Monthly Archives December 2008


In today’s blog, I will be discussing two of my favorite shoots from the past year from start to finish. They showcase my love for fun and unique subjects, working on-location, and using Photoshop to bring elements of a photoshoot together to create a strong final image.

In the Spring of 2008, the Howard County (Maryland) Police Department hired me to shoot a variety of promotional and recruiting material. I photographed patrol vehicles, K9 units, bicycle officers, community relations, etc. Although, the SWAT team portion of the job was by far my favorite. Maybe I just watched too many action movies with my big brother growing up.

We started the day in an abandoned high school near Baltimore, Maryland. They were running training exercises pretending to rescue hostage victims from terrorists. I took a lot of natural light shots with my Canon 1Ds Mk2 body and my trusty Canon 16-35 2.8L lens. Due to the low light scenarios, I shot at 1000iso at f/2.8 and very slow shutter speeds (around 1/10 of a second). I had to use something I learned from living on tour buses and shooting thousands of photos of bands in low-light back rooms and concert venues, control your breathing and use any object (wall, pillar, an assistant’s back) as a makeshift tripod when you can’t bring one with you.



Next, we moved outside to do a set-up portrait of SWAT team members in action with their armored assault vehicle and their new Bell 407 pursuit helicopter. Boy were the neighbors concerned to see a police helicopter hovering 20 feet off the ground next to the old high school and 7 SWAT guys with large guns pointed at a guy with a camera.

The biggest issue we faced with this photo was the wind produced by a low-flying helicopter; thus, using my favorite Photoflex Extra Large LiteDomes were out of the question. In fact it was so windy, I had to have 4 police officers volunteer to hold my lights with only 7′ reflectors attached to make sure they didn’t blow away. Trust me when I tell you that I was eating bits of gravel for a week after that shoot.


As you will see in the video, I used 3 White Lightning X1600 strobes (660/165 true Ws, 1600/400 effective Ws) set to 3/4 power with 7′ silver reflectors attached as fill to the left and right of the SWAT team, and a White Lighting X3200 strobe (1320/330 true Ws, 3200/800 effective Ws) with a 7′ silver reflector set to 3/4 power to be used as the main light. I set it a little higher than my subjects and pointed it down to give them a dramatic overhead light. I wanted to shoot with enough light power that I could shoot at 1/160 at f/18 at 100iso, thus, turning a bright sunny day into a moody dusk shot.I used a police radio to have the helicopter position itself in the frame. The shoot itself took only 15 minutes. Any longer and I believe we would have died from rocks to the head from the low-flying Bell 407.As for on-site power, I used 2 Innovatronix Tronix Explorer battery packs (a great value for the dollar) and my SUV, which I converted into a 2000 watt sine wave power inverter, but that’s an entirely different blog for another day.


I couldn’t contain my anticipation to sit down the computer and begin editing. Here are the initial steps I made when I did my post-production:

… a photographer whose work I pointed out back on November 7th; Douglas Sonders.

After I talked about his photography style here on the blog, he sent me a very nice email, and offered to show a step-by-step tutorial about how he lights, and then post-processes his images. I loved the idea, and asked him to be a guest blogger, and tomorrow he’s doing just that. I’m really looking forward to seeing him break it all down for us.

In the meantime, if you missed the Nov. 7th post, check out his work by clicking here, then check back tomorrow to check out his Guest Blog post. Can’t wait! :)

[Note From the Editor]: Moose and I were both emailing back and forth about the angry comments posted here yesterday by readers concerning Nikon’s new D3X product announcement. We were both surprised at all ‘the hatin” goin’ on.

My (Scott’s) take on it was this: “Look, Nikon came out with a new camera. It’s $8.000. If you think it’s too much, or not for you—-don’t buy it. That’s it. End of story. If Toyota comes out with a $75,000 car tomorrow, with just one big advantage over a Toyota Camry—I don’t get mad at Toyota. I don’t berate Toyota. I don’t go on forums and slam Toyota—-they can offer as many Toyotas as they want, at any price they want—I don’t have to buy one—I’ll just stick with my Camry. That’s it.”

Anyway, after writing back and forth, Moose emailed me a short story/follow-up, which I wanted to share with you here today because it’s much more eloquent than my short rant above. It’s Moose’s take on the situation, and I thought it really adds to the discussion. So, here my first mini-guest blog, from my friend Moose. –Scott].


The scent of fresh baked turkeys still lingers in the air, boxes are a strewn across the living floor as xmas reemerges for its grand annual show. The family has all come home and by some amazing good fortune, fresh snow has fallen so inside and out, everything just says happy holidays. Laughter is in the air, stories of past fun being told, adventure while we were apart are being shared. It's what life is all about.

