Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category|
Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
(Note: I originally started writing this as a single post, but it turns out there is so much to say on the topic that I’m going to break it into several posts. Links to the others will be at the bottom.)
I recently found myself in the same situation that every photographer and videographer occasionally faces. I’m currently expanding my arsenal of photo and video lights, so I’ve had to tackle the question of which type of lights to buy. Since my work includes both still and video (and since I already have a selection of strobe lights that I’m happy with), I’m focusing now on continuous lights that can be used for either still or motion work.
First, some background. As photographers and videographers know, the most commonly used lights have traditionally been xenon gas flash tubes for still photography and tungsten incandescent bulbs for video and film (HMIs are also somewhat common for motion as well, but less so than tungsten). These traditional kinds of lights work very well and they definitely still have value in the right application (in fact, in certain types of applications they’re still the best type of light there is), but they do have significant weaknesses and disadvantages, and recent technological advances have improved other light sources such as LEDs and compact fluorescent bulbs to the point where they too are now practical for photo and video use.
So we now have this whole range of light sources available to us that includes the traditional tungsten and HMI (such as those made by Arri, Mole-Richardson and many others), fluorescent (in both tube format like Kino-Flos and CFL format like Westcott Spiderlites) and LED (like Litepanels) as well as some even newer and more exotic technologies that are still coming to market like organic and plasma panels (the Zacuto “PlaZma light” will be very interesting to keep an eye on once it is introduced, hopefully later this year).
Among all of these options, how do we choose the right light? Every type has advantages and disadvantages, and as with most things, which is best comes down to your individual needs and what type of work you do. Personally, the vast majority of my work is done on location instead of in a studio, so the factors that are important to me are 1) efficiency (i.e., power use), 2) heat generation, 3) portability, 4) speed of setup and ease of use, and most importantly, 5) light quality (CRI). (Cost is of course also a factor, but with each type light there are expensive options and cheaper options, so that’s less relevant). So for my current round of equipment purchases, I evaluated each of the light types on each of the criteria above. In the next couple of posts I’ll talk about how the various types of lights compare when it comes to efficiency, heat generation, portability, speed of setup and ease of use, and light quality, finally ending with my conclusions and my purchases.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the efficiency and heat generation of each types of light heads.
(Update: Links to the subsequent posts in this series are here:
Post #2: Efficiency (i.e., power usage) and Heat Generation
Post #3: Portability and Speed of Setup & Ease of Use
Tags: Arri, compact fluorescent, continuous lights, CRI, efficiency, flash tubes, fluorescent, fresnel, heat, HMI, HMIs, incandescent, Kino-Flo, LED, lights, Litepanels, Mole-Richardson, motion, photo, Photographer, PlaZma light, portability, setup, Spiderlites, still, tungsten, video, videographer, Westcott, xenon, Zacuto
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Friday, December 21st, 2012
On this last rainy weekday before everyone takes off for the holidays, I had a few free minutes and decided to add a couple of images to the website that I really like, but until now very few people had seen. The first image, “Dave,” was shot several months ago during the summer, and the second image , “Kaylee 2″ was shot just last week. Here they are.
Dave is a master craftsman who works for a large marine services company in Portland, Maine called Portland Yacht Services. This summer I was in Portland on a commercial shoot for PYS on a dry dock in Portland harbor producing a timelapse video of PYS’s employees using the drydock to service a large yacht that had been damaged. The drydocking process is fascinating (the entire structure lowers itself under water, the vessel to be serviced maneuvers inside, and the structure rises back up, lifting the entire vessel out of the water). It was a great shoot in a totally unique setting, and I also just happened to catch this candid shot of Dave on the dock. To me, guys like Dave epitomize the Maine maritime economy and culture.
Kaylee is a musician and music therapist from Seattle in the final stage of her training. Last week I was shooting a music therapy session at a senior housing community called Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Framingham, Massachusetts shooting marketing photos. I was severely limited in the amount of equipment I was allowed to bring into the facility and was limited to a single strobe and reflector, so I had to get a bit creative with my lighting. In order to create the image above I decided to take advantage of large windows that were in the room, and use the natural light as my key light and instead use the strobe only for fill. Given the limitations I really like how the image turned out.
That’s it for me, now it’s time to pack up and get on the road to my parents’ house for the holiday.
Tags: candid, commercial shoot, creative lighting, dry dock, equipment, fill, Framingham, Framingham Massachusetts, image, Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, key light, lighting, Maine, marketing, marketing photos, Massachusetts, natural light, photo, photos, portfolio, Portland, Portland Maine, Portland Yacht Services, reflector, shoot, strobe, time-lapse video, Timelapse, timelapse video, video, website
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Monday, December 17th, 2012
I was up in Vermont with some friends at Stratton Mountain this past weekend, and I figured I’d take advantage of the cold, dry mountain air combined with the lack of light pollution and shoot a night timelapse (I also experimented with a couple of new tools I’m developing to solve a couple of persistent difficulties you run into when shooting long-duration timelapses in questionable environments… more on that later!).
