Archive for the ‘photography’ Category

360′s – The ultimate multimedia experience

Friday, April 1st, 2011


I know what a lot of you must be thinking when I mention the word 360′s.  Let me assure you that the 360′s that I’m talking about are not the horribly slow, blurred, tiny images of a few years ago.  You know the ones I’m talking about…you click to open them and then wait and wait… and then you wait some more until finally some rubbish tiny image opens up and starts to sluggishly and clumsily move.  Fortunately,  software development in the fields of imagery stitching and 360 projection as well as the vastly faster ADSL connections now available enable photographers to produce and build full screen, fast downloading and responsive 360 imagery for web viewers.

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We have developed a way to photograph and deliver high quality 360′s allowing our clients, which include real estate agencies, restaurants, hotels/resorts and a host of others, to purchase our product and place it within their own websites. Viewing our 360′s at full screen is as close as you can get to feel as if you’re standing in the room without actually being there.  Our clients have thus far been thrilled with the product and the reaction they’ve received from clients.  I’m happy to say that even my most skeptic clients have become 360′s fans.

VIEW FULL SCREEN 360′S IN ACTION AT  http://www.sparrowphotography.com/SPVIEWER/SPVintro.html

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Cross Media – the new trend in stock photography

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Last summer I introduced you to one of my personal experiences with stock photography through my blog “Stock Shoot Kids ‘N’ Balloons”.  As a pro photographer, I find it amazing how much has changed in the industry even from the previous summer.  The latest trend in the stock industry is the sale of cross media packages comprising of a collection of stills with matching footage all produced from the same shoot.  For those of you who are asking, “what is stock footage?” well essentially it’s a short high definition video footage lasting between 10-15 seconds that is not custom shot for a particular use such as in a movie or commercial but rather to be sold to multiple potential clients through stock libraries.   So now you ask, “who buys this footage and why”?   The answer is quite simple:  Everyone in the moving picture business who wants to save money and time.

Now let me elaborate on that a bit.  For example, both television and movie series as well as commercials and news programs frequently use stock footage as a way to keep costs down and save on production time. Footage of city landscapes, famous landmarks, and historical events are frequently used over and over again.  I once met the photographers who shot the areal footage of New York City, which was featured in the beginning of every episode of the series “Sex and the City.” Talk about a great sale!  A movie or television series will also reuse footage from previous installments adding minor modifications as a way to reduce filming time and costs associated with re shooting similar scenes. Many websites are moving towards using stock footage as well as stills in their online marketing and advertisement thus creating websites with rich media content.  Footage is even starting to appear on electronic billboards!

Stock libraries have realized the incredible sales potential that the footage industry has to offer and as a result, they have created cross media packages providing their clients with a large selection of both stills and footage.  I recently photographed a cross media stock shoot for Image Source, a London based stock library.  Working side by side with their art director and videographer, we simultaneously shot stills and footage of each scene/topic on our shoot brief.  Check out some of my stills featured in this blog and to see the full cross media package, follow this link (soon to be published):

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it!

See the finished products at Image Source http://www.imagesource.com/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox&VBID=2FAO8LJN2N2N&VBIDL=&SMLS=
1&RW=1282&RH=629

Advertising photography – it’s not as easy as it looks

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Composit finished image

Single shot finished image

The fine art of producing high quality advertising photography is not as one would expect.  The amount of work and money required to produce one of those advert spreads we commonly see in a magazine is mind boggling!   We all think about the day of the shoot and getting that right image, but what is unapparent is the amount of pre-production work that’s involved before you grab that camera.

Art directors story board sketches

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I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about.  Recently, we were commissioned by Blue Sotogrande Marina Shopping and Peppermint Create Advertisement Agency to produce images for their new Ad campaign to promote the recently built shopping centre.   Preparation for this shoot began weeks ahead of time when I received from Peppermint the selected storyboard developed by their art director. Working together with Peppermint, we organized a casting with Target Models to select the girl with “the right look” for this campaign.Female models-2 Then came the dog…a much harder search.  As that no dogie casting agencies exist in Southern Spain, we had to go through friends of friends and local kennels until the right dog came along.

Lidia our final model choice

Once we had our models, our next task was to recce potential locations.  The art director and I spent a day taking test shots of various spots along the port of Sotogrande.  Three weeks before the date of the shoot, I received the shoot brief detailing the schedule and shots selected.

