Hawaii Scenery Video - by Tracie Cotta

Tracie put together a nice video compilation of some of the different places we visited on O'ahu... using footage from the Canon T1i, her little point-and-shoot Canon SD800IS, and my iPhone 3GS. The underwater scenes were shot with the Ewa-marine underwater housing on the Canon T1i.

She made the music in Garage Band using Magic Garage Band. If you have never used Magic Garage Band... give it a look. We have used it many times to create music for videoblogs, with great results. It's quick and easy... and offers really high-quality results, although not that much in terms of variety.

This is a nice preview of some of the videos you'll soon see coming from our trip... explanations and tutorials on how we shot!

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

Ewa-marine Underwater Housing First Test | Mini Review

Tracie and I took the Ewa-marine underwater housing out for a first test in the swimming pool in my apartment complex. The video above should show you everything you need to know to get started with it... and know if it will work for what you want it to do. We will have more examples of photos and videos in future posts, but this is a quick review to show you all the features and our first use of the bag.

We needed an affordable underwater housing for the Hawaii Fusion Trip, and although I considered purchasing a point-and-shoot underwater camera to accomplish this goal I wanted better quality video and more control over the photos I'd be taking. Shooting underwater will degrade the quality of what you are doing already... first of all because of debris and light-loss... but also because it is mainly blue light that is allowed to travel through water... blocking out the rest of the visible spectrum quickly as you get further from your subject. We wanted to have the highest quality capture possible, so we went with the full housing. The Ewa-marine is actually the most affordable by far, yet it still performs very well within its own limitations.

One of the biggest benefits of the Ewa-marine housing over others, besides the price tag (just $269!), is the fact that you can use it on multiple cameras. Especially if you don't use it much... the housing will likely outlast the camera model you have... and all the hard plastic housings ($1,000 and up) are made with specific buttons to fit each individual camera model. The Ewa-marine is essentially a plastic bag, so as long as your new camera fits in it... you have full use of all the functions.

Pressing the buttons inside the bag proved to be a bit difficult, but with practice it ended up being just slightly slower than usual. Practice definitely improves your performance with this thing... and quickly. Underwater photography is difficult for a host of reasons, which I found out later during a snorkeling trip, but results can be amazing, especially when you have a fantastic video DSLR.

We made a few mistakes our first time out, and there are a few things to note:

  • You need googles if you plan on seeing the screen AT ALL. This might seem obvious... but I totally forgot to buy a pair.
  • Water magnifies everything... so if you have a plan to use a certain focal length, keep in mind that it will be "zoomed in" about 30%.
  • Keep the lens as CLOSE to the front glass of the housing as possible, or you can get reflections in your images of the lettering on the lens. Blacking this out with tape can definitely help.
  • If you have sunscreen on your face and chest... it's going to get on the bag, and will make it really hard to see through it, because it won't wipe off easily.
  • Light bends all over in water... mainly when coming through the surface of it, so direct sunlight will turn into lots of streamy bands of light all over.
  • Focusing isn't easy to do, and isn't easy to verify... but with practice autofocus still does a pretty good job if you can stay still long enough to lock
  • People like to breathe, and breathing causes bubbles, so coach your model in not exhaling while shooting, because bubbles coming out of their nose isn't attractive, unless you're going for that.
  • All-in-all I was extremely pleased with the initial results of the housing, and have a great full shoot to share with you soon!

    Shortly after tweeting about the housing, where I actually mentioned the full name "ewa-marine underwater housing", I got a reply message from a gentleman from Germany (I think) with the Twitter name @ewa_marine. It was a small exchange but very welcome and it shows that the company is looking at what people are doing and saying about their product, which is awesome. He even asked for me to send over a link to examples when I have them. How 'bout that?

    NOTE: in the video I mentioned that I didn't find the manual... it was actually in the front pocket of the case. I forgot to mention that I had found it!

    You can purchase an Ewa-marine housing through the following links, the first is for smaller SLRs (fits Canon Rebel series or Nikon D40 or D90) and the second is for larger bodies (up to the 5DmkII size). If you buy it through this link I get a nice little 4%, and will love you for it.

