Sunday, September 28, 2014

Air BnB Campaign Shoot in Thailand

Typical main street scene in Bangkok
Prior to the shoot in Koh Samui, we were shooting in Bangkok City and at the floating market. As before, while the film crew were creating what went on to be an award winning film, I was capturing stills for the online campaigns. Even though there is an order to things in this city, it screams loudly at you with an inviting confusion. Vibrant colours and contrasts everywhere, and so many photo opportunities that had me out on the streets still shooting even in any free time I had for myself.

The first shoot was in an apartment space and the challenge for me was to get my shots in between the film crew getting their footage. And why would that be so challenging? Well they were sunset scenes and we were all working to make the most of the diminishing light. And since we had no control over the sun as a prop, we all only got one go at getting what we needed, and a very limited window of time to do so.

The film director was Alma Har'el. Apart from the amazing opportunity of seeing her and her teams at work on a daily basis, I also benefitted from her thoughtfulness of everything the client needed while we all worked together. With this in mind, she always involved me in knowing how she would shoot her scenes so that I could carve out slots to get in my shots too. 

I also have to mention Chris Leggett plus a very special mention for Elizabeth Miles, the 1st Assistant Director. Even though she didn't need to, she took the time and effort to call my shots for me in between the filming. It might not sound like much, but if you've worked alongside a film and production crew, you'll know how invaluable this help can be.

The floating market shoot was a morning shoot. We loaded up early in the morning and headed out of Bangkok.
After lunch, Creative Directors talk with the Film Director and Producers before we leave the floating market.
On location, the production company set up a shoot through 'window' for the scene. Much like for the Koh Samui beach shoot. Lighting was set up and some of the vendors on the water moved into place awaiting direction from the creative team for filming. Again we agreed how I could slot in and out to capture the frames I needed to get.

These are a handful of the many frames that were taken on the day. The production team were really great and even though we were working in a busy public space, they eliminated much of the difficulty that could have presented itself in getting the scenes and having the people do what we needed them to do on cue.

All that was left then was to eat, then stay up most of the night to do a frames edit and post the images so that the agency in San Francisco had images to choose from to immediately begin creating online campaign assets.    :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How I became the Fashion Police.

Comments about this image have included, "Did the police let you pose on their bike?" "Where did you manage to find the bike?" "You're lucky no one caught you messing with that bike." And leading nicely into this blog entry, "I know it's Photoshopped but how did you do it?"
While walking around in the Mission district I saw this police officer signal for the car in front of him to pull over. The officer stopped his bike a little way behind the car that had stopped and put it on it's stand positioned slightly into the path of oncoming traffic. 
I'm sure there's some thought or reason/ training for the position of the bike but that's not what this piece is about. The thing was that I could see the bike looking as if it was still traveling along the road in my mind's eye.
Very quickly, the complete image formed in my head and I pulled out my camera to get my shots. I stood at the side of the street with my camera half raised, waiting for the officer to get his bits from a pannier bag to go and write the motorist a ticket for something. He kept glancing around at me, not looking happy or sure why I was so interested in what he was doing, but he didn't engage me and I just stood and waited.

In a few moments he had his gear and walked over to the parked vehicle to deal with the motorist. So now I was able to get my base shot for my image.
Happy with my shots I returned to my studio for the rest of the photography. I downloaded the frame onto my computer so I could get a good look at it and see how the light was working in the shot. At this point I also created a mask of the motorcycle in Photoshop and saved it as a selection.

And now it was time to get dressed. I did a couple of test shots while I adjusted the lighting to match my motorcycle shot. Using the view of the image displayed on my monitor, I took a series of shots of myself trying to mimic the position I would be in if actually sitting on the bike. Using a wireless trigger for my camera and lights, I was able to quickly get through about 20 shots with slight variations each time so that I could pick whatever frame I felt worked the best.
After downloading these files to my computer and choosing the one I would be using, I created a mask of myself and saved this as a selection too. Going back to my base image I was able to load the motorcycle selection mask, invert it and motion blur the background. Using the selection mask on the image I shot in the studio, I was able to select and copy myself and paste the selection as a new layer onto my base image file.

