Shoot 0001: Craig Jackson

Craig Jackson
Craig Jackson, originally uploaded by tyroga.

About the shoot

For a long time now I have been wanting to expand my photography in to more people-based photographic work. But unfortunately I don’t have any friends who are into being photographed. I swear I am cursed. I am a web developer by trade and yet most of my friends are not that well connected online. And I am an avid photographer who’s friends prefer to be out of the light, even the prettier friends.

So the aim of this particular shoot was for me to become more comfortable interacting one on one with a model and a stranger. To that end I found Craig Jackson on a model website. Craig is 19 and from Melbourne’s western suburb of Melton.

For Craig modelling is a bit of fun more than an actual career direction. Not that he won’t grab it with both hands should it come his way.

The Mechanics of the shoot

I was hoping that this day would be my first using my new shoot-through umbrella and light stand. I’m going more the strobist route than traditional studio-type lighting. For one flash units are much cheaper than studio lights with portable power sources and for two they are also much easier to lug around and set up. But as it turned out there wasn’t really a need for me to use anything other than natural light on the day. We had some nice shading and an overcast day to even out the light.

I shot mostly with my Canon 5D mkII and my Canon EF17-40mm f/4L USM with the occasional long shot from my Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L USM. Filled one 4GB card and made it about part way through a second.

We met and started shooting at about 3.30pm and wrapped less than an hour later. It was a quick shoot.

The shoot was TFCD or Time For CD which essentially means that in lieu of payment the model receives a disc with all of the photos from the shoot (well the edited versions of what the photographer wants to give them). It’s really win-win in that there are no major expectations, we are both in it for a bit of fun and to both end up with photos to populate our respective portfolios with.

Craig Jackson 004

How did the shoot go? My feelings about the shoot

Well if I’m going to be honest I think I rushed it a little. I should have taken more time out at the start, talked more to Craig about the shoot. Sure we discussed briefly what we both wanted from the shoot, but I should have found out more about him before I started. I think if you were to look at the photos in succession you’d be able to tell the ones that were at the start and those which came towards the end of the shoot, as I got to know more about Craig and began to feel more comfortable.

I also gave up on using my shoot-through too quickly. I guess I was worried about making Craig wait while I fussed around with my stuff. But then I know from other experience that it can take a while to get the lights right and maybe I should have perceivered. I might have got some better images as the light started to go on us and also on a couple where the shadows were more prevalent.

I also think I need to invoke more emotion from the model. In most of the photos Craig has a simialar facial expression, which if the photos were never to be seen together is fine cause they all look good, but in a group of photos may lead people to believe that he only has the one look. That doesn’t reflect well on either of us I think and having seen his portfolio is not a true reflection on him.

How can I improve for next time?

Well I guess the first thing is to slow it down. Get to know more about the model, make that connection a little earlier than I did.

Be more open when I think something is not working. I think I was all right about this, but I know there is a whole segment of photos that I’m going to leave on the proverbial cutting room floor because I didn’t like the curvature of the back in any of them.

I can also get to know my equipment more. I think the 5D did an awesome job. And I find I am pressing more buttons and turning more dials than I ever have before. I guess that’s what these shoots are also about. Experimentation and play.

Craig Jackson 008 Craig Jackson 007

Conclusions from the day

Shoot more, do more shoots, take on any assignment and run with it. Have fun, get to know more people. It is only from the occassional failure that we can truly learn and celebrate our successes. I’m happy with the day and the photos we produced and I hope that Craig is too.

See more

You can see more photos from the day and other photoshoots on my Flickr Photostream. You can find out more about Craig by reading his Model Mayhem Profile

Life Lessons 001: If you’re being followed don’t go home

Go to a public location with lots of people, go to a place of authority like a police station or a council building. Do not ever go home. You don’t want the people following you to know where you live.

I was once driving in a car with a friend Joanne. At the time we were living in Glenmore Park in the west of Sydney. Joanne had just been cut off coming out of a round-a-bout by a car containing three young guys and as you would do she beeped them to let them know she didn’t appreciate their actions. The response of the driver was to slow right down to be annoying and then when our single lane became two they pulled into the other lane and slowed down until they were behind us.

They then proceeded to tailgate us, flashing their lights and beeping their horn.

Joanne panicked. She sped up a bit and started to head for home. At which point I tried to calm her down and tell her it was going to be alright. I told her to drive up the next side street, she didn’t. She wanted to get home where she would feel safe. It make sense that as humans we run to where we feel safe, but taking people with you isn’t the best option. Your safe place will no longer be safe.

Finally I got her to turn up one side street, then another, just be be sure they were actually going to keep following us. I then reached into the back seat of Joanne’s car and grabbed the club lock, the thing she used to lock her steering wheel.

Joanne had resumed heading for home.

I told her to pull over, I was going to deal with it. And OMG did that start her freaking out. She was sure we were going to get killed, she even started crying. I insisted that she pull over, almost to the point where I threatened to pull the hand-break lever and finally she did.

