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Saturday, November 26, 2011

••◊ New work with Titan Arts for Flexdex

Just a quickie this week.  What seems like a long time ago (two months) I worked with Brett and Jed Winn, collectively known as the Winn Brothers, on a skateboard ad for Flexdex.  The Winn brothers run a production company called Titan Arts.  We filmed it on the boardwalk at Mission Beach and I was sure we were going to get shut down without a permit.  Sure enough, half way through the shoot the police stopped their van and rolled down the window.  Brett came running over to the police van in panic, but the police ONLY WANTED TO ASK about the glow in the dark skate board we were filming!  They thought it was cool!  About 20 minutes later the critical mass bike riders came through en masse and shut down traffic.  I guess we weren't much of a concern compared to the them, the hookers they had rounded up, and the two drunken party buses parked along the street with 20-somethings stumbling around. 

Anyway, here's the video...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

••◊ 500 days of Hope and JJ

I spent last weekend with my favorite red head, Hope, and her partner in crime, JJ.  Clarence and I drove up to Holly-weird for Hope's art direction of a commercial catalog shoot.  Her instructions for inspiration included American Apparel, A&F, and JCPenney.  I never, ever, ever, expected to be told that I should be inspired by the advertising work of JCPenney, never mind A&F's teenage semi-pr0n.  Guess there's a first time for everything.

We piled the girls, along with a mountain of photographic technology into the back of Clarence's car and after a quick stop at Astro Burger we headed for a downtown Los Angeles park.  As a side note, Astro Burger has a surprisingly good chicken salad, at least by fast food standards.  So what's significant about the park where we photographed?  Part of the movie "500 Days of Summer" was shot there.

The trees were in fall bloom with pink blossoms, which made for a perfect backdrop for Hope with her blue dress and lovely red hair.  The blue background of reflective skyscraper windows also helped bring the picture together.  It had rained the previous day, so the air was smog-free (yeah!) and the sky was pure blue. 

Both Hope and JJ were quite adept at changing clothes in the middle of the park without a Janet Jackson style "wardrobe malfunction."  The peace officer was positioned just a few feet away.  The question is, what would he do if there was a "malfunction"...TMZ or ticket?  This is LA!

Just to break up the work, every once in a while Hope would call out a "dino break" or a "dance break."  I believe the second picture below represent a dino break since Was Not Was's "Walk the Dinosaur" came out around 1988, likely before either one of them was born!

Then there was our "delicate flower," JJ.  Four words... those steel blue eyes.  Something like a much, much younger version of Patricia Wettig.

After dinner we went back to home base and I did a few head shots with JJ.  I've been wanting to try glitter make up on a model for a while, so this was a good opportunity.   Since JJ was, until recently, a nomad following touring music acts she had a whole arsenal of glittery stuff to experiment with.  Clarence took Hope in the room next door and did some emo pin-up shots with her.

The drive home included an 11pm stop at AM/PM for Clarence to pick up a bag of pork rinds and two Rockstar energy drinks.  He's training for some type of intestinal fortitude Olympic event or something.  ...maybe Nathan's World Famous hot dog eating contest in a few years.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

••◊ Sketch effect in Adobe After Effects

Clarence came over last weekend and showed me some of the photos he's been retouching lately with the Photoshop Elements Sketch effect.  I told him, "I bet I could do that in After Effects," and the challenge was on.  This is the type of nerd-gasm challenge I like to take on every once in a while.  Surprisingly it only took about 20 minutes to guess-timate a close approximation to what we were after.
Here's what we're starting with.

...and here's what we're ending with.  If you click on the pictures to make them larger you'll more fully see the effect.

The effect is made up of three image layers and 1 control layer (just for my sanity and ease of use. You can see how I have the project setup in the After Effects window below.  The bottom layer is the original footage with effects applied.  The second from bottom layer is the original footage desaturated.  The top image layer is the image outlines as an overlay.

The bottom layer begins as the original picture, but it's augmented with a curves effect to increase contrast and I also added a Gaussian Blur controlled by a slider on the Null layer (layer 1).

Layer 3 adds a complete black and white desaturation and linear contrast adjustment via curves, as well as a Gaussian Blur.  For sanity sake I made the blur controlled by the same slider control on layer 1.  The layer also has an opacity of 50%.  You can change this value to create more or less color, adjusting to taste. 

