The creative process

My creative process comes in multiple forms. There have been many occasions and I feel this is typically the case for me, but music really dictates a lot of my creativity. I hear a song and visualize a video going to the music. I did a video for my friends 7 month deployment return and had the song “Just the way you are” by Bruno Mars in my head immediately. I had flickers of the girls getting ready before Daddy came home, the standing around in anticipation and the moment they united. When I went out to shoot the video I had the song going on in my head the whole time and even listened to it driving up there. There are many occasions that I hear a song and just get crazy visuals in my head of what would look cool to this song. Music is a huge part of my creative process and I feel that the videos I have done where I picked out the song before doing it are some of the best.

Another facet to my creative process is reading news (not mainstream media world devastation crap) and magazines. I love reading about technology, science and photography. While reading these topics many times my mind wanders into directions of sub stories. This is especially true for documentary ideas and some times fictional ideas. For example, I read an article about the photographer Rodney Smith http://www.rodneysmith.com/ who is a major inspiration to me. He is a film photographer who does absolutely no photoshopping or photo alterations, he develops his own film and prefers to shoot in black in white. My gears started churning in the direction of doing a documentary about modern photography vs conventional analog photography. I want to interview him and talk about the loss of the art of photography to the digital realm. While saying that I also want to point out that I feel like photoshop and photo manipulation is also an art however I feel that it is not exactly photography.

The last bit of creative process is directly from my life. I have experienced a lot in my life and I have so much I want to share with the world. Some of those stories are real stories that I feel might help people see the world a little differently. I had a chance to travel and see the world something that not a lot of people get to do or will ever do and I wish for one second they could share that experience, its humbling and gives you a respect for the life we have. I also feel like there is a life that people are unaware of, that the way of living we go by now is shallow and unfulfilling, inevitably we are all stuck in a system. Anyway enough philosophical talk, Ill have to write a story to show you what I am talking about. An example though of direct inspiration from life. I was developing and enlarging a roll of film in my darkroom. For those of you who havent ever done this its a long process but for me very therapeutic. One late night while I was in my darkroom I was thinking of the power of the medium and thought it would be cool to write a story about a photographer in a semi apocalyptic scenario; Not nuclear disaster apocalyptic but more infrastructure and government breakdown. This photographer was using his medium to create hope and make people aware in a world where there is very little of that. I guess part of that process is an over active imagination in a quiet setting. I get inspired like that very often in life.

A side note to that; when a client comes to me and has a vision almost immediately I start getting ideas, some are over the top and nearly impossible but none the less they come to me. Later after speaking with them I sit down and write the ideas down and try to decide which are the best ideas for conveying the story on a budget.

 

 

Abu Dhabi

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The first night we got in it was pretty much pedal to the metal. Our gracious hosts Jane and Greg met us at the airport and quickly whisked us off to our hotel then dinner. Jane is Irish and Greg is a Brit. It’s always fun to have a bit of a culture mesh and in a country that was foreign to all of us (though Jane and Greg do live there). Jane is an absolutely wonderful person to be around. She is one of those easy to talk to people, very intelligent and in the know. Greg too was a riot, kind of a guys guy. The first night we got there he insisted we go go-karting (which we did later and was the highlight of the trip).

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This was my first time working with the Animus crew. Honestly one of the best crews I have ever worked with. Each person brought a very unique piece to the project. It was very free flow when it came to creativity and we all knew our jobs. These guys are all very good at their jobs and I found myself often thinking how fortunate I was to be working with them.

from left to right Ross, Scott and Kris aka “Castronova”
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Ross was the Editor, although he did some filming but busted his ass off doing same day edits and the opening video. He is extremely good at finding the narrative in a story and meshing together everything in a way that tells the story. I attended one of Ross’s educational workshops a couple years ago when he was working for “get in motion tour”. I learned a lot from his workshop and on this trip as well. He is probably one of the most hilarious people I know. A little OCD mixed with a pretty brilliant mind. A few times on our trip he had me laughing till my abs hurt.

