Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Jobs with Small Flash...

A few weeks ago I was offered an opportunity to redo all of the marketing material for a retirement community here in Indianapolis. As it turns out Justus homes isn't just a custom made housing company, but they also own several retirement villages. This opportunity came a little differently than a normal shoot like this would, as this one came through the newspaper as opposed to from the outside world. Anybody who reads the blog, knows that I prefer to use Speedlights when on location, but sometimes getting down to low 100 or 200ISO can be tough with speedlights. Advancements in cameras allow us to climb relatively high into the ISO scale to accomplish what we need with minimal noise though. I've shot jobs with lights that have taken me all the way up to 2500ISO for commercial print. The D3 is an amazing camera when it comes to High ISO noise, but despite that fact, the lower you can stay in an ISO range, the better. That's not why I chose to shoot this assignment for the newspaper with my personal Nikon gear though. I chose to shoot this with my personal Nikon gear instead of the 5D Mark II and L lenses they provide me is because of the Nikon iTTL Wireless Speedlight system.

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-F4.5@26mm. 1/50th@F5. Single SB900 Speedlight behind the wall to camera right pointed towards the coffee drinking lady at the table shot through a 43" Umbrella on a stand set to TTL+/-, Single SB900 Speedlight set to TTL-1 zoomed to 70mm Fired into the opened refrigerator door to illuminate the food prep lady. Both Speedlights fired by Nikon SU-800 Speedlight Commander on Camera)

The director of marketing had some very specific things in mind when it came to the shots we were to take at the Crestwood Village retirement communities. (At the time of this blog, the media on the website aren't mine. The media on the Direct mail is though). These communities are especially known for hosting an active lifestyle, and all of the residents that I met were genuinely ecstatic to be not only there for the photos, but to live there in general. The staff was very helpful as well, always making sure peoples concerns and needs were taken care of, which in this next photo was something we wanted to show.

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 50mmF1.4G, 1/400th@F2. Two SB-900 Speedlights zoomed to 70mm set to 1/4th power sitting on the desk pointed into a bedsheet draped on the wall to camera left. Both Speedlights were fired by SU800 Speedlight commander unit from on camera.)

Aside from that yellow office being yellow, it was significantly smaller than it looks in this photo. Made sure to use the trusty bed sheet for lotsa reasons. All the residents thought I was out of my mind when it was pulled out of the bag, but when they saw the result on the back of the camera I received half of my perceived sanity back. There were still plenty of thigs I did later that day that removed that last bit of percieved sanity though, which is why I kept track of getting it back I suppose. Things like this...

(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@35mm@35mm. 1/30th@F8. Single SB900 Speedlight to above camera right set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard through a 16" FotoRosa softbox. Single SB900 Speedlight in the hallways fired by pocketwizard into the hallways ceiling set to 1/4th power. Single SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm fired by SU-4 Magic eye set to 1/2 power shot directly into the lamp on the bedstand to the left of the frame, and the bed.)

This may look like someone looking at a laptop on a bed, but really it's someone looking at a laptop on a bed while being lit by a strobe bounced off of a lamp. Like I say when I give lighting workshops; light is like a kid in a mud farm, it picks up the color of anything it touches. In this big blue room I couldn't use the walls to bounce the lights, and I didn't want to waste the models time going back out to the car to get yet another light modifier like a reflector. The white lampshade in the corner of the room did just fine. Really it was a bit of a gamble, I had no idea how much spill there was going to be, but happy accidents are just as good as planned accidents in my book.

(Nikon D3, 400ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/60th@F8. Single SB900 Speedlight fired through a 42" Umbrella set to iTTL +1 to above camera left. Single SB900 fired through a 43" umbrella set to 1/4th to behind the left of the subjects fired by SU-4 Magic eye. Single Nikon SB800 Speedlight sitting on a table to camera right set to iTTL +2 shot into the wall to camera right as to illuminate the ambient in the scene.)

Those guys were more than eager to play poker for us for a little bit. The room was relatively large, but the three speedlights made relatively short work of it all, creating media that the director was very pleased with capable of being printed poster sized which made the client incredibly happy. I'm pretty sure the three gentlemen continued to play poker for a while after we left too, which was too funny as I have no idea how they actually concentrated while I was there. Speaking of concentrating though, These ladies got the good end of the deal; we gave them cake!