Tango on white backdrop

Shoot brief for 020608-2

Many details had to be arranged during those 3 weeks.  I ordered the necessary Pro Photo lighting equipment as well as white paper roll backdrop with the various stands and sandbags used to support them.

Our hopeful finalists

Hopeful Dog Models

I also met with my production assistant to discuss what shoot permits we would need as well as to arrange the transport of the lighting equipment and most importantly the catering! As I’ve previously worked with animals on shoots, I knew that getting our dog under control was no easy task. Digging through my fishing gear, I found a heavyweight fishing line that would do the job.  A bit of fishing line tied to our dog’s collar can easily be Photoshopped out.  Meanwhile, our art director was busy meeting with our stylist, model, and various fashion boutiques to coordinate final wardrobe and makeup.  Even the dog was not left out as that we had a collar and leash specially made with the logo “Blue” written in Swarovski crystals.

Part of the gang!

Part of the gang! Dana,Laura and Lidia

The day before the shoot, every one of us is busy with final arrangements.  Our art director meets with the stylist and model for a final wardrobe fitting.  She also confirms that our dog has been groomed and will be ready to go the following morning.  Meanwhile, my production assistant collected the lighting equipment while I double checked that all cameras, lenses, and reflectors were ready and packed for an early morning call time.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

The morning of the shoot, we all arrived for an early 7.30 AM call time, and believe me in Spain 7.30 is early.  To my horror, a thick sea mist covered my shoot location.  Fortunately, mother nature set us back only an hour.  As soon as the light was right, we had our model and dog (who was by now attached to various individuals via fishing line) get to work.  For the two to three hour we shot continuously with only occasional brief breaks as that the day was getting hotter by the second and a big dog like Tango was bound to get overheated quickly.  I also needed to get a final ten minutes with Tango posing on the white backdrop in case I need to use him in a composite.  As it turned, we did get one perfect shot which is the image you saw at the beginning of this blog, however, the main image used by Blue is the composite you see at the end of this blog.

So there you have it!  A shoot that took weeks to plan, five hours to shoot followed by many more for post-production; a collaboration of ten people to produce two final images!

Alternate finished composite images used in bill board campaign

Alternate finished composite images used in bill board campaign

Cherry Pickers…are not just for picking cherries!

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

Late last year, my team and I were commissioned to photograph the new completed phase for Arcos Gardens Golf Club and Country Estate.  The Club, located in the picturesque countryside of the town Arcos de la Frontera, had recently completed construction of their magnificent new Clubhouse and required new images of the building as well as their new luxury villas for use in their various advertisement campaigns.

As that I have years of experience in shooting  golf clubs and have previously shot this particular one, I was aware of the challenges awaiting us.  The terrain through which this course runs through is quite flat.  There are no significant natural land elevations from which I could obtain sufficient height in order to capture anything monumental in terms of the landscape.

Outside of using a helicopter, I decided that  a crane of sufficient size would do the job.  For a reasonable daily rate, Arcos Gardens hired for me a 20 meter articulated mobile crane, a.k.a. a cherry picker, that is quite easily operated by your average photographer or better yet your technical assistant.  Over our 5-day shoot schedule, we certainly took advantage of having this piece of heavy machinery at our disposal…and what fun we had!  Check out our video clip to get an idea of what I’m talking about!

MORE IMAGES FROM THE  SHOOT

Escape to Africa

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010


My latest photographic adventure took me on a relatively short trip down to the Dark Continent. I was commissioned to photograph a unique Moroccan-styled townhouse in Tangier, Morocco. As that I live in Southern Spain, getting to Tangier involved a short car ride into the expansive port of Algeciras followed by a one and a half hour ferry ride to the port of Tangier. The townhouse itself was a 10-minute walk from the port and located just outside the Medina. Although the exterior of this property was simple and unobtrusive, the interiors were magnificent featuring traditional U-shaped arches, elaborate use of bright color, and extravagant decorations. Traditional Zellige terra cotta tile work covered much of the floor and walls of almost every room while impressive Moorish plasterwork adorned the vaulted ceilings…and the views were absolutely spectacular! All in all, an amazing property. Enjoy the pics!

Quality Images Sell

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly holds true in our fast paced and image conscious world.  Today’s real estate world is largely based on Internet and print publications.  As that virtually every property on the market has been advertised using images, high quality photographs can make a huge impact on its sale ability.  Potential buyers browsing for properties will be drawn to images that stand out above the rest.

