Event Etiquette: Leave Your Flash At Home

It’s been a crazy month for me, shoots almost every weekend and post processing during the week has kept me from posting as much as I’d like. But busy is good, I’m not complaining. I’ve got plenty of material half done for upcoming posts, but I felt I had to sneak in this short one in the meantime.

I’ve said this before, but I feel like it needs it’s own post to really drive the point home; when in doubt, leave your flash at home. As little as 5-10 years ago it would have been unthinkable for people to start popping away with their flash at many venues, but it seems that the more proliferate digital cameras get, the more people feel they need to use them anywhere and everywhere.

I was shooting the Orleans Festival last weekend and no surprise, almost everyone attending had a camera around their neck. Good, great… amazing even! I’d love to see everyone with a camera, the more the merrier, but what really blew my mind was the complete lack of respect I was seeing in the use of those cameras. Continue reading “Event Etiquette: Leave Your Flash At Home”

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Flickr Members Join the SOPA/PIPA Protest

Today many websites are joining in protest of the US Governments SOPA/PIPA bill by blacking out their content and providing links to information about the proposed bills. Among the protestors is Wikipedia which has blacked out its English language pages for the first time ever.  Flickr has also given its members a chance to join in the protest by blacking out their photos for 24hrs as you can see above.

It’s hard for me as a photographer, on one hand I’m in favour of better protection for my own IP, but the heavy handed methods and sneaky introduction of this bill worries me.  For now the bill would only affect users in the US directly, but by censoring and limiting every internet contributor in the US, we’ll all be affected.  It’s also not unforeseeable that, if passed, the US could pressure the Canadian, and in fact any other government to also enact similar laws.

I believe there should be better protection of IP on the internet, especially protection available to those who don’t have the money to bring legal action on their own, but not at the expense of unilateral government controlled censorship.  There’s plenty of ways to bring IP to the internet while minimizing your risk of piracy, Apple has proved it’s possible with iTunes.  Why should I go to the trouble of pirating music when it’s available to me at a click of a button, for a buck a track, anywhere there’s internet.  Companies like Apple and Netflicks have proven that, when offered a product at a reasonable price, people will pay rather than pirate.  The companies lobbying for this bill need to start working with the internet instead of trying to legislate it away.  Please take a second and read the Wiki article on how SOPA/PIPA will affect you, and join the protest in any way you can.

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OverKill Launch Party

Last weekend was the private launch party for Ottawas newest hot spot for drinks and debauchery, Overkill (aka OK). Conceptualized by Guy Berube, owner of La Petite Mort gallery, Overkill looks to set itself apart from the usual Irish Pub flavored watering holes that dominate the capital.  The best description I can think of was written over 40 years ago by one of my favorite bands; I give you, Dr. Hook:

Well there’s gonna be a freakers ball
 Tonight at the freakers hall
 And you know, you’re invited one and all

Come on babies grease your lips
 Grab your hats and swing your hips
 Don’t forget to bring your whips
 We’re going to the freakers ball

Blow your whistle and bang your gong
 Roll up something to take along
 It feels so good it must be wrong
We’re freakin at the freakers ball…

– Dr. Hook (1972)

You can check out more pics from the private launch of Overkill on my Flickr.

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Blog Out Loud Ottawa: Hear Here!

Blog Out Loud 2011 is fast approaching!  The event was founded two years ago by local blogger Lynn, author of Turtlehead, to showcase local blogging talent and has grown substantially since its inception.  Come out this Thursday at The Prescott from 7-10pm and see what’s new and amazing in the Ottawa blogging scene.  Among those reading this year you will hear the eloquent Nadine author of Adorkable Thespian, the always stylish Jes of Your Sweet Bippy, the intoxicating words of Claire, wine specialist of FoodiePrints and many more!  Local photobloggers will be present displaying their works as well.  Come see me, along with many other amazing shutterbugs… it’s free… it’s gunna be fun… you now have no excuse not to be there!

