- Construction Photography as Tableau Vivant – Part One June 10, 2020
- The Quick Hit Construction Portrait May 13, 2020
- Women in Construction Week March 13, 2020
- Branding Your Company March 11, 2020
- CIDH Construction February 20, 2020
Subscribe or Follow
Subscribe to Blog via Email
Category Archives: Education
When a post focuses more on learning the craft of photography
What should be your guiding principal when planning shots, especially when it comes to motion control time lapse sequences? The four keywords I keep in mind are: education, documentation, preservation and entertainment. Every decision I make rides on the backs of these four words.
I jumped into time lapse photography in ’03 and have been hacking away at it ever since. During this time, I realized I was developing a new specialty: the commercial time lapse narrative. Now I offer a boutique experience to my market in that I shoot time lapse projects with the mindset of a movie director. I offer and provide multiple camera set ups daily, weekly and monthly. In addition to the usual fixed or static camera that records all that happens in front of it I also place what I call rover units throughout a site in order to tell the complete story, whatever it may be…thus the decisions that come with this approach.
My friend Nigel over at Zenologue posted a challenge today and of course I took it up….
Regarding New Years resolutions and why they fail turned into this challenge: what three words will help propel you through 2014? Three words. Three ideas. Three goals. Three definitions.
Mine are savor, engage and explore.
Savor: to engage and enjoy the moment right in front of me. I tend to look ahead and think about all the things I need and want to do while not allowing the present to get in. In the past I’ve missed a lot of personal and social interactions and I’ve missed important business information by not listening to a clients needs…I was thinking too far ahead. That’s not to say I don’t plan but I could do with more attention to the moment.
Engage: one of my long term goals is to teach and speak publicly. While I’ve accomplished both of these goals since 2003, I’d like more consistency throughout a given year. I savor the times when I’m helping others get a leg up on the technology and techniques the industry in general and that I specifically use to advance my artistic and business goals…not necessarily in that order. Currently I’ve three opportunities so 2014 is working out so far…
Explore: probably the hardest one of the three for me in that it requires reading, writing and using new applications. I’m not a great student as I have dyslexia, (I’m left handed after all) and although I do better as a hand-ons learner there’s a lot to be said for just reading up on stuff…I will do more.
That’s it. Simple. Direct. Focused.
What are your words for 2014? Use the comment box below.
Thanks for reading.
Last week I spent an evening with Kevin Susman of Storm Cellar and his WHYMATTERS #personalbranding Workshop. Kevin runs Storm Cellar and is a brand strategist, filmmaker and guy who does things for corporations. He has taken his corporate expertise and reformulated it into a personal branding program.
Why was I drawn to this? Number one reason: Kevin is a photography client, we became friends as a result, have kept in touch and I like to support my friends.
Secondly, I’m always looking for an edge when it comes to the self-employment game, especially since I’m in the photo industry which we all know is as easy as tying shoes to become successful in and thrive at…
I know marketing is important. I know identifying your potential clients is important. I know a strategy statement is important. I know tag lines are important. On my own I wasn’t able to drill down in profound ways to understand and integrate these important moving parts.
After Kevin’s workshop that is no longer the case. The presentation was concise and entertaining. The hands-on portion was the kicker for me. We had to interact with others in the group. This is where I/we were able to flesh out the mysteries of what the hell we were doing…
I found it extremely productive and the end result has given me a clearer path to the far side of my career. I’ve been in this game for 32+ years so I’m no neeb. But we all need a little help and this workshop was dope!
The Visual Sage
Trying something new here…my first video promo/post where I’m discussing the merits of the eMotimo TB3 motion control unit.
Hope you find it useful:
Thanks for watching.
August 27, 2013. I was on my 10th assignment for the Madison Square Company in New York. As the renovation of the Fabulous Forum proceeds, my archive is contains over 1500 images and with each new shoot, continues to grow. Here’s my gallery of 39 (so far) select images.
I love documentary photography because of the way historical photography instantly transports me to a place and time much like a favorite song does. Creating the historical record of what’s taking place at this storied venue will be important for future Los Angelenos and scholars. and it’s a lot of fun for me now. My client has mentioned more than once how much she appreciates my devotion to the project. No worries!
