As I sift through the day's photos I realize that this shoot provides a fairytale-like close to a major chapter of my childhood. I began as a volunteer when this science centre was named the Edmonton Space and Science Centre, before it was named the Telus World of Science and even before it was called the Odyssium. I was a science camp volunteer beginning when I was in grade 8. I spent a lot of my time here especially in the summer. It was almost a second home to me and the staff almost a second family. Over the years I had learned so much through my experiences here.
As time past we grew apart. High school and, eventually, university and other extra-curricular activities would fill the time once allocated to the science centre but I always reserved a place for it in my heart. These photos may seem merely an example of commercial documentary of common subject matter but they helped me realize once again how important this establishment was and will continue to be for countless individuals.
The Telus World of Science also needed an update to their image library with shots of their permanent galleries including the opening of the new children's gallery, Discoveryland. These images were all shot on 4x5 film and cropped to 2:1 aspect ratios with the expectation that they would be used as web site banners. All architectural-oriented shots taken on a jade green Toyo VX125 4x5 collapsible monorail on various negative films with various lenses and scanned with an Aztek Digital Photo Lab Professional-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500. Gillian Crichton served as my art director and point of contact.
A selection of photographs of the first group of young visitors exploring the new Discoveryland. Some of the highlights of the new children's gallery include a water exhibit and an airport security simulator. All shots taken with the 35mm F/1.4 AF-S Nikkor mounted on a Nikon D3.
A shot of the waterworks exhibit. Existing light, 72mm Schneider Super-Angulon XL F/5.6 on Portra 400 metered at ISO 320. Shutter speed was approximately 1/2s and shot at F/11. I chose a faster film for this shot as I wanted some motion blur but I didn't want all of the floating balls to become blurred streaks.
A photo of the southern half of Discoveryland. Schneider Symmar-S 210mm F/5.6 @ F/5.6 on the new Kodak Portra 160.
The Forensics exhibit. Schneider 72mm Super-Angulon XL.
I believe the Challenger Learning Centre used to be in this area. 72mm.
Part of the Space exhibit.
The Environment exhibit. This photo took the longest to set up. Schneider 135mm F/5.6 Symmar-S on Kodak Portra 400.
The Body Fantastic health gallery. Schneider 72mm Super-Angulon XL.
Elizabeth, like Jenna, was a high priority upcoming model with whom I wished to work. I first encountered her when going through some of Next Models scout Brenda's archive of snapshots of models whom she'd scouted recently. Her look caught my attention immediately and in spite of Brenda's assertions that she wasn't yet ready I expressed my eagerness to work with her as soon as Brenda felt she was. I met Elizabeth for the first time during a practice for Beverly Gan's spring/summer 2012 ready-to-wear collection. I had some time with her after the practice and I made a few haphazard digital and silver halide stills. These first few shots with Elizabeth offered a glimpse into the profundity of the understated; the slightest change in head angle or what could have been going through her mind would result in a thousand little changes that when evaluated individually would be barely noticeable but together created something so subtle and so beautiful. These photos weren't even supposed to have been shot yet I found a few casual keepers that I've shared below.
It wouldn't be another two seasons before we would have a chance to work together and with a crew. And while this crew was just Nikolas doing hair, makeup, and fashion styling, the "crew" transformed Elizabeth into many interesting contradictions.
Two of the first dozen frames I shot of Elizabeth. Taken with the Leica M7 through the Zeiss Biogon 35/2 ZM onto Ilford Delta 400 pushed to ISO 1600 in Kodak XTOL at stock strength.
Nikolas pulled some pieces from Thread Hill which he used to style all of the photos other than those involving rope and burlap. We shot in a private nature preserve west of Edmonton. We were walking to the wooded area I originally wanted to shoot in but the light and the snow that had stuck to the branches from the wet snow fall made us stop for a few photos.
These two frames shot with the Toyo VX125 collapsible 4x5 monorail camera through a Schneider 210mm F/5.6 at F/5.6 onto FP4+ 125 processed at rated speed in XTOL. All large format film scanned with an Aztek DPL Pro-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500. I left the original colour cast from these two drum scans.
I pulled out the M7 and the 90mm Summicron for a few snaps with Elizabeth's coat on.
We stopped in two spots in the forested part of the nature reserve. A few from the first spot.
Some of what I felt were the stronger shots from from this set. It took us a while to figure out what the light coloured lines crossing the frames laterally from the left. I believe the hypo clearing agent was near exhaustion and some of the fixer had remained after a shortened rinse step as normally prescribed when using a hypo eliminator. When hung in the film dryer, the residual fixer flowed down the strip of film and branched out, darkening parts of the film resulting in light areas in the reversal of the negative.
Another two favourites.
Considering it was -24 degrees C and colder with the humidity, Elizabeth remained convincing in all of her photos. This photo was one of two shot with the VX125 and the 135mm F/5.6 Schneider Symmar-S onto FP4+ pushed to ISO 400.
Past sundown and without direct sky access I needed to switch to the Panasonic GH2 and the 20mm F/1.7 that I had packed as backup. The digital combination gave a two stop advantage over my two available film systems. Revisiting these images I'm not sure what we created. I wish I could locate my notes about this idea. Bottom left image was a digital snap to help Nikolas evaluate makeup at the beginning of the shoot.
We returned to the studio to try out some ideas. I wasn't happy with the images but the left image was received well by some of the people who had viewed them. Right image was the last exposure of the evening.
I make no apologies for how long it has taken to blog about this shoot; I've needed some time away from the blog to prepare for some projects and to sort out some things. That said, blogging some of these shoots aren't as tedious as I had somehow convinced myself that they were so I'm trying to catch up and stay up to date with things. A new website and new blog design are on their way but I have no promises for delivery dates. Photokina and Cinec 2012 are coming up in Cologne and Munich, respectively and there are things I am preparing for my month-long absence from Canada.
There are few projects that have gotten me as excited as this image library development project I have had the privilege of working on with Livestock Gentec. We're working with a flexible ad agency-type entity collaborating closely with an executive-level manager on the client side and we are working with subject matter that often finds itself in cliche stock photography or in very literal and sometimes "cute" but otherwise intellectually stale imagery. The spaces that we have to work with are generic-looking for science laboratories so we needed to think implicitly and interpret art direction's concepts not as any stock or commercial photographer would but, in my case, as a photographer with a fashion and architecture background would. Many of the more directed shots are shot on 4x5" negative sheet film and then drum scanned in-house. The format allows me to shoot at apertures that will easily allow for motion blur while retaining depth of field control without the use of neutral density filtration. Using the Toyo VX124 also allows for generous perspective control movement to maintain parallel lines and geometric accuracy as an architectural photographer would while selective focus movements allow for an extra degree of subject separation as a fashion or portrait photographer would. Shooting onto film increases the image capturing system's resistance to chromatic aberration even with large degrees of image circle and lens axis offset. Furthermore, some photographs would need to be shot with an ultra-wide angle lens but without tolerance for wide angle-related perspective distortion. The Schneider 72mm Super-Angulon XL functioning as an ultra-wide ensures that while object placement will be characteristically exaggerated the rendition will be much like what we'd be used to seeing from a short telephoto lens in the 135 format that is more commonly shot.
