Monthly Archives: February 2018

Stranger 59/100 – Tony

100 Strangers - TonyOur next stranger works at a local coffee house. I approached him while he was playing Pokémon Go with a friend. “We did a couple of legendary raids…”

Meet Tony.

What do you do in your free time? “Hang out with friends mainly.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Keep your chin up. Everything’s going to be ok. It’s something I always tell myself when things get kind of hard.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Being an adult. {laughs}”

What’s the hardest thing about being an adult? “Just realizing that work is just like school. So I’m really doing the same thing I was doing as a kid… except now I get paid.”

What would you do if you had a million dollars? “I wouldn’t do anything different. Money’s not a big deal. It just means I have a lot more of it. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that I would do special.”

What are you goals? Where do you want to be in ten years? “Just surviving. Keeping comfortable. No huge aspirations.”

What is your passion? “In between coffee and cartoons. Anything from kids cartoons to adult cartoons, Japanese Anime and just your average American cartoons.”

Technical Notes: This photo was taken in an open alleyway in front of a dark window. His friend was kind enough to hold the reflector for me to light Tony’s face more evenly.

Stranger 58/100 – Donnell

Stranger-58–Donnell.jpgOur next stranger is from New Jersey and was in Charlotte visiting some friends.

Meet Donnell.

What do you do in New Jersey? “Actually, I’m trying to go to this truck driving school.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Don’t judge and just go for it. Stop waiting. Don’t judge myself… the stuff I wear, my hair, skin color, personality. Just don’t judge. Just keep going man. If somebody says something different, don’t listen to them. If you believe it then you can do it. I would tell my younger self that.”

When you were younger, did you have trouble doing that? “In my head, it’s just like… can I really do it? I always wanted to be an actor, but I think… can I really do it? Nah, I don’t know because I always try to rush into things. But as I grow older… everybody move at their own different pace. Everybody just stay in their own lane. Your time will come.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Confidence. My biggest challenge is confidence… in myself. Sometimes I feel ugly. Sometimes I don’t want to go outside.”

What helps you get confident? “My nephews. They give me a whole different type of energy. I never expected it. Especially with kids… you can learn a lot from kids.”

What are your goals? “My short-term goal is to get my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) and start working for myself. My other short-term goal is really saving $100,000. But my long term goal is becoming an entertainer, an actor, learning how to do great films, video… different things in the entertainment business.”

Technical Notes: I used a reflector to add more light to Donnell’s face.

Stranger 57/100 – Dennis

100 Strangers - DennisWhat advice would you give to your younger self? “To not get in the trouble I got into after I left the military.”

Meet Dennis.

Dennis is originally from Louisiana and graduated from high school at the age of 16. He later enlisted for Vietnam and served there from 1973 to 1975. He left Vietnam just months before the fall of Saigon. The pin on the front of his hat is a parachutist badge.

After getting out of the military, Dennis was convicted of assault and spent many years in prison.

Dennis now calls Las Vegas home. His first goal is to move into a bigger house. Then he plans to invest in some real estate to earn some rental income. He also has plans to buy houses to fix up and resell.

Technical Notes: The left side of Dennis’ face was lit from above by light reflecting off a nearby building. I used a reflector to bounce some light to the right side of his face.

Stranger 56/100 – Angie

100 Strangers - AngieOur next stranger asked me “what kind of photographer are you?” I replied, “a tall, thin, white one…”

Meet Angie.

What advice would you give your younger self? “I would tell my younger self to accept myself as is and to be your best self.”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “A challenge for me right now is wanting to do and be good at so many things. I love variety, but sometimes if I start one task, I won’t always complete it because I’m on to the next. I think it’s great to wear many hats and be multifaceted, however, it’ll be hard to develop levels of expertise if you don’t dedicate your time to one craft. You’ll just be mediocre in many different things.”

What are your goals?  Where do you want to be in 10 years? “My long term objective is to be happy and spread love. By being happy, I mean self-fulfilled and at peace within myself.  Loving myself wholeheartedly and spreading love to the world. The world is in a lot of suffering right now. I just want to help heal.”

