8.02.2010

Just showing up for work.

Kirk in his hardhat,  reflective vest, eye protection, etc.  Just another day at work.
We love to think we do art 24/7 but sometimes we put on the hard hat and vest and go to work.  For the last eight days I've been working on an annual report project, shooting portraits outdoors.  Mostly on road construction sites.  Today I photographed the people who operate the big machine you see in the background.  We're down in a new roadway with no shade and no electricity.  At 11:30 this morning, around the time my client snapped this shot of me, it was already in the mid 90's (f).

My lighting set up for the images was pretty simple.  I floated a scrim over the top of the subject and used an Acute 600b in a small softbox, as close in as I possibly could.  When I get permission I'll show a few of the sample images.  I've been using the Canon 7D with the 15-85mm zoom as my primary optic.  Why?  Because the lens covers all the focal lengths I need on this project which means I'm not changing lenses in the middle of the dust storm that is road construction.  Also, we're shooting in strong daylight which means middle to smaller apertures.  No need for big, high speed lenses in this context.  The camera body seems well sealed against dust and rain. (Actually used it in the rain last week.....)  

The one accessory that makes all the difference in the world on a bright, outdoor shoot like this is the Hoodman viewing loupe which covers the LCD on the back of the camera and lets me and the art director make a good assessment of the image we're working on.  It's a must if you judge exposure by looking at your review image but it also helps you see the histogram results.

As the project progresses I've been selecting my favorite images and having them printed at 12 by 18 inches by my local Costco.  So far, so good.  It's fun to look at prints instead of trying to judge everything from a monitor.  I think it's a good practice to make daily selections and send out for prints as you go along on a project.  If you do it routinely through every project you'll find that you have a big stack of portfolio ready prints in no time.  You can go thru your stack and edit down to a perfectly aimed portfolio, every time.  If you go through the process of making the files ready to print you can save them in folders and then print your own if you enjoy the pain of doing your own inkjet printing.

I'm seeing a high degree of sharpness and detail in all the prints.  There are obviously lenses that are better correctly than the 15-85 and there are lenses that are much faster.  But given the conditions we're shooting in and the results we're getting at our final printing size I will say I'm satisfied with the quality.  Everything is a compromise.  Simplicity is a good compromise.

I've also been getting a lot of use out of the Canon 580 EX2 flash.  I use it when we try to get images in almost inaccessible locations,  like inside a bucket lift thirty feet up or in the cab of a $3 million earth moving machine.  I use it mostly to add fill light in the HS mode (high speed sync) which allows me to sync the flash at shutter speeds up to 1/8000th of a second.  I use a very small softbox on the front and tend to always filter it with a quarter CTO filter so that when I do the final color correction for my human subjects the sky in the background does a deeper, richer shade of blue.

Well. I'm getting ready to go out and get the last shot of the job this afternoon.  It's already a little over 100 degrees out there.  I've got on my steel toed Redwings, a Royal Robbins long sleeve, UV blocking technical shirt,  a pair of Khaki shorts, my straw cowboy hat and, of course my vintage RayBan sunglasses on.  That takes care of me.  There's a case of water in the car for the subjects and entourage.  And a small step ladder.  Just another day at work.









13 comments:

Daniel Fealko said...

Yikes! What happened? I can't read the blog entry. It appears to have some very, very light blue text on a black background. I can read it if I highlight the entry, causing the colors to invert.

kirk tuck said...

Daniel, I fixed it. Hurummph. Technology.

Jimmy said...

Great Photo of you at "work." So is the definition of "high tech"- it just doesn't quite work all of the time yet?

Jimmy said...

Great photo of you at "work." So is the definition of "HighTech"- it doesn't work all of the time yet?

Keith said...

Kirk
As you are now using lightroom 3
the 15-85 is listed in the lens correction section.
so a few quick clicks will correct most problems with the lens (if there are any)
just test a few shots to see if there is an improvement

kirk tuck said...

