What's Inside The Bag?

It seems everyone is curious to know what camera gear professional photographer's use to create their images. A few weeks ago, a potential client sent an email to see if I would be interested in working with their company. The potential client had visited my website but said "can you tell me the type of camera and lighting equipment you use?" She wanted to make sure I had the "proper equipment" to take portraits.

The question made me think of a friend, who is not a photographer and had never used a camera before. He'd purchased a high-end camera along with Adobe photoshop and wanted to take pictures the next day for his company. The next week he called to say, "something must be wrong with my camera. I purchased an expensive camera and two lenses, but the pictures came out terrible." I smiled and said, the camera doesn't make a great picture, the photographer does. When you go to a restaurant, do you ask the chef what type of pots he uses to make sure the food will taste great?"

Great pictures come from trained photographers who take the time to learn how to master the tools of the trade so they can create stunning images. Each professional photographer uses the best gear possible, to create their images, but  the magic comes only when you learn how to use the gear.

So what's in my camera bag?

Nikon 810 camera

Nikon D4s

Nikkor 85mm 1.4 lens

Nikkor 58mm 1.4 lens

Nikkor 35mm  1.4 lens

Nikkor 24mm 1.4 lens

3- pocket wizards remotes

Sekonic L758dr light meter

Profoto B1 strobe

Profoto air remote

X-rite Color Checker

Macbook air computer 


Macbook air presentation dongle connector

two batteries for Profoto B1 strobe

2 - mini silver/white reflectors

handheld fan

mini iPad loaded with MYLIO software

Tokyo subway map

Map of Tokyo, Japan

Air blower for lenses and camera body

Business card with English on one side and Japanese on the other

Black-out eye mask for the airplane

2 - 3 prong to 2 prong adapters

Old mini iPod (yes I still use one sometimes)

2 - 8 gig pen/memory sticks

remote LAV and receiver

Small mirror with black gaffer tape (special lighting tool)

Japanese facial paper

Collapsible travel chopsticks



Always dream big!



Lighting On Location In Miami

I have shot a zillion times in Miami during the course of my photography career, but never during the summer months. This week I was in Miami for a shoot on the beach and I now know why I've never been to Miami in the summer months. It's HOT!

To combat the heat, we started our day early to try and avoid the hottest part of the day. I scouted the location for the shoot the day before and felt good about it. Miami beaches are crowded during the summer so it took a lot of searching to find a location that was less popular and offered everything I wanted. My assistants who were local to Miami had never been to the location and were surprised to see it.

Having control of the light while working on location calls for planning ahead. Before leaving Los Angeles, I spoke with my assistants and went over the equipment list together. I planned to use the Profoto B1 strobe heads with a white beauty dish as my main source of light, but I also needed to block out the natural sun and protect my Nikon camera lens from any flare. We completed our equipment list and then made sure to include backup gear just in case.

When shooting in humid conditions you need to be aware of condensation on your lenses. I normally try and wrap my lenses in towels the night before and place them in the warmest part of my hotel room, which is usually the closet. This time I knew we had time for the lenses to adapt to the environment while my talent was in hair and makeup. The first thing my assistants did was to open the camera case to let my Nikon camera's adjust to the extreme humidity. We pulled the lens caps off and let them breath for about 20 to 30 minutes as we set up the lights for the first shot.

Throughout the morning, we moved from location to location, but before I started shooting, my crew and I walked around and I showed them where I wanted to shoot each image. This gave them time to think and prepare for each shot before I started shooting. 

Whenever I'm shooting on location I try to have black flags on hand to block my camera lens from flare. My assistants make sure as I move around that the flag moves with me to block any sun from coming into the lens. 

I'm looking forward to the next location shoot this month and sharing images from the trip. Until then, have a great week and keep shooting.

Always Dream Big

Faster Than A Speeding...

I have always felt a photographer's work should be a reflection of their life, and these days I start my day in the gym. A good friend has always told me, health first, then family, then money. Without your health, you can't help your family and no amount of money will help you when your health is gone.

As I created Future American President, I packed on the pounds eating in the car and at inexpensive locations around America. Now I'm dedicated to changing my life and getting healthy one day at a time to lose the weight and improve my overall health.

I am starting to work on a series of images related to health and fitness. For the location images I am using the Profoto B1 strobes, which are just incredible for working on location. They are light and powerful and perfect for the photographer on the go. I wish I had the Profoto B1 strobes while I was creating Future American President, as they would have made my life so much easier.

These images are shot using the Nikon 810 and the Profoto Bi strobes. A great combination for creating powerful images.

Have a great 4th of July holiday weekend and be safe!


Always Dream Big

How To Master Strobe Lighting

Taking consistently beautiful photographs in studio is a skill and not to be taken lightly. I recently read a photography forum where someone said they watched a shoot during a seminar and then set their camera up with the same settings but still couldn’t get the same results. He went on to say he had the same camera and the same lens, but his images just didn’t have the same look. He ended by asking what was he doing wrong.

I hear conversations like this often since the world turned to digital photography. Photography is much easier now (and the learning curve is not as steep) but you still need to master the craft in every way. This means you must learn about lighting, composition and all the other elements that make a great photograph. If you want to work as a professional photographer it’s not enough to say, “I only work with natural light.” You can only get away with that for so long.

Learning how to use strobe lighting takes time and effort. It’s not always fun doing the necessary light tests needed to master light, but once you put the time and effort into it you’ll be rewarded with consistently beautiful images in studio and on location.

This week I wanted to try a light modifier that I’ve never used before. I’ve used a similar modifier for years, but I know each light has its own distinct look. Before I can use it on a job I need to test it out and see how it looks.

Milk Studios, the top studio in Hollywood, was gracious enough to let my assistant and I come in and take the light for a test drive. They showed us how to properly set the light up and how to use it with my preferred strobe system, Profoto strobes. As we conduced the light test we did a live broadcast on Periscope.

Light modifiers: Briese Focus 220 and Focus 77 with Profoto strobe system

Camera: Nikon D4s with 85mm lens

Results below

Bare Head with the 220 focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.

Bare Head with the 220 focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.

220 focus tube with 1/3 net and focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.

220 focus tube with 1/3 net and focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.

220 focus tube with full net and focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.

220 focus tube with full net and focus tube shot flood, half way and spot.


Briese Focus 77 with Profoto strobe system

Bare head Focus 77 with focus tube shot flood, half way and spot. 

Bare head Focus 77 with focus tube shot flood, half way and spot. 

Focus 77 with 1/3 silk shot at flood, half way and spot.   

Focus 77 with 1/3 silk shot at flood, half way and spot.


Focus 77 with full silk shot at flood, half way and spot.

Focus 77 with full silk shot at flood, half way and spot.

This test was helpful in many ways and much easier than in the film days. With film, if you made a mistake it was a pain to correct. If you make a mistake with digital you just erase one image.

It's important to keep track on what you're doing with every step of the lighting test. You can do as many variations as you'd like, for example you can change the distance from the light to the subject and do exactly the same series of tests you see here. It's totally up to you how extensive you'd like to be. If you notice we didn't fill in the height on this test, as I didn't think it was necessary for this particular light test. If we were testing a beauty dish out however, the height would be a factor.

To learn more about lighting check out the following video tutorials:

 Ten Ways To Use One Light Source

How To Work With Complex Lighting Situations


Always dream big...and test your lights.