Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Last year I was invited to speak at a conference down in the Atlanta area for the Roswell Photographic Society. The event was to be held from September 9th through the 11th and I knew that I would like to add on a few days to do a photo shoot at a location called “Old Car City’ in White, Ga. My idea was to do a photo shoot there at night, but this time with models, which is very unusual for me. Fortunately for me, fellow Sigma Pro Judy Host lives in the Atlanta area so when I proposed the idea to her, she eagerly accepted my invitation to collaborate on this project.

Judy Host: Collaboration between two very creative minds is a lot of fun. When Roman called me and asked if I would be interested in setting up a session like this, A Play Date, I jumped at the chance to spend time with him and learn as much as I could.

Shooting at night is not something I do in my normal mode of business. As a natural light photographer as long as there is light outside, I will find a way to use it. Once the sun sets though, it’s a different story.

This opportunity to work with Roman and play with Glow Sticks and Lume Cubes as our only light source was very intriguing. We each decided which Sigma lens we would use to give us two different perspectives of the same set up. Sigma’s 35mm 1.4 gave Roman the ability to photograph in the low light at 1.4 while my Sigma 24-105mm 4.0 was wide open at 4.0 causing me to push my ISO to 2000 to get the light I wanted.  Towards the end of the evening I switched my lens to a Sigma 50mm 1.4 Art for our “Night Shoot”.

Judy: We were very fortunate to have two models to work with. We had 6 people photographing and we were constantly moving models around for the perfect light. Their outfits were designed so we could change them, giving us a different look for each girl. We also switched their hats, (which were purchased by Roman specifically for this session.) Each model did her own hair and makeup.

Our two “Steampunk” Models Isabel and Ashley.

As a wildlife/nature photographer, I rarely photograph people unless it is for family events or special circumstances. I do like photographing old things but I would be taking myself way out of my comfort zone so I was excited to have a fellow pro and expert like Judy to help me push my limits as a photographer. Most of Judy’s photographs of people use only natural light so she would be stepping out of her comfort zone once the sun went down when I wanted to use different lights and strobes like I do for my night/astrophotography. I had originally wanted to do a pinup shoot at Old Car City but a few phone calls a month or so before the event and Judy and I decide that the models would dress up in “Steampunk” outfits, which seemed more appropriate for the location. Judy would arrange the wardrobe, makeup, and posing of the models and I was responsible for securing the location and lighting once the sun went down. I borrowed her husband Eddie’s Lume cube lights for a constant portable light source as well a wide variety of flashlights and glow lights so I could paint the subjects including the models, once the sun went down.

Judy: As the sun started to set, I found myself enjoying the eerie look of the old cars against the pale skin of our other model Isabel. In this image it looks as if there is only her walking towards the forest with an almost “Beware” kind of look on her face. Pushing my ISO one more time to 12800, I started to see some grain on her face and decided to add even more grain in my post processing. I added a grainy texture in Photoshop to age the image.

We arrived a few at “Old Car City” a few hours before sunset to take advantage of the wonderful soft light. Judy had gotten the models in wardrobe and makeup before we got to the location so we could quickly capture the beautiful soft light with the models really getting into the location. I took advantage of Judy’s posing expertise to focus my attention on composition. I was further stepping out of my comfort zone with my lens choice as I decided I would only use my new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art for the very first time for the entire shoot and at much more wide open apertures than I am used to during the day. The images of Ashley above was shot almost wide open at f/1.6 and f/1.4, which is an aperture I only normally use for my night shoots! Judy also reminded and encouraged me to take full body shots as well as close-ups during the entire shoot.

Processed in Photoshop. Black and White effect by NIK/Silver Efex Pro 2

The outfits Judy chose were a perfect fit for the rusted old cars and trucks with the old Mack truck being one of my favorites. It doesn’t hurt when you have wonderful models like Isabel (pictured above) and Ashley to work with either who were eagerly getting into the shoot as much as we were! A wardrobe change while the light was starting to fade provided some final images of natural light while adding a few constant light sources once the sun went down, including a headlight of a motorcycle, made for some dramatic although eerie images. I was glad I could open up my aperture all the way to 1.4 on some of these images so I didn’t have to push my ISO much higher.

The image above was of Ashley was taken well after the sun had set. Positioning the cube light and glow sticks proved to be the most challenging and I must admit it was much more difficult to set up than I had imagined!

The humidity levels were very high this night and with our time running short we decided to call it quits with a few final shots. Everyone was exhausted but very excited on how the shoot had turned out. I look forward to collaborating with Judy on another of these shoots that will continue to challenge us both but were definitely a lot of fun!  It was a privilege to work with such a great talent and it taught me one thing…..I won’t be quitting wildlife and nature photography anytime soon!!!

Judy Host’s bio:


Photographer, Educator, Lecturer, Portrait Specialist

Featured in Rangefinder magazine as one of “Today’s Top Children’s Photographers” Judy Host has redefined the Portrait Photography world with her unique talent for capturing the innocence and trust that lies within the heart of each individual and has earned her the respect and recognition of her colleagues. Her photography has been internationally recognized for its innovative style and technique. Recently her work was selected for exhibition in the Valade Family Gallery in Detroit, MI and the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

In addition, her work has been selected for national exhibition by the Professional Photographers of America, PPA from whom she has received the coveted Masters of Photography and Craftsman degrees. Among Judy’s awards for outstanding environmental portrait photography, she has earned multiple Kodak Gallery Awards, an award given to those photographers who excel in creativity and the pursuit of excellence in quality.

Honored as a Sigma Pro for the Sigma Corporation, a significant distinction shared with seven top professionals in the industry, see

A world traveler teaching seminars and workshops in environmental portraiture, specialized image processing, marketing and natural lighting, visit or contact her directly at for more information.

PURA - Love the images! Great job!

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