December 21, 2009

El Carmen - Behind the Scenes (day 2)


In this video Andy and I head to El Carmen to do our version of Help-Portrait.  The concept behind Help-Portrait is take a picture of someone less fortunate and hand deliver their photo.  After a delicious lunch at Cata's finca located about 30 minutes outside of El Carmen,  Andy and I jumped on a local bus and ventured to El Carmen not knowing what to expect.  We arrived in El Carmen with the Backpacker's Studio strapped to our back, a 25 lbs Vagabond, a 1600 Alien Bees flash and a small Canon printer.

more after the break...

December 15, 2009

Los Mamos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta


Andy and I had the rare opportunity to take photos of the Mamos de la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (note: an indigenous tribe from the mountainous region of Sierra Nevada). The Mamos don't normally allow people to photograph them because of their spiritual beliefs. This particular family fled to the region of Antioquia to escape persecution from the FARC (guerillas).  We drove deep into the mountains to meet with the family, and when we arrived the smell of roasted tobacco and burning herbs permeated the crisp air.  Andy and I took time to get acquainted before asking if we could photograph them.  I even had a chance to play some guitar with the head chief before taking Josca with the family (Josca is powdered tobacco mixed with other plants that when inhaled is supposed to cleans the mind of bad thoughts)

Pictures after the break...

December 14, 2009

Behind The Scenes: La Ceja:


So we were sitting at my apartment deciding where to go and shoot for the official help portrait day (12-12-09). Over peanut butter and jelly we decided on two towns, the first day we would hit La Ceja (means Eyebrow in English) and the second, El Carmen (no direct translation). They are about 25 minutes apart and they would be easy to reach by Colombia's very good public transportation system.

We pack up our backpacker's studio along with the, what feels like 100 pound vagabond battery and canon printer. A full set of ink cartridges and 40 sheets of paper...oh yeah!!!

Photos and more details of our trip after the break...

December 11, 2009 WEBINAR Dec. 17th, 2009 8:00PM EST


Andy and I are hosting a Webinar for 75 attendees December 17 at 8:00PM EST. The Webinar will cover: tips and tricks on how to approach people and how to take better shots, learn what inspires us, we'll break down the 5 variables of exposure, discuss how to spontaneously find a model and location, talk about how less is more, the importance of blogging and promoting yourself, and a few other surprises. Lastly, we will also answer questions for the attendees.

**Update:  we have some really cool stuff to give away!!!**

December 10, 2009

Backpacker's Studio Part Dos y Tres : Light Modifiers Explained!


Alright folks, part 2 of the Backpacker's Studio is up! Note: part 2 is split into two videos because we went over the 10 minute mark on youtube.

 Examples after the break...

December 4, 2009

Help-Portrait (part 1)

Jeremy Cowart started an awesome project called help-portrait.  Help-portrait encourages photographers around the world to use their equipment, time and talent to take pictures of people that are less fortunate this holiday season.  Be sure to check out the link above and get involved;  it's not only's fun!

In this video Andy and Michael hit the streets of Medellin, Colombia to find people to photograph for help-portrait.  We grabbed our Backpacker's Studio, a Canon portable printer and a Vagabond battery (heavy little beast) and had some fun.  This is part 1 of a series we are going to do over the next couple of weeks.   Lightenupandshoot encourages everyone following this site to join us this holiday season;  grab your camera, take a picture of someone less fortunate and deliver the photo.  Lighten up and style, this 12.12.09

Michael and Andy

December 2, 2009

pixel peepers episode 2

Oh how quickly we fall into the world of pixel peeping!! A quick video to show a little humor into the somewhat (understatement) overblown world of pixel peeping, lens alignment and every other problem that cameras have on the internet. Remember people, the cameras now are ALL amazing...if your pictures's you!!!!

November 28, 2009

Typical Shutterbug Interviews Michael Thompson

I had the amazing privilege to be interviewed by Victor Cajiao from Typical Shutterbug; the podcast interview was specifically geared towards how to use small off camera speedlights. Victor and I discussed in detail the basic principles of off camera flash and what gear is needed to create amazing pictures using small speedlights. I asked Victor why he wanted to interview me and not one of the great photographers that use speedlights such as Zack Arias or Joe McNally. He is answer was simple, "I liked your photos on your website and the fact that you are a professional photographer in Medellin, Colombia. A unique combination that is interesting." Since the podcast was recorded I have made a video series that goes into detail about speedlights: lightenupandshoot. To listen to the full interview go to:

November 23, 2009

Nicole - model from the workshop


I am wiped out from three days of taking pictures and staying out late from the workshop. Time to rest before heading back to Colombia! But, I want to share with everyone some pictures I did today of Nicole.