A rough draft of part of the quotation that I sent my art director.
A small handful of the headshot we shot in one of the labs during one of the shoot days. In this panel we're probably looking at a combined total of over a century of post secondary education and related research. Even business managers working with this client are double-PhD's with MBA's. I was officially the least educated person on site during the shoot! Nikon D3, 135/2 Defocus Control Nikkor and with some fill from an LED panel or two with light colour temperatures set to match ambient light.
Livestock Gentech's Edmonton operations are divided between two buildings: one in downtown Edmonton and the other in the Agriculture and Forestry Building on the University of Alberta campus. These were some of the more spontaneous images we decided to create with individuals using pieces of equipment. The photographs were LED lit with my own design of lighting instrument and Corey acting as a human light stand for many of the shots. All taken with the 24-70/2.8 AF-S Nikkor and the Nikon D3.
We wanted a few shots with visible faces working at the benches. These were shot with the D3, 135mm F/2 Defocus Control Nikkor and existing light only.
We needed some creative images of the laboratory space in use but we also didn't want recognizable faces in the photos so we worked a lot with motion blur and slower shutter speeds. All taken with the Toyo VX125 and the Schneider 72mm Super-Angulon XL. The frame on the right is available in both colour and black and white but this particular drum scan was taken off a sheet of Ektar that was mistakenly processed with Kodak XTOL at HP5+/400 timings. The resulting image was interesting.
At Livestock Gentech's downtown laboratory location we took advantage of the common spaces to the library with architecturally-interesting backgrounds. The existing light was challenging as a lot of light entered from above in the centre of the building and most of the catwalks do not receive side window light. The combination of large, battery-powerable, colour temperature adjustable LED light, the highlight-compressing characteristics of negative film combined with the density decompressing capabilities of a drum scanner allow a photographer to efficiently address these challenges.
Location scouting continues to be one of the most challenging parts of preparation for my photo shoots. Within a small centre like Edmonton with relatively little variety in publicly-accessible architecture a photographers needs to be resourceful and, sometimes, a little selfish. Resourceful in a sense of thinking of locations not just as backgrounds but about variables related to terrain and changes in elevation, geometry, and light-shaping. And selfish because there have been instances where an individual with whom you share location details or someone with whom this person subsequently re-shares this information violates common sense code of etiquette. Sometimes this lack of care for space I've shared even extends to outdoor locations. There have been a few instances in the past year where I have spent hours at private nature reserves fixing what appears another shooter may have disturbed with significantly damaged shrubbery off established trail areas, discarded clothing tags, and photography-specific tape along with less specific garbage. For these reasons I'm officially closing my location black book except to those who have original location information that they can exchange granting me access that I do not already have. If you have a location to share and would like to trade please contact me. Rant aside, location information for this shoot came to me indirectly as I was cast as an extra for a television show pilot shot around this lake.
Our primary objective was to secure a solid beauty-oriented photo for Vicki so the shoot's yield is heavier with tighter face crops. We also did this shoot before I acquired a faster-than-F/2.8 prime wider than 135mm for Nikon F-mount so we were a bit limited to what I could shoot with shallower depth of field. We have a completely different team this time: Jared Tabler was our fashion stylist; Nicola Gavins for hair and makeup, and Brenda Rains agreed to come on set for a bit of model direction and overall art direction. I was pleased with the images we created together. As with working with any new team there are refinements in synergies that we couldn't realistically achieve the first time we work together and I would welcome future opportunities to work with this group.
A shot from the second "look" this shoot and one of my favorites.
Probably not the best shot of Vicki but I found it more interesting than some of the photos in which she may have looked more beautiful.
We scheduled this shoot shortly after Brenda's suggestion to have her hair dyed darker. Nikolas did the dye job at Mousy Brown's. He decided to leave some of her natural colour as highlights.
A more static shot from the same set.
Slightly wider crop from the set but still shot with the 135/2 Defocus Control Nikkor.
Makeup artist/hairstylist and fashion stylist responding to the camera.
Though I may only understand 5% of the words spoken this day I felt no less a member of this event. We've photographed countless weddings and the love and closeness I feel that is shared with this couple and their guests is easily among the warmest and most overwhelming that I have experienced in my seven years as a photographer. Thank you, Jana & Jascha, for this privilege. We have become insiders amongst mere acquaintances . . . friends amongst our favourite photographic subjects.
I'm a little embarrassed that I only blog about wedding photographs when there is something technical and photographically-relevant to discuss. It's not that I am ashamed to admit that Dong and I shoot weddings even though our specializations lie in fashion and architecture or, in Dong's case, fashion and food. I don't know from what this embarrassment stems. Perhaps it has something to do with wedding photography being one of the types of recreational shooting that we do and by only semi-admitting our involvement in this market we can participate more as outsiders and, when we don't feel there is a good fit between what we offer we can comfortably recommend a solid list of other photographers the couple should consider.
Many of the digital images in this entry were reworked in Lightroom 3.x with a MIDI controller connected through Knobroom. I'm currently using the Akai APC40 controller which was originally designed as an Ableton controller. While it is robust controller with excellent tactile feedback in the sixteen control knobs if I were to buy another controller to use with Lightroom/Knobroom I'd like to try the Behringer BCF2000 with its eight motorized faders plus an additional eight perpetual dials. The motorized faders and the memory recall functionality on the controller would allow semi-hardware-based preset recall functionality instead of having to somehow program a software bridge with the APC40 as it seems to require the software to recognize its preset keys to recall banks of settings. Using a hardware controller and mapping functions like white balance, tint, exposure, contrast, black point, recovery, fill light, saturation, split toning hues and saturations and memorizing the feel and location of the physical controls allows the photo editor to experiment with many more settings adjustments in the same amount of time. It also speeds up making similar but not exactly identical adjustments in groups of photographs which share similar lighting conditions that vary slightly. Using Knobroom allows you to view multiple images in the Library view in Lightroom to fine tune images without needing to work with the rough controls you're usually limited to in the Library view. This makes conforming a set of images in a grouping much faster and more precise.
With all that said, Jana's and Jascha's wedding shoot was one that we fought hard for. And it wasn't just because Jascha is especially handsome (okay okay . . . Jana isn't bad looking either); it was because they are a really fun couple and I enjoy talking with them and spending time with them. Later I learn that Jascha is an aspiring photographer and kite enthusiast.
