Monday, March 31, 2014

Storytelling using multimedia to tell the story

How many times have you been called on to talk to a group and you have either said or wanted to say, "You just had to be there to know what I am talking about?"

When I traveled to see the coffee growers in Salvador Urbina in the southern most part of Mexico in the state of Chiapas I was there to help tell their story.

Here is one of the latest packages I just had translated into English from Spanish. This is David Velázquez the current president of the cooperative Just Coffee. Please go there and buy their coffee. For those who are coffee aficionados it is premium arabica coffee.

I decided to use primarily still photos for the b-roll for a reason. I think those moments allow you to pause and listen to David at the same time.

The human voice is the most powerful audio I know for video, especially when you can hear it in their voice. Here the voice over talent Craig Carden did a great job of capturing the mood of David Velázquez.

I am blending Video, Audio and Still images which I think together is a better package than any of these alone would be by themselves.

I let David tell his story and then I went through the days of shooting and pick as many of the images I could that related to what he is talking about.

I hope you enjoyed it. Call me if you want to take a class from me on how to do storytelling using multimedia.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Photographers: Three ways to direct the audience

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 1100, ƒ/3.2, 1/100 Custom White Balance with ExpoDisc

To help direct your audience through a scene to where you want them to look, you can use compositional elements like leading lines in the photo above. I have the lines from the shirt directing me back into the photograph to the guy talking.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller

Now with this photo of the kids watching the balls racing each other down the incline I am using the incline to lead your eye, but I am also now using another element to help direct your attention—Light.

By using an off-camera flash I am able to put more light on the man at the top of the incline and also light the kids. As the light drops off to the background is is slightly darker so your eye doesn't go there first.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel and 20º Grid being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller
I knew that if I didn't use a light on the subject here holding the weight you may drift to anyone of the people in the background.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 2000, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 with off camera flash with Nikon SB-900 with MagMod 1/4 CTO Gel being triggered by PocketWizard TT1 and Flex TT5 with AC-3 zone controller
Here in this photo you can see my photo assistant being a VALS [Voice Activated Light Stand].  This is helping me pop the subject out from the crowd.

Now on the flash I am using a 1/4 CTO gel that is working well with the available light. I started with 1/2 Plusgreen gel but even with color correcting using the ExpoDisc the color just never looked right on the faces as compared to the background.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 11400, ƒ/6.3, 1/100 Custom White Balance with ExpoDisc

You can also use color to draw your eye into a photo. Here the lady in pink draws your attention because she is wearing Pink. Same photo in Black & White looses the directing quality of the color.

To now make a B&W photo work photographers will burn and dodge to direct your eye with available light photography. Here I have burned in some of the areas of the photo so your eye is directed by the lightest area.

Light is the greatest influence in photography

Photography is writing with light. That is what the word means. Now take a moment later I decided to add light to the situation above. Watch how much I am now directing your eye with the light.

While the lady in pink is drawing some of your attention, I have more light on the scientist here holding a brain model.

In black and white I have now really isolated where I want you to look. I have removed the color influence of the pink jacket and you are now because of the introducing of a spot light on the subject a way for me to influence where the audience looks.

Put it all together

Here I am using the off camera flash and using a longer lens of 90mm to come in close on the two little girls. Most importantly I am capturing a moment where their eyes are communicating interest and this is the second most important part of a photograph—The Moment.

Here I am using the off-camera flash to light the young boy and make the background darker. The mother's orange jacket is a complimentary color to the blue jacket and I am also using the color to help direct you. I am using the hand of the scientist holding the brain model while the mother's hands continue to direct you towards the boys expression on his face. This moment of interest is caught by his eyes and mouth expressions showing interest. The mom's expression also compliments her son's expression.

Here I am again using the off-camera flash to brighten the people in the foreground and the background is now darker. I am still using composition to help direct you and most important looking for the moment that tells the story. The embroidery on the scientists sleeve almost replaces the need for a caption.

Capturing a moment with a father and daughter is enhanced with the off-camera flash. The photo reads faster than had I relied solely on composition alone.

As you can see in this last photo your eye will wonder if the photographer hasn't used all the tools necessary to direct your attention.

