Rick Sammon Keeps it Simple

Rick Sammon is a shooter we’ve admired for a long time. Last week he posted a great how-to article on his blog. Fashion Week Day 2: Try the KIS Lighting Technique has some serious gems regarding off-camera flash. Sammon details how he augmented the sun with his Cannon Speedlight 580EX II triggered by a PocketWizard.

Sammon includes the following gems, which we quote directly.

  • The closer the light, the softer the light.
  • The larger the light, the softer the light.
  • For a softer light, don’t aim the light directly at the subject. Rather, feather it (tilt it away from the subject) so that the light “spills” onto the subject.

Great post, Rick!

Rick is currently working on an iOS app called Light It!, which is about, of course, lighting, and should be available in September. Always a source of great information, tips, and examples of great off-camera flash, don’t miss the regular posts to Sammon’s blog.

Rick Sammon Photography

Rick Sammon Blog

Jasmine Star’s Permission to be Fabulous

When Southern California native Jasmine Star married her high school sweetheart in Hawaii, she flew Santa Barbara-based photographer David Jay in to document her wedding. Not only was she starting a new life as a married woman, but this vendor in particular helped influence a change in her career choice. “Seeing what he did, and how passionate he was, and how he had created a living for himself was incredible,” she says. “By seeing him, that’s what actually turned me on to photography.”

f/1.8 1/5000 100 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Finding a wedding photographer who will not only document the most important day of your life, but inspire you to follow in his footsteps is something brides don’t set out to do consciously. Star did a Google search on “wedding photojournalism.” On page 67 of returned results, she found Jay, who was chosen above island-based photographers. “I just became smitten with who he was, not necessarily who he was as a photographer,” she says. Going with her instinct, she valued the relationship with the photographer as an individual above the samples of photographs he presented. “I felt like that experience has made or set the precedent for the type of experience I want to establish with my brides. I would prefer they would become interested in me as a person and then become interested in me as a photographer. I think that’s become a defining point in my business structure.”

f/2.0 1/1000 125 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Exclusively a wedding photographer, Star knows her clients are purchasing her services one time only, and much hinges on the relationship she builds with future brides. Being the same age and interested in many of the same things helps establish the bond she seeks with new potential clients. “The more we are alike, the more she’ll value her experience, and therefore her photos,” reasons Star. In October of 2006 she shot her first three weddings. In 2007 Star shot for 38 wedding clients based on word of mouth.

f/1.8 1/200 250 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

A strong believer in social media, Star has embraced an online persona which has at times threatened to be more visible than her in-demand photography. This started simply by her blogging about the journey she undertook to become a photographer, from learning how to use her new camera to her first solo shoot. “For some reason, people started reading,” she recalls. “Those people started referring their cousins or their friends. It became a source of business and a megaphone for who I was as a person, not as a photographer because back then, I really wasn’t a photographer. I was struggling to become one.”

f/1.2 1/1250 320 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

If Star has hitched her wagon to her brand, social media is the road the pair travels. “I put myself on the Web every single day,” she reveals. “I’m constantly updating my Web site. I blog every single day. I’m updating Twitter a few times a day. I have a Facebook fan page with over 1500 people, and I want to make sure conversations are going on there.” She also dropped her maiden name for her middle name to help her brand. “Jasmine Star is my first and middle name. I think it works very well for the business.”

f/2.0 1/800 250 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Star attended Whittier College and got a degree in Business Administration. Dating her future husband J.D. throughout her college years, they started the photography business together. As a gift, he would rent her time in darkroom when he could afford it. J.D. also bought her the first digital camera she owned in 2005. She now shoots entirely digitally. The two travel together and work weddings as a team. “He kind of stands in the background and puts on a 70 to 200mm lens, and he just shoots the day away,” she says. “I love his eye. It’s great. We balance each other.”

f/1.2 1/800 250 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Shooting a Canon EOS 5D Mark II as her main body and a series of prime lenses, including a 15mm f/1.2, an EF 24mm f/1.4L II USM, and an EF 85mm f/1.2 II USM. She claims being forced to physically move toward and away from her subjects creates a level of connectivity with her clients which has helped define her style.

f/1.2 1/1600 200 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Seeing herself as a photographer, and not a Photoshop artist, Star tries to achieve her goals in-camera before post-processing work begins. “Just because you can run an image through Lightroom, then process it through Photoshop, then add textures and add saturation, doesn’t mean you should,” she says. “I’m constantly looking for good light and constantly working on my exposures.” She tries to emulate film as much as possible while shooting.

