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Moab Light Does It Again! Video Too!

A Photography Workshop Excursion

The Technical

All of these photos were shot using the Canon 5D Mark II along with my favorite lens, the Canon 85mm F/1.2L USM prime lens. Again, this was a One Lens Photographer shoot for me, though shooting in the vastness of the Moab benefits from a wider perspective too, so if it’s your first time there, take other lenses too.


For the photos of Jolene and Eleya’s silhouettes, the concept is simple, expose for the sky, not the subject. If I had exposed for the subjects (w/o flash) just with natural light, the sun itself would wash out and the sky would blow out. Since the subject is not illuminated with fill-light, you’re guaranteed a silhouette by simply using the Sunny 16 rule in your favor. The rule simply states, that on a bright sunny day, if you set your shutter speed to match your ISO, then your aperture value at F/16, you’ll get a correctly exposed image.  So if your camera ISO is set at 100, and your shutter speed at 1/100th, then set your aperture value at F/16 for a correct exposure.

Silhouette Sunset, Moab

I captured this silhouette of Jolene as she posed for Paul, to my camera left.

In this scenario you also have to take into account, the sun was setting, so the Sunny 16 rule is modified to accept the lower intensity of sunlight during the Golden Hour. Thus, my camera settings were 1/2000 at F/3.5 and ISO 200. The ISO 200 was from shooting earlier with a raised ISO and since this was such a spontaneous shot, I didn’t reduce my ISO to 100. The equivalent settings at ISO 100 are 1/1000 at F/3.5 taking the Inverse Square Law into account. Similarly, approximately equivalent camera settings for the Sunny 16 Rule where the ISO and shutter speeds are equivalent at ISO 100 are 1/100 at F/8, thus indicating that as the sun sets, the light intensity is at least two full stops less during that time of day.

This less intense light of the sun is what gives the Golden Hour a softer quality along with the lower (warmer) color temperature (Kelvin) of the light, hence why the Golden Hour is always a soft, sweet light than the midday hard, specular sunlight. The sun is also at a more oblique angle during the Golden Hour and at a more direct, overhead angle during the day. It’s this oblique angle that makes the light more in line with the subject’s face, plus it produces pleasing shadows.

In the photo of Candice, my camera settings were ISO 160, shutter speed at 1/1600 and the aperture value at F/2.5. I’m shooting more at ISO 160 as ISO’s on digital cameras have less noise at their optimum ISO’s. Many photographers confuse film and digital, when it comes to noise and grain. Digital cameras are not like film cameras where the higher the ISO, the more grain in an image. In fact, some digital cameras produce more noise at the old “standard” film ISO’s, like ISO 100 and 200, than their optimum ISO, sometimes called the camera’s “native” ISO.

Model in Moab Photography Workshop Photo

Candice poses during the Golden Hour in the Moab photography workshop.

I’ll cover that topic on a later photoblog post, but honestly, with today’s digital cameras, just about any ISO is amazing, even the higher ISO’s, so I’m never afraid to “bump” my ISO when I need that extra boost as I did on this photo of Holley where the ISO is 400 and my shutter speed is 1/400 with an aperture value of F/7.1. Most of my camera settings are based on my personal taste, or photographic style.

Moab Photography Workshop Silhouette Photo

Eleya poses slightly in front of Jolene, allowing me to capture her silhouette too.

The Story Behind the Images

As you read below, you’ll know that I shot these images of Jolene, Eleya, Candice and Holley at my recent photography workshop in the Moab, so I’m not going to give you in-depth stories, hence multiple photos instead of one. I will however get back to the grove of posting more “photo diary” entries here on Lens Diaries™ and not just photo tips, as the original purpose of this website was a diary photoblog, not a blog of photography tips—though I love spreading the gospel of photography.

The first silhouette photo is of Jolene, inspired by an Australian photographer, Paul, who was attending my photography workshop for the first time. I observed him the most as the other photographers had attended my photography workshops before, and even though I’d worked with them, I was more familiar with their shooting styles.

What I liked most about Paul, he had brought books from other photographers and based on our conversations, he follows my photoblogs and even my Twitter. He also owned my books—Paul is new to photography, but demonstrated his dedication and passion to the art by studying photography as much as he could before the workshop. This careful preparation proved fruitful to both of us, as he was shooting Jolene from my camera left, thus as she took his direction and faced his direction, I was perpendicular to Paul, and that’s when I saw the silhouette possibilities, especially when I saw that the fabric was illuminated from behind.

This fiery orange caught my eye as I was filming with my new “Flip” video camera for the behind scenes video. So after I got my flip footage, I raised my Canon 5D Mark II, and aimed it at Jolene, and similar to the video, I captured this image. I’ve shot silhouettes before, but what made this image special was instead of just a dark subject, I captured the bright orange silk fabric—a fabric Paul had brought with him. Great idea Paul, and thanks for the inspiration!

Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough, Moab Photography Workshop Photo

I photographed Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough during the Golden Hour in the Moab. This was our second Moab photo shoot together.

On Holley’s image, she and I had planned on shooting during the Golden Hour, but without me interrupting the photographers’ shoots. So we had agreed, that at some point, I would “jump in” and grab a few shots and not a full photo shoot. I discovered Holley as a Playboy Playmate and she’s the model on the cover of my first photography book, so shooting her is fairly easy as we’ve shot quite a bit together in the past five years. It also helped that Holley had told me that the best photos ever of her were the one’s we’d shot in the Moab two years prior. Yes, photographers have ego’s too!