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May Was a Great Month of Music

Last month was a great month for concert photography; three of my favourite Canadian acts came to town, all three of which I missed last time they played. First up was the Kelp 17, the Kelp Records anniversary weekend.

Every year Kelp Records throws a weekend music festival featuring Kelp bands past and present. Tons of great bands played, but of particular interest for me was The Acorn and Andrew Vincent. The last time I was able to catch The Acorn was two years ago at Kelp 15 when the festival was hosted at The Mayfair Theatre. Acorn fans got a real treat that night as Rolf and the band played their first full length album, The Pink Ghosts, from start to finish.

Day two of Kelp 17 featured Andrew Vincent reunited with his old backing band The Pirates (Scott Terry and Bryan Curry). Another flashback set, they played their classic hit album I Love the Modern Way. Here’s the rest of my Kelp 17 shots up on Flickr.

The next weekend Wax Mannequin came back to town to play Irene’s in the Glebe. I missed him playing the same venue a few months earlier and was pretty bummed. I caught Wax Mannequin’s show at Zaphods last year and have been dying to catch him play again. Finding a lot of new music kind of bland and formulaic recently, I don’t often come across an act that sounds so totally different from anything else out there. I’ve seen and photographed many bands over the last few years and no one, absolutely no one has the same presence, enthusiasm and charisma on stage as Wax.

He’s a one man show, but sonically he fills the room like a juiced up, angry wolverine orchestra. A true Canadian act, he even belted out a cover of The Log Drivers Waltz, from the National Film Board animated short you might remember if you were born in the late 70’s or early 80’s. The clip below is from another show, but I just had to post it, this song really brings back memories.

As an extra bonus, he had copies of his newest 7″, Hear Some Evil, at the show, a collaboration with The Burning Hell. Wax has worked with The Burning Hell often in the past, always with great results. If you ever get a chance to see him play, go, don’t think, just go… I promise you won’t regret it. You can see the rest of my pics from Wax Mannequin at Irene’s on Flickr.

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It’s Been a ClubZone Summer

It’s been a while since my last post but winter is upon us and the slow period during the colder months should let me get back to my old posting schedule. I’ve been extremely busy this summer which has been a big bonus as far as revenue is concerned, but it’s really put a damper on my creative photographic outlets. The more commercial work I drummed up, the less and less time I spent just having fun with photography. After four straight nights of shooting every weekend as well as a day job spare time becomes a precious commodity.

I don’t want to sound negative though, this summer has been my most successful to date when it comes to trying to make photography a financially successful. I’ve been shooting 3-4 nights a week for ClubZone since May, and through them have gotten a weekly column in 24 Hours, which has been great for exposure. Shooting clubs has also gotten me connections to quite a few people in the Ottawa modelling community, which is starting to pay off with modelling shoots and headshot commissions. I even got a spread in this months Faces Magazine and will have pictures in an upcoming issue of Umm Magazine.

Halloween was a great time to be shooting clubs as well, with the Monster Fashion Show at Mansion being by far the most fun event I shot over the Halloween Weekend. More pics will be forthcoming as I go through the backlog these last couple months have created in my editing queue but for now here’s a sample of Halloween on my Flickr. Stay tuned as well as I slowly make my way through developing the dozen or so rolls from this summers street photography, sitting in the fridge.

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ClubZone: Black Eyed Peas and Bikinis

Well, it’s been quite a while since my last post, mostly due to the drastic increase in the number of club shoots I’ve been doing for ClubZone this summer. This last weekend was a mixed bag photography wise. After four straight days of late night shoots I was supposed to cap it off with shooting The Black Eyed Peas at their Tila Tequila’s after party. Needless to say I was pretty excited about the shoot, but more on that later… it didn’t turn out exactly as expected.

Friday night, on the other hand, turned out much different than I expected as well, but in a good way. Malibu has been sponsoring ClubZone all this month and we were tasked with getting some shots of people holding Malibu bottles as part of the promotion. Friday night turned out to be Bikini Party night at Lobby Nightclub and I got a chance to get some great shots with some of the models working the night, both with and without Malibu accessories.

