Category Archives: Photography

Hip Things

Meet Lynn and Ava. Hip, cool, retro and just darn nice people. I had the pleasure of shooting their portraits the other day and wanted to share a few. Hopefully you can tell how much fun I had, becauseI was smiling just as much as they were!

 

Whatever your thing is, make sure you are having fun and doing what you love. Life is too short to be doing things you don’t want to do.

 

All Images ©2012 Ken Wallace Films LLC / La Belle Tu Portrait Studio

www.labelletu.com

 

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My Things

My Bag

I”ve always thought it was fun to peek inside a photographer’s camera bag, so I though I would share mine. It is pretty minimal, but seems to do give me the tools I need in most situations!

When I go out with my camera I carry my LowePro bag with just the essentials. For me, the essentials are:

  • Canon EOS 5D Mk III
  • Canon 24-105mm IS zoom lens
  • Canon 70-200mm IS II zoom lens
  • Canon 24mm f1.4 lens
  • Canon 680 EX strobe
  • Rapid shoulder strap
  • Color Checker Passport
  • Extra 32GB SD Card

I might also carry a few other things outside the bag, such as:

  • Lastolite Pro Tri-Grip Reflector
  • Manfroto Tripod
  • 3 meters of diffusion material

And for off-camera flash work I will add:

  • Pocket Wizard TT1 and TT5 remote triggers
  • Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite

 

FOR MORE ON MY PHOTOGRAPHY PLEASE VISIT

WWW.LABELLETU.COM

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The Whole Wide World

This week was spent taking a trip down memory lane. I scanned through 14 years of home videos to put together a video piece for La Belle Tu called Whole Wide World. It is the story of “a little girl with great big plans” and set to a catchy tune by Mindy Gledhill from Triple Scoop Music.

While the existing videos provided footage for about half of the piece, the concept of a mother and daughter who capture a moment in time taking photos together required putting on a small shoot at the La Belle Tu studio.

We shot our talented cast (my wife and daughter) using a Canon 5D Mark 3 as well as a Canon Vixia HD digital video camera as they experience their photo shoot together. I must say that I have a whole new respect for filmmakers. It isn’t easy directing a movie—even one that is only 3 minutes long!

The final video tells the story of a little girl growing up fast and sharing special moments in her life with her mother.

Enjoy the Whole Wide World

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New Things

I’ve been a bit absent on my blog lately and I apologize for being gone so long. There are lots of new things going on in my life and it just seems like the days race by! One of those new things is that I have started a photography business called La Belle Tu (The Beautiful You). For me, this is the natural evolution of finding my thing. Taking beautiful pictures is something that energizes and inspires me. FindYourThing has always been driven by my photography and this summer the opportunity came up to take the next step and make photography a very serious part of my life.

La Belle Tu is a portrait studio with the mission to take beautiful pictures of real women. Not models or actresses, but everyday women from 8 to 80 who want to experience what it is like to take some time out for themselves and spend an afternoon looking and feeling glamourous.

To accomplish this we converted our garage into a small studio that has a dedicated make-up and hair room, a private changing room and natural light studio with multiple backdrops for shooting.

The result was a fantastic small studio–a perfect environment for shooting portraits just steps from my back door! From idea to completion the entire project took just a few weeks. It is amazing to discover what you can accomplish in a short time with a little planning and a lot of hard work.

To see more photos and find out about La Belle Tu please have a look at our website and drop us a line. And of course if you find yourself in Los Angeles schedule a shoot!

     

Ken Wallace

www.labelletu.com

www.facebook.com/labelletu

www.twitter.com/labelletu

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Fresh Things

I love finding a good farmers’ market. Today we strolled through the streets of downtown Boise, Idaho and sampled an amazing assortment of fresh grown foods.

Our morning started out with a coffee at a local shop that reputedly had the best coffee in town. That’s a phrase you hear a lot, but I have to admit that it was at least the best coffee I’ve had in Boise so far…

We then met up with family and began our urban market exploration…

There were fresh vegetables and fruit of course, but also cheese, honey, bread, wine, crepes and flowers of all sorts.

It reminded me of the markets in France.

It was getting warm out, and pretty crowded, so we made our final purchases and worked our way back to our little guest house a few blocks away…

Seriously, when you are able to find porcini mushrooms in Boise, Idaho I think we are finally able to enjoy the kinds of markets that little villages in France and Italy have had for generations.

 

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Beautiful Things

On Saturday morning the parents of the Pasadena Waldorf School braved the brisk California 70 degree morning air and gathered under partially cloudy skies  to witness the 8th Grade class graduation ceremony.

All Waldorf events start with food. It is tradition that for the graduation, the 7th grade class provides the reception, and we were greeted with a wonderful spread of homemade scones, finger sandwiches, hot coffee and tea.

