Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Salvador Dali Look a Like

I imagine that most photographers like myself, will often use their friends and family as subjects for their work.  So it is always in a photographers best  interest to surround themselves with interesting and beautiful people!  All kidding aside, I used my partner Rolando to pose for me in a way that is reminiscent of a photograph of Salvador Dali.  Last November, he grew a hearty moustache to commemorate Movember.  This is in the month of November when men grow their upper lip hair to raise money for prostrate cancer research.  Much to my horror, when December came around the moustache was still there.  Then came January and February;  it was still there and developing a curled up life of its own and I was developing a new appreciation of it.   It reminded me of an iconic image of the famous artist sporting similar facial hair.   So I dragged my willing subject into the studio asking him to channel Dali and strike the pose.   I must say that he is a natural. 

I lit my surrealist wannabe with a soft box coming directly from the side with a grid to prevent spread. Another soft box, 2 stops lower in power than the key light was placed slightly camera left for fill.  A hard rim light from high  and camera left outlines his black hair against the dark grey back ground.   I upped the contrast considerably in photoshop to echo the film stock used in the original photo of Dali.  

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Jessica Biel

Performers sometimes have to go through very strict training regimes to achieve a body that would befit an action hero.  Even though stunt performers often take over the most difficult of moves, the actors still need to be able to do a considerable amount of the choreography.  Jessica Biel spoke of how she ate no food with more taste than sawdust and worked out from sunrise to sunset for about 2 months before commencing the filming of “Blade 3”.  But wow was it worth it!  She looked great!  I photographed this muscled actress for the poster of this film.
I wanted to flatter her beautiful face as much as possible by surrounding her with soft light but I also wanted to show off her toned figure as well which often looks best with harder light coming from an angle.  So….for the close ups, I choose soft light and for the wider shots I used a little more shadowing.    She has a particularly nice jaw line so I brought the light a little higher to accentuate that.  I was shooting film in those days (2004), so I used my Hasselblad which shoots medium format square film.  I used a 100 iso positive fuji film.  
I remember the anxiety of shooting with slide film because the exposures had to be perfect,  as positive film has the best quality but very little latitude.  I actually had to bring the film to a lab and wait to see the results!  Imagine that!  Here is one of the close ups and an example of a poster that got made from one of my images from the shoot.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Kids in a Mexican Parking Lot

Mazatlan, Mexico is the place where my partner grew up and a wonderful sunny, beachy place to have relatives to visit!  After struggling to communicate with an extended family in my terrible Spanish,  I grabbed my camera and went out into the night to engage in a visual language that I could understand.  I was searching for areas that had interesting night light that I could photograph time exposures of.  Rolando, my partner and guide took me to beautiful places overlooking the city showing the many night lights of Mazatlan.  Later, we got a little more up close and personal and just walked along the streets.  Then I saw them.  Three kids just hanging out in an empty parking lot.  It did not appear as though they were playing or waiting, they were just there; showcased by the colourful mix of orange sodium lights and fluorescent.  I felt the need to capture this image but I had to talk the the kids first.  They needed to stay still for a time exposure plus, it would be a bonus to place them exactly where I wanted them.
Rolando did the talking for me, and we placed them in a way that echoed the architectural lines of the roof structure.  The little girls pose is filled with strength as she looks to her left, while her brothers appear slightly pensive.  It gives the feeling that something is going to happen.  They stayed very still for the 1.6 second exposure.  Very impressive kids!  Later I dealt with the bizarre colour balance in photoshop until their skin tone under the green fluorescent light looked natural.  I used a tripod and kept my ISO very low to preserve quality and a fairly wide open lens of 2.8 on my 24 - 70 Nikkor zoom to try and keep the exposure as short as possible. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Ben Kingsley

There are moments when shooting on a film set when you can be completely overwhelmed by the performances from the actors.  Ben Kingsley is such a strong actor that sometimes I forgot I was holding my camera and instead was transported into the scene playing out before me.  Yes, he is that good!!!  This photo was taken at one of my favourite places in British Columbia;  Long beach near Tofino on Vancouver island on the set of "Elegy".  You have got to love a day of work that takes you to one of the most beautiful wild beaches with one of the most impressive actors!  I took an opportunity while a new shot was being set up for filming, to kindly ask Sir Kingsley, if he would mind posing for a few photos while we waited.  He graciously agreed and this is the result!  I feel struck by his strength of character in this image even though his pose is fairly benign.
It was a bit of a lighting conundrum that day.  Of course I wanted the ocean in the background but the sun was coming from right and behind my subject.  An exposure favouring a face in shadow would over expose the beautiful background.   I could not face him a little more into the sun and shoot down along the beach because there would have been a messy film crew in my shot.  This was also a spontaneous opportunity and I did not have a bounce card or flash handy.  But.......  I realized I had brought a white sweatshirt.   I threw it on quickly and placed myself in the sun as much as possible to bounce some light in Ben Kingsley's face.  I used Photoshop to bring out more details in the background and Voila!     

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

LA River

In one of my extended visits to my brother in Los Angeles, I could not help but notice the irony of the LA river which winds its way through the city to finally empty out into the ocean.  This dirty flow of water is encased in concrete and the homeless usually find a quiet place to sleep along it’s banks.  Water is usually something to be celebrated and surrounded by high priced restaurants, decorated with parks and where people pay extra for a “waterfront view”.  I felt a little sorry for this neglected waterway so I sought out to photograph its hidden beauty.  

At night, many details are hidden in shadow and can not be seen with the naked eye.  A good time exposure can bring these things to view but then of course you may end up blowing out the highlights.  This is when it is a good time to use HDR technology.  With a tripod, I took 5 different time exposures ranging roughly from 1 second to 10.  I sandwiched them using the HDR program in Photoshop.  It was amazing to see all of the details emerge.  I manipulated the color temperature to the cold end of the scale to bring out a feeling of industrialization.  

The most difficult part of this endeavour was trying not to get caught while trespassing and not getting mugged! I did get caught but luckily the security man was a photo enthusiast and he let me go with a warning.  This is one photo of a series of 12 images of the LA river.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Isabella Rossellini

Isabella Rossellini was drawn to Winnipeg Manitoba to play the role of a legless Beer Baroness in the art film, "The Saddest Music In the World".  Her legs had been replaced by prosthetic beer filled glasses and she draws musicians in from all over the world to hold a contest for the saddest song.  Isabella is no stranger to unique film making and she braved the Winnipeg winter where it is common to have days that are -30 Celcius to work with film maker and Winnipeg icon, Guy Maddin.  I too was drawn back to Winnipeg where I lived from the ages of 15 to 20 to work with Guy who I had known from the past.  
The studio where we were filming was an old empty hangar which was only heated in a couple of areas.  While the crew were wearing huge Sorel boots and massive down filled parkas, the performers were sporting costumes of winter wear from the depression era. 
I was very excited to find out that I would have an opportunity to have my own photo shoot with Isabella for the poster art.  I can't say I have ever met an actress that was so involved with the creative process during the shoot.   We collaborated about ideas and after we had shot those ideas, she had come up with many more! It was such a delight! 
I used one of the (heated) sets as my studio and surrounded Isabella with soft light to flatter her classic features.  I was shooting with good old fashioned film stock back in 2003.  A large negative is necessary for printing large posters so I shot with a medium format Hasselblad camera and my film of choice;  black and white Kodak TMax 100.