We have successfully completed our still life in studio assignment today. That means we get to progress to the next level... Oh wait. This is not a video game...


This photo has nothing to do with today's photo assignment. 
I took this at the Vancouver Art Gallery about a week and a half ago...

I worked harder yesterday than I did today. Maybe it just felt harder because I hate the process of cleaning and organizing. I used to have a full time assistant who would do all the stuff I disliked but the industry changed and we started working fewer and fewer days for more and more money and it became inefficient to have someone around all the time. Now we might only do five or six days of real work a month. Nothing for an assistant to do on the other 25 days. And no one to bill their time to. 

As usual, once the studio was cleaned up and cleared out I set up a shooting table and started putting up lights. I wanted to experiment shooting very, very small objects so I'd feel warmed up for today's shoot. 
I tethered the S5 to the laptop, launched Lumix Tether and experimented with all the settings. I wanted my client to have a technically seamless experience today. No crashes or flustered photographer. 

At a quarter of nine this morning I started the Krups coffee maker. At five till nine I pulled the muffins out of the oven. At nine o'clock I answered the door and greeted the art director. She was followed five minutes later by the marketing/traffic manager. We stood in the kitchen of my house and drank some coffee and ate some muffins. Everyone was very relaxed. 

We headed out to the studio. Everything was set up and the lights were already on. The art director handed me a 14 page shot list with about three or four images per page. There were illustrations of how each product should be photographed along with notes describing the products and details such as, "side shot, white background." 

A number of the products were less than an inch long in any dimension. Well, I'm not sure that's exactly true because there might be dimensions we are not aware of in which size takes on different meanings. But in our reality a lot of the parts of metal, medical devices were fairly small. I had the camera mounted on a side arm so I could position the camera directly over the camera for the shots that called for a straight, overhead shot. The camera was tethered so I could arrange the product or raise and lower the camera without having to look through the camera's EVF or rear screen. 

Tethering came in handy. We could take a shot, punch into the review image on the laptop screen and assess whether I had gotten good focus, or more importantly, if I had gotten focus well distributed across the shot. Kind of critical for some images where we were approaching a 1:1 magnification. 

We used blue masking tape to create little templates on the laptop screen in order to match angles and sizes when shooting very similar products. Getting the sizes to match is a big help for graphic designers in post. Since the camera was triggered by the program on the laptop I was able to set a 2 second self-timer delay and trigger the camera with no movement. And not flapping mirror to cause any unsharpness. The tripod and side arm are very stout and the floor under them is concrete so vibration, even at higher magnifications was undetectable. If it had been an issue the next step would have been to switch to using the electronic shutter mode. 

The art director kept the products flowing to me and kept track of our progress. The marketing manager took the already photographed products, repackaged them and put them back into their boxes. Our lighting was good, the lens spectacular (Sigma 70mm f2.8 Macro Art Lens) and we got into a good working rhythm checking the raw files from time to time in Preview to make sure we were getting good focus at 100%. 

After we got the products squared away the team called in the project manager and had him come by to arrange the compositions for more complex assemblages of catheters and surgical tools. He knew exactly what he wanted and we didn't have the "let's try it five different ways and see what we like best" syndrome stunting our progress. 

In the original scheduling of this campaign we set aside a full day for product photography in the studio but we finished up around 12:45 pm and the clients went to lunch. I was invited along but demurred since I had to strike the set and pack gear for a completely different type of shoot we're doing on location tomorrow. I suggested that if we did two lunches in a row they'd get tired of hearing my best stories twice. 

When we finished up the files were in place on the laptop's hard drive and on the two memory cards in the camera. I've since used Lightroom to ingest the files and back them up on two more hard drives. I've also made some small corrections to the files and wrote out a set of .DNG files to send on to the client via WeTransfer.com. 

It's mid-afternoon and I'm taking a break with a cup of Irish Breakfast tea. I like to change gears through the day and do different tasks. The act of writing a short blog helps me process in my mind the work I did earlier. It also helps me half way visualize what I'll do tomorrow with three models and a small crew under my direction. It should be an interesting day since I'm switching gears and cameras. 

I'm planning on using the big Leica tomorrow and "tethering" it to an Atomos HDMI monitor instead of to the laptop. There are several reasons to do so. One is speed. The other is pairing down the complexity. I may have it all wrong but the only consequences are, really, that the client might have to take a leap of faith and put some trust in the rear screen of my zany camera. We'll try to make sure it doesn't come to that. Batteries and cables abound. 

I'm almost packed for tomorrow and I'm glad I have an assistant coming. I'm packing five big light stands and that's a burden. There are also two cases of lights, a case of lenses and a case for cameras. I guess we'll just have to be okay with turning tomorrow's shooting into photographic theater. Lots of gear and sparkle to do what we used to do solo just a few years ago.

I had to talk myself out of getting another S5 and the free 50mm f1.8 Lumix lens.
I came to the conclusion that I could, in principle, justify owning different 
50mm lenses but owning two identical ones along with a growing collection 
of good and/or odd lenses was just one step too far. 

So I changed direction and bought a 50mm f.095 lens instead. It should arrive 
tomorrow. I'll shoot some stuff with it on Friday or Saturday. 
Not much will be in focus....

Gotta go. The client just sent over a style guide for tomorrow.
I guess I should read it in advance....

Oh. And B. just reminded me to pour out the leftover coffee and to clean
up the mess I left in the kitchen. That's fair.