Monday, August 31, 2009

Playboy Might Be Looking For You!

Here's an opportunity for all you pretty girl shooters out there. Playboy is looking for a few good photographers. And a few good models too!

It's called "Playboy Shootout," and it's a reality show that pits 10 photographers and 10 models against each other. The prize? The winning photographer and model get to shoot a layout for Playboy magazine.

Hey! Waitaminute! This all sounds fairly familiar to me. In fact, it sounds very much like the proposed reality show my agent and I have pitched around Hollywood for the past year or so! (Not counting the shoot-a-layout-for-Playboy winning prize part.) Anyway, like dumbshits, we neglected to pitch it to Playboy. Oh well. Wha'd'ya gonna do? Shit happens. But that doesn't mean some of you can't turn the shit happening my way into a great opportunity happening your way.

Here's all you have to do: Go to the link I'm about to provide and submit some pics along with a resume. That's it. Easy, no? C'mon! What do you have to lose? Some precious time? Hell. Can't be all that precious. You're spending some of that precious time reading this blog, right?

I gotta tell ya, there's nothing that would make me happier than one or more PGS readers getting picked for this competition.

Okay. I lied. Me getting picked would make me happier but, short of that, one or some of you getting picked would certainly be a great consolation prize should Playboy not see their way to choosing yours truly.

Yep. That means I'm going to try out for this myself.

Did I mention my agent called and said this Playboy thing pretty much kills any chance my reality show idea had... or has? He did. But I'm not bitter. I'm not pissed. I'm not heartbroken or depressed. Like I said, "What'd'ya gonna do?"

Here's the link to submit for Playboy's Shootout: Playboy Shootout.

Good luck to any and all of you who try out!

The pretty girl at the top, the one getting her skirt blown up, is Dani from today's shoot. She's a homegrown local girl, barely out of her teen years. Dani was lotsa fun to work with! What a great personality. If I would boil her personality down to a single word, it would probably be "spunky."

And spunky chicks are fun!

Dani captured with my Canon 5D w/ 17-40 L glass, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125th. Three Profoto Acute 2 heads: Two in front at 45s and one up high and behind her to camera left. All the heads were modified with umbrellas. Not much processing. I left the color fairly saturated cuz I was digging all the reds: From her hair to her skirt to the walls of that set I shoot in for one of my clients just about every week.

BTW, that little hint of panty your eyes zoomed in on matches the flower thing in her hair. Just a little F-Y-Eye for the straight guy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Photographic Paranoia

Went camping this past weekend. My daughter had flown off to the Big Apple for a weekend of fun-- a Broadway show (revival of "Hair"), dining in Little Italy, shopping in SoHo, strolling Central Park, and other stuff tourist-chicks do when they're taking in the sights and sounds of a city like NYC. It was her cousin's birthday and her cousin's hubby arranged the weekend getaway for the girls.

My daughter and her husband already had a weekend reservation at a popular, Southern California campground: Lake Casitas, near Ojai, California. My son-in-law decided to go ahead and take their kids (my grand-kids) camping even though Mom was away. I decided to join them, also bringing my 13-year-old son. (My daughter and son have different mothers, tho you probably figured that out already. Or, maybe not?)

I should put the word "camping" into perspective: My daughter and her husband have a really nice, 24-foot, camping trailer. You know, with beds, a kitchen with microwave and fridge, air-conditioning, that sort of stuff. Plus, the campground has hook-ups, electricity and water, so we weren't exactly roughing it. Lake Casitas Campground has a small water park. I spent most of Saturday on an over-sized inner tube, greased up with SPF50, floating on the park's main attraction, the "Lazy River." It was supremely relaxing and I didn't get sun-burnt!

Our campsite was right at the tree line at the top of a hill. The trees that populate the Lake Casitas area are mostly oaks. Near the end of the day, while sitting and reading under the trailer's pop-out awning, I heard some girls giggling and chattering. I looked up as three young girls, around 10 to 12 years old, came into view. They stopped and began playing about 20 yards from our campsite.

The image before me, with these kids playing, was beautifully stunning. To say the light, partially shaded by the oak trees and with the sun setting behind the girls, was spectacular would be an understatement. It might have been the most perfect light I've ever seen! (And I've seen some really great light in my time.)