Here’s a quick frame from the timelapse. The constellation Orion is very clear in the sky just right of center, the Milky Way is faintly visible in the center and I believe the very bright object at the top of the frame is a planet (although I’m not sure which one; this image was shot at 10:30PM ET on Dec. 15… can any astronomy buffs tell me what it is?).
Check back in later for the finished timelapse shot!
Tuesday, December 11th, 2012
My shoot today was of a music therapy session at Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly in Framingham, MA. I’d never seen a music therapy session before, so it was a really interesting experience for me.
Most of the images are still in the editing process, but below is a quick frame of one of the therapists. Interesting day!
Wednesday, November 28th, 2012
I finally got around to cutting together a timelapse reel today, and now it’s done! Take a look. I hope you like it!
(as with all Vimeo videos, for best viewing, hit the play button and then pause it to allow the video to buffer, then watch with HD turned on and in full screen!)
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
I’ve always had a passion for the outdoors; I love hiking, backpacking, camping, mountain biking, rock climbing and pretty much any other activity that gets me outside. Thankfully for me there is the potential for a lot of great overlap between my passions for the outdoors and for photography. I’ve always shot a lot of outdoor photography, but recently I’ve been making it a focus of my personal work.
The other night I went out with my REI backpacking tent, my 5D Mark II (it’s heavier than my 7D, but the low-light performance is better) and a tripod and hiked through the woods to a favorite spot of mine. I set up the tent, got my camera and tripod ready and waited for the best light, and then shot the image below. Given the unique lighting there was a fair amount of work in post to get this image to look the way I wanted it (the image below is actually a composite of three different images!), but when I was finished I was pretty happy with how it turned out.
(You probably can’t see it in a version this small, but as luck would have it, the Big Dipper constellation is clearly visible in the sky. Click the image to see the larger version!)
Tags: 5D Mark II, 7D, backpacking, Big Dipper, camping, Canon, composite, fun, hiking, low-light performance, mountain biking, outdoors, outside, personal work, Photography, REI, rock climbing, tent, tripod
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Monday, September 10th, 2012
Back in 2010 I was hired to shoot an executive portrait. It was a very standard assignment, but it was for a very special client: my dad.
Well, actually, my dad was the subject, but he wasn’t the client. My dad had recently retired from his position as president of Maine Medical Center, a large hospital in Portland, Maine, and the hospital was commissioning a portrait of him to hang in its Board room, along with those of all of the other past presidents. We had quite a bit of flexibility in terms of the setup of the shot; the only real requirements were that the final portrait be black and white and three-quarter length (to conform to the convention that had been in place for over a hundred years!). We talked about things that I talk about when I’m shooting any portrait (what ideas we wanted the image to convey, how to achieve them with wardrobe, location, framing, lighting, etc., shooting in a location where the subject is comfortable and relaxed, etc.). Ultimately we ended up settling on my parents’ home just outside of Portland as our location, and on the day of I drove up from Boston and did the shoot. Obviously it was a ton of fun shooting with my dad as my subject, and I was pretty happy with the final image.
Fast forward two years, and a couple of weeks ago I got a phone call from a designer saying that Maine Medical Center was putting together a tabletop history of the hospital, and wanted to use the image I shot of my dad in the book. Interestingly, the designer said that she wanted to use a color version of the (as-delivered black and white!) image (what they would have done if I had shot the image on black and white film I’m not sure). Thankfully, I had shot the image digitally and converted it to black and white after the fact, and had kept not only the final file but also the original, color RAW file (let this be a lesson kiddos, ALWAYS KEEP YOUR ORIGINALS!!!).
I did some editing to get the color version prepared for printing and sent it off to the client, and now I’m looking forward to seeing my dad in a book in a picture that I made.
Tags: black and white, Boston, client, color, comfortable, Dad, executive portrait, framing, lighting, location, Maine, Maine Medical Center, Portland, Portland Maine, RAW, relaxed, subject, three-quarter length, wardrobe
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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
I was shooting a timelapse in for a client in Portland, Maine last week, and for one of the camera angles I attached a GoPro Hero2 to the side of a sinkable dry dock (check back in for the resulting underwater timelapse!). If you’re not familiar with the GoPro cameras, their settings screens are on the front of the camera, such that when you’re configuring the settings, you just might catch a couple of images of yourself. This was one such image.
(this is why photographers stay BEHIND the camera!)
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
Purely for fun, I recently picked up a set of inexpensive extension tubes (if you’re not familiar with extension tubes, they’re attachments that fit between a camera lens and the camera body, allowing the effective minimum focus distance to be drastically reduced, which in turn allows small objects to be photographed up-close). I’ve been really busy lately so unfortunately the tubes had sat in their box until today. This afternoon I finally had some free time so I took them out to my back yard for a test drive.