Shot in Mike Isaak's and Cody Tait's "secret" mossy forest location with the Nikon D3 and the 135mm F/2 Defocus Control Nikkor. An edited version of this image was delivered to the couple shaping the ill-fitting pants and vest. I brought some clips and did what I could. I'd suggest a fitted suit and shirt as opposed to a typical formalwear rental if you're picky but I'm still pleased with the image.
I always struggle with group shots but I felt this one was interesting and reasonably natural. 24-70 on the D3.
One of the earlier shots of the couple together when we reached the forest location. Shortly after Jascha would slip and fall gracefully into a bed of moss.
With the D3 and 24-70 F/2.8 AF-S Nikkor at F/2.8. Justification for never cleaning my lenses . . . more exposure latitude and ethereal glow without editing!
Steph's and Courtney's creative with Nikolas Syhatheb was a shoot born into ideological and logistical conflict. Mode Models' Michael Meneghetti (ha, alliteration!) expressed concerns over the value of "artistic" creatives in helping models land international work because many of these shoots tend not to give clients a clear view of what these models really look like. These assertions echo what Next Models' Brenda Rains had relatively recently help me to understand; in shooting model development creatives, dramatic makeup, hair, and lighting should take a back seat to seeking a model's natural beauty through the lens of a camera. It's actually a concept that I have casually attempted to help Harvey Miedreich understand during our first meeting and to be completely honest I still have my doubts that Harvey fully understands (are you reading this, Harvey?! ) I feel that this was a concept and purpose that Nikolas understood early on in his career and I only now understand. Why he often resisted doing a more dramatic application of makeup and instead opted to extract a model's beauty rather than modify it.
Back to discussing the logistical challenges. Nikolas' full time placement at Mousy Brown's seems to have helped him become a better hair stylist for photography and film but it also has made him become much less available. Sunday is now his only full day off which, unfortunately, has made creative shoot planning very inflexible. He booked me for a Sunday for a creative collaboration and I was under the impression that he had already spoken to the two models' agents about the shoot. I found out that Michael had yet to have been consulted (Friday) so I send out an e-mail which reaches him the Saturday morning before the shoot. Michael returns my request with an outright no and so I attempt to call Nikolas and fail to reach him on his cell phone because of the phone blocker installed at the salon. I panic and physically go to the salon so that I could ask him how to proceed and Nikolas' suggested approach was to make Michael aware that the models were ready to go and help him understand the difficulty we found to agree on a Sunday.
In the end and after a phone call Michael obliges. I feel that his concerns for approving a creative booking with such short notice is well-founded; by lengthening the pre-shoot planning time an agent can use this time to better prepare a model for a shoot and also help a photographer be more logistically aligned in the time leading up to the shoot in hopes of getting better images even though these casual creatives tend towards lower-concept shooting. With that in mind I was still glad that we were able to shoot together and even though we struggled with the idea of going so natural with makeup and hair there were photos we created this day that were unique and possibly portfolio-worthy.
While Nikolas prepared the girls I floated the idea of shooting only black and white film. If we could accept monochromatic images as the only deliverables shooting with only the Leica M7 and Toyo VX125 large format camera platform would prove to be a valuable photographic exercise. And so I loaded six 4x5 sheets of Ilford FP4+ and four 36exposure rolls of the same film and we left for the photoshoot location. You can also see Mode's blog entry with their favourite images from the shoot here.
I don't know why I like this image so much. It looks unlike anything I have ever shot before. Captured with a chrome/vulcanite/MP finder a la carte Leica M7 through the Zeiss 35mm F/2 Biogon ZM on Ilford FP4+ pulled from ISO 125 to ISO 32 in a 1+1 dilution of Kodak XTOL and scanned with the Nikon Coolscan 5000. Full res crops available upon request for tonality and grain structure evaluation.
Some earlier shots. To be completely honest I had absolutely no idea how to make this shoot work with this styling and with virtually no makeup and no styling product applied to hair and in the middle of the day. But part of the charm of working with black and white again is only needing to think about contrast and mentally discarding colour from your scene. In the last photo Courtney and Steph are having a laugh at my expense after my unfortunate tongue slip. I was nervous, okay?! Hahah.
We experimented with using one of the models as a background element in a number of photos. By pulling to ISO 32 we could shoot midday with lens apertures wide open even with fabric shutter of the Leica M7 limiting us to 1/1000s maximum shutter speed.
There was an assortment of ladders between the catwalks around this small water processing facility that I originally wanted to arrange and shoot a wider angle image but the geometry just wasn't working out. Still, with a bit of direction Courtney shot beautiful interacting with the single ladder.
I worked with Steph along recently-erected construction scaffolding. While there were photos of Steph making more contact with railings and pipes I felt that the shots where there was implicit interaction with the environment through the way lines intersect created stronger images. Photos shot through the Leica 50mm 2nd generation chrome Summilux-M at F/1.4.
Nikolas touching up makeup under an umbrella, giving Courtney a piggy-back ride back to the vehicle, and spritzing everyone with some vitamin water spray.
Taken on the scaffolding with the Schneider Symmar-S 135mm F/5.6 @ F/5.6 on the Toyo VX125. Scanned with an Aztek DPL-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500 drum scanner. And I may have flipped this film when scanning it.
A shot from the Leica through the 35mm F/2 @ F/2 just to help give an idea of the difference in lens rendition between somewhat similar relative magnifications for each lens on their respective formats.
Until recently I only knew Next Models scout Brenda Rains through legends told by fashion industry veterans. Many know her as the agent responsible for helping make Mode Models Edmonton a player in the modeling industry in Northern Alberta and for being the woman with the fabled eye for undeveloped raw material with incredible potential. We met through Nikolas one evening at Lit the wine bar on 104 St. in Edmonton and we decided to stay in contact about working with some models she was developing. She held a casting at my studio and I invited Dong Kim and Harvey Meidrich to join Nikolas and me. And what Brenda brought us blew us away.
We used the former Red Strap Market which was formerly an Army and Navy and is now used mostly as a storage space by Gene Dub Architects during specialized construction projects like for the Alberta Hotel. The space presents so many possibilities due to its current state of disrepair. A side storage room with decaying floors and ceiling houses some artifacts from when the building was still the art market and furniture from some historical building projects. Each floor presents a different architectural and lighting challenge. And there is "unofficial" multi-level rooftop access.
I met Alex at a Starbucks two years ago and I continued to see him make my half-sweet-toffee-nut-white-mochas and one-pump-cinnamon-dolce-one-pump-hazelnut-half-sweet-java-chip-Frappucino-extra-coffee-sub-mocha-white-mochas fairly regularly without realizing his potential in front of the lens. Brenda spotted him and insisted that I shoot him. At first Nikolas and I booked Alex and Jenna to shoot on the same day but with the intention to shoot them individually. But Brenda decided to bring them together and coach them to move and pose together and after seeing some of her quick snapshots and seeing them on set together we knew that we had to shoot them together.
