Two Images

A couple of frames I took while biking around Minneapolis one Friday night recently. I didn’t set any goals for myself other than to take some photos. Biking around the cities can be liberating, not worrying about having to park, much less pay for it, gives you a new sense of freedom of movement. All of a sudden I can move from Northeast to Downtown to Uptown without paying cash. The drawback? None, unless you hate the feeling of wind in your face when you’re going across the Hennepin Avenue bridge. The freedom of biking paired with the unpredictability of what you will find in the cities whilst carrying a camera is exciting, and makes one feel alive.

Going down.
Going down.

Even if it all seems a bit blurry by the end of the night.

Unfocused
Unfocused
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Old, Old, Old…

Walking back to work from lunchIt’s amazing what you can find on rolls of shot film that you’ve left lying around and forgotten about, if you do that sort of thing from time to time. My developer recently starting changing color from a nice crystal clear to an ugly, deep yellow. I needed to test out my developer before using it any more, especially since I had four rolls I wanted to go through in one day. I rummaged through to see if I had any old film lying around, I found an old roll of Ilford Delta 400 that I shot about a year ago and never got around to developing, I completely forgot what was on the roll. Since I had no clue what was on it I thought it would work out nicely for a test roll. I process the roll and find this gem on it, a one year old frame processed with year and a half old chemistry, sometimes I love my luck :)

A Year’s Worth Of Updates, pt. 2

This is the second of two posts that will attempt to summarize my work from the past year that I can show, aka my freelance work. This set is all photojournalism from a show called Face Forward: Humanity Through Art. I became the staff photographer for this organization, which is working to raise $11,000 to build a school in India. More info can be found at the following links:

Anyway, on to the photos! This first set is from the model call for Face Forward, the process in which the designers decided which people would be modeling their clothes, etc.

Waiting for their turn, the potential models stood outside the main room and made chit chat, or watched the people ahead of them give it what they’ve got on the mock runway.

The potential models giving their information to the designers so they can find out if they made the cut.

The “model” look, seeing this was pretty common during the model call.

Posing, posing, and more posing. You could tell that some people had modeled before when they had their turn.

More behind the scenes with the potentials.

The final photo from the model call that I will show here, next up are photos from the show itself. The show happened at First Avenue, the perfect venue for such an event. The event featured musicians, the models from above, spoken word artists, and dance companies.

Several of the models were used a few times for different outfits, and a few times the designer walked out with the models, as in the last photo (rightmost in the photo). Once the fashion show was over, it was on to spoken word, music and dance.

That about sums it up for the second update, hopefully I didn’t bombard too many people with a ton of photos, and again, this is old news to some, but I thought I’d update this end of the numerous amount of pages that I maintain, so those of you who only see this end, hope you enjoyed it!

Almost A Year’s Worth Of Updates pt. 1

It’s a been a long time since I’ve written here, and I apologize for that. College and work tend to take over my life when they’re in full swing leaving no time for me to write about recent shoots. As a result, I’ll try to sum up a year’s worth of work, hopefully it won’t end up being too long. Most of my work in the past year has dealt with studio shoots, on location shooting and photojournalism, so it’s all been entirely digital due to the work being for somebody else more than for myself. I’ll start with the studio work. Over the winter I did several studio shoots for people with various needs such as portfolios and applications, I used the same studio I had for the Lights, Camera, Interaction! post a while back. Some of these photos might be old news to some, especially those who follow my facebook, but nevertheless a few stragglers haven’t checked on everything I have there ;) Due to me having a lot of photos to add, this is gonna be the first part of a two part series, so the posts aren’t so long.

Studio Shoot 1

This was before we actually drove over to the studio, we did some on location shooting. This is my favorite photo from the on location set.

The photos were for an application to NYU for dance, so I thought we should incorporate some dance elements into the photos, such as this one.

Fun with mirrors, surprisingly a lot more fun than I had thought was possible in a studio.

More dance theme like photos, I couldn’t get over the staring at the shoe photos. I think I have more of these than any other type of photo from this shoot.

Sitting on a stool, pondering life I think. Lots of pondering goes on during studio shoots, with the looking away and all. Oh, and if you’re wondering, she ended up getting into NYU in the end, glad that I contributed to that outcome :)

This shoot was also for a portfolio, a modeling portfolio if I remember right. I had a lot of fun with this one, she was a great person to work with, and since the shoot we’ve become better friends.

