Monday, April 26, 2010

Postcards from Playa: Fog Carousel

Playa del Rey, California
What do you think of when I say beach?  Sun?  Sand?  Surf?  Carousel?

I bet you didn't think carousel. And you probably didn't think fog either unless you have a habit of watching bad but good horror movies at 3am when you can't sleep.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Almost every day on the beach in Playa there seems to be a fashion shoot or commercial filming. As Michael was riding his bike in the morning through the fog he saw a carousel. One day as we're watching t.v. we saw a commercial with the same carousel, although on a sunny day. Simponi may cure what ails you, but if you're dreaming of a carousel ride on the beach, the horses vanished into thin air that foggy night. Thanks to Michael Gonzalez for the photo.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Congratulations Mackenzie & Allan!

Santa Monica, California
I'm finishing up editing photos from Mackenzie and Allan's beautiful wedding. Don't they make a gorgeous couple?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Polka Pin-Ups for Breast Cancer Awareness

My friend Michele is walking in the 3-Day for the Cure in honor of one of her best friends. To show my support of Michele and the 3-Day, Polka Pin-Ups is offering mini-sessions with all profits going toward Michele’s fundraising. Book soon before the spots are all gone!

WHAT: 1-2 hr boudoir session
including private online gallery of all images
AND a mini-album with 25 images

WHEN: Sat. May 22

WHERE: Chicago Northwest Suburbs
(email me for exact location info.)

WHY: To have fun and support a great cause!

HOW MUCH: $200 with 50% donated toward Michele’s fundraising
Your donation may be tax-deductible – check with your accountant.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Photo Lesson 101: Rule of Space

Composition Lesson 4: Rule of Space

Let’s discuss space. When taking a photo, you make a decision how much space is around your subject. In Week 1, the idea was to get close to your subject and have a clean background – so not a lot of space.  Last week you used the rule of thirds to compose your images. Many of you chose to show your subject in a wide shot, incorporating the background into your photo.

The rule of space can be applied to both tight or close-up photos of your subject and wide photos. This rule is all about leaving lead room. If your subject is looking to the side, there should be some space left in the direction he’s looking. The rule of space is a similar concept to negative space, but it refers only to the space between where the subject is looking or moving towards and the edge of the frame.

If you’re taking photos of a moving subject, whether it be a toddler, puppy, jogger or car, you should leave room in front of the subject. A moving subject needs space in the direction he’s moving.

This rule is more obvious when used with a subject moving horizontally or vertically in the frame. (The concept is more obscure if applied when the subject is moving toward or away from the photographer.) So for this week’s assignment, take photos of something moving from right to left, or left to right.  Your subject doesn’t have to move fast.  But if he is and you’re using manual settings, make sure your speed is high enough so as not to get motion blur.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Photo Lesson 101: Rule of Thirds

For those of you who missed out on the class but still want to follow along, here's another basic composition guideline.

Composition Lesson 3: Rule of Thirds

This week’s rule is found in all visual arts from painting to movies. I was watching last week’s Lost episode and kept noticing the rule of thirds being used during Desmond and Penny’s meeting in the stadium.

Simply stated, this rule is about placing your points of interest 1/3 into the frame.  The ideal placement is about 1/3 of the way both horizontally and vertically.  If you imagine a picture separated by 4 lines, the ideal placement is then close to those 4 line intersections.

Two mini rules that make this easier:

1. Place your horizon at the bottom third or top third line.
2. Avoid placing your subject in the center.

For assignment purposes, follow one or both of the mini rules. I placed 1/3 lines in some of my examples but you don’t need to do that. The rule is just an approximation – you don’t need to have your focal point exactly at the intersection point.

For examples, here are some photos from an engagement portrait session.

I purposefully placed the couple in the center of the photo below. Their serious expressions are reinforced by the almost unsettling symmetry in the composition.

Here’s a landscape shot for variety.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

California Dreamin'

Laguna Beach, California
Erica and Michael came all the way from Atlanta for their engagement portrait session. (Well they really came for Mackenzie and Allan's wedding, and decided it was also the perfect time for an engagement shoot.)  Erica grew up in Orange County and wanted their photos on the beach for a California look.

beach engagement portrait session Laguna California photographer

Nothing says California like palm trees.

