Sunday, June 22, 2008

Jimmy's Been a Busy Boy

Wow! I've been busier this past month than I have been in any month in the past few years! Leastwise, I don't recall a month as busy as this for quite some time. And to finish June out, I'm booked every day till the first. Unfortunately, I've been kinda flaky updating the blog. Interestingly, I don't have a single gig lined up after the 1rst. What's with that? Oh well. I'm sure that will change in the next week or so. Or, maybe not.

I've been shooting at a variety of locations, each with their own unique challenges. For a couple of days, for instance, we were at a location house way up in Topanga Canyon. Topanga, BTW, is a small burg nestled in the Santa Monica mountains between California's San Fernando Valley and the beach community of Malibu. The home that served as our location was built on a steep hillside half-way down a gorge. It's all steps and stairs, both wooden and masonry, that take you down to the house from the roadside. One hundred and twelve steps to be exact! One hundred and twelve steps down and 112 steps back up to the top! As you might guess, I decided to minimize the amount of gear I took down there with me-- All I packed on my back was my backpack camera bag containing camera bodies, glass, light meter, and other accessories, and a couple of collapsible reflectors. I photographed all the models outside using ambient daylight and reflected sunlight. That presented a number of lighting challenges since being in a steep gorge meant the available direct sunlight (needed for the reflectors) was mostly available in the middle parts of the days-- Not my usual preferred time of day to be shooting pretty girl photographs.

We also spent a few days in Hollywood at a gay men's sex club. It was a fairly bizarre location and, believe it or not, really didn't offer up much in terms of interesting shooting environments.Go figure, right? Everything inside was painted black: The walls, ceilings, furniture, hell, the floors were even black. Fortunately, the A/C worked as we were shooting there during the fairly intense heatwave we've experienced in Southern California this past week.

Image at the top is Sascha. I opted for a B&W treatment for no particular reason. (Utilizing the simple, Channel Mixer, technique; not much other processing than that.) Sascha is posing in a very narrow passageway just outside one of the many Glory Hole booths. If you don't know what a Glory Hole is, maybe it's because what you don't know is what you don't want to know. Or, maybe you would like to know. If so, try Googling it. It's not my job to explain such things to people.

I captured Sascha with my Canon 5D w/ 28-135 IS USM, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 60th. My mainlight was modified with a 36" transluscent Larson Reflectasol. I mounted it in front of a 500ws monolight as a shoot-thru diffuser. I also set a couple of small, white, shoot-thru umbrellas up high and behind the model for highlights. It was very cramped shooting in there and light placement was extremely limited. MUA was Melissa.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

PGS 4 Ur Tube - An Update

It's been awhile since I wrote anything about my endeavors to bring the Gospel of Pretty Girl Shooting (according to me) to a television broadcast or DVD near you.

In short, nothing much worth reporting has transpired. My agent, according to him, is still trying to move forward with the TV show. And me, myself, and I, according to us, are still trying to move forward with the DVD.

The PGS TV show has been pitched a number of times. Although we always receive very positive responses from the development people, it seems the short-lived VH-1 photography-based series, "The Shot," continues to haunt us and thwart our endeavors. Broadcast television is a quirky, fickle, and insecure animal. Had "The Shot" been a hit, we might be making more progress. Since it wasn't, we aren't. As you might know, it only took one "Top Model" type show to spawn numerous copy-cats. It only took one "Top Chef" type show to do the same. But had either of them failed to garner much in the way of an audience, there would have been less chance of imitations following them. I don't see our show as an imitation or copy-cat of "The Shot." But, from a TV development person's perspective, there are enough similarities: You know, photographers and models and lights and cameras and all that sort of stuff. Apparently, that's enough to classify it as "similar." And maybe it is. Similar, that is. Sorta.

