Archive for 'Shop Talk':
I saw this picture five miles away. I knew exactly what it would look like…
Five miles away.
Tonight we had what we have been referring to as the “OneGuy” workshop. Some of you may remember that Meg and I got stuck in Italy thanks to the Ksadf;ljasdflkjsdikill volcano in Iceland. Because we were stranded there for an extra six days we had to cancel a OneLight workshop. That was a mess.
One of the guys who signed up for that workshop wrote to us and said that if he could just come in for an evening one on one session that would be good. He needed some specific answers to some specific questions. Since we had to cancel the workshop we were willing to do whatever we could to accommodate his request. So tonight, we had a OneGuy workshop. Well, that’s not completely true, OneLight alum Perry came by to hang out as well. Perry brought Lauren. Lauren was our subject for the evening.
So we worked inside a bit and then got in a few cars to head out on location. I had one specific spot in mind with a great east facing shooting position with a nice big view of the sky. I love sky shots. I just do. Anyway… As we pulled out I looked to the West and the most brilliant cloud formations were popping up. The sky to the East was blank. Nothing. Not a single cloud. My mind started going through all the west facing locations that I knew of that were in close proximity to the studio because we were losing light and I had to get those clouds.
My mind was racing and as cliché as it may seem for Atlanta, the only spot I knew where I could get those clouds in a shot and get there in time was the Jackson St. bridge. It is “the” ATL skyline shooting position. I can’t tell you how many hip hop videos have been shot on that bridge or how many photo shoots you can see on any given day happening there. Heck, when we rolled up there was an engagement session being shot there.
… But I saw this picture. I looked at the clouds. I saw the frame they were making in the sky. I knew if I dropped down a bit with my 35mm lens I could place Lauren right smack dab in the middle of them and the exposure of the sky was to the point that I should be able to pull this off at f2.8 and a decent shutter of 250th or 125th. I knew I wanted f2.8 so that the clouds would go out of focus. I knew my 35mm lens would hold enough depth of field to see the texture of the clouds but not be too sharp. I knew the location and I knew I could not only frame her within the clouds but within a few buildings in the skyline. I knew exactly what this frame was going to look like while I was still driving down the street.
I’m not trying to show off. I’m not trying to act like a photo ninja. I’m trying to drive home the point that IF you know your gear you can pre-visualize the pictures you want to make. You can be driving to a location knowing exactly which lens you are going to grab, which modifier you want, and what the basic idea of exposure should be. How do you come to this intimate knowledge of your gear, your light, and your exposure? How?
By shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, shooting, and shooting some more.
If you aren’t actively working with your gear and shooting pictures on a regular basis then you aren’t learning and you aren’t growing and you’ll never get very far with your craft. Plain and simple.
I quit my day job 6.5 years ago to become a full time photographer. I’d say I hit this level of comfort with my gear, my light, and my exposure in the last year or so. Let’s just say it took five years of shooting two to four jobs a week to get there.
The photo above isn’t the best shot I’ve ever taken but it is exactly how I knew it would look when I was still five miles away from the spot.
How much are you shooting? Enough or do you need to be getting out there some more? I’m not shooting enough. Yes I can nail this shot but the next shots in my mind… I don’t know how I’m going to approach those yet. I still have a lot to learn.
I get asked a lot about where I get my inspiration. That’s a hard question to answer because there are so many things and people in my life that inspire me. Let me tell you a story about a white guy from Arkansas that raps.
More after the jump ::.
Last night Meg and I were able to get a babysitter and go see our friend Dan Smith play a show. His project is called “Listener“.
Dan has a schtick. A persona. A presence on stage. He does this “thing” that is amazing. Dan does “talk music” and it is his own thing. Love him or hate him, when Dan takes the stage people get off their phones, stop chatting, and watch. His stage persona is mesmerizing. It never bleeds into background music. His music isn’t ever going to make the top ten on the billboard charts and I think that’s just all right for him. He’s not following. He’s not replicating. He’s not trying to find what is popular and pursue that.
