Inspiration: Photographer Grey Villet

Long before Facebook, Twitter and viral videos, magazines like National Geographic, LIFE and TIME were bringing powerful images into American homes.   We still see them on the Internet today. Most of us scroll through these images without giving a thought to the photographers who went out into the world to capture them. This was the heyday of photo essays and journalistic photography, and the average reader wouldn’t recognize names like; Alfred Eisenstaedt or Margaret Bourke-White,  but you would most definitely remember the iconic images they took that made their way into the American Zeitgeist through LIFE Magazine.

Grey Villet isn’t a household name, but as a freelance photographer, commissioned primarily by LIFE and TIME magazines, Grey was given assignments to create  photo-essays that capture the essence of some of the most poignant stories and social movements of that time.

 

Gay rights in New York. – This issue is obviously close to my heart, especially now with Gay men being rounded up, put into camps and tortured in Chechnya. It’s easy to loose track of how far we’ve come in the United States when it comes to Gay rights, but in the 1960’s, the movement was just beginning. Here in our own country, the people who were tasked with protecting the rights of citizens were raiding gay bars and arresting men simply for being homosexual. The birth of the gay rights movement here in the U.S. was a powder keg of anger and passion.   Grey Villet was tasked by TIME magazine to cover the protests. These were some of the first images that actually portrayed individual Gay people, their struggles and the passion behind their cause.

 

Loving vs. the state of Virginia – As gay men and women were fighting for their rights in the 60’s, there was an interracial couple in Virginia who were also fighting for their right to love and marry, a right that Gay couples fought for just a few years ago, and in some states, we are still fighting.   Mildred and Richard loving were married in Washington D.C. in 1958. It wasn’t until they moved back to their home state of Virginia did they realize that they may be subject to arrest for the crime of miscegenation (mixing of races). In fact, Virginia lawmakers told them that they would indeed be arrested and face 25 years in prison if they didn’t leave the state, (and their family and friends). They weren’t the first interracial couple to get married, but this case captured the attention of the whole country.   The images that Grey Villet captured of their life, along with the accompanying story in LIFE magazine, made a huge impact in the heart of the country. Sure, the images didn’t change everyone’s mind, but putting a human face to the issue makes it just that much more difficult to hold on to one’s racist views.

At a time when there was no digital photography and no Photoshop, the job of a good photojournalist required patience, technical skill and the ability to really understand their subjects. Photographers whose images graced the pages of TIME, LIFE or NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC we’re empathetic, astute observationalist’s and masters of their craft.   We owe thanks to these courageous photographers, like Grey Villet, for their legacy of images, images that tell the story of all those who came before us, braved the trail to give us the rights that we may now take for granted.

 

lighthouse1_5827

Choosing the right travel Camera

Travel season is upon us, which means tons of vacation photos. In past blogs I’ve written about how to get the best results from your iPhone camera. The iPhone is still the most used and versatile pocket camera. With each successive Apple upgrade to the iconic camera/phone comes more and more megapixels and better features. But there are many amateur and professional photographers out there who are used to a certain amount of control and creativity when it comes to their photos. For these photographers, it’s good to know how to navigate the world of Prosumer travel cameras. In this post, I’m going to break them down a bit to help you find the right camera for you.

To choose the right travel camera, the best advice is to get a sense of which features are the most important for the type of travel you want to capture and photos you take. For instance – do you spend a lot of time in the water and need a waterproof camera? Do you shoot more video than photographs or do you shoot mostly landscape and architecture. Is your eye more tuned to shooting people and events?   Do you want a camera with interchangeable lenses or do you just want something small and compact that will fit in your pocket?

Small travel size cameras range in price from around $200 to $10,000, so it’s a good idea to come up with a price range that fits your budget.  Here are the basic types of travel cameras:

 

Point-and-shoot:

These are the most common and versatile type of cameras on the market and I’ll be spending the bulk of this post on this category. These cameras are all mirrorless cameras; when you look through the viewfinder of a traditional DSLR camera, you are actually looking into a mirror, which is angled so that you can look through the lens. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up to expose the sensor (or film if you’re shooting film). Smaller travel cameras don’t have mirrors. (The iPhone is a good example.) The image through the lens is electronically transmitted to the screen behind the camera.   Eliminating the mirror drastically reduces the size and price of the camera.

