Las Vegas

Behind The Scenes of a Police K-9 Unit Photoshoot

It's finally live!  A few weeks back, we were asked to help with a Charitable project in conjunction with the Friends of Henderson Police Department.  They needed photographs of their Entire K-9 team for an article in Las Vegas Pet Scene Magazine, so we assembled our team and rolled out to the Henderson Police Department to setup.  

Pooling the gear and talent from our core team in Las Vegas, (Enrique Malfavon, Yevgeniy Zakharkin, Miguel Cortes, and myself), we got to the station early to scan the location for several options to shoot with.  What they wanted for the print & online versions would dictate where we setup shop. Since they only needed portraits and some shots of the state of the art K9 Vehicles, we setup the main portrait stage in their training room, and used the south parking lot to stage the vehicles. Using my Silverlake Ash-Gold 10x20 Muslin as the main portrait station, we setup the Profoto Lights and Modifiers and waited for our subjects to arrive.

Now....to say these dogs were bursting with energy, would have been an INSANE understatement! Check out the BTS video below to see some of the wrangling done by us and the awesome Handlers to see just how much effort it took to get them to stay still for their close up. We effectively had a handler and one of our team holding their "reward" toys directly under the lens and REPEATEDLY whistled/called/clicked to get them to focus. Given how excited how these pups were to all be in the same room, we knew it was going to be impossible to get the whole lot together for one big shot, so, compositing was going to have to happen. 

Knowing that, and since the handlers sometimes had 2 dogs, we posed them each in identical positions with the dogs places in front of them, center mass, and then to their left and started working down the list, finishing with Daisy, (The cover shot).

While Enrique and I worked on this, (and the subsequent station tear down), Yev and Miguel went out to help the officers who finished first position the cars to get the best of the gorgeous natural light for the SUV unit photos. Divide and conquer; We had limited time, and too many images to finish before the officers had to get back to active duty. When you know the strengths of your team, you can trust in them completely to get the images you need for the finished project! 

From start to finish, it only took a few hours to complete and be on our way home, and that was entirely due to having an awesome and cohesive team, with a game plan setup days in advance! The only thing left to do was retouch the photos, and create the composite for the magazine spread! Using a combination of Capture One Pro 10 and Adobe Photoshop CC, Enrique was able to splice the images together in no time at all. Especially since we had Decided on and nailed our lighting before the officers even arrived so every shot was precise and consistent. Once the retouch/edit was done on the first image, it was simply a matter of pasting to the rest of the shots and then cloning them into the pano!

Check out the rest of the BTS images and video below and let me know what you think! Do you guys want to see a follow up video/tutorial on the retouching and composite? 

Friends of the Henderson Police Department Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is committed to supporting the mission of the Henderson Police Department through organized volunteering and fundraising efforts in the areas of: Training, Equipment Acquisition, Fallen or injured officers and their families, and Community Relations Programs.

For more information about the Friends of Henderson Police Department, please check out the website here; http://friendsofhpdfoundation.org/

Their store has detailed information on our programs and current fundraising campaigns: http://friendsofhpdfoundation.org/shop-and-donate/store

This page on their website details the article and the fundraising campaigns they've setup in relation to it: http://friendsofhpdfoundation.org/information/k9-program

Bright Lights, Big City - A Collaboration

Last week a good friend and fellow photographer, Miguel Cortes messaged me asking if I was available to help out on a photoshoot concept he'd been working on, so naturally, when I heard the words "Neon" "Eighties" and "Custom Bikes", well, I was in hook line and sinker! 

Calling in Liz Gopwani and Tiffannie Michelle to Style our models (Samantha Vitone and Angelica Acevedo, we set off to the Downtown Container Park in Las Vegas to be the background of our shot.

Once the awesome tricked out bikes arrived on set we started the setup. Consisting of my Profoto B2 Light kit on some Savage Universal Drop Stands with 46" Photek Softlighters, we set the camera to Rear Curtain Sync (for shutter drag), and started spraying some Atmosphere Aerosol to add a little ambience to the shot. 

I started spreading the atmosphere aerosol for Miguel to get his shots while we drew a fairly large crowd around the entrance to the park. After he got the images he wanted, we switched off so that I could fire a few frames before moving to our second location for the alternate look, (And subsequently, more complicated shot).

By the time we got ready to roll for this setup, Miguel had to leave. Meaning, I had to take the lead to finish the image.  The plan was to setup the bikes in an alley using rear curtain sync with my Sigma 35mm A series locked on a tripod with focus dialed into a "zone" for the girls to roll up on and hold a pose before the lights fired off. It took several test shots and countdown tries between the fog and approximate "marks" to hit before we finally nailed our "fire" shot, but with an awesome team, we managed to get the images we wanted all in under an hour's time!

