Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2012’
A couple months back I submitted a series of photographs to participate in the Contessa hair dressing award. As you can see in the video, we opted to do use a collection of fluorescent light tubes from my DIY VonStudio in order to produce some pretty exciting catch lights. I had originally glimpsed the idea for using fluorescents in fashion on DIYPhotography where a blog post about Joe Edelman described how fluorescent tubes could be used as a fantastic source of light and I figured that a hair competition, where the lighting would need to be uniform and even would be the perfect place to put it into good use!
Although I go into quite some depth on how I setup the lights in the video, I created a lighting diagram over at Sylights to give you guys a visual idea of how the lights were ringed around the model.
For those of you who have never ever had the chance of shooting with continuous lights, I have to say that it was quite pleasant of an experience. For one, focusing is so much easier and for two, you can immediately see how the light is going to fall on to your subjects making it very easy to tweak the lighting until it’s just right. It does come with some slight disadvantages such as the models not being able to stare off into my camera lens for too long as the lights were extremely bright!
I was actually quite impressed with the quality of the lighting that we were able to achieve using nothing more than the fluorescent light tubes. Lighting was very even and by opening the safety panels and adding black gaffer tape between the tubes we were able to increase the number of lines that would appear in the models eyes.
If you’re one of those photographers that are simply starting out and cannot afford to buy any fancy flashes, I would definitely recommend you looking into purchasing simple fluorescent light panels to get a softbox-equivalent style lighting. I think the biggest downside with these housings is that they are really not made to be portable so transporting them around is a great way to actually break them quite fast! The metal structures are not made to really support any weight and are a pain in the butt to move around.
As I mentioned in the video, it took quite a little bit of tweaking to get the bokeh in the background just right.. and even then I’m not a 100% satisfied with it! We had a fan blowing into the cloth to create variations for we didn’t want all the images to have the exact same background but somehow that also meant that we would loose bokeh on occasions. We had a whole lot of fun experimenting with placing the flash in a variety of locations and finally settled with just lighting it from the bottom in hopes of creating a nice gradient effect. Have you guys ever tried to create bokeh? What were your experiences?
In the past, i had tried to create bokeh by simply tossing around pieces of a metallic wig and having it catch the light that came out with some great results but this time around I wanted something a little bit more controlled! I guess an experimentation that will require a bit more playing around with…
Finally , for the sake of keeping things traditionally weird and exciting on my blog, I wanted to throw down these larger versions of the crazy hand versions of the hair competition. We had to toy around quite a little bit since the models nails weren’t all the exact same length and only one of her hands had perfectly long slender nails (real!!). By this time though, our third model had to unfortunately go ! Here are the results Retouching on these shots were finally slightly lighter than for those on the contessa mainly because they would be just for fun
If you guys are interested in winning one, simply share this post and leave a comment on the bottom for your chance to win !!
Photo: Von Wong
Hair: Jazz HairStylist
Make-up: Jennifer La Maquilleuse Dionne
Retouch: Jessika Chiasson
Since I still had my Nikon D4 and 400mm f/2.8G both graciously loaned to me by Nikon Professional Services, I figured that I’d have to make the most of it so I threw together another shoot with someone I had collaborated with in the past: Michael Demski, one of my flour dancers.
A fan of mine introduced me to a magnificent location over in Hamilton by the name of Albion Falls so I figured: why not combine the two! A couple days after my rooftop adventures with the 400mm f2.8, I booked Michael Demski and told him to bring weapons as well as whatever loose and flowy epic clothing he happened to have lying around. Waterfalls, asians (or half asian in our case) and swords inevitably tell a pretty amazing story without requiring much explanation.
The first thing we did when arriving at the location was to scout out where we could actually go as well as how we could safely get to the various locations that we wanted to reach. Since I had a 400mm f2.8 (and absolutely wanted to use it) I had to get reaaaally far away to be able to get the shot framed like I wanted. This meant scaling the closest mountain with my 6 kg of camera gear.
My vantage point
This brought us a bunch of challenges. For one, communication. We hadn’t planned on shooting through a ravine and didn’t have any walkie-talkies with us… thankfully though, I had brought along my Sennheiser G3 mic that served as a great one-way communication device. This meant that I could whisper instructions in my interns ear as I telescoped in with my 400mm f2.8 to interpret her reaction. Though not the greatest method of communication (and resulting in many an incomprehensible and frustrating series of hand gestures) things ended up working quite fine.