Point-and-shoot cameras have a staggering amount of options available, which is reflected in the huge difference in price. Here are a few features that you want to have if you’re just looking for a simple, easy to use point-and-shoot camera.

  • Built in Flash (most have them)
  • Fully automatic mode as well as manual modes – not all low-end cameras have manual modes
  • Shooting in Camera RAW files – you’ll have to spend more for this feature, most low-end travel cameras don’t offer it, but if you’re used to working on your photos in Lightroom and want the control over your images, it’s worth the extra money. Do your research if this is something you want.
  • Video Capability– Most have this function but some of the low-end cameras shoot in 24fps (frames per second) rather than the standard 30fps . If good quality video is something that interests you, you might want to splurge on a camera with better video capability.
  • Mega Pixels – 12 up to 30. A quick note about mega pixels as it relates to price point and file/print size: The sensor inside the camera will dictate how many mega pixels your camera is. The more mega pixels the larger the file size.  If you’re not planning on printing HUGE quality prints, then mega pixels aren’t that crucial for you and you can spend your money on more important features like video or waterproof cases. Many low-end point-and-shoot cameras have between 12 and 20 mega pixels and these work just fine for most vacation photos. Provided you don’t have to crop the image in post-processing, you’ll get a nice 8×10 or 12×14 print out of a 12 mega pixel camera.
  • Wifi-enabled – A feature that’s beginning to appear more and more often in both point and shoot and high-end digital cameras is the ability to connect to a WiFi network. When you can send photos wirelessly through your home WiFi network, it can greatly simplify the process of creating backup copies of your images, as well as sharing photos with others.  Some cameras allow you to make direct connections to Facebook or other social networking sites, too, which can be a great feature. Many WiFi-enabled digital cameras also now give you the option of uploading your photos to the cloud, which usually is a storage site that’s owned by your camera’s manufacturer. Using the cloud to store your photos is a great idea, as you’ll always have backup copies away from your home computer, where they’ll be safe from a fire or other natural disasters. The downside to WiFi-enabled cameras is that they can be a little difficult to set up and use on occasion. You will almost certainly need to understand a little bit about entering network passwords and knowing the name of your WiFi network before you can make the connection with your camera. If you’ve ever made a WiFi connection with your smartphone or with a laptop computer, you probably have the experience needed to make the WiFi connection with your camera. The wireless connection also can drain the battery more quickly than using a USB cable connection.
  • Zoom lens – A quick lesson in zoom lenses in point-and-shoot cameras: they are broken down into how far they’ll zoom in from the widest setting- 3x, 7x up to around 12x. For example, if your camera, fully zoomed out, is 24mm (a pretty standard wide zoom), then a 3x zoom lens will zoom in to 72mm, the maximum zoom for a 7x lens is 168mm and obviously a 10x fully zoomed in is 240mm. There is some loss of clarity with the higher zoom lenses but if you’re looking for the most all around versatile lens, you can’t beat a built in 10x lens.

 

Recommendations for Point-and-shoot cameras:

Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS – $225

PowerShot_ELPH_360_HS_Silver_1_l

  • 20 mega pixels
  • Built in flash
  • 12x optical zoom
  • 1080p video at 30fps
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • NO RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Powershot 

 

 

Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 – $250

The Panasonic LUMIX ZS50: The ultimate all-round travel camera, boasting enhanced low light performance and powerful optical zoom (PRNewsFoto/Panasonic)

  • 13 mega pixels
  • Built in Flash
  • 4x digital zoom
  • Fully automatic plus manual modes
  • HD video at 30fps
  • RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Lumix

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V 20.1 – $900

30-179-826-03

  • 21 mega pixel
  • Built in Flash
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 4k video at 30fps
  • Automatic and manual modes
  • RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Cyber-Shot

 

 

Action Cameras:

This would include the GoPro line and any shock or waterproof cameras. They’re used mostly by people who’s vacations are a bit more adventurous and want to capture more physical activities. I personally own a GoPro camera. They’re really fun little cameras. I’ve mostly used them for motorcycle trips or camping where there is an opportunity for some fun with water. If I’m being honest, it’s more of a novelty than a necessity when traveling. They’re purely for fun. But if you love to swim, rock climb, kayak, water ski, sky dive, ride a bicycle or motorcycle or any dynamic activities like that, then get yourself an action camera and have a blast!

