Monday, March 29, 2010
Ok, this was a make-up photo. I got so wrapped up over the weekend, that I forgot to take a photo for day 86. So I did it last night.
Recently, I had seen a blog posting on how to "Create Wonderful Sliced Fruit Images" from DIYphotography. The idea was pretty captivating and made a mental note to try it out at some point.
That point was last night when I stared at the bundle of bananas on the dining room table while trying to come up with an idea to photograph. By this point, I remembered the blog post, but couldn't remember where I had actually seen it. No matter, I vaguely recalled what I needed to do: slice up the banana and artfully drop it from an appropriate height, while managing to hand-hold the camera and trigger it at the right moment. Skilled hands, rocket-like reactions ... all in the grip, baby, all in the grip.
Ok, not really. The article calls for slicing up the fruit and holding it together with toothpicks. Once the shooting is complete, all it takes is some photoshopping to get rid of the toothpicks. Doesn't take much. The photoshopping took more time than the photo did, actually.
The lighting setup on this was pretty simple. One SB-900 shooting through a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe to camera left about a foot away.
I showed the results to a few folks shortly after posting the photo. I think my favorite was "Whoooooa. How ... whoooooah!"
I like those reactions. I might have to do a few more fruit photos in the near future.
Some days, you just need a monkey smiling up at you to make it a good ending to an exhausting week. I mean, how often does something insidiously happy like that creep you out at 3am when you're bleary-eyed and ready for a deep sleep?
Staring up at the ceiling fan the other night, I realized how exhausted I still was from the music awards. And the two subsequent photo shoots done at the studio this week.
I crawled into bed, snapped the photo, and went to bed.
If sleep was for the wicked, then wicked I may be.
I like how the iphone shutter was slowed enough to blur out the blades of the fan, but fast enough to capture the lights in perfection.
And, of course: the one burnt out light.
I should change that.
Second shoot in the studio. Can't show any of the photos from it yet; they're embargoed for a bit until the group I was shooting with gets their flyers and such created. We made some really great images. Enjoyed shooting with them.
This photo was a test for one of the lighting setups we were working with. It's a two light setup, lights on opposite corners. The light on camera left was a strip box, held up about 6 feet off the ground on a boom. The rear light on camera right was a 2'x3' softbox at chest-level.
Loved how this turned out in black and white, even if it was a test.
Oy, I'm so backed up on posting these things!
Did my first night in the studio last Tuesday, photographing a friend for some pinup work she wanted done. It was entirely too much fun. I love shooting in this studio. The green walls, on their own, are excellent backdrops for a lot of the shooting I intend to do.
There's a red velvet couch in the studio, as well. A deep, gorgeous red. With a broken leg. It adds character, you see. I'll be posting more photos with that couch once I get them more fully processed.
It felt good to be back in the studio after such a long time away. With the closing of the last studio (Thank you, Fire Marshall Bill for condemning that building!), I've been in sort of a rut photographically. The 365 project that I'm slowly working through has been a great help for this. Definitely a good creative outlet.
Anyway, the studio. I love it. Big, spacious, clean. And a big plus: it doesn't feel like you're walking onto the set of Hostel, moving towards your death.
No, instead, it's clean and modern. Accessible. Dare I say, "nice". Yeah. nice.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Yes, another product-type shot.
I picked up this bottle of vanilla the other day at the suggestion of random vanilla connoisseur who worked at the store. Originally, I'd wanted some of the cheap stuff for the bread pudding I'd recently made, but looking over the prices, I found that this ended up being cheaper (in quantity) than the stuff I normally get. In total: $10 for four ounces.
This stuff is the bomb.
Worked great for the bread pudding. I will be hoarding it henceforth.
Anyway, figured that I'd use it for a photo since I enjoyed it so much.
