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Posts from the ‘Gear’ Category

Shooting the Super Bowl Commercial

When I began photography as a career, I often wondered what it would be like to do certain kinds of campaigns. Of these, I did wonder what it would be like to shoot a Super Bowl commercial. I imagined crazy sets where people barked orders down the line of command and the photographer or director in the center of it all, only being bugged when it is of dire importance.

The idea of this was something that existed in my mind and may indeed exist in real life. However, the reality that hit me when I was awarded this campaign was that I could determine what a set for a Super Bowl commercial looked like. On my set, we would have fun, and my assistants would be just as important as I was. We (my client, my crew and I) would relax and trust that true art would result.

There will always be photographers that feel entitled to scream at everyone on their set, but it is up to us (the photogs reading this) to not be one of them. Instead, treat your crew and clients as friends, and you will find that at the end of the day you will be able to share a beer with your friends and forget about work.

So with that said, here is the behind the scenes video from a Super Bowl spot made by a bunch of friends….

I would like to thank Andrew Belcher for taking the time to create this. Great job man!

The Super Bowl Commercial

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would begin 2015 shooting a Super Bowl commercial. Even further removed from the unlikeliness of shooting said commercial is … well… shooting said commercial in seven images. Not seven scenarios or seven videos, seven photos.

The idea, straight from the mind of Pete over at LaneTerralever, was to parallax a commercial. “What is parallax” you say? Think of when you were in grade school and you had to do one of those cheesy plays where every parent in the audience thinks that his or her child should be in search of a talent agency because they memorized 23 words and did not faint on stage. Sorry, got distracted there. Anyway, there is always a part in that play where some kid is on a boat made of a tricycle and cardboard, and they are in the rough ocean. In order to create this imaginary ocean in the elementary school cafeteria, they use whats called parallax. This is where they have on set of blue waves on a stick in front of the kid and one behind. The movement of these waves back and forth creates in your mind the idea of the ocean.

When broken down to its most basic form, we decided that we would create a Super Bowl spot using the cardboard waves on a stick principal. From there it gets exponentially more complicated.

Super Bowl parallax farmer

In order to captivate the viewer, the images had to be real, and they had to be very very very planned out. In order to have movement in an image where it never existed, we would need to plan space for the movement to enter and direction to make it natural. Also, we would have to shoot the shot, and then immediately document the reality that existed as we would need to create it and maintain its continuity to keep the viewer’s attention.

Super Bowl parallax scrap yard

The first thing that grabs the eye of the viewer in these shots would be depth, more specifically how three dimensional they feel. To help with this there was one lens that came to mind, the Nikkor 58 f/1.4. While many try to see it as a low light geared lens, it also has a little trick in it that makes it very desirable. It makes images feel 3-D.

Super Bowl parallax basketball

The next item of importance was the camera, the Nikon D4s. Now many of you probably know that my heart resides with the D3x, but for this project resolution was not the determining factor. After all 4k video is still only 8.8 megapixels. What mattered more to us was noise and high ISO performance as we would not be in a studio and environment would matter greatly.

Super Bowl parallax wine

Last, but not least, we would need lights that could be remote and enable us to shoot shallow, even in the day. Enter the Profoto B1’s. With the most recent firmware, they are able to shoot at any shutter speed. Proof of this rests in the above image of the man drinking wine. It was shot at 1/4000th of a second.

Super Bowl parallax instructor

With the gear of this shoot chosen specifically to produce the images, we started going to the businesses where the subjects worked and tried to quickly see what a day in their life felt like and create an image on the spot that would capture that, as well as captivate the audience. Some were easier than others. For example, ballet, which is an art form in itself, is very simple to create beauty from. However, shots like the farmer we worried would be more complicated. It was when we started meeting the individuals that would be featured in the images that we found the beauty of this commercial.

Super Bowl parallax ballet

What the technical side (the depth and movement into a frozen world) showed us was the beauty that existed in the moment. As one viewer told me, “it was as if the moment existed inside of my television for a split second.” As we shot more for the campaign, we learned and dialed in more in our approach. By the final image we were able to see the images that existed and how they would look and feel before we ever pressed the shutter.

As always, but more than ever, I want to thank the people that made this commercial possible and helped me as I tried to learn and dial in this approach.

Joe, Paul, Pete, Carolyn, Gary, Tena, Nick, Trevor, Andrew and Rob. I love you guys and am grateful to have stood beside you as we created this one.

Thank you.

