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Archive for the ‘On Location’ Category

Knockin’ Around

Dec 1

In Friends, On Location at 9:03am

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Drew and Grippi in our studio conspired recently to post a youtube video
of me getting wiped out by a fast moving long boarder.

Being the rather massive tribute to inertia that I am, I demonstrate the nimbleness and cat like reflexes of an overloaded garbage truck in attempting the dodge this wheel borne mini-bullet train. Above is the last frame before I bailed. Nobody got hurt, but I decided that wet tarmac and a hairpin turn were just too much excitement, and we sought a different venue.

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The above was done ad hoc, seat of the pants shooting. (What else?) We went out with the guys from Landyachtz boards, who were amazing. I’m hanging out the back of the mini-van, with two Justin clamped SB’s on the support struts of the tailgate, and one flash on camera acting as a commander and a flash. The van is rolling about 45mph or so, and the guys on the boards occasionally outpaced us and just came right up to the bumper and pushed off. Also out there with us were a couple of Vancouver based buds, Syx Langemann and David Cooper, both terrific shooters. The Vancouver photo community is just great, with photogs like Syx and David, and places like the Vancouver Photo Workshops. There’s a very talented pool of people there, and a great spirit of sharing and teaching. It’s why we go back year after year.

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Couple years ago, I made what is one of my favorite couples portraits ever, of Syx and his lovely wife Taryn.

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The beautiful bump in Taryn’s belly has now become the precociously gorgeous Hannah, who, in this follow up portrait, is orbiting mom and dad like, well, an eighteen month old.

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After Vancouver, I rotated through home and ended up in Amsterdam, at the Zoom Experience, held in Utrecht. Again, just a great bunch of folks, and I was very honored to be part of the presenting corps.

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Muddled through in the usual unrehearsed, “let’s see where this goes,” kind of style. We were presenting in this theater in the round type of black box, so just like walking into a photo studio, I pulled out lights and hunted for a photograph. I was blessed to be working with Aad. He is a patient soul who works for Nikon Netherlands, and actually interfaces with photogs who bring in busted or dysfunctional gear, so he gets to see us at our collective best, not to mention most patient. Perhaps that’s why he looks a bit like a mix of Neil Young and Keith Richards. I took my file and ran it through Aperture and de-saturated it a touch. Aperture’s sleek enough, and understandable enough, that even a post processing numnuts like myself can understand it.

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My thanks go out to all the folks at the Zoom theater, and especially the Nikon Netherlands gang, headed up by Berend van Iterson and Roeland Koene, who stitched it all together. The gentleman running the show screens and all the AV wizardry was Pierre Jacobs,  part Photoshop master and part Conan O’Brian. He kept everybody loose, and the shows running. He, too, was struck by Aad’s persona, enough to riff a bit on the current “I am Nikon” campaign.

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It’s been a lively week or so. Hope everybody had a great Turkey Day. Can’t believe it’s December. As my mom used to say, “Oh, you know, 4th of July and the year’s over.” I didn’t really believe her, but you know, she mighta been onto something. More tk….


Shooting the Moon

Aug 27

In On Location at 2:29am

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Hey gang…couple of questions from yesterday. The combo of the 600 plus TC1.7 was, frankly, all about, uh, size. Bigger lens, bigger moon. The above is shot with a straight up six. Below, I’m at about 170 zoom on a 70-200.

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Figured we’re all up here in north country, howlin’ at the moon, so might as well shoot it. Above is lit with an Elinchrom Quadra, running through a Deep Octa soft box. Way up top, same deal as yesterday–line of sight TTL, raw flash, SB 900, hand held, camera right.

You get the moon and the lens big, what suffers? DOF for sure. The shot from yesterday was racked out to f11. Otherwise the moon looks like an out of focus blob in the sky, which it sorta does even at f11.

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Have had notions of doing stuff like mixing flash portraits and the moon for years, and I suspect I’ll just keep after it. One of these days, might just nail it….you never know….more tk….

Big Canyon, Small Flash

May 18

In Lighting, On Location at 2:02am

Been experimenting with seeing how far I can throw a commander signal from a hot shoe mounted flash to a set of remotes. Figured Dead Horse Canyon would be a good place to try. So last week, got up in the middle of the night and went out for sunrise in Moab. Got in touch with our bikers, Beth and Sean, through Poison Spyder Bike Shop in Moab, which, for me, has been the place to call if you want to work with good riders. The folks who either work there or are connected with the shop can really rock it out on a mountain bike.

