Category Archives: modeling

Boudoir, brackets, and a bearded dragon

Last week I did a boudoir shoot and I was really excited to give my new stands for my speedlites a try during an assignment.But while setting up for the shoot I had issues with the hot shoe attachments for the stands. More on that below. 🙂

Regardless of the stand malfunction, the photoshoot was a blast.

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She was doing the shoot as a surprise for her boyfriend’s birthday in April and for this shot she wanted to feature a Fossil watch her boyfriend had given her as a gift.

Once I found out that she had a bearded dragon as a pet, I thought it would be neat to get some shots of her with Bane, whom she had named after the DC Comics supervillain.

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The thing I love most about doing these shoots is that they are different every time. Boudoir is unique to each person and each person has varying levels of comfort with how they express their sexuality. It’s an immensely fulfilling experience to do a boudoir shoot with a woman who may not be fully comfortable with their body-image, but who do it anyway.

To see that person blossom throughout the shoot and become more confident and aware of how beautiful they are, and for my photos to play a role in that is truly an honor.

The equipment

I’d purchased the Neewer kit which included two stands with brackets for mounting the speedlight hot shoe, two translucent white umbrellas, two black/silver umbrellas, and a nice carrying case for the set. All for less than $50- totally within my student budget.

Upon receiving the product I set up both stands with my Altura speedlites and it worked perfectly. The stands and screws are mostly made of plastic and seemed like they’d be flimsy, so I made a mental note to just be careful. I disassembled everything and packed up my case for the assignment.

I did the shoot at my client’s apartment and I was excited to finally have a lighting setup that was efficient while also quick to put up and break down.

I was in the middle of attaching my speedlite to one of the stands when the screw that tightens the clamp which holds the speedlite popped off. That’s no big deal, you just screw it back in…unless it continuously just keeps popping out at you.

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Hot shoe attachment clamp for speedlite. The screw on the left is turned to tighten or loosen the clamp to fit hot shoe attachment for the speedlite. 

Upon investigation after the shoot I found the screw was in perfect condition but the insert for where the screw goes, wasn’t even threaded it was just a circular, plastic hole.

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Side view of speedlite hot shoe attachment with screw clamp off. The hole in the middle is where the screw goes in to either tighten or loosen the attachment that holds the speedlite. 

I probably spent almost 10 minutes messing around which this attachment, which dropped my speedlite THREE TIMES, before I gave up and just used the speedlite without the stand. I didn’t drop a huge amount of money on my speedlites, but if they hadn’t fallen onto carpet my speedlites likely would have broken.

Braving the cold

Can’t believe I haven’t posted in a few weeks! With the holidays, Christmas and New Years, and a surprise by my sister getting engaged (!) it’s been very busy and I’d realized I hadn’t taken much of any photos. Now that it’s been getting colder I’ve been dying to get some snow photos but as of yet the weather hasn’t worked out with my schedule. Plenty of winter left though!
Today Aaqilah and I ventured out to a local park to snag some photos. Daylight was not on our side though and with freezing temperatures and fading light we didn’t last very long, but here is one of my favorites from this session.

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EAT IT-Sickening Fashion Assignment

I’ve been itching to shoot this assignment since I saw it on the syllabus at the start of class weeks ago. This shoot was especially important to me because I don’t believe that the only people capable of achieving high fashion are shirtless dudes showing their eight pack or thin women with unbelievably long legs and this gave me the opportunity to capture that.

This assignment was two part. One had to be shot in the studio and the other had to have location lighting. I wanted to photograph roller derby fashion and people in the drag community. I decided to shoot my queens in the studio where I had more flexibility to play around with lighting and photograph the derby women at the arena where they practice because the track would only add to the context of the photo.

Studio drag shoot:

Zach (aka Lacey Grace)

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Zachary Bach, whose stage name is Lacey Grace, poses in drag in the studio on Wednesday, Oct. 12 on Central Michigan University’s campus.

Zach was seriously a trooper. He is a friend on my roommate’s and he came to our apartment at 8 a.m so Casey could do his makeup. We were trying to shoot at 10 in the studio because he had to work at 1 p.m. We got to the studio a little bit early so we had time to set up and maximize on time to shoot. All we ran into were issues. I had two lights set up like so:

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Simple, easy, and ready to go. Hooked up my sync cord and hot shoe: wouldn’t fire. I’m standing there swearing like a sailor fumbling around trying to make sure everything had a tight connection, hooked up the cord to my other camera to eliminate the possibility that it’s an issue with my camera, and it still didn’t fire. I looked at Zach as he was getting his heels on and just told him he might as well keep them off and save his feet because it could be a while.