I met Dan about six years ago when he was more of a hip hop artist than folksy/indie/something/talk music artist. I was introduced to him through this cat in Nashville named KC Jones. KC said to me, “You gotta hear the Listener. He’s a white dude from Arkansas that raps.” That introduction was enough to pique my interest.
The first song I heard was Train Song (mp3 download). “It’s my habits that make my fingers weak…” Listen closely to the story. Pretty amazing.
It’s been interesting to watch him change. To watch him find who he is. To start at one place and end up somewhere else and to see he’s not “there” yet. Dan has always been Dan, yet with each new part of his project he is becoming more true to his core. He’s walking through the shit of life and stripping off the non essentials and building back from there. It’s really an amazing process to watch from the outside.
I need to sit down with him sometime and see what it’s like from his perspective because I know for a fact it will be much different than my perspective. Maybe I’m wrong about how I see Dan. Maybe Dan is wrong about how he sees himself. Sometimes people on the outside see the real you. The “you” you can’t see. And sometimes people from the outside have the wrong idea about who you are. Hmmmm. This reminds me of something Meg is working on but that’s not for this post. (Dan, next time you’re back in Atlanta let’s talk it out)
If you listen to his older music you can hear the framework of his newer work. Meaning, you can look back and see the progression but you never see it when you are moving forward. The same thing goes for photography. It’s called personal style and it takes years to develop and you can’t really see your style until you have some years under your belt and can look back.
Dan is a huge source of inspiration for me. That inspiration doesn’t change how I look through my viewfinder but it changes how I look through the eye in my brain if that makes any sense at all… Which it doesn’t. I went to public school so trying to flowchart how inspiration works for me is a bit difficult. My brain eyes connect to my face eyes which connect to my viewfinder so maybe he does inspire how I see the world. How “inspiration” like this works for me is the music gets in my head. I listen to the stories in the lyrics. I connect the dots from the songs to the dots of my own life and those thoughts sort of lead me down a path of more thoughts that eventually lead to actions with my camera and with my business. Inspiration for me isn’t seeing one person do something and then I go do something similar to that. I think that’s more like plagiarism than inspiration.
Dan’s magic really comes through his show. He’s brave. He’s full on. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t care what he looks like. He just lets the f#ck go and pours it all out. I’ve seen him perform to a packed venue and to 8 people in a living room and he brings everything he has to the stage with every performance.
You can find his new album here. Be sure to give “Wooden Heart” a listen. Buy a copy and support an artist. Don’t you want someone to give you some support in your endeavors? Pay it forward.
You can stream his new album. Sorry iPhone/iPad users. These are flash embeds.
This is his last album. It’s called “Return To Struggleville” and it’s about a traveling knife salesman and it’s brilliant.
His songs are stories. They are pulled out of his head and out of his experience. He’s living his story. Are you? Are you aware that you’re walking out your story? Are you keeping your eyes far out ahead and busting your ass to get there or are you sitting around on said ass looking backwards? How’s that working for you? I saw a great quote on Twitter yesterday…
“Don’t ask God to guide your footsteps if you aren’t willing to move your feet.”
Dan’s played more than 800 shows and he has 800 more to go. He’s doing it. He’s sharing his life. He’s changing. Growing. He’s moving his feet. Stripping it down to the essentials. He’s inspiring thousands. He’s just a white dude from Arkansas that raps and he is a really important character in my own story. Fun trivia – His 800th show was at a Mexican Restaurant. 800th show.
Where are you getting your inspiration from outside the photography world?
Are you moving your feet or sittin’ on your ass? I’d rather have sores on my feet than on my ass. There’s a t-shirt.
Ok. Are you ready to get your nerd on? Calling all pixel peepers! Here are the images for the modifier run down we went through on Day 03 of the creativeLIVE studio lighting class. I’m not sure which took me longer… Shooting all of these images during the class or prepping them for the web.
Before we get started with the images there are some things I want to go ahead and cover with you before you check these out.
