Update from the road…Winter Edition – Part 1.

desert runWell it has been a while since I’ve posted a summary update from the road.     So much has happened since I last updated you back in late November I’m going to have to break this up into several posts.

As I reflect back on the whirlwind of the last few months I must take a moment to appreciate the view out my side window of my office in the back of our rig.     Today we find ourselves just outside of Park City Utah with a killer view of the snow capped Wassatch mountain range right out my side window.    It’s the kind of view that makes it hard to get work done as the mountains call to you.  Below is an image I made of this view just this morning.   Last night as I started writing this blog entry there was a soft pastel blue and pink sunset going on as the remnants of a 3 day storm that left the mountain with just over two feet of fresh powder started to break up and leave the area.    The next few days promise to be gorgeous blue bird days…  perfect weather for making some great images and harvesting the hidden powder in the back country behind the resorts.  But enough about that for now,   I’ll get back to the present day later in post #2.


So what have we been up to here in the Barrett camp since Fall?   Where do I start?   The end of November and first week of December brought a few assignments that had me back in Florida shooting.     Because of these assignments and a schedule that required we be back in South FL at a pre determined point,   we had to skip over two locations that I really wanted to shoot.   One was The Outer Banks in North Carolina and the other was in West Virginia where I was to shoot coal miners for the American Worker Project.    A disappointment, but work is work and we’ll just have to circle back around another time to do these shots.

The rest of December and the first half of January was a blur as we found ourselves back in our home base of  South Florida.     We spent some much needed down time decompressing, visiting friends & family,  doing the holiday thing and working in the office doing post production work on all the images I’d shot in the past few months.    We also took a few weeks to explore other areas of our home state on the west coast from Naples,  up through St Pete and on up to the Panhandle.

SunriseAt this point our schedule demanded we hit the road as we had many miles and stops to make before getting here to Park City to capture the last months of the snow season.    Our first stop was more of a tourist/photo opportunity to visit the underground caverns (who knew Florida had caverns?) and explore the swampy bayou  ‘way down yonder by the Chattahoochee’.


From there we spent a little over a week in the Big Easy… New Orleans, LA.    By then it was the beginnings of Mardi Gras so as you can imagine the town was abustle with tons of activity.   Parades happening daily all over the city and people having a great time celebrating.      I made some great connections to shoot  through some contacts at Peter Mayer Advertising,  who I had recently worked with, and also through the local tourism office.     New Orleans is a hot bed of creative artists and craftsmen and I jumped at the opportunity to shoot several of them for my American Worker Series (I’ve posted a few teasers from these 4 shoots here but I will be posting the real images soon!!)     We shot with Alex Gernier of Doorman Designs.   Alex makes furniture using reclaimed wood from the old houses of New Orleans destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.      Next came a shoot with Ben Dombey who is a glass blower who hand blows these amazing glass drinking glasses.    Each of them are unique in their own individual way and custom embossed with locally inspired items stamped in the base.    See Ben’s work here.       I also got the opportunity to shoot with Patti Dunn of Tchoup Industries.    Patti and her partner make these amazing hand made bags and backpacks.  You can visit her shop here to see their work.     While wandering through the French Quarter one day,  I stumbled upon the coolest little shop,  (The Bevolo Gas & Electric Light Museum) where they hand make old fashion style gas lanterns.    I talked to two of the craftsmen as they were building their lamps and ended up shooting them for my project as well.


I also shot a ton of the local street musicians and in a few of the bars.   That is one thing that really stands out about New Orleans to me is the amount of musical talent that is everywhere.IMG_0802 copy2


We wrapped up our Louisiana leg with a quick trip to Oak Alley Plantation.   Oak Alley is an old cotton plantation rich with history.    Once run completely by slave labor,  Oak Alley is still a working farm today but the home is historical landmark and run as a museum.  You may have seen it in several movies.

oakalley slave

From here we set out through Texas, New Mexico,  into Arizona and then on to Utah.   But that is a story for another evening….    Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Winter/Spring update from the road coming in a few days!!

Splash! – A Very Wet Look Behind the Scenes.

Here is a very wet look behind the scenes of a recent book shoot.

“Ok Mike,   Just walk out on that rock and look out over the water.  Try to look natural when the waves come up and splash.”        SPLASH!!!!     “That was perfect!    Mike?   Umm… Mike?”     ;-p

Seriously though,   Mike was not harmed in these photos,   While it may look like he was wiped out,   he actually braved the waves relatively unscathed.

We will  be posting the final images soon!  Stay tuned…

Timefest… and a peek at the future Kessler time lapse system

Check out this video

For those that want to see more behind the scenes – and a PEAK AT THE NEXT GENERATION of time lapse tools from Kessler Crane – here you go! The new system will allow you to control focus, zoom, and iris! (along with the dolly/crane and pan/tilt head that are currently part of the existing system.)