Today, I tried something different for my product shoot. I wanted a pure white field for the background. Normally, I'd do this by throwing light on some white seamless until it was blown out enough for my needs. This time, since I was photographing something suitably small, I stuck the Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe in as the background and propped it against the table I was shooting upon. This gave me a fairly nice reflection thrown across the wood finish. You vaguely see some woodgrain in the forefront of the photo.
This gave me an excellent base to work from.
Next, I needed to throw a key light in there. For this, I went with my tried and true bare SB-900 shooting through two sheets of paper. Why two? I figured this out previously: the second sheet helps to diffuse a bright hotspot that comes from the flash and shows up as an unsightly flare on any reflective surface.
This gave me a pretty good fill from the left, but I still had too much shadow on the right side of the bottle.
Foamcore to the rescue! A sheet of it was placed on the right of the bottle, giving me a white reflector that further filled in using any of the excess light coming in from the left.
The biggest annoyance of this entire setup was that I couldn't get the bottle top in focus enough with the rest of the bottle. I felt I'd stopped it down more than enough. I think I was just too close when photographing it. A 135mm lens would have probably gotten me far enough away, but still provide enough close in detail and framing to have made this work better.
I made do with what I had.
Overall, I think this worked out pretty well. A bit of extra fill in Lightroom during post and I think I nailed it. Well, nailed it enough. Still unhappy about the top. You probably wouldn't notice it unless you were viewing this full size, though.
Here's a setup shot of the entire work space. Enjoy!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
"The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves."
Every once in a while, I get a craving for popcorn. Not just any popcorn. I'm talking about old school Jiffy Pop. You know, the kind you sear over an open flame, holding the flimsy wire handle so tightly that it cauterizes the skin on your palms. You can hear the sizzling of the oil on the bottom of the aluminum pan. Pretty soon, you shake it all, breaking loose the hundreds of kernels congealed together in the now boiling grease. Shake shake. Shake. Shake shake shake.
And then, the first pop. Then another. And another. And another. Soon, the foil puffs up like a big down pillow on the king-size bed of a 4-star hotel. One moment it's flat, the next it's damn near bursting at the seams as it turns into a little steam engine, puffing out little tufts of white smoke as water from the dried kernels of corn super heat and create little explosions of starch.
Pop pop. Pop.
And when it stops, you're left with a surprise: either you've gotten a silver-wrapped gift basket of popcorn or you've gotten a burnt casket of corn and crap.
How often do you see a man in full kilted regalia, sporran included, giving you the two-fingered salute while sticking his tongue out at you? Couple times a year, actually. Well, sporran optional.
This is my good friend Lanny. We've known each other for a few years now and have developed one of those friendships that can go for weeks and months at a time where we don't get to see each other. But, the moment we do, the friendly ribbing takes up right where it left off.
This is one of my outtakes from the Austin Music Awards (of which, I'm still wading through all the photos from Saturday; more to come on that front). Lanny does volunteer work for the award show and has been doing it for quite some time. He's one of the people that make it a success every year.
We were hanging out in the volunteer check-in area this year, between sound check and the show, ribbing each other like usual. I forget what I said that prompted this, but I happened to have my camera up and ready while taking other photos. Grabbed a quick snap just as he started to walk away.
Sort of a priceless, unprompted moment. We both had a good laugh over this. A quick, but needed respite from a long, busy day.
Just remember: beware the kilted man. He may salute you in the most unexpected of ways.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Fezzik: Why do you wear a mask? Were you burned by acid, or something like that?
Man in Black: Oh no, it's just that they're terribly comfortable. I think everyone will be wearing them in the future.
The Princess Bride
You know, I had this whole idea of masks laid out in my head this evening. A topic to write about with a pointed photo to assist it. A discussion of the power of masks and their effect on us emotionally when saddled within a photograph.
I tried. I really tried.
I just couldn't get into it.
I keep staring at this mask my kids got from the Denver Zoo. It's a tiger mask, I guess. Flimsy and flexible and feigning a beastly growl. It barely fit upon my face when I thought up this crackpot idea. What this mask really turned out to be was creepy, with sunken, cut-out eyes that reminded me of Michael Myers in Halloween or Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th. Sinister and psychotic it was, staring straight into the camera while the flash clicked and whined.
