Thursday, December 29, 2011

Closing in on Year's End

Jenn Cavaricci - Wind Fae
It has definitely been an interesting year. I certainly managed to stay busy shooting with a number of lovely models throughout the year. I met several new models through the Unchained Girls and through a few workshops that I attended through various Meetup Groups.  One model I met through a workshop is Jenn Cavaricci. She was working with a model I work with often, Floofie, at a High Key Lighting Workshop. I won't call Floofie on of "my" regular models as she doesn't like the use of a possessive to refer to her (oh, did she get teased by that). In any case, I gave Jenn my card at the workshop and we subsequently worked on a few projects together and will wrap up a couple more in 2012.

One of the most important shoots we did was the Wind Fae which is the penultimate shoot in my Fae in Us All series. I had hope to shoot the final images in that series this well, the Winter Queen, but alas there has been no snow yet, so it's likely that shoot will also happen in 2012 as well. The earlier the better, I think.

I have a couple of candidates for the Winter Queen, or the Ice Fairy. Actually, I'm not sure what the final title will be, but I'm planning for it to be one of my best. I have a great costume and accessories collected for the shoot, and I've engaged a wonderful makeup artist to assist with the shoot, as well as a terrific location provided I can get there in the snow.

The two candidates for the shoot are Grace and Veronica. I've done test shoots with both and each would bring her own beauty and character to the interpretation of the Winter Queen. In all likelihood, who will be with Winter Queen will be a matter of opportunity and chance as it will depend entirely on who can be available and present when the first good snowfall occurs. It's been suggested I use both, and that may well happen, but we'll have to see how it all works out. That will end the Fae in Us All project, though I will resurrect it from time to time for paying clients.

I do need to wrap up a few shoots with models that are in the middle of a sequence for my Women in Chains projects, but I do plan on concentrating much more on landscape, nature and event photography in the coming year. I'm looking forward to wrapping up the projects and actually begin putting my books together for publication.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Project Wrap-up & Interviews

The Water Fairy
The Fae in Us All project is coming to an end. In the past three years, I've completed 31 different shoots in the project with 27 different models. Ultimately, best images from the series will be going into a self-published book featuring 28 models. There is but one shoot left to complete, and it will be the most elaborate and most challenging of the shoots in the entire series.

The original series was intended to be limited to the five essential elemental spirits (water, earth, fire, air and spirit) and the four seasons (spring, summer, fall and winter), but the models and I were having so much fun with the project, that it seemed to just organically expand into other Fae creatures. In the series, the models and I have expanded the project to include such wonderful creatures as the Danse Fairy, the Bubble Fairy, the Sand Fairy, a Woodland Pixie, and Waterfall Nymph, the House Fairy (the one that does the dishes and laundry when you're not looking - a truly mythical creature who never seems to visit my house), and many others.

Don't Mess with the Combat Fairy
Theoretically, the project could go on forever, and I may resurrect it from time to time just for fun or if a model requests it for their portfolio, but I do need to move my attention on to other interests and projects. The last shoot in the project (for now) will be the Winter Queen, the most regal and inspiring of the Faery. I've actually been trying to shoot this particular concept for the last couple of winters but, for multiple reasons, the shoot simply hasn't happened. This year, though, I'm doing extensive planning to make sure the shoot can and will happen.

Waterfall Nymph
I've recently completed interviews with 5 different models and one of those lovely ladies will be my Winter Queen. To some degree it will be the luck of the draw that determines who will be the lucky lady who gets to stand mostly naked in the freezing snow while I (warmly bundled against the chill) wield my camera and lenses to capture her portrayal of the queen of the season. By that, I mean, I have prioritized the models and when the snow arrives, I will work the list from the top to the bottom to schedule the model that is available for the shoot. Utilizing this plan, I hope to successfully complete the shoot this winter without the issues I ran into in previous attempts. I've explained this to each of the prospective models and they each seem to be quite amenable to the plan. Each would bring their own unique interpretation of the concept to the shoot and any one of them could exemplify the queen, but I will need, of course, to prioritize the model that best matches my vision of the shoot. With any luck, and with the planning I've done, the project will be complete within the next few weeks and I'll begin working on the layout of the book.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Still Without a Studio

Alija in the Wizard Room
I'm still without a studio, but I think I have a couple of good leads for spaces. One is a very large basement space, and the other is a newly refurbished studio/gallery in SE Portland. Normally, in the late fall and winter, I move to the studio or into my home for my photography sessions. Home is out of the question for the time being due to a kitchen remodel that seems never ending, but getting into the studio to finish up some projects will be nice.

