Friday, December 26, 2014

Put a polarizer on the front of your lens

You've experienced the enhanced view of the world about you when you pop on your good quality sunglasses on brighter days. The extra contrast, definition, and colour resolution that keeps everything you see looking clear and three dimensional.

The effect that a polarizing filter adds to your photos is one that isn't easily, if at all, achievable using post processing software. Because what your polarizer is doing for you is filtering out the effect of light reflecting back from the surfaces it hits. In turn you get more saturated colours and if required, bluer skies. I'm using a Circular Polarizing Filter (CPL) on my DSLR for these examples.

In this example above, the sun is behind me and slightly to my right. Without making any colour tweaks to my files this is what I got using the same settings. The only difference is that I overexposed by 2 stops for the polarized shot to take into account the darkness of my filter. Most of the dark reflections in the water have beed neutralized giving me a much cleaner looking sea and I've also got better definition between the clouds and the sky.

Here I'm shooting with the sun at approximately 90 degrees to my viewpoint. At this angle I can get the maximum effect of my CPL. Again with no colour adjustments, I have more pleasing colour rendition and a darker blue sky. The CPL filters rotate on the front of your lens so you can dial the amount of polarization you want up or down and see immediately what the effect is in your viewfinder.

And this last example is taken from the edge of the beach looking into the water and the result is self explanatory. If you decide to purchase one of these filters to add some punch to your photographs, look for a filter with a low profile. Low profile filters will be less affected by vignetting as the light enters your camera lens.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Take control converting your photos to black and white

There are a few ways to convert your colour photos to black and white in Photoshop. For some people, the simplest thing to do is to use the Convert to Grayscale drop down menu. The results are often quite flat and dull looking. I used the Convert to Grayscale function for the image above left. I have also used levels to increase the contrast and mid tones in an attempt to make the end result more appealing to look at. If you're happy with this image then no need to go further.

In the image on the right, I used a Black and white adjustment layer to do the conversion. Here it's shown side by side with the colour image for reference. 

Let's take another closer look at the results from the 2 methods I've mentioned for converting colour images to black and white.
In this closer view you can clearly see that I have been able to control the different colour tones of the image while making the conversion resulting in more detail in the shadow areas and clearer definition between the model's jacket and pants. In the video below I'll walk you through this very simple process that offers greatly increased control when making your colour to black and white conversions.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Valencia

Valencia was the first of the locations for this AirBnB campaign that I worked on and it was really nice to find myself in Europe again. In addition to the location shoots that were planned, the film director also wanted to include highlights of the Falles festivities in her piece. After spending the morning checking out the available locations, the spaces were confirmed and everyone was ready to roll.

Because of the festivities, many of the streets were decorated with colourful bunting. 

On the first day of shooting we worked through some sets and then contributed to the street decorations with laundry props that were used when we worked with a model for the scene that was set up to be shot from across the street.

The following morning we shot the street scene with our poster boy model viewed from a balcony. It turned out to be a busy right of way but the production crew did a great job of managing to stop people appearing in shot without really annoying any general public who wanted access. 

The other challenge for them was stopping people who had seen the cameras and lights and were trying to intentionally get into the shots!

My "office"
Once we had the scene and wrapped, we were able to have some lunch and make preparations for the night shooting. There were a couple of locations that had been confirmed that would give great viewpoints for capturing the fires and fireworks that would be set off that night at the climax of the festivities. In order to have things well covered, the director and her film crew went along to one of the main sites but I was also given a video camera as back up for the site that I would be covering.

The fires and fireworks would happen around midnight, so I set up my "office" for the evening and started to captured stills of anything I saw that could be used by the client. As I watched and waited, the square below me suddenly began to fill up with people and a variety show took place on the stage at one side of the square. Once the fire was being lit and the fireworks ignited, I put down my stills camera and used the video camera that had been left with me. 

Although the display was spectacular, I later found out that the film crew not only had a similarly spectacular display to shoot, the assistant director actually caught on fire from sparks from the fireworks whizzing by! You can imagine all the puns… No one was hurt and no medical attention was needed.