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Next up is Scott. Scott is kind of the Steve Jobs of the group, minus all of Steves short comings. He is very good at anticipating what a client wants and needs. When out filming he always picked up on not only what the client wants to see but also the audience and was very good at getting B-roll that gave Ross the tools to put his narrative together. Scott was very generous in sharing his knowledge and I learned a lot from him as well. He kicked all of our asses in go-karting.

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Last but certainly not least is Kris. Kris was our graphics and compositing guy. He is incredibly talented as well. He is a wiz kid when it comes to After Effects and had a natural knack for design. I dubbed him “Castronova” because without fail everywhere we went he seemed to have some girl fall head over heals for him. It was pretty comical! We had some great conversations and he was very willing to show me the ropes of After Effects.

Kris aka “Castronova” (on the right)SCN_0006

Where did I fit in on all of this? Well I got to do some of the creative filming. I did a couple hyperlapses of the build up and then of course shot tons of slow motion. I was pretty much hired just to do slow motion. The guys were pretty cool about letting me do my thing. Scott really believed in me and I felt like I fit in pretty well with these guys. Im really looking forward to doing another project with them. This was our chance to see how we worked together. We have a few things to fine tune for the next trip as far as workflow goes. Im hoping by the next trip I’ll have the Odyssey 7Q which will give me 4k capabilities, s-log and continuous 240fps at 2k raw.

me shooting on a Rolleiflex in front of the tallest building in the world1600996_10153753624260307_690178510_n

We ended up filming an agricultural development event. Our roll was to capture the individual speakers and panels as well as highlight the overall essence of the event. There were some amazing technologies being shown. Here is the same day edit we produced and the website to the event http://www.innovationsinagriculture.com/

GFIA 2014 Closing Ceremony Same Day Edit from Ross Hockrow on Vimeo.

doing a timelapse of the Burj Al Arab in DubaiIMG_20140205_144331

playing some poolSCN_0012

Sheikh Zayed Mosque20140131_075752_Richtone(HDR)

the view from our hotel room20140131_011949

intense discussionSCN_0011

The Mosque again20140131_083003

Overall this was an incredible journey. I look forward to working with these guys again.

If you are interested in Animus Studios please visit their site http://animusstudios.com/

Going Viral

 

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Going viral:

I decided to read the chapter about going viral as I feel this will be essential to our projects success. I have some experience with having a couple products go viral but interestingly enough the viral aspect of my products had very little to do with the product itself.

Case 1-

Being a videographer and future filmmaker, I follow many blogs and many of the pros. One of which is Philip Bloom whom I have had the privilege of meeting in person. Philip is a very successful filmmaker who travels around the world teaching classes and films. The thing is that his videos are good, but not so good as for him to be as popular as he is. What Philip has is a great personality and he gives away very important lessons on filmmaking. This combination has made him incredibly successful. It is not his final product that has leapt him into success; there are plenty of other indie filmmakers who have created higher quality work than Philip, but they don’t please the audience as much as Philip.

Case 2-

A couple years ago a friend of mine reached out and asked me to help her record her husbands (also my friend) homecoming after 7 months overseas. I told her “sure! Ill even one up you and edit a video for you”. I edited a short video (which was inspired by a wedding video I had watched from one of my favorite and very successful wedding videographers 4120 studios) and sent it to her to share with her family. To my complete surprise everyone really loved the video. ***this was right around the time that I figured out that telling a story in a video is very important*** My video was pretty good, but not viral good. My friend uploaded the video to her youtube account and labeled it “the best military homecoming video EVER! WARNING: this video will make you cry”. This video has over a million views now. The thing is that its not because I did a good job, or that I told a story, its because she labeled the video so darn well. She presented a challenge in her title “this video will make you cry” which led the viewer to a video that was not your average youtube wish-wash. She also dare say it’s the best homecoming video ever, even if its not, the viewer will now watch the video just to challenge her statement. This was brilliance on her behalf. The combination of the two blew this video up and the rest is history.