When the house is not in shambles, though, it's a pretty nice place to shoot with several different rooms that serve as lovely backgrounds for models. One room is set up as a Wizard's Bedroom, while the master bedroom and bath are large enough to accomodate a couple of strobes with modifiers. The living is great for shoots with lots of room to maneuver lights and bodies. Alas, shoots will not be happening here for a while yet.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with some images from inside my home.

Audi in the Window (Master Bedroom)
Kim the Sorceress (Living Room)
Kim in the Window (Master Bedroom)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Summer is Definitely Over

Kira & the Rainbow
It's the beginning of the wet season here in the Pacific Northwest. That means rainstorms, rainbows, and the end of outdoor glamour photography. Of course, sometimes there are brave models who are willing to dare the elements for a shoot.

I do suspect, however, that I've done my last outdoor shoot for a while and while I may be able to get into the studio for a time or two before the end of the year, most of my time will need to be spent processing the images I've taken so far. A few of these you can see below:

Scout Audi
Wet Audi

Saturday, September 3, 2011

End of Summer Shoots

I'm wrapping up the summer shooting season here pretty quickly. I have just a couple more shoots scheduled, though I'll probably head to the Pirate Festival tomorrow to shoot a few wenches and scalliwags.

I think at the end of this year I'm going to take a break shooting with models for a while and concentrate of finishing my books and perhaps work on landscape, experimental and macro photography. In the meantime, I'll enjoy shooting with the lovely ladies for the remainder of the year and sharing my photos here with my few loyal readers.

Warrior Jasmine
Lindsay at Sauvie
Queenly Kim

Christy at Dragonfly Landing

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Seasonal Changes

Summer got off to a slow start, but boy has it arrived in force lately. That means I've been busy with shoots and post processing and while that's good from the photographic perspective, it means I've been much to busy to write. So, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll give you a few thousand words worth of images to view.

Bathing Beauty



Alija - Trestle

Alija - Sauvie

And here are some images from the latest NWGP shoot at Scream at the Beach.

Magnificent Mackenzie

Barbarian Betty

Gorgeous Caity

Candy as Conan

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

More Weather Woes

Kim in Chains
Okay, having to cancel not one but two shoots due to weather in the middle of July just sucks. Usually by this time of years the skies are clear, the temperatures are in the mid-80's and the humidity is low. Along with the cold, wet spring we had this year, apparently we're having a cool wet summer to go along with it. I've already pushed through two shoots in cool weather and I'll shoot with overcast, but there's simply no way to shoot my concepts outside in the rain.

I was supposed to shoot with Kim again today, but we both decided to cancel after looking at the weather report on Monday. We're hoping to reschedule for sometime in August in hopes of warmer and drier weather. This shoot is one that I'd really like to complete as it would finish part of a three part arc of shoots and would be the only outdoor session of the three sets.

I've also had to reschedule with Lindsay for our barefoot glamour shoot. She was one of the models that pushed through a shoot earlier this summer despite the clouds and the cold, but I was shooting her in tandem with another model and I really want to shoot her one-on-one so I can concentrate on her expressions and her poses as I think she is an excellent model and can provide me with some compelling images when we next shoot. Alas, it looks like the earliest that can happen will be the end of August.

The weather forecast calls some improvement later in the week, but I have many other commitments later in the week and even the first couple of weeks of August looks pretty busy with non-photographic activities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Time for Shooting

Forest Sorceress
These days it seems I have to almost take vacation to get any photography done. Fortunately, we had a 4 day weekend for the 4th of July holiday, and I was able to take the remaining three days of the work week off for vacation for a little leisure time and some photography. Again, fortunately, there were several models available and ready to work with me that week and I took advantage of their availability by shooting with all of them as the opportunity (weather) permitted.

The first couple of days of the holiday were spent playing with the grandkids, and shooting with the Northwest Glamour Photography Group. The kids and I went to the coast for some fun at the beach, and the next day I went to a different kind of beach for a photo shoot with the Unchained Girls at Scream at the Beach in Jantzen Beach.

