Halifax Nocturne 2013 in Photographs

I will be brief, as there are a lot of photos to show. Last night was the sixth annual Nocturne, a series of interactive, outdoor and indoor artwork around downtown Halifax.  Needless to say, it was a great opportunity to get out and get some photos.   Everything from sidewalk chalk artists to circus performers were on display, entertaining and making a lot of people think.  Here is my experience in photos: 

On Fire: Behind The Scenes

Friday was a big day.  I actually was going to have my first full studio session including a model, make-up artist and assistants.  I was pretty nervous going in, since I had fronted the cost of a three hour rental at Aperture and wanted to make the absolute best of it.  I think I got the results I was after.  Each photo was planned out, so that lighting, timing and setup would be streamlined.  The theme of the shoot was to be Fire, and I was going to try to put it together with fashion, hair, makeup and colours.

Here are some behind the scenes photos of what went on:
This is the setup for how I got the shot at the top of this post.   I had Ellen sit and give me some 'Fiery' expressions.  My assistant Tasha was waving a large piece of cardboard to create a gust of wind.  
We used a large piece of cardboard in lieu of a Fan to create the windy look in the shots.  I could have used a fan, yes, but if Lindsay Adler has taught me anything, it's that a fan will move the hair about in strands, rather than in locks.  I wanted the full wind gust on this shot.

Lighting-wise, I wasn't doing anything too spectacular.  I used an octabox (seen above and below) in front of Ellen.  Behind her, about 8 feet back and two feet camera right is a small strip bank that was gridded for control.

In fact, Jess (who took these photos with her iPhone) is standing beside the strip bank.  
We worked with the shot until we got just what I was after, and even a little further.  Then, we introduced a few new elements, including the chair and pumps.  The lighting for this shot is almost identical to the shot above, with the addition of a reflector off camera right and in front to help fill shadow areas.  

We needed something more, something to add to the "heat" of the photos.  I placed a gelled light behind Ellen to add some rim lighting and create some glow.  In addition, we also started to smoke up the place with Tasha's smoke machine.  it worked great to add an extra bit of atmosphere to the photos.  We also changed up the softbox to something with some more energy, a 22" beauty dish.  Once again, the reflector was used, gold side, to help fill in the shadows.

I simply love the slight grin on Ellen's face. 
Ellen went for a change of wardrobe and we removed the soft-box off camera right, replaced it with the more directional attachment that comes standard on these lights.  We added some more smoke and this shot below came about:

Setup was three lights: Beauty dish above and off camera left, Orange Gelled strobe off camera left and slightly behind Ellen.  Bare strobe off camera right and above and behind Ellen. 

The final set of images were to be a lot of fun.  We had to time this stuff perfectly in order for it to work, and Ellen had to stand very nearly perfectly still.  I used a tutorial I found online to create the fire effect, and added in a punch from two light sources.  I had Jess (my other lovely assistant) open the shutter.  I used a glowstick to paint in the fire effect all around and somewhat in front of Ellen as quickly as time allowed. as soon as I felt I had covered everywhere, I got off-set and told Ellen to give an expression and hold it.  I used a wireless trigger in my hand to pop the lights, then Jess closed the shutter.  It worked okay for the first few times, but we began to refine the process and really nail down some cool stuff.  There was still a slight haze in the air from the smoke machine, and it added very well to the shot.

I was able to bring in some fabric that I picked up at my local Fabricville.  We used it as a wrap, but I think there could be more photos with this in the future!  
So that's about it.  I think from what time I spent in the studio I got a great return.  Everyone had a lot of fun, and I am incredibly thankful for their help and input.  I still need to work on my interaction with models, to try and get a more clear picture in my head while I'm shooting.  There's always something new to work on, and I have some more ideas that I want to try!