Using my Canon 5D Mark II and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS lens I took a few test shots of things in the back yard (the 100mm lens I was using is already a macro lens in that at its [unmodified] minimum focus distance it reproduces objects on the image sensor at a 1:1 size ratio, so with the extension tubes I was able to get REALLY close!).
All of the images below are uncropped, full-frame images.
(The lizard in a couple of the images was not found in my back yard. That’s Samir, a pet leopard gecko who lives in an aquarium in my living room!)
Tags: camera body, camera lens, Canon, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro IS, extension tubes, Macro, Macro Photography, minimum focus distance, Photography
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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
Yesterday’s shoot location was a warehouse in Sudbury, MA. The shoot involved a wide shot down one of the long aisles and since the warehouse’s lights were pretty dim (even though it may not look that way from the iPhone image above), we ended up needing to light the entire length of the aisle.
We ended up with nine Profoto studio strobe heads arrayed down the length of the aisle, powered by five packs.
Tuesday, September 20th, 2011
A month or two ago I started working to set up a photo shoot focusing on recreational water sports like kayaking and canoeing. Anyone who knows me knows that there are very few recreational sports I don’t enjoy, and these types of outdoor activities are important parts of state & local tourism marketing and advertising campaigns in the Northeast, not to mention the advertising needs of outdoor equipment retailers like Eastern Mountain Sports, L.L. Bean and REI.
Anyone who has set up a shoot of this sort knows that between finding and booking models, scouting appropriate locations, nailing down assistants and negotiating contracts & coordinating schedules with all of the parties, setting up this kind of shoot is a fair amount of work. But good things don’t come easy, and all of the work was worth it. Last Sunday the crew and talent assembled at the chosen location on a river just outside of Boston and had a great day of shooting.
A full collection of images from the day will be posted here tomorrow, but here is one sneak peek.
Check back tomorrow for the full collection of images and the story behind the shoot.
Tags: advertising, assistants, Boston, Canoe, contracts, Eastern Mountain Sports, Kayak, L.L. Bean, local, locations, marketing, models, Northeast, outdoor, outdoor equipment retailers, recreational, REI, river, sports, state, tourism, water sports
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Wednesday, August 24th, 2011
We’ve all got favorite places; places that for whatever reason we keep coming back to, whether it’s because they’re pretty, they’re comfortable, there are good people there who we enjoy spending time with, whatever.
The weather has been beautiful in Boston for the last couple of days (with the exception of that earthquake yesterday! Does that count as weather?), and I had some free time last night so I decided to go back to one of my favorite places in Boston for shooting at night.
The Longfellow Bridge connects Cambridge and Boston across the Charles river, and looks out on the part of the river known as the Sailing Basin, because as the widest, most open part of the river, the MIT, Harvard and other university sailing teams, as well as the public all use it as a great spot for sailing small boats. On any given afternoon there are dozens of sailboats on the water here.
This spot on the bridge is a favorite of mine because in addition to the great view of the river, from this vantage point there is also a great view of the Prudential building and the Hancock Tower, Boston’s two tallest skyscrapers, and the bridge faces southwest, meaning it is wonderful for shooting landscape photos at dusk.
For this image, because I knew I wanted both the natural light in the sky as well as the artificial lights inside the buildings to be visible with a nice balance between the two, it was important to wait for just the right light. I knew that would mean in this case that would mean a little bit after sunset, when the sky had dimmed sufficiently to not overpower the artificial lights (sunset photos can be gorgeous, but I’ve found that often the best light is actually after sunset, such as here). With the camera on the tripod and using a wide-angle lens (my trusty Canon 5D Mark II with the superb EF 17-40mm f/4L lens), I stopped the lens down to f/8 because shutter speed wasn’t going to be an issue (thank you, tripod) and I wanted the little bit of extra sharpness that comes with a smaller aperture. Using a remote cable release to fire the camera to avoid shake I fired a few frames to test exposure (the camera’s internal light meter here is a decent starting point but only a starting point) and play with a few different angles. Since I wasn’t using a tilt/shift lens and the camera needed to be angled up to get the framing I wanted, I had to do a bit of digital alteration in post (Photoshop’s “Lens Correction” function) to remove the distortion and make the buildings straight.
The result is what I think is a nice image, somewhat different than ones I’ve taken here before. It is by no means perfect though (if in fact an image can ever be), so I’m sure that I’ll be back to this spot again some time.
Tags: 17-40mm f/4L, 5D Mark II, Boston, Cambridge, Canon, Charles river, earthquake, Hancock Tower, Harvard, Lens Correction, Longfellow Bridge, MIT, Photoshop, Prudential, remote cable release, sailing, tilt/shift lens
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects, Techniques | 1 Comment »
Friday, July 1st, 2011
Ah, it’s that time of year. In a couple of days, towns and cities all over the country are going to be having fireworks displays, and I have to say, cooking out on the grill with friends & family then sitting in the grass watching fireworks is one of my favorite things. Fireworks are beautiful and make for beautiful, striking and colorful photographs, but they’re also technically challenging to photograph well, primarily because there isn’t a whole lot of light.