f/1.2 1/800 100 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Always aware of light, Star works with what she’s provided during daytime weddings. “I try to look for what I refer to as natural reflectors: a natural reflector coming from any sort of wall or gravel on the floor—any time I can find a reflective element that has any type of warmth. I’ll prefer to use a not‑so‑great location with amazing reflective light, versus a great location with mediocre light. A brick wall or terracotta walls or that kind of orangey-type of gravel on the floor that can still reflect sunlight and pop light back into my subjects face, I will move my clients to that light to kind of get that feel.”

f/1.2 1/2000 200 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Despite calling herself “a natural light photographer,” Star is inevitably in situations where she needs to augment the sun. She mounts a Canon Speedlite 550EX on top of her camera, and uses a custom rig at the bottom of the camera for a PocketWizard Plus II. Star positions an off-camera flash to the side of the dance floor near the band or DJ. She’ll use this configuration, rarely moving the latter strobe throughout the night. “Because of our clientele and the price point we have, most of the time there’s uplighting in the room, and they have pin lighting and extensive setups,” she says, “so I don’t want to bring my flash all the way around the room. I just will keep the flash in one location.” Claiming most of her reception photos are shot on the dance floor, she simply works her way around the light source.

f/1.2 1/1600 100 ISO. ©Jasmine Star.

Shooting the way she does, Star’s workflow relies on off-camera flash mobility. “The PocketWizard provides the freedom for me to still stay true to my overall aesthetic without feeling shackled to the use of artificial light,” she explains. “I’ve had those little babies since the inception of my business. They’ve been with me since, gosh, 2007.”

Often asked about her custom hardware she uses for her PocketWizards, Star didn’t feel comfortable using Velcro, which was her first thought on how to jury rig what she envisioned. Walking into Samy’s Camera, she explained what she needed. It was built for her there, and she continues to use it faithfully. Asked exactly what kind of configuration they built her, she laughs. “I tell people I have no idea,” she says. “I just say, ‘the guys at Samy’s made it for me!'”

f/1.2 1/500 160 ISO. ©Jasmine Star

Star cites her ongoing connection with her clients as paramount to her success. “I wrote a post about the permission to be fabulous,” she says. “Sometimes girls don’t feel it’s okay to feel beautiful. Part of my job is to make them look beautiful, but in order for somebody to look beautiful, they have feel beautiful and fabulous. As a photographer, I wanted to make a point it’s so important to what we do to let people know, give them permission. As a female photographing another female, I want her to know that I’m not behind my camera judging her or thinking, ‘why is she doing that,’ or ‘what is she doing?’ I often tell my clients I want to create an arena where it is okay for you to feel beautiful and be fabulous. When they feel like that, all I have to do is simply capture them when they’re uninhibited. That is the mark of a true and beautiful picture.”

Jasmine Star Photography
Jasmine Star Blog
Jasmine Star on Twitter
Jasmine Star on Facebook

Written by Ron Egatz

PocketWizard TV

PW TV is a video support blog designed to help you get the most out of your PocketWizard radio triggers.  Since many don’t enjoy reading manuals to find that one bit of information, we’re creating short videos covering the basics and the advanced capabilities of gear.

PW TV is a series of simple in-house videos created to get you the answers you need quickly. The stars of PW TV are our own tech support staff; a group of dedicated individuals who are here to help you find the solutions to your technical challenges.

PW TV is interactive and we encourage your involvement. You can post comments or video suggestions on YouTube.  Vote up your favorite comments and when we see a popular comment or a commonly asked question, we’ll address it with another video.  We hope to have a new PW TV episode posted roughly every two weeks.

Make sure to subscribe to the channel to be notified when a new episode is posted or fan us on  facebook at facebook.com/pocketwizards.

PW TV is just one component of our support program to make sure you get the full potential out of your PocketWizard products. For more support information go to www.PocketWizard.com/support.

PW TV Episodes

PW TV: Intro

PW TV: Episode 1 – PocketWizard Radios

PW TV: Episode 2 – FlexTT5 + Sekonic Meter

PW TV: Episode 3 – Relay Mode

PW TV: Episode 4 – Relay Mode with FlexTT5 radios

PW TV: Episode 5 – Nikon Testing

More to come at: PW TV

Photographing Models, by Mary DuPrie

Every so often you come across a photography product worth getting excited about, and it has nothing to do with corporate hype or industry buzz. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview PocketWizard user Mary DuPrie, of Mary DuPrie Studios. DuPrie also runs the well-written blog Photographing Models. To date, she’s released three instructional DVDs. This article will deal with one, Photographing Models.

