Jeff Tyo and Matt Simmerman for Dubtree

So Matt hits me up late last night and asks if I wanted to do a mini-lookbook-ish shoot for the release of his black and white color way of the Hammer T-shirt.    Instead of making Matt stand in front of my lens for the entire time, we called up Jeff Tyo to sit around for a bit.  I love doing little shoots like this.  Short, sweet and to the point.  Special Thanks to Ryan Tucker who is always holding it down for me during the shoots.

P.S. That flannel shirt and beanie Matt’s wearing are a Dubtree first.  Stay tuned at!


Jeremy Labreau – Surfboard Shaper

I met Jeremy a while back but I never got a chance to get to know the guy until recently.  He invited me over to his place yesterday to photograph him in his shaping room while he was finishing up a board to be sent to the glasser.  Immediately upon entering I realized that all my equipment and my lungs were in for a beating from all the dust floating around.  Luckily for my lungs, Jeremy had an extra mask laying around.

It was so cool seeing all the minute things that go into shaping a surfboard.  Measuring a million times, endless eyeballing from 6 inches away and the final moments when the foam gets cut or sanded out.  With all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it seems like everyone wants everything right now.  (Even I’m guilty, I’m a digital photographer remember.)

Shaping a board is the complete opposite of that, it takes a Zen master like Jeremy to take his time and craft the perfect board.

Jeremy’s house is a trip, he’s got so much yard space, enough water in his garage to survive the apocalypse and even has a giant sacrificial altar concrete square where a giant wooden windmill sat years ago.

 I definitely know who I’m going to talk to when it’s time to pick up a new shred stick.

Alex – The 3 Year Old Heart Throb

Mary from LWDA pulled me aside today and asked if I would shoot her son Alex, for a small casting company that scouts for toddlers. When the scout had asked her for head shots of Alex, she had no idea what they were and showed up with some snapshots from her cell phone. That’s when she asked me what I thought. I had never shot toddlers head shot before, so I googled it and got some ideas. Here’s what came up.

I’ve never spoken to a casting agent for toddlers before, so I have no idea what they’re looking for in a 3 year old. I had guessed that all 3 year olds are assumed to be cute, so I didn’t want to take that route with Alex. Instead, I wanted to highlight some of the subtleties and complexities of his persona. That being of most 3 year olds, asking a million questions about everything and getting excited by the promise of ice cream.

My First Bat Mitzvah

One day out of the blue I get a call from Noa, who knows my brother.  She says her little sister is having a Bat Mitzvah and she wants me to photograph it.  Me? What do I know about Jewish culture?  Well turns out I was right, I didn’t know anything about Jewish culture but I sure learned a lot that day.  The hard part about this particular day was the fact that I wasn’t allowed to use flash during the service and the room was horribly underlit.  I’m talking 1/100th, wide open at 2.8 and still pushing 2000 ISO.  Talk about crunchy image noise!

Thankfully, my fully functional trial of Lightroom 4 was able to salvage all the wreckage and pull the noise right out without softening them too much.  After the ceremony was over we all headed over to The Grand Long Beach which was right across the street to eat lunch and have some fun.  The DJ’s were amazing and the MC went above and beyond my expectations in helping me get a good group shot and nailing the chair hoist.  The DJ’s had brought boas for all the girls to wear and doing what cheap party toys do, they began to fall apart and make a huge mess all over the floor. We ended the day with some more formal photos on front of some foliage.  Good shoot, Good day!

Lakewood Dental Arts Orthodontic Group @San Martin Park

I’ve been working with Cathy and Dr. Goodis over at Lakewood Dental Arts for about 6 months now and we’ve developed quite the healthy business relationship.  They give me work and I shoot it. Most of the times they have a really good idea that they want me to manifest but sometimes they want me to synthesize their ideas for them.  Originally I wanted to shoot  two groups pulling on a giant rope á la tug of war but securing a cool looking rope became an issue. We decided to go into the shoot with a clear mind and few different ideas.

