Friday, December 25, 2009

Running around in the dark - Christmas blizzard of 2009

So, as with last year, we had a late December blizzard here in Minneapolis - and Minnesota for that matter - and as with last year it was pretty much the real deal. For about 3 days driving was a lot of fun, flights in and out were a mess, it was cold, snowed, rained, snowed, and now we have ice all over the place.

Also like last year I tried to get out with my camera and document it a bit, with a few different places and trying a few different things. All of this was done with my RB67, Delta 400 film, and it was pushed to around and over iso1600.

That first picture posted was of the Gutherie Theater and Mill City. It was really dark at the time, still snowing a bit, and the film looks grainy since it was really pushed up to and past 1600, with a lot of added contrast in post. I think the exposure was around a second, f4, and yeah, it was really dark and snow/foggy.

This is our view towards downtown from Loring park. I meant to, and will someday, bring a longer lens to shoot it with, but it's a really cute park and fun view. Kind of like NYC's view from Central park, but much, much, much smaller.

Another view from the river front area of town, just some old grain elevators that are either being torn down, or converted into something or another. I think, after going back there, that this needs to be flipped horizontally, but that's my dirty little secret. Again, it was pretty foggy, a little snow in the air, and I needed to really push the film to get this.

An Alleyway downtown that I always like to shoot for fun. Again, snowy, foggy, but not as cold as a year ago.

A hotel downtown, which was decked out a bit in Christmas stuff, it's cute.

But yeah, that's my trip around town this year! More to come this winter!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shooting fast - General rules to follow!

So, my first experience with time limits was when I got into band photography a few years back - actual bands, and not just messing around at the local bar. Before this event I took my time, made sure to get every shot I could, and generally didn't work with a urgency. After this event I learned that clients can, may, and do request that I have "3 songs" and done, and in that time I need to get everything I can, because when they say done, they mean done.

That said, this is also talked about in an interview with David Platon where he said he had about 10-15 min with Russian President Putin to take a portrait (granted all the gear was setup). Which, would give some hobbyists heart attacks, both on the count of the person, but also the time frame.

So for bands, it really is about 2-3 songs and you're done. After that the bands get sweaty, lighting changes, and for the most part they don't want anyone up there in the way for their whole set. Now, don't worry too much, since a lot can be done in that 10 min span, and good shots can happen.

Also, you run into the CEO who only has about 20 min to sit for the headshot, which although more time than a person needs, it also means that nothing can go wrong and everything has to be planned for. Or, when you're shooting some figure skaters and you literally only have 15 min of ice time to setup lights and do the shoot.

Learn to get yourself in the best positions, and take advantage of them!

I had no idea Wayne was going to do that, in fact I wasn't even a big Flaming Lips fan before that concert - but - after dodging all these balls and stuff in the air - I kept myself around the center of the stage and on him, shooting at moments he and other band members were doing something interesting.

Never give up!

That shot was the last one I took of MIA when she was here a few years back. It was literally the last shot I took before the stage managers said the time was up. Now, the never give up part comes into play because it's hard to get a good shot of someone with dark skin, white hair, under green lights, when they move around a lot... So, if you have only 15 min of time, use all of that, or at least go until you're very sure you got what you need.

Have the equipment for the job, and have backups!

Planning for the shoot is a must! You never know when something is going to break, or even more common, when something is going to be needed. It's better to plan and bring too much than go do it and wish you had something. This also includes for on location work talking to the clients and/or even going there before hand to make sure things can be done how everyone wants them - and that everyone is happy with the choice.

For example this company job I did a few months back, we were doing a portrait of the CEO in her office, and it had some off color walls. You better believe that I was up front in an assertive way that the background wall color was something they would be happy with - and even then I made sure to bring paper and a backdrop stand just in case. I also packed and used my battery pack, so I didn't have to worry about an outlet or something that wasn't accessable.

For band photography, although I don't use it that often, I make sure to bring my 50 1.4, since you never know when 1/60th iso3200 f2.8 isn't going to be enough. Going back to the MIA shot again - if I didn't have the 50 there was no way I was going to stop motion and get a decent shot.

Practice, practice, and practice!

If you don't feel confident to do any shoot (just the shoot, not setup) in 15-20 min, then it may not be time to take on that kind of work. I'm serious here, since you never know when something is going to come up, when this lighting style you had in mind wouldn't work, and when you really need to pull on experence to get the job done.

I'm not saying hunker down in your basement and don't come out for 10 years, but having an understanding of lighting, what to do if someone has glasses, or if what you planned wasn't working out.

