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Saturday, December 31, 2011

••◊ Pike Place Market at Christmas, 2011



I think the photo above represents how most out-of-towners think about Seattle.  Yes, it does rain often but in volume New York City (43 inches/year) gets more rain than Seattle (38 inches/year).  In fact, Seattle is ranked 44th among major US cities for annual rainfall.  If you think Pacific Northwesterners sit inside all winter next to a daylight mood lamp hoping for the sun to return... well, you'd just be wrong.  There are people out jogging in shorts - yep, shorts - when it's only 40 some degrees.  I remember days of going cycling in December and being unable to feel my toes for 40 miles.  You just adapt.  Daylight ends promptly at 4:30pm, which makes bed time confusing - but again, you just adapt.

My mom and I made a trek through Seattle's Pike Place Market last week just to do something touristy and fun at the holidays.  Lots of great pictures to be had.  The market is vivid with fresh produce.  Even though I didn't get a picture of this one thing, the market is best known for the flying fish mongers.  You pick out a fish, they wrap it, and throw it from the counter.  It was probably just an adaptation of the way the market counters are configured, but entertaining and unique.  Makes me wonder how often the newbie gets a cold wet fish in their face before they perfect their wide receiver technique?



Among many unique aspects of the market is Post Alley, featuring the world's largest collection of chewing gum stuck to a brick wall.  My mom was saying that a local TV personality was dared to lick the wall so they brought a sanitizing crew out to de-germ-ify and sure enough he licked it.  I personally think that deserves a resounding, yet classic, "ewwwww."  You would probably need a sand blaster to remove all that gum by now.  Only in fiercely independent Seattle would you find something so simply odd that it becomes an community attraction that locals take pride in.



For those who have a penchant for caffeine, I present the world's second Starbucks location.  Building grande mocha-latte-chino addicts since 1976.  The first location was at 2000 Western in 1971, but it was moved to this location five years later.


What would a market be without a street performer or two or twenty.  The hula-hooping troubadour shown below is Seattle's Emery Carl.  From the sidewalk below it looks like the market allocates spaces for performers.  Note the random instruments attached to his shoelaces.  I just wonder if he can pat his head and rub his tummy while chewing gum?



Another of Seattle's quirky art projects was an outdoor installation by Barbara Kruger using series of bronze pigs placed throughout downtown know as "Pigs on Parade".  "Rachael the Pig" by Georgia Gerber is a permanent fixture at the Pike Place Market.  I had to quickly take a photo in between kids hopping on for a piggy back ride with their parents snapping a picture. 


Somewhere between rows 161 and 163 is my mom's tile at the market.  The tiles were a fundraiser years ago.  We weren't able to find her tile this time.


Lowell's is a restaurant at the market best known for seafood.  Their logo at the top of the door frame says it all.


I saw these cigar box guitars in one of the vendor booths and just though they looked cool.  This display was an oasis among the vast battlefield of barkers selling home made jewelry.  Who can argue with a guitar that's logo-ed "Soul Cat?"  The closest thing I've seen to that is Phil Collen's guitar which was named "Soul-Ah."


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

••◊ Out with the girls

I'm on a self proclaimed photo hiatus at the moment, mostly due to the holidays.  So I wanted to throw some street photography type pics up on the blog from hanging out with Hope, JJ, Shealyn, and Acasia on the eve of Christmas eve.

First off... JJ emulating the wine drinking nightlife, even though this was 4:30 in the afternoon.



This image brought me way back to junior high, but it's probably more common after multiple glasses of wine.


Acacia, a make up artist, brought her purse dog "Killian" along for the ride.  Killian spent most of the night sleeping in the purse with an occasional longing eyed feed-me face when the pepperoni pizza arrived.  I think Killian would best be described as a "babe magnet" type of dog with a high success rate.  Every "babe" in the place had to hold or pet Killian at some point in the evening.  Good doggie.


I asked Acasia to show some of her tattoos and she accommodated.



The final stop off was a goodbye to Shealyn she's quickly heading off to NYC to make it big.  Her friend Nick bought her a t-shirt with the proclamation "Pizza Slut", which she proudly brandished throughout the rest of the evening.  I caught her cheesy (he, he) NRA poster girl look at the wildlife hunting video game.


I'll post some fun travel photos toward the end of the week as I sort through them.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

••◊ stick-cam!

