People

Pulling Faces

About a month ago, Photogen.lu had challenged its members to take part in a ‘street battle’. The purpose of the get-together in Luxembourg City was to roam the city centre and take photographs of the people there, then meet up again and share images and experiences. Most of the photographers went for the candid approach, in which you photograph scenes happening in the streets where people are not aware of being photographed. I decided to do the opposite and approach people directly.
I think it’s easier to decide on a target group. If you can photograph anybody, you’re likely to end up not being able to decide who to approach. If fewer people meet your arbitrary criteria, it’s easier to pick somebody from the masses. In this case, I focused on people with greying hair.

I had a memorable exchange from the workshop in Arles in mind that day. I had asked Serge Picard how I could make my subjects feel more comfortable. He answered: ‘Why on earth would you want them to feel comfortable?’. My goal for the day then was to get out of my own comfort zone by approaching complete strangers and getting them out of their own comfort zone in the process. I went around addressing people, briefly told them that my photography club had given me a mission and asked if I could take their portrait. If they agreed, I first took a regular close-up portrait. Having a camera with a ring-light pointed at your face can be a bit intimidating, so I didn’t want to come straight to the point. The photo I was after was one of my subjects pulling their favourite face. Once a person has agreed to having their portrait taken, the first picture is just a means of breaking down a barrier. After that, it’s much easier to persuade your subject to do something silly or unusual.
In case you’re wondering why there are only men in the gallery: none of the women I asked for a portrait agreed!


Pinacotheca

Last autumn, the Luxembourgian shopping centre City Concorde contacted photo clubs across countries to ask for submissions for their Pinacotheca. Currently they are showing a selection of prints by photogen.lu members, including one of my photographs, Ocean View, printed at 7.5 by 5 metres. Yes, metres. If you want to see the oversized print, head to the escalators which connect the shopping centre’s multi-level parking lot to the main hall. I don’t know for how much longer the print will be there, so get there soon :)
Oh, and this would be a valid reason for always shooting RAW and at the camera’s full resolution. You never know when your picture gets printed at the size of a billboard!


Casino

Chris Willmott asked me for a casino-themed shoot before I was going to leave the UK. The School of Drama building at the University of Kent had recently been finished and provided a fairly modern setting that would work, seeing as I didn’t really want to go through the whole logistics of working in an actual casino. So, thanks to the university for letting me shoot there.

The photographs ended up somewhere between the styles of James Bond and Gambit. I used Speedlights and PocketWizards to set the mood in terms of lighting, playing around with gels to get some colour contrast and get away from the boring fluorescent light.

The post-processing was a challenge for me. For two of the photographs we wanted the cards to be in mid-air. Getting it all done in-camera turned out really difficult, so I decided that I’d place the cards later on in Photoshop. Thus I ventured forth into Photoshop’s 3D world :) I hope the results look somewhat realistic.


Wedding: Julie & Savio


I met Savio while I worked in P&T’s Téléboutique in Luxembourg city – my summer job for the last couple of years. I think he saw the slideshow from Martine and Mike’s wedding and showed them to Julie. They asked if I could take photos at their wedding, and once my schedule for my MA last summer had taken shape I could confirm that I’d be able to cover one last wedding during my time as a student – theirs.
Once more I asked Olivier to help me out as assistant and second shooter, and he did a great job. We started the day at Julie’s parents’ in Thionville. From there it was but a short drive to the lovely neo-apostolic church where they got married. This was the first non-catholic wedding that I’ve covered so I checked with the priest to make sure I’d be aware of the differences. After the moving service, a limousine picked up the newly-weds. We drove to Mondorf-les-Bains: the reception and the dinner were held at the Orangerie in the park. Having everything in one place like that made logistics a bit easier and meant that we could spend a bit more time for the couple photos.

In terms of lighting, I made use of the technique I first tried at the Southlands Beach Fashion Shoot, namely pushing three Speedlights to full power, and using the PocketWizards to sync at 1/500,double the 5DMkII sync speed. That way I got enough light to work in bright daylight (we had wonderful weather) without being at the sun’s mercy. The PocketWizards also came in handy for one of my favourite photos from the shoot (the one next to the river), where I was about 40 metres away from Savio and Julie, and the PWs together with the 3 flashes gave me both enough working distance (for composition) and brightness from the softbox which was about 4 metres away from them.

