Efren & Katrina’s Engagement

I got a message over Facebook from my dear friend Estella asking for my availabilities for an engagement party + photo-shoot.

I kindly asked who the lucky couple was, she told me it was our awesome friends Katrina and Efren. Backstory to this is that Katrina and Estella were the instigators between my wife and I all those 15 years ago! They had introduced us to each other and the rest was history so  it was only fitting that I record Katrina’s special night with her family and friends.

The engagement party was at the Opera Bar where we had the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge as the beautiful backdrop.

 

As the light faded my cameras started to work overtime, opening up the aperture and turning up the ISO to get as much light in as possible.

The results were splendid, my Canon 5D Mk III with the 24-70 f2.8L managed to suck up enough lighting at 4000 ISO and my 580EXII with a -1 stop compensation on TTL had given the shots enough foreground light to evenly shape the image with beautiful ambient textured backgrounds.

 

My Fuji was the backup/second camera, it was like the little engine that could, keeping up at 4000 ISO. I only used one lens and to be honest, it was the only lens that I’ve needed for a whole year before investing in more lenses in this system. The Fujinon 35mm f1.4 (approximately 50mm equivalent) is a great little pocket rocket, sharp and fast, I virtually shot with this at f1.4 without any hesitation. Capturing the candid moments of Kat and Efren with their family and friends was heart-warming, we topped it off with celebratory cake and a great shot of both the Harbour Bridge and Opera House surrounding the massive party that was Efren and Kat’s engagement party.

 

As the party started winding down I pulled them away from the crowd for a sneaky photoshoot, I was warned that they were shy but didn’t realise how shy they really were!

I managed to warm them up as the temperature cooled even further, I asked them to be themselves and just have fun. Photography is not just about composition and lighting but also about the subject and if the subject(s) feels uncomfortable and awkward, it WILL photograph. Instead of directing them in difficult poses, I suggested shots with natural poses to them and after a while, the magic started to happen!

 

I can’t wait to photograph their special day, once again congrats Efren and Katrina!

Clare Costigan – Sunset

Clare Costigan had been on my modelling radar for over a year now, with a figure and great personality to match, we’ve been keen to try and align our planets for a shoot.

She runs by her alias The Vixen Gamer and has over 15,000 on her Facebook page alone and enough followers on her Instagram account fill a football stadium. We finally got around to align our planets for a beachwear shoot, Clare wanted to show off some new swimwear and because she’s got such an amazing figure, I couldn’t help but to agree.

My idea of photographing over the water during magic hour was finally going to take place, this was a concept that I’ve been trying to tee up for a long time as I got to Palm Beach, the sun was glistening over the water, the clouds were few and far between and I’m completely ready to shoot some incredible photographs of Clare.

Unfortunately it sort of didn’t work out that way, Clare ended up getting caught in some serious traffic on the way to Palmy and as I watch the sun setting behind the hill tops, all I could do was have complete trust in my equipment to get the shot. I left my magical Fuji X-Pro 1 and 35mm Fujinon at home and decided to exclusively use my Canon 5D Mk III with my Zeiss 100mm Makro f2 lens to get the shot.

My intention was to completely shoot natural lighting and without using an assistant, I had left my fleccy and my soft boxes at home in pure faith that I was going to get these images organically. Boy was I wrong, the light was fading fast and I was opening up my Zeiss to f2, lucky for me I had kept my Canon 580 EXII and my Pixel King Tx/Rx kit in my heavy but very usefull Crumpler bag. I had no light stands but had left my cheapo tripod in the car as I always leave equipment for those emergency situations. I jerry rigged the receiver to the plate of the tripod snap plate, although it was a bit wiggly, I manage to keep the 580EXII with the on-flash diffuser as steady as possible. So as we lost more and more light and I had already dialled down to max aperture of f2, keeping exposure was a challenge and then I decided to shoot some high speed photos of Clare flicking her hair out of the water, she was such a champion about being in the water, she didn’t mind the cold and had chosen to sacrifice for the art of this shot! We shot this three times and in all occasions, we had money shots, I kept Clare in silhouette as my shutter speed was reaching 300/second, what came out was magical!

As Clare had gone through her third and final outfit, we had lots of shots but I still wanted a little more, so on comes the transmitter and receiver with the 580EXII.