This isn’t the most comprehensive light modifier test in the world. It isn’t even half way scientific in approach. There are real issues with comparing modifiers like this. I’m telling you right now that this isn’t the true proper nerded out way of doing this kind of thing. While we strove for consistency and Dan and I spent some time in the morning before the broadcast testing things out, remember there can be variations 1/3 of a stop from pop to pop with those Alien Bees. That’s why they are affordable. With all that said let me now say… if you run through some modifiers in this way you’ll learn a lot. I do this kind of stuff when I’m checking out a new modifier.
Why do I feel the need to give this big disclaimer? To ward off the measurebators that are about to descend on this post. The guys who look at photos on the photon level and lose all the soul of this craft. I like to nerd out from time to time and discuss CMOS vs. CCD but never at the cost of losing the soul of the craft. So… enjoy this comparison. There are things to learn.
Things to look for ::
• Take a look at how the modifier effects the exposure on the subject and the background. • Watch the transition from highlight to shadow. How hard is that line? • Take a look at the catchlights in the eyes. • How effecient is the modifier in terms of lost light from the standard? • Look at the difference in the quality of light when some of them are moved closer than the standard shooting point. • Moving the light closer to the subject changes exposure so I didn’t list the change in aperture for those images since they deviated from standard position.
I’ve highlighted a few areas here to watch in the photos below… Look at this crop between the 7′ and 4′ Octabanks…
Notice how the transition from highlight to shadow is much more gradual with the larger 7′ Octa. Notice how the shadows are more open with the 7′ as compared to the 4′. Notice the 4′ Octa has a brighter catchlight. Notice they have about the same effect on the exposure of the background. The background is important to watch with these. There are times I pick a modifier based on how it is going to throw light on or flag light off of the background. Here is the same image without the circles. From modifier to modifier some areas will change dramatically and some will barely be noticeable.
The following image is the “standard” for this test. It is an Alien Bee with its standard 7″ silver reflector in place. The standard exposure for this at this distance is f13. We then paraded different modifiers off of the same light stand position. At times I moved the stand to demonstrate a distance I would more likely be using that particular modifer.
Here is a crop of the 7′ Octa (our largest modifier) in comparison to the standard 7″ reflector. Notice how light from the Octa wraps all the way around to her ear.
Want to pixel peep? Here you go!
If you look at a few of these and say “I can’t really tell any difference between the $30 modifier and the $800 modifier!” then note the disclaimers above. There are ways of shooting a shoot through umbrella in this kind of situation and make it look a whole lot like the Octabank. Then there are times that one will absolutely run circles around the other and the difference is night and day. To walk through each of these drastic and subtle usage changes would have taken the entire three days of teaching. Your goal is to get to know YOUR modifiers and be educated about the basic differences between different kinds so you can make educated choices the next time you go buy one of these.
As Bill, one of the creativeLIVE crew members, said so well… “There’s no morality in choosing a light modifier.” Let that sink in. Sometimes I pick a modifier based on… “Ummmm. How about…. Uh. This one.” Other times I walk in a room and I know that I want my 28″ Westcott Apollo and there is no other modifier in the world that will do the job. Sometimes I pick a modifier because it is more efficient with light than another that is similar to it in look. Note how the reflective umbrella lost 2 stops of light as opposed to the 4′ Octa. Sometimes that stop is a make or break situation on a job.
At times there’s “just something” about one modifier over another. You can’t quite put your finger on it but you just like “that thing” about that modifier. That’s how I feel about the 22″ beauty dish. I could get a very similar look from the 28″ Apollo or a small silver umbrella but there is just “something” about how the light feathers and falls off with the beauty dish that makes me pull that out over a small softbox. Sometimes I just like the catchlight more.
I like circles.
Other times I like rectangles.
There’s not a moral issue on the table here.
Another issue with this test is we aren’t shooting full length. You’d see a BIG difference between a 60″ umbrella and a 7′ Octa when shooting full length. I tested that out and went back and forth on it. The reason I decided against it was our awesome subject, Lou, would have been standing in one spot for a long time. That little stool she was on was bad enough. I felt standing for as long as we needed to run through this would have been too much to ask. Remember, we are in the service industry. Serve your clients. Make them as comfortable as possible. I guess I could have had her lean on something. That would have been a light stand or a broom handle. Neither make for the best props.
