Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Robert Rauschenberg at Bergamot Station, Santa Monica

This past weekend, the Mrs. and I went to check out Bergamot Station for the first time. It's in Santa Monica, about 3-4 miles from where we live in Marina Del Rey. Near the 10 Freeway, kind of over by the Santa Monica airport.

Started the afternoon off with a nice caprese sandwich and a coffee, and then checked out maybe a dozen or so galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. While we saw a lot of really cool stuff, I have to say I was totally blown away by the Greenfield Sacks Gallery, which had a number of pieces from Robert Rauschenberg's "The Lotus Series" (2008).

As you may know, Robert Rauschenberg passed this year. He was one of the preeminent contemporary artists in the world, and was LA-based. His work is heavily featured at LACMA and any number of other museums. So needless to say, to be standing face to face with these pieces, created only a month or so before the artist's death, it was an unbelievable experience. Each piece was selling for $15,000+, and not surprisingly only one piece was yet unsold. I dug through my pockets, and the Mrs. dug through her purse, but unfortunately we just couldn't quite come up with the $15k needed to buy that last remaining piece....lol. Either way, it was really cool to see the collection, and hopefully some of the work will make its way back into a museum someday.


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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nikon SB-600 Speedlight

On the advice of a good friend and fellow photographer, Don Lupo, I've been spending some time learning more about lighting. Don's point has always been that while my "available light" shots have been pretty good, adding some lighting could really help make them even better. I've been on the fence for a while, because my philosophy has always been to bring less gear and to capture moments "in the raw." All the commercial shoots I've been to, the photographer has so much lighting gear that he/she needs 1 or 2 assistants, a stylist, etc - but for me I want to keep it simple and just shoot.

But I try to tell myself I'm an open minded guy, so going on Don's advice, I've been spending a lot of time lately reading David Hobby's blog - Strobist.com. The Strobist approach is a middle-ground if you will, a way to do professional lighting with "speedlight" standard flash units - not huge studio lights. The more I've been reading, the more interested I've gotten.

So I made the jump - I forked over some moolah (thanks a lot Nikon for making this an expensive hobby...) and picked up a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight as my first strobe.

The SB-600 is Nikon's middle flash unit - the SB-800 (or the new SB-900) is the high end, and the SB-400 is the low end. All of the above work together with Nikon's proprietary lighting software called CLS (Creative Lighting System). The CLS basically allows you to use multiple speedlight flash units and sync them all together with one push of the button on the camera. So instead of needing 4-5 large studio lights, you could use 4-5 flashes instead, and they all flash at just the right moment because of the CLS software. For me, for now - I'm content trying to figure out how to use just one...

The other two things I got at the same time as the flash are the Omni-Bounce Diffuser and the Nikon SJ-1 gel kit.

The diffuser helps a lot to reduce the harshness of the light coming off the flash, instead creating a soft diffused light like what you'd get in the studio. The gels insert right into the flash head, and can help mitigate the greenish effects of fluorescent lighting and the orange-ish effects of incandescent lighting, or provide accent color if needed.

While I haven't had too-too much time to practice yet, I think next week's trip to Chicago will offer ample opportunity to play around with it. Meantime - here's a couple of shots I took down at Venice Beach using the flash + diffuser. By putting lighting on the subject in the foreground, it balanced the brightness between subject and sky - allowing me to shoot a little darker and get a deep blue sky while still being able to see the subject. Overall from 1 day's practice, I'm pretty happy with the results!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tamron 2x Teleconverter In Action

This past weekend, the Mrs. and I went to the Angels vs. Yankees game down in Anaheim so I could test out my new Tamron 2x teleconverter before we head to Wrigley Field for the first time next week. In order to really put it to the test, we decided to sit in the nose-bleediest of nosebleed seats:

It actually worked out pretty good. The hard part is trying to dial-in manual focus at that long of a distance. Also, with a teleconverter you automatically lose 2 stops of aperture so I needed to increase the ISO up to about 400 (even in bright sunlight) to ensure I could run a fast shutter speed. 1/500 is usually minimum for sports. The good news is the teleconverter worked just fine in burst mode, so I was able to snap about 3-4 frames per second even at extreme zoom. You definitely need burst mode to get those "magic moments" at a ballgame. Higher-end pro cameras will shoot as fast as 6-9 frames per second.

Overall, a little more practice needed, but for a first attempt and considering how far away our seats were, I'm pretty happy with the results.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

2008 Los Angeles Juried Exhibition - Opening Reception

This past Sunday was the opening reception for the 2008 Los Angeles Juried Exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in Hollywood. It was a really fun day! Luckily we got there early enough to get parking, because as with most of LA, parking was at a premium. Basically the gallery is on top of a huge hill, and any latecomers had to park all the way at the bottom and walk up.

The opening was pretty well attended, and was a lot of fun. The gallery provided the requisite wine, fruit and cheese. There were a couple of bands, and 92 really cool pieces to check out - painting, photography, scuplture, video, and a couple of large installations. The exhibition will remain up through September 7 - so if you're in the neighborhood, feel free to stop by any time:

Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery
Barnsdall Park: 4800 Hollywood Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027


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