Snake Girl
Scream at the Beach is a horror house with multiple sets including a dungeon and a number caves. The group had arranged for a number of models from the Unchained Girls, a promotion group, to pose for us, and for airbrush artists to provide body painting for the girls. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to stay for the entire shoot, so I didn't get to shoot with all the models in all the settings, but I had fun shooting with the ones I did get to work with during the day.

In addition to the models and airbrush artists, there were several large snakes used during the shoot. Adding the snakes provided some excellent shots, but made the shoot technically more difficult since the snakes often moved their heads in and out of the depth of field. Also, the tight locations where we were shooting limited the placement of the strobes, so the setups were the best we could do for the situation given the lack of room for large light modifiers such as light boxes. Still, we made it work .

Queen of the Glade
Later in the week, I primarily shot at Dragonfly Landing focusing on my Swords & Chains project wrapping that series arc up with a couple of models. I also did a Barefoot Glamour shoot with Floofie using three themes - Bathing Beauty, Nude Artist, and Military Glamour. We had a perfect day for shooting those and the model was great - but very happy when the Bathing Beauty shoot was over as the water wasn't nearly as warm as we had hoped for when I planned the shoot.

I wrapped up the week acting as a photographer's assistant for my friend, Mark, and even brought him a model to shoot. The model had engaged me to shoot her as the Rain Fairy and since I planned to do it at Dragonfly Landing, I suggested they both take advantage of the opportunity to shoot together and I must say they put together some fine shots. I think she was a lot more comfortable shooting for him in the warm sunshine than she was shoot for me in the cold water coming from the oscillating sprinkler I used to simulate the rain.

I'll probably get a handful more shoots done this summer, but they'll have to be in my spare time in the evenings or on the weekends, as I'm saving the rest of my vacation time for a trip to Arizona to visit my family there and for the December holidays.

Jenn's First Time with a Sword

Bathing Beauty

Jenn's Magic Ball

The Rain Fairy

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Throne in the Woods

Last December the photographer I was renting studio space from lost his lease when the building that contained his studio was sold and redesigned. After my last shoot in the space, I dropped by to pick up some props that he had been storing for me, and acquired this very heavy, metal throne that he had stored in one of his back rooms. I had used it a few times in my studio shoots, but I decided I would use it this summer for some outdoor shoots as well.  This past weekI finally got a chance to do so.

This is Lindsay and this is from our first shoot together at Dragonfly Landing.  I thought the throne worked rather well for this shot I've titled "Magic in the Glade." I've left it in place for now (covered by a tarp), and I hope to be using it for a couple of more shoots in the very near future. After that, I think my friend Mark has some rather wicked ideas to use with it for a bondage shoot.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

NW Glamour Workshop

Nude Photographer's Assistant
I had the recent and pleasant opportunity to attend a Glamour & Nude Workshop which focused on high key and low key lighting techniques. It has been quite some time since I attended a workshop and I thought it would be fun to get together with other photographers from my area to work with a couple of models and to explore some different lighting techniques.

One of my regular models, Kira, let me know about the workshop, and I share the information with my friend, Mark M. and we carpooled up to the shoot in Vancouver bright and early last Sunday morning. We got there just as the models arrived and the crew was setting up the shooting stations in the loft area of the building. The team brought lots of props and the shooting area included a pool table.

There were two models available for the shoot and a low key and a high key shooting area were set up with the appropriate lighting and backdrops. There were, I'd guess, about a dozen photographers at the workshop, divided into two groups. We buddied up in pairs, and each one of use alternated shooting the models for an hour at each of the station. The shoot was efficiently organized and I actually capture many more images that I would have expected given the time and duration of the workshop.

Kira on the Table
I've shot with lots of models and many different styles of lighting over the last three decades, so I was familiar with the lighting arrangements and and exposure settings, but what I found really interesting was watching the various photographers pose the models and come up with creative ideas to create unique images. I t was also a kick talking to other photographers, discussing tips and techniques, and sharing ideas about various projects and even locations  to shoot. Everyone there was friendly and more that willing to talk shop. That made it all the more enjoyable

Lunch was provided as well a copious amounts of water and it was just a great afternoon shooting with lovely models and a great group of photographers. With any luck, I'll be free for the next workshop and it will be just as fun.