My last caveat to all of this… Go shoot your own lighting tests! Seriously. You’ll learn so much doing this. Change the distance, the angle, the height, etc. Watch what your modifiers do full length vs. head and shoulders. LEARN YOUR GEAR!!!
All the images and download links after the jump….
I can’t tell you how overwhelming this past weekend has been for me on all fronts. Hundreds and hundreds of man and woman hours went in to pulling this three day live event off. It was frantic. It was stressful. It was exhausting. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been a part of. Thank you one and all. Here are a few selects from the weekend.
Interested in seeing the 16 hours of studio training? Check it out here.
More images after the jump…
The shot above and the shot below were using the same background.
There are some other images on this blog post from the weekend.
Want to find out about the class I taught? Check it out here.
Many thanks to ::
Affix Music (provided the bumper music on Friday and Saturday)
And the entire crew who made this thing happen.
And you know what? I would not be able to do this had Marc Climie not put a camera back in my hands 6.5 years ago.
We have more material, videos, and stuff coming to the blog from this event.
Here is the Home Depot tag for the shiny tile board stuff I’ll be using on the white seamless. I typically can find this stuff at Home Depot and Lowes in the paneling or bath section.
Find the list of gear I’m using via this link.
See more images after the jump…
I really did start my studio on the streets. As seen in the photo above.
Update – Thank you one and all for those who worked so hard behind the scenes and those thousands and thousands of you who tuned into the live event! More to come!
As we get closer to this weekend’s creativeLIVE studio class I wanted to go ahead and share the rough time frame and course material for the weekend.
There are a lot of things I want to cover in this class and I know I’m going to run out of time at some point. That’s why we have spread this out over a weekend. As far as subjects we will be photographing go we are going to be working with emerging models, musicians, and regular folks off the street.
Keep a few things in mind… This is live Internet we are dealing with so all sorts of things can go astray but rest assured there is a full pro crew behind the scenes ready for anything the internet can throw at them. The times listed below are approximate aside from start times. Keep an eye on my Twitter account as the weekend goes on. We will be updating events there. IE : “Going to start shooting the band in 30 minutes.” “Almost done with lunch. Going live in 10.” “Talking about grip right now.” You get the idea. I have a basic outline in my head of what I want to do but I’ll be working in a new space and may change things here and there as I go but always teaching why I’m changing things and what’s going through my head as I try something different.
All start times are PDT (or -8 GMT)
Friday June 11th – 1:30pm – 4:30pm’ish / 5:30pm’ish • My personal philosophy of having a studio space • Considerations for getting a space of your own or turning a space you have into a studio space. • The basics of exposure when using flash in studio. We will be using hotshoe flashes and strobes. • Working with multiple lights and working with different lighting ratios • Using a light meter and how to figure it out on the fly without a meter • Overview of the modifiers we will be using over the weekend. Those include… ••• Straight flash ••• Umbrellas ••• Softboxes ••• Octabanks ••• Beauty dish ••• Ring flash ••• Grids ••• Flags/Silks/Reflectors ••• DIY modifiers • Q&A
Saturday June 12th :: 10am – 1pm’ish • The many uses of white seamless. I’ll be walking you through the entire process of shooting on a white seamless and getting the most out of one simple background • Post production on the white seamless • Q&A • (lunch break somewhere between 1pm and 2pm.) • Building a set. It will already be in place. I’ll just talk about the basic modular set pieces that went into making it. • Grip equipment. How to put stuff together and do stuff with that stuff. • Slowly moving away from the seamless and onto other background choices. IE: Fabric/Walls/Sets • Working with subjects. Interaction and Posing. (I’ve had a lot of questions about this so I’m spending a lot of time on it.) • Musicians. Duo and Trio. Group shots plus individuals. White seamless and other backgrounds + a simple set. • Q&A • In order to conclude in time to rebroadcast over night we can only teach for 10 hours a day. So the latest this day will run is 8pm. Don’t know if it will go that long or not.