Before anyone gets the wrong idea, this blog post does not feature any bikini photos of Lara Flynn Boyle on the beach.  We're going green with tree power!  Quick question:  What do you do when your DP comes to you and says we have to figure out how to fly a $65,000 camera down a zip line without a safety net?  Keep in mind that all we have is the budget for a couple ropes and climbing hooks.  My first reaction was "oh... (awkward pause)... kaaaaaay".  It's one of those moments where you question if the guy has been on a 3 day Monte Python binge.  Then you realize that the director is actually pushing for this shot of the camera flying through the air and doesn't have it in the budget for an RC helicopter.  He wants spidercam on the cheap.

Enter "stick-cam" - my environmentally friendly innovation.  The first problem with putting a camera on a rope is that it dangles in all type of random directions.  Without a pulley you have to drag the camera along the zip line, which means it can get jerked from side to side..



The first two photos show the first stage of stability.  I tied a stick between the two climbing hooks so the camera wouldn't rock back and forth.  Triangles are very strong structures in general and offer a great deal of stability.  Think of a modern 2.5 pound bicycle frame that supports a 200 pound rider and 15 pounds of components - made up of three triangles.  Very strong and stable.

The second method of stability came from attaching the ropes through the 15mm rod mounts (see above picture) and holding them out to the side at arms length while running.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that configuration below since the pictures were taken on out first failed attempt.  Again, triangles.  The triangle formed between the camera and two hands spread wide apart created lateral stability.  The director loved it and we got an atta-boy from the director.  Of course, atta-boys in the film world only last until the next shot setup.

Below you can see two pictures of me paging the director's monitor cable while Blair runs with the camera.  If it was going to fall off the rope I at least wanted it to be while he's dragging his camera as I generally don't carry $10k in cash for a lens replacement and camera repair!  Knowing Blair, if he's reading this he's probably thinking to himself, "chicken!"  Yep, I mean "bwak-bauk."



Special thanks to Elsa Mickelsen for these BTS production photos and to the Neshima production for letting me document their journey.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

••◊ Neshima Desert Shoot

I keep wanting to come up with another word for this 4 day shoot other than "epic," mostly because we shot on the Red Epic and it seems like there's going to be a bad pun slipping through somewhere throughout this post.  I'll attempt to tread lightly, but no guarantees.  I haven't been watching Carrot Top videos... swear.

The RV shown in my previous post showed up at my house around 9pm on Thursday night and we headed east as shown on the GPS map below.  Although you really have to turn the picture 90 degrees clockwise to make the direction correct.  Obviously Tecate is south, not east.  The phone service cut out just after Julian, making us miss the S2 turn off, creating an additional 30 minute delay in travel time.  What really didn't help is that the S2 sign occurs *after* the actual S2-south turn!  It's easy to get lost in the desert, but now we know why. 


Charlie Glackin, an actor, set builder, and all around good guy was our driver that evening.  When morning came and the actors suddenly realized there wasn't a Starbucks even within desperation distance someone blood-hounded coffee beans in a cabinet of the RV.  Among the mainly cosmopolitan group I'm sure there were thoughts of chugging the beans whole just to get a caffeine fix, however Charlie, ever the frontiersman, found a hammer and went to town smashing the coffee beans.  Where had that hammer been previously?... Dunno.  I don't drink coffee, so I didn't really care.  From the look of the Glad size bags in everyone elses' eyes at that point I don't think they cared either.  It was liquid gold as far as they were concerned.  Shortly thereafter Charlie and I stepped outside the RV for a desert portrait of "Charles the Caffeine Saviour."  




One of our RV mates was Edgar, the production assistant ninja.  When we arrived in San Ysabel at 10:30pm seeking gas I had Edgar stand in front of the local convenience store to get a feel for "downtown" San Ysabel.  The town really consists of Dudley's bakery (which I became fond of as a cyclist in the middle of nowhere), a gas station, and a restaurant.  That's about it.  We had two failed attempts to get gas with a debit card until finally someone stepped forward with a credit card that worked.  Good thing, because there was no attendant on duty that late and we weren't even going to make it to Borrego without gas.

The "Edgar" series of photos below consists of the very start of the shoot, during the shoot, and the last day of the shoot.  I think the progression speaks for itself.  Now I wish I would have got 9 more photos of him and so I could have made a "Days of Edgar" wall calendar.  Oh well, next year maybe.