And then there is dad. He's got that black box in his hand and light on a string bouncing of this wall, that ceiling, saying hold still, reposing a prior moment, crawling on the floor looking for a new angle (while you're down there, can you hand me that ornament that just fell). He's even outside on the deck shooting in through the giant window as if some stranger peering in on the family fun. "Honey, come in from out there, you're scaring the neighbors!" All this just to preserve forever the special moments that, when we look back on the photograph, a smile comes to our face, a warmth to our heart.

Photography is a funny thing, it's full of "gotchas!" and "round robins" and "catch 22s." There are probably more idioms involving photography than life itself. And yet, that simple click of the camera can on one hand put a giant smile on your face, or giant frown. To have fun with a camera, you've gotta take some aspects seriously. Take photography too seriously and all the fun goes out of it. Throw into this mix the human factor and oh man, all hell can break loose!

The one thing though that has always puzzled me about photographers and their photography is, the stress they seem to pile on it. In all honesty, it's just a picture. Yeah, the photograph can have an impact, they can change the world but, they are still a picture. The sun will rise tomorrow with or without those pixels corralled, shined and displayed. That's more than can be said for some photographers though.

What brings me to this wondering rant is the current blogishsphere response to the D3x. Not too many years ago, photographers were daring the photo industry to come out with more pixels. Daring is probably too gentle a word, demanding is more accurate. While many of us were saying quality is more important that quantity, the web was alive with forecasts of world doom if we didn't get more pixels. So the manufactures produced, on their time schedule (which never, ever matches photographers) said cameras and being more pixels, charged more. And with that done, now the outrage, the anger because what, they delivered what you asked for but at a price so they can stay in business? They are not putting a gun to your head to buy them, they are not taking away all the other less expensive options forcing you to jump on board. All they did was add another body to the line up. They brought out a tool that some demanded and others truly need. And with that, the flood of anger. Emotion in photography is good, it's a must for powerful images, and contained in your image is where that emotion should be focused.

I had a very wise high school photo teacher, Mr Traub. Most of his lessons, being the typical dumb kid, didn't sink in until long after I'd left his class. I learned a lot about photography, and photographers in those two years. One day after a number of the upper classman had moaned about how they were stuck using the "old" cameras, twin eye monsters, and not able to use the new Nikon F2, they weren't able to take good images. Mr. Traub in his oh not so subtle style handed them his Nikon F2 with 55f3.5 Micro and said, "You go shoot with that, I'll go out with this broken TEM and we'll compare what we get." We all know the outcome, Mr. Traub had great images, the kids had kid's stuff. It wasn't the gear but the inspiration, the talent and the emotion behind it that made the images.

I'm the first to admit: "Hi, my name is Moose, I'm addicted to cameras." And yet with that admission, I still have a small camera bag of gear. I am very fortunate and thank the powers to be that I have the opportunity to evaluate gear before putting down hard earn cash so I add only those pieces, those tools that permit me to make a click into a smile. I would suggest if we took ourselves and our photography just a little less seriously, we'd have a whole lot more fun, better images to share and witness the best outcome of our efforts. Bringing a smile to the hearts of those we expose to our photography from the emotion we've packed into our photograph!

— Moose Peterson


I hope you’ll be in the crowd this Thursday at the Los Angeles Convention Center as I wrap up my final Lightroom 2 Tour date for the year, on December 4, 2008.

As I mentioned earlier on the blog; my buddy Matt Kloskowski will be there helping me field questions during the day, and Mike “Hollywood” Kubeisy will be there assisting me with my live shoots (I left Brad back at the office because he’s wanted on a outstanding warrant in LA. Hey, don’t laugh—he could have warrants. That’s why they call him).

Anyway, we’re going to have a great day, and if you want to snag one of the remaining seats (we’re going to have around 700 photographers there that day), here’s the link. Hope I’ll be seeing you there!

I had so many requests last week to show how to create Photo Book layouts (like the one I did for my trip to Turkey, Greece, and Egypt), that I did three short videos for you (below), to show you how, but using different applications. The three videos are:

  1. How to create them in Apple’s iPhoto
  2. How to create them in Lighroom 2
  3. How to create them from scratch in Photoshop CS4 using Smart Objects

Click on the videos to watch them. Hope this helps jump start you into making photo books, because once you start, you’ll be totally hooked!

The iPhoto Video:

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The Lightroom 2 Video:

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The Photoshop CS4 Video:

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NOTE: If you’d like to see a higher quality version of these videos, click on the links below, which will take you each video’s page on Just below the bottom right corner of the video (which is already larger in size on, you’ll see a link called “Watch in Higher Quality.” Click that to see a much sharper, and larger version of each video.

  • iPhoto:
  • Lighroom 2:
  • Photoshop CS4: