Girls of Geek at Geekon: Personality in Portraits.

Photojournalism is my passion. It’s photography in its purest form in that you are capturing moments while you yourself are in the moment. Portraiture, which I also enjoy, doesn’t capture a moment. It’s more or less a staged moment for the sake of creating a photograph. This doesn’t make Portraiture a lesser form of photography it just means that instead of capturing a moment you are trying to capture a personality. My most recent outing of shooting with Girls of Geek is a prime example of this.

AJA_0275

 

The group had invited me out to a morning of shooting on location with a couple other photographers at the headquarters of Geekon; A locally owned company out in Albuquerque that restores and sells classic arcade and pinball machines right out of their garage. When you have a pitch for that kind of location it’s hard to say no, so I packed up my gear and went out to shoot like any sensible photographer would.

AJA_0019

Once again I was working with many different models all of whom I’ve had the luxury of working with before (most of them at the Gotham Shoot). This at least gave me a level of comfort when it came to shooting with the models and being able to communicate with them. The real challanges came when I changed who I was shooting with.

AJA_0040

One thing I really do love about this group of ladies is that they have such a mixed bag of personalities and characters. There is no shortage of the amount of things you can get out of them. However that means that as a photographer I have to shift the way I interact with my subjects as they change out. Some models I would just give a slight direction to and they would adjust immediately (and just about perfectly,) while some needed almost no direction at all (which is the most desirable feature in a model) and others who I worked with to find what was right for them.

AJA_0207

Normally with One-on-One portrait sessions this process is a lot more streamlined because you can work with that individual as long as you need to and eventually you get into a rhythm where the photos practically take themselves. As challenging as this problem may sound, just adjusting your style to fit the model is easy as long as you try to show their personality instead of trying to make them be somebody that they are not.

AJA_0174

More often than not I see people post portraits where their subject almost look like dolls or props just to show off their knowledge of the technical working of photography or their skills in Photoshop. When it comes to Portraiture it’s important to remember that there is a person who is the centerpiece of your photograph and it’s your best interest to give your audience an idea of who your subject is.

AJA_0356

 

Photography like any other art form is of course subjective. There a million and one decisions that can be made and each one will change the dynamic one way or another and different photographers are going to make different dicisions. Lighting, toning, posing, ect, all go into the process of portraiture and these decisions dictate heavily what your final product will be.

AJA_0281

This shoot had a lot of physical limitations, the big one being space. There was really only so much room that I had to work with in this shoot which really influenced how I shot the whole thing. For starters most of this shoot was done shooting with my 50mm 1.8g. Normally I’d be shooting with my 85mm 1.8g for portraits but the amount of space I had was keeping me from getting the compositions I wanted on the 85mm. The 28mm made some appearances but mostly for group shots.

AJA_0150

Another big challenge was lighting. Being that it was indoors with not a lot in terms of natural lighting, I brought with me my DIY lighting set up that consisted of a 1K florescent light with a soft box and several different clamp lights. Some of the other photographers had their strobe set ups with them. I haven’t gotten a whole lot of experience with strobes but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to look into, however coming from a video background it has made more since to have a continuous lighting set up as opposed to strobes that really only help in photography and not so much in video.

AJA_0335

Once I got into post production I was upset to find that some of the photos didn’t have perfect focus. In portraiture you always aim for the eyes to be in sharp focus and some just weren’t there. Not all was lost but it’s annoying when you lose a great photo to something that many people will nitpick (which I do a lot).

AJA_0284

In post I never really do anything fancy, just some adjustments in lightroom to the contrast, recovering some shadow and highlight detail and correcting some color and clarity. Editing the full take will take me more or less a couple of hours. Being from a journalism background has conditioned me to try and have fast turnaround times when it comes to editing. Some times I will come back for re-edits to bring fresh eyes to the images, but that mostly comes from boredom. You’ll notice that a lot of my photos ended up in black and whites. This decisions usually just comes down to a decision of feel. Some photos just end up looking better in black and white than they do in color. This is more common when as photo was taken in low light and I had to use a high ISO. The noise looks more like classic grain and then you don’t really have to worry about color detail because there is none. But for this photo it just felt right to have them in black and white. Some might find it annoying but they are my photos so sue me.

AJA_0121

If there is anything that can be said about this set of images and the models of Girls of Geek it’s that they have quite a lot of range. As a photographer I love the different things that I can get of my subjects and when it comes to working with this group I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Here’s to more working with them in the future.

AJA_0344

 

 

Denver Comic Con 2015 Preview

DCC-41

Con Season is now upon us and to kick the epic summer off, I’m making the trip up to Denver for the second year in a row. Last year DCC was the biggest convention I had ever attended and this year I’m expecting it to be even bigger and better than ever.

DCC-46

Denver Comic Con was the text book definition of comic book conventions; with amazing and weird panels, Cosplays ranging to a intricate Galactus and a closet made Silent bob, and vendors selling all the nerdy goodies that you can find.

DCC-33

Again like last year I’ll be covering the event in coordination with Nerdout Entertainment and Catamelt.com as the designated camera man. Hopefully this year I can improve the production quality (and apply some color grading to the video).

DCC (68 of 90)

Major change ups from last years Con include the amount of man power that I have available to me and the ideas my partners and I have cooked up. I normally go into conventions blind but this year Nerdout Entertainment and I have a clearer game plan on how we want to tackle the event.

DCC (52 of 90)

Polish will be key for content this year. Last year I put so much emphasis on just getting the content out that some things (like the video productions) suffered and I plan to rectify that this year.

DCC (2 of 90)

Another exciting thing about this years event is the amount of people I know that are going to be at the conventions including some of my favorite cosplay type people Like Cheesecake Panda and ChayAra.DCC-27

Excited for this year and I hope to get all the great images for everyone.

Shooting with Girls of Geek

AJA_0298

One of the biggest hurdles you ever have to deal with in the world of photography is working around schedules. More often than not shoots get cancelled because one party or another has something urgent come up or they end up having to work on the day that is scheduled or sometimes you try to organize a shoot and it just never comes to fruition because calendars just don’t line up. That seems to be a common thing when it comes to my efforts to work with the Girls of Geek, but lucky for me I finally got my opportunity.

AJA_0012 Girls of Geek is group based out in my hometown of Albuquerque NM run by Delina Ellise, seen above as Harley Quinn. They place themselves square in the center of geek culture and do a lot of promotional work for events such as Comic Convention which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the name.

AJA_0453

I’ve been aware of the group for some time but didn’t have a real connection to them until my friend and often subject of my photography Cheese Cake Panda became part of the group and through her I became a sponsor for their recent calendar. At the beginning of the year during Albuquerque Comic Con Delina approached me about doing a shoot for the group at the convention which I was excited for but unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts (as foreshadowed) we never got around to it.

AJA_0338

Now fast forward a couple of months; after I whined online about wanting to do a shoot because I had been too busy moving and I had gotten the itch in my shutter finger, Delina contacted me and we finally got around to getting something set in stone. We decided on a batman themed shoot (in case you hadn’t noticed) downtown taking place between 10am and 1pm.

AJA_0116

Going into the shoot I was giving myself an unnecessary amount of anxiety about the potential shooting condition. Shooting in the middle of the day presents some very challenging lighting conditions so I had borrowed a gold reflector from my work and asked a few of my friends to help out. It ended up being a bit over kill because the tall buildings down town provided plenty of shade to get even lighting and we were able to find excellent locations. Over-preparation aside, it was nice to be able to get anything I needed from my girlfriend Emilie, my coworkers Anissa and Kendra, and my photographer-in-training friend Nina in any given situation.

AJA_0430

Being that we went with a batman theme for the photo shoot, the urban environment of Albuquerque’s down town was perfect. The only unfortunate thing was the tone of the lighting. It’s hard to do low key shots in the middle of the day without any kind of strobe lighting (which I’m not geared up for, nor do I have a high level of expertise in flash photography).

AJA_0194

The girls themselves were excellent to work with. All of them have varying degrees of modeling experience so their ability to take direction and give different looks without any directions made shooting with them a smooth experience on top of being an enjoyable one. Having good models to work with is highly underrated.

AJA_0326

What I loved so much about working with this group was how well their personalities melded together and their ability to work together in photos. A lot of the time the Girls of Geek came up with their own ideas for poses, props, and scenery and my only job was to capture the moments.

AJA_0392

A big gauge of the success of a shoot comes down to how much fun is had during the process. If anyone, be it the photographer, the models or anyone else is in a sour mood it can effect the whole dynamic of the photos. Luckly this was never a problem. Energy was never low and it felt as if everyone was having a good time. I look forward to working with the Girls of Geek again in the future and possibly doing even bigger projects

You can find them online at girlsofgeek.com or follow them on twitter, facebook or instagram

Roundhouse Kick: Day at the New Mexico Legislative Session.

AJA_0025

New Mexico is at the tail of end of the 60 day legislative session and for the most part it has just passed me by. I’ve wanted to go all semester for the show I work for (New Mexico in Focus) but regrettably I have class all week so it was impossible for me to get up to the Round House. However because it was spring break I requested to tag along as a production assistant, but I ended up doubling as a Behind the Scenes photographer because that’s what I like to do.

AJA_0006

 

We went down the day after the controversial “Right-to-Work” bill was tabled in commodity before going to the Senate floor, so we went in to discuss the death of the bill considering that huge amount of attention that it had accumulated. Surprisingly we found many of the people we needed for these interviews, such as a sponsor of the bill and someone who as been avidly against the legislation, within a few minutes of getting there.

AJA_0022

The thing I enjoyed most about going to Santa Fe was getting to watch my producer Sarah Guestavus, professor/Corespondent Gwyneth Doland, and graphics master/cameraman Antony Lostetter work in such a fast paced and stressful environment, something that they handled collaboratively and masterfully to the point where it could only be described as awe inspiring.

AJA_0003

Like anything else in a production field there is a lot of time spent sitting around with nothing to do, and this trip was no different. At a lot of points it felt we were just waiting but it was an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the people I work with. I get to spend a lot of time with the other student employees who are some of the most talented people I have ever been around, but the upper level employees have so much more expertise and it was a treat to get to pick their brains.

AJA_0011

Shooting at the Round House was an interesting experience. Dealing with people moving around and recording in rooms with heavy amounts of echo left a lot to deal with. However we managed very well in the conditions and some of these problematic conditions let the recordings feel more organic.

AJA_0021

To cap off the day we got an interview with the New Mexico’s Secretary of Education, Hanna Skandera to discus the controversial PARCC testing that many students have protested taking.

AJA_0024

I’m glad I finally got to go out to Santa Fe this semester and hopefully next time I’m out there I’ll be actually reporting on the legislative session and am not just going along for the ride.

AJA_0015

 

 

Shooting with New Models: Ashley Perry.

AJA_0072More often than not people always tell you that it’s all about networking when it comes to getting jobs and people finding your work and that’s exactly what happened this weekend when I helped Ashley Perry start her modeling portfolio.

AJA_0085

Ashley was referred to me by someone I did a shoot with a month prior and since she just got into a modeling agency, she needed to get some portfolio images put together. All the photographers her agency refereed her to were very expensive so I cut her a deal.

AJA_0066Working with a new model is always an interesting experience and you never quite know what to expect. Sometimes they can be a bit timid or shy especially around the camera. However, Ashley didn’t have any of these problems; she was very comfortable around the camera, was able to give me different looks and took direction extremely well.

AJA_0031One of the biggest factors in any shoot is the weather during the shoot. The photography gods very gracious in giving light overcast, no wind and moderately warm temperatures giving me everything I needed to just do my thing and shoot. There was one point where the sun was piercing through that clouds but it was at golden hour making for some excellent light.

AJA_0113For this shoot I relied heavily on my 85mm 1.8g lens for most of the shots. I played around with using the 28mm and the 50mm but everything always comes back to my work horse lens. I shot exclusively at f2.8 making sure I got enough sharpness and detail out of Ashley while still getting nice Bokeh (blur) in the background.

AJA_0033As far as post processing goes I kept things very simple. I tried to bring in as much contrast and color as I could while still keeping things natural. I ran in to some issues with Ashley’s tan skin but I normally get around that by bringing in some vibrancy but pulling down the saturation. Other than that I did some spot correcting, but nothing super drastic. When I edit my portraits I try to keep things subtle while at the same time making things pop.

AJA_0026

Over all it was an extremely fun shoot and I’m looking forward to working with Ashley in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow in the 505

AJA_0119

Snow might not be that uncommon in late February in certain parts of the northern hemisphere but in Albuquerque if it does snow it’s usually no more than a half inch sheet and will be gone by the afternoon. So when we get 8 inches over two days a portrait photographer like myself needs to take advantage.

AJA_0137

Now getting a model to do a shoot at the last minute can be a hassle but lucky for me, my lovely girlfriend Emilie was more than willing to be my subject out in the bosque.

AJA_0037Normally in complex weather conditions you get an excellent side effect with overcast acting as a giant softbox in the sky.  The problem was is that the sky was only partly cloudy so we didn’t get the soft light I wanted 100% of the time, making shooting a bit challenging. Lucky for me though, I was able to keep my ISO at 100 making for optimal image quality.

AJA_0032One thing you might be noticing from the images is that there is a lot of light being reflected upward. This was an added effect of the white snow on the ground reflecting the light back up at Emilie.

AJA_0117The snow allowed for some unique aesthetics that we don’t get a lot of where I’m from and I’m grateful for the opportunity. But to be completely honest I can live without the snow. It makes it hard to move around and the cold makes it limiting in terms of wardrobe. If it could just be in the upper 60s with constant overcast I’d be in my own photography heaven but we can’t always get what we want. But you know what we all have work with what we’re given and when you’re given something different you owe it to yourself to try it out.