I was intrigued into getting an EyeFi card to see if it could change my workflow to become smoother when we are on location.
Here is what I found.
If you don’t know what an EyeFi card is, its a small SD memory card with a built in WiFi transmitter thingy. It creates and can manage a small network for the uploading of files to a local device either through its own network or an existing one.
I picked up an EyeFi 8gb SD card class 4 (North America is using class 6) at Calumet for about £45. I took it home and proceeded to bash my head against the wall for the next two hours. It was not easy or intuitive for me at all. You need their EyeFi Center software for your your iPhone/iPad which is simple to download and install. It was really more the setting up of the software that got me stumped at times. After fooling around for a couple of hours and changing the settings back and forth so many times I can’t remember, it just began to work.
I set up the Canon 5D Mk3 so RAWs were being written to the CF card and the camera was writing to the SD card in the S2 mode(1920×1280). At this size it allowed the first generation iPad to download each image every 2-4 seconds at about 5-10 feet from the camera. I should say that the EyeFi card can run off an existing WiFi network or create its own small one. Obviously in most locations we won’t get a chance to piggyback onto someone else’ network so I have just left it to its own. We also found that the further the iPad was from the camera, the slower the download became (I didn’t take down any times or did any comparisons since most of that shit bores me, suffice to say it worked).
I happened to have a shoot coming up that I thought would be perfect; running around the city of Derry shooting jumping ballerinas and musicians. We wouldn’t really have much time (as usual) so things needed to be spot on when we shot it all. The art director wanted to be able to have a back up to our original images shot in camera so we also shot the background plates without the subjects, in the event the we needed to drop either subjects into the other’s background or vice versa.
So what we have here is a Colin jumping up in our lighting set up doing his best ballerina pose (we didn’t hire him as model in the end). We used two Profoto Acute 600B‘s, one as a backlight with a magnum reflector and a half CTO and the front light with a silver softlight and no filtration. The background light was probably a stop over the main and set slightly into the frame to emulate the sun (of which we didn’t have as yet).
Colin tried his hardest but he couldn’t really get the height we were looking for (he also forgot his tutu). We brought in the mini trampoline and it was a little better, good job Colin (we also knew the ballerinas should get another two or three feet on Colin’s height, whew)
They wanted to try the ballerinas first without the tramp, I wasn’t that hopeful though as I knew how high I had to get them in the frame for it all to work with the Guild Hall in the background and the copy that was to go in afterwards. I won’t bother with those images, lets move on.
We put the trampoline in and let the girls jump on their own, at their own pace and countdown themselves to the big height jump. It worked nearly flawlessly. Almost every jump was a keeper. This is the first jump, no strobes at 1/250th of a second.
The overcast light was just too flat, the feet were slightly blurred and it was all a little lifeless at this point. However the EyeFi card and the iPad were working awesomely. Ya, it might not be the fastest to keep up with a fashion shoot or such but for a commercial or advertising shoot where you have the time between takes to work things out, this set up works “good”. Of course it would be nice for it to be faster and it does speed up if you use the smaller size settings for the SD slot in the Canon but then you can’t zoom in to check focus or blur. I’m happy enough.
I should also mention that we were using the Canon’s HSS (High Speed Sync or High Speed Shutter). We hooked up the Canon’s 580 EXII flash on a cheap sync cord and had it pointed at the main Profoto’s optical slave, then set the 580 to HSS mode. This sets up the Canon to go beyond the 1/200th of a second sync speed that normal strobe units sync at with the camera, to well beyond 1/1000th of a second, if need be. Today I was hoping to get away with something under 1/1000th but obviously quicker than 1/250, since our ballerina’s feet were burred at that speed.
All this technology and a £50 trampoline.
Ultimately the EyeFi and iPad proved indispensable and I have now added some new gear to my camera bag. The ability to see the image, remotely, larger than on the back of the camera, on location, almost immediately is great. The art director I worked with was extremely pleased and loved it as well. In the end we retouched out the lights and trampoline.
I’ve gone through a few retouchers over the years; I’ve done a lot of stuff myself but when it comes to sending out work I usually let NeedPost bang their head against the wall . I met John over at NeedPost.com back when I was shooting cosmetics in California. His home base is out of Florida so for someone working in Europe he’s perfect for those crazy deadlines (you get an extra 4 hours). John has helped me set the mood and tones for a few different clients. Its usually not any heavy comping work but more polishing and adding treatments. I usually make or direct the treatment and John does the transcribing into Photoshopesque. He’s great.