The three girls were all completely "edged" from head-to-toe with glowing, golden highlights. The ambient, illuminating them in the front, was as soft and creamy as it could be. The warm tones created by the late afternoon sun, its light reflecting off the red and brown leaves scattered about the ground, was gorgeous. The dark branches and trunks of the trees, along with the other foliage behind the girls, framed them exquisitely and provided a beautiful background.

It was an incredible photo opportunity!

My camera bag was a mere few feet away, locked in my SUV. I started to get up to retrieve my gear--I was thinking my Canon 70-200 f/4 L would be the lens of choice--when something told me to stop. Actually, it wasn't something as much as it was a sudden sense of dread and paranoia. What if these girls' parents suddenly showed up and noticed some stranger happily snapping away at their beautiful kids? I tried to imagine myself attempting to explain to some angry parents why I was photographing their children. How the quality of the light was so perfect and how their kids, oblivious to my camera, would have made such wonderful subjects for the beautiful images that would have resulted in this idyllic and serene setting.

I sat back down and continued reading the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Not all that many years ago, taking uninvited pictures of some children in an outdoor, natural setting might not have been overly frowned upon. But that was then and this is now. I know I wouldn't be too happy with some stranger surreptitiously photographing my children or grand-children. It's a different world now. Our country's days of innocence are long over. For the most part, the internet and the media and more than a few pervs have seen to that.

These days, parents are very distrustful--and for good reasons--and photographers need to exercise restraint, caution, and common sense when encountering situations, like the one I witnessed, no matter how perfectly photographic they might be. It sucks but that's how it is.

Besides, could you imagine if I had gone ahead and started snapping pics and the girls' parents showed up, made a big deal out of it which then attracted the park's rangers and then, somehow, sometime later, someone involved managed to discover who I am and what I do for a living?

Maybe it wasn't paranoia that stopped me from photographing those children? Maybe it was simple self-preservation?

A short time later, after the three girls continued on their hike, I asked my grand-daughter to move to where the girls had stopped and played. But it was too late. The light, leastwise the perfect light, had vanished. What was left was marginally okay light but it wasn't the perfect light that had been there just a short time before.

Oh well. What'd'ya gonna do?

The pretty girl at the top is Dylan from yesterday's shoot. Dylan's pose kind of reminds me of how those three little girls' Mom might have initially reacted if she caught me photographing her kids. Course, she probably wouldn't have been dressed undressed like that.

Dylan captured with Canon 5D, Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 AF, ISO 100, f/11 at 125th. I used three, Profoto Acute 2 heads-- two in the front, modified with large umbrellas at 45s, and one behind, up high and to the left of the model, modified with a small, shoot-thru. Very little processing other than the B&W conversion. I probably should have cropped it a bit tighter, especially on the long-side.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Shooting From the Hip

Shooting from the hip means that, given the choice of various courses of action, a decision is reached without having the time to consider all possible outcomes of the decision. Shooting from the hip means going with one's first instincts, i.e., choosing to react quickly and, hopefully, correctly to a given situation.

As photographers, we often encounter situations where we must shoot from the hip. Often, those fleeting, decisive, moments don't offer enough time to process all the variables that might impact the results of shooting from the hip.

Sometimes, serendipity smiles on us and the images resulting from hip-shooting can be spectacular. Other times, shooting from the hip yields dismal results.

For the most part, shooting from the hip is a crap shoot.

Still, experience is our friend when we must shoot from the hip. Experience helps us reduce the odds that, when we have to roll the photographic dice, we're not gonna crap out. Experience helps us roll shaved dice: Dice that are, more often than not, going to produce the kind of results we decide on, not results fate decides to give us.

I suppose that's why there are so many web sites, photography magazines, photo-tutorials, workshops, and other media and events designed to help photographers gain knowledge and experience. It's not just about learning to shoot in the best of circumstances, that is, when time and light and subject all line up like grand, fortuitous, astronomical events.

Knowledge and experience helps us capture whatever we're pointing our cameras at, sometimes in the worst of situations, in ways that make compelling, competent, aesthetically-pleasing, technically-proficient pictures. It gives us the ability to react quickly to given situations-- to improvise, to solve problems, to capture a good image efficiently and in short order. In other words, to shoot from the hip with skill, confidence, and agility.

Sure, when we shoot from the hip we don't always get the results we hope for. Sometimes, the results exceed our expectations but, more often than we'd like, they are less than we had hoped for.