In terms of light modifiers go, the diffuser on my 580EXII was incredibly basic but it was better than nothing. We shot off a round with the flash gun and some pretty images came about, I was finding it hard to shoot as I didn’t want to go slower than 100/second (second to mm rule) because the Zeiss, although an amazing lens, doesn’t have image stabilisation but as important, I was starting to lose contrast detection, so as I was pulling focus, the model and myself were patiently waiting for the focus beep to tell me that I had hit focus, it was getting harder and harder for the camera to detect focus so we decided to call it a day. We walked away with some amazing images and after processing the images, I’ve managed to create  some beautiful cross processed and monochrome pictures with the possibility of working with double exposure because of Clare’s voluptuous figure.

Enjoy the pics!

Daniella Wells – Palm Beach

I’ve worked with this great model, Daniella on a previous shoot and after producing some high quality editorial style shots we promised that we’d re-collaborate on another shoot. Daniella ends up going overseas and I have my third child, fast forward a year and we get talking again and finally start throwing some ideas around.

We always wanted to shoot a beachwear collection and thought this would be a great opportunity before it cools down. We’d locked in a make-up artist, camera assistant and also a BTS person. Everything was looking good for an epic photoshoot until that day, there was a monsoonal storm that came in and completely washed out our shoot. We reorganised the shoot for the following Sunday, the location that we had decided on was the beautiful Palm Beach of Northern Sydney. Sydney being on the East Coast of Australia enjoys beautiful sunrises, something that I don’t enjoy far enough. The three things that would get me up at that extremely early time would be a sunrise shoot (be it timelapse/landscape or editorial), surfing or fishing. Apart from them, you can forget about it!

Palm Beach was the obvious choice as it’s a peninsula, meaning we could shoot a sunset on the water without having to fly to the West Coast of Australia, due to the rescheduling though, none of us were able to take advantage of shooting the sunset. The shoot ended up becoming a midday affair, the clouds were out and we managed to find a beautiful little spot away from people.

Starting the shoot with a soft tonal theme, Daniella had an organic and neutral outfit to compliment the backdrop, we used my 580EXII speedlight with a softbox to fill some shadows as the summer sun was quite harsh, I added a CTO filter to warm up the fill. It looked very natural without the look of a harsh strobe seen in some images. I used the Fuji X-Pro 1 with the awesome 35mm f1.4 Fujinon lens for the 50mm equivalent shots, the images coming from the camera were tack sharp due to an amazing lens coupled with a great range finder’esque camera sans AA filter, the only drama was the balancing act of setting focus and repositioning the frame. Below are samples of the Fuji X-Pro 1 & 35mm Fujinon combo.

 

 

Next, I pulled out my Canon 5D Mk III with the amazing Zeiss 100mm Makro, this allowed for the tighter portrait shots, I didn’t have to worry too much about blemishes and aberrations due to the antialiasing filter on the 5D Mk III, even with such a beautifully sharp lens such as the Zeiss 100mm, I was able to get amazing clarity without the unwanted detail that would come from unbalanced skin.

From there we changed wardrobe and locations several times from a greenish backdrop to a massive rock face with matching outfits to compliment the look and the lighting. To keep up with the ever powerful strobe; the sun, we switched over to the flecky. Jay was my assistant and worked hard bouncing the light left, right and centre to fill every bit of the hard shadows that were eating into Daniella’s face. I directed to angle Daniella so she didn’t get distracted from the sun or the flecky but it was a tricky thing to pull, one great thing about angling her was the ability to catch-light the shots with Daniella.

Trying to get a softer Calvin Klein style portrait, we found a nice rock crevice. Daniella wedged herself and posed like a champion, we had taken the silver skin off the reflector and used it as a diffuser to soften up the look.

We then get to the final shot, the mood and feel of this theme was for an empowering femme fatale; high key, contrasting lighting, powerful poses and strong facial expressions. Ankle deep in water, looking unfazed about the temperature and walking towards the camera.

All in all, it was great, fun shoot that worked out very smoothly, all images were treated in Aperture with several plugins and recipes.

 

P for ComPassion shoot

I had heard of a special movement created by a French Canadian artist for awareness of epilepsy. The artist; Sarah had travelled across the world using her body to contort herself as the letter ‘P’.

She had planned to do this in Australia so when people around the world think of Australia, what comes to mind is the Sydney Opera House, it is the iconic landmark that Sarah wanted to pose next to. I had envisioned a beautiful architecture backdrop while Sarah performs her ‘P’ on the stairs. Due to the high traffic of the iconic area, we decided to shoot at dawn when there will be minimum interference from crowds and passers-by, my only other concern was having to deal with strict security guards since these landmarks can be quite sensitive to professional crew shooting without permits even though this was a not for profit shoot.