During the evening I gave Olivier one of the transceivers so that we could both trigger the flashes that we had set up in the Orangerie to support the ambient light. The reception and dinner were very entertaining. I’m glad that I was at the right place at the right time when Savio’s friends spontaneously decided to lift him off the ground :) During the dances I used a technique I learned from David Ziser: get one slaved flash behind the couple to create both a nice rim and some cool lighting on the floor. Olivier had to put some effort into that, since he had to be in the frame without showing up on the pictures.

I had a really great time at the wedding, and I hope I captured the ambience in the photographs! That was probably the last wedding I’ll cover. My time as a student is up and I’m moving on.


Dancing on Ice


I’ve pretty much finished work on my dissertation now, so I could take a day off when Coralie and Oliver came down to visit us in Canterbury. Together with David and Alison we drove to the Ice Bowl in Gillingham.


Southlands Beach Fashion Shoot

[Update: Some people have asked about the editing of the ‘splash’ photo, so I’ve uploaded the original for comparison.]

I really liked Southlands Beach which Alison showed me when we were in Bermuda. I had a Fashion photography competition that I wanted to participate in while we were there, so I asked Alison to play the ‘local’ card and get in touch with one of the models she’s worked with before, Stephanie Wilkinson.

For most of the photographs I used three flashes. Two were used together with a shoot-through umbrella which Alison held on to to avoid it falling over. The third flash was used on its own as a kicker or sidelight and was safe on a tripod. Or so I thought.

The shoot went really great – until we got to the final location. The wind blew over the tripod with one of my flashes and a PocketWizard. The hotshoe foot of the latter snapped off, so tomorrow I’ll have to head over to the Flash Centre in London to get a replacement foot (they said they can fix it in time for my Eurostar to Luxembourg in the evening if I drop it off in the afternoon).

Sod’s law. I think I got quite lucky for the rest of the shoot anyway. The forecast had announced rain but it stayed dry, I got way too close to stepping on a Portuguese Man o’ War, and the light levels were just on the sweet spot for me to make use of the flashes at full power and a 1/500 sync speed whilst keeping a shallow depth of field.


Wedding: Jacky & Steve


Jacky and Steve’s wedding in September was the last one I covered in 2009, and oh boy, it was great to be there. Alison had come down to be my assistant for the day. We started the day with the couple shooting in the park in Colmar-Berg. It offers some gorgeous backdrops all along the shores of its lakes. On the technical side, I finally got to make proper use of the PocketWizards’ full potential. Their high sync-speed capabilities made it easier to balance the flashes against the full daylight and generally made using the lights more practical. The shoot in the park was a lot of fun, and the atmosphere just carried on right through the rest of the day.
The ceremony was in the town hall in Vichten. Their ceremonial room upstairs was very interesting in terms of lighting, the mix of indirect sunlight from the windows and artificial light sounded like it was going to be tricky, but it turned out to make for some great sidelight and colour contrast which gave the whole ceremony a very warm character.
The reception and dinner were back in Colmar-Berg. We had already briefly visited the area for some architectural elements in the couple shoot. The dinner hall was nice because it offered such an open space and a lot of room for the dance floor. I actually asked Alison to film Jacky and Steve’s first dance with her 5DMkII while I was taking photographs. I think the short clip makes for a nice moment in the slideshow. The evening was marked by some crazy games for the newlyweds and their guests and an all-round festive mood – definitely an awesome evening for a very cute couple.


Iron Man

One of the recent challenges over on DPChallenge was ‘Rejected Movie Posters‘. I came up with this parody of the Iron Man movie. The slides below should give you an idea of the process from the first concept ‘drawing’ to the final image.
I took the picture in a living room. Not much space, otherwise the lights would have been further away. I used to flashes with barn doors for the rim light, and two lights with umbrellas as side lights. My Iron Man, Aaron, had to balance on the ironing board I borrowed from my flat and which was propped up on a couple of pillows.
The background I ended up using was made in Photoshop using the Clouds Pixelate/Mezzotint and Radial Blur/Zoom filters. The bigger streaks are from a separate image I made with some christmas lights – I zoomed in during the exposure to create straks. The font used for the title is CGF Arch Reactor with a starting sand/soil texture from CG Textures.


