Chicago’s 2015 Snowpacolypse was a doozy


As you’ve likely heard, we here in Chicago are digging out under a thick blanket of around 18″ of snow with drifts as tall is my 6’1″ frame.

Of course I fired off shutter or two, and came up with just a few shots that show some of the carnage. Our back door was particularly hard hit with several feet in front of my neighbor’s back door and about two feet in front of ours.

Enjoy some of these images.

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Before and after Photoshop work


 

I’ve been endlessly working on several different projects, but one of them is a test we did on Monday.

The model is absolutely beautiful, and we were lucky enough to score a talent makeup artist to join us. The below image was certainly an immediate favorite, until you look closely at the image and see how bunched up her jacket is.

On set, we did our best to replicate the pose, but it’s never as easily done than said.

To fix it, I picked up a smooth jacket shot and masked it in. It’s not something gigantic in the Photoshop world, but I felt like this particular execution was strong and believable.

Enjoy.

 

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A short review of the Hasselblad H5D-50c


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A few weeks ago, I scheduled a studio demo of the new Hasselblad H5D-50c with the local Hassie rep named Steve. This is Hasselblad’s newest flagship stunner featuring a 50 mp CMOS sensor. This camera retails for $27,500 for the body only, which as you might already be thinking, is really damn expensive. :)

For those of you who don’t know, a CMOS sensor is supposed to render images more useable at higher ISOs as it starts performing more like the current DSLRs as opposed to the older medium format sensors that make it difficult to shoot higher than ISO400 , and even ISO400 is pushing it on my camera, a H3DII-31.

Steve demo’d some newer features of the camera that I can’t find on my Hasselblad. Namely the True Focus and also the new body features, that includes a feature that makes the firewire 800 super sturdy. The LCD on the back is beautiful and much more responsive and accurate than on my camera.

I shot a couple shots of Tina using a studio light at ISO100, but Steve insisted that I walk around the room and shoot a few things at ISO6400. After he left, I checked the files and all I kept thinking was, “I wouldn’t pay $27,500 for this.”

Shoot. I wouldn’t pay $10,000 for that camera. I get gear envy easily, and for once I’m looking at my camera thinking, “I’m fine with you just the way you are.”

As Tina can attest, it looks like I’ve lost my noodle.

I’m not entirely sure what Hasselblad is thinking by making these claims. And I’m not sure what photographers out there are stoked about jacking up their ISOs to 6400 and delivering that kind of product to their clients. Maybe they are out there, but I found the images on a similar usability level as my old Canon 5D Mark II files at 6400.

Above is a 100% crop of an image I took. Keep in mind, all I did was walk around my studio and didn’t spend any time with framing. I just wanted to see the files and be wowed later that day.

Yeah, I could use 6400 in a pinch, but I wouldn’t want to give my clients files shot in 6400. Apart from a little white balance, these shots are out of camera.

Mind you, I LOVE shooting Hasselblad. I’m a fan of the brand and products. I’m suffering huge withdrawal symptoms because my camera has been at the repair center in New Jersey for over 8 weeks. I’m dying to have it back, because I can’t stand working on my Canon 5D Mark III files. I even shot something with my studio partner’s Nikon D800, and it just doesn’t come close to the joys of shooting medium format.

And if someone asked me whether they should buy PhaseOne or Hasselblad, I’d lean toward Hasselblad. Although I’ve seen the PhaseOne experience first hand, and it’s exceptional. But if someone asked me if they should go Hasselblad 50c or Pentax 645z, I’d say save your money and go with the Pentax, unless you absolutely need the Hasselblad’s sync speeds.

With the current in flux of photographers shooting both video and still on the same set, I can see the sync speed need edging out the big guns at Hasselblad and PhaseOne.

For more reviews on the Pentax, check Ming Thein’s blog (here, here & here). For other reviews on the 50c, good luck. The reviews I’ve read don’t seem very detailed and they don’t seem to be stunned over the ISO performance.

Frankly, Hasselblad is still banking on its high worth and brand, when I’m under the impression its line of cameras — while awesome and impressive — aren’t worth the exorbitant price tags.

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Only a month late: December self portrait … this time it’s a group shot with the other photographer


As you may know, another photographer Sunny Lee and I have been doing a 12-month self portrait challenge.

Our tentative plan was to get together over the Christmas holiday and do a shot together. Sunny lives in North Carolina and I live in Illinois. She lives about an hour and a half from my parents so it may have worked out if there were time.

But it didn’t.

So plan B was to composite a shot. Sunny chose to shoot a few shots of her with her palm out and I had to come up with what I’d be doing as a mini-me in her palm.

I finished three quick composites and I’m hoping you … yes you … will weigh in on which cheese-ball image you like the most.