Fortunately, with dedication to learning and improving, determination and persistence in honing our craft, and having an open mind to new ideas and processes, shooting from the hip can be less an anxious and insecure event and, instead, a welcome challenge that tests our skills, experience, creativity, and know-how.

Personally, I'm gonna be one happy camper if or when I finally get to the point where shooting from the hip no longer causes me photographer-angst.

The pretty girl at the top is Diana from yesterday's shoot. It wasn't a case of shooting from the hip although, as usual, time--enough allotted time, that is--wasn't my friend.

Monday, August 17, 2009

My Coffee With Bernie

Yesterday, I stopped by my favorite, local, coffee house for a cup or two of Joe.

Walked in, sat down at my usual table near the back (with a good view of everything and everyone) and pulled my laptop out. They have free WiFi there.

I was quickly handed a (real) coffee cup by Chris, one of the kids who works there. (It's one of those joints where you pour your own.) I go in there often enough that there's a chorus of Hi Jimmy! from various mouths, mostly the employees mouths, whenever I walk in. And since I'm a regular, I get great service! (Not that people who aren't regulars don't get really great service. They do. I'm just saying.)

I noticed an old guy leaving the joint as I walked in. I vaguely recalled seeing this old gent there before. He was wearing a tee-shirt with "Old Guys Rule" printed across it's back. "Gotta get one of those," I thought to myself... when I'm old enough to officially qualify as an "Old Guy."

"You should talk to that old guy sometime," Chris advised me, pointing at the man who was just walking out the door.

"Why?" I asked.

"He was some kind of famous photographer or cameraman or something." (All the kids who work at the coffee house know what I do for a living-- I say "kids" cuz they're all about 18-25 years old.)

I looked up and, through the front windows of the coffee house, could see the "old guy" getting into a newish, green, Mustang GT convertible.

"Never too old to be a kid and still drive a high-performance car," I thought to myself.

Then, I noticed the old guy getting back out of his Mustang and coming back into the coffee house. As he walked by, he smiled at me and said, "Forgot to take a piss," with a grin on his face.

I seized the opportunity, ice broken and all that.

"Hi!" A warm, friendly smile on my mug. "Chris says you're a photographer. Me too."

The old guy stopped, regarded me for a moment--sizing me up I suppose--then said, "I haven't had a camera in my hands for a long time."

"Why not?" I asked, kind of challenging him. "You're never too old to shoot a camera."

The old guy stared at me with one of those "looks" that said "What do you know?" then moved on. "I gotta take a piss," he said, rather gruffly, as he headed for the bathroom. "I'll have a word with you when I'm done."

"Uh oh." I thought to myself. I was mildly concerned I might have offended him which certainly wasn't my intent but, you know, sometimes I do that. To say I'm not shy with strangers is an understatement.

So as not to overly milk the set-up for this update, I'll fast-forward a bit to the old guy, post-urinating, sitting and talking with me at my table. Turns out his name is Bernie Abramson, he's 86 years old, and he lives only a few miles from where I live.

If you checked out Bernie's IMDB profile, via the link I provided above, you'll notice he was, indeed, a photographer and cinematographer. And he worked on more than a few notable films. He also, it turns out, knew and shot more than a few very famous people in his career as a shooter, stills as well as motion pictures. And, it turns out, he was friends with some notable and iconic photographers: Guys like George Hurrell and Yousuf Karsh and Edward Steichen. (Yep! Steichen!!!)

For the next three hours I was engrossed (and basically mesmerized) while engaging in a conversation with this man. Bernie regaled me with stories that included names like John Wayne, John Ford, Barbra Streisand, Desi Arnaz, Jerry Lewis, George Lucas and more. Not too mention commentary that included the names of those photographers I listed above. Bernie, BTW, told me he believes he was the first Hollywood star-shooter to adopt 35mm SLRs into his production work flow. I also discovered Bernie was a Nikon guy. But hey! He had nothing negative to say about Canon!



Bernie agreed to let me interview him--officially interview him--in the very near future. He's also going to let me shoot some portraits of him. I'm stoked!

Before leaving, Bernie took me out to his Mustang and retrieved a magazine, I think it was Los Angeles magazine, that included an article about him and some other photographers who were the guys who shot so many stars in the 40's, 50's, 60's and beyond. BTW, Bernie detests the paparazzi.