Nightwalk


A couple of photographers from the Photogen community decided to meet up in Luxembourg City on the evening of May 1st for a 'nightwalk'. Since I happened to be in Luxembourg that week rather than when my volcano-free schedule had planned, I drove up to the Kirchberg to join the others: -Kiischtii-, deBaemm, m-otiv, MB-Photos, McQueen, and Mexx. (Mouseover the photos to see the who's-who in the captions.) We walked from the LuxExpo down to the Philharmonie, where Ben took a great group photo of us, using the combined light power of 4 PocketWizards, 2 580EXs, 1 430EX and 2 SB900s.
Some of us wanted to go see Iron Man 2 after the get-together, and with only 20 minutes to go before the screening, we realized that we had covered quite a distance on the way down from Utopolis. Doesn't feel like it when you can just drive the distance in a car! Oh, Iron Man was crap by the way. But at least it inspired me to take another photograph, which I'll blog about next week.


Vintage


The Photography and Modelling Society organized a 50s themed photoshoot in Keynes college at the University of Kent last month. I'm not sure if the clothing styles the models came up with all matched that exact time span, but let's say it was all 'Vintage' to give the whole thing a coherent style.
The shoot was a bit of a challenge because there were about 20 people, both photographers and models, in a fairly small common room stuffed with tables and sofas. Without much space I made use of superclamps and magic arms to get my lights where I needed them to be.
The last image isn't me, by the way, it's this year's (well, last year's, since the elections were right after the shoot) Photography President Mikey, shooting Bert Stephani style with reflectors to shape the light from his main flash.
The editing is based on Matt Kloskowski's 'Ralph Lauren' Lightroom preset which I adapted to my own needs. After that, some Photoshop to clean up the place: I mainly got rid of some stains on the floor and fix scratches in the leather.
Thanks to my models, Pulo, Laura, Solenne, Nicola, Chris and Rachel!


Wedding: Kirstin & Christophe


What an awesome wedding. Kirstin and Christophe made sure that their guests would have a marvellous time, and the great atmosphere made being their photographer a great experience. Christophe is a user on photogen.lu, where he and Kirstin had seen some of my work. In fact quite a few members of that community were present at this wedding, apart from myself and Christophe, there were his brother-in-law Alain and of course Olivier, who assisted me throughout the day.
We arrived at the church well ahead of the couple to give us a bit of time to reevaluate the positions from which we’d photograph – children from the church communion had built a symbolic space rocket which remained set up between the altar and the congregation. It turned out not to be a problem though, the Belair church is fairly spacious. The ceremony was one of the most beautiful and entertaining ones I’ve witnessed this summer. Both the bride and groom are members of church choirs and they’ve been friends for a long time with the priest that ministered.
After the ceremony Christophe was made to showcase his talent with the accordeon and Kirstin hers as conductor. Quite a fun interlude! After Kirstin and Christophe had shaken hands with all the guests at the reception we drove to the communal park in Hesperange that I had already visited with them beforehand, to shoot their couple photographs. The weather played along nicely, a slightly overcast sky makes it easier to balance artificial and ambient light. Like before, it was Olivier’s job to make sure the light was held in position just where I needed it.
The dinner was in a lovely restaurant near Altwies, called Le Moulin. We took the group and guest photos outside the restaurant in front of the picturesque brook before moving inside the luxuriously decorated converted mill to cover the dinner, games and emotions for the rest of the evening.


Wedding: Carole & Jules


I first met Carole and Jules at the wedding of their friends Martine and Mike the year before. They got in touch with me last winter and I ended up shooting their wedding day in July together with Olivier Kerschen as assistant. We took photos of Carole getting ready at her parents’ house and, once we determined that the weather was going to play along, drove to the Parc Municipal in Mondorf. It’s a really great place, quite big with lots of different possibilities to take the couple shots. The size meant that we had to walk around a bit to get to the places I had scouted beforehand but it worked out nicely. I used the 5DMkII again, mostly with the EF 70-200. Olivier was in charge of getting the lights where I needed them – which sometimes includes dangling halfway off a bridge to get the light in the perfect spot.
The wedding ceremony was in their hometown Ellange, in a lovely small church just opposite the venue in which the reception was held. And you should have been there to see their faces when the white limousine arrived to pick them up! We moved on to the the Restaurant Delicious in Sandweiler, outside of which I took portraits of all the couples before everyone went inside for the dinner. It’s a nice place, they had hired some cool DJs and the fun just didn’t seem to stop. I especially liked the balloon-popping-sumo game their friends had come up with. When we left around 3am the party still wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down!


