Wednesday, 17 October 2012

First Berry Picking Postcards

Zoey's First Berry Picking 6Now that Zoey is living in Newfoundland, I thought it was time to introduce her to the grand and ancient Newfoundland tradition of berry picking. We assembled the prerequisite berry picking gear, packed food for a mug-up, and headed out to Blackhead.

At first, Zoey was quite interested in picking berries.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 6

It wasn't long before she needed some help from her Dad in order to keep going.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 6

Soon she decided that Kitty and her blanket were absolutely required to continue berry picking.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 7

Zoey's First Berry Picking 3

From the photo above, it appears that Zoey has caught on to the finer art of berry picking and eats as she picks. Anyway, after picking her fill (or perhaps eating her fill), Zoey thought that her Dad required more exercise and she was only too glad to help him get it.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 4

After an appropriate exercise break, Zoey agreed that it was time to get a family portrait and clambered up on a rock.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 1

Which of Newfoundland's two solitudes (the land and the ocean) do we chose for a background? For their first berry-picking family portrait, we chose the ocean.

Zoey's First Berry Picking 2

Flip around the other way and we get a second family shot, this time with a backdrop of trees!

Zoey's First Berry Picking 8

Happy Birthday, Zoey. I hope you have many, many more!

Many of my images from Newfoundland are available to purchase as fine art prints from my web gallery.

If you would like to read some of my other posts about Newfoundland, click here and use the "Older" and "Newer" links at the bottom to scroll through the posts.


Saturday, 13 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 5

String of Pearls 16 So Rex thinks he has it all worked out, does he? Well maybe yes, maybe no.

There are two photos left in this story, but I'm not going to show them just yet. Well, I guess you have just seen one of them.

Rather than spill the beans on Rex, I'm going to let him tell the story, right from start to finish in this video. Click on the image below to watch it.

Before I get into a discussion on the movie itself, here is the scoop on the last "new" shot. We were walking past Timmy's down near Stayner's Wharf when I spotted this oddity.

String of Pearls Set-up Shot #10

A little alcove with a ceiling light. It looks absolutely useless, as in, it doesn't appear to serve any purpose what so ever, which makes it perfect for a quick portrait. Since I was shooting for black and white, I didn't care about the garish colours. I asked Jade to pose under the light and had Erin hold a very tightly snooted strobe to camera left to take care of the nasty shadows on Jade's face from the overhead light, and we were done.

Can I finish the story now?

Ok, Rex, go ahead. But just for this image. Folks can watch the video to find out how it all ends.

String of Pearls 16

I’m a better cracker than I am detective. I really missed the motive part. I thought Brandy did it for the money. It turns out they were hard up alright. But there was no insurance. Brandy had hooked up with the judge. Seems he was a good sugar daddy, which helped with some of the money problems. Candy had found out about it and thought there was even more money to tap into. She was blackmailing the judge. The judge knew that there were only a few things he could do. He could pay Candy and pay her and pay her until he was penniless. Or he could call the police and let his wife in on the secret. Or he could kill her and take care of the problem once and for all.

The video was both fun and horrifying to do.

Unlike last year's video (Jade, pictured above, sings Danny Boy on it), iMovie butchered these shots. There is severe pixelation and distortion in the deep shadows and laying in a complex sound track was a major pain in the butt. From what I read on the net, other programs like Final Cut Pro and Premiere are much easier to use and provide better results. Since this video is just a "proof of concept" for me, I didn't bother buying one of these packages or trying Adobe's new "use-for-a-month" service.

That wraps up a two-year long project. Despite having to squeeze in working on it when I could it was very fulfilling. My thanks to the talented and patient folks you helped me in this project. Your collective creativity was inspiring, as always.

Part 1 of this story is here.
Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.
Part 4 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.


Friday, 12 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 4

String of Pearls 11While Rex was out getting a double-double, I started getting this sense of impending danger. Maybe the photo at the left had something to do with it. Rex, are you ready to pick the story up where we left off yesterday?

Sure. Well, I had a sense about things too. A hunch, you might call it.

String of Pearls 11

I figured Brandy for the job. She was a strawberry blonde and legs that went on for hours. She had bad news written all over her like October of '29. I guessed she tasted the water of insurance fraud and the water tasted sweet. So she jumped in the well.

I called the judge and filled him in.

Just around the corner from the AGNS was a building undergoing renovations.

String of Pearls Set-up #11

I thought it was a great place to have Erin pose in a bit of a "rebel" shot - a leggy blonde ignoring the "construction personnel only" sign while taking her time texting someone. By the way, the location was on the sidewalk outside of the construction zone, not in it.