In Photographing Models, DuPrie deviates from the norm, and does so in a wildly successful way. Most instructional products aimed at photographers are about lighting and equipment. They usually miss the most critical thing, and that’s the positioning of models. You can have a gorgeous woman posing in front of your lens, with a team of talented makeup artists and wardrobe stylists at the ready, plus all the lighting and camera equipment in the world, but if your subject doesn’t know how to move, the quality of the photos will be predictably disappointing. Crack all the dumb blonde jokes you want about models, but successful ones who keep working know how to move and pose. Good shots are typically not random, happy accidents.

DuPrie stands alone with this DVD. Not only will photographers learn what poses to avoid, but models will be fascinated to see how critical hand placement is, for instance. She demonstrates how to minimize hands, keep them relaxed, and have them add to the mood of a photo, and not, for instance, compete with a face. How many models know hands are such a deal-changer? More importantly, how many photographers know this?

DuPrie uses a monitor on set to explain to the model what poses work and why. ©Mary DuPrie

Over the course of this DVD, DuPrie does everything to physically detail to Sally, a young hopeful model, the problems with almost every standard pose imaginable, including getting on the floor and demonstrating the right way,  versus the drawbacks of the way most models naturally position themselves. Viewers follow along, learning how a head-tilt can hide a bad neck angle, how much to move eyes to avoid too much white area, and how to keep the rear of an upper-arm from bulging out unattractively. This and other critical minutia are not thought of or addressed by many professionals until it becomes time to spend hours in Photoshop fixing them. For any photographer, time is money, and the $80 DuPrie is charging for Photographing Models will be recouped during their first post-viewing shoot. For models, watching this DVD and putting the lessons into practice will mean getting hired repeatedly.

©Mary DuPrie

The other major content area of this DVD is the sets. DuPrie goes into some detail regarding how she creates, stores, and operates a veritable library of backdrops. Unlike many photography studios, DuPrie’s backdrops are solid and freestanding, not hung cloth. Most of her backdrops are styrofoam, and can be positioned and repositioned as needed. For instance, in one segment, she builds a V out of them, positioning her model directly in them. She typically fastens these backdrops with pins and Velcro: easy and non-permanent ways to transform her studio into a wide variety of looks. DuPrie paints each styrofoam panel herself, although this title does not go into the execution of that. It’s a fascinating and atypical way of creating scenes. Although this is a small part of the DVD, it’s incredibly inspiring, and will prompt photographers to consider working with these materials as a viable alternative to the cliched spattered hanging tarps.

DuPrie and a portion of her vast library of rigid backdrops. ©Mary DuPrie

Filmed with three cameras, Photographing Models is a professional production. The audio quality is excellent, and the editing does the subject matter justice. Although geared toward photographers interested in getting the most from their time with hired models, models themselves will benefit from understanding which movements and poses are camera-friendly, and which are not.

Making no claims this instructional DVD contains lighting information or best camera practices, DuPrie has filled a void in recent photography instructional materials. This is, however, everyday knowledge all photographers will benefit from. Instead of shooting with machine gun rapidity and hoping for attractive accidental poses, many hours and dollars will be saved employing the knowledge offered here.

In the future, we will feature our profile of Mary DuPrie, her own photography and techniques, including her use of PocketWizard technology.

©Mary DuPrie

Title: Photographing Models
Running time: approximately 110 minutes
Price: $80
Product and ordering information found here.

Kevin Jairaj: Expanding the Photographer’s Role

Kevin Jairaj is a Dallas, Texas photographer who found his groove after a business management degree, some sports photography, and a career in corporate America. Shooting fashion after his day job hours, he shot a wedding as a favor to a friend. He had a great time, loved the diversity, and got referrals from that first wedding alone. Shortly thereafter in 2003, he began shooting weddings full-time.

©Kevin Jairaj

Jairaj’s wedding work has awarded him with rave reviews and is in demand in the Dallas-area and at destination weddings from Trinidad to London. With the results speaking for themselves, Jairaj has gathered many photography fans after they’ve seen his frequently-uupdated blog and Web site. Almost as impressive as his photos, Jairaj has put that business management degree to work and created multiple revenue streams from his photographic knowledge and experience.