If you’re planning to take pictures of fireworks this weekend, there are a few things you can do to make your pictures much better.
#1: Camera Support. Because it’s nighttime and there’s very little light, the camera is going to need a very slow shutter speed (ie, a long exposure) to get enough light to properly expose the photo, and therefore needs to be held very still to prevent the picture from being blurry. It is very difficult to hold the camera steady enough in your hand, so you need to use something else to keep the camera from moving during the exposure. The most common kind of camera support is a tripod: if you’ve got one and are able to carry it with you, great. That’s your best option. If not though, there are other things you can do to steady the camera: anything you can rest the camera on can be used to steady it – this could be a backpack you put on the ground and then the camera on top of; a jacket you ball up, or even a fence rail, window sill or other fixed structure that the camera can sit on.
#2: The longest exposure you can manage! In the photo above, there are at least a half a dozen individual fireworks exploding. They didn’t all go off at the same time! By keeping the camera exposure as long as you can, you can pull off a trick: since the fireworks are so bright against the night sky, one going off after another after another will have the effect of “layering” the explosions on top of each other, and the single photo will end up having lots of explosions that happened at different times. The photo above was exposed for 25 seconds, so all of the explosions that happened during that whole 25 seconds show up in the photo. The flip side of this trick though, is that the camera needs to be help absolutely still for the whole time, or else the photo will be blurry, so the camera support above is that much more important.
In cameras that have full manual controls (SLR cameras and other high-end ones), setting a long exposure is easy (with an SLR camera you should also use a small aperture [high f-stop #] to gain a deeper depth of field and allow a longer exposure!). In other cameras like “point & shoot” types that can fit in your pocket, it can be trickier or impossible to set longer exposures (on some models, the “exposure compensation” can be turned all the way up to force the camera to take a longer exposure).
#3 Avoid the smoke. When fireworks go off they make a lot of smoke, and if the air is humid or there isn’t much wind, the smoke can hang around and obscure a clear view of the fireworks going off. If you can, try to pick a spot up-wind from where the fireworks are going to go off, so that the smoke gets blown away from you, instead of in your face. Photos look a lot better without a ton of smoke in them.
#4 Avoid extraneous light sources when you can (or at least figure out how to keep them from being distracting)! Extraneous light sources can be distracting in an image, especially since they’re going to be magnified many times in brightness by the long exposures you’re going to be using. In the image above, there were a bunch of light sources (street lights) that just couldn’t be avoided without really screwing up the framing of the image. I did work though to keep a really, really bright light that was facing straight at me out of the frame to the left. Even so though, you can see the light and lens flare that came from that light.
Good luck, and have fun!
Friday, July 1st, 2011
So I walked over to my town’s local fireworks display last night (right around the corner from my house), and just for fun, I carried along a camera and tripod (of course… it’s just who I am). It was crazy – a much bigger production than I’d assumed: all of the streets were blocked off, there were thousands of people in the streets, food trucks, etc etc.:
No sooner than I had set up my tripod I was approached by a woman who introduced herself as writer for the Boston Globe, asking me who I was there shooting for (in other words, if I worked for another news organization). When I replied that I’m a self-employed photographer and was just there shooting photos for my own amusement, she asked if she could use one of my photos for her Globe article – apparently the Globe “didn’t have budget” to send one of their own photographers to cover the event.
Everyone knows that times are very tough for print media organizations – since everyone is getting their news online, newspapers’ subscriber bases are evaporating and with them go the newspapers’ revenue, which has resulted in terrible staff cuts at just about every paper. But it is a sad state of affairs indeed when a leading regional newspaper “doesn’t have budget” to pay a photojournalist to cover an event on which they plan to publish a story, and this was an example of why I am very, very glad that I am not a photojournalist.
In any case, I was there shooting photos anyway, and since they’d already decided they weren’t going to pay for photography of the event (that much was clear) I told the writer that provided I was given proper credit for the photo, I’d give the Globe one to run with their story*. The writer took my email address, and several hours later via email I sent her a few photos I captured from the evening.
For the Globe’s article, they picked one of the photos I sent, and the writer actually quoted me as well (which I didn’t know she was going to do! If I’d known I was going to be quoted, I’d have paid attention to my grammar!). The article can be seen here: http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/somerville/2011/07/somerville_fireworks_light_up.html
Here are a few of the photos I shot that night (it really was a great display, and as Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone was sure to point out, the fireworks didn’t cost taxpayers a dime, since they were funded in full through private donations).
*: I understand this issue may anger some professionals in the industry who rely on paying editorial work. The debate about shooting for pay vs. shooting solely for a credit is not an insignificant one, and it is truly embarrassing for the Globe that they have cut back so dramatically on paying editorial work that they didn’t send a staff photographer or editorial freelancer to shoot something that they thought was important enough to warrant a story. It is a bad time to be an editorial photographer or photojournalist indeed.
