standing on the side of a road. What is the story? I don’t know, but something.

This one is kind of an odd shot in that it goes against so many conventions; cropped off feet, flower in the foreground, that kind of thing. But I still like it because it kind of has  a cinematic vibe going on. The model is caught in mid-motion looking down the road. Waiting for someone? Who knows?

Road Side Attraction
Road Side Attraction Model: Anna ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1600

Keeping with the roadside theme:

Circa 1957
Circa 1957 Model: Anna ISO 100, 85mm, f2.0, 1/1250

This one is the favorite of the vintage boutique shop owner from which I got the wardrobe. Again, a very cinematic vibe going on. A few technical nits aside these shots are almost exactly what I had in mind. I love the colors produced by the sunset; the yellows, reds and vague pastels, the desert location, etc.

We purchased a couple different dresses from the boutique shop. This one is more late 50’s while the other one is more mid 40’s. I’m going to do a shot with it as well, but I’m thinking I want it to be indoors in a vintage interior setting. I haven’t quite got that one figured out yet.

But I’m working on it.

I think doing these kinds of projects is not only fun but they are great learning tools. To have a vision in mind and then take the steps needed to see it through offers a lot of learning opportunities.

What are some photo projects you’ve done? What are some that you have in mind and plan to do? I’d be real interested in hearing.

Natural Light Photographer

Flash vs natural light photography.

Often I’ll come across a photographer website in which the photographer proudly proclaims, “natural light photographer.” The first thing that comes to mind is that I’ve never seen a website proclaim, “artificial light photographer” or, “I use flash only.” So, why would they proclaim the the paradigm within which they are willing to work? Or, is it more accurate to say, the paradigm within which they are capable of working?

To be honest often times I think it’s the latter. Why else would one shout out to the world that they only shoot in natural light? What benefit is there to it? There is no benefit except to perhaps let people know from the beginning your limitations.

With photography you absolutely need light to make a photograph. If the available light is sufficient for what you’re trying to accomplish then, yes, go with available light. However, there are times in which the available light just isn’t sufficient. There can either be not enough light or the light is just not the right kind of light. In that case, you have to take control and make your own light, as it were.

On many of these websites proclaiming to be natural light photographers only, if you read through their information they will sometimes talk about the “natural” quality of available light and because the aesthetic of so called “natural” light is so uniquely awesome, they choose to shoot only in natural light. It makes my head spin. They will typically go on to then point out that, since they shoot natural light only because it’s so uniquely awesome, that when booking photo sessions with them, be aware that you’ll need to have the photo shoot either early in the day or late in the day because midday sun sucks.

Midday sun does suck by the way. But it can be dealt with a number of ways: scrims, reflectors, flash, etc.

The point is that for many of those who proclaim to be “natural light only photographers,” the reason is that they can’t use flash. Whereas I bet that most photographers who heavily use flash can and do show competence with natural light.

Granted there are types of photography in which using flash isn’t really feasible; documentary or street photographers, or press photographers, etc.  I mean, can you imagine the press pool at a presidential daily press briefing with a bunch of flash going off? Also, with today’s digital sensors, the circumstances you can work in without adding light is pretty amazing.

But at the end of the day instead of limiting oneself to being a “natural light” photographer it would be best to simply be a “photographer” and learn to do what needs to be done to be able to take good photos in as many different circumstances as possible; including becoming competent in using artificial light.

 

Lightroom Presets

Lightroom presets are a waste of money. At least according to this guy.

In the six years that I’ve been using Lightroom, I’ve never paid for a preset. In the past, I’ve downloaded a few free packs, clicked laboriously through every preset and decided that they were all useless: blunt tools creating over-edited results and deploying settings that I could easily have achieved myself had I wanted to ruin one of my photos.

Man, I agree with him. There are a lot of people out there pimping either their Lightroom presets or their Photoshop actions; all with the promise of replicating a look without, apparently, learning what the hell you’re doing. I can understand Photoshop actions a little better because they can actually aid in the learning process, but I’d never pay for them either.