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One of the two key elements in shooting any property is lighting.   The expensive equipment used to light interior is not enough to get the right light; you must also rely on Mother Nature.  Lets face it, when you see a beautiful interior image with natural soft sunlight shining in and crystal blue skies, the impression is completely different than the same image displaying cold and gray skies.

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The soft sunlight captured on an image during the morning and evening illuminates your set with inviting warm tones and detail.  I use lighting equipment to basically balance out the exterior and interior light for exposure purposes thus avoiding burnt out windows.

Equally important to lighting is the actual styling of the interior.  Having a creative stylist on hand is certainly an asset!  It is my stylist’s job to recce the property and decide

what props we need to bring on the day of the shoot.

The right amount of appropriate well-placed props gives any room a realistic lived-in look.  Most interior shots will also benefit from a “little green”.

Both plants and cut flowers add a splash of colour and life.

A key fact to remember is that “less is often more” as far as styling is concerned and there is a big difference between a lived-in look and a chaotic mess.

The final phase in perfecting an interior image is done in post-production.  One cannot control if a crane or lamppost is seen through the window of your image and thanks to Photoshop, these nuisances can quite easily be removed.  Programs such as Lightroom also enable me to perform fine colour balance as well as correct wide-angle lens distortions.

By using quality lighting and styling and the latest in digital camera and post production techniques, even the average property can become a buyer’s dream home.  To get a better idea of what I’m talking about, I’ve included some examples of before and after images featuring what these techniques can do for an interior.

Panorama Perfect

Monday, September 7th, 2009

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We’ve all been there and seen it…… So you’re on holiday or just happen to be taking a drive out into the local mountain range (if you happen to be lucky enough to live in a place like that) and there it is, the most amazing view! You have your camera on you, however the wide-angle lens is just not wide enough not to mention that it happens to be dusk so a hand-held exposure will not give you a sharp enough image.

So you ask, what equipment do I need to get? As for the camera, any digital SLR will do, however I strongly suggest to purchase a Manfrotto 303 QTVR (Quick Time Virtual Reality) Pan Head which will run you around $450. Attached to a sturdy tripod, this pan head will allow you to achieve greater accuracy in digitally stitching together your final image by enabling you to accurately position the camera over the panoramic axis of rotation and thus adding greater accuracy to nodal point positioning. For a detail explanation of finding your nodal point for a specific lens and setting up your Manfrotto 303 QTVR Pan Head on your tripod, check out the following link http://experience.manfrotto.com/how-to-build-panoramas-and-vr-objects/2
OK, so now that you’ve done your bit of shopping, you’re ready to get started. Once you’ve selected your location, check with your local weatherman for a clear, low humidity day. Light and clarity are the key factors when shooting panoramas. Aim for that early morning or late evening (dusk) shoot to capture that warm light.

Finally you have the perfect evening and you’re on location. No time to waste as that you’ll loose the light in 20 minutes and one must allow for a good 10 minutes to shoot all the required HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. To start, set up your camera to shoot between 5 and 7-bracketed images set 1 F-stop apart. Most pro or semi-pro digital cameras will do this automatically. Don’t forget a little foreground to give depth and composition to your art. Find your nodal point and set your camera on a 2 second shutter release delay (allowing camera vibrations to steady) in continuous shooting mode and depending on the focal length of your lens (I generally recommend picking a 24 to 50 mm lens) set your QTVR pan head between 15 and 30 degree increments so that each image overlaps adjacent images by a minimum of 25%. Now, gently press the shutter release and allow your camera to complete the entire sequence of exposures before rotating your QTVR pan head to the next position. As long as the nodal point of the camera/lens is correctly set in line with the center of rotation, you will avoid parallax effects during image stitching. Repeat this procedure until you have captured all the required images to complete your panorama. If you plan on shooting more than one sequence of images, save each sequence within a different folder on your CF card.Untitled-2

7 Images taken one Fstop apart (-1-2-3 0 +1+2+3)

_S8R1293_4_5_6_7_8_9Adjust 7 shots above merged in Photomatix “Fuse exsposures”

Back  in front of your computer download your raw images using your favorite software (my preference being Adobe Lightroom 2). Each 5 to 7 images (depending on how many bracketed images you chose to shoot) will need to be processed within Photomatix Pro (which has a plugin within Lightroom) or HDR in Photoshop. I prefer Photomatix Pro since it has a function called “fuse exposures” which results in a more photo-realistic result. Now depending on the width of your panorama and the degree increments used, you have around 5 to 7 HDR images showing detail in all highlights and shadows in the image. If using Photomatix Pro plugin within Lightroom, these images can be directly exported from Lightroom into Merge To Panorama in Photoshop. You can then select “auto” under layout and Photoshop will then automatically stitch together your HDR images. Depending on the file size and computer RAM, this can take from 5 to 30 minutes. Once the stitching is done, crop your image to desired format. And voila… you have your perfect panorama!

