Monthly Archives: January 2010

Thoughts on Haiti

I’m reading a lot of heart breaking stories on Haiti, and seeing some horrific, editorial photos regarding the disaster over there in Haiti. Unfortunately, they put themselves on a map, literally. In an age where most highs school kids/adults don’t even know the states in North America, let alone where Haiti sits geographically in the world.

At one point I did want to be a newspaper photographer, going on location, documenting the world’s events and people, but the more photos I look at from Haiti, the more I realize I don’t think I have it in me. As people are hurting, or screaming for their loved ones, how can I just stand there and aim a camera at them, snapping pictures?

You can objectify it to some point, and when I’ve taken pictures at funerals, to some degree, that’s what I do. Trying to be emotionally detached is one thing, but the scale and magnitude of Haiti’s disaster far exceed a single death. I’m reading stories of Doctors working 24-48 hrs straight under obscene conditions trying to stem the tide of death, I just don’t know. I would feel inadequate. Yes, you are trying to save lives, your skillset is much more useful towards helping others, all I’m doing is taking pictures.

In some situations, for example during the Iran elections where there were civil unrest, or the strict censorship of media in China. That’s where I think photography, and telling a story can help humanity. By exposing, or documenting atrocities so that others may learn from them. I’m not going to cite George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” because I feel it’s an exercise in futility. Because no matter what stories those pictures tell, we seem to repeat our mistakes over and over again.

I guess the one thing pictures and images from Haiti do help is, that it allows people over here, living in luxury compared to over there. Walking in our supermarkets, using things that we take for granted. Trivial things, such as clean tap water coming out of our faucets, sanitation, heat. It allows us a glimpse into their world, their pain. Gives us pause, to be thankful for what we do have, and to donate, and try to make a difference, whether it be in our own little surroundings, or somewhere else in our small little planet.

The Money Shot

I’ve started upon the path of documenting how things are done just so others can learn from them. So here’s the problem/solution.
Problem: My cousin wanted me to take a picture of this rare gold coin he wants to sell on flea bay. Only 1000 were made, and it’s 1oz of gold.

There are two solutions to this:
A) A professional setup, requiring strobes, softboxes, backdrops, etc.
B) The lazy man’s minimalistic setup.

Since I’m doing this for free, and I’m too lazy to go to my gear closet to whip out the setup required for A), I chose the path of least resistance. B)

1) Camera
2) A macro lens (I’m using a 100mm macro lens) but if you don’t have one, Any other lens greater than or = to 50mm will suffice.
3) An understanding of manual mode for your camera, and overriding your autofocus so you can focus manually.
4) Tripod
5) A window for lots of sun. If no window or sun is present,
I recommend full spectrum light bulbs
These bulbs pack a punch and they don’t have the nasty orange hues that traditional tungsten bulbs do. They’re daylight balanced at 5500Kelvin. You take a few of these, turn them on and you’ll have the power of the sun at your disposal. I’ll go over a typical setup at a later date with a DIY (do it yourself) softbox.

My setup, I decided to shoot straight down. I knew there wasn’t much light to begin with and I didn’t feel like dragging anything out. Under ideal conditions, to get the sharpest picture, I would normally shoot the aperture at F11 or so. But that will require a lot of light. So I compromised and shot it at F 5.6 aiming the camera as parallel as I could to the subject.

Here’s a crude drawing I did to explain why:
Note: this is simplified! So people can understand! I don’t want any complaints as to why I’m not factoring distance and lenses into the equation) Imagine the coin is the flat line. The red X is where I’m focusing the camera. The circle, is what would be considered ‘in focus’ or sharp. At F2.8 The circle only covers a smaller section. So at lower apertures, you get less of a circle.
At higher apertures, F11, the circle is larger/Deeper. Therefore at an angle, I could get most of the coin to be sharp. Which is why I had to be as close to parallel to the coin as possible. Because I knew I didn’t have enough light to shoot at F11…so The more parallel I got to the subject, the more I could get away with at shooting at smaller apertures. This is the reason why I shoot groups of people 2 or greater at F5.6 or stopped down further (towards F11).

For this shot, you can see that the background is blurred,
with some of the text being sharp. If you note my crude drawing above that, I followed the same principal. I aimed my focus point (the red x) on the text at the lower end of the frame. Since everything else was at deeper behind it, I knew it would be blurry if I shot it at lower apertures. So I intentionally shot this at f3.5 to make that ‘circle’ smaller, to make everything else blurry.

The final shot: 1/20 a sec F 5.6 ISO 800
I wasn’t too happy with the outcome, but quite frankly was too lazy to setup lights. Remember, usually for macro photography, you want to be in manual focusing mode. As great as autofocus is, nothing beats the human eye when it comes to narrowing focus at that range.

lato poker charity event

I volunteered to cover a charity poker event called “All-In”, hosted at the Commerce Casino. The charity is Love across the Ocean who helps children in Vietnam. It was a rough year, there was an decent turnout, but as I heard, there was nowhere nearly as large as last years. But people did turn out to give and that was the most important part. To sit in at the table was $350 dollars. Ouch, yes that’s pretty expensive! The shoot was interesting from a technical perspective, the lighting at the red carpet area was atrocious, and it was a long day. I think the one thing I did get out of it, was I can cover corporate events. I did it for my company, and though it’s boring work, it’s something I would consider doing if I lost my job or something.

Jackie Johnson a local weather reporter

Erik Aude – Actor

Brad Garret – Actor

Scott Elrod – Actor


Quinten Taratino’s father

Nadia Dawn – Actress

Tamara Braun – Actress


The entire Gang, including Leyna Nguyen KCAL news