How would your friends describe you? “If you asked a different friend, you’ll receive a different answer. {laughs} I’m not really sure, hmmm… I’m going to say that I’m fun to be around, and I do what I want. {laughs}”

Technical Notes: This photo was taken with natural light using a reflector.

My first music video

I’ve always been drawn to music videos. After doing a lot of concert photography, I wanted to do something more substantial. I first toyed with the idea of making some behind the scenes videos of bands, but after doing just the basic research, I realized that video is much more complicated than I thought.

As I scoured YouTube to learn more about video, I came the the conclusion that making a music video would be a great project to get started in video work. First of all, the sound is already taken care of. Also, the production takes place in a controlled environment where you can adjust the lighting, the position on the subject(s) and do as many takes as you need.

You can watch the finished product below and read on to learn more about how it was made:

I approached my friends from the band Trash Room and posed the idea of making a music video for their song Words Like Daggers. They very quickly said yes and we were on our way.

TRVideoWorkshop

Since it was winter, we needed an indoor location and ended up using a large workshop that we had access to. This brought up another issue which was lighting. Shooting inside meant that we needed more artificial lighting than I had. I ended up acquiring two Aputure Light Storm LS C120d units and rigged up a set of two lights using LED work lights from Lowes (see below).

WorkLights

My first big mistake was in overestimating how much I could get done.  We had scheduled about 6 hours of filming.  I planned to film a whole intro (complete with dialogue), the song performance with isolated performances in front of a green screen and an ending filmed outside.  In reality, it took me over 2 hours just to get the equipment set up.  I quickly abandoned the idea of the intro and focused all of my energy on getting the performance shots.

Our first challenge was getting the band to play in sync with the prerecorded song.  We had an iPad mini connected to a PA system for playback, however, the live drums were so loud that it was hard for the band to hear the track and they would get out of sync.  After some volume adjustments and a little bit of practice, the band was able to lock in.

TRVideoAmber

My biggest challenge was wearing so many hats.  I was in charge of directing the band, operating two SLR cameras, setting up and adjusting the lighting and overall time management.  Apart from being very stressful, I found myself making mistake after mistake such as forgetting to start the cameras before a take… very frustrating.  I also found myself so occupied with the technical side of things that I wasn’t properly directing the band.  Lucky for me they we able to nail their performances without much direction.

TRVideoTravis

We pushed through all obstacles and managed to film the footage we needed.  Other than a few test shots, I had never filmed a subject in front of a green screen before and made some mistakes that cost me a lot of time in the editing process.  The main issues were not lighting the green screen evenly, not straightening out the wrinkles and keeping the subject within the boundaries of the green screen.

TRVideoMikeGreenScreen

Once I got home and imported all of the footage, the first step was to start a new project in Adobe Premiere and assemble all of the clips.  As I added each clip, I synchronized it with the song.  The playback track we used during filming had four synchronization beeps before the song started.  I was able to use the sound from each clip to match the initial beep from the clip to the same beep in the audio track for the song,

Once all the clips were in place, I spent the morning evaluating the footage and choosing what clips to use for each part of the song.  I considered this to just be a first draft, but it ended up staying fairly constant through the whole process.  I think what happens is that you get used to seeing the video in a certain way and it gets stuck in your mind.

TRVideoPremiere

Once the basic video was edited, I set about adding the special effects.  Being a video game developer, I naturally wanted to be able to combine the 2D and 3D objects that I use in my games with the film that I shot for the video.  I ended up writing my own video effects software using Unity — the development tool I use to make video games.  The details of this custom system are beyond the scope of this blog post, but in a nutshell, my effects system allows me to import one or more video clips and place them in three dimensional space.  I’m then free to add 3D objects to the same scene and have it all combine in a realistic way.  For instance, the video clips can cast shadows onto the 3D objects and, likewise, the 3D objects can cast shadows onto the video clips.

TRVideoBandIsolated

In this video, the main special effects element was the flocks of crows flying around the band.  The crows were basic 3D objects that I had already used in my last video game.  I had to choreograph the crows to enter the room from the outside, fly around in various ways, circle the lead singer as she grew in size and then finally exit the room in fear.