We had reasonable but high high expectations about many factors related to the shoot. The location was familiar and constantly evolving and while there was a certain level of familiarity with the space this familiarity only served to underline my fears surrounding shooting large format and fairly slow colour film in dimly lit rooms and with smaller battery-powered LED light sources if we needed any artificial light. With all of my lenses no faster than F/5.6 and with the only film options faster than ISO 160 were black and white we often shot at between half a second to two second shutter speeds. And it didn't help that when you tell a model to hold still their involuntary body twitching increases exponentially! In spite of the number of times I had used this location we continued to discover variants to spaces we had previously used or rooms we had never thought of using. And nature decided to throw us a completely new variable; water covering the floors of some of the rooms dripping through a rooftop two floors above. More photos after the jump. And there may still be a few black and white drum scans on the way from the first look . . . I still haven't processed all of the film yet.
One of the key images that I wanted to shoot with both models. With only Portra 160 on hand for colour film and with my desire to respect existing light and only enhance it with modest amounts of controlled light from an ARRI Locaster and a custom colour temperature adjustable LED panel we were shooting half second to full second exposure times even at F/5.6 on the Schneider Symmar-S/Caltar-II S 135mm F/5.6. [JADE GREEN] Toyo VX125. Scanned on the Howtek Scanmaster 4500 drum scanner driven by Aztec Digital Photo Lab Professional. Film processed by ABC Photocolour Vancouver.
Like the previous frame, this frame also suffers from a bit of motion blur due to the low light levels and slow speed of film but the slight bit of motion blur didn't negatively impact the final image . . . at least not for me. Existing light.
Some Fuji FP-100c45 9x12cm instant proofs.
In recent shoots I've become much more aware of existing light modifiers and how the existing location geometry can adversely affect lighting from one or two simple existing light sources. With this awareness and combined with designer artificial light sources like colour temperature adjustable battery-powered LED fixtures light modification is simple. Furthermore, using all continuous light means that any video footage shot on commercial assignments can more easily be conformed to the still photographs. Using LEDs have also allowed me to enhance dimly-lit locations for human actors/models without having to completely reconstruct all existing architectural lighting.
I took some frames with the 24-70 F/2.8 Nikkor and the D3.
And a couple frames of Alex individually. Nikolas had me search for an Amish-style hat which a costume store Justin Poulsen, my architecture photography partner, directed me to identified as a Zorro hat.
The only light source in this room was a window behind me that starts about a foot off the ground and terminates below eye-level for Alex.
And with window camera right.
I switched to the 60/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and tried to get as much camera and subject/background separation as possible for a series of images with both models in a fire escape stairwell in the north west corner of the building. Jenna's yield from this set was over 90% and she very easily created new poses and expressions for every frame.
We had mixed reviews of the hat . . . Brenda and a couple other fashion people seemed to dislike it but Nikolas and I liked it.
D3, 60mm F/2.8 @ 2.8, ISO 1600, 1/200s.
Alex looked a lot like Jude Law in several of his photos in the stairwell.
Merran was so perfect for the images in our minds and I believe that Nikolas finally achieved something with this shoot that we had continually sought to realize for years. But in spite of how satisfied everyone seemed to be with these images, as the photographer I feel as though I left a lot of creative potential untapped and, in a sense, let down the team. Had this been a commercial shoot, achieving the original vision would have been enough justification to wrap the day. But this was to be an explorative and experimental shoot where we were to push ourselves beyond our familiar limitations. And perhaps here is where Nikolas and Merran had succeeded and I merely achieved what was satisfactory.
Originally I had intended to use the fog as a medium through which to project and "fake" many more natural light sources as if our locations had a wall perforated with rotted holes allowing the passage of direct sunlight. But upon proofing with a Fuji Instax frame I became comfortable with the composition, posing, and the found lighting that I had only conservatively enhanced with a single artificial light source even though I had brought a total of four Dedolight tungsten heads, two Arri Locaster LED arrays and two bi-color LED panels. I had become so pre-occupied with meeting a cut off time that early in the shoot I had subconsciously eliminated what I believed were non-essential elements that could jeopardize meeting this deadline. I had a few ideas that would have leant more depth to the concept and I could have used a stronger hand in directing our model but I had become distracted by the camera work.
Regardless of these personal disappointments I had discovered something through this shoot that wasn't directly related to these photographs. But that's for an offline discussion.
Two of the three deliverable images shot in the originally-intended format and medium. Ilford HP5+ pushed to ISO 1600 in Ilford Ilfosol S after being exposed through a Schneider Symmar 135mm F/5.6 (above) or 210/5.6 (below) mounted on a jade green Toyo VX125, and drum scanned with an Aztek Digital Photo Lab Pro-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500. Lighting provided by a custom 9x9" bi-color LED panel running on a Sony V-mount battery. Fog by a Martin Magnum 800 and Martin fluid.
I guess this image serves as a setup shot.
Some of the [2minute] instant proofs from the Toyo.
Kingsway Mall's spring campaign photography planning and shooting transcended what, in retrospect, could have been the most tumultuous period in both my professional and personal life. I suppose a photographer can never fully separate living and working but this shoot's timing placed it at the meeting point of so many conflicting forces from so many directions. My parents were planning to leave the country and a large commercial realty portfolio for five weeks, my brother was still in South America, and I was developing a combined architectural portfolio when before my showcases have always contained work for which I was the sole photographer. And during this entire process Leanna, my girlfriend, closest friend, and muse of almost a decade was ending her relationship with me . . . while I was getting audited by the CRA! On top of all of this my work was finding itself a new path; it seemed to have been following the path to equipment minimalism of my architectural photography. Yet when Todd of Tag Advertising phoned me with a wild, equipment-intensive and potentially physically impossible concept for Kingsway that he wanted me to help realize I had to put many of these external factors into my "hold pile" and focus.
Corey Thompson and I spent hours testing and experimenting with different photographic projection methods in tandem with a variety of foreground light control methods. Corey had a lot of novel ideas for flagging and even for the generation of light textures for the backgrounds. As our understanding of the challenge and of strobe image projection evolved, so did a set of tools that allowed our photographic team to enable an art director to do graphic design with light all in camera. The photographer is often offered undivided credit for the success (or failure) of a photoshoot but as with many of my shoots the photographer is a relatively small part of the equation. Those who have already seen the photographs and realize what he have achieved don't give Todd Sloane and his agency enough credit for the creation of a concept that empowers a client to shoot seasonal advertising indoors in any season and for any season with minimal post processing. Todd's expertise made the difference between a hodgepodge of random projected images on the background and a well-planned interplay of projected imagery, foreground lighting, and John Chwyl's wardrobe styling choices.
