Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oh! You Pretty Things

Now that I've got your attention, I can tell you what I've been up to since my post oh so long ago. I've had a few shoots and other art-related gigs in the last month. I shot Mariage Blanc again for their CD release of "Broken Record". Reviews for the album appeared in the Pittsburgh City Paper as well as the Post-Gazette alongside my photo of them. This is my first publication, so to speak, so you can bet I'll have some scans for you to drool on soon enough.

My Dad comissioned me to photograph a girl with a banjo for his annual mix CD's album cover "Banjo Pickin Girl". This was a very thrown together shoot with basically no planning, which is why it went so well. My lovely coworker from the Beehive, Monika, allowed me to steal her from her home and shoot her with a borrowed banjo. We shot it in East Liberty which is a part of town with much color and aesthetically pleasing decay. You can see all of those right here. Monika is a great model, she's modest but not camera shy. I've shot her before in one of my first attempts at light painting with her late cat, Nibbler, may he rest in peace. Here's an example. I'm very glad that I have her available for any fun ideas I might get that require a pretty gal.

I also shot a fellow named Jay who is a musician. He also manages a few musicians and bands, so that makes him a valuable customer. My shoot with him was also rather unplanned because I had just gotten a wicked cold and was too busy blowing my nose to think about the shoot. Despite the snot, it was a quick, spotless success. I took him to the top floor of the Terminal Building, which is a big warehouse. Most of the floors are renovated for offices but floor six is open space, columns, concrete, and windows. Every time I go there I notice how beautiful the light is. Jay played a song on his guitar by a window and we were done shooting after one song. He looks very natural and comfortable, I think, because he wasn't paying attention to me as he played his song. The light was soft and just about perfect. Have a look!

A couple days ago I shot a model that I've worked with before. Her name is Mallory. The last time to worked together things looked a little like this, this, and this. For the new shoot we stayed indoors and played with candy. A while ago I had an idea to cover someone in rainbow jimmies but I've been told it's already been done. Of course! So she heard about the idea and decided that she wanted to be covered in icing and candy. It didn't quite go as perfectly as we imagined. The lights made the icing melty and most of the candy wouldn't stay put. We have learned important lessons for next time, that's for sure. We wanted to get glamour shots of her entire person but due to my lack of a studio, decent lights, and flair for glamour, all we mostly got were head shots. They turned out yummy anyway, so why don't you have a gander.

What a doll, eh? The mini spree's stuck the best. Nerds are 2nd on the list, followed by sour patch kids, followed by nothing. Everything else plopped right off. We shot this in my kitchen with two umbrella lights, two clamp lamps, a desk lamp, and the overhead light. The lamps each had one orange light and one blue light. I know that's an awful lighting setup, but you work with what you've got. So that is that.

Last night I had another lovely lady over to my place and we had a session that was just about the opposite of Mallory's shoot. Nikki, who is the star of my very first blog here, wanted me to get some head shots for her next album (Prometheus Burning). I am very pleased with how these turned out. I knew from the start that they'd look great because the idea was very simple. White face, black tongue, black backdrop. The success of this shoot was totally in her hands. She dressed amazing and was very confident in front of the camera. All I had to do was toss some lights up around her and snap away. We tossed Bessy, my giant african black millipede, in the mix, which can never ever be a bad thing. We also shot a few light painting images in my hallway for funsies. I don't have these shots on flickr yet as I'm converting the files right now. Here, however, is a sneak peak. Lucky you!

There are a lot of gems from this shoot, so be sure to look out for the whole set on flickr. I have a roast in the oven, so I bid you good day.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

catching up

I thought I'd start this post with my favorite photo from a shoot that I did for my friends Jason and Robin. Their son Elliot turned 2 so they asked me to capture the whole adorable event. Which I did. It was a sunny summers day and the yard was filled with jolly children, so it wasn't a challenge to get a multitude of good photos. Do have a look at them here. By the way, he's not a battered child, he got some sunblock in his eye.