An hour later I had eliminated an issue with my camera, tried every hot shoe with every sync cord, and thought geez it must be the hot shoe. So I walk my booty down to the office and talk to the ladies who had opened the studio for me an hour prior and asked if there was a possibility that I could borrow a hot shoe from the second studio to see if all three of the ones in ours were malfunctioning. They then directed me to a professor that was able to get one for me on the promise of my life if I did not return it (which I did), and it still didn’t work. I was very aggravated and grumbling a lot of curses toward the equipment and was getting ready to pack my stuff up and find some other way to photograph Zach with the time we had left when I had a thought. I unhooked the sync cord from my primary light with my softbox and tried another monolight. Clicked my shutter: flash goes off. Sync port malfunction.

Praise the sun, we have a winner. But the light wasn’t where I wanted it so I had to swap around my equipment and I added another light to the left of my softbox setup. The lamp on the malfunctioning monolight still worked so I moved that to be my backlight, then I quickly took the light where the flash would fire and made that my primary light to my right, then I added another light to my left where the flash would still fire via slave, but dialed down the intensity. I just wanted it to lightly touch my model when it fired.

Eventually I had my final setup:

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Then we got to work. img_1461Lacey Grace performs in the studio in Wightman at Central Michigan University on Wednesday, Oct. 12. Zachary Bach, 22, is from Grand Blanc, Michigan and is pursuing a degree in accounting and will be graduating in December. “I knew I wanted to do drag a couple years ago after watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and realizing how fun it looked,” Bach said. “I have always been a performer and I’ve done a lot of theater so I knew that drag was definitely in my wheelhouse.”

Neither of the queens I photographed had any professional quality photos of themselves in drag so they were just as excited to shoot this assignment as I was. We started off shooting full body and doing some still shots, then I asked him if he would perform a song so I could get some photos of Lacey Grace “in action” if you will.

Other than equipment malfunctions I think one of the most challenging things about this assignment was learning how to fix makeup in photoshop. Basically I’ve had nearly zero experience in that regard and in the original images Lacey Grace had incredibly heavy foundation down around her eyebrows so I went in and fixed them in nearly every image. Time consuming, but it was a welcome challenge. Below are the before and after shots. On the left is the original image that has no editing, on the right is after editing. Spot healing brush in photoshop was a huge help.

img_1627Lacey Grace poses with her makeup brush in the studio. “For me, drag is just another form of expressing myself,” Bach said. “It helps me break away from the shy persona that I sometimes give off when I’m not in drag.”

Neal (aka Lavender Hazze)

My second drag queen was Neal. I photographed Zach and Neal back to back and it worked out perfectly. Unlike Zach, Neal is very new to the drag community, but not new to loving it.

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Neal Primm, 21, also known as Lavender Hazze, poses in the studio Wednesday, Oct. 12 at Central Michigan University. “I knew I wanted to become a drag queen was in high school,” Primm said. “It was after I saw my first performance by a drag queen that opened up many doors to so many ideas.” Neal is currently studying at Mid Michigan Community College working towards a visual ads degree with full focus on ultimately becoming a photographer.

I spent so much of my time photographing these queens while standing on a chair. This little 5’2″ frame of mine was not conducive to photographing already tall men, dressed up as women, and in heels on top of it. The original photos I took minus the chair look like a toddler took them…while sitting down.

We played lots of music in the studio throughout and Neal really shined while I photographed the still photos and I was really impressed by the originality Neal showed as Hazze. Generally when you think of drag queen you picture essentially a beauty pagent queen but there are so many different types and to be able to photograph that and essentially represent it was truly a blessing. That’s not to say that Lavender Hazze isn’t beautiful, because she is. She just has her own style and I love that.

Neal also walked into the studio and pulled out these fake ass looking flowers out of his bag telling me about how excited he was to use them in the photos. I love when models do this because they not only got excited and brainstormed what they wanted to do but it gives me an even bigger opportunity to really represent them by using their ideas. For a moment I thought to myself, what the hell am I going to do with these ugly looking flowers, then I thought fuck it, it’s going to be awesome. And it was.