©Kevin Jairaj

For years he was besieged with questions on how he got his images looking as they did. Finally, he made his own Photoshop Actions available to the public, bringing his visibility to a whole new audience. “I have my own formulas for my black and whites, my sepias, my split-tones, and lots of other things,” he says. “People all over the world have been buying it the past few years. The response amazes me.” We’ve had a chance to work with Jairaj’s action set, and we’ve found you can achieve a wonderful film-like warmth to images, among other effects.

©Kevin Jairaj

The success of this project ultimately encouraged him to create and market the Dramatic Lighting DVD, which follows him on location shoots with a bride and a high school senior, detailing all aspects of his techniques. Rounding out his post-processing offerings is Unique Textures, a collection of images easily integrated into photos or used as multimedia backdrops.

©Kevin Jairaj

Lastly, a unique offering from Jairaj is an iPhone app called Wedding Vendor. This app has the potential for saving the sanity of wedding coordinators, florists, photographers, videographers, bands, hair stylists and makeup artists or any other vendor who works in the wedding trade. All details of any wedding can be logged and saved into this app, including photos of the bride and groom, locations, other vendor contact info, and more. It even has customizable fields for notes. Jairaj has been in the business long enough to know what data he needs to have handy. Now all he needs to do is glance at his iPhone to recall any past or pending job he’s shooting.

©Kevin Jairaj

Partnering with Alycia Alvarez, the two shooters have created Rings to Rattles, a series of seminars on teaching photographers how to cultivate relationships with clients from their wedding through the arrival of children and beyond. Both photographic techniques and business practices are covered.

It’s no surprise a photographer who has his own actions, DVD, and iPhone app is a gearhead. Jairaj is definitely knowledgeable about his equipment, and enjoys speaking about it. “If I’m shooting a bride on the beach during the day and I want to overpower the sun, I use Profoto AcuteB’s,” he says. “Indoors I’ll use PocketWizard MiniTT1’s and FlexTT5’s and Canon Speedlite 580EX II’s. The MiniTT1 is so small I use it to trigger all my other strobes as well as the Flexes. I do the 580’s on TTL-mode. You can be very mobile with this kind of lighting and not have to carry around much at all. You can be agile and very quick. Most of my shooting is on location, and this helps me move around and get the shots.” Jairaj’s main camera bodies are Canon 5D Mark II’s, which he loves for their low noise at high ISOs. His favorite lens is the first one he bought: a Canon 70-200mm.

©Kevin Jairaj

A fashion-lover at heart, Jairaj pays attention to fashion in his wedding photos, and it shows. “Someone once said to me I shoot brides like they’re fashion models,” he recalls. “Well, that’s exactly what they want to be on their special day. I don’t want them to be all prim and proper and posed, like some 1980’s shot. I want them to feel gorgeous and sexy and love their photos as if they were in a magazine.”

©Kevin Jairaj

Jairaj sees an engagement photo session as a critical part of the wedding photography business. “For me, engagement sessions are almost a necessary thing I try to make all my couples do. I like to see how they act in public, how they react to each other, if they’re comfortable with the camera, if they blink a hundred times—it’s a long list. If I see them blinking a lot, I know on the wedding day I have to take extra shots. It also helps me determine what kind of style they like after they see the photos. Do they like more sepia? More kissing? More romantic or the fun, silly shots? Sexy? This helps me figure out what to do on the wedding day. It’s all about getting to know them better.”

©Kevin Jairaj

Fashion is never far from his thoughts, and Jairaj still shoots fashion when given the opportunity. A long-time sports enthusiast, his dream is to shoot for a professional football team. Knowing the drive and inventive nature of this shooter, we’re betting it’ll happen sooner, rather than later.

Kevin Jairaj’s Web site

Kevin Jairaj’s Blog

Kevin Jairaj on Twitter

Kevin Jairaj on Facebook

Kevin Jairaj’s and Alycia Alvarez’s Seminar

Fashion gown shoot video for Brides of North Texas Magazine

Kevin Jairaj’s “Wedding Vendor” iPhone App

Trailer for Dramatic Lighting DVD, showcasing the Profoto AcuteB setup

Kevin Jairaj’s Outdoor Action Set for Photoshop

Airtime with Steve Lloyd

As a native of Utah, Steven Lloyd is no stranger to winter sports. As an art major in college, Lloyd took a photography course in order to help him capture images he wanted to paint. “I fell in love with photography, and thought it was a lot more fun than sitting in a room all day painting,” he says.

