responsiveslider_lol_02 The Language of Light DVD - More
MeetJoe_02 Meet Joe McNally - More
inthebag What’s in the Bag? - More

Archive for the ‘Videos’ Category

Field Test- The ioSafe Rugged Portable Hard Drive

Sep 20

In Computer Technology, Equipment, Field Test, Videos at 7:19am

Hey guys, Drew here.  ioSafe recently approached us about testing out a a couple of their Ultra-Rugged Portrable Hard Drives, so we thought we’d give them a bit of a workout…

These guys boast some pretty impressive stats (see their site for the full scoop):

  • crush resistant to 2,500/5,000 lbs. (depending on model)
  • fully suspended to withstand drops of 10 ft.
  • waterproof to 10 ft., in fresh or salt water, for up to 3 days

If you search around a bit, you’ll find videos of people showering with them, handing a drive and a hammer to a toddler, and even shooting one with a shotgun…all of which it survived.

We can only hope that our drives won’t ever have to deal with that, but we definitely run our drives through the mill more than most.  Already this year, we’ve logged about 150,000 miles on Delta alone, and between Joe and I, we usually have about 6TB of drives with us.

For several years, we were using a bunch of LaCie Rugged’s, but found that the firewire ports were prone to burnout, and we’ve had several crash on us over time (as can and will likely happen with any drive).  The thought of them being “rugged” was appealing, but they didn’t really live up to their name, and felt like we always had to baby them.

Enter the “Ultra” Rugged drives from ioSafe.  We’ve been trekking around the world with six of these guys (1TB units), and after 5 months of abuse, I think we can give them a solid thumbs up.  We’ve happily ditched our LaCie’s, made these ioSafe drives our primary on-the-road storage, and so far, it’s been smooth sailing.

Here’s what we like about them:

– Right out of the box, they come with one year of data recovery service (up to $5,000), which starts as soon as you enter an activation code on their site.  You also have the opportunity to upgrade that to three or five years.  That’s some peace of mind, before you even take the drive into the field.

– The build is impressive.  They’re definitely heavier than our old drives, but the all-metal construction is solid, and we don’t feel the need to be extremely delicate with them, as we do with other drives (as clearly seen in the video up top).

Note from Joe….. Drew and Cali had a great time messing with this drive. I kept coming up with cheeseball blog titles like “Taking a Drive for a Drive,”or other nonsense, but they wisely overruled me. And, at the end of the video, that’s not me screaming. It’s my crazy uncle who does our archiving. More tk…

Dancing With Light

Aug 3

In Lighting, Videos at 6:48am

Very happy that Kelby Training has launched the dance photography classes we created in January in collaboration with some truly wonderful dancers in Vancouver, Canada. The above series is of a marvelously powerful dancer with Ballet BC named Gilbert Small. The class that is up and running now is called Light, Shadow and Motion. Coming next week is Dancers in Flight, and I’ll keep you  posted on that. Many thanks to the folks at Kelby Training, and all the dancers who worked so hard in the studio. Their devotion to craft and artistry is routinely amazing. Below, Jeff Mortensen conjures simple magic in the air.

More tk…

Shooting video with the Nikon D4

Feb 13

In Equipment, Videos at 6:41am

Hey guys, Drew here to go over a bit of the tech/production side of the  Little Freddie and D4 BTS videos, the gear we used, and hopefully clear up a few questions.

First and foremost, this was definitely an amazing assignment for all of us at the studio to have been a part of.  Having started working for Joe after the D3 campaign, I was excited at even the thought of being involved with a project like the D4 campaign.

Faces of Ground Zero was our first serious video effort at the studio.  Though the setups were fairly basic, it was a proving ground of sorts for ourselves.  We essentially had no clue what we were getting into, but came out with a final product that was effective, and we were happy with…

When Nikon Japan approached us about shooting a chunk of the D4 campaign, producing a multimedia piece, and shooting BTS video, we definitely had a few drinks. Initially, and right up until the last day on location, we were 50/50 stoked and nervous.  As the “tech guy” in the studio, it often comes down to me to figure out the video side of things, and this was most definitely something we needed to hit out of the park.