I would like to thank Corey, an extraordinary art and conceptual photographer, for his continued support not just as an assistant but as a full photographer willing to lend his expertise on my sets. I often fail to adequately appreciate his contributions and his tolerance of my often impatient and unyielding nature. Thank you to Bry Acheson for her assistance with day 1 of the shoot where we continued to encounter numerous technical challenges she actively helped to resolve. Thank you to Aaron Pederson of 3TEN Photo for making available his studio with near-ideal topography for where we needed to place equipment and all at a reasonable price. And a gigantic but humble thank you to Stephen Pilby, my good friend, and his company Lighttools. Stephen's invention of the the Lighttools Soft Egg Crate allowed us to use soft light for our subjects while minimizing impact on contrast in the projected backgrounds. Without them the backgrounds would have been totally washed out. Soft Egg Crates allowed us to realize our art director's dreams of spring fashion photography in Edmonton in -28degree weather beyond expectations and within budget. I don't think any of us fully realize what we achieved with Todd's vision and Stephen's light controls and the implications these achievements will have for shooting seasonal retail advertising in markets with temperate climates. And a huge thank you to our models, Ania B, Courtney M, Riza S, and Liam, all represented by Sophia Models of Calgary. Thank you all for what we have created.
Courtney M . . . so hot that she made Nikolas question his sexual orientation for a couple minutes.
Riza . . . and recent winner of the Miss World Canada pageant.
Liam. Dylan and Whitney of En Vogue Photography, Saskatoon photographed him for Midtown Mall previously. Except he didn't have hair then.
TAG Advertising's mockups for the new campaign. I knew that we had our work cut out for us when we dissected the lighting in these mocks and realized that much of these images couldn't be created optically in a single image and some would require "negative" light sources. In 3D art the artist can create a light source that can subtract light from the scene but, at least to my knowledge, there is no way to project "light" that precisely darkens part of the scene. We could have lit everything with lekos and used extensive numbers of custom cut gobos but this wouldn't be feasible considering our time budget.
So we compromised. And here's how we did it. One Bowens QuadX 3000 power pack, one Bowens Quad head, one Calumet/Bowens ellipsoidal reflector spot lamp strobe projector, one Bowens/Calumet universal spot attachment, three Norman IL2500 heads, one Norman D12r power pack, one Bowens Esprit Gemini 250 monolight, Calumet and Chimera soft boxes, and Lighttools Soft Egg Crates on every single soft light source to maintain foreground control and direct light off of the background thus preserving contrast in the projections. Part of the reason that we chose Aaron Pederson's/3TEN Photo's studio was because we knew that we would need to project from above and around the model and that adjusting the projection would be a tedious job requiring many small adjustments. This studio offered a platform situated about 10-12feet above the ground so we could use a normal light stand and a projectionist could stand on level ground while adjusting the primary background projection light. All photos shot with the Nikon D3 and the 24-70/2.8 AF-S Nikkor directly to a custom compact PC/Windows Vista workstation equipped with an NEC Spectraview LCD2690WUxi and processed in Adobe Lightroom 3.
Here is an image I was hoping would be a billboard/2:1 aspect ad candidate but never saw light.
Experimenting with different backgrounds and a photo showing what the set would look like without an image projected on the backdrop.
I admit that I am embarrassed that it has taken me until the eve of next season's Kingsway Mall campaign photoshoot to share photos and notes from last season's photography. I delayed posting not because I wasn't eager to show you the work we produced and the process through which the images were created but because I was very happy with the images Kingsway Mall and their advertising agency, TAG Advertising of Calgary, AB selected for ads and for the Kingsway Mall website. The shoot felt much like what the reunion of an old band may have felt like; West Edmonton Mall alumnus John Chwyl as Kingsway's marketing director, Nikolas Syhatheb and his team for hair and makeup, and Corey Thompson as photographic assistant/co-photographer/human boom stand. But much had also changed. I looked through TAG Advertising's portfolio and company with a diverse and illustrious past and with enormous potential. Many of the works, while done for mostly small and medium-sized businesses, were very original and brilliant both in concept, execution, and delivery yet also pockmarked with work that I couldn't understand. I often experience this response when looking at the work of many of the ad agencies that I have admired and would appreciate an opportunity to work with again in the future. For weeks we planned this shoot and for weeks I could barely contain my eagerness to work with this new (for me) art director.
I was apprehensive about the concept at first; the concept called for images shot with mostly out of focus/blown out backgrounds that would later be gradient-toned with some blues and integrated with Kingsway Mall branding materials. But I had faith in the concept and art direction and as the two days of shooting unfolded I wasn't just relieved but pleasantly surprised that my initial apprehension was totally unfounded. The two days produced some of the most free-flowing shooting situations that I've had the chance to work with in commercial fashion photography. John insisted that Patricia be one of our models for this shoot and I wouldn't object to another opportunity to shoot with her (even if I dared!). Katherine and Sean are represented by Sabrina Notte and her agency Deja Vu Modeling International out of Red Deer. Vicki is a model you've seen before in my portfolio and my blog and is currently unrepresented. Liv is a new model and Tom Jablonski is a friend and the Shoe Guru. We used Corey's 72x72" Scrim Jim and 1stop black screens or the white/silver reflector fabric as the only light modifier for the two days. Virtually all photos were shot with the Nikon D3 and the 135mm F/2 Defocus Control Nikkor and processed in Adobe Lightroom 3. Katherine is currently modeling in India and Oman under Inega model management. And a huge thank you again to the awesome people at the Alberta Aviation Museum for hosting us at the hangar.
I've worked extensively with Vicki over the past five or six years and created several pieces that I felt were photographic portfolio worthy. However, I feel that this may be the one shoot in which Vicki has looked her best.
A selection from Sean's first set of the day. Scrimjim silver reflector used to fill in some of the shadows on the forklift in the background.
Liv's last look of her first full shoot day ever.
I thought Tom had a cool look from the first time I shot him for his own company's promotional materials.
My favourite shot of Katherine to date.
Some of Patricia's photos that were never used. A small cross section of a 100+ image flow of hotness.
The concept mockups that got me a bit worried at first.
Between a half hour in a coffee shop and a few short trips on trains I thought I had constructed what I was going to write for this shoot. However, after learning what I just learned from my art director I can't publish most of that! I'm posting the same images and with similar captions but it'll be more a discussion about the technical aspects of the shoot than about my interaction with art direction and client.
Ania Smith of Axial 3D was our art director. This shoot was partially a promotional shoot for Crowne Plaza Chateau Lacombe showcasing some of the new renovations and breathing new life into their existing photographic advertising but it was also partially a personal project for Kevyn, the hotel's new owner. The challenge was that the hotel had not yet been fully renovated so we had to be imaginative. We wanted to create something that wasn't purely architecture-oriented because we needed to give a sense of the spaces within the building without explicitly documenting certain details about the spaces that were destined for change. Models became very important to help us achieve this goal and it was also important to shoot with a camera chassis and a format that would allow for a high degree of adjustment latitude and selective focus and do so without negatively impacting reproduction size or giving photos the "small camera tilt-shift look" often associated with using tilt-shift lenses on digital SLRs. For this reason the project was shot almost exclusively on 4x5 films with the (jade green) Toyo VX125. This would also be my first project on which I'd use colour temperature adjustable LED lights in the form of ARRI Locasters as the primary photographer-controlled light sources. Most original film rebate is intact and film types range from Portra 160NC to Ilford HP5+ to Kodak EPY 64T. Colour films were all chemically processed by ABC Photocolour in Vancouver and I drum-scanned them in my studio on an Aztek DPL-driven Howtek Scanmaster 4500. Ilford HP5+ push processed to ISO 1600 in house in Kodak XTOL at stock strength.
