I published my own Book! [Portfolio]

Thanks to a handful of discounts I was able to order myself a portfolio book to take with me on photo shoots and to events.  I used Blurb to do my printing, and their software Book Smart to actually build it.  I'm very pleased with the results, and I'll be very happy to show this work to potential clients.

I ordered the Large Landscape, 13x11" hardcover with a dust jacket.  I used the Proline Pearl Photo Paper on the inside to maximize the viewing quality of the photos.  My goal was to make the images nice and big so that they created maximum impact.  

I really liked some of the features in the software, as well as the page layouts.  This is the opening page, acknowledgements and introduction.

I divided the book into two sections: Portraits and Fashion and Beauty.  I had to create my own vertical spread arrangements so that they would look balanced.  There is room in most of the layouts for captions if you want that sort of thing, but I felt it was unnecessary for my purposes.

Another part of the Portraits section.

This is the title page of the Fashion and Beauty section.  I really like the impact that this spread creates!

Some of my images from Janelle Brown's fashion line:

Here's a close up shot of the binding.  Everything is high quality, and looks exceptional.

Finally, a view of the spine:

The total came in under $100 to order including taxes and shipping.  I think it's a very worthwhile investment and I'm really impressed by the quality of the product.

If you're thinking about making up a book, do it.  When you see your photos in print, in a book it's really special.  It isn't cheap, but it is incredibly worthwhile!


My first Beach Bikini Shoot featuring Olivia Tupper

A few weeks back I set up a sort of last minute shoot with Olivia Tupper.  She had originally wanted to do some beach photos that had a 50's-60's pin up feel to them.  We instead decided to go for something a bit more modern, making use of the beautiful sunlight, bright blue ocean and for some images, black and white film.  

The beach itself was pretty crowded when we arrived, but as we shot people started to pack up and leave. It was about 6:30pm when we first arrived, and about 7:00pm before we even started shooting.

The sun's position was getting lower and lower, and the light even more directional and colourful.  Olivia did up her own makeup and hair, though her sister was there to help out a bit when we needed to get it a bit more wet.

Both my assistant Sarah Bee and I got pretty soaked from the knees down.  I rolled up my pant legs, but it really wasn't enough.  This being my first beach shoot, I guess I can be somewhat forgiven for having not brought a towel.  In the end, it was worth it!

For film, I used up a roll of Kodak TMax 400ISO, which I had expected to be very contrasted, almost like a black and white photocopy.  It wasn't.  The grain is very pleasing, and the way the emulsion compresses the light and shadow areas is awesome.  Both of the following shots are the TMax. I didn't do very much in the way of retouching. I fixed a few fly-away hairs, and that's about it.

I didn't do anything too crazy with the lighting.  Sarah was fantastic at finding the sun and using either my circular reflector or piece of white foam board to bounce light back into Olivia's face. 

That's all for now!  Coming up I'll have my recent downtown shoot with Alysha Bouchard, as well as some Dance photos from a shoot organized through the Sackville photo club.  Stay tuned!

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!


Boardwalk Fashion Shoot

Last night was cold.  Bitterly cold.  You can understand then, why I'm as impressed with Olivia Tupper as I am.  She was able to pose in a little black dress and didn't even flinch.

Model: Olivia Tupper
Assistant: Jess Naish Lingley

If you're interested, you can read my ramblings or simply click the first image to bring up a slideshow.
Olivia, rocking a little black dress and a red jacket against a blue background.  Contrast!!

The goal of our shoot was to get some drama happening: a backdrop with lots of texture and colour while keeping the focus on Olivia.  We met up at a Tim Horton's downtown, got ourselves some coffee to keep warm then went out into the cold, cold world. 

I knew what kind of lighting I was going to use well in advance.  I also knew that using a full cut of CTO on each flash was going to be necessary.  What I wasn't sure about was how much I could get away with in terms of shutter speed.

The problem is that I use manual triggers.  Everything I do with the triggers has to be controlled external to the camera, including synchronization, power and zoom.  The limitations of this system might come into play when you have to drag the shutter longer than 1/40 of a second, since ideally the rear-curtain sync would be the best option (and one I don't have).  Only using front curtain sync (default) means that I could wind up with a blurry shot, rather than my flash going off at the end of the exposure to freeze the subject. 

With these limitations in mind, I set out to position and power the lights to give the best effect I could.  I used an Ezybox off camera left for a key light, and used a single strobe, bare head as a side/back light, off camera right.  The side-light was flagged on the underside so that I didn't get a bunch of spill onto the ground.  
I think the one lighting mistake that I made was not putting the side-light up high enough.  The shadows cast by such a harsh light caused me a few problems, and due to my brain not really functioning properly in the cold, I didn't see it until later.  

So this begs a question: why the hell were you guys out there in such bitter cold?  Why not August?  Here's my logic: There were very few people out and about on the waterfront, so my background is pretty uncluttered.  While temperatures were about zero or lower with a light wind, they certainly could have been worse.  Between shots, Olivia was tossing her jacket back on to keep warm, which helped substantially. 