We were all regrouping at my location, so as I waited I watched the crowds disperse and saw some of the organizers come along with water buckets to douse the fire. And so we wrapped Valencia and then it was time to celebrate the first of these shoots. One of our local team took us to a food cart which also served drinks and we were able to make a toast before heading back to our hotels before flying to London the next day.

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Iceland

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in London, UK

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Kent, UK

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Thailand

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Koh Samui

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Iceland

I'd never visited Iceland previous to this shoot but it was on my list of places I wanted to visit. And now that I've been there, it's definitely high up on my list of places I'd like to visit on my own itinerary. It really does have a magical undertone to it all and the mix of fire and ice is readily apparent as you travel around.
Photo by Marisa Quiter

A 4:30 am start got us to the location and on set ready for the first shots of the day.

While the film and production teams were carrying out some final touches for their shots, I spent a little time outside capturing some general shots of the views surrounding the location. It was still before sunrise so I was glad that I was wearing lots of layers including thermals, a fleece, down jacket, Goretex over jacket, scarf, gloves and my Jamaican Bobsleigh Team beanie hat!

Eventually the sunlight began to filter through the cloudy sky and we are able to execute our shot lists and anything else that we saw that we might use.

As the day progressed, we worked through the scenes which also included a scene with a horse. The guy grooming the horse deserves a special mention here. Even though he looked great in his takes, he is actually not super comfortable around horses. Even so, he never hesitated once during the whole time he did multiple takes for the film crew and then repeated for me so I could get my stills. He was relieved though when we wrapped.

While frames and footage were being captured, some of the production crew had been busily putting together an igloo for the scene with the Husky. She was a beautiful creature and I really enjoyed working with her and seeing how her handler set her up for each of the shots we needed. Not only did production do an amazing job with the igloo. they also icy blasts of snow on cue too as you can see in Alma's film here.

Did I mention it started off very cold that day? Well, the Clients, Agency, and Production were traveling with us and also had plenty of work to do themselves. Even though they were working indoors some of the time, for most of the morning they could been seen dressed for a blizzard while getting things done.

There was also a lovely DeSoto car at the location that we were able to include in the Iceland shoot. At the end of the day we piled into our vans to head back to Reykjavik opting not to "borrow" the DeSoto for the ride. Back in the city, we showered ate and for myself, a few hours into the early morning were spent editing down my shoot so that I could supply some images to the Agency back in San Francisco.

We were due to fly out of Iceland the following afternoon but the local production team said they could fit in some quick sight seeing before taking us to the airport - provided we were happy to do another early start.

So in the morning we set off for a quick stop to visit the Gullfoss waterfalls and some hot geysers and then a couple of hours of blissful relaxation in the Blue Lagoon - Utterly, absolutely, definitely worth the early rising!

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in London, UK

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Kent, UK

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Thailand

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Koh Samui

Friday, October 31, 2014

Enhance washed out blue skies in your photos.

When it's bright and sunny and you set your camera to capture a scene you sometimes end up compromising between great clarity in your images and a washed out blue sky.

Here I'll quickly show you here how to digitally add a little more saturation back into your faded blue skies. At the same time you'll see that you can also add a little punch to the overall colours in your photo.
You can opt for subtle or more extreme results very easily and quickly.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in London, UK

The London shoots began in a houseboat on the River Thames. The sun was kind enough to pop out so that we didn't have to contend with dull grey looking water.

To keep the swans and ducks interested in staying within shot, one of the guys on the UK production crew was outside on deck with a yellow rubber duck that he made bob about in the water with the aid of a length of fishing line. This kept the ducks and swans curious enough to stick around and give their cameo performances.

After the houseboat shots we moved along to central london for a street musician set up.
This shot is in between some takes the film crew were capturing with the violinist managing to give her cold fingers a rest. It was quite chilly that day. I captured general stills from outside while the film makers were busy filming from the inside of a building. Once the film director had what she wanted, I was able to move inside and capture more still through the same window for this scene.
The last shoot of the day was the party scene which we were able to capture on the top floor of the same building. The film directors and production teams put a great set together and the talent all worked really well resulting in another really fun shoot for everyone involved.