Halifax Nocturne 2012 Photos

Saturday was the Scott Kelby Wordwide Photowalk! In Halifax, the date actually coincided with Nocturne, so our group leader, Terry Crowell got everyone out doing some night photography!  With all kinds of artwork and performances about, there was lots to photograph, but light was hard to come by.  The following is a small series of the shots I got from the event.  Enjoy!

Note: If you click on any one image, a click-through slideshow will load!

A family enjoys the giant spiderweb set up in Victoria Park.  The web was very accurately constructed and intended only for one night.  

Detail shot of the Victoria Park web.  The nylon strands used to construct the web were sprayed with a sticky gel substance.  A leaf is caught in the web.

The event "Move" was a showcase of some of the talent from Halifax Circus, including some fire breathers,

...and also circus performances.  

From a photography perspective, the indoor images were incredibly challenging to make.  ISO3200 was not really enough, but I didn't want to push any higher and lose sharpness, and flash was out of the question in a quiet environment.

Serpentine Studios put on a show for people on Barrington Street, dancing as silhouettes in the windows of their studio.

The Robot Art show at Argyle Fine Art was awesome, showcasing some very cool and original sculptures made with common metal objects.  

The bunnies...WILL GET YOU....

Pier 21 had some very cool highlighting for nocturne but I never did get inside to see what was happening.

Now the tough part: I have to select one of these images to upload for the photowalk contest.  I would love to submit more than one, but those are the rules.  What do you think I should submit?

Thanks for reading, Cheers!

Fun in the Sun

Awesome Weekend, Last in NB!

Justin dialling in his scope at 600 yards downrange from the target lineup.

This is my last weekend as a resident of Fredericton.  I've lived in New Brunswick my entire life and I'll be moving to Nova Scotia (neighbouring province) by the end of this week.  I've had a lot of fun in my home province, and will be missing it dearly. 

The fact is, hunting and fishing are a huge part of life in NB, and I've partaken in fishing many times when living in Welsford, but only rarely did I get out to go hunting.  On those rare occasions, we never saw a thing, but got in some target practice with a tin can or plastic bottle (we always picked up our trash afterward)

Fortunately, I got out this previous weekend to a local rifle range with some friends and got to try out a few rifles I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to shoot.  Also, I was able to hone my shooting skills a bit, both with the camera and a gun.   

SAFETY NOTE: Though it looks like we were fooling around a bit, everyone attending the range has at some point taken a firearm safety course and knows the dangers of handling weapons.  Any time photos were being taken the range was declared "Cold" and any weapons were cleared of ammunition and checked over to ensure no accidents would happen.  

This is our target lineup.  The metal plate on the upper right was 12" by 12" to give a sense of scale.  At 600 yards, it looked like a little orange dot. 

Shooting is entirely too much fun.  We were on the long range, as in, 600 yards long.  Starting at 100 yards, we could see targets and a get a feel for the rifles.  After we shot a handful of times, we moved downrange to the 300 yard mark and dialed in from there.  Finally, we went to the end of the range and tried to hit some targets.  At this range, there was a wild amount of haze from the heat of the day.  I got lucky several times and hit the steel plate and clipped a tin can we set up and painted orange.

Photographically speaking, the hot sun provided a series of challenges but luckily I brought along a flash and trigger to help fill in some of the harsh shadows.  It was also fortunate that the sun was behind us while we were shooting, so getting in front of the firing line on a cold range allowed me to get some cool photos like the one at the top of the post.  

Fill flash was used to minimize harsh shadows on Jonah's ripped torso.  I had to use a small aperture (F11) to cut down the sun, resulting in a very long depth of field.
The only undesirable incident of the day was Nick getting a scope in the forehead on a kickback from the 30-06, causing a pretty sizeable cut and requiring some first aid.  He was alright, but needed a sit down for a while.  (The AR-15 he has in his hands has no firing pin and the clip was empty) 

Finally, at the end of the day we all posed for a group photo. I used my tripod and timer to set off the camera.  Once again, a fill flash off camera was used to minimize the harsh shadows from mid-day sun.