String of Pearls Set-up #10

The scaffolding was set up to protect the public from any potential debris falling from above. Tara fired off a flash to my right. Nice, crisp lines jumped out at us.

String of Pearls Set-up #9

I needed to see where I could place Erin in the frame as well as see where her shadow would fall, so Erin walked up and down the sidewalk while Tara fired the strobe. It didn't take very long to settle on a composition. Jade pointed another strobe at Erin from close camera right.

All well and good, but I've got a story to tell

I think you've had too much coffee, Rex. Maybe you should switch to herbal tea.

String of Pearls 12

I had no evidence that she was behind it. Just a hunch. But it was hunch bigger than Quasimodo’s. The judge said to confront her with it and see what happened. She turned faster than a man’s head at a beach full of chicks on a hot day. Admitted to it all. She said she wanted the insurance money, but the scam went wrong.

OK, my turn again, briefly. We wanted to have a scene of Rex confronting Brandy, so we did a very quick shoot in the dinning room. I was already familiar with the room's possibilities, having shot it for a vampire dinner the previous year. The setup was pretty simple: two strobes, one left and one right, to light up Stefano's face, but wide enough to create some shadows and also light Erin.

You drink tea, don't you? I don't understand tea drinkers....

String of Pearls 13

She said Candy loved tea. She drank it all the time. Couldn’t go anywhere without a cuppa. She had to have some after the party. What dame comes home from a party and has a cup of tea? But it gave Brandy the perfect chance. A lot of people had seen Candy at the party wearing the String of Pearls. That would make for a lot of suspects.

String of Pearls 14

So Candy got slipped a Mickey Finn special. A little chloral hydrate in her tea and she would sleep until the next morning. Except I figure Brandy didn’t know how much to use. Too much and Candy was in a sleep so sound that not even Prince Charming and the 7 Dwarfs could wake her.

Film noir movies are not typically visually gory, even when there is shooting involved. In our case, we didn't have a make-up artist to help with the visual cues of a gun shot, so we settled on poisoning. Since poisoning doesn't really leave any visual cues, I decided to rely upon a shot of a teapot and some pills. Lighting was done with a strobe on either side of the frame.

String of Pearls 15

Brandy was just going to lift the pearls, pawn them, and then collect the insurance money. But when Brandy realized that her deed was now dirty, and done dirt cheap, she had to get rid of the body, too. She hoped that the cops would think it a robbery gone bad. That should’ve tipped me off, but I wasn’t paying attention.

Of course we needed another "body" shot, since the plot had the body moved to the AGNS. Oddly, this is my second body shot using this couch. Morbid or what? The first one is here (NSFW).

This shot was much harder to take, because I had to keep Erin's creeping shadow nice and crisp, but Jade well exposed. On top of that, Erin's shadow in the right place in the composition. I needed to show enough of her shadow to imply a furtive stance and also include the teapot. Erin did a lot of "dancing around" with some strategic dress hiking in order to get the shadow we needed.

Well, we have a body, a motive, and a means. That should wrap it up, shouldn't it? But it seems not. Rex, as he just said, wasn't paying attention. It was not quite as straightforward as he thought...

More to come.

Part 1 of this story is here.
Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.
Part 5 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 3

String of Pearls 9When we left our intrepid crook turned go-fer (String of Pearls, Part 2), he was styling in his fancy car, drinking a cup of Joe, and waiting for his phone to ring.

Well, it turns out he didn't have too long to wait. Little did he know, a whole world of hurt was about to rain down on him. And who is the dame to the left here? Where does she figure in to this strange tale?

So the phone rang. Rex answered it. I will let him pick up the story from here.

String of Pearls 7

The phone the cops gave me suddenly rang. It was the judge. A woman’s body had been found and he wanted to know what happened. But he wanted the whole thing kept secret. I understood that, all right. Asking the cops to keep a secret was like asking a kid to not eat candy.

This shot was done at the same time as the car shot discussed in Part 2. We shot down near Point Pleasant Park. It was ideal because there wouldn't be any people, there were lots of trees to form a non-distracting background, and we could position the car where we wanted to in relation to the street lights.

String of Pearls set-up shot 2

The streetlights really lit the place up, giving me good fill right from the get go. I had one strobe set up on the dash to light up Stefano's face, and another on his right, flagged to prevent flare. After checking the exposure levels, I moved into position to get the composition I was looking for: a tight headshot of Rex on the phone. The shot ended up with the passenger seat being a little too hot from the flagged strobe, something I didn't see when we were doing the capture.

Rex, did you say you got a call about a body?

