The few and far between

17 04 2012

Times are few and far between when I get to shoot portraits of a person I really admire. Even rarer when I have full rein on creativity and lighting the scene. A couple months ago, I had one of those rare chances with Kosal Khiev. I first met him on the shoot of My Asian Americana and was moved by his energy and drive. A few weeks later, I had a chance to interview him with Princess Soma Norodom on her nightly radio show at PUC and was once again moved by him and his constant drive to better himself and his art.

We got to talking after and conspired to have a photo session in the near future. These photos are the result of the photo session.

One main element I wanted was an urban feel with the background. So we ended up shooting in an alleyway where I used to live. Another element I wanted in the shot was his ever present notebook which he is constantly writing in. The only problem is that it is quite narrow (about 10 feet wide) and was very busy with foot and motorbike traffic.

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Lighting is a brollied 580ex as the fill light just a bit high and to my right. Two Viv 283’s with stofens are placed about 10 feet to the left and right of Kosal just slightly touching the wall at 45 degree angles. Not the most efficient use of light but it gave a slight rim light to him and it kept them out of the way of passing motorbikes! I wanted to accentuate his tattoos and the wall in the background so there was some manipulation there. I also brightened his brow a bit and turned the tonal contrast just a bit up for the great textures on his face and shirt. In all honesty, I would have liked to have had a reflector to push the light up on his face but sometimes, you make do with what you can.

Kosal Khiev against the wall

Kosal Khiev against the wall

Can I tell you that he is a pretty amazing subject to work with? I moved the Viv 283 on his left side a bit tighter and lower to him, but kept the rest of theĀ  lighting the same but didn’t notice thatĀ  I stupidly blew out the words in the notebook. Luckily, I always shoot in RAW so I was able to save the detail in the notebook and it makes for a great dimension to the image.

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

Portrait of Kosal Khiev

A bit of a variation to the image above, the pose makes for a striking image. I wanted to cool down the background on this file and the notebook, so some layer masks later, we got this image!

Kosal and his notebook

Kosal and his notebook

In this image you can see how tight the alleyway is. Not too much room to work with. Once again, there is a brollied 580ex to my right and two Viv 283’s directly onto the walls to his left and right. Usually you use strip lights or a grid to create these lovely rim lights but bouncing off the walls made for a great substitute!

Hope you enjoyed the photos as much as I had taking them!





Messing with Nik Software

21 09 2011

My wife and I currently on holiday in the UK and kicking back in our great rented flat in Brixton via AirBnB. In all honesty, I don’t know why anyone else doesn’t use this to travel. A huge living area, full-service kitchen and a big bedroom all within walking distance to the Tube for under $100 USD.

Fantastic.

Also, during the trip, I have been playing with the fantastic Nik Software Suite. Mainly HDR Efx Pro.

What I like about the HDR conversion using the Nik Software Suite is the amount of control given. What I don’t like about HDR iamges is that they look overly processed and don’t look realistic. Take for example, an image of the Ludlow Brewing Company truck I took while on the Ale Trail. A combination of 3 exposures bracketed at -2 and +2 using the Default setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Default setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Default setting

Nicely balanced but I would like a bit more oomph in the sky so I decided to push it a bit by using the Strong setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Strong setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Strong setting

Looks good but you can see a bit of haloing around the truck which is a problem with HDR photos. Now altered with the Realistic setting.

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Realistic setting

Ludlow Brewing Co truck HDR at Realistic setting

Now that’s what I want! The sky definitely pops and the haloing is controlled.

Well, that’s it. Am off to the largest Mall in Europe.





Escape Magazine article

19 07 2011

I have a new article up on Escape magazine for their City Reporter in their July 2011 edition. Check out the article below.





The Inflatable Softbox

24 06 2011

I went out today to buy some new Eneloops at a camera shop located close to the Central Market. I have bought various camera related gear at the shop over the past 2 years and am impressed with some of the KIRF items that they stock.
While checking out the owners White “Macbook Air”, she dropped the “Inflatable Softbox” in front of me.

“Only 2 dollar”

She also sells softboxes for $10 that fit directly on an attached speedlite but after trying it out in the shop, I just wasn’t impressed. But for $2 dollars?

Why not.