©Steve Lloyd

Always an outdoorsman, Lloyd has been shooting professionally for eight years. “I grew up skiing, and always try to shoot far away from the resorts,” he explains. His photography now includes his latest passion, mountain biking, which he’s been involved with the past four years. He enjoys shooting biking at least as much as photographing skiing. This works out well, as they both have their seasons are opposite each other. Also on his list of sports covered is climbing and backpacking. “I enjoy shooting anything outdoors, basically,” Lloyd says, “but my main focus is biking and skiing.”

©Steve Lloyd

With year-round subject matter to shoot, Lloyd can usually be found shooting on location. Some of his shots set him apart with the photographer’s equivalent of New Journalism: interjecting himself into his photographs. His portfolio include photos taken over and including a mountain bike’s handlebars. Others seem as if he is skiing with the subject he is shooting. “Growing up in the outdoors,” he says, “I’ve always tried to come up with different ways to shoot, like doing point-of-view shots or including myself in the photo. A lot of times photographers don’t get credit for being athletes themselves. When you’re out skiing and shooting with skiers, you’re on the slope with them. The danger factor is the same. It’s even harder because you’re carrying all your camera gear.”

©Steve Lloyd

There’s a reason why Lloyd has a high ratio of dramatic shots with stunning backgrounds. “I like to find cool-looking features in nature, whether it’s a rock, arch, trees or a good view. I look for those things first, and then think how I can put an athlete or skier in the scene; how I can put a biker on a trail where it would look cool with the mountains and clouds. The landscape complements the athlete and the athlete can enhance the photo by putting action into it.”

©Steve Lloyd

“The last few years I’ve been working a lot with flashes in nature,” Lloyd says. “I love to hike and get away from people. Using speedlights on a very cool natural feature to bring color and light to it with these tools is very exciting. Now that I have PocketWizards to use with my flashes, doors have opened up for me. I can get very creative and make colors how I see them. Artistically, I can now do more of what I’ve always wanted to do. I’m pretty stoked on the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5. There’s no more wires, which were fickle in extreme temperatures. It’s a pleasure to hook up this system and use it.” Before using his current PocketWizard system, Lloyd employed Plus II’s.

©Steve Lloyd

Although he has plans to purchase a Profoto system later this winter, Lloyd travels small and light with speedlights. His current rig is two Canon 550EXs, one 580EX and two Vivitar 285s. His body is a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. “A lot of the locations I shoot at make it impossible to get large packs there,” he explains. “We often hike two or three hours through the snow up in the mountains. You can’t take a snowmobile or other vehicle there, so it’s all carted by hand. With the smaller systems it’s nice because you can put it in a backpack. If you have an athlete or two going with you, you can divide up the gear and everyone can handle it without stressing too much. You’d be surprised what you can do with those mini-systems.”

©Steve Lloyd

Setting up many of Lloyd’s well-composed shots isn’t easy, although the action looks spontaneous. “On the flash-lit set-ups, my prep and shoot time is four to five hours, minimum. To get things set-up, test the lights, get the athletes on the same page and get my exposures dialed-in, it’s a lot of work. The recycle times on the smaller rigs isn’t as fast as the big gear, so I have one chance to get the shot of the athlete in action. You have to be patient when the biker or skier goes off the cliff. You can’t preshoot the photo because they won’t be in the right position. You also can’t wait too long. Sometimes we’re only allowed two or three times before the athlete’s done or the snow is bad. It’s difficult, but doable.”

©Steve Lloyd

Another factor weighing on the production of Lloyd’s dramatic night shots is safety. “A guy jumping off a forty-foot cliff at night is a lot more difficult and dangerous than someone doing it in the daytime,” he says. “Skiers can’t really see their landing area well at night, and they have to guess when to absorb the impact.”

©Steve Lloyd

Lloyd is bullish on technology available to himself and other shooters. “Digital photography has opened unlimited doors to creating whatever you want,” he says. “That’s especially true of products like PocketWizards. You put these products together and I don’t think there’s any limit to what you can create as far as colors, images, scenes, or whatever you want. It just takes a little time. You get instant feedback, as opposed to the film days. You can get your timing down and know exactly when to hit the shutter as they’re flying through the air. It’s all possible because of the technology we have now.”