Sunday June 13th :: 10am • Quick recap of previous day and previous information about exposure. Not going to spend a lot of time on this but just a quick recap for those just joining. • If I don’t cover the grip equipment on Saturday I’ll most likely do that Sunday morning. • Art Direction! I will be pulling people from the live audience and giving them assignments to see what problems they run into and guide them through the process. • More shooting. Different modifiers. Improv. • Q&A • (lunch break somewhere between 1pm and 2pm.) • Working with a four piece band. Individuals and group shot. • More shooting. Whatever we decide to do making sure I’ve used all the modifiers from the list above. • Q&A
I will be online live with Chase Jarvis tomorrow, June 9th, from 1:30pm till 3pm for a live Q&A leading up to the weekend. If I haven’t covered something in the notes above then hit me here in the comment section or tune in here tomorrow and ask while we are online.
You can sign up for the class here and see all the swag we have to give away during the weekend! We have stuff from B&H, x•rite, Pocket Wizard, Westcott, and Sekonic in addition to several copies of the OneLight DVD. Big thanks to B&H, The MAC Group, and Westcott for really bringing the goods. No t-shirts or ball caps in this prize closet. Also a big thank you goes to Affix Music for providing us with some licensed and cleared tunes to listen to while we work this weekend.
Questions about the class or something you might want to see covered? Drop them in the comments.
We are a week away from the creativeLIVE studio class!
I typically do not like promoting my stuff over and over and over but I am honestly and truly excited about this class and I love the fact that this is being set up so you can see it live… for free.
We are still working on the final schedule for next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Look for that to be posted on the blog sometime this weekend. I’m in the middle of a Photo 101 right now and Meg is having ear surgery as I type, so we have just a few things on our plate but save the date for next weekend. It’s going to be awesome.
If you can’t attend the class live you can pre-purchase the class for download for an amazing $79. It will be $129 after the class. A blog reader here felt that was a bit like a used car salesman pitch and I get that. In fact I get it so much I made the video above! But I will tell you this… I am putting everything I have into this and I promise it will be worth it. Even at $129 it’s going to be over delivered and under priced. This isn’t going to be a fluff and no stuff kind of workshop. We will be working with small flashes, studio strobes, several kinds of modifiers, and we will be working with individuals and groups. We are also going to have a lot of time set aside for Q&A during the live session. Not just five minutes here and there.
As we lead up to the CreativeLIVE studio class next month in Seattle, we are looking for six of you to join us live in the audience… for free! Now, don’t get your hopes up thinking that means airfare and accommodations but that does mean you can to be in attendance during the class. We are wanting the studio audience to be the proxy for the online audience. You may be asked to watch a twitter feed during Q&A. You may be asked to be a subject for an impromptu portrait. We promise not to put you into any compromising situations.
We have six spots to fill and this is how you could snag one of those spots…
• Shoot a 60 second video of yourself. Introduce us to who you are, where you’re from, what kind of photography interests you and then ask a question that you would like to see answered during this class.
• Upload it to the web and send that link, via twitter, to @zarias with a hashtag of #creativeLIVE.
• We will watch all of the videos and select six of you to be part of the audience. We will make that selection by May 31st.
• Understand that you will be taped and broadcast all around the Internets.
• You will need to be available from Friday evening June 11th until Sunday evening June 13th.
You can shoot these clips with whatever kind of camera you want! Be creative and keep it short and sweet!
I have not been this excited about something in quite some time. Whether you are in the live audience or you are watching online I promise you that I’m going to pour everything I have into it! It’s going to be a lot of fun.
We are still taking questions that you would like to see answered in the class. Keep them coming in the comment section!
PS – Big thanks to Syl Arena for making a cameo! If you are in Atlanta, come by this Friday (5/20/10) for a mixer with Syl at my studio. 7:30pm till. 533 W. Howard Ave Decatur. Syl is in town for his Speedliting tour this weekend. Check it out.
I’m going to share a story about shooting crappy pictures then share a recent comment from one of y’all regarding our last critique that’s worthy of taking some time and thinking about what we do.
