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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

••◊ Results of Komen Fundraiser

I'm an engineer by training, so I have a natural impatience for drama. Cut to the chase...We raised a little over $2500 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation during the art auction mentioned in my previous posts. It was very well attended with Hennessey's being completely packed most of the night. Frankly I was a bit surprised at the number Sandy at the local Komen office gave me today. It seemed like the economy hit us pretty hard the night of the auction with few bids coming in for anything over $100 (Costs about $70-$90 just to print/matte/frame something large with an off the shelf frame).

Brooklyn did an excellent job supplying us with musicians. From 7pm onward we had a steady stream of live music from local folk artists. Below is a picture of Jeffrey Joe Morin.

...and finally, Kristen lived up to her promise and made it to the event. I have proof. Below is a picture of her, looking hot, and Jesse LaMonaca, one of the other folk musicians that evening.

Big thanks go out to Hennessey's, the Morrison Hotel Gallery, The San Diego Business Journal, and PRP Wine for providing support for this event. Even bigger thanks go out to all the artists that donated their work for this charity auction. It wouldn't have been possible without you.

I was too exhausted to take pictures that evening so the photo credits for this post go to Gail Donnelly.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

••◊ Preparing for a shoot...

My friend and co-worker Ken is a part time music producer. He and his wife own a production and artist development company called Active Audio & Entertainment. Like a lot of us in the art world he holds down a bill paying job and then (blatent theft of trademark) kicks it up a notch in the evenings recording local musicians and mixing their songs. His wife's specialty seems to be bringing in teenage girls as artist development clients. She teaches vocal lessons, he handles the engineering side. What they are missing is the artist promotion side of the business, which can be tricky.

What happenned is that they asked me to step in and take some photos of one of their teenage clients for myspace and her general portfolio. Miss aspiring musician (M.A.M.) is a 13 year old girl who sings and plays the piano. The first step in the process is that I met with her and her mom to find out what sort of personality M.A.M. has. You certainly don't want to plan to shoot bubble gum teeny-bopper pictures if she is into Norah Jones and vice versa. Turns out that M.A.M. is into emotionally charged pop music with a slower vibe. ...and as a side note - thank goodness I don't have to listen to Brittany Spears during the shoot! If you read my earlier post about going with personality then this part of the post probably isn't a surprise.

The next step is to make a cheat sheet. We have to get an entire portfolio in a day so what I did was make an Excel spreadsheet that gives location, description of shot, wardrobe, makeup, and inspiration.

M.A.M. and her mom needed to go buy clothes for the shoot, so the wardrobe and makeup part helped them. I also included estimated times for lunch and dinner breaks. Considering how many photos we have to cover I thought it was prudent to provide example photographs of the look we are trying to achieve. I call these inspiration because sometimes it's just the lighting, sometimes it's the way the person holds their hands, and sometimes it's just a blatent copy. The point is to get great photos that help promote M.A.M., not to re-invent photography with some brand new experimental technique; so I don't mind stealing inspiration. Two people never come off with the same personality even with identical photo setups.

The last step in the process happens the night before the shoot. All batteries are charged, the camera is brought back to its baseline configuration (white balance, color space, ISO, aperature, mode, focus point, exposure...etc). Then it's just a good night's sleep.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

••◊ Tracking shots

Last Wednesday I was asked by a friend of a fried how I created the illusion of motion in one of my bicycle racing pictures. Is it photoshop? Nope. The answer is a "tracking shot," also called a "panning shot." The idea is to move your camera along with the moving object. If you track well enough one slice of the picture will be in semi-focus and the rest of the picture will look like motion blur. You also need to use a slow shutter speed (a.k.a. dragging the shutter). Most often these pictures are taken outdoors in daylight so I use shutter priority mode with a really small aperature (f/22-ish on a sunny day). 1/60 to 1/50th of a second seems to work pretty well for fast moving subjects like bicycle racers. Background blur naturally occurs because the distance moved in the background is much greater than the distance moved by the subjects in the foreground (i.e. things further away move faster while moving a camera). Obviously the correct exposure time will depend on how fast your subject is moving. An Indy car would probably achieve this illusion with 1/250th exposures (speculating).

Let's look at a fairly good example. Notice how the two center cyclists are semi-focused and the outer extremes have a lot of motion blur? This comes from tracking the guy in the red, white, and blue jersey while clicking the shutter button. He's not really in focus, but relatively speaking he's razor sharp. The trick is to start your tracking movement *before* you click the shutter button. You can't click and then start moving. It just doesn't work. I also use one of the focus points in the view finder to align to the subject's head so I know where to keep him in the frame during the tracking.
So...sorry, no photoshop tips here. I did it all in camera and then just did the raw conversion.

What's cool is that this also applies to cinematography. As anyone who has dealt with 24P capture knows 24P is terrible at motion capture. However, if you track the moving object then you can avoid a great deal of motion blur and not make your audience sick with frame shudder. It works through the exact same mechanism. I was actually disappointed in No Country for Old Men when I saw Josh Brolin's truck come up the road with motion sickness inducing shudder. Usually Roger Deakins handles these things better. I also saw this issue in the Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls movie when they were doing fly over shots of the temple (as I roughly remember). I probably would have not realized the issue until I got into post too. Sometimes it's hard to tell how much shudder you have unless you blow it up to movie size.

Get out there an capture some stuff in motion. Looks cool.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

••◊ KUSI TV interview for the Komen fundraiser

I used up 3 minutes and 42 seconds of my lifetime 15 minutes of fame today. Gail Donnelly and I were up bright and early this morning for a television inteview on KUSI TV about the upcoming photo auction benefiting the Susan G. Komen foundation. Poor Gail was running late because her alarm was set to "quiet". She walked in all nervous before the interview saying to me, "you do all the talking." Gail survived, sans Depends. How this came about is that Kristin Cusato, one of the news anchors, heard about the event through Brooklyn's myspace and invited us to do the segment.

Now for the pictures...Gail poses with Kristin in front of some of the photo art pieces for the auction. Her photo of "Dancers at the Belly Up" is on the right.

Now what I don't understand is that Kristin said she didn't have a date for the event (not sure if it was this one or another) - on air! Of course there was an utterance of "I probably shouldn't have done that" after the station went to commercial. Come on guys... This drop dead gorgeous woman is clearly out of my league, but someone out there has to step up. It's nearly criminal to leave Kristen date-less on date night.

Gail grabbed a quick shot of me on set after the interview. My picture is on the left and the Morrison Hotel Gallery print is on the right behind me.
My living room is a complete mess at this point. Art is strewn everywhere, at least until Wednesday. Yesterday was spent printing, so that just created a bigger pile. I consider it my personal homage to Richard Dreyfuss' dirt mound from Close Encounters of the Third Kind - OK, maybe not that big. 11 minutes and17 seconds to go. More after Wednesday.