Category Archives: Shoots

The Last Roll of Film

Back in February of 2007, Humboldt County experienced a rare snowstorm that in some areas made it down to sea level. That day I had a meeting up in Crescent City and while driving up 101 through Arcata I noticed patches of snow right down to the beach.

I finished up my meeting and made it back to Ferndale around 6, and by then the sky had cleared. I thought it would be a great opportunity to take some shots at night up on Bear River Ridge.

Since at the time only digital camera I had was my Kodak SLR which produces very noisy images from long exposures, I decided to shoot a roll of 120 film I still had. It happened to be 400 asa Portra, a film usually used for portraits as it doesn’t produce the saturated colors that something like Velvia would. Still it’s what I had on hand so I loaded it into the Pentax 645.

Lori and I then began the drive on up to Bear River Ridge. I was planning on taking several pictures in different locations, and so I didn’t immediately head to my favorite spot up there, Kinman Pond. I probably should have.

I calculated (ok, guessed) that I would need a 15 minute exposure. With the clear sky I was hoping to get some star trails in the sky. I set up for the first shot, opened up the shutter, and then climbed back in the truck to get warm. About 8 minutes into the exposure, I was dismayed to see clouds rolling in. Then about 13 minutes into the exposure it started snowing again. Not wanting to be one of these people who get stuck in the snow out in the boonies, we decided it was best to cut it short and head back down.

For four years that roll of 120 has sat in my Pentax 645. Every once in awhile I would think about getting it out to finish the roll of film, only to find the batteries had died. So I would put it on my list to get new batteries and a few weeks later I would actually remember to put them in. Then I would wait for another opportunity, at which point I would pull it out, only to find the batteries had gone dead again.

Finally, last weekend, I got new batteries and immediately took it down to the Avenue of the Giants and finished the roll. Then yesterday, I drove up to Eureka to drop the film off, and today drove back up again to pick up the developed roll. No wonder I switched to digital early on. Who wants to spend 2 hours driving just to see your pictures?

I still need to scan the entire roll of 15 pictures, but here is the first image from the roll, taken on that snowy night on February 27, 2007.

Alaina – Humboldt County Senior Portrait

I recently took Alaina’s senior portraits who is attending St. Bernard’s in Eureka and currently rehearsing for her role in The Brides of Dracula, which opens this week at the Ferndale Rep.

Alaina Ross

Alaina wanted to be photographed in the Redwoods, so we traveled down to one of my favorite groves along the Avenue of the Giants. Alaina is a spirited gal, and had fun jumping and climbing over trees. With the dim light available under the forest canopy, shutter speeds couldn’t capture her playfulness, but it was fun watching her have so much fun. It’s what I try to do the most on senior portraits, or actually most portraits in general, let the subject be themselves at a location where they can just go have fun.

Alaina Ross

After her session in the redwoods we stopped for blackberry popsicles which are in season right now. Yum! Then we found the big walnut tree and let her loose. I barely had my camera bag off my shoulder before Alaina was up in the tree scampering from branch to branch. Part squirrel that girl is.

Alaina Ross

I had a great morning, thanks for keeping me entertained Alaina. I’m looking forward to seeing The Brides of Dracula this weekend.

Taking Professional Looking Self Portraits

With the rise of social networking, digital cameras and camera phones, there has also been a huge increase in the number of self portraits that people take. Unfortunately, photos from arms length are about the most unflattering way to take a self portrait because the wide angle lens needed for that close distance really distorts the facial features of the subject.

Lately I’ve been playing around in the studio doing some self portraits, mainly to have something fun to post on Facebook. I’ve done a hillbilly photo, several experiments using gels over the lights, and most recently, a pirate photo for Talk Like A Pirate day. Actually that one ended up not being a self portrait, because for the look I was trying to get, I was having trouble getting the right focus. So since a friend stopped by the studio I had him focus the camera and snap the pic.

But it got me to thinking there should be a way to carefully focus and frame the camera for self portraits. First let’s look at what doesn’t work.

1. Just use a small aperture and let the large depth of field (DOF) take care of it. Great unless you want to throw the background out of focus as I did in this shot.