I mean, look at it. How would you feel being approached by a man in that mask, bearded and disheveled, long, ratty hair, saying nothing to you, nothing to anyone. Just a heavy, heated breath wheezing out from beneath the mask.
Creepy I say. Creepy.
Masks can be used to invoke a directed emotion, both from the mask wearer and the unlucky viewer of the disguise. Masks can be used to shield us from the hazards of the emotion that lies beneath. Masks segregate and accentuate all at once. No special skills required.
I've been thinking about masks lately and how I can use them in my photography. Originally, it began with wanting to only hide emotion, restrict it from view and accentuate the one narrowed feeling that I wanted the viewer to see. I'd done this before with my photos involving plastic wrap, invoking a sense of entrapment and suffocation. I want to do it with other images now. Other feelings.
For now, I'll just start with this: a simple, plastic mask meant for kids, staring you down and sizing you up. Maybe you're a next meal, maybe you're just a toy. Maybe you're nothing worth tangling with, nothing worth worrying about.
Guess it all depends on how you look upon the mask.
In the end, we wear them, however uncomfortable, to affect a mood, a moment. In the end, we will continue to use them however we need to get the job done.
Friday, March 19, 2010
This is an HP48GX. It was my first graphing calculator. I got it back in high school when I first took up calculus. It's tagged alongside me for years. Up until I quit college, that is. After that, it went into a box of junk, moved through three homes, and finally ended up in my hands again last year. I don't recall why I dug it out.
I started playing with it again this evening, trying to pull from the back of my cobweb-filled head the instructions on how to plot something with it. Took a bit of googling and some playing around before I struck upon the magic RPN incantations to graph cos(x^2) and x^2.
It's strange playing with a tool that I've had longer than any other computing device. 16 years I believe. It's outlasted at least 5 computers, 4 monitors, and several modems and cable modems. And not only that, it's still functional and useful. Can't say that about a lot of technology these days.
This was a single light setup. One SB-900 shooting through a Lastolite Ezybox Hotshoe to the right of the camera about a foot away from the calculator. See the setup shot for a better look.
"Geographically, Ireland is a medium-sized rural island that is slowly but steadily being consumed by sheep."
Sheep. More specifically, sheep butts. This was wonderful view upon which I gazed after having trekked into town, twice, to go to the store. Why twice? The second time was with my wallet so I could pay for my hard-chosen delicacies.
Anyway, sheep. These guys were crammed into a mud-caked trailer, running along the highway near the house. You never realize how dirty and dusty sheep wool is until you're within spitting distance of them. Boy, were these guys disgusting. Like shaggy dogs that had been rolling around in the sand during a bad dust storm.
And what's more, the weather was wet. Drizzling, then storming, then drizzling, then storming. What a miserable day for those sheep. Probably being carted off to slaughter. And me? Headed home with a bag full of goodies and a photo.
Who doesn't like playing with butane and strikers at the butt-crack of dark? Realized I was only moments from bed and had forgotten that I needed a photo for the moment. Grabbed the nearest thing in the kitchen: a butane torch. Strike-strike, and instant blue flame.
Yeah. I'm a pyro. What of it?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Another night, another drink photo. This time, I wanted to experiment with a glass bottle that had the effect of condensation on it. I used the same lighting setup as my coke can shot the other evening. Simple and easy, now that I knew just what I needed to soften the light and kill the hotspots.
No, tonight's attempt was to practice with the water droplets. The effect would have been better if the glass was further misted over to appear to be cold. I know what I need to do to achieve this, I just didn't have the supplies tonight to take the effect to it's full conclusion.