A PWS graduation is unlike the typical middle school ceremony. The classes are small (21 kids are in the 8th grade class) and so there is time to spend reflecting on the individual children and what the event means as they transition into being young adults. The families are recognized, thoughtful and funny speeches are made and songs are sung.

Waldorf events are big on ritual and symbolism. Flowers are taken and given, songs are sung and poems recited. Watching my daughter sitting there with her class it was hard not to tear up and get all mushy.

PWS students are an amazing group of kids. They are confident, artistic and ready to take on the world. The education produces creative thinkers who have a sense of their humanity and place in the world.

This year will see the beginning of the Pasadena Waldorf High School. Our daughter will be in the first class–a class of less than 15 kids. They will be the pioneers, shaping the school for future classes.

Our daughter gave us a rose and a card with the following note inside:

“Dear Mon and Dad, I am so grateful for all the work and dedication you have put in for me to receive this education. Each of you have put so much time into making all this possible. Without Waldorf, I believe that I would be a completely different person than I am now. Thank you for everything. Love, Paige.”

Continuing her Waldorf education into high school was totally her decision to make, and I think it took courage. In a class of 500 you can blend in, find a little group of friends and feel safe.

In a class of 15 kids there is no place to hide.

The years are racing by at the speed of light and it is all we can do to hang on, love one another, and savor the moments we have together.

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Glamorous Things

One of the areas of photography that has always interested me is glamour portrait work. Working with beautiful models seemed like it might be a fun way to spend an afternoon. This last week I decided to dip my toe in the water and I participated in a glamour shoot with volunteer models who were willing to pose in exchange for prints after the shoot (also known as a TF Shoot, or Trade For Shoot). I guess it is a leap of faith on their part that anything that might come from such a shoot would be worth trading their time!

I tried to do my homework and researched glamour photos, posing techniques, etc. with the goal of not appearing to be a complete moron in front of the ladies. On the morning of the shoot I had two confirmed models scheduled to meet me at the small studio space in the Los Angeles Arts/Warehouse district near the Little Tokyo part of the city.

Now I had been warned that models who book TF shoots are notorious for not showing up, so I booked two girls figuring that most likely one would have [car/boyfriend/work/hair/etc.] issues and flake out. Instead, both turned up right on time and I had two models to juggle over the next few hours of shooting.

I had decided to start by shooting close up portraits so that I could ease into working on poses with as few variables as possible. I also thought that this was when make-up and hair would probably look its best since there was not a dedicated make-up person on the shoot. After about 30 minutes of fussing with lights and gear, the shoot finally got underway. I decided to shoot these against a wall in the studio where there was some natural light coming in through the windows, though I also lit with the strobes.

This is Destiny…

And this is Crissy…

For the full body shots we moved to a white seamless. Destiny went first, changing into a rather daring red and black outfit!

Crissy was a bit more conservative, but still played up the sexy look..

I alternated between the two girls for about three hours, giving each a chance to change and rest after about 30 minutes of shooting. Giving them posing instructions was and interesting and educational exercise in communication! I can only imagine how they felt as I tried to verbalize twisting and turning them like pretzels! In the end, I found actually demonstrating what I wanted was much more successful than describing it, and provided some comic relief as well.

All together I shot about 500 photos, and narrowed it down to about 25 for them to choose their favorite five from. Since I spend about 15-30 minutes retouching the final photos, five images is about all I have time for..

It was a great learning experience and I have a couple more shoots in the works this week. Hey, there could be worse ways to spend some free time…

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Things that Flash

I have been working hard on learning how to light with off-camera strobe lights. A great resource for anyone interested in using flashes is the Strobist Blog. One thing that I’ve found out quickly is that once you head down the strobe path, there is a whole bunch of new things to learn.

I love to learn new things!

There is also an endless amount of money to be spent on equipment (strobes, radio triggers, cables, light modifiers, books, etc.), which can lead to a hefty credit card bill quickly if you lack self restraint and like shiny new electronic toys.

I love shiny new electronic toys!

Taking photos with strobes presents a unique challenge that involves a balance of creative and technical skill. It especially appeals to me because it means really considering the image you want to create, and shaping the light to serve the vision for that image.

Below is my first real attempt to use multiple light sources to shape an image. My son loves to read and can often be found oblivious to the world with his head tucked deep into the folds of a novel (especially a Harry Potter novel). I wanted an image that captured his love of reading and the sparkle in his eyes when he is caught reading one of his favorite books.

I took a layered approach to building this image. First I calculated an exposure that reduced most of the natural light in the room. The curtains were quite bright and I did not want them to overpower the bulb in the lamp. My exposure was:

ISO 200, 1/200 sec., f /5.0

This effectively took all the ambient light influence out of the photo, leaving just the strobes to light Ryan and the chair and table set piece.

I then added a fill light which was a flash shot through an Westcott shoot-through umbrella just to the left of my camera.