I've also finally gotten around to posting my photos of Five Days Pending, my friend Jason's (not the same Jason, another one) cover band. They played at the Rex Theater and he asked me to shoot it because one of the members of the band was leaving for Iraq shortly. It was a tough shoot. The lighting guy at the Rex really kept me on my toes. The lights were constantly changing so I was always moving around and adjusting my exposure. I used a really high ISO so the photos all look rather grainy. I used it to my advantage and made the photos look high-contrast and grungy. It's like I told them in my letter to the client (which comes FREE with every completed photo job)

"I shoot in a digital format called RAW which is a very large file so that you can use these for making fairly large prints if you’d like. I use an editing program that’s similar to photoshop but without the gimmicks. Any editing that I do on the computer are processes which could be achieved in a color darkroom. I edit for exposure, highlight contrast, shadow contrast, and hue. Your photos appear very grainy. You might not be too happy about all the grain but this will happen even if I had shot with film. The grain happens for a few reasons. A low light situation where there is a lot of movement requires both a fast shutter speed (to reduce blur) and a wide lens aperture (to capture all available light). To achieve both of these qualities, I needed to set my camera’s ISO very high. The ISO rating determines the camera’s sensitivity to light. This is true for both film and digital. Think of newspaper photos of something in motion or at night."

And so on. Here's an example for
your eyeballs. The other forty-six that I've chosen to share can be seen on my flickr site when you click on these highlighted words right here.

Last night I shot what seemed to be a rather popular yearly party in Bloomfield called Roller Boogie. It was utter madness and I cannot say with any confidence yet how the photos turned out as I have yet to look at them. The party entailed booze, roller skates, costumes, VIP rooms, and live music. Nearly all the light came from disco balls and christmas lights. As far as I can recall the first rule of Roller Boogie was "hooray roller boogie", the second rule of Roller Boogie was "if it's your first roller boogie, you must skate" and the third rule seemed to be "no standing still or pausing under decent light". Getting a clear shot of anyone was a struggle and keeping my camera safe from flailing bodies was a challange. I don't quite understand why Sneaky (the host) hired a photographer, but I did my best and tried to capture the feel of the party, if not too many clear images of people's smiling faces. The experience left me frustrated, but now that I've given the images 24 hours to stew in their memory cards, I'm looking forward to editing. I'm sure I'll find some diamonds in the rough.

But that is a blog for another day. Keep on the lookout this Wednesday for the Pittsburgh City Paper.Mariage Blanc has a review on the way of their new album Broken Record. The article with be accompanied by a stunning photo of the band by yours truly. While your waiting for the city paper, be sure to keep an eye on my deviantart and flickr sites. Also, be sure to enjoy this here website as much as possible. You can never have too much lomo in your life!

On that note, I say goodbye.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the thursday afternoon slack-off

No photo jobs to work on today, so I got to just enjoy my camera. I took a handful of photos of my quail's eggs (and some chicken eggs for funsies) in the nice, soft light of my kitchen window. I love the quality of light that my apartment gets in the late afternoon.

They all looked so lovely when I uploaded them that I decided to leave them completely unedited. I'll be posting them to flickr shortly for you to enjoy.

Eggs are a lovely subject. With the right light, it's not hard to get an aesthetically pleasing image, I think. Anyway, also got some more photos of the animals and a few new Mariage Blanc photos.
The Mariage Blanc shoot was a little tricky since it was at night and my subjects were a little drunk. That made it tough to get clear long exposures like I had planned. Also forgot to bring along my wide angle lens so shooting in the basement where the light was decent was also tough. Had to do quite a bit of maneuvering just to fit them all in the frame. This one is probably my favorite as far as what I think would look good in the City Paper, which is where it is going to end up. I hope they pick this one, too.

I'll have the rest of these sets and more shortly on flickr and deviantart. In the meantime, have a look at this nice website about Duane Michaels, just because he's great. You can see one of my favorite sequences of his on there called "Chance Meeting". I leave you with the only photo that I got of the fireworks that I found to be in any way interesting.

