Category Archives: Photography

Whats in my camera bag

The inspiration for this blog post came to me one day when I went looking for a set of memory cards which had some images that I needed to upload to my computer. For the life of me, I couldn’t find them after looking through practically every pocket in my backpack.

The kit and caboodle

The kit and caboodle

I eventually found them in the bottom of my bag but only after I had taken practically everything out. That’s when I realised that I carry alot of gear. While it can seem like a bit of overkill to most people, I have found that this is the most flexible kit for the type of photography that I do. As the photo editor of a lifestyle magazine in Ho Chi Minh City, contract photographer for airbnb, and Global Assignments photographer for Getty, I have to be ready for anything. That’s not even including the random freelance gigs I pick up.  For example, my Friday involved four different property shoots, a restaurant review, an environmental portrait and a location for a photo essay commission for a magazine in Cambodia. Granted, this was a pretty busy day and there aren’t too many days where I bring the kit and caboodle out but it’s reassuring to myself and more importantly my clients that I can bring it to the table if need be.

So let’s go through the contents of my bag starting from left to right.

Here’s the left side:

The left side

The left side

This is the most flexible bit depending on how long my day can be. If it’s a long, multiple shoot day, then I carry my Macbook Pro, my Funny Power battery pack (yes, it is actually called this), a Logitech bluetooth mouse, a multitool, pens, moleskin notebook, Kindle, krama, an extra shirt, a carry case which has an assortment of cables and power adaptors and laptop charger in a carry case.

If it’s a quick shoot and I expect to be back at my house after a couple of hours, I will generally leave out the laptop and peripherals but this hardly ever happens.

Middle here:

The middle

The middle

This is the camera gear section. Stored in the Timbuk 2 Snoop Camera insert is a Canon 5D Mark III with 17-40 f/4 lens attached. Also stored is a Canon 24-70 f/2.8 Mark I and a Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. All three are L lenses but as you can see, I like using gaffer tape and so I tend to gaff anything that can be eye-catching. So no red rings on these guys. Below the case is the fastest lens in my arsenal: a 20 year old Pentax 50mm f/2 lens with Canon EF adaptor. You can also find an extra camera battery (I should probably buy two more), 144GB’s of SD cards, 48GB’s of CF cards, a battery charger and a Benro travel tripod which I put gaffer tape on. You never know when you’ll need some gaff.

Lately, my 24-70 has taken a back seat to the 50. It’s super bright, sharp as a tack even at f/2 and is about 80% lighter. What’s not to love?

The right side is where I have my lighting kit.

DSCF2641_right

In the yellow bag you will find my Godox AD360 strobe light. It also carries the battery pack, power cord, charger, flash bulb, umbrella-style reflector, wireless receiver, Ft-16 wireless transmitter and Cells II-C high-speed sync transmitter. The two rectangular bricks below that are two Godox V850 speedlites with wireless receivers. Below that are a Rogue flash grid, 3 in 1 reflector (gold, silver, shoot through scrim), a Sto-fen diffuser and my Roscoe Sampler Gel pack which I grabbed from Samy’s about 12 years ago. Above the yellow bag is a 1.5 metre silver umbrella. The tripod doubles as a lightstand in a pinch.

And what stores all of this gear?

Built for war, used for photography

Built for war, used for photography

And it’s not even a real camera bag. Made by Tactical Backpacks, the Rush 24 Backpack is a monster piece of kit. I don’t know much about them other than they make quite a bit of military type gear. My go to bag for around a decade has been a Lowepro Vertex AW300. It’s got a huge inner compartment and has pockets for everything but sometimes it’s time for a change. So let’s get into the bag a bit.

The inside compartment

The inner compartment

As you can see from the photo above, the inner compartment is hollow and has three distinct compartments to store random things. The compartment is absolutely huge and this is where I put my camera equipment in the Timbuk2 insert along with the yellow insert that holds the Godox AD360. There is also a small pocket to hold your sunglasses that can be accessed via the top of the bag. I love this as I am constantly trying to figure out where to put my glasses inbetween shoots. One niggly thing about these compartments are the zippers on the top and bottom of each compartment. I’ve accidentally unzipped the bottom zip quite a few times while in a hurry and am thinking about gluing them shut so it doesn’t happen again.

The bottom front compartment

The bottom front compartment

While not as spacious as the inner compartment, this holds quite a bit of stuff. Pretty much everything on the left side of the bag goes into this pocket. The two pockets on the outer part of the compartment are a perfect fit for the two Godox V850’s.

The top front pockets

The top front pockets

These pockets aren’t that big but are perfect for small things that I need easy access to. The multitool, business cards, battery pack and earbuds are usually stuffed in here.

The laptop compartment

The laptop compartment

Lastly is the laptop compartment which is supposed to be a hydration pocket. Usually there is some padding for the laptop but not in this case. A thin plastic sheet is what keeps my 15″ Macbook Pro from touching my back. In all honesty, it isn’t uncomfortable but it is a very tight fit. So tight that I am contemplating moving to a 13″ for my next laptop purchase. You can also see the side pocket where I store my krama and extra shirt.

