Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Best of 2010: July

Monday, January 17th, 2011

The Nels Cline Singers

July was a winding-down month: I moved out of DC, I got married; my photographic activity for the month was limited to one concert and three model shoots. The concert was the Nels Cline Singers, who tore it up at an absolutely packed Black Cat backstage. My favorite photo of the night wasn’t a shot of the band, but rather this mood shot of the objects at bassist Devin Hoff’s feet. It doesn’t exactly scream “rock & roll” like so many photos of Nels Cline do; but it’s a nice peek into the world of Cline’s experimental music, so much lesser known now than his role as Wilco guitarist.

Josie, vignetted

Best shoot of the month may have been this one with Josie, at an abandoned auto service station somewhere in Maryland. (I forgot to post about this one and may do so later.) It was oppressively hot that day – topping 100 degrees inside the abandoned building – but Josie was a trooper despite a professed hatred of the summer heat. This was the last look we did, inside the pitch-dark interior of the building; I had a three-light setup going on that I’m quite proud of. Obviously, there’s a flash at the end of the hall – that’s an SB-600 clamped to some kind of electrical box on the wall. At high camera right is another SB-600, clamped to some ceiling pipes and shot through a latticed door. Finally, camera left is an SB-800 on a stand, providing just a touch of fill light and Josie’s shadow on the wall. All the flashes were unmodified. Hard light can be great light!


Then I did a shoot with April at another great location, an old textile mill between DC and Baltimore. I posted about this shoot recently so won’t say much here. This was a simple one-light shot, a single strobe camera left with a shoot-through umbrella. I like how the simplicity of the lighting contrasts with the much more complicated setup for the shot of Josie, above – for me, knowing when to get fancy and when to keep things basic was a big part of my self-education this year about controlled lighting.

Here’s another basic lighting shot: a one-light setup with Brittany at Carroll Park in Baltimore. It’s just a single tightly gridded speedlight on a stand cranked as high as it would go and aimed down at Brittany, creating a pool-of-light effect that stands out in the dusky light. Despite how it looks, I didn’t underexpose the background much here – the sun was setting rapidly at this point in the day. In fact, I wish we’d shot this about 15 minutes earlier; just a bit more light on the side of the train might have made this a better shot.

Less than a week before my own wedding, I second-shot a wedding in rural northern Virginia, and put to good use the lighting skills I’d honed in all those model shoots. I actually had my White Lightning X1600 and softbox set up for a while and did some spontaneous posed shots with the bride and a few guests, but my favorite shot of the night was of this guest and her child on the dance floor. I was shooting with a handheld strobe on an off-camera cable, but also had a strobe on a stand behind the subjects, which I was using to either backlight or crosslight various subjects as they and I moved around the dance floor. I definitely need some practice getting consistently cool shots with this technique, but I was happy with more than a few of the resulting photos I got.

And finally, there was my own wedding. I didn’t shoot it, of course (though many jokes were made); I was too busy living the best day of my life. But I did steal a camera from the photographer at the reception and took a few terrible photos just for fun. Many thanks to James and Jenny at Visio Photography for an awesome job and for just being great fun to have at our wedding. (The photo above is their copyright 2010.)

Next up: August and honeymoon pictures from Iceland! But, I have to finish processing them first. Oops.

Mother-Son Show in Winston-Salem, NC

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Midday Sun

Last week, a show opened at Karma Salon and Gallery in Winston-Salem, NC (sorry, no website) featuring nine of my photographs and several watercolor pieces by my mother, Mona Wu. All of my work being shown are photos I took with my Rodenstock TV-Heligon 42mm f/0.75 lens – in other words, the artsier kind of stuff I’ve been doing recently. A lot of those shots have appeared on this blog every now and then; here are a couple that haven’t that are in the show.


The centerpiece of the exhibit, though, is this one below, which I had printed on a piece of 16″x24″ aluminum by the amazing folks at Image Wizards. The rest of the photos are all printed at 8″x12″ (by White House Custom Colour) and matted and framed traditionally.

I Got Your Bokeh Right Here

I haven’t added to it recently, but you can see some more of my work with X-Ray lenses at this Flickr set.

The show at Karma runs until December 23; the gallery is a combination hair salon/art gallery located at 206 W 6th Street, Winston-Salem, NC, and is open Tuesday-Friday from 10am until 6pm. All this info is also contained in the show invitation (PDF).


Sunday, October 10th, 2010


The worldwide obsession with zombies is a little strange to me. DC had some kind of zombie walk on the mall every year and I never went or had much interest. Minneapolis’ version of this is the annual Zombie Pub Crawl, and it happens right down the street from me, so I found it much more tempting to go and take pictures of crazy bloody people. I wasn’t really feeling very into the spirit, so instead of really engaging with folks I just kind of sniped away, street photography style. There was some seriously impressive makeup going on.


Zombie Pub Crawl

Zombie Pub Crawl VI

Blood on the street

Full set here.

Honeymoon in Iceland (sans photos)

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Why no posts for so long?  I’ve been traveling in Iceland for two weeks for my honeymoon, and am writing this from a cafe in Reykjavík.  Unfortunately, I idiotically left my camera cable at home and have no way of processing or uploading the 32+ gigabytes of photos I’ve taken so far.  We’ve had a fantastic trip so far, which has included several days here in Reykjavík, a few days exploring other towns like Akureyri and Lake Mývatn, and two long backpacking trips, one through Jökulsárgljúfur National Park and the other on the Laugavegurinn, a trail that our guidebook calls “one of the world’s great hikes,” an assessment which may only be a minor exaggeration.