    Ewa-marine U-A Housing f/ small AF SLR Cameras w/ a built in Flash

    Ewa-Marine Underwater Housing for Large DSLR Bodies like EOS 5DmkII, 7D; Nikon D1, D2X, D300

    This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

    This video is brought to you by:

    Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

    Special thanks to Know How Cafe for providing accommodations and tech for the trip.

DIY Dress Alteration | Wedding Dress for Hawaii Photo Fusion Shoot

Tracie shot a nice, simple and quick tutorial on how she altered the wedding dress that we will be shooting during the Hawaii Photo Fusion trip. This is the first of almost 2 weeks worth of daily videos we'll be posting. Enjoy!

Coming next, a first test of the Ewa-marine underwater housing in a regular pool.

This post is part of the Hawaii Fusion Trip 2009.

This video is brought to you by:

Smug Mug LogoThe Bui Brothers Logo

O'ahu Hawaii Photography - Fusion - New Media Workshop

Tracie Cotta Fashion Photograph


I am visiting O'ahu for a week as I do the Hawaii Photo Fusion tour with the wonderful model and makeup artist, Tracie Cotta. We are being sponsored by SmugMug to come out and spend a week shooting photos and videos to create a series of video tutorials and behind-the-scenes looks at some of our lighting, posing and shooting techniques.

I did a small photography and lighting workshop in March of 2009 the last time I was out here... it was literally thrown together at the last minute at the request of a few people... and I was happy to have had 26 people attend and spend a few hours with me at Magic Island, Ala Moana Beach Park, as the sun set. This time I thought I'd go all out and cover everything I think is necessary to light and capture great photos AND videos and meld them together into what is now being called photo fusion videos.


The workshop will begin indoors at the ING Direct Cafe in Honolulu (map), light refreshments will be served and we'll spend a couple hours in-class. We'll then head outside for a 2.5 hour hands-on lighting workshop.

Bring your camera, we will have a live model (the gorgeous Tracie Cotta) and you'll be shooting her in various scenes using some natural light, some flash-lighting. (you can also see Tracie in the iJustine video above, she is the makeup artist!)

Fusion Workshop

"Fusion" is probably a term you've heard a lot recently. With the proliferation of DSLRs with video features it's now easier than ever for photographers to capture GORGEOUS video while shooting photos without worrying about taking along an additional device. This allows for the simple "fusion" of photography and video for wonderful videos of weddings, events and photo shoots.

We (The Bui Brothers) also use it in other ways. The last few high profile photo shoots we've done we're accentuated by behind the scenes videos that have actually gained more attention than the photos themselves. We actually attribute more than half of our recent photo business to these videos. When watching them, potential clients are able to see not only how we work but also who we are.

Here is the behind the scenes video we shot during our photo shoot of iJustine at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Beach:


  • photo editing workflow
  • basic video editing software (iMovie)
  • video editing techniques
  • how to create simple music for your videos (Garage Band)
  • how and where to find legal free music online
  • how to publish your content on SmugMug and share it on your blog or other sites

Photography Workshop

The questions we get most often from people are regarding the lighting techniques we use in our photographs. We typically do outdoor shots using a combination of ambient and flash lighting supplied either from small flashes or Alien Bees lights.

On this trip I'll be shooting with two Vivitar flashes and a brand new set of Radiopopper JrXs. They are all as affordable as it gets! I'll also be using some homemade modifiers to properly control the lighting, and will spend a couple hours setting up multiple sets for you to photograph.

In this part of the workshop I will show you exactly how to light your subject and why I make certain choices to get the effect I want. You'll have the opportunity to photograph Tracie in each set with the lights I set up.

Tracie Cotta by Vu Bui

Micah Lee

Brigitte Dale by Vu Bui


  • choosing your location using the available light
  • using flashes to fill against the sun
  • using a single light for portraits
  • posing your model
  • using direct sunlight to backlight your subject
  • using light modifiers for complete control
  • a bunch of other stuff that will come up as we work


Fusion workshop (1st part of the workshop) ING Direct 1958 Kalakaua Ave. Honolulu, HI 96815

View Larger Map

Photography workshop (2nd part of the workshop) Fort DeRussy Park right across the street from ING Direct


The photo fusion workshop will be held:

September 24th - Thursday 2:00 PM - 7:00pm (it may go a little later)


In keeping with the low-budget nature of my trip and this workshop... I'm pricing it at an absolute no-brainer $35.