A huge thanks goes out to Manfrotto, and specifically to Marco Tortato for introducing us to, and supplying us with a whole new realm of video supports we used on this shoot.

We also turned to Victor Ha and Brian Hynes at Cinevate for insight and inspiration.  After a few hour-long phone calls, and a bunch of tutorial videos later, we more or less knew what gear we needed to pull this off.  Cinevate was cool enough to send us a bunch of amazing gear to play with.

I can’t begin to emphasize the importance of pre-production- finding a location, building a story-line, storyboarding, etc.  Lynn came across a plantation home just outside of New Orleans, which sounded amazing- but being that our timeline was extremely tight, we didn’t actually see the location, or even meet Little Freddie til the day before we started shooting. *Luckily*, things came together as we had hoped- the location was simply beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect subject.

To build the general storyline, we did a 30-45 min. interview with Little Freddie, just before the primary video shoot- which we shot with three cameras (see above).  The remaining video was shot entirety within the next 5-7 hours.  We had him play 3 songs on the porch, which Grippi and I shot with two cameras, and then worked on tons of environmental shots and B-roll.

Throughout the whole process, we strived to keep as simple of a gear pack and setup as possible.  Here’s a basic rundown of the essential gear we used for the videos, and timeline examples of how/where we used them in the Little Freddie video:

Tripods/Sliders/Shoulder Rigs

– Manfrotto 504HD Fluid Video Head w/546B Aluminum Tripod (heavy duty tripod with an amazing head…incredibly smooth horizontal and vertical pans.  i.e. 0:27)

– Manfrotto 561BHDV Video Monopod w/ Fluid Head (great for small spaces, quick repositioning of shots, and fairly simple tilts and zoome. i.e. 2:00, 2:14)

Cinevate Simplis Pro Shoulder Rig (ideal for smooth, run & gun shooting, and can easily pop on and off a tripod. i.e. 0:40, 0:51)

Cinevate Atlas 10 35″ Camera Slider (fairly compact slider that was the perfect choice when there wasn’t much room or time to set up. i.e. 0:18)

Cinevate Atlas 30 58″ Camera Slider (much longer, incredibly smooth slider, which we used the majority of the time.  i.e. 0:37, 1:42- raised on stands about 8 feet, 2:04)

Audio Gear

– Sennheiser EW100 G3 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System (for the interview, we double-lavved Freddie, each on a different channel)

– Rode NTG-2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone (for the interviews, the Rode played the roll of a 3rd mic, and for Freddie playing, this was the only mic used)

– Zoom H4n Mobile 4-Track Recorder (we recorded all songs using the Rode mic, plugged into the Zoom, and as backup audio during the interview)

Video Lighting

– Westcott Spiderlite TD6 Continuous Output Halogen/Fluorescent Light (used for sit-down interview footage shot of Joe)

– Westcott 24″x32″ Softbox for Continuous Light

– Westcott 36″x48″ Softbox for Continuous Light

– Litepanels MicroPro LED Dimmable 5600K Video Light (used on, or just off-camera during BTS shooting at the circus and snake shoots)

External Monitors

Manhattan LCD 8.9″ HD Pro Monitor (this played an essential roll in composing shots, especially when doing very high or low slides or pans)

Overall, it was a fairly basic gear pack, and being that this is a new world for us, was perfect for a few reasons.  It allowed us to work quickly and efficiently, and it meant that we could put our energy into shooting, and not lugging out tons of grip for every shot.

We’re pretty happy with the outcome, and are looking forward to playing a lot more with the D4 and D800 in the very near future. And many thanks to Mike Corrado at Nikon for shooting the behind the scenes pix above, and being our tech advisor for this whole new adventure.

In Today’s News…New Classes at Kelby Training

Feb 6

In Fun, Videos at 8:30am

Just finished two new classes for Kelby Training, which are in the pipe, and will most likely come out fairly shortly. They’re pretty in depth looks at creating, with just light and a plain wall, an environment in which dancers can thrive, create their own sublime shapes, which then, at camera, you simply hope to capture. I’m a big believer in the fact that when the camera observes a performer, it simply stands in service to their creativity.  Consequently, the best thing a shooter can do is provide a comfortable place for them to experiment, light them simply and well, and then sorta, kinda, get the hell out of their way.

