Can you find a flower on Instagram? (Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it.)

Can you find a flower on Instagram?

I have had the social media app Instagram on my phone since 2009. I have blogged in the past how I was turned onto IG by a chat/photography friend I had in China. Her name was Grace. We met on Skype and we wanted a way to chat with our phones and I must add that in 2009 there was no Skype app for phones. China doesn’t allow Facebook, so IG was perfect for sharing a photo and sending comments. Over the years I have used IG to grow my photography business and at the same time build a network of friends and acquaintances. While many people open IG and just hit hearts and leave emoji’s in place of comments… and I have to admit I’m guilty of that too, or at least to a certain extent. I do however open IG and actually sit and taken in some of the content that really resonates with me.

 

For me IG is about photography, it is not about trying to find a date or sex or love or anything like that. I have to say that now because there many people on any of the various social media platforms who are there to scam money or who are looking any number elicit forms of entertainment. So yeah… for me it is about my passion of photography which also happens to be a business.

So back to my question “can you find a flower on IG?” And I have to say the answer is “yes.”

Sometimes I will sit and troll through hashtags just to see what is out there. Or I may just look at profiles of random people or lifestyles… Let’s just say for example “surfers,” I will look at profiles, look at the locations and most of all look at the photos they are posting. Are they phone shots, Go-pro shots, or are they professional shots. These are all just few of the things that I will look at. Having never surfed I know nothing of that lifestyle, but IG gives me some insight into “what surfers are about today.”And if I like a certain topic I may look at it more than just one time, I may spend a few days looking.

So in one of the IG rabbit holes I ran down about a year ago I came across a female model who I thought was interesting enough to follow. She is Asian and looked most likely Chinese and I don’t know what or why, but she just stood out to me. I would see her post content from shoots she would do with various photographers and she always gave off an authentic vibe, as if she was really into it.

I say “really into it” because sadly as a photographer I get hit on all the time from people who say they want to “collaborate” or “create” and it turns out they are just looking for IG content that is professionally shot and edited and of course they want this content for free.

Anyway moving on… So this model was located in Nova Scotia and I thought to myself “if I’m ever in Nova Scotia I will look her up and see if she would shoot with me.” However the chances that I, a photographer from West Jersey ending up in Nova Scotia would be very slim… But hey, never say never.

One day I see that this Asian girl (name to come later) posted a plane ticket to Newark New Jersey and I knew this most likely meant she was coming to NYC. So I jumped at the chance to ask her if she would like to shoot with me and create some nice photos. Hey, it never hurts to ask and I have been shot down more times than Zeros over the Pacific. To my surprise she gladly said “yes.” Although this was the answer I wanted to hear, now I had to put together a plan lol.

Turns out she was going to school in Nova Scotia and came to NYC on student exchange to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology, however she is from China and her name is Zhan (Chan).

After a few weeks of settling in and getting acclimated to NYC we planned a shoot. We conversed back & forth via IG messenger (not my favorite form of messaging). I did what I always do and chose a location and then researched the hell out of it to make sure it would be a good place to shoot. I chose the Javitz Convention Center in Midtown Manhattan. I was limited because of… well let’s just look at the logistics of the shoot.

She in in NYC going to Fashion Institute of Technology and having limited resources as most students do, she could not travel very far, so I had to go to her. I had visited the Javitz Center many times, mostly photography seminars. I had often thought “how nice it would be to have a model right here and shoot.” So I need to plan out how I would get there and how she would get there and then after all the planning I need to create the dreaded “plan B.” Not to mention wardrobe makeup and all that jazz. So “yes” while I need to make a plan I also know I should not get my hopes up too high because the failure rate of TFP (time for print) models showing not showing up for that first shoot with a new photographer is very high. For me it runs about 50%.

Amazingly enough it all came together, she brought two looks and I provided a third look with shoes & sunglasses for one of her looks. She did her own makeup and hair and we were good to go. I parked on the Jersey side and took the ferry across to NYC and I also brought an assistant to carry and watch over my gear bags. I sent a ride to pick up Zhan and her friend and it was as easy as that. We all met inside the nice cool Javitz Center and talked for all of about 5 minutes and out the door we went.

My biggest fear was that security would chase us away; because we were literally shooting by the taxi line and then Zhan was standing up on top of the cement walls… she would go anywhere I asked her too. I might add plan B was that if we were told to leave we would all just grab an Uber to somewhere like Union Square and just shoot in the park with all the people. However plan B was never needed and we shot inside an outside at the Javitz Center with no problems at all. Well almost no problems…

As I first started to shoot the sun was on a high angle with not a cloud in the sky. I had checked and calculated the sun angle days prior to the shoot so I knew exactly where it would be and I was hoping for a cloudy day. However there was not a cloud to be seen all morning. I fired my first shot at 11:51am and I was really fighting hard to keep her face out of the sun and get a good background at the same time. And then within a few minutes the clouds arrived. I saw her face turned from harsh to even light and I looked up that sky to see large clusters of clouds rolling in over the city. What a relief! So the sun was really the only problem we encountered and even that turned out to be minor.