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/200th@F2. Single SB900 Speedlight 20 feet to camera right set to iTTL+1 shot through a 43" umbrella. Single SB900 to above cameara left set to iTTL +/-0 fired through a 43" Umbrella as well, Single SB800 Speedlight zoomed to 105mm set to 1/4 shot into the ceiling 45ish or so feet behind the table being photographed. All speedlights were fired by a Nikon SU-800 Commander Unit from On Camera.)

This room is probably about 75 feet deep, and 40 feet across, and the small strobes I packed in the bag did a wonderful job of lighting this for me. It's definitely an advantage of using the Small strobes out places, but what really makes things work well is the wireless iTTL of the Nikon speedlight system. Without this, it would have taken me much longer shoot these photos, having to moved to adjust the lights every time there was a mistake, or having to figure out the ratios during setup. As it was, I traveled 147 miles that day to four different Crestwood Village locations and was able to provide quite a few usable images to the client; many more images than were shown here.

Shooting with small strobes is greatly versatile, Nikon and Canon have given photographers the power to quickly light things like never before. It's not just about being able to take your camera up to 1600ISO if you want to, because you should only do that when you NEED to. Now it's about being able to shoot ANYTHING for glossy poster quality. Anything's possible in any space. Joe McNally once used 47 speedlights to light up an aircraft. What could you do with a few? More Soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Del Webb Press...

The name suggests that it's a newspaper that I used to work for, or it's a newspaper in and of itself but that's totally not the case. Del Webb is a community set aside for only people age 55 and older who are retired, but still active in their lifestyle. What am I doing there might you ask? Where else do you think I'll find a better pool? They have boccie ball courts too, which is astounding as I always just used to play with obstacles in the back yard. I always thought that's the way it was supposed to be played... Either way, it's quite the place and they put out a new publication for it's residents every quarter named the Del Webb Press, which as I'm sure you've guessed by now, I shoot most of.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 400ISO Canon 70-200mmF2.8L IS@70mm. 1/125th@F6.3. Single Canon 580EX set to 1/2 power to camera right shot through a 20" SPI Softbox fired by Pocket Wizard. Single Canon 580EX set to 1/4th power zoomed to 50mm bare bulb pointed at the Hoopes's from behind out of frame to the left.)

That's the Hoopes's practicing their Yoga. Mr. Hoopes said that in the time he's been doing this he notices things he wasn't able to do before, when he was quite a bit younger. He also said that he felt it has improved his golf game significantly. I don't know about anyone else, but if your golf game is like mine I'll hear out his theory on yoga for improvement....

(Canon EOS1D Mark II, 320ISO, Canon EF24-70mmF2.8L@70mm. 1/1000th@F8.)

That's Bob. Bob just started golfing at the end of last year, but he was immediately hooked. They have a league out at Del Webb that he plays in every week. It was absolutely killing me out there to not be playing, but I was also thankful that these guys weren't showing me up at the same time. Speaking of showing me up, this is Jan Wahn, and she was willing to run on a Treadmill for me with a Sprained ankle. I don't know what she eats to give her a will like that, but I want it.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 100ISO, Canon EF70-200mmF2.8L IS@75mm. 1/160th@F4. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight zoomed to 70mm Set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard shot through a 43" umbrella to camera right about 8 feet in front and slightly above Jan)

I didn't make her run on the treadmill, as you can see from this photo. What you can't see in this photo is that her right ankle is swelled up, and slightly larger than her left one. She was a trooper though like I said. I couldn't bear to make her run on the Treadmill, but she did offer. Several times.

Britton falls has quite a few ammenities there, and I'll tell you that if I ever make it to the age where I can move in there, it wouldn't be a bad deal at all. The residents all got together and bought a piano for in the chateau because their old one wasn't very nice. Each resident owned a key, and there was a chart so that you could see which key each resident that donated owned. It was really neat. This photo was of the two residents that set the whole thing up and made it happen; Vicki and Keith.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon EF16-35mmF2.8L@16mm. 1/60th@F7.1. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight to above camera right set to 1/4th power zoomed to 105mm shot through a 42" umbrella fired by Pocket Wizard. Single 580EX Speedlight zoomed out to 14mm with the little plastic diffuser set to 1/2 power fired by Pocket Wizard laying on a table behind the wall to camera left to illuminate the games area behind Keith and Vicki.)