Steve Lloyd Photo

Steve Lloyd Blog

Steve Lloyd on Facebook

Steve Lloyd on Twitter

Ari Simphoukham and the Power of a Photo

The old cliche dictates pictures are worth 1000 words. I disagree. Pictures are worth millions of words, and millions more to each different person viewing the same photograph. Legions of stories exist as testament to the power of photographs and our desire to protect them. Otto Bettmann, fleeing Nazi Germany with two steamer trunks loaded with 25,000 photos — the foundation of the Bettmann Archive — and no clothing, is just one example.

The technology of photography allows us to visually document our very existence for both ourselves and future generations. Previously, only paintings could do this, and their accuracy is always subject to question. The data and testament of a snapshot from any given year is invaluable to people interested in the subject matter of any photograph. A picture can say, “this was me when I was your age,” or “here’s our first home,” or “this was your great-grandmother.” Photographs are nothing less than a bet-the-farm hedge against our inevitable deaths. When times are more uncertain than usual, photographs can document “we made it at least this far. Remember us, this period, and what we went through.”

It is one of these photographs which changed a young man’s life. As America’s war in Vietnam spilled into neighboring Laos, chaos followed. Some estimates cite over one million Laotians fled their country as a direct result of that war. Simphoukham’s parents were among them, eventually winding up in a refugee camp in the Philippines after their son was born in a similar camp in Thailand. His parents knew the value of documenting their odyssey to a new homeland for their son and future generations. They saved and traded on the black market for one family photo to be taken. The image survived the family’s landing in San Francisco and has become a vibrant signpost of their old lives and struggle for success until becoming American citizens. One photograph changed their son’s future.

©Ari Simphoukham Collection. Ari Simphoukham at age two with his parents in a refugee camp in the Philippines, 1987.

The 1987 photo not only sparked Simphoukham’s desire to photograph, but helped him become the man he is today. “In the refugee camp, my parents put together enough money to have that snapshot of us taken,” he says. “Every time I look at that photo it does so much for me. This is who I am, these are my roots. It keeps me grounded as a person. There’s a lot of history and a lot of emotion in that photo. It’s one of the reasons I’m a photographer.”

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 50mm, f/2.5, shutter speed 1/500, ISO 160.

“I started off as an events and senior portraits photographer,” says Ari Simphoukham. While in a fraternity at UC Davis as an International Relations major, Simphoukham was shooting a Nikon D50 all around campus. Soon he was asked to shoot an event by someone who noticed his photography. This led to other organizations asking him to work for them. “Eventually I was approached to shoot senior portaits. I got better and better, and improved my photography while getting paid. It was amazing.”

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 18mm(14-24), f/8, shutter speed 1/250, ISO 400.

A cousin’s friend needed a wedding photographer, and Simphoukham was recruited. “I did it and couldn’t believe how fun it was,” he says. “After that, I concentrated on weddings. I tried to meet other wedding photographers to learn techniques and the business end of it. I improved along the way.” He had found his calling and his paycheck, and eventually left school to pursue his career. “I know this is what I want to do,” he states.

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 10.5mm, f/14, shutter speed 1/60, ISO 400.

Simphoukham took the bold move of dedicating an entire year to learning his craft. “One of the reasons I love doing this is because wedding photographers are awesome,” he declares. “They’re so helpful and so easy to talk to. They’re very helpful, and that kindness made me want to be a wedding photographer even more.” Simphoukham assisted several Bay Area wedding shooters to further hone his skills. Although he still shoots senior portraits, wedding work is where his passion lies. “Weddings are more work, but I feel they appreciate my art more,” he adds.

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 14mm, f/6.3, shutter speed 1/500, ISO 400.

Currently located in Los Angeles, Simphoukham is shooting weddings and expanding his network of wedding photographers. Eventually he sees himself setting up his studio in the Bay Area. These days Simphoukham is shooting two Nikon D3 bodies, one D300 for backup, “and a lot of lenses,” he says. Originally a film photographer, his workflow is now all-digital. He uses PocketWizard Plus II’s to fire his strobes. “Being a wedding photographer is hard because the lighting changes constantly. You have to be on your toes and aware of the light always. The PocketWizards help me control the light because if it gets too dark, I just dial in what I need from the strobes and it’s okay. I can get a very natural look, as opposed to a deer-in-the-headlights direct flash.”

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 85mm, f/3.2, shutter speed 160, ISO 800.

