Friday, August 27, 2010

The Head Shot

Business portraits, or head shots as they've macabrely know as, are a fairly new thing for me. Being in Whistler, commercial space is expensive and hard to come by, so I've always worked out of my house instead of a traditional photographers studio. About two years ago, we had a big fire, and as a result had to strip out all the drywall and floors. Since it was open, I took the opportunity to knock down a few walls and opened up a space just large enough to use as a photo studio.

While I've done a few tests, I hadn't actually had a paying client in here until this week when Nick Davies, a local lawyer, called me up and asked for some new photos for his web page. I've done shots of Nick in the past, but mostly in the Whistler business style, casual shirts, outside, maybe a set of skis in the shot. He's working a lot with Vancouver clients these days, and needed to look more a suite wearing, boardroom prowling, big city lawyer.

Tech Stuff:
I used three Alien Bee B1600 strobes. A key light with a 22" beauty dish to camera left, a kicker and hair light behind Nick with a extra small 12x16" softbox on it, and a background light against the wall on a short stand. The wall to camera right is painted bright white and makes a great fill source. The background wall is painted 18% grey. To get the tone, I took a Kodak grey card to Home Depot and got them to colour match it.

Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8
Lighting: Alien Bee B1600 x 3

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jordi and Scott's Wedding at the top of Whistler Mountain

Jordi and Scott are from Hinton Alberta, and came out to Whistler with some friends for a quiet wedding on the top of Whistler Mountain. To top it off, we got one of the nicest days of the year.

The ride up on the Whistler gondola.

The ceremony, with a view that can't be beaten.

One of the things about working on mountain tops is that it's really bright, and I don't mean that figuratively. It's 1 to 1 1/2 (in non photo speak that twice to three times as much light) stops brighter than it is at the bottom of the mountain, which can give you real head aches for using fill flash to even out the shadows. If you were to use the standard camera sync speed of 1/320 (1/250 on most pro cameras), that would mean you'd need an f/stop of f/16, which means that everything in the frame is in focus. For this shot I wanted the background out of focus, but still needed some flash to fill in the harsh shadows. On the Nikon pro cameras, there's a high speed sync feature that lets you shoot up to 1/4000 second with the flash, which is what I did with this shot, and that brought my f/stop down to f/4.

While I love shooting on the mountain, it can be a harsh environment, and there's almost no shade or shelter from the sun. Just to get some better looking personal portraits, I asked Jordi and Scott to come out to my favourite location along the shores of Green Lake.

The hem of Jordi's wedding gown. It did a trip up and down Whistler in the dust, and I marched her all over the whistler Valley trail for extra photos.

Tech Stuff:
Camera: Nikon D700
Lenses: Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8, AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8, AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8
Flash: Nikon SB-900

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vancouver Zombie Walk

A highlight of the summer is the annual Vancouver Zombie Walk, which has grown from evening event to an entire week of parties. As part of the Urban Pie coverage, we did a photo shoot with professional burlesque dancer Tristan Risk.

For the main shot, I wanted something that was going to look really dark and moody. Since it's been bright, hot, and sunny in Vancouver for the last couple of months, this posed a real problem. I've seen some cool shots where the camera white balance was set to tungsten, which gives the image a dark blue cast, and the flash had been gelled with a double CTO (colour temperature orange) to bring the subject up to a normal colour tone. Unfortunately, the only CTO I had was a 1/4 CTO, and it was only big enough to go over the front of my Nikon speedlight, hardly big enough to go over the 22" dish reflector I used for this photo. My plan was to stop at Beau Photo and pick up a few sheets of gel on my way to the shoot, but I got hung up in Lions Gate traffic, and didn't make it before they closed. I had a few scraps of warm gel that I was able to stick on the light, so the effect was a lot less than I would have liked, but I think it worked out pretty well.

We shot in front of Tristan's Vancouver apartment, and ended leaving a nasty looking pool of prop blood. I'm sure she's going to get a letter from the strata.

