Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shooting the Moon...

Recently I was asked to shoot at a place that for a while was also called by some to be a second home. When I first moved to Indy I had a few friends that loved to frequent Howl at the Moon in downtown Indianapolis. I'll tell you what, It's a good time and I definitely still do enjoy going there even though I don't go as much as I once did.

Someone once asked me what I thought about working here in Indianapolis, and what I thought about the quality of talent it had to offer. Personally, I think that Indianapolis has the same caliber of talented people as you could find in Chicago, LA, New York or anywhere. The musicians, performers, photographers, athletes, ect just don't get the same exposure here. You could travel to lots of places in Chicago and see people that aren't as good of musicians as some of the people that play at the Howl at the Moon here in Indy. Truely a talented group of people.

That's Todd, and he's not only a piano, guitar, and fiddle player but also a firefighter. I swear this guy must sleep less than I do, but he's probably lost more of his marbles than I had to to start with total which would probably explain how he survives the hours. There are some reports that He'll work all night at Howl and then make an appearance at a 2 alarm fire at 5:30 the same morning. It's pretty wild I'm not gunna lie, I don't think I could do what he does. That's for darn sure.

The staff was gracious and helpful, the crowd was excited about my being there even though to them I was more of just Random guy with BIG A$$ CAMERA. There are a few things that I would do differently next time, but that's still to come as I'm not done there yet. I'd like to get a good shot of each of the performers doing there thing, but the lighting doesn't always tend to things like that in such a dynamic environment. Not to mention the very lovely and talented Joanna the piano player who broke her ankle in a Hula Hoop contest. Something tells me she'll be sitting somewhat stationary for a while. I definitely look forward to a return trip in the next few weeks, either for myself; or possibly for them.

On a side note, I was not hired to shoot in promotion of the bar because of a statement that the General Manager made before the Colt's vs. Ravens game a few weeks ago. That had nothing to do with it by any stretch of the imagination. For the record, I do know him personally and anybody that took his message poorly obviously does not understand sportsmanship. I do think that he could have sent his support of his hometown slightly differently; but if you can't take a little smack talk about football than you shouldn't be allowed to watch it. Enough said, and as always; More Soon.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catching Bankrobbers...

First off I'd like to thank everyone for the wildly awesome feedback I received in regards to the last post about the Roller Derby time Lapse. I wish I'd have been able to catch it on a double header, but this seemed to work out alright. Because of all of the derby related traffic I've decided to follow up with another derby post, except this one is out of the 2010 Roller Derby Calendar.

(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 70-200mmF2.8VR@80mm, 1/30th@F7.1. Dynalight 400JR set to 1/2 Power hard light about 15 feet above the car to camera right fired by pocket wizard. Dynalight 400JR set to full power in the adjacent parking lot left set to full power with a 20 Degree grid fired by pocket wizard. About 15 feet in front of the car Renee was holding a snooted SB-900 zoomed to 200mm at 1/2 power fired by magic eye to illuminate Jen X's face (in the hat). To her right stood Mike Guio with a snooted SB-800 zoomed to 105mm set to 1/2 power fired my magic eye to illuminate Racer Xtacy's face. (far right).See the diagram below for a better explinatoin.)

This was easily one of my favorite shots out of the calendar this year. Not because of who is in it, not because it was a good concept, and not because of the car. It had to be one of my favorites because it came out almost exactly as intended. This shot is exceedingly close to straight out of camera. It wouldn't have happened without the help of Renee Petrina, Mike Lightening, Tom Klubens, Andrew Hoelting, Megan Gill, Michael Guio, and Jason Pittman. I also can't forget Kevin and Julie who own that beautiful 1929 V8 Ford Hot Rod. Gorgeous car. (Subsequently also the car that ate my SB-800 Speedlight last July also.)

The shot featured was one of the last ones that I shot, and it took just about all of us to pull it together.

Don't let this diagram fool you. It actually took me about 8 attempts to get it to look like this, and it's still barely legible; thus explaining why I don't diagram much...

The girls looked amazing, the outfits turned out great and the light ended up being perfect. Sometimes it's possible to have too many people helping on a shoot, but in this case we had just enough and might have been able to use one more. The money bags are actually pillow cases that we filled with shredded paper that we pilfered from the paper disposal recycling bins near Racer Xtacy's house. In other words, considering I still have the money bags in my garage, I'm probably holding someone's medical records and don't even know it.

We started the night working a little differently though. I wanted to try something a little more night getaway style with some cooler colors. The only thing I got out of that were some goofy test shots....