Case 3-

Recently I did a video for a paraplegic woman who is my friend. She wanted to do a video about her dog that has a very special talent; he pushes her in her wheelchair. She told me right off the bat that she wanted her video to go viral. Again the success of this video, which reached 20,000 views in a couple days, was not based on my abilities (though they helped). She had blown this thing up on every dog-related blog she could find. She went on all the trainers’ websites and blew this thing up and sent it to all her friends and tagged all their friends. The part where my skills came in was I delivered a good story that was connected at the end. Whether the viewer was initially annoyed at being tagged or not, once they watched the video it was heartfelt and again not the typical youtube wish-wash.

In closing-

Having a great product is very important however it is not all that matters as illustrated above. Making something go viral is not just about luck, you can actually have an impact and create a buzz. If you put in the work and thought you also can have success and results.

Color Infrared

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I recently acquired some color infrared film from Dean Bennici http://bennici.net/  He has a wonderful story that I hope to capture on video one day. Long story short he bought some of the last Color infrared film in existence directly from kodak in the form of rolls. He cuts and hand rolls the film into 120 format. He has sold over 50,000 rolls, and is down to his last 100 rolls. Thank you again Dean for doing what you have.

I am sad that such a beautiful medium is dwindling and that seems go be the case across the board with films but especially with the infrared. It is certainly not manufactured anymore.

Ok so let me talk about shooting with it a little. The above photo was shot with a camera that is roughly 50 years old. It is a Rolleiflex 3.5E with a Schneider lens. I chose this camera because I have multiple bayonet filters for it. I used an orange filter for the above shot. The film is rated at ISO 400 and it was about 3pm so I used the sunny sixteen rule and shot at 1/500th of a second at f16. I never really use a meter with my manual cameras. I have got fairly proficient at getting metering correct with the naked eye. So far from my experience you really need sunlight to hit your subject. If it is not reflecting direct sunlight it will not show up on the film, hence the black shadows. Mind you this was a sunny cloudless day in San Diego. The film used was Aerochrome 120, Kodak made the film for scientific purposes originally. Dean bought big rolls of it and cut it down to 120 for consumers to use. It is not the same film as the Kodak EIR but similar. Its not rated as fast and I have never seen 120 format color IR. I personally prefer to shoot medium format.

I was rollerblading with my daughter in a jogging stroller. I saw this guy at this exact position I photographed him and immediately stopped to talk with him. I cant remember if he was 92 or 96 but he was English and his name is Alfred Pepper. He was extremely friendly and we exchanged a brief conversation. I asked if he would go back to where he was and take a few swats at his ball. I then captured this image.

 

Here are some additional images. All shot with the sunny sixteen rule (thank you again Anton, for your knowledge and teachings). The yellow filters make for a over all very purple image. I havent tried green yet and am curious to see how it turns out. Also I havent used red but from my understanding it will just make for a very red image. Orange has a nice contrast of red and blue with a sky or water both of which have scattered infrared rays and produce a nice contrasting blue with the redish colors.

 

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everyone needs their zen time

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This photo was taken in NJ facing NYC from right next to my brothers apartment building. I took the photo with a rolleiflex 3.5 and used ilford sfx 2oo film which is semi infrared film. I think I had a medium yellow filter on and it was early evening somewhere around 5. The Rollei is a 50 year old camera with a 85mm zeiss lens.

I was walking from the path to my brothers apartment building when the pylons in the middle of the photo drew my eye to the sailboat and then to the Liberty Tower. There is an eerie ghost familiar to me in this photo, this is where the Twin Towers stood and 10 days and 12 years earlier they were destroyed. Even though there isn’t and outline to those buildings in the photo, the Manhattan skyline will never be the same for me, the image of those buildings is forever seared into my memory. That day was the first time I had seen the Liberty Tower in person. It was nice to see that we can rebuild and move forward. I wanted to catch that moment; The sailboat which for me represents the core of freedom, in the city which was the starting place for so many immigrants looking for freedom.

Tonight I finally had a chance to enlarge some photos. Im still on the journey of trying to get the enlargement process down. Its been a long couple of weeks trying to get Footprint film launched properly with the Slow Motion Video Photobooth, I really needed some Zen time in the darkroom. It slows things down a little and gives you time to think, all the while magic is happening right in front of your eyes.

I learned more about increasing contrast and balancing your whites and blacks. Increasing your filter and decreasing your time to keep your blacks black and make your whites white.

