Saturday, October 30, 2010

12 hours, 800+ frames, 3 cases of Red Bull: The Four Elements Photoshoot

Wow, that was a really long day!  But it was FUN!

Makeup artist Kahulani and model Julie LeBlond wanted to do a "Four Elements" shoot in the studio.  We had a lot of help on this one - Ronald, Jeane & Alex were our assistants.

To make the setups go as quickly as possible, we chose to use the same basic lighting on the model and just change up the background lighting and hair light between each look.

To light the model, we setup 4 AB800s with these modifiers: a large softbox above, medium softbox below, and two strip softboxes on either side.  Each light was controlled with the Alien Bees Wired Remote Control.
Since the lights were in so close to the model's face, the sliders on all four of the lights were set at minimum power.  Shot through the middle of this setup with a 5D mkII and 70-200mm f2.8L lens on a tripod.  Settings were iso 200, 1/160@f5.6.

Because we set up the main lights about 10-15 feet in front of the white wall, the light falloff allowed the white wall to go dark grey. For the background light we used another AB800 aimed at the white wall behind Julie.  We covered the light with a different colored gel to change the color of the wall for each look.

For Julie's hair light, we used a Nikon SB26 set at about 1/8th power.  This we also gelled differently for each look.

While Kat was working on Julie's first look "Fire", we put red gels on both background and hair lights.  We also added a 20 degree grid to reduce the light on the wall to just a small spot of color.

The look really started to come together once we put the hair light directly behind Julie and set up a fan to add motion to her hair.

For the next look "Wind",  we went with a high-key look.  We took off the gels and put a shoot thru umbrella on the background light.  To help add a subtle suggestion of wind/clouds to the background, we setup a couple of C-stands and strung some white tulle between them.

Because of the shallow depth of field, the tulle blurred out and left just a hint of movement in the background.

Each look also incorporated a neck tattoo to represent each element - Earth, Water, Fire, Air.  The graphic used was similar to the ones from the movie "The Fifth Element".

For the "Earth" look, we took off the umbrella and put on a green gel for the background light.

To help break up the light, we tried various things- shooting the light through water bottles, stacks of plastic cups, etc.  We finally just put an imitation silk tree in front of the background light.

This was one of the more elaborate looks of the day and Kat worked extra hard to make each look amazing.  The eyelashes were Kat's own invention.

For this "Earth" look, Kat also incorporated some greenery taken out of her own backyard.

We added a CTO gel to Julie's hair light and dialed down the power a bit to give a more subdued look.  You can just barely see the hair light on her neck and shoulders.

For the last look, "Water" we brought out the C-stands again and draped a blue satin bedsheet over them.  Alex positioned the fan underneath the sheet to add some random movement.  We lit it with a blue-gelled AB800.  After shooting a couple of test frames, we added another SB26 with a blue gel to help fill in the background from the other side.

To go along with Julie's wet hair for this look, we added some water droplets.  Alex was able to macgyver together a spray bottle with a bottle of water and the sprayer from a Windex bottle.

We then had Alex spray the water behind Julie as we shot. With a blue gel on the Nikon SB26 hair light, the water spray lit up pretty well.

We took over 800 frames to get to these final four images, and it was a very long day of work.  The results however, were really worth it.  I've always wanted to try shooting a concept like this and I'm glad I got to be a part of it. Mahalo to everyone for all their hard work!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trash the Dress session

Canon 7D 24-70mm f2.8L iso 200 1/800@f5.6

A few weeks ago my assistant Quddus and I did our first official Trash-The-Dress session with Christina and Kervin.  The weather was a bit uncooperative, but luckily we got some really great images.

This couple was amazing to work with because they were literally up for anything we could throw at them.  We had them rolling in the sand, sitting on the edge of lava rocks while waves came crashing down on them, all kinds of things.  The above shot, which was towards the end of the session is one of my favorites from the shoot.  Natural overcast light with minor tinkering in Photoshop.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Action shooting with Yves-Lauren

Towards the end of our shoot together, Yves mentioned she wanted to get some action images with our gun props and the Lamborghini that was parked in the garage.