I wonder what she’s looking at over there, seems mildly amusing…hmm

I had a fun light setup for this series of shots, black umbrella with a 300w continuous light camera left and slightly behind me. I liked the results for that setup a lot, some of my favorite shots came from this series.

Same light setup as the shot before it, the umbrella was working really well for these.

This was for an album/acting/modeling portfolio, wish I had a ringflash for this one, but alas my equipment is limited. Hopefully soon I’ll be incorporating a ringflash into similar shoots.

Rockin’ the fedora, probably my favorite shot from the entire shoot.

More fedora action, still love it.

Playing around with clothing ideas, a lot of that happened during this shoot.

More shooting for an application, another dance application I believe. Again, I tried to get some “safe” shots and then went for some more creative ones.

I love the shadows here, they make a nice mysterious look.

A conventional “safe” photo for application use, you never know what’s acceptable and what’s not when it comes to applications to artistic institutions. Finding the borders between being the same and standing out, or just being too outlandish takes some practice.

Similar to the shot above, but with a black backdrop.

That’s it for this portion of updates, the next section will feature all photojournalism, get ready!

Lights, Camera, Interaction!

It’s been a little while since I updated the blog, lately I’ve been busy with work, and in one case, not work. I took a week long trip to Seattle with my cameras and spent the entire week shooting and relaxing. To make a long story short, it was a much needed vacation. I’ve developed all of the rolls from the trip but I have yet to scan anything, so there will be an update on that later once I get around to the scanning process and actually have everything up on my computer.

In the meantime, I’ve spent my time doing photography of a very different sort from what I usually do. For the past month or so I had been planning out a studio shoot to capture dancer movement, and other similar ideas to that theme. Given that studio photography is almost the polar opposite of my typical style of street and journalism for work, my working style changed considerably. I knew that I had to actually plan this one out in advance, figure out lights, find a model then coordinate with her as far as outfits go and the actual timing for the shoot, etc. I actually found myself having a lot of fun doing all of this, getting involved in that kind of planning is easy, and I found myself easily spending hours at a time some nights planning and talking with fellow photographers about my options.

Luckily enough for me, all of the planning and coordinating fell into place seamlessly, which gave me more time to work out the fun part of the shoot: lighting and other such details. I began my quest for good lighting inspiration in two forum threads I came across: One Light Setups and New One Light Setups. I also did some searches over on deviantART to find what I wanted. I ended up settling on two main light setups, shown here:

Lighting setup 1
Lighting setup 1

Lighting setup 2
Lighting setup 2

The distances shown aren’t 100% accurate, but you get the idea. The lights can be moved farther from or closer to the subject as desired, the files are only for reference purposes. On a sidenote, the file used is very, very handy for creating lighting mockups such as the ones above. No more drawing things out on paper or however you do it, the link to the file can be found here. Take note that I did not make this file.

The first setup is as simple as can be: a 100ow halogen bulb with a softbox and a dimmer camera right and a foamcore reflector camera left. Simple, yet very effective. The second setup is 2x300w halogen lights/barndoors on either side and a 500w hairlight overhead.

Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

The next step was to find a model. I decided to ask a friend instead of having to deal with a professional model for multiple reasons. The model I chose to work with is a friend from college, and is very comfortable in front of a camera. She’s very respectful of equipment and willing to help with the actual studio setup prior to shooting. I would’ve been happy to set everything up myself and don’t like to burden others, especially when that other person is your model, but she ended up helping substantially and sped up the whole process of setting up taking down equipment. Multiple times throughout the shoot when things needed to be moved around she would ask how she can help out, or when a problem arose she contributed ideas as to it’s solution. She has a very positive and energetic personality, and never once complained about a single thing. Overall, she’s simply a joy to work with.

Throughout the month I touched base with her on any new ideas I had developed so there would be no surprises come the day of the shoot. Any clothing ideas, any light setups, etc. I made sure she knew about. In retrospect, I should have everything planned out so I can simply send one large chunk of info instead of sending it in pieces over time, that will be remedied in the future.

Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 2, lighting setup 1

Once everything was set into motion, studio rented, model found and ideas flowing, the next step simply was to wait until the day of the shoot. Come the day of the shoot, we arrived at the studio at around 1pm or so. The first thing I noticed: no boom. Well, shit. There goes one setup I had planned out. But wait! Not so fast, turns out the owner of the studio runs a mini hardware storage in there as well. We found all sorts of things like PVC piping and steel rods, clamps etc. that were available to us at our disposal that were hidden away in a closet. Once I confirmed that I can indeed play around with the parts in the closet, I decided to deal with the second light setup later and start shooting right away. I put up  the first setup, she changed into her outfit, we got some dance music going and began working.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

We spent quite a bit of time with the first setup, I knew that simple was effective, but I didn’t know how effective that could be until I started using it. The possibilities with one light are seemingly endless, and I wanted to make as much use of that as I could. Two of the three outfits we ended up using were shot with the one light setup, the last outfit was done entirely with the three light setup.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

When the time came to change setups, the improvisation with the found parts in the closet began. We found a steel rod that spanned just as wide as the seamless background was and two extra light stands that rose up to 13 feet. Rod + stands = solution. We started working on clamping the rod and taping up the clamps to the stands so they would hold their position, making sure not to forget to hang the light from the rod by it’s handle before taping down everything. Due to the decrease in height that I would’ve been using, the 500w was out of the question. I tried it out anyway, and as I expected the light from above was far too strong. I swapped out the 500w with a 300w light that’s identical to the barndoors that are placed from either side in setup 2. After some test shots, I picked what worked and once again we got down to shooting.

Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

The improvised overhead light worked out very well, leaving us pleased with our work. While I didn’t get exactly what I was looking for from it, I feel that if I were to set it up again I could get more out of it, and more consistent results. Given the physical space of the studio and the time frame we had to work with it, the three light setup definitely didn’t disappoint, and some beautiful photos came out of it. It’s a setup willing to work with more, and hopefully will be once I have time to spend in a studio again.

Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2

Overall, a month’s preparation for one short day in the studio culminated into some great photos, and of course some great times in general, the interaction between a photographer and his subject is something one must experience for him/herself, and if there’s anything I have learned about this stretching of my boundaries, is that even though two styles of photography may be polar opposites as to how they are done, but when there is a person involved as subject, the connection made between the two people to capture the moment is priceless, and that’s what I loved the most about the entire process.

A few more shots from the session:

Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 2, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 3, lighting setup 2
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1
Outfit 1, lighting setup 1

More photos can be found on my Flickr and DeviantART pages.

Camera equipment used:

  • Nikon D60 (Sadly, I couldn’t borrow the D700 from work so I used my own body)
  • AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D
  • AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED (borrowed from work)
  • AF Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D IF-ED (older, heavier version, borrowed from work)
  • Voigtlander Bessa R3A
  • Nokton Classic 40mm f/1.4 SC

The Bessa setup was an experiment as well. Not exactly a studio camera but I thought why the hell not? The rolls from the Bessa have yet to be developed, but I hope to have that fixed soon. I used Tri-X exposed at multiple speeds and it will be developed in Diafine.

Solargraph: Building Guide

So recently as an attempt to further branch out in my hobby that is photography, I stumbled upon an interesting kind of pinhole camera: a solargraph. A solargraph is a pinhole camera designed to create a six month long exposure. Yes, six months. That’s quite some time for a pinhole camera to stay in one place and do it’s thing, but the results from these things are remarkable. Here’s an example of what a solargraph could potentially do, if set up and built correctly:

I saw several different solargraph images a few months ago at a photo club I regularly attend and decided to try this out for myself. Obviously I had a lot of questions about how to do this, so for those of you looking to try building one of these yourselves, here’s a little guide to how I built mine, complete with visuals.

1. Get all of the materials needed for construction. The things I used on the camera itself are:

  • a black 35mm film canister (black is preferred, most ilford films come in black canisters if you need one)
  • aluminum from a drink can
  • black electrician’s tape
  • RC neutral toned paper, matte
  • index card cutout for the shutter flap

The materials I used to build it are:

  • scissors
  • index card (you really never know when you need one of these, turns out they’re very useful)
  • aluminum drink can
  • ruler
  • knife (a box cutter works better, I found this out later)
  • sewing needle
  • pen for marking
  • tea. Tea is good for the soul, and will help you relax if you’re the high strung type. Fortunately i’m not and it served a tasty beverage while I worked

2. Take your index card and sketch up a 1x1cm square, this will be your guide to cutting out the hole in your film canister in a bit. Once the square is cut out, place it on the film canister and secure it with some tape if you’d like.