"They're not photographers," Bernie told me. "They're vultures!" He said with a disgusted look on his face. "Back in my day," Bernie explained, "Hollywood was like a small, tight-knit, family. Today," he added, "It's like a big, ugly, family feud."

I'll share more about Bernie in the near future including this mostly-bald, white-bearded, Mustang GT-driving, octogenarian extolling the virtues of Viagra. Not that those little blue pills have much to do with glamour photography! But, just like with glamour photography, sex sells and makes for interesting copy... and just so ya know, I'm not gonna ask this 86-year-old guy about his sex life. Nope. I'm just, you know, gonna add some color to the text with a few hints that Bernie might drop during our conversations-- like when he leaned in and confessed to me in a low, barely audible, voice, "I still wanna get laid everyday."

Yep. Old guys rule!

Leastwise, some of them do.

I posted a pic I shot of Tera Patrick at the top because, during our conversation, Bernie happened to mention that he, uhh... admires her beauty quite a bit.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

When the Going Gets Tough...

...the tough get writing.

About anything.

Ya see, the toughest part about writing this blog is coming up with ideas to write about.

I've been babbling on here, on the PGS blog, for about 3 1/2 years. One thing I've learned is that it isn't the writing part that's difficult--I can deal with that easy enough--it's the idea part that sometimes stymies me.

Like it's doing right now.

How so?

Well, I'm writing about having nothing to write about. (The easy part.) Technically, that's something. But it's still nothing, idea-wise, if you get my drift.

In fact, I think it's pretty lame that I'm writing about not having anything to write about just for the sake of writing something, anything...

Even nothing.

I feel like I'm writing an update that's akin to that Seinfeld episode: You know the one, the one that's about nothing.

I suppose I could write about something semi-interesting slightly weird that happened to me recently, although it has absolutely nothing to do with pretty girl shooting.

But it is something.


I was at the VA medical clinic the other day waiting to endure the indignities of a medical procedure. (Getting old really sucks!)

A man approached me. He looked to be in his 70s. Appeared like a very kindly person. Big warm smile on his mug.

"Do you remember me?" He asked.

"Nope." I answered politely, returning his smile.

"Good." He said.


Then he asked, "Do you have diabetes?"

"No." I answered, still remaining polite but now a bit hesitant to continue the conversation.

"How about hypertension?" He asked.

"Yes." I said, some caution showing in my voice. "That's why I'm here."

"You'll be cured of your hypertension, your high blood pressure will disappear, in six months." He stated rather casually.

I just stared at him, not sure what to say.

He didn't explain how this would happen. He just said it would. All he needed was my name which, for some reason, I gave him. He wrote it down on a small notepad, leastwise, he wrote something down on the notepad. He never asked for the correct spelling of my name. He just wanted my name. Nothing else. That was it. My name. And then he jotted something on the notepad. The cure.

The man then told me it was too bad I don't have diabetes. I asked why? He said he cures diabetes in 4 months. Again, no explanation how he does this or why diabetes only takes four months to cure while hypertension takes six. According to him, that's just how it is.

I asked if he cures anything else.


Just diabetes and hypertension. Four months or six. That's it. That's the Full Monty of his healing skills.

A short time later, I was lying on an examination table with a medical technician probing around my groin area with an ultra-sound device. Unfortunately, the med-tech was a guy. Anyway, he was looking for blood clots in my legs which, it happily turns out, I don't have. (It's too tedious of a story to explain why they were looking for them.)

While the technician probed, I told him about my encounter with the man who claims a healing gift.

"You think I met an angel or a whacko?" I asked.

"A whacko." He answered.

I guess I'll find out which he was, angel or whacko...

In six months.

The pretty girl at the top is Lupe from a shoot a few months ago.

Monday, August 10, 2009

BIG LIGHT, Big Light, Small Light

Good post on photographer, Joe McNally's, blog: Big Light, Small Light.

I'll admit I stole part of McNally's title for this update. I added "BIG LIGHT" to it. This way, only two-thirds of my title is an actual rip-off. I did this because, besides thinking I'm being oh-so-clever whilst stealing his title, I thought I'd give some props to the biggest of BIG LIGHTS, the sun: Old Sol being a major lighting player in McNally's post and all.