Jenn C. - High Key with Fabric

Kira - HIgh Key

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Waterfall

Water Witch
I love shooting models in water. If you don't believe me, ask my wife. She's been in enough rivers, lakes, streams and seas over the years as a subject in my photos that she complained once of getting webbed feet. She was always a good sport about it, but has drawn the line at the freezing waters of the Pacific Northwest (well, mostly - that's her in the image to the right).

There are a few places where I like to shoot water glamour, but one of my favorite places is a little waterfall in the Tillamook Forest. I've written about it before, but it's worth another mention a few years later, especially since I've done a bit more photography there during the intervening time.

Tropical Cathy
One of the things I like about the area is the different backgrounds you can achieve by varying your distance from the falls, changing the angle from which you're shooting, and choosing the time of day for the shoot. Each variable creates and different look, color and atmosphere to the image.  Additionally, you can get up and away from the falls and get a totally different feel for the images.  There are logs, ledges and small trails all around the falls and each spot offers new opportunities.

Glamorous Sierra
Shoot facing away from the falls, and a completely different view of vegetation, water and earth tones form the backdrop. At the right time of day, warm sunlight scatters through the surrounding trees and produces a dappled pattern of shadows and light on the ground. Pose a model in this environment and the potential for an exquisite image increases exponentially.

There are other areas around the falls that provide equally photogenic settings, but I haven't explored those areas nearly as much as I have the base of the falls, the stream and the surrounding ledges. With any luck, I'll get a chance to remedy that this summer.

Now, if you're truly interested in shooting here, ask me nicely and I might give you directions. You'll have to provide your own models though, and be sure not to misplace your keys as there is definitely no cell service at the falls (don't ask, it's a long and embarrassing story).

Waterfall Nymph

Friday, May 20, 2011

Cathedral Park Revisted

Tropical Audi
With the return of warm weather, fleeting as it is this week, I've started thinking about summer shoots in Cathedral Park, both with models and with my family. The park has so many delightful areas in which to shoot and I want to explore many more of them this summer. I'd especially like to do more Barefoot Glamour images and some portraiture, but it would also be fun to do portraits of my own family in the park as well, and I'm setting aside some time for that as well.

I've written about the park in the past, but it's worth repeating that by selectively choosing different areas in the park, the atmosphere of the image can be made to look tropical, urban, woodland and any other number of scenarios. The St. Johns Bridge offers many unique backdrops, but there is also a set of rail tracks that run through the park, a long pier and dock. a small beach area, fields, trees, buildings, and a number of other structures.

Light, Texture and Beauty
I particularly like the light and the textures directly underneath the bridge. The bridge provides an extensive area of open shade, but enough light filters through at an angle to provide a bit of contrast to intensify the colors. The concrete pillars and the painted steel provide a textural and color contrast with the grass, trees and other vegetation that abound throughout the park.

There are certain drawbacks to an urban park, of course. While the city of Portland does a great job of preventing and removing graffiti from public lands, inevitably there will be some trash and debris, mainly cigarette butts that have to be picked up from the shoot area. On occasion, I have had to remove liquor bottles and beer cans as well, but I've seen a lot worse in other areas. My recommendation is to take a small trash bag with you just in case you need it. It never hurts to leave a place in a little better shape than in which you found it.

Stairs and Arches

Urban Lines and Curves

Friday, May 13, 2011

Get Your Critique Heard

A Different Perspective

If you are a photographer, writer, painter or simply someone who loves viewing art and providing feedback to the creator of that art, you should be aware that often the content of your critique can be utterly dismissed simply by the manner in which you offer it. Anyone can provide a critique, and most do. Stating something as simple as "I like that" is a critique. It's not a very good critique and it doesn't help the artist improve, but it is a critique nonetheless. Likewise, "that sucks" or "that's not my cup of tea" is equally valid as a critique, and is similarly dismissed out of hand as not being useful.

Often opinions are offered simply to express the appeal, or the lack thereof, of a work, to stroke the artist's ego, or to stroke the ego of the person providing the comment (I can do better than that.) If, however, your objective is to help the artist improve or, at the very least, to consider your perspective, you need to be able to convey your message effectively.  Anyone can provide a critique, but having your opinions heard, understood, and accepted as valid is more about a constructive approach to communicating those opinions than the actual opinion itself.