Tags: Boston, Boston Globe, Fireworks, Independence Day, July 4th, Mayor Joe Curtatone, media, newspaper, Photographer, Photographing Fireworks, Photography, photojournalism, photojournalist, print media, revenue, Somerville, taxpayers
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Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
I just spent the morning shooting on the campus of Phillips Andover for their admissions materials, and it was such a great experience. My staff contact is wonderful, the faculty we worked with were helpful, friendly and accommodating, the students are enthusiastic and vibrant, and the campus is to die for (it certainly didn’t hurt that we had the prettiest day of the summer yet!).
It was a reminder of why I do what I do. I love my job.
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
Those pictures you took of yourself and your friends at that party the other night? How would you like to turn around and see them on a billboard for a product you’ve never heard of?
That, and worse, is exactly what can happen now when you upload your pictures to a lot of popular web services.
You know those unbelievably long “Terms & Conditions” that pop up whenever you sign up for a website or web service? The ones that are so full of legalese as to be incomprehensible? The ones that you never read, but instead just scroll to the bottom and click “I Accept”? You always know that’s a bad idea, and that you really should read them… and you always know, in the back of your head somewhere, that somewhere buried somewhere in those agreements is something you don’t want.
Well, in the case of TwitPic, the ubiquitous service for Twitter users to post pictures, that “something you don’t want” is giving TwitPic the right to sell your pictures and videos… to whoever they want, to be used wherever and however they want. And they won’t even tell you first (Facebook also has similar language that lets them use your pictures in ads, etc without telling you).
TwitPic changed its “Terms of Service” yesterday to add the following:You retain all ownership rights to Content uploaded to Twitpic. However, by submitting Content to Twitpic, you hereby grant Twitpic a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the Content in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Service (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.
That means anything you upload to TwitPic they can turn around and sell (without giving you any of the money, by the way). Who would they be selling it to? Well, it turns out that yesterday’s change to the “Terms of Service” isn’t a coincidence: TwitPic just signed a deal with the celebrity gossip content agency WEBB (yep, the people who sell pictures to the National Enquirer and other gossip rags) to have access to all of TwitPic’s (ie, your) pictures & video.
In reality, it is unlikely that TwitPic would sell your pictures of your less-than-sober friends to anyone… because, let’s be honest, while they’re interesting to you, those pictures aren’t really financially valuable to the rest of the world. But, if you happen to be at the right place at the right time and take a picture of something or someone newsworthy, or take a particularly striking or unique photo? You can bet TwitPic is going to turn around and sell it without even telling you, and your picture will end up on a website somewhere (probably a website of questionable integrity, since those are the places that buy content from places like WEBB) and you won’t even know it. TwitPic will make a bunch of money, and you won’t get a dime.
As I mentioned, these types of arrangements are becoming increasingly common with web sites and services recently – Facebook, Instagram, YFrog and most other Twitter photo services all have similar language in their Terms of Service. Basically, you have to assume that any web service you use has this type of legal language. For professional photographers, these agreements are particularly problematic: If, for example, I’m working for an outdoor equipment company and make a landscape photograph of a hiker on a trail and I were to upload that photo to Facebook, TwitPic, etc., I can’t legally give my client exclusive use of that photograph, because by using their services, I’ve already given Facebook or TwitPic the right to use it… and therefore, my entire agreement with my client is void. As a result, professional photographers know not to use any of these services with any of their work that they care about (which is why you’ll see very few photos on my Facebook or Twitter profiles!).
The moral of the story is, be really careful what you do with your photos. You may have agreed to something you don’t necessarily want.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
I just got back from a three-week part-work/part-fun trip to California, Nevada and Utah and I have a ton of stuff I’m working on, hopefully some of which I’ll get the chance to post here. For the moment, here is one frame from an overnight timelapse I shot while on a backpacking trip in the backcountry wilderness of Zion National Park in Utah. This particular shot captures the Milky Way galaxy nicely in the center of the frame.
I’m working on the timelapse video now, and hopefully I’ll have it online sometime soon.
Thursday, March 25th, 2010
Take a look at this photo – does anything seem wrong here?
After shooting a portrait for a client the other day, the subject emailed me with an unusual request. Now, in editing portraits in Photoshop, I often trim a few inches off the waists of subjects, remove skin blemishes, etc. This client’s request though, was a new one for me: he wanted me to give him a thicker beard.