That got submitted to but I don't think it actually ended up going anyplace. I enjoyed it though. That was about our 40th test shot with the three guys, I couldn't get the light just the way I wanted on those shots. I was much happier with the original concept when we shot it. Either way, it was a heck of a fun shoot. We all had a good time, everybody learned a thing or two, and the girls look as beautiful as ever.

It was a memorable shoot for everyone, including all the car club guys who were on the other side of the fence watching. For a few minutes they had forgotten about their cars to check out the ladies modeling. Then of course someone lit something on fire, and the crew had to drag even me back to the set. It was a late night because of all the test shot problems, but the girls and the crew were all troopers. As usual, you can find more of the behind the scenes shots here. The shot turned out to be one of my favorites, and I think the ladies in it are happy too, and that's all that I can ask for. More Soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Roller Derby in 3,691 photos and 4 minutes...

Despite the fact that the Colts were playing last night, there was still a pretty good turnout for the first roller derby bout of 2010. Special thanks to all the fans that came in their colts Jerseys; it means a lot to the girls that the Fans are that loyal. My photos of the bout can be found here.

Ever wonder what it takes to put on a Roller Derby bout in the Pepsi Coliseum?

This video is 4ish minutes long, and is made out of 3,691 still frames shot by a Nikon D2Xs camera on an Interval remote release timer set to fire a frame every ten seconds starting at 11:30AM and 9:54PM the day of the New Year's Smear. You probably want to click the video to take you to youtube so you can see it much larger and maybe even HD. A lot more goes into putting on a Roller Derby bout than most people think though...

More Soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I think one of the things I find hardest to photograph is people. Not because I am afraid of people, not that I don't get along with people, not that I smell funny (not all the time at least...) and not that I'm not allowed to to talk to strangers. People are just tough to photograph.

(Canon EOS 1D-Mark II, 100ISO, Canon 24-70mmF2.8L@52mm, 1/500th@F4. Natural Light)

Sometimes it's just waiting until you have a moment with them, or that they show their true side, or that you just have a genuine smile from them. It's tough to time, and sometimes it's even tougher to light. Over the last few years I've had opportunity to really get some practice photographing a lot of different things, of which I've mastered none. The only thing I may be close to mastering is loading every piece of equipment I have access to onto myself like a pack mule to get it to and from the car in as few trips as possible. Subsequently this also means I try to travel with as minimal of a kit as possible. (if there are any Roller Derby girls who have seen me shoot something, they should be laughing right about now as they always talk about how much crap I bring with me).

(Canon EOS 1D-Mark IIN, 200ISO, Canon 100mmF2.8Macro, 1/100th@F6.3. Single 580EX Speedlight shot through a 32" wescott umbrella to camera right triggered by an on camera 580EX Speedlight shot into a 60" white reflector to camera left sitting on a barstool against a table to camera left.)

Joe McNally is a people shooter. He is also one of my photographic Idols. Strange to think of someone who is still living, and working as an artist as someone you want to aspire to be like. He's the master of light, and I wouldn't be surprised if light actually feared him somehow; just doing it's will for fear that he's going to go all Chuck Norris on the photons that make it up. I constantly look to his blog and website for inspiration, as well as motivation to become a better photographer. When I saw this post earlier, it really drove home that I need to work on my people shooting skills. Not to say that I can't get some shots that I like easily as some shots light themselves....

(Canon EOS 1D-Mark II, 800ISO, Canon 24-70mmF2.8L@24mm. 1/640th@F5.6. All light is provided by the fireball.)

Other shots I've experimented with lots of lights and lots of photoshop like in the last post about zombies...

(Canon EOs 1D Mark II, 125ISO, Canon 24-70mmF2.8L@64mm. 1/250th@F8. Single Dynalight 400JR set to 1/2 power to behind Ryan to camera left in a 36"x36" Softbox triggered by pocket Wizard. Single Dynalight 400JR set to half power to behind Ryan camera right inside of a 36"X36" softbox triggered by pocket wizard. Single Dynalight 400JR set to 1/4th power inside of a 20"X20" softbox directly above the camera in the face of Ryan.)

There's always something that I can do better, and that's the way it'll be every time. I know this for a fact, but it doesn't mean I'm going to be content with it. Nobody should be content, there's always that little bit better that they can be. I'm not known as a people shooter and maybe being a people shooter isn't my destiny. Either way, it's little exercises like shooting friends in their jobs that can help me out. I'm thinking of continuing that series still, so watch back here for more on that. If you've got an idea for a shot you should take it. Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take". I completely agree, and taking shots of anything you can think of is good for you. It'll help you photographically, Professionally, your subjects will appreciate a good photo of themselves if they don't have one, and sometimes it's just plain fun. More Soon.

