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impressions of life: a diana camera story

Friday, June 11, 2010 | |

I posted before about the toy camera work shop I attended back in March with Laura Burlton and Warren Harold.

I used my Diana and a 35mm back. If you've never shot with a toy camera, it's really fun! With a 120 film, you can pretty much guesstimate the field of view you see through your viewfinder versus the field of view you actually capture. But with a 35mm back, it is SO hard to figure out which part of the image will actually be exposed onto the negative. It's like shooting blind! (...Which is fun for me...) Hip shooting, the art of taking photos without putting your eyes to the viewfinder, used to be my thing. While it was fun not knowing what your shots looked like in the end, it's now just something I do occasionally. And with a 35mm film, so it doesn't hurt the pocket as much as rolls of 120s.


houston portrait photographer

houston portrait photographer

houston portrait photographer

houston portrait photographer

houston portrait photographer

how to prepare for a boudoir session

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | |

Boudoir photography can be so empowering, but the days before your session can be filled with anxiety if you, like so many of us, are not familiar with this type of shoot. But please don't fret - here's a list of tips to help you prepare for your fabulous day!

Tips for your Boudoir session:

• Please bring a valid photo ID since age verification is required.
• Be careful trying a new skin product, facial peel or getting a tan days before your shoot. Take proper care of your skin so that you don't have tan lines or new imperfections from chemical peeling. Moisturizing during the week will also help make your skin look soft and healthy.
• Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Aside from moisturizing, you should drink lots of water during the days leading up to your shoot. Water helps your complexion glow!
• Ensure you have a good night's rest. When you're tired, it shows. Don't fret about your shoot; you're in good hands. Instead, try to relax the night before and have a good night's sleep.
• Wear loose and unrestrictive clothing to your shoot. You want to avoid leaving marks on your skin.
• Don't be late for your session. Again, you don't want to arrive stressed out, so make sure you leave plenty of time for traffic, specially if you are getting your hair and make-up done.
• Hair and Make-up: boudoir usually looks best with dramatic eyes. False eyelashes are recommended to help achieve this look. Good, streak free foundation on your face will go a long way to ensure your skin looks great in the photos, while a bit of volume in your hair will also help to emphasize that "undone" look. We recommend that you get your hair and make-up done before you come to your session if you opt for a studio shoot, so you don't get anxious as you wait for the make-up artist or stylist to be finished. But please do bring some make-up for light touch-ups during your session.

Remember: the appearance of your skin is very important, so being stubble-free and wearing clear deodorant should be part of your skin-care regime.

If you like, you can check out photos and poses that appeal to you. Try them out in front of the mirror, specially facial expressions. This way you have an idea of what to expect during your session.


Postscript: Thank you to Ed Verosky's ebook, "10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography Now," for providing us the foundation for these helpful tips!

Syl Arena's Speedliting Workshop (Houston) Review

Monday, June 7, 2010 | |

These days it seems like every photographer is offering a workshop. If it's not about SEO, it's about sales or marketing, or tips on how to be a "better" photographer. It's becoming a learning jungle out there, and finding one that will prove satisfying for your money can become quite expensive.

I found Syl Arena's name from a photographer's glowing review of the Paso Robles workshop he taught with Joe McNally. As a Canon shooter, one of the main problems we face is decoding our SPEEDLITES. It's great that you know what exposure means and that you have befriended natural light. But making your own light can be problematic if you can't figure out what the little gewgaws on your 430EX or 580EX do (or whatever speedlite you currently own).

My 580EX was my greatest "frienemy." I love using flash in my Westcott 28" umbrella soft box. However, there are times when it seems like it has its own mind and I'm stumped at the strange way it seems to be acting. When I learned that Syl was going to be touring the country and giving seminars - and that he was going to be in Houston - I jumped at the opportunity.

(Caveat: the following is my attempt to show you the gist of the day. In no way am I giving an actual time-line of events in the sequence each occurred. My story-telling generally tend to go to and fro, whichever event comes to my mind first.)

It was held at the Holiday Inn near the IAH on Saturday, June 5th. (If you missed it, don't worry, there will be one in Austin this fall!) Unlike the crazy herd present at Joe McNally's workshop here late last year, Syl's seminar was less crowded and more intimate. In fact, there was probably less than 20 people who attended, which was terribly surprising but not unwelcome. As someone coming from NYC public schools (and who witnessed the masses at the McNally workshop), I am thankful for classes with a small teacher to student ratio. In fact, I walked away from that day feeling like all my questions had been answered, and that Syl was able to give each of us individual attention whenever we asked a question.