If you're interested you can see and read the Full Publication HERE. It'll be some time before I'm back out there, but it's always a pleasure. Most of the residents remember my name, and are usually very excited to see me. By far it's not one of the worst things that I have to do for the Indianapolis Star Media Group. More Soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going Green...

Going green seems to be the trend these days. Rechargeable batteries that you can charge 10,000 times and will hold their charge for 900% longer. Laptops that are made out of fewer parts, so there is less waste than ever before, and can also be recycled when they are done into lord knows what. Probably flowers, maybe that's the secret ingredient to the batteries that last 900% longer;recycled laptops......mixed with Cheetos.... Anyway, everybody seems to be going green. Not long ago I was assigned to to shoot some photos for the Indianapolis Public Library system who just recently started using green library bags. Apparently you go into the library and pay a couple bucks, and in return you get Green (yet not actually GREEN) Library book bag.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon100mmF2.8 Macro, 1/125th@F3.5. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight put through a FotoRosa 16" Softbox set to 1/4th power raised above right of Sue Fired by Pocket Wizard.)

That's it. LIke I said, it's not actually green, but it is definitely a green bag. Made out of some not so space age material that is good for the environment. Unfortunately the librarian that was assigned to me didn't exactly know what the chemical makeup of the bags were, not that I'd have understood exactly what all that meant anyway, but I assure you that these were Green/Good for the environment bags.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 200ISO, Canon EF16-35mmF2.8L@16mm. 1/40th@F5. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight shot through a FotoRosa 16" Softbox set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard to camera left. Single Canon 580EX SPeedlight zoomed to 35mm behind Sue set to 1/16th power bare light fired by pocket wizard.)

That's Sue Kennedy. She runs the Irvington Library branch of the Indianapolis Public Library system. She was the major lead to the story in information regarding the bags. I asked her immediately if she invented these bags, and if the blue coloring was a side effect of the fact that the bags were actually green. She didn't know. She did however seem to know the library like the back of her hand. She was continually putting books away as we were walking around the library. She knew exactly where they were, even spotting when one was out of place. I don't know where half the things in my house belong, much less would I be able to recognize it being out of place at a glance. She seems to know her profession the way that most people dream of knowing what they do, but only a small percentage actually do. May we all one day be so lucky. More Soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Making a Scene...

So the last few posts I've done have been more photography related news, and my own announcement of publications I've helped produce being published than anything of recent or instructional photographic value. The latest posts have NOT been heavily related to individual photographic efforts, or photography that I have taken in general, nor the wild harebrained effort involved in getting the shot. As I know that some people read the blog just for things like that, this post is dedicated to none other than a Senior Community.

(Nikon D3, 320ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@24mm. 1/30th@F5.6. Nikon SB900 Speedlight set to 1/2 power zoomed to 70mm to camera left pointed at the ceiling for diffusion. Single Nikon Sb900 Speedlight set to half power zoomed to 200mm Pointed at the ceiling for diffusion to camera right, back by the wall. Both Speedlights fired by SU-800 Speedlight commander linked to a SC-28 off camera cable held where both speedlights could see it by Michael Guio)

Yup. It's like that. Crestwood Village Senior Living community and apartment homes. Exciting huh? I'd easily say that falls under the category of the non glamorus side of photography, except that it provides a very unique opportunity assuming you have an idea in your head, have a dream in your head, want to MAKE an image instead of take one. Generally this can be difficult as there isn't always time to consider your creative options, but part of being a photographer is making something out of nothing. It's what most of your clients will ask from you, and as long as you have an idea in your head, even if it seems like it's left field; why not try it out? LIterally do what they ask, and make something from nothing.....

(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@38mm 1/160th@F10)

That shot is the ambient light shot of the photo I want to take, barring a few minor changes. The best way to make a photo out of nothing, is to start with exactly that, adding lights where you want them. Showing what you want to show. My thoughts on this image were that of out of a wedding. It's usually very dark at a wedding, it's usually lit by spotlight, and usually it's very romantic. The hardest part about photography is having enough light in most cases. This is a great opportunity where there is enough light, but you can tailor it into whatever you want it to be.