Apparently, he had given up shaving a week or so before the portrait was shot, and therefore had several days’ growth of stubble, but wanted a fuller beard for his portrait. In fact, the subject’s beard was pretty stubbly. Here is the original image:
I emailed the subject back that this kind of digital Rogaine would be tricky to do without it looking fake, but nonetheless he asked me to do what I could. I generally don’t like manipulating photographs to such a degree that it crosses the line in my mind from simple retouching (correcting skin blemishes, for example) into outright fakery (which this clearly did), but at the end of the day, my job is to make the client happy. So I proceeded. After my standard, basic Photoshop tweaks (slight Curves, Hue & Saturation and Color Balance adjustments in the form of Adjustment Layers), the image looked like this:
To give the impression of a fuller, heavier beard though, I was going to have to get creative… I decided that in order to achieve a realistic look I would need the texture of actual fibers and strands of hair. So, I identified the thickest part of the subject’s facial hair (which looked to be an area under his nose, highlighted in yellow below), selected it and Identified it as a pattern for the Pattern Stamp tool. Essentially, I was going to use the subject’s own hair to clone in additional hair.
I then used the Pattern Stamp tool to “paint on” the additional hair into a separate layer, varying the opacity from 90% where the appearance would be heaviest around the subject’s mouth, to 10% (in 10% increments) where it would be the lightest, on the sides of his face. The “mask” created by this process is represented below as a Quick Mask, showing the varying degrees of opacity. This process got me close, but didn’t give me quite the look I wanted, so I repeated the procedure using another pattern, this time taken from the subject’s head (highlighted above in green), rotating the selection such that the strands of hair flowed the correct directions. Again, I used the graduated-opacity mask shown below.
The end result came out pretty well – I was able to significantly thicken the subject’s beard, but don’t think a typical viewer would look at the photo and think anything had been altered. Placed side by side with the original, however, the difference is substantial:
As I said above, I don’t like altering photographs to an extent that constitutes fakery (the distinction of which of course is a completely subjective judgement, but which in my mind means going beyond simply erasing an unattractive pimple here and there)… I find it distasteful. But as a corporate headshot, the purpose of this photo is to make the subject look good (this isn’t a documentary or photojournalistic shot), and the job of the photographer is always to make the client happy. With this little bit of Photoshop creativity, I think I succeeded.
(By the way, this portrait was shot on my new Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro prime lens using my Canon 5D Mark II body. This was the first time I used the lens for client work, and it is fantastic! The lens is so good I think I’m going to have to write another blog post about it when I get the time! For now though, great lens, highly recommended!)
Tags: Adjustment Layers, Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro prime lens, Canon 5D Mark II, clone, Color Balance, corporate headshot, Curves, fakery, Hue & Saturation, mask, opacity, Pattern Stamp, Photoshop, Portrait, Quick Mask
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects, Techniques | No Comments »
Wednesday, March 10th, 2010
A week or two ago I learned via Twitter (you can follow me at @chriscontiphoto) of a contest for “Best Snow Photo” being run by Lens Pro To Go, a national pro gear rental company that is based locally. I don’t have any snow photos that I think of as particularly great, but just for the hell of it I submitted a shot from back in the archives (from so long ago I don’t even know what it was for). Lo and behold, turns out that shot was picked as a finalist, and then in popular voting went on to win the whole competition (and not to brag, but won by a landslide, with something like 4 times the votes of the 2nd place finisher)!
The results are on Lens Pro’s website here.
For my First Place finish I will receive $100 in rental credit. Thanks Lens Pro To Go, and thanks to everyone who voted for me!
Here is the photo that got me the win:
Friday, February 19th, 2010
This past weekend I was down on Cape Cod at a photoshoot organized by the amazing and veteran commercial photographer Jack Hollingsworth. Jack is a legend in the lifestyle and stock photography circles, and it was a tremendous opportunity to be able to come down to Jack’s studio and see him in action in person. Jack is an enthusiastic proponent of lots of forms of media, including both video and “new media” like Twitter, Facebook, etc. and his idea for this weekend was to put together a video about who he is and what he does, and showing him in action during a photoshoot.
The video is being produced by my good friend and accomplished Director of Photography Benjamin Eckstein, who makes some great videos. Jack, ever the uniter, brought together a group of vibrant and talented photographers, including myself, Brian Matiash, and Keegan Hobson, in addition to veterans Michael Skeggs and Glenn Bacci. Brian is an HDR (high dynamic range) expert, and Keegan is a wedding, engagement and portrait photographer who has his roots in landscape photography.
Ben and I arrived on Friday evening in Chatham, MA where Jack’s studio is located and he, Jack, Brian and I unpacked and set up a bunch of continuous lights and softboxes that Westcott Lighting had generously lent us to test out. It was a total photo-geek fest, as our friend Paul at Lens Pro To Go had generously lent us a whole pile of extremely high-quality gear (including a couple of 200mm prime f/2 monsters!) to use for the weekend, and on Sunday he even showed up with a brand-new, nobodys-even-got-it-in-stock-yet Canon 1D Mark IV body that we got to take for a spin (yes, I want one).
All of the weekend’s models came to us via the Tonn Model Management agency in Boston and they were all fantastic to work with. We brought them outside onto the beach and Chatham fish pier in 20-degree temperatures and whipping wind, and they handled it like champs.