After introducing ourselves, Syl immediately launched into the anatomy of a speedlite: what the icons meant, what they did and how the zoom button also gave you more options than just zoom. There were times when he showed us photo examples, specially during the discussion on High Speed Sync.


syl arena, speedliting seminar, houston
Here, Syl shows us the effect of differing Exposure Values (EV) on an image using his "high tech pointing device."


A lot of basic knowledge was covered for the new or amateur photographer in the beginning of the class as well, like the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and how introducing a light source affected exposure; as well as Flash Exposure Compensation and how it worked independently of Canon camera's Exposure Compensation.


syl arena, speedliting seminar, houston
Volunteers (and other persons gently and teasingly volun-told) helped show dynamics of speedliting ratios using different light diffusers.


Lunch time had come all too quickly, and we had opted to go as a group to the diner connected to the Holiday Inn. Even there, Syl was tirelessly imparting knowledge as he answered questions and talked about his experiences, leaving him barely enough time for his own Patty Melt.


syl arena, speedliting seminar, houston
Back at the seminar room, Syl shows us lighting effects when using this extra small "soft box," one of the diffusers used for Off Camera Lighting techniques.


I can't encompass everything we learned in a single post, and frankly, I won't :) There are still seminars by Syl Arena that you can attend. For a list of dates and events, visit Speedliting Events.

I am so impressed by his breadth of knowledge and engaging way of teaching that I am urging you - if you are a Canon shooter and want to spend your money on a "workshop," spend it on something from which you will definitely learn and get your money's worth. And did I mention that you also get Syl Arena's "Speedliter's Intensive Workbook?" This ~70 page workbook is a sneak peak of his book, which will come out sometime in the future.

But just to give you an idea, here's a list of topics covered straight from SPEEDLIGHTING.COM:

Topics of the Seminar
Speedliter’s Vision
* Learning to truly see
* Understanding how your camera sees differently than you do
* Seeing light’s many personalities
* De-coding the color of light
* Deciding whether the light you see is the light you want

Speedlite Controls

* Deciding between manual and E-TTL flash control
* Putting Flash Exposure Compensation to use
* Learning all the Syncs: High-speed, 1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain, Slow-speed
* Custom functions: Optimizing your Speedlites

Light Modifiers
* Using your Speedlite’s bounce and zoom as a light modifier
* On-flash modifiers: grids, snoots, diffusers, ringlights, etc.
* Off-flash modifiers: umbrellas, softboxes, diffusion panels, reflectors, beauty dish, etc.

Off-Camera: Wired & Wireless
* The best uses for on- and off-camera Speedlites
* Corded solutions for moving your Speedlite off-camera
* Sorting out radio triggers: dumb vs. intelligent
* Setting up the 580EX/EXII as a wireless Master
* Setting up the 580EX/EXII and 430EX/EXII as wireless Slaves
* Organizing multiple Speedlites with Groups and Channels

High-Speed Sync
* The mechanics of High-Speed Sync
* Turning noon to night
* Freezing action while Speedliting

Gels: The When, Why, & How:
* Why Hollywood invented gels
* Gels for color correction
* Gels for creative effect

Speedliting Gear:
* Grip gear for Speedlites: from ultra-portable to ultra-sturdy
* Battery charging and storage
* One-, two-, three-Speedlite kits (and beyond!)

So, onwards, my fellow Canonites!

Meet Rachel Perry

Friday, June 4, 2010 | |

A few months ago, I met Rachel at a networking opportunity for Houston photographers. She's sassy and funny - needless to say, we got along swimmingly. So a couple of weeks ago, she and I decided to have fun and just shoot each other. It was a tad sweltering outside, but that didn't deter us from packing up our epiphanie and jill-e bags, and traipsing down Jackson Hill. One minute of stepping out into the heat and we were glistening beatifically. It was glorious.

I can't wait to see how the photos of me turned out (there was some kind of acrobatic leap in front of a garage, and enough "Bend and Snap" to make Legally Blonde proud). But here's our favorites of the photos I took of her.

Meet Rachel.

houston portrait photographer

houston portrait photographer

Rachel photographs weddings, portraits, seniors, and many other things. You can find out more about her and see her fabulous work at Rachel Perry Photography.

a touch of pink: some favorites

Monday, April 19, 2010 | |

Dear readers: I apologize for not being a more prolific blogger. Currently, I am getting ready to pack for my trip to NYC on Wednesday - about which I'm SUPER (feels-like-I've-had-too-much-caffeine) EXCITED - and had just enough time to process this set.