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Triggered the remotes from an SB900 on my camera. It had the diffuser dome off, and it was zoomed to 200mm, which is a good strategy for squeezing out a few more yards of range. All three remotes are hooked up on a c-stand via Justin Clamps. All have 1/2 cut of CTO warming gel on them, and they in turn are zoomed to 200mm, to get punch and direction along the lines of the rising (hopefully) sun.

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Sean and Beth took turns, and I just kept adjusting at camera for the changing light. I was swinging the camera left and right to maybe do a pano stitch, so I took it out of aperture priority and just slammed it into manual. After experimenting a bit, I decided I needed all the juice I could get outta the lights, so I sent them a signal to fire at manual, 1/1, the max power you can get from the 900.

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They both did great out there on the edge of the canyon. And the lights did okay, too. Consistent fire and recycle, ’cause each 900 was hooked to an SD-9 external battery pack.

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Then there was this tree, which is evidently famous. It’s all bent up, kinda like it was growing one way and then decided to make a u-turn back the other direction. It’s cool looking, as trees go. My buds Kevin Dobler, Moose Peterson and I worked out a lighting combo that had two 900 units warmed up with CTO gel, and at first zoomed to 200mm, firing at the tree from both camera left and right, with each flash being about 20 or so feet from the greenery. Changed up the zoom when it looked like the lights were getting too spotty, and widened them both out to about 85mm. Group A to one side, B to the other, in case we had to ratio them differently. Saturated the sky with underexposure, and powered up the lights.

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And, I became one with the tree. Figures. We’re both a little bent.

Couple schedule things….

Heading to Florida on Friday to teach lighting in Orlando, courtesy of the Orlando Camera Club. Great bunch of folks, and the organizer, Wayne Bennett has been tireless at putting together what looks to be a terrific program. Here’s the link….

More tk….

It’s Raining Here….

Mar 1

In On Location at 2:43pm

It’s not supposed to be raining here. This is Dubai, that giant mushroom of concrete, glass and steel that erupted out of the sun blasted sand and became a magnet for all things over the top. Put the adjective “tallest,” or “biggest” in front of any number of things, and they be here.

I’m convinced it’s me. Bad weather just follows me. Last year in Las Vegas, in the springtime, fer chrissakes, I lost a day’s shooting to a snow storm. Here, where for a chunk of the year the temperature dial is set at “fricassee,” it just ain’t supposed to rain like this. Wild. I used to think it was because I’m Irish Catholic, and I just kind of tug my own personal set of rain clouds around with me, and the following gloom would create an atmosphere conducive to repentance. But now I think I’m just a weather Jonah. A million years ago, I shot so many football games in the rain that at one point I put my 300 4.5 to my eye and watched what I thought was a massive dust speck inside the barrel of the lens just sprout legs and crawl across one of the interior elements. So much moisture had gotten in that thing it was like I had my own personal Amazon rain forest, right there in my camera bag.

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Still, though, even after all these years, I remain undaunted. It was looking bleak the other day, but I still went to the desert, looking for non-existent light in the midst of swirling, pre-storm sand. Worked with Sahar, a beautiful Persian dancer, who fuses elements of traditional Sufi and dervish dance styles with modern hand movents and body language. The uncertain sand prevented her from doing her spinning style of dance, but we managed a few frames before we got the hell out of the desert, thunderheads hard on our heels.

Got back to the hotel just as it cut loose, and it actually rained so hard at the rooftop restaurant here, a good portion of the wait staff was dispatched, armed with mops, to combat the rising tide sliding through the doors and towards the tables. Dubai is known for commerce, industry, and increasingly, photography. It is not known for drainage. It’s like Atlanta in a snowstorm, with people staring blankly at streets that just became canals, wondering what to do and when it will go away.

It could also not be me, I’m relieved to report. It could be the city is just having a tough water week. At the Dubai Mall this week, the giant aquarium sprung a leak. The official mall website read thusly:

“A leakage was noticed at one of the panel joints of the Dubai Aquarium at The Dubai Mall and was immediately fixed by the aquarium’s maintenance team.”

A leakage was noticed? Fellas, they just about had sharks sliding through the Benetton in there.

