No Two Are Alike

Thursday, June 30, 2011 1:16 AM Posted by Hikari Studio 0 comments

I had waited on this sunset for several months. It was ironically also one I nearly completely missed. I had stepped out to deliver some memory cards for a friend and noticed there was not a cloud in the sky. On top of that we had a nice smoke haze enveloping the city which I knew would translate to a much redder sky than usual. So I rushed home to grab my camera and head to the location I had in my mind the past few months. I had infact two different locations in my mind, ones that were on different elevations which I figured would give me enough time to get to both on a setting sun and get the images I wanted.

They were a few shots that had come to mind after I spent a frustrating wait on a model who was a no show, funny enough, due to an ironic level of miscommunication. In the end I got to witness a sunset that was very unique in it's own right.

As it so happens a few clouds rolled in on the horizon and cut the photo session much shorter than what I had hoped for this particular night. At the end of it I didn't get the particular image I was hoping for but I did get something that was unique to me. It's also an image that is quickly becoming one of my personal favorites.

I've come to learn that sunsets are never quite the same, no matter how similar they seem. They are not unlike people in that sense. I have made some honest effort into finding the courage to approach those I find interesting or unique, in whatever the case, and ask them If they don't mind having their picture taken. Not unlike sunsets, I may never get a second chance.

Analog Adventures Pt. 2

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 10:16 PM Posted by Hikari Studio 0 comments

The past few weeks I have spent a bit more time experimenting with film. What originally amounted to a quick and haphazard test on a friends camera has somewhat manifested into a bit of a philosophy change on the general approach of photographing people.

Originally, and not to mention unfortunately, my approach to photographing people was rooted in interesting locales and lighting. Although certainly not entirely misguided it left a gaping hole when it came to emotion and personality beyond just mere luck. It was definitely there some days but it was something that lacked any sort of influence. It came naturally, which is all well and good in a lot of scenarios but more often than not it was because I lacked the comfort to push people to be themselves. The natural shots I did get were very typically of close friends and not much beyond that.

When it came to working with individuals outside of my personal social circle that quickly changed. My images would have interesting lighting or scenery but I often got the impression they felt rang hollow in regards to accurately capturing a piece of the individual within the frame.

This was a problem I really began to notice shortly after doing work at a modeling agency. It is also one I had a great difficulty trying to work past there. Again, my images had great lighting but lacked any real sort of natural personality, at least to me. It became quite difficult to work abound it because of the limited time constraints and working situations. I knew it was something I had to work on from the ground up.

I got started on the personal projects I had discussed a while back to take steps in becoming comfortable in building a sort of repertoire with people I was working with. I wanted to explore the photo walk idea which just revolved around grabbing a person and going for a walk and in the process try and capture their (or a ) personality. Originally it was with friends but It pushed me to be more courages and work with individuals who I knew and the onto individuals who I found an interest in and may have just met.

Mind you, a year ago this was very much not my personality. The thought of telling someone I just met and found interesting that I'd like to take their picture scared the hell out of me. I knew it was something that needed to change.

And so, I did a few shoots while keeping the different elements in mind. They were all steeped in simplicity. No strobes, no reflectors, no assistants, no makeup artists, no stylists. To myself, those were too many barriers between me and actually shooting.

Enter film.

After a few sessions playing (and I use that word specifically, it was just that) with film and then bouncing back to digital for my actual work I began to notice that film may be a better fit for these sorts of personal projects. It wasn't so much the look or feel of it, although I certainly enjoyed that, it was the fact that it slowed me down. That's my one single biggest take away from dabbling in the medium. Walking into a shoot knowing you're limited to a handful of shots, on very specific settings and conditions makes you pay attention to the details. Instead of hiding behind the camera fiddling with settings and angles I'd stop to interpret a scene. I'd look at the lighting, I'd make sure my settings are what they need to be and then I'd spend the time with my subject in bringing out their personality, all well before pressing the shutter button.

