Friday, September 25, 2009

Eatin Time...

So it's been a while since my last post, and I'm sure that most of my already very modest readership has already found someone that can at least spell their own name correctly. If not, that I shall attempt to correct my spelling in the slim and nill free time that I currently enjoy as most of my time at the paper consists of shooting custom work. Custom work being Advertising, Marketing, internal video, and other various things. Shoots at 7am on Sundays, 5pm on Mondays, the bar guide requiring that I go to the bar when it's open at 10pm and so on and so forth. As I've said in the past it's one of those strange awful things that I sort of enjoy though. I'm not sure I would be able to survive sitting at a desk for 8 hours every day, and I hope that it doesn't come to that, but if it does my hopes are that I'm doing something cool like designing xbox games or reviewing those addicting flash games you find on the internets.

Right now though I am sitting at lunch, which I made for myself. My culinary skills are greatly eclipsed by that of a 8 year old with an easy bake oven; despite the fact that I worked at a restaurant while I was at Purdue. So really I thought this might be a good time to update the blog, enjoy my microwaved hamburger, and say a thing or two about photographing food that actually looks as good as it tastes.

(Nikon D3, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@70mm, 1/60th@F9. Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fired by pocket wizard set to 1/2 power to camera right shot through a 32" Translucent disk. Nikon SB-800 Speedlight fired by pocket wizard set to 1/4th power fired through a 42" Translucent disk)

The shot above is from when I was shooting for billboards and Menu's for a restaurant bar in Indy named Lulu's. A friend of mine was the chef, and another friend was the GM and they thought I'd be able to get some nice stuff for them. Gladly I didn't disappoint myself, or more importantly them. Also made a nice print of that shot for the chef, who had it framed for his mom. (Nothing is a greater compliment to a photographer than framing one of their photos and giving it to your mom. Awesome.) I don't remember what the food up there is exactly, but I remember eating some of it at some point or another too, and it was outstanding. Most of the stuff that I end up shooting ends up tasting outstanding though (I actually get to try it sometimes). If it wasn't outstanding, they wouldn't feature it......know what I'm saying?

(Canon 1D Mark II, 100ISO, Canon 24-70mmF2.8L@64mm, 1/200th@F7.1. Single Dynalight 400JR fired bare bulb from front camera left, set to 1/4th power fired by Pocket Wizard. White 60" reflector to camera right for fill.)

Shooting food at the paper has always been somewhat Trial and Error for me. I've made lots of mistakes, and continue to make them every time I go out to shoot. Flared lights, mis colorings, omlets, and even more. I make a mess no matter where I go, as anybody who has seen my desk at the paper (or at home) would know. Food is one of those things to shoot though, that is similar to jewelry in that way where you can take absolutely forever to do it, and you can be outlandishly deliberate about the styling. Unfortunately I am not afforded that kind of time at the paper, and usually someone eats the food I shoot when I'm done. I can't say the same about the shots you see taken for McDonalds, Burger King, or any other fast food joint. The food may look amazing, and taste that way as well; but if you ate the burger they photographed? It would kill you....

(Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 400ISO, Canon 24-70mmF2.8L@45mm, 1/50th@F5)

The most destructive I am to the food that I shoot, is poking at it with a fork, cutting it up, maybe leaving it a little under cooked, or just down right re-arranging it. Otherwise, it is all edible after the fact (unless you are allergic to the germs of my fingers poking at and or playing with the food). If I know someone is meant to eat it afterwards I'm usually pretty good about it, but there are other times when I absolutely destroy the plate, and my clothes after the fact. It never did sink in not to wipe my hands on my pants after playing with my food. Or maybe I'm not supposed to play with my food in the first place? I don't remember. Sorry mom....

Anyway, As I mentioned to begin with I've been crazy busy since I got back from Canada. Lots of video actually. Shot for a band named Youthguard at the beginning of the week, and there is a super cool behind the scenes video being put together for it. Doing a new Metromix road-trip series as well, which has been fun thus far albeit time consuming. Tomorrow I've got one of the largest shoots I've ever attempted during the day too. I've got a battalion of zombies that have to be made for a photo for the 2010 Roller Derby Calendar. So long day tomorrow. To end on the food note though, I leave you with a slightly different way to view food. More Soon.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 400ISO, Canon EF 100mmF2.8Macro, 1/50th@F4.5. Single 580EX Speedlight from directly overhead set to 1/16th power shot hard light right at the top of the food, fired by off camera cable.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mad Wo-Men...

