Archive for the ‘shutter’ Category

Over the last few weekends I had the pleasure of working on the set of a short film being produced by Nicole Kruex and Mitchel A. Jones of Triwar Pictures.  My “official” job on set was as a Grip and Gaffers Assistant.  But because I hurt my back between shoots, and the fact that for a lot of the time the Grips and Gaffers sit around doing not a whole heck of a lot, I decided to take out my camera and snap some still photos of the cast and crew as we worked.

Since I had not done any photo journalism before I was kinda flailing in the dark as to what settings to use and how to be as inconspicuous as possible while snapping away.  The first day on set my photo’s turned out OK.  I didn’t feel like I got the sharpness in the images I wanted while working in low light situations.  I was, and probably still am, being far more critical of the photo’s than is necessary.  Still, I got quite a few that I was happy enough with to share.

Fortunately, in between shooting days I had my first “Low Light and Motion” community education class.  I picked up a few tips that I think really helped me capture much better images on the next two days of filming.  The first was a little bit of photo journalism technique.  The instructor said that in low light situations the old standard of “set it to f/8 and click away” wouldn’t work.  Luckily we spent a good deal of time outside while filming, so I set my camera to f/8 and clicked away while adjusting the ISO and shutter speed for the conditions.  The photo’s turned out really well.

The second bit I got out of the class was a more conscious choice of settings for when we were in low light on set.  I knew that I wanted a decent depth of field so that faces and sometimes multiple subjects would be in focus at a time.  So instead of running with my lens wide open I tried to keep the aperture stop down to somewhere between f/3.5-f/5 and upped my ISO to either 1250 or 1600.  I was also very pleased with these results, though I have been noticing that certain ISO settings produce less noise than others, and not entirely on scale with what you might think.  For example ISO 1250 is slightly less noisy than ISO 800 (at least on my camera).  Which is good to know so I don’t feel like I can’t go higher than 800 if the lighting conditions demand it.

As far as being inconspicuous, I noticed that people tend not to notice you are taking photos if they are sufficiently distracted doing other things, even if you are pretty close to them.  That shutter firing is really not the 100 decibels you think it is.  I also liked the photos where people were engaging in doing their tasks on set the most (isn’t that what photo journalism is all about).

Over all it was a fun experience and the response from cast and crew to the final photos has been overwhelmingly positive, with several of them asking to use the photos on their websites and in their portfolios.

Below is a slideshow of a selection of the photos I took.

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Here are some of my other favorite pictures I took in 2011.  In no particular order.  Looking forward to creating a whole bunch more favorites in the coming year.

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This weekend, Keith and I met up with Jennifer and James, a happily married couple who had their wedding this last summer. Keith and I had been promoting a free photo shoot on our Facebook page and Jennifer entered and won! She told us that she wanted to do a photo shoot of her and James on their motorcycles (there’s gotta be a cooler way to say it…)… er,… hogs… um,… bikes!… er, crotch rockets!

Anywho, we all met up in St Croix Falls, WI, and discussed how we would go about this shoot. We suggested some driving shots from our car, out our window on the highway. Then some still shots in a park in Taylors Falls.

1st Challenge: Taking Pictures of Moving Objects While You Yourself Are Moving

Strategy: I got in the back seat of the car while Keith drove; we told James and Jennifer to get on the highway in the lane next to us. I would gesture to  them to have one come up to my window and then the other, and then both so that we could get a variety of shots.

Focusing. It would be difficult to have my camera on auto-focus while the scenery is moving so quickly. Each shot would take the camera a long time to focus and by then, I may have already lost the scene. I needed to shoot quickly and couldn’t let the camera be in charge of the focus. So I turned my camera on manual focus.

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Example: Bad focus!

Smearing the Background. On our first round of highway shots, I found that things were turning out well on-screen but that the background wasn’t showing motion. My shutter speed was so fast that not only was it making my subjects nice and sharp, but it was also keeping the background sharp. I wanted pictures where you could see how the scenery was zipping by in a smear while the driver remained sharp.

Example: Background isn't smeared. Appears sharp.