So I brought it home and did some tests to see if the inflatable softbox would be the next piece in the strobist light kit.

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

The deflated inflatable softbox

As you can see, it is pretty small and portable. I actually put it in the side pocket of my cargo shorts for the moto ride home!

Now inflated.

The inflatable softbox inflated

The inflatable softbox inflated

When inflated, it goes to about 8 inches long, 5 inches wide and about 7 inches deep. You can see the blowhole and the nylon drawstrings that keep the the softbox onto the speedlite.

So onto the pics!

I didn’t have my usual model around as she is at work so I had to use my cat Sam who loves to sleep on my product table.

First shot is just a Viv 283 bare bulbed.

Bare bulbed flash

Bare bulbed flash

Pretty harsh light.

Second shot is the Viv 283 with the inflatable softbox.

With the inflatable softbox

With the inflatable softbox

A bit softer but not too much. At least there is some serious light fall off at the corner.

Third shot was with a cheap Chinese diffuser bought from you know where.

Diffuser

Diffuser

Definitely a bit softer with more even lighting. Also, the diffuser takes the exposure down a stop.

Last shot was with the cheap Chinese diffuser and the inflatable softbox on top of it.

Diffuser with Inflatable Softbox

Diffuser with Inflatable Softbox

The fall off at the corner isn’t that bad and the light is a bit softer but still not anything like a proper softbox.

Question is whether I would ever use it?

Probably not as the light that it produces is still a bit harsh for my needs but who knows? It doesn’t take up too much space in the camera bag and used in combination with the diffuser, can be another useful tool in the kit.





Smelling the roses

16 06 2011

In the rush of being a freelance photographer, it’s hard to stop and smell the roses. Deadlines, meetings, research, pitches, more meetings keep me away from shooting for myself. Kinda like recharging the creative batteries so its nice to actually get a chance to go out and shoot just for myself.

I had a chance to do this on Sunday where I took a photography class out to Olympic stadium for a practical workshop. It was a great experience as the students were great and really took to finding their own style of photography.

I have been going to the Olympic Stadium over the years and I find it to be my favorite spot to shoot in the city. It’s a lively place no matter what time of the day.

A couple of images from the day:

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Inside the Olympic Stadium

Painting the steps at Olympic Stadium

Painting the steps at Olympic Stadium

Last one is a portrait of a football spectator that I previously snapped 5 years ago.

Portrait taken 5 years ago

Portrait taken 5 years ago

Portrait of a football fan at Olympic Stadium in 2011

Portrait of a football fan at Olympic Stadium in 2011

He was very surprised that I remembered him from 5 years ago. I told him that it was very easy to remember someone as handsome as him. He just smiled and then slapped me on the shoulder.

Nice one.





Bokeh

15 06 2011

Just three examples of the creamy bokeh that the Canon 50 f/1.4 can produce.

Untitled by Yim Maline

Untitled by Yim Maline

Shot from just under the nails, there were several focal points to create these images.

Shot at f/3.2 at 1/50

Shot at f/3.2 at 1/50

Shot at f/4 at 1/60

Shot at f/4 at 1/60

Shot at f/1.4 at 1/100

Shot at f/1.4 at 1/100





Between

13 06 2011

If you are around Phnom Penh on the 14th of June (tomorrow) and not too busy, please come to Meta House and check out a collaborating of the arts featuring artists from Myanmar and Cambodia.

I had the pleasure in being the photographer for the event and had a great time working with the artists. After taking portraits of the artists in the studio space, I talked to each of them individually to see how they would like to see their art presented. All of them had the idea of taking their installations in places around the city. Little did I know the logistical nightmare I was about to confront!

So featured below are the finished works and a little blurb on the logistics of the photo.

Patchwork by Htoo Aung Kyaw

Patchwork by Htoo Aung Kyaw

Htoo’s piece represented the culturale similarities between Cambodia and Myanmar. This was a pretty easy one to figure out and he was game when I recommended a temple in the area. This was shot at Wat Lanka and we originally wanted a monk holding the piece. After getting rejected several times by the monks in the Wat, we had to settle for a small glimpse of one on the left side of the image.

