Friday, August 28, 2009

Bite me, Flickr.

I just had my entire flickr stream moderated as unsafe and marked as restricted. All 2500 photos. Assholes. And before you start harping on me and saying "Well, you should have moderated things!" ... I was already marking the racy stuff.

What the fuck.


Now I've gone back and re-moderated specific photos to be specifically restricted as opposed to "moderate". I'm awaiting a review of my account.

Do they tell me what photos triggered it? Nope. Do their guidelines make it crystal fucking clear what the various classes of restriction are? Not one bit.

I'll be moving quite a bit off in the near future, I think. At the very least, I won't be posting any of the more interesting stuff on flickr.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are you a God?

Gozer: [after Ray orders her to re-locate] Are you a God?

[Ray looks at Peter, who nods]

Dr Ray Stantz: No.

Gozer: Then... DIE!

[Lightning flies from her fingers, driving the Ghostbusters to the edge of the roof and almost off; people below scream]

Winston Zeddemore: Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!


Flame outInspiration strikes at the strangest times. No, I wasn't watching Ghostbusters at the time, but I was staring at my big, beautiful 54" DLP TV (that now has one lovely pixel that's stuck in the on position). It's a nice TV. Has a great picture, especially when the high def channels are running on it.

I was watching something on one of the Discovery channels when inspiration hit. I had been thinking about backgrounds because of the cookie setup I used for some recent portraits (written about in Boot to the head!). One of the things I look for now is an interesting background. Ok, maybe not interesting ... different. Something I haven't seen or done before.

So, this particular TV show has some very colorful moments in it when I realize that, if unfocused, would make some unique and easy backgrounds. I wouldn't have to do much to make it work. But, what about a subject?

We have this statue in our living room. It's a glorified candle holder. My wife says it's some sort of Buddha-ish thing. It has quite a bit of detail in it. Bumps and curves and folds. Faith
Plus the candle, must not forget the pale green honeydew candle sitting upon it's lap. In other words, something curious and attractive photographically.

Background. Check.

Subject. Check.

What's next? The lighting! I've been playing with collapsing my umbrella to help control the light a bit more. I wanted something more directional than shooting through a white umbrella (which has WAY to much light, I'm finding). But, without access to a softbox right now, I make do with what I have on hand. So, collapsed umbrella with the flash bouncing into it, as opposed to through it. The light was certainly a bit crisper in the shadowline.

Toss in a flickering flame and you have something where the light is sculpted just enough to bring out the detail in the statue.

So, Background, check.

Subject, check.

Lighting, check.

Setup for the StatueThree simple things needed to make a good photo. In this particular case, I tossed the light to camera right and feathered it away from the subject. Pushing it so it was directly on and above put too much light and killed too much of the shadow for me. You can see it a bit better in the setup shot. The hanging edge of the collapsed umbrella is lined up so it would be just on the edge of the face.

One of the things I'm finding is that it's worthwhile just trying something. Using the TV as a background was a stroke of chance (and man, timing the shot so the background was something useful was quite a pain in the ass). The two shots I have above were taken shortly apart from each other and you can see the big difference in style. I love the separation of the head and background made by the green sliver combined with the smoke trails vaporing off into nothing. I also love the fiery red background of the second combined with the single flick of orange flame. It works.

Oh, and the TV show? I think it was some documentary about the solar system, how it was formed, and how it would all come spiraling in to a despotic end, crushing our tiny little Earth. Makes for a cheery day, doesn't it?

So remember: try it. It might work. It might not. And if it doesn't, you've still learned something: how not to use a light, a background, or an idea in a particular way.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Boot to the head!

Master: Ed Gooberman, you fail to grasp Tae-Kwon Leep. Approach me so that you may see.

Ed: Alright, finally some action.

Master: Observe closely class. Boot to the Head [boom].

Ed: Ow, you booted me in the head!

Master: You are lucky Ed Gooberman. Few novices experiece so much of Tae-Kwon Leep so soon.

Lois (Board)Headshots. No, no, I'm not going to perform the moves of Tae-Kwon-Leep on you. Humorous as it may be, that's not the subject of today's post. Today we're talking about photographic headshots. Or rather, as close to them as I've gotten in the last month. Maybe a bit of background is in order.

I'm a member of a non-profit organization. August was the first month of the new term for the organization's Board of Directors. The organization is relatively new and still getting on it's feet. Slowly, but surely, it's getting there. I happened to be in the area when the meeting was occurring and offered to take photos of both the BOD and the organization's staff. Nothing fancy was needed, just something simple and presentable.