Shooting in a club is much more difficult than it seems. I use a Rayflash ring flash for most of my club shooting, and that works great close up as most of the light from the flash hits the subjects face and illuminates the eye sockets and under the chin avoiding the zombie/raccoon eyes look. It throws light all over the place,however, which can make wider shots harder to pull off when you’re trying not to blow out the background ambient light and keep the feeling of the clubs atmosphere. This is definitely a problem when you’re trying to get full body, or wider, shots. Shooting with just ambient has it’s own set of problems too. For one, most clubs are lit with just enough ambient so that you can find your way around, so you’re stuck shooting at ISO 1600 or higher even with a wide open fast prime.

Even f2.8 is a bit too slow for these light levels and those f4-5.6 zooms are right out. The stages or platforms where they put on fashion shows or have models dancing are usually lit a bit brighter, but still not as bright as say the spotlights on stage at a concert. On top of that clubs tend to use strongly gelled lights… a lot of blues, reds, greens, cyans and magentas which can wreak havoc with white balance and exposure. Making sure none of your individual color channels blow out is the main concern; blues, reds and greens tend to do all right but for some reason cyans and magentas tend to blow out really easily leaving horribly blotchy areas of chroma noise.

Focusing can also be a pain. The one big disadvantage of the ring light is that it blocks the IR assist lamp on the flash which aids focusing in low light. It can take 3-5 second sometimes to find a contrasty area I can lock focus on and some places in the club are just too dark to try. Usually one would focus on the eyes, if you get them in focus it really doesn’t matter if anything else is, it’s just the way our brains have been trained to look at photos. But in a club the lights are usually coming roughly straight down and people tend to tilt their heads forward when posing, so hair and brow ridges tend to throw the eyes into shadow and make them bad focusing points. Unfortunately, often the best place to lock focus is on a girls bust line; most girls are wearing dresses much darker than their skin tone so the line between skin and dress is a strong contrast line, well suited to the AF sensors. The trick is to lock focus on the bust then lean forward a few inches to compensate for the distance between where you focused and the distance to the eyes so they become the point of focus. This doesn’t always work out as people move around and you end up with tack sharp breasts and blurry faces… people tend to get the wrong idea about that 🙂

Also, shooting wide open leaves me with a pretty narrow depth of field, which is ok most of the time because people instinctively tend to form crowded police line up poses along the plane of focus when there’s more than 3 people in the shot. There are times thought that someone has to jump in the front of the group and you end up with one blurry guy blocking the shot.

The two models that night really made my job easy though. Both of them new how to pose without taking much direction, which is pretty much impossible with the volume most club sound systems run at. The most important thing though is both of them knew how to hold the pose long enough for me to focus and compose. The biggest problem by far I’ve had with these types of shoots is that inexperienced models will often switch poses in rapid fire mode leaving no time to evaluate the scene or even lock focus. It doesn’t take long, a one-two count is usually sufficient, but the key is making it look natural for the spectators just there to enjoy the show. I’ve shot models that almost seem to be doing the robot, jerking quickly from pose to pose with a mannequin-esque freeze frame in between. That night turned out to be one of the best undirected model shoots I’ve done in a while. You can see the rest of my shoot with Nikki and Ashleigh on Flickr.

As for the Black Eyed Peas shoot… well, I had a nagging suspicion the night would go down like it did, but I held out hope. I got to Tila’s early and met up with the three other photogs that would be shooting the night. We where on the media list, we got showed around to where we’d be able to shoot and initially we where told we’d have all night to shoot them. This all went down hill as

soon as the Black Eyed Peas manager showed up and started changing things. We went from shooting in a spacious little VIP bar, to shooting on a cramped riser with one booth. We went from being able to shoot all night, to only the first 20 minutes after they got there, to only two of us for 10 minutes to finally only one of us (not me) for a little more than a minute while Will-I-Am shielded his face or turned away from the camera. After over two hours of waiting one of us got three kinda crappy shots. I don’t blame the venue, they’ve been really good to me and seemed just as confused as I was. A big tip to anyone aiming to do this type of shoot, make sure you get hammered out ahead of time exactly what the conditions of the shoot are going to be, and make sure this comes from the celebrity themselves or their representation. Venue’s can set up whatever guild lines they want for the night but it’s the act that usually gets the final say and they can change what they want pretty much any time they want. Going into a celebrity shoot without pre-arranged plans, and I’m talking days or weeks, not hours ahead of time is going to be a crap shoot and it just wasn’t my night at the table.