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Lavender Hazze poses with flowers in the studio at Central Michigan University. “There’s so much creativity and art behind drag if you put your mind to it, and that is something that captivates me,” Primm said. “This is my opportunity to show people that you can do anything you put your heart into.”

Neal was also super excited about tearing those photos apart, but initially we’d either throw the flowers out of frame, or he’d be smiling in the photo which would seem to contradict the tearing of the flowers. One of the most memorable experiences in the beginning of our time together he said laughingly, “You know, I feel like since I am getting my photo taken that I should be smiling.” And you could see that nervous energy, but I just told him something to the effect that he should just do what he feels comfortable doing and if that’s smiling, then to do it, but if not don’t worry about smiling.

img_1788Lavender Hazze tears apart flowers in the studio. “You’ve gotta ignore the negativity the world is throwing at you and just do whatever it is you want! For me, I’m blooming. No more holding back,” Primm said.

When my roommate saw this image she said something that I believe was incredibly profound and correlates to the drag community and how people view it. “It’s almost as if the flowers represent femininity and destroying them is destroying the social confines of who and what can be feminine.” -Casey Crick

Central Michigan Mayhem

Cassi (aka Battle Scarred Beauty) and Kate (aka Sly Vixen)

So photographing the women on the Central Michigan Mayhem team was a lot of fun. It wasn’t my first experience with them as I had photographed their annual event Zombies vs. Vampires bout last year, an event I will also be covering this year on Saturday, Oct. 29. I planned to get to the arena after their practice but got there early in case they finished practice early. The down side of that I hadn’t realized, was that the ladies would be tuckered out after practice and almost all of them felt like a hot and sweaty mess and weren’t really up for being photographed. Two rockstars got their gear back on for me and went in front of the camera so I could get some shots for my assignment.

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Cassi Weatherby, known by her derby name Battle Scarred Beauty, shows of her derby fashion after the Central Michigan Mayhem’s practice on Wednesday, Oct. 12 at Northside Hansen Arena (formerly known as Spinning Wheels Arena) in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Weatherby, 25, from Sumner, Michigan, originally started doing roller derby almost five years ago just before two deployments with the National Guard.

The arena looked a lot different from what I remembered the last time I was there. Along the top of the walls near the ceiling there were a lot of reflective surfaces which were incredibly distracting in the images and lots of things in the background I tried my best to avoid, like the glowing red of the exit sign, benches, etc. Since I didn’t want to take up a lot of the women’s time, I kind of just shrugged and accepted the fact that it was part of the environment and make it work. Really looking forward to working with these ladies again in a few weeks.

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Weatherby goofs around with fellow Mayhem skater Kate Hewitt, also known as Sly Vixen. Hewitt, 32, from Alma, Michigan, has been a skater with Central Michigan Mayhem for almost five years. “Roller derby tricks me into exercising, but it’s more than that,” Hewitt said. “It’s a kind of therapy that helps me on bad days realize that I don’t have to be the skinniest, perfect person. It helps me realize that I am strong; I am brave; and that is beautiful. I also have a fantastic group of people that I consider part of my family. Roller derby is about empowering women, love, and respect and that’s what it means to me.”

The location lighting setup I used to photograph the ladies was really basic, just two strobes. Since I was coming after practice I wanted to use a setup that would be effective but quick to put up and tear down so they didn’t have to wait on me.

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Just a taste of fashion

Later on this week I will be posting photos focusing on fashion for my most recent assignment in my studio photography class, but here’s a taste of what’s to come!

My classmates and I were given the opportunity to practice with models that came to our class on Monday. Half of the class divided up and went in the studio and the other half worked outside and we swapped after we shot at each location. To my surprise I found it was actually easier working with the models outside because we weren’t confined to just one area so we shot up against walls, statues, and over some train tracks. The models were really troopers being out in the cold  and helping us out. These are two of my favorite shots from that class period, one in the studio and the other outside.

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Aaqilah Abdur-Rasheed, 20, from Southfield, Michigan, models in the studio for the studio photography class at Central Michigan University (CMU) on Monday, Oct. 10. Abdur-Rasheed is a junior at CMU and is pursuing a degree in advertising.

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Merissa McTaggart, 23, from Port Huron, Michigan, poses on the train tracks located on Central Michigan University’s campus on Monday, Oct. 10. McTaggart is pursuing a double major at CMU in biology and psychology.