The workshop was Saturday night in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. After the workshop I invited all the attendees to join me in a night of taking photos. Corey was the only one who stuck around because he didn't have a flight home until the next morning. So, Corey and I hit the streets with one light stand, two lights and a camera. We found Nicole working at a restaurant and asked her if she wouldn't mind taking a quick photo. She was very friendly and said yes. The next day I emailed her the photo; she happily responded and asked me if I would take some fashion type photos of her before I returned to Colombia.

I had some time today and did a shoot with Nicole. note: I have no car in St. Pete, no cell phone, and had no idea what I was going to do about location. I borrowed a car, contacted Nicole via internet and found a location while driving around! More after the jump:

5 Mistakes Retouchers Hate! - Episode 4


Oh how slowly they learn. After taking excessive measures I have finally been able to convince Michael of his mistakes. He's fine...recovering from his dehydration and allergic reaction to the duct tape quickly...he should be up and running in the next few days. Granted the Doc did say his lip swelling will take a little longer, thankfully he loves drinking soup through a straw!

In all seriousness these 5 errors are easily corrected during the shoot. STOP BEING LAZY. Digital has helped out in many positive ways, but the biggest con is how lazy photographers are becoming. I don't know how many times I have heard "I'll fix it in Photoshop", well I say...screw you take a good picture!!

Example pictures after the break!

speedlight : final episode (live shoot) - lighentenupandshoot


Sorry folks, Michael decided to post the final video of the speedlight series before we posted the Flash to subject distance and the ISO video. He keeps blaming the beer but I just blame his genes!
In any case, we'll go along with destiny and keep the final video posted and you guys/gals just make believe it's in the correct order.

Angels Models of Colombia called us to do a casting for one of their models and we agreed. They are a brand new agency so they wanted the images to be a little different. We thought about what we wanted and wrote down a couple of ideas. The model was Carolina, 18 years old and she had never modeled before. It was a little bit of a challenge for a couple of reasons. Her english was about as good as our spanish, she never modeled before and the shoot was outside and at 2 pm. That's life, when it hands you lemons, you start juggling them and ask for donations.

Examples and shooting diagrams after the break...

November 22, 2009

St. Petersburg Workshop and pics -lightenupandshoot


Look at all those crazy looking people!!! Thanks for showing up!!! I expect to see pictures ASAP from each and every one of you!!

Michael is working on editing the video filmed during the workshop and should be up shortly!!

Workshop pictures after the break....

November 20, 2009

message from michael

I'm gonna get out and shoot today.  Turkey dinner is over.  Grab your gear and take some pictures.  Stayed tuned for some videos from me and Andy!

November 17, 2009

Bee-Hind The Scenes - El Retiro


So we decided to post a behind the scenes video of this past weekend. We should be working on the final two speedlight series videos, but being a 3 day weekend here in Colombia (seems like there is one twice a week) we decided to take a bus trip to El Retiro. In car it's about 30 minutes from Medellin, but by bus it is an amazingly long 2 hour journey. Especially when there are no seats available on the bus and you must stand most of the way!!

We really just want to show you a little bit  of how simply amazing Colombia is and what an amazing time you can have with a 4500 peso ($2.20US) bus fare.

While we where there we took some pictures and we got the inspiration for another video that will be published shortly "Not Two But Nun". So stay tuned...or you WILL go to hell!!

On another note, Michael leaves to the states tomorrow and their are still a few spaces left for his free speedlight workshop. So if you can't make it, tell someone who might be able to.

Our great money making idea number 9,783 after the break...

November 15, 2009

Recreating the Sun with 4 AA Batteries - The MacGyver Shoot!!


Ok, so I promise we will have the remaining Speedlight Series videos up shortly, but we are just posting what we have here is the latest and greatest!!

The MacGyver shoot!!!

So here´s the story! We were trying to finish the Flash to Subject Distance Video since it was raining in Medellin and all of a sudden...SUN!!! So screw the Flash to Subject Distance Video (For Now) and let´s go shoot!!!

An amazing sunset is about to happen, so we head to the hills. The mirador which is basically a flat piece of land on the side of a mountain which overlooks Medellin would be the spot. It´s only 5 minutes from our apartments and the view is amazing. Besides, Michael loves his Chorizo, so that was it. We had NO model of course, but Michael being the problem solver said " If we don´t find a model up there, we´ll just shoot my chorizo". Thankfully we found a couple models as you saw or will see.

Pictures, Shooting Diagrams and Michael´s Chorizo after the break...

November 14, 2009



Ok folks hold on to your hats!! Michael is leaving to the good o'le US of A and he decided in his crazy blonde head that he wanted to give a free speedlight workshop to the first 12 people that are interested.

