Pre-Production for a Photography Shoot

July 10th, 2013

Pre-production is critical to ensure that on the day of a shoot everything runs smoothly, all on the set are at ease and the resulting photography is just as promised.

Judy Malcolm, owner of PerfectFit Pilates, needed new photography featuring her instructing students in her Pilates studio and hired me for the shoot. Her studio is located inside Bodyscapes Fitness, a gym here in Southborough, Mass. During pre-production, Judy and I sat down to talk about the kind of images she wanted, the look and style, the models, preparing and styling the studio, and what Pilates equipment she might want to feature. Professional models were not in her budget, so we decided to choose from her current clients. I suggested that she think about her target market and that we base our selections in terms of gender, age and physical look to reflect who she would like to attract to the studio. Once we had our models signed on, Judy, one of our models and I tested different poses and equipment to determine exactly what I would shoot on image day. I went over with Judy all of the equipment and Pilates props that would be removed from the studio for a nice, clean look during the shoot. Back at my office, I mapped out my lighting strategy. The challenge here was to provide seamless, soft, color corrected light to give a spa-like look while positioning the lights to be out of everyone's way. Oh, and did I mention that three of the four walls in the space have either large, floor-to-seven-foot-tall mirrors or windows on them? Not exactly a photographer's dream with the potential for lighting equipment and unwanted reflections showing up everywhere. Back at the studio that week, I tested out my lighting plan and it worked perfectly. With pre-production wrapped up, the only thing left was shoot day.

A big thank you to our models, Jes and Lucin. They were awesome. And another round of applause for my client, Judy, who did a great job in her first modeling gig.

 

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Judy instructing Lucin on the Reformer.

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Jes and Lucin on side by side Reformers. Since Judy does both private and semi-private training sessions, it was important to illustrate both.

 

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A shot I captured of Lucin while my "models" were taking a break.

Tips on Photographing Fireworks

June 30th, 2013

July 4th fireworks over Marblehead Harbor in Marblehead, Ma.

Fireworks in the harbor in Marblehead, Ma.

 

My favorite locations for photographing and viewing fireworks have always been by the water, preferably with some town/cityscape as a backdrop. I love the colored reflection on the water's surface and the added interest of glow lightly illuminating nearby boats and buildings. If you are thinking about doing some fireworks photography this year, I have some suggestions for you. 

First, what to bring: camera, tripod, cable release, bug spray if that's an issue where you live, and a small flashlight. Trust me, while you're shooting and when you're packing up to leave, that little light can come in very handy.

Second, where and when to go: Scope it all out ahead of time. Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination on July 4th and finding out that this place lights them on July 3rd. (yes, this happened to me, but only once and I learned my lesson!) Arrive early and pick out your spot. If you are at a water location, find out where the pyro barge will be and decide what else you want in your compositions. Look for a spot in front of and away from other people as much as is possible.

Third, how to shoot: Attach your cable release to your camera and pop it on to your tripod.  For all who shoot in all auto mode, sorry but only manual mode works well for fireworks. Set your focus to infinity and keep the focus on manual.  If your lens has built in image stabilization, turn that feature off. You want a low ISO to cut down on noise. I recommend  ISO 100 and I definitely wouldn't go any higher than 200. Instead of selecting a shutter speed, set your camera to B for bulb. This keeps the shutter open until you decide to close it allowing you to "burn in" the firework trails and other wanted ambient light. You will be using your cable release to trigger the shutter, decreasing the likelihood of any unwanted movement to your camera. I start off with my aperture at F8 and keep the shutter open for around 4 seconds. I check out what I'm getting and make any adjustments that I want or need  to make either by keeping the shutter open longer or shorter or opening up or closing down my aperture. 

One last "trick": I also bring with me a small piece of black cardboard. Every fireworks show that I've been to starts off with relatively long pauses between bursts and builds up to the grand finale where lots of fireworks go off one right after the other. The finale is amazing, but at a certain point there can be too much smoke in the sky. To capture multiple bursts in one image at the beginning of the show, I lock my cable release on open, get my 4 or so seconds in when I hear that first whoosh as they light one off, then carefully, so I don't bump the camera, place my black card in front of the lens and wait until I hear the next whoosh and pull the card away. How many times do I do this? As many as I want.

Happy 4th everyone.

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The three above taken in Boston, Ma.

2012 New England Innkeeping Conference

May 2nd, 2012

I just returned from the 2012 New England Innkeeping Conference in Hyannis, Massachusetts hosted by PAII, the Professional Association of Innkeepers International. It was my first time as an exhibitor with PAII and it turned out to be a great opportunity to meet member innkeepers and aspiring innkeepers from all over New England, New York and New Jersey.  Many of the innkeepers with whom I spoke are already quite busy and anticipating a good summer season. A wide variety of workshops were held and I popped in to a few of them. I'm always amazed at how fast things change with marketing through websites and social media. These topics were addressed in the workshops as was the need to make sure that you update your website with new photography as soon as you complete any room renovations or add amenities.

The exhibit hall closed at 7:00 pm on Tuesday. I said my good-byes to fellow exhibitors, packed up and was in my car on the way home by 7:45. It's a short ride back from Cape Cod back to Southborough, Ma. located just off Rte. 495 and the Mass Pike.  The close proximity of routes 495, 3, 93, 95 and the Pike, is one of the things that I like about having my home base here. I have quick access to all of the major roadways that crisscross New England.

Seasonal Photography

April 22nd, 2012

With the early arrival of spring, I've been very busy shooting for Mahoney Publishing's Harvard University and Newport, Rhode Island 2014 calendars. (Not a typo, the 2013 calendars are already being printed) Bold, seasonal imagery is key for this client. This year, the early spring has really worked in my favor for photographing the exteriors of the Newport mansions which the company likes to use for the cover shot and several interior shots. The grass is already green and lush and this early in the spring, few people are visiting the mansions first thing in the morning. This affords me the opportunity to photograph the facades framed by the broad lawns and crystal clear spring skies without throngs of visitors. Elsewhere in Newport, the flowering trees and spring perennials are in full bloom and even though this year I'm shooting in April, those photographs proclaim "It's May!!"

Below are some images from my Newport shoot and a few from my Harvard University shoot.

The magnificent Breakers built as the summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt II.

With the very sculptural looking bare tree in front of The Elms, this could be a good choice for April.

I like the juxtaposition of architectural styles used on the grounds of Marble House built for the William K Vanderbilts.

Trinity Church is at the head of a small park opposite the waterfront in Newport, RI.

Daffodils in bloom along Cliff Walk in front of The Chanler hotel in Newport.

When most people think of Harvard University, they think of Harvard Yard in Cambridge. This photograph and the one below were both taken on the campus of Harvard's business school located on the Boston side of the Charles River.

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