On the spot

This week in my studio photography class we experimented with taking the lighting out of the studio and working with the equipment on the spot. I found this assignment challenging mostly because of trouble shooting. Between both subjects I took over 1,000 images, a good chunk of which were ill-lit or completely dark because one or both of each flashes didn’t take. My models for this assignment were Katya and Rylee.

Katya:

I had a lot of fun working with Katya. The biggest issue with us was scheduling time to shoot. I was sick the whole week leading up to the shoot and I was only able to rent the equipment for a day and a half, so she met with me when I got out of work later in the week. I expected to shoot for an hour but we ended up shooting for around three hours, until nearly 11:30 p.m. Staying out that late in the cold ended up making me sick again, but it was well worth it.

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Katya Chaykovska, 23, was born in Simferopol, Ukraine and is pursuing a Doctoral I/O in psychology at Central Michigan University. “This is my Lucky Huffcut. He’s a Huffy mountain bike, named after a pretty popular author in industrial psychology literature,” Chaykovska said. “He belonged to my older stepsister long before I came to the U.S. I didn’t know how to ride a bike until I was 14, and this was my first and only bike since then. He’s seen me cry and laugh, taken me places in wind and rain and sunshine, and is still rusting by my side to this day.”

My lighting setup for Katya:lightingsetupkatya

Rylee:

Other than my niece, Rylee is the only other child I’ve worked with photographing. One of my coworkers was kind enough to work around my crazy busy schedule and let me photograph her daughter. The most challenging part of photographing Rylee was that she didn’t want to stay in one spot, like any normal kid. The issue was just moving and angling the flash equipment each time she moved, but once I had a few shots I was happy to just photograph her and enjoy watching her play.

“The moment is more important than the light,” Joe McNally, author of Hot Shoe Diaries.

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1-year-old Rylee Andrews, from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, enjoys playing on the swings at Chipp-a-Waters Park on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. Rylee’s mother Ashley said playing on the slides and the swings are her favorite things to do at the park.

My lighting setup for Rylee:

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In class:

In class last Monday was the first time we physically got to interact with the remote flashes. I paired up with Taleen to do some practice shooting for the assignment. Neither of us were feeling that well and I personally had a difficult time coming up with ideas. Once we got to shooting though I ended up with a lot of images that were either too dark or too bright, and a lot where I had to adjust my shutter speed because I was getting a lot of curtains in my images. I finally got the hang of it and that experience really helped me for when I was on my own shooting my assignment. The image below is the result of Taleen’s and my time getting used to the equipment.

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I really liked the idea of using the stairs because I just love how the stairs give shadows and the lines of the steps in the image. We had two remote flashes and I set one up down the stairs in front of her aiming up at her face, and the second I set up behind her and to her right to give her back an outline, then I actually shot down at her from the second story.

Hands on in studio

This semester I’m taking a class on studio techniques and lighting taught by Kent Miller and Monday was our first time shooting in the studio. We each had to come up with a costume of sorts because we would be photographing our classmates as well as being photographed ourselves. I spent the entirety of the three weeks advance notice on this subject torturing myself on what I wanted to bring as my costume, what would represent me as a person. I could bring my longboard or my skateboard but I felt like I’m not so good at skating that I’d label myself as a skater. I also thought about bringing all my photo and video gear but I nixed that idea the quickest. I likened it to going to a culinary school and on the first day when the teacher asks you about yourself and you go, “well I like to cook.” Even though photojournalism is a huge part of who I am, I wanted to show a different aspect of me. An hour before class I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do until it just clicked. I’m a huge book nerd. I had my first Amazon account when I was 11 so that I could buy books and I have three bookcases in my bedroom spewing books all over. I stuffed as many as I could of those in my bag and headed off to class.

The last part of class is when we got to shoot and I saw my classmates pull out some really creative and cool ideas such as body paint, gas masks, and even a Stormtrooper. I started to low-key panic thinking I possibly missed the memo and I should have thought of an idea that was wearable, like the masks, so I tried to be one of the last to be photographed so that I could have time to set up. I ended up being paired up with this girl whose name I don’t yet know, but I was incredibly grateful because she had a really friendly smile and put me at ease. I was the model first so I dumped all my my books on the floor in the studio and stacked them as fast as I could and perched on that like a chair with my favorite Anne Bishop book in my hand then wondered the whole time if I had stacked the books to fast because they seemed super wobbly and I was really hoping I wouldn’t fall and make an idiot of myself. And Praise the Sun, I didn’t fall.