After a little Photoshop work it's almost there. I did some work to blur the image seen through the motorcycle screen.
And added some radial blur to the wheels and tires.
To finish off the image, there was general detailing like reflections on the chrome for the red shoes, the 'Fashion Division' copy  and the sticker on the screen. I also added the sergeant stripes on the jacket sleeve along with overall tweaks till I felt I was done.
And that's all there is to it. The hardest part was choosing what to wear :)

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Campaign Photography for Dell Wyse

Some months ago, I did a shoot for the launch campaign of the Dell Wyse Cloud Connect. The client had a video production team filming for the launch video and my job was to grab stills for static ads to drive campaign traffic. The shoot took place at office spaces in Silicon Valley.

The production team were great and managed to successfully create multiple sets around the building that ranged from business corporate, to a scene set in a cosy home at night.

Director at work
There was various talent coming and going to act in the different scenes, but the main model who you see at the beginning of this blog, worked with us throughout the length of the shoot and worked straight through an 18 hour day of shooting! Yes it was a long day but the client, agency, talent, stylists, MUA's, and production team were all focused on getting the job done well. Everyone was cooperative and collaborated well and so we were all able to get what we needed from the day.

Below is a quick selection of unedited frames from the many stills I captured for the campaign.
Corporate environment.
Out and about
Working at home
Social networking
Shopping at the mall
…and fun nights!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A simple photography method for floating objects in space.

I created this image at home one day and have licensed it a couple of times as a stock photo image. I've had people comment that this must have taken ages to produce with all the work involved. The truth is, it took 3 hours from start to finish, including the photography. In some ways this is one of the simpler images I've ever put together.

So here's how it's done. First I set up my lighting for the scene, set a camera on a tripod and locked the focus, white balance, and exposure. I would be taking 19 exposures and would not be touching the camera in between shots to avoid any chance of misalignment between one frame to the next.

Base image of just the minimal scene
The first shot I took was probably the most important of them all and its a shot of the scene minus any models and additional props. After capturing this base exposure I just carried on shooting while holding my floating objects in a different position in the air for each frame. You can see that I'm using a remote trigger to fire the camera and lights and the only other thing I needed to take care of is to try to hold everything with my hands and fingers as much 'behind' the objects as I could, which would make the retouching part quick and easy to carry out. 

Once I had my 19 exposures, I simply opened them all in a single a Photoshop document as layers. Making sure my base image of the empty scene was on the bottom layer, I was now able to work on each of the other layers individually and just erase anything I didn't want showing in the final image. Because I was careful of how I held each object while shooting, any retouching I needed to do was minimal.

And there you have it!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shoots for Skype in Los Angeles and Atlanta

I was briefed to capture images of families interacting with each other but as if they were skypeing with relatives or friends using computers, TV screens, or mobile devices.
I needed to capture people with myself taking the place of the 'device' they were supposedly using and get natural looking shots. In addition, I was working with real people and not models in and around their own homes.
I really love people so it was fun for me getting them to relax and not be self conscious as I was literally poking a lens into their faces. I must say it was a lot of trust on their part too but I'm pleased with what I managed to get.
Also to get the angles I wanted, I got to put some of my contortion skills to the test while covering these two shoots :)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Increase your depth of field with 'Focus Stacking'

Especially when working close up to subjects there are times when you just can't achieve enough depth of field (DOF). Here I quickly show you how to expand the DOF in your scene using Photoshop and a method known as Stacking.
When you're working close in, the DOF can quickly become very narrow. I'm shooting quite wide open here to make it easy to see what we're dealing with here. You can see what happens when I choose a focal point at the front, middle, or back of the scene. So how can I shoot this with more of the scene in focus, and more controlled DOF? 

First let's take multiple shots of the scene. I'd highly recommend using a tripod for this to help keep all the images aligned and save on processing time. In the series of shots below I've made 15 exposures focusing first at the front of the rings, and then focusing further back for each exposure until in the last shot you can see focus is at the back point of the last ring.
view sequence from left to right.
It doesn't have to be 15 exposures it can be as few or as many as you wish. Generally more is better than less for stacking.
Once you have all your exposures as digital files, you're ready to make your stacked image. In Photoshop under the file menu, drop down to 'Scripts" and then to the submenu, 'Load Files into Stack'.
This will call up a dialogue box allowing you to choose the files you want in your stack.
If you shot with a good tripod and shutter release, you can leave the Automatic Alignment box unchecked. If you shot handheld, check the box and photoshop will attempt to align your images for you as it builds your stack.