The Nikon D750

I never thought I would be writing this blog… We all know I love me some Nikon, but that which is loved is usually of the pro body form. Be it the D3x or D4s, I am a big fan of Nikons with a built in vertical grip. From time to time I do shoot with the D810 and other such bodies, but my preference tend to lean towards camera bodies that look like a square box head on.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got a call from my good friends at Nikon that said, “hey, you should try the D750 out, we really think you’ll like it.” I agreed to give it a shot, but in complete honesty thought it was going to be small for my tastes and wondered what the catch would be.

Three weeks later and I am obsessed with this camera, she’s (yes, my D750 is a female camera, just haven’t named her yet) even gone to her very first photoshoot. While I used some other bodies on the actual production, I found that I am rediscovering my love of photography in this lil camera.

For starters, I don’t shoot it in a conventional way whatsoever. I used my right thumb to fire the shutter and turn off the autofocus on all my lenses that I mount to it. Often letting the camera force me to look at it very reminiscent to how I viewed old Hasselblads. This D750 has changed my view of photography in a way similar to the D3 the first time I saw its dynamic range.

Of all the functions that I dig about it, none are more freeing than the wifi. Yes, I know that there have been other cameras that have built in wifi, but this is my first experience with one. It is for that reason that I have turned the D750 into my dedicated Instagram camera. I couldn’t even tell you if it has a memory card in it right now as I only grab the files with my phone and then post them straight to Instagram. So with that said, enjoy some square pics from this not so square camera and while you’re at it go check one out.

Thunderbirds D750

D750 grass

Riley

D750 me

Thunderbirds loop

Nikon D750

 

 

The 2014 Movember Watches

With Movember underway, many men around the world had given up the strip of hair below their noses for a cause. Last year I did it in support of my father who had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer. I will talk about that more in the weeks to come, but let’s just say it was one of the best decisions I’ve made as it truly helped him through a tough battle.

Today though, I’d like to talk about a very fun aspect of Movember, more specifically the reason why you should head on over to Movember right now and join the Maurice Lacroix team… Yes, I am talking about the 2014 Movember watches!

ML Movember side by side

This year Maurice Lacroix made two beautiful watches to award at the end of the month. Both of them are based off the insanely loved Pontos S Diver, my personal daily wear watch. The first one is a Limited Edition blue version… it is being awarded to the international Man of Movember. To say it is going to be tough to win this is an understatement… for the next watch that is not the case.

Blue Pontos S

The second watch is a black dial Pontos S Diver with an orange Movember mustache logo on the dial and a custom brown strap to compliment it. It too is a limited edition piece, but there is some VERY good news on this guy… there are 14 of these babies being awarded (one to each of the Maurice Lacroix teams). What are your chances so far on this then? VERY VERY GOOD

Brown ML Pontos side

You see, as of writing this blog, there are only 18 members on the team, and so far the top two are ML employees, so they don’t count towards this contest… your odds are getting better.

Pontos in case

So what do you need to do to win one of these babies? Easy, go to Movember.com, sign up and join the Mo’rice Lacroix US team and raise money and awareness for a great cause. While you’re at it, maybe grow a rockin handlebar mustache that all the chicks will rage about.

Giving Back

Of all the gifts and opportunities that we as photographers will experience through our careers, none are more important than the opportunity to help someone else out. From teaching others your craft to using your talent to enrich someone else’s life, there is no downside to giving back.

One such opportunity presented itself about a month ago when I got a phone call from the man that owns the studio I shoot out of, Floyd Bannister. A little background on Floyd… He is one of the most humble men I have ever met. On many occasions I have come to him with clients that were charity based organizations and he has let me shoot without asking for anything in return. When we produced the entire Fstoppers video of the Lamborghini photoshoot, he again told me that he was grateful I chose Loft 19 and that it was on him. I have had shoots where athletes have been in bad moods upon arrival and he sat me down and told me to not worry and that the situation would calm down and then I should shoot. It is for this and many reasons that I see him as a bit of a father figure in this industry.

Back to the phone call… He said that he was sponsoring a very small college’s football team. Many of the players on the team and students at the school were the first members of their family to even attend college. He then asked if there was any chance that we could give them a photoshoot to make the guys feel like rock stars and make their sense of accomplishment even greater. Without hesitation I said “yes.”

I began calling assistants and telling them that we had a shoot for Floyd and every single one of them immediately said they wanted to help. Incredible people, every one of them. I told them all to bring their gear to the set for I also saw this as an opportunity to teach.

The day of the shoot, we all showed up and began producing images and an environment that saw many of the players calling their parents to tell them what was going on. I was able to also start giving the camera over to my assistants and letting them gain experience on a set that isn’t possible in a big time shoot where a campaign is on the line. To say that this was a perfect day for me is an understatement.

