Photographing behind the scenes for a movie.

This past week I was again asked by writer and director, Cjay Boisclair if I would be the “stills photographer” for another movie she was directing.

Ms. Boisclair was this year’s winner of the WIDC (Women in the Director’s chair) “short award”. That award allowed her to hire a cast and crew for her latest movie called, “Stood Up”.

When I wrote about my experience as a movie stills photographer last June I said that I drew on my background in Public Relations photography. PR photography is physically active, with never a chance to sit and where one must to constantly be looking for animated subjects to be successful.

So at 7:30AM I was lurking at the edge of the action voyeuristically capturing behind the scenes activity, and documenting the interaction and hard work of the people in that were making that movie happen.

I like tight shots that force the viewer to get involved with the subjects. I also like my subjects to be well lighted. I see no use in wide shots that have dimly lit people in the distance.

The beauty of my full-frame, large mega-pixel, camera is I can shoot wide and decide how the action and subjects are cropped in post-production with out any loss in detail or image noise in my final photograph.

I stay with a 24-70mm lens because I don’t get the edge and corner distortion of wider-angle lenses.

Modern TTL flashes offer the opportunity not only to bounce the light in any direction, and also allow one to increase or decrease flash power depending on the environment and proximity of the subjects.

When I give beginning wedding photographer’s advice on photographing receptions in large low lighting rooms, I always tell them to slow down their shutterspeed to increase the ambient light. Those “deer-in-the-headlight” type photos that are painfully common in beginner’s photos are so easy to correct by just moving the shutter dial to 1/125th or even slower.

Its that technique I used when photographing the behind scenes action. Indoors I would shoot wide with a slow shutter and outside I use the high-speed sync feature to increase the shutterspeed as needed to balance the flash in the daylight.

As with the last time I photographed for the movie’s director, I am after those classic images I have seen in the old newsreels of the Director in action. Pointing, talking to the actors, or working with the cameramen.

Photographing on a movie set is certainly entertaining experience. I have always thought that movie people were a special breed, and again this time, my first hand experience with the actors and the crew as they creatively worked, more than proved that to me.

October photographer’s drive through Wells Grey Park   

 

 

 

My friend Jo and I decided to test out a big 400mm lens that came in to my shop.

I had brought it home to test and had tried couple shots in my yard, but decided it needed distance subjects for a realistic workout.

Jo had stopped by one evening and after a couple glasses of wine I flippantly said, “if we took it to Wells Grey Park we might find some bears”.

I was joking. Jo always tells me she would be afraid if she saw a bear wandering in the woods where we live. However, in an uncharacteristic comment she took a sip of her wine and said, “can we do that?”

A week later we drove into the wilderness park and Jo had that big six-pound lens attached to her Nikon D800. We had began by stopping at Spahats Creek Falls 400mm lens for some wide angle shots, then wandered around a long deserted homestead and were heading to Helmkin Falls when we spotted the bears.

In the forest town of Clearwater, just before the park, I talked to a local that mentioned there had been a sow and two cubs hanging around a large meadow on the way to the park’s entrance, so we were watching and as we turned a corner there were cars parked on the roadside. And there in a farmer’s mowed field were the three bears.

I stopped, placed my beanbag on Jo’s open door and stepped back as she rested that big lens 400mm f3.5 on it and began pressing her camera’s shutter.

After that exhilarating event we drove on into the park.

We couldn’t have chosen a better day. The temperature was cool enough for a light jacket and the fall colours were inviting so we stopped and stopped and stopped again to take pictures.

The park is a favourite of hikers, boaters, trucks towing large trailers for overnight camping and for anyone, like Jo and I that want to do roadside photography.

Like most photographers, we over packed. We had our cameras, tripods, lots of lenses, a bag of filters, two flashes, extra memory cards and enough food for two or three days.

We didn’t eat very much of the food, use the filters, flashes or tripods and had no need to mount a flash on either of our cameras. I only used my 24-70mm and other than when she photographed the bears with that 400mm Jo stayed with her 20-40mm. But although the need never arose for us to employ that trunk full of equipment we were well prepared.

October is my favourite time of year for scenic photography and as last year at this time, Wells Gray Park is always on my list for fall nature photos.

When the shadows grew and the temperature began to drop we knew it was time to head home. Clearwater to our homes in Pritchard is about two hours and for us that meant two hours of talking about the photos we took, photos we plan to take and places we want to go with our cameras.

I looked for a quote to end with and found this by the most famous scenic photographer of them all, Ansel Adams.

Everybody now has a camera, whether it is a professional instrument or just part of a phone. Landscape photography is a pastime enjoyed by more and more. Getting it right is not an issue. It is difficult to make a mistake with the sophisticated technology we now have. Making a personal and creative image is a far greater challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Lights are Here Again         

Street Lights

PalmTree Decor

Tree of Hope

Xmas bear

SKating rink

Beach walk

December is upon us again and the visual presentation of bright, festive lights has begun. Yes, the Christmas holidays are coming. The bright colours, the gaudy decorations, the sentimental music, the silly TV programs, and, for me especially, the Christmas lights in the city.

This past week my wife and I had to journey for a late afternoon meeting to Kelowna, which is two hours south from our home, however, that winding country road can be treacherous on dark, snowy nights and so we decided to stay overnight in Kelowna.

For some that means dinner out and just waiting the night out in a motel, but for me it’s an opportunity to have fun experimenting and photographing the season’s sparkling lights. In anticipation I had packed my camera with a 24-70mm lens and, of course, my tripod.

My preference for evening photography is to select a location before it gets dark, and to begin shooting when the lights are first turned on, when there is still some light in the sky, yet dark enough for the lights to be bright. However, our meeting lasted until after dark and I had lost the light.

I have been fascinated by Christmas lights since before I picked up my first camera, and remember family outings this time of year when my parents would pack us up in the old 1954 Ford station wagon for after dark drives along the high roads above the Salt Lake City valley. We would drink chocolate milk and look down on the colourful city lights. At that time my father was in charge of the awkward, accordion-like Kodak camera, that I doubt ever used anything but black and white film.

In spite of the late hour we drove by the downtown Kelowna lakeshore past the Yacht Club. I was sure the city would have lights along the sidewalk and hoped that some of the boats might be lit up. I had also heard that a public skating rink was opening and I wanted to experiment with a slow shutterspeed.

During the time when ISO ratings were limited, photographers who shot after dark ended up exposing for only the lights, and the resulting photographs would show lots of colours, but didn’t say anything about the location, or environment. Nowadays most modern cameras have no trouble with ISO 800 or 1600, with some even 3200, and don’t show the random speckles, which indicate degraded image quality.

Making some test shots I quickly found that the city lights were bright enough to allow me to use ISO 800. I also tried 1600, but I lost Christmas lights detail, and the buildings and walkways didn’t look like they were photographed after dark.

As usual Kelowna had lit up its tall “Tree of Hope”. I photographed that very tall electric tree last year and knew from experience that the best time to get pictures of it was early in the morning. When I left my hotel room at 6am the next morning I was greeted by a couple inches a fresh wet snow. Perfect. More light reflection.

I shot with my camera set to “aperture” priority. When I use aperture priority for this kind of photography I also employ the camera’s exposure compensation feature. If one just used the aperture priority mode the camera will, as it is programed to do, try to correct the lighting and that makes the sky too bright. This time I think I used -1.7 to darken the sky.

A drive this time of year through any town or city neighbourhood is an exciting visual presentation of bright, festive lights, and an opportunity for at least a few weeks, to have fun experimenting and photographing the season’s sparkling subjects.

Photography in the Fog

Farm & Pond in fog 2

Moving cows in fog 2

Horse in Snow 2

Owl on wire 2

 

Pritchard above the fog 2

The past snowfall gave us a grand depth of a bit over two feet. That exciting event included hours of shoveling and roads that were pretty much closed to driving for a while. I wonder why we “dig” dirt and “shovel” snow? Hmm…I remove the dirt from the hole and remove the snow from the walk. Yep, it’s the same thing as far as I can tell.  Both activities use the same tool and make my back tired.

Our yard now has deep three-foot deep trenches dug out and shoveled clear by me that lead to all the important locations. Basement door to chicken coops, front door to the car, and car to the road; however, I also made trails for the feral cats so they can come to the door for the food we leave them.

When the days of soft, cold snow finally ended, everything quickly warmed up and a suddenly a thick, damp fog settled in.

My first thought was to get out my snowshoes and head up into the hills surrounding our home. I mentioned that to my wife, but not in the mood for trudging through the snow she suggested we get our cameras and go for a drive around the now foggy neighborhood in Pritchard instead. So we bundled up, grabbed our cameras and took off.

Our car is perfectly equipped for photography with beanbags. Just set them in the window and nestle the lens on them to reduce camera shake when using our long lenses. However, on this day my wife set aside her 150-500mm, and decided her light weight 70-300mm would be better suited for the foggy landscape, and I chose my 24-70mm. But it’s good to always have the beanbags in our car even if we don’t need them.

Fog is a tricky business because contrast is all but lost and the moving mist reduces sharpness. Everything is so flat that it’s hard to get definition.

I enjoy fog and recall the imagery of a poem from Carl Sandburg.

“The fog comes

on little cat feet.

It sits looking

over harbor and city

on silent haunches

and then moves on.”

I think that description is pretty good and I enjoyed how the fog obscured my view of things in the distance and created a mystical looking world as I drove along our snow covered rural road.

Years ago when photographers were making exposures of foggy landscapes with film the best way to increase contrast was to use yellow, orange, or sometimes red filters. We could also over-develop the film, or as a last resort process it in hot chemicals. There were also filters that could be used while printing to reduce the tonal values, and some specialized chemicals would help also increase the contrast. All that was lots of work and if you screwed up the negative…well, you were screwed.

Today we have software like Photoshop (and lots of other programs available that are just as good) to help us out in those flat, foggy conditions, and when Linda and I drove off into the whispering fog I knew I would be spending a short time sitting at my computer increasing the contrast and reducing the grey tonal values.

It is now all so easy and it doesn’t take much time. As I sat manipulating the hazy images I thought about all the hours I used to put into producing our photographs. We have it pretty good these days.

Fog is fun in which to shoot. All one has to do is find subjects that are distinctive enough to be understood through the quietly creeping and silent fog. My suggestion is instead of drinking your chocolate and staring out the window on the next foggy morning waiting for the sun to come out, get your camera, go out, and see what you can do.

As always, I really appreciate your comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

Photographing a home’s interior

 

a. front room  B. front room  c. Kitchen  d. dinning suite  g. kitchen wine  h. dinning room

The past month has seen me spending hours and days painting a rental property that my wife and I own. The tenant had lived in it for the seven years since we purchased it and was already there for about four years when we purchased the duplex, so needless to say, when that nice, old lady finally decided it was time to leave the place showed plenty of wear.

I loaded my truck with tools and pretty much moved in to change a worn out house back into an inviting home. Finally, after what seemed to this lone-painter, to be a never-ending job has reached an end. I have painted the complete interior for the one side and all the exterior trim for both sides. Whew!

We have decided to sell and relinquish the job of landlord to other investors, and that means after I pick up all the ladders, paint cans, brushes, and vacuum the place; my fun days will begin. It’ll be time to get out my camera, tripod, and flashes, and produce images of that shining place that will make it easy for a realtor to find buyers for us.

I suppose pointing a camera inside a building to take a few pictures has never been easier than it is today, and I have seen some interior work where a photographer saw and worked with the existing light, without any additional flash units, and was able to produce excellent images. But I like using flash, and any chance I have to modify a room’s ambient light I am going to take. Yep, I just like using flash.

I remember the difficulty of trying to hide my lighting unit’s power cords before we had the benefit of Photoshop, and then after Photoshop was available the extra time it took to clone out those ugly flash cords. However, now everything is wireless, the cords are gone, and I no longer pack in large studio type lights. Gosh, other than the light stands, my whole lighting “kit” of four-hotshoe type flashes fits into a small seven by ten inch bag.

Later this week I’ll show up at the renovated rental unit with two flashes on light stands and start taking pictures. I don’t like to use lenses that are too wide angle. Everything gets distorted, so I will be using my full frame D800e and a 24-70mm lens. I prefer the zoom rather than a fixed focal length (prime) lens because it gives me a bit of in-camera perspective control. And although I use a tripod, I find much of the time I end up jamming my shoulder into a corner, or sitting on the floor, or standing on a stool to get the most interesting view of the small rooms. The neat thing about using a wireless sender/receiver on one’s camera and flash is that the flash can be positioned in another room to illuminate a hallway or give the effect of light coming through a window.

I’ll arrive in the late afternoon and stay till late morning. There’s lots of food and drink in the refrigerator and I’ll stick some CDs in my portable player and start having a great time, listening to music and doing my photography.

Photographing any interior space presents a variety of photographic challenges and coming up with interesting ways to light the indoor space to show texture and form, and solving the challenges that windows and exterior lighting introduce is time consuming and enjoyable.

Adding light to a portrait is probably one of the best ways to improve the mood, emotion, contrast, and impact for viewers. And the same applies for interiors and architecture.

I welcome comments. Thanks, John

My website is at http://www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing Rob’s and Camille’s Farm Wedding

Bride and dogs

Exchanging rings

wedding vows with dog

Groomsmen & Dogs

wedding party

Resting after the wedding

 

When Camille called and said, “Rob and I are getting married. Would you be our photographer?” I didn’t hesitate for a minute and replied, “Yes!” I think I added something like, “Its about time.” I knew it would be fun, relaxed, unusual, and I was absolutely sure they would be as non-traditional as possible.

These days I shy away from taking on the job of wedding photographer, only making myself available for those weddings that seem fun. I figure I have paid my dues when it comes to wedding photographer. It used to be that by spring I anticipated I’d be pointing my camera at excited couples every weekend till Thanksgiving. Those days are behind me and now I just pick and choose to photograph people I know or people that know people I know.

So I packed two camera bodies, a 24-70mm and a 70-200mm lens with a couple of flashes and set out for their rural farm down-the-road-a-piece from here at Monte Lake. I think they would have held the ceremony on the lake, but finding space between the boats, the trailers, and the campers this time of year is hard.

Rob had set up two large seating areas, one under a very large tarp and the other in an open-sided tent of the type the big stores use when they have a sale on furniture or something large. I said their wedding would be a fun, relaxed, unusual, non-traditional and will add that by the time I arrived the partying guests had spread out across much of the property.

I’ll begin with all the shiny, big, loud-engined, large-tires with fancy rims kind of trucks with floorboards several feet off the ground that just kept rolling in honking and parking anywhere that wasn’t occupied by seemingly out-of-place cars like my little Honda, while at the same time Harley Davidson motorcycles were arriving and arriving. Add to that several very young drivers, zooming back and forth on quads, and little dirt bikes, greeting those guests as they got out of their trucks and off their motorcycles.

And dogs, I had to get around to the dogs. I knew Rob and Camille had four or five, but there were others running around and more waited for their owners to open their truck tailgates so they could join the festivities.

Several young men filled a horse-watering trough with beer, pop, bottled water, and ice. And as they arrived people would take food to tables in the center of a big truck garage. I would expect nothing different as Rob and Camille do like a party and all I had to do was point my camera any direction and watch the fun and enjoyment

As everyone walked though the meadow to rows of white chairs set up for ceremony, low clouds rolled in warning us all to beware of coming events with a sprinkle or two of rain and with the knowledge it was going to get darker, I selected ISO 800 on my camera. I also had an extra handkerchief ready in my pocket to wipe the rain off my camera and flash to keep it dry to prevent shorting the electronic circuits.

Weddings usually start the same. The guests sit in anticipation, with the groom at the front, waiting for the arrival of the bride. Then the bridesmaids come walking in, and the bride enters arm and arm with her father.

In Rob and Camille’s case, the groom was waiting at the front with his dog and the bride walked up with her father flanked by her two very large mastiffs and in the distance some horses and a calf watched. And folks this was unrehearsed. The dogs did what they did on their own.

Guests were capturing the event with their cell phones. I recalled a time when I had the only single lens reflex camera at a wedding. It seems history was repeating itself and technology has marched on and again I had the only SLR.

The wedding ceremony photographs included dogs. The minister; a “new age religion type” tried to keep everything solemn, speaking of love and commitment, but thanks to those very interested in being part of everything dogs, there was a lot of laughing.

I dialed down my flash (Readers know I always use flash.) to balance the diminishing light and shot the ceremony, dogs and all, did the obligatory family photos, and the bridal party leaning on a rail fence pictures. Then a cool breeze wandered in and the rain gods decided it was time to get things wet and opened the floodgates for the rain and the rest of my day was left to making a documentary of their friends at the party eating and getting wet by the bonfire.

The day at Rob and Camille’s was a perfect way to end the week. A great wedding with friendly and enjoyable people, a fun party, big shiny trucks and flashy motorcycles to look at, lots of animals and of course the kind of event any photographer would enjoy.

As always, I really appreciate all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

A Short Walk on Snowshoes

Photos by Snowshoe 2   Thompson River Valley

windswept snow

Old car in snow

Log building in snow

My snowshoe easily broke through the two feet of snow that covered the well and down I tumbled into the soft snow. My years of experience as a photographer reminded me to “  at all costs”, and although my leg twisted and snow covered me, I held the camera up high and safe from the wet snow.

I should have remembered that hole. It’s not like I hadn’t been there many times over the years photographing the rusting 1930’s car. I would go there spring, summer, fall and winter in the rain, snow, and sunshine. I should have remembered where it was, but as usual, it’s always about the photograph. I had put on my snowshoes and hiked up the rolling hills to a long meadow not far from my home.

I have always liked snowshoeing. In my teens my friends and I would head out cross-country trekking for hours through the deep powder in the mountains.  I remember overnight trips where we dug snow caves to spend the night in (snowshoes also made great doors). Then we’d ski down long valleys and snowshoe up hills as we moved through the snow covered mountains.

My rural home is surrounded by wooded forests and rolling hills that are perfect for walking, or as today, snowshoeing. Each year I look forward to enough snow-pack to snowshoe in, and after another morning of shoveling a path to my chicken coops, to the car and cleaning the driveway, I decided it was time for my first winter hike up to the high meadow above my home.

The day was overcast, but today’s modern cameras easily handle ISOs of 800 and 1600, so the lack of bright reflection and low contrast on a snowy landscape made everything so much easier to see and photograph. And handholding is undemanding as one can keep the shutterspeed way over 1/400th of a second and still achieve lots of depth of field.

I mounted a 24-70mm on my camera and set out to photograph the snow covered hills on the quiet, cloudy day.  I like hiking when the only sound is my footsteps, or in this case, my snowshoes.

I hiked up and, as usual, photographed everything. When I stroll through that long meadow I rarely see animals, but I always feel as though I am being watched. That’s a good thing. This time a crow swooped low and circled me as I photographed the Thompson River valley far below. I am sure it was wondering what I was doing there.

I could see a storm rolling down from the mountains and photographed that also. Soon another crow appeared overhead, and this time cried a warning that I am sure was about the storm. And then it began snowing. There is nothing like standing in a forest meadow during a snowstorm; it’s quiet. The sounds from both the Trans Canada Highway and the CN Railroad alongside disappeared.

Thirty years ago, when I first started wandering that area there were three buildings, two old cars and an apple tree.  Now the struggling tree no longer bears fruit, someone hauled off the better of the two cars, one building fell down, and the last two are just hanging on.

Still, it’s a great place to snowshoe with a camera and I was having fun and the heavy falling snow didn’t bother me, I just kept wiping the water off my camera as I photographed the on-coming storm, the old buildings and the remnants of that old car and that’s when I fell into the well.

I think stumbling, bumping into things and sometimes falling while paying more attention to the subject being photographed than things in the way isn’t that unusual to those of us that participate in the exciting medium of photography.

I was wet, but I was fine, the camera was fine, and the snowshoes were fine, and best of all, I got lot of great winter pictures.

I’d really like to read your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com