A while ago I posted this image up on Flickr:

Portrait of Yana sitting on stairs
Yana on Stairs: ISO 100, 50mm, f1.8, 1/160

It ended up getting featured on Flickr Explore which resulted in a lot of views, likes, and comments. Consequently, I had a few people reach out to me asking me if I used a Lightroom preset or if I could make a preset and if so, would I mind sharing it. It was kind of interesting.

I have never made a Lightroom preset. I don’t even know how to create a preset. This image was pretty much me experimenting with a bit of a different approach to post processing. And, honestly, it was processed a bit in Lightroom, but mostly in Photoshop. In fact it has 13 layers and a substantial amount of masking, too, to apply the layers selectively.

It did make me understand the appeal of creating some presets or actions and trying to market them, though.

But, really, I don’t understand the appeal of some magic preset to be applied over multiple photos. I took the color grading inside of Lightroom that I did on this pic and replicated it on other images in my library just to experiment. It was a disaster. Now, I did take several photos in this particular garage and on different levels of this stairwell during this particular session. Applying the grading I did in this image to those images was OK because the lighting, mood, and location was pretty much the same. But other images taken at different locations?

No way.

For my approach each image or small set of images are unique thus requiring a mostly unique approach. There seem to be things that I’ll try on every image just to see how it works as a starting point, but it may or may not work. For example, on almost every image I’ll bring down the highlights a bit, open up the shadows a bit, and bring down the blacks a bit just to see if it starts going in a direction I want to go. I’d say probably a little more than half the time it works as a starting point. Often times I’ll just hit Auto just for the hell of it, too. You’d be surprised how often it actually results in a decent starting point. It used to be, until a couple versions of Lightroom back, that the Auto was absolutely horrid. Apparently Adobe has done some work on it.

The big takeaway, though, is that like the author of the linked to article above says, spending money on Lightroom presets is a huge waste of money.

Your time is way better spent just learning the tool.

Trust me on this.

Nikon Z6 and Z7 Mirrorless Cameras

Nikon Z6 and Z7 mirrorless cameras have finally been released. I admit that I’ve been waiting for this for a while. A long while. I’ve wanted to get into mirrorless because of IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization), and EVF (Electronic View Finder), and silent shutter along with other benefits of mirrorless, but I’ve been holding off because I’m invested in the Nikon ecosystem and wanted to see what Nikon would come out with. Plus, I’ve been very happy with my D750. That camera just rocks.

But, if Nikon were to come out with something that was comparable to, say, the Sony A7III and they included a good F-mount > Z-mount adapter at a similar price point I would seriously consider going for it. With that in mind I was really looking forward to the Nikon Z6.

What is the Z6? It’s actually pretty awesome. 24 mp, 12 frames/second, IBIS providing up to 5 stops of stabilization and 273 phase-detect AF points along with some other awesomeness. All for a price of about $2000.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Well, wrong. It’s actually a turd in many ways.

Since the release of the Nikon Z6 and Z7 Mirrorless cameras they have taken a lot of pounding for various issues. Issues like the fact that many early reviewers who got to use a pre production camera for a couple of hours noted that the auto focus was a erratic and a bit sluggish; especially in low light. There have also been concerns over the perhaps weak battery performance. Granted, by the time the production models come out they may have addressed those issues via software updates.

I haven’t seen any reviewers rail on about the lack of included adapter, though, however for me it’s a big deal. Not because I want a free adapter (well, it would be nice) but because I just think it’s a colossal blunder from Nikon from a business perspective. Think about it. Nikon has the second largest market share of interchangeable  lenses floating out in the wild. They are second only to Canon.  Sony is a distant third. Though Sony is third, they are arguably the largest contender regarding mirrorless competition. In other words, Sony is who any camera manufacturer getting into the mirrorless game is going to have to compete with.

Plus, Canon is coming out with something, too.

What better way to compete than to incentivise the millions of current owners of F-mount glass to jump into your new mirrorless system? What better way to incentivise current owners of Nikon F-mount lenses to jump into your new mirrorless system than to include the adapter for the cost of the camera and that cost is on par with your competition?

But, like I said, not including an adapter doesn’t seem to be on many people’s minds. But it should have been on Nikon’s

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the release, and the one that has gotten A LOT of blow back from many people is the lack of dual memory card slots.