As you can see by the next two, there isn’t a lot of heavy handed retouching involved; we like to get as much as possible in the camera, and keep it as true to life as we can.
We’re back to a new post, its been a few months and we’ve been super busy with both life and work. The new website and promo have both been paying off.
Enough of the business chat, let’s talk about some imaging.
We were called to photograph a project for the NITB, covering off the new launch of the Cow Parade in Northern Ireland. The Cow Parade is ” the largest and most successful public art event in the world since 1999, has been staged in 75 cities around the world and more than 32 million people have seen at least one exhibit.”
Now as most people know, Northern Ireland is never an easy location to shoot in; weather and terrain are always up against you in the battle of the “deadline” and this deadline was very much looming over our heads. With only 4 days to shoot in nine locations across Northern Ireland we needed to have a strong game plan and scheduling. Between NITB and the agency, they handled most of the scheduling and my assistants Steve, his brother Phil and I just needed to make it to each of them on time and be able to find an interesting angle and scenario to photograph the two cows we had. I should mention that yes, we did have two cows. It is not just one big full sized one, we also had a half sized “mini moo”. We nicknamed the large 98 lb full sized cow, Clarice and the mini was Eunice.
There were a few production issues with the cows at first, so we didn’t actually get them delivered until the end of the first shooting day. So that laid to rest any hope of getting it all done on time. However after a few phone calls we managed to get a couple of extra days thrown in here and there over the next week in case we really ran into weather problems.
The next morning, early 5:30 am, I loaded up the few remaining items into the van which the boys and I loaded the cows into the night before, and we all headed to our first location, the Mourne Mountains and Silent Valley Reservoir. Weather is the Mournes is never predictable and we were supposed to be in store for heavy rains for a week in Northern Ireland. We drove south towards the mountains and the weather was “okay”. The closer we got however, the more solid the sky became with cloud cover; nothing too dark and ominous, just solid cover with no definition, a photographers worst case.
Let me explain, photographers know only three types of sky.
1. Blue with no clouds which is okay to portray a summer day in the desert but never feels right anywhere else.
2. Blue sky with clouds which feels more realistic and gives the viewer something to look through besides the subject matter below (unless of course the subject is clouds, which in this case is perfect then).
3. Overcast with no definition, a barren whiteness of nothing, nothing for the viewer to latch on to, nothing for your eye to rest upon while it takes a break from looking at the subject material.
Today was a number three day.
All we could do was set up and hope that the sky would break for a moment. We climbed almost 300 stairs to the top of the dam at Silent Valley, an amazing view, when there is a sky. When there isn’t a sky and its just overcast and raining its hard to place where you are. There were times we couldn’t see the bottom of the valley and it felt like we were all sitting on the edge of a rock wall over looking a field or something.
Day one is completed, stay tuned for the rest of the NITB Cow Parade “Behind the Scenes”.
Seeing as this was our first day and I wasn’t too keen on falling behind schedule here, I announced that we needed to be out of there by 11am. We had the first shot set up and lit for 8:30, then came the waiting. We shot on and off between bursts of rain and cloud, hoping to get something. Then at around 10 am we headed back down towards the lower reservoir. We stopped off at the side of the road, near the most northerly point of the lower reservoir and I walked through the bog by myself to scout a site along the edge of the water. It was perfect and the clouds were starting to break a little. We might have a chance. The boys slugged it out with the gear and Eunice across the bog and we set up the shot. The only thing was that the wind was picking up and blowing poor Eunice over.
I only managed to get 3 frames before it just became impossible to shoot anymore.
We packed up and drove down to the main area of the reservoir, set up for a few more images but nothing really became of them. The wind, rain and cloud cover just got worse and worse; 11:30 am, time to move along.
And worse, and worse, we arrived at our next location at Castlewellan Park and the rain was just pouring down. The three of us were camped out in the back of the van, Larry the Lurcher had the whole cab to himself, while we watched our first day’s second shoot stream out of the parking lot. After about 20 minutes I got on the phone and we organized a wild card location, Jonesboro and Slieve Gullion.
I was not familiar with the area and had never shot before here. We had a contact from the local council touring us around. We made it to 3 locations in the area luckily and two of them turned out really nice. One was of Moyry Castle and the other was of a burial tomb or cairn but I can’t remember the name. I’ll try to contact the council and get it.
