M5 Photography


I look forward to owning this…

While I’m not a snowboarder….I will buy this DVD when it comes out. If you are at all into things creative, take a look.


Also stop by http://www.brainfarmcinema.com/ to be inspired.


The sum of its parts…

Someone recently returned a long term loan of one of my external hard drives. I had forgotten about the drive and wasn’t even sure what size drive drive was inside. So I opened up the enclosure and discovered a drive that is pretty much useless by today’s standards. It was only an 80 gig drive which should give you a clue on how long that loan was overdue.

Since I knew I didn’t need the drive anymore I thought it’d be a good time to show the kids whats inside a hard drive. Call it the computer geek in me, but I think it’s pretty fascinating. Once I started to disassemble I was impressed with the amount of intricate parts inside…and how on their own they were impressive…yet had little purpose. It reminded me of the saying that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. All of these wonderfully designed and machined parts non functioning on their own.

If you were waiting for me to bring this around to a photography topic I’m about to do so. While photographing the group of hard drive parts I got to thinking how they are much like a photography business. There are so many of us who excel in one particular piece of the photography puzzle that we often ignore or don’t want to put the effort into the areas where we don’t excel. I certainly don’t consider myself to be an expert, but over the past few years I’ve learned some lessons and started to understand that simply taking good pictures isn’t enough. There are so many behind the scenes areas where the pros put countless hours into what we don’t often see…we are so focused on their results that we often think their success was just handed to them.

We’ve got to design, build and assemble all of the pieces of our business to make it work.


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


Flickr. Worth the effort? I think so….

There are a number of options when choosing a place to put your photos online. It was years ago that I started posting some of my shots to Flickr. I don’t remember exactly why I went that direction but in hindsight I’m glad that I did. When I signed up I wasn’t sure of any real benefits of choosing one place online vs another. It was a time when I was envious of other photographers fancy flash based websites and Flickr felt a bit clunky in comparison. I guess I knew it was free (for the basic account) and it was linked to my yahoo ID which made it all easier to start. After reading some online articles about presenting only your best work, I took the time to edit what I had posted to Flickr to only what I thought were my best images. Further reading reminded me that keywords or “tagging” images play an important role in allowing others to find your work. I’ll admit taking the time to tag my photos with words didn’t sound fun and I did struggle to find the right words to describe my photos. Plus I thought who is out there searching for my images?

Not long after posting some of my “best” images I was contacted by a mountain component company that was interested in using one of my images for an ad in Bike magazine (The photo posted above). It seemed at that point that taking the time to post and tag photos to Flickr was definitely worth it. When I inquired how that company found my image they told me that they had been searching through images on Flickr. Beyond people searching Flickr and finding your images, they also show up in Google image searches. I’ve landed a number of sales from companies who started their search for images via Google.

There are more pros and Im sure many cons to using Flickr, maybe I’ll do a second post on this topic again this year. If you are a current user of Flickr, keep on posting your best work and updating those tags. You never know who is out there searching…

Published on:
January 19, 2011 7:07 pm

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


Lessons learned in 2010

I was looking back at all of my 2010 photos and realized there was something that I learned in almost every shoot that I went through. I posted some of my favorite shots from the year and some of the lessons learned.

Stop and shoot…
The shot below was taken at the Dove Springs riding area in the Mojave desert. I remember going in with a bit of worry about how my lighting kit would handle being blasted by the sand. After getting hit numerous times by sand I found out that the lighting kit would be fine, but maybe some Plexiglas for me to hide behind might be a good idea. I’m used to the dust and dirt of BMX and mountain biking but the power of sand coming off the back tire of a motorcycle was at another level. Sometimes it’s really hard to be the guy who has to stop riding, haul out the gear and take shots. I’m usually happy when I see the results, but moto is one of my favorite things to do and stopping to shoot isn’t usually high on my list.

Use challenges to your advantage…
The surfing photo below was taken at C street in Ventura California. This was my second outing/attempt at shooting surfing. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted more when shooting this fast paced sport. In the other sports I shoot I’ve always been able to get right up next to the action and usually use my strobes. I’m not a surfer and I think any attempt at being in the water would quickly turn into a disaster for me…oh and no I wasn’t thinking of bringing the strobes in the water. The lack of access challenged me to re think my approach to shooting this type of action.  I hate to say out of the box, but in this case I feel I was challenged to find shots and really think about composition.

Stand up for my work.
I was excited when I was contacted by a publishing company stating that they wanted to use two of my images in a photography “how to” book. They felt the images were great examples of first and second curtain flash techniques…and who was I to argue…… One thing I didn’t agree with was the dollar amount they offered. You’ve probably guessed by now they wanted the images for free. What was my response? Thanks but no thank you. I declined their offer for “photo credit” and went about my day. The next day I received an email with a request for a price for each image. We agreed upon the price and almost a year later the book was published. Stick to your guns if someone wants your images, if they want them then they should pay you for your efforts.

Write down goals…and follow up on them.
I wrote blog entries documenting each of the shots below and the stories behind them. The bottom line is that I had both images in my head for a long time. OK I didn’t actually write these ones down, but I did keep a mental note of each and was thrilled that I made them happen. One of the more difficult parts to each was getting dates set up with the subjects. There is great satisfaction in following up on a goal and checking it off your list.

The blog post on the mountain bike night shot can be found here.
The post on the VW shoot can be found here.

2010 marked the first year of my blog. I quickly found it does take time to sit and write and I’m surprised that I actually enjoy it…hats off to you writers out there…. Blogging is a way for me to hopefully give back to those who read what I write and it also keeps me motivated to continue improving my photography. While I’m on the topic of sharing, during my trip to Utah in October I learned that there are a lot of very cool photographers out there. In each of my conversations at the Red Bull Rampage I was impressed how others were willing to share information and also seemed interested in what I had to say. Just when I’d given up on humanity I met some great people out in the middle of nowhere.

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