I’ll never be known as a dance shooter. I’ll really never be known as any particular kind of shooter at all, being resolutely, the generalist. (I spun from this studio into a job for the Geographic where I’m traveling with 27 cases of gear, two Suburbans, and negotiating the shooting of large, static objects.)

And I enjoy both of the above styles of assignment in equal measure, though I have to admit that the interaction with dancers is a helluva lot more fun. It’s a safety valve for me, to shoot dance. Think of a vent on a pressure cooker.  I’ve always been a star struck kid when it comes to virtually any of the performing arts. Recently, I was in Vegas for a gig, and I took my youngest daughter with me. (Her first time in Vegas, and she really liked it. Should I be worried?)

We went to the “O” show, and both sat there with our jaws dropped at the exquisite talent on stage. I feel the same way about looking through the lens at dance.

The above set featured modern dancer Jeff Mortensen, and he was able to create whimsy in the air, assisted by two Elinchrom Rangers into long strip soft boxes, one directly overhead, and one off to either side, depending on his gesture. I “found” Jeff through the long standing relationships of David Cooper, a friend and fellow shooter based in Vancouver. David is one of Canada’s leading theater and dance shooters, and his daughter Emily (who calls herself Mini-Cooper) is not far behind in terms of skill. They are prominent members of the creative community in Vancouver, which is a city I love to go and work.

I was also able to work with Lisa Gelley, Josh Martin, and Shay Kuebler of the 605 Collective modern dance troupe based in Vancouver. They are dedicated to creating new versions of aesthetics in the air through the intricate interweaving of their articulate bodies while in flight. Above is Josh, lit with two TTL speed lights. Below, bigger lights were used, a combo of Ranger and Quadra.

Keeping things simple, we used just one speed light for the above shot of the soulfully expressive Bevin Poole. Here’s where you need to explain yourself as a photographer, and try your best not sound like a complete lunatic. I had no relationship, really, with Bevin, until she walked into the studio. I had just seen her picture. But for some reason, I saw her short hair sort of tufted and her face and body painted in some way shape or form. I don’t know where that came from, it just did. Here’s where collaboration with an excellent makeup artist is irreplaceable. I discussed this off the wall notion with Tamar Ouziel, an extremely talented HMU artist in Vancouver, and she immediately got on board with it, made suggestions, refined the idea and made Bevin up. Bevin, bless her, listened to me, a complete stranger, as the first things I said to her were that I wanted to paint her face and body and nestle her in a bird’s nest of tulle. She listened, smiled, cocked her head to the side, and said, “Sure.” (This is another reason to love working with dancers. They not only agree to your fevered, improbable imagination, they then take it and enlarge it, enhance it, and embody it.)

I helped Lastolite re-design their very popular 24″ Ezybox, creating one with a white interior instead of a silver. (As I’ve mentioned, I kind of feel like a golfer who’s been on the Tour for thirty years, and finally got asked to design a course.) I was happy to pitch in, as I’ve been using the Lastolite stuff for a long time now, and their product manager, Gary Astill, is an amazing designer. I used the white Ezybox for the above. I would have been a bit apprehensive about using a silvery interior on this white on white study. What I needed was a quiet fade from highlight to shadow, and not something abrupt and contrasty. It worked well, as the one light in the picture. What you see below is the whole set, and all of the lighting. (To the left is a heater. With the tempura paint drying on Bevin, she got cold. Dancers don’t have much body fat, so that was a point we made during the shoot in terms of creating a comfort zone for them.)

Keeping it simple, once again, the below is two speed lights, a main and a fill. The main is kind of a new kid on the block called the Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella, which I’ve been using a lot, mostly in shoot through mode, with the mask on it. It tends to create a more controllable light, with good fall off into shadows, which you can, in turn, choose to fill in or not. What the light is doing here is simple. What the dancer, Alexander Burton of Ballet BC, is doing, is not.

Speed lights were also used for the wonderful leaper, Gilbert Small, below, also of Ballet BC.

