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Here you'll find various things relating to photo shoots. Behind the scenes pictures, video, and some commentary. 

iPhone gets the job done: Foggy Garden Portraits

Shooting with my iPhone. I'll explain this below.. 

Shooting with my iPhone. I'll explain this below.. 

     Recently I've had a few ideas for some shoots but they weren't getting done so I decided to ask a friend of mine, Jade, to come over and we would just come up with something. I have various supplies lying around and for this shoot we used some flowers and the fog machine to make some simple, atmospheric portraits. 

     For a bit of a story before I talk some more about the shoot: A few weeks ago I was at a shoot with a portrait client at a lighthouse down at the beach and needed to put my camera down for a moment to adjust the light. There was a spot near the rocks that appeared to have been fairly dry for a while so I set my camera there and just as I turned away a massive wave crashed over the area. I looked over to my camera and it was totally dowsed. I am normally someone who is very careful with his tech so I'm pretty surprised that I let that happen. Needless to say, the camera doesn't shoot anymore. It was my 5D Mark ii with a 24-105mm mounted. The lens is weather sealed but the camera isn't. I've since tested the lens and it (other than some sometimes ominous scraping noises from sand that got in) seems to be fine. The camera is giving me error codes and will need to be fixed.  

     Anyway, although I was pretty bummed about my 5D2, I still had my original 5D in my bag so I could at least use that for a while. Well that is what I was thinking until this shoot when I go to start taking pictures and look through the viewfinder and find it obstructed. There was no cap on the lens so I was pretty puzzled but taking off the lens revealed the mirror had fallen out. 

Oh no! Not a happy sight.. 

Oh no! Not a happy sight.. 

     I'd read before that this mirror issue is not uncommon with earlier production 5Ds but since it hasn't happened until now, I had mostly disregarded it. Its a near 10 year old model by now and I bought it used in 2009 so although I'm disappointed that its broken, I'm still happy with all the use I've gotten out of it. Just considering the problem, it doesn't seem like too hard a fix. I could attempt a superglue job myself but I don't know if that would be too imprecise. I don't know if it would worth spending whatever Canon would charge for factory service since its such an old camera. 

     So now I don't have any working cameras. (I have an old Rebel but the shutter button is jacked up) Until I can get together some funds to get them fixed, I suppose I can borrow cameras or something. Even if/when I get the 5D2 fixed, I'm still weary. I don't really trust a camera that has suffered a salt water intrusion. Hopefully I'll be able to get at least a 6D or possibly a 5D3 (or in my dreams, a 5DS..) some time this year. We'll see.. 

     So with Jade and Alison over for a shoot and everything set up, I just shot with the camera I had that wasn't broken. My iPhone. 

If you showed this photo to me a few years ago, I probably wouldn't be able to immediately tell it wasn't taken with one of my DSLRs. Of course it would be obvious on closer inspection but I'm pretty happy with what I got from the iPhone here. 

If you showed this photo to me a few years ago, I probably wouldn't be able to immediately tell it wasn't taken with one of my DSLRs. Of course it would be obvious on closer inspection but I'm pretty happy with what I got from the iPhone here. 

     Using the Camera+ app, I could manually set the camera and was able to get some pretty cool shots. Keeping the ISO down at like 32 or 40 was necessary since these little sensors aren't so good with higher sensitivities. Luckily it was a nice cloudy day and I had the modeling light from my flash to augment it. Since it was just a personal shoot, I wasn't that freaked out about using a super high quality camera and it became a sort of fun challenge to try and work through the limitations of using an iPhone at a shoot. 

A bit of a challenge using the iPhone's 29mm (equivalent) lens to frame portraits. 

A bit of a challenge using the iPhone's 29mm (equivalent) lens to frame portraits. 

     I was originally planning to shoot with a wide aperture and a medium/wide (35-50mm) lens for some painterly rendering of the background but since that was off the table, the photos ended up having a different look. The depth of the field on these cameras is massive. In most cases, essentially everything is in focus unless the subject is very close to the lens. In a way its kind of cool to see that because I so rarely go for an entirely sharp look. Its different. 