Not a lot of story telling here. I just wanted to post a few of my favorites from the weekend I second shot for David of D. Jones Photography, who's absolutely amazing in action. I remember the groom say to me, "I don't know what happened: it went so fast - it was awesome," when talking about David taking the formals before the ceremony while I was shooting some candids. So if you'd like to see more of the photos from this wedding, and David's photographs (with a couple of photos from yours truly), you can find them here on his blog post.







This photo of the bride's shoes on the left was sheer stroke of genius, in my totally unbiased opinion. Two days before the wedding, I told Adam that I needed a key chain. A very specific one: the kind that had a latch on one end. Little did I know I was going to use it as a shoe chain! You can't see it on the photo, but the shoes' heels are attached into the chain right next to my car keys. The latch I then hooked onto some kind of chicken coop wire thingy. Genius, I tell you.







This is the groom pinning the buttonniere on his dad's lapel. I really need to learn how to do that; it's a handy skill. Specially these days :)





That's all for now! Right now I've got NYC on my mind. It's been years, way too long since I've been back home.

Laura Burlton and Warren Harold's toy camera workshop

Sunday, March 21, 2010 | |

Sunday, March 21st, 2PM. We congregated at the Havens Center at West Alabama St, where Laura and Warren are hosting their toy camera exhibition. (You really ought to see that if you're ever in the neighborhood. These wonderful black and white photographs strike a cord inside you; nostalgic and mysterious.)

We began by identifying different toy cameras, looked at color and black and white prints from the dark room, and learned about how to use our very own camera. I opted for the workshop-only session, so I had to bring my own Diana; you could have paid a bit more and opted to have a Holga and 5 films given to you during the workshop. Anyway, I was the only uncool one without 120 film - my 35mm back made me feel conspicuous - though honestly, I doubt anybody else cared. But for me it felt like coming to class with a black pen while everyone had blue. Really, though, who cares, right?

I do get caught up on the silliest things sometimes.

So moving on. After about two hours, the gaggle of us girls (and Warren) walked out of the Center and trekked down Westheimer. I never realized how awesome just walking down Westheimer actually is. Lots of textures, antique shops, funky stores. I hip shot a lot (hip shooting is putting the camera at hip level - or somewhere not on your eye, really - and shooting on the sly) because I'm too timid to have to ask people for their photos. Plus you can get some pretty cool shots this way.

laura burlton, warren harold, toy camera workshop

laura burlton, warren harold, toy camera workshop

laura burlton, warren harold, toy camera workshop

Here Warren is showing us the camera he built out of his kid's diaper boxes. The CAMERA HE BUILT OUT OF DIAPER BOXES. I mean, come on! The coolness factor of this cannot be put into mere words!

laura burlton, warren harold, toy camera workshop

laura burlton, warren harold, toy camera workshop


I can't wait to finish the roll of film I used. The other thing I like about 120 film is you only get 12-16 frames. I have 36 shots to get through before I could get my 35mm film developed. I want my images now NOW NOW! But that's why I have a digital camera, right?

mission of love

Friday, March 19, 2010 | |

Kelly Niemann didn't prepare me for how crazy this gig was going to be. Crazy FUN, that is. When she asked me to be her second shooter, I thought about the 9 hours of driving from Houston to Mission, TX. I thought about Mexico being a few miles away. I thought about the Bebe outlet mall. "Excited" would have been an understatement. But all that paled beside the sheer awesomeness of the wedding day.

I met Amanda during her Bridal Session with Kelly late last year. I didn't think she could look more beautiful than during that shoot, but there's just that *something* about one's wedding that brings a radiance to one's face. You're probably thinking, um, dur, that something is LOVE. And I totally agree!

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

Their priest was teasing Troy so badly. It was terribly cute.

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding

These guys were party animals! I don't know if you can tell, but the reception was quite frenetic. I LOVED it! I kept thinking, now this is my kind of parrrrty!

mission texas wedding

mission texas wedding


Believe it or not, I processed all but the last two of these images within the week we got back to Houston from Mission. I just waited to post the photos. Hope you like em :)

PS. Yes, we dipped into Mexico. And all I brought back is a bottle of Coke.

About Me

My Photo
Houston, TX, United States
Fashion, editorial and fine art photographer based in Houston, TX. Sometime illustrator. Always a dreamer.