Regarding post-processing work, Simphoukham says, “I find the best photos are not the ones I do heavy work on. The best photos are the ones that are that way straight out of the camera. I think I heard this quote from someone: you can make a good picture better, but you can’t make a bad picture good.” He uses Lightroom and Photoshop for minimal post work.

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 14mm, f/13, shutter speed 1/100, ISO 400.

“When I first started learning about off-camera flash, PocketWizard was the name in radio remote flash. All the good photographers were using it back then. I’m going to upgrade in the future. It just works. I’ve never had a problem with them. The Plus II is simple and it works. It goes through walls. What more could you want?” he laughs.

©Ari Simphoukham. Focal length 85mm, f/9, shutter speed 1/60, ISO 100.

Simphoukham is just as passionate about his client photos. “I try to tell a story with my photography. I think nowadays everyone has a camera, but not everyone has the ability to portray a story with a camera. I develop a story behind the photos everyone can read,” he says. “I’ve been very fortunate to have great clients. When they appreciate my work, I feel great.” How great you feel the day you get married is one of the things you never want to forget. Who better to document that day? Connecting emotionally to photographs is something Ari Simphoukham knows quite a bit about.

Ari Simphoukham Photography

Ari Simphoukham Wedding Photography

Ari Simphoukham’s Blog

Ari Simphoukham on Twitter

Ari Simphoukham on Facebook

Ari Simphoukham on MySpace

Introducing Ron Egatz: Profile of the Profiler

We’d love to introduce you to someone you already know, but only by his words.

Ron Egatz writes for three of MAC Group‘s blogs. He brings a multi-discipline enthusiasm to his pieces, and enjoys putting his profiles of photographers in historical or cultural perspective. Some of his favorite pieces he’s written for the PocketWizard blog include profiles of Marc Quigley, Jason Reed and Kevin Bauman. Egatz runs Camber Press and has a book of his own work forthcoming from Red Hen Press this spring.

Egatz smiles while directing a MAC Group commercial. ©Abdulai Sesay, http://www.absesay.com/

“I like talking to creative people,” says Egatz, who was first smitten with photography when, at six years old, he used a Kodak Pocket Instamatic to photograph President Gerald Ford. His next camera was a Minolta XG-M, which made him consider a career as a pro shooter. Ultimately, music and literature won out. “Taking photos has always meant a lot to me. I shoot Nikon now, and I love talking to folks who create the photos I’ve been lusting after for so many years.”

When not speaking to photographers for MAC Group’s blogs, he continues his obsession with all things PRS, runs Camber Press, and works on his exhaustive documentation of the sewers of his favorite city, Paris. He lives in a Hudson River loft. His biggest regret is he’s not old enough to have interviewed André Kertész.

PocketWizard Announces 30-Day Satisfaction Guarantee for MiniTT1 and FlexTT5

Elmsford NY –January 26, 2010 – In a bold move certifying the performance and reliability of the new MiniTT1 and FlexTT5, PocketWizard® is offering an unprecedented 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee. Photographers can purchase the system, try it out for 30-days and if not completely satisfied, simply return it to their dealer for a full refund — no questions asked.

“We’re excited to offer professional photographers the unique opportunity to try the groundbreaking Mini and Flex system absolutely risk-free” noted Jan Lederman, President of MAC Group, PocketWizard’s U.S. distributor. “Our new 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee offer sends the message loud and clear that we’re committed to our customers, and serious about professional grade performance.”

To ensure the same level of unsurpassed performance to all existing Mini and Flex owners, PocketWizard is offering a free system check, with 24-hour in-house turnaround. Included is a free Version 5.0 upgrade to bring them up to the latest standards.

“Version 5.0 is a very recent development that adds additional features for both new purchasers and current owners”, says Tim Neiley, President of PocketWizard. “A big advantage of the PocketWizard system is the ability for photographers to upgrade all of their Mini and Flex units to the latest operating system by simply downloading the latest firmware from the PocketWizard site.”

Lederman continued, “We are including a performance enhancing accessory, the AC5 RF Soft Shield with units we are currently shipping. The AC5 is a two-piece shield that isolates the RF noise produced by some Canon flash units to provide precise autoflash at great distances. We are also making it available at no charge to current owners. And now, with our 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee, there are more reasons than ever for photographers to step-up to PocketWizard.”

Lederman added, “The Mini and Flex are exciting products. They’re easy to use right out of the box and offer many advanced features that improve the overall Canon flash system performance.”