The other main special effect element were the various 3D objects that were constantly falling to add to the feeling of chaos in the room.  These objects, including saws, barrels, buckets and more, were placed high up on each side of the “room”.  I programmed my system to drop them at various times in the song when I knew they would be in the shot. I used Unity’s 3D physics engine to ensure that they moved in a realistic way when falling and bouncing off the floor.

TRVideoObjects

Unfortunately, I was using a 5 year old MacBook Pro to do most of the video.  A single render of the video took over an hour for the most complicated setups.  Much of the process of making the video was spent waiting for renders to complete.  I’ve since upgraded my computer system and have optimized the code, so it’s much faster now.  Luckily, the song was only a minute and a half long!

TRVideoWrap

Overall, I’m very happy with the finished product and definitely want to make another music video in the future.

Stranger 55/100 – Nate

100 Strangers - Nate“I was born in Detroit, raised down in Florida, but basically I cut ties with the family that I was with.”

Meet Nate.

“It’s a long story, but they kind of took the role of my mom and dad, and it really wasn’t working out too well when I started getting older. They started out really wealthy, and by the time I was twelve, they lost all the money by the twin towers going down. My uncle… his business went under. So I kind of got turned into from being their ‘son’ to becoming like a pet that they didn’t want anymore. So, I just kind of raised myself from that point on, and then when I turned sixteen, it got too difficult being there in that environment… I moved out at sixteen and a half and got my own apartment, finished high school, then went back up to Detroit… that’s where I met my fiancé. I finished up college down here.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “Get out earlier than I could have or go and broaden my horizons, go and travel a lot more. I’m just now realizing how much you can actually experience with just talking with other people and going instead of staying inside or staying in the neighborhood, you know, feeling comfortable. I should have really just branched out and made my own family and met people. I’m starting to try to do it now. It’s just kind of hard with being older and having older people responsibilities.”

Do you have a place that you’d want to travel to first? “I want to go to Machu Picchu in Peru. I want to go to the tip top, breath fresh air and feel that inner spirit.”

Technical Notes: We were in a bright alleyway and Nate was positioned in front of a dark window. I used a reflector to even out the light on his face.

Stranger 54/100 – Annette

Stranger-54–Annette.jpgOur next stranger was very positive, relaxed and comfortable in her own skin. She readily agreed to have her portrait taken.

Meet Annette.

What brings you uptown? “I work here. I’m an architect.”

What advice would you give to your younger self? “It will all work out. Like, stress out less. It’s going to be fine, kid.”

Did you stress out a lot when you were younger? “Oh yeah. Well, because it’s one of those things where you’re trying to make all the big life decisions like going into college, going into high school… Oh my gosh, I have to figure out the next step of my whole life! Just go with it… it will be fine. {laughs}”

And do you think you have less stress now or do you just better cope with it? “Better coping. {laughs}”

What is your biggest challenge right now? “Still the same stuff… like am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing or should I be doing something else? As much as I love where I am and what I’m doing, sometimes you can get complacent especially in a creative field. I like mixing things up and keeping things interesting.”

What are your goals? “I’d really like to have my own company and run my own firm.”

How would you do it different than your current place? “I’m a lot more invested in technology than my current firm. I also like experimental science and research which is not typically aspects that you integrate directly into architecture. I don’t know why…”

Are there a lot of overly traditional mindsets in architecture? “Yeah, you get one or the other. So, you get people who are almost purely sculptors and it’s really tricky to justify their designs. It’s like they’re beautiful, but they’re not actually helpful and there are buildings where they’re very helpful, but they’re just ugly, and they’re not uplifting, and they’re not inspirational, and they’re not any of those other things that good architecture should be.”

Do most architects usually have one or the other of those traits? Is it a rare breed to find someone who does both? “Yeah, it’s rare to find both.”

A practical artist… “Yeah, it’s like finding really good furniture design. It’s also very tricky.”

Functional, but yet beautiful… “Yeah.”

How would your friends describe you? ”I’m usually the weird one. {laughs} Very stable, but I’m very odd. {laughs}”

Technical Notes: We were in a shaded area, and I was a little concerned about not having enough light. I used a reflector, which Annette helped me hold, to increase the light levels.