Olivia realized after looking over my shoulder, that we were being watched by just about every person on the ferry.  For some reason, we found this hilarious

Notice the black outlines on Olivia: this is an artifact of a slow shutter speed combined with flash freezing the subject's motion.  I actually like that there's some separation between her and the background.

This is one of my personal favourites from the shoot.  It helps to show more of the background, and a bit of the sky's drama.  This is the shoot I came downtown for.

Once we finished up on the boardwalk we went into the ferry terminal for a quick 10 minute warm up, and Olivia changed into some warmer clothes.  Once we were thawed out a bit, we hit the street looking for some cool brickwork or a nicely lit backdrop to shoot against.  We didn't get very far, since we wanted to stay close to the cars.  For these shots, I used one light, a beauty dish off camera left.  I wanted to keep things pretty simple.

I simply love the dramatic falloff of the light from a beauty dish.  It's so punchy and three-dimensional.  It makes me feel pretty bad then to know I have to look into another alternative from Lumodi. Their dishes are great, but they just don't hold up to our Canadian weather.  

Olivia put a jacket on between shots, as before, but this time I asked her to keep it on.  I really liked the blue against the reddish backdrop.  
Cheers, and stay warm!

Autumn Leaves

Model shoot with the lovely Chelsea Avendano

Friday afternoon was a great opportunity for me to stretch my legs with lighting again.  I lugged almost everything I had along to this shoot, and used almost all of it.

I purchased a Lumodi 14" white beauty dish a couple of months ago, in anticipation of photographing some models that would be able to handle that classic harsh-yet-soft light.  I even tried the dish on myself, proving that sometimes a beauty dish can be an ugly dish!

Enter Chelsea Avendano: She told me she hadn't done a shoot in a while, but she was an absolute pro to work with!  We found a really nice location, and went all out with the beauty dish as a key light, letting the background and ambient fill come from the lightly overcast sun.  The dish was placed about 20 degrees off axis from the camera, and about 4 feet back from Chelsea.  It absolutely rocks!!

Not too shabby, especially since we were about 15 minutes into the shoot.  I had a keeper almost out of the gate!
Now check it out in Black and White.  Keeper!!
 I then backlit Chelsea with a bare flash while she played around with the great scarf that she brought along.  She was a superstar and the results were fabulous!

We moved along to a different location, and I got out my 50mm lens to do some very shallow depth-of-field stuff.  Even stopped up to F2.2 or F2.8, the depth of field is so shallow that focusing was difficult. If I didn't get it just right (eye closest to me) then I'd miss, have a nose in focus and eyes that were out.

The lighting here was really dead simple.  We were in a shaded area, and I had my lovely assistant Jess helping me by holding up a reflector, off camera left to bounce up some light into shadowed areas.  The smoothness of my light at this point allowed me lots of leeway in post-production.  I put some toning effects on the backdrop to enhance some of the foliage with Color Efex Pro 4.

The shallow DOF with the Nifty Fifty is a star player in this shot.  I absolutely love the bokeh!
 So now I'd used bare flash, a beauty dish and a reflector.  What about the ambient light?  For this next location, we were able to find a spot that was a little more open in the sky, and the sun had luckily descended into a hazy cloud formation and wasn't going to come back out.  That type of sky actually allowed me to put the sun over my shoulder instead of the model's, and still get brilliant light.  There are no light modifications to this next shot.

The sun was over my right shoulder, at about 45 degrees off axis to the lens.  The soft, wrapping quality of this light allowed me to get a very simple, but effective shot.  
I changed up the background from the previous shot, and got Chelsea to stand on the other side of me.  I barely moved, but now the sun was over her shoulder.  I used my softbox to get a key light similar to that in the photo I had just taken.   Once again, I used Color Efex Pro 4 to tone some of the trees.

Sometimes, magic just happens.  After a shoot like this, I'm almost tempted to say "I'm getting there!" but I almost always push myself further.   I do feel however, like this photoshoot was a step forward, with the stars all aligning to help me out.  

Some quick things I learned on this shoot: 

  1. Tripod tripod tripod.  These shots are as sharp as they are because I was using a tripod on a lot of them.  Using a longer lens such as the 70-200 f4L without image stabilization, this is almost mandatory.  
  2. ISO 400 and 800 are perfectly usable for location portraits.  Seriously, I know less noise is better, but I don't really notice much of a difference between ISO 100 and 400.  Here's the trade off, even on a tripod: Low ISO, Slow shutter speed, blurry photos.  High ISO, Fast shutter speed, sharp but noisy photos.   The second option is just better all around.
  3. Light looks best when it's not too fake, but punchy fake light can be exciting as well.  There's no right answer.  There's only YOUR right answer when it comes to light.  If it looks good to you, press the shutter! 
  4. Editing can suck when you have too many images you like.  I walked away from this shoot with almost 400 shots, and many of them were beyond my expectations.  I found it very difficult to choose from the images!!