We moved around a bit to change up lighting and background and we found ourselves down on the lower level but still outside. The only people down there were cigarette smokers looking at their phones and relaxing. We ran through the three different looks that we had planned and while shooting the last look Zhan started to “go flat” as I call it. She just didn’t have the posing anymore and I could see on her face she had enough. So I just said “we’re done, you’re looking flat and we’re not going to push it any further.” She understood and agreed and this really is something I would like to point out.

I learned a long time ago that when the model is “flat” your shoot is done. And in all fairness as per our planning we said in the beginning we would shoot three looks in two hours and I actually fired the very first test shot standing inside the Javitz Center at 11:45am and the very last shot at 1:39pm. Of course there was some time spent with wardrobe changes, me sending my assistant for cold water and Zhan and I talking and discussing shots. In the end it was all good and we had a bounty of beautiful images to edit.

Although Zhan and I had agreed a TFP shoot. I still provided the Lyft service for her to & from the shoot and gave her enough to buy Sushi for her and her assistant’s lunch.

Yes I did find this wonderful Asian flower of a model on Instagram and I look forward to shooting with again soon. She is the first model I armature model I have come across in a while knew who Coco Rocha is. I know that sounds crazy, but that is the reality of my experience in meeting armature models. Some will say they’re “doing it for fun” and that is fine. Others will say they are “serious,” but cannot name a single relevant or current well known model. When I mentioned Coco Rocha’s name Zhan’s face lit up like a Christmas tree… and that reaction was so intense. You just had to be there to see it and feel the energy from it. And it was at that moment I knew this girl really into what she is doing.

Will Zhan become a professional model? In talking with her she said “jewelry design” is her passion. However she liked armature modeling because it helps build confidence. And I agree 100% on that.

When I asked where or how did she learned to pose? She claimed “mostly from looking other models and just trying emulating what they are doing.”

So yes she was a joy to work with and a true pleasure to meet in person.

Thank you Zhan Zhan.

Technical: The shot total came in at 680 and that includes the test shots, out of focus and misfires. I shot using a Canon 6D with EF70-200mm f/2.8L and I also had a few shots with the EF24-70mm f/2.8L. I jumped between manual and aperture priority, but mostly staying in aperture priority. Most times I shot at f/3.2 & f/3.5. There were no shots at f/2.8 because I wanted to make sure the face was well focused, even on those angular shots. I kept the ISO set to auto but most times it would fire at ISO 100 and in a few special shots I set to ISO 50. I used no reflectors other than using the sidewalk to reflect light back of her.

After shooting the Sandisk card was locked and I dumped everything to a wireless hard drive as a backup before I even left the city. I love this method because as soon as I arrive at my PC I can start editing while I am uploading a second backup to the cloud and that about covers the camera/technical.

1920s Flapper Girl (Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers.)

Nicole Gallagher 1/160 sec at f/3.2 ISO 320 160mm. Hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Style, Dress & gloves from Unique Vintage Makeup by Ambre Baxter

My latest photography project has many layers to it. It started out as a straightforward project themed around the stereotypical 1920s Flapper Girl. Soon the project turned into an onion of sorts with many layers. I really don’t know where or how the idea it started; but I think it was when I was looking at some old silent film footage and seeing women dressed in the cloche hats and stockings rolled at the top.

In the past I had read much about the women of the roaring twenties. Although it was way before my time, the one thing I always remembered about it was that it was a “time of big change” for our country and women were part of that change. The 19th amendment to the constitution ratified on August 18, 1920 gave women a right to vote. This certainly was a time of change and the “Flapper” came to life. Flappers were already on the rise and there is also much debate as to where the term flapper was born and to what it actually meant. Wikipedia describes Flappers as such; Flappers were a generation of young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. Flappers were seen as brash for wearing excessive makeup, drinking, treating sex in a casual manner, smoking, driving automobiles, and otherwise flouting social and sexual norms.[1] Flappers had their origins in the liberal period of the Roaring Twenties, the social, political turbulence and increased transatlantic cultural exchange that followed the end of World War I, as well as the export of American jazz culture to Europe.”