One of the things I've learned from the entire Strobist movement is that simple is good. Jesse (Board)Remember, "slow is smooth and smooth is fast." I didn't have much time to get the shoot together. All I knew walking into it was that I wanted a two light setup: a key light through a big white umbrella and a background light gelled blue to provide just swash of color. Why blue? Blue is a dominant color in the organization's marketing scheme.

I was hoping to find some textured background to give some interest to the photos, but when I arrived at the meeting place, I discovered it was in a plain-Jane office building. So, no dice. Sad photographer, no biscuit. But, the galaxy had one final hope!

A plant.

I found it tucked away in our meeting room behind a door. It was some sort of leafy bamboo-ish thing. Long thin leaves. Just enough to make a great cookie. Or cookaloris. What's a cookaloris? It's a basic light modifier used to filter light through to create a pattern against your background. Dan (Board)I'd never used one before (because it's always an after through when I'm shooting). This time, I jumped at it because I wanted something to make the background not so dull. Aside: I think the affect was great. I want to try doing more of these and make my own cookies with paper and shapes cut out of it. But, moving on.

Using a cookie is simple. Place it between your light and the background. The closer the cookie is to the light, the sharper and more defined the projected shadow is. So, with the plant acting as my cookie, all I had to do to spice up the background was to make sure my blue gel was firmly planted on the flash, zoom it in a bit and pop it for good measure. Mostly, I wanted to see if it was appearing on the blank wall correctly. It did. I was happy.

Next was getting my key light set up. I noticed recently that I tend to shoot A LOT with the key coming from the left. Unfortunately, I seem to be stuck doing this and is counter to my need to try and keep it working from both sides. David (Board)Plus, there's the whole issue of making sure I'm lighting the correct side of the model's face, but that's a wholly separate issue and post.

So, key to the left and ... needed some fill to the right. I only had one light stand and one umbrella with me and that was already in use for the key, so I couldn't use another flash (a third, which I did happen to have). What else do I spy in the room that I can press gang into use? Why, I have a useful human c-stand and a big, poster-sized white Post-It note. PROFIT! A bit of arrangement and I had my three light sources for the portraits.

And the magic of all of this? Ten minutes of setup to achieve an impromptu portrait studio suitable for photographing nine people in rapid succession.

Sorry, no setup shots for this. I'm sure you can figure it out from the lighting in the photos. If not, let me know and I can draw a picture that'll help diagram it out.

You can see the rest of the board and staff photos on my flickr stream.

The folks above are Lois, Jesse, Dan, and David. Good folks. I think Lois' portrait is my favorite from this entire setup.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A month! Where have you been!?

Drummer calling the lionSo there I was, stuck in the jungles of Borneo fending off the attacks of never before seen lovers of longpork and the delightfully disgusting dance of durian when ...

Wait, that's not it.

So there I was, sitting in first class on my way to grand Paris when the co-pilot rushed out of the smocking cockpit proclaiming the need for a professional geek. I, being a professional geek, raised my hand and ...

The sleeping lionWait, that's not it either.

So there I was, wondering how I was going to explain to my wife that I'd been arrested for trespassing in some rancher's field while trying to get my nude, feather wearing model to mount a cathartic bull when ...

Nope, nope. Not it either.

Ok. I admit it. I've just been busy. The month of August, while blazingly hot, has been nothing but work, work, more work, hey, look it's work! and ... lastly, more work. Mixed with a bit of fun, mind you.

Lion dances in the meadowI did manage to get out and do a brief photowalk early August. I ran across a troupe on the south mall up on campus. What drew me to them was the taiko drum thundering through the six-pack as I walked near the tower.

They were practicing a routine with one of the traditional Chinese lions. Bright, golden yellow was the color of their costumes. The dancers were engaged in what was going on and paid no attention to me, lurking some yards back. One thing struck me as I watched: the troupe was well-polished and practiced. You could see it in each leap and weave, each bow of the lion's head, each rhythmic strut following the beat of the drum.

Taming the Lion IAs the taiko thumper pushed the pace faster and slower, the troupe had dancers diving in and out from under the lion. The troupe lead was shouting them on, encouraging them to keep it tight and smooth.

The drummer went slower.

The lion paced.

When the last thump of the drum was heard, all the dancers emerged, lined up, and gave the lead a bow. All in time, as if they were saluting a lieutenant.

I packed my camera and walked off. I thought about giving them my card, but when I went back a few minutes later, they had gone.