Your stacked images will appear in a single, layered Photoshop document. Open your layers panel to display all your layers. Using the 'Command' key on your computer while selecting each layer will allow you to have all your layers selected at once. With all your layers still selected open the drop-down menu under 'Edit' and select the option for 'Auto-Blend Layers'. Small files will render reasonably quickly and larger, higher resolution files taking longer, taking into account your computer speed and file format etc. Just before you kick off the render, a dialogue options box will open up where you need to choose the option to 'Stack Images' and click OK.

When photoshop has finished processing, your stacked image will appear in a new window, You can flatten your image and do a little retouching as needed and you now have your image with an extended DOF.
And here is another quick before and after of a toy VW using the same process.
— Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Yosemite in early September

View from Interstate 120 as you approach Yosemite Valley.                                         70-200mm, f/8.0 @ 1/320. ISO 100
We loaded up the car with our tent and the rest of our camping gear and headed off to another 'must see' USA destination. It's a very scenic drive there from Sonoma County and the weather was truly glorious.
                                                                                                                                                         24-70mm, f/6.3 @ 1/50. ISO 100
We had a spot reserved at the Lower Pines campsite, so if you decide to go and camp there too, this could be your view in the mornings if you stay at space number 44. It was a great spot and at nights we could watch the dome at the top of the mountain become illuminated with the last of the sun's rays as it set.
                                                                                                                                                      70-200mm, f/5.0 @ 1/800. ISO 400
One evening we had wandered across to the river bank at the camp and I notice how the sunset was illuminating the top of the famous Half Dome. I had attached my 70 - 200 mm lens to my camera and didn't have time to go back to our tent and change it for something wider. So to get the shot below, I took 15 separate exposures and then stitched them together in Photoshop.
15 exposures stitched together in Photoshop                                                                        70-200mm, f/7.1 @ 1/40. ISO 400
Even though it was the end of Summer and expected to be quite dry, the fact that California is experiencing a serious drought has made the area even drier than you might expect. I took the picture below standing in what is normally a stream running down from the mountains.
                                                                                                                                                      24-70mm, f/8.0 @ 1/500. ISO 100
And in this next one look how dusty Mirror Lake has become.
                                                                                                                                                        24-70mm, f/8.0 @ 1/500. ISO 100
Wildlife is not too timid since they are used to not being threatened by humans          24-70mm, f/3.5 @ 1/25. ISO 100
Stoneman Meadow                                                                                                                     24-70mm, f/8.0 @ 1/160. ISO 400
Dynamic rainbow formed at the base of  Vernal Fall                                                              24-70mm, f/3.5 @ 1/25. ISO 100
We hiked to the top of Vernal Fall
People cooling off at the bottom of Vernal fall                                                                     24-70mm, f/7.1 @ 1/250. ISO 400
Double rainbow forming this time                                                                                      24-70mm, f/7.1 @ 1/250. ISO 400
The ground squirrels have become fearless and used to visitors feeding them which is probably not a good thing. If you have food keep an eye on it. If you put your backpack down anywhere and they smell food in it they will be all over it in seconds trying to claw their way to the goodies!
                                                                                                                                                             24-70mm, f/4 @ 1/80. ISO 400
Starry night sky                                                                                                                               24-70mm, f/5 @ 30sec. ISO 800
Quick check around the campsite with a lamp before bed                                                     24-70mm, f/5 @ 30sec. ISO 800
Park Ranger Joel Simmons                                                                                                            24-70mm, f/8 @ 1/10. ISO 100
Next to Mirror Lake and up some stone steps is an area filled with balanced stones. I built one too before we left.

                                                                                                                                                         24-70mm, f/8 @ 1/60. ISO 100 
And another starry night
                                                                                                                                                           24-70mm, f/5 @ 30sec. ISO 800