Yes, the lack of dual memory card slots.

That is why the new Nikon Z-mount cameras are turds.

What in the hell was Nikon thinking by releasing a camera line that people have been waiting for and that competes directly with Sony A7III and A7RIII that does not have a SECOND CARD slot? It is utterly stupid and for many (including me) a complete deal breaker.

It’s been a bit humorous watching the various hardcore Nikon supporters defend this indefensible decision. In fact I’m currently working on a post going over the various goofy things people have said defending why dual card slots are no big deal. They’re wrong, of course, but I’ll get into why on another post.

At the end of the day, cameras costing $2000 and $4000 respectively should be coming with dual card slots in today’s age.

Period. End. Of. Story.

Some apologists are saying that since this is a first gen mirrorless offering from Nikon we should give them a break. We should be patient. Don’t worry, it’s a process.

Nonsense. Nikon should want to compete with what’s already out there. All they had to do was come out with something that was at least on par with the Sony A7III and Sony A7RIII. Just doing that should have been the goal. They didn’t even do that. Cameras with a single card slot can never be on par (all things being equal) with a camera that has dual card slots.

Shame on Nikon.

Back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area

I went back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area to follow up on some test shots I did there back in November of last year. We had a lot of fun, but to be honest it was kind of a pain in the ass because of just how freaking dirty it is. Blowing sand gets everywhere. I mean everywhere; eyes, mouth, gear.

Everywhere.

I’ve been wanting to go out again because I had an idea on something that I thought would look cool in that environment. Plus, I’ve had a couple people ask me about going out there to do some shots. But every time I thought very seriously about it I thought about the pain in the ass factor and put it off.

Finally I said screw it. Let’s do it and we did indeed go back to the Little Sahara Recreation Area. Before heading out we stopped at a fabric store to pick up a large piece of cloth for the idea. 

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take some flash gear; you know, catching that awesome shot with a breathtaking sunset as a backdrop. Note to self: Never take flash gear to The Little Sahara Recreation Area. It’s way too windy and way too much crap flying around. If you’re a photographer wanting to go to Little Sahara and you’re thinking about taking some flash gear, don’t.

Well, I suppose if you have an assistant it might be doable, but really. I wouldn’t bother. I wasted a bunch of time trying to deal with it. Time that would have been better spent just shooting with natural light.

I timed it to be there about two hours before sunset and that part worked out well. Here is the shot I think I like best:

Woman On the Sand Dunes, Model: Anna, ISO 100, 85mm, f4.0, 1/500

I love this shot. The fabric works great in the windy environment. A big reason that I love this shot is that it exactly represents the vision I had in mind; the mood, the colors. It’s exactly what I pre visioned.

The biggest failure for me on this trip was that I didn’t spend all of the time just shooting natural light. Keep in mind that I love off camera flash. It would be great to do some hss flash work out here, but without assistants it’s just not possible.

Of course by the time we had everything packed up we were a sandy mess. “No,” I said to myself. “I’m not doing this again. Not worth it.”

But looking at this shot I know damned well that I’m going out there again.

There is just too much potential for great shots at the Little Sahara Recreation Area.

Stranger 12 of 100, The Eyes Have It

I’m a sucker for awesome eyes. Often times it’s the first thing that I notice. It certainly was for this stranger, Stephanie. I mean, look at those eyes.

100 Strangers 12 of 100
Stephanie 12 of 100: ISO 100, 85mm, f2.2, 1/1000 sec

Though I’d never met Stephanie before this, she and my wife are Facebook friends. This was also the first time that my wife had met her in person as well. Traveling through Sacramento we decided to arrange a meetup with her and have some lunch. The moment I first saw her the first thing I noticed was her amazing eyes.

All of that being said, this post is more than a simple 100 Strangers entry. It’s about those eyes, dammit. Without using flash or a reflector getting those eyes can be difficult in full midday sun. In this instance I was lucky enough to have a screened cloth hanging above us acting as a sort of scrim. That combined with the lighter wood floor to help bounce a bit of light up helped it to turn out well.

Use what you got.