Saturday, 25 July 2015

Wild West Coast

I have the fortune of living in the Pacific Northwest which has an abundance of wilderness whether it be mountainous, coastal or forested.   This photo was taken near Ucluelet BC which is on the West side of Vancouver Island.  My partner and I took advantage of this past May long weekend to load our motorcycles up with camping gear and of course camera gear and headed out to the windswept coast.  This beachy area is not exactly like the blue skied sandy and tropical spot that most people think about when they vacation, but it is our home and we love it. 

I feel like this image encompasses all that is the west coast.   It is rocky, dreary and wild.  We went for a coastal hike so I could “hunt” landscape photos.  The day was overcast and a little misty so details in the rock surfaces were a little subdued.  The cloudy sky was quite bright in contrast to the trees and crags on land.  I knew it would take a few different layered exposures and some Photoshop magic to bring out all of the details in the sky as well as rocks. 

This image was comprised of 3 exposures; 1/3 of a stop apart.  I pulled them all together in, “Merge to HDR Pro” in Photoshop.  In the HDR adjustments I brought down the highlights to reveal the cloud patterns in the sky.  I added more detail in the HDR settings to bring out the lichen clinging to the granite. It is easy to go crazy with the “detail” setting but I try not to over do it so the image does not look artificial.  I kept the colour saturation true to how it was photographed.  

Monday, 20 July 2015

Angelina Jolie

Here is something you do not see everyday.  Angelina Jolie as a blonde.  Strangely enough it suits her.  Well let’s face it.  Everything looks good on Angelina Jolie.  This photo was taken in Seattle Washington on the set of “Life or Something Like It” in 2001.   It was an interesting experience working on this film because having Angelina on set turned a normal production day into a “Hollywood” adventure.  There were paparazzi hanging around every corner.  Tons of fans had to be held back by barricades so the crew could go about our jobs of making a movie.  
I was still relatively new to the film industry as I had only worked on a handful of movies before this one so I was quite overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of activity that surrounds such a high profile actress.  On most of the sets I had worked on, I was free to shoot whatever I thought would make an excellent still image.  On this film, Angelina was in control of her public image and only allowed certain rare opportunities where I could photograph her in order to sell the film.  I must say I felt a lot of pressure trying to capture enticing images while having very little access to the set.   

A photographer must have a lot of skills besides technical.  In this case, I needed to utilize my ability to work very fast and under pressure.  It is important to remain calm and positive to be able to get beautiful and natural images. The photographer’s energy is what creates the tone for getting what you want from your subjects so you can not let pressure take away your zen.  This particular photo was set up AFTER the filming of the shot.  We had to hold back the crew from moving on to the next shot while I got Angelina to revisit the playful and flirtatious tone of the scene for my still camera.  

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Death Valley Dune

I admit I absolutely love, love, love shooting the desert or anything dry.  It could be the minimalist aspect of it; or it could be because a barren landscape is very exotic compared to my home in the pacific northwest which is very wet with very big trees.  I find that a photo of a landscape lacking in plants or objects becomes a study of light, shadow and color which appeals more to the emotional side of the brain than the figurative or logical.  

I took this photo in  Death Valley Nevada.  I was on a climbing and hiking trip with my brother in May of 2011 when we drove from his home in LA to spots all over California, Utah and Nevada.  At the end of our trip we treated ourselves to a night of the not so civilized world of Las Vegas and then he went home to LA to work.  I stuck around another week because I felt like I had not taken enough photos of dry rocks so I rented a car and went to Death Valley.

I had a wonderful time wandering around the sand in over 40 degrees celsius with my camera and a lot of water.  For the first few days I just looked for landscapes that appealed to me and then I took note of what time of day that the light would look most interesting so I could come back at that time. Below is the photo I had to get up the earliest for.  To me this sand dune has a spine reminiscent of a serpent.   

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Car Cannon

Have you ever wondered how those cars in action movies get launched in the air and explode?  They actually get shot out of a gigantic car cannon.  Yes it is true and extremely cool.  I wish I could give you more details but alas I am not part of the special effects department.  I am the person with a camera sent to capture this awesome event.  There is a scene in XMen 3 where the character, Magneto uses his metal controlling superpowers to toss cars off of the Golden Gate Bridge.  One may think that this would normally be a Computer Generated Image,  however, why miss such an opportunity to actually toss cars through the air!!!!
Now shooting cars out of a cannon is not a very precise science however they do the best they can.   We spent many hours setting up for this iconic shot and there were many different motion camera teams there to catch as many camera angles as possible.  I was the only still camera so I needed to do a lot of research during the 8 hour set up to make sure I had found the best angle.  Brave people from the stunt department surrounded each person who was working a camera to pull them out of harm's way should anything unpredictable happen.  After all this prep it was "showtime" and exploding cars were flying all around us.   Amidst the mayhem, stunt performers, playing innocent frightened bystanders on the bridge;  run for their lives literally just outside the predicted landing spots for the cars. I must admit I would have run in the other direction if there wasn't a large stunt guy squeezing the life out of me while he was supposed to be protecting me.  I eventually found my cool and stayed in place as the fast moving motor drive of my Nikon caught a variety of frames.  I love this particular frame because of the silhouette of the person running in the foreground.
It was a challenge to predict the exposure as I was not too sure in advance of how bright the fire would be in the exploding cars.  I chose an exposure based on the ambient light and took it down about a stop and a half to compensate for my assumed brightness from the fire.  I also chose a fast shutter speed of 200 to freeze the fast moving  cars and people.  My iso was 1000 and my lens was nice and wide at 18mm.  My aperture was wide open at 2.8.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Flamenco Dancers

I am so fortunate to be the stepmother to these talented, young and beautiful Flamenco dancers.  They have been training since they were 6.  One of the choreographies that they have learned is called the Bata De Cola and it involves a large ruffled skirt.  It is a challenge to look graceful while throwing around all of that heavy fabric,  but the 13 year old girls pulled it off nicely.  I brought the ever so talented, Veronica and Thalia into my studio to take portraits of them wearing these gorgeous costumes.
Veronica is wearing a black top and Thalia is wearing a white one which meant I would have to change the lighting slightly for each one.  I chose a black backdrop for a more classic look.  To make sure Veronica's black top did not disappear against the black BG, I had to put a hard edge light angled on either side of her coming from behind.  These lights were set at about head height.  A light softened with a chimera at a side angle from camera right, illuminates her face and the lace in the costume.  I did not provide any fill from camera left to make the effect quite theatrical.  Such pretty young faces do not need an abundance of soft light from all angles anyway.
Because Thalia's costume has a white top, I needed to soften the edge lights.  It is the edge light from the camera left that illuminates Thalia's face and the chimera from camera right showcases the skirts ruffles.  I struggled with arranging the skirt on the floor.  This gave me a new appreciation for the costume departments that I sometimes have the luxury of working with on a photo shoot.