Monday, 22 June 2015

Zac Efron

Working on films can expose you to places and situations that you may never find yourself in otherwise.  I had the privilege of being the still photographer on "Charlie St. Cloud".  There is a lot of sailing in the storyline which meant I spent a lot of time trying to stabilize myself in a boat and shoot photos at the same time.  It sounds quite pleasant being out there in the sun and sea, shooting photos of hunky Zac Efron but it is was not easy.  I was lucky to find a spot in the "camera boat" while we shot the action in a boat holding the actors beside us.  Most of the time I was shooting with my Nikon 70 to 200 zoom lens while our boat was moving and rocking.   I tried to root myself by standing with my legs wide and holding the lens steady and shooting the actors who were also in a boat that was moving and rocking.  Putting a camera on a monopod would only make the camera jerk more.  Then I often had to look out of the corner of my eye to duck when the motion film camera came flying by my head on the boom that you see in the "behind the scenes photo" below.  At this point I was very thankful for the little bit of martial arts training I had that taught me how to duck under a blow while holding a camera that weighs about 8 pounds with lens and sound housing.  It was challenging but a lot of fun too.
When using a long lens especially when you are not stable, it is very important to keep a very high shutter speed so as not to blur the image.  This was shot at 250th of a second with a focal length of  155.  I had a nice low ISO of 200 to preserve quality.  With the abundance of light I was still able to keep a large depth of field of F8.     

 I took this photo while on a boat that was taking me out to the camera boat.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Kiss in Rio

 Many times when I have traveled to countries where people are not as financially fortunate as the people in my home country of Canada, I have felt compelled to photograph the contrast of wealth.  But what really strikes me is when I can find joy and love amongst the lacking.  This image was taken underneath an overpass in Rio De Janeiro where a group of 8 kids made their home.  I had been in Rio for a few weeks exploring the dynamic city.  I met locals who took me to places off the beaten path and went to an amazing party in a favela!  I shot this photograph while I was waiting for a bus leaving Rio to explore other parts of Brazil.  One of my local friends had escorted me and we were wasting time near the bus station when we met these enthusiastic kids underneath the overpass. They wanted me to take their photo and they were smiling and striking poses.  After a little socializing over the lunch we had given them, I found out that we were standing in their living room.  The bedroom was a few pieces of plywood wedged in the girders above our heads so they could at least sleep off of the ground. These kids had formed their own family and took care of each other because there was no one else who would.  Their bond gave them optimism even in their dire situation.  This photo is of the oldest teenagers in the group.  

When I was still shooting film stock, my favourite travel camera was a Leica M6.  The camera is small, unobtrusive and does not look nearly as expensive it is, which makes it perfect if you want to “fly under the radar”, on the street.  My Leica was loaded with fuji positive film.  

Friday, 12 June 2015


When photographing a baby, most parents want you to capture a moment when their sweet child at his/her best, meaning sleeping, smiling and just generally being calm.  Sounds easy right? This is a photo of the lovely Sophia looking like she is as calm as a mini Buddha in her mother's arms.    Most babies have a very short time limit of patience so usually the best photo happens within the first few minutes of shooting.  I wanted her to be as naked as the day she was born so we had to lose the diaper which of course opened up a whole realm of possibilities.  Soon, little Sophia was doing her best impression of a fountain.  Good thing my back drop was paper and all I had to do was cut off the newly slightly damp piece of paper.  I am not sure mom was as easily made dry though.      
I had this idea that I wanted it to look like she was floating in a black back ground so I asked the parents to wear black.  Babies have such lovely pudgy little folds in their skin so I wanted to accentuate those features by using one very directional light, camera left with a chimera and no fill light.  I set a fairly hard light from the right and slightly behind to outline her head.  There was no room for an overall rim light as the mother was holding Sophia which would block any light from behind.  Then the challenge was to block light from spilling onto mom which was done by placing 2 flags.  This made the lighting so specific that the subject had little more than an inch to move to stay in my desired lighting. Sure tell that to a baby!!!  

Friday, 5 June 2015

Blake Lively

This photo is the most used image for the advertising of the feature film that recently came out, "The Age of Adeline".  It was wonderful to work on this period film for the costumes and hairstyles and locations were stunning.   Blake was the star of the production and I was interested in meeting  her again as I worked with her when she was just 16 on the film, "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants".  Now all grown up and beautiful as ever,  I had another 2 months of filming to find the most flattering light and angles to bring out the best in her.
This close up  was actually taken not only on the first day of filming, but the first scene!  I arrived to the location at the top of the Hotel Vancouver and got my gear all prepped; then squeezed my way into the small office we were filming in; said hello to some crew members I had worked with on previous productions and took my first few frames which are what you see below.
I chose a long lens at a focal length of 200 to keep myself farthest away and most invisible from the actress as possible.  A long lens with a wide open fstop at 2.8  also blurs out the background which brings all attention to the subject.  There was a little atmospheric smoke to make the soft flattering light even softer.  I chose a shutter speed of 125 which is about the slowest you would want to go while hand holding a lens at 200.  My ISO was 1250 and my camera was a Nikon D800.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Painted hills Oregon

Hello readers, pardon my absence last week but I have been on a motorcycle road trip and I have come back with photos and stories.  I have a group of friends who love going on road trips with enduro motorcycles which are made for highway and off road driving.   We all happen to be riding BMW's with cases loaded with our camping gear as we love to rough it.  Our final furthest away destination was the painted hills in Oregon where the desert landscape explodes in colours.  I would love to tell you about the town of Mitchel that is cut off from the rest of the world with some pretty interesting characters living in it, or I could tell the story of how my partner harassed a rattle snake but for now I am just going to discuss photographing the hills.  
I have never been a fan of getting up early in the morning, but more than once I have let myself down by showing up to photograph a landscape during the evening magic hour, only to find the the geographical feature back lit.   That means it could only have been bathed in low angled sunlight at 6 am.  Doh!!!!  The closest campground we could find was a really ghettoe plot of grass in the middle of the little town of Mitchel about 12 miles away from the hills.  So I crawled out of my tent at the hour of 5:15 am,  got on my motorcycle to get to the hills for the morning glory.  And it was worth it!  The only trick to getting these colours pop and the features accentuated is just being there at the hours when the light is a warm colour temperature and at a low angle.  Another advantage to getting up early is that you can sometimes do a little harmless trespassing to get the best shot!  

Trespass angle below

This one is 4 frames that I stitched together in the Photoshop panorama function.   I shot the 4 frames hand held and the software lines them up.  I love technology!  

Later, when my posse was awake, we all posed with our trusty steeds in front of the hills with the evening light ( I am wearing the green shorts). I accentuated the details and saturation in Photoshop to make us look like rock stars. As you can see, the light was also good in the evening.