     The biggest problem I thought I would have was using my flash. You can't (as far as I have seen) trigger a pocket wizard/sync cable with an iPhone so the only light I could use was the ambient light and the modeling light of my flash. (which is equivalent to something like a 100 watt standard bulb). Getting a balance between the week modeling lamp and the afternoon light was iffy at first but as the sun went down, it became easier to control. 

     I think the coolest thing about this shoot was the affirmation for me that I can still make some cool looking photos with much more limited equipment. These photos pretty much look like they are done in my style but were taken with an iPhone instead of a DSLR and a bare modeling light bulb in place of a more powerful flash and diffuser. 

I love using the fog machine to add atmosphere to images. 

I love using the fog machine to add atmosphere to images. 

     Overall I'm pretty impressed with the iPhone 6 camera. It can't compete at all with a decent dedicated camera but for a phone, its pretty good. Maybe I'll continue doing some low tech shoots for fun. 

     Here are a few more behind the scenes photos taken by Alison who was with us that day to hang out and assist: 

     I'm happy with the photos from this shoot and I'm curious to see what they might look like in print compared to my usual files so I ordered a few 12x16" reproductions to see if they hold up. I think they will. Recently Apple has been printing building size billboard ads that were shot on iPhone 6 so if they can do that, I think my little portraits will look good in print too. 

     I considered just using iPhone apps to retouch the photos but the comforts of using Photoshop on my Mac won out. There wasn't a whole lot done to them. Mostly refining the color and a bit of general retouching. Having the fog machine there in real life really makes that kind of atmospheric look really convenient to achieve. Its possible to create something similar in Photoshop but there is something about the look of real smoke/fog that I prefer. I guess if you are really proficient in a 3D modeling app you could reconstruct the scene in 3D and render the smoke you want around it with an alpha channel and then layer that in over the photo so it would look pretty real but that seems like a much larger effort than a $20 smoke machine and a gentle breeze.

     Here are a few more of the final images:

I love how you can take an ordinary location (front yard of a house) and through selective framing (and maybe a bit of Photoshop work) make it look like it could be anywhere. I know where it was taken and what was immediately around it but anyone who isn't familiar with the location is left to imagine the area for themselves. Fun fact: the blue flowers were found at the dollar store. Its great what you can do with $20 of cheap fake flowers in the right context. 

I love how you can take an ordinary location (front yard of a house) and through selective framing (and maybe a bit of Photoshop work) make it look like it could be anywhere. I know where it was taken and what was immediately around it but anyone who isn't familiar with the location is left to imagine the area for themselves. Fun fact: the blue flowers were found at the dollar store. Its great what you can do with $20 of cheap fake flowers in the right context. 

Since this shoot was pretty free form, I hadn't considered all of the elements in too much detail. I like how the ruffle edge of the dress on her shoulder echoes the flowers in the background. 

Since this shoot was pretty free form, I hadn't considered all of the elements in too much detail. I like how the ruffle edge of the dress on her shoulder echoes the flowers in the background. 

I love the depth that fog creates when you can see the density build up through plants or trees. The light on her wasn't quite as optimal as I'd usual have it but it is still close to my usual look. Colors are a bit different in this once compared with the others from this shoot. Less red in the shadows. I guess I just feel like this one works being primarily cold cyans. 

I love the depth that fog creates when you can see the density build up through plants or trees. The light on her wasn't quite as optimal as I'd usual have it but it is still close to my usual look. Colors are a bit different in this once compared with the others from this shoot. Less red in the shadows. I guess I just feel like this one works being primarily cold cyans. 

     So that is that. Fun shoot. I hope to do some more spontaneous creative shoots like this. I need to shoot more and I find that sometimes it can be good to just make something happen even if the ideas aren't fully formed.