In photography everything is about style. Every photographer does their own thing, whether they have a stylist for a shoot, an art director, hair, makeup, Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, Apple Aperture or even Macromedia Fireworks (now Adobe). A lot of times how you process your images is just as important as setting up an image correctly. Some people prefer to be as much in camera as possible such as Joe McNally. Others such as Miles Fork do quite a bit of photoshop work. Now I'm not saying there is no post processing involved on any photo, and if there is it is usually referred to as: Straight out of Camera. It's pretty rare when those files pop up, except for demonstration of a camera's raw ability. I don't even like it when people see my straight out of camera files, unless I managed to do a really good job on location or in a shoot someplace. Most of the time I prefer to do most of my work inside the camera, but there is ALWAYS some post processing that each photo goes through before it goes to the client.

(Nikon D3, ISO 320, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@65mm. 1/50th@F7.1. Nikon SB-900 Speedlight above camera left shot through a 60" umbrella set to iTTL +1EV, One Nikon SB-800 Speedlight set to iTTL-3EV shot into a white reflector leaning against the wall to the right of the frame. Both Speedlights were fired by an SU-800 Commander Unit attached to the camera's hot shoe.)

The Image above is flat out not finished yet. I can't decide what to do with it. I've run adjustment layer after layer between Selective color, Contrast, Levels, Photo Filters, soft light filters, hard light filters, multiply filters, and no matter what I can't make it what I consider to be: over processed. I can easily over process it, but not to where I think it looks good. I figure what I think matters considering this shoot was self assigned. I even bought two martini glasses for this shoot, that somehow both managed to get cracked in the 1 mile journey from the store to the office we shot in.....

This shoot is the shoot that I mentioned previously with my friend Heather. She came to me and wanted to do a Mad Men style shoot, and I decided this would be a great shoot to try some post processing. When a lot of people think Mad Men, they think of something along the lines of this, by Nikki Sutton and Polina Osherov. Outstanding photos, but, when I personally think of Mad Men though, I think of the promotional photo for Season 3:

Heather made a great model, and the wardrobe she picked out was outstanding for the shoot. I wish I'd have thought about the shot more, and could have found a few more props to go in the office, but in the end I think the shots turned out nicely. I'm definitely not done with the shots completely, but I couldn't resist putting some photos of the lovely Heather up.

Everybody has their own take when they think of Mad Men though and I may be the minority as to what I think. Heck, I've never even watched the show. For my shoot with Heather; I wanted to give the Mad Men feel except using a Woman. Same style of photo except with a modern twist; Heather is the executive with the office. The technical difference between these photos though; is the processing. Any of you that read my blog know that I prefer the straight out of camera, very sharp and very polished look. That's no secret. Even the guard cactus outside of my front door knows that. Sure enough, that's where I ran into problems when it came to the over-processing I thought it would require to do this shoot...

(Nikon D3, ISO 320, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR@140mm. 150th@F3.5. Nikon SB-900 Speedlight above camera left shot through a 60" umbrella set to iTTL, One Nikon SB-800 Speedlight set to iTTL -3EV shot into a white reflector leaning against the wall to the right of the frame. Both Speedlights were fired by an SU-800 Commander Unit attached an SC-28 Flash cable and held by my assistant Brad.)

Photoshop lightroom has lots of preset filters that can allow you to make different effects on photos very quickly and easily. For weddings or events it's outstanding. Like, my honor roll kid can beat up your honor roll kid kind of outstanding. When I really want to do in depth photo edits though, I rely on Photoshop all the way. To each their own though, whatever someone is comfortable with is what they should use to do processing. Really though, well done over-processing is somewhat of a mystery to me. Really though I I'm pleased with how these photos look. If anybody has any suggestions though, that's what the comment section is for. More Soon.