Ordinarily, water doesn't want to stay on the bottle if the droplets become too large. The trick I learned recently was to mix some liquid glycerin in with your water and use a spray bottle to apply. The suggestion I found was to use a 30%/70% glycerin/water mix. I tried using less glycerin, but it leaves the water too ... well, wet. It starts to get sticky enough as it approaches the 30/70 mix, allowing for larger droplets of water to form.
Next time I try this, I need to apply the missing step, which I'll blog about at some point in the future. It involves misting spray glue over the glass to make it more opaque, much like the sheen you would find on a cold glass that begins to frost over with fine condensation.
Here's the setup shot for tonight.
Playing with some quick food photography tonight, building up a few techniques for a shot I have in mind. Tonight, I set up a coke can with a simple one light configuration, trying to get a reasonably soft light that was easily controlled.
Started out with a single sheet of notebook paper acting as the diffuser in front of the speedlight. Everyone has paper laying around, so it's a quick setup for this. Unfortunately, for what I wanted, it left a very obvious hotspot on the can that was pinpointed right in the direction of the light. Nothing like the strip of light that I wanted and expected. So, shove a second sheet of paper infront to diffuse it even more. This got rid of the hotspot at the expense of having to bump the power a bit more to make up for the loss of light.
Next thing to take care of was the excess amount of light spilling on the can from behind that was spilling out from the reflections against the wall. Easy fix: placed a blackwrap gobo between the light and the wall and that cut down all the excess light that was flooding in.
Here's a setup shot if you can't picture what I'm talking about.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Tried a new place for lunch on Friday: Frank Restaurant. More than a pushcart hotdog stand, Frank served quite the array of form-fitted meats in a spongy-dough bun. I went the simple route and chose a Chicago Dog with onions, relish, mustard, and what looked like a pickle. I was tempted to throw some ketchup into play, but figured I would start a revolution. No sir, no pitchfork and torch wielding mobs for me. (Tho, if I'm up in Chicago again, I might try that just to see what happens.)
The place was fairly packed thanks to SXSW Interactive. I don't know how many young hipsters I saw. I stopped counting after a few dozen. I'll spare you the food photos this time, mostly because I was famished and tore into my hot dog before I remembered to steal its soul with the camera.
Instead, I did a few slow exposures of people by the bar. I've been fascinated by photos exhibiting movement and blur, so this was a great time to try it out. Didn't take many. This was the only one that came out. Liked it even better when I cropped it square and framed him center-wise.
Have to say, this was the best $30 hotdog I've ever had ... $10 for the meal and $20 for the !@#$% parking ticket. Apparently I can't read and placed the parking sticker on the wrong side of my car. Sigh. Expensive lesson.
At least the hot dog was good.
Look! It's another appetizing food post! These things are addictive. I ate far too many the evening I took this photo. Utterly bloated and cracked out on sugar, I decided that these would be a good way to end the evening, photo-wise. I think it worked out well. The biggest problem I had was with the highlights coming off the plastic bag. It took several attempts at fluffing the plastic up and poking it back down in order to get a nice wash of light reflection from the wall.
I admit to eating a few of my subjects ... the ones that weren't appropriate for film, you know.
So, simple one light setup. One SB-900 bounced off the kitchen wall. No other modifiers for this. Here's a setup shot. The small alcove where this was done is great for work like this. I can get in tight, keep the power low, and have an easy time cleaning up afterwards. The cabinet above helps contain the light, too.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Nurse Tate: I'll get the lubricant...
Dr. Paulson: No time for lubricant!
Harry Block: There's ALWAYS time for lubricant!
Evolution is one of my favorite movies. Campy action, guns, aliens, Orlando Jones. What more could you want?
Anyway, we watched it again recently and I had this quote stuck in my head for some reason while fishing around for something to shoot for the day. Why? Well, slacker me had let my photo go to the last minute, so it was thrown together two minutes before bed while stumbling out in the garage for something to shoot.
The quote kept bobbling through my head.