The movement ad momentum of the whole process is distinctly different than that of shooting a DSLR loaded with 32 gigs of memory. The freedom of digital is that you can experiment and make mistakes all the while seeing your results right on the spot. It's a beautiful thing but to me at times it is a little too much freedom as silly as it may sound. Film brings back some of the discipline.

Simply put however, it is what it is. It's a medium that is fitting for some situations and not others. I highly doubt I'll be shooting these photo walk personal projects in anything outside of film for the time being. I also plan to extend my usage of it to engagement sessions and weddings, some of which I have already done. For now however it is a tool to help guide me in a particular regard, one that I have a difficult time doing the same with in digital.

I'm not 'there' yet but I am a lot closer than I was yesterday.

Opinion: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5

9:59 PM Posted by Hikari Studio 0 comments
Several months ago I had set out to get a hold of a set of the Pocket Wizard in hopes of finding a solution for wireless TTL lighting. Originally I had been invested in the Elinchrom sky ports system. Although it worked rather well as a base wireless trigger for my strobes it was often not a very elegant solution for triggering my speedlites, especially on the go. It worked but I was tempted with the functionality and simplicity of the pocket wizard system, more so after seeing them in action while second shooting for a local wedding photographer.

In the long run I ended up getting a miniTT1, 2 flexTT5s, an AC3 controller unit as well as a PowerST4 for my Elinchrom Rx600 strobe over the course of a few months.

The flexTT5s were a solution for wirelessly triggering my speedlites as well as giving them wireless TTL capabilities. The PowerST4 unit allowed me to trigger my strobe but also adjust the power of the strobe directly from my camera. Finally the AC3 unit allowed me to adjust the power of up to 3 channels independently, something that becomes a limitation if you're using more than 1 strobe/speedlite as the adjustment without the unit is limited to your FEC settings, which tend to act as one singular compensation.

Together it's a nice system. I use speedlites in the studio quite regularly coupled with my strobes. Being able to control all 3 from the camera as well as having the ability to quickly switch wirelessly between TTL, manual or off from a central point is a blessing.

It's an elegant system, when it works. That on the other hand is something that I've had difficulties with. Originally my usage was mainly limited to the studio so I did not want to do a write up too hastily. However after spending a handful of months with the system I feel I have a more rounded opinion.

To preface, there are a number of very successful photographers who swear by the system, especially that it just plain works. That has certainly not been the case in my regards.

In studio I've come to find the triggers tend to misfire more often than my sky ports did. More often than not this isn't a deal breaker. I've come to expect some misses when you spend the amount of time and shots that tend to come wit studio work. It is however a bit of a disappointment to invest in a system known to just work. Beyond that I have also come across a few sessions where the transmitter would seem to miss 6-10 frames in a row completely out of the blue and then go back to working as if nothing happened. This alone has created a lot of frustration for me as it's been very random and not limited to that specific transmitter, nor has it been any sort of battery issue or anything else I've tried to trouble shoot.

More often than not this issue arrives when I'm using the miniTT1 with the PowerST4 unit on a single strobe. Normally, for redundancies sake I'd set up optical slaves as well but when working wit a single strobe I don't generally get that option. It's also not something I should have to resort to for that matter. Needless to say when you're running on a tight schedule in a studio and your strobe, which is a meter away from you misfires 8 frames in a row it quickly becomes a rather aggravating experience and kills any sort of momentum.

I also got a chance to finally put the flexTT5s coupled with speedlites to some usage at a wedding reception. Inside of the studio they've worked quite well, the reception was another story however. Beyond a certain range (and a rather small one at that) the speedlite refused to trigger. It was something to the tune of 10 meters, which is pretty abysmal. It also rendered going outside on the balcony while using the speedlites to light up the interior undoable.

So I'm at a bit of a crossroads. There's still more troubleshooting to be done however I have a number of weddings coming up and this sort of gamble on functionality is just not an option. There are generally no second chances when it comes to weddings. I need a system that is consistent and as it stands it's not.