Back in the studio, Jack had planned several ideas for themes, and he used a number of wardrobe and backdrop changes to keep up the variety. As good students of the digital age, we were rocking all the modern touches – tweeting and blogging in real-time, editing on the fly, processing and posting images as they were being shot. This is the future of photography, and we were in the groove.
I quickly saw why Jack is such an amazing photographer. His inclusiveness, his dynamism and his enthusiasm and obvious love for what he does almost immediately bring out the best in everyone around him. He is easygoing yet professional, and he gets results without making it feel like work. Everyone has a good time on his set. If ever there was a recipe for a successful photo shoot, this is it.
Moreover, he listens. He’s had a career of three decades, but it doesn’t stop him from paying attention to the thoughts and ideas of the people around him. Jack likes to say that he doesn’t actually know how to do much (take this one with a grain of salt… he does) but that instead he surrounds himself with good people. Again, if there’s a recipe for producing outstanding results, this is it.
Which brings me to the most lasting impression from the weekend. The Olympics are going on in Vancouver right now, and the thought that kept occurring to me all weekend long was the notion of how everyone (everyone) benefits from teamwork. Just like the hockey teams flying around on the ice, each of us had unique skills and specialties that, shared with the group, benefited everyone. As a team, we were all stronger than any of us were individually. I feel like photographers too often think of each other as competition, but the world of professional photography is so large, that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, I came away from the weekend a stronger photographer, and I believe everyone present did.
Everyone came away from the weekend with fantastic stuff, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Finally, I’ll leave you with some of the images from the weekend:
Tags: 200mm f/2 prime, Benjamin Eckstein, Brian Matiash, Canon 1D Mark IV, Cape Cod, Chatham MA, commercial photographer, Facebook, Glenn Bacci, HDR, Jack Hollingsworth, Keegan Hobson, Lens Pro To Go, Michael Skeggs, Olympics, Teamwork, Tonn Model Management, Twitter, Westcott Lighting
Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects | 2 Comments »
Thursday, January 21st, 2010
Yesterday I did a fun, quick portrait shoot for a young entrepreneur and businessman who wanted a professional portrait for his resumé and his personal website. Since earning his master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, the subject has founded a number of consulting services doing business both in the United States and abroad. The client is young, dynamic and technology-savvy, so we wanted a portrait that conveyed these concepts. As such, a traditional head-and-shoulders corporate headshot was too old-fashioned for this application.
Since his experience with Harvard was a substantial part of his background, the client decided he wanted to use Harvard Yard as the setting for his portrait. This presented somewhat of a challenge because while we wanted to capture the overall aesthetic of the school, I very much wanted to avoid being boxed into the stereotypes that come along with many people’s perceptions of Harvard. So, we had to use the setting subtly, so that the image didn’t scream “Harvard!!”
I went down to Harvard Square the day before the shoot scout out a couple of locations and see what might work well. The architecture of the buildings in the yard is quite unmistakably Ivy League, and many of Harvard’s buildings, perhaps most notably its Widener Library, are iconic. Even so, the campus offered plenty of quiet, tucked away corners that could serve very well for my purpose.
The day of the shoot I arrived with a minimum complement of gear, because I wanted to be portable and I knew we would have only a short period of time for set-up. I brought my Nikon camera body, a number of lenses, a small external light unit and a translucent disc light softener with stand. As it turned out, the sky was very overcast that day, diffusing the natural light and making the softening disc unnecessary.
I had spoken extensively with the client before the shoot (something I always like to do, so that photographer and subject can begin to get comfortable with each other, a process that is so important in shooting a good portrait!) so I had a good idea of the concepts he wanted the portrait to convey, so we were able to get started very quickly. I knew that to prevent the image from associating too closely with Harvard I would want to achieve a very shallow depth of field and blow the background way out of focus, so I initially chose a 70mm f/2.8 lens.
We moved around the campus trying different compositions and chatting about the client’s business. I always enjoy talking with people I meet about their backgrounds and what they do. Everyone has got a unique story and I’ve found that if you listen you can learn something from just about everyone. We were on a very tightly limited schedule and as time was running short I wanted to try one last composition. This time I selected my 50mm f/1.4 lens (this is my favorite lens. It yields very sharp images, and has such a wide aperture that it allows extremely shallow depth of field). Usually for a portrait I like a lens longer than 50mm (in the 70-120mm range), but in the location we were working there wasn’t sufficient room to back up (besides, I liked the very shallow depth of field). By now both the subject and I were getting cold and starting to shiver, but we had established a good dynamic and we were comfortable with each other, so I wanted to stick it out a bit longer and see what results I’d get. Sure enough, it was these last few minutes when I captured what turned out to be the best images of the day.
If I had had more time I would have liked to set up a bit of lighting gear (a bounce reflector to fill in the subject’s eyes, etc.), but alas we were out of time. The client had wanted a head-and-shoulders portrait that portrayed him as competent and capable, but that also was a little bit edgy, and I think we accomplished that; both the client and I were happy with the results.