I feel like working in a darkroom is such a major benefit to anyone working in photography and film. It is like learning Latin, while it is a dead language it opens your world to all sorts of languages like French, Spanish, Italian and English. I see the world of video and photography so different because I truly understand what contrast is, or how a black can add so much mood to a photo when it is truly black.

I so badly want to master how to light a scene beautifully, its just not something you pick up from reading a book, you have to do it over and over until suddenly you are painting with light in some way that is unique. Every time I light a sitter or a scene, I learn something new. I learn how certain skins reveal more than others, how certain surfaces reflect a very unique reflection and how textures can give a totally different feeling to something that is mundane in normal life.

Bad Robot

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Recently I had the honor of going on a tour at Bad Robot productions http://www.badrobot.com/ which was eye opening, inspiring, so cool, the best….. haha I could go on for awhile. These guys are responsible for shows like “Lost” and “Alias”, they also have done all the new Star Treks and are going to be doing the new Star Wars movies. This is the J.J. Abrams crew!!!

 

So what landed me on this tour? I got an email from a very friendly guy (later my tour guide) Josh. It was an email from Bad Robot which in my mind I was imediatly like “NO FLIPPING WAY THIS MUST BE SOME KIND OF MISTAKE!” The email said that they had been scrummaging the internet (a very large place) for a some good footage to be used in a trailer for The Mission Continues http://missioncontinues.org/ that will be in every “Star Trek, Into Darkness” dvd. Somehow they found the video that I did for my friends Dave and Kate, when Dave came back from a deployment.

 

Josh asked if they could license my footage which of course I was thrilled and honored to do. Not only that but being a veteran it felt pretty awesome to help out such a good cause in what tiny way I did.

 

I do have to laugh a little, the footage is a pretty short and insignificant detail added to Dave and Kates video. I thought they would want to use the part where they re-united. In any case Josh assured me that they had scowered the internet to the very edges of existence looking for the right footage to put in the video and told me I should give myself a little credit.

 

The tour was great!

I had to wait a little while in the lobby which was full of all kinds of figurines, statues and cool vintage toys. There was a table in the middle of the lobby which had pencils and paper and a little sign that said “please create”. They also had pre-stamped postcards to send off to military abroad I think it was http://www.amillionthanks.org/ (which I later learned that Josh was responsible for). In a room adjacent to the lobby was a kind of in house marketing/media/gift making/creative room. Josh showed me an old printing press that I think was 150+ years old that they use for “fun” to print things out. He showed me an example one of the interns had done which took him something like 18 hours to align all the letters in the plate (clearly the interns have to work hard there). There was a girl making these cool little clay statuettes and they had a sick 3d printer that Josh said they use to build/test their props for whatever production they need. I got to hold Captain Kirks phaser!!!

 

The rest of the tour was pretty quick, but I got to see some of the editing suites (they use Avid, because its easy to share work with it) a really nice sound studio and some of the compositing stuff. They had chefs that cook for everyone there and a built in theatre (which I learned later they had to use to shoot some inserts for “Into Darkness”)

 

Josh Brought me to his desk, where I got to show Dave and Kates video off to a few other employees and then he showed me The Mission Continues video. He also showed me some behind the scenes shots of “Into Darkness”.

All in all it was a great experience. I think it was awesome of Josh to invite me up there, take time from his normal work to give me a tour and he even sent me a couple sweet Bad Robot shirts. I also really appreciate that J.J. Abrams, his wife and Bad Robot are all very appreciative and supportive of military veterans.

 

Being a little guy in the film realm, it felt pretty good to have my video discovered by someone like Bad Robot.

 

Emulating the greats

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The dean of my school asked if I would do a portrait photograph of her for future use. I was very humbled by her request and nervous I might not do a good job. I love photography and besides, what is the worst that might happen?

**EDIT** This was a portrait photo that my dean needed for professional reasons, not a completely creative or artistic photo

The shoot went well!

a couple things I need to get better at.

1. MASTERING THE ART OF PHOTO GRAPHY  – Light painting. Really what I mean is learning where to put the light on the subject, from what angle etc. There is an element or time for creativity and there is also a time when a person needs their portrait for work related purposes.

