Wednesday, October 28, 2009

40 Places to Drink Beer: Composition Study

1 new place to drink beer, shot 3 different ways. Has me thinking about how little changes in camera position equal big changes in composition. I know which one I like, but I'm curious to know which image other people would pick as the strongest:

Creative Inspiration: Mark Zibert

Saw a post on HMAb about Mark Zibert, and was reminded of his kick ass work. So I checked in to see the latest from the talented Mr. Z, who can apparently do it all - studio, location, simple, complex, dark, light, etc:

Not to mention he is kicking equal amounts of ass in motion:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Review: Vincent Laforet workshop at PDN Expo

After a few days of advertising + editorial meetings in NY, I wrapped up the week with a visit to the PDN Expo to hear a 3 hour Vincent Laforet talk about "Cinematography with a DSLR". The talk dovetailed nicely with the project I worked on a few weeks ago, shooting stills with a documentary crew using two RED Cameras (which will be detailed in a separate post.)

One of the main takeaways from this workshop is that shooting motion is a totally different animal than shooting stills. The gear, ways of seeing, workflow, software, lighting, formats, output, are ALL COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The common denominator is the camera body - which in this case is a Canon 5d Mark II. But the similarity ends there -- once you decide to shoot video with your DSLR, and have any sort of production value, you are committing to a completely new way of working.

And other people in the video / film worlds have been working at this a lot longer than us still photographers. We do not just pick up a 5D and become a DP, (ASC). Like anything, it takes time, and there is a steep learning curve. Especially now, since many lenses, cables, formats are not compatible. Laforet's Frankencamera, with gear from Red Rock Micro, looks like a risky, technical nightmare. And this one isn't even rigged with a monitor (or two):

Why go through the trouble of making a 5D work? Because it has a huge sensor. It gives a different look that you can only get with big, expensive film cameras + lenses -- shallow depth of field in crispy HD. "Cinematic" is one way to describe it. But the body only weighs a few pounds, versus 100+ pounds for a big ass Arri, Panavision, or even a RED (which is a total hog too -- don't be misled, it takes a big strong person with a good back to move a RED.)

Rock star DP Shane Hurlbut (ASC, mind you) who has shot huge Hollywood features (including Terminator Salvation most recently) is apparently obsessed with the 5D. His blog has a TON of info. Too much to cover here. Anyway, here is another Frankencamera, a Panavision Prime with his 5DMkII:

Ok so after attending this talk, how do I feel about entering the foreign, shifting, messy world of video? I feel like I am starting to understand how I'd like to approach it.

First, Laforet is a massive gear head. He has to be in order to enjoy what he does. He is constantly buying, renting, testing, reviewing new kinds of crazy looking video gear. Camera rigs, remote control helicopters, gyro stabilizers, portable sound recorders, monitors, cable converters, etc. The thought of managing, let alone owning all this stuff makes me cringe. I've spent years honing my gear down to a few lenses and a couple lights with which I can shoot a ton of stuff. The thought of going the other direction is very uanappealing. Especially when just a decent fluid head is $2k+.

One comment he made that has been bothering me was in regard to shooting video by moving the camera (using a dolly, handheld rig, steadicam, frankencam, etc) vs. keeping it still (locked on a tripod.) And that the moving shots are what "separate the men from the boys" and that video shots where the camera doesn't move are "boring."

Of course, this is his opinion. And yes moving shots are cool. But shots where the camera is locked down can be killer too. Check out the work by director Henrik Hansen. The camera never moves. And it's absolutely beautiful. So, Sorry Vincent, I have to disagree with you on that one.

Also, it's important to put all this in perspective w/r/t to what you are shooting for. If I were hired to shoot stills and video on an advertising shoot, I would never try to tackle this on my own with a still crew. It would be career seppuku. Especially if you are working with an AD that is accustomed to working on broadcast. In order to make it work, I'd surround myself with the best people possible, specifically Camera Operators, Gaffers, Grips, etc. When you HAVE to deliver, it's not worth the risk.

Personal work, small editorial jobs, sure -- fire up the HD SLR and shoot away. But be prepared to clear some technical hurdles (sound, constant light sources) along the way, even with a simple setup.

That said, once the Canon 1D Mark IV is available, I will get in line with every other photographer in the world -- not just for the HD Video capability, but for the high ISO and 16mp stills.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In NY this week

After an amazing week in Alabama with a film crew. More to follow on that project later.

Heading to the Lucies tonight, then AtEdge face to face tomorrow night, meetings, meetings, meetings....

Saw the latest issue of ESPN at the newsstand. Amazing issue with a ton of beautifully produced photography. Don't miss it:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

busy busy

I've found a new studio, and have been busy getting things moved into the new space. Although it's more of a storefront and less a proper studio. But who cares, it's a great space and it's going to be awesome:

Also got a call to shoot stills for an interesting documentary taking place in Alabama over the next year or so. Looks like I need to fly out Saturday and spend next week in a remote corner of Sweet Home. Then it's back on Friday to do another shot for GoLite, then off to NY on Monday for meetings until Thursday (and a short video workshop with Vincent Laforet, for the sake of due diligence....)

Hoping to complete said travel without contracting H1N1.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

personal project: 40 places to drink beer

I was feeling a bit down the other day, and needed to get away from my desk. So I grabbed my camera, jumped in the car and drove out to a dirt road in the hills to drink a beer.

I finished the beer and set it down on the ground, which was kind of funny. I thought about all the empty beer cans sitting on the ground all over the world. And how each of them tells a story about a person who for one reason or another, needed to just sit, relax, and have a cold beer.

I shot a few pictures of the can on the ground, then started moving it around, looking for new places and stories. The washed out color pallette in these images is derived from the way a beer can fades after sitting in the sun.

I like the simplicity of this project. And I like how it relates to our current economy. Lots of people (photographers included) are sitting around drinking beer, contemplating the future. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.