So as I do with all my projects I started off with hours of research and reading, and to some this may seem boring however for me it serves a purpose. It gives me time to relax and read (I love research reading) and while reading it gives me ideas and also helps me solidify my thoughts of a specific look. It also helps me find what looks I don’t want to do. For example I did not want to go with a Gatsby style look. At first I did want the Gatsby look and then as I researched I realized the look would be rather generic at this point do to the movie being out a few years back and… well I just wanted a different look and feel. I think the biggest obstacle was wardrobe. While there is so many websites that offer so called 1920s style dresses, they are not at all 1920s style. Any moron can Google 1920 era images of women and easily see that the wardrobe offered today that is listed as Flapper style is hardly that. Hats were the hardest to find. Finding a hat that actually looked like a true 1920s style is practically impossible if you want “just an everyday” hat. Fancy hats were easier to find. Subsequently I had to compromise; I used three hats and one turban. The turban looked authentic and while two of the hats looked amazing they still were not authentic to the time period. Shoes were easy to find, that was not a problem.

I chose to go with a “day dress” look rather than the evening or party attire of that period. In the beginning I was going to shoot two looks with one model. I then thought; why not add another model and shoot one look on each. As for dresses I found Unique Vintage, a website that had dresses that fit the budget and they really looked pretty close to 20s era dresses. Although the fabric would be different it would not a big deal at all.

As for models; Kallie was my first choice because she is new and I wanted to give her camera time. But when I thought of Smithville Mansion as the location and I also thought of Nicole Gallagher. She is the one who first introduced me to the location and she is perfect for the shoot. Her posing is awesome and she has a rounder face (as opposed to angular) that was classic to the Flapper look. Flapper makeup techniques purposely made their face appear rounder as opposed to most current makeup techniques that give an angular look. So I used both Nicole Gallagher and Kallie Pyatt. This worked perfect because of the hot weather I was able to shoot each model separately without the heat & humidity killing the look. It damn near killed me, but the models did fine.

Kallie Pyatt 1/125 sec at f/6.3 ISO 640 155mm Makeup by Ambre Baxter, dress by Unique Vintage, hat by Patricia Josephine Antique Vintage

For a makeup artist I reconnected with Ambre Baxter and she was amazing. Doing makeup on location in the heat is truly a challenge. However both models looked amazing and again not 100% true to the period, but good enough.

Project goals: This project had several layers to it as I had stated at the opening of this post. First was to create a Flapper Girl look, using day dresses. I wanted the looks to be as if she was a 1920s girl out and about in the daytime. Kallie’s look was a little more reserved than Nicole’s look and neither girl looked as if they were heading to the party or jazz club.

Second goal was to shoot a good portion of this shoot on 35mm film. As of this writing I still have not received my 35mm scans, but I’m hoping for the best. I used CineStill 50 Daylight in two cameras, a Canon EOS 650 film body with an f/1.4 50mm prime and a Pentax Spotmatic with a f/1.4 50mm prime. I also used Ilford Delta 100 (B&W) with a Canon EOS 650 mounted with an f/1.8 85mm prime. I have had the film just waiting for a project and this was the project.

Third goal was that I always wanted to shoot Nicole at Smithville Park because our very first test shoot was supposed to be at that park. However the day we went to shoot there was a huge event taking place and we couldn’t even get close to the park, let alone into the park. We opted for a second location and went on with the shoot. However Smithville Park is a place that is very near & dear to Nicole for personal reasons and I always said to myself “someday we’ll shoot there.” And now we did.

Fourth goal was to give Kallie more camera time. She is new and she is advancing I see her getting better with each shoot. She fun and easy to work with so why not.

Fifth goal was I needed a new cover photo for my business Facebook page and as crazy as it sounds I take cover photos very seriously. Your cover photo and profile photo are your first impressions when a newcomer first visits your page. “First impressions are lasting ones” as they say (whoever they are lol).

Sixth goal was to get at least one portfolio quality image out of this shoot and I can safely say this was accomplished.

In closing I would like to say the shoot could have been better… it can always be better, but I’m very happy with what I did get from it.

I will write another post when I receive my scans and I discuss shooting with film and the techniques I used.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

 

 

 

The Iron Factory Shoot. (the “downhill slide” and you can’t stop it once it starts.)

Screenshot 2014-09-17 23.05.23

So the Iron Factory shoot draws near and I’m trying to keep that downhill slide from happening. You know what I mean; when you have something planned that you just can’t stop once it is in motion. Like say a flight. It is booked and you have all this stuff in your head that you’re going to do prior to the flight. But as it draws near you soon realize that you don’t have time to do all the things you had planned and soon you find yourself stuffing clothes in a carry-on and running out the door. That is the “downhill slide” and you can’t stop it once it starts.