I thought it would be cool to recreate the scene from Mission Impossible 3 where Tom Cruise hangs out of an SUV to shoot at his pursuers.

Since we had neither the crew nor the budget of a typical Hollywood movie, we had to cheat a little bit.

It was late in the evening so we kept the car in the garage.  I setup behind the rear wheels of the Lamborghini and used a sandbag to help position the camera nearly eye-level to the ground.

We shot Yves hanging out of the car with the gun and lit her as if she were actually in traffic.  We used 2 AB800s with 7" reflectors - one next to the camera position for the main light and one behind her for a separation light.  These were lowered as much as we could to emulate headlights from oncoming and rear traffic.

Shooting the background and road (in Hollywood special effects, these are called "plates"), required shooting on an actual road at night a few weeks later.  Usually if you're a famous photographer like Chase Jarvis or Joe McNally, you have a whole bunch of gear and crew at your disposal to make it happen. 

For me, I had my wife drive me to Safeway one night while I leaned out of the passenger window holding my camera as close to the road as I could reach.  Didn't have any fancy gyroscope or suction cup mounts, so I just braced the camera against the side of our car to help steady the camera.  Very low budget.  Probably also very illegal and dangerous (don't try this at home kids).

Used a slow shutter speed of about 1 second to blur the road and the lights.  A problem with driving late at night on Maui, is that there aren't any big city lights to pass by and not many places are open around 11pm.  It took about 250 frames and multiple drivebys of Jack in the Box, McDonalds, and 7-Eleven before I got an acceptable image.

In creating the final image, I used streaks from one of the unused background plates and layered it over the model to give a sense of speed. The bullet was modeled in Lightwave and composited in Photoshop.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Afternoon shoot with Yves-Lauren

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with model Yves-Lauren.  With my assistant Quddus, we were able to do several different lighting setups very quickly in a short span of time.

Our  first setup was by the infinity pool of the estate Yves was staying at.

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 400 1/160@f16

For this shot I wanted to overpower the sun with the flash.  This was about 2-3pm in the afternoon in Kapalua, so the sun was off to the left of the frame.  I used a circular polariser on the lens which helped to both reduce the reflections in the pool and define the clouds in the sky better.

We used a WL1600 with an 11" reflector to light her from across the pool.  The 11" or long throw reflector is larger and shaped a little different from a standard 7" reflector.  It is a little more efficient at shooting light over a greater distance.  The long throw reflector was very handy to have because it enabled my assistant to light the model from a safe distance on dry land instead of having to stand in the shallow end of the pool (batteries and water do not tend to play well with each other).

Canon 5D mkII  70-200 f2.8L lens iso 200 1/160@f5.6

I had originally planned to use the sun as her rim light for this next look, but by the time we were ready to start shooting it the sun was lower than the surrounding trees and we didn't have the angle of sunlight that we needed.  Luckily, the sun was also starting to reflect off of the windows on the house behind me, which gave us a nice soft main light to work with.   I had Quddus setup the WL1600 across the pool and off to the left to use as our rim light.  We used a silver California Sunbounce Pro to help add more reflected sunlight as her main light.

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 200 1/160@f8

This next series of shots were taken on the balcony above the pool.  This time I wanted to use a larger light source because the softer shadows would match better with the look that Yves changed into.  Ordinarily we would have gone with the 5ft Octodome, but because it was so windy, we had to settle for a large softbox which was slightly easier to brace against the edge of the roof overhang.

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 200 1/125@f5.6

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 200 1/125@f5.6

For this last set, we used 2 lights.  The main light was a WL1600 and softbox on a C-stand boomed above camera center.

About 10 feet behind her we used an AB800 with a 1/2 or 1/4 CTO gel for a rimlight.

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 200 1/160@f8

Canon 5D mkII  24-105 f4L IS lens iso 200 1/160@f8

In hindsight I would have liked to have the rimlight surround her more as we sort of start to lose her black dress into the background, so if I had backed up the AB 800 light up even further away or maybe added a second rim light?  File it under things to remember for next time.