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Shooting Halloween at Mansion for ClubZone

Started a new steady photo gig this Halloween weekend. I’m now going to be shooting for ClubZone on a regular basis at various clubs and bars around Ottawa. They send me to the clubs to shoot the night and I post the shots the next day. The venue gets advertisement and exposure and the patrons get free photos of themselves and their friends.

I was a bit apprehensive as to how people would react to some guy walking around a club asking to take their picture, but Halloween proved to be the perfect time to start. Everyone was more than willing to show off their costumes. I shot both the Friday and Saturday night parties at the Mansion and people seemed really positive about it.

I was a little concerned about the technical side of shooting the night. I had a few ideas how I was going to light the shots in such a dark environment. Most clubs have really high or really dark ceiling, so bouncing a flash off it was pretty much out. I didn’t want to use straight flash and blind people either, plus it wouldn’t look much better than the point and shoot pics people can take themselves. Turns out my new ring flash was a god send. It’s not that light efficient, but in an almost completely dark club it had more than enough power. In the end I was able to find a really nice compromise between ambient and flash that gave nice even illumination without killing the atmosphere. Best money/value buy I’ve made this year.

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Two Pieces Accepted in AOE – Selections 2009

 AOE - Selections 2009

As I mentioned previously, I had entered four pieces into the Arts Ottawa East – Selections 2009 juried exhibit at the Trinity Gallery in the brand new Shenkman Arts Centre. Well, the jury is in and I had two pieces accepted to the show: An Urban Aesthetic and Post No Bills.

The exhibit opens on October 1st, but I’ll be attending the opening reception on the 7th from 7-9pm. There’s around forty different artists taking part so there should be something for everyone.

I had a hard time choosing only four images to enter, especially since it was a completely open exhibit, with no pre-selected theme or guidelines for submission. I wasn’t sure whether I should select four that spanned the complete range of my collection or concentrate on one style or subject matter. Originally I had quite a few of my colour shots in the short list I was considering for selection, but I took the advice of another photographer and chose a set of four black and whites to submit in order to keep the set looking focused as a group. Seems to have worked out in the end; Post No Bills was even selected to be on the promo card for the show, shown here to the left.

Stay tuned after the event for photos from the opening as I’ll be shooting the opening reception for Arts Ottawa East as well as attending as a featured artist.

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Nick Cave at The Ottawa Writers Festival

I was going to write about the juried exhibit I got accepted to, but that will have to wait, I couldn’t pass on doing a quick write up on seeing Nick Cave at the Ottawa Writers Festival.

When I first heard he was going to be in town, I assumed it was going to be with The Bad Seeds, but it turned out he’s on a book signing tour for his new novel The Death of Bunny Munro. Nick Cave is still Nick Cave so of course we went, and I’m glad we did.

Nick’s hilarious, and the excerpts he read from his book has convinced me to go pick it up. His talk wandered from his history with The Bad Seeds to his new band Grinderman, his previous book, And the Ass Saw the Angel, and even his failed attempt at pitching a script for Gladiator II (long story short, Russell Crowe beats up purgatory, then the Christians, then goes on to fight every war in history… alone).

I was in a pretty good position this time, last time at this venue I was mostly behind a three foot thick cement column. The light was pretty low and really pushed what Image Stabilization and the excellent hi iso capabilities of my 50D, it’s still comes as a shock that I can go all the way up to iso 3200 and still get usable files.

Definitely check out The Death of Bunny Munro if you get the chance, or pick up the audio book read, scored and with sound effects all by Mr. Cave himself. You can see a few more shots of Nick Cave on my Flickr.

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