They pulled up behind us, before any of them could get out of their car I was out of Joanne’s and headed for the driver’s side of the car. The club lock in two pieces one in each hand. I was ready to kick some ass and I’m sure it showed on my face. The pursuers put their car in reverse and went backwards as fast as they could. I had no intention of causing damage, just to put a little fear into them and it succeeded, they were quickly gone.

I learnt long before this day that if you’re going to do battle with someone you have to commit 100%. Forget everything else and especially forget fear, it has no place in a situation like this.

When I got back in the car Joanne was beaming with smiles and we went the few streets to home.

I call this series of posts Life Lessons because they are lessons I have learned personally. They are all from my own point of view and are not presented as strict guidelines for anyone else to follow. While these were my circumstances, my actions and my outcomes each situation is different and needs to be judged by individuals on their own merits.

Kram Shoot

Last month I was asked to do a filler shoot, one where our regular staff photogs weren’t availble. It has happened a few times of late (AFL Press Conference and AFL Blood Drive) and I always get these notes of apology that they had to ask me to do it. I always want to reply telling them to never apologise for it, just make the call more often. I don’t drag my camera to my web developer job every day just to have it sitting on the floor. It comes with me in the hope that I will find a reason to use it. I love using it and crave more and more reasons to do so.

But I digress, back to Kram. At work we create a small publication (small in size not in circ) called MAG (Music Australia Guide). And last month there was an opportunity to shoot Kram, the lead singer of Spiderbait, who is releasing his own solo album “Mix Tape” on March 15. I was to meet Dan Rule, a writer at the offices of Universal Music Australia and then take a few shots of Kram passing Dan a prop that would later be digitally altered to be a giant Mix Tap graphic.

The day of the shoot however someone advised management that my camera, Canon 5D MkII would shoot video and that we should try and shoot video of the interview. Then that turned into someone else asking if I would be able to film video of the interview facing Kram all the way through and then after he had left, have Dan re-ask his questions to the camera so we could use that content as cut aways whent he video was put together!

There are four things you need to consider here.

  1. I received my camera as a birthday gift just three or four days before the shoot. Hadn’t really broken it in and was still getting to know its personality (which I believe every camera has).
  2. I had never shot video in my life, other than the occasional quick grab at a zoo or a family occasion once on our older video camera. I had no idea how much space I would require on my compact flash cards to hold the video and the photos. I only had 10GB worth of cards and was a little worried.
  3. I was already packing my shorts (read shitting myself) at the idea of doing a photo shoot that was going to end up in the magazine, sure I was confident I could do it, right up until having to worry about the video, man I wish no one had mentioned that.
  4. Star-struck much. This guys was the lead singer of a band that had done very well in Australia and who’s biggest single, “Black Betty” had been used on soundtracks over seas so everyone knew this guy. He is by definition a star and sometimes I forget that these guys are people too. I worry that they are going to be pretentious or worse precious about themselves and their image.

Turns out my fears were unfounded. I don’t think I did the best job of the shoot but the photo editors did their awesome work and turned it into something that worked well. I had plenty of space to shoot the video, the camera performed well and Kram was an amazing guys, very down to earth and very accommodating. I only wish I had had heard the interview first and seen his character before trying to shoot him. The connection in the photo would have been much stronger I feel as nether Dan or I had met the artist before.

As always I learnt a lot from this shoot. I learnt that everyone is a person first and that they should be treated as such. I spoke with one of our other photographers about it afterwards and he agreed that he had once been starstruck by the AFL players he had shot, but had come to believe (and rightly so) that they are there to do a job and so are we. I also learnt that the record companies don’t have very good offices, not at all like I would have thought them to be. No glitz, no glamour, just some cutouts stuck to the wall, remnants of a party and a ripped couch. I also had the forethought to shoot the images against a blank white wall, declining the offer to shoot in the alleyway out the back. I’ve worked with photo editor before and seen MAG production, I knew they’d probably want to put their own backdrop in and also knew they’d be doing the CG to the shot and wanted to give them the cleanest cut I could.

Did I enjoy shooting Kram, oh yeah. I loved it. But then I always love it when I have my camera in my hand.

Kram Photoshoot Now In MAG

You can see the shot (with photo credit) in the latest edition of MAG available for free at all JB Hi-Fi stores. You’ll also find my review of the Canon 5D MkII and of the Sharp DVD Cinema. Jack of all trades, that’s me. You’ll also find video I shot for the MAG video podcast on the MAG website, not the vid with Kram. I think it all hit the cutting room floor. And all I had to do with the podcast was frame the shot and press the “record” button. We did two run-throughs, the first didn’t work with the audio so we took the second.

Signs – A Short Film

Came across this the other day on YouTube. I don’t often check out their recommended or featured sections, but for some reason this one caught my eye. Signs is a beautiful short film. Take some time and check it out.