Hair, makeup, and styling by Nikolas. Photos shot with a lot of help from Corey Thompson. And special thanks to Kevyn and his assistant, and the hotel's staff for being very accommodating and for being great hosts. Book a room in this hotel; you won't be disappointed. And thank you to Yura of 350 Designs for introducing me to Ania a few years ago.
A shot in Crowne Plaza's largest ballroom. I think just about every wedding photographer in the city has shot in this ballroom at some point so it was important to try to take the focus away from the room itself and to create a new focal point. I sense that some of the decor in this room is about to change. Kodak EPY is a discontinued ASA 64 tungsten balanced slide film. I bought a 50pack when I was in Detroit and motorcycled it back this past summer. Shot with the Schneider Super-Angulon XL 72mm. Very modest rim and fill light provided by ARRI Locasters tuned to 2800K undiffused. Using colour temperature adjustable LEDs allowed for setup, colour match, shoot, and teardown faster than we could normally setup and colour match our lights for situations like these.
Originally, I wanted to have a half naked woman in the foreground of this photo and with underwear and clothes scattered across the bed and the floor as kind of a fun option but my requests were denied. Anyhow, I'm still happy with the photo . . . I wanted to deviate from the usual hotel room photos showing off perfectly-made beds devoid of any signs of occupation by people and give it more of a life style feel. Shot with the Schneider 72mm Super-Angulon XL wide open with a bit of swing and rise movement for selective focus and to prevent wall lines from converging.
Another option for a bedroom shot. Also shot with the Schneider 72mm XL.
Shooting only with continuous light and shooting with a 4x5 (or larger) ground glass allows for very easy composition of more static frames. The added flexibility of full movements in a monorail camera allow the photographer to add a unique flavour of dynamism and exotic lens rendition to an otherwise more posed photograph. We used a single ARRI Locaster set to 6500K with a diffusion gel clipped to the barn doors to light the foreground for this shot.
We moved to Portra 400NC for the photos shot in Laronde because of how many people were involved and because we wanted people to be animated while in their seats. Even at ISO 400 (rated to 320) we were getting about 1/30s at F/11 and even with a bit of fill by ceiling bounced ARRI Locaster as we were metering for the foreground. Background spot metered at about 10 stops brighter than the foreground but what was really interesting is that in spite of all of the the criticism we've seen about film's narrow latitude, this was the first photo that I had to edit to significantly increase contrast and throw away highlight detail to make it look realistic. Caltar-II S 135mm F/5.6. Film loaded in 6 frame Graphmatic film backs.
One of the few photos shot on the D3. I resorted to using a dSLR because we needed to shoot at higher sensitivities which was one area that colour film suffers. This particular shot was done at ISO 800 and at F/2.8 with a 1/10s shutter speed.
This was the last shot of the day and the one I found the most challenging. The lobby is a large space to fill and with flat, uncontrolled, and mixed lighting which is why I opted to shoot a black and white film. Admittedly, I struggled to position people in a believable manner and I am not sure if I achieved this. And (I never thought I'd be able to say this with a straight face!) we may have too many female models!
All in a day's work: instant proofs from each of the 4x5-oriented scenes.
I haven't felt so unprepared since I started shooting as I felt for today's session. It wasn't because the expectations were unreasonably high for this shoot since it is a conservative editorial disguised as a fashion shoot. It isn't because I was attempting to displace a high profile photographer since I wasn't displacing anyone. And it isn't because the art director threw in a location that likely won't have AC power and to keep things interesting I chose to work only with continuous light sources. I felt mentally unprepared. I felt as though I was being constrained by this publication with limitations I don't even encounter in commercial photography on a budget of about 25% of what I typically command for this amount of effort for a commercial shoot. However, when I saw the published piece, in spite feelings of uneasy apprehension as I handed over the full resolution versions of the files Rodrigo requested, I am thoroughly pleased and even impressed by the final product. The January 2011 issue of Avenue Magazine Edmonton featured the first cover that I have shot that I was completely happy with and I feel that Rodrigo López Orozco, supported by Anders Knudsen, creative director of Avenue Calgary, is whom is most deserving of the credit for this cover . . . aside from our model, designer, and stylist, Natasha Lazarovic and our makeup artist, Hailey Ginn. I'd also like to thank Adam Goudreau, my co-photographer for the shoot, for setting up while I ran back to the studio to grab a few items and for allowing our shoot to flow smoothly. And thank you to Carla Alexander and her staff at MRKT. And as always, thank you to Curtis Comeau for repeatedly recommending me to Avenue. Because of you I've had the privilege of working with my third Avenue art director.
All photos taken with the Nikon D3 through either the 135mm F/2 Defocus Control Nikkor, 24-70/2.8 AF-S Nikkor, or the 70-200/2.8 VR I at sensitivities ranging from ISO 800 to 3200.
Web-res of the January 2011 cover of Avenue Magazine Edmonton as borrowed from Avenue's website.
I just noticed that this image was reversed for design reasons. Maybe that's why Jonathan couldn't recognize her even though they were high school chums. Illuminated with an ARRI Locaster color adjustable LED fixture set at 6500K for the background and with an ARRI Locaster with diffusion gel clipped onto the barn doors for the foreground at 2800K. White balance set in Adobe Lightroom 3.x to 2800K. My only non-essential edits were the removal of some arm freckles. =P
One of my favourites of this part of the shoot.
An all existing light shot that didn't make it past the first round of selections.
This image was lit with two ARRI Locasters to the left of the frame, one above the other and about five feet away. Both lights were set to the same colour temperature. If this photo were to have been published I would have smoothed out the edge of the nose shadow. Working with smaller light sources it's important to properly centre the light over the face axis if a photographer needed a shot to be usable right out of camera without a displeasing nose shadow.
We spent the most time on this set of images both in shooting and in setting up. It's Natasha's brand new "Soviet Russia" piece and, at least at the time this was taken, no one has had a chance to photograph it yet. We used three tunsten Dedolight 100W Fresnel fixtures all set within about a stop apart and on the same C-stand. The lights were used unmodifed to provide separation lighting for Natasha's body and for her head piece. Two ARRI Locasters set up one above the other camera right provided the key light with the higher light softened with a diffusion gel clipped to the barn doors.
Literally our first shot after moving the lights. Diffused ARRI Locaster camera right and dimmed ARRI Locaster set at same colour temperature for rim camera left.