Things we’ve seen so far: tons of beautiful landscapes, lots of eerily bubbling hot springs and steam vents, wacky local fashions (wildly patterned tights are a big thing here), lots of blonde people, crazy buses capable of fording large glacial rivers, some very interesting foods, the most delicious butter we’ve ever had, endless sheep, cows and horses, plenty of European tourists, very few Americans, a man we took to calling Beowulf, and more. Of course, there will be photos to come (I’ve tried not to let my photography totally dominate our honeymoon, but it’s up to my wife to decide whether or not I actually succeeded).  Sorry for the hiatus and the photo-less post, hopefully it’ll be worth it.

I want YOU to follow me on Twitter

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Shamrock Fest 2010

Yeah, you read that right. I’m on Twitter – @bwuphoto, offering thoughts, news and commentary on photography, music and anything else that comes to mind while I’m standing at the front of the house for 2 hours waiting for a show to start. Pic (mostly) unrelated, from Shamrock Fest which I shot last weekend (and tweeted a lot from). I may have a post or two up about shooting there. It was a blast, if you like taking pictures of drunk people at least.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Park Road NW at 18th Street NW

So says the National Weather Service with their all-caps mojo:


Adams Morgan After the Nuclear Winter

So, this is what life-threatening blizzard conditions look like. More here.

Snowstorm through the 35/1.8

Monday, February 8th, 2010

Snow @ 35mm

You may have heard that it snowed a lot on the Eastern seaboard the past couple days. The Washington Post is saying that DC got 25 inches or so, which sounds about right to me – when I stepped outside on Saturday morning, the snow came up to my knees, and there were still several hours of snowfall still to come at that point. On Friday night, I wandered around a bit with a few friends, shooting some typical documentary snow photos using only a Nikon 35/1.8 DX lens. I’ve heard that this lens works well on FX bodies with just a bit of vignetting. All the photos in this set shot with that lens (which is all but the last two) are totally uncropped so you can see how true or untrue that is.


I like how this lens works on my full-frame D700. Yes, there are limitations: it has to be shot wide open or the vignetting gets much worse, and the further away the focal point, the more pronounced the vignetting is as well. That said, when shot wide open with a close focus, the vignetting actually almost disappears. This isn’t evident in any of the photos in this set because I didn’t get really close to any subjects, unfortunately. Still, in a lot of cases the dark corners actually give kind of a cool, claustrophobic effect. (Not to mention that, in some applications like concert photography, they are often not even noticeable at all.)

Snow @ 35mm

Again, here’s a larger set of photos with this lens, from Friday night.

DCypher, two years later

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

DCypher 090

Two years ago, one of the most challenging things I shot as part of my photo-a-day project was a dance performance by local hip-hop company DCypher. The lighting was dim, the action was fast, and I was using a manual focus Series E 50/1.8 lens, which did not meter on my D70. I was quite happy with what I got. In retrospect, most of what I got was junk. This time around, shooting the same group almost exactly two years later, my camera had an extra zero on the end and I had an array of fast autofocus lenses at my disposal. My results, needless to say, were much better.

DCypher 064

I favored my 24-70/2.8 for the most part, with some usage of the 80-200/2.8 for some tighter shots; I actually think I should have used the latter a bit more. Breaking out the 50/1.4 might not have been a bad idea either, but I never did. Because I needed shutter speeds of at least 1/200, preferably much faster, to stop the very fast motion going on onstage, I was mostly locked in at ISO 6400, dropping down to 3200 in the rare moments that the lighting brightened up enough. (Considering ISO 6400 is two full stops more sensitive than my D70 was capable of, it’s not surprising my photos were better this time.)

DCypher 165

Not much else to say about this; the challenge was purely about nailing the exposure and getting the timing right. Compositionally I didn’t have too many options; I was seated directly in front of the stage and could not move around during the performance. The nice thing about this position – aside from the obvious perk of being close to the action – was that by shooting slightly up at the performers, any jumps or other airborne moves they made were exaggerated by the angle.

Full set here (170 photos), or if that’s completely overwhelming, here’s a smaller set of highlights (34 photos).

My photos at

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Lady Gaga 44

Let’s just say this is not how I envisioned sharing photo space with James Nachtwey. Currently at the photo essays home page, the top essay is a series of Nachtwey photos documenting the devastation in Haiti. Directly underneath that is… a photo essay about Lady Gaga. The first two photos in this essay are mine. While I’d rather be doing what Nachtwey is doing instead of taking pictures of crazy Lady Gaga fans, I’m still pretty psyched that Time bought a couple of my pictures.

Above, another fan photo from that show (not one that Time used). Fun thing to take note of: both my shots in the photo essay were taken at ISO 6400. D700 for the win.

DCist Exposed 2010

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Samael @ Jaxx

For the third time in four tries I have a photo in the annual DCist Exposed photography show. Thanks, DCist judges (including fellow concert photog Kyle Gustafson)! The above shot of Samael performing at Jaxx back in the fall of 2008 made the cut. Funny, I don’t even really like this band, but they were great to shoot.

I also entered this shot of Arve Henriksen and this abstract that I highlighted a few posts earlier. I actually like both of those shots better than this one, but no complaining here. In any case, Erin Lassahn’s winning shot of All American Rejects completely blows away pretty much any concert photo I’ve ever taken, so there’s that.

The show runs March 6 to March 21 at Long View Gallery.