Sleeping Treasure by Meas Sokhorn

Sleeping Treasure by Meas Sokhorn

I met Sokhorn a few years ago for a fah Thai magazine article profiling the emerging art scene in Cambodia. A great person to photograph, his art never ceases to amaze me.

Believe by Tes Vanna

Believe by Tes Vanna

Vanna’s piece was a hard one to shoot as it consists 3 very large frames, one consisting of a mirror, one with glass and the last covered in silk with wire suspending a lit lantern. We tried a bunch of ideas and ended up putting Vanna herself in the picture. This, however, wasn’t the one we used.

Vanna posing for the camera

Vanna posing for the camera

You can see Vanna and she is lit with a snooted Viv 283 hand held by me. What you can’t see is two other artists holding up the glass trying to keep it still for the 5 second exposure. It still didn’t do it for me but luckily I remembered that I shot some stills earlier in the day when Vanna was still preparing her installation. It’s a simple shot but sometimes simple just works.

Life II by Aung Naing Soe

Life II by Aung Naing Soe

When I first consulted with Aung Naing Soe, he told me that he was going to encase letters made out of concrete that read LIFE in one big ice block. That one threw me for a loop and left me wondering for the next few days how to move a 8 foot by 3 foot block of ice throughout the city. Luckily, he solved my problem by cutting out the letters out of the Phnom Penh Post and off we went to Boeung Keng Kang market. He wanted to get some people holding the letters in the food stall area but were stopped by a very self-important policeman who refused to let us shoot there. Regrouping outside, we had to change our plans fast. We ended taking the photos of ordinary people around the area in different parts of the area holding the four letters. Many thanks to Danet, our translator for convincing everyone to hold the letters!

Untitled by Yim Maline

Untitled by Yim Maline

Maline’s piece involved over 1,000 Nails held by fishing wire and a whole bunch of cotton wool. Because of the complexity of her piece, it would not be finished before the printing deadline that we had to meet. So what she did was make a smaller version which we shot in the Vann Molyvann designed White Building in Tonle Bassac. We took several images with and without people in the shot but it came down to the one above and this one:

The one we didn't use

The one we didn't use

After several views on the screen, we all agreed that the dead space in the one first image worked better for the catalog.
I went back today to see the finished piece and ended up with this shot, which I would have used if we weren’t on the deadline

Maline from below

Maline from below

Song From Nature by Phyu Mon

Song From Nature by Phyu Mon

This one was originally going to be taken across the street of Meta House at night with a long shutter on the camera to drag out the headlights of the traffic going by. Unfortunately, it rained and we had to shoot it inside. I used a snooted Viv 283 at 1/8 power attached to a remote trigger on a lightstand and fired it repeatedly during the 6 second exposure to ring the tree with some light. Below is another image taken at 15 seconds and the Viv 238 bare bulbed at 1/16 power.

Firing the flash like crazy

Firing the flash like crazy

Samnang Cow Taxi, Phnom Penh by Khvay Samnang

Samnang Cow Taxi, Phnom Penh by Khvay Samnang

Part of the Phnom Penh’s Art Rebels collective, Samnang is pretty funny guy to talk to and I had a great time working with him. His piece brought me out to the very busy Monivong Boulevard where he was pulling a cart filled with dirt from around the city. When I pulled up to him on my Sanyang, he was sitting on a curb drinking some coke out of a plastic bag. I didn’t know that he had carried his cart for over 20 kilometers at the time and had another 10 to go! After a half hour break, he hitched up his cart and at my request, walked in the middle of the road to get this awesome shot.

Untitled by Ma Ei

Untitled by Ma Ei

Ma Ei wanted to take her photo in the park on Sothearos with Phnom Penh citizens doing their evening aerobics. The storm that moved Phyu’s installation inside kept the crowd away so we were left with a very empty park. Walking around, trying to find a new spot, I happened to look down and realized that the shot was starting at me the whole time! I ran over to Ma Ei and explained what I wanted to shoot and she agreed wholeheartedly. The problem was that I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of the sky so I bracketed 1 stop to get that great definition out of the sky and combined the two images in Photoshop. A little desaturation using the fantastic Nik software’s Silver Efex Pro and the image was in the bag!

Invitation below:

Invitation_exhibition opening BETWEEN_June 14 at Meta House_Phnom Penh Cambodia

Hope to see you there!