2. Put the camera into auto focus mode. That works great if you’re there to put the focus point directly over the closest eye. But it’s very hard to do when you don’t know where that eye will end up in the frame. You might end up auto focusing on your nose, which is not a good thing when working with large apertures.

So after giving it some thought I looked around the studio to see what I could use as a placeholder for focusing purposes. My first attempt I used the head and torso of a mannequin. That didn’t work very well because she didn’t sit up properly.

Lighting setup

The solution that I found that worked was to use a microphone boom stand. I set it so the knurled knob was directly in front of my eyes. Then I went to the camera and focused on that.

Using boom

Next I set my cameras intervalometer so shoot 10 frames, just for good measure. With a ten second delay before the first exposure I had time to get back to the chair, get my pose adjusted just right and then swing the mike stand out of the way. For each of the pops, I moved my head forward just a fraction of an inch.

Test shot

Then it was just a simple matter of opening the series in Bridge and checking to see which one had the absolute best focus on the eyes.

Another advantage to using this method is that it gave me a better target to frame in the camera. Usually I’d give myself lots of extra padding around the frame, figuring I could just crop into the photo since they were only going up on the web. But by doing it this way I could crop it correctly in the camera just as I would for a client.

The lighting set up I used can be seen in the first photo. It consists of the following:

Main Light: Photogenic 1250 DR with a 24″x32″ LiteDome soft box
Fill Light: 40″x80″ silver reflector
Background Light: Photogenic Studio Max III 160 with a 7″ reflector
Hair Light: Photogenic 300 DR with a 7″ reflector and barn doors
Kicker Light: Photogenic 1250 DR with a gridded 15″x50″ HalfDome softbox

Here is the finished self portrait:

Walking the Neighborhood

Since recovering from our surgeries, Lori and I have been trying to go on more walks around Ferndale to get back our stamina. It’s been hard because the weather has been so cold and wet, but on the days that it hasn’t been pouring we’ve tried to get out for at least a short walk.

On these walks I never fail to realize just how lucky we are to live in this beautiful town. I also usually curse myself because I don’t bring a camera. I need to get back in the habit of always carrying a camera with me, even if it’s just my little point and shoot Pentax.

Today’s walk I grabbed the D80 on the way out the door and took a few pictures of two of my favorite local barns.

The first one is the Becker’s barn, which is still in use. It is very distinctive for it’s roof (which sorry to say, I don’t know the architectural term for this style of roof) and of course the barn red color makes it stand out from the green of the pasture and forested hills.

Becker's Barn

Becker's Barn

This second barn sits across the road from the Catholic cemetery. It’s using the latest technology, green roofing.


Man of La Mancha

After last Sunday’s performance I took the archive photos for the Ferndale Repertory Theatre’s production of Man of La Mancha. The set, designed by Daniel C. Nyiri, is one of the best that I’ve seen at the Rep, and makes great use of the limited space on their stage. The costumes, some of which were designed and constructed by my wife Lori, were also excellent. (Yep, totally unbiased review) You have one more weekend to catch this entertaining musical. The songs brought back a lot of memories of my dad singing them. Man of La Mancha was one of my parents favorite musicals, and I grew up listening to my dad dreaming the impossible dream. Photos from Man of La Mancha can be ordered from our web site. 20100418-Man of La M#90004 20100418-Man of La M#90005 20100418-Man of La M#90002 20100418-Man of La M#90006 20100418-Man of La M#90007 20100418-Man of La M#90008


Picture of the Month – March 2010

Becki’s maternity portraits were the last portraits I took before the surgery and first thing I did after getting back in the studio was to photograph her again, this time with her newborn son, Kaden. This portait session captured the many moods of a newborn, but this one came at the end after Kaden got tired of soiling every piece of clothing Becki brought and borrowed. Nobody said babies are neat, but they sure are cute.

Portrait of a mother and her newborn baby

Kaden and Becki

The last shoot I did before Lori and I left for our surgery was a maternity session with Becki. Now that I’m back to work, the first shoot I did was with her 5 week old baby, Kaden.