Build a rapport with the person.

This was a shot of someone who, although knew we were doing pictures that day at his work, wasn't a model, and who needed to be comfortable in front of the camera. Now, this is something I'm not great at describing, but making a connection with the subjects is a must!

personally I tend to take the "I'm a professional" approach, and assure them that I know what I'm doing, I'm not worried, and I'm not stressing out, and that this is fun for me - then just joke around a bit while taking the pictures. It's easy to get someone out of their shell, to smile, and to get a good shot, you just need to do that and be comfortable doing that fast.

I think we did about 18 people in 2.5 hours that day, which was faster than the full day of shooting that was planned out.

Know when you got what you need!

This may go against the "never give up", but keep in mind the goal of the shoot and know when you attained it. That way you know both when to call a wrap, but also when it's time to calm down a bit and be more creative - since you know you have what is needed. In that series I talked about above, where we did 18 people in 2.5 hours, I only took 4-5 pictures of each person max, and once I got a good few shots then I knew it was time to move on, get them back to work, and get the next person in.

If you're shooting bands... NO FLASH!

That's right, learn to use no flash for live shows - since that's the way they are done. Flash is annoying, it gets in the way, and almost all live performers don't like it. So you're faced with 3 songs, no flash, and once the time is up you're done (period).

This just went from something that sounds fun to a really stressful night in a hurry!

Expect to do the job fast.

Finally, just treat every job like it's urgent and like the persons time is valuable. I'm not saying you need to rush things, or that you need to be frantic, just to keep track of time, and don't drag things on if you don't have to. That way you're ready for the "you have 2 songs" or "they have a meeting and need the office in 30 min" or "our ice time is up in 10 min".

For example, in this series -

She told me, after being late due to traffic and weather, that she only had about 30 min to shoot. Which was kind of alarming in a way since I never did shots with a red light like that before, so it was new to me, and this was the first I had heard of it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I was able to get what I wanted, learn about that process, and get some successful shots within that deadline, and she was able to get to her meeting in time.

I don't think I could have done that, my business headshots, skating shots, or even some of my outdoor work if it wasn't for that first "you have 3 songs" job.

So I hope this was helpful in getting you ready for that first call where they say "you only have 3 songs" or "you have 15 min to shoot this."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Beauty Dish vs Whatever - Fight to the Death!

So, the question always comes up, and the desire always comes up in photography - I want a beauty dish - or I want a 8 foot octabox, or I want ____ modifier! It's asked by experienced photographers, people who are new and learning, and everyone in between, and it's really a hard question sometimes because at the surface we think all the modifiers are really different - when in truth the differences are mostly folklore and stories.

Now, the target audience are those who are looking for a bit of info on how different modifiers work for headshots. I don't take credit for knowing everything, and all of this is just my opinon.

So let's start out with umbrellas, they are what we all start out with, and work well for the most part. You can go though all kinds of fashion magazines and see them used, and I'm sure you can find them in a few advertisements. They are basic, cheap, and they work.

So here is a shot with umbrellas.

Now, granted I did shoot this a little flat, but the shot is still dynamic, the shadows are still soft, and all in all it's a decent shot for what it is.

So that's an umbrella, and again they work great. The only downside is they catch the wind a lot outside, and the catchlights may or may not be desirable, not to mention that the spill can be a little much if you need tight control.

Now lets move on to softboxes, and I guess I'll throw in octaboxes as well since they are the same thing. Everyone ends up getting one or two of these and they are the natural progression from umbrella. They work great, and project a nice "window" of light on the subject. Also, they can be gridded to control the light - which in my opinon is one of the main selling points to them.

I have a few shots done with them, so you can see the differences from the umbrella one - and again these are just headshots.

Again, as with the umbrella, and at reasonable distances, they give nice even light, even shadows, and as with my work at the time the shots are a little even and less dynamic than I do now. However, the differences between the two modifiers are minimal, and at this point I don't see a reason to go out and buy a softbox over umbrellas - unless you needed grids to help direct the light, or needed a little more spill control.

Ahhh yes, the Beauty Dish! So this seems to be one of the holy grails photographers search for, and the end all be all of beauty lighting. There pretty much the same as umbrellas when it comes to spill, other than they can hang out in the wind a lot better outdoors than umbrellas - and for that they are what I use outside almost all of the time. You can also grid them to get some tight control over their light, which helps inside if you need that kind of control.