If you haven't already taken the time to read McNally's update I recommend that you do. While his lighting approach to the work assignment wasn't rocket science, there's much to learn from its simplicity: It's one part "BIG LIGHT" with the sun producing the exterior illumination as well as a modicum of interior ambient, one part "Big Light" with a 2400ws pack-n-head blasting the interior of a big, windowed room, and one part "Small Light" employing a speedlite to highlight a person who, otherwise, would be little more than an anonymous silhouette in the foreground.

This is one of those times when the photographer, while needing artificial light to make good pictures, didn't over think his lighting approach and simplified what might have seemed, to less experienced photographers, a daunting, lighting, challenge.

While no white plastic garbage bags, a la Strobist, were used during McNally's shoot (with the possible exception of using them to toss garbage) his latest blog update is another example of the K.I.S.S. approach at work. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)

If McNally was shooting video with, say, a Canon 5Dmk2, it would have been much more difficult getting similar looking imagery, either by A) using multiple HMIs to balance the interior of the room with the exterior daylight or B) applying a lot of ND (Neutral Density) gel onto all those big windows. The ND gel approach, BTW, would've been expensive and labor-intensive. HMIs ain't cheap to rent and probably would've required an assistant or two to deploy. But since strobes put out a lot of light, if for a brief period of time, and they're easy to set, McNally was able to capture his assignment with minimal gear, not much fuss, and fairly easily without assistants... although assistants are always helpful for making, at the very least, the schlepping part of the job much easier.

The oddly-cropped, B&W-treated, gratuitous image of the under five-foot, under a hundred pounds, 18-year-old, Arizona-bred, partly Native American pretty girl at the top--whose name my brain refuses to recall even though I can remember all that other stuff about her and I only shot her merely a month or so ago--has nothing to do with the subject of this post or McNally's blog update. It's just there cuz, well, cuz it is.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Keep It Simple Stupid

As a fairly regular reader of David Hobby's blog, Strobist, I am often amazed by reader-reactions to David's posts. How do I know what those reactions might be? Well, d'uh! I read the comments posted by David's many readers.

David's blog often focuses on the use of speedlites as light sources. That's not to say his Strobist blog is exclusively dedicated to speedlites but it's a subject that is responsible for much of Hobby's content.

I don't often use speedlites in my work but I almost always carry a couple of these small, battery-operated, flash-emitting ass-savers in my bag. I never know when my speedlites will come in handy or, more importantly, when they might represent, for whatever reason, my best (or only) option--potentially, my lighting salvation--in one situation or another.

What particularly astonishes me regarding Strobist readers' comments is when David posts simple, MacGuyveresque, solutions to various lighting-scenarios and readers are positively amazed! Apparently, more than a few of them experience near photo-epiphanies when reading Hobby's solutions to many day-to-day photo/lighting situations.

Hobby merely employs whatever he can scrounge--whatever is available--to modify and/or control the potentially harsh lighting that usually results when someone points a naked speedlite at their subject and fires away.

In his most recent update, Improvisational Light, Hobby describes the use of a small, white, garbage bag to diffuse a speedlite's photon-output. As result, more than a few of his readers were, from the tone of their comments, thunderstruck!




Photographers, please!

I'm not dissing Hobby's innovative, clever, and practical use of whatever is available to modify light. But it seems to me that many Strobist devotees must not be putting their thinking caps on when confronted with situations that require a small bit of logic, coupled with some creative thinking, to enhance the quality of whatever lighting source(s) they are employing, whether it's a speedlite, a monolight, or even bare naked sunlight. If they did, I suppose, web traffic to Hobby's most-excellent blog might be diminished. Hell! Mine too! Or, maybe not. While not having as large a reader-base as David enjoys, I do feature pretty naked women to help attract readers. That's gotta count for something, right?

Diffusing, modifying, and controlling light can usually be accomplished, in a pinch, with so many common, household, items or available surfaces. A list detailing all the potential light modifiers and controllers available to photographers would be a lengthy list indeed.

From garbage bags to shower curtains to sheets to windshield sunshades to pieces of Styrofoam and paper to walls to ceilings to floors to so much more, the world is filled with so many things that can be effectively utilized to produce aesthetically-pleasing light. When photographers purposely apply the same creativity to making good light (out of so many common things) that they attempt to apply to other creative aspects of their photography, they'll find they're less stupefied when someone details the use of common stuff to wrangle light.