Monday, October 6, 2008

opening up the vault

Good day to you, blog-shaped readers! Just thought I'd let you know what I've been up to. A few days ago Pittsburgh celebrated it's 250th anniversary so all the rich folk threw a fireworks party. I haven't had a chance to look at the photos yet, but if any turned out well, you have that to look forward to. Tomorrow I'll be shooting my co-worker's band Mariage Blanc
in the dead of night which means I get to play with streetlights and flashes. I think my photo for them will end up in the City Paper, which will definitely make my day.
I've shot them before, and I just recently posted that entire shoot to flickr. I enjoyed that project for a few reasons. First, it taught me to assume nothing about a shoot. They told me that they wanted me to document them recording their album. So in my head I had a picture of what I thought all recording studios looked like. Last year I took some (not very good) photos of my friend's recording studio The Church Recording Studio which is an incredible space. Were I to shoot a band there, I'd have lots of space to prance about with my tripod and do as I please. Mariage Blanc's place was not this way. There was no room to move and the few small spaces for me to crouch on the floor were always in the way of important microphones. My ninja photographer skills were put to the test that evening, for sure. I had to be as little of a distraction as possible, while still snapping.
Another assumption I made had to do with the lighting situation. I was told that the studio had big windows to let lots of soft, natural light in. However, I didn't think to ask what way the windows faced. So as the sun set and the music began, my subject become silhouettes. I had already decided not to use flash, as I don't have a remote, off-camera flash yet and anything I tried to do with my on-camera flash would look less than amateur. I took a few hundred shots that night, despairing that none of them looked any good. Later that night while editing I was pleasantly surprised at the mood I captured. I think the final product really suits the band and the kind of music they make. Subdued, simple, and just a tiny bit rockstar. Why not see for yourself!
I've also begun posting some of my other older projects, including these photos of Cyco Mike of Angry Moon tattoo working on an aquatic-themed sleeve. That night I had gone to just snap a couple quick ones for a portrait assignment for a digital photo class. I ended up staying for hours because I love the sound of a tattoo machine. This was one of the first shoots that I discovered how much I love to boost the highlight contrast. Looking back at it now, I can see that I had been adding way too much yellow to my photos on my old monitor. Now I've got a Samsung SyncMaster with her colors calibrated and her pixels in working order. Someday I'd like to re-edit all my old photos to see just how much better I can make them look.
Which brings me to my next project. I call it the Pip photo documentary. Last year I spend a few months documenting the creation of a robot. It's been a very big secret because my friend's company, Mechanimal, has been trying to sell it. So I've been sitting on these photos for ages without the permission to show a single living soul. The end may be in sight, but first I have to go back though all of them and pick the ones I'd like to display online, then get permission. I imagine once I start picking them out, I'll want to do a lot of re-editing as well.
Also new to check out on flickr are my photos of Prometheus Burning live at club Diesel, and the entire PAPA product shoot. That's all for now, hopefully you'll be hearing from me soon about these robot photos.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