Kessler TimeFest 2011: Behind The Scenes from Kessler Crane on Vimeo.

Traveler’s Takes the Scary out of Life.

ESPN Traveler's AdSo we recently had the opportunity to work with SapientNitro on a great job for Traveler’s Insurance. The job required shooting a guy from “the other team” pulling into a parking lot full of a sea of “home team” cars. Being the only person from “the other team” can be somewhat disconcerting to say the least. This tied in perfectly with Traveler’s tag line which is “Travelers takes the scary out of Life”.

Logistically this job was very complex. How do you get control and ability to prop an entire parking lot full of cars, fill it with fans and shoot a generic large stadium? Click more to read on… Continue reading

Heli Shot over the Everglades

Did some heli work shooting Airboats in the Everglades the other day for VISIT FLORIDA shooting stills for a print and for a TV campaign. Here’s a series of production stills of us making a low pass over the airboat shooting for TV.

Gotta give props to our PJ pilot from Cameracopters! Those guys know how to fly. Earlier in the day we were hovering over a 38 foot cabin cruiser on the ocean going about 40 miles per hour and we were so close I got hit by some of the bow spray from the boat!
Fun Stuff!

Technically Speaking: How we made the magic for Miami CVB Tourism:

Mural Shot:

As with all of the shots, we were tasked with combining the art of the selected artist with a location that could represent a particular part of Miami. As Miami has many different areas, these areas must be represented in some way in the various ads. This one was set in Coconut Grove and was to portray the feeling and flavor of the Grove experience. The Grove got it’s start as a sort of artsy area and has evolved over the years to a place where you can go and eat at various outdoor cafes, enjoy the nightlife, catch some live music, etc…

This shot was to show people eating outdoors at a café on the corner with a large painted urban style mural of a musical party on the facing wall. It was to look like late afternoon, moody, almost twilight. There are two people running on the sidewalk and actually jumping into the mural. In this situation, real life meets the art and art meets real life. This is repeated with the city skyline in the mural itself where it blends with the buildings and trees.

As with most of the shots in this campaign, we photographed several different elements to create the final image. Once all elements were shot we handed them off to retoucher Michael Kerbow from Skeleton Studios to create the composite.

We scouted a location that had an outdoor café with good light exposure from the east so we could shoot it and fake it for late afternoon. To save money on talent, the café people are actually people from the creative department from the ad agency. One of the models did not show up for the shoot so the left girl seated is actually shown twice but no one seems to notice. The running models were cast from a talent agency. We shot these models running and jumping separately on white seamless at a different location on another day to simplify the on location shooting. To the right of the frame was actually a driveway of brick pavers that led to a parking garage which started right where the girls rear foot touches the ground. We shot a side of a building elsewhere that would match the perspective and texture of the wall that we wanted to lay the mural on in post. This would make the mural painting look like it was actually painted on a real wall not just stripped in. We also shot multiple condo buildings and trees so that we could have them peeking over the building and melding with the mural.

The mural artist (Danny Fila) provided us with several pieces of artwork (from an album cover artwork he had done) that Michael then pieced together to create the wall mural. Careful attention had to be paid to create enough space for the models that were to jump into the painting. We had Danny paint additional art that could be incorporated into the frame as well, such as her painted arm, torso and leg, extra musical notes and a custom city skyline that we could match with the condo buildings and trees we shot. Once Michael had composed the scene in post, I asked him to darken it slightly overall to addto the late afternoon mood and also to add one extra ceiling fan and turn on the lights digitally as they were off when we shot them.

From there the image comes back to me for final color palette exploration and adding of the illustration and painterly effect. * When viewed closely at 50% or larger on the master files you can begin to see how the image was transformed into more of a painterly look where it almost starts to look like an actual painting where the pixels actually flow more like fluid paint than photo pixels. (see detail enclosed)


South Beach Waves Shot:

The Artist who’s work is featured in this ad is name Avner Zabari. He creates whimsical art furniture that is very much influenced by Miami and it’s architecture and landscape. (or waterscape in this case) See http://www.avner.com/showroom/index.php?item=166&prod_year to see the original piece before we altered it. In this ad we had to combine shots of the benches (which would make up a sea of waves) with a model diving, the Art Deco skyline view of South Beach (from over the water perspective) and sky.

