Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Moving Forward on the History Express

Not long after the shoot with Isaiah, I had another shoot scheduled.  I was contacted via Model Mayhem by Chands about shooting, as she would be in town for vacation and wanted to shoot some while she was here. Around the same time I was in discussion with Patrick Crisci, a local musician and sometimes model about collaborating, also via Model Mayhem.

At this point I was beginning to think Armageddon was near, Ba'alzebub readying his forces,  the Four Horsemen saddling up (and I don't mean Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, and company), the Whore of Babylon set to pounce. Was Model Mayhem, the gathering place for the flakiest people on earth, actually working? This was 3 for 3. This started getting a little crazy. Chands' boyfriend hadn't done much modeling, and Pat had a friend he wanted to bring. I figure, the more the merrier, but with four people, things were getting a bit...interesting. It then turns out Varun isn't so comfortable with such an audience, which is understandable. So now I'm trying to figure out how to organize it so that one set of people is in makeup while the other is shooting. Luckily (for us, not so much for her), Pat's friend fell ill and we were back to a more manageable situation.

In typical fashion for my life, everything was at opposite ends of the universe. And following in the steps of the last shoot, I was responsible for chauffeuring one of the models. Two freeways and an hour later, we all arrived at this posh little hotel at the extreme south end of the boulevard. Somehow the fates smiled upon us, and we got a fantastic parking spot, right near the entrance of the building we were in.

Concept for this shoot was sort of open for Chands, and her boyfriend Varun. We'd originally thought a morning rituals sort of theme, but we just played it by ear in the end. With Patrick, I wanted to try and create a color photo that was as near to black and white as possible, playing off of his pale complexion and black hair.  Which, while it still took some editing, the end result got pretty close.  This was the first shoot out where I would be combining monolights with speedlights. Studio meets Strobist. I was armed and dangerous, new lightstands, optical slaves, plenty of (regrettably, dollar store variety) batteries, and optimism.

Once more, Leila Von Sleichter was providing makeup for the shoot.

We started off with basic stuff, white background, bright clean makeup, yada yada yada, seen it a million times. Generally went off without a hitch. Everyone relaxed, got a few shots under their belts. It was when I tried to get fancy that things got a little touchy. I changed the entire setup...using the speelights as kickers off to the right and left, and a monolight each for the background and for the subject. I didn't have much room, so there was a ton of power. I needed less light, but I still wanted a hard quality to it. I found some sort of mesh-like silver/black material in my gel kit, which cut the light a little and didn't hurt the specularity, once i crammed it into the barn doors...no clue what it is, but it worked nicely. Everything is working beautifully for a while, and then all of a sudden, seemingly for no reason, everything just quits working. The background mono won't slave, only one of the speedlights will fire, and exposure on the main light was all over the place despite manual settings. I have no clue what I did to fix it, but it somehow resolved itself about 5 minutes later. I changed up the background to a hideous floral my mother was going to use to upholster some dining room chairs (it was quite lovely in that context, actually). It was all good to go from there. We had a little fun, blah blah blah, I packed up, Chandni and Varun went to lunch, I dropped off the model at his friend's place nearby, and was on my way to return the rental car. And a final note: avoid dollar store batteries, even though they're Sony brand...my flashes chewed through them like nothing, and recycle time was long enough that the flashes went to standby a few times. Never had a problem like that with Energizer, Duracell, or Kirkland.

Now for examples. There was some extensive photoshop involved, but I was aiming to toe the line of too much retouching. The first result was totally off, and looked like a newbie air brush painter at a carnival. So I started again, and am pretty much satisfied with the result (at least, enough to leave it alone...we could all sit in photoshop and edit the same stupid photo the rest of our lives).

Without further ado, a few images from the shoot...more later:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Isaiah - First Shoot of the Summer.

