May 26, 2011


Nikon D700, 50mm f/1.4 lens, f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 1250, SB-600 through zumbrella with a full cut plus 1/4 cut CTO gel.
I teamed up last night with Andrea of K Salon here in Logan. You should have her do your hair. She is an incredibly talented artist: she has vision, and makes it happen. Her medium is hair, which is fortunate for me because I think I'd be run out of business if she ever takes up photography--heck, I'd even go to her. But, in the meantime, you're all just stuck with me. Mwahahahaha.

The shoot was a ton of fun--I may post some of the pictures with the llamas--and all the talent was very fun to work with, too. Dre had some specific poses she needed for each style she made, but after that we just got to play. Our support staff was also wonderful: can you believe that as soon as the girls mentioned they were cold Trevor had a propane heater warming up the whole hillside in no time?! Really a good time.

So, slavery. It's got nothing to do with the model, and everything to do with me and all those other photogs out there. In photography, Light is the Master, and that's it. It is not just the most important thing in photography, it is the only thing in photography. If there is no light, there is no picture. So, we run around like headless chickens seeking the light, looking for the right play of shadows and the reflections of off buildings and minivans, scrounging up all the men in white shirts to stand in a line and reflect some light back into a brides face. She's not an easy Master, Light, but she's the one we choose to serve when we dedicate our index fingers to the shutter.

But, sometimes, she gives us our head and let's us run with her and direct where shadows will fall and she bends to our wills to create the image we want, not only the one she has predetermined we will make. Reflectors let us take this kind of control.

True emancipation, however, comes with SpeedLights. Speedlights are the big flashes that you see wedding photogs walking around with on top of their camera. This is one way to gain a little freedom, but the power of these lights comes when you remove them from your camera and control them wirelessly. When we control them wirelessly the tables are turned: the flash is called a slave.

Not only can you control the direction of light this way, but you can also control the quality and color of light. In the picture above, we obviously have the light coming from the left (direction, check!) but it's coming from the flash and passing through a white umbrella which enlarges the size of the light and makes it very soft and gentle (quality, check!). But that's not all! I also put an orange piece of cellophane, called a gel, right on the flash, which makes the light coming out of the flash--you guessed it!--orange. Why? Well, it's not just any orange, it's the same color as the incandescent light bulbs inside your house. See, your camera has the ability to make just about any color of light look normal. Remember those pictures from when you were a kid and your grandma took a picture in the living room and the flash blinded you and made you look bright white and washed out while the room itself was really orange? Actually, you could make this picture today, too. The trouble is that the flash is really white and the light bulbs are not. Your camera can handle any one color of light, but two throws it for a loop. In the above picture, I made the loop on purpose.

I manually set my camera to adjust for orange light bulbs, which it does by tinting the whole picture blue (see the sky?). But, the flash light is orange, so whatever that light falls on is made to look normal (see her rich skin tones?). So I colored the light I could control and colored the rest by default (color, check!). 

This is creative freedom at it's best, and there was lots of ecstatic squealing going on at the shoot; then I showed the girls and they were happy, too.

So, don't be a slave to the light. If you are then when the light is gone, so are you. Master control of the light and learn to communicate with it--the power feels good.

Nikon D700,  28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VR lens @ 135mm, f/8, 1/200s, ISO 160, SB-600 through zumbrella.
For some excellent, excellent reading about using SpeedLight, see Joe Mcanlly's The Hot Shoe Diaries.


  1. I love these photographs!!! Really wish I had seen you create them...

  2. Sal, I'm glad that you like them. It was really fun to do, and I'd love to have you along another time.

  3. Great post, Levi.

  4. AnonymousJune 05, 2011

    Levi, you are such a TALENTED photographer, writer, and teacher! You show what to do and how to create a picture, then you give the excellent demonstration. You're leagues above the rest. My hubby has been getting into photography classes, and I've steered him towards you site. He looks at it often and learns so much. There are a LOT of "professional" photographers here in California, many who have been doing it for decades. He's studied many of them, but after coming back to your site yet again this morning, he said refreshingly, "He really is very talented." :) Cheyenne (Ka Jie Mei)

  5. Cheyenne,
    I'm glad I can help! There just wasn't a person nearby who I could go to for help when I got started in this thing, so I want to be available for others who are trying to get their shutter clicking properly. There are so many excellent sources on the web, but few breathing people to talk with. So, if I can ever help, please have your guy give me a call. Xia ci jian!