Friday, October 29, 2010

Just one Light...

A lot of people ask me about my lighting techniques, and how I come up with some of the things that I do in order to light things effectively.  The last blog post was definitely one with a complicated light setup in it too.  This one is a little differently.  I believe it was Zack Arias that recommended originally that anyone learning to light should learn to do so with a Single 60" umbrella and that's it.  Mainly  because that's all you really need.  Not that hair lights, and fill lights, and background lights aren't necessary in some cases, but in most cases they totally aren't...
(CANON 5D Mark II, 250ISO, Canon 70-200F2.8IS@200mm, 1/40th@F10.  Single Canon 580EX Speedlight to below camera left at 1/4th power zoomed to 70mm shot through a 32" Translucent Umbrella fired by Pocket Wizard)

Nicole here is the Neice of the owner of Ceez Genesis Salon here in Indy.  Had two lights set up to start and totally according to plan one didn't fire giving me this.  The other one with both lights looks pretty solid too, but I love the way the light defines her face in this; and so does she.  Only one light thought, and it most definitely works.  It wasn't even a 60" Umbrella like I was pushing above the pic! 

The one light isn't just a fill light from on camera though and unless you have a ring-light, direct on camera flash as your only light source should be last resort.  Ring-light is a very style specific piece of equipment that can be used for either that style, or at a very low power as a fill light.  Personally I'm not much a fan of the ring-light, but that's another story for another day; back to the Umbrella.  Say you don't have an  umbrealla and can't afford one?  There are lots of things you can do with a single solitary light without an umbrella....
(Nikon D3s, 1600iso, Nikon 18-23F3.5-4.5@22mm.  1/40th@F5.6.  Single SB-900 Speedlight zoomed to 200mm on a light stand set to 1/16th power aimed directly down on the bride and groom fired by Pocket Wizard)

My Pal Scott at Roberts Distributors reminded me the other day that a little bit of hard light can go a long way sometimes.  The above photo was made using ambient light as a very little bit of fill light, with a single bare bulb strobe behind the Bride and Groom.  Yes it took several shots to get this one, in fact I'm pretty sure I have about 50 shots of the light blasting me in the eyes......but in the end this shot was worth the effort, and the bride and groom have something very unique to remember the moment with.  

Doesn't take much light sometimes.  Earlier this week I shot a semi commercial job using a single hard light actually.  It was kind of a last second job with no staff or budget, but we made it work.  Vincents Furs wanted some photos of their jackets, and the ads are going to look like a night out on the town.  Due to lack of any other preparation we went with the Single Speedlight approach.  Seemed to work ok.....

(Canon 5D Mark II, 320ISO, Canon 16-35F2.8L@18mm.  1/100th@F5.6.  Single Canon 580EX Speedlight set to 1/8th Zoomed out to 24mm held directly over the table from camera right attached to the end of a Home Depot Paint pole fired by pocket wizard held by one of the Male models waiting for their turn to be shot.)

That's an outtake from the shoot.  Not sure if its what they are looking for or not, but we'll find out.  Probably would have been nice to have had drinks or something on the table, but with a lack of budget we weren't going to buy 12 beers for the cast and crew and then either finish the shoot a little beer'd up or leave them there....  

Sometimes though, you just need to go all out, or maybe just observe things are they are.........behold the beauty of photography.  Had a lot of different experiences the last two weeks since I've blogged.  Roller Derby Nationals is coming up in Chicago next weekend.  I won't be attending as I've got a few gigs here in Indy that I booked prior, but I will be represented by photography up there in programs and as some trading cards.  Derby season has started up again too.........but this is all too much to go into now....More Soon.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The WOW factor...

A few weeks ago I was approached by a company here in Indianapolis named Beckman and Coulter contacted me about taking some photos of a very crazy looking room inside their facility known as their Command Center.  My first question was whether or not this command center was really a basement or not, and if we would be able to hook an Xbox up to the Big Screen.... Which, oh yea!  This Command Center?  it had the Second largest LCD Panel in the World in it.
Cool huh?  Ok not really, but that was the problem.  This company had the issue of the Wow Factor working against them.  The Photo above shows the room as it was, and as our eyes saw it.  The first word I said when I walked into that room was, WOW... But that's not what the photo above does for anyone.  The photo above just is of this large room, but doesn't give you the sense of being there, and how cool that room really is.  