The first shoot on the road to an MFA portfolio was with model/actor Isaiah Lucas, who I imagine is in LA by now on his way to stardom.  I found Isaiah on Model Mayhem (henceforth MM), which is a social networking site for the photography industry, including photographers, models, makeup artists, stylists, retouchers, etc. I had previously tried to find models to work with on there a year or so prior, and they all flaked at some stage of the process.  So I went into things with skepticism, and only a modicum of hope.  I also put out a casting call on the site and found Leila Von Sleichter who also goes by LasVegasLeila on MM.  To say they were both wonderful is an understatement. They were thoroughly professional, on top of things, and knew their shit. The shoot was an absolute pleasure, especially since I had a few impromptu assistants (and we all know how wonderful assistants are). Leila and I have since collaborated again with great success.

It was a dark and rainy day, perfect for photography, really. It seemed to be a disaster at first. None of the shops had accessories I was looking for, I was late everywhere, but somehow it all came together. I found a friend who had a friend who had the umbrella holder I needed. And I wasn't more than 5 minutes late at any point, which for me is a miracle.

Location: Alley behind the Beauty Bar, downtown Las Vegas.
     I started off hoping more for Avedon, and ended up more with clean headshots on a white background. Whatev. Thankfully there was a nice white brick wall in the parking lot we set up in.  Super simple setup on this shot: 1 Nikon SB-600 blasting the wall. Natural light on the model.

We also had a little more fun after the clean headshots. I had Leila go crazy, with a few interjections and thoughts thrown in, with the idea of warpaint. After only minor injuries including a paintbrush to the nose, we came up with this. For this I set up a 46" shoot through umbrella attached to the SB-600, slightly camera left, shot at 1/4 power and f/5.6.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Quick Shout Out

I LOVE Beethoven.

that is all.

Allow Me to Briefly Defy the Laws of Physics

With the use of an old Delorean, a flux capacitor I just happened to have lying around, and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, let's go back in time for a little visit to the recent past...shall we?

Our saga begins with the hero racking his brain, thinking up ideas for a new portfolio. A new portfolio to be used for grad school admissions. Our hero's current portfolio at the place in history where we've just arrived consists of shots from photo school, nearly two years prior. He decides this simply will not do, and stuffs the idea of applying to grad school, after spending a great deal of money on transcripts and postage, and time and effort getting letters of recommendation and such. Vowing to create an all new portfolio, our hero scraps the old stuff, and goes back to the drawing board.  Having looked at university websites, poring over portfolios and exhibitions of the students he wishes to be among, the hero is extremely confused, because a lot of it is crappy snapshots, and none of it involves fashion photography. He tries to mesh these images with advice garnered from past professors, that universities want to see continuity, series of images, and not disparate imagery.  He sits at the pub and writes in his moleskine, sketches, tosses the moleskine in the back seat of the car and forgets about it. 

Fast-forward 5 months. Our hero has graduated with his BS in Secondary Art Education. The prospects of a job are grim, nĂ© zero. He begins contacting models, and makeup artists, determined to put together a new portfolio, up to current standards if nothing else. But as any artist is prone to, he loses faith in his ideas, "it's been done before...to death", "this'll never be coherent enough as a series", "god, i'm so fucking broke, why did i quit my job so early?", "why does bureaucracy exist?"...but I digress.  Our hero has big ideas, but no budget, and getting things set up even this far has been a headache. He knows what he wants to do, but not quite how to get there. He currently thinks he'll continue on with what he's been doing, working with different people, seeing what clicks, and getting things together mentally for the future.  Given the economy, he'd really like to get this shit together by November, but November is a mere 2 months away, and money won't exactly be plentiful by then no matter what. It's all he can do, really.

From this point, we'll venture forward from the beginning of this process, somewhere after "he begins contacting models...", but before "...he loses faith in his ideas."

The Eternal Advice of Chuck Close

This is pretty much the best advice on creating art I've ever heard. Though, I personally have tremendous difficulty following it. I would suppose it's much easier as a painter than a people photographer, but I haven't followed it in my painting either. Someday, perhaps.

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”

quote sourced from peter chun mao wu

Awkward First Post - Huzzah!

Awkward first post.

Hopefully I will manage to follow through on this little project.  The intent of this blog is to whore myself out to the internets as a photographer and to a lesser extent as a human being.  Hopefully there will be a nice mix of photos, photography related information, updates on recent shoots, goal setting, a list of amazing blogs, etc, interspersed with a personal post here and there.

Here we go, event horizon here we come.