We were able to help out a man that we all like, a group of kids feel important from the experience, and my crew gets to take turns shooting while I assist them.

It was a good day.

I want to thank Andrew to doing a behind the scenes on the shoot and all the guys on my crew that made this possible.

Bb: LowePro Ambassador

I will admit right now, every time I write a title like this or the Nikon, or Maurice Lacroix ambassador one, I sit back and think…. “you know, people are going to stop asking me to grab a beer with them if I keep this stuff up.”

Please know that, like the other endorsements, it means the world to me to have a company that I know and trust show such support. I can’t say much, but will say this… there are some VERY exciting things that will come out of this relationship. When LowePro approached me about becoming a LoweProfessional, one aspect that was discussed at length was, “how can we use this partnership to help people out?” From raising money for charities to helping educate photographers on how I go about my work, I wanted to make sure it was a contract that helped me give back to the community above all. Blair_Bunting_Bio_main

It’s an odd reality to be a part of and I find myself honored to experience it, but also missing what things were like before. To be honest, some of my favorite shoots I have ever done were the small editorial gigs where I didn’t make all that much and came home tired. Unfortunately, the calls for those go away when photo editors fear that they are wasting my time calling, and so such sponsorships have an averse affect.

It’s a part of this career that I never saw coming. I used to sit on the internet looking at who was with what company and think, “damn it would be awesome to be in his or her place.” However, it was impossible to see that said achievement would make people hesitate to reach out and ask for advice like, how I lit a specific photo or what gear I used.

To have fun and try to pay it back to you (my readers/friends) I have started calling random Twitter and Facebook followers every week to say “hi” and ask if they had any questions… (on a side note, the calls have been freaking awesome and I plan to keep on doing them when I have breaks in my schedule).

You guys are the reason great companies like LowePro have reached out to me, and I want to say not only thank you, but please don’t ever feel that I am in a different league and therefore am inaccessible… I am one of you and always will be. So whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Smoke Signal (the OG social media), please feel free to ask advice on cameras, watches, bags… heck, ask what I had for dinner, I really don’t mind.

How to Light a Football Player

Firstly, I want to thank those that sent over emails or messaged me on FB and Twitter about the new ASU campaign. It was a ton of fun to produce, and when my readers enjoy the shots, it is icing on the cake.

As happens a lot, many of the emails had the age old question, “how did you light it?” buried in there somewhere (often thinly veiled as an “oh, BTW”). So today I thought I would take a bit of time to talk about that, some lighting theory and show some RAW files from that and other shoots because I think this sort of thing needs to happen more often.

To be honest, this idea has been in the making for some time now. I have had the good fortune of meeting with quite a few agencies lately and have begun to see two very distinct approaches to photography emerging. The first approach contains a lot of lighting and a technical appreciation of what a purist would consider painting with light. The second one concerns me, it is an approach that more or less says flat light everything and …. (my most despised line) “fix it in post.”

I enjoy the approach of fixing things in post as much as I love listening to heavily auto-tuned music. Then again, for me auto-tune might make my singing voice a bit more angelic, but I digress…

Today I want to talk about a return to lighting because our clients deserve it, our medium deserves it, and we deserve it. Now there will always be things that can’t be done in camera, perhaps due to a location that makes it impossible to travel the subject to, or an action that endangers the subject or crew, and for this there will always be comping, and for those reasons there is nothing wrong with that approach.

So let’s talk about lighting, specifically for mood.

The first place that I went to develop my approach towards lighting theory was not a photo book, but rather my psychology courses in college. It was a common theme that as humans we feel comfortable when we know what is around or in front of us. A quick Shark Week analogy… I went for a swim last Saturday during the day. It was at my neighbor’s house, the pool was clear, I knew what existed because I could see it. Now put me in that same pool at night and we have a different situation. Even though all logic tells me, “Blair, you are in a pool,” I still am 99% sure that Megalodon has come back from extinction and will be remaking the beginning of Jaws with me any second.

Sharks aside, lighting is much the same way. The eye finds discomfort and intimidation in the unknown, and the unknown is where the light is not. The approach to making a subject intimidating should not be a mass of lights cranked to 11, but a single focus of direction where one light dominates and the remaining support the fear. An example of this that I shot a while back is this portrait of a football player.

bigpic

As I promised in the beginning, here is the RAW image from the shot to show where we take it on set before it goes into good ole Photoshop.