So our plan was to meet up at 5:30am and make our way down to the Opera House, we finally get to the Opera House around 6am, my assistant; Jay and Sarah made their way up the stairs while I looked for parking. Once we had all made it location I then looked at the lighting, the warm, soft sun had started to glisten through the water and clouds blanketing us with a yellowish glow. Our concept was originally going to be done in monochrome but due to such a deep blue sky and a warm soft light, we had no choice but also switch to colour for our final output.

We went around and shot in different parts of the Opera House to see if we can get better angles, I was mainly using my Canon 5D Mk III with the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L IS and the Tokina 16-28mm f2.8, I also brought the Fuji X-Pro 1 and used the awesome Fujinon 35mm f1.4. Going through the photos, it was definite that I could not pick the difference between the two cameras in terms of IQ. For more information on Sarah’s movement, check out her site on www.pforcompassion.com

P for Compassion

Timelapse for Samsung TVC

The morning of my wife’s birthday, I got an SMS from a camera assistant friend of mine. He was on a television commercial shoot for a Korean production, it was to promote Samsung’s 4K television sets. They had just started shooting and in typical Korean production mode, they were chopping and changing on the fly, shots, equipment and ideas were being swapped and added. They asked about my equipment and what I could do, after realising that I have a full motion control set up, they decided to lock me in for a couple of cityscape time-lapse shots for the next day.

 

My assistant, Jay and I had rocked up at the base of the Citi Group building and decided to have a coffee while waiting for the producer, I had my (Reiko’s) trusty X-Pro 1 camera and shot off some frames of the morning peak hour rush.

With time in hand, we had decided to take the gear up to the top floor before the producer arrives. With awesome timing and convenience, the security officer in charge of looking after us explained to us that the main elevators that take people up to the top floor of the building weren’t actually working so we had to carry the two metre slider case, the motion control head, camera bag and two sets of tripods up two flights of stairs.

 

Finally arriving on the roof of the 40th floor, it had felt like we had just climbed Mt Everest. We dumped the gear off and came downstairs to see the producer and remaining crew.

The two producers had come off a whopping 24 hour shoot and looked completely frazzled but ready to finalise the remaining shots. With the elevators roaring up the building, we get to the top to a cloudy and slightly windy cityscape backdrop.

 

The first shot was to only have a screen time of 1.5 seconds, I explained to the producers it was a smarter idea to shoot for around 7 seconds and to either top and tail the good parts or to speed the shot which would get more flexibility than to shoot exactly 1.5 seconds and in post wishing they had shot 2 seconds instead.

The first shot went accordingly to plan, a 2 metre slide from left to right across the city scape with a pan from left to right, shot in very wide angle 16mm. The clouds roared and the city bustled while shooting 25 minutes of time lapse, after stitching and playing back, the producer and I realised we had caught some serious magic, if only they let me do this over several hours during a sunset.

 

The next two shots were safety shots, purely as additional cut aways and therefore didn’t require any movement, while still very interesting, it didn’t have that extra dimension of movement.

The footage was dropbox’ed to Korea for the edit process and I’ll post up the commercial once aired.

McDonald’s Frozen Sprite Commercial by Beach House Films

Beach House Films had contacted me in regards to being the DragonFrame operator for an upcoming stop motion commercial. I later learnt that the shoot wasn’t actually supposed to be stop motion but time-lapse as the actors move slowly while the camera records at 1 frame per second. I kindly agreed to the gig, Panavision Sydney were going to supply the Canon 5D Mk II kits while I ran DragonFrame for control and playback, this was the plan but as usual, it never goes according to plan. During our gear check, all that went out the door. They key element of 1fps could not be reached due to the fact the Canon 5D Mk II was in live-view mode via USB to the Macbook Pro and DragonFrame, after going back and forth with an adamant director claiming to have done this on a previous shoot, the director then conceded and agreed to shoot RED EPICs with Ultra Primes under my suggestion to the D.O.P, Lachlan Milne ACS. This gave us the flexibility with resolution in case they need to punch in post, this also allowed me to continue using my motion control device as the weight of the RED EPIC with Zeiss Ultra Primes, sandwhiched filters and clamp on matte box were just enough to put on my rig, just barely though!

