For Photographers – Saguaro cactus skeleton – “How I Shot It”

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This is inside a Saguaro cactus skeleton looking skyward. The “Frame Work” of these cactus is a wood type material that are roughly round and about 1″ in diameter (26mm). I was shooting a project in Arizona and while shooting I saw this skeleton and realized it had 2 missing sections and my Canon 5D MKIII with a 8mm to 15mm zoom lens would just fit inside.

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So I set the camera/lens inside, and crouching low to the ground so I would not be in the photo too, I reached up and pushed the button.
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I set the iris to f20 to get a lot of depth of field and shot a bracket. Then I zoomed out to 15mm to shoot a full frame set.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton.

Thanks for looking!

For Photographers – 16 bit only!

 

S-2606-30-31-Copyright-SteveThorntonI always work in 16 bit color space. This way you will drastically reduce any chance of “banding” in your image. If you do not make radical color, contrast, saturation etc. settings then 8 BIT is likely fine. However even knowing this I never start with an 8 bit file. Lets say I did open the image as an 8 bit file and retouched the photo, liquefied the image, stretched the image and then decided that I really wanted to convert to a dramatic B&W image where I wanted to use the red channel as the primary color. BANG! You are screwed especially if there is a lot of blue sky in the image. You will get almost instant banding. Have a wonderful image that you want to saturate the blue sky? If you have already opened the file in 8 BIT color space and then you want to saturate the blue? Massive banding will occur.

Also I know a lot of photographers will save in TIFF format. Why? Because they do not know any better. I only save in PSD format. WHY? Because it is a native file format for Photoshop and it had lossless compression. TIFF faithfully saves every pixel, resulting in a file that is roughly 30% larger. But since the PSD file is lossless, there is no gain in TIFF.

Once I learned about 16 BIT, I have never worked in or saved in 8 BIT.

How do you get to 16 BIT? In Lightroom, or in the Adobe Camera RAW Converter, you select 16 BIT, see below:S-2606-31-Copyright_SteveThornton

Click on the link and another window will open: 

16-bitThen choose 16 Bits/Channel. And choose something other than sRGB as your color space.

By the way, Lightroom and the Adobe Camera RAW Converter will give you the SAME RAW conversion controls. There is NO difference.

Color space: I only use Adobe RGB 1998, NOT sRGB. Other photographers will elect to work in ColorMatch RGB or ProPhoto RGB, and this is fine too. ProPhoto RGB is the largest color space but as of this writing I am unaware of any monitor that can cover 100% of the very large color space of ProPhoto RGB. Just use anything other than sRGB.

If you will be using your image on the web or inserting it into an email, be SURE to “convert” (Not assign) your file into sRGB color space first then use “save as” a JPEG, GIF or PNG file. In Photoshop click “Edit, Convert to Profile” then choose, in the “Destination Space” dropdown menu, sRGB. The web is designed for sRGB, and does not play well with any other color space.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Directing an Industrial Video Project in Doha, Qatar

Directing an Industrial Video Project in Doha, Qatar

Directing an Industrial Video Project in Doha, Qatar

Recently I was in Doha, Qatar, a middle east state across the Persian Gulf from Iran and connected to Saudi Arabia, for an industrial video project. The level of construction is stunning. I have never seen so many big trucks anywhere. On this highway you can’t get out of sight of at least 5 trucks, and 10 is more likely. Most of these are Mercedes Benz trucks and most of them are hauling gravel and sand used in construction of roads and buildings. Although you will see an occasional truck load of camels.

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My client installs highway guard rails, weather stations, sand fences and other highway safety products. They are anxious to expand their business and needed an interesting video presence on their website telling a story about what they do and why they are different and a better choice than other companies in their field. They wanted 2 videos, one that was very fast moving short and one that lasted for 1 minute 40 seconds that gave more details of the company. This is a link to one of these videos.

The challenge to me was the language and the scale of the project. Qatar is not a large country but the company I was working for has job sites all over the country. We were in the car a lot going from one job site to the next. Another issue was the constant wind and dust due to the wind. Some days it was hard to shoot video because the wind caused the camera, even when on a tripod, to shake and vibrate, causing problems in the video capture. I wanted to shoot after the sun had set, requiring the crews to work overtime. Doing this allowed me to get some really interesting imagery for my client.