Keith, That's the first setting I apply to all the frames before I start doing group color corrections and other tweaks. It works great. I guess it's analogous to the kind of corrections Olympus Pen and Panasonic m4:3rds cameras make on the fly. Seems to work for them as well.....

Chops said...

Have you had problems with the large prints from Costco? Over the late 4 months some of my 8x10 lustre prints have come back with bands running vertically on each side. It looks like roller marks but the guy in the photo department says it's not the rollers. Any experience with this?

kirk tuck said...

No problems at all. Everything is spot on. Our store is remarkably good at the photo thing.

C.J. Ross said...

Saw on the evening news that triple digits were hitting your part of the world, I'm guessing your UV-Blocking shirt and straw hat are getting a workout? Thanks for your almost daily posting, always a good read.

kirk tuck said...

The last shoot on the last day of the project was a killer. We needed to show a rail line situated between the two directions of a major highway, in a very specific stretch of land. The only way to get to the location was to climb a very steep concrete embankment. So steep that you had to have treaded, rubber soled shoes to make it up the incline. We had to park a quarter of a mile a way and haul our stuff up to the shooting location so we trekked along some hot pavement. When it's 102 in the shade in Texas it's usually around 115 5o 120 on the black top. The art director (thank God she's in great shape!!!!) and I scaled up the embankment first. I had a Profoto 600b and a head in a Domke messenger bag, my Canon 5D2 with the 24-105 around my neck, Hoodman loupe and radio slaves in the pocket of the mandatory reflective vest and a light stand and small softbox in my other hand. The art director carried the small ladder that would allow me to get up enough to do a nice portrait (rear lit by sunlight and front lit by the flash) and be able to show the railroad tracks behind him and the crowded lanes of traffic on either side. I filled the Domke bag with rocks to make a quick sand bag set up and tested the lights and then called up the subject and the marketing director.

We estimated the temp at around 108 next to the black top. We did sixty or seventy variations before our hero called it quits and retreated to the air conditioning of his car. The marketing director fled while I dumped the rocks and packed everything up. By the time we were back at the car I was sweating buckets in spite of my miracle shirt and hat. Thank goodness for my sunglasses. I headed straight home while downing a quarter of watered down Gatorade.

Once all the gear was stowed in the studio I headed for our neighborhood Starbucks to meet a friend. Our particular Starbucks is (in)famous for having 60 degree air conditioning. After an hour and a half of cool iced tea and freezing "chilled air" I was back to normal and ready to go again.

It was so hot in Austin yesterday that one of my big, red oak trees just gave up the ghost and fell over, narrowly missing my house. One more thing to take care of........

Radu said...

Hi Kirk! In the last similar assignment you blogged about you used the Elinchrom Ranger; now you used the Profoto 600b. Any specific reason or was it just down to how you felt that particular day?

I am considering both of them as my next lighting purchase, especially after seeing how you recommended them a few months ago. My heart is set on the Profoto 600b, especially with the new LiFE battery (lighter, smaller, better mount for modifiers, etc) but it costs about 50% more than the Elinchrom Ranger (which is has a lot of advantages itself, but it's too big and heavy for my preference).

Thank you for describing daily work with details that help me imagine quite well what it is like to live this type of life.

kirk tuck said...

Hey Radu, It's all the same assignment. I love the Ranger because it has a lot more power and better recycle times at the power levels I like to use. I love the Profoto because it's pretty darn good, I have a lot of modifiers for it and it's half the weight. I specifically chose the Profoto 600b on the last leg of the project because we needed to walk in a good way and then scale a big embankment to get to where we needed to be. Every pound counts when it's 108-112 on the pavement and you've got stuff to carry.

That's why I can't let go of one or the other. They each have their strengths. I probably will retrofit my 600b with one of the new batteries. Kudos to Profoto for making them backwardly compatible.

rhysbwaller said...

Sounds like a rewarding project to work on. cant wait to see some of the images