So I have a photo shoot planned for all day in a studio and there will be several people mulling around. There are three models and each model will most likely have an escort, one model is a teen and will have both parents there. My wife and an assistant will be there. I have a few models who want to meet me and see what I do, and I have asked them to stop by. Plus we have the hair & makeup artist and her assistants. With this many people there has to be refreshments and food in the green room. I feel it my job to make everybody as comfortable as possible, mostly the models. If the models are comfortable and at ease, then we get good posing and easy workflow. This is a creative shoot so it’s not your standard “turn on the tunes and pose to the music” type of shoot. There are mood boards that have been created for each segment of the shoot. There will be lighting changes, moving from the big 7 foot softboxes creating soft light to smaller softboxes with grids for harsher light. Because it is a rented studio everything needed for the day must be brought in and at the end of the day packed up, cleaned up and vacate the premises.

When I say everything, I mean tables, chairs, lighting, camera gear, studio gear, catered food, supplies and computer… right down to the coffee pot, and yeah I will need my coffee pot for sure. So I think you can see how the “downhill slide” can happen here. If that happens it could be fatal to the shoot. So it really comes down to planning, checking and double checking… and then checking again… and maybe checking one more time. Did I say I have OCD? Ah… yes I do but I hide it well.

So we are four days out from the shoot and one model is feeling under the weather with fever and just plain ole sick. The other two models are on board a raring to go. One makeup artist disappeared off the face of the earth without notice. That name I will never forget and add it to my little but ever growing “black list” of people to NEVER deal with again. Thank you @Melissa Luther makeup artist from the Philadelphia area. So yes I have hit a few snags and that can be expected as nothing is perfect and never will be perfect. As I told the sick model “there is always another day.” Till next time…

 

A photoshop composite. Merging a model, with a prop (ball) and a background.

A photoshop composite. Merging a model, with a prop (ball) and a background.

Model Reese Maddox on location at Eastern States Penitentiary

Model Reese Maddox on location at Eastern States Penitentiary

Head Shot Kendall Stampel actress/model

Head Shot Kendall Stampel actress/model

Cynthia Ann (model) 1/80 sec at f/4.5 ISO 50 70mm with Westcott Apollo 43" Orb Softbox 3 speedlights.

Cynthia Ann (model)
1/80 sec at f/4.5 ISO 50 70mm with Westcott Apollo 43″ Orb Softbox 3 speedlights.

Eastern State Penitentiary (personal model photo shoot project)

Medical Ward

Medical Ward

While doing research for a photo shoot project I came across an idea for another project. It was actually more of a “stumble upon” type of thing. As some of you who read my Facebook page know I had went to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. I went there to scout locations within the prison to photograph a model. I accidentally came across the ESP website while looking for locations in Philly’s Fairmount section. I noticed that the site had a listing of event and seen that August 19 would be the last of three photographer’s only events. After they close to the public at 5:00pm they open the prison to photographer who wants to shoot without the public in the way and you can bring models and shooting equipment. This is totally prohibited during regular hours.  So I thought what a novel idea and decided to think more about it.

So the project has now been in the planning for a little more than a month. I upped it a little when I decided to contact a local Philly designer Lisa-J and ask her if she wanted to come onboard with my project. She is an up and coming clothing designer and I had seen some of her work and we had talked about shoot prior to my idea but nothing ever came to life. So I sent her a text with the question and I had to laugh at her reply “yes, yes & yes.” We met at the prison one morning and walked aimlessly around and talked while I photographed potential location. I told her I had a model already picked out who was also jumping at the chance. But I still needed hair & makeup. Well… wouldn’t you know Lisa’s aunt who is a hair stylist and was actually scheduled later that same day to do a shoot with me and a model. Wow small world in the city of brotherly love. So it was a done deal and I told Lisa she should bring a model as well and we’ll shoot two.

Now prior to this I had asked Bethlehem, PA model Reese Maddox if she wanted to do a shoot at ESP and her face lit up, I didn’t need to hear her answer, her look was the answer. Funny!

So now we have a plan… well sort of. Next thing is; how the hell am I going to shoot in this prison. My goal… yes I have a goal. My goal is to try and I emphasize “try” to get a shot that has not been done before. Not easy considering this place is one of the most photographed places in Philly and the USA. Rock performer Sting shot an album cover (All This Time) there. I’m going to make one more trip back to the prison to check locations and get detailed info of what I can & cannot do there. Hopefully they won’t kill my project before I get started. ESP is really strict about their rules. While there with Lisa, my camera in hand, an employee came up to us and said “you do know you can’t shoot models here during regular hours.” Not to worry your little head there scooter we’re doing research. And he eased off.

So that is where the project is at this point. How do I pull this off? Flash, softboxes lens choices? There are many things to think about. I want to go light on the gear; I was thinking one softbox 2 radio flash, 24-70 lens and possibly the 70-200 lens.

What kind of shots will they be? I’m hoping for some nice photos of the models with emphasis on the wardrobe and capturing the decrepit-ness of the prison. Easier said than done, but I’ll give it my best.