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Category Archives: Pontifications on the Practice of Picture Preparation


It’s long been a preferred method of mine to use available light when possible. At first, this was because I was cheap — available light is already there, and you don’t have to buy any expensive flashes or lighting gear to use it. You just take pictures.

Most cameras include a flash built in. The problem with that flash is that it produces a very flat, uniform, familiar lighting pattern; on top of being ubiquitous, it’s really boring looking. It’s better than having a too-dark picture in many cases, but the appearance of it screams snapshot. You can’t see any shadows, so everything looks like it’s 2D.

The trick to using available lighting (at least indoors) is having camera gear that can actually work without a flash. You need a fast lens, or a relatively noise-free sensor (or, in the film era, fast film), and a steady hand. Outdoor shots with available light just make sense, and don’t require anything more than “a camera,” since there’s usually an abundance of light to work with. It’s those indoor shots that are tricky.

A picture like the one above, however, uses a trick that bridges between indoor and outdoor light, and takes advantage of both. I simply asked the woman to stand by the window. It was daytime, and overcast (because Seattle!), making for the world’s biggest softbox. If you look at the full size image, and look carefully at her right eye, you can actually see a reflection of the window frame.

It’s fun to use tricks like this to reduce the load (available light now means no heavy lighting gear to cart around), and you can also get some really good photos out of it.

I have been amazingly well-blessed in the photographic opportunities department, and the Team of Heroes is no small contributor.


I’ve been working with the Team of Heroes shows since they started, about four years ago. I’ve done a variety of things for the shows, including building special effects, preparing graphics, and other general Technical Director duties. But the thing that keeps coming back to me is the photography. For this third and final show, Team of Heroes: No More Heroes, I talked to the director about possibly using my Shadow Series aesthetic for the marketing photos. She thought it over, and decided she liked it, so we ran with it.

I took a couple dozen photos of each actor, ending up with a good selection of various poses. Some of those were chosen for postcards, or the poster, or SLOG ads, all of which were designed by other people. I was given the task of building the “cover photo” image for Facebook. Whether I like it or not, Facebook is now a primary marketing medium, and having an easily shared and compelling cover photo is important.

This is actually the first time I’ve done this particular type of “movie style” compositing. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It looks blatantly false, but in a way that we’ve come to expect. I’ve received lots of good feedback from actors, and then from other people who saw it, once it was released on the 15th.

I had a few minutes this afternoon to play with a new lens before I had to go back to work.  I found a used Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 full-manual lens on KEH, and couldn’t resist. They’re cheap lenses anyway, but at just over $200, that was too good to pass up. I don’t often have need of a fisheye, but they’re a good lens to have around. Most of the “real” fisheye lenses run over $600, which is too much to spend on an infrequently-used piece of kit.

The most interesting image I got out of my 3 minute shoot was this picture of daffodils in front of my house.