Rain on Kauai

I just have to share this with you, my beloved readers:

It happened to me again last week – I drove all the way to my shoot (one hour) in the pouring rain, only to find the rain letting up a mile from my shoot location, and sunshine at the site.

I know there’s a God above, and He has been particularly gracious to me when it comes to the weather.  I have left my home in the pouring rain dozens of times in the fifteen years of shooting family portraits and weddings on Kauai; and in all that time, I have only had to postpone two shoots.

The most remarkable incident was when I had a shoot in front of the Saint Regis Hotel in Princeville a couple of years ago.  It had been miserable and rainy, with the sky completely covered with clouds all day.  I had a shoot scheduled for the evening, and as usual, I headed that way, with my hopes high, and a prayer on my lips.  I got to the east end of Princeville, where a parking lot faces upwind, and you can see the weather as it approaches.  I waited until the last possible moment before calling my client to cancel.  Literally, in the middle of my sentence, telling him I think we should cancel and reschedule, a tiny strip of blue sky opened up in the distance, the first glimpse of sky I had seen all day.  I suggested we wait a few moments to see what happens, and I would give him a call back.  Over the next few minutes, the blue just kept getting larger; so I called him back, and recommended we go ahead and try for the shoot.

By the time I drove the two miles through Princeville to the Hotel and got down to the beach, the whole sky had opened up, and it was plain to see we were in for a beautiful sunset and a very pleasant shoot.

I don’t think I’m anyone special, but I think God is.  He can always say “No” to our requests, and I will trust Him just as well when that happens, but I’m going to keep on asking, because and he is benevolent and likes to bless those who look to Him.  

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How to get natural kid’s smiles

Most people don’t smile naturally on command, especially kids.  I want to share with you how I get so many great shots of kids, so you can use these tricks at home.

When I’m shooting family photos on Kauai, and I want to shoot individual close-ups of the kids, I ask the parents not to ask their child to smile, or mention “pictures” the camera or call attention to me in any way.  We want them to forget all about the fact that we are taking photos.  I ask one parent to place the child in a stationary position in front of them, maybe at arm’s length, and to engage them in some sort of fun conversation.  As the child becomes engaged, and responds to the parent with all their cute little expressions, I shoot over their shoulder with my telephoto lens.  Many times, I’ve had the child look right into the camera and smile the perfect smile, but remaining so engaged with the conversation they are having with their parent, that they still don’t “notice” me.  The goal is, rather than telling the child to smile, simply to make them smile.  That way we avoid the two undesirable options of a.) having the child be shy or uncooperative, or b.) being cooperative and giving us that cheesy forced smile you so often see.

As Kauai’s family portrait photographer, I can take care of all your family’s photography needs, making it a fun and pleasant time for everyone.

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Here are some tips on looking slimmer when you are getting your photo taken, or, if you’re shooting, you can use these to help your subject look slimmer.

  1. Shoot with a telephoto lens. If you have a zoom lens, that would be the larger of the focal length group of numbers on the side of the lens, e.g. 24mm, 70mm, 200mm etc.  Wider angle lenses (50mm and under) if used close to the subject can cause distortion and actually add weight.
  2. Shoot from an angle higher than your subject. That can go for headshots or full length.
  3. Hide part of the larger person behind someone else in the shot if it is a group shot.
  4. Stretch out the neck a bit; this can be helpful in kissing shots
  5. If a couple, have the partner’s hands cover the shoulders some.
  6. If you are using lighting, or the light is coming in from the side, illuminate the far side of the subject and shoot from the shadow side.
  7. Rotate subject at the waist, so legs are shot from the side and upper body is more head on.
  8. Separate arms from the body.
  9. If seated, make sure the legs are perpendicular from the camera angle, (not aiming into the camera).
  10. (Standing) Cross one leg over in front of the other.
  11. Arch back slightly
  12. Never shoot straight on, always on an angle. 
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Dramatic Lighting after Sunset

For Kauai family portraits, most of the time we schedule the shoots to end at sunset, as that is when the light typically fades. This particular family wanted to have some of their photos taken after sunset because they had late afternoon plans. I mentioned that sometimes the lighting does actually get quite dramatic after the sun sets, but not always. Well, as you can see, things turned out just fine.  This shot of just the dad and sons is one of my favorite ways to light men.

I am a “Family Portraits Kauai” expert, and I would love to take some great photos of your family as well. I’m good working with kids, and we always have a good time. This website has a link with all the Kauai family photography locations we typically use.