The second failure was that our Skyport triggers wouldn’t trigger consistently across the great expanse so despite having dragged the gear up the ridiculously steep hill, we ended up having to shoot ambient.
Experiencing Skyport malfunctions courtesy of Photagonist. Communicating via Sennheiser G3
From there, I essentially had two options – for me to try and freeze a moment (pun intended) in time by boosting my shutter speed up extremely high (and compensating with the D4′s jaw-dropping high-ISO performance) … or to attempt to combine a longer shutter speed with a static pose to get a nice creamy water effect.
Shutter speed of 1/10th of a second vs. Shutter Speed of 1/1600th of a second. (ISO800 in the right if you’re curious!)
Personally, I really liked the creamy look so I took a couple different variants of Michael staying absolutely still in the freezing water. He was an absolute trooper in staying nearly a 100% still as I relayed instructions to him through my temporary avatar/intern.
Small camera tip for those of you who want ever try out the long lens + frozen model combination.
Set your camera on Continuous shooting mode at nothing slower than 1/10th of a shutter speed and shoot in small little bursts each time you’re satisfied with a pose, you’ll maximize your chance of getting an image in which your model is completely still!
Though it would have been great fun to play with some more poses, I felt that I really needed to wrap Michael up in something nice and warm so we called a break and decided to transition to another waterfall. In the meantime, we got Michael a gigantic hot chocolate with some whipped cream to heat him back up.
Less than an hour later, Michael was back on his feet performing magic tricks. He was feeling so lightheaded after being frozen in the waterfall that he was able to harness his amazing asian mindpowers and begin levitating. No photoshop!!
Ok no but seriously, there wasn’t any photoshop, just Michael’s absolutely stunning jumping abilities. Curious to see the jump at 11 fps (right to left, asian manga style!)? Check it:
By the time we made it to the waterfall, Michael was pumped up and ready to enter the water but unfortunately there wasn’t much of a waterfall left… so we settled for shooting a far more calm and meditative shot… that required to be 2 feet from the edge of a nice 41 meter high waterfall.
I had Basia and Ajay, two of my assistants toss leaves from behind the trees not too far away from the death drop towards Michael in hopes of creating some motion blur… the results weren’t as spectacular as I had hoped but I still like the final result!
So I’m sure that by now all of you are wondering: OK so why would anyone go out in the freezing cold, freeze even more by entering a waterfall, fall headfirst into the floor jumping around and risk his life by staying on the edge of a cliff to model for YOU?
Well, Michael is beginning his career soon as an actor (check out his demo reel here: here!) and he needed a head shot. I told him that I’d shoot it if he accepted to model for me.
The beautiful headshot in question?
Hope you enjoyed this weeks blog post and thanks all for your comments and sharing!
PS. If you’ve reched the end of this blog post and are still reading, I’d like to offer you the chance to win a Von Wong bracelet! Simply share the post, leave a comment (on my blog) and I’ll draw your name from the list and have it shipped off!
Winners announced next week
Just a couple days ago, Nikon Professional Services sent me a Nikon D4 and 400mm f/2.8G to play around with. I had originally asked for a 300mm which turned out to be unavailable which is how I ended up with this ridiculously large lens.
Deidre, Myself and Georgette the 400mm visiting niagara falls.
So what does one normally do with a 400mm f2.8? Sports… wildlife… that’s about it. It’s rare that the 400mm is used for portraits since it tends to flatten people’s faces and buddies inadvertently fattening them due to lens compression.
One of the things I had wanted to try out for a while but never quite got around to doing was to try out the Brenizer Method. The Brenizer Method consists of stitching together a bunch of shots taken from a telephoto at wide aperture to get an extremely shallow depth of field at a wider angle. Theoretically, all I would have to do is Focus, set lens & camera settings to Manual, swing my lens in a variety of directions capturing as wide a shot as possible and later sit in front of the computer to stitch them together. This website explains it well if you want to try it out: http://blog.buiphotos.com/2009/07/the-brenizer-method-explained-with-directions/
Quite excited to put my large lens to use, I sporadically texted a musician over here in Toronto who was looking for some brand new portfolio images: Andrew Kesler. Unfortunately for me, he was only available late that evening so my intern Deidre and I stayed at the office to work until midnight waiting for him to arrive. Since the purpose of the Brenizer effect is to get a whole bunch of pretty bokeh in a wide shot, the best place to achieve that seemed to be the rooftop of our company building.