I grew up watching the Lakers, Kings and the circus at the Forum. Usually with my dad. Just he and I. As he’s been gone several years now, this assignment takes on more meaning each time I venture through the place documenting it’s current state. It saddens and thrills me simultaneously. Kinda weird. But oh so much fun.
Here’s my equipment-light location package:
Everything I need is in the box: tripod, speedlight, cameras, lenses, water, food, towels, flare shield and an iPad. (I look at previous shoots to match up camera positions for shoot-to-shoot consistency)
Each time I set foot on the property I’m obligated to wear steel-toed boots, an orange vest, safety glasses and a hard hat: I bought a Lil Mule camera dolly for the express purpose of moving my camera in random, controlled patterns. Here’s what it looks like:
It’s sweet. I’m glad I made the investment in one. Here’s my first test with it prior to taking out to the Forum.
How’s that for fun? Footage from the Forum to follow….
Thanks for reading.
Through consistent and tedious effort my SEO strategy is paying off. I’ve been getting calls for commercial and time lapse photography assignments in key areas I want to work during this phase of my life and career: portrait, time lapse, construction and event photography. (not necessarily in that order)
This assignment came in about a month ago: to time lapse trucks entering the Port of Long Beach’s Yusen Terminals. The idea was to measure when the heaviest and lightest traffic times occurred throughout a 20 hour cycle. The end time lapse film had to include a clock to help easily identify these key times. My camera had to be in a single, stationary position.
My client scoped out the location earlier and selected the perfect spot: inside, high, protected and with power. The only issue was reflections while shooting through glass. Here’s my solution: a Lenskirt and a black cloth on a C-stand.
Why have the extra black screen behind the camera? Years ago I learned the value of testing set ups before prior to a shoot. For this shoot I tested my camera, intervalometer and tripod. I allowed for reflections but not enough to prevent a reshoot. I then purchased the Lenskirt to eliminate the possibility of reflections for said reshoot. I bought this particular item because a colleague recommended it.
I needed to ensure (as much as possible), that reflections would not interfere with the content. I’m setting up for the test when I realized that the lens was going to be at an oblique angle to the glass and reflections could still be an issue. And I was correct. I mimicked my set up as closely as possible and lo and behold there were reflections even with the Lenskirt attached. The current version was designed assuming lenses will be squared up to the glass, not at an oblique angle. I just heard from Aaron, the creator of the Lenskirt and he’s making a larger version for just this reason. Hooray!
Here’s an early frame pull prior to my 16 hour test:This cropped frame clearly shows the reflection of a basket and the wall behind it in the window. This problem was solved by adding the black cloth behind. So now on to the shoot. Once on location I cleaned the glass, set up my camera, doubled checked all connections, ran a few test frames, reset the Promote Control to begin 13+ hours hence, left and hoped for the best.
The shoot went well except that outside dirt and the glass thickness caused additional issues that had to be dealt with in post:
The reflections being as prominent as they were surprised me. The dirt was unfortunate. If I could have arranged for a cleaning of the glass prior I would have. As I scrutinized the window during set up, I knew the dirt bunnies would be minimal and easy to remove.
Here’s the finished frame:
Lightroom’s spot removal tool and the sync function were invaluable in helping me build better content for this client. The larger issue here is that there are ways to get new business in the door and there are ways to successfully complete an assignment. Unknown things often happen on a shoot, success and failure change places easily and the agile and vigilant pro understand this.
As a buyer, that’s what you want in todays’ market.
The completed short film:
Thanks for reading.
As a still photographer first and a relative newcomer to time lapse stories second, I needed to reaffirm and embrace my core strength: composition and framing. Where I set my camera is an important first step when building one photograph at a time. As I’ve transitioned to time lapse short films and stories, it has become more important to think about framing and composition when exposing 1,000’s of frames. Moving a camera during a time lapse sequence makes it crucial to think about as many compositional relationships and framing issues as one can. If it’s in the shot it’s going to be recorded.