It was a monumental challenge of a concept to me, as of course any photographer would/should be worried that they couldn't pull off this WOW factor.  I was most certainly worried about it.  I had a few ideas though, thanks to inspiration from people like Dave Black, and Joe McNally; whom I read and research frequently in times when I need inspiration.  This is what I came up with...
(Nikon D3s, 800ISO, Nikon 14-24mmF2.8N, 1/20th@F8.  Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with 1/2cut CTB to camera left set to 1/4 power zoomed to 85mm on a stand fired by Pocket Wizard. Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with Full Cut CTB to camera right set to 1/4th zoomed to 105mm,  fired by Pocket Wizard.  Single Dynalight Uni400 head on each side of the Mamoth LCD Screen set to full power, each with a full CTO over the reflector.  both fired by Pocket Wizards)

The room was plenty dark though too, and I needed to expose my shot for the screen.  The D3s can handle 800 or 1,000ISO like it's its job giving me absolutely minimal grain in the worst of conditions so I felt no hesitation in pushing the camera up that high to get a decent depth of field for the shots.  (Something I'd never have done with my old D2x, not even when shot correctly).  I probably wouldn't have gone much higher than 1000 though, even though the powers that be say the camera can take it, I still prefer the cleanest image possible and I probably would have attempted to find a lower ISO possibility.  The coolest thing about this space is definitely the screen, but I felt as though the screen (despite being large and bright) was sort of lost into the black abyss of Sound Proof tiles behind it.  The orange lights to separate it from the wall were a MUST in my mind.  The lights didn't need to be orange, no; but I felt as though the warm colors really added a lot of contrast between the Blue GPS screen and the background as well as the desks in front.  I did add some blue lights on the desks, but those are a lot more evident in the shots with staff involved.
(Nikon D3s, 1000ISO, Nikon 18-35mmF3.5-4.5@26mm, 1/40th@F9.  Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with 1/2cut CTB to camera left set to 1/4th zoomed to 70mm on a stand fired by Pocket Wizard, Nikon SB-900 Speedlight with Full Cut CTB to camera right on a stand about 50' away zoomed to 200mm at 1/2 power fired by Pocket Wizard.  Single Dynalight Uni400 head on each side of the Mamoth LCD Screen set to full power, each with a full CTO over the reflector.  Both Dynalights fired by Pocket Wizards)

Sometimes people aren't as cooperative in groups, especially when it's around their lunchtime.  In this case my assistant, Mike Guio, is sitting at the desk in the yellow shirt, to fill in for whomever had to get off the clock.  Nothing wrong with it, and it does incorporate their logo into the shot, even though its very small...But it is a little bit of an easter egg for anybody who knows him.  The client didn't seem to mind, and Jeff the Liaison from their IT department was off doing his IT'ly duties and we wanted to keep shooting.  Sometimes, you've just got to keep shooting.  
(Nikon D3s, 640ISO, Nikon 14-24F2.8N@14mm.  1/30th@F7.1.  Single SB-800 Speedlight zoomed tro 105mm Fired by Pocket wizard through camera right, shot through a Queen Size bed sheet hanging over the windows to the conference room.  Single Dynalight Uni400 head on each side of the Mamoth LCD Screen set to full power, each with a full CTO over the reflector.  Both Dynalights fired by Pocket Wizards)

One of the neater elements of this place is that they had a VIP Conference room overlooking the Command Center.  It was neat because they had a small cross section of the screen for the VIPs, or meeting attendees to utilize for their presentations.  I was still jonesing to put an Xbox or death Race up on one of the big screens, but alas I was still denied.  I did however ask what the coolest thing they had ever put up on the screen was though, and that was the World Cup.  Not gunna lie, I think thats pretty cool.  