The classes really discuss fully the use of all manner of lighting, most of it very simple, brought to bear in the studio, which is, as I always feel, an empty box you fill with your imagination. It also emphasizes the importance of collaboration with the dancers, the makeup artist, and the crew. Any photo that might be any good that comes out of a day in the studio like this is very much the result of a team effort and the creative input of all involved. I was blessed on the set with Tamar, and Syx Langeman,  a talented Vancouver shooter, our own Mike “Double Guns” Cali, and of course David Cooper, whose studio we rented. (Anyone traveling to Vancouver in need of a studio, contact David. His shop is about as comfortable and complete as studios get.)

The above is of Alexis Fletcher, who is truly magnificent. She is particular, as classical dancers tend to be, and she can float through the air as effortlessly as the rose petals we blew into the frame with her. She would look at every frame we shot together, and effectively, she coached me through it. She remarked on my timing, and her form, critically, but also wonderfully. Because of her devotion to craft, she, effectively, pushed me to be a better photographer on the set that day.

A number of years ago, I had a show of my dance work at the Shanghai Art Museum. They asked me to write up something that addressed the notion of why one would shoot dance as a theme. Here is what I wrote.

“I have always photographed dance, ever since I moved to New York to become a photographer. One of my first apartments in the city was on 65th St. just by Lincoln Center, nexus of the dance world, and home to the New York City and the American Ballet companies. Through my windows and walks in the neighborhood, I would see these lissome creatures, hair pulled tight in the inevitable bun, dance bag over the shoulder, lovely to look at, even in their occasionally ungainly, splayfooted gait. Dancers all, making their way to the studios just across from my tiny, dungeon-like  studio apartment.

I grew curious about this world, and managed to find my way into the studios with my camera. There I began to witness the beauty, the audacity, and the sheer grit of the dancer. The reasons for their sidewalk awkwardness became apparent. Dancers are not meant to trudge through the concrete grime and blaring traffic of the city. They are creatures of flight, stopping just short of having wings, with astonishing abilities to parse the human figure into a wide range of shapes and stances, all of them equally, impossibly beautiful. They are meant to be in motion, on stage, magnets for the eye, and thus the camera.

In the course of their careers, dancers will have many partners, but a constant one is the camera. Why else to fly and leap so magnificently, except to have that flight recorded and preserved? No other medium has the ability to slice time, and freeze moments. Given the quicksilver, all too brief career of a dancer, this is highly desirable. The photograph preserves that split second when it appears gravity is suspended, and the rest of us, earthbound earth forever, gasp.

These photographs are my own gasps. I have been privileged to simultaneously have had my breath taken away and my camera to my eye many times. This selection represents a few of those moments. The camera is the dancer’s eternal partner, lockstep in a lovely pas de deux.”

I sincerely thank Scott Kelby and the whole Kelby clan down in Tampa for creating the opportunity to both shoot and teach something that means a lot to me.

More tk….

Nikon D4- Behind The Scenes Video

Jan 25

In In The Field, Videos at 6:53am

We’ve got some major thank you’s to offer as we dipped our toe into the waters of video. First off to Nikon who trusted us with this project and their hand built, prototype D4 cameras. (See the video to reference the fact that I broke one–slightly.) And to Gen Umei, from the K&L agency in Tokyo, who is a wonderful friend and a wondrous art director. And as always to his colleague, Aoyagi Toshiaki, who we have known for years simply as Mr. Blue. Marco Tortato of the Manfrotto Corporation provided us with simple, wonderful tools to execute shots. And Victor Ha and Brian Hynes of Cinevate were wise counsel in the background, and additionally, offered us the use of sliders and shoulder rigs. All of this is gear we’re just getting used to, and the fact that there are people in this industry willing to help and teach is one of the truly special things about being any type of shooter, still or video.

Major props go out to Drew Gurian, in our studio, who kept pursuing this behind the scenes stuff, even though he often had a cranky and not particularly photogenic subject (me) and a world of other things to think about. Mike Corrado of Nikon, who was not only our liaison with Nikon, but also our technical advisor in the field, chipped in with a few closeups of Cora, our sweet, 9600 pound star of a pachyderm.

We had fun on the set, as you’ll see. The video is a mix of D7000 and D4.

Thanks for taking a look. More tk….