Creating the classic skyline view of South Beach turned out to be much more demanding than one might think. In recent years, the city has planted a zillion palm trees between Ocean Drive and the beach. You no longer can see the Art Deco buildings from an aerial perspective over the water like you once could. To get around this we did several things. We scouted and shot some from a helicopter but it became apparent that there was no way to create this view by shooting it this way. The client purchased the rights to an old stock shot that had the basic angle and look of the scene we wanted. The problem was that the proportions were all wrong… it was not nearly wide enough to cover the wide canvas that we needed. To get around this, I went to South Beach and shot many of the buildings straight on and at slight angles to get a myriad of “puzzle pieces” so tospeak, so that we could add buildings to extend the canvas to the proper proportions. Special care was taken to ensure we got the correct approximate time of day so that the lighting would match the overall scene and thebits of the stock shot that would be used alongside my original artwork. We shot the diver jumping on a trampoline against a white seamless background. It was lit from below so that when you invert him in the computer to the correct diving position, he would be lit from the correct angle by the “sun”. Lastly the furniture itself was shot at the artist’s studio. The challenge here was that he only had 8 benches and the ad requires well over 100. We set up the 8 benches and shot them repeatedly at different positions and perspectives to give ourselves plenty of originals to use in composition. Shooting many distances and angles allowed for proper placement in the composition where the perspective has to match and look as if it is really receding into the background.

Once all pieces parts were shot, the task of assembly went to our retouching team. We were under extreme time deadlines on this one as the client had media placement deadlines that were looming. Michael started by putting together the benches, I knocked out the diver and delivered it masked to him. To save time we hired a retoucher out of NY who put together the preliminary building shots to form the background plate, Michael then extended this plate due to a last minute proportion change. Once all the ocean waves had been created using a sea of benches, Michael finished the composition of the final shot and sent it back to me for final color pallet exploration and illustration and painterly looks to be applied by me here in Florida. . * When viewed closely at 50% or larger on the master files you can begin to see how the image was transformed into more of a painterly look where it almost starts to look like an actual painting where the pixels actually flow more like fluid paint than photo pixels. (see detail enclosed)

Pool Strawberry shot:

This shot was to represent the culinary art of Chef Heddy Goldsmith. The Miami location represented is the pool of the historic Raleigh Hotel on South Beach. The creative challenge on this one was to create a pool full of strawberry dipping sauce and fill the Raleigh pool with it. We shot the pool location and models first. As most of the talent was going to be small we actually shot the same 4 models multiple times. We just re-dressed them in different wardrobe and shuffled their positions around the pool. I have done this many times when working with large groups that are virtually non recognizable and it works great to save money on talent. The material for the sauce was created by a food stylist in studio in a custom made Plexiglas container that we made special to recreate the perspective we needed. The original creative called for a mango sauce which is one of Heddy’s specialty creations, but the brownish orange color made the pool look more like a sewage treatment facility than an enticing sweet pool, so a creative decision was made to color correct the liquid to a pink. A hand model was hired to dip various fruits into the sauce. Our retoucher Michael then combined the elements and added reflections then the images was returned to me to explore and set the color pallet and add the illustration and painterly effects.

Orchid Dancer Shot:

This shot was to represent art of urban dancer Zedric Bembry. The creative here required a composition of multiple shots of Zedric to be put together in a way that made him create an orchid flower. The location setting was that of the mangroves in Everglades National Park.

The first objective on this one was to scout and shoot the mangroves, I wanted an area where I could flank the dancer on either side with a border of mangroves and have a visual path to guide your eye into the shot (which we placed the flower and dancer) to give it added depth and dimension. The background is made up of 5 different shots.

To set the direction of the dancer shot, we first had to pick which Orchid we wanted to shoot. There are literally hundreds of various species of Orchid plants. This one was picked for it’s vibrant color and fluid shapes. The flower & stem itself was shot separately in studio and created from 3 different plants to form the shape and composition we wanted. Where the flower bud meets Zedric was actually a blend of the bud and part of his body to start the premise of him being the flower.

We spent the day shooting Zedric in the studio. We had him jumping and hitting various dance poses which we then began doing low rez comps of the different dance positions while on set. This allowed us to create each piece that we needed to emulate the flower as close as possible. Custom made body suits and materials were used to give the color we wanted and also to create the illusion of flower petals. The center most prominent image of Zedric was styled in a more urban style to fit who Zedric really is.We opted for the more serious expression as it showed the concentration he exhibits when dancing. Smiles looked too posed and cheesy.

Again, composition of all elements were made by Michael Kerbow of Skeleton Studio, then finishing work such as final color pallet exploration, illustration and painterly effects were added by me.

Beach Sculpture Shot:

This image was created using a large wooden sculpture of letters that were placed into position on the beach then we sprayed the entire piece with spray glue and covered it with sand to make it look as if it had been sculpted entirely out of sand.    We then styled the beach and placed our children around it.   If you notice there is a multi ethnic mix of children used to signify the cultural melting pot that is Miami.