Using simple items to effect good lighting doesn't represent thinking outside the box. (Unless you're using the outside of a box to bounce some light.) It's not about over-thinking for solutions. It's simply about thinking practically, logically, creatively, and improvisationally. Do yourself a favor: Try not to engage in paralysis-through-analysis when coming up with lighting solutions. Just try to K.I.S.S. your lighting problems goodbye solutions hello. (Keep It Simple Stupid.)

This stuff ain't brain surgery and it ain't rocket science. It's little more than ingenuous, practical thinking. Try it. You'll like it. And you'll be less amazed, though still impressed, when someone tosses out yet another lighting solution (using something you hadn't already thought of) by simultaneously engaging the creative and logical sides of their brains and wielding a common household item to modify or control light.

The diptych at the top, featuring two Dalias, is an example of simple, practical thinking as it relates to the light. The images were captured by my buddy, Rick, of Simi Studio, during our time at El Mirage Dry Lake shooting the PGS DVD and the Innovatronix spot.

In the image on the left-side, Dalia was lit with available light plus a white reflector from below. No problem there. The reflector-from-below technique is a great way to pleasingly fill when shooting pretty girl pics. It's also responsible, in the images above, for the pronounced catch-lights.

While Dalia was placed mostly out of the sun in a shaded area, the faded, white-painted, corrugated-metal wall on her right provided a bit of soft, reflective fill, helping out the images' exposure. Unfortunately, the sunlight hitting her hair was quite harsh and a few stops overexposed. In the right-side image, a scrim was brought in, overhead, to diffuse, soften, and knock down the sunlight about one stop. (In this case, a medium Wescott Scrim Jim.) Doing so retained highlights and also provided much more detail in her hair. Lighting-wise, a much better capture, IMO.

Although a manufactured scrim was used, I'm confident something else could have been scrounged up and employed to knock down and diffuse the sunlight: A thin white sheet or other material or almost anything that was color-neutral and translucent. (Actually, since Rick was shooting in monochrome mode, color-neutral wouldn't have mattered much.)

I did the processing on the two images and, truthfully, didn't spend much time/work on them. I suppose I could have done a better job with the levels of Dalia's skin, making them appear more equal. Certainly, a more gifted PS processor than myself could make either of those images sing-- such is the way of those skilled in the magical arts of Photoshop wizardry.

Rick snapped the pics with his Canon 40D in B&W mode. (No conversion was necessary.) They were exposed at ISO 100, f/6.3 @ 125th. If I recall, he used his Canon 28-135 IS USM zoom lens. Exif data recorded the focal length at 40mm.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

PGS DVD Production Day One (The Final Chapter)

No doubt, many of you have been biting your nails in anticipation of this update since my last post, assuming you read it, ended with a cliffhanger: "It was then that I noticed, in the distance, the gleam and dust-cloud of another vehicle quickly approaching..."

So relax. You can quit biting the keratin growing from the ends of your fingers. I was supposed to work today but the shoot got canceled due to a sick model--not that they ain't all sick, some in good ways, some not so--so I figured I'd use part of my newly-discovered day-off and finish the saga of our production day at El Mirage.

BTW, all of you could have saved your nails the toothy onslaught. A few days ago, I wrote a spoiler in the comments of my previous update. But then, who reads the comments, right?


It was then that I noticed, in the distance, the gleam and dust-cloud of another vehicle quickly approaching...

I stood up to get a better look.

As the vehicle grew closer, something told me it might not be a welcome visitor to our little photo/video soiree. I turned to look at Dalia, our model, who was cavorting, buck-naked on the lake bed, posing with a big piece of fairly transparent blue chiffon blowing in the breeze as Rick snapped away. Kyle and Patrick were shooting video of the scene. I returned my attention to the oncoming vehicle. It was much closer now, still speeding towards us across the sand, and I could make out some of the graphics on the side of the white SUV.

Uh oh.

Local gendarmes!

I turned back towards Dalia. "Wrap that thing around your body!" I shouted.

"What?" She shouted back.

"Cover yourself up!" I called out.

She started wrapping the transparent chiffon around her naked body as she too noticed the oncoming vehicle. Truthfully, it didn't cover much. She might just as well have remained naked for all the good the chiffon did.

The law enforcement vehicle pulled up nearby. I slapped a big smile on my face and walked towards it. Two, uniformed, officers, guns on their hips, stepped out of the vehicle.