Here are a few shots with beauty dishes, and keep in mind they were a clamshell setup, and had a light behind them for fill. Now, I never said this was a scientific test, just showing examples of real world shots.


Now, granted they are a little more dynamic than the others, the shadows are a little deeper - but that's really about it. Also, that difference could be more to do with how I light the first few examples rather than anything specific with the beauty dish... So it's more like going on a drive and having many different roads, all pretty much the same distance, that will get you to where you're going.

RingLights! This is the other quest that people seem to be on, and it's one of the lights that I don't have at the studio. They can be great for fill, they can also be cliche very easily, as well as they can be boring after a while.

This wasn't shot with a ringlight, but the effect you would get is about the same as far as it being even light coming directly from the lens.

So finally, two more examples...

I shot my friend in natural light one day when it was overcast and got this...

It's pretty similar to the first few examples I posted of softboxes and umbrellas, where I was going for even light and less shadows. Which helped me form the opinon that almost any lights will work for almost anything, and that half of the style is in the retouching in post. (retouching is another topic)

The last example is this, which was shot with a 8 foot octabox at my friends place in NYC.

It looks pretty close to the beautydish shots, the shadows are deep, the light is pretty even, but it's done with a huge softbox rather than a beauty dish or something normally associated with this style of light. So again, anything can be done with any light, it's just a matter of how you use it.

Things to look for when you're looking at pictures! The catchlights give things away, pay attention to them when you're reading all those magazines and looking at all these advertisements we have around us. They tell you a lot about how the shot was lit, what modifer was used, and how far away it was.

I may come back to this topic, but again for headshots it really depends on your style and what you're comfortable using and less on what type of light it is. It also depends on how you retouch, since that plays a vital role in your style and image.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

So last night was my bday happy hour, party, or whatever you want to call it. Kept things pretty low key, hitting up the Local downtown and meeting up with my good friend Loren Kollmar. Then off to the Saloon for some vanilla vodka tonics... After that was done it was a long cold walk home, and then a bike ride down to the Caterpillar Lounge for a beer and sushi.

All in all it was a lot of fun, saw some good friends, and again kept things pretty minimal for the most part - although getting up this morning was less than minimal, but I took the day off so it was all good!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A snow storm that just wasn't!

So last week we had a snowstorm here in Minneapolis, and although we got cold weather, 4-5 inches of snow, and winds, it just wasn't the blast some were expecting.

That said, let's take a look back at what happened in 2008, which was around this time or so, but a lot worse, more snow, just as cold, and more windy!

Before we get into the pictures, they are all shot on film, back on 12/14/2008 - which is a year ago or so - I pushed delta 400 to around 1600 in camera on my RB67, scanned it, and then worked with it in Photoshop. I'm not a purist, just an artist using all the tools open to him.

So the first step of the night was to walk around outside, and stop by the bar... Or at least the way I'm telling it today was I walked around and first stopped by the bar for a drink - it was cold out!

From there I took a walk down to the interstate 94 tunnel, and took a few pictures. I did want to get a shot of the cherry and the spoon however the light just wasn't great for it.

Now after that I think I went to the bar again, because it was cold and getting late around midnight. However, it turns out I couldn't sleep as the thought of taking a few more pictures was too much, so at about 4am I got up, got in the car, and ventured out into the un-plowed city.

It's funny, but on the way there was this Jeep off the side of a street... Funny because it wasn't really slippery there, I was in a Jeep and was fine, and I had no idea how that person managed to do that - other than maybe they were drinking - who knows!

So my goal of the night was to get down by the 3rd ave bridge, Stone Arch bridge, and the view of downtown from that side. Which, other than being cold, was pretty fun and I got some really cool images - as seen below.

Again, taken pushing 400 speed film to iso1600, scanning, and not staying there for a while since it was -4 below and around 4am.

And finally, I just love this shot, and it makes me feel cold every time I view it! Now, I did try getting a picture of the Hennipen bridge, but at that point my camera back messed up a bit and I wasn't about to re-load more film in the cold.

Getting the ball rolling for 2010!

So I guess this is my first post, and my first way of getting this website up and running for the new year.

Stay posted for events, musings of my times, as well as shoots, and discounts for my photography.

** I'm going to backdate some posts to correspond with the shoots they took place with, and for trips, and other things I feel like - again just to get some content up and get things rolling!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Using a red light in the studio?

So my friend Ray Shan decided to send me some pictures he found, or the designer he is representing - Laura Faulk - found, or something or another. Either way, I took a look at them and said "well, that doesn't look too hard to do, just have to give it a try."