(Nikon D3, 400ISO, 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@18mm. 1/20th@F5. Nikon SB900 Speedlight set to iTTL -2EV zoomed to 200mm snooted to Brads face with the Amber Warming Gel supplied with the Unit. Ultrasun Logo lit behind the tanning bed to left by a Nikon SB900 Unit fired by pocket wizard set to 1/32nd power zoomed to 50mm and shot into the back of the tanning bed. Camera's white balance custom set to 4000Kelvin to augment the Blue glow of the tanning beds, while using the warming gel of the Snooted SB-900 to Isolate Brad.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Making Zombies...

(Nikon D3x, 200ISO, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@48mm. 1/30th@F6.3. Single 750Watt Studio light through a 60" and 42" umbrella on each side of the camera about 12 feet up. Single Dynalight 400JR set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard to low camera left. Single AlienBEE 400 Watt studio strobe set to 1/2 power from behind the crowd attacking the skaters from behind. Single 400watt AlienBEE studio strobe bare bulb to camera right set to 1/4th power fired by magic eye).

Despite 'South Park's' bold statement that Worcestershire sauce being the only way you make zombies; last September for the 2010 Naptown Roller Girls calendar I attempted to make my own. With several hours ahead of us, myself and some very talented people got together at the Roller Derby Practice space here in Indianapolis with about 15 volunteers and skaters to play with a little blood.....

The blood didn't exactly wash off, and we didn't know that at first. Everyone stood outside against a white wall where we had sort of a zombie assembly line. Inside two people worked face makeup, and applied a little bit of the edibile face blood; while outside we just splattered blood everywhere in an attempt to make everyone look like they had just come out of a Rambo movie. At one point. one of the girls decided to wash her hands after using the bathroom to discover that the blood didn't wash off. When she came out in a panic appropriately my response was; "Zombies don't wash their hands...". It was a wild idea for a shoot, we wanted to incorporate all of the volunteers into a shoot for the calendar this year, as the volunteers really do help make the league what it is today. What a better way to thank everyone, by covering them in blood, and working them in a cold space for 6 hours with he promise of some pizza at the end. Zombies eating pizza? Brilliant.

The shoot was WILD. The space we were in might as well be a black hole for light. If there was a way to install the sun indoors, we probably try just to give all the girls a little sun. It was so incredibly dark that it took an 8 light setup in order for us to get enough light just to expose the scene at F8 125ISO.. The basic setup for one of the shots is shown here:

That setup was the setup for one of the shots, with a wide surround of back lights while one even farther back popped everyone as kind of a key light. It started me out at a very even lighting, which I could then shape as necessary. Sometimes it's easier to light even and ten form, other times it's easier to cut away at the darkness. In this case I wanted to see everything, and then remove as I went, which after post processing gave us this shot here:

(With an 8 shot setup I'm going to leave the lighting for guesswork. If there's a big inquiry it can bea nother blog and I'll diagram it out, but the punchline is Nikon D3x, 100ISO 1/40th@F8. 8 Lights).

Anybody who's read my blog knows that this style of post processing isn't my thing. I guess it goes back to one of my New Years resolutions to try new things with my photography. These were not processed before the calendar was released, I revisited the shoot for this blog entry because I wanted to play around more with these things before potentially putting them into practice on my own. Not to say some of my shots haven't been re-worked like this; I just wasn't the one that did it.

I Loved the idea of the zombies, and next year I have something pretty solid planned for the big group photo but we'll just keep that under wraps for now, as I've got a few things to pitch to the league's board before we get started. Thanks to Mike Guio, Tom Klubens, Jason Pittman, Michelle Pemberton, Melissa Brooks, Megan Gill, and Heather Burdette for all of their help in making that crazy Saturday work the way it did. Everybody was a trooper (especially the ones where the blood didn't come off).

(Nikon D3x, 160ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-F4.5@18mm. 1/30th@F9. Single 750Watt Studio light through a 60" and 42" umbrella on each side of the skaters on top of the platform. Single Dynalight 400JR set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard to low camera left to add fill to the front of the platform, Single AlienBEE 400 Watt studio strobe set to 1/8th from above behind camera for depth on the hands. Single AlienBEE 400 Watt Studio Strobe to camera right bare bulb set to 1/4th to camera right about 40 feet back as a side fill. I'm not sure this last one made a difference, but it is in my notes so I'll put it in here.)