In directing an industrial video project you need to ask the client a lot of questions so you can understand their point of view, their needs and so you can get to the point where you understand that it is they do. Only then can you then map out what needs to be shot so you can give your editor enough video and stills to allow them to edit an interesting and informative video.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Editorial Fashion Shoot and Water in the California Desert

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Fashion Editorial Style Photoshoot

This fashion editorial style image was shot on a chilly and windy February afternoon. We had an assistant just out of frame with the model’s coat so we could try and keep her warm when we were setting up, changing positions or changing batteries on the Hensel Porty pack.

First we positioned the white spheres then the platform the model is standing on. I wanted to have enough strobe (Flash) light to drop the exposure so the sky would reproduce well. This required a powerful strobe and the ability to “Focus” the light. To do this we used all 1200 watt seconds (Joules) of power from the Hensel Porty and we were pumping this power into a Broncolor Para 88 focused for maximum distance. Due to wanting to get the model warm, I only shot 50+ images in 20 minutes, having to wait for the pack to recycle to full power after each shot caused me to have to wait before shooting the next image. This time included having to stop and dispatch a fleet footed assistant to locate and retrieve a freshly charged Li-on battery from the equipment van.

I always try to keep any model as comfortable as possible while on set. If the model starts to shiver she stops being interested in shooting and is more interested in getting warm.

One of my assistants “Volunteered” to carry Annabell to and from her perch, such gentlemen I am surround by!

Make up & hair by Steven Bartling from Los Angeles, California.

Gear: Canon 5D MKIII camera, set at 50 ISO & 1/200 second shutter speed and a Canon 14mm “L” lens set at f14. Light is a balance of daylight plus a Broncolor Para 88 using a Hensel Porty 1200WS pack.

Go here to look at a larger image.

If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Engagement photo

Shot in Walden, Colorado for Bobbie, a cowgirl friend of mine, who wanted an image to use as an announcement of her engagement to Brooks. I had just under 1 minute 30 seconds to shoot with stunning light. I was in a field with Brooks & Bobbie shooting with “Just” light, solid overcast with zero edge to the light.
Experience in shooting in Colorado told me before I started to shoot that I might get 10+/- minutes of stunning light when the sun dropped below the cloud cover and just above the horizon. As a photographer on an overcast day, you will want to look west to see if there is a gap between the clouds and the horizon line. If there is you can get stunning imagery but you will need to be very quick and know what you want before you start to shoot.
Well the sun did drop below the solid overcast sky but there was another cloud layer just below. As soon as the sun popped I started to shoot as fast as I could shoot, move and re-frame and shoot some more.
In 43 seconds I shot 35 full to half figure images, then turned around to shoot into the sun where I shot 18 backlit images in 44 seconds. I then asked the couple to put their faces close but not touching. I positioned the camera to get a strong flare and shot 6 images in 2 seconds… and then the sun was gone.

But, I “Got The Shot!”


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Fast paced editorial fashion and beauty video shot just outside Milan, Italy

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This fashion editorial project is a mix of video & stills shot on an abandoned farm just outside of Milan, Italy.

http://www.stevethornton.com/video/S-2400-Samara/index-3.html

The normal challenge of any mixed media project is get enough still images to choose from & then have enough time to also shoot video. The “Problem” with creating the still images is, I am creating a slice of life at 1/1000 of one second. So eyes can be shut, the mouth could look strange, the hands may not look pretty, the feet might be in transition etc.

On this “look” I shot a total of 110 images plus 5 video clips having a total of 1 minute 5 seconds run time. Some of the video was shot with the camera on a tripod, the others were shot using a Steadicam. Including the occasional pauses for hair and makeup corrections or the wardrobe stylist making adjustments, the total time on set, shooting stills & video, was 15 minutes. If you have ever been on a shoot where a Steadicam is being used, you know there is a fair amount of time “Trimming and re-trimming” the apparatus, even a mild breeze causes issues and now you have a situation where not just the talent is moving but also the photographer is moving.

In this case Samara relates, projects to the camera and moves so well it was easy because there were so many great images to choose from, and I knew this just by watching her work through my cameras. A lot of clients just do not get why a model is so important, they think they just need a pretty person (male or female) and that is it. Even within professional models there are exceptional models next to average models, just like lawyers, hairstylists, doctors and photographers. When I get a great model to work with, I spend less time on each look allowing the client to get a lot of great images to choose from as well as getting a lot of production in a day, or allowing my team and me develop an idea and not to be concerned if we “Got the Shot”.

If I had an “average” professional model, I may have had to shoot for an hour, or more, and still not get what I did with Samara in 15 minutes. This is the difference.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Sexy Lifestyle Advertising image

This very sexy couple image was photographed near Miami Beach, Florida. I had the models meet me about 1 hour before I wanted to shoot to allow enough time in case one of them ran late due to traffic, and the southeast coast of Florida has a lot of traffic. This also allows my stylist to pick through the wardrobe I asked them to bring to get something that will “work”.

In any type of boy/girl intimate imagery, believably is of paramount importance. When using models that may not know each other it will be up to the photographer to see the problems and direct the models through their potential reluctance or hesitation to engage with the other model. I have had a few projects that one or the other model just could not work through the issues they had even with me directing. Normally with professional lifestyle models vs. fashion models this is never a problem.

Most fashion models are normally photographed by themselves, and as a result of this they are not accustom to working with another model in the same photograph if it is a lifestyle project. If you shoot with 2 fashion models they might look like they are on their own separate planet, and even though they may be touching… they will look worlds apart. For a major lifestyle project, I will always look for photos where the models are interacting together with other people. If they do not have these types of images I will try to set up a test shoot and see if they can look real or not. The reality is if the models can’t work together and look 100% believable with another person, the photo will be a failure.

I have had a few projects where the client hired 2 fashion models, a man & a woman. On one of these projects it was like pulling teeth to get them look real. It was not that they did not try, it was they were like a fish out of water, so they looked, and were, uncomfortable. I did finally get a photograph that worked but it took hours to get there. After I was able to show the models some early photos next to a “Real” image, they started to understand.

So many clients & photographers think just because they have a good looking man & a good looking woman and you put them together they will look natural. Maybe, but unless they are really good professional lifestyle models, the odds are against you. When I go to the mall, a restaurant or a social get together, I will watch people and observe how they interact. Not just if they touch the person they are with, but HOW do they touch, where do they touch, what is the expression on their face, what is their body language telling me?

All of the signals that will tell someone who does not know the couple they are looking at, but will instantly know they “Belong” to the other person or not. These same set of signals will tell a person that when they see a man & a woman in a photo that was not properly modeled or directed, that it was staged photo. For me this would be a failure.

Fortunately for me, this couple had no problems at all, and it really looks like they have a lot of natural attraction.

The Gear:
Canon camera & lens – 1/160 second, ISO 100, 85mm lens set at f4


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Cowboy in the snow

Here I am following Jimmy to the location

This is my shadow while riding, the big lump behind me is my 35 pound (16 KG) camera bag

Another select 2 frames later

Location wise for this shot I looked for a large flat area that has pristine snow, i.e., no animal tracks. I then asked Jimmy if this area has good “footing”, meaning is it safe for the horse. I don’t want to run a horse where there are rocks, holes, irrigation ditches or anything else that could seriously injure an animal.

Once I have established a good and safe spot to shoot, I then look for where I need to be. I’ll then dig out the snow down 2 or 3 feet (0.6 – 1 meter) so I can get into the hole. This allows me to get down to the snow level without having to lay down on my side.

So I now am standing, sitting or kneeling in the hole in the snow with my right hand holding my camera and my left hand on the zoom control of the lens while also holding onto the reins of my horse. This is very important because I want be be sure I can ride back & not walk back.

The trick here is to have the horse close so if it moves it’s head it will not jerk the reins, and therefore, move my hand on the lens while I’m taking photos. It also helps to have a a calm horse and a comfortable spot for the horse to stand, a level spot is best. This way the horse is not dancing around, stepping on you and/or your camera bag or being a nuisance in general.

Most horses, being a herd animal, want to be with their buddies. In this case my horse would prefer to be with the horse Jimmy is riding. But since I have used this horse before it knows it would be better to stay with me rather than running. I have shot with other horses and they sometimes are almost out of control jerking on the reins wanting to leave. After a few “Lessons” applied to the horse they normally decide that standing still is a better idea. If they are still a problem, I will use a different horse the next day.

Gear: Canon professional digital camera, 70-200 Canon Zoom lens at 100 mm, 1/320 sec., f5.6, 100 ISO and then processed using Photoshop.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

Editorial Fashion Shoot on an Old Italian Farm

This fashion image was shot just outside of Milan, Italy. It is the second look of 6 looks we shot here. The location is an abandoned farm house that is falling apart. I was very careful where I had the model in this building. The opening in the wall behind her had already started to collapse. You can see some of the bricks behind the model that have fallen. I looked hard at the wooden support beams above where we are for any sign of rotting. From my B&B in Milan to this location is about a 20-30 minute drive and is very close to Milan’s Linate Airport.

We were driving to Linate when Emiliano, my lead assistant in Europe, mentioned that he saw the roof of an old building. So I quickly forgot about going to the airport and went & scouted. The gate was locked but there was not a “Private Property’ sign so we tromped around for a good 15 minutes. On our way back to the car I noticed an older gentleman on a bicycle waiting for us. He ask what were doing and we said we liked the location & wanted to know if we could get permission to shoot here. He told us that there was a woman that came by everyday to feed “her” cats & pigeons, normally around 3:30 to 4:00 pm (15:30 – 16:00). Of course I’m thinking that if she does not feed the cats there will not be very many pigeons left, in fact even with her feeding the cats, I saw the remains of a pigeon. So we thanked him then parted to go to Linate.

A few days later we had time to go & visit the farm & we met the woman there. She was very kind, gracious and granted us permission to shoot there whenever we wanted. She went on to say that parts of the buildings were dangerous so we should be very careful. Her late uncle was the owner and she remembers visiting there many times while she was growing up. She pointed to the remains of a door and told us that her uncle would project movies at night. She went on to say that her uncle loved America and that is why the farm was named “Acquabella Farm”. “Farm” is not an Italian word, fattoria is a word for farm in Italian. See the image below. The “House” part of the farm is still intact and, with a weeks worth of cleaning, would be liveable again.

From when the model showed up at my B&B to start makeup and hair styling to when we were finished shooting and ready to leave took 5.5 hours total. The initial makeup and hair styling took 2 hours, it took about 30 minutes to drive here meaning we shot 6 looks and packed all of our gear in 3 hours. Pretty fast considering, but shows what can be done with the right crew and a great location to work.

Go here to look at a 30 second behind the scenes video.

Go here to look at a before & after image.

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If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!

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Shoot & Camera data: Canon 5D MKIII set at 320 ISO, 1/125 second shutter speed with a Canon 85mm f1.8 lens attached set to f8. The only extra photography gear is a Sunbounce Pro sized reflector using a zebra fabric positioned well behind me, about 30′ to 35′ (9 -11 meters) from the model. The reflector is providing just a small POP to the light.

Cowgirl Fashion

This cowgirl flavored fashion editorial image was shot inside a B&B in the Buckhead part of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Wardrobe styling by Vicki Perry with hair & make up by Sav Wood. Originally this was to have been shot the day before, but I was a bit ill so I asked my producer to delay it until the next day.

I still was not 100% (maybe 25%) the next day but the model had traveled 6 hours to shoot the project and I figured that I might as well feel lousy and shoot (something I really love doing) vs. staying at home feeling lousy. So I sucked it up, packed my gear into the Explorer and drove to the location, about 25 miles (40 KM) away. When I arrived I asked the crew to bring my stuff in, normally I help but today I decided I needed the energy to “See” and think.

Shot with a Canon 5D MKIII set at 1/160 second, 320 ISO with a 16-35 mm f2.8 IS Canon lens set at f2.8 and 16mm hand held.

This was the second look we worked on and was very easy to light. All light is from a Lumedyne battery powered strobe system using a FourSquare softbox and a Lighttools grid, all of which was set just to the left of the photo. Microsync radio trigger system.


If you would like to use this image, or any of my images for mock or comp use, please just ask. There is never a charge for this service. Any educational use is permitted without charge, unless published, but please ask first. All commercial use is available only with a limited copyright release prior to use from the copyright holder, Steve Thornton. Thanks for looking!