Saturday, November 2, 2013

Suitcase Diaries

What would happen if two young ladies survived the apocalypse? Wandering around one day they find a suitcase filled with clothes and wonderful mysterious artifacts from a time they have long forgotten. This was the scenario for a fashion photography collaboration.

Photography was shot by Scott R. Kline at Firehouse 8 in San Francisco, CA. Mostly natural light as used in these photos fro skylights and reflectors. Occasionally light was augmented by Alien Bees lighting with soft boxes.

Clothing was provided by Danette Scheib and LemonTwist a San Francisco women's clothing maker. Make-up by Andrea Marie Ortega. Models are Danielle Wood and Lizzie Gunn.

This series was published by Spirit and Flesh Magazine website.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Shooting with a White Seamless Background and Natural Light

For Children's Health Council, March 2013.
Through trial and error at Burning Man I have found a great way to get natural looking photos on a white background with very little post.  This blog will outline the steps for those seeking to create this look.

Richard Avedon popularized this style of white background shooting with his photos of the American West in the late 1970s. In these photos Avedon typically found a shadowed area next to a barn or other building. In this way there was bright light all around to fill the photos, but the subject, being in shade had soft shadows and even light.
Nomad - Shot at Burning Man 2012. 
Similarly, I use a silver-topped canopy tent to create a shaded area. In back of the tent I drop a white seamless background. On a sunny day, the sunlight hits the top of the tent creating a nice soft light. Light seeps in from every side of the tent creating a catch light in the eyes of the subject and even light all around.  Of course, I do this in color rather than in black and white that does create color temperature differences between photos taken at different times of the day. Also, within photos I have found that the feet might be a cooler color temperature while the face is warmer. I attribute this to the surrounding outside the tent. If there agree shaded areas instead of refracted sun, they can throw a more blue light.
Setup with canopy tent and white seamless.
The white seamless needs to be exposed as close to white as possible without blowing it out.  Blowing out the background can create a halo around the subject, particularly in the hair where it looks unnatural or parts of hair partially disappear.

I like to replace the background with pure white later in post. This is easier if the white was originally close to 256 and more separated from the subject colors. A subject wearing white or white stripes can sometimes blend with the background, requiring a more specific selection rather than a global.
For Children's Health Council, March 2013. 
One technique that gets it right most of the time is to go to the channels layer of photoshop and duplicate the blue channel.  Then using levels, you can drag the sliders until the subject goes to black and the back ground goes to white. Usually the white slider only has to come down to 240 or so. You bring up the black slider as close as you can without seeing any grey sneak into the background. If you have to you can paint in black on the subject. When everything looks solid, you can save the selection and create a mask on a new layer I photoshop. Then fill the layer with white. I find it help to soften the edge of the mask using the refine edge tool. Usually a feather of 2 works well. If you want to get back some stray hairs, you can also use the masking tools to paint in a blend around the head.
Freckles - Burning Man 2010.

Have fun with this. Everyone loves their photo on a white background. It also looks great on most websites because of their white backgrounds. I recently shot a series of photos using this technique for Children’s Health Council. You can see more of those photos on my other blog

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Winemakers to Watch

Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope uses a thief to get a taste of a 2012 Barbera on January 13, 2013. 

I had a great time photographing four California Winemakers for the San Francisco Chronicle. The four were all a pleasure to work with. On four different mornings I headed out for a shoot. Two in Napa, one in Sonoma and one in Paso Robles. Even in winter I found the vineyards beautiful. THe start graphic elements of the bare vines made a great backdrop. I also went to each winemaker's winery for additional photos. The articles ran in the Food & Wine Section of the Chronicle on Sunday, February 3 under the title Winemakers to Watch 2013.

Technically, this was a fun shoot. Four different people on four different days. To keep some consistency, I shot everyone in the vineyards starting at 8:30 AM. I tried to use the morning light as a rim light and then use an Alien Bees B800 with a softbox as a key.  The other winery shots can be seen on my other blog at

Katy Wilson, owner and winemaker at LaRue Wines stand above barrels which include some of her Pinot Noir at Kamen winery near Sonoma, Calif., on Sunday, January 20, 2013.
After completing the vineyard shots I moved on to the wineries. These were more complicated, because each winery had a different set of lighting and space. The shot of Matthew Rorick of Forlorn Hope, at the top of this blog used an open truck door behind the forklift to rim the subject and light the barrels. I then used an B800 with a softbox to put a key light on Matthew.

The shot of Katy Wilson, above, was in a much bigger space. Similarly, there was an open truck door letting some light in the space. But I augmented the ambient with two speedlights.
Tadeo Borchardt has been winemaker for Neyers Vineyards since 2004. These vines produce Merlot at the Neyers Ranch in Conn Valley near St. Helena, CA. January 16, 2013. 

Anthony Yount and his Queensland Heeler, Waylon, sit on a barrel of his Grenache Blanc wine that he produces for his own label Kinero at the Denner Estate Winery in Paso Robles, Calif., on Saturday, January 26, 2013.