This guaranteed me that I would see detail in the left side of his face, the book and the furniture, and that the bulb in the light would be visible. The flash setting on this was:

Canon 580 EX II Flash at 1/16 + 1/3 power on Manual Mode

The last step was to add the key light, which I wanted to be warm and be far enough back that it felt like it could have been generated from the mica lamp. My first attempts had the flash too far back, which was not very flattering and spilled distracting light on the lamp.

I adjusted by moving the key light forward and attached some black cardboard to keep it from spilling on the lamp and background. The final set-up looked like this:

This gives you an idea how much light was actually coming through the windows, but with the fast shutter speed it was almost all canceled out so that the strobes would be the primary light sources in the shot. The key light strobe was shot through a Lastolite 24: McNally Ezybox with a full CTO gel for warmth. The flash setting on this was:

Canon 430 EX II Flash at 1/4 + 2/3 power on Manual Mode

The 580 EX II was connected to my camera using a long TTL cable. And both flashes had Pocket Wizard TT5 radio triggers to fire them, although I could have used Canon’s built-in flash triggering system if I wanted to.

Here is the lighting “diagram” from my note pad:

It was a fun little project, and the best part was that I ended up with a nice shot of my son!

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Things we ask of our Neighbors

We live in a small suburban community in Southern California. There are no walls surrounding our vast 1700 square foot estate to protect us from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. People walk the sidewalks in the evenings with their kids and pets, and neighbors routinely visit just to say hello. One of our neighbors is a lovely lady who has become our children’s adopted grandmother, since their actual grandparents live out of state. She is a sweet and generous woman who lives alone, but has become a part of our family. We regularly share holidays and homemade meals with her, which is delightful because she is an amazing cook!

I’ve been looking for willing subjects to photograph, since I’ve recently acquired some strobes and a small bit of other portrait gear. She seemed like the perfect victim volunteer. She thought the idea sounded fun (she obviously had never posed for an amateur photographer), so we set a date for the weekend to take some shots.

My goal with this self-assigned project was three-fold: 1) take some photos of my friend that wouldn’t embarrass her or myself, 2) learn a bit about running a shoot and working with models, and 3) figure out how to work the darn strobes and radio transmitters.

Helping me was a very capable none-year old, my son. He was given the task of holding a reflector, which, based on the volume of complaining must have been the heaviest reflector in the world. Good help is hard to find, especially at the rates I pay.

My model was an amateur photographer’s dream–patient and interested. Never once did she call her agent or need to be coaxed from her trailer.

We spent about two hours shooting in several spots around her home and garden, laughing as we tried different silly things, and ultimately capturing a few images that I think represent the kind spirit and good humor of this very special person in our lives.

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Things that Rise – Part 1

A few years ago I had an extended amount of time off work, which would have been lovely had I actually wanted an extended period of unemployment. I like to keep busy. After about 3 weeks at home I begin to loose my mind and I start looking for things to keep me entertained. Since I am a naturally curious person the objects of my focus can be rather random.

This particular time it was bread.

Our bread machine had died and it occurred to me that it might actually be possible to make bread without a big plastic machine. My wife was skeptical. I was fairly sure it could be done, and if something can be done at all my theory is that it can be done by me given a decent set of instructions and enough practice.

I didn’t grow up with good bread. Bread was something to spread peanut butter and jelly on. At its best it could be used to contain a slice of lunch meat, cheese and artificial mayonnaise. My life view on bread changed dramatically after our trips to Europe.

Bread in France and Italy is an art form. Gluten free does not exist. Lines form at 7am to buy the best bread. At the bakery (boulangerie) in our village of Bedoin you have to sign up on a list the day before to be guaranteed a baguette the next morning.

I wanted to bake bread that people will line up for.

My initial research indicated that great bread is baked in a wood-fired bread oven, not a plastic machine. I bought plans to build one.

When I priced out the plans and estimated the construction time I calculated that I could build this oven for about $5,000 and that it would take the rest of my life to complete. Unless my wife killed me before I was done.

So I did some more research, which is when I found a critical piece of information:

Your home oven can be used to bake really good bread for the cost of a pizza stone and a water spray bottle! Wow, that’s SO much easier!

The next critical component to bread is the hungry little critter that makes it rise. Yeast. Sure, you can get little packets of super-fast-rising-instant-dry-yeast, but I don’t think the French bakers get their yeast that way. And I wanted to make crusty chewy bread that wouldn’t go stale after a day. I needed…

A sourdough starter.

There are processes to grow yeast au natural, but I was too much of a beginner and way too impatient to delve into that black magic. Instead, I found a local bakery that made yummy sourdough bread and asked if they would give me some starter (sure, I bought some bread before hitting them up for a freebie).

Did you know you have to feed sourdough starter every other day at least? Sourdough starter is a living organism and you feed it flour and water to keep it alive.

It was like having another child!

…. coming next, the continuing adventures of the unemployed baker.

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