3. Take your knife or box cutter and cut out the square using the guide you’ve just made. This can be a bit tricky, but with some patience you will get a nice square cutout in your film canister.

4. Now take your index card again, and this time draw up a 2x2cm square and cut it out. This will be used to cut out a square from the drink can. If you have an abundance of tin foil that you want to use instead of the drink can go ahead and use that, although I prefer the can’s aluminum because it’s more rigid.

5. Cut out the square from the can and proceed to make a hole in it using the sewing needle. The hole should be roughly 0.5mm in diameter, you can check this by actually measuring the diameter of your needle if you really want to, but pinholes aren’t that precise so if you’re off slightly you’ll be alright. Unfortunately the only picture I have of the hole is when it was only partially done, at least at this stage. I have a better shot coming up later.

6. Once the hole is created, place the aluminum square over the hole you just cut out in the film canister and tape it up with electrician’s tape. Make sure that the aluminum is secure once it’s taped. Go ahead and use as much tape as you need for this, a little extra security never hurt anyone, well at least not in pinhole cameras ;)

7. Create a shutter for your pinhole camera. This is as simple as taking a chunk of black tape and putting it over the pinhole, seriously. However, since my vision isn’t the greatest I needed something to distinguish my shutter from the rest of the tape that I used, so I created a small handle for it out of the index card (I told you these things are handy!) and placed it under the tape so it sticks out a bit. You people with not-so-great vision might want to do this as well.

8. Before cutting your paper down to size and inserting it under a safelight, test your design for light leaks. take off the top of the film canister and shine a flashlight at the shutter to see if any light gets through. Do this in a dark room, if you have any light leaks they’ll be more visible that way.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any visuals for these next few steps since they were done in a darkroom, but hopefully you’ll get the idea through written instruction ;)

9. In a darkroom with the safelight(s) on, take out your paper and cut it down to size. What size, you ask? Well, that depends on your film canister. Measure your film canister’s height and diameter and then use this formula: πd. That’s Pi times the diameter for the circumference. This will be your short end of your paper rectangle, and the height you measured will be the longer end.

10. Next, mark your paper with the dimensions you figured out in the last step and cut out the paper. Adjust for how much space your canister’s cap takes up, and for the pinhole.

11. Insert the paper into the canister, covering all of the inside surface area except for the pinhole. Close the canister (make sure it closes easily, you don’t want to ruin your paper) and use a lot of electrician’s tape to hold the cap secure.

12. Congratulations! The building portion of the project is complete, now comes the setup. Choose a day to start the exposure. Most people like to start these on the summer solstice or the winter solstice, but hey sometimes you just can’t make those times, nothing wrong with experimentation!

13. Set up the camera. Have it face south if you’re in the northern hemisphere and north if you’re in the southern hemisphere. Setting up outside can be tricky, for six months it has to weather the elements so get creative with how you want to protect your camera and keep it sturdy. Gluing pencils either horizontally or vertically is a great way to mount a camera if you’re attaching it to something like a pole, but there are a million ways to do this.

14. Once the camera is set up take off the shutter and wait. Check on the camera occasionally to make sure it’s still doing it’s thing. After 6 months, put the shutter back on and bring the pinhole camera back to the darkroom.

15. Next up is the tricky part. Once the camera is back, go to your computer room and switch off all of the lights. Make sure that your scanner is set to a pretty high resolution (900+ DPI should do it), take the paper out of the canister and without developing it hit “scan” on your scanner. Make sure the paper is flat of course. (Don’t ask me how this step even works, because I have no idea!)

16. Open up photoshop or whatever editing program you use and bring the image there. Invert the colors and flip the image if you need to, and play around with the brightness/contrast settings if you wish.

That’s it! You’ve just completed your six month long journey with solargraphs. Not too bad, and you can do it all at home for free, granted you have access to a safelight of course ;) That’s all for now, happy solargraph making!

Nicollet Mall, I Dub Thee Changeling

Nicollet Mall has to be one of the most dynamic streets in the center of Minneapolis, throughout any given week the street undergoes vast changes from event to event that takes place there. Every Thursday is the Farmer’s Market, news crews like to film there, protests happen, and the outdoor cafes and bars attract different crowds of people at different times of the day. I’ve been shooting this street for over a year now and have captured a lot of it’s personalities, but since I work downtown during the summer I get to see a side of Nicollet Mall that I haven’t seen before, at least not very often or regularly as I do now: Corporate lunch breaks. Around noon, when I take my own lunch break the street is teeming with corporate figures dressed up in business casual and/or suits who are sitting outside, walking about, checking their blackberries (a million of these things come out at this time), or there are even those who i’ve caught doing some photography of their own. Nicollet Mall is indeed a changeling, a street with multiple personalities that one can capture still frames from over and over again, in many styles of photography.