This type of confidence, working with a model over a long period, and the fact that we’d shot great images in the Moab before, made it super easy for us to grab and go some great photos, this being one of my favorites. I often hear photographers say that they’d prefer to shoot different models instead of the same ones all the time. I often disagree as your best images come from either your “muses” or models you work with frequently, for many reasons including comfort, confidence, consistency and continuum.

The Story Behind The Photography Workshop

Note: We’ve got one more Moab photography workshop scheduled for 2012 and it’s limited to four photographers, so sign up today and save $500.

I just returned from my fifth photography trip to the Moab since I first started going there three years ago and I wanted to share some of my workshop photos with you. Though my first two trips to the Moab were for a private instruction and my own personal photography, this one centered around one of my photography workshops in addition to my daughter and I working on our first photography book together. Look for it in a few months here!

Photographer’s Toolbox
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 85mm F/2.8L USM
Effective Focal Length: 85mm
Shutter Speed: See Technical Above, Various
Aperture: See Technical Above, Various
ISO: See Technical Above, Various
White Balance: 6000K

While there are many places to explore around the Moab area, I tend to focus in the area known as the Canyon Lands, public property managed by the Bureau of Land Management. These are public access lands managed by the Federal government that encompass 1.8 million plus acres. We did stray off to other areas on this trip outside the Canyon Lands, but you’ll have to join us at our next photography workshop to know those “secret” spots, as we don’t like to publicize where we’re shooting. Working with models is a lot easier without spectators and all it takes is one distraction to cause someone to miss their footing in this rugged environment—injuries is something we work hard at preventing and safety is always first!

Holley at the Moab Photography Workshop, Golden Hour

Capturing Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough during the Golden Hour in the Moab comes easy.

The Moab photography workshops themselves are quite different from my other workshops. Due to risks associated with working in a rocky desert environment, logistics and the long days, we normally limit this workshop to about 4-5 photographers. This allows the photographers to spend more time photographing each model and it makes it easier for me to spend more time with the attendees who will capture photos very few photographers will ever have in their photography portfolios.

These attendees know very few photographers have these types of model photos in their books. They, along with the models, understand the passion and photographic possibilities the Moab brings, hence why they invest their time and money into this photographic excursion. This “hands on” experience is more like a semi-private instruction than a typical photography workshop environment, so the photographer gets more out of this photography workshop then a typical workshop.

It takes a special breed of photographers to handle the Moab environment as while we don’t actually “rock climb,” there is some walking and mild climbing at times to get to some of Mother Nature’s stone architecture.  The environment is also dusty when the wind kicks up, but personally this is what I think makes the Golden Hour (link) so unique in the Moab than other places on this Earth.  The dust is compromised of trillions of tiny reflectors. The quality of light produced by the Moab Golden Hour is just amazing and nothing matches it in my opinion.

I was fortunate that the majority of the attendees were repeats from my other photography workshops, and one, David, actually attended the June Moab photography workshop the year before. Now that’s dedication and it’s a dedicated photographic passion that will help you achieve great photographs, not just pictures, so my hat is off to David.

Like David, Brian joined me again for his fourth Moab photography experience and was helpful as always—in fact, it was Brian, with his private instruction requirements that brought me out to the Moab years before and made a Moab believer out of me. Obviously he’s not a first timer anymore and he plans on helping us out on the next one. So thanks again Brian for all your help and support!

Speaking of first-timers, we had Victor from Seattle and Paul from Australia, along with my daughter—I wanted her on this trip so we could get some “father/daughter” shooting time together and we were able to accomplish some of that without taking away from the attendees. In fact, she bonded well with the attendees and bonding is something the exotic workshops, like Moab and the Virgin Islands, seem to bring as at these workshops no one goes home at the end of the day, we all stay logistically close by and eat all our meals together when we’re not shooting.

Our dinners usually run late as we have to wait until the Golden Hour shooting is over before we start driving back to the city  of Moab itself. It’s well worth it and our models on this trip, Playboy Playmate Holley Dorrough, Candice, Eleya and Jolene hung through as always. It also helps that my number one assistant for the Moab, Joel Flora, helps not only me, but he takes good care of the models making sure they stay hydrated. Joel is a huge part of the Moab success and it’s not easy stealing him away from the top Playboy photographers where he normally works in Santa Monica at Playboy Studio West.

Yes, this is the same Joel that I made my number one assistant for the Sacramento Kings Dance Team calendar shoot last year in Las Vegas and like I said in that photoblog post, it takes a team effort. The Moab excursion is no different, without my team of models and assistants, Moab probably would not succeed the way it normally does, so my hat is off to Joel, the models and the attendees too, along with the folks at the Archway Inn, a fabulous hotel that goes out of their way to help us out.

In fact, we borrowed one of their employees, Brittany, a photographer herself, on her day off so she could show us some new locations—and she did, but if you want to find those locations and want the opportunity to get some spectacular Moab photography with gorgeous models, you’ll have to sign up for our next one.  That trip, our sixth Moab photography workshop in three years, promises to bring even more than previous photography workshops as we’ve got new locations, a rotation of models and again, our group is limited to four, maybe five, photographers. Sign-up before it’s too late!

For now, enjoy these photographs and for the nude version, please visit our sister site, EditorialNudes.com. I close by saying, don’t forget our men and women in the military along with their families and friends, for without them there’d be no freedoms so we could write books, practice photography and conduct Moab photography workshop excursions. God Bless! Rolando

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Welcome to LensDiaries.com (Lens Diaries™), a hybrid photography blog with social flair. The photoblog provides photo tips, photo tutorials and photo diaries by professional photographer, author, writer, speaker and social media consultant, Rolando Gomez.

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