Saturday, August 30, 2014

How I work...

I love working with creative people.  Absolutely love it.  In fact, I rely on you because I don't have the resources you might to create amazing outfits or to find wonderful settings.

Darkness and the Black Muse ~ Nova (Marine Sigwald)

My wife and I (I include my wife in this as she is my assistant in the studio and on many location shoots) recently experienced something that made me realize it would be helpful to clearly articulate how I work in a collaborative setting.

I bought three hours of time in a studio hoping to get a couple solid hours of camera-work with a creative person.  I had several ideas and themes to explore.  Alas, our subject was a couple hours late.  I really wanted to work with this person but there was not time left.  Literally.  We needed to be out of the room within an hour and the subject was not camera-ready.

To avoid tears and drama here is how I work.

Aymeric Langlois

I like to trade my photography time for a subject's talent.  If money needs to change hands, I like to negotiate that well ahead of a shoot.

After talking through an idea and agreeing on a general theme I negotiate with you the time and place for creating images.

If we are working in a studio I need to make an appointment with the owner for a room.

I've found that three hours room rental works well for many shoots.  Once set, there is no changing as the studio is busy and it's difficult for them to accommodate last minute changes.  So I try to be as clear as possible when we negotiate time and place.  Additionally, I like to negotiate who will pay what portion of the studio rental.  Three hours is approximately 50Euros.

Into the Spider's Web ~ Fracture

We trade mobile numbers so we can text in the event something has changed at the last minute, or if someone needs help finding the location.

Upon entry into the studio space my wife and I take 15 minutes to get settled, to greet our subject(s) and to set up the portable studio (lights, backdrop, camera).  Once everything is in place (in 15 minutes) the shooting can begin.

I realize that some subjects require a little time to finish getting made up or getting into their outfits.  I can be pretty flexible about the time these kinds of things take, particularly for the more complex themes or extreme implementations, but I like to negotiate this too as I'm sensitive about the amount of time we can get actually shooting.

Once we're all "camera-ready" and the shooting begins it takes me in my artist's way of working about 20 minutes for everything to start "falling into place."  Within an hour of entering a studio space all parties are "rocking and rolling.

I've found that talented subjects can bring one and no more than two outfit changes.  It's a little tight, but after two+ hours of shooting, we have a lot of material to work with.

Which is another thing to point out: I like to shoot a lot.  It's how I think.  It's how I work.  It's how I begin to "see" a final result.  Again, this is why I tend to be sensitive about the amount of time we can spend together actually shooting.

Jinn ~ Bogville

After we are done it takes my wife and I 10 minutes to knock down the studio.  For this we need to wrap things up no later than ten minutes prior to the end of our studio space rental time.

If any part of the team can't keep a commitment, it can really impact the success of a shoot.  This is why ahead of time negotiation is so important to me.  I rely on all team members to know what they are capable of and to be honest about what they can and cannot do.

These things hold true whether money changes hands or not.

Working this way allows all parties to come away with pretty amazing images.  It's taken me years to hone this approach, but it's pretty successful.  Professional results come from taking a professional approach with professional scheduling and professional execution.  It enables success in ways we seldom foresee.

I look forward to working with you.

Betty Page Rocketeer ~ by Riddle

Friday, August 22, 2014

Our tools... viewed from the producer side...

It has been over one hundred years since photographers were required to control nearly all aspects of image making.

"Back in the day..." an artist could build his own camera, cut his own glass plates, mix his own chemicals, break eggs, coat the plate, process an image, make a hand coated print, and hope the negatives were safe from breakage in transportation.  The only thing not commonly produced by an artist of the era was an optic.  But even a lens could be ground by hand and mounted into a hand-turned brass barrel if the artist so desired.

Increasingly, photographers handed over control of their craft to manufacturers who could produce adequate tools.  Lenses and camera bodies could be mass-produced while achieving strict tolerances.  Light sensitive materials transitioned from wet to dry plate, and then from glass plate to celluloid flexible substrates.