Now finally the photos. (Click images to enlarge).

We started by getting a full body shot, then medium, then a closeup. I shot each image at ISO 200 with and f-stop 18 and 1/160 shutter speed. For this particular assignment with my model I really thought that the close up was the best because the far shots distanced the model and made it harder to see the love and pride she has for Michigan.

Jazzy Girl: Alfie Jean, Jazz Singer and Pin Up Model teaches vintage style

Red lipstick, puffy dresses, garter belts, and victory rolls. Such is the life of a pin up girl.

25-year-old Port Huron resident Alyssa Ferri is living the vintage dream.

Ferri is the founder of Alfie Jean’s Pin Up Charm School where she teaches women to embrace themselves and how to do proper pin up and style ranging from makeup, hair and dress to posing and pin up etiquette.

She is also the lead singer of Fifth Avenue, a jazz band created by her and her boyfriend of three years Jack Wellington.

“She is so into that scene of high class and pin ups and stuff like that, that she came up with Fifth Avenue,” Wellington said who plays bass in Fifth Avenue. “There used to be an old saying, ‘Oh that’s so Fifth Avenue,’ referring to someone being really classy. We chose that.”

Fifth Avenue started off doing free shows to gain recognition and is now being paid for their work.

The group has traveled all over Michigan from Traverse City to Grand Rapids, but Ferri says she would love to see the band travel out of state.

Ferri, who also goes by pin up name Alfie Jean, credits her love for pin up with her love for jazz.

Controlled Chaos Magazine lists Alfie Jean as number four of the top seven pin up models in Michigan.

“When there’s something you really like you want to learn more about it,” Ferri said.

So she explored and practiced, eventually starting the charm school to help other women begin.

“There were all these questions, all the time, just questions about pin up and I wanted to help people,” Ferri said. “I worked really hard to know the things I know. The wardrobe, the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the prop pieces; everything has to be researched and made sure it’s era appropriate.”

Ferri didn’t always have the appreciation for vintage that she does today.

“I grew up kind of poor, so I was wearing thrift store finds that my mom would get,” Ferri said. “At that time, I would get teased for it, bullied, because I was the poor thrifted kid. It didn’t feel good, like it was horrible to be wearing vintage.”

During college Ferri was in an abusive relationship.

“It was about five years of just like abuse if every way you can imagine. That person just kind of beats it out of you, who you are. When that finally ended and I moved to town, I didn’t know who I was anymore,” Ferri said.

It wasn’t until after when she started seeing Wellington that Ferri said she started accepting who she is.

Ferri said she originally thought pin up modeling was going to be a hobby, but just fell in love with it.

“It’s so good, and so empowering. You can embrace your femininity. It’s powerful to me. Once that all happened, I knew this is for me,” Ferri said. “I thought it was going for fun, but it became this full time feel good job.”

She began the charm school to help women who are interested in learning have an easier time than she did starting when she had no help.

Ferri said she worked with a student that hated her smile.

“She expressed to me that the reason she doesn’t like to smile is that someone had made a very rude comment about her teeth and ever since then she just stopped,” Ferri said. “We just talked about it, and at the shoot I actually got her to smile. That meant a lot to me. When she saw the pictures, she actually cried. That’s so amazing to me. If that’s what doing the charm school is about, that is so worth it.”

No prior experience or knowledge is necessary to take the classes.

“You don’t have to be a pin up, you don’t have to know anything, or you can know stuff and want to know more,” Ferri said. “I’ve had girls that have never modeled before in their lives that don’t even know how to put on makeup, to girls that actually do pin up with me.”

All of the charm school classes end in a photo session with RSII Photography owned by Ray Smith.

Ferri hopes to eventually get a location for the charm school. Right now, she is teaching out of her apartment.

“You don’t know who’s coming to your apartment a lot of times,” Ferri said. “A lot of these girls, I’ve never met before in my life. They just sign up and come to my home. That can be kind of unsettling sometimes. You don’t know what could happen.”

But Ferri says the risk is worth it so see the result.

“I will do it for 20 years and if I only get 10 girls, then at least I changed 10 girls’ lives,” Ferri said.

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