Unfortunately for us though, we had not quite done a proper job of scouting so when we arrived on the rooftop, we realized that we were going to have a lighting problem. Deidre spontaneously proposed using iPhone’s to light Andrew and I thought, why not? The Nikon D4 is capable of shooting at 12,800 ISO and at f2.8 I could easily grab shutter speeds at approx 160th of a second! That combined with the fact I was using a monopod and the lens’s VR system would be more than enough! Joel Kesler, Andrew’s brother was on hand to help us with lighting and played his role of Voice Activated i-Stand quite perfectly!
For the first shot we did, we placed Andrew seated at the very edge of the roof. I went a good 20 feet back to capture our hero. It took a little bit of juggling to get the lighting just right but by placing one iPhone closer and the other farther, we were able to get a relatively awesome studio-esque type lighting!
For the second shot, we had Joel hold an iPhone and stand behind Andrew to give him a nice fancy back light. In the front, Deidre held two iPhones to light both face and body. By placing Joel a little bit farther back and having Andrew move forward, thanks to the light fall-off Joel could become effectively invisible! The final result?
Finally it was getting quite late and everyone had to be up and going the next day, Andrew & I continued on to Dundas Square (the Times Square equivalent of downtown Toronto) to try and put a final image together. We were quite limited in where we could make this shot happen as only a small amount of Dundas Square was properly lit and I had limited amount of space to shoot! To make this shot happen I was crouched in the middle of a road!
Does the Brenizer method work with a 400mm f2.8? Sure does but it’s a pain to set up and reframe a lens as big as the 400mm. It’s also restrictive since you need to be far away from your subjects! Additionally, the 400mm focal length will also introduce camera shake into your shots if you’re not careful especially when you’re shooting at night~
Was it fun to shoot with?
Note: My voice comes in quite loud so be sure to keep the volume a little down! Sorry!
How often do you go around looking at people’s shots and say: If only I had costumes like that I’d be able to do something so cool!!
Well, if you’re one of those people that just can’t seem to find a way to gather the resources necessary to put together an epic photoshoot but have always wanted to I have a solution for you: Crash a costume party.
Regardless of where you happen to be, chances are that you can find small communities of interesting individuals – whether they’re gothic, alternative, victorian, lolita, cosplay, fetish, medieval or otherwise… they very much exist and are very often quite friendly and quite enthusiastic to take photographs.
A couple tips when approaching these groups:
- Don’t be shy. People that dress to stand out are used to the attention and often enjoy it.
- Ask for permission before taking photographs. Often a simple head nod and a little eye contact is more than sufficient if you’re just looking to snap a quick shot.
- Once the shot is taken, either give them a business card or take down their contact information so that you can tag them and share their image with them. Not only do you get to share your image with the model, it also opens up the possibility to future collaborations.
- If you plan on putting together something a little bit more organized or of a larger scale, target the leaders of the group. No apparent leader? Ask!
- This goes without saying but always be polite, respectful and open minded.
I think that people in general, especially photographers who are pre-dominantly observers rather than participants tend to fear directly approaching people that are different. The general tendency for photographers seems to be to capture from a distance but the best results often come from those who had no fear of interacting with their subjects. The ability to create a connection between model and photographer, I think, is a huge factor in what will help make a photograph stand out.
If it is of any help, I have noticed that communities that are used to being different actually tend to be a lot more open-minded and accepting than the average folk. They are used to being looked at and judged but if you approach them with sincere interest, they will very quickly open up to you and (quite literally) show you their best side!
Once you get past the shyness and look to take things to the next level… check out a post I did for DIYPhotography on how to pull together an Epic Photoshoot!
From a more narrative point of view, (in my case) I saw an event by the name of “Les grands Pique-niques Victoriens de Montréal“ and contacted the organizer asking her if I could bring my portable studio and video gear to do a couple spontaneous shoots. She said that I would be more than welcome so long as I respected certain photo-free zones to protect the privacy of those who wanted to be left alone.
Rather than setup my studio immediately upon arrival which I thought would come off as a little bit too arrogant, I took the time to mingle and get to know people there before bringing out the big guns. This also allowed me to target certain people I thought that would look good together!
From there, it simply became a challenge of finding out who would look good with whom and gathering them in a variety of different location.
Without further ado, here are the results of the shoot:
- Photo: Von Wong
- Video Camera: Alliebee Henna
- Retouch Assistant: Jessika Chiasson
- Assistants: Bianca Lecompte, Nadia Zheng, Tom PM, Yves Pelletier
- White Lightning X1600, X3200
- Einstein 640
- Undfind Waist Shooter
(that glorious fanny pack at my waist)