pinup photography

review: Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella

Continuing the photo session with Ulorin Vex in the studio, I decided to swap out the big Profoto 4×3 softbox, for an even larger (but very affordable) light modifier – the Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (White / Black) (vendor).

Two things that immediately struck me about the Westcot Parabolic Umbrella … it’s sheer size when folder open. It is 7 feet if measured across the span of the umbrella’s arc. And when it is folded up, it is surprisingly compact and light-weight. It collapses to a 43.6″ size, and fits snugly into a 3″ diameter carry bag.

The idea behind a parabolic reflector, is that the rays of light coming from it, are parallel. This makes the umbrella very efficient in directing the light to your subject. There are other parabolic reflectors which are actually focusable, but they are very spendy. Thousands of dollars spendy. This makes the parabolic umbrellas like the Westcott really good value for money at only $100, if you’re looking for a large light modifier in the studio. (I’m not sure how practical it would be on location.) The Westcott 7′ Parabolic Umbrella (vendor) appears to be quite sturdy. The ribs are made of fiberglass. It elegantly folds open and closes as easily.

I chose the white/black umbrella over the silver Parabolic Umbrella (vendor), because I wanted a light that would be less specular and contrasty than the silver umbrella was designed to be. Since the white material scatters light more than the silver umbrella, the White umbrella doesn’t really offer any advantage over a non-parabolic reflector. Still, it is a huge light modifier at an affordable price, and light to carry.

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high-key studio portraits (part 2) – with Ulorin Vex

Continuing the photo session with Ulorin Vex, doing high-key studio portraits in the studio, she changed into a different costume. I wanted a more interesting edge definition than just the light spilling back from the background, so I added two gridded softboxes to each side …

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high-key studio portraits – with Ulorin Vex

One of the models that replied to my casting call for a model at my workshops in San Francisco in 2011, happened to be Ulorin Vex. I immediately recognized her, since I’ve seen photos of her in various portfolios. I was both surprised and very happy, since I regarded her as a bit of a superstar. I scheduled a photo session with her for the day after the two workshops in SF, and the images from those sessions appeared a few times on Tangents, and I’d consider them among the best work I had ever done. It helps to have an inspiring model!

Ulorin Vex was such a pleasure to photograph, and so professional, that when she let know me she was briefly visiting the New York area, I jumped at the chance of photographing her again. As I mentioned in my first impressions of the Nikon D800, I now have ready access to a large studio. I have acquired various lighting gear over time, but recently purchased the Profoto D1 Air 500 W/s studio light (vendor).

So I was all set for the photo session – a wonderful model; superb gear; and a large studio where we could shoot. I shot about 8 different setups, which I intend posting here over the next few days. (So be prepared for a few more blog posts from this session.)

For the first set-up, I decided to keep it very simple with a white backdrop, and high-key lighting …

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mimicking window light with off-camera bounce flash  (model: Ulorin Vex)

Continuing the photo session with Ulorin, we worked inside the hotel room for the next part. The photo above is a candid shot of Ulorin fixing her hair between changes in clothing. Ulorin’s next outfit shown in this article, was more revealing than the previous outfits during the photo session. (Just a heads-up for the Tangents readers who are surfing from their workplace.)

Photographing inside the room, I initially tried to work with just the window-light, but hit a small snag. The indirect light through the window kept changing on me as clouds moved in and out. Instead of changing my settings continually to match the light, I decided to revert to using flash to mimic the window light. This would give me consistent light.

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pin-up photography

September 23, 2010

pin-up photography – white on white

I had the great pleasure last night of attending a meeting by the Hudson Valley Click – a lighting and photography group in the Hudson Valley area of NY. The motive behind their meetings and photo shoots is to bring photographers, models, makeup artists, hairstylists and fashion designers together on monthly themed events. All designed for learning and portfolio building.

My friend Peter Salo invited me to the 50’s style pin-up photography session that was held last night in Sandy O’Shea’s studio.  (Sandy, thanks for allowing us to create havoc.)  There were four models, and there were make-up artists and hair stylists.

Along with the photos of two of the models shown here, there is also this pull-back shot of how I set up the lighting for these images …

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pin-up style photo session – a hot day

Continuing on with the pin-up series with Jessica, we decided on the concept for this session as ‘A Hot Day’. Skimpy summer holiday clothing; ice cream; a fan (with the blades made whirly in Photoshop) .. and incongruously, one of my cats walking through the set, looking for attention …

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The first time I became aware of the pin-up artwork of Alberto Vargas was with the release of the album, Candy-O, by the Cars in ’79. It was often mentioned how Vargas was brought out of semi-retirement to create this image.

With that, my interest in pin-up artwork by the legends, Vargas and by Gil Elvgren, was fired up.


This will also explain why I’ve been a fan of the photography of Robert Alvarado ever since I first saw his work. He clearly pays homage to those two artists.

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