You have to decide if the elements in question are distracting from or contributing to the story. It’s up to you to make this determination. It’s what helps to refine a recognizable style. It’s a process of learning how you respond to a situation, what your vision is going forward from that point to the end of the project. A lot of time lapse filming is not set and forget…
Sometimes of course you have what you have at a scene and you do the best you can but when the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of it. Preview the shot and move items out of the frame that get in the way. On top of all your technique and process, is a story that needs telling, If this story is not evident to your audience, you’ve failed the mission….
I should follow my own advice. This short story would have been better if I had removed the sports items against the house and styled the drapes seen from the MRKII camera position. I was caught up in 3 camera placements, 3 interval settings and in 3 points of view. And missed it. I didn’t think about the peripheral elements in all 3 compositions as I should have, just the T2i, (panning) and 5D, (downward angle) POV’s. My bad. Fortunately most of the usable footage came from the panning camera.
I wanted to repeat a camera move over time, blend the footage together in post. I figured this would facilitate moving the story along with a seamless and smooth feeling to it. For me it’s about the emotional response you get from watching my stories, this is nothing new by any stretch but is it worth remembering…..
FYI the device I used for this particular story was the Syrp Genie…
Camera 2 Camera Expo…Come On Down!
I was invited to participate at next weeks brand new camera expo in Vegas. I’m putting on a 3-day time lapse workshop and a 90 minute Lightroom Develop Tips demonstration.
I’m bringing a Syrp Genie, an eMotiomo TB3, a Dynamic Perception Stage 0 Dolly, a Meade Instruments telescope pan and tilt head, a Promote Systems Controller amongst other gear that will be available for participants to handle and try out. Under expert supervision of course… : )
I’ve been shooting a lot of content to show and all participants will have access to the gear.
We’ll be going out to a dry lake bed for an early morning shoot, to the Bellagio for an afternoon shoot and to the roof of the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa for our evening shoot. Afterwards will be working with Lightroom and Premiere to put our sequences together.
Participants are encouraged to bring their own gear but not to worry if you don’t have it all. I do.
This will be fun. I guarantee it.
The second program is about ways to use the Lightroom Develop Module to pull the moment out of your photograph. Called Fantastic Toning Tips, I’ll walk you through the must do’s that I follow plus a boatload of ways to add punch, drama and visual effects to one image or an entire time lapse sequence. (see above)
Hope to see some of you there!
This is a photograph of how the subject appears during the time of day I prefer to work:
I made a number of additional exposures while on the scene. I integrate a secondary light into the scene during these additional exposures. All 50 of ’em. They’re toned and cropped in Lightroom, exported to Bridge for assessment of order and then assembled in Photoshop where the finishing touches are applied.
Here’s the photograph I built:
From cradle to grave in under 3 hours…..
Here are two more examples:
A video of me in action.
Each exposure in this process is a light switch. This switch can be on or off. Made lighter or darker. Crisp or fuzzy. I have other things I can do with these “switches” but a fella shouldn’t tell all his secrets should he?
A successful photograph is a series of small decisions made correctly. It’s that simple. Especially after 10,000 hours of practice. I build photographs, I do not take pictures.
I can look at a scene and overlay a lighting paradigm: the lighting angles, the contrast ratios, the color relationships and the brightness range. I commit this to memory and off I go. The camera is locked in place, I move around the subject with my trusty little light and in true “painting with light” fashion, I sculpt the final composition. This is part one.
Part two is all about alining the files so they share camera calibration, lens profile and white balance characteristics. Then more fun. Cropping for impact and toning for beauty.
Part three is when I assemble the elements into a cohesive whole. My average is 25 layers per man-made scene.
This technique isn’t new. It doesn’t break new ground. This is however my favorite technique because it offers many visual choices, demands improvisation and also provides a level of control that meshes perfectly with todays technology.
Thanks for reading
© Michael e. Stern. All rights reserved. Please respect the rights of professional artists the world over. Thank you. Licensing questions? Please call Michael at: 1-818-422-0696
%d bloggers like this: