Anniversary Gig

Becca and Jared

I had the pleasure of photographing a wonderful couple a few weeks ago on the occasion of their fifth anniversary. They had this fun idea of dressing up in their wedding clothes, creating a bouquet and boutonnieres, and having a couple of their close friends tag along, then having me photograph them at home and at various places around town.

Like a wedding, we had some time constraints – one of their party had to leave town. So, we shot at literally high noon. Not the ideal time of day for photography, but I told them we’d make it work. While trying to make them look their best, I also tried to keep some hints of where we were. The shot above is in front of their home, so I intentionally left the somewhat distracting window in the shot with the brown siding to add “our house” to the story.

Framily

We made a few photos at Rochester Civic Theatre, three of the four of them have performed on its stage. There’s a fun shot of them on stage, but after we got that shot, I suggested having them sit in the house seats. One of them played off that and said, let’s all have different expressions reacting to what’s on stage. It worked great! I love collaborating with performers.

Friends

A few shots in a park by a fountain were also on the agenda.

Come Along, Jared

We set up several shots to highlight their relationships with their friends.

Kiss

But fit in a few showing their relationship with each other.

A Terrific Couple

They are a great couple. Their love and respect for one another is so very apparent.

Continuing the Journey

I thoroughly enjoyed being their photographer for the occasion. I wonder what they’ll cook up for their tenth…

 

 

 

Brian DeMint Program at SMNPPA

DeMintDay-0019

Our local professional photographers group, Southern Minnesota Professional Photographers Association, meets monthly with various programs, usually 2-3 hours. This month, we brought in Brian DeMint (see his work here) from Missouri. Brian brings a background of painting to his photography, shooting rather ingenious looks and adding his artistic interpretation in post.

DeMintDay-0089

We had a full day of presentations and shooting with two fabulous Minnesota models, Molly Olimb and Brittany Bueckers. Brian’s wife, Dena, provides the hair and make-up. The event was at the studio of Sonja Miedtke, a country home with beautiful grounds, buildings, and various props perfect for portrait photography.

Molly Olimb

When there are lots of photographers shooting a model, one needs to try to find something a bit different. I tend to be drawn to faces – I gravitate toward closer, more intimate shots. I also played with a technique I learned at Photoshop World in Atlanta. Model shoots like this are a perfect place to play with new ideas.

Brittany Bueckers

Brittany Bueckers

Once I had found a few photos I liked, I pushed a little more in post than I’d typically do. If you’ve seen my personal projects, you know I have no problem opening Photoshop and letting its tools fly. But my general portrait work tends to be more subtle. But with a nod to Brian, I let these images speak to me and guide me onward.

Molly Olimb

Molly Olimb

I was rather surprised to find a couple photos, one of each of our models, that just wanted – or, maybe, had – to be monochrome. In fact, the photo of Molly above was the first photo I really put any effort into, and it just said monochrome. The treatment I used actually left a smidge of color, but I think the processing fits the mood of the photograph.

Others just wanted color and lots of it. The red dress was fabulous, and it was amazing against the greenery.

Brittany Bueckers

Brittany Bueckers

It was a terrific day full of ideas and inspiration. And mosquitos. But, hey, this is Minnesota, so there will be mosquitos!

God of Carnage at Summerset Theatre

GodOfCarnage-0203

There are so many plays that take place in a single set – often a room. Occasionally, there will be side areas representing one or two other locations, but it isn’t uncommon for there to be one location.

God of Carnage takes this even further, as it takes place not just in one location but in one uninterrupted time. I don’t know how it’s represented in the script, but it is basically one long scene. Within that scene, we see the entire story laid out with four actors playing characters who develop interesting relationships to one another during that span of time.

GodOfCarnage-0445

I shot the show this past Monday during the final dress rehearsal. The description of the play sounded familiar, and it wasn’t long before I realized I had indeed seen this show once before.

As was the case for a couple other recent shows I’ve shot, this play had pretty consistent and reasonably good lighting. And the box set provides one basic layout and palette from which to work. Two couples interact – one couple’s son hit the other couple’s son in the face with a stick. As it begins, everyone is trying to get along, you might say, acting like adults. They sit fairly quietly discussing the events.

GodOfCarnage-0491

Meanwhile, there isn’t a lot to photograph! Four people sitting quietly does not make for impactful photos! But that soon changes with bursts of action and lots of movement with some face-to-face confrontations.

GodOfCarnage-0597

The gloves metaphorically come off as the show progresses. The attempts to be diplomatic give way to expressions of the characters’ true feelings and thoughts, somewhat spurred on by the rum that is eventually consumed.

GodOfCarnage-0690

I had plenty to photograph as you might expect. It’s fun to manage to capture certain key moments like a cell phone, having been dunked in the tulip water, being retrieved and sending water drops all over. Other physical interplay provided similar moments to be grabbed.

GodOfCarnage-0850

I spend my time moving from one side to the other, looking for the best angle for grabbing a particular shot. Often, all four are there and spread out, each talking to all of the other three. There’s a possible wide shot of the group, but those photos tend to be less compelling and serve more to just document that moment. I work to isolate to one or two when I can, or to encompass three or four in a way that provides a good composition. But not every shot ends up as a keeper.

GodOfCarnage-0930

The cast of four did great. I love watching and shooting expressions that are honest and give the characters life.

GodOfCarnage-0933

Summerset Theatre in Austin does a great job providing a diverse set of three shows during the summer. This was a huge departure from Fiddler last month, and the next show will be The Odd Couple at the end of July. A big musical, a drama, and a Neil Simon comedy. And each of them gives me different challenges to photograph!

Black and White Ilford HP5+

Silver Lake Bridge

I shot another couple rolls of black and white film recently with my old Canon F1. I’ve been trying a variety of different film types – fast, slow, Kodak, and Ilford. I shot the faster films first. These were shot on Ilford HP5 Plus, a 400 ISO film. It can be pushed to higher speeds, but I used it and processed it for its standard 400.

Peace Plaza

One interesting aspect of shooting various black and white films is studying the grain. Anyone who shot film seriously back in the day knows that as we push to higher speeds, the grain becomes more prominent. It’s loosely akin to the digital noise we see today, but the reason and mechanism is quite different.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Once I moved into SLR cameras, I actually shot very little black and white. I loved color and settled into shooting slides – some Ektachrome and a lot of Kodachrome. The grain behavior of those films seemed to be quite different from what I’m seeing in these black and white films. I don’t know how much effect the scanning process has, but I remember BW prints looking pretty much like what I’m seeing now, so I think the scanner is doing reasonably well.

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

In front of the Mayo Gonda building

Kodachrome was wonderful film, but it was relatively slow including the beautiful Kodachrome 25. I never shot a lot of that – it was just too slow for most of my needs. But grain was just not very apparent. On BW film, it tends to be front and center. Now that I’m into faster, 400 speed film, it’s rather hard to miss.

Downtown Rochester

It’s also something of the allure of these films. It produces an image that has character. We now use various postprocessing filters to add in some grain to help de-industrialize our digital images. Add in this character. Done well, it works. Part of my reason for shooting these rolls of film is to study the characteristics to help me use such filters with a better eye.

Bulldozer

For a few of the shots here, I’ve toned them either cool or warm. In the past, toning would be done to the prints. Now we can do it on the computer. I generally like the effect, and it’s good to match the temperature of the toning to the subject of the photo. While I tend to lean toward warm colors, some of the metal objects I photographed tell me they need a cool treatment. It works.

Bulldozer

When you shoot black and white, whether using black and white film or using a DSLR with the intent of creating a black and white image, it’s best if you can wrap your mind around that and try to see in black and white. That means looking for textures, contrast, lines, patterns. Bright colors become irrelevant, and you must see past them. As humans, color can overwhelm us.

Geese

While I sometimes look at an image and think, this would look good as black and white, those that are planned as BW from the start as I held the viewfinder to my eye usually have an edge. I really do love color, but there are moments that just need the simplicity of black and white. If the color doesn’t help to tell the story – even more importantly, if the color distracts from the story – a monochromatic image may be just what is needed.