Well, that’s the super long winded description of what’s in my camera bag.

All suited up and ready to go

All suited up and ready to go

Also posted in Strobism Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

I make a really really big photo

Due to my work as a contract photographer for airbnb, I get access to property all over the city. Taking advantage of this access, I take a few frames after the shoot if they have a wide view of the city. Once I get home, I stitch them together for really wide views of the skyline.

Here is one of Binh Thanh district from District 2’s Thao Dien Ward.

Taken from 15 floors

Taken from 15 floors

This one is from Bui Vien, the famous backpacker street in the Pham Ngu Lao area.

Taken from 13 floors

Taken from 13 floors

I usually shoot these images at around 20mm to 40mm focal length which doesn’t make for large images. The most they run is 15,000 pixels on the long side at most.

Which takes me to the most recent attempt. I read about the Brenizer method in portraiture  and thought I could easily do that for the panoramics that I have been shooting.

Boy was I wrong.

Luckily, I had an airbnb shoot at the Copac Building in D4 a few days ago. I had shot in the building before and knew that it had a stunning northern view of District 1 and Thu Thiem, which is where the city has grand plans to build the new CBD. After the shoot, the host was gracious enough to let me shoot a total of 42 frames from her bedroom window. However, I decided to up the game a bit and shoot everything at 100mm at f/16 which gave tons of depth of field and let me get some serious details in each image.

Once I uploaded them, I brought them up in Lightroom and went to the Photomerge tool (Photo ->Photo Merge -> Panorama) and let the computer do it’s magic slog through the images. An hour later, I was presented with a rather cool stitched image.

Lots of white all around

Lots of white all around

Then I looked at the dimensions.

40,000 X 6000 pixels.

Yow.

Easily the largest one I’ve done so far. And handheld. No panorama head at work here!

Adjustments in Lightroom, an export to TIFF and some light NIK adjustments, some Content Aware and a final crop took another 4 hours.

Here is the whole image reduced to a reasonable size.

IMGL8132-Pano_Edited

And here is a 100% crop from the image. You can see the black box where I cropped it.

IMGL8132-Pano_LibertyCentralCrop
Talk about some serious detail.

Interested in some stupidly huge photos? Check out this link.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Wowy’s World

Wowy tells me what he thinks of my photo ideas.

Wowy tells me what he thinks of my photo ideas.

Sometimes the stars align and things just come together perfectly. This usually doesn’t happen with shoots that involve multiple decision makers, security guards about and time constraints.

When we first approached the idea of a portrait shoot of Wowy for Asia Life Magazine HCMC, we were trying to find a new angle to shoot him. We decided on a rooftop shot with a fisheye lens that gave the appearance that the city was his to take. He looked a bit apprehensive at first as the sample images we showed him were of the crazy Russian kids who sneak into tall buildings to take crazy photos. But after speaking to his PR people, he thought it was a great idea.

After a week or so of emails, we nailed down the day and met at Red Bar which we made our base of sorts to store gear. We were going to have two locations but typically, things didn’t get moving on time and we had to settle for one. Walking to Bitexco, we saw a bunch of security that we hoped wouldn’t interfere. Luckily, with security in Vietnam, as long as you aren’t carrying a huge softbox or brolly, they generally leave you alone to your own devices. However, we thought it would be best to make it fast.

Once we picked our spot, I laid down flat on the sidewalk and instructed my VAL’s (Voice Instructed Lightstands) on where to stand. I used a couple of Godox V850’s for the shoot. Held by one of Wowy’s entourage, one V850 was attached with a bendy light mod that I picked up in Kuala Lumpur. Not as smooth as a softbox, it allowed me to get a nice spread of light to fill up Wowy. Since I was using the excellent Canon 8-15 f/4 Fisheye lens, I had to get him to crouch directly behind me. Wowy’s head of PR was holding the second V850 about 10 feet to my left. Zoomed to 105mm’s, she always had the flash pointed on Wowy’s head for a nice rim light. Both flashes were on HSS and a Cells II trigger was attached to my 5D Mark III.  After doing a couple of power adjustments with the FT-16 trigger, we were ready to go.

He is really good at doing his thing.

Wowy doing his thing.

As you can see, Wowy is a great subject.

We managed to fire around 20 frames before someone inside the tower told the security to shut us down. However, I think we managed to get the shots we needed. At least at this location.

Our next location would have been a rooftop at an apartment in District 5 but we were pressed for time. I wanted another location so we headed to the newly opened Nguyen Hue street. While we were walking there, I snapped off a few frames which came out pretty good considering I was constantly looking behind me to make sure I wasn’t running into anyone!

Waving to his adoring fans.

Waving to his adoring fans.

Originally a big four lane road, the municