M5 Photography

Inspired by…A Magazine is Born

I enjoyed watching this behind the scenes video of making a magazine…Of course I never sat and thought about the amount of work that goes into something like this.

Published on:
February 8, 2011 7:19 pm

I only had to ask….

EXIF: 1/1000th @ f/4.0

A couple weeks ago I found myself watching a mountain bike video on You tube and realized the rider was riding trails in Southern California. I guess that doesn’t sound too exciting by itself, but this rider was riding some wicked trails and had skills that really impressed me. A quick check of his profile revealed he lived within driving distance of me….A light bulb went off. Why not email him and see if he’d be up for a photo shoot? I figured the worst he could say was no.

I fired off an email to the rider in the video and got a quick reply. Travis was interested and seemed down right excited. We agreed upon a time and place and I was thrilled to learn Travis had invited his friend Steve. We all arrived at the “location” and it was time to get to riding…or in my case hiking since I wanted to shoot with my light kit.

I had a general idea that I’d be hiking up some steep trails since I’m a mountain biker myself, but I wasn’t ready for the “location”…STEEP and loose was the theme for the day. It wasn’t too long before we were at our first spot to shoot. I let the guys pick the spots and suggested we shoot where they were most comfortable…now comfortable is an interesting term here because I’m not sure how you get comfy on some of the sections they were doing.

We did some shooting with the lights and some with out. There were a few sections where it just didn’t make sense to light…as the sun was doing a fine job on its own. In shots where we did use lights, I again was firing the strobes via the new Pocket Wizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 units…It was great to shoot when the sun was high and bright as I wanted to test out the ability to shoot at higher shutter speeds. It seems like pure freedom to shoot higher than 1/250th.

After a few hours of shooting we all agreed that it was time to go home injury free. The only task left for me was to hike down the trails…it was much harder than going up! I’m certain I resembled a lost tourist with all my gear and tired look.

I Look forward to shooting more with Travis and Steve soon.

As always click images for the larger view.

All images shot using the Canon 7D and Tokina 12-24 f/4 lens unless otherwise noted.

EXIF: 1/640th @ f/8.0 Single Boling Strobe 1/2 power

EXIF: 1/8000th @ f/4.0 Yeah that says 1/8000th

EXIF: 1/400th @ f/4.0 Sigma 70-200 Lens

EXIF: 1/500th @ f/4.0 Sigma 70-200 Lens


Remote Flash and a new Mountain Bike Shoot

With the shoot this weekend I wanted to accomplish a couple of tasks. Well now that I think of it…three tasks. The first was to test out a couple of things using the new PocketWizard MiniTT1 & FlexTT5 units. As I mentioned last week I was eager to test out the high speed sync feature because in the past I’d been limited to shooting at 1/250th when using my strobes. While I was at it I was interested in testing the range of the new PocketWizards. I’m a long time user of the PocketWizard Plus II models and have yet to have any range issues…I was curious to see if the new models would perform the same.

The second thing I wanted to tackle was a shot set up that I’d been eying for a couple of years now. Off to the side of one of our local mountain bike trails is a large ridge line that I’ve ridden past hundreds of times and have always pictured a rider on the ridge and me shooting it from down below. There isn’t an official trail there but I knew with some effort we could hike up and make it happen.

The last thing I wanted to have happen was making the shoot fun. Many times with a lot of technical things on my mind I can forget that I’m doing something I love.

The weather had been looking pretty blah and I hadn’t seen the sun most of the day…but as we parked and started unloading the bikes and gear the sun peeked through the clouds. Perfect start! Due to the distance of where I wanted to shoot, Charles and I were to be the mules for the day. I carried my camera backpack and Charles was nice enough to load up and carry the the light kit.

We found our first spot ( Note: Not the ridge line I mentioned above. More on that later in the post )….I apologized to Charles for lying about the distance (I was off by about 20 minutes..not in a good way) and I began to set up the strobes. In this first shot I was able to play with all sorts of sync speeds. I started to think maybe it gave me too many shutter speed options. On a “normal” shoot like this my first step would be to set my shutter speed to 1/250th and then move on to my aperture and ISO as needed. Today I wanted to try all sorts of shutter speeds now that I had this new freedom. In talking with the guys from PocketWizard I was told that flash power would probably decrease as I pushed the shutter speed higher. I did see this but not so much that I couldn’t find a usable amount of light for what I was shooting…After a few test shots at various speeds I settled in on a range of 1/320th to 1/500th. All this sync/shutter speed talk might not seem like a huge deal to those who don’t shoot action, but this is a big win for me and shooting sports shots. I’m hoping to do a mid day shoot soon with more sunlight where I can get the shutter speeds even higher.

Since I was close to the action in the set up below I didn’t test the range of the PocketWizards…That would take place in some shots later in the day. After grabbing a few shots I was happy with, I packed up all the gear (assistants? anyone?) and we were off to location two.

Exif Data:
Camera: Canon 7D
Exposure: 1/320th @ f/16
Lens: Tokina 12-24 f/4 shot at 12mm
Strobes: Boling 300 watt x 2 (Tripods were used for light stands. Works out much better on uneven terrain)
Remotes: PocketWizard MiniTT1 & FlexTT5

[Click image for a larger view]

After a bit more pedaling we arrived at the ridge line and I gave Charles an overview of my “vision”…I’m sure my words don’t always paint the picture of what is in my head, and in this case I think Charles just wanted to do some riding. The clouds continued breaking up and we had some great spots of blue sky.

Once I set up the lights and fired off a couple of test shots with Charles at a standstill, I hiked to a lower position and asked Charles to hike up higher for his run in. My new lower position allowed me to test the range of the new Pocketwizards.  I wasn’t out to disprove anyone’s claims on firing distance, but I wanted to test for scenarios that I’d probably find myself in the future. In this case I was probably 100′ away from the strobe unit and it was out of my line of sight. I was impressed that they fired in all of our shots.

You can see how things came together in the shot I’ve posted below.  When I first rode past this spot I hadn’t thought about using strobes to light the rider…I really just wanted someone on that ride line. I’m happy with the final results of this image…I got to test some new gear and we had a few laughs in the process. Again click the image for the larger view.

Exif Data:
Camera: Canon 7D
Exposure: 1/640th @ f/5.6
Lens: Tokina 12-24 f/4 shot at 12mm
Strobes: Boling 600 watt x 1 (Tripod was used for light stand. Works out much better on uneven terrain)
Remotes: PocketWizard MiniTT1 & FlexTT5

Just as with my blog post on my light kit, I didn’t set out to to a detailed tech review of the new PocketWizards.
For those looking for a very detailed review of the new PocketWizard products please follow this link.


The Harley Shoot…

I had the location picked out for this shoot before I had a subject. Nearly all of the open space where I live is either fenced off or has a few “No Trespassing” signs. We do have a lot of open space for recreation, but not so much for parking a Harley for a photo shoot. So when I came across a spot that had a nice level spot to shoot and an uncluttered background I knew that I wanted to do a shoot there. I’ve shot a bunch of two wheeled subjects in the past, but had yet to shoot any street motorcycles. This shoot was supposed to take place a month or so ago but the weather was against us for a couple of weekends. New Years day ended up being a perfect day to shoot and a good start to 2011.

For the first two shots below I used my trusty Boling light kit. The strobes were fired remotely using the Pocketwizard MiniTT1 & FlexTT5 units. This was my first try at using the new units from PocketWizard. Sometimes it can be tricky when adding new hardware to your shoots…it’s just a change from what you are used to.  In this case the new Pocketwizard units performed as my Plus IIs have in the past….easy connection to the Boling light kit and no misfires. The new units offer many new features that the Plus II units don’t have and I’m most excited about the option to sync above my current limit of 1/250th. More on higher sync speeds down the road when I do some action shots in the next few weeks.

Set up:
Camera Canon 7D
1/250th at f/14
Lens: Tokina 12-24 f/4
Strobes: Boling 2×300 watt 1/2 Power – One camera left, one camera right

As always, click the images for a larger view.

Beyond shooting some posed images I wanted to break out the Magic Arm again and do a few remote “action” shots too. Back in September I blogged about “Letting go” of the camera where I covered using the Magic Arm and Pocketwizards for remote shots…if you missed it here is a link to that post
As long as Mat was o.k with me clamping my camera to his very detailed bike I was o.k with him riding with my 7D attached to it. I found another location where we could do some remote shots with the freedom to move around and try a few different angles. I’ve used the Magic Arm on BMX bikes, skateboards and mountain bikes in the past, this would be the first motorized vehicle to take it for a spin.
In this set up I used my Pocketwizard Plus II units as I do not currently own a remote trigger cable for the newer PW units. Since we were shooting just past mid day it made it a bit more difficult to get shutter speeds slow enough for getting any motion blur. Step one was to set the camera to f/22 and see what kind of shutter speed that left me with. In this case I was able to shoot around 1/40th of a second.
We tried two different mounts on the bike, and the lower mount had the camera about 4 inches off the ground…at this point you gotta trust your rider and allow them to do their part. We did a number of runs and took a lot of photos….my goal in these types of set ups is to get one quality photo from each angle. Shooting at shutter speeds this slow while your camera is mounted on a moving object can be a bit of a challenge, but the effort is usually worth it.