On layer 2 the goal is to create the sketch outlines.  The first effect I applied is a Gaussian Blur to take away some of the details in various parts of the picture.  This blur effect is adjust separately from layer 3 and 4.  Then I applied a Find Edges effect for obvious reasons.  I also desaturated because the sketch outlines should always be black.  The last effect was a curves effect to sharpen the edges to be more on/off .  The layer's opacity is set at 66%

That's it.  You saw the results above.  It's a pretty cool effect. The only thing I could think of to make it better is some type of posterizing of the color so it looks like a more limited color palette, but that's an artistic choice not necessarily representative of a sketch.  We're not going for "A Scanner Darkly,"... yet.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

••◊ Spy-cocross Epic Post!

There were just too many wonderful pictures to share from Saturday's cyclocross race here at Lake Hodges, so this became somewhat of an epic post when I started uploading all the pictures.  I'll let lovely Laura made the introduction here.  Yep, she raced in that outfit too, however I think her biceps negated the cream-puffy-ness of the skirt and pink iPod holster. 

John "the cleaner" Camerino ("GO RANCHOOOOOS" implied) looked like a bad-ass hombre in the late afternoon sun.  Had to get a picture of his competitive intensity before the running of the bulls to the first chicane.

The A category women's group included Dorothy Wong (2nd from the left) who is also the series director.  One of my old racing buddies came up to me while I was about to photograph the women's group and said "That's Dorothy.  I remember her.  She was damn fast and won nearly everything back when I was racing."  He was there to show his daughter what great athletes these women are and how they can be a role model for fitness.  No joke, Dorothy.  I think athletic women are incredibly good role models for young girls too.

I already mentioned the running of the bulls, so here's the partial weed-out after the first chicane.  Corner 2 (pictured in first two photos below) was the first opportunity for slide-outs, crashes, and general mayhem.  The corner was setup as a temporary gate to let the racers exit the start area with a wide track, then the fence was moved so it created two lanes.  Racers seemed to behave themselves as much as testosterone allows. I'm not sure if the racer in the second photo is skidding out because he misjudged the turn, likes to make his competition eat dirt, or he saw the camera and thought that's his big opportunity in the spotlight.  Any which way you look at it...  testosterone.  But in defense of the first suggestion, he's guy so it's not like he's going to stop and ask for directions. 

The start-finish area features a table-top ramp, which makes for a great spectator location.  It reminded me of my old days of BMX where I would made a non-intended attempt to put a new flat spot in my rim by overshooting the table-top landing just slightly.  The table-top is about 8 feet high and a few of the braver racers even attempted to jump it.

A grand part of cyclocross racing is the wide open vistas through which the racing course takes place.  That's Keith (GO RANCHOOOOS!) solo-ing his way back up the start-finish for his lung burning win.  Kurt is also featured in the Cinerama wide screen photo below, but you have to click on the photo to see him charging the course.  Unlike road racing, there's no hiding in the pack.  Cyclocross is a off road time trial.  You're out there alone most of the time.

What would a cyclocross race be without a sand trap or mud pit?  After all, they even have those in old people civil sports like golf!  In the first lap of the men's category A I wished I had turned around in time.  Someone in the middle part of the pack got trapped and about a dozen other riders ploughed into him from behind.  By the time I turned fully around they were in recovery mode and the picture opportunity was gone.  That's photography.

Among the other obstacle apparatus assembled for this race was a set of stairs right after another sand trap.  A few less experienced racers unsuccessfully attempted to ride up it earlier in the day, but with little back wheel traction it just wasn't going to happen.  As the day went on and more experienced riders hit the course it was only top tube grab and run action.  This is where you could really tell the competitors from the weekend warriors.  The competitors would downshift, stick the landing, grab the bike with sand flying out beneath their feet, and jump back on after a few steps.  The weekend warriors would come to stop, put down the kick sand, put on their cleat covers, disengage the kick stand, roll their tires up the steps, check for a flat, remove the cleat covers, check for dirt on the cleats, then remount and go.  Well...  maybe not quite like that, but there was a clear difference.

Here's an obligatory photo of Brent Prenzlow winning the men's A category.  Let's move on to the fun stuff - prizes.

  • First picture : Keith from the animal solo ride featured above.
  • Second picture: I know this is California and all, but I think little "pint size" in the lower left might be slightly young to party with Rancho-mommy.  This isn't France. (I kid, I kid - puns intended).
  • Third picture: Can you tell this is an off road race.  The roadies would be like, "that's too many calories.  It might hurt my Palomar time."  The off-roadies are more like, "hell's yeah, baby!"
  • Fourth picture: The stack up of the top ten men's category A riders with two people I know;  Philip Tinstman (Masi), whom I made a mountain biking documentary with and John Bailey (Bailey - far right) a former weekday riding partner back when I wasn't so fat from sitting in front of Photoshop.