At the turn of the century I was photographer for Apartments.com. The image above is one I shot for them in 2001. It was shot with the then amazing Olympus C-3030. You should have seen the camera we upgraded from. My iPhone takes better pictures.
Ramblings after the jump…
I just finished editing my first music video this week. I shot this in New York last fall thanks to the help of friends, twitter, and Kmart. Read a little story about it after the jump.
I had a few extra days in New York last fall and I spent those days shooting as much personal work as I could. I was in the area to shoot a wedding with Marc. Assistant and intern extraordinaire Brian Hall was along for the ride as well. I reached out to as many people I knew with connections in NYC to find musicians to shoot. It turned out that Snowden frontman, Jordan, was in the city at the same time. Snowden is one of my favorite bands in the world and I’m blessed that they are from Atlanta and I’ve been able to work with them a few times.
Jordan and I decided we would meet up Sunday night and shoot some new promos for him. He sent me a few of his new songs for me to listen to before our shoot. I heard this song Lemon Peel and loved it right away. Saturday night I’m riding the train and I decided we should shoot a music video instead of portraits. I sent Jordan a text and he was down for whatever. Sunday morning I put out a message on Twitter that read something like,
“I need a rooftop. In Manhattan. Tonight. With a garden hose.”
Ten minutes later I get a message from Neil at Nomadic by Design. He had access to a rooftop on the upper west side and it most definitely had a water hose we could use. The only caveat was we couldn’t make a lot of noise because we would be standing over his friend’s apartment and their two year old would be asleep. So no screaming, jumping, playing loud music. Ok. No worries. I thank Neil for helping me out and we plan to meet at his place later that evening.
Now then, I had flashes for portrait work but I sure didn’t have any video lights with me. The 5d MkII does pretty well in low light but not in no light. I knew that I wanted to build off of the water references in the song and I knew that water looks best if it can be back-lit. I also had to do this on a budget of “not much”. Like, less than $50. I went to the Kmart at Penn Station and bought six flashlights. I would have bought some more but that was all they had and I still had another band to shoot AND take 10 portraits of 10 strangers so I didn’t have a lot of time hitting up the entire city looking for more flashlights. On a tech note, these are those focused LED beam lights and they were making odd patterns of light on the roof behind Jordan. I needed to diffuse them to get rid of the pattern so I used the white plastic Kmart bag they came in to do that. I ripped the bag up and put pieces of the plastic over the front of the flashlights and that got rid of the patterns. Ghetto Video Dot Com!
Marc and Brian came along for the evening. Marc was on the flashlight lighting Jordan. Brian was on the water hose. Everything and everybody was soaked by the end of the sixth take. The wind was really unpredictable and we just had to deal with it. Jordan’s MacBook playing the song was wet, the 5d was dripping wet, and Brian turned out to be just as soaked holding the hose as Jordan did getting hit by it. All in all… it was a great night.
So why did it take me so long to edit? Because the idea I had for the edit sucked and I couldn’t re-envision the project. I had it set in my head that it was going to be one way but that way turned out like crap and I couldn’t “see” anything different. That happens to me a lot. I get an idea for a shot. I see it in my head. I pick up the camera. I take a photo. The photo sucks. It is nowhere close to what I see in my head. In photography I have learned to let those things go until another day. I couldn’t let this one go until one evening this week. I’ve been editing images for a new portfolio and this Snowden video was bugging the hell out of me. Jordan froze his ass off for this video and I still haven’t pulled anything out of it. I divorced myself from my first plan and just started fresh and new without a plan and I knocked it out in one night. Seriously. One night. Done. WTH? It’s like doing taxes. No, no it’s not.
So yes… my first music video. I’m happy with it. I’ll hate it soon enough but for now I’m really glad I dropped my first idea for the edit and went in a different direction with it. Am I going to sell my self as a music video director? Nope. Do I want to do more of these? Absolutely. Yes. Just spoke with a past client last night about another one of these. Hip to the hippity hop!
PS – I won the last GOYA shoot out! I really thought it was going to be Robin (photographer E). I’ll do another post later.
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