String of Pearls 8

The body was outside the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The cops were already done when I got there, but they kept the body in place for me to see. Not that there was much to see. Just another pretty dame, only she happened to be dead. The cops were calling it a robbery gone bad and I could see why the judge called me. It wasn’t no robbery. The body had been moved and thieves don’t take time to move a body.

This is one of the first shots we did near the AGNS. We picked an open portion of the courtyard with nice textured bricks to add to the feel of the shot.

String of Pearls Set up shot 3

I put a strobe behind the fencing to generate long shadows. Then Jade got into position so that the shadows from the fence would cross at angles to the lines in the bricks. With the body and the shadows ready to go, Stefano stepped into the frame and Erin held a second strobe on a light stand up and over his shoulder to generate the light for the shot.

So who is the dead dame, Rex?

String of Pearls 9

The dead woman was Candy Holiday. She was last seen at a party wearing a string of pearls from Vive Jewelry. What a classy dame. Tara, that is. She runs Vive Jewelry. Best freshwater pearls a woman can get in the city by the sea. Tara hand-makes them, using sterling silver and Swarovski crystal elements. Stop by the market sometime and tell her Rex Crane sent you. She’ll be sure to look after you.

We had fun with this one! We knew we needed a headshot of Jade's character in order to show off the pearls. So we set up in the Panzarasa's living room. The genre headshot calls for harsh shadows in the back ground. We got the face light squared away first with a strobe on camera right.

String of Pearls Setup 6

Erin and Stefano manipulated a candelabra and another strobe further to camera right to generate some shadows on the wall. I don't know what word to use other than "manipulated", because they tried a ton of positions and angles trying to get the right set of shadows that would work and not make Jade look down right evil.

String of Pearls Setup 4

Here is what Jade thought of our seemingly endless search for the perfect background shadow!

String of Pearls Setup 5

I've had the pleasure of working with the Panzarasa's on a number of projects and they are all incredibly talented. You may remember Jade as the singer providing the background vocals and piano music in my video I did from Newfoundland last year (video here, blogpost here). There is not much that girl can't do.

Can we get back to my story now?

Okay, Rex. What happened next?

String of Pearls 10

Candy lived with her sister, Brandy. Yes, Candy and Brandy. It wasn’t hard to see that their parents had a sense of humour. It also wasn’t hard to see what happened. Even a blind man could see that Brandy and her sister Candy needed money. There was no way they could afford the big house, the cars, and hosting all of those fancy parties.

While not as much trouble to light as Jade's headshot, it was still pretty tough. I had one strobe behind the stairs to light up Jade, another in front of the stairs to light up Erin, and Stefano held a third strobe to create the shadows from the stair rail.

Rex, what about this Brandy character. Rex? It looks like Rex is gone to Timmy's for a coffee. We'll have to pick this up tomorrow.

Part 1 of this story is here.
Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 4 of this story is here.
Part 5 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 2

String of Pearls 5In Part 1 we were introduced to Rex, Ziggy, and Jojo. They are the Oyster Gang, notorious jewelry thieves with a speciality for pearls. They seem to have the world in the palm of their hand, what with the money, the partying, and the fame. Having received a hot tip, they leave a party and rush back to the now closed Roy Building and try to get into the safe. I will let Rex take over the story from here.

String of Pearls 4

We heard Vive Jewelery had just finished a special batch of fresh water pearls. A really big load. That should’ve tipped us off because wedding season wasn’t for another 8 months. But pearls! We could never pass up a chance to score some pearls. Especially pearls from Vive Jewlery. And someone knew that.

So there I was, working the lock. Jojo was on lookout and Ziggy was waiting in the car. All of a sudden, screws where coming at us from everywhere and that was the end of the Oyster Gang. We were set up. Our gravy train had just taken a sharp left turn towards Sing-Sing.

This was shot at the same time as the first safe shot and with the same lighting. I had a snooted flash camera left held by a VALS and another on a stand behind some bannisters at camera right. Jamie was parked between the bannisters and the wall. The result is a nice set of shadows to add some drama, aided by Laura's most excellent "worried, over-the-shoulder" look.

The Roy Building is a natural for this genre. It looks just like the sort of place a campy detective would have his office.

String of Pearls 5

The cops took me aside and made me an offer. I could get off. But I had to do some work for the judge. Sing-Sing or a job working for a crooked judge. Experience has taught me never to trust a cop or a judge. Just when you think one's all right, he turns legit. But it was a tough choice. It took me all of 3 seconds to think about it.

So I got an office and a chance to stay on the outside. They even gave me a gun. That was 4 weeks ago.