2. Getting the focus plane wide enough to get my models face completely in focus. I have a bad habit of going to the extreme ends of my aperture in this case I shot with a 85mm 1.2 on the 5D mark II

3. Directing my model, speaking with the model and comforting them to the point where I see or capture the emotion I would like

 

I also used a speed light with an umbrella. I shot through the umbrella to create a big soft light source. The best shots though were from natural light coming from a window. It was an 11am sun and a east facing window so the light was perfect.

As far as composition and creative process goes, I was recently inspired by an exhibit of Arnold Newman
http://www.arnoldnewmanarchive.com/

**EDIT** I dont consider myself a photographer even close to the realm of Arnold Newman, I was merely inspired by him.

He would typically include something about the “sitter” or model in the composition of the shot. So if you were a architect he might have one of your buildings incorporated in the photo or if you were a sculptor possibly an element of one of your sculptures. In my case it was my dean who is also a teacher. I felt that the library and some of her favorite books would be a wonderful element to include in her portrait. She loves to read but much like a book she passes knowledge on and educates.

Through all of this process I realized that not only am I am inspired by some of the greats but I also try to emulate them. My friend and mentor Anton told me once that there is nothing wrong trying to learn and copy other photographers styles, thats how you learn. Recently in my script writing class my teacher Lisa said “your foolish if you think youll be unique by not copying or reading other peoples work”. Obviously she wasn’t saying to plagiarize but she was saying take other peoples ideas and make them better. You cant be unique without knowing what else is out there.

I have a few people I really look up to in regards to photography. These are the people who I am trying to emulate in my own work.

Anton Orlov http://thephotopalace.blogspot.com/2013/08/on-hold.html
Rodney Smith http://www.rodneysmith.com/portfolio
Irving Penn http://irvingpenn.org/
Arnold Newman http://www.arnoldnewmanarchive.com/
Richard Avedon http://www.richardavedon.com/

Dean Bennici http://bennici.net/

Night photography/time-lapse

Last night a fellow student and I drove out to the mountains outside of San Diego. The meteor shower “perseid” was coming to an end after three days of spectacular light shows in the sky. A few things that I learned about night time photography and time-lapse.

 

equipment used.

canon 5D mkII hacked with magic lantern for intervalometer

14mm 2.8 prime lens

85mm 1.2 prime

Tripod

I shot wide open with both lenses and at iso 3200

1. For time-lapse you really need a lot of time to be able to do one at night. I was shooting 30 second exposures every 30 seconds which is 1 frame per minute. That is 60 frames an hour which if you are outputting to 30fps that equates to 2 seconds of video. That being said you need a lot of time, one good spot and a full battery.

2. the infinity focus is not infinity. You have to back the focus down just a hair to keep the stars from being blurry. Also on that note, the movement of the stars is much less noticeable with wide angle like the 14mm. I shot with the 85mm and had to back my time down to about 10 seconds so I didn’t get star trails. If you shoot for 30 seconds with the 85mm it will look like the stars are blurry, but actually its that they moved in that 30 seconds.

3. High ISO was not noticeably noisy at 30 seconds which really surprised me. I was going to just shoot at 1600 but another meteor gazer who was in the navy came over and gave me a few pointers (thanks if you ever read this) and he told me 3200 would be fine, which it was. That being said, I also did a 5 minute shot aimed at polaris because I was trying to get the star trails. The shot came out OK, but would have been better with a lower ISO. In the future I will shoot a much slower ISO for those LONG shots.

 

Over all once you get everything tweaked the right way its pretty straight forward. Hopefully you have a good book, some NPR or a good buddy to enjoy the infinite universe with.

Starlight from justin edelman on Vimeo.

 

Polaris Acrossthemilkyway peter blight chairs milkyway2 milkway

Darkroom

I completed my darkroom more or less. First night in there was really a bit crazy. I have never mixed the chemicals before and I realized just how many holes I have in my garage. I had to hide in a little closet to put my film in the barrel because I could not block out all the light from the outside. Over all everything went fairly smooth just took a really long time. I hope that the process will be a little smoother and productive in the future.