I had the great opportunity to shoot the second season of a web series called, “Pretty Darn Funny” which follows Gracie Moore, a mom who gets more than she bargains for when she forms an all-female comedy troupe in efforts to clean up the local comedy scene. Season 2 launched with this [really, really] silly parody of “Footloose” from the point of view of under-appreciated moms.
My wife always says I go on “vacation” when I work. I know what she means. With four young kids and another on the way, parenting can be a challenge—especially when your spouse goes off to work for days or weeks at a time to places you only dream about. In this particular case, I was shooting at La Costa Resort & Spa, a fancy high-end resort in Carlsbad, CA for a series of online fitness coaching vignettes. It was a pretty sweet resort. So it doesn’t help when I post pictures like this on Facebook:
Over the weekend, I shot a short film with a good friend from film school, Michael Sokey. The last time we shot a short was 15 years ago in school. It was great working together again and it was also really interesting to note the differences in the shooting style of the previous shoot to this one. We shot the last film on Super 16mm black and white film with a crew of maybe a dozen; this time, we shot on a DSLR with just him and me for crew. It’s amazing how technology has changed—allowing us to capture infinitely better photography 15 years later. Maybe 15 more years of experience had some part in it that, as well ;) I was intending to shoot this project on my 5D but it got damaged earlier in the week so I had to send it to get repaired. There was zero budget so renting another 5D was out of the question. Michael did have a T2i, though, so we shot it on that instead. I was a bit saddened by that because I love the images I get from my 5D and the idea of shooting it on a Rebel was …
This week I’ve been in St. Petersburg, Russia because this is the home of Rembrandt’s paiting, The Return of the Prodigal Son. We have been shooting a documentary about Henri Nouwen and his very interesting relationship with this painting. We were granted the rare opportunity to shoot the actual painting as it hangs in the Hermitage Museum. It’s really amazing to stand in front of it, even more so to work “with” it. As with many of my projects recently, we shot it with the Canon 5D Mark II. It was a very overcast day so we didn’t have much light coming from the windows, nor are the gallery lights very bright. We brought in a small light kit to supplement the exposure a little, but I found myself having to have to use a higher ISO than I wanted. At 1250 ISO, the images were a bit noisy, but not too bad. For some shots that didn’t require much movement, I went down to 640 ISO and dragged my shutter a bit down to 1/30th of a sec.
I’m currently in Philadelphia working on a documentary project where Rembrandt’s work holds an important role in the storyline. We thought it would be a good idea to move a little away from how we’ve been normally shooting talking-head interviews and try to go for a more… Rembrandt feel. Now, “Rembrandt lighting” is a pretty standard and classic lighting approach when it comes to lighting people but I tend to always light from the opposite side of the face that the camera is favoring. As I studied Rembrandt’s portraits more closely, I noticed that he almost always lights his subjects from the same side as the viewer (er… camera?). So it was a bit of a change for me, but that’s what is called for. I also tend to use a varying amount of back light or edge light on my interviews, but again, Rembrandt almost always has a lack of this. His backgrounds are also very often a nondescript texture rather than a specific location or domestic backdrop. His paintings tend to lean towards the warm side of the palette as well.
A couple of weeks ago I got to shoot a music video for a super talented up-and-coming artist, Nik Day. My friend, Tucker Dansie, directed. I had agreed (insisted) to shoot the video for him and then looked up Nik Day online and became an instant fan of his music. I became really excited to work with them on this project after that.
Last week I had an opportunity to shoot an infomercial for a good friend of mine who I’d never been able to collaborate with before until now. We were shooting some scenes in a domestic environment where the product could be used. About halfway through the first day of the shoot he said to me, “Does this whole thing look too… cinematic?” I retorted, “Is that a problem?” (playful sarcasm runs deeply in our relationship). I suppose I could’ve made it look like an infomercial, but where’s the fun in that? We decided to keep going with it.
Well, I didn’t have to bear the -8ºF temperatures after all. We were able to get the shots we needed in the “cooler” rather than the freezer. Someone is watching over me, for sure. In my last post, I mentioned a sequence of the project that I referred to as the “life of a pallet” and had wished that I could show you some video. Here it is below. I’m at the Chicago Midway Airport right now writing this post and have a few hours to wait for my flight home so I quickly cut together something for you to look at. I have not color corrected this and I don’t have headphones so the sound is just what it is. Most of the footage you will see was shot at 6400 ISO with existing lighting—which wasn’t much at all. It was pretty dark in the cooler. The shots in the loading dock were shot at either 800 or 1600 ISO. The 6400 ISO footage is pretty noisy, but I can’t complain too much because other cameras would’ve probably been a lot noisier.