The DVD is another story. Simply put, the lack of foward momentum rests squarely on my shoulders. I have made a deal, leastwise, I've made a loosely-defined deal-in-theory, with the manager of a top glamour model to appear in the DVD. Her role would not be to model. Rather, her role would be sharing valuable info regarding models and their relationships with photographers. In other words, a unique perspective of the model/photographer relationship. (And how to build and nurture those relationships, even if they only last the length of a single sitting.) This, from a drop-dead-gorgeous model who has appeared on the cover of just about every pretty girl magazine on the planet: Playboy, Penthouse, FHM and more! Way more! So, I suppose that represents some kind of foward momentum.

Anyway, as June continues to unfold I find myself busier than I've been in a couple of years. Perhaps the planets and stars have all lined up in a very fortuitous way for this humble photographer? Maybe it's just my time? I don't know and I don't care. Of course, it's possible it's a flash-in-the-pan thing, i.e., a positive time in the cycle of things and, a few months down the road, I'll be wondering, "Where'd all that work go?" Regardless, at the moment I'm a happy camper... errr... photographer.

The pretty girl at the top is Kelly. Some of you might recognize her. Maybe not. I photographed Kelly at a location house in Marina del Rey a few weeks back. I'll be shooting her again this week in some completely different environments. Kelly captured with my Canon 5D, 85mm prime, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 125. Three lights: Two in front and one from behind. There was some window light coming in from the side of her and from behind her.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I Hate It When I Jinx Myself

I should'a known I was jinxing myself. No sooner did I write my previous update--the very next day in fact--when I ended up working at a location where I had to climb THREE FREAKIN' FLIGHTS of stairs laden like a pack-mule. Actually, it was total of 6 sets of stairs in all! (And that was one-way!)

First off, the traffic sucked getting there. But then, this is L.A. Nothing particularly unusual about that. What was unusual was discovering the lack of street parking in front of the location once I finally arrived. I've shot at this place plenty of times. It's a condo complex near Burbank Studios. (Warner Bros.) In all the times I've shot there, maybe 30 or 40 times, I've always been able to park right in front of the door into the complex. But not that day. Oh no. That day I needed to park about 100 yards or more up the street. (Up as in in uphill.... and not a gentle uphill either.) Granted, a hundred yards ain't much, but it is when you're carrying about 100 to 150 pounds of gear! I knew the trek back to my car was really going to suck because that would be when the uphill part would come into play.

I get inside the complex and, to get to the condo we shoot in, it's about a 150 yards including a short elevator ride up one floor and then some concrete path walking including three sets of outdoor stairs to another elevator which then takes you up three floors to where the condo resides. But when I arrived at the final elevator, I discovered it was out of order.

As you can imagine, I was already huffing and puffing from lugging all that gear. BTW, the gear consists of my camera stuff (two bodies, lenses, speedlites, meter, and a bunch of accessories) which is all packed in a backpack camera bag. Then I have another bag slung over one shoulder that holds my monolights and their cables. And then yet another bag (this one a baseball bat bag) slung over the other shoulder filled with stands, umbrellas, a couple of stingers, a short boom, and some other grip stuff. Trust me, all in all, it all weighs a lot!

So, after discovering the final elevator was out of order, I locate the stairwell which, of course, wasn't anywhere near the elevator, and I climb up the THREE FREAKIN' FLIGHTS of stairs with the 100 pounds or more of gear slung on my back to the floor where the condo is at.

No sooner do I arrive at the condo's front door when my cell rings. It's Abby, the model. She's downstairs in the front trying to find a place to park. I toss all my crap into the condo and head back down to the street. Yep, down three flights of stairs, a walk with three more sets of stairs, an elevator, and finally I arrive on the street.

Abby is trying to park in a space that allows her about 6" of room at each end of her car and, incredibly, she manages to get her car into it! That girl can parallel park like a pro!

So now Abby starts pulling out two, steamer-trunk-sized, pieces of luggage. (Yeah! Right! I'm carrying that crap up... not!)