The key to getting your comments understood, accepted, and considered is to provide respectful, polite, and even-handed commentary. If your goal is to help the artist improve, you should also provide constructive critique.

Find What Appeals to You
Constructive critique not only identifies the issues the viewer perceives with the work, but also provides suggestions on how to improve the work. Constructive critique is all the better if you can offer some specific technical recommendations to the artist, but even if you're not an expert or even familiar with the artist's medium of choice, you can offer constructive critique of a generalized nature. Your goal shouldn't be to tell the artist how to recreate his or her work according to your standards, but to identify how the work could be made to be more appealing to you. You may not be the artist's intended audience, but you can have a valid opinion about how the work makes you feel and what could be modified to make the artists future work more appealing to you, i.e. how to expand the intended audience. It's up to the artist to consider and then accept or reject your comments, but there are certain approaches that will virtually guarantee your opinion will not even be briefly considered.

There's no faster way to have your commentary rejected, deleted, and any future communications promptly ignored than to approach the artist with anything less that politeness. You may absolutely hate the artist’s work, but if your goal is to get the artist to heed your opinion, you are not going to do it by being mean spirited or disrespectful in your approach. It's said that respect has to be earned, and if you want the artist to respect your thoughts, you have to provide respect as part of the process of delivering your opinion. So drop the snarky or condescending attitude and be polite and gracious with your words. Even if you're an expert in the artist's field, there is no reason to adopt a know-it-all attitude. Obviously your words will carry more weight if you are indeed an expert, but a gracious novice will influence the artist far more than an arrogant expert ever will.

Be Polite and Respectful
Avoid name-dropping. Telling someone that another artist wouldn't do it that way or that so-and-so said to do this won't help you to get anyone to meekly accept your opinion. One goal of art is to be unique, and good artists strive for that. They aspire to have their own style. An appeal to authority generally doesn't work with an artist.

 While it is important to be honest when presenting your opinions, don't confuse honesty with meanness. With some thought, you can truthfully state your perspective without resorting to unkindness. Malice has no place in a constructive critique and will shut down your communication faster than almost anything else. Too many people try to use “honesty” as an excuse for petty cruelty. These people seem to enjoy pointing all the flaws in a piece of work as spitefully as they can. When they get called on it their claim is that they are “simply being honest and the artist can’t take an honest critique.”  Honesty is good. It does neither the artist nor the viewer any good to receive a less than truthful critique. But anyone with at least half a brain knows the difference between honest and just plain mean.

So, what can be done to make your commentary more likely to be considered, accepted, and utilized by the artist? There are a number of approaches that can be used, singly and in various combinations, but you should start by finding something positive to say about the work. Always strive to start with that.   If, after thorough consideration, you can't find at least one positive aspect to the work, then reconsider whether the piece is even worthy of the critique. After all, why should you go to the effort of providing the critique if it’s so awful as to have no redeeming qualities and you simply can’t help the individual improve?

Consider the artist's perspective and the message (if any) that he or she is trying to convey. Tell the artist what you perceive the message to be and how effectively the piece “spoke” to that message. If you feel the message is weak, explain why you think so and offer any suggestions you might have on how to improve the delivery of the concept.

Be Honest, but don't be Mean
Strive to identify both the "good" and the "bad" about the piece. Usually some components of the art will appeal to you while others will not. The better the work, the more elements you’ll find that appeal to you. For example, the composition may be appealing, but the artist's choice of colors may not. The artist may have used fantastic lighting or an excellent brush technique, but the choice of the subject might be not be to your taste. As clearly and concisely as possible, explain what you find appealing and in equal measure explain what you don't like about the piece. For either, but especially for what you don't like, suggest improvements and provide examples (if possible). You may not always be able to offer valid suggestions, but any attempt to do so will be more appreciated than not.

Finally, when summarizing, identify the overall impact and appeal the piece has for you and provide some words of encouragement, even if that means suggesting another avenue of creative expression. Of course, you may not have the time or the inclination to follow all the advice provided in this article, but if nothing else, you should understand that kindness, respect and encouragement will do far more to get your message across than any level of expertise or experience you can claim.