Here’s another project I hope to bring back to life. Almost a decade ago I managed to get some people from Craigslist to stand in front of my camera. I had this idea, using the 1000mm lens my dad gave me (a Sigma 1000mm f8 APO vintage 1990’s) to photograph people around sunset to make silhouettes.
I put out a call for people that looked interesting in profile. For example, mohawks, big afros, shapely people etc. I got a really pretty woman and her daughter, and a couple of punks the guy had an awesome mohawk.
Technically I found this more challenging than I expected. The use of the 1000mm lens is very tricky. It’s about a meter long (as implied by its focal length.) That’s not including the lens hood. And I was using this Nikon mount lens on a Canon camera with manual focus. But manual focus wasn’t much of an obstacle. It was trying to point this lens where I wanted it- and to avoid showing anything behind the models. Also, being maybe 30 meters away made communicating with the models tricky. That and the fact that the waterfront path lied between me and my camera and the subject- so I had to pause as cyclists and pedestrians walked through the scene.
That having been said, I’m very happy with the results. The punks looked great from profile. The young woman had a really nice figure and the guy’s mohawk was as the best I could imagine. And you can tell they were genuinely in love.
The other set of models were very different. A lovely young mother brought her daughter along. She told me her daughter had a great day- I wish I asked them to come back for another couple shoots. I particularly liked the shots of her with camera in hand.
I post this now as a reminder to repeat this idea. I’ve got some better gear for the task. I’ve got some other silhouette ideas. It’s time to open up this project again!
(note the Mohawk couple is not model released for whatever that’s worth)
The second model I’d scheduled in this casting was Bianca. I felt especially good about photographing her. Not only because she had a nice look, but because all her sample photos were just random photos with other people cropped out. I felt in addition to getting some nice new photos in my library, I’d hoped I’d also be helping her build her portfolio.
From first shoot with Gina, I’d also learned a bit. I still didn’t have all the lighting gear I wanted to test, so once again I was using “nature’s softbox” (in other-words a big gray sky.) Some photos from the Gina shoot stood out when using certain gear- so I tried to use the longer telephoto lens to compress the scene and blur the background. One of my smaller cameras also seemed to work really well in keeping the eyes in focus while blurring the background too. So I tried to concentrate on what worked before.
In the middle of our shoot I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. Dooh! I’d actually scheduled a second model and put the wrong time on my calendar!
Bianca and I met Rachel, the other model…. Now what to do? We opted to do a few shots together with the two models. It may have been a bit weird for them at first but they did a great job playing friends. And they made a nice contrast too. Bianca is caucasian with blonde hair and green eyes and Rachel is Asian with black hair and brown eyes.
I had another idea- to use some props. I’ve taken up shooting medium and large format film – I had my Mamiya TLR in the car and pulled it out and asked the two of them to take turns pretending to photograph one-another. The prop really seemed to disarm the two of them and get really nice natural smiles and expressions. I also took a photo of each of them on film which I have yet to develop. If those photos turn out I’ll add here and get copies to my wonderful models.
Recently I’ve been hiring models. There are a few reasons- I want to add something different to my stock photo library. I also need to hone my people photography skills for when they really count. So often I have a shoot and find myself fumbling with concepts I could have worked out when I wasn’t under alot of pressure. Having a large diverse library of people also seems to help getting my foot in the door for some gigs too.
In my most recent casting, my first model was Gina. She’s got a great look and was a real pleasure to work with.
On the unfortunate side,I found right before my shoot that all the lighting gear I meant to test was at my dad’s so we worked under natural light. Not to say that’s bad, but part of what’s in this for me is sorting out the lighting options. On the plus side with El Nino we had a giant softbox overhead (heavy overcast!)
Gina had a number of looks and outfits that played well for the shoot. We shot in a local park here in Alameda. All of the scenery was nature- which was nice. But I also wanted a mix of urban as well. Gina offered to do another shoot that I wanted in her neighborhood in San Francisco and I hope to make that happen after I’m done going down the list of all the great folks who’ve replied to my modeling request.
So since the last posting what have I been up to….? A lot of new aerial pole stock photos for one. That includes some old territory reshot under different conditions like Ainsley House, Heritage offices and the Vintage Theater in Campbell. I spent a little time dangling my pole in San Jose including at the Japanese Friendship Gardens and History San Jose.
I even went to Overfelt park next to my old High School (Independence in East San Jose) which was an interesting experience. It was crazy hot- and there were people apparently living in their cars in the park’s parking lot. I walked around the main pond which was completely empty, the mud had dried into that pattern you see in photos of the desert. Unfortunately for aesthetic reasons, that meant lots of dry grass. Overfelt has some Chinese monuments and one of the main ones was cordoned off in a particularly unattractive way. And the pond that surrounded the statue of Confucius was completely empty- so I just walked right into the middle and got a few pics.
