GJ Pearson shoot

This shoot was done with only 3 hours sleep under my belt.   My buddy Curt Brown is visiting from Sarnia, Ontario and I asked him to come along with me to lend a hand.  He was my assistant for the paper bag princess shoot.  GJ Pearson is an artist here in Victoria who is showing at Dab Gallery from March 21st to April 22nd, 2009.  I needed some nice shots of his pieces and one of him for our website so we lugged my lights and gear all the way over to his studio which happens to be across the street.  I didn’t even bother disassembling the softbox it was that close.

GJ and Denise live in a very cool studio.  It has brick walls with a high ceiling that has many bicycles hanging from it on pulley systems. GJ’s toys are everywhere; metal sculptures with moving parts,  nude figurines with wings, teddy bears with their faces ripped off waiting for a new one.  The place is like something straight out of a Tim Burtonesque nightmare.  His pieces really creeped me out the first time I saw them on display at another gallery but now with three of them on my wall for the past couple weeks I can truly say that they are growing on me.  Each one has it’s own personality and I’m continuously amazed at the new characters that GJ creates.

I was excited to shoot his pieces because it is something out of the norm for what I’m used to shooting (or so I thought).  I brought along two Hensel Integra Pro 500w/s  units, one with a medium softbox and the other with just a sports reflector.  We used a piece of black material as a seamless background.   I wanted the lighting to look realistic and not flat and boring.  After looking at them for a minute I realised that I could just light them like I would light any other human subject.  I used the softbox overhead to the left in front to create some contrast between the exposed and shadowed areas and the sports reflector from behind right to create some seperation with a rim light.  The setup worked perfect for every piece with just minor adjustments.  Once we had the first down pat we just moved throught the whole line of pieces.  Simple no stress shooting.

We finished after a couple of hours and decided to take the opportunity to get a shot of GJ at his workspace.  There was no lengthy process to figuring this one out.  I saw his cluttered desk and knew that I had to shoot it with the fisheye with him working over it.  I thought when I moved out here and stopped shooting skating that my fisheye would just gather dust in my closet but I’ve really been finding it useful for portraits.  Usually the fisheye is an unflattering lens for this type of work but given the right subject the lens distortion really gives you a great perspective.

Come out and visit the show 🙂

www.dabgallery.com             www.andrewtodd.ca            http://members.shaw.ca/gjpearson/welcome.htm

Less is more – One light shots

   I love gear.  A writer who did a cover article about my skateboard photography for an east coast arts and culture magazine quoted me in big bold text as saying: “Gear is like porn to me.”  I have overcome the confusion that aroused with this quote.  I have always loved lighting and camera gear.  Big lighting setups and the mental calculation involved with envisioning and building a lighting design from scratch with nice “toys” has always been a pleasure of mine.  

     The downside to doing location shooting with a large lighting setup is the amount of gear to transport and carry, the setup and tear down time needed and the time spent balancing and adjusting. I came to realize that on a number of shoots I was spending too much time focusing on the technical aspects than the actual subject matter. 

     I decided to try an experiment. It seemed to me that a lot of successful photographers shot natural light. Personally I’m not a fan of shooting natural light often as my “look” usually depends on an underpowered ambient light which requires unnatural light. My experiment was to shoot with 2 lights only. One softbox’d, power packed mono light and the second being the sun.  

     By only having one light to setup and balance quickly I had more time to focus on the aspects of my subject.  I achieved a nicer shot with the simple setup.

Andrew Todd Photography

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

         The next picture is one of my favorite skate shots because of the story.  Living in a small city like Saint John it’s very rare to come across a skate spot that hasn’t been skated to death.  This roof drop was something that we had never noticed and it seems like no one had before as far as we know.  

     I spent the first few minutes setting up a high rim light that was at the level that Justin would be at and two more high strobes to my left and right that would sandwich him in with a cross light. The problem with the spot is that it was at a hotel and by the time I had set up the lights and Justin had warmed up to the idea of attempting it the manager came out and told us he had called the cops and we have to leave.

     We started to pack everything up and as I was getting my last strobe down Justin climbed up for one shot at it. The manager was angry but Justin figured we had a few minutes before the police showed up. Praying that the one strobe was balanced well I snapped one photo with the one light and he landed it.