 

Recommendations for Action Cameras:

GoPro Hero 5 Black –  $400

Hero5-Black-Carousel-1

  • 12 mega pixels
  • No flash
  • Waterproof case included
  • HD video 30 fps
  • Raw Shooting
  • Focus free
  • No Zoom

Review and specs for the GoPro Hero

 

Nikon Coolpix AW130 – $350

nikon_26494_coolpix_aw130_waterproof_digital_1120474

  • Nikon Coolpix AW130 $350
  • 16 mega pixels
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • Built in flash
  • Underwater depth 98 feet
  • Auto modes only
  • HD video at 30 fps
  • NO RAW shooting

Review and specs for the CoolPix

 

Canon PowerShot D30 – $300

71VK-6KKTHL._SL1500_

  • 12 mega pixels
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • Built in Flash
  • Auto modes only
  • NO RAW shooting
  • Waterproof up to 80 feet
  • NO Raw Shooting

Review and specs for the PowerShot

 

DSLR and high-end mirrorless cameras:

This is the larger and heavier option of the three and used mostly by more serious photographers. Bringing a big heavy DSLR on vacation does defeat the purpose of having a light, easy to use travel camera. But, if photography is your passion and your art, then finding the right DSLR, one that you’ll use often, is important.

I shoot Canon and right now I have 3 canon cameras in my bag. Very rarely do I bring one of my big 5D’s with all of my lenses when I’m on vacation. I’ve tried, but lugging a big heavy backpack all day while you’re on vacation is a drag and I end up not using it very often.  PLUS, my work cameras don’t have built in flash so I’d have to bring a Speedlight flash unit if I just wanted to take night shots with my friends.  I end up looking and feeling like an ‘event photographer’ , so my vacation starts feeling like I’m at work.  I have a smaller Rebel that fits the bill and takes great shots. It has a built in flash, has all of the functionality of the high-end DSLR’s, and if I take one versatile zoom lens with me, I never have to change lenses.  There are a number of really great smaller DSLR’s on the market today; they’ll give you lots of options and won’t slow you down on your travels.

Recommendations for DSLR and high-end cameras:

 

Canon EOS Rebel T6i – $900 lens included

36681_4_l

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. 24 Mega Pixels
  2. APS – C Sensor (not full frame)
  3. Optical LCD screen
  4. ISO – 100- 12,800
  5. Kit lens 18-55mm  – I recommend upgrading to a 24-105mm
  6. Full auto/manual modes
  7. Video capable at 30fps
  8. Built in Flash plus hot shoe for external
  9. Wi-Fi capable

Review and specs for the Rebel T6i

 

 

Sony Alpha A77 II – $2,000 kit with lens included

highres-Sony-Alpha-A77-II-DSLR-4_1403020457

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 24 Mega Pixels
  • APS-C CMOS sensor (not full frame)
  • Full auto and manual shooting modes
  • Tilting LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video at up to 60 fps
  • ISO 100-26,000
  • Built in Flash plus hot shoe mount

Review and specs for the Alpha A77ii

 

 

Leica TL – $1,600 -body only. Lenses run between $1,500 and $3,000

Leica-TL,-titanium-colored-Order-no.-18112_teaser-1200x800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEICA-TL-LENSES_Window-teaser_2400x940_teaser-1200x470

 

 

 

 

  • 16 mega pixels
  • APC-C Sensor
  • Fully auto and manual modes
  • Lens not included
  • Built in Flash – no hot shoe mount
  • ISO 100-12,500
  • HD 1080p 30fps video
  • Wi-Fi and smart phone Apps

Review and specs for the Leica TL

If you can, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CAMERA STORE.  You can find these cameras on-line for a great price, but many local camera stores will match the online price. I’m a big believer in shopping locally if you can.  Plus, there is a certain tactile satisfaction in going to the store and holding the camera.  If you’re in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, I recommend Samy’s Camera – they also have a great online selection and will ship tax free in many cases.   But, if you don’t have a  store near you – B&H  photo (based in New York) has great prices.

Happy Shooting!

