First studio portraits using the Westcott Spiderlite TD5 system

7 02 2011

I got to use my new Westcott Spiderlite TD5 2-light kit system for the first time last night when I photographed my friend Karen for her website and business promotion. She owns Karen Wyatt Skin Care in Burke, Virginia. (See how pretty her skin is? You could have skin that nice, too—book an appointment with her now!) Although I usually use strobes or my Nikon Speedlight setups in my studio, I became an instant fan of these “constant” what-you-see-is-what-you-get cool lights. I can’t wait to experiment with them more!

The TD5 system uses five fluorescent bulbs (in each light) to provide daylight balanced light, but without the intense heat that my old Lowell Tota-lights would produce (which reminds me—I should sell those things since I never use them!). My main light had a 24×32 shallow softbox and the other softbox (used as a hair light in most of the shots) was a stripbank measuring 12×36. My only complaint (and it is a small one) was that Westcott didn’t include any instructions on assembly. The one sheet of paper included showed us how to screw in the lightbulbs. Duh. We figured it out despite the lack of direction—smart women that we are!

Scott Kelby, my favorite Photoshop guru and an all around genuinely nice guy, highly recommended them after seeing wedding and portrait photographer Monte Zucker use them at a seminar. (A Washington, D.C. native, Zucker died of pancreatic cancer in 2007 at his home in Florida. He was 77).

I met Scott Kelby way back when he was teaching his wonderful $99 day-long workshops, right before he founded NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals). Scott is the editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, editor-in-chief of Layers Magazine, training director and instructor for the Adobe Photoshop Seminar Tour, President National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), CEO of Kelby Media Group, and the author of a slew of bestselling technology books (many of which I own!). I attended the very first Photoshop World Conference & Expo in Orlando with my friends Cammie and Paula (can’t remember the year, though). I’ve been a member of NAPP ever since and try to attend at least one day-long workshop each year. Check out Scott’s website/blog here. I’m a die-hard Scott Kelby fan!

Check out the seminar schedule for the Photoshop CS5 for Photographers Tour with Matt Klowkowski here, the Photoshop CS5 Power User Tour with Dave Cross here, and the Photoshop CS5 From Focused to Finished Tour with Ben Wilmore here. If you have the opportunity to attend any one of these workshops, it will be the best $99 you’ve ever spent! NAPP members pay just $79 for the day-long seminars. If you’re serious about photography and Photoshop, consider joining NAPP. You’ll receive Photoshop User Magazine, which is $9.99 per issue if you buy it at a bookstore—the $99 annual membership includes that subscription and many other discounts—including savings on hardware, software and NAPP’s excellent DVD training series.

In the two videos below, Scott talks about the first time he used the lights, how they work, and he also announces the holiday light kit special from Westcott.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


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In honor of George Hope Ledbetter…

28 01 2010

Pancreatic Cancer Challenge: Know it. Fight it. End it.

Please take a moment and send Congress an urgent message to increase funding for pancreatic cancer research by filling out the form here.

Carmen recently sent me this “Take Action Now” message from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (pancan.org).

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. Every day there are approximately 116 people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. More than 35,000 people will die from pancreatic cancer this year. The five-year survival rate is only 5%.

Carmen’s husband, George Ledbetter, lost his fight with pancreatic cancer on November 9, 2007. He was a very dear friend and is still very much in my thoughts. Only 56 when he died, George rose to the rank of full-colonel during his U.S. Air Force career, and had retired from that service some two years before his death.

He was brilliant and witty, and filled to the brim with stories of his career as a military attorney. Some of his stories Carmen deemed “not quite appropriate for mixed company,” but he always responded to our pleas for him to “tell it anyway.” He was completely enamored with the world of finance, and when he retired he began studying to become a financial adviser. However, he was never sure whether he would pursue that profession on completion of the intense course.

George was a familiar sight to the staff at a local McDonald’s restaurant. He spent several hours there every morning, eating breakfast and drinking coffee, with his workbooks and notepads spread over a table for four.

One of my favorite memories of George—and one of the stories I love to tell about him—occurred on a trip Michael and I made to the Green Valley Book Fair, one of our favorite day trips. We invited George and Carmen to go, and while en route our conversation turned to this question: “What would you do if you won ten million dollars?”

We each offered up a variety of plans, items such as “pay off all my bills, buy a house in the mountains, or on a lake or on the beach, travel the world, build a giant studio in a barn, save the animals (insert species here), fund animal rescue leagues, etc.” George, usually the last to respond in such conversations remained quiet, listening closely while forming his answer.

Finally I said, “George, what would you do if you won ten million dollars?” His answer was ready, and he immediately launched into all the ills that would befall one in such a situation—how much the government would skim off the top, how much interest the money  would gain if one didn’t spend any of it, what tax bracket it would throw one into, how it couldn’t possibly solve all of one’s financial problems, and how friends, ones that one didn’t know one had, would come out of the woodwork to claim their piece of the pie! I responded, “Gee, George, ya really know how to kill a fantasy, don’t cha?”

Michael says he thinks about George every day, primarily because George taught him a stretch exercise to avoid foot pain caused by a shortening of the Achilles tendon. Michael has done this stretch faithfully every morning since learning the exercise.

After Carmen retired she embarked on a new career, and she and George moved into a beautiful home in South Carolina. Restless in retirement, George returned to Alexandria every chance he got, frequently by agreeing to babysit a friend’s dogs whenever she was out of town. During those solo visits we continued meeting frequently for lunch. His favorite restaurants were Ruby Tuesday and Roy Rogers, and while there he would offer up firm opinions and lengthy diatribes, give sage advice and voice acute observations on a variety of topics—everything from politics to finances, and from celebrities to neighborhood gossip.

George was a consummate conversationalist—no topic was taboo, no subject uninteresting and no angle unexamined. He had what we felt was an unwarranted fear of health problems—George was physically fit and took daily walks, but his fears concerning his health were always present in our conversations. His greatest fear was that of developing diabetes, a condition that was prevalent in his family.

We found it very sad and ironic that he would ultimately be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a devastating and incurable disease which usually strikes without warning—those afflicted rarely see it coming.

I shot the photos above at our Second Annual Pesto Fest in 2006. They show George and his wife Carmen toasting, George in uniform for his retirement ceremony, and George with Angus, his beloved Cocker Spaniel.

Famous people who had pancreatic cancer:

Actor/director Michael Landon, age 55 (1936 — 1991)
Actor Patrick Swayze, age 57 (1952 — 2009)
Professor Randy Pausch, age 48 (1960 — 2008)
Operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti, age 71 (1935 — 2007)
Actor Joan Crawford, age 72 (1905 — 1977)
Composer Henry Mancini, age 70 (1924 — 1994
Actor Juliette Prowse, age 58 (1936 — 1996)

In an article I read on www.medicine.net, Gagandeep Singh, MD, director of hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., and a spokesman for PanCan, reported, “Pancreatic cancer is almost equal in its incidence in men and women, so sex is not a factor. It occurs most often in patients about the age of 60 through 65, so at age 55, Patrick Swayze is young. The youngest patient I have ever treated was 21 and the oldest was 86, so there is a spectrum.”

In answer to the question, “Does pancreatic cancer run in families?” Singh replied: “Yes. About 10% to 15% of these cancers do have a genetic or familial predisposition. In fact, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter was the only person in his family who did not have pancreatic cancer. His mother, father, and all of his siblings had pancreatic cancer. We do know that there are certain genes that may be linked to pancreatic cancer.”

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