Visit any photo industry trade show and it won't be long before you see a young woman posing seductively for hordes of guys-with-cameras. As one who takes his photography seriously, I find that it cheapens the craft not to mention the associated brand. Not every company understands that but more do today than in past years and that's a good thing. When Panasonic asked me to live shoot at Samy's PhotoCon I was given total control within the constraints of the budget and small space. Another factor was that since I'll be shooting live I'll need to interact with the attendees. Getting to have some face time with other photographers while I'm live shooting is a blast. They get to see how I work, we talk about the fun tech, connect on social and overall it's a good experience.
My main goals with this live shoot were to come away with enough media to make something of quality. I wanted the finished piece to not appear that it was made on a busy tradeshow floor and I wanted something I'd be proud to show. The finished piece needed to spark a conversation while also showing off the gear used to make the shoot happen. Here's a breakdown of what went into the making of Presence.
Above all, vision is the most important thing in photography if your goal is to make art. I'm an artist and I happen to use a camera but without vision, I'd have nothing but bland images. A technique is something that anyone can replicate but vision is unique to each person. Find that vision and you have no competition.
Even before the name was chosen my vision was coming into focus. I wanted the final piece to represent the internal struggle many of us deal with in public situations when meeting others. Personally, when in public situations I can close up and hid in the world my iPhone or iPad bring to me. When I hide out, the idea of talking to a stranger is very uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like when working up enough courage to smile and say hi I'm going to explode or just melt away but the reality is when I do open up a bit the result is mostly good.
Since this piece was about introspective emotion and conflict there was no need to shoot it in color. Color either adds to or takes away from vision and in this case, it made no sense to work with color.
On Camera Talent
My goal was to represent the vision photography and directing the actors to get into that place. I was super lucky to work with Jennie Carroll and Nick Rush both who are very skilled at acting. Jennie and Nick who had to physically represent my directions on the busy show deserve the biggest thanks. If you don't have the proper team, executing any vision will be difficult.
Choosing my lighting options were straightforward. I used three Fiilex P360EX LED heads. If you don't already know I love my Fiilex LEDs. I get no flicker, which is often only detectable in post, the color is spot on and they're super easy to use. I own the K311 kit which has two P360's so using the EX models I could immediately see the difference in output. The only light mods I used were barn doors.
Read my review on Fiilex K311 Kit and if you're looking for extreme portability check out the P100 review.
Camera, Lens, Support
If you read my Lumix GX8 review you know how much I'm into that camera. Of all the Lumix G cameras I used (all of them actually) I find that I can dial in the look in camera best with the GX8. Also, the image noise resembles film grain and I just love that. The GX8 was the camera I had with me so rather than borrow a camera from Panasonic's stock I used my own which was dialed in with my monochrome flavor.
The thing with shooting video with Lumix is that functionality-wise it's the same as shooting stills. Like still capture, I'm able to see my exposure and face-detection AF works great!
Every Lumix shooter should be working with video. Not working with video is simply limiting your creativity so for the love of pizza & beer just push the red button OK?!?
Lens choice was simple, I used the Nocticron wide open at f/1.2. Paired up with the GX8 in program mode, continuous face-detection AF and supported on a tripod I was able to stay focused on the overall vision of the shoot.
I didn't bring a tripod with me to PhotoCon because I forgot. There's always something I'll forget and this time it was a tripod. Lucky me, my friends from 3 Legged Thing were at the show and they let me borrow their new Albert in carbon fiber. Talk about a badass tripod, the Albert setup fast, was rock solid and looked good too. I since got a 3LT Leo and got a baller review coming in the near future.
All my gear was carried in a Tenba DNA 13 messenger which has been one of the finest shoulder bags I've owned in my career. Trying to choose between the DNA and the Peak Design Everyday Messenger damn near brought on a panic attack so I own both. Problem solved. A video and post on both bags are in the works but if you're shopping for a shoulder bag start with these two.
Last year I went through a mid-life crisis in the way that only a photographer could. I stopped shooting color and minimized my post production. My career started at Fox Animation in 1999 as a colorist and I think over time I just had my fill of messing with color and heavy post work in general. The six-month break was needed like a good cup of morning coffee but when I emerged I was able to see things clearly once again.
The choice for post production for Presence was simple - Adobe Creative Cloud. We're in a strange place with computing now and I don't quite trust Apple to keep FCPX around but I do trust Adobe. Their entire business is Creative Cloud so there's no way they'll just stop developing it to make a watch or a phone and quite frankly, anything I need to do in post, I can do with CC.
Presence was a simple edit with no crazy effects or cuts and I did want to finish it in 4K. Premiere Pro was able to cut through the footage fast and easily. Even though I have a bitchin fast 4TB SSD Raid on loan from OWC I edited Presence on a USB3 Envoy Pro SSD which was plenty fast for this edit.
The titles were made in Photoshop since that's what I felt like using at the time and music was licensed from Moby.
I'm quite happy with the results from Presence. This was a project that had unique challenges but one that I wanted to take on knowing that if I stay focused on vision the end results would speak for themselves. Using the right gear to support your vision is important. Overthinking what gear to use, however, can hold you back so if you don't have the funds to get the gear of your dreams use what you have and build from there.