I’ve included a set up shot below. If you’re a shooter reading this, I’m hoping this gives you some ideas to go out and try for yourself.

Set Up:
Canon 7D
Tokina 12-24 f/4
1/40th @ f/22
Manfrotto Magic Arm
Pocketwizard Plus II unit x 2
Remote trigger cable

Published on:
January 3, 2011 9:35 pm


Here is a bit of data for M5 in 2010….Thanks to google I know that I had visitors from 1,503 cities in 90 countries since keeping track around April….Now how to reach that market in Greenland, Africa, Alaska and Sibera in 2011?


Featured on the PocketWizard blog…

Keeping this post short with it being a holiday week and most people are off doing other things besides reading blogs. The folks at PocketWizard did a write up on their blog featuring my VW Shoot from November.

Click here to view the post


Published Dirt Rag Magazine

I have an image in the current issue of Dirt Rag Magazine. The shot was taken at Mammoth Mountain on the Flow trail this summer. I tucked myself under this drop and waited for the rider. For those of looking for a challenge trying to get focus in a shot…here’s one for you.

Camera: Canon 7D
Lens: Tokina 12-24 f/4
Settings: 1/1600th @ f/4


Asking Questions…

I always blog on Tuesdays…I’m not sure why I chose Tuesdays as my day but it always seemed to work out for me. This Tuesday is the anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor. I didn’t realize this until The Big Picture did a photo feature on the attack. My plan for a blog post this week was to post a photo that I shot of my Grandpa’s dog tags from his time in the Army. I guess this is just interesting timing as I found the dog tags last week and shot them on Saturday, intended to post them on my normal Tuesday and realized its the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Now my Grandpa wasn’t at Pearl Harbor when the attacks happened, but it certainly changed his life as it did all of his generation. I know little about his time in the Army, what he did or how long he did it. I do know that I’m grateful for his service and for the millions of others that served and continue to serve our country. I really wish he was around to ask about all the questions I have about his stay in the Army but that isn’t possible. I also wish he was around so I could take one last portrait of him and I could ask what the key on his tags unlocked. He passed away prior to me getting involved with photography.

What does all of this have to do with photography? Not a whole lot I guess. I was going to post the shot of the dog tags because I thought it made for an interesting photo and topic. It’s also a reminder for those who read this to start asking questions now. Maybe they are photography questions to someone you look up to or maybe you still have a chance to ask questions to someone close to you about their life. I know I wish took that opportunity when I had it…

Published on:
December 7, 2010 9:16 pm

Finding time…the VW shoot

For this shoot to come together I had to track down one of the busiest people I know. I had asked Bill a few months ago if I could shoot his VW bug…but it always seemed when his schedule was open mine was busy. Since I had this whole week off I decided to try again to make things happen…..We planned on 3pm which would give us time to drive to a spot and hopefully 45 minutes or so to set up and shoot. In my time planning I didn’t account for getting stuck on a hill climb and spending 30-45 minutes digging and maneuvering a very stuck VW. I should say that I was taking photos while Bill did the digging and maneuvering. Someone had to document the events. Bill eventually worked some off road magic and got out of the jam he was in….we were on our way.

The goal was to get up above the city while the sun was setting and shoot some shots of the bug alone and some with Bill next to it. We ended up having just enough time to get a handful of shots of both.

Equipment used:
Camera: Canon 7D with Tokina 12-24 f/4 lens
Lights: Boling 2×300 watt strobes fired via Pocketwizards Plus IIs

Lighting set up: Since the sun was setting fast I didn’t have a lot of time to set up. As mentioned above I used Boling strobes with the battery pack, having one strobe camera left and one camera right. Each strobe was set up about the height of the fender on the VW.  As with all my off camera flash work, I used the PocketWizard Plus IIs which allowed me to fire the strobes remotely and move around in between the lights without having another cable to worry about.


A few shots of being stuck….


From frustration to inspiration

Last week I went motorcycle riding with some friends and ended up having bike issues for most of the day. I could ride but my bike just wasn’t running normal so I knew that I’d need to pull apart the carburetor and do some investigating when I got home. Not one of my favorite things to do, but if you own a motorcycle you get used to the idea of doing maintenance. The frustration of having to work on the bike soon turned into a bit of photography inspiration. Once I had removed the carb and spent time getting it all cleaned up I realized I had a very interesting item that would make for a cool product type shot.  I’m not sure if my family is or isn’t used to my ideas and watching me play them out, but I’m glad I took the time to do a few shots of the carburetor.

Very simple execution on these shots of setting the carb on some poster board and trying a few different angles and focus points. Lighting was a Canon 580ex flash on camera bounced off the ceiling.

Ad always click the images for larger views. In this case to really see the details. Thanks

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