the extra mile

It's been another slightly productive day in the world of photography for the little magpie. I got my monetary compensation for the wedding shoot and was given the task of making all of the photos available for family and friends of the bride and groom. With a reasonable amount of free time, they could do this themselves by copying the disc I made for them or taking it to Ritz, but in my letter to the client I stressed the fact that I'd be happy to do anything else that was needed involving the photos. This means that I'd edit further, make prints, copies of the disc, even get digital frames that they could (after paying me for them) give ask thank you gifts. Whatever they want. So they want the photos to be available to everyone. So I bought a Flickr Pro account and have for the past few hours been uploading the photos to a wedding folder. It cost me thirty dollars for a year account which is pretty reasonable, considering that I can now post my entire portfolio to the web by selecting hundreds of photos from my external hard drive and dragging it into the Flickr Uploadr. I don't know why they take the last "e" out of their words.
Anyway this has altered the functions of my other websites. Now my deviantart location will be used for personal things like blogging about my everyday life and posting photos that I took for myself. My flickr site (right here) will be where I post all my photos, and I can link to them from here.
On to business. I recently had a brief portrait session with a nice lady named Lucia to shoot some reference photos for my friend Dan Vogel, co-founder of The Academy of the Southside.
It was a quick shoot because I had a modeling gig to get to. We shot in my living room with an umbrella light. Lucia was seated in an arm chair with a table beside here. Dan had a very specific vision of how he wanted her to look, as he always does when I shoot reference portraits for him. I took about fifty shots because Dan would take a look at them and tell me to shoot a few more. The problem is, they all look the same and not in a good way. She and the table look cramped into the frame and the light looks sickly. Editing was no help. So I've told Dan that I can't let him spend weeks making a giant oil painting from a sub-par photo. I'll be re-shooting that and taking the photos how I see fit. I think when two artists work together on something like this, it's important for all three people (photographer, painter, model) to give equal input. My last shoot for Dan went really well because I told him that I had a lighting style in mind, he told me that he had a pose in mind, and our model was willing to let me shine a light in his face.
What you have there is light painting, one of my favorite lighting techniques. I'm hoping to use this technique on my next band promo shoot. I think it's a fitting style for say, a metal band. More on that subject at a later date when I get a collection of light painting photos set up on flickr. Also expect a blog about the wedding soon once I get this online gallery set up for them.
That's all for now, children. Talk to yinz soon.

Monday, September 29, 2008

PAPA Shoot- a magical trip to pinball heaven

My latest shoot was both fun and easy and involved pizza at one point. Free food is a good perk and so is free pinball, for sure. So first I want to tell you about pinball heaven then I'll get on with the details of the shoot.

Okay so this eccentric rich dude has a giant warehouse full of pinball machines from the birth of pinball to the shiny, glowing, pinball that we know and love today. Hundreds of machines, all buzzing and blinking and begging to be played. However, this oasis of gaming delight is only open once a year for the world famous PAPA pinball tournament. Madness.

Anyway, I was hired to photograph their new products that they're selling online. Mostly t-shirts so I had some fun models to order around, and a few other knick knacks to set on my favorite machines and shoot. I had my Nikon D200, my tripod, and my crummy umbrella light with a bluish 'natural light' bulb. Super simple. The hardest part was pulling my models away from their games to stand still and smile for me. I love when I get to shoot people smiling. Usually I'm shooting portraits for bands or for painting references and nobody wants smiling to happen.

It was really well lit in there so I didn't need to do much editing later for exposure or anything. I did anyway, just because I like a high highlight contrast and a little more yellow than real life. No cyan, though. Cyan is for those angstie, smile-free photos.

I count this as a successful gig. I didn't get lost driving to Carnegie in the rain, I remembered my camera battery, and I got a Budai poster like this one only with gerbils and concerning PAPA instead of Elf Power. Hey, why don't I just show you the poster! Better yet; lets have Dave Bach, my client, show you.

A few more of the product shots can be seen at deviantart
and there

Now before you go and say "Hey Dani, that last one isn't a very good product shot, you can't even see the entire image on the t-shirt! You fool!" put down the phone and let me finish. I shot that one when I was done working. I just like it. There's plenty more where that came from. I've got four more models, a hat, a bag, and fun photos of the machines. All that and more delicious in the next post!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A New Nest

Setting up a blog for myself so I can have a portfolio separate from Deviant Art. For now, here's where all my photos are from the last six years or so; and that's probably where they'll stay unless I get this looking really nice. I've been getting an increasing amount of freelance photo work, so I've started looking into getting a bit more organized about everything. I've gotten a pretty smooth work flow down as far as editing, billing, and presenting my work. I'm considering getting Little Magpie Photography in the books as an actual sole proprietor business, but I'm probably not making enough money yet to make all the taxes and hullabaloo worthwhile. In the meantime, a new email address, a new blog, and a new business card should suffice. This is mostly a practice post so I suppose I'll toss up a new photo to try it out. If all goes as planned, you ought to be seeing a photo of Prometheus Burning from their recent show at Diesel in Pittsburgh's South Side. Enjoy!