I was sure to snap one "serious" shot, then moved on to some poses.  I liked this one the best of the posed shots.

All in all, a great Saturday, and loads of fun.  The next morning I played in a golf tournament with some other friends, wrapping up my last full weekend in New Brunswick.   

Cheers, more tk...

Why I Hate Fluorescent Lights

On Location Shooting with Jonah Tremblay

This was a tough shoot.  I was pressed for time and the lights were just not working well for me. But man, did I ever learn a lot.  NOTE: If you're looking for a basis of my lighting setups or any information at all pertaining to off-camera flash, have a look over David Hobby's Strobist blog.  In it you'll find an absolute wealth of information regarding lights, gels, modifiers, etc and everything that's possible with them.

Once again, I'm taking a page out of my photographic hero Joe McNally's book and attempting to do something very dramatic with a wide angle portrait.  Jonah was pretty patient and I had some help in the form of my engineering friends to hold lights, reflectors and high spirits.  The thing that I really liked about this shoot was how much I got done in a short period of time.  What I didn't like was how unprepared I was for the dramatic lights.  

When we got there, Jonah had to get ready and put on some gear.  No big deal, this gave me a bit of time to see what would be possible for a shot.  With no other firefighters there, we had free reign of the Musquash Volunteer Fire Department's garage, so I proceeded with an "anything goes" mentality. I knew I had at least one photo I wanted to try (top of the post).  

In the few minutes I got ready, several things became obvious: the firetruck was pretty old and not exactly a full-size monstrosity that I had hoped for, the ceiling was awash with greenish hued fluorescent bulbs and when the flashing lights were on, and finally, we had a time budget.  Well, this is what makes photography fun!

I did the shot I wanted first.  I bit the bullet and used a CTO gel in an Ezybox hotshoe softbox to warm up Jonah's face.  I used a long shutter speed to get lots of light from the firehall into the shot and let the flash "freeze" Jonah in place.  Some props and light positioning later we had a useable shot.  Not too shabby (see the shot at the top of the page).

Moving on, I asked Jonah to give me a relaxed pose near the truck's controls with the jacket off.  Hindsight is 20/20 as always and I would have loved to put some soot on his face to add authenticity.  Didn't have a makeup artist with me so we just went without.  It took us a bit of fiddling to get the light in the right spot, where I didn't have a great big square of white beaming back from the side of the truck.  

Cool, that was quick.  Then Jonah asked about getting a shot with the SUV, which he's expected to drive.  Okay, let's see what we can do.

This is when things got difficult.  I had to light Jonah, his truck and let some of the light from the big truck behind shine through.  I tried wide, including the entire SUV and got nothing good.  I tried using another flash to light up the truck. That worked but I also lit up the gross coloured building behind it.

I just wound up pulling in tight, getting a close-up of Jonah with a part of the SUV in the shot.  Time was getting slim at this point as we had to drive an hour and a half through some dark and foggy New Brunswick highways to get home.  Highways normally populated with moose.

Lessons Learned

Location scouting is now an obvious necessity.  I wish I had known beforehand that I would be dealing with fluorescent lights as it would have saved me some post-processing.  In fact, I could have taken a number of avenues to avoid getting a greenish tinge to my background fill lighting.  
  1. Gel the flash with green: I normally would have done this, but I had another set of fluorescent lights to deal with and didn't want to compound the problem.  Besides, I was already using a warming gel on the flash.
  2. Turn out the lights and just let the fire truck do the ambient lighting: I will try this next time. I know that I would have had focusing problems, but where I was on a tripod using a long exposure time, I could easily have locked in my focus, turned off the lights and gone shutter-happy.  Also, I wouldn't have to do the following option
  3. Selectively remove some green from the photo: this is the option I wound up having to pursue.  It works, but only because I don't have any green on Jonah that's important.
I think the most important lesson I learned however, is that when you do a portrait like this it can really mean something special to the subject and/or their families.