This was taken on a particularly quiet day outside, it was raining slightly which would explain the lack of people, the faint of heart don’t go outside when it rains, or maybe that’s just business types with nice clothes on. Others though, just need that smoke break. I particularly like her choice of location for her break, the mannequien behind her mimics her pose nicely, or is it the other way around?

I noticed quite a few differences between the groups of people at the tables here, I won’t give away what I saw though. See if you can find them for yourself, a nice little visual exercise for you morning blog readers. I personally fit into that category, at work as soon as my laptop comes out I check all of my live bookmarks, the mornings at work can be quite slow so why not?

I love the Barnes and Noble on Nicollet for this exact reason. I can go in there with my camera, sit down and just observe. There aren’t many cafes where you can do that comfortably anymore, I sure as hell know Starbucks doesn’t like it. I’ve never been ushered out of a cafe yet, but you just get that feeling sometimes about those places. Something about protection of it’s customers or something, as if i’m gonna kill them by taking their photo or something, I don’t know. Anyway, this man was so engrossed in this pile of papers he was going through, it looked like he brought his entire mailbox with him to the cafe and decided to read every unopened letter he had received in the past few weeks. He didn’t notice me sitting at the table next to him, he just kept reading all of his mail, he was in his own little world.

Pre-focusing kicks ass, especially when you’re trying to get away from taking photos exclusively at eye level. I had the camera in my hand here and was looking for an opening in the crowd that tends to roam Nicollet Mall during lunch, and got one. I didn’t actually check my screen (yes, this was with my digital, gotta show my 50mm f/1.8 some love on occasion) until an hour later, found this gem on my card. Once again, pre-focusing kicks ass.

Taken shortly after the shot above, I stopped to pre-focus slightly farther away than before since I wanted a bit more in the scene. I left the camera in my hands again, this time held slightly higher than before. The look my camera got from her is pretty typical. Most people don’t say anything about it though, there’s Minnesota Nice for you.

I love the different ethnic groups of people that congregate at the Farmer’s Market every week. It makes Nicollet Mall look slightly foreign, which is a nice change from the business “daily grind” persona it usually has on most of my lunch hours. The Farmer’s Market always makes the street seem almost NYC-esque as well, it manages about twice the usual traffic during the time I’m out there as well, which is especially nice for me, I’m not approached nearly as much. This group of people was squeezing fruit and talking amongst themselves trying to find the best bargain.

A conversation on one side, and a guy staring at me on the other. He didn’t see me until I was actually framing this shot, once again he did nothing about it, just chilled next to the ad on the wall and drank his coffee. Who drinks coffee when it’s 80 degrees and sunny anyway? While wearing a suit no less, I don’t get that. All these people come out into the sun, with hot coffee. Why not get at least an iced coffee or something cold?

Another hip shot, this time quite literally from the hip. I was walking by one of the outside sections of a semi-fancy restaurant that gets frequented during this time for obvious reasons. his drink, whatever it is, looked good at the time, I was thirsty, and wanted some. I have some mystery hands in there too, go ahead and make up a story about who it is if you’d like.

I usually like to see my subject’s faces before taking their photo, I feel like even though i’m not talking to them I’m at least interacting with them, even if it’s indirect most of the time. A face can tell a lot about a person. What they’re feeling, where they’ve been, etc. and I like to get that from people before I compose and shoot, so I get at least the tiniest sense of who they are, or could be. This woman was different though, I probably stood in the spot I was standing here for about ten or so minutes, looking in her direction on and off. I took this shot about three minutes into my slow domination of my space, but hoped for a better one, thinking she would turn around. She never did. She looked at the clothing that was for sale outside next to the market, and walked away with her back turned to me.

I never got to see her face.

I left this one in color, I rather like it that way. Saw this guy standing about 10 feet away from me smoking. It’s not really a remarkable shot, but I felt like taking it, and when I looked at it it came out so nicely that I decided to keep it. I made it this blog’s header, even. Other than that I don’t have much to say for this shot, just a guy smoking.

Nicollet Mall, please continue to be this way forever.