May 09 2012

I’m Feeling More Glamourous Already

Update: A new session of my favorite Finding and Creating Great Portrait Lighting class was just announced for the weekend of August 11th & 12th. Disney Hall is my all-time favorite urban location that is a perfect laboratory for learning how to see light and make compelling compositions. You will come out as a changed photographer with some great photos.

It’s all because I now have Virginia Postrel as a new Twitter follower and Facebook friend. The glamour rubs off from from Virginia being the Editor-in-Cheif of DeepGlamour.net. We met back in 2004 when I was asked to create a portrait of her for a Research Magazine article where she was stressing the economic importance of design on a city. The new Frank Gehry designed Walt Disney Concert Hall had just opened and it seemed like the perfect place to highlight the style of Los Angeles.

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Opening night lighting on the Walt Disney Concert Hall

It was scouting for the portrait session that I learned that much of the grounds and building are considered public property and are open for public use. I now use it as a location to a teach a portrait lighting class through the Julia Dean Photo Workshop. The next meeting of my Finding and Creating Great Portrait Lighting class is coming up soon on the weekend of August 11th & 12th.

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My portrait of the glamourous Virginia Postrel

Unlike basic square buildings that simply have a sunny and shady side, the Gehry building is full of curves and reflections. This makes the background and the lighting formula change every time you walk around the corner. There are also some great views of the city from some of the balconies.

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Actor/model Michael Pierce surveying his city empire

The last time we held the class it actually rained in LA and just like a real photo shoot we improvised by jumping in and out of the building as the weather changed. This allowed us to explore the building interior more and the students ended up shooting some of their best photos of our models in the underground parking garage.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

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Mar 30 2010

I’ll take an emergency any day

I’ll even stage one if needed.

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A racing gurney and looks of concern make me happy

I’ve been fortunate to have done most of my healthcare photography at major medical institutions. Mostly at University of California, Los Angeles and recently at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. These are major trauma and research centers. The places you want to go when you have a major health issue like a heart attack.

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An EKG and exam in the emergency room

This series was shot to illustrate an integrated team approach to handling a heart attack from the arrival and evaluation in the ER and the examination and potential intervention in the angiogram suite.

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Opening a blocked blood vessel in the angiogram suite

Even though this case was a simulated heart attack I always enjoy the challenge of making the cases look realistic. They need to pass “the hallway test” of colleagues who will see the photos when this “Report to the Community 2010″ is printed.

As fun as it is for me to shoot these emergent situations. An often overlooked part of healthcare is preventing problems in the first place. This could be teaching healthy eating practices in an elementary school.

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Eating fruit and yogurt at a nutrition lesson

Or having a trusted relationship with your primary care doctor.

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Personal interaction builds a bond of trust between patient and doctor

In real life, patient areas don’t have that refined TV look that you find on “House“, nor are research labs as stylish as they are on “Bones” and the “CSI” shows.

The first challenge is always to understand what’s going on in the lab and determine how to communicate that unique story. In this case the researcher is doing an advanced DNA screening of an individual patient to calculate the respond to an expensive chemotherapy medication. This is an early stage of personalized medicine.

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DNA screening to match effective treatment for a chemotherapy drug

Having cancer is about more than how your DNA reacts to treatment, it’s also about how you deal with the emotional aspect of the disease.

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A cancer survivor volunteers to hear patient's concerns

Prevention, bonding, research and emotional health are important part of care. I love showing it all.

But that still doesn’t beat sending a trauma team racing down the hall.

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Trauma team racing down a hallway

All these photos were taken for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and were published in their “Report to the Community 2010“. A great interactive version of the report was created by the Doyle/Logan Company as well.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

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Nov 09 2009

the best iPhone photography app

Much of the talk about using the iPhone camera surrounds additional apps that you can use to tint, crop, zoom or selectively focus your photos. There are titles that bounce around the internet like Must-have apps for iPhone photographersThe Five Best iPhone Apps For Travel Photography and The Best Camera “ecosystem”.