This was shot int he hallway of the character building Tristan lives in. I thought it had a great old building look that went well with the zombie theme. I lit it with a Nikon SB-900 flash in a small 22x16" softbox, and held by Urban Pie editor Alan Forsythe. It came out looking kind of flat and overly bright (lower photo), so I burned down the edges, and then ran a high pass filter over the file to pump up the contrast.

The building had a really post industrial looking meter room that we decided to use as a location. I noticed a huge switch in the back of the room, which I thought might work really well for the zombie theme.

Tech Stuff:
Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikon AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8
Lighting: Alien Bee B1600 w/ 22" beauty dish (top two), Nikon SB-900 with 22x16" Photoflex Whitedome softbox, controlled with a Nikon SU-800 (lower three shots).

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Helene and Robert's Wedding at the Brew Creek Lodge

Helene and Robert are something unusual for me, a couple who actually live and work in the Whistler area. By far the majority of my clients are destination clients who come to Whistler to get married. They had a great, really laid back wedding at the Brew Creek Lodge, a great wedding location about 20 km's south of Whistler.

A spectacularly disheveled bathroom. I love shots of the mess that always seems to come with getting ready for a wedding.

The ladies helping Helene to get dressed.

It was a beautiful day for a wedding. I had a bit of a misstep when I tripped over a flower bed and went flying just before the ceremony. Thankfully, nobody caught it on video, so I didn't end up on a million viewed YouTube video. It was a pretty good joke for the guests for the rest of the day.

At the end of the ceremony, they released butterflies, which was something I hadn't seen before. It made for some nice photos.

Helene's niece, a really cute flower girl.

Tech Stuff:
Cameras: Nikon D700, Nikon D2x
Lenses: Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8, Nikon AF-S 28-70 f/2.8, Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8
Lighting: Mostly natural with fill from Nikon SB-900 flash

Friday, August 13, 2010

Perseid Meteor Shower

I've been trying for a few years to get a good shot of the Perseid meteor shower, which is an annual event here when the Earth orbits through the dust trail left from the Swift-Tuttle comet. It's always been an issue, as it's only for a day or two a year, and we tend to get a lot of overcast, fog, lately smoke from forrest fires. This year was perfect, with clear weather and no moon.

I started out at a couple of highway pull offs around Whistler, but it quickly became apparent that that for a mountain resort, Whistler has a shocking amount of light pollution. Next I tried Pemberton, but the mountains around it are too high and I couldn't see enough of the sky. I headed out to the Duffy Lake Road, the highway between Mt. Currie and Lillooet. It's a backroad pass over the coast range mountains that's over 4000 feet high, and has very little night traffic. It was perfect.

I set the camera on a tripod, pointed the lens at the sky, and started doing 5 minute long exposures. I quickly figured out that there is so much movement in the stars that it blurred everything badly, and meteors, which were coming in every couple of minutes, weren't registering. I cranked the ISO to 6400, opened the lens to f/2.8, and knocked down the exposure to about 90 seconds, and just kept doing them until I got a nice clear meteor trail. The green and red colours are traces of the northern lights, which gave the sky some definition, and cluster of stars at the top is the Milky Way.

One meteor came through and was so bright it lit up the entire valley, but unfortunately I didn't have the shutter open.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marlene and Kyle's wedding at Nicklaus North, Whistler

Marlene and Kyle are from Evanson IL, which is close to Chicago. They came out to the Nicklaus North Golf Club here in Whistler for their wedding last week and really had a great time.

Marlene and her bride's maid got ready at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, which is one of the top Whistler hotels.

We were all able to squeeze into an elevator.

The ladies in the Mallard Bar at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler.

Kyle and his father and brother just before the ceremony.

Giving away the bride.

Nicklaus North has one of the best patio's in Whistler, and it's a favourite location of mine for weddings.

What I have to put up with. The valley trail boardwalk is a great spot for bridal portraits, except for the almost constant bike traffic.

A great way to introduce the couple to start dinner.

Tech Stuff:
For most of my wedding photography, I keep it pretty minimalist. For a nice sunny day later in the afternoon, lots of extra flash just blows out the already beautiful looking light.

Cameras: Nikon D700 and D2x
Lenses: Nikon AF-S 17-35mm, AF-S 28-70mm, and AF-S 70-200mm. All f/2.8