So the original shoot got cancelled due to the rain and we rescheduled for the next week (see how easy it is to work with me).  The whole group showed up and we went to work.  Luckily, they all got the memo to wear long sleeves and try their best to match each other.  It goes without saying that the group over at LWDA Orthodontics is the best bunch of women +1 guy that I’ve ever worked with.  Cathy and Dr. G were incredibly happy with their photos and have made a really cool slideshow to promote their practice.

A Case Study in Portrait Lighting

I find myself shooting myself often because there’s never anyone around when I want to play with my lights.  I tried to keep it simple and let the lighting dicate the mood rather than my sneer or smug stare.  Most are done with three lights and a few with two and they are all subject centric with absolute light falloff in the background.

Just think how you could use these setups in an environmental shoot blending these looks with a complimenting background.

I was watching Breaking Bad the other day and often times I find myself admiring the work of the DP more than following the story.  There was one scene with Gus where he was sitting in a room and there was a perfect hard-lit Rembrandt pattern on his face.  The only difference was that the camera was on the shadow side of the light and the triangle became the focal point with a nice rim down the profile.

Here I did exactly that.  Just one gridded light from the back as if you were doing a normal rim light setup but instead turn the subject profile to the camera with the light hitting the subject from a 45 degree angle.

This next one isn’t a great lighting setup for a portrait because there’s nothing personal about it.  However, It would work for a commercial shoot for a sinister faceless person, like a symbol of corporate greed.

In this one, we’ve got two rim lights slightly assymetrical and that’s it.  There was a small reflector for some fill on the face but I prefer the faceless look for this lighting setup.

This next one is basically two symmetrical gridded rim lights with one being a little more in the frame hence the flare.  I stuck a piece of white foam core on the tripod right under the camera for a little fill.  (Not enough if you ask me).  I would agree that it’s very similar to the last one but with the subject completely facing the camera giving a more uniform feeling to the lighting setup.

This one was something that I always wanted to try.  Ever since I bought the largeRogue FlashBender I wanted to mess around with it and try to get some different looks out of it by bending it around.  This one was one of the more seemingly dumb variations but ended being my favorite.  Try to guess what I did…

Ok, so this setup is one gridded light on the backside for the rim on the left and the main light is the FlashBender rolled up into a snoot and then crunched into a kind of triangle shape aimed directly at my face.  It gave it a really harsh and edgy look with tons of direction.  You can clearly see the difference the quality of light made just under my eye on the shadow side where the skin creased.  I might just pull this one out when I shoot some painted faces or someone with really trippy eyes.

This last one is another lighting setup that I’ve often dreamt of doing but I’ve never gotten around to actually setting it up.  It’s not very original.  Two gridded strobes for a rim lights on both sides and a ringflash for fill.  I decided to put on the coolest and hardest to stylishly pull off hat in my closet for this one.  I tried my hardest to channel my inner Andre 3000.  My only regret is that I turned my head a little too much and my nose caught some of the rim light causing a nasty highlight on it.  Boo hoo!

I really do like the idea of using a ring light to fill in the shadow areas.  It really has a distinctive look to it and one could argue that the look is very professional and crisp.

No diagram for this one.  It’s the same as the two above but with a ring light instead of a fill card.

Thanks for reading this all the way through.  I hope that you can learn something from this post, maybe what not to do in certain cases.

Photography is all about taking lemons (lack of gear, knowledge, beautiful models) and making lemonade (great photographs) with what you do have.  So, go out and shoot, try something new and explore different lighting set ups.  You’d be surprised what you can do with just the basics.

Congrats Gina!

It’s always bittersweet for someone to graduate college.  It’s opening a new door and watching the one behind you slowly close, trapping alcohol-fueled parties, all night study sessions and most of your influential and life shaping experiences in the memory banks.  This is not really the case with Gina.  She’s actually in a accelerated Graduate Program that made her get another degree, a BSN and once she passes the boards, she’ll be studying for her Masters. (Gina’s really smart!)

Gina’s mom is my number one fan, so it made sense for me to photograph Gina for her graduation portrait.  We decided that since she spent so much time at CSULB, it only made sense to photograph her there.

Special thanks to Dianna and Nadia for assisting me.  I really don’t know what I would have done without you girls.