There are no flashes on this one. The natural light from the office window frames Stefano's outline and shows the texture of the glass. I didn't want a totally black silhouette, as it would look like a cardboard cut-out, so I parked Stefano under a hall light and exposed to allow a hint of light from above to brighten up his collar.

Stefano has a lovely car that I wanted to work in as a prop, so we headed out to a large parking lot to shoot.

String of Pearls 6

I kept my head down and waited for someone to call me and to tell me what they wanted done, but the phone didn't ring. Which was fine by me. I could sit in my car and have a cup of Joe while the rest of the Oyster Gang were in Sing-Sing. I was trying to think of how I could spring them, but the doors to Sing-Sing only open three times: when you come in, when you've served your time, or when you're dead!

There are two streetlights, one camera left and one behind the car, which give some good base fill. The streetlight behind also provides some texture to the tree leaves, giving the background some definition. A flash on the dash brightens Stefano's face and coffee cup. A second strobe on camera left lights up the car.

Part 1 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.
Part 4 of this story is here.
Part 5 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

String of Pearls - Part 1

String of PearlsFilm noir is a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas from the '40's and '50's that emphasized moody, low-key, and unbalanced compositions.

I love the genre. I like the humour and I am intoxicated by the lighting. This may be because I am unbalanced and dark myself. In any case, I set out to do my own film noir production, with the help of some friends.

After researching traditional noir plot lines, I knew I needed something with twists and turns, a hard-boiled male character, and at least one femme fatale. I also needed scenes that let me use a lot of harsh, low-key lighting. I thought I might be able to work in references to a friend's jewelry business, Vive Jewelry. Tara specializes in pearls, a natural component for a film noir story.

You can also follow the story I created over on my Facebook Page.

I created the images in two separate shoots in Halifax. The first shoot was inside the wonderful Roy Building, with its very 40's style interior. The second shoot was in a small area of downtown that had lots of room to set up lights, yet had low enough traffic so that we wouldn't be bothered by many passers-by as we worked.

The first pic in the story is this one of Stefano in character as Rex Crane on the steps of the AGNS.

String of Pearls

It was another dark night in the city by the sea. This was my last free night on the outside for a while. I got jammed and I didn't see it coming.

By the time we got to shoot this particular image, the sun had long gone down. But as you can see in this "behind the scenes" (BTS) pic, there was still a lot of ambient light to overcome even without the sun, courtesy of the area lights. The area was lit by a brutal mix of high-pressure sodium lights and mercury vapour lights. I say brutal because of the different colour temperatures of these lights. Fortunately I was keeping with the film noir style of black and white imagery, so I could forget about balancing the colours and just worry about how to structure the tones.


I had Erin hold a flash on the upper stairs for a "hair" light. Since Stefano doesn't have any, I guess this is a "head" light! Tara held another flash at camera right that hit Stefano in the face, and I had another flash on a stand at camera left for a touch of fill. I used some of the light from the fixture just above Stefano to help light the steps. The result was the opening shot of the story.

The second shot in the storyline was set at the wonderful hallway safe in the Roy Building.

String of Pearls 2

The name is Crane. Rex Crane . I used to be the crackerjack in the Oyster Gang. I know safes. I can open one before you can say “rotary combination lock”. And there are a lot of safes in the city by the sea. Seems no one trusts anyone anymore.

I don't have a BTS shot for this image, but the lighting was simple enough: a snooted flash on a voice-activated light stand (VALS) held high, camera left, and another flash on a stand behind some stairs, camera right. You don't see much of the effect of the second flash in this shot because of the tight crop. You will see more of it in a later image take in the same location.

The third shot was also from the shoot inside the Roy Building. I thought the decor fit the idea of noir and could serve as a backdrop for a group shot of the Oyster Gang being pursued by a paparazzo (styled to perfection by Jamie Goh). I used a two light set-up: one for Jamie (camera left) and one for the Gang (camera right). Ambient reduced, of course, with shutter speed.

String of Pearls 3

There was me, Jojo Carmen, and Ziggy Pike. Just the three of us. Ziggy was the wheel. Jojo was the lookout. We specialized in pearls because they were easy to offload. That’s why people called us the Oyster Gang, even tough we all hated oysters.

We became famous. Lola Morgan was always trying take our picture for her social page in the newspaper and we played right up to her. We shouldn’t have done that. We should have kept a low profile. Too many people knew who we were.

Part 2 of this story is here.
Part 3 of this story is here.
Part 4 of this story is here.
Part 5 of this story is here.

The conversation about the story and the photos is on my Facebook page here.