Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saturday Photoshoot at the beach

This past Saturday's photoshoot was with Bodyfitt, a model who contacted me through ModelMayhem. Kahulani was our makeup artist for this shoot, which we did at Poolenalena Beach in Wailea.

In order to make use of the best light, we got an early start at 7:00am.

One of the first shots we attempted was to have the water flowing around the model. This is normally a shot I would do on an overcast day, but I wanted to experiment with this idea on a sunny day because the colors would pop more.

To make the water blur I needed to use a slow shutter speed, which was difficult because of the bright sunlight. In order to compensate for that, I set the camera to the lowest ISO possible and the smallest aperture possible. In this case it was ISO 100 and f 22. I also added a ND filter to the front of the lens to further reduce the amount of light coming into the camera so I could use a slower shutter speed. Even with this, the best (slowest) speed I could get was about 1/2 a second.

It was a little difficult getting the timing of the waves right. I would like to try something like this again in the future at a different location.

Our next setup was on the lava rocks. Our model switched to a gold colored wrap to contrast with the blue sky. Fill lighting was an AB800 with a beauty dish at about 3/4 power.

I used a polarizing filter to deepen the colors of the ocean and the sky.

Bodyfitt is a personal trainer and has a very muscular and toned physique. One of the things she wanted out of the shoot was a more soft look. For this next shot, we had her lie down in the surf and draped the blue fabric around her. To help with the soft look, I backed up far away and used a 70-200 lens @ f2.8 to give me a shallow depth of field. To further accentuate the shallow depth of field, I had the camera very low, almost resting on top of the sand.

This is one of my favorite images from that shoot.

One of the ideas we had for this shoot was inspired by the image of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr rolling around in the surf from the movie "From Here to Eternity". We concluded our photoshoot with our take on the classic movie scene.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Location Laptop Case completed

It took me a while to get all the components together, but I finally finished my location laptop case.

I started putting this together after watching the excellent "Location Laptop Case" YouTube video posted by commercial photographer Chase Jarvis.

I pretty much followed the way they designed theirs, with a few minor modifications.

The case is the Pelican 1490 which fits the 15" MacBook Pro. If you are designing one for the 17" model, there is a larger version of this case - the Pelican 1495.

I started with industrial Velcro on the bottom of the case to hold 2 external firewire drives (One main, one backup).

I cut a hole in the divider to route the firewire cable through. I chose to mount the drives with the firewire ports facing the front so that it would be easier to access the ports and on/off switches.

One of the problems I encountered with mounting the drives below the computer was that the MacBook Pro fan would constantly run, due to the heat from the metal casings of the drives. I added an Elecom gelpack on top of the hard drives which is very thin, but also helps to draw heat away from the drives.

There is another hole cut into the side divider to route the firewire cable out from the drive bays and into the side ports of the MacBook Pro. There is a notch cut in the divider to make space for the firewire 400, 800 and USB ports.

Since there is only one USB port on this side of the computer, I have a 4-port Elecom USB hub connected here (The flat white box on the right side of the photo). This allows me to connect multiple additional devices, such as a wireless mouse, Wacom tablet, iPhone charger cable, etc.

A Sandisk firewire 800 CompactFlash card reader is installed in the upper part of the case. The firewire 800 cable is run through the back of the case, down under the foam and up into the side of the laptop.

I also sometimes need an SD card reader, so I found this on my last trip to Japan. It's an SDHC card reader which fits into the ExpressCard slot on the left side of the MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Pro is a slightly older model (not the unibody) with a matte screen. It is encased in a Speck MacBook Pro 15" See-thru snap on case. I like this case because it simply snaps onto the MacBook Pro and protects it from scratches. I then added the Compushade folding laptop sunshade which mounts to the lid of the case.

This makes it easy for times when I need just the laptop itself and not the Pelican case. I can unplug the cables, take just the laptop with me, and still have it protected by the Speck case and the Compushade.

Since I use this laptop for both photography and video editing, I also added a keyboard overlay for Final Cut Pro. You can find this at www.kbcovers.com.

On a recent trip to Japan I found the perfect travel mouse for this laptop. This is the Elecom micro receiver BitGrast mouse. The transmitter for this wireless mouse is TINY!

The pockets in the upper part of the case store the extra battery and power supply. Also keep a few extra model releases in there.

I used to keep a 6x8 Wacom Intuos Tablet in there as well, but it was a pretty tight fit. Planning to keep the tablet at home and invest in the smaller Wacom Intuos tablet for traveling.

When I'm working and have access to an outlet, I slide the laptop slightly up and back so that it rests on the hinge of the Pelican case. This lets me connect the power adapter and gives me access the left USB port (and allows me to connect the R2D2 USB hub at the office). It also gives the hard drives underneath a little breathing room so they run a little cooler.

Things to get in the near future:

1. smaller Wacom tablet
2. decent set of collapsible headphones for video editing
3. external battery with a MagSafe connector (for times when there's no available outlet)
4. Solar charging option?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sometimes it takes a while

I shot this image a few years ago but wasn't able to finish it 'til today.

Originally we shot this against a greenscreen using an ABR800 Ringlight. I also used 2 SB-26 flashes with CTO gels behind the model to help her blend into the fire that I was planning to add later in post.

Joanne was the model, with makeup done by Jessica Waite and hair done by Karli Benedict. My friend Jennifer was our assistant - she stood in for the skeleton and held his sword.

There were two things that made it take this long for me to finish the image: the greenscreen and the skeleton.

First, getting a good matte from the greenscreen turned out to be harder than I had planned. The greenscreen wasn't evenly lit ( I didn't have enough lights and it was also one of my first attempts at greenscreen work). Thanks to my friend Chaz at After6Media, I found out about a Photoshop plugin called Primatte, which is really effective at cutting out subjects shot against a greenscreen. It helped that the way Karli styled Joanne's hair made it so there were no tiny stray hairs to mess around with. Using the Primatte plugin, it took about 3-4 mouse clicks to get the matte about 90% of the way I wanted it.

Second problem was finding the right adversary for our ninja. Since our assistant wasn't willing to be hacked to pieces by our ninja, I thought about adding a samurai warrior in post to battle her. Unfortunately, samurai battle gear is a little hard to come by on Maui.

Went through different ideas - ninjas, zombies, nothing was sparking a good idea. I added the fire and background screen and left it at that for a while.

What got be back into working on this image was a tutorial from Videocopilot.net - a website dedicated to showing how to make all sorts of crazy cool effects in Adobe After Effects. One of the tutorials was how to disintegrate a person, like the effect seen in the movie "Blade".

I went thru the tutorial and happened to be watching CSI at the same time. That's when I got the idea for the skeleton - sort of a homage to the old stop motion Ray Harryhausen Sinbad movies.

I used a CG skeleton, added the disintegration effect from After Effects, and the result can be seen above.