Take a look at the images below and let us know what you think. All edits done in Photoshop with finishing tone touches done with Alien Skin Exposure X

Last Minute Shoots - Dark Phoenix

The day after WPPI when everyone was supposed to be heading off home and getting back to the real world, a lot of photographers found themselves stuck in Las Vegas due to storms knocking out travel to the east coast.  One of those travelers happened to be my good friend Clay Cook!  So after an intense and epic meal of Korean BBQ, we started planning out a fashion shoot somewhere in the desert.  Scanning the internet for inspiration and clothing ideas we pieced the concept together and then started making phone calls!  Pretty quickly we had our model and Make-Up lined up, all we needed was a ride and our wardrobe! 

The next morning we met for breakfast and started to figure out where we were going to get the missing pieces of our wardrobe.  That's about where our friends Enrique and Mykii come in! Taylor, (our model), had some of the pieces, but we were missing some elements to our edgy wardrobe that Clay had wanted.  So Enrique and Mykii picked us up and we headed to Burlington Coat Factory to hunt for a proper trench coat and accessories! 

We went through pretty much everything they had on their shelves, but within 30 minutes, we had made our selections, and were on the road to the desert to start shooting!

The weather was a complete contrast to the last shoot in Las Vegas with Nanako.  The sun was beaming and there was just enough of a breeze to keep us from getting too hot. Basically, it was perfect! With that in mind, we made the call to go with just available light. The sun was in the perfect position to give us a great look and perfect shadows to match the style of the shoot! 

Watching Clay work with Taylor was pretty amazing.  Clay, who has had tons of experience with the fashion world, was able to easily and casually instruct Taylor to get the exact look and feel he was going for and Taylor picked up on every queue like a pro. Even though we only had about an hour to nail our shot, Taylor was able to nail every pose we asked and we had enough time to let everyone fire off a few frames including some awesome Polaroids! We even got Enrique's dog into the mix! (Stay tuned for those images!!!) 

Here's my first finished image from the set with the beautiful Taylor;

The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express.

Two things I realized after this crazy week in Las Vegas...(1) Korean BBQ is the absolute best place to brainstorm! And (2) There is no limit to the creative possibilities on the West Coast!  With a SUPER SMALL budget and a timespan of less than 1/2 a day each, we were able to pull together a couple of incredible photoshoots and had an absolute blast while doing so. I can't wait to see the images I can create when I get back to the west coast for a project with an actual budget and time to prep! 

When A Plan Comes Together - A Profoto B2 Review

Like the Great John "Hannibal" Smith said "I Love It When A Plan Comes Together!"

Prepping for my trip to WPPI in Las Vegas, I began speaking with the incredible Fashion Photographer, Clay Cook, about trying to put together a quick shoot during our down time while in the desert, (If we had any). Once we managed to meet and settle into the Trade-show Routine, the real action began! Within 24 hours, we had managed to line up an incredible local model Nanako Hawley, a stunning parachute dress from Lindsay Adler's Dream Shoot Rentals, and, thanks to the awesome Chris Fain, a brand new Profoto B2 Off Camera Flash System!!!

We were initially looking to borrow some portable power packs or speed-lights to use the existing modifiers we already had with us, so when Chris and the Profoto USA Team offered up the new B2 system my jaw was literally on the floor! Working with Phlearn, I was already familiar with the D1 system, so to be among the first to demo the new system was insanely exciting for me! 

I've been interested in the B1 system for quite some time, but I was hesitant due to the weight and size of the lights.  Given most of my environmental portraiture has been shot with a VERY small crew, a smaller size & weight was very intriguing. My only worry was the attached battery pack and a reduced 250w/s power. I was concerned that the lower power wouldn't be able to compete against the natural power of the sun in the Nevada Desert....but we were very giddy to try them out none the less.

Leaving the MGM Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, it was a perfect sunny day with a 70 degree temperature...but as we neared Red Rock Canyon, we could see a low and THICK cloud cover that looked like some "weather" was on the way.  There were a few breaks so we felt like if we moved in to the back of the canyon we'd be safe...well...funny story....the further in we got, the crazier the weather became!

The cloud cover turned to rain, which became heavy rain, and then hail...and then HOLY CRAP that's a LOT of hail, and just when it looked like we were done...oh then it started to snow....in the middle of a Thunder Storm!  Yeah....honestly...it was pretty epic! Other than the fact that it was practically freezing.

And then came the snow!

We started fast and furious with Clay lining things up first.  Since I had lined this all up predominately for him to shoot, I wanted to make sure that he got the shots he wanted! So with his assistant Jacob manning the lights, I went to work keeping the dress up and in motion! Clay spent his first few shots figuring out the system till he found a decent light level but once we got the right settings and figured out how to change everything, (it really was a super easy system) the storm had rolled right on top of us and the miles of visibility we had moments ago was reduced to just a few meters! So, after attempting to get as many shots as we could in a brief moment...we did what any proper professional would...and called the shoot! There was no sense in putting our model, and the gear through such crazy elements.  