HerringRAW

And the lighting scheme: (notice that the powers of the support lights never go above the singular direction of the key, if we broke that rule, the eye would become comfortable)

topview

On the most recent shoot we approached things with the same idea, but incorporated action, so the singular direction source had to be broadened, but still contained. There are many people that approach lighting or even teach the one light approach, which I enjoy for it’s simplicity. However, if I may add an addendum; I think that it should be more of a single direction source approach (doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly). Remember, as photographers, we are telling a story, not just telling our viewer that our subject exists.

The final with smoke and plate:

ASU TRY2

The RAW test before smoke. This shot is actually a prep shot for the main image that involved smoke from a machine (camera left), but shows lining of subject and a disregard for any details that I don’t want my viewers to see:

pre smoke RAW

Believe it or not, one of the most important parts of lighting is the camera, and your knowledge of it. To best light a subject where you want to play dangersouly with shadows, you have to know and trust the sensor that lies at the heart of your camera. I was shooting on a Nikon D3x which lets me shoot more contrast out of camera with the safety that my shadows will exist when I open the file. I only know how far I can stretch the contrast ratio with my camera from practice. There will always be those that measure the heck out of a camera and it’s sensor, but to push one on set with a job on the line is an act of trust in the equipment you are using.

As with the need for consistent sensor performance is the need for consistent lights. For campaigns, I trust Profoto 8’s with my livelihood. The power is always sufficient to close down and delivery is quick enough to avoid blur. From there the rest comes down to build, reliability and standards that make it easy for me to tell an assistant what is needed, even when they speak a different language.

With an approach to technical lighting, and equipment that can deliver you will actually become more financially efficient. In what might take you five minutes on set to put up a light, you will save yourself hours if not days in post trying to create a texture that doesn’t exist because the photo wasn’t lit correctly. As photographers, we should crave perfection and do everything in our ability to create it. These are details that your clients deserve, and that will make you proud of your work.

ASU Football : 2014 Photoshoot

Photoshoots are not made by a photographer alone, they are a result of everyone that set foot in the studio that day and sat on the endless preproduction phone calls the weeks prior. When the campaign is released, it will carry the name of the photographer, but I would give anything for it to carry the names of everyone that stood behind and alongside us as we create.

Today’s blog will be a bit different that others as I want to talk about what others did to make a shoot possible, rather than ramble on about how I did this or that to make an image…

ASU TRY2

For the ASU campaign, the images start at the beginning of our working relationship when I was just a teenager. An ASU new hire named Becky trusted me to create imagery of athletes when I definitely had not earned such trust. Over the years she rose to the position of director of marketing and I am grateful to continue producing campaigns together, often with the simple direction of, “make something awesome.”

ASU TRY1

The next person on the set is the Creative Director, Chris. He usually stands on my right side and tosses out ideas for images and it is between us that the imagery forms. Periodically we will take a couple moments to step into a side room and discuss if we want to steer the emotion of the athletes in a different direction or continue on the given path. I trust his opinion and he trusts mine, it is a relationship that must exist between the AD/CD and photographer that makes a campaign successful.

ASU Runner

My assistants Rob, Brian and Ramsey worked to make the vision exist in camera. Not that they don’t always work hard, but on this shoot they did their job, and so much more. The first day on set was actually the day that I was announced as an Ambassador to Nikon and I was trying my hardest to respond to emails, texts and phone requests, all while prepping lighting and shooting. I can’t tell you how impressed I am watching how hard they work, and am grateful to have them on the team.

ASU TRY 3

Last but not least the athletes. Awesome, just awesome. One thing to note is that they are not models, and for many this was their first photoshoot ever. It is easy to take being on set for granted, but for some of them (the rookies especially) it can be insanely intimidating. While it is my responsibility to give them direction in a way that gets the shot that my client and I want, it is still on their shoulders to deliver the level of intensity that I need, and they did.

I am very proud of this year’s campaign, and want to thank those that made it, and hope that you all enjoy the 2014 ASU Football campaign.

GO DEVILS!!!

River Monsters

:   With all the recognition that this image has received lately, between the CA Photo Annual and Archive’s Top 200 Ad Photographers, I figured I would re-share the story that was the River Monster’s shoot   :

Lighting as a thought process is fundamentally easy to apply to schemata, water is not. Sure there are the physics that govern the drops via gravity and pull them back to Earth properly, but the abstract way that this is done is a logistical nightmare when combined with good ole electrons. Sure water makes for dynamic imagery when lit well, but what doesn’t get seen is the grey hair that the photographer grows as a result of the set.