When you look back at your photos from something you attended and nothing is really standing out, there is a reason. Are you using all the tools at your disposal to capture moments? Of all the tools you can use, off-camera flash maybe the best weapon you have. Do you know how to use one?

Give me a call for a personal class for some one-on-one instruction if you would like to master this technique.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Storyline involves a Plot

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/250, custom white balance with ExpoDisc

A plot "insures that you get your character from point A to point Z."

The shooting of the story is often not in the order that the story will be told. It is quite common in Hollywood when they are making a movie to shoot a story all out of order for budget reasons.

You may need to go ahead and shoot the ending because it takes place in the spring and you are now in the Spring time.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/9, 1/45, custom white balance with ExpoDisc
Yesterday I was working with my intern/photo assistant. I sat down for a few minutes a couple of times to talk about what I was doing and why. He is going to Lisbon, Portugal with me and will be shooting his own visual story.

One thing I talked to him about was how every situation I shot as if it were a stand alone story.

Fujifilm X-E2, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 D AF, using Nikon G to FX adapter, ISO 500, ƒ/1.4, 1/60
Yesterday I photographed a Georgia Tech Management student. I followed him around for the day. When I was in the classroom with him I photographed each situation as if the whole story had to come out of it. I was shooting stills and video. I shot overall shot of the classroom, some of the teacher and some of the student and everything else you could think of in between.

Nikon D4, Nikon 85mm ƒ/1.4 D AF, ISO 1100, ƒ/1.4, 1/250 Custom white balance with the ExpoDisc
The reason I shot each situation as if it were a stand alone package was because it is easier to sequence the over all package with the best photos to tell the complete story.

Nikon D4, 14-24mm, ISO 12800, ƒ/6.3, 1/500, custom white balance with ExpoDisc
If you didn't shoot the variety then when you finally were editing you might end up with all closeup shots. Then the variety of the photo is starting to work against you. By shooting to get good tight, medium and overall shots and varieties of each of those you then are picking from each situation and then putting these into a sequence that moves the viewer through the plot of events to tell the story.

Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/4.8, 1/250, custom white balance with ExpoDisc
Unlike the fiction writer who can create their content, the visual storyteller that is capturing the story, they must capture the story pretty much before it is sequenced and told. The writer can create and make it work and not worry if they have images to move you through the plot. They just create it.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 400, ƒ/10, 1/500
I even did the environmental portrait as a safe shot to have of the student in front of the Georgia Institute of Technology sign.

During our interview with the subject he mentioned that this coming summer he will be working with Wells Fargo Securities. Just to have something that we could drop in for a visual we found a sign to put him in front of for the story.

Fujifilm X-E2, 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/10, 1/180 and -1 EV on the pop-up flash
The bottom line is you need to have a storyline in mind as you are shooting. Then for each point of the outline, you shoot it like it will be the complete story. You create another sub outline of the outline that makes this a complete story.

It is almost impossible to over shoot for a visual storyteller. Those who undershoot will have to rely on other communication like text or audio to help tell the story.

The best way to tell a story is to show the audience rather than tell the audience. Don't be caught without enough visuals when you are putting the final package together.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Storytelling involves Setting The Scene

One of the best techniques I know for helping to set scene is layering. this is where you have a foreground, something in the middle and a background. This photo here above I am using layering to help engage the viewer with the little boy and the interaction with his parents in the overall concert scene.

Here is another scene setter, but notice how it is more of just a wide shot saying "here it is" rather than the above photo that engages the viewer in something going on much more effectively. The lower photo just has two people walking closest to the camera.

Here I am using the lady taking a photo with her phone that lets me pull the reader into the scene.

The photo I loved the most and used as the scene setter for this event is this one of the couple dancing. Even without seeing the stage, the couple dancing and people in the background facing in one direction you can sense the band playing. Hopefully you are seeing the important piece is the photo needs to being powerful enough to engage the viewer. In this photo the romantic moment is what is engaging.

In this photo I have the couple enjoying themselves,  but it really isn't a scene setting type of photo. Yes it captures the mood of a party, but I am missing the feel that the earlier photos give the audience.

Here is a more cliche scene setting photo. It establishes the location. It does so from a low angle.

