Recently I found a local maker who crafts very unique handbags. By local I mean 2 blocks from my studio. Future Glory has a minimalist style to their handbags so I used a minimalist approach to the photography. The corner where the surface and wall meet is illustrated almost exclusively by the shadow and how it changes angles. I used a hard light to create the shapes of the shadows that fall on the surface and crawl up the wall. One bag has very organic designs and the other a geometric grid pattern. The shadows mimic these designs with a leaf and a triangle. The images are also in opposition in that one has a shadow cast onto the bag. The other has a triangle of light beaming down onto the bag. The positive and negative space created with the light and shadow is opposite in the two images. You can learn more about Future Glory by clicking here.
Styles and trends have a tendency to come back around over time. I've found myself attracted to an older lighting technique we used to use often in the 90s. Colored gels were used to fill in shadows and create colorful images.
My new work is a play on that technique but a touch refined. When a shadow is filled with color it becomes more of an element in the photo, making things more colorful and graphic.
I’m exploring more with dramatic lighting on products. This time I was working with more rugged bags and chose stronger lighting to accentuate them. The shadows are darker than I often do, which adds to the mood of the photos.
The above photo features the Spectre Backpack and other items made by Triple Aught Design.
The photo below features the Journeyman backpack and other items made by Filson.
There are many important elements of a photo which can drastically change the overall look. Once I have the composition set I work on the lighting. This can range from soft, shadowless lighting all the way to hard light with deep, dark shadows. For these images I chose lighting in between the 2 extremes...to give it some depth and character while still highlighting the product.
The photos feature Spicer Bags (www.spicerbags.com), from a cool company that makes their bags here in San Francisco.
For this test, I was most interested in the flash duration. The test subject needed to be fun yet also demonstrate how well the Pro-10 can stop motion. Breaking glass ranks pretty high on the fun scale and is an excellent way to test freezing action.
Rather than clear glass, I dropped a mirror because it can reflect color, adding some unpredictability and creativity to the photo. A tent was built of seamless colored paper for the mirror to reflect. The dropped mirror was captured right after it had bounced off the ground and shattered still keeping its shape. When the mirror broke, each piece of glass reflected a different color from the paper tent, creating a mix of color shapes.
There was, of course, some testing to achieve the right timing and delay setting of the trigger before breaking the first mirror. To capture the mirror in focus (and to add to the superstitious nature of the shoot) I photographed at f13. The fastest flash durations of the Pro-10 are at the lower power settings. I used a flash duration of 1/45,000 (2.2) for the main head and 1/26,000 (4.2) for the head that was lighting the color paper. Both measurements are using the t.5 method and illustrated in this chart from Profoto:
Each mirror drop was captured by 3 different cameras, each at various angles. In the end, I only ended up using two of the camera angles.
If you've used any of the newer Profoto strobes, B1, B2, or D2, you'll be instantly familiar with the menus and interface of the Pro-10. The pack itself is very refined. If you need to photograph a splash of liquid or explosion of some kind, you'll need a fast flash duration. The Pro-10 definitely provides that.
I'm very pleased with how the images turned out. They are quite beautiful, well worth earning years of bad luck for smashing mirrors!
Here's a behind the scenes video: https://www.periscope.tv/peter_belanger/1lDGLRVjyaRxm?t=3s
Recently I’ve been receiving more requests for shoe photos in my portfolio. I’ve decided it was time to embrace my love for shoes and create whole gallery of shoes. I've added some new photos from ideas that have been brewing. Shoes have such a personality, which makes them fun to photograph.
Below are two photos from the new gallery coupled with behind the scene photos.
I had an idea for a stop motion piece bubbling around in my head for some time. It was very loose and incomplete but fate presented me with the exact things I needed to tie it all together, a box of old slides and prints. These were recently given to me by a family member and there's more nostalgia than in the images alone. Holding and viewing the chrome slides and seeing the old way we used to capture, view, and appreciate images was great fun. It made me reflect on how photography has changed. This stop motion piece uses the old media as props and to create a color palate. Much the way a latent image would become visible as it soaks in developer in a darkroom, this image comes to life before the viewer's eyes. To complete this effect we worked in reverse.
Little piles a sawdust were placed for each frame of the stop motion.
Slivers of the frame were cut off and small pieces of the flower print were ripped away after each shot. The final video shows the framed photo appear from nothing. This took a while to create but I'm very happy with the final piece.