When the call came from Discovery to shoot the ad campaign for their show River Monsters, I was thrilled. The concept was strong and the comps that we were to key off made visualizing the final image easy. However, creative potential and potentially dangerous walked hand in hand on this campaign. The idea was to have the show’s host Jeremy Wade wrestling a giant fish in the shallow waters near South Beach, Florida. Now by giant, I mean the kind fish that hangs out with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the weekends… probably having a glass of wine with its flippers and talking about the delicacies of krill. Where things get complicated is that we wanted to have Jeremy and mega fish in the water thrashing around…. lit. Obviously we didn’t want a bathtub with a toaster situation, so safety would come first, creativity second, after all electrocuting an actor is not a good way to land another job (the industry tends to look down on this).

River Monsters photographed by Blair Bunting

 

Knowing that this set would be determined by the quality and work ethic of the people on it, I flew assistants in that I had worked with on previous shoots. We approached the lighting situation with Photoflex Tritons, for their safety, weight, and flash duration (we would be freezing splashing water). We had a scout look for beaches with long gradations to the shore line and went to multiple locals just to walk into the water to his waste level. Background would not be important, as we would fade to black behind the subject. For cameras, I brought both the Nikon D3x and D3s to back it up.  Never on a shoot had I expected to destroy a camera more than this, so redundancy would play key to making sure I came home with the shot, even if the camera was a paperweight.

With lighting, safety and concept behind us, it was up to Jeremy to make the action, and he did it masterfully. Often he would bring advice and reality to the table that we could not have thought of in our wildest dreams… mostly because I have yet to catch a 350 lbs. grouper, and also because I don’t fish. However, one comment amongst all the others stood out to me… All of us (7 people, 1 fish) were waist deep in the water at night in the Florida ocean and Jeremy looked up at me and said, “you know, these are perfect conditions for a Bull Shark….” to which I replied, “haha, and when’s the last time you caught a Bull Shark?!?!”…. he replied, “I caught one here….. last night”. At that point, without any direction from me, the entire set moved about 10 feet closer to shore.

We shot for only a couple hours, not due to a time crunch, but because Jeremy, the creative director, and rest of the crew worked so well together that in two hours we had a solid 30 images that would work for the ad. Since we were in the ocean, laptop previewing would be impossible, but seeing the shots out of the back of the D3x, the CD was able to see that we had the shot directly out of the camera. Although this image was not the final one chosen because of the main subject’s address to the fish, it shows the strength of a RAW file, and gives an idea to the situation around us:

Jeremy Wade

Also, here is a short video to show how the prep work went. We had originally wanted to have a complete behind the scenes of the shoot, but with the dangers at hand (be it lights, sharks, groupies, sea turtles) we decided that everyone would contribute to make the shot. My assistant Matthew Coughlin made this video of the prep, and may I warn you, once you have seen this skinny, pale photographer without his shirt on, you might wish you had never watched it…

[UPDATE: Unfortunately the video offended some animal rights groups and out of respect has been removed]

I wish I could take 100% credit for this shoot, but, as in every shot, it is the quality of the people around you that make the image. So, Jeremy, Mike, Linas, Bryan, Matt, Grant, Paul and Lisa, here is your shot and thank you.

 

The Nikon D810

A camera lives a life to do one thing, capture the information that lies before it… nothing more, nothing less.

Manipulated by man, there exists no two cameras that will live the same life, for we as photographers make them unique. Be it our style, our situation, life… there will be outer influences on our camera. However, it is as unaffected as it’s meter is colorblind, for its job remains the same, to show us what light went through it’s lens to its sensor the moment you chose to press the shutter.

On many occasions I have been asked what I wanted in a camera. Many times the person asking the question may have expected a life changing attribute that would make an ad out of every shot.… this is just not the case.

I want one thing out of a camera… a clean file.

Enter the Nikon D810

Nikon D810 side

Being the first camera that has been released since I joined Nikon as an Ambassador, I have much pride behind it and in the direction that we are going. In a step that very much resembles my all time favorite camera, the D3, Nikon chose not to cram more megapixels into the chip, but to refine the pixels that already existed. At the end of the day all that matters is the file.

As photographers, we crave detail as much as we crave the possibility to destroy it. To the audience, proof of existence is in the hands of the creator, and by his or her title of artist, existence is also to their subjection. We can take away what doesn’t attract the eye, and the image still occurred, but we cannot add, for that reality never existed. It is for this reason that the ability of the camera to create the clearest image is the most important of all of it’s functions.

The D810 serves one purpose… to show the world what the photographer truly wanted them to see.

I just hope we’re ready