The there was a little more working space on this set and the film director was happy for me to be around her while she was working so I was able to capture a lot of the shots I wanted during the actual takes.

It was another fabulous property and really well located for London's trendy EC1 area. The decor was very tasteful and the property, although a tall and relatively narrow terrace house, captures an amazing amount of natural light. Most of the exterior walls were comprised of large glass windows. And that was the London shoots completed.

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Kent, UK

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Keeping my DSLR camera sensors clean.

You've been busy swapping lenses to capture that perfect composition, you're outside, and it's windy. Chances are some dust will make it into your camera and attach itself to the filter in front of your dslr camera sensor. This is a little extreme but you can end up with shots that look like this!
Dust on your sensor shows up in your photos.
Where I'm based, you can take your camera in to a camera store who offer a sensor cleaning service. Some of them can even do this for you within half a day. The cost, approximately $60 each time.
I quickly learned to clean my sensor myself! 

I was using a wet cleaning method and even though I'm quite adept at it now, there's still some slight anxiety every time I'm in there cleaning the sensor. If it gets scratched or damaged, basically my camera instantly becomes a paperweight. And even though it's cheaper than going to the store, it still costs me almost $50 for a packet of 12 cleaning swabs plus the liquid cleaning agent. 12 swabs will give me 6 cleanings.

Then I found the Eyelead.
It's a german product and there are various claims that this is the product that Leica technicians use in the Leica laboratory when they do sensor cleanings. 

It consists of a plastic tool with a tacky gel pad at one end. To use it you simply put your DSLR in cleaning mode and place the gel pad down on your sensor wherever the dust appears to be. Then you lift the tool out of your camera and press the pad down against a sticky receiver tape that comes with the kit. The receiver tape is stickier that the gel pad so it removes any dirt that has been lifted off the sensor by the pad,  making it ready for further applications.

I find it really quick and easy to use and it doesn't give me any anxieties. 

I've been using it for about 4 months now and haven't needed to do a wet clean yet even though I've been doing lots of outdoor shooting and making lots of lens changes. It cleans my sensors really well and there is no residue or anything left on my sensors.

I paid $40 something dollars and it came with 10 cleaning (receiver) pads. I've seen cheap copies around for as little as $15 dollars but I don't want to be jamming cheap alternatives onto my sensor to find out if they work or not!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Kent, UK

After spending the night in London, we traveled down to Kent to shoot a series of scenes. The film crew would capture footage for the film and I would get the still shots for the media campaigns. It was a fresh and beautifully sunny day as we arrived for lunch at The Bull. After a hearty pub lunch it was time to continue with work.

The location was a beautifully converted windmill and we would be working with a child and with an animal. For this shoot you can disregard all the sayings about working with children and animals. This all went well and I would happily work again with the girl and the cat talent anytime.
The cat was up first and with the help of the cat wrangler, we were able to get a whole range of usable poses for the kitchen window shot. As the day moved on we shot a few other sets within the windmill including bathroom scenes and other window shots. 

Every room and corner in this fabulous conversion would have easily lent itself to beautiful scenes, especially with the way that light entered the spaces, and we were enjoying a beautifully clear, sunlit day. As the day drew on and evening approached, it was time to move on to an outhouse in the garden just before the sun set.

And now it was the girls turn to be the star. With the use of a polarizer attached to my lens I was able to capture a series of shots taken looking outside through a window. Again, with the sun working on it's own clock, I had to engage with the film director in a dance of filming and still capturing to ensure the film director captured her vision as well as for me to get my frames — and all without showing up as reflections in each other's work, while working in a very cramped space, with very little time.
The talent was great as she ran backward and forward numerous times for the filming and then all over again for my stills.
Once we had the final frames for both mediums, it was a wrap on another really productive day at a fabulous location.