A popular camera angle these days is looking straight down onto the subject. What I wanted to play with in my most recent work is using this point of view to abstract a figure. This high viewpoint allowed me to play with light and shadow in a surrealistic way as well as create an interesting composition where the shadow takes on a leading role. I couldn't have done this one all by myself so thanks to stylist Joanna Andreoni for all her help and Tarah Dowling for her expert performance as our subject.
I was also able to create a simple stop motion piece that incorporates motion into the concept and takes the surrealism a bit further.
My most recent work involves the use of lasers. As soon as I mentioned to my youngest son what I was up to at work, he insisted on coming in to the studio and helping out. It took some experimentation to figure out the setup but he was very willing to lend a hand. Here he is testing out the timing of the laser trigger rig. We needed to adjust the delay between the time the ice broke the laser beam and when it enters the glass to get just the right splash.
One thing my son has always liked about my work is the cool gadgets I get to use in the creation of imagery. I have to agree, lasers are pretty awesome!
Our belongings change throughout our lives. Here are two still-lives that reflect this change.
Shadows are always fun to play with. In this new set of photos I’ve picked food with a unique shape. They are floating in a surreal environment showcasing their shadows. Looking at the shadow you can immediately recall what fruit or vegetable created it.
It was nice to have the opportunity to work with Kyle and Geoff again. They aren’t strangers to my blog. A search for Dwell on my site will most likely reveal a photo of them. This time we worked to revamp e-commerce photos for Sightglass, an independent coffee company in San Francisco.
Our goal was to capture the products in a consistent way so the photos would family well together. We didn’t want the camera angle to jump around so we chose to photograph everything from the same perspective. This meant, for instance, that coffee filters and patches couldn’t just lie flat on the table. Instead we posed them in the same vertical positions as coffee cups. We will repeat this approach when new items are added in the next few months so that they will still family with the first photos. Moreover, the files were delivered with transparent layers. This will allow Sightglass to use the images on white as well as off-white backgrounds.
Now go buy something at Sightglass.com.
This was a personal project I worked on back in 1992. I don’t normally show old work but I still found this interesting. This adventure took place when Chuck Taylor All Stars were still made in the USA and photos were still taken with film.
It was interesting going back and digitizing the film. It made me really appreciate how much control you get with a RAW digital file. It crazy to have taken all these photos on the trip without seeing a preview. I had to wait until I got back to see if the photos even worked out. So old school.
It always amazes me how often websites need to be updated before they show their age. There are so many options now for creating and managing your website. Last time I went with a custom website. For my latest site refresh I wanted to try out one of the template based content management systems. I looked at many options (they all had their strengths and weaknesses) and chose to go with Squarespace. I liked the look of the templates and that it is possible to add custom code if needed. They were also able to import my blog, allowing me to continue using Disqus for the comments.
One of the appealing features is their iPad app. It stores all the images and video offline, so you don’t need to be connected to the Internet to view the site. This is great when I need to send the iPad out to present my portfolio.
As I seem to keep changing my method for creating my website every few of years, it will be interesting to see if Squarespace will be able to evolve with my needs so I don’t have to move again. They've had a few version updates over the years which accommodate the ever-changing features of web design, so I'm optimistic. Hope you like the new site!
Another quick test: this time it’s about the Sony a7rII and Canon 5DSR. I added the Canon 5D MKIII just for reference. There is no grading added to the photos. My first impression is that the a7rII holds up very well against the 5DSR. This is my first Sony camera so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The 42MP image is close enough to the 5DSR that image quality does not seem sacrificed.
The biggest difference I see is the 5DSR has deep blacks and shadows where the a7rII has very open shadows. You can see an example of this with he black cars below. I’ve checked the settings for the 5DSR and even with everything turned down, the shadows are still too dark. I much prefer the open shadows that the a7rII produces.
Because the images are saved for the web you lose some of the sharpness—so it’s not the best way to judge the images. When you look at the RAW files the 5DSR is the clear winner based on sharpness. The a7rII is close behind the 5DSR and a step up from the 5D MKIII
If I had to pick one I would go with the 5DSR because everything works or will work with Canon (such as my Profoto Air-TTL). That said, I’m really impressed with the a7rII...it has made me rethink what I need in a camera. For instance, I love the a7rII’s electronic viewfinder. It great for reviewing images in bright sunlight. With the Canon I need to find shade in order to see the screen clearly. One thing I wish the a7rII had is a quick way to change focus on-the-fly. I found a workaround by customizing the buttons, but you still need to hit the center button before the dial lets you move the focus point. With the 5DSR I can just move the dial making it really fast to follow someone with the focus. After using the massive amount of focus points on the a7rII the 5DSR focus feels like a let down. The size of the a7rII makes it great for carrying around. It is less intimidating...allowing you to take more discreet photos.