The problem with a lot of the shots that the skates weren't as visible in the images as we all would have hoped. Considering this is for a Roller Derby Calendar the skates were somewhat of an important visual. The shot we chose was pretty close to straight out of camera, which is the style that I like. There are more photos posted on my facebook Photo Fan page here. Leave some comments if you wouldn't mind; let me know what you think about the excess post processing. The final shot that was in the calendar is the last image in this post. Thanks in advance and as usual; More Soon. :)

(Nikon D3x, 100ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-F4.5@21mm. 1/30th@F9. Single 750Watt studio light with a 60" umbrella above camera right set to 1/2 power fired by pocket wizard. Single 750 Watt Studio light to low camera left fired through a 42" umbrella set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard. Single Dynalight 400JR bare bulb fired by eye sensor to behind the crowd left set to 1/8th power. Two Snooted Dynalight 400JR's set to full power fired by Pocket wizard on the ground to cash shadows of a few zombies that I separated from the pack for that purpose.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Year of the Restaurant...

We just celebrated our new year, but not everywhere in the world celebrates the same way. The Chinese for example, have a Lunisolar new year which means that the date isn't the same from year to year, as well as that they hold a celebration that lasts 15 days. The Chinese also name their years with an astrological sign, which is slightly different than our own. This year I believe is the year of the Tiger for them. For me though, this feels like the year of the 'Dining Guide' so far...

(Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon EF100mmF2.8Macro. 1/50th@F8. Single 580EX Speedlight set to 1/16th power fired by pocket wizard through a 15" softbox shot over the back right of the food perpendicular with the table. Single 580EX Speedlight set to 1/4th power shot into a 32"Translucent disk as a reflector to the left of the food and wine against the wall. Cloudy Day White balance)

So far I've shot 5 restaurants for dining guide this week. Haven't had a string like that in a while. Not that I haven't had other things to do, but dining guides are relatively easy. I shot that earlier this week, you'd never believe that was a restaurant in a strip mall so I guess I either got something right; or something went horribly wrong. It's a place named A2Z Cafe in Indianapolis. Food seems pretty good although I've never actually eaten there. Shot there plenty of times though. Nice group of people, never mind going there.

(Canon 5D Mark II, 250ISO, Canon EF 16-35mmF2.8L@35mm. 1/30th@F5.6. Single 580EX Speedlight set to 1/8th shot through a 42" Umbrella from above the right of the cheesecake about 5 feet back, 60" white reflector with another 580EX Speedlight set to 1/16th to camera left for the main fill light.)

That wildly colorful piece of work is from the Tye Dye Grill, also here in Indianapolis, and also shot earlier this week. I can definitely tell you there's awesome food at this place over on the east side. Am planning on making my way back for some of this cheesecake too. I'll make sure to take my eyeglasses off or blindfold myself or something so I don't go blind with the crazy colors. This is also a location with some awesome people, for which they never seem to be not busy. I was surprised that they didn't have a line outside waiting to get in when I got there before they opened. I've never seen it not busy in this place.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 100ISO, Canon EF 100mmF2.8Macro, 1/200th@F13. Single SB-580EX to the left of the yogurt set to 1/16th zoomed to 105mm hard light directly at yogurt. Second 580EX speedlight to Yogurt right set to 1/16th power zoomed to 70mm. The yogurt was sitting on a white reflective coffee table giving it a natural glow using the white styrofoam cup.)

That's not from this year, but it was a favorite of mine. I had no idea what I was walking into when I entered the yogurt shop that day. Sometimes walking into these stores or restaurants I get wild foreign ladies screaming in demon tongues at me shaking their fingers either because I'm a minute early or a minute late, that my hair is too short, or not short enough; or that my camera looked like a contraption to steal the souls out of space age grape nuts. What? Usually they are excited and just telling me what they want me to do, not realizing that I don't speak whatever it is that they are yelling. I speak Duh really well, but freaky alien? Didn't get that merit badge.

Funny part was that the shot I pictured isn't what she wanted. She was exceedingly happy with it though so I can't complain. Especially for a shot that only took about 10 minutes to plan and execute. Favorite kinds of shoots, the easy ones.

(Canon 5D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon EF 100MMF2.8Macro, 1.50th@F7.1. Single 580EX speedlight set to 1/8th through a 15" Softbox to the right of the plate. Left fill from Window light, White Balance at 7900 Kelvin.)