(Nikon D3, ISO 320, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@62mm. 1/40th@F7.1. Nikon SB-900 Speedlight above camera left shot through a 60" umbrella set to iTTL +2EV fired by an SU-800 Commander Unit attached to the camera's hot shoe. A 60" gold reflector was on the floor to heathers right to hilight her legs, a 60" white reflector was on the wall behind heather to camera right, and my assistant brad held a 32" white reflector to heathers right about head level to lighten up her face.)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gone Fishin.....

Take it! Take it! Take it! Put it in your mouth! Come on, you know you want it! go go go! take it! Take it! TAKE IT! OOOOOH YEA!

I'm talking about fishing here, what are you thinking about? That's right Fishing can be confused with other sports it seems when you are looking at just the words that you use in fishing. So there was a lot of the line above last week while I was with my grandfather on his 57th trip to Obabikonk Bay Canada to go fishing. Can you hear an 80 year old man say that line up there? I can because I heard it quite a bit from him, my uncle, and the guide we had up there. It was a glorious trip that could not have happened any other way. I got a little relaxed and quite a bit of sunburn being unable to get phone calls or emails for an entire week. I had time to think about a few things that had been bugging me which are all good and fine now; and after a 20 hour ride in the car arriving at Indianapolis at 5am this morning I'm ready to go to work at 7am tomorrow. (Yes I know It's Sunday, thus is my world). Either way it was a glorious trip, and I'm ever so thankful that I was able to go as I definitely did a little bit of relaxing.

(Sony Cybershot DSC-W90 set to the little green camera that lets me concentrate on fishing......or napping in this case)

Yea I am wearing pants and boots in that picture. I do own other clothes than that, but we all packed winter garb because any other time any of us have been to Obabikan we've frozen solid. I lost at least 13 fingers the last time I went. (ok maybe not, but it was freakin frigid ok?) This year it was 80 degrees on the Island. Everybody was astounded, we all had all sorts of winter garb packed that I never even touched except to move out of the way of the t-shirts. When I wasn't losing lures in the bay, or in the boat the weather was nice enough for me to easily feed my addiction despite the fact that I was on vacation......

(Nikon D700, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35mm F3.5-4.5@18mm, 1/80th@F14)

I took my D700 with me. I did good though, I only took my 28-70, 18-35 and 60mm macro. NO flashes, no telephoto, no SU-800 or pocket wizards. No CTO gels, or Gradiated Density filters (which subsequently would have been nice to have for the photo above...) Subsequently though I kicked myself once I got there because of course there were photos that I wanted to take that I didn't have the right equipment for. There was an eagle sitting in the tree the whole week above our cabin. Get a photo of a bird with an 18mm lens from 400 feet away and what do you have? 400 feet of tree with a tiny bird at the top. Fortunately I am of the mentality that the impossible only takes a little longer, and this was my solution:

(Nikon D700, 12,800ISO, NIkon 60mm F2.8 Nano Macro, 1/60th@F3 shot through the right lens of a set of Brookstone 30x viewing binoculars)

Yup, shot that through a set of 30x tinted viewing binoculars at dusk. I knew I took the Macro lens for a reason. It's awesomely grainy, and sort of soft but I'm just going to go out on a stretch here and call it artistic. Really I dig the shot, I can't complain at all after having to MacGyver a rig together just to take it in the first place. MacGyvered is a great way to describe my taking of photos last week considering that I really didn't take all that much gear with me. Of course like I said though I wanted all sorts of things that I didn't have besides my telephoto as well. Of those things included a Tripod, a remote release cable, and a D3x (I can dream right?) Either way, I managed to snake myself this shot:

(Nikon D700, 3200ISO, Nikon 18-35mm F3.5-4.5@18mm,30seconds@F3.5. The camera was facing straight up at a slight angle on the roof of our cabin and the 10 second release timer was used to avoid camera shake)

No gear is not everything. The best camera is the camera that you have with you. Cameras are a tool, and it shouldn't matter what kind of camera you have because it is the person behind it. A hammer is a hammer, a wrench is a wrench and that's that. All I have to say though wanting to have a nice hammer isn't such a bad thing is it?