Zombies at an Airport

The sequel to Snakes on a Plane

The sequel to Snakes on a Plane


A bit of behind the scenes information about my PAD for September 16th 2009. The initial concept for the picture was to have a hand come out of a suitcase, and to add some visual drama by putting a lightsource inside the suitcase too.
I placed one of my flashes inside the suitcase. Because I wanted the light to spread as evenly as possible, I placed the flash inside a clear plastic tube (the ones you get when you buy 100 DVD-Rs together… I burn every RAW file I might ever need to get back to on DVD. Twice.) Since the lid would be closed, Canon’s ETTL triggerism functionality wouldn’t work here – it needs line of sight. A perfect opportunity for my new PocketWizard set then. The flash and the FlexTT5 fitted inside the tube easily. A stofen omnibounce-type diffuser spread the light out a bit more. The settings on this flash were 32mm at 1/2 power.
The flash on the Manfrotto Nano 005B lightstand, which provides the light outside the suitcase is still triggered via Canon’s ETTL. It’s zoomed in to 100mm, at 1/2 +0,7 power. A full CTB (Color Temperature Blue) gives the light a blue cast that contrasts with the neutral light from the suitcase. To limit the area lit by this flash to a small surface, I added a DIY straw snoot to it. That way the beam behaves more like a spotlight.
I took one picture with just the suitcase, and another with the same settings (Canon 5DMkII, ISO100, f/9, 1/200) where my sister put her arm in from one side and out at the front again.
In Photoshop I layered the two photos over each other. Now all I had to do was mask Carmen out of the photo so that only her hand would remain visible.


Happy New Year!

Happy 2010 guys, and thanks for stopping by the blog. I’ll post a collection of my favourite photos of 2009 soon.

Joe, Tom, Philippe and Alain on New Years Eve

Joe, Tom, Philippe and Alain on New Year's Eve


Wedding: Stéphanie & Alain


On May 16th this year my friends Stéphanie Valenti and Alain Engelmann got married in Pétange. I met Alain in the scouts when we were about 10 years old. Sté joined the scouts a bit later; that’s where they met as well.
I’m glad that I could actually make it to their wedding; it was during the exam period at uni. The wedding was on Saturday, I traveled back to England on Sunday and wrote an exam on Monday. Alison had come down to Luxembourg with me. We were their photographers for the afternoon and their guests during the evening … although when I saw an opportunity too good to be missed I got the camera out again for a couple of photographs after the dinner.
You’ll notice that I’m on some of the photos from the evening, Alison took those after setting up the lights with me.


In Arles – Outtakes


These are some photographs that I took during the portraiture workshop in Arles that didn't make it into the exhibition, either because they did not fit the style of the series or because they were from the first two days when I was just experimenting a bit.


In Arles – Workshop Exhibition


[Dont forget to use the >>| buttons to see the next page.]
The pictures above are the final selection which made it into the exhibition at the end of the photography workshop in Arles, with two exceptions: the firefighter photo didn't make it because the local photolab cropped his head off, and I don't have permission to publish the picture I took of a librarian online.
The workshops in Arles were organized by Stage Photo Arles throughout spring and summer. I chose 'Portrait: technique et finalité' taught by Serge Picard in the middle of August.
On the first day, each participant explained what they wanted to get out of this workshop. It's weird how those little epiphanies can sometimes come out of nowhere: I told Serge that I'd like to learn how to make the people I photograph more comfortable. All he said was: 'Why would you want to make them feel comfortable!?' So by disillusioning me about what I thought would be my biggest hurdle during the workshop Serge had already shown me the direction my series for that week would take: My initial idea of simply photographing people at their workplace got marked by the awkward (quelquechose de gauche).
I think that weird atmosphere was even somewhat inevitable for some of the sessions. I don't really know what I expected when I went to my first shoot at the bakery at 23:30. All I know is that the baker didn't quite seem to like my accent when I speak French, and when, during smalltalk, I failed to agree with him that there were too many Arabs in France he seemed have lost all sympathy for me. The picture's still my favourite one of the entire week though.