And then, I spied it. This small can of 3-in-1 oil that has proven so useful around the house these last few years. You can see how well used it's been: banged up, creased, rusty, and generally crud covered. Just like a well used can of oil should be. So, of course, I had to pair the two up. Because if history has proven, even at 1:30am, there's always time for lubricant.
If you haven't seen the movie, you should check it out. The lubricant scene is worth it. Just make sure you have an ice cream ready.
Saw this one the other evening with the setting of the sun as I made my evening walk. Ordinarily, I would have paid no mind to it, but the glow of the sun on the stadium caught my mind ... only, it wasn't in the reflection that I saw it. All to often we focus on what is real and what's in front of us to notice the little details off to our left and right. This is especially true as a photographer when you're tunnel-visioned by the camera.
Really, the camera is a mask for what we see. The pinhole is supposed to block and direct our view, crystalizing it into the one moment that should be captured.
What we have to remember at times is to put the camera down and look around, taking in everything that can be seen instead of taking in everything that is seen. Because, very often, the act of masking ourselves away from the world prevents us from seeing the image that should be captured, as opposed to the one we did.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
It's here. It's pissed. It's taking over the football stadium. Do not taunt happy-fun-flying-spaghetti-monster.
At least, that's what I thought when I first saw this pile of ductwork on the side of the building.
I dare you to go up and taunt it. I double-dog-dare.
And yes ... I'm so glad to be done editing photos from the last set. Managing picks and processing for five different people is a bitch. Especially when you've agreed to a short turn around time as part of the shoot. I did like the way we set this up, though ... instead of me picking the best, I let the models pick their favorites and just edited those. That's certainly cut down on the editing time. I think I might start doing this for all TFP shoots in the future.
I sit at home in a dark room awash in the faint glow of the tv while Wanted mumbles quietly on in the background. I'm four days behind on posting anything about my 365 photos, sadly. But, it's been a fruitful four days of shooting, editing, viewing, editing, thinking, editing, yet more editing, and delivery.
Had a shoot over the weekend with some of my friends from a local photo group. We've been discussing for months wanting to put something small together for a handful of people to work on ideas and techniques, so a few weeks back we started working on it. Nothing intensive, 5 photographers, 4 models, and a makeup artist. The venue was the home of a photographer. Nice place to shoot. Lovely wooden floors (and a most excellent bathroom location).
We did three types of setups: high key, low key, and then random one light setups around the house. This was a chance to play with the light for me, mostly. I was interested in shooting more around the house than in front of the white or black backdrops. Lately, I've not been dazzled by stark white or black backgrounds. While they're good for certain things, they draw too much focus to the model and leave her swimming in a monochrome abyss. Good if you like that.
Me? Not so much lately. Giving the photo depth is something I've been leaning towards.
Overall, I think the shoot went reasonably smooth. We had our few hiccups with getting started and figuring out what our startup time should be. We underestimated how much time it would take to get the models prepped for shooting, so we ended up waiting 45 minutes more than we had planned. The second thing we could have done better on was doing more, specific themes and coming in with solid ideas. I certainly didn't walk into it knowing what I wanted to do, but once I got there, I was able to come up with two decent sets that I liked.
And really, that's the hardest part about all this: figuring out what exactly I want concept I want to shoot. It's an Achilles heel for me because I'm still trying to understand what my style and niche is. It's definitely a lot harder to come up with something photographically interesting when the models are animated (or are supposed to be animated).
I'm still tentative about that. I'm gaining confidence in some of my technical ability and, in some ways, my photographic eye. It's just the execution that causes me to wobble a bit. Reminds me of a quote from a Black Star Rising article I read recently.
“When you are on stage,” Mr. White said, “you should own it.”
I like the idea of there being a toggle switch that can put me in the right mindset to get a job done. All too often, I let my tentativeness talk me out of doing something abrupt and different because I don't want to risk public failure (even though it would be good for me ... learning process and all). In fact, I think that's something I'm going to work on because I know that if I flip that switch a few times in the right direction, then doing it more often will come easy. It's just a disquieting fear that I have when taking a first or second step into something "new" that causes me trouble and once I confront it and become comfortable around it, I'm good.