Blair Paulsen of 4K Ninjas/Alacrity Media is the DP on "Neshima."  I was his camera assistant all weekend.  All I can say is thank goodness pro gear is made as tough as it is.  We were shooting on an Angenieux 16-42 zoom all weekend and, of course, the zoom barrel managed to get a small spec of sand in it causing a cringe-worthy scraping sound upon rotation.  That's just a trip to the lens shop in LA to get it cleaned.  Bad, but not a disaster.  Another notable degradation of gear performance was when the camera was moved but it was still tethered to the directors monitor.  The end connector on the cable snapped off, but that's even easier to fix with a simple cable crimp tool from Fry's. 

What was really awful is when the whole camera took a spill (I wasn't carrying it, just so we're clear).  The camera went face first into the sand, meaning that the matte box took the brunt of the fall.  The matte box mount was bent up, but not beyond usability.  At least the Red camera bodies are pretty tough.  The rest of the camera made it through without noticeable damage and the shoot continued.  From the photos below you can imagine how many other times the camera was put in peril throughout the weekend.  We were extra careful to make sure the camera was locked down everywhere it could be after that incident.





Since Tommy Friedman, the film's director, was acting part of the weekend, Jaden stepped up as director for a large part of the desert shoot.  I managed to snap a few candid photos of him.   It just seemed like a good way to capture memories of this shoot.  A set of production photos isn't complete without photos of the director.

I personally like the photo of him on the rock outcrop in costume.  They weren't filming at the time.  He just climbed up there for whatever reason.  The second to last day of the shoot I saw him drinking a Pepsi and had the odd thought, let's do a Pepsi advertisement using an ancient warrior.  Maybe this could be like the follow on to the Geico caveman ads for car insurance!






Speaking of directors, here's a few photos of Tommy Friedman in costume.  Tommy was just standing there on a little rock outcrop and I knew I had to take a photo of it with the flare.  It was just so perfect.

The worst part of the weekend was the last day of filming where Tommy accidentally fell on a prop ax.  That 3/4" wound in his bicep and the associated look on his face is real.  No special effects added.  The medical team managed to super glue the wound at least partially shut.  Filming continued, but with a little more caution on weapon placement.  Blair got a clear take during the fall, so I'm wondering if it's going to end up in the film... ?



Finally, there was Shoshanna, our lead actress for the weekend.  In one of her scenes she had to quite obviously be tied up.  Shoshanna, ever the method actor, felt that removing the ropes for lunch might create a continuity issue, so she remained bound and had to be fed by Danielle.  Now that's dedication to a role.  As soon as snacks started to show up I would have jettisoned the rope for a granola bar! 



More pictures can been seen on the Neshima Facebook photo page.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

••◊ I am the lizard king!

The desert seems like a good place to blatantly rip off Jim Morrison for this blog title, however this blog post should be slightly less hallucinogenic than The Doors infamous drug fueled romps through the desert.  Quite pathetically, this blog post is rated G by the motion picture photographer, namely me.

I spend last weekend on a trek through the Anza-Borrego Desert during a 4-day film shoot.  The RV arrived at my house around 9pm Thursday night and we were trucking along to the camp site until well after midnight due to a missed turn at S2 (not well marked).  Our call time was at 5am (grrrr implied) and the pictures below are what I woke up to in the morning.  We still don't know what made those large paw prints, but I sure as heck didn't really want to know in the dark at 5am.  Would you?  Maybe slightly less importantly I didn't want to run my shin into the local succulent plant life.




The park is filled with canyons, caves to explore, paths carved by water, and large hills to climb.  Little did I know until the last day that we were actually staying below the desert floor in a small canyon.  The transition from desert floor to slot canyon was so seamless that I thought we were just surrounded by two large hills on either side!

The part of the park we were filming in features incredible caves and rock formations.  There is that old hiking saying that goes something like, "leave only footprints," but the temptation is just too large to climb the dirt slopes and go exploring.  The dirt won't mind a rock or two out of place. 



I think the real reason we were at the park is because of the grand landscapes, reminiscent of the 1950's epic adventure films.  I only had a point-n-shoot camera with me during the trip, but I still managed to snap a few photos to stitch together as panoramas.  I recommend clicking on the images to view them at a larger size.  I down-rez'd these to HD width.  Both are originally over 9k pixels wide.  Beat that Red!



Of course, the campsite settles down at night for a rousing game of Scrabble or Taboo.  That gave me time to go exploring for long exposure desert photography.  These photos were taken on the same point and shoot at f/2.0, ISO 100, 15s exposure (max time).  They still had to be bumped up in post about a stop, but it surprisingly worked.  Not bad for a $400 camera.




I did manage to take quite a few behind the scenes photos during the shoot, but out of respect for a production I have to hold off on posting those for a while. Hopefully I can get a few of those photos up soon.