We trundled up the side of the hill towards Moyry Castle. It was starting to dry out a bit as the rain had stopped and that deep, damp humidity was beginning to set in. Larry was loving it, running around the hilltop and bounding through the tall grasses. We set up some lighting and lit the front of the castle, inside and a couple of on Eunice herself, making her stand out a bit off the grass.
The last location of the day, and everyone is totally bushed. We arrive down this old lane in the back woods of Armagh; drive down a farmer’s lane and the gravel ends and then brand new pavement (you know the kind, “brand new government pavement”, meaning there is something of interest down here) where it opens up into a small car park. On the other side of the car park can be described as little more than a big pile of rocks. Our guide Darren explains to us that this is a 5000 year old burial chamber and bones and artifacts have been found within it. Okay, now my interest is really peaked. Its amazing to think that this was constructed by locals 5000 years ago, astonishing.
Below is a photo showing Clarice in the front chamber which is comprised of a circular room with a smooth stone wall leading into the first chamber, then out of frame, a second chamber. I know about the pyramids in Egypt, Mexico, Peru and Cambodia but this is really amazing that the locals had the tools, manpower and engineering to craft such a delicate and finished structure.
We all walked around and over the mound for what seemed like forever, trying to find an angle or a good view of it. The problem was all the stones were covered with lichen and moss and were in effect camouflaged against each other. If was difficult to figure out the depth of the place. I finally decided to try a different view; down low from the front with Clarice walking past the camera. I’d light the outer and first chambers and try to give it some depth that way, by creating some contrast between rooms. I lit Clarice from overhead and back lit her to stand off the background and we pooled the light in front of her on the ground for effect. A graduated blue filter was used on the bleached out sky to give it some life. All in all I think it is one of my favourites.
I’ve been busy. Life is good.
Been working with some great people over the past several months. Shooting at every corner of the country.
Here are some images from some of the projects. Feel free to comment.
Here’s a short little anatomy of an image for some recent stuff hanging up on billboards around NI. It was a project I worked on for the Northern Ireland Tourism Board through AV Browne. It involved a couple of models, a Fiat 500 and some picturesque coastline of the north. I had scouted the shore along the Tor Head road overlooking Cushendun before and knew a spot where you could see the coastline as well as the village.
So now that we knew the area we got permission from the landowner to do an early morning shoot there. Below are some of the variations that happened in the wee hours of the morning at sunrise. You can see we had to spark up a 2.5 kw HMI early in the morning when we didn’t think we were going to get any direct sun.
A wide shot, it still hasn’t warmed up yet at this point.
The sun is finally coming out in force.
Luckily the sun did show its face and as it dipped in and out of clouds, we had Davey and his boys from Keylight scrim off any harshness on the models.
And this is what we ended up with in the end. Great thing about NITB is there is no trickery in the images; so what you see is what you get. The final image we choose didn’t have anything between the sun and the models, just a light haze to cut it down a bit so we didn’t need the 6×6 scrim out front. We did manage to keep some direct sun on the village and the rolling hills in the background.
The client has decided to take the campaign in a different direction. I will be using the images in some form for a self promotion but I won’t be posting them up until the dust settles.
In the mean time, here’s a pretty picture to look at while you’re waiting.
I've been there probably a dozen times in the past 3 years. this time we are here to grab aspects and details of the opening day of their new Peace Bridge. The £14.6 million bridge was funded by the EU's PEACE III programme and constructed started back in January of 2010. It a pretty sweet looking bridge and I'm mighty impressed with the design that Wilkinson Eyre did on it.
The phone lately has been pretty much consistently ringing; quote/bids, confirmations and cancellations. I've been getting them all but there no complaints because it is all working itself out. I'm also in the middle of writing a large art proposal for the government here. It will be a year long project and then tour for another year. I'm hoping to shoot it all on 5×4 black and white film and print it myself on silver based fibre paper. I've been getting back into the darkroom, little by little. Taking it slow so all my past memories doesn't come pouring down on top of me and make me feel overwhelmed. I used to do lot of darkroom work back in the 90's and enjoyed it for the most part, till I started getting socially deprived by spending all my waking hours there. There is a feeling you get after standing/sitting in the darkroom for 10-14 hours by yourself, then going out in public and mixing in with all the daylight people.
Well must start prepping for a project in Dublin, so I will leave you with this final image of the Peace Bridge.