Natasha making Rodrigo feel uneasy holding all of the repurposed little animals. Locasters in the foreground. Leica M7, 35/2 Zeiss ZM Biogon, Delta 400 pushed to 1600 in Kodak XTOL and scanned with the Nikon Coolscan 5000 ED.
From left, [ridiculously skinny] Adam, Rodrigo, and Hailey. Very small crew this time.
At approximately 7pm on September 26th I attempt to
book a train trip from Köln to Frankfurt for the 27th at 6pm.
Deutsche Bahn’s website returns an error informing me that my desired itinerary
occurs in the past. “The past?” I inquired unto myself and I sat there
pondering this software glitch over a Baileys latte at Brownies off
Friesenplatz, confident that it would work itself out. And the problem did work
itself out – I finally realized that I had failed to advance my watch a day as
we crossed the International Date Line on my flight over from Edmonton. It was
7pm on the 27th when I had attempted my booking. But I still
had one thing left to do during this visit. I rush off.
About fifteen minutes and one transfer later I find myself at
the Nippes station platform. The air is misty and the streets are deserted.
Unlike much of Köln, this area’s population density and commercial density
seems very low with large parking lots around sleepy-looking but modern
warehouses. I see only a handful of pedestrians some of whom shoot me an
occasional nervous glance. So far, everything seemed as I had expected.
There is one road roughly parallel to the direction of train
travel but this road angles slightly after a few metres. I am sheepish to admit
that I instinctively headed the right way to my planned destination without
having to ask a local for directions. I come across a sign board on a bicycle
rack pointing me towards a casino. Everything I saw seemed to point me to where
I wanted to go. It would be only a few steps before I see the blue, twelve
storey building towering over the much smaller surrounding structures. Pascha,
Cologne, is the largest brothel in Europe and is licensed by the city and was
built on government-owned land. Upon entering, guests are asked to pay a 5euro
entry fee that is good for twenty four hours and includes all non-alcoholic
beverages and some snacks. If a patron were to choose to leave the premise with
the intention to return later, the doorman will offer to stamp your hand (with
a star, in my case) so that you may avoid having to pay the entry fee again. In
the same building but behind a semi-separate entrance, there is a strip club
with similar rules to those in most of North America. But I have seen a strip
club before. I was here to experience the brothel. And though I wasn’t here to
experience it how most men choose to experience it, I believed that walking the
floors would ensure that I not be denied one of life’s greatest and most taboo
I visited all of the floors except for the floors reserved
for transsexuals and I also didn’t visit the club-style brothel at the top
floor. Many beautiful women sat outside their rooms or within their rooms with
their doors open, casually displaying themselves to those who may peer in. I
spoke with a few of these women. Amongst them were a Hungarian, an Italian, a
Pole, and a Chilean. But on the fifth floor I happened to glance into a room
and could not walk away. A young Brazilian enthusiastically leapt to her feet to
greet me at the door and to invite me in. She was short, no more than 5’4” or
about 160cm and her command of spoken English was barely functional. It would
take me almost two minutes to explain my intentions and another two minutes
before we could agree to working terms.
I photographed Nora for about a half
hour during which I shot almost two rolls of Ilford Delta 400 through the Leica
M7 and the Zeiss Biogon 35mm F/2. Back in Edmonton I would push the film to ISO
1600 in Kodak Xtol at its stock concentration. Before leaving I pay
Nora fifty euros. I left her room feeling somewhat
traumatized while toying with the idea that I had just paid for the services of
a prostitute. But I also had to think about what was she to me? What had I just
paid for? Was she a prostitute or a model whom I directed as I would have
directed any other model on the same set and with the same concept? The process
and the end result were much more gratifying that I imagined her regular
service would have been . . . though I was certainly curious.
Leaving the brothel and telling Leanna all about my
experience was sort of a proud moment for me. Being able to honestly recount the
events of the night to the most important woman in my life (other than my
mother) with the knowledge that many other men making such a revelation to
their respective significant others would have provoked wrath and scorn
served to reaffirm that Leanna is the coolest girlfriend ever. And for the record, I sent Jonathan Puckrin this series of images first. I felt that he would be my one friend who would likely appreciate this set the most. I feel badly that I had done this shoot at the time that I did and wish that the photos didn't find him during such an unfortunate time.
In the past year I've been able to selectively squelch my inner control freak and accept existing light as it is, modifying it only when necessary. For the film fanatics that read this, it has nothing to do with the fact that I am shooting more film but because I try to shoot and travel lighter I'm needing to improvise more and make up for what I lack in light control with spontaneity and stronger compositions.
Most of the light in my model's room came from string lights around the bed, around the mirror, and interwoven with the translucent fabrics attached to her ceiling.
The mirror added some complexity to the photos but also made some angles unshootable without getting myself in them especially with such a small room. I had to make compromises. Shooting with a lens that wasn't wide enough added to the challenge that made the shoot more enjoyable for me.
This was one shot in which I half-wished there was no cut off but am cool with its composition as it is. My biggest fear was for motion blur holding the camera at arm's length and shooting at shutter speeds slower than 1/8th of a second. The heft of the M7 helped dampen some of the hand shake.
Some of my model's artefacts added to the realism and authenticity of our set.
This shoot inspired a new level of appreciation for the benefits of Xtol especially with designer films like Delta, Tmax, and Acros. I believe much of this shadow detail would have been lost had I developed in something like D-76 or HC-110 or even Ilfosol S or 3. And to top it off, Xtol is free of the more toxic components commonly found in other developers; it's primarily an ascorbic acid (vitamin C) developer. I even keep its working solution in an old Tropicana orange juice bottle in my studio.
I wished that my subject spoke more English. I wanted to know more about how this room had come to look like this and how long she had been working here.
This shoot offered one of the rare instances where I could meter off a model's chest to get my desired exposure values. Furthermore, having shot the M7 for some time and shooting with the Biogon 35/2 for even longer I was often able to focus in the centre, guess and adjust slightly, and shoot without having to focus and recompose from another part of the scene.
And just for Justin Poulsen, I believe my subject had a foam mattress but I did not confirm whether or not the foam was of the memory variety.
Today we completed a Contessa entry we started over one year ago.
I never thought that we'd take this long to complete a Contessa entry. Or that we wouldn't qualify as finalists. But I have nothing to regret. This project has offered me an opportunity to work with people with whom I'd like to work again and it has also given me a rare opportunity to work with my own mini-supermodel with full hair, makeup, and styling support by the best MUA and hairstylist that I know. To Nikolas, I never take for granted the times you've chosen me to be your photographer for your personal projects. You're regularly booked by Edmonton's top photographers to work on some of the most coveted and closely held contracts we get to see in this market and I know that any of us would be just as honoured to have this privilege. To our models from this shoot and our shoot at the same location in 2009, I doubt you fully realize how easy you have made it for just about any other photographer to have picked up the same camera and created something beautiful with you in front of the lens. And to the person who owns this abandoned property north of Bon Accord, I need to meet you! In the meantime, I'll just thank Jason Hafso for sharing this location with me.