30-day Satisfaction Guarantee offer applies to purchases made within the USA, and runs from February 1st to April 30th, 2010. For details, go to PocketWizard.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION

For more information on this exciting new story and complete product details, please visit PocketWizard.com. PocketWizard, the leader in wireless control and synchronization of cameras, flash lighting and light meters, is made by LPA Design, based in South Burlington, Vermont and sold by MAC Group in the USA and authorized distributors around the world.

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Paul H. Phillips on Endurance and Planning

Triathlons are multi-sport endurance events, and the photographers who cover them are not unlike the athletes who participate in them. Paul H. Phillips and his team of photographers at Competitive Image in Minneapolis have identified their métier, and it’s in their blood. Competitive Image consists of photographers who also happen to be runners, skiers, cyclists, swimmers, and martial artists. These common athletic interests enable them to cover sporting events in ways most photographers can’t or don’t imagine.

©Competitive Image

Bob Kupbens teamed up with Phillips to conceive and create Competitive Image’s iconic shot of the start of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon earlier this year. The shot was also featured in Runner’s World magazine. It’s a classic example of the company’s premise of making great shots, as opposed to taking them.

©Competitive Image

This approach is paying off. By staking out race courses and planning out positions of remote cameras, the teams’ results are getting them recognition. Their soccer book, Portrait of Passion, has been nominated for the 2009 Billie Award for Journalism for the Outstanding Portrayal of Women in Sport. They have also had an image published on one of the ultimate sports marketing icons: a box of Wheaties.

Triathlons are essentially a long swim race followed by a long bicycle race followed by a long foot race. Photographers covering them need to work at least as long as the shortest time it takes the winner to complete the course. That doesn’t include setup and breakdown times. Endurance is the strategy on both sides of the cameras.

The PocketWizard MultiMAX has proved critical to many of Competitive Image’s shots, including some of their decisive images of winners crossing triathlon finish lines.

©Competitive Image

“We can now do some very exciting things with very high shutter speed,” says Phillips. “This is because of PocketWizard. We’re slowly making the shift from the MultiMAX to the FlexTT5 and the MiniTT1. I particularly like the Mini because it is what it is: it’s tiny! We’re combining all of these models on a shoot for the cover of Triathlete magazine. We’re going to use studio strobes, but we need a few highlights on the athlete’s bike, so we’ll use a few remotely-fired 580s, too.”

Competitive Image recently shot a series of swimmers in a pool using the FlexTT5 and the MiniTT1. “One Mini and three Flexes were used with five MultiMAX units. I only see our work with PocketWizards increasing.”

©Competitive Image

“The PocketWizards help us make the shot. We ask, ‘what shot would be really cool?’ Well, let’s build something and hang it from the starting line truss!” As the lead photographers for the Twin Cities Marathon, one of the top marathons in the country, Phillips and his team enjoys a large degree of latitude in creative license and permissions to set them up and get them. Named as one of the International Triathlon Union Photographers for 2010, Phillips is earning the reputation of the guy who can get the shots others don’t.

For the first leg of triathlons with athletes diving into the water, Phillips sometimes finds himself shooting half-submerged from the waterline with two assistants behind him holding strobes on monopods. He also has been known to sit backwards all day on a motorcycle, shooting athletes as they bike and run for the finish line.

©Competitive Image

“I only see our use of PocketWizards expanding,” says Phillips. “We’re only limited by our own creativity. We’re already designing our next big cover shot for a race that will be the first week in May of 2010.” Phillips will be detailing his preproduction work in an eight-page report, covering everything from how he’ll mount remote units on streetlights to dealing with crowds during a race which will be won in approximately four minutes. “At a four-minute mile, you’re talking about a runner moving 22-feet per second. Trying to light that and get a clean shot is challenging.” With that kind of action, the team will have several photographers firing a multitude of PocketWizards on different channels.

©Competitive Image

The Competitive Image team shoot a full range of lenses for both Canon and Nikon digital bodies. Two of the team are MIT grads, “so if we need something built, it’s no problem,” Phillips laughs.

The well-written Competitive Image blog not only details some solid tips for sports photography enthusiasts, but documents some of the detailed thought process Paul—a former racer himself—and his team do in the preproduction stage before an athletic event. Photography fans and athletes alike have reason to follow Paul Phillips and his team—until they have to start planning for their next race, that is.

Competitive Image

Water shoot

Video of water shoot

Blog entry on water shoot

Portrait of Passion