Big Lights, Big Zoom, Bigger Wish List

I had the opportunity to use actual studio lights last weekend at the Cats Corner staff photo-shoot and had this weird sensation that I was somehow cheating on my trusty old SB900s.

Some of the pros of using studio lights for the first time included:

  • Way faster recycling time between flashes. There were only about two or three times where the left key or right fill light didn’t fire. Compare that to my SB900s which overheat every thirty shots or so.
  • Larger spread of light with the increased power and big soft box.
  • Professional looking equipment makes your talent a lot more amiable for posing certain ways.

Of course there were some cons, which included a lot longer time to set-up and take down. This might not seem such a big deal because I had all afternoon to shoot but I can imagine this being a pain if I was pressed for time.

On one occasion I actually knocked over one of the light stands (with the attached light). I blame the short power-cord (small wireless flashes have no cords to trip or pull over) and not at all on my lack of coordination. :-/

I rented a 70-300mm tele-zoom, which makes my camera look less like an apparatus to take pictures with and more looking like a sniper gun. I wanted REALLY BADLY to not like this lens. It’s way too expensive to even think about getting one for myself and impractical for day-to-day shooting. Buttttt alas, I was super impressed with the sharpness and clarity of the glass even when wide-open and the included vibration reduction feature, while being a little bit worrisome while using it (it makes a weird lo-hum whirling sound), made my shaky hands less of a liability over the course of the shoot.

As for the actual pictures themselves, I experimented with going with a more punchy and high-contrast look and set up the lights to have a bit of harder impact (ed. does that even make sense???). I felt pretty content with the results but on closer inspection there were some poses/angles where the lighting produced some weird angled shadows on the dancer’s bodies. Nuts. I’m thinking that I probably needed reflectors or a soft box from the bottom angled upwards. Will investigate.

To check out some of the photos from the shoot, head on over to:

Anyhoo… later days,

– Randy

Doin’ the Jive – Party Rocking in Seattle 30’s style

One of the greatest things about living here on the West Coast, beyond the sun and mountains, is that Seattle, the mega hub of Lindy + Black Coffee, is only a 2.5 hour drive away.

Seattle punches me in the heart, as I fondly remember falling in love with Lindy with my first experience at Seattle Lindy Exchange in 2007. I will go down whenever I can, and as of recent, it’s been 3 our of the 4 weekends in a month! In my opinion, it is THE place to go for lindy hop because of it’s focus on the local scene. From beginners to internationally renowned instructors, everyone is great, and everyone is working on something all the time. It is inspiring to say the least.

Those of you in Toronto, will get a chance this weekend to experience a piece of Seattle this weekend, when I hear that Joshua ‘Black Coffee’ Welter is coming out there to teach the ‘Doin’ the Jive’ mob dance, created in Seattle, by Seattle dancers, and played by Seattle’s ‘Careless Lovers’.

I was so excited to hear that, I made a video for y’all and the Doin’ the Jive video from this weekend after the jump.

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What’s More Nerve-Racking than Competing?

Watching your friends and teammates compete.

I’m sure you know this but Montréal has a very competitive social dance culture. Whether that is solo dancing competitions such as Juste Debout, or swing competitions around Quebec and north-eastern United States, it seems like most people I know are competing in some form or another. Montreal is a great city to grow as a dancer. Being around highly motivated dancers pushes me mentally to make it out to those extra practices when all I really want to do is just chill and play Mass Effect all evening long.

As expected, the more competitions I do, the less nervous I get. Perhaps I’m just getting a big older as well but at the end of the day, social dance competitions are not that really such a big deal. It’s fun to dance and do it in front of people but placing or winning is not why I go to those events. While it’s great to win and get recognition from your peers, I must always write that I have no aspiration to be a globe-trotting dance instructor, nor am I anywhere near that level anyways but that’s besides the point.

What I have been finding more though is that it’s hard to stay calm when people I know are competing or performing themselves! I get all shaky and start biting my nails (nasty habit I know) and can’t help but yell whenever I see them pull something off that I know they have been working on. I don’t even need to be there in person either to get nervous – for example, when I watched the Boston Tea Party videos from this year. I was pretty much yelling at my computer like a madman the entire time in joyous celebration. At Starbucks.

– Randy