So the details are:

Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg (meetup in the Vinoy Hotel lobby) at 2PM on Saturday November 21, 2009.

The main points of the workshop are teaching the basics and fundamentals of speedlight photography. You will all have a chance to shoot, so bring your cameras, speedlights and triggers. It will be fun.

If you are going to attend, please leave a comment saying you will be there. First 12 people ONLY!!! That way he has time to answer all of your questions!!

Map after the break...

November 12, 2009

Speedlight Series : Flash POWER away!!! (part 4)


Flash power, it sounds so powerful doesn't it! What sounds so powerful can get a little complicated, but it is actually pretty basic.

I will explain using as few examples as possible so as not to confuse too much.

In a few words flash power is how much light is coming out of your flash. You control your flash power by "dialing down" your flash. In manual mode the settings for one stop are Full Power to 1/2 Power to 1/4 Power to 1/8 Power to 1/16 Power to 1/32 Power to 1/64 Power and so on. Each of these steps is equal to one stop of light or aperture in your camera.

So what does it all mean in basic terms. Simple. If your correct exposure is your flash at full power and your aperture set at f/8. You can "dial down" your flash one stop to 1/2 power and open your aperture one stop to f/5.6 from f/8 and you will get the same exposure. The only thing you will lose is depth of field, which depending on what you are shooting that may be good...or bad.

That was a mouthful...some examples after the break.

November 11, 2009

Speedlight Series: Aperture - Stop Up, Stop Down...Huh??


Apparently Michael does not know English or Spanish!! Everyone please email Michael at michael.orangetree (at) and tell him how to spell APERTURE!!! I would love for him to get at least 9.3 million emails before he checks it tomorrow morning!!! Is it true that blondes have more fun??

Back to the video:

The second variable of exposure is Aperture. What is aperture, it's pretty simple actually I will explain.

Your aperture setting controls what your flash is illuminating. If you take a picture and your flash is overexposing your subject(leaving giant white marks everywhere) you need to stop down (close your aperture). For example if you are shooting at f/5.6 you need to stop down by changing to f/8.0 and so on. If your subject is too dark, then you need to open your aperture to let more light in. So second example, if you are shooting at f/5.6 you need to change your aperture setting to f/2.8.

Pretty basic right??? It is!!!!

Examples after the break, if you have any questions leave a comment and we will answer quickly!!!

November 9, 2009

Speedlight Series: Shutter Speed (Part Dos)


So what does shutter speed do in flash photography?

What pretty much took us 5 minutes to explain in a video we can explain using 2 sentences:

Sentence 1: Shutter speed controls the ambient light of your picture, or pretty much wherever the light from your flash is NOT illuminating.

Sentence 2: The faster the shutter speed the less ambient light in your picture, darker it's going to look or, the slower the shutter speed the more ambient light or lighter the image is going to look.

Speedlight Series: What do I use and por que (part 1)


Michael's note: sorry to bore you guys, but everybody has been asking for this...
This is part 1 of a lighting series that I will be posting over the next week.   I am going to cover speed lights from top to bottom (at least uncover what I know about these little lights).  I will go over my shooting style, what gear I use (and why) and break down all the messy technical stuff that a lot of people may find confusing.

November 5, 2009

why colombia? episode 1


Ok, so this is our first video, our introduction so take it lightly. It just gives you a quick peak into how we (two gringo photographers) ended up in Medellin, Colombia of all places. Enjoy!!!

November 1, 2009

Our Contact Information


Studio Phone Numbers:

USA: 1-321-348-9622 (automatically forwarded to our studio in Colombia just saves you the long distance charge)
Colombia: +57(4)266-9905



Retouching: Studio Location:

Carrera 36 #10A-35
Apt: 102 Edificio: La Doble Elle
El Poblado, Medellin
Colombia, S.A.

What is this blog thingy about?

So the question millions have been asking, What is this? We are two gringo photographers that decided to move to Colombia, South America. Yes, we are not sane. We started this website with the goal of teaching photography with a little humor. We believe that humor has inspirational aspects and we plan to exploit them. We will take you on our professional photo shoots, as well as our personal projects. We will share almost every aspect of the shoots, the bad, the crappy and the disastrous. We will also show some of the good stuff along the way. So sit back, relax, enjoy and learn as we go into the unknown armed with our photo gear and our powerful Canon SD750 as our video camera! YES, I said Canon SD750!

So what is this?

Honestly, it's really a way for our moms to see that we actually work sometimes !!

Lighten up!! We're two guys who love to shoot!! Paid or not!!

Andy: he's still trying to figure at what to say about himself; so we will just leave this blank.