Frozen Nanako


Cold, soaked, and pretty much all of us covered in mud and barely able to feel our fingers...we headed back to the car and prayed we had enough that we could composite a backplate together with one of the shots once we got home.  Nanako was an incredible trooper though....actually scratch that...as far as the modeling world is concerned, Nanako was a Navy Seal!  Shivering, shaking, and clearly in pain, as soon as the cameras were up she was rock solid and nailing everything we asked of her.  I was pretty much in awe. 

As we headed out of Red Rocks, good fortune was upon us, in one of the very last "checkpoints" we came across an area that was dry, untouched by the storm, and was in fact...pretty warm with the sun still shining! At that moment we called an audible and decided to try for a second set of images! 

BTS By Clay Cook

While Nanako fixed her hair and re-applied her make up, (as the first round had been completely soaked off in the storm), Clay, Jacob and I walked into the brush to find a good scene, and more importantly....hang our jackets, hats, and pretty much everything else out to dry! In this moment...I saw Clay's eyes come alive! The fast pace of the 1st set seemed to be out of sheer "lets fight this weather", but now, the juices were flowing!  We had the time, and the warmer temperatures to nail our shots...or so we thought at least!

The Profoto B2 kit was pretty impressive, and I can honestly say I fell in love pretty much immediately! They are incredibly small and light weight compared to the B1 systems, while still able to use each and every modifier designed for it's larger brethren. While the battery pack looks large, it's surprisingly light weight. In fact, the actual battery component of the controller was just a little larger than an iPhone6+!!!  Cables and all, it was a much more portable and comfortable system than my own Strobe and Portable Power packs.  Clay having shot first, found that with even just one light, we barely needed more than 1/2 power to balance out the daylight, and now that we were out of the elements, we could take the time to navigate the controls on the system which were pretty awesome! In fact, we even found that the system could handle high speed sync from BOTH of our cameras! (Clay shot Canon, I shot Nikon).  With both of us shooting off of the same light, taking turns shooting actual images and BTS...not once did we get a miss-fire! Color me amazed!

After we figured out the nuances of the B2 controllers, and had just about nailed the shots we wanted...the storm rolled in on us just as quick as before!  So clearly it was time to call it a day, head back to town and most importantly....warm up & return all the gear!  I can honestly say, the thought of having my Vagabond Mini in that environment, let alone the studio strobes...actually terrifies me! Not only are the Profoto B2 lights an amazing, lightweight, and surprisingly powerful (for their w/s), on location light system, but they are pretty much the best system of lights i've ever worked with on an environmental portrait session!  You can count on me ordering a set of these lights in the very near future.

My only worry on the final steps was the battery life.  Between Clay and Myself we fired approximately 200-300 shots with the light on about 1/2 it's power. At the end of the shoot, we were left with just under 1/2 a battery charge.  Leaving me worrying that with a 2 light setup at a higher output...well...you'll get a lot less from it.  If we had more time with the lights we would have figured out how much capacity they really had, but on the plus side, even if the batteries don't hold a huge charge...they are so small and light weight, packing spares is a very easy and lightweight thing to do! So the pro tip here, is always be prepared!  When ordering a kit, make sure to always have a spare battery ready to roll! I mean, even in a perfect world, you never know when a shoot will run long.

BTS of my shot by Clay Cook

And here finally, we have my final image from this crazy last minute shoot in the middle of unexplainable weather in the desert! 

I love it when a plan comes together!  Model: Nanako Hawley, Dress: Lindsay Adler & Dream Shoot Rentals, Assistants: Clay Cook & Jacob Roberts, Photographer: David J. Crewe

The second image from the series with Nanako and the incredible B2 system at Red Rock Canyon in Nevada!

Once again a very special thank you to Lindsay Adler for the access to her amazing wardrobe for the shoot, and to Chris Fain and the incredible Profoto USA team who were more than happy to let Clay and myself use these brand new lights to shoot this last minute concept in the desert, to Jacob Roberts for being one of the best talking light stands in the business, and especially to Nanako for toughing through the worst of the cold for us to nail these incredible shots!  

For a VERY special Behind the Scenes look, check out Clay's First Person Shooter video below! 

A special behind the scenes look into this shoot with Nanako Hawley in Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas during WPPI. Used here is the new Profoto B2 system. Photography: Clay Cook Wardrobe: Dream Shoot Rentals Model: Nanako Hawley Assistant: Jacob Roberts, David Crewe Special Thanks to Chris Fain with Profoto, Lindsay Adler with Dream Shoot Rentals & David Crewe with Phlearn for all the help and assistance with making this shoot happen.