And now I'll end where I started, except a bit out of order in the grand scheme of all things food. Breakfast foods are some of the prettiest foods because of all the colors. Much more colorful and nice than things like Pad Thai, or a burrito. Those suckers are tough to shoot. Strawberry pancakes though? That's a favorite for sure. Don't know many people that wont' eat em. I personally find that breakfast food looks best with that slight orange tinge, like the warm morning sunlight. More Soon.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Megapixels in 2010.....

Just the same that I know people interested in Megapixels, I know several people that are somewhat large into the whole "New years Resolution" thingy. One person I know actually frames her resolutions and hangs them on her office wall. I give her a lot of credit because that's one heckuva way to keep these things on the front and center. She makes sure that she crosses them off. I think a whole bunch up, but don't always push all the way through them, which I suppose defeats the point completely. can you make a resolution to actually finish your resolutions? Things like aluminum foil balls, lost marbles, pretty ladies, and pretty much anything that flashes tend to get in the way with mine. This year though I've pretty much decided on a few that are a lot more professional related than personal, and considering I'm as nuts about photography as I am; I think that's for the better.

(Nikon D3, 200ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@18mm. 1/60th@F11. Single Nikon SB-900 to camera left inside of a 15" softbox set to TTL +/-0. Single Nikon SB-900 speedlight set on a table about 20 feet back inside the chamber cutting across Andy and the background. Both Speedlights were fired by an SU-800 Commander unit, attached to the camera using an SC-28 off camera cable.)

Speaking of things that flash, I was on vacation last week and where as most people try to get away from their jobs and do random vacation things I actually had a few shoots lined up. These shoots though were to go with part of a resolution for 2010 that I have. That resolution is to be much more proactive in my photography by shooting more challenging things for myself. That shot is of my buddy Andy, embodying an important part of his profession. Andy is a Radio Frequency Test engineer, and the cones behind him are Radio Wave Absorbing material. Cool place. I can't really say much more about it, but trust me. COOL.

(Nikon D3, 800ISO, Nikon 70-200F2.8VR@105mm. 1/2sec@F4. The camera was mounted to a Bogen Manfrotto Tripod with a Manfrotto 405 Geared Head. Single SB-900 Speedlight set to 1/16th power shot through a 42" umbrella fired by pocket wizard on the end of a 8 foot paint pole held by Andy the RF engineer.)

That's Mike, he's been wanting to be a cop since he we were knee nibblers. I'll never forget helping his neighbor who became part of the police force practicing his vehicle stops and home invasion stuff on us with other guys on the force. Some of those guys were nuts, and I don't want to relive some of the things I'd seen them try. Finally he did it though, and is now a lawman. He was kind enough to take 10 minutes out of his schedule so that I could snap a couple shots of him. Opted for the slightly more moody lighting because cops are tough. They can take it.

(Nikon D3, 400ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@18mm. 1/20th@F5. Single Snooted Nikon SB-900 zoomed to 200mm with the included Warming Gel set to TTL -2EV, fired by SU-800 Commander Unit attached to the camera hot shoe. Single SB-900 Speedlight set to 1/32nd power zoomed to 50mm fired by Pocket wiard into the back of the tanning bed to illuminate the Ultrasun in the top left of the frame. Camera white balance set to Custom 4000 Kelvin to accentuate the blue given off by the logo lights of the tanning beds giving the frame the Ultra blue background, while using the SB-900 to draw attention to Brad with the warming gel.)

Making people look their best though is Brad's Job. Brad is the General Manager for a company that I do work for regularly, and they manufacture tanning beds. They spend bunches of money every year towards making tanning safer, as well as for longer lasting effects. They are one of the top tanning bed companies in the world. Brad's normally not the person being photographed for me, he's usually the one holding a light, finding a vending machine, or carrying something heavy for me. This shoot was particularly important to me for that reason. He's always been a big help to me, and is always willing to help in anything. When I said I wanted to try a few things out, but I needed a subject, he was the first to volunteer.

As I said, for 2010 one of my resolutions is to be more proactive with my photography with more challenging self assigned shoots. These three buddies of mine were very gracious to lend me their time so that I could further myself photographically. I may continue this series as well, I haven't decided; but I like how it has started. As for other New Years Resolutions, there are plenty of things I'd like to accomplish this year. We'll see what happens. Maybe I should take a page out of my friend's book and hang the resolutions on the wall so they can haunt me until finished. Or maybe I should just stay close to her to see what else she can teach me. Either way, I look forward to what 2010 has to bring for all of us. More Soon.