I find some of the apps useful for making it easier to crop, adjust the exposure and upload to a photo sharing site; but I find that most of the tinting and special effects features to be cheap tricks. Most of the time the app will simply transform a bad photo into a bad photo with a blue tint.

To me, the most most important app is the person taking the photo.

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Surfer on the Venice Beach boardwalk

The beauty of the iPhone is that it’s always with you. The camera function is both very easy to use and at the same time very hard because it’s such a simple camera. The camera works great for basic snapshots of friends, but I wanted to see how it would perform in the stress test of the Venice Beach boardwalk.

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Beach visiter taking a cool drink by the iconic wooden umbrella clusters

The boardwalk is both a target rich environment with a collection of colorful characters, and a very challenging place to shoot. The light is harsh and the action is quick.

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The palm reader's sign blocked the sun creating a perfect north light studio

You have to look for the places that either have good light already or find a simple way to control the light. There isn’t an app made yet that will help you identify ways to control light by shooting your subject in front of a backdrop, or moving them in front of the sun.

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I moved the stilt-walker in front of the sun and palm trees

Since we use the iPhone’s screen to preview the photo, shooting into the sun is even harder. Unlike looking through a camera viewfinder, on the iPhone you have the confusion of the reflection on the screen and the glare behind the phone. Half the time it seems like I’m guessing at the composition. The shooting is similar to using the cheap plastic Diana camera where the joy come from the surprises created by the lack of control.

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Catching action is an advanced skill

The other issue with the camera is the shutter lag. Venice Beach is full of action and all good street shooters pride themselves at being able to capture the “decisive moment“, but with the time delay you have to press the shutter button a half second before you think something may happen. (You can control this a bit by being aware that the shutter is actually activated by releasing, instead of pressing the shutter button.)

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Quick movements often produce a warped effect

There is also a odd warping effect that’s created by the iPhone using a rolling shutter. Instead of the exposure being created all at once by the aperture effect you see on the screen, the scene is being quickly scanned. In the shot above, the head section was scanned first and the legs moved to the right by the time the scan made it down to the bottom.

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The light weight of the iPhone makes it easy to shoot down

One of my big shooting surprises is that now I’m often holding the camera straight out and shooting down. Instead of having my face up to the view-finder, the iPhone already starts away from my face and it’s a quick movement to point the iPhone down. Instead of the normal Hail Mary Shot that photojournalists use in a crowd to get the camera higher. I’m finding that I do the same thing shooting down. I simply guess at the framing and swing with the action.

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There's a whole new world down below

For most people, I suspect the hardest part about doing iPhonetography is using the moderate wide-angle lens. The view is similar to what you would get on a full frame 35mm camera using a 35mm lens. Our minds are very good at zooming into a scene to examine the front wheel pattern above, but we’re less well trained to see the wider view while being aware of all the action that’s shown below.

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Learning to see all the elements in the wide view is an acquired skill

I’m constantly working at striking the balance between simplifying and getting something interesting in the frame. When I first arrived at the beach I noticed a large sailboat on the horizon. But it was too small in the frame by itself, so I chased it down the beach while searching for something to place in the foreground. First there was a volleyball game, then a life-guard stand and finally I spotted a surfer balancing a board on his head to change his shirt.

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A balance between a simple background and a foreground surfer to fill the frame

Years of experience and learning to see like the iPhone camera is the real secret app in iPhonetography.

None of these photos required any special app filters or effects. I did use my normal workflow of opening the photos in Photoshop CS4 Camera Raw (even jpgs from the iPhone can be processed this way) and making some simple exposure adjustments and clean-up.

I took these shots in preparation of teaching an iPhonetograpy class at the Julia Dean Photo Workshops. The class is scheduled for December 6th. I hope to see you there.

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

@MarkHarmel

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