AvEx Camp in Holzheim, Belgium


After my return from the UK I had a wedding on Saturday, then the day after I crammed some outdoor equipment into my Lafuma backpack and headed North into Belgium. Each branch of our scout troop goes on a weeklong summer camp each year, and every couple of years the AvEx, the age group I'm a leader for, heads somewhere abroad. Holzheim is in the part of Belgium which used to belong to Germany (I hope I'm not mutilating histoy here...) and most of the people who live there speak German. We camped on a farmer's field on a barrow. Fairly windy and no protection from the rain or sun - not that we had much of the latter; the camp's theme was The 4 Elements, but water definitely dominated.
If any of the scout-photogs out there have pics of their latest camp, feel free to post links in the comments and let me know if you had more luck with the weather.


Urban Glam

The Photography and Modelling Society at the University of Kent organized a re-shoot of the Urban Glam shoot which was a bit too short seeing as it was followed by the society elections. This time we met in town and moved around a bit to different locations around Canterbury's south wall.

Models: Christopher Willmott, Daniel Neighbour, Bekki Hawkins.


Angus

Alain & Sté's dog Angus has a surplus of energy. To let him burn off some of it, Alain, Joe, Tom and I went to take a walk through the "Giele Botter" in Pétange with him. It's a nature reserve where a steel company used to mine for iron, it's also where my scout troop is located, so it's an area that's pretty familiar to us.


Cazz Walker, Secret Agent

Before the end of term, Cazz Walker, with whom I've worked before asked me for another shooting. I thought it would be cool to do something along the lines of the Bourne films and Max Payne comics. I scouted for some appropriate urban, shabby locations in Canterbury and previsualized some shots. At home I combined them into a storyline. Alison helped me during the shoot and lent me her Pocketwizards which I used for some of the setups, in others I relied on Canon's ETTL in manual mode. You can look at the individual scenes in the window above or you can download the PDF, ready to be printed on A4: Cazz Walker, Secret Agent. The PDF is published under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.

Here are some of the sources I used for this comic:

The bar code font on the cover has been created by Anke Arnold.
The font used for the title is Adobe ITC Machine.
The texture used as overlay on the title is from gungetextures.com.
The font used in the speech bubbles is Anime Ace.


Photoshop Tutorial: Alien Abduction

If the last post made you think that I’ve joined the X-Files blogscene I have to disappoint you. I’ll stick to the visual arts. Today I bring you a Photoshop tutorial based on a movie poster mock-up I made back in Canterbury.

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Hit the jump for a walkthrough of the shoot and a step-by-step explanation of how I used Adobe’s Photoshop to turn my friend Ollie into a Specimen.
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Fashion Shoot: Third Eye and Punky Fish


This is the last photoshoot I did for inQuire this term. The shops are Punky Fish for the girls and Third Eye for the boys, so the wardrobe was street/punk/skate themed. The decision to shoot outdoors in Canterbury's less glamorous parking lot and warehouse areas was easy. The weather was dry but overcast, which is always a plus because it makes it easier to underexpose the ambient within the camera's flash sync limit (the 40D's is at 1/250th). Alison was there again to help me out. When you keep moving between locations and setting up new shots every ten minutes it's good to have someone around who knows how I work and what I mean when I say 'Drop the B slave by half a stop and flag it, I don't want the rimlight to bleed into the exposure.'
Thanks to Laura for organizing the shoot, to Alison for helping me and to the models: Liam, Katy, Cazz, Sarah, Rosie and Daniel.


Fashion Shoot: Unique


For this week's edition of inQuire's fashion section we photographed clothes from Kent Union's clothes outlet, Unique, situated on the University of Kent campus. Since the clothes are intrinsically linked to the student experience here at Kent campus itself seemed a suitable location for the shoot. We were lucky to have sunshine and tolerable temperatures for our outdoor shoot.
In technical terms, one comes closer to the limitations of flash photography with these bright conditions though. I wanted to shoot with a wide open aperture, but if I wanted to use flash without moving into Canon's HSS system, in which a good deal of flash power is lost, I had to stick to the 1/250th sync speed of my 40D. Solution: I popped a .9 ND filter onto my lens. That way I could shoot wide open without having to reduce the shutter speed beyond the x-sync.
For some of the photos I also used a single reflector as a fill light source instead of flashes. Since we were shooting with more than one model, one of the others could easily hold the reflector for me.