"Hi guys!" I said, as I approached them, the friendly smile still plastered on my face. "Can I help you?"

One of the officers said, "Can we see your shooting permit?"

(Note: For those of you who think getting popped for shooting without a permit is no big deal, it sometimes can be: Not only will they often issue a summons that usually ends up being fairly expensive, they can also, if they choose, confiscate and impound equipment. You know, like your cameras and such. Leastwise, in L.A. that's what they sometimes do.)

Back to the story...

"Shooting permit?" I answered, feigning confusion. "I don't think we need a shooting permit. We're, uhh... shooting some private portfolio stuff," I lied.

"Sir," The officer said, ignoring my explanation, "I need to see your permit. You need a permit to be shooting this on the lake bed." He looked over at Dalia, our might-as-well-have-been-naked model, then at my motley crew, all with cameras--two of them video cams--in their hands, then back to me. "Private portfolio?" He asked, a bit sarcastically.

"Yes sir." I continued to lie with my best poker-face. "We're a photography club and we always video tape our shoots so we can show it to our members who can't be here."

The officer, who now wasn't sure if I was lying or not, went on to explain that I still needed to contact the permit office who would, most likely, grant an exemption for photo clubs and hobbyists. But that exemption, he explained, would still be a tangible permit. It just wouldn't cost anything.

"Well, that's good to know for the next time, officer." I smiled cheerfully. "Thanks for the info."

"We had a crew shooting a Victoria's Secret commercial out here yesterday." He said.

"Wow! Cool!" I said. "I'll bet they had a permit." I added, trying to be somewhat humorous.

"They did," he advised me, without as much as a smile. "The guy who made that Transformers movie was directing it," he told me. "Michael Bay."

"Very cool." I said.

"He was an asshole." The officer said, rather nonchalantly and without skipping a beat. "All he did was yell and scream at people all day. Even the models."

"Oh man!" I said, feigning big-time disapproval. "I guess that's how some people get when they're big and famous and all full of themselves. Bet he didn't yell at you guys."

The officer nodded.

"You can finish what you're doing," the officer told me. "But next time get a permit."

"Thanks!" I said. "To be honest, I thought you were going to bust us for indecent exposure or something like that," I said, nodding towards our model, a sheepish grin on my face.

"There's no local ordinance that covers that kind of thing out here on the dry lake." He officially advised me.

"Whew!" I thought, suddenly realizing how incredibly dumb it was for me to even bring up the subject of Dalia's obvious nudity. Especially since they didn't mention it. But, when you're on a roll, stupid shit can sometimes spill easily out of one's mouth. (My mouth being quite good at doing that.) Anyway, I guess that's what happened-- A momentary lapse in reason. (© Pink Floyd.)

"Wow!" I said, quickly shrugging of my self-recrimination. "I guess you don't have too many church ladies out here in the middle of nowhere?"

He smiled... finally!

"You guys are welcome to hang around and watch." I added. Turning to Dalia, I shouted, "Take it off!"

"What?" She called back.

"Take if off!" I shouted again. "It's okay to get naked!"

Dalia smiled mischievously and unwrapped herself, revealing herself to the officers in all her naked glory.

Now, both peace officers were smiling.

I hand signaled an "okay" to my crew: Rick started snapping pics again while Kyle and Patrick resumed videotaping the whole thing.

One of the officers pulled out his cell phone and held it up. "You mind?" He asked.

"Be my guest." I said.

"Hope my wife doesn't see these," he said as he started snapping cell phone pics of the lovely and completely naked Dalia. "Please make sure your guys don't point their cameras at us." He advised me.

"Not a problem." I said. "Guys!" I shouted to my crew. "Don't shoot anything this way!"

And they didn't.

Later, back at our little base camp at Mr. Calloway's ranch/scrapyard, we were all joking about our encounter with the local constables. Dalia, with a straight face, told us, "If it didn't go so well, I was gonna say I was only 16 and you guys brought me out here."

None of us laughed. We just stared at her, straight faced.

"I'm kidding!" She said with a giggle.