(Nikon D700, 1000ISO, Nikon 28-70F2.8@28mm, 1/60th@F2.8)

That's my grandfather. He turned 80 this year and as I said previously he has been making this trip for 57 years. He's like a kid in the boat; catching fish to feed the birds as opposed to for our lunch. This was the greatest fishing trip I have ever had, and I'd venture to guess it was the same for him. He caught the largest fish of his life this trip which was a 38 inch pike. That fish wasn't good enough though because he then replaced it with a 39 inch pike. That's right, he caught the TWO largest fish of his life back to back on this trip. I have never seen him as elated as that moment, and moments after when the guide told him to send him photos of the two fish so he could make bookends for his mantle; my grandfather said he would talk about that day for the rest of his life.

Some of these things make me want to add the line, "takes resonably ok vacation photos" to my dating resume. I was pleased considering the photos I took were all photos that could have been done much easier, or better with that one piece of equipment that I didn't take. It just goes to show you like I mentioned a little higher that the best camera is the one you have with you. The impossible, or at least what seems that way, only takes a little longer. The milky way shot a little higher was taken by laying my camera on the roof of the cabin while standing on a chair with that same rickety corner that every shopping cart I've ever used has had, the seemingly imposible 20 hour car ride with some 80 year old men on the trip of a lifetime, The supermodel on TV that want to meet or date someday, getting over someone you've loved and lost, the Million bucks you know that you'll earn someday, or even a photo of an Eagle 400 feet up in a tree taken with a close up lens. Anything is possible. This took 80 years. More soon.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Nikon D3x....

With a headline like that what kind of introduction do I need? Except of course to state that NO; I did not buy this Rolls Royce of a camera. I was very graciously loaned this camera from Jeff Penn and NPS at Nikon. Special thanks to them at least one more time. As mentioned before, this blog is going to be filled with pictures and Nerd speak though, so be fore-warned now. The Nikon D3x is 24.5 Megapixels of amazing that is well worth the $7400 price tag (which is probably significantly less now that I've even just touched it). I however, need to sell a lot more pictures, or either one of my kidneys if I'm going to ever own one. That's all fine and good though, as I've definitely had my fun with it before I've got to give it back in the morning....

(Nikon D3x, 500ISO, Nikon 60mm F2.8 AF-S Nano Macro @F3.5, 1/25thsec. Nikon SB-900 set to TTL to camera left pointed straight up with the bounce card set to -2EV. Nikon SB-900 to behind the ball camera right pointed straight up set to TTL at -3EV. Both Speedlights were fired by an SU-800 Commander module from on top of the camera.)

The shot above has no particular purpose in life, other than the fact that I thought it might look cool. Some people do self assignments with models, others do it with landscapes, and where as maybe I do enjoy lighting things on fire; I very rarely dedicate a shoot just to fire but I do tend to like lighting things on fire.... Maybe I'm onto something here. I wanted to do a Mad Men style shoot with my friend Heather, but she ended up getting sick so I had to suffice for lighting golfballs on fire. I figured that with the extreme resolution of the D3x I'd be able to make some obscene prints or crops with the image. Honestly though, The image above looks good to me AS-IS. Not to say I couldn't crop it down even down to the dimples, I just don't really want to. Also though, as requested by a few different people, the next shot is a behind the scenes shot with the light setup for the above shot. Sometimes all it takes is a little imagination, a little initiative, and some hand sanitizer...

Yup, you guessed it: I shot the golf ball on my coffee table; just with the lights off. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The shot turned out pretty good as far as I'm concerned too. The golf ball was lit using every day hand sanitizer that you could find in walgreens made by purell. Turns out the stuff is 60%-70% alcohol, and burns very cleanly. Mix it with a little lighter fluid to give it some color and shaZam! Burning golf ball. If you do attempt something like this later on your own, make sure you ventilate the room fairy well, surlyn covers of golf balls are somewhat toxic when they burn.