Sony has impressed me with the a7rII, which now has a permanent home in my camera bag.
There are tons of very scientific tests of the Canon 5DS R on the web. When I got mine I simply wanted to know who how it compared to my old Canon 5D MKIII and my Phase One IQ180. I don’t need charts or numbers I just wanted to see a real world image. I did a quick very un-scientific test out my studio window.
All three camera’s where photographed very similar to the pulled back photo above. I then overlaid them all at 100% which gives the crops below. I’m only looking at two things with my test, resolution and sharpness. The IQ180 is still king in that regard but I’m very impressed with how well the 5DS R did. I’ve always felt that the 5D MKIII had a lack of sharpness which prevented me from using it for more than people. Maybe it’s the added resolution but the 5DS R has a sharpness that puts it much closer to the IQ180. This is the first time that I might consider using a Canon for studio work.
This is the first time that I might consider using a Canon for studio work.
Recently I created a time-lapse video for Plow, one of my favorite restaurants, on Potreo Hill in San Francisco. The concept was to show a day at the restaurant. Such a big part of that is not only the amazing food, but the community that gathers there.
The video starts with the owner baking before sunrise and ends with the staff toasting the completion of a day well done. I personally love the top view which shows half the kitchen area and half eating area. It’s cool seeing the food created and consumed in the same frame.
Time lapse often seems like a simple process, but you need to think about how often to capture in order to make the video smooth, plus exposure and color changes that will lead to camera flicker. I used a Canon 5D MKII to capture the outside and a GoPro 4 for the inside stuff. I used an ND filter on both the Canon and GoPro which kept the shutter speed low. This gave a small amount of motion blur which helps blend the images together making things look smoother. Image grading was done with Lightroom and LRTimelapse. Final video was created with Final Cut Pro.
You can see the video on the Plow website: http://www.eatatplow.com
It’s on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/130173317
I always have ideas brewing of image concepts that I want to see come to fruition. Finding time for personal projects is hard but important for creative growth. I find that the process of shooting personal images helps influence my professional work as well.
I have always loved using donuts as a subject. They are delicious and unique with a rich history. I find them fascinating. For this recent series, I wanted to shoot large prints of donuts around San Francisco. It was cost prohibitive to actually print out the images and place them in the settings, so I placed an 8’x8’ square of white foamcore in each location. My assistant was the lucky one who got to watch over the foamcore once it was leaning in the photo. We had a couple of times where it almost blew away!
By shooting the images with the actual large foam core in location, I was able to capture people’s reactions or lack thereof one. I was surprised with how many people just ignored us and just walked around.
Shooting donuts is always fun and satisfying. I never know where or how I'll shoot them next!
I love donuts and I love stop motion so why not combine them? That’s what I’ve done with this playful video, it’s short but sweet—just like the donuts in it. The creation of the video took several days. It may look simple but it took lots of planing and strategizing. One issue is that donuts change their appearance over time. I had to plan each part to be completed within a day. If I wasn’t able to get the shot done, I had to wait until the next day to start again with fresh donuts. Another issue was that the donuts left a sugar/grease trail as they moved. Rather then clean the surface after each move (which I did in the beginning) I backed each donut with cardboard. This made it much more efficient to move the donuts around without the hassle and mess.
Another big part of completing the video was finding some great music to set the tone. Thankfully Craig Bromley was on board for creating some custom music for the video. I am amazed he was able to develop such a range in the relatively short time span of the video.
View on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/109470568 View on Youtube: http://youtu.be/lKMNmyF1ErU
I was inspired by my son’s weekly soccer games for the theme of this stop motion video. I wanted to create something fun and simple. While I was attracted to the basic theme of the idea, I learned simple things are not always easy! In this case, making the pump hose move fluidly was tricky. I needed to be able to move the hose in small, precise steps. Rather then run a wire in the hose I used a metal rod to hold each position of the hose in place. Later the rod was digitally removed. Hopefully the result looks simple and fun.
View on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/109470570 View on Youtube: http://youtu.be/EJw-hALtd_k