The pretty girl at the top, posing with the blue chiffon at El Mirage, is 21-year-old Dalia Love. Image by RickH of Simi Studio. Rick snapped this pic, just before law enforcement arrived, with his Canon 40D, Tamron 24-75 AF, ISO 100, f/8 @ 125th, in the waning light of the late afternoon sun. I did the post-processing on it.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

PGS DVD Production Day One (Part 2)

Earlier in the day, as written about in my earlier PGS DVD Production: Day One (Part 1) post, we shot the driving content for the Innovatronix commercial spot. Now, we were finishing up shooting Dalia in front of the... whatever it was.

I never did figure out if that silver metallic hulk was the scrapped fuselage of some sort of experimental aircraft or if it was the aerodynamically-shaped remains of a land-based, high-speed vehicle: An early racing machine that adventurous adrenaline junkies drove while attempting to break various land-speed records at places like Bonneville and El Mirage. I could have should have asked but, at the time, my mind was focused on the job at hand. My wide-angle behind-the-scenes image (above) illustrates the middle-of-nowhere-ness of the location we were shooting at.

The photo-shoot content demonstrated various lighting techniques as well as the not-always-predictable soft-science of model-wrangling.

For this portion of the program, we started out using available light, i.e., with reflectors and scrims helping out, then moved on to a one-light, trump-the-ambient, set-up, and ended by adding a ring light into the mix. The image of Dalia on the left is one Rick snapped with the soft-box-modified main light, an on-axis ring light adding fill, and the Tronix ExplorerXT delivering the juice. Rick was shooting with his Canon 40D and a Tamron 28-75 AF zoom, ISO 100, f/16 @ 160th. I post-processed Rick's image for this update.

Nice shot, Rick!

Needing some time out of the sun, we also shot a lively, revealing, and often humorous interview with Dalia under the protective shade of the canopy. (Note: Although the canopy did an awesome job of blocking the dread, UV rays, it was still well over a hundred in the shade.)

The snap on the right shows an over-heated and already wearied me, interviewing Dalia, with a still-fresh-looking Lewis holding a fill reflector and Patrick, in the BG, grabbing some hand-held BTS content.

Lewis, besides being my good friend and my partner in the DVD, will be heading up marketing and sales for the PGS DVD. Lewis is a former VP of Marketing and Promotions for LFP/Hustler and currently works as the National Sales Manager for a video distribution company. If Lewis can't market and sell this product, I don't know who can.

At this point, it was getting late in the afternoon and it was time to go back out onto the dry lake bed to finish shooting content for the Innovatronix ExplorerXT spot as well as some other stuff. We left Lewis at our base camp--he volunteered to begin packing things up--as the rest of us headed out in two vehicles.

It was still hotter than hell. And now the wind was really picking up. I picked a spot out on the middle of the dry lake and started shooting short clips for a montage that would show how easy it is to set up studio-like lighting in a remote location when you have a product like the ExplorerXT providing power for the strobes.

Unfortunately, the wind wasn't being helpful. It was now gusting to 30 or 40 knots and it felt like it was shooting out of a blast furnace! It became nearly impossible to keep a stand, light, and softbox upright without someone holding onto it. And having someone holding onto the grip and lighting didn't work for the commercial spot. I mean, it wouldn't make sense that an assistant magically appeared in the middle of nowhere? So, I had to find camera angles where either Dalia or Rick (playing the on-camera photographer) somehow blocked the arm of Patrick who was stretching and reaching, trying his best to keep out of my frame, while holding onto the gear, keeping it from blowing over.

Eventually, I got the shots I needed for the commercial spot, including the packing-away-of-the-gear montage clips, as well as the driving-off-into-the-sunset shots. It wasn't quite sunset yet but maybe I can work some effects-magic in post... or not.


We now decided to shoot some pretty girl stuff with Dalia who, by this time, had decided to deal with the heat by stripping down to nothing. Gotta love models like Dalia! (She was clothed, of course, for all the commercial spot footage.)

There was no way we were going to attempt shooting with lighting gear. If anything, the wind was getting stronger. So, natural light it would be... not that there's anything wrong with natural light as long as it's good natural light which, by this time of day, it was.

Rick wanted to shoot some pics with a big piece of blue chiffon that Dalia, in her birthday suit, could hold and let fly in the breeze. Potentially cool stuff. Certainly, the wind was helping out for making shots like these. I decided to sit in the shade of my 4Runner, watch Rick and Dalia work, and chillax a bit. It was then that I noticed, in the distance, the gleam and dust-cloud of another vehicle quickly approaching...


(Soon, I promise.)