(Nikon D3, 250ISO, Nikon 28-70mmF2.8@60mm, 1/160th@F10. Single SB800 Speedlight set to SU-4 mode pointed up at the piano player from on the keys set to 1/32nd power, zoomed out to 24mm. Single SB-900 unit zoomed to 200mm set to 1/2th power in the background on a stand. Single SB-900 unit set to 1/4th power shot through a FotoRosa 16" softbox held above the couple dancing by Michael Guio. The SB-900's were fired with the SU-800 Speedlight Commander from on Camera, the SB800 was fired as a result of the flash from the SB900's)

That's the final shot. Little puddle lighting, little spotlight flare, little romantic dance light. A lot like a wedding which was what I was looking for. I don't think these two are getting married, but they could have been married 75 years, which is definitely a reason to dance. I think it could use a little color, but at the time I was running a bit behind and I had to go back and take the safe shot. The shot that is the first one shown in the blog is the safe shot, and yea I shot that one last. I went for the gold straight away, which isn't always the best way to do things, but in the end I'm relatively happy with the image. There are things I'd do differently next time, but that's what you learn by trying new things. I also think that the lady on the piano is scary beyond all reason. She'll probably get cropped out of the final image that gets used by the Village, but that's ok as sometimes clients crop things like you wouldn't, or use things nowhere close to how you want. For all I know, the Village would rather have what I consider to be the very bland shot that I started this post with. Whatever they decide, as long as they are pleased with having options to choose from.

In the end, starting with nothing and making something is always a great option. It's not often that I get to do something like that and would love to continue doing more of it. It creates a much more dynamic image, which in some cases is point. Making something normal, and making it better than that. Don't take the picture, make the picture. More soon.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Photography is NOT a crime...

It's no secret that I stalk Chase Jarvis's blog, but today he posted an article about a photographer getting arrested while photographing an illegal activity. (The above image is courtesy of his blog). Here's the link to his story, I'd highly recommend reading it HERE.

On one side, I can definitely see where the authorities would arrest the photographer (Jonas Lara in this case) for being at the crime in progress, but at the same time a photographer documenting any event, whether legal or not is their job. The really astounding part is that his lawyer wouldn't use his rights as a photographer as part of his defense! I agree with Chase in that if photograhing crime is a crime, than all of the documentary photographers who cover war, crime in prison, or abuse in any way should be in Jail. I don't think that's right. What do you think? More soon.

Monday, May 10, 2010

More Nursing...

In case you missed it, all of the final Nursing products and publications went live last Weekend. You can find a gallery from the event here. Since we also put full print publications online at the newspaper now, you can either find a paper from yesterday, or you can check out the full Salute to Nurses special section here. It's flash so if you're viewing this on your phone, you should look at this one.

In the middle of a couple other big projects right now too. More soon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Salute to Nursing...

Not every photographer looks forward to doing the same event over and over again, year after year, but here at the Indystar I am fortunate enough to be a part of an event that is an incredible honor to be a part of. Each year the Indianapolis Star salutes Nurses throughout the state of Indiana. If I had to pick one profession that wasn't thanked enough, I would have to say Nursing is it.

(Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 160ISO, Canon 100mmF2.8 Macro, 1/40th@F4.5. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight on a stand shot through a 42" umbrella to camera right set to 1/4th power fired by pocket wizard. Single Canon 580EX SPeedlight on a stand directly behind Ken zoomed to 105mm at 1/16th power fired by pocket wizard.)

Nurses a lot of times work long hours, strange days, witness some grueling things, and yet excitedly get up every day to do it over and over again. Anybody can recognize the fact that a sick or injured person can be pretty grumpy, and Nurses deal with on a day to day basis. Some of which never get the thank you that they deserve. One nurse who was nominated is 84 years old, and has been a nurse for over 40 years. She now teaches patients how to deal with their orthopedic surgery recoveries.

(Canon EOS5D Mark II, 400ISO, Canon 70-200mmF2.8L IS@150mm, 1/60th@F3.5. Single Canon 580EX Speedlight to camera right on a stand shot through a 43" umbrella set to 1/16th power fired by pocket wizard)

Each year I am assigned the task of visiting each of these amazing Nurses and and taking photos of them for our special section, media for the event, their ads in the paper and the Nursing Quarterly magazine, and this year even taking a video of each of the nomonees. It was a busy couple weeks for sure, but the event was an epic success thanks to a lot of planning by my good friend Adrianne in our marketing department. She and I have a list of places to visit in our quest for world domination the best BBQ chicken pizza in town. We had to put our quest on pause while she worked on this event, but we'll be started up again soon on. She made a beautiful event, and all of the winners were honored as they should have been. The videos and photos shows up flawlessly on the projection screens at the event as well. Great Event.

(Canon EOS 1D Mark II, 800ISO, Canon 70-200mmF2.8L IS@80mm. 1/40th@F4)

I always get a kick out of seeing stuff I shot up on the big screen, just as much as I get a kick out of seeing it thumbnail sized inside any print publication. It never gets old, I love it. The photos up on that screen were all used for Johnson Memorials ads in the Nursing magazine I've spoken of in the past, as well as for the special section. There are also plans to use them in the future for ads that the hospital is running with us, which is great. I always like it when clients decide to reuse media that I created as sometimes its not a quick 10 minute process to create such media. I was at Johnson memorial shooting for 5 hours that day to make sure we got everything they wanted.

(Canon 5D Mark II, 250ISO, Canon 16-35mmF2.8L@26mm, 1/30th@F6.3. Canon 580EX Speedlight shot through a 43" umbrella to camera right set to 1/2 power fired by pocket wizard. Canon 580EX speedlight zoomed to 70mm set to 1/32nd power fired by pocket wizard back behind crowd right aimed at the wall to help separate the right side of the group from the wall.)

Over the last few years the event has grown almost out of control. Last year we had the luncheon in the Indiana Roof Ballroom. By the panoramic below, I think you'll agree; we've grown up a bit. More soon.

(Canon 1D Mark II, 1250ISO, Canon EF16-35mmF2.8L@16mm, 1/60th@F3.5. 13 images stitched together using Photoshop CS4's automerge function.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ghosts of Cameras past...

Constantly I am out shooting, putting actuation's on the camera that is in hand, setting lights, moving models, taping something to another. All of this without even thinking in most cases, and yet more often than not about how I could do it, should do it, or how I even used to do it. The little things in photography that every single modern day photographer takes for granted, such as 1600ISO, iTTL, Rechargeable Lithium Ion batteries, lastolite trip grip diffusers, FotoRosa shoe flash softboxes, or even Duct tape. From time to time, (time to time being very rarely) I find myself wondering how I used to do things before my D3 and SB-900's. Before the SU-800 allowed me to control my lights outputs from where I was shooting, instead of having to move to each light to change the output in increments larger than I wanted to. Or in even some cases, doing what I know a lot of photographers now do; and that's use High ISO instead of using lights at all.

(Ricoh KSX Super, Fuji 200 Slide Film. 50mm F1.8 Screw mount lens. Tripod of some sort.)

I shot that photo while doing a series of photos regarding Dorm life. Remember taking the shot in a bracket of 5, of which that was the one I liked. Today, this should would have been made differently. I'd have taken 20 or 30 shots, wouldn't have bracketed but just checked the histogram on the back of the camera. Back then that 20 or 30 shots would have been a whole roll of film, or at least most of one and I'd have had no idea if I got the shot until the next day when the slide film processing came back. I was a lot more deliberate back then and cautious of my shots as I was shooting on my dime in this case. Looking at the full size scan of this image off of the 35mm slide, it wouldn't even have been sharp enough for me to keep it today.

(Ricoh KSX Super, Fuji 200 Slide Film, 50mm F1.8 Screw Mount Lens.)

The shot above ranks itself by today's standards as an 18 megapixel slide. It's dark, , slightly out of focus, and anybody that looks at this would never know that the guy on the right is playing a video game of sorts. My journlaistic abilities at the time, however lacking, aren't the point of the photos though. When I think about how far technology has come since things like this were taken, I am amazed not only at the technology but how much I learned while shooting film. To this day I maintain that you'll learn more ruining a roll of film than shooting a thousand digital images. Just think back to the cameras that you've sold, broken, or just put into a box and under your bed because the trade in value was equivalent to a White Castle Crave Case. Just think about what they taught you, and how great you thought those images were back then.

I've bought and sold more equipment than I thought I would have ever thought would be the case by this point in my young career, but I can definitely tell you that I recognize the influence that every awesome then, crappy now photo has had on my shooting. All things are priceless bits of information as learned by mistakes made with old technology, or just lack of knowledge in general. That's what I love about my profession that to this day my accountant still refers to as a hobby. Every day, it's something new. Another mistake made, another lesson learned, another moment captured inching me closer to the best shot I've ever taken; and then the one better than that. More Soon.