Friday, January 8th, 2010
I think I’m a pretty normal person. A law-abiding citizen. Aside from the occasional speeding ticket here and there, I’ve never had any serious brushes with the law. But a couple of days ago, I almost got arrested. Why? For trying to take a picture.
You see, my father has worked in health care for his entire career. For the last fifteen years or so before he retired last summer, he served as the president of a hospital in Portland, Maine called Maine Medical Center, and for those fifteen or so years, he poured his heart and soul into that hospital. So as a sort of retirement present, I’ve wanted for a while to shoot a landscape shot of the hospital (it is a sprawling complex with many buildings, and sits very dramatically on top of the highest hill in Portland) for him to remember the place that was such a big part of his life.
For a few months I’ve been casually scouting out the area, trying to find the best angle from which to shoot the photo. I think I’ve found the best spot, a highway bridge that crosses part of Portland harbor offering an unobstructed view of the hospital buildings on the hilltop. This angle faces east, shooting from the west, meaning that at sunset, the buildings are lit up by a wonderful warm glow. So, a few days ago I set out with some gear a little while before sunset to take the shot.
I pulled over to the side of the highway on the bridge and began to set up. I pulled out my tripod, Nikon body and 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens. At the distance I was shooting from, I could fill the frame at 200mm, flattening the image and giving it sharp depth of field throughout the image. The sun was getting low and the light was wonderful. Everything was great.
Unfortunately what I had failed to consider is that the location from which I was shooting also happened to be nearly precisely in line with the runway of the nearby Portland Jetport, and was directly beneath the landing path of approaching airplanes. And in our post-9/11 world, somebody with a tripod and a big long black thing mounted on it right next to an airport runway can be cause for concern. So just as I was finishing setting up, reading the light for my exposure, I hear a voice behind me say, “What are you doing?” I turned around to see a Maine State Police trooper staring at me with his hand on his sidearm.
After I explained that I was a photographer and was merely trying to photograph the hospital, the officer very politely but sternly explained that because I was under the flight path of the airplanes, my presence had alerted the security people at the airport, and that since as a result of the proximity to the airport this particular section of road was designated “emergency stopping only,” I would have to leave or I could be arrested.
So I packed up my equipment, apologized to the officer and left, without having shot a single exposure. I searched for another appropriate place from which to shoot the image, but the best I could find was another point much closer to the hospital from which I shot the image below.
As you can see, the light is unattractive, the angle is bad (shooting up from below) and there are obstructions, including light poles, trees, chimneys and ugly distractions in the foreground. The image is worthless.
So I’ll have to keep looking for a way to get this shot. Moral of the story? In the post-9/11 world, photographers need to stay away from airports.
Monday, December 21st, 2009
This was a fun little personal project. A friend of mine is a very talented musician, and recently asked a favor for assistance with a project he was working on. Brian is a big Beatles fan, and he had an idea that for Christmas presents for his family and friends he would record a CD of his cover versions of a number of his favorite Beatles songs (no small task, as Brian played all of the parts [lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and vocals] himself!). Brian asked me to create the front and back covers for the CD.
Brian’s idea was that we would recreate one of his favorite Beatles album covers, and do a take-off on it. He decided to use the cover from the Beatles’ first U.S. album released in 1963, With the Beatles, which looks like this:
The idea was that we would substitute Brian’s face for those of John, Paul, George & Ringo. If I could get him in a studio in front of a black background with studio lighting this would be easy. Unfortunately Brian currently lives in Chicago, so not only couldn’t I get him in a studio, I couldn’t even shoot his headshots myself. Instead, I instructed him to set up his Point & Shoot camera zoomed all the way in to match the flattened look of the Beatles’ faces, with a single light on to his left, to light the left side of his face as the subjects on the real cover were lit. With the help of his wife Katie, he took those shots and emailed them to me. They looked like this:
A good start, but they needed a lot of work in order to make them look authentic to the original. In Photoshop, I outlined Brian’s head and shoulders, removed the background and replaced it with a solid black background. I then converted the image to black & white using various adjustment layers and masks to achieve the high-contrast lighting of the originals. I arrived at something that was pretty close.
I used a gradient to blend his shoulders to black to make them disappear, then used this file to create a composite image of four different Brians, laid out like the original image. For the four Brians, I layered the images one on top of another with their shoulders slightly overlapping to give the appearance of four people standing one in front of another, slightly decreasing the size and softening the focus each time to create the illusion of depth of field. After a few minutes in Adobe Illustrator to recreate the Parlophone logo and typeset a title bar, I then used Photoshop’s filters to add some noise and texture patterns to the image, to give it the look and feel of an aged, grainy, textured paper, instead of a 21-st century glossy digital print! The result:
I think it is pretty faithful to the original…
I also quickly laid out the back cover / track list using Adobe Illustrator, in the same style as the original:
All in all, a fun project.