Yeah, right. I mean it wasn't all that hard, it was pretty straight forward, but really, it's a little more work than I thought i was getting into!

As far as technical notes, and as far as my photoshopping the colors to be like they are, it's really just a matter of setting up a red light, and then setting up the flash so that they don't overpower eachother. A long exposure later and manual flashes, and you should have a pretty cool image. It does take a little work, but the results can be worth it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

HotDish MPLS - First Ave 12/04/2009

So I normally don't do club or dj pictures anymore, but for friends - drinks - and a little money - I can be convinced to get out and have a good time. Other than that I'm getting old and try to be in bed by 11pm every night, I get tired even thinking about staying up until 2!

Thanks to J Matthews and Nate Laurence and

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't be scared to get wet!

Not that this was a huge risk, but I'm always up for getting the shot, and if that means putting a light out in a few feet of water - so be it! My friend and I wanted to do a shoot, the weather was nice, and frankly we don't have that great of beaches here - or at least nothing along the lines of Cali or other beachy places. So, the only other options are really to get in the water and have some fun.

So we went away from where there would be a lot of traffic, not really because we don't want any onlookers, mostly to get out of the way. We did start with some on land shots, and then after a bit, and after getting a few good shots there, we moved into the water. I wasn't too scared of the rig tipping over when set, but it was fun trying to get that out there and not slip and fall myself.

All in all the results were worth it, and I enjoy pushing the limits a bit and getting shots that others may not.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Going to NYC

(Me on the left, KMR on the right. )

So I had the opportunity to visit my good friend Kevin Reed this June and stick around his studio for a short week. It was also a chance to see the city, find out how things work there, and shoot a few models and stuff.

Now there are a few things that come to mind when I think about that trip: Angus Burgers at Mcd's, $15 drinks at the club, bars open until 4 or 5am, and Cokes costing way more than they do here! That, and it's amazing to shoot some of the talent out there, and amazing to do it at midnight to 3am!

It was also fun to stay where I did, which was this totally sweet out of a bad movie cheap hotel just a few blocks from his studio.

I was lucky in that he had some mats at the studio for some reason, and since both of us are cheap sometimes I slept on the floor - which was anything but flat - and we kept the tv and lights on because he was scared of bugs, I didn't care.

Now you may think that this would be gross, and that the bugs, and stuff - but here we are in the center of the city, blocks away from Times Square, and we're living straight out of some movie, gritty, dirty, and just hanging around, it was awesome!

Times Square was also totally sweet, and not because it was cool to see the lights really - but because it's a real place, in a real city, and not just something out of a tv show or movie!

And here is Kevin getting a hotdog!

So I was pretty much stuck around the area, not that I couldn't go out and do things, and I had time too, but it's hard to get out when we're doing shoots until 3am, out at the bar until 4:30-5am, and sleeping until noon or 1. Once up it was a matter of finding models, working on pictures, and bumming around.

I did manage to get out to Bryant Park my final day, which was awesome - although I have to admit the subways were more of a way for me to find myself than here, but it's still pretty sweet!

One thing that was different is that this city is always dirty, noisy, and busy. It really doesn't sleep, and there really is a sense of energy around that could keep a person up for a while - something is always going on!

The shoots were fun as well, and getting to work with talent in another city is also great!

I can't wait to get back over there, shoot more, and hopefully to do fashion week sometime!


*All shots that look like film were taken with my Yashica T4, digital shots of the models with either my D2x, or Kevins Phase 1 P30+ back on a Mamiya setup.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Trust your gut and bring your camera!

So on 03/08/2009 - yesterday as far as this blog date - I had one of those moments where my gut told me I need to go somewhere and I need to bring my camera. As per my usual self I had no idea what was going on concert wise in the city, and no idea that Wynton Marsalis was in town for a few concert dates.

The only thing I did know was that I was semi bored, and my gut told me to head down to the Dakota jazz club, and have a beer while watching their usual late night jazz on Fridays and Saturdays.

What turned out to happen was that Mr Marsalis got done with a concert across the street and subsequently came over to play a set for us at the Dakota... Now again, me being me only knew who he was when I looked up, saw a great trumpet player on stage, and then heard murmers of who it was.

Anyway, the night was a blast, I got a few images of it with my Nikon FG, and they turned out pretty cool. I was polite, didn't try and get close, and didn't try and shoot more than a few pictures. People weren't there to see me up front with my camera, and I wasn't there to do that - I was there to enjoy the music, have a few drinks, and (after Wynton came over) see something really special, in a very small venue.