Here of course for the GPP yearly photo fest. It’s a very cool event. Great faculty, great attendance, nice people. And, it was good to go back to the desert, even briefly. I have pursued dance off and on for years, just a photographic hobby I love and keep returning to. Put a few pix lately on the blog of dancers in strange places, and some folks have asked if it’s a new project. Not really. Been doing it a long time. I convinced my reluctant editors at LIFE to send me to Moscow , ’cause I had a contact at the Bolshoi Ballet. They really didn’t want to do it, and when editors really don’t want to do a story, to a photographer that’s a sign from the heavens that it needs to be done. I hectored them about it, and finally they relented and said I could go, albeit unsupported. So, as a staff photographer at a multi-billion dollar company, I used my frequent flier miles to get over there, and I stayed in my fixer’s tenement. It wasn’t a great apartment, but it was a great location. More tk…..

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That Kelby Clan…..

Feb 23

In On Location, Videos at 8:10am

Had a blast last week with the gang from Tampa out at PhotoShop 20th anniversary in San Fran. Though a couple folks let me know that no one out there refers to their fair city in those terms. It’s either full blown San Francisco, or just simply, SF. Okay. Nicknames or no, it’s still a great place. We dovetailed with the Kelby Online Training video team, led by the intrepid Scriv, and shot a new video. We had great fun, and great subjects.

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How can you not like a bunch of guys who sing nothing but Leonard Cohen songs, acapella, and call themselves a Conspiracy of Beards? When they perform, they are 30 strong, but we were happy that 4 of the guys showed up at the Java on Ocean Coffee Shop.

I just wanted to put the camera down and listen, I tell ya. No instruments, no music, just the power of their voices. Jeff, the guy with the gray beard, smiled and said, “Yeah, load in’s a bitch.” (They just walk into a venue as they are and start singing.) They were great to work with, and Hossam, the owner of the shop, not only makes great coffee and killer deserts, he couldn’t have been nicer about letting us shoot in his store. You know how some people understandably get nervous when they see c-stands, wires, power packs walking in the door? None of that. He was totally cool, and we got good pix without driving too many folks crazy.

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Used big light sources for these pix. Shot both with two Elinchrom Quadra heads, each with their own power pack. For the lineup, the lights are in the street, and we stitched together swatches of diffusion for the window. This should make for good video. Window was so big we were taping everything we could think of to block the straight sunlight from pouring in. Used Lastolite one stop diffuser material, tri-grips, bits of the local newspaper, concert posters, you name it. I stopped just short of going into the mens’ room and stealing the toilet paper. For the table pic above, the light source is just over my head, a 3×6 Lastolite panel, rigged horizontal, with the two heads popping through it. Shooting multiple faces close together, soft, wide light sources are the way to go, at least most of the time.

Been having a lot of fun shooting the Kelby videos. I shoot every shot as if it’s for a portfolio piece, and sometimes I fall short, right there on video. But that’s the nature of the location beast. Sometimes you da window, sometimes you da bug. But I keep looking and talking as I go, trying to find solutions that work.

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This one worked pretty well, also shot recently for an upcoming training video. Big light in the background, hot shoe flash for the foreground (30″ Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox) on a paint pole. In between…smoke! And another light way camera right, gelled and defining the far wall. When working in a space like this, sometimes your light has to not just light the person, but define the space.

Enjoying doing the tours stops for the NAPP gang as well. Now wait a minute here fella…you’re actually saying you enjoy having every single frame you shoot pop up on screens in front of 800-900 people? Are ya stupid or just plain crazy?

No, I really do enjoy them and feed off the energy of the kindhearted (mostly:-) people in the audience. It’s hectic, and while I have a game plan, I do riff around pretty continuously. I’ll say to Drew, hey, you know, we could do a double exposure in camera right now, don’t you think? Drew will just roll his eyes and adjust admirably.

But we do move fast. In NY, we made our model look these three ways, in, as they say, a NY minute.

Corporate….

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The three above were shot mostly small flash, with a bit of big flash for the fashion shot. As I recall, anyway. At the end of those days, I am a wet noodle, and really sometimes ask Drew when we are reviewing frames, “How did I light that again?” Sheesh…

Got some dates and stops coming up for this year already….Philadelphia, 4/7Denver, 4/28 …and Sacramento, 5/7…we’ll be knocking it back with all sorts of flash techniques.

Last week in SF was great. Anytime I can head out there, it’s a good trip. Did some shooting, found a ballerina in the woods, went to the PS20 deal. I had no business being there, but hey, nobody said anything. As I tweeted the night of the fest, they rejected my idea of the Jennifer Aniston slider, which makes everybody beautiful and appealing, at least for a while:-)

Nor did they accept the “Lindsay Lohan Transform Tool,” which puts a dull glaze in everyone’s eyes. Even bounced back my notion of a Tiger Woods plug in, for, I guess, their own reasons.

Gotta go…packing for Dubai….more tk….