Ford Focus 1.6 Zetec Petrol burner
Well its time for another car rental review. Today I have a Ford Focus 1.6, not what I asked for but you can’t really choose when it comes to hire cars.
I ask my local for diesel pretty much every time but for some reason I keep getting petrol burning cars and diesel vans. I don’t mind the zippyness of a petrol car but at “only” 36 mpg for an average for a 800 mile trip, it can be a little costly; getting older, I don’t mind a diesel’s pokeyness over the zippyness.
The Focus drives like a much bigger car than it really is. It has great space for a 6 footer and a decent little back seat for some wee leprechauns but the seller for me is almost always “da booty”. This trunk managed to swallow up a Profoto 600B kit, stands, reflectors, camera bags and my 4×5. It would have taken our luggage as well but I didn’t want to cram it tight since we would be working out of the car for most of the shoot.
The suspension is good, tight and handles very well; you can see why this car makes a great little track day ride. It cruises along the motor way at 70, no problem. the only glitch is 3rd.
Come on Ford, what’s with that transmission? As I’m running up the gears with any sort of vigor, third jams itself out. You need to back off and ease it in, then back on the gas and up to 4th. It does not make for quick getaways let alone outrunning rampant stone throwing children.
My overall on this tight rig is a 6/10.
Decent for mom and dad alike.
I rent quite a few cars/vans/trucks in my work. Whenever I need a vehicle that needs to do what my daily driver can’t, I rent. Most of the vehicles I rent are vans; to carry my gear, props, rental equipment etc. Since moving to Northern Ireland I’ve taken on a new view towards renting. Whereas in North America i would almost always just rent a Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth (RIP) minivan, here I hire Sprinters, Transits, Trafics, Kangoos, Vivaros to do the job. I kind of miss the old Dodge Voyagers. They really were a little workhorse and didn’t look after bad doing the work of almost a full size.
Today however I’m just renting a car, something small, that will be fuel efficient and a comfortable drive for the day. Gavin, my Enterprise car hire guy, has hooked me up with a petrol KIA Venga (even though I really wanted a diesel). I was very impressed after starting it, on how ridiculously quiet it is when running. I have never been in a car that was ever this smooth, not even close. Pulling away however didn’t give me much confidence in the rest of the day; it has a jerky clutch and a touchy throttle. Acceleration is adequate, same day service on the 0-60. This car will win no drag races, except maybe against a bicycle, a bicycle in the snow, a bicycle in the snow with no wheels.
The interior is roomy and I have no problem with my 6 foot frame fitting in the luxuriously upholstered cloth seats. All the controls were where they should be and nothing out of the ordinary struck me as odd or confusing. The sound system is decent and has an iPod mini cam plug outlet as well as a usb plugin.
Okay, now for the not so good things.
The A pillar is almost impossible to see around; I found myself constantly stretching my neck around to look into right hand corners. It was a total pain in the ass. The back seat has an industry standard 60/40 split but you have to be a freakin’ octopus to pull the lever and push the seat down at the same time. It would not be easy if I had a large camera bag or stand bag, reaching in over three feet just to have my initial attempts of putting the seats down foiled by not having an extra set of hands to push and push hard down on the back seats, not cool. The final nit pick on of one day test living day with the Venga is the hidden front corners. I’m 6 foot, like I said, and I can’t see over the front fenders/bumpers to know where the car ends. I could only imagine a wee local trying to cram themselves out the window, straining to see where the wheel is in relation to curb.
All in all it isn’t the worst car I’ve ever rented, any GM front wheel drive takes that honour, but I wouldn’t buy a Venga or recommend it.
Close but no cigar.
I’ve been working with the NITB for the past year or so. They and the agency have been great to work with; problem solving, location scouting and hunting, casting and oh ya, creating images that we feel are unique and cool. Here are some of the latest ones for the spring/summer campaign in different formats for different media.
Nothing like a beautiful day of scouting. This is an image from the Argory in Armagh. I spend a few days every month scouting locations for different clients. Its a great way to discover new places and people in Northern Ireland.
This is an image from one of my many road trips across the south west. This was the landing gear of one of the warbirds at the Pima museum outside Tuscon. if you are ever anywhere near it, its worth a check out.
I did a small project back in the fall for NITB for 48 sheet billboards and Adshell bus shelter ads, showing a sort of weekend getaway in Belfast. The subject was the rooftop at the Merchant hotel with a young couple enjoy their weekend. The weather co operated although it was a little cold for them.