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

     There have been lots of times where I have become lazy and decided not to go out and shoot something because I didn’t want to fill the car with my gear and lug it around.  But you don’t need a huge fancy setup to shoot nice pictures.  With a little simple knowledge of balancing some fill with some ambient you can come out with some great results.

     The one light setup is something that I will continue to use regularly for location shots so that attention to my subject can become my new porn instead of my gear.

 

     Some more of my favorite photos that were lit with one light.

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

Andrew Todd Photography - One light setup

 

– Andrew Todd

Paper Bag Princess photo shoot

Paper bag princess - Andrew Todd Photography - Designer: Keali Tait-Innes - Model: Jena Gogo

 

     This photo shoot was an awesome time.  My designer friend Keali had been talking about making some dresses out of paper bags and borrowing from the paper bag princess theme out of the children’s book by Robert Munsch.  I was excited to get to collaborate with Keali as she is an extremely creative and motivated person and Jena the model was someone who had stood out to me from a previous fashion show I had shot. Also my long time friend Curt Brown happened to be in town to visit from Ontario and he was interested in coming along.

     I decided on a simple one light setup with an elinchrom dlite-4, an innovatronix battery pack (cheap and amazing) and one medium sized softbox.   When we left town I had only brought one light with me as it was bright and sunny and I thought I could use the sun to backlight her in the same way I had with another successful shoot from a few weeks before.  When we arrived the location turned out to be right beside the ocean which turned it into a freezing, windy day in a foggy field. 

    The one light proved to work well.  Also my favorite picture surprisingly turned out to be the one above which was taken while the battery pack was recycling the light so it’s all natural lighting.  That’s a great lesson I learnt.  No matter how much effort I put into lighting I will always shoot off a couple with natural light just for a quick alternative look.

 

Paper bag princess - Andrew Todd Photography - Designer: Keali Tait-Innes - Model: Jena Gogo

Paper bag princess - Andrew Todd Photography - Designer: Keali Tait-Innes - Model: Jena Gogo

Paper bag princess - Andrew Todd Photography - Designer: Keali Tait-Innes - Model: Jena Gogo

– Andrew Todd

Skateboard Photography

 

     It’s been a long time since I did any action photography.  Owning a soft top jeep and living close to a homeless shelter resulted in numerous break-ins and the theft of my strobes I used for skate photography. This summer I’d really love to get back into it.  I miss the lifestyle involved.  It was a relaxing and fulfilling part of my life.  

 

     After making the jump from cinematography to still photos I easily fell into skateboard photography. I have never skated seriously.  A bit early on in high school but nothing significant.  It was my time spent studying lighting for photography and coming across two amazing forums: Skate Perception and Wheels and Wax that started my interest in action photography.  They were filled with shooter from every level that were all willing to share the technical aspects. I started exploring these sites with no interest in shooting action. Coming from a cinematographic background I was immediately interested by the lighting techniques used in skateboard photography. To me skate shots stood out from most sports photography as they were approached by the photographer in more of an artistic than documentary way in regards to lighting.

Tyson - Pole jam front board

     Before I even had my pocket wizard and multi strobe off camera setup I had already read through thousands of posts over a few months taking in everything I could.  I went out and took my first shots with a three light setup and radio triggers and the confidence that these websites gave me.  I had already run it over in my mind a million times.  I had all the theory worked out and my first few shots turned out great.

 

Andrew Todd Photography

Andrew Todd Photography

 

     With my background in film it was easy for me to take it all in.  The style of under powering the ambient to bring out deep rich blue skies and make the subject “pop” became my look that I started to apply with every kind of photography.  

Tum Yeto Ad - Sierra Fellers- Nollie front feeble

Tum Yeto Ad - Sierra Fellers- Nollie front feeble

     I miss the road trips, the parties and creative atmosphere involved with skateboard photography.  Working with skaters and filmers, we set out to create something new everyday.  It wasn’t about skating for a paycheck or taking photos for a paycheck.  I’ve put more money into skateboard photography than I could probably ever hope to get out of it.  It was all for the love of it.

Lauchlan Ough

Lauchlan Ough

A slideshow of some of these photos can be found at:

 http://flickr.com/photos/andrewtodd/sets/72157594386615146/show/

 

– Andrew Todd