Due to the size of the venue and in the efforts to keep this workshop reasonably small and intimate, seating is limited. Click to reserve your place now:

Add to Cart

Note: Purchase is non-refundable.


Sign up to receive email updates from me about workshops and video tutorials I'll be releasing in the future. I don't email very often because I hate annoying emails as much as you do.




Visit the Facebook event page Visit the upcoming.org event page

Hawaii Photo Fusion tour Ritz Carlton Photo Workshop The Bui Brothers shoot Felicia Day

This workshop is brought to you by:

The Bui Brothers LogoSmug Mug Logo

Fashion Photography | Tracie Cotta Photo Shoot One - part 2

Video by Tracie Cotta

In part 1 of Shoot One we shot in Tracie's front yard, her bedroom, downtown Fullerton, Disneyland and at a local park. That left 2 days... which took us to San Diego and back up to the OC Fair for part 2.

San Diego "secret" location

Years ago I saw some photos on flickr that were really cool... they had very dynamic lighting... and the location was outstanding. I'm not usually a big fan of girls in bikinis just for the sake of showing skin... but these were really good shots otherwise. I was about to do our first photo shoot of Paul Dateh and I wanted a really cool place to shoot... so I contacted the photographer and asked about the location.

"It's a secret."

Oh. Well that sucked. I sorta understood because if you have a cool location that you use often you may not want it to be swarming with every kid with a DSLR and a cute girl at his disposal... sooner or later that will cause problems with the owners/tenants/neighbors... someone. But I couldn't just give up... so I plead my case a little harder... and he finally relented... but only after I promised not to share the locale with any other photographers. And I haven't. So... don't ask where these were done. I made a promise and I like to keep those. When I can.

We got to the location about an hour before sunset... we planned on getting through two outfits... I hadn't even seen the first one, but LOVED it. Tracie knows how to put together an interesting ensemble, that's for sure.

And she knows how to look fierce.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

For the final shot, just after the sun dropped below the horizon, Tracie quickly changed and we took this final photograph... and then, like teeny tiny vampires... a flock (or is it swarm?) of blood-thirsty mosquitoes chased us back to the car.

Tracie Cotta

The OC Fair

In the 16 or so years I've lived in Orange County... I think I've only actually been to the fair like 3 times. Once to shoot a Noodle Scar episode and twice just for fun.

This year Tracie and I decided to go on the last day it was open... and we ended up having a lot of fun and not shooting very many photos... but two stood out as ones I loved. The fair really is a good place to capture color and lights... kinda like Vegas. But with barn animals and carnies.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Fashion Photography | Tracie Cotta Photo Shoot One - part 1

Tracie and I have been planning to shoot together for a couple months now... we were just waiting for the right project to start it for. We had decided to drive an RV across California for a week and shoot in various locations, and had 2 other people coming with us... one was an assistant and one was another model. Tracie, being a makeup artist and hair stylist as WELL as a model was going to do all the hair and makeup... and I'd have 2 models to shoot across California.

Unfortunately as the date approached the other two participants had to cancel... so we decided to change the scope of the project and relaunch it another day. Details about that will be coming... and there will be a cool one-on-one workshop opportunity for one person.

So... we decided to just stay home and shoot at a few local locations... and just try to keep it simple and get one photo done each day for the week. We ended up shooting for 7 days and came away with 20 photos that we liked... and here are the first 9 of them... shot between Sunday and Thursday. The video above has a TINY amount of behind the scenes footage... we actually did a terrible job of recording... but we are planning another shoot week coming soon and we will do a full behind-the-scenes-explain-everything "tutorial" series of videos then.


Tracie actually needed a new headshot for something... and while the actual headshot is nice and normal and worked fine... this was our favorite of the 10 minute headshot session in front of her house.