 

Follow us on InstagramFacebookTwitter

braden-904-web

Special New Years rate on “Model Experience” shoots!

Have you even wanted to have a model experience? To appear in a magazine quality shoot and have the images for your own use? These shoots are designed for you!

These shoots are a FUN and artistic collaboration designed for people who have always wanted to capture new and unique sides of themselves, and to have high-end artistic prints that they can either proudly display on their walls or share with their partners or perspective dates.

Beat the cold and the rain in a hot bathtub!   Take advantage of my locations or I can come to your home and we can set it up there in a comfortable environment.

Examples of past shoots.  (Some NSFW) content.

 

Your shoot includes:

  • Wardrobe and shot consultations to help you get the most out of your shoot.
  • Individuals or add $100 for a couple shoot.
  • As many as four wardrobe changes.
  • Natural or artistic physique shots.
  • Both artistic lighting and natural light.
  • A variety of black and white and artistic color choices.
  • Print quality image files.
  • All proofs from your shoot are available for you to download.
  • Professional retouching on two images of your choice.
  • Additional retouching available on a ‘per-image’ rate.
  • Discresion and privacy guaranteed.

* All models appearing in the above images have given their express permission.

Special $200 discount for January and February 2017 –  Discounted Rate:  $300

The special rate is for an individual model, two-hour photo shoot (one location), which includes all of the features listed above and must be booked and paid for before February 28th 2017. 
Additional time, wardrobe changes, couple shoots, locations and retouching are available for an additional fee. 

Contact me today to inquire about setting up your shoot!

CW-33

Make your next event memorable

When photographing an event, the job of any great photographer is to get in touch with the energy of the event and use their creative eye and skills to expertly capture memorable images.

courtier Wines

My approach to any event that I am hired to photograph is to first, listen to my client. I want to get a sense of what their event is all about; what’s important to them and what kind of images they’re looking to come away with when the day is over.

Each event is unique. Fundraising events require images that will not only capture the energy of the event, but also to give my clients a variety of photographs that will help them promote and market their cause. Weddings come with a list of “must-have” shots – group shots, cake cutting, toasts and visiting family and friends. There is a timetable that you must work with in order to not only capture those images, but to do it in an artistic and interesting way.

Each location is unique and offers it’s own set of challenges and opportunities for amazing shots. Indoor, low light locations yield beautiful moody shots. Knowing when to use a flash and when to let the mood of the location dictate your shots is key. Outdoor, natural light is beautiful at the end of the day but not all events take place in that golden light. A really skilled photographer knows how to navigate mid-afternoon sun and can still produce quality images.

Having the delivery system in place to share the images with your clients is very important. A photographer should be prepared to host images for their clients, allow them to download files (if that’s the agreement you’ve made), give them the ability to share the images with the group and even order prints or merchandise if needed.

When you hire me for an event you get the benefit of years of experience, technical skill, a professional proof site that allows you to order prints (framed or not), and someone that knows how important your event is to you. With the holidays coming up, consider hiring a professional photographer for your next big event!

Contact me for a free consultation and quote!

IMG_6001

Sense8 – A photographers diary

Because of the overwhelming success of the first season, Sense8 is back and shooting season 2!   This show is like no other I’ve ever been involved with. The sheer scope of it is staggering; 8 months of shooting spanning 9 countries, 10 cities, a large international cast, hundreds of extras, a creative team that is committed to pushing boundaries and making art, and a production team that is one of the best in the business.   This was my second season working with my dear friend Karin and the Wachowski’s, who have been my friends for about fifteen years.   They truly have artist’s souls. Their generosity of heart and their artistic vision inspires anyone who works with them to reach deeper into their own creative selves and to create art with them.

My job for the past two seasons has been to work with Karin and the Sense8 team to capture beautiful, iconic footage of San Francisco, both for the opening montage and as establishing shots for the series itself. For ‘spoiler’ and ‘non-disclosure’ reasons I won’t go into the details of where, what and who we shot over the course of three weeks in San Francisco, but I can speak about the process of shooing B-roll footage for a TV series and what it takes to capture those iconic shots which you may have seen in the series.