Here is another way to introduce a story say on Saint Martin by getting up high on a road and shooting down into the bay where you capture the community.

Often we think of scene setting photos as the overall shot like this of the arabica coffee growing in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. But sometimes you can set the scene with a tight shot just as well.

Both the tight shot of the arabica coffee and the wide shot help introduce the topic of coffee being grown. Often photographers make the mistake of trying to put everything into their scene setter and in doing so loose the impact of what the scene setter is doing—introducing the topic.

This photo of the fence along the border between Agua Prieta, Mexico and Douglas, Arizona is also a great scene setter for the story on coffee, however using this photo is starting with the reason for the story—illegal immigration.

When I think of The Citadel I think of the pageantry of the parades. Here I got low with a wide-angle lens to show the beginning of the Friday afternoon parade.

Another time I went across the parade field and capture a more compressed photo with a longer telephoto lens.

Tossing the hats at graduation is another great scene establisher for a story on The Citadel.

Just as significant to the graduate of The Citadel is the long gray line that the seniors do when they graduate. They form one long line and walk across the parade field for the very last time.

Pat Conroy, Class of 1967, immortalized the sentence “I wear the ring.” in his novel The Lords of Discipline published in 1980. Which of these photos would work for the beginning of the book The Lords of Discipline?

I think any of the three can work and that is the point. Your establishing shot could be a close-up photo like the one of the ring and start your story just like Pat Conroy.

I like the last photo for different reason. Most of the guys in the photo picked going to The Citadel after reading The Lords of Discipline.

So you can just shoot mindlessly and get over all shots which most likely will not engage the viewer or you can work at getting overall shots that do engage people.

Probably the most important point about finding your establishing shot is to have an idea what the story is all about otherwise the overall or closeup shot you need to help set the scene will be lost, because you were paying too much attention to capturing a subject or just capturing the climax of the story. Remember you need sequences of different photos to move someone through the plot of your story.

Take the time and think about what the story is about and how you can best establish the scene for the audience.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Storytelling involves Characters

This is one way to introduce a character. Have the character run straight at the audience.

Show don't tell

It is important when introducing your character to share an experience with the audience of the character. With the football players this is an easier way to introduce a character into the story. The action helps to tell us about the character.

While this might be a lovely portrait of the character of the story, you can see that because the man is just looking at the camera it does little to tell the audience about the man. Now the story must rely more heavily on the storyteller telling rather than showing to introduce the character.

Contrast the photo of the man just looking into the camera lens to this one where you see the man working in the field and tending his crops.

Which photo helps to establish the characteristics of the person?

Here is the matriarch of her family pouring hot water over coffee grinds to make coffee. This is a great way for me to introduce the mother and wife of coffee farmers in my story on a coffee cooperative.

The theme of the story I was working on about a coffee cooperative is how the success of the cooperative depends on the coffee drinkers getting to know their coffee growers. Here is one of the coffee drinkers from Arizona playing with a coffee farmers son in El Aguila, Chiapas, Mexico. Here I am telling a small story within the photo that is introducing the character into the storyline.

This is a doctor who donates some of his vacation time to serve in the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. The story was trying to recruit doctors to become full-time missionaries in this hospital. When I visited they had only two doctors.

Danny Crawford is one of those two doctors who is also the only surgeon. This was a way to introduce him into the storyline.

This is one of the coffee farmers with his grandson in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. I think this is a great way to not only introduce the coffee farmer, but to show the value of family to the people of the coffee cooperative.

While you may have a nice portrait of a person like this of Soulja Boy it does little to introduce the character as compared to if he was actually doing something.

The people can even have wonderful smiles, but you still know little about the characters when you have them stop and look at the camera.

The portraits can be quite powerful, but they are not the same as introducing the character when they are doing something. Yes they can be very strong images and capture your attention, but what is the story.

Don't you think this photo here of the two guys competing on who can move the Oreo Cookie from their forehead to eating it is a much more interesting and character revealing photo to introduce a character?

This moment during the celebration of the Eucharist in Mass is a great way to introduce Archbishop Gregory into the storyline.

Only as a last resort should you use the posed portrait to introduce your character. Let the visuals tell the story—SHOW don't TELL!