Tracie Cotta


On Monday we went to the Disneyland employee theater to watch Beauty and the Beast... so we didn't actually have much time to shoot afterwards... we decided to set up a couple of small flashes and a ringflash for a vampirish shot in Tracie's room. I've gotten some interesting/cool feedback on the backdrop so far... what do you think it looks like / reminds you of / actually is?

Tracie Cotta


We wanted to do something with a slightly city feel to it so we decided to head to downtown Fullerton. There is a small street with some cool streetlamps that I thought would give the look I was going for... sorta city girl in the city at night. Then we walked to a little cement park with a bunch of benches for the next shot.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta


Having a Deluxe Disneyland pass means I can visit Disneyland almost any day of the year except Saturdays and holidays... which works out perfectly since I don't actually WANT to be there on those crowded days.

We started out at The Grand Californian Hotel at an interesting fireplace that just sorta exists outside at a patio.

Tracie Cotta

The we took off into the park with intentions of shooting at the big blue staircase... but also happened upon some gorgeous light on the wooden bridge near Big Thunder Mountain while on our way. We stopped just to look at the water really quick and Tracie said "oooh, sun" and she automatically started posing as I automatically backed off with the camera at my eye. It was actually really hilarious. But you're probably not laughing. I guess you had to be there.

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta

Tracie Cotta


Thursday was a bit of a letdown... we actually planned on shooting at the OC Fair but the parking was closed by the time we got there... so we just went to a park and took this. We also witnessed some people doing some sort of cultish idolish thing while wrapped in a blanket... and ended up ruining the fun of 3 guys and a girl on the other side of the park who were doing who knows what in the big rocketship on the playground but took off when we started shooting right outside of where they were... too bad for them (though it was unintentional)!

Tracie Cotta

Friday we actually did our best work... so I decided to save that for the next post... coming Monday... and we revisited the fair after that for the final shots.

Comic Con 2009

Tracie and I were lucky enough to be offered tickets to Comic Con for a day by Steven Knuth... so we drove down in the morning and spent a half day there before heading over to the Jinx party at Tivoli Bar in Gaslamp.

I absolutely enjoy the costumes that people make and wear... even the terrible ones. We saw lots. We recorded some. We show only a few.

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Micah Lee Photo Shoot

Anyone who follows The Bui Brothers' photography at all has probably noticed that we don't really shoot many guys. We've done some headshots here and there and shot Schlomo earlier this year... but we're REALLY lacking in guy photos outside of wedding/engagement shoots. Apparently we do fashion photography of women only.

Tracie not only pointed this out... but also offered a start to the solution. Micah is her friend and she set up a shoot for us and came up with the theme for the day as well... a silent film actor. Never much one for using a shoot day for only one look... I decided on 3 we all liked... and environmental portrait of Micah in his "element", a fashion photography set, and the silent film set which was the point of the whole shoot.

The first was a simple environmental portrait. It shows Micah in his room... in front of a bookcase full of DVDs and small collectibles... and topped with a movie poster for Vertigo.

Micah Lee

We then went out to the yard-ish area for a few "post-apocalyptic" (if the apocalypse destroyed everything but a nice stash of clean clothes and a garden gnome) fashion photography shots.

Micah Lee

Micah Lee

After this we hopped out front of the house for an shot lit from the front by a street light... with backlighting of the telephone pole, satellite dish and tree provided by the security lights of the restaurant out at the main street.

Micah Lee

Then... for the main set... Micah changed into an interesting looking suit and Tracie applied a bit of makeup to create "creepy silent film Micah". He was a lot like regular Micah except for the extreme creepiness and eye liner. We went down to Old Town Orange for these ones... the architecture there fit perfectly.

Micah Lee

Micah Lee

Micah Lee

Micah Lee

The video gives a small behind the scenes glance (literally just a glance) at the shoot. This is Tracie's first video (she shot almost all of it AND edited the whole thing on her new MacBook Pro) and I think it does a good job (mostly due to the excellent choice of music) of properly creating a mood for the photos. Oh, and the video was shot entirely on the iPhone 3GS. Enjoy!