 

Shooting from the outside looking in:

If you’ve ever paid attention to establishing shots in a film, especially the opening montage of Sense8, you’ll notice that there is an ‘outside to inside’ rhythm to the shots. In the beginning of the montage  you’ll see stunning sunrises and sunsets, time laps shots at night; shots that give you a sense of standing on the outside looking into the location. Once we’ve established where you are we can take you on a journey inside of the locations to capture the heart and soul of each city.

From a distance:

Capturing beautiful outdoor shots and landscapes is all about light, and being at the right place at the right time however, not much is left to chance.   All of the locations I shoot have been scouted, assessed for the best light, the position of the sun, and accessibility.

San Francisco offers unique challenges for those types of shoots due entirely to the unpredictability of the FOG.   We may have planned for a beautiful sunrise shot, only to wake up at 4am and have the city covered in a thick blanket of white. Sunset shots present the same challenges. There are days when the fog works with you and you get really dramatic footage, and other days where it’s pointless to even try. For people shots, portraits and fashion, I love the fog. Photographers call it “natures soft box” because it diffuses the harsh sun and produces a lovely even light. But for wide-view landscape shots it’s definitely a buzz-kill.   On days like that, we pivot to the other shots in our list that we are able to capture. Shooting cityscape shots at night can be tricky. There is a small window after the sun goes down called “blue-hour” or “gloaming” light. It’s that half hour window before the night sky turns completely black where you get your best shots. You’ll see more depth in the buildings and landscapes.

A few tips for shooting landscapes in San Francisco:

  • Summer is cold, let me rephrase, summer can be freezing here. Bring warm clothes and a hat.
  • Always have a tripod if you’re shooting film or if you’re shooting stills in low light.
  • Have a buddy with you, someone who you enjoy hanging out with. Photographers with big expensive cameras roaming the city alone at night are very visible targets for robbers and muggers.
  • Download this app – Sunseeker. It’s super helpful in knowing where the sun rises and sets in the locations you want to shoot.
  • If you’re looking to capture a sunrise shot: Get up early, check the weather and fog report the night before and give yourself plenty of time to get to your location and set up before the sun comes up.

Getting in close:

Capturing the heart of a city for Sense8, is much like capturing the heart of the events I photograph. You look for narratives and energy. For Sense8, we had our narrative in the story so finding people and events that embody the diverse energy of the city was our main goal.

Each neighborhood, especially in a city like San Francisco has it’s own unique community. The Castro is entirely different from North Beach or China Town. This year, we looked at the footage we had captured for last season and tried to cover neighborhoods and events that we didn’t get the year before.   Having a list of all of the events and festivals going on while you’re in town shooting is crucial. You can’t get to all of them but it gives you options when you’re shooting people.

 

 

A few tips for shooting outdoor festivals:

  • Do your research. See if there are any ‘must see’ events or performances happening so you have a rough goal of what you want to film.
  • If possible, time your shots for ‘best light’. Since most festivals begin during the harsh sunlight mid-day hours, try and hold out for the golden light at the end of the day.
  • Ask permission. It’s important that you ask permission to film someone. Yes, if they are participating in an event in a public space then they’re fair game. But, if you talk to them, tell them what you find interesting or captivating about them and ask their permission to film them, you’ll get a willing and eager subject and much better shots.
  • Look for color, movement and the kind of energy you need for your shots.

On a personal note: I’ve been living in San Francisco for over 20 years now. I moved here at a time when the energy of the city was much different than it is now. You could walk through any neighborhood at any time of day and experience diversity and inclusion.   There was an energy to this city that has seemingly faded away. However, while it may not be as evident as it was before, I can tell you that it’s still there; you just have to look for it.   There are *blogs and publications you can subscribe to that will give you a run down of events happening each week.

 

In the end, Karin and I got most of the shots on our very extensive shot list. We traveled the bay area, shot in some amazing locations and had a great time doing it. I think we were successful because, while we were organized, planned and scouted ahead, we also left room to bend with the changing weather and a production schedule that was always in flux.

I also came away with a few insights as it pertains to my work with my clients here in San Francisco. Whether I’m shooting B-roll for a film production or capturing brand and location shots for my corporate clients, the approach and work ethic is the same: Truly understand what your client wants and needs for their project. Approach that project with the eye of an artist. Be organized, plan for all contingencies and if need be, be prepared to get up at 4am to create artful images.   Oh, and dress warm!