The morning of the shoot was quite chilly but sunny none the less, at six AM it was very pleasant at Coogee, full of people exercising at the park and boot camps on the beach, we were ready to shoot, but by nine o’clock, we had started to see cloud cover, Lachy was trying his best to match the shots earlier in the morning. From there it got worse, the winds started to howl and the mood became ominous. Thinking we were about to get weathered out, I started taking the rig down only to find out that the next shot was using my mo-con. As we tried to roll, it felt like a cyclone going through us, production eventually but reluctantly decided to call it a day.

 

The next day turned out to be clear with slight off shore winds, the sun was out and here to stay, because the commercial was post heavy, the director used the motion control rig for the important tracking pan shots.

Lachy had to practically build a tent to control the lighting conditions as we had wind gusts and a travelling sun to deal with, all in all, the commercial was a success. Check out the McDonald’s Sprite commercial below.

 

 

Brancott Wine Commercial by GoodOil Productions.

I was approached by Good Oil in regards to an upcoming wine commercial, their objective was to shoot a slow & smooth time-lapse of a group of artists drawing on a large blackboard, the graphic for the series of wine eventually get drawn over the period of the time lapse.

I was initially asked to assist the director, Simon Robson and the D.O.P who happens to be an Academy Award winning Cinematographer, Russell Boyd A.S.C A.C.S to test different shutter speeds at 25fps and 12fps, this was purely an aesthetic test and not an exposure test.

After advising on camera settings to produce the results needed for the test, the crew decided to ask me to be the time-lapse supervisor for the shoot, I gladly agreed.

Our original equipment to be used for the Brancott wine commercial was 2 x Canon 5D Mk II kits with two of the following lenses, 16-35mm f2.8, 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm IS f.28 lenses, the main camera DSLR was to be tethered to Dragonframe via USB for control and instant playback.

That went out the door as soon as we started rolling on the DAY of the commercial, during playback, we were noticing slight flicker, convinced that it was the EF lenses, we then switched over manual Leica lenses via EF adapter, still the same issue. We were baffled as the Canon was running full manual control.

It was then we decided to go with the safe bet and use the Arri Alexas with Optimo zooms, we slowed down the shutter speed and still recorded as if we were shooting 1 frame per second.

We sent the DragonFrame footage off to the post house when they had a look at the RAW files they were shocked, there was no flicker. I did the same thing and exported the RAW files and to my surprise, I also saw no flicker. I then figured out that it was DragonFrame causing the flicker during playback due to the exposure compensator in the playback.

The rest of the five day shoot went without a hitch, two Arri Alexas with Angenieux  Optimo zooms and a Canon 5D Mk II kit all supplied by Panavision Sydney, shooting lots of time-lapse, below is one of the Brancott wine commercials.

Brancott Estate ‘Pioneer’ TVC from Jacky Winter on Vimeo.

Rozelle & Balmain

Our plan for an early Saturday shoot would have begun on the beautiful shores of Narrabeen, Dennis and I would be catching the first rays of light piercing through some epic clouds in animation via time lapse on my 2 metre mechanical slider with my mechanical pan & tilt head. That didn’t happen though, the weather report had it down for cloudy and by 3:30am the stars were sleeping behind the white stuff, so back to bed I go for another three hours. Our plan was to always go to Rozelle for breakfast after shooting time-lapse on the beaches so we eventually caught up with some other Photog mates.

 

 

Rozelle While waiting for another OM-D owner, Rainer, we parked near the Rozelle public school which holds the Rozelle markets every Saturday, the markets have everything from war relics to brand new chinese knock off sunnies.

Rozelle Rozelle Rozelle

There was a lot of foot traffic through the stands and after seeing some interesting items on display, we decided to move on and get some food.

Rozelle Rozelle

Newtown Pics

I went out to Newtown, in the inner west of Sydney last Saturday. This was a great chance for me to leave behind my Canon 5D Mk III and all my full frame lenses, I took out my beautiful wife’s amazing Fuji X-Pro 1 with the 35mm Fujinon f1.4 lens…that’s it! One prime lens with an equivalent field of view of a 50mm in full frame terms, this was the freedom I’ve been waiting for, not tethered to a whole system to weigh me down but a simple digital rangefinder with a tiny but sharp 35mm prime.

There’s something magical about going out with nothing but a prime lens and compositing the shot to the angle of your focal length, getting high, getting low, stepping back and moving forward, you are the zoom function!

It was also great feeling to walk around with a camera that didn’t attract too much attention, I was even able to shoot a whole family eating meat pies at a bus stop which I thought was odd but cute, they didn’t even care. I could walk into shops and market stands and shoot with ease with out hassle, I was a nobody, just the way I liked it.

