Monday, September 23, 2013

Glamour, Beauty & The Nude 2013 Maui Workshop - Part I

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.8 iso 400 1/200 @ f2.8

After over 7 years, photographer Rolando Gomez was finally able to bring his workshop "Glamour, Beauty & the Nude" back to Maui and it was well worth the wait.  For three days we photographed beautiful professional models, with the help of an awesome makeup artist and assistant, while utilizing top of the line lighting gear from Hensel and California Sunbounce.

Rolando's workshops are really something to experience - not only do you get make friends with photographers of all skill levels, you get to learn directly from a master of photography and lighting.  In addition, having stunning models posed in front of your camera really helps you retain what you learn, IMHO.

The first time I attended this workshop back in Hana many years ago, I didn't really know what to expect.  At the time I didn't know what the format of the workshop would be like, who the models would be, or anything like that. All I knew was that I just wanted to try something completely different from wedding photography, which is all I had been doing up to that point.

This time around I knew a little more about what to expect, so I was a little more prepared.  Although it seemed like we had less time than in the previous workshop to shoot with each model (when you factor in the drive time to each location on the island), I actually ended up with more images that I liked this time. Plus I also could see what I improved on from the last workshop, and especially what areas I really need to work on more (A LOT more).

Overall I liked the workshop so much that I've already signed up for next year's one in June :-)
You can find out more information about this upcoming workshop by visiting Rolando's workshop page.

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.8 iso 320 1/500 @ f2.0

So here's a blow-by-blow account of what I experienced at this workshop.  I'm still going through images from each model, so it will take a while before I can get everything written down. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Day 0 - Thursday meetup at Hula Grill:

We all met up at Hula Grill in Whaler's Village for dinner with the models, crew and photographers.  Initially I felt a little out of place since the models and crew were all new to me (the previous Hana workshop was with a completely different set of models and crew).  In addition, I had only been to one of Rolando's workshops previously and that was 7 years ago. The other attendees had been to more recent ones, such as the workshops Rolando holds in the Virgin Islands and therefore they were more familiar with the models and crew than I was.

I was introduced to Stephanie Dawn, our amazing makeup artist from Georgia, and Andrew Okumoto, a photographer from California who would be hard at work assisting everyone throughout the workshop.

One of the photographers I got to know was Alex Smits, a photographer based in Seattle who specializes in photographing girls with guns (always a cool subject) and also publishes a Girls with Guns calendar .  I'm looking forward to seeing his images from the workshop. :-)

Day 1 - First official shooting day of the workshop. Got up at 5 am to head to Starbucks in Lahaina and pick up coffee orders for the makeup artist and the models.

At 6:30 am we gathered together in the main suite of the resort in Kaanapali (West Maui) where the models and crew were staying to plan the shoots for the day.

With a total of 6 workshop attendees and 5 models, we were divided up into three teams of two photographers. The models would rotate between each team over the course of 3 days of shooting.  Each team would have the chance to work with each model for half a day.

The first half of this day would be spent in Kepaniwai Park/Iao Valley (located about an hour away in  Central Maui). We would return after lunch to the resort and beach in Kaanapali, where we would shoot in the afternoon leading up to sunset.

Kepaniwai Park is a place I've shot at many times before.  It's a great location for photography, with several ethnic houses and gardens representing the many cultures of Hawaii.

When Rolando and I scouted this location earlier in the week, it was mostly overcast with much softer light. Today, however, it was bright and sunny.  So we broke out the California Sunbounce reflectors and each team went with their assigned model to stroll through the park to find locations to shoot.

Our makeup artist Stephanie Dawn was onsite to put the finishing touches on our models.

My partner Art and I started in the lower half of the park, near the Hawaiian hut with our first model Amy.  We would take turns - while one person was photographing the model, the other would hold the reflector.

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.2L iso 200 1/5000 @ f1.2

Art is a great guy that I really appreciated having as my partner throughout the workshop. I have a bad habit of rushing through a shoot especially when given a time limit, which more often than not leads to mistakes.  Art's calm nature helped me keep in focus especially at really stressful times, like at the very beginning of our first shoot where I had a MAJOR mishap:

I had originally planned to shoot the entire workshop using just my 85mm 1.2L II lens, but about 10 minutes into the first shoot, that all changed.

For the first few shots of Amy, I was standing on the rock wall above this taro patch and shooting with the 5DmkII and the 85mm 1.2L.  Because there was no room to step back a few feet, I switched to a 50mm 1.4 lens to get a little wider field of view.

The 85mm was secured in the pouch on my waist (or so I thought), and a few frames later, I heard a scream and a loud "thunk". I looked down and saw the lens lying in the mud and water below. Apparently it had slid out of the pouch, bounced off the rock wall and tumbled down into the taro patch.

Luckily I did have an 85mm 1.8 as a backup (and thank goodness for equipment insurance). So while internally I was having a cow:

... I was still able to continue with the shoot.

It actually worked out better in the end though, because Art was also using an 85mm 1.8 lens on his 5dmkIII.  Between my 5D mkII and his 5D mkIII (I'm jealous, btw - I so want to upgrade to the mkIII soon) it was pretty easy for both of us to share the same camera settings which made the shoot run a little smoother.

Even though Art considers himself a beginner photographer, you could tell he was already able to "see the light".  At one location we were shooting at, we were getting nice light on the model but a blown out background.
By simply walking around to the opposite side of where we were shooting, Art pointed out to me how we could gain a darker background while still keeping most of the good light on the model in the process.  That's a good tip to remember - whenever shooting in a location and it doesn't seem to be giving you what, step back and try looking at it from a completely different angle.

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8 iso 320 1/200 @ f2.8

Because I've been to this park so many times before, I was also interested the other teams in action and what they were shooting.  When you photograph at the same location over and over again, you tend to get stuck in a rut and shoot the same spots.  By seeing this location through the eyes of the other photographers who had never been here before, I was able to gain some new insight on what to do for future shoots there.

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.8 iso 320 1/400 @ f1.8

We finished up at Kepaniwai Park and headed up into Iao Valley for the second half of our morning shoot.  We followed one of the many nature trails along the stream until we found a few secluded areas.

Wanted to try dragging the shutter to smooth out the water, but since it was still bright and sunny, I added a 3 stop ND filter to the front of my lens to allow me to drop my shutter speed down.  Also forgot to bring my tripod with me to this location (was still a bit flustered after having dropped a $2000 lens in the water), so I found a spot on a nearby rock that I could balance the camera body on.  Andrew was there to assist by holding a silver California Sunbounce mini to lighten up the harsh shadows.

Experimented with several different shutter speeds until I found one that blurred the water enough.  Then it was just a matter of working through different poses until we found one that Amy could hold for a few seconds to make the image work.

Canon 5d mkII 50mm f1.4 iso 100  1/4 second @ f14 +3 stop ND filter

We wrapped up at Iao Valley, hit Burger King in Kahului for a quick lunch, then returned to the main suit in Kaanapali to prep for the afternoon shoots.

While we were relaxing and waiting for the sun to get lower in the sky, Rolando showed us some retouching tricks in Photoshop using the Snapshot feature and the History Brush to quickly retouch a shot he did of one of the models.

Some photographers are very secretive about their post production techniques, but Rolando is really all about sharing the knowledge and spreading what he calls "the Gospel of Photography".

For the afternoon/evening session back in Kaanapali, our model was Heather.  We started in a shaded garden area, looking for a spot where we could backlight her with the setting sun and use the Sunbounce as her main light.  We did a few shots with her moving the sarong behind her, shooting with a shallow depth of field to help hide the chain link fence in the background.

Canon 5D mkII 85mm f1.8 iso 200 1/500 @ f1.8

We then moved to the beach for sunset.  Andrew brought out a Hensel light with a small octa modifier, which we used until the sun went below the horizon.

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso 200 1/160 @ f8

Canon 5D mkII 70-200mm f2.8L IS II iso 200 1/160 @ f4

To end the shoot, I wanted to practice a technique that Rolando had taught us back at the first Hana workshop - turning the sunset purple using a green gel on the flash and white balancing the camera for that color of light.

Since we did not have a green gel large enough to cover the Hensel light, some improvisation was needed.  I taped green gels over two 580EX flashes and had Andrew hold them in the Hensel softbox. I triggered the flashes remotely using my set of Phottix Odins. Did a quick white balance off of a nearby white shirt and we were ready to shoot. It took a few tries to get the timing of her jump and the shutter firing all in sync.

Canon 5D mkII 24-70mm f2.8L iso 1600 1/30 @ f8

One of the disadvantages of the Canon flash system is that when using a flash off-camera, it disables 2nd curtain sync for some reason (I hear that Nikon users don't have this limitation).  So when dragging the shutter to make the sky brighter, we started to get some dark blurs in front of Heather as she leapt through the air.  This later had to be taken out in post.

 I read somewhere that a workaround to this issue is to use a 580EX on-camera as a master with 2nd curtain sync enabled and trigger the off camera Canon flash using the old IR wireless system (as opposed to radio triggers). Will have to try that out next time and see if that works.

Stay tuned for Day 2 - The road trip to Hana and back.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Glamour, Beauty & The Nude Workshop returns to Maui in 2013- Preview

Will be creating a multi-part post about my experiences at this amazing workshop.  Even had the chance to shoot some video this time around.  Here's a quick sneak peek:

Teaser Trailer - Glamour, Beauty & The Nude 2013 Maui Photo Workshop from Todd Mizomi on Vimeo.