TheReason.us Redesign

Awesome Post by David Brooks about how he implemented my websites new design this past week.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a really cool redesign of Chris Arace’s website, thereason.us, and I’m thrilled to announce that the site is officially live.

When I first spoke to Chris, he told me that Flickr is his CMS, it’s how he manages his photography. So I built the underlying structure of the new site like that of a robot that goes out and collects the latest updates from Flickr and then reinterprets them for his personal site. This way, when he updates Flickr, things stay synchronized with his site automatically.

Having a design background, Chris designed the site in a few days and sent me the comps. I think visually it sets a new bar for photography sites. It’s current, and has some really great details that make it uniquely his.

On the front page, he wanted to show his latest work in almost a mashup of Pinterest and 500px. There’s a bit of jQuery Masonry in place to allow images to flow around as you resize your browser, or as you scroll down. That’s especially interesting when you scroll to the bottom and hit the next loading point of the infinite refresh. A quick word about that… typically I despise infinite refreshes, but in this case it actually makes sense. You don’t want to initially load 450 photos into the view, and since we’re using the jQuery colorbox to show his work, you don’t have to worry about losing your place on the page.

The site also plays nicely with an iPhone and other mobile devices, thanks to CSS Media Queries. But, for the desktop view I opted to use some JavaScript to detect the browser width and adjust the main column width accordingly. By doing that, I saved myself from writing extra content into Media Queries, dodged older browsers not being able to interpret those minor changes due to lack of media queries support, and was able to still make the design snap to both a 1300 and 1600 pixel version. When that happens, because I’m using JavaScript and not CSS Media Queries, I was also able to call the jQuery Masonry and have it re-flow the images.

One of the star pieces of the site is the lightbox view, which is built by adapting the jQuery Colorbox to match the way Chris wanted it to look and function. The shell is the same as any other implementation of Colorbox, but the center of it is built around a custom request to the server that brings back the image and details about it, populates the colorbox and then builds the arrow key functionality.

And last but certainly not least is the map feature which places all, or some of his photos onto a custom-styled Google Map. You can interact with the map, or the slider to jump around and see where each photo in his portfolio was taken.

Working with Chris was a great experience. From the start, he knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish and had a great eye for how he wanted it to look while still letting me have fun writing the HTML, CSS, JavaScript and PHP to make it function. There were a ton of challenges to overcome, but that’s half the fun. So, be sure to go check out his site and work, you won’t regret it.

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2013 Lincoln MKZ

In February I was hired to capture the imagery needed in the creation of the 2013 Lincoln MKZ website. Specifically a 720 degree rotation of the vehicle as generated in CG. (Computer Graphics) The agency team worked close with the marketing people at Lincoln, choosing specific locations of architectural importance where the vehicle would live. The 2013 Lincoln MKZ would be placed in the Liège-Guillemins railway station designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. So the schedule was set, and it was off to Liège, Belgium!

The assets needed to create the background for the CG vehicle to live in read like a science project rather than a shot list. We had to secure the closure of the train platform for an entire day, and literally document every square foot of the assigned area. With the team from the agency and CG production house, we measured distances from camera, lens tilt, shift, height, and all corresponding keyframes of the 720 degree animation seen on the site. We based all of the photography off of a chalk line in the platforms center. This acted as the area where the vehicle would live. We captured the entire perimeter and center of the platform using a Canon 5D MK2 on a tripod. Every 5 feet were marked measured and exposed at 7 bracket captures. We shot From floor to ceiling. As this documentation occurred, I had an assistant with another MK2 shooting textures, plates and sky. A third MK2 was housed in a GigaPan Epic Robot which captured complete 360 degree Domes of various location on the platform in order to provide the production studio with the adequate assets for the background detail needed.

It was a great experience, and the launch site looks incredible! shout outs to all involved in making this happen! I could’nt have pulled it off without you, team!

View the site and work HERE.

View a GigaPan Sample HERE.

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At Any Given Moment. First Response Team. West Liberty, KY

At any given moment catastrophe can strike, forever changing the lives of  thousands of people. In the blink of an eye, while we are busy in the routine of daily life we can easily forget the happenings outside our own comfortable social atmosphere.  Over the weekend upon hearing the news of devastating weather outbreaks across the country, I had an awakening. I needed to get to the area where lives were so greatly effected with my photography equipment and document the events. I chose a free day on the calendar and headed to Columbus, OH where I met with my friend and colleague Cory Pampalone. We went over a rough plan to head into Kentucky with absolutely zero guidance. Just faith that our help would be needed… I closely monitored my twitter feed throughout the day, and I felt compelled to message Tad Angoglia from First Response Team of America. I was aware of the work that they have been doing across disaster areas in our country and knew they were first on the scene in West Liberty, KY. With my thumbs on the keypad of my phone, I composed a tweet, not truly knowing what to say… “Um, hello Photographers in area with desire to help…” “Hi, my name is…” it all seemed so contrived. I put the phone down, kept faith that we would be guided to where our time was needed and headed out to dinner.

within an hour I checked the twitter feed again. Photographer Jeremy Cowart sent out a tweet on behalf of First Response Team asking for volunteer photographers in West Liberty, KY.

“Volunteer photographer needed 8:00 am tomorrow morning at Tornado site West Liberty, KY to help charity @firstresponse. Tweet them 2 help.”

I immediately sent a tweet to them both:

@jeremycowart @firstresponse Glad you sent this. @CoryPampalone & I are en route from Columbus w a van full of photo gear. How can we help?”

Within 5 minutes we were connected on speakerphone hashing out a plan and getting to know one another. Unreal.

We set out early from Columbus in my van, photo gear in tow to meet up and document the disaster and First Response Teams efforts to restore order and a sense of normalcy to the town. The expeirence was humbling, surreal and striking. Cory and I were absolutely in awe of the damage. I hope that the following images document it well and help stir the same desire in your spirit to help in any way you all can. The people we met had their lives forever altered in a single moment. A Friday evening at dinner time. It could have been any one of us. husbands, wives, friends, colleagues… Too often we use social media in an anti-social and ego stroking way. We forget that on the other end of our status updates or check ins to our social hangouts, that these tools are also being utilized to save lives. Incredible. Humbling.

Tad, Andy and Tim from First Response Team dedicate their time to being the first on scene. Spending over 270 days per year volunteering away from the ones they love in their homes. Support them and victims of natural disasters everywhere by donating. They are truly heros ready at any given moment. Thank you all and everyone we met in West Liberty. You have made a mark on our lives and inspired us to make a difference.

 

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Trends, Technology, Technique, Talent & Timelessness. Medium Format.

Preface

Have you heard? Through the various channels… tweets, your facebook timeline, your neighbor the gear and technology expert? Extraordinary and capable equipment is rampant and available. At the fingertips of the entire community of professionals and amateurs alike. Technology that advances SO FAST we have no time to master the capabilities of the tools we chose to invest in merely moments ago. In the past 3 months alone we have had announcements from Canon on the new 1DX and Nikon for the D4. Now rumors run wild about the 5D Mark III and the D-800. More speed, more FPS, enhanced ISO Performance, Superior AF systems… All of which mix into an over hyped din that auto-tunes monotonously in my creative spirit. As a  professional artist,  I was taught that “Tools” no matter the price, specs, glossiness, etc are merely tools. Whether that be colored pencils, design markers, Photoshop or a camera of any type. Without reason for choosing there simply can be no determining factor for what you are using.

Slowing Down

For the majority of my assignments I am on the run, shooting multiple frames of similar subjects to capture moments that are natural and spontaneous. For this having a great AF system and an eye for expression helps, however culling through thousands of images in post due to my trigger happy shooting finger is intolerable. As the past two years went by it became clear to me, I needed to slow down the process, become more thorough in my execution. I realized that the capable technology I possessed could hinder my natural ability to capture my visions and concepts. All the bells and whistles in our competitive market made the creative spirit harder to attain through all the fog of “technology hype” and desire to use my camera like a machine gun. I needed an option for shooting that was more intimate, more precise and offered superior optical performance, dynamic range and superior color. My idea; If I spent more time planning and executing the shot, I would spend less time in the Lightroom editing, culling and feeling like an assembly line rather than an artist. Time for a Medium Format System.

Phase One & Hasselblad

During the process of consideration my main goals were to invest in the system to fulfill my client needs in both landscape & portrait work. A Medium Format Sensor is double the size of a FF 35mm sensor, allowing superior dynamic range of light, shadow & color while also giving the imagemaker ability to capture much more detail in shots. All things that high end clients need for their campaigns. The medium format digital world is a very niche market with two systems worth considering. The Phase One systems and the Hasselblad. I contacted various camera reps and spent time considering each system. In the end I chose to go with the 40MP Hasselblad and an assortment of prime lenses. Both systems sport amazing glass and sensors. The Hasselblad however, has a superior wide angle lens that accepts front mounted filters. (This being my go to setup for the landscape work I shoot Using Polarizers/ND frequently) Also the Hasselblad system allows for up to 4 Min exposures & felt better in my hands while working with it. The overall system design is clean, inviting and sculptural, and the viewfinder is bright HUGE and inviting. It is stainless steel and absolutely solid.

For portrait work I considered the shutter and lenses very carefully as well. The Hasselblad is a leaf shutter system (as are all the H Lenses) allowing flash sync on all the glass up to 1/800. Amazing. Creatively the format is more square… Not 1×1 but nothing like the wide 35mm. Imagine a perfect 8×10 out of camera… it is distinct. The details and tones of the Kodak 40MP sensor are incredible. They are very natural and soft in their graduation from highlight to shadow. The 40MP (7304 x 5478 pixels) allow for a client to crop in on areas with ease. Finding the product/subject to be tach sharp and usable for multiple needs. For fashion/portrait product shots this is very important. Branded clothing and equipment on a subject in an environment can still be used for close ups in both print and interactive zooming features online, etc.

As for the Future…

For the work described above and ALL my personal work, I will forever use the medium format. My Canon will always have its place for the jobs that best fit it’s purposes. They are definite tools in my bag of imagery. As for the future…Bring on all the hottest cameras from Canon & Nikon, let the rumor mill blow up and the gear heads go crazy. I am officially out of that game. Great technology will forever exist on the shelves of Best Buys and on the App store worldwide. As for my professional investment, It is focused, a Sharpshooter. Allowing my team and I to get back to the essence of our work. The image. Building images and focusing on quality rather than quantity. Slowing down and having the equipment become an extension of the artist within you.

Below are some of the images I have made thus far. Full image then 100% crops for your enjoyment. There are of course many many more details (for all you tech nerds) that were considered. Feel free to ask about any and I will absolutely share! I am looking forward to answering any questions you all have!

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Davenport University Dance Team

In September I was asked by Davenport University to shot photos of the dance team. The Client requested a team shot, and also each individual lady to have a portrait taken. The setup was intense, due to the fact there are 11 members of the team. We set up the shot in the gymnasium and the lighting information is as followed:

The Group shot: (Diagram 1)

7 Profoto Strobes controlled by a Pocket Wizard Plus 2 on my Canon 5D Mk2. 2 Strobes with zoom reflectors as rim Light on either side of the team, 4 Strobes up front on the camera plane with zoom reflectors, each used as a key light for a grouping of girls. The fill light for the overall scene in a Strobe up HIGH with a 5′ Octobox shot through a large diffuser panel Directly above the camera.

Portraits:  (Diagram 2)

2 Speedlights on this set. One on a stand to the subjects left shot through a Photek Softlighter and opposed by a gold reflector to fill the subjects face on the right. A speedlight aimed at the backdrop low on a baby C-Stand pops the subject off the background and provides rim lighting.

Overall it worked out great, with minimal post processing and also a fun group shot with Mike, my assistant.

I shot tethered to my iPad for the portraits (wirelessly) using the WF-4 Transmitter and Shuttersnitch for the iPad. The group shot was tethered to my Macbook Pro via USB for the client and I to arrange the subjects and also check focus, etc. I hope this was informative and you enjoy the work! -Arace

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