At the moment Apple does not support the RAW files from the X-Pro 1 so all my shots have been JPEG but as long as they’ve been properly exposed you won’t have any dramas.

Because Newtown is consider one of the more trendy hipster’ish part of Sydney, we were getting a few looks on our X-Pro 1s because of its retro design, so I thought that I’d better treat the images with some funky cross processed nostalgia!

We then made our way down to the back of the Newtown Cemetery where there was this pretty crazy drug arrest happening with a dealer and his ho, I didn’t photograph the actual arrest as we actually had better things to capture.

Below are the Newtown Pics, feel free to comment.

First month with the Fuji X-Pro1

So it’s been a little less than a month since I purchased the Fuji X-Pro 1 and the Fujinon 35mm f1.4, to some it up…wow!

I’ve come from the heavier side of the camera world, Canon 5D Mk III (previously owning the Canon 5D Mk II, selling the body for the X-Pro 1), Tokina 16-28mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8, Canon 70-200mm f2.8 IS and Zeiss 100mm f2 Makro pushes the camera bag over 13kgs which also includes my 580EXII flashgun and Pixel Knight radio transmitter/reciever kit.

My mantra for a very very long time was coverage, COVERAGE & C.O.V.E.R.A.G.E! So the race was to get everything from a super wide 16mm to a moderately long 200mm, all at f2.8. This was to cover all the options a director or client would want in a timelapse, video or stills shoot but jeez was it heavy!

Hence the search for the compact alternative, there is a fair bit of history as to why I have been lusting over smaller compact alternatives, namely the Sony NEX-7, Olympus OM-D and the Fuji X-Pro 1. I’ve been fortunate enough to have purchased the X-Pro 1 with the Fuji 35mm.

I took the Fuji with me on a model shoot, out in the city and tried to match the settings I had with the Canon 5D Mk III with the 24-70mm lens at 50mm. I also borrowed my assistant’s OM-D with the Leica 25mm f1.4 lens which is a cracker. Below is crop of how the three systems faired up. Cick on the image for full res.

My thoughts on the Fuji is that the amount of detail coming straight from the sensor is amazing, every strand of hair is visible, not always flattering as it will show every blemish but for street photography converted into black & white via Silver Efex Pro with the high construction option would pretty much blow any sub $6k camera out of the water (I specificly said sub $6k as the Leica Monochrom would probably match it if not smash it). They have a winner on their hands by removing the anti-aliasing filter and randomising the colour pixel array to eliminate any moire issues.

The colours are a little bland to say the least but can be adjusted in the menu, the first time using the camera I honestly thought I had the ‘sharpen’ option boosted all the way while the saturation was turned all the way down! The Fuji 35mm f1.4 (53mm equiv in Full Frame terms) is an amazing first lens to purchase for this system, it is pin sharp with a beautiful creamy bokeh when opened up, it almost has a full frame look about it, something magical! One thing to look at in the comparison is the lack of chromatic aberration on the hand rail from the Fujinon compared to the Canon 24-70mm, definitely a great performer.

The Canon 5D Mk III with the 24-70 however looks a lot more organic with pleasant tones with just enough detail to let you know the sensor is puting in some hard yards, the lens although a few years old and now superseded by the Mk II still produces some amazing images, if you can still find one lying around as an ex demo or good condition second hand then I would rather save half my money and get this over the Mk II.

I also shot with the OM-D with the fantastic Leica 25mm f1.4, to be perfectly fair, this probably isn’t the most flattering image I had in my library to represent the Micro 4/3rd system but it was the most similar shot to the others taken by the X-Pro and 5D, there is too much shadow and not enough highlight, although I had focused for the eyes I feel that I must’ve missed focus on this shot as it is a tad bit soft. So try and focus on the X-Pro and 5D more than the OM-D (pardon the pun).

Mechanically and operationally, the camera is quick and don’t really know what the fuss was all about, I did purchase this camera post firmware V2.0 and updated it before taking a single shot, I feel that the focus system could be better as I tend to have focusing issues every now and then but nothing too discerning.

My experience has been amazingly positive, maybe it was because people had bagged this camera as the “X-Slow 1″ but because my expectations were low, it could only go up, I love the hybrid viewfinder and would choose this over the X-E1 because of it, can’t wait to build a system of lenses and accessories to make this the ultimate street photographers tool.

Keep a look out on more of my blogs!