Keep in mind, Sunny is Korean so one of them below is particularly funny … :)

You can refer to them in order as photo one, two or three. Thanks!

 

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Sometimes it’s all about experimenting and testing


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Just before the holidays, we worked with an aspiring model named Jessica Connelly to create a few images to give her portfolio a boost.

We’ve worked with her before to create a series of fun sports-themed photos. I saw the request as an opportunity to experiment with some ideas, as testing often sharpens skills and allows for some creativity that professionally commissioned shoots don’t always allow.

Testing also gives new and current clients the opportunity to see ideas that they might like to use in their own way as well.

Traditionally, I define my work as very clean and sharp. I tend to shoot low ISOs and often disregard images that aren’t, what I consider, perfect. Tina is the yin to my yang, though, and she’ll often art direct something to be an image, something to stop and admire for different reasons except that it’s not a technically perfect photo. These are the kinds of photos that are often found in the pages of style magazines. I see them and wonder who the hell hires these photographers who submit shots of beautiful models and celebrities that are out of focus.

I mean, seriously.

Lately I’ve been challenging myself on my own aesthetic and I’m trying to alter my views on always shooting low ISOs and always leaning toward the crisp and focused image. There’s two shots in this series of Jessica that I shot high ISO, the one laying on her stomach on the bench and the one with our dog Talulah.

The one with Talulah came in at a whooping ISO 2000. The one on the bench is not as drastic, as it’s only ISO 400, but it’s not typical for me to shoot upwards of ISO 50 to 200.

I know that might not sound crazy to you, but it’s different for me.

Another experiment on this shoot came in the form of long exposures and painting with light. The image with the light streaks below was a 39 second exposure. The one above and the one second to last were 1.5 and 2.5 second exposures. I had Tina open the shutter, I popped a flash with a beauty dish modifier on Jessica and then asked Tina to close the shutter. I loved how the blacks were so black. I loved how it felt the light was a paint stroke rather a splatter. It felt like it had more purpose

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Way late too the party, has everyone gone home? My thoughts on Final Cut Pro X


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I admit. I’ve been very resistant to upgrading my workflow to Final Cut Pro X.

I finally took the upgrade plunge midway through this year and decided to force myself to edit using the program.

For the first three or four 1.5 to 2 minute promos I completed, I found myself struggling and wanting to take a knife and stab it to its brutal demise.

I forced myself from rushing back and firing up FCP 7 and abandon the program that came out in 2011-ish. When it first came to the market place, I remember criticisms that it was too much like iMovie and that professional editors wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon.

I downloaded a trial twice as I’ve had two new computers since then. Each time, I didn’t get it. I hated what I saw. It didn’t feel intuitive. I couldn’t do what I do very, very quickly in FCP 7 and I didn’t have time to sit with a brand new interface and workflow.

Besides, I bought one of the first copies of FCP, version 1.0, in 1999. I love editing in it. I’m fast. Really fast. It was good enough. And that’s all that mattered.

The learning curve for FCPX seemed to steep.

There isn’t an editing session that goes by in which I can avoid googling how to do something. Sometimes it’s as easy as finding a key command for something I can’t find or even changing the font color on title overlay. Sometimes the answer is smack dab in front of me. Other times, it’s not so obvious.

I can say that after about 6 months, I’m 65% glad I made the upgrade/switch. I’m still struggling with speed of editing. And if I am making a google search or two an editing session, it’s preventing me from a level of productivity that I once enjoyed.

Although, some things are so awesome that I can’t imagine going back. I love keywording. I love editing while my playhead is moving. I love audition.

I love that it seems to work well as I move things in and it snaps everything back into place if something is removed. I love that I can use Canon 5D Mark III footage straight after transferring it to my hard drive.

I love to edit by watching the wave forms, and can identify “Ums” by staring at an interview and take them out almost without listening.

I don’t know if I like how it edits sound, though, but I’m learning. Often times, I’m record audio using two different tracks of audio on the right and left channels, and I don’t know if there’s an easy way to designate, say, the left track as both the right and left, deleting the right track. This is a question for google.

Thankfully, so many of the questions I have, so many people have created how-to videos for. So I have to pat myself on the back, because I waited until enough people had the same problems as many of these videos have thousands and thousands of views. #GoMe.

There seems to be a lot more learning to do. And I’d like to get my happiness level up closer to 85% to 90%.

Like all programs, I manage to crash FCPX quite a bit. When I do it in FCP7, I realize what I did wrong 9 times out of 10. I don’t know the nuances of FCP X yet.

I liken the process to what it must feel like to break up with a loved one, and struggle with getting in bed with a new lover. Every time you get her going, you get insecure or miss the old love enough to consider running back.

FCP X is my video editing rebound.

I’m hoping not to breakup with the rebound lover and rush over to Adobe or maybe someone hotter.

Meow.