"Whoa!" I say. "Let's figure out what you're gonna wear down here."

I then explain to Abby it's a long trek to the condo and there's an elevator out of order and that I'm practically toast from my first expedition up there and back and, well, you get the idea. Abby, of course, being a glamour model and adult film star, ain't about to carry her own wardrobe up there so that's why I suggested we pick something out right there, on the sidewalk, in front of the complex.

So there we are in front of the condo complex: Some middle-aged guy with a young, blond, busty, stripper-looking chick pulling out all these slutty outfits and laying them all over the steps to the condo complex with people driving and walking by gawking at us and, well, again, you get the picture.

Finally, we pick out an outfit, put her steamer-trunks back in her car, and head up to the condo. Once we get there, Abby started doing her makeup, I set up my lights, and everything worked out well from there.

All of this, of course, has little to do with photography. Just thought I'd share. Heading out to Las Vegas this weekend. It's a combination work trip and fun trip. (Working in Vegas always has fun attached to it.) I hope the fun part far exceeds the work part.

The eye candy at the top is Abby. Canon 5D w/28-135 IS USM. ISO 100, f/8 @ 100. She's non-artfully lit with two sources: A large shoot-thru in front of her and a small shoot-thru boomed up behind her. Yep! Uber-simple, flat-and-bright lighting! Perfect for those highly skilled post-production folks in the art departments cuz, you know, it's all about what they want.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Lazy Man's Guide to Location Photography

I'm kind of a lazy guy. I always look for ways to shoot my photos efficiently and with the least effort expended. In other words, I don't like to work too hard to get the shot.

Besides studios, I work at home and business locations, many of which I've never been to before. Unfortunately, I don't always know what shooting difficulties these locations will present or what opportunities they might offer to make my job easier.

Here's an example:

Let's say I arrive at a location and the client wants me to shoot in a part of the location that requires me to climb three flights of stairs. Normally, I can do three flights of stairs easy enough. But since I rarely have an assistant, three flights of stairs means, in addition to dragging my own ass up to the third floor, schlepping a bunch of gear up there as as well. Many times, of course, there's no other alternative than to become a pack-mule and haul my stuff up there. But if, during a quick reconnoiter of the proposed shooting environment, I discover there's a way to get the shot with a minimal of equipment hauled up with me, that's what I'm going to opt for.

The shot at the top is Nikki from the other day. The location was a hillside home with lots of stairs. A quick walk through the area I was told to shoot Nikki in revealed a Northerly-facing, sliding-glass door with a small balcony on the other side of it. I needed to keep Nikki inside the house--she was going to get naked for the shots--but I figured I could still manage to use the sun as a backlight. Although it was quite bright outside, I knew I could balance the outdoor daylight with my strobes. But that sunlight was hitting Nikki awfully hard plus there was the problem of my strobes reflecting off the glass. I needed to knock some of that direct sunlight down a bit and eliminate the reflections. Since I was going to use two, front-sources, the reflections were going to limit where I could shoot from and/or where I could place those lights.

Then I noticed there was a sliding screen door outside of the sliding glass door. Perfect! I could open the glass door, eliminating the reflections, and knock down some of the sunlight with the screen. (Which suddenly doubled as a wire-mesh scrim!)

The whole setup worked out really nicely. I only had to haul two stands, a pair of monolights, and a couple of shoot-thru umbrellas up there. The shoot-thru umbrellas gave me a nice soft key and fill to work with. Nikki was able to remain inside the house and out of sight of prying eyes--she's actually standing about three feet inside the house--and the sun did the rest.

Lazy photography. I love it.

Nikki captured with my Canon 5D w/85mm prime. ISO 100, f/10 @ 1/85th. Nikki did her own makeup and hair. BTW, the screen door also did a nice job of blurring the BG a bit more than the lens was able to, optically, at f/10. It really helps her pop off the BG and give the image a sense of depth!