So on our second round of highway shots, I slowed down my shutter speed, which means I had to open up my aperture. Then got the smear that I wanted; however, my subject became less sharp, too. I had to settle with a compromise. In the end, I got a handful of photos of both drivers that I thought were a good balance of sharp subject and smeared background.

Example: Background is smeared, showing motion

Scenery. I didn’t realize this was a challenge until I was home at the end of the night, sorting through my treasure of photos. I had assumed I would be getting smeary backgrounds for all the shots, so it wouldn’t matter what was in the background. But as I said, my first shots didn’t have smeary backgrounds; so we had shots of James happily driving past Wal-Mart, or a picture of Jennifer with an anti-abortion advertisement floating over her head. Lesson? Be aware of the background. We might have waited to do this driving shots until we were in a more forest area instead of this Wal-Mart inhabited town.

Example: Bad background

Cars. Very specific to highway driving shots, we were faced with the challenge of others motorists. These motorists got in the way in a couple of ways. First, they disrupted our synchronization of vehicles for lining up the shots. They somehow thought that the roads were for them to get places instead of us to set up a photo shoot. Self-centered turds. Secondly, they would get in the shots whether they were further up the road or behind, or just exiting on a ramp and got directly in the back of the shot. So I had to toss a few photos because of that. There was not much we could do about this except to find a quiet road which we did our best to do. And above all, nothing was worth a shot if the drivers weren’t safe. We made sure they worried more about the road then setting up the shot.

Example: Car getting in our shot

Communication. I am finding more and more that people cannot read my mind. Why? I dunno. They’re nutty, I guess. But I found that after the shoot, James and Jennifer were talking about how they weren’t really sure what to do with themselves when being photographed while driving. Should they turn and smile? Stare straight ahead? They shared with us that they just ended up doing a combination of the two. That made me realize that not everyone can envision what I’m going to do with my photos. I need to communicate with them and let them know what to expect. Or communicate my strategy at the very least and then let them have input as to what they want from the shoot. So I’m going to try to be more communicative with my clients and freely ask for any questions they have and any suggestions, too. After all, it’s their pictures. They need to look the way THEY want them to look.

2nd Challenge: Taking Pictures of 2 Giant Motorcycles and Two Human Subjects with Helmets in the Dead Fall

Strategy: Go to the park in Taylors Falls and get some still, posed shots. Eventually, we would also go to the Landing in Osceola for some more stills and panning.

Unique Perspectives, Fitting in the Frame, 10% Faces, and Heavy Bikes: So we have two 750-pound motorcycles. One is all black, the other has some yellow and blue. We have two human subjects who have helmets on their heads. How do we get unique perspectives of the two giant machines (one of which has little detail due to being black) and two humans with only 10% of their faces showing? I found it hard to choose to cut off a part of the bike because then the picture didn’t look complete. So how many angles can you come at a motorcycle while fitting it all in the frame? And what about if you have two? And what about if they’re very, very difficult to maneuver? It was challenging to think of new ways to set up the motorcycles and our subjects. We usually had them parallel to each other, at an angle with an interesting background. Then we would have the human subjects placed in different positions around the bikes. But it was difficult to search for the emotion because we couldn’t really see their faces well. But that also made editing easier since you sometimes couldn’t tell if someone was blinking or whether they were smiling! Either way, it was OK!

Example: Fitting two bikes and two subjects in a shot

Dead colors. Of course, we were doing our shots in mid-November when all leaves have died and turned brown. Skies are gray. Colors are dead and we are mourning. What to do? Well, contrast doesn’t always have to have color. We can contrast using patterns. So I tried to find situations in which, despite a lack of colors, our subjects would pop out in the frame. At the Osceola site, I had the subjects against a sunset and that turned them into silhouettes that looked fantastic against the background. Also, in post processing, I was able to raise the contrast and saturation and bring out the greens in the forests to add to the color in the final picture.

Example: The real color we were given by nature

Example: Picture with enhanced color through Lightroom

And that is my two cents on our motorcycle photo shoot. It was a lot of fun and very challenging, as you’ve seen! But Keith and I really enjoyed our time with Jennifer and James and how silly and crazy-in-love they are; what with whacking each other in the face and having slapping wars. I aspire to their level of love. Truly beautiful.

Thanks Jennifer & James!

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