That's kind of a strange place on you to put bug repellent, Leanna.
Leanna helping Michelle with bug repellent while Nikolas does some touch ups.
Leanna receiving some touch ups of her own.
Not every photo is a winner but every shot is important. First photo lit with a tiny Norman 200B battery system and head shot through the diffuser of a 5-in-1 reflector as held by Nikolas. I wanted to keep the look consistent as with the previous year's shots so we went back to existing light.
The image Nikolas selected of Leanna's set for the final entry. I still remember Leanna being so upset with herself and with me because she thought that she did so badly that I gave up after under fifteen minutes of shooting. The selected image was the second shot after I changed camera angles and location slightly. Nikon D3 with the 135 F/2 Defocus Control Nikkor at ISO 100, 1/1600s, F/2.
Michelle catches me sneaking a shot of her from within the grass. I first saw Michelle on a motion picture set five years ago not long after I started shooting. This would be the first opportunity that I have to work with her and hopefully won't be our last.
It would be just seven minutes before we create the image that Nikolas selects for submission.
Same settings as with the other images but at 1/2500s. This was one of Nikolas' night looks for his submission. But we were shooting during the day and I was kind of lazy with lighting and tried to "nightify" the shot by improvising with some of the burnt remnants of one of the buildings on the abandoned site.
I had some time to expose a few 4x5's. All 4x5's shot on Portra 160NC with a jade green Toyo VX125, 135mm F/5.6 Schneider Symmar-S/Calumet Caltar-S at F/5.6. Exposure time was approximately 1/250s for the two shots with both subjects. Rear rise and front swing applied to maintain perspective and get both models in focus.
All 4x5's scanned with the Howtek Scanmaster 4500 driven by Aztec Digital Photo Lab Pro attached to my little tethering workstation. Some fine tuning of colour done in Photoshop CS4.
The sun came out and made this photo a bit more daytime-looking than I would have liked for Michelle's wardrobe and makeup. I hadn't thought of that when I was shooting but I'll remember for next time. It also looks as though I have some sheets of old 160NC and new 160NC mixed together. Look at the edges of the film!
During a month of shooting mostly commercial architectural interiors and events, Paige Weir's request for me to shoot Karyn Decore, president of Decore Hotels, for Avenue Magazine Edmonton's Style Q&A feature for June was a welcomed invitation. A bit of research revealed that our subject-to-be was also very attractive and in excellent physical condition . . . I was excited. We discussed locations and toyed with the idea of shooting at one of the Edmonton celebrity's hotels without making it look like we shot out of town and while I sense that there was a realistic possibility that we could shoot outside of Edmonton considering that Karyn was actually in Banff when we began discussing the shoot, certain scheduling and support staff elements made it much more desirable for the team as a whole to shoot in Edmonton.
Fortunately, Paige has hookups. Years ago, I shot my first billboard for Derk's Formals in the Red Strap Market space just east of the Edmonton provincial court house. Since then, architect Gene Dub had purchased the building and it had become more difficult to book time in the space to shoot but Paige made the arrangement and, once again, I was in the space where I did my first shoot for my first commercial fashion client. I did a building walk through with an interesting and eccentric Austrian gentleman who works for Gene and we spoke briefly. Some things about the building have changed but, for what we needed the building for, much has remained the same. I walked through the ghostly floors observing the windows which had now been plastic-wrapped over to help reduce energy loss. Some floors had a dense layer of fine dust that was largely undisturbed and may have collected over several months or even years. The space had become more beautiful and more characteristic with unoccupation.
Below are some photos I shot during the walkthrough taken with the Leica M7 and the Zeiss Biogon 35mm F/2 on Fuji NPZ.
On the third floor. For the Derk's shoot we used this floor only for photos after dark because it didn't have enough light for what we needed to do with it. However, this floor and the broken ladder became the setting for my favourite photos from our shoot with Karyn Decore.
Under previous management we weren't allowed to use the top floor because of the exposed insulation but this time no one stopped us from using this spot. Shooting in the other direction, Craig Hobbs, co-shooter on this shoot, created what would become the cover for Avenue Magazine Edmonton's June issue.
We used these west-facing windows as primary lighting for the Derk's billboard. We shot Karyn with lens axis perpendicular to this wall and directly adjacent the south wall for the portrait-oriented full length.
Craig selected this area to shoot Karyn in piece from Edmonton designer Natasha Lazarowich's line Temna Fialka. The white wall parallel to the windows affords a photographer a lot of working room with generous fill light which we sought out to complement Karyn's dark hair and high cheekbones.
Having Craig on set gave art direction and I the confidence to shoot exclusively 4x5 film while Craig shot his D3. In fact, more of his shots ended up being published. Below, all photos shot with existing light on Portra 160NC with the jade green Toyo VX125 and either the Schneider Symmar-S 210mm F/5.6 or the Schneider Symmar-S 135mm F/5.6. Film processed by ABC Photocolour in Vancouver and wet-mount drum scanned in house on the Howtek Scanmaster 4500 driven by Aztek's Digital Photo Lab Professional software suite.
Craig's shot with similar pose and same location ended up on the cover. Depth of field at F/5.6 even on the 135mm lens was very shallow and with the slightest bit of subject movement the subject's face became slightly out of focus. The cover would require a the image to be cropped to about 1/5th of its original area. That said, due to the low levels of enlargement required to get even an aggressive crop of a 4x5 shot to full page size, the softness was not visible at final enlargement size, matching the sharpness of Avenue Edmonton's May cover shot by Bleacher and Everard, the American photographers that Avenue contracts for their US Style Q&A features. Shutter speed was approximately 1/8th of a second.
A full length published with approximately 1:1 enlargement for the story.
My favourite shot from the shoot. Fortunately it made it to print but at reduced size. Subtle front tilt, swing, and fall applied. I had forgotten to tap the film holder to ensure that the film was sitting square but there was enough cropping room left to correct for the rotation. I didn't fully correct the rotation here because Karyn's posture and the ladder's position seemed more natural with this much rotation even though the straight lines of the space emphasize the residual rotation.
Karyn was a lot of fun to work with being very patient and charismatic with lively eyes and she pulled off many outfits that most women don't have the physique to make work. Her support team consisting of her hairstylist (sorry, I don't recall her name), makeup artist, Bonnie Paxton, her stylist/stand-in/modeling coach Kendall (a former international model) and designer Natasha Lazarowich helped move the shoot along smoothly and made all of the looks very polished.
In the extended body of this entry you'll find some behind the scenes shots taken with the Leica M7, Zeiss Biogon 35mm F/2 on Delta 400 pushed to 1600 in Kodak Xtol in stock concentration.