Laughter on the 23rd Floor

Laughter1-305

The final show at Rochester Civic Theatre this season was Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor. The final performance was yesterday afternoon – I’ve been a bit slow to write up a blog post about it!

Laughter1-347

The show is a wild comedy in the Neil Simon tradition which he wrote as a fictionalized retelling of his time as a staff writer on Sid Caeser’s Your Show of Shows in the 1950s. It was an early time in television when TV was finding its footing. Simon’s co-writers included Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Carl Reiner. I’ve been watching some old Dick Van Dyke Show episodes on Netflix where Rob’s job was a similar variety show comedy writer. Most of the episodes were written by Carl Reiner and the similarity of the office interplay is amazing.

Laughter1-496

RCT’s cast for the show was terrific, topped off by Greg Miller, the artistic director at the Civic. Quoting a line from the show spoken about Max Prince (the fictional center of the show, and Greg’s role), “He does comedy.” We see Greg on stage occasionally, sometimes doing improv, and his skills are top-notch. Greg directed the show as well, and he surrounded himself with a cast who all know and perform comedy at a superb level.

Laughter2-199

On opening night, there were some prop issues – really, I guess you’d have to call them set decoration issues. Watching this cast deal with the unexpected, all in character, all reacting almost exactly together, it couldn’t have been scripted any better.

Laughter2-279

The show was great, but what about the photo-taking? I shot almost all of these during the final dress rehearsal before preview. Typical box set – the writers’ office – and pretty typical box set lighting with a few moments of lighting variation. So, the technical part of the shooting was not as challenging as, say, Les Mis. But we had nearly the whole cast on stage nearly all the time and all spread out. So finding a good angle and capturing the many interactions among the players on opposite sides was the challenge of the day.

Laughter2-563

When I return home and upload the photos onto the computer, I always wonder what I’ll find and if I’ll like what I did. Doesn’t matter how many of these shows I photograph. But I was pleased. I have a good number that I think capture the essence.

Laughter3-029

There were, however, a couple moments I just missed and wished I had caught. Usually, that’s just the way it goes. But, this time, I was able to attend the final performance, sit up close (third row) on the end and pull out the camera to grab a couple shots. One was Jim Preiss as Milt scrambling out the door holding all the coats that had been on the coat rack as he attempts to cover his white suit (which Max hates). I’m really happy with the one I grabbed, shown here. Milt’s face and expression, the looks from the other writers, all seems to work.

Another season done. Lots of summer fun will be happening at the theatre until the 2014-15 season begins in September. Most Fridays, we’ll be there listening to the free music and sipping some wine!

 

Sample prints

Baustin by the Plummer House Tower

I like to have some sample prints on hand to show clients. There are many different printing materials available these days. Canvases are popular and the lab I use produces great canvas prints. There are, of course, traditional photographic paper prints and some newer photographic papers that have a metallic look. There are also acrylic prints that are pretty cool now, and I’ve dabbled a bit with those.  And there is a wide variety of art papers available for giclée prints made using pigment-based inks and an inkjet process. And there are metal prints made right on aluminum.

I usually steer my clients toward canvas, standard photo paper, or art papers (I particularly like those without optical brighteners which provide an overall warm feeling) for portraits. Metallic paper and metal prints are best with more contrast and detail like landscapes and city-scapes.

But during one high school senior session, I shot my subject using an HDR technique. It just seemed to fit the situation, and I’ve been playing a bit with HDR portraits. I thought it would be fun and interesting and different for a senior photo. I’ve been looking at it and decided this might really make a cool metal print. And besides, I’ve been wanting a sample to show with this wedge-type stand-out frame.

Today, when I returned home from a shoot, my print had arrived. I have to say I really like it. The look works well on metal and these frames are fantastic for metal prints. I decided to show it off and do a selfie with it hanging in my office! (BTW, I do like my new RF remote control that I’m holding just out of view!)

Return top