For the record, this was the Nikon version of the units. There have been reports in the past on issues within the canon system but a lot of sources reported the Nikon version to be without issue.


Monday, June 6, 2011 11:01 PM Posted by Hikari Studio 1 comments
As some of you may have noticed there has been somewhat of a lack of proper updates, especially for someone who prided himself on making a lot of steps forward this coming summer.

Not to dance around the issue too much, there have definitely been a number of reasons for this. In part a lot of it has been due to just being incredibly busy between work, life and photography, all 3 of which tend to revolve around the latter. Regardless of the lack of content updates I've easily spent more time shooting and being involved in the craft than any time prior to the past few months.

With that it's also brought to the forefront a search for direction and goals that have put me on some uneven ground so to speak. The past 2 months have been gradually building, both positives and negatives, towards finding what I truly want to spend my time on, photography wise, and what I have to let go of to certain degrees in order to get ahead in other aspects.  

I read a story not too long ago of a respected writer for the Edmonton Journal who publicly and respectfully submitted her resignation from the publication, mainly to further pursue personal goals. A line stood out to me and began to really resonate when I read it.

To paraphrase: "The things I have to do and the things I want to do not overlap as much anymore."

This was something that felt very synonymous with what I had been gradually feeling the past while. It was not that my fire was fading for photography, heck it's never been this strong. The issue however is I found I was spending more and more of my days shooting material that had no soul in it, at least not to me.  It was as if i had been chasing some social image rather than pursuing and making a career out of what I had truly wanted to photograph.

I've spent the past little while taking a bit of a step back rather than having a knee jerk reaction. Sometimes our moods change with the season, at times it's just that, a short lived transgression that briefly takes us down a side road only to meet back up on the original path with a new perspective.  At this point I don't really know if this is the case or more so me coming to realize what originally got me involved in photography. Perhaps it's just the next plateau.

To be blunt, I'm having a bit of a falling out with fashion, both the style of photography as well as the industry as a whole. There are countless reasons I could list for it however at the core of it I can't say I've ever enjoyed it or had the drive for it to the degree that I do for beauty/hair/makeup and head shots in general. Whatever it is, that's where my drive had been, at least half of it.  The other half lies within working with real people. It's capturing real individuals, with real emotions and real memories. It's not to say fashion is fake but it definitely has it's own flavor, one that is much different than say covering a wedding.

It's it's own thing, one is not worse or better than the other. It is a flavor, one that suits some and not others.

The more time goes on the more I on a personal level do not find fashion related photography rewarding, certainly not where I am now, certainly not to the degree of capturing a moment for a couple that will never come again or finding the essence of the subject your shooting and translating that indescribable something into the image you create.

I guess it all sounds a little out there but at the end of the day we all need some sort of satisfaction and reward for what we shoot. Of course, not everything we shoot, especially when it's a career is for ourselves, more often than not, it's for a client. However, we still have to value what we do.  We all have our own definition of what that value is, in this case, for me, it's saving a memory, not making a magazine print.

It's been a while to come to begin to understand that for me and in the process I've drowned myself in work and for the most part fallen off the face of the earth when it comes to being more involved in the local photography community as well as a personal social life. That will change in time. For now I will be spending more time refining what I have and narrowing my scope to those elements I really enjoy and wish to grow.

I have a trip to Japan coming up in October.  I can't really adequately describe the value this has for me. Originally, when I started becoming interested in photography it was majority influenced by general street photography from a foreigner living in Japan as a photographer. The value in these images was that it often showed every day people but it captured their true personalities. Without words it was something that was translated within the image. Thats something that stands out to me. I want to be able to capture that intimacy and human vulnerability of a person. To me that's something special as it's often not something we get to see. I want to be able to extend that of course, beyond just personal projects and be able to bring that forward in a commercial sense. That's a long term goal but it has finally given me some clear direction

With that, I hope for this trip to bring me back to some of those roots, to put me out of my comfort zone and push me to the next level, so to speak.