I love photographing babies because they are so expressive but you have to be quick. Talk about mood swings. You also have to be ready for the unexpected, especially when the diapers come off. Becki was a great sport even though Kaden used every opportunity to soil her clothing.

But the best thing about photographing babies, is that you don’t have to worry about retouching double chins, and winkles.

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Picture of the Month – January 2010

My first shoot after getting back from surgery was one I was looking forward to. Kaline, who has modeled for me since 2002 ( and is featured in two of my all time favorite photographs, Mountain Peek, and Lady of the Lake) had her second child and three days after Cecilia’s birth I visited the newly expanded family at their home.

Her husband, Ben, works for the Post Office so I figured if you work for the company that does more deliveries than anyone else, why would you trust your most important delivery to a stork?

Unfortunately, the Post Office doesn’t make Priority One boxes large enough to ship a 7 pound newborn. So Photoshop came to the rescue. We photographed Cecilia at their home in a generic box filled with pink peanuts. Then back at the studio I photographed the Priority One box with the pink backdrop. A few minutes of Photoshop work blended the two photographs.

As we were photographing Cecilia, we had to rescue her a couple of times as she would gradually sink into the packing peanuts as she wiggled around. But she looked entirely comfortable sleeping in her box. However the shoot came to an end when little Cecilia burped up. Well that is an understatement. Think Mt. Vesuvious. I didn’t realize a baby could drink that much. It pretty much made a mess of her and the peanuts, but fortunately by then I had the photos I needed.



Picture of the Month – November 2009

Becki has modeled for me several times over the last few years, posing variously as a sexy Ms. Claus, a sexy firefighter, and a 1920s flapper dancer. But this time Becki came into the studio as her self. Becki’s always been fun to photograph and she’s got one of the greatest smiles, especially when she’s cracking up, which is often.

But for maternity portraits I usually go with a more reflective expression. For this pose we wrapped Becki in some white fabric and went with very high key lighting and then processed it further to give the whole photo a soft, angelic look to it.

We squeezed this shoot in as my last shoot for the year before Lori and I took off for our transplant surgery. I should be back to work just in time to photograph Becki and Mick with their new addition to the family.


Ghidinelli Family Portrait

Two years ago when we last had our booth at the fair, I met Nicole Ghidinelli, as she was one of the Dairy Princesses working at the Humboldt Creamery booth next to ours. Having our booth next to the Humboldt Creamery of course meant free ice cream was just a short walk away, and during one ice cream excursion I spoke to Nicole about photographing some cows for some stock photos.

I was pleasantly surprised when she called me up a few weeks ago and inquired about having a large family portrait made on their dairy. I met with Nicole at the studio and went over some basic ideas but I wanted to see the ranch first so we scheduled a pre-shoot visit, during which I met Nicole’s grandfather, Albert. On meeting Albert I instantly thought that with his full beard and 80+ years of character, that he would be an interesting subject to photograph.

Nicole and I walked around their ranch and we selected an area that would provide a nice view of the hills behind the cows in the field.

Two weeks later I returned for the portrait and was surprised to find a clean shaven Albert! Seems his family didn’t like his beard as much as I did. Oh well, it’ll grow back and then I can take another portrait of him.

Ghidinelli Family

Ghidinelli Family

We first started out in the field with a group shot of Albert, his three children, Tom, Marjorie and Mike and all the spouses and grandkids. That was followed with different subgroup portraits. While photographing the different groups, I loved listening to the banter going back and forth. The cows also provided a lot of entertainment, and it appears that even cow communities have divas.


Albert Ghidinelli

After we finished with those portraits I wanted to get some photos of Albert over by the barn. There are things you can do photographing a man in his eighties that you can’t do with a woman of any age, such as accentuating every wrinkle. Albert was a fun subject and even with the serious expression I asked for there was still that twinkle in his eyes that revealed his pleasant nature. I’m not sure if living on Pleasant Point makes you pleasant, or if it got that name because pleasant people live there, but I can say I had a pleasant morning at the Ghidinelli dairy.