Dec 21, 2010

Santa letter section cover

It is Santa letter time at newspapers across the nation, and of course we needed some fun cover art for the special section.

Our super-awesome graphic artist Jan is always up for a creative challenge, so I took some shots of my wife's favorite holiday decoration... a whimsical flying santa figure. Collaborating with other creative people is one of the most fun and gratifying things in this line of work.

I first shot Santa a few years ago and used him on some Christmas cards. It was when I had first discovered Strobist and was playing with off-camera lighting. In this case a pair of cheap clamp-lamps.
flying santa

After mocking up a cover, this pic was just too dark and flat, so I did a quick re-shoot. I wanted to keep the head-on angle but add a shadow of Santa below him for some depth. Also, I have more light toys now, so it was a chance to play.

First up, the Santa is on a dark wooden base, so creating the shadow in the right spot was an issue. Even with the plan of cutting out the base, the shadow fell too far to one side for the look we wanted.
Santa Section-1754

Creating the shadow is an Elinchrom bxri500 monolight with a 10 degree grid all the way up at the 9' ceiling. The key light on Santa is the same light with a 20 degree grid up close.

To get the shadow in the right place, I poked the stand through the paper... Also, I did not have enough flagging material or time to get everything perfect in one shot (and it was being 'shopped anyway) so I turned off the key light for a good shadow exposure..
Santa Section-1764

Turned the key back on for an exposure of Santa himself.. The overhead is still on as well. If not, the shadow looks very out of place when you put the two shots together.
Santa Section-1767

Jan chose to use a more processed version of Santa and put it all together to make our cover..

That is just a screen shot of the Indesign doc, but you get the idea. I look forward to seeing the final version on big newsprint.

Don J.

Dec 20, 2010

Remotely functional

I have used Pocket Wizard remotes with some success in the past, generally at stage events where I can prefocus and know pretty much what I will get.

After seeing this photo I decided to go ahead and break out the remote for basketball.

The fun thing is having two perspectives of almost the same moment of the game...

Here is the view from my handheld camera with the 70-200..

And the remote set up under the basket..

That is all fine and good, but setting up is a real hassle, so you have to be prepared for that. I was using a big gorillapod with no tripod head, so getting the camera pointed where I wanted it was somewhat time consuming.

You must pre-focus the camera and settle for what you can get. And if you leave it on autofocus (which I did after changing lenses above) the camera may or may not focus where the action is. In this case, It was happily focused on the back wall for the last quarter of the game. Details Details....

Finally, with the remote set and firing, you also have to be careful not to ruin your own backgrounds.... Like this.
Don't ruin your own background-8753

Have a great week, and Merry Christmas all around,

Don J.

Dec 18, 2010

Quick Pic - Cows on parade

My favorite catch from Terrell FFA's show today... More pics over at the Tribune blog.
Terrell FFA Holiday Heifer Show-2268

Dec 17, 2010

Quick Pic - Sunset Drive

Operating a camera while driving a vehicle is not recommended.

Foreground elements almost always make a photo more interesting. As beautiful as the sunset is by itself, there is more to see and more context of place when you include something about your environment.

This shot makes a statement about so many things... including the simple fact that there are so many things blocking the beautiful sunset view.

I had high hopes for catching trucks in the sunset, but the height of my dash meant that the vehicles on the other side just blend into the horizon. A real photographer would have stopped at a nice spot to silhouette the vehicles into that sky. Or something like that.

Have a great weekend everyone... go take some great photos!

Don J.

Dec 9, 2010

Quick Pic - Basketball with a 300


Sometimes it really is the camera.

The nice thing about having a newer camera with really good high-ISO performance is being able to use my 300mm F4 lens for basketball, and without a flash. It is still grainy, but retains enough detail at ISO 5000 for decent shots from up in the bleachers or from the opposite end of the court.

Of course, if anyone wants to send me a 300mm F2.8...

Don J.

Dec 5, 2010

Clowning Around

Clowning Around

Part of getting good pictures is finding good subjects. People with interesting stories or unique lives tend to be great subjects, as was the case with Kenny Petet last month. While in college for a business degree he found himself in the rodeo arena and loving it. The rest is history. Now Kenny works as a bullfighter, rodeo clown and entertainer with his company at

I set up before Kenny arrived with both white and black backgrounds, one large and one small softboxes, one light with a grid and another in a straight reflector.

I liked the look with the big softbox close in front and gridded light opposite behind to define the hat.
Clowning Around

Same setup, looking into the camera ... my favorite of the shoot.
Clowning Around

Then it was time to get out the makeup and bull barrel...
Clowning Around

I cannot imagine trying to get into one of these things with a bull charging at it. Apparently if you don't get in all of the way, it can be very bad news. Like break you in half bad news.

The barrel was covered with metallic duct tape... kind of distracting with the lights, and we did not have time to finesse the light so much...
Clowning Around




And this was probably my favorite with the 'uniform' on..
Clowning Around

Is it December already? Why yes...

Please feel free to come by my new blog about becoming a dad over at ... baby is due in April and I have a lot to learn!

Don J.

Dec 1, 2010

Quick Pic - Shadows and such

Shadows and silhouettes are fun because they always draw the eye for a split second. There is something about human form that already grabs us, then when we can't readily see detail, we look a bit longer.

Of course, I'm still playing with perspectives and this one is fun for that.


The right way looks more like this... and hurts my head less.