Occasionally an artist may still build his or her image making system, but for the vast majority of us we have no desire nor need to build our own equipment.  Similarly, painters no longer commonly build their own brushes nor mix their own paints.  They also don't seem to talk about their equipment as much as photographers do, either.

Reading on-line forums one might believe that camera manufacturers "simply can't get it right."  So many people seem to be demanding so many things.  To my way of thinking it's all too easy to complain when you've not taken the responsibility of tool production.

Flipping things around, what do the equipment suppliers think?  What do they do?  How do they consider us as artists?

Someone posted an interesting article where two of Canon's leading designers talk about these and many other topics.  It's worth a close read.

Abandoned Places ~ Staircase

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

One day. One location. One photograph.

Working with creative people here in France has opened up into being an incredible experience.

Sometime I would like to write about how and why creative expression is so different in France from what it is in the US.  For this post suffice it to say that once I gained access to the artistic community, finding subjects eager to work with me has become a lot easier.

I am forever grateful to Arthur Morgan for personally introducing me an amazing group of people.  After our work was published in Fiction #19 (France) my association with M. Morgan gave me an all important Stamp of Credibility.  There's a French word for this.  I need to ask a friend to remind me what it is.

Recently, a friend of a costume artist I'd work with contacted me with the suggestion that we shoot in an old abandoned chateau.  How quick to you think I was to reply "hell yes!!!"?  Indeed.  I was very excited to be involved in the project.

We plotted and planned.  The project coordinator wrote in excellent English.  The model had a few interesting costuming ideas.  The makeup artist turned out to be someone we'd worked with.  Her boyfriend was interested in lending a hand on the project too.  Jude, my wife, was thrilled to come along after looking at a few images of the location.

On the day of the shoot we had several inauspicious events.  Jude bumped her head against a cabinet door that I'd left open.  The weather was to turn sour during our prime shoot time.  The chateau turned out to be at least an hour out of Paris by donkey cart or TGV.  I was unhappy to leave Jude behind but she needed to rest after her accident.

I kissed Jude goodbye and met Niko (aka: Project Coordinator and Abandoned Building Safety Officer) at his waiting donkey that was standing in front of our apartment building.  Into the saddlebags/boot/trunk (depending on which side of the Pond you live) went a tripod, light stand, cheap Chinese flash (I really need to get a better piece of equipment as I _know_ this thing will leave me High and Dry some day soon), huge reflector, large umbrella light modifier, RF triggers, spare batteries, camera body, and three lenses.

Just outside of town we could see a huge black cloud that stretched from horizon to horizon.  From time to time the sky lit bright with streaks of lightning.  Things did not look good.

Passing through the first wall of water was unlike anything I'd ever experienced.  We couldn't see the road.  We couldn't see any of the cars around us.  We swore we could see salmon trying to swim up-stream.  We didn't like the fact that it was August and these kinds of things Just Don't Happen pendant les conges annuels.  The drenching went on for far too long.

Eventually the Big Black Cloud finished having it's way with us and decided to move on to Paris to give everyone behind us an Equal Opportunity Drenching.  The Big Black Cloud would trap the model, the MUA (make-up artist), and her boyfriend just as they were leaving Paris.  It produced a enormous embouchon (traffic jam).

To me it was instantly obvious what needed to be done while awaiting the arrival of the rest of the team.  Exploring the site we learned from a man who used to live on the property (20 years ago) that the chateau had been sold and would be torn down in the next couple weeks.  Knowing this gave me a strong reason to get as much of it "on film" as I could.  It would be the first and last time I ever visited this most amazing place.

After working a couple hours with the model and team we packed up and headed back into town.  Greeting us over the Normandy horizon was the last of this year's Supermoons.  La lune hung in the evening sky guiding us back into Paris.

The following image is nearly straight out of the camera.  And this is just the Warm Up.  That's how good it was.  Magic.

Abandoned Places ~ Fenetre Ouverte