Also pretty cool was a message I received from the Director of the Command Center.  They were thrilled with the turnout of the photos in achieving the 'Wow' Factor.  he even joked about not being able to use the photos because they made the room look cooler than it actually was.  It was an awesome compliment, and I thanked him quite a bit.  I came a far way through this project, considering I wasn't sure I would be able to deliver when offered the Job.  It just goes to show you that if you work towards a vision, anything is possible.  With a little perseverance, creativity, and with a good vision, you can accomplish anything.  Maybe a little (or a lot of) luck doesn't hurt either... More Soon.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

5 minute portraits...

So many times, people have said they wished they had all the time in the world when it comes to taking photos of people while shooting a portrait.  Family photographers sometimes feel that an hour or an hour and a half isn't enough time.  Ironically though, in a lot of cases I wish I had 15 minutes, much less an hour.

(Nikon D3s, 320ISO, Nikon 85mmF1.4D, 1/60th@F1.6.  Single SB-900 Speedlight inside of a 16" FotoRosa Softbox to camera right with a Half CTO on it.  Speedlight was set to iTTL-0.3 and was fired by an SU-800 Speedlight Commander on the camera)

That's Thijs.  Cool Cat. Loves to argue though, and Boy have we argued.  Not like, intense upset at each other argue, but more along the lines of debate.  One of his favorite past times is picking a topic and debating it.  Don't get me wrong I'm all for a good debate, but dang he loves it.  Took this for him and his Company Ultrasun USA (and Ultrasun International) last week.  He doesn't come to the States very often, but when he does he has things to do.  After I got there he had about 5 minutes for us to shoot photos, which is what we did.  I've done work for their company for some time now, and we get along.  He is comfortable with me, and I with him and that comfort level is something I wish I had with a lot of people that I've shot photos of because interaction and comfort level is important to snapping a good frame.  

Believe it or not though, this is relatively normal when it comes to someone that is anybody.  Not that families aren't anybody; hear me out.  I spend several days a month shooting in active retired communities, and holy cow these people are active.  In fact, in the last string of days I spent out at one of these places, I didn't even get the peoples names.  The PR person wanted to handle all of it, and Hey... Who am I to argue with easier for me?

(Canon 5D Mark II, 500ISO, Canon 16-35mmF2.8L@19mm.  1/30th@F7.1.  Canon 580EX SPeedlight set to 1/16th inside of a 16" FotoRosa Softbox to above camera left fired by Pocket wizard.  Single 580EX Speedlight set to 1/32nd power zoomed to 70mm sitting on the kitchen floor aimed at the ceiling for a little bit of illumination. Also fired by Pocket Wizard)

That's Linda Wirth, a resident at Del Webb Active living community on the north side.  I probably could have taken longer with her than I did (after all I was in, set up, and out in 15 minutes...), but it was a straight forward assignment.  I needed to illustrate her in the house that she fell in love with .  This isn't the photo that ran, but this was my favorite out of the group.  Lots of shoots that I've done shooting or Del Webb have only lasted 15 minutes or less.  It can be crazy stressful, yet gratifying when done correctly.

(Canon 5D Mark II, 125ISO, Canon 16-35mmF2.8L@26mm.  1/160th@F11.  Single Canon 580EX Speedlight on a Stand to camera right zoomed to 105mm at 1/2 power aimed right at his face fired by pocket wizard. )
That's John Ditslear, the Mayor of Noblesville Indiana.  This isn't the final photo for this shoot, but I liked this one best.  Part of my assignment was to shoot the Mayor in front of City Hall, which could have been a nightmare since the sun was coming up over the building that morning.  If I had my Nikon gear I'd not have thought twice about it with the TTL, but Manual Flash out of  my Canon Speedlights saved the day.  Just in case though, I also shot him in his office. In Total his would have been a 15 minute or less shoot except that the Mayor popped a button off of his jacket and his assistant had to fix it real quick.  It gave us a few minutes to chat, and tell a few jokes (no no, not the Laffy Taffy jokes.....ok well maybe).  He was very personable and we got along which as I said; is important.  Being comfortable with your subject makes for great photos.  In fact at the end of the shoot he confessed that there is no such thing as the key to the city, but he gave me the closest thing to it; which was a Noblesville medallion with his name on it.  More Soon.