For now, I think I'll leave you with a few more photos from this Saturday's shoot.
This is Morgan, an alt-model here in Austin. We've shot several times before and it's always a pleasure to do it. She's fun and mouthy. Everything you need to make the photographer feel at ease. And once I'm at ease, the model can be too.
Some general setup information: these were all shot with a single speedlight in a 15" softbox. Very directional light. It somewhat reminds me of a beauty dish light with the semi-hardened shadow lines. These are some of my favorite from the shoot.
Friday, March 5, 2010
Walking back to my car today, I came across this wind-swept pile of oak leaves, splashed upon the concrete. Not sure what prompted me to pull out the iPhone and snap a picture of it. I think it was the long parallel lines of leaves. It stretched another 10-15 feet beyond this on either edge of the photo.
It was certainly nice taking a leisurely walk back to the car after work this afternoon. Nice day. Gray and calm. Save for the five flights of stairs I had to climb because the elevators where dead in the garage. Oh well.
Got my exercise in for the day at least!
Chilly night out around the fire. Thursday evening fire practice had quite a few spectators this time around. Ran into a local photographer I know. It was good to see him. He's been busy working on his wedding photography business for the last year, so he's been missing in action from some of the local photog groups.
Not much else to say this evening. Busy getting ready for a photoshoot on Saturday that a few of us have been cooking up for a few weeks. We'll see how well it goes. For now, I sleep. Well, sleep soon.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
"Part of being sane, is being a little bit crazy."
I was called insane tonight because of this photo. I can't help it that I wanted to fly around like a stripe-socked bint. Had the broom, could've had the hat.
Three lights going on here: two snooted SB-800's, one behind me aimed at the background, one in front of me to camera right aimed at the broom's straw sweep. SB-900 in a collapsed umbrella to camera left providing the key.
Harkening back to the post yesterday, I'm bloody tired still, so this is all I could muster in a short half-hour time period. Hope you enjoy! And remember, that may not be an airplane on the radar ... that might be me. So don't shoot.
"God help me. I'm so tired. I need my sleep. I make no bones about it. I need eight hours a day, and at least ten at night ..."
Long day with an early start. By the end of the day, I want nothing more to do than to fall into bed and sleep until I'm ready to wake. Not one moment more, not one moment less.
It's days like this that I dread on this project because, invariably, I get to my last give waking minutes and remember that I have yet to shoot something. And then, I scramble around the house looking for something to do, but it can only expend enough energy to keep me from actually waking up.
So, tonight, I flopped on the bed, dropped the camera into place, and let it snap a few photos for me while I napped. Worked out great.
Monday, March 1, 2010
I've always been a bit fascinated by some of the hand-held speedlight photos I've seen done by Joe McNally. Tonight, I stumbled across another that he did where he was holding two very close to the sides of his head. His photo was done in broad daylight, though. I didn't have any of that, so I ran with it in my own way. I took a series of photos, moving the speedlights farther and farther out, starting at about 4 inches from my head.
I like how it turned out. Very sinister looking. I think, if I had to do it differently, I would reposition the lights by 90 degrees, so the long edge of the flash was going along the edge of my face instead of across the side of my head.
Though, one thing's for sure: next time I do this, I'm going to set the lights up on stands instead of hand-holding. It'd be much easier to manage taking the photos this way. Who knew?
"There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
We had a birthday party for a friend yesterday. It was an evening of awesome food, awesome friends, and awesome discussions. We wanted the house to be nice and subdued, so we filled each room with tea lights and killed all the lamps in the place. We had these candles arranged on the coffee table in the living room. Couldn't help but notice the glow it was putting out. There were a few shots where the reflection of the flames on the table paralleled the line of waxy containers, but I liked how this photo turned out.