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New Signature Photo

New Light Signature


The first thing you should know is that this is a single image, not a composite of several images.
Like many things, the technique is fairly simple, but the implementation takes a little practice.
This started with some great “models” (read: friends of mine from church) who were up for a little fun. We had been experimenting with some sparklers and some light writing a few nights earlier, in preparation for a wedding I had coming up where the bride and groom wanted to use sparklers; so they already knew the drill and what the results might look like. (See those practice photos at this link: https://gardenislandphotography.com/scenic-galleries/facebook-photos/) See the wedding photo at the same link.
We also had the good fortune to have a full moon, which helped illuminate the background.
I used four off camera Canon Speedlite flashes to illuminate the subjects; but you can also do this with on camera flash.
I used (all Canon) a 5D MkII camera with a 24-70 f2.8 lens and a 600EX-RT flash to direct the off camera flashes. This can be done with any camera with a “bulb” setting and a flash.
Here is how it was done:
First, I set my camera on a tripod. I wanted to use the “bulb” setting, but I could not stay with the camera to keep the button depressed for the duration of the exposure. I could have used another person to do that, but with a long exposure, there would inevitably be some camera shake with the human touch. So, I used a remote trigger (the cheap kind with a cord) to trigger the camera. This allowed me to get in the picture. (I’m the guy with the camera – shocking, I know.)
The next step was to determine the right amount of light to throw at the subjects. With manual flash, the image is only affected by the f-stop and the ISO; the amount of time the shutter is open only affects the ambient light. So we experimented with flash power ISO and f-stops till we had a nice exposure on the subjects. I had the models practice their poses while we did those shots, so we could fine tune both at once.
At the same time, I played around with how long to keep the shutter open to get the palm trees in the background to show up without being too bright. The full moon helped a lot. (The exposure wound up at ISO 100, f 11 at 84 seconds.)
Once those settings were determined, I started the shots.
I set the camera on the ten second timer shutter release. Using the remote switch, sliding it into the “stay open till I tell you” position, I depressed the shutter button. Then I grabbed my “prop” camera and ran and took my spot with the others who were already in position. At ten seconds, the camera shutter kicked open, the flash went off, and we were all exposed to the sensor. At that point the camera quit “seeing” any of us, because, for all intents and purposes, we had no light on us.
I had them all stay still so that the camera would not record ambient light through them. I had to move, so in post-production, I had to fix the landscape that showed (slightly) through my body with the long exposure.
While the models remained in place, I took my small Maglite and, covering the face of it for the movements I did not want the camera to “see”, I wrote the words Garden Island Photography in the air. After the correct amount of time passed to properly expose the background, I went and closed the shutter. We only did four shots.
Once I determined the best shot, I turned it around, because the writing was backwards to the camera, since I was facing it as I wrote.
I filled in a little density on my body where the background showed through, made a few minor adjustments on the writing itself, and a little dodging and burning to bring some things into balance, and there we have it.

If you want to try this in a very simple manner with your own equipment, here is what I suggest:
Set your camera on a tripod. In manual mode, set your ISO at 100, your aperture at f11 and your shutter speed at “B” or “Bulb”. Let your camera determine the flash exposure.
Get yourself or your subject(s) posed. Have a friend press the shutter button and hold it down. The flash should go off when the shutter button is first pressed. After the flash goes off, grab a flashlight (I used a small Maglight with that f stop) and write whatever you want to see. Have your friend remove their finger from the shutter button. See what you get. If you want more ambient light, have the shutter button held sown longer.

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New Wailua Falls Photo

A landscape photographer from Texas hired me to take him to some good spots for scenic photos.  I got this one on one of our excursions.

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The Portrait Shoot

I mentioned in my Beautiful Hibiscus entry that I was on my way to do a portrait.  There is a prince of a guy who owns a condo in Princeville.  He has commissioned  me to do a portrait of each group of guests that rent his condo, as a gift to them.  (They’re usually couples.)  After this particular couple were viewing their portraits on the computer, the man told me he wasn’t really into the shoot at all, but just didn’t want to be impolite by refusing the gift.  But he said “Now that I see the photos, I’m really into it.”  He just loved them.  Nothing is more gratifying for me than to get a reaction like that.  I guess all this “practice” is paying off.  Here is the shot they liked best.  I like it too. This is before retouching.

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The other Hibiscus shot I like

I didn’t want these two shots on top of each other, so this is the only way I could figure out how to seperate them. (so shoot me, I’m not a computer wiz)

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Beautiful Hibiscus

A couple of evenings ago, I was on my way to do some portraits, when I passed by the most beautiful display of backlit hibiscus flowers.  The low hedge up the middle of the road was just exploding with color.  Luckily,  I was a bit early, so I turned around and took a few shots.  Here are my two favorites.  One here, and one in the next post.

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Fun East Side Shoot

A family that I photographed a couple of years ago contacted me recently to do another photo session.  They have four beautiful daughters, and we all had a lot of fun, as usual.  I got a couple of photos I especially like, that I would like to share with you.   These girls want to be models.  You may be looking at the future here.

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