Spring 2017 – Portfolio Development

It’s time.  I’ve completed each and every requirement for Portfolio Development, actually more than the stated requirements.   I should be prepared, actually over prepared, but I’m not. The objective of Portfolio Development is to produce a portfolio of 15 – 20 new images of a specific genre e.g. product, food, sports, fine art, beauty, etc.  It must be all new work consistent in terms of style, lighting, etc.  yet not repetitive.  Tall task, no?

I agonized all winter break about what genre to choose.  I recently completed Product Photography last semester and surprisingly ended up kinda’ liking it  😉, but knew I didn’t want of portfolio of cosmetics or shiny electronics.  Food was absolutely out (the hardest thing I’ve ever shot).  I was seriously tempted by beauty or fashion because I’ve done some good IMO beauty/fashion shots; it would be a beautiful book.  Plus it lends itself nicely to my strengths, Photoshop retouching skills.  But it is the genre that requires the largest team:  models, makeup artists, hair stylists, wardrobe, studio lighting, etc.  Too much coordination! Too much drama!

I decided on environmental portraits.  Environmental portraits portray a person in their natural environment. Different from traditional portraits shot in a studio, environmental portraits capture the character of the subject and give insight into their daily life making for a more personal image, telling some kind of story about who the subject is.  Environmental portraits are shot in the subject’s home, workplace or places they enjoy spending their time.  Not necessarily as glamorous as beauty and fashion, but no glam squad required.  😀

Then the panic set in, where am I going to get 15 – 20 willing subjects in interesting backgrounds?

Here are my first three images:

  1.  My mechanic at Modesti’s Car Center in Culver City on Jefferson.  I’ve been going there for over 20 years (yikes!).  I always tease them saying that I drive past a zillion auto repair shops to get there from Torrance.  🙂
  2. Suzuki Takuma, owner and chef of Takuma Santa Monica on Wilshire.  Takuma is our go to place for girl’s night out, bachelorette parties, and birthday parties.
  3. Freddy Carrillo, a friend and frequent model, on the tennis court.

mechanicStudent Show 2017 Takuma_facebookFreddy Pop

Pesky Camera Settings: Metering

Winter break was great.  Had the best Thanksgiving and Christmas ever with wonderful family and friends.  Then spent a couple of weeks touring Cuba by bus from Santiago to Havana, with stops in Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Mantanzas.

Well it’s Spring 2017 and it’s back to the books/cameras.  🙂  It appears that every time I put my camera down for a break I have to refresh my memory on the autofocus and metering systems.  So this post is to put an end to how do I change spot to matrix metering, when, where and why?

What the camera’s meter trying to accomplish?  Correct exposure.  Correct exposure is indicated at zero on the camera’s meter equating to 18% gray. To the left is underexposed (dark), to the right is overexposed (light).


What are the metering modes on the Nikon D750?  There are  4 metering modes:


  1. Spot – The camera meters behind the very spot the auto focus point is on.  Thank god the Nikon meter follows the focus point.  I almost always use spot metering because of my portrait work.  Move the focus point with the directional dial.
  2. Matrix – This mode splits the scene up into different zones which are measured individually.  So this is an “intelligent” metering mode. Although it takes readings from all over the frame, it will be biased towards the active focus point.
  3. Center Weighted – This mode takes readings from across the whole frame, but weights it’s average towards the readings at the centre. A centre circle takes precedence of the readings compared to the outer frame.
  4. Highlight – New.  I’ve never used it but, it is the choice when you’re photographing a spot lit bride in her wedding dress, a dancer or singer on stage, or whenever you’re faced with uneven lighting and a background that is much darker than the subject.

How do I change the metering modes on the Nikon D750?

metering button

Push and hold the metering button (pictured above) found on the top right of the camera while turning the main command dial to cycle through the 4 modes.

And what do histograms do again?  

A well exposed shot will show in the histogram as having the peaks in the midtones, with no slopes up to the left or right. This is known as a “normal curve” or “normal distribution”.

Women’s March Los Angeles


By some act of faith the torrential rain storms let up for a couple of hours and the Los Angeles march was treated to postcard perfect southern California weather.  There were so many people (750,000) between Pershing Square and City Hall that the march was more of a stand for Women’s Rights than an actual march.  Although ostensibly a march for women’s rights it was clearly a peaceful protest of the despicable campaign rhetoric, maddening cabinet picks and the inevitable reprehensible policies of the new administration.

I marched with the Rosenbaum family.  Here are some images from the day . . .

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sexy, designer fragrances

Done!  What a fascinating semester!  The final assignment was to create a 5 image product portfolio of all new work.  The portfolio was to be stylistically cohesive yet completely separate shoots.  Elements such as similar lighting, subject matter, colors, design and composition shape a cohesive portfolio.

My inspiration – Sexy, provocative, designer fragrances in muted pink, black and white

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Done!  Many, many thanks to my assistant, models, and those who happily lent their shoes, fragrances, cars, boxing gloves this semester.  And to my classmates who held foam core till their fingers cramped.   Also to my ever so supportive squad who motivate me by their high standards and support me every single day.  And my instructor who kept telling me I could do it!  🤓

my playlist this semester:


After I set all my foam core on fire,  I’ll get a few days of rest then head off to Cuba!!  😃

Considering car photography?

I never fully appreciated car photography before this assignment. In this post I’ll show you the work that went into creating the image above.

First some lessons learned:

1.  Location. Cars are just super huge shiny appliances like a million toasters or Kitchen Aid mixing bowls.  They reflect whatever is in a one mile radius of them. I could not find in Los Angeles an area that was totally devoid of cars, trucks, poles, trees, houses, people.

2.  Time of day. Only sunrise and sunset will provide the lighting you need.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a sunrise.

3.  Turn front wheels so that you see more wheel and less black rubber tire (I forgot).

4.  I also forgot to focus on and highlight identifying features e.g.  wheel caps, bumper insignia, etc.  Next time!  👍

I met my Bentley owner aka BFF at Dockweiler Beach just below the takeoff pattern at LAX.  Sunset was 4:45 we ran off about 40 shots.

The lot was totally vacant except for a huge ass RV, poles, houses are on hill – all reflected in the car.  OMG!

I was happy with the soft reflections from the clouds and the warm sunset colors on the bumper and passenger door.  So here’s our SOOC image replete with dull lifeless sky, reflections of all sorts (including me) in the body, the requisite windshield stickers, cracked passenger side bumper (oops, how’d that happen?), etc.  Let’s see what we can do.


Really enjoyed Pandora’s Sunday Brunch station while working on this image.

cosmetics and count down

update Nov 18 – Got through it!  The second cosmetic shot:  color product on same color background.  It was not without quite a bit of angst, but here it is.  Now I think I’ll try it; packaging says results are guaranteed  🙂


#BTS  building a house of foam core 

During post processing I rediscovered and seriously grooved to Oh Honey by Delegation.  Released in 1977, Yikes!  🙂

We’re counting down.  4 more weeks to go.  Only cosmetics and a car remain.  The cosmetic assignment is 2 shots:  Black product on black background and color product on matching color background.  Whatever, we’re getting it done!  🙂  If Trump can become president, I can shoot this assignment.   (expletives, deleted of course)  OMG!

This is what I have so far for black on black background:

sized cropped black bottle.jpg

Color shot is giving me trouble, still a work in progress.  We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned.

On continuous repeat for at least the last hour is Smooth Sailin’ Tonight by the Isley Brothers.  OMG!

Sherlock Holmes

Oh my, election 2016, Really?  Really?  Just how far back do we have to reach to make American great again?!  Hopefully, not pre Civil Rights legislation.

I’m diverting my attention from the election results by writing this post.  This assignment was about collaboration.  I was paired with a graphic design student and given the task of designing a book cover.  We chose The Book of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle from a list of 6 classic novels.

Believe it or not I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes novel or seen a Sherlock Holmes film.  God bless YouTube.

If all collaboration projects ran this smoothly the world would be a different place.  We met and shot her husband as author and Sherlock Holmes at the historic fire station across from Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles.  I was responsible for the photography and printing.  She chose the location, model, wardrobe and did all the design and layout.  It was wonderful and so easy working with an uber talented graphic designer.  She gave my images real life and I made a new friend.

The shoot was broken up by security because we did not have a permit, but that did not dampen our spirits. We got the cover shot in front of the red door as we were begrudgingly packing up and leaving.

hi tech assignment

Last class is December 14th.  Guess I’m getting ahead of myself, but so it is.  🙂

Only one shot was needed for the high tech assignment and I couldn’t think of a piece of equipment to shoot to save my life.  I scoured Best Buy for something photogenic, cheap, I could possibly return, etc.  I finally settled on something I could actually use; a dock for my iPhone.  We’ll call it “retro high tech”.  I guess I could have shot my Sonos controller and speakers, but I’ll save it for next time I have a high tech assignment – Never.

Hard to make an iHome clock radio look sexy, but here’s my best shot. Yes, it took some shutter dragging and photo stacking to get the screens to display.


I think what was missing was the music.  On to cosmetics.


As the rambunctious 2016 political campaign winds down to a tumultuous end and the title starved Cubs and Indians are playing for Baseball World Champion it is fitting that this week’s assignment was about beverages.  The assignment was to capture a frosty cold beverage and a splash shot.  Both are inherent with all sorts of challenges.   I quickly discovered  when shooting a cold beverage you must:

  1. Light the cap and light the label.
  2. Light the liquid from behind so it appears bright and refreshing not dark and muddy.
  3. Create soft reflections that highlight the shape of the bottle so that it doesn’t look 2 dimensional.
  4. Spritz the bottle with a combination of glycerine and water (50-50) so that water droplets will not dry up during the shoot.
  5. Shoot against a complimentary background on plexiglass to add interest.

beer for blog.jpg

And the splash, OMG!  I threw strawberries in water, lime wedges in water, Oreos in milk, strawberries in milk – the list goes on and on.   I forgot about the ice cubes where I missed the entire glass.  The kitchen was a mess! Here are a couple of the hits and misses:

Lessons learned here are not to pursue splash photography. OR more positively my splash photography needs work!   Credits to my assistants who kept me going and more importantly kept me laughing and dancing.  🙂

For this assignment I seriously needed a little Los Van Van: La Boberia and La Maquinaria, two of my favorite songs.

que hora es?

Mid way through the semester 8 more weeks to go.  I think classes should be 8 weeks instead of 16.  Just saying . . .

5th assignment was to shoot a watch using focus stacking.  Huh?  Well if I knew what I was doing I wouldn’t be in school.  Focus stacking is a processing technique which combines multiple images taken at different focus points to give a resulting image with a greater depth of field (DOF) than any of the individual source images.  Well, here you go.  I took about 25 images (after I got the exposure right)  and used 6 in Photoshop for focus stacking.  Probably could have used more, but I digress.

I’ll be all set the next time I need to shoot a WATCH!  🙂


ISO 200, 60 mm Nikon macro, 1/250 sec f/11.  Dynalite strobes and foam core (my new best friend)

The best part is the continued support I get from my instructor who refuses to give up on me.


24K Magic by Bruno Mars is on repeat!!  “I’m a dangerous man with some money in my pocket . . .”  “Everywhere I go they be like . . .”  “hashtag blessed . . .”  May have to take out a 2nd  on the house to see him in concert!  🙂  Is it me or do I see a little Morris Day and the Time in Mars?