Gone racing

6 09 2014
The Mechanic.

The Mechanic. Without Kimura-san, the Lola Formula 3 car would never have gotten off the trailer.

‘Peter-san, please brake on’ – Kimura-san was about to put the jack under the front suspension, and just needed me to activate the brakes. Climbing over the wide body moulding, I levered myself into the driver’s ‘seat’ and stretched my legs down a seemingly endless tunnel. My size 11s found the pedals, but you need ballerina’s feet to touch only the brake. By turning myself kind of sideways, and pointing my toes, I managed it. Not a comfortable experience by any stretch of the imagination, and then there’s the wild howling crazed monster of an engine, inches behind the driver’s head. You really have to be a slave to cars, to even contemplate strapping yourself into one of these missiles.

I had come to Fuji International Speedway, location of the longest straight in the world, to shoot some portraits with a 10 year old Japanese karting champion. Unfortunately, he had gone to school. But Kimura-san, the mechanic for dentist Saito-san’s little F3 Lola, had an interesting face, and I told him so ‘not interesting, Peter. bad, maybe’. Saito-san owns and drives the Lola at closed meetings like this one, or historic racing events. But he seemed a little camera shy. So Kimura and I went to the pit lane, where you have these beautiful converging lines, and a heavy cloud covering the background. I shot with a 14mm lens, to include the dramatic architecture of the grandstand and circuit buildings. A flash in a soft box provided the light for Kimura’s face. It was a shame that the original subject had not made himself available, but still coming away with a great shot is compensation in itself.


An Extra 12″

29 08 2014
An Extra 12" (adjustable spanner)

An Extra 12″ (adjustable spanner)


Been doing a few product shots this week, mainly tools. The texture on some of these is absolutely stunning. Choosing a background that compliments the product is quite a big part of the process. In this shot I wanted something other than a plain background, but not with too bold a texture. I used my son’s balance disc, and lit it with a single gridded strobe, shooting at F2.8 on an 85mm lens at pretty much closest distance to the spanner, which was sitting on a piece of glass between two chairs, over the training ball.  Ambient light illuminated the upper side of the tool. I also used a 0.6 ND filter in the gel holder of my Pro Shade, just to allow the use of a wide aperture (throwing the rubber spikes on the balance disc out of sharp focus).

The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto 3021 tripod, with the centre column set parallel to the floor. This is a great tool and the only way I think it could be improved is perhaps a carbon version, with titanium fittings. Just waiting on that lottery ticket….

the baseball flyer

21 03 2014
shooting one picture for a flyer going to local Little League parents

shooting one picture for a flyer going to local Little League parents

making up a flyer for a local Little League team; we had to borrow the glove and ball, the guy who was going to lend us the bat pulled out. then my kids who promised to model for me decided to bring their friends along to the session. lesson learned: when using a human light stand please ensure they are at least 16 and not in the company of their mates.

used my D1x for this, knowing that the fence surrounding the bb field would have been pretty close to where Rex has to stand. so shooting 1/1000th at F2.8 on the 80-200 – the flash still syncs ok. processing in Perfect Effects. not sure if we’ll be using this one, really wanted a landscape format shot for the flyer

Cheetah Bare Bulb modifiers – first impressions

30 03 2013

if you follow my occasional ramblings, you’ll know that I expressed an interest in the new to market Godox bare bulb flash and, more pointedly, the associated light modifiers that had been announced by the US distributor CheetahStand. I already own a couple of Sunpak 120J  barebulb units, and am quite happy with them. However finding modifiers has been a thankless task, until now. I ordered one of each of the following:

Std 5″ reflector

Wide Angle Umbrella Reflector

Honeycomb Grid and colour gel set

Conical and Cylindrical Snoot Set

12″ Beauty Dish

19″ Softbox with grid and ‘beauty dish’ reflector

All the accessories above come in plain white boxes, none of which could be considered substantial. The snoot set is the only item that has any kind of internal packing (a preformed card holder, which locates the units securely inside the flimsy outer box). Both snoots seem well made, and the honeycomb inserts are both removable.

Both reflectors, compared to my Sunpak originals, have the same planished finish inside, albeit with a slightly duller finish.

The grid and colour filter set seems well put together, just a shame there is no soft case or wallet included. Perhaps the case for my 122mm filter will fit? The grid has a flexible plastic  pulltab screwed to the side, to allow easy removal from the standard 5″ reflector, which has an appropriate sized lip to accommodate it.

The 19″ octagonal soft box, which is based on an umbrella design, has a recess of maybe 2″ deep at the front – this recess is lined with velcro, so that the front diffuser and grid, can be attached. The whole unit costs just $50…..which could be the cost of a eggcrate type grid alone, at another more well-known maker. There is a slightly dished metal reflector panel supplied, this screws onto the crown which surmounts the umbrella ribs, with the idea is emulating the light which comes from a beauty dish. We will see!

Finally, I did purchase the purpose-made 12″ beauty dish, which comes with a honeycomb grid, and white front diffuser. The construction is all metal but this hasn’t made the unit any less prone to damage…my example arrived damaged. I am fairly certain that this damage could have been avoided had the white box packing been supplemented with internal locators (expanded foam?) and possibly a double wall ‘white box’. Since CheetahStand have decided that international customers need to pay to return their faulty goods, it seems  as though this one is destined for the bin. Which is a shame. I had looked forward to using a decent metal beauty dish.

Over the next few days I hope to be able to get some practical experience with the modifiers, and report back. Cheers for now

the young adonis

6 09 2012

shooting with my son Nash

Petal Girl Shot

11 05 2012

So recently I had the idea of shooting a homage to the classic American Beauty image. We decided rather than scarlet petals, to use black. 3000 (approx) were obtained from a stage effects supplier. Put a foam mattress on the floor, and used my black background sheet on this. The model then obligingly lay in the centre, and we unceremoniously tipped the entire package over her. Although she looks naked, she is wearing a bra & nude-coloured panties. Lighting was from a single 120J head, inside a softbox boomed over the set. I shot this from above, simply by standing on a chair with a 28mm lens, on the D300  (I’m over 6′ tall and the chair added another 18″). It was quite a challenge to make sure that the petals covered her adequately; next time I think I could use a petal wrangler.

The devil in the details

7 02 2012

Part of a series on musicians and artists, we shot this in a park in central Tokyo. Just by isolating certain details, the shot works. I pushed a bit more light into the picture with a 120J inside a softbox, shooting 1/640th at F2.2 on an 85mm lens. On the D1x, an ‘out-of-date’ camera.

I must admit, along with a million other Nikon users, I’ve been waiting patiently for specs of the new D4 and D800 to be announced. The first thing I looked at was the flash sync speed……hmm 1/250th? still? well I guess I’ll be waiting patiently for the D900 and D5 to roll around then?