Although I love the blue sky, I wanted some of the photos to have a more unique look. It's California, with a vintage twist.

Found the cutest little beach.

The rock formations made a perfect frame.

Color or black & white - which do you prefer?

We walked around the city for some more shots.



... and Sexy.

There's a Diamond Street!

Finished the day at Heisler Park Beach.

Can't decide between these two hand-holding shots.

The setting sun made for a dramatic silhouette.

Thank you Erica and Michael for a fun session!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Postcards from Playa: Sunset Beach

Playa del Rey, California
A lone sailboat glides into the marina at sunset with the cliffs of Malibu visible in the distance. This is the northwesternmost point in Playa, nicknamed Toes Over Beach back when it was a good surfing spot.

Playa del Rey photographer

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Memorial Mass for Polish President

As some of you may have heard, Polish President Lech Kaczynski, along with his wife, other Polish officials and war veterans, died in a plane crash in western Russia. They were on their way to a mass commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Katyn Massacre, during which thousands of Polish prisoners of war were murdered by the Russians. May they all rest in peace.

There will be a memorial mass tonight at Our Lady of the Bright Mount Catholic Church at 3424 West Adams Blvd in Los Angeles.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Photo Lesson 101: Viewpoint

The first ever online Polka Photos Class is full. But you can still follow along on the blog.

Composition Lesson 2: Viewpoint

This week’s assignment is to change your viewpoint. Usually the most flattering photos of people are taken either at their eye level or a little above. If you take a lot of photos of your kids or pets from your height, I recommend getting down to their level.

Another option is to get down super low. Don’t be afraid to lie down on the ground. Looking up at your subject makes her or him look dominant, strong. It can also make your pint-size appear like a giant, or a flower look as tall as a tree. Another thing to remember is that the camera emphasizes what’s in the foreground. So if you’re really close to someone’s foot, especially with a wide-angle lens, it’s going to appear bigger than his head!

The third option is a higher vantage point. This can be a roof, stairs, chairs or even a ladder (just be careful and have a spotter for the last two). And sometimes you just need to stand tall on your own two feet and point the camera down. Again, whatever is in your foreground will appear larger than the background.

Since most of the time you probably take eye-level photos, for this week’s assignment shoot from either a really low or really high viewpoint.

Here are my sample shots. Michael was coerced, I mean volunteered, to model again. This is what I call the superhero pose. Since I backlit the subject, I used flash as my main light source on Michael so he wouldn't be silhouetted. My max sync speed is 200 so I had to use a higher f-stop. This meant the background would be more in focus than ideally I'd like, but it doesn't distract me from the subject.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Everybunny Wants Some

Playa Vista, California
I was out and about taking some photos early in the morning for my Postcards from Playa series when I heard some rustling in the grass.  This close to Easter, could it be the elusive Leporidae Chocolataea?  I crouched down low with my camera and managed to snap one photo before he hopped away.  Happy Easter!!!

Easter bunny Playa del Rey photographer

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Photo Lesson 101: Simplification

The first ever online Polka Photos Class is full. But you can still follow along on the blog. I'll be posting the lessons every Thursday for the next 5 weeks. The class lesson does have a few more tips and tricks. So if you're interested in the next online class let me know by emailing

Composition Lesson 1: Simplification

Composition is the way you arrange the elements in a photo or other work of art. There are many rules to composition. I prefer to call them guidelines or ideas since some of the best photos break these rules.

The first idea may seem easy, but it’s often the most overlooked when shooting snapshots. What exactly is simplification? Simplification is reducing visual clutter. The first thing you need to decide when taking a photo is what is your subject. Your subject can be a baby, playing kids, a flower, a building. Once you decide on your subject, look at the background. Sometimes you can move your subject to a better background, sometimes you can’t. If you can’t move your subject, you can move to find the best background. Are you taking a photo of someone and they have a tree sticking straight out of their head? Just move. Another way to simplify that is often overlooked is to get closer. For the purposes of this exercise, don’t use your zoom to get closer. Move yourself closer to your subject.

  1. Decide on a subject
  2. Look at the background
  3. Move the subject to a cleaner background if possible
  4. Move yourself to the right or the left
  5. Get closer