Resulting 7 HDR angles (using “fuse exposure” command in Photomatix) ready to be stitched into a panorama

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Final photoshop stitched and colour balanced panorama from 7 HDR shots above

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How to photograph a 100-TON CAT

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Our CAT adventure began at 4.30 AM on a cold Spanish January morning.  After three cups of coffee and a final equipment check, we set off for the Malaga-based corporate training center for Caterpillar, the world’s largest and best-known maker of construction and mining machinery.  My team and I were commissioned to capture images of various current and new lines of machinery to be used for worldwide CAT ad campaigns.  Personally, I aimed to create images that showcased CAT machines in a new light and artistic perspective, something different and exciting. For this shoot, I decided to test the new lightweight Canon EOS 5D II designed to capture noise-free 22.1 megapixel images in low light conditions.  Along with my Gitzo carbon tripod I decided to bring my versatile and lightweight Manfrotto Neotec monopod fitted with a custom bracket for a rapid switch from portrait to landscape format as well as quick vertical adjustments.  This combination of equipment is ideally suited for capturing images of machinery stationed on 45 degree incline quarry slopes. By 6.30 AM, our team, comprising of an assistant, producer, two light technicians, crane operator, art director from CAT and myself, met up at the CAT headquarters.  We set up the camera equipment, including a generator-powered 4000 watt HMI light, ballast and two large tripod mounted mirror reflectors in pitch black while operators carefully positioned the machines.  As soon as the sky took on a cobalt blue hue, we began to shoot aiming to capture as many quality images as possible before sunrise kills our light (or my assistant drops the camera on the steep slope).

Following our early morning shoot, we moved on to one of the daylight segments of the project.  A separate art director oversaw this part of the production with images intended for a new CAT ad campaign.  Finally, we got to see these monster trucks in full action, a thrill for any Tonka truck fan!  Gary, head operator for CAT expertly maneuvered these 100-ton beasts through the rough terrain as if he was driving a mini in a car park.  AMAZING!

The next morning (this time after four cups of coffee) we once again rendezvoused at CAT headquarters before sunrise.  Today’s objectives included capturing aerial images of these machines both posed and in action.  To get sufficient height to obtain the right angles for this shoot, we hired a 30-meter hydraulic crane.  Good thing I’m not afraid of heights!  Under these windy conditions, I had to rig the camera for some of the shots to the side of the crane bucket.

As with all of our big shoots, we always manage to have a little fun!  (See video clip)

Powerboat shoot in Sotogrande

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

This past December, our team were commissioned to create images to be used in advertising campaigns for a new business venture featuring ultra fast powerboats based out of Sotogrande in southern Spain. This assignment presented with its own unique challenges. Orchestrating the positions of both the 20 meter Sunseeker shoot boat and the 38′ Hustler Slingshot at the right angle to the sun was in itself tricky.

On top of that, I had to maximize the number of usable sharp quality images captured of an object traveling at more than 85 miles/hr. In choosing the camera for the job, I needed a model with a high frame per second rate to capture as many images as possible in a short time frame. Each pass of the powerboat would only give me about 5 seconds of shooting time.

Taking all these factors into consideration, I ended up using the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, which features a capture rate of 5 frames/sec as well as a huge 3” fine detail LCD screens for image review on the scene. I fitted the body with an image-stabilized EF70 – 200mm f2.8 lens along with a B+W polarizer to saturate colours and reduce glare from the water.

To stabilize the camera and allow for rapid vertical adjustments, I used the lightweight Manfrotto Neotec monopod fitted with a custom bracket.

Using a technique called panning, I was able to create a speed effect using a slow shutter speed of 1/60 to 1/100 of a sec while tracking the boat with my camera resulting in sharp images of the boat itself with blurred background and water.

Once the shoot was done, the team and I got a taste of serious speed by taking a ride on this 600 horse powered Yanmar diesel racing machine! All I can say it’s one hell-of-a-ride!