Anyway, I digress. D3x = Awesome. I want one, can't afford one, will dream of them holding my pillow to my face while I sleep pretending to take photos until I wake up having trouble breathing because well.....I'm holding a pillow to my face. Yea no good. Anyway, I've been shooting as much as I can with the darn thing to see what it can do, and I must say I am very impressed.

(Nikon D3x, ISO 160, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@70mm, 1/125th@F11. Dynalight 400JR to camera left set to Full power triggered by pocket wizard shot through a white fabrick 12'x12' wall. Dynalight 400JR to camera right triggered by Pocket Wizard set to one click under Full power shot through a 12'x12' white fabric wall.)

The shot above was for Ultrasun USA. That is a shot for the USA website, as well as any promotional media the USA division might want/need it for. Our current project is currently in the Beta stage and it's very exciting. I can't say yet what it is exactly but I made a video of the last shoot that I did (with this bed) that will make it on the blog later that will show you a little more what we are working on. With Ultrasun I have been using 12 Megapixel files for a long time, and they astounded at the detail that the D3x provided. It produced a file very similar in size to the Medium Format shots that they produce at the factory every time a new bed comes off the line in Holland. Of course I did use the D3x for more than just product and personal things.

(Nikon D3x, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35mm F3.5-4.5@24mm, 1/50th @F7.1. One SB-900 on a stand set to TTL +1 pointed into the ceiling tiles zoomed to 105mm, One SB-900 set to TTL-2 on the floor bare bulb shot at the chairs zoomed to 17mm. Speedlights both fired by an SU-800 TTL Commander module from on camera.)

This shot is for the Indianapolis Star's Green Indy publication. The company that the shot above is for is named Synergy, and they design Green Office environments. The carpet in the photo is recycled, the table is made of wood, there are big windows to let in natural light AND the lights above are LED lights, meaning that they use very little energy. Cool place; Tough shoot. As far as I can tell the Client was happy, and the Custom Pubs team was happy, which says WIN to me. Not that I couldn't have shot the shot with my D3, or a Canon body even, but I wanted to see how the D3x handled in the field in an On Location environment. It was Perfect.

On top of shooting things for the paper, for my own commercial clients and just for kicks and giggles I also shot a few artistic style shots which is something that I have gotten out of the habit of doing lately. My buddy Brad is playing sponge and trying to soak up every bit of photography that he can. Of which if I call him and want to go do something photo wise he's usually knocking on my front door before I can hang up the phone. He likes to assist at shoots and not only that he's right good at it too. His theory is that a good assistant knows where to find the vending machines. Really this mentality has come in handy on a few occasions too, so I can't complain in the least. Especially since he really seems to get a kick out of seeing how different light setups affect the way people look; turning really beautiful girls, into posters for horror movies because they are poorly lit. With the right light, even a dungeon is inviting. It's either that or I've just been lieing to myself all this time because I spent a lot of time in the dungeon. Either way.

(Nikon D3x, 100ISO, Nikon 18-35mm F3.5-4.5@18mm. 51seconds@F22. Camera was held by a Bogen Manfroto Tripod and fired with an MC-36 Digital Remote Release Cable)

That is the Chase building in downtown Indianapolis. I loved the colors, and thought it might be a nice shot to have while I was out playing around. Of all the shots I took over that few hours wandering the downtown, that is one of my favorites. Maybe someone from Chase will stumble onto my blog and want it. Or maybe it'll just go into the abyss terabytes worth of hard drives that I have on my network at home, hoping someday to be stumbled upon to someday see the light of print. We'll see I say. We'll see. The D3x thought performed flawlessly with long exposures, just as it did with the shorter ones in a studio environment and in the field. All in all, I was very pleased. The only conclusion that I can make is that if I printed very consistently at larger than 24"x36" I would not only NEED to own this Cadillac of cameras, but I could afford it as well. I can't say that I am done with this camera, I can't say that I won't own one at some point, and I can't say that these are the only things that I shot with it over the last week. I can say that you haven't seen the last of the shots that I did take though. Keep your eyes peeled, because I did shoot a few things which will take complete and full advantage of the resolution this camera provided. Possibly even for a Calendar coming up.... Until then though; back to the grind. More soon.