I also spent a warm Sunday afternoon at Jack London Square in Oakland getting some aerial views for stock photographs. The place was teeming with people seeking respite from the heat near the water at various watering holes. Some time ago I licensed a few photos of Heinhold’s First and Last Chance Saloon and figured with all the people out, it was time to update the library.
Same goes for the Sather Gate in Berkeley. I got really lucky and droves of students walked right underneath. On issue with the pole aerial stick shtick is that I often get lots of shots of curious or puzzled people looking up at the camera. But in this case these college kids wandered right by me without a second glance. My courage has been improving, and despite my general shyness photographing- the pole thing really seems to disarm people. In photographing the Sather Gate, there was even a motorcycle cop sitting right next to me. I’m so used to being harassed by security guards and occasionally police – this is quite the change.
While in Berkeley I also stopped leaving family in the car to add a few exterior shots of Chez Panisse restaurant.
Another subject I’ve been trying to add to my stock photo library is model released people. It’s been slow going, trying to find models, figure out if they’d work well, then see if it’s possible to schedule them at a time that works for me too. In any case I got one such shoot done last month- a guy and his son. That seemed to work out reasonably well aside from a typo in an email I sent them that should have read “no big logos” but read “big logos”. None-the-less I was happy with some of the shots. The light was nice in downtown San Jose and I think some of the technology in use with father and child are saleable. We’ll see.
There are some family issues I have to take care of in Monterey and try and use that as an excuse to photograph there or along the way as well. In this case I added a few snaps of the Wharf Marketplace, one of my favorite stops in the area for coffee or beer depending on what time of day. They are located in a renovated old train stop and have a vintage delivery truck and tractor on display. I also moseyed over to the historical area for a few more shots.
Another place I thought would be fun to put the pole in action was in San Francisco. On returning from Monterey, I stopped at Golden Gate Park. The weather there in the mornings and afternoons is often magical- when the clouds are coming or going and the Conservatory of Flowers is under soft warm light and the sky behind undulated between blue and cloudy. The dahlia garden was nearly at peak bloom as well.
Though the Japanese Tea Garden had closed, I could still see over the gate from 15’ above 😉
After Golden Gate Park I headed to the Presidio to tick off another tick box on my stock photo list. There’s a food truck event called Off the Grid that moves around the bay area. Food trucks have been good sellers in the past. And this venue seemed especially promising aesthetically.
This whole entry’s chronology is discombobulated, and I forgot to add yet another stop last month. San Pedro Square and its market have been good stock photo sales in the past. I just renewed a license including a photo from there. So it seemed like time to freshen up that part of the library.
Another project I’ve been working on that doesn’t fit here chronologically or categorically is computer still lifes. A buddy and I share a studio space in town, but mostly it’s used to do image editing and store gear, not a lot of shooting. But I finally got around to using an old mannequin hand and a laptop. I was impressed to see it had been “zoomed” a stock photo site I contribute to just a day or so after uploading.
I guess the big news as far as stock photo sales last month was a photo that is being used for the cover of the book This Gulf of Fire. For one, it’s an image I made for fun. Many of the photos you see here that are solely intended for use as stock photos to help somebody else tell their story. Also book cover has some prestige to it as well as paying well. And like so many other photographers, I dream of traveling. And though this photo was taken on a family vacation in Lisbon, Portugal– perhaps I can justify a few photo trips abroad now …. Or at least that’s what I’m dreaming about. Lastly the photo was made using a technique I enjoy playing with, long daylight exposures. With a dark enough filter, it’s possible to make an exposure for many seconds in broad daylight. Though in this case, it was already getting dark- the neutral density filter allowed for the clouds to smear yet the arch remained sharp.
One of the sources for image requests I subscribe to was looking for a photo of a girl with a bike. They had a sample photo that looked promising: it was that of a girl, face not visible and a black English three speed bike almost identical to the one I had in storage. They wanted it to look like spring. The sample photo also showed blue skies and a patch of green sorrel in the foreground- something easily found at the park near me. As it happens I have a girl (my lovely 12 year old daughter Ella.) The request called for spring dresses, something Ella didn’t have, but my wife Bridget sent out an email to friends for said garments (ironically several of the mothers in our group wear the same size as my 12 y/o daughter!) And within a few hours we had a selection of spring dresses. Regrettably my seemingly perfect bike in storage turned out to be unacceptably rusty. I’ll have to have it fixed up, it’s my all time favorite bike. Fortunately I had yet another similar bike- a modern copy of a Dutch bike (made in Taiwan for what it’s worth.) Bridget did a little art directing, I think the photos turned out pretty well. We’ll see what happens!
The young woman above, Howland, posed for some stock photos. I think she has a really nice look. I’m still in the process of adding model released people to my stock photo library and hope to find more like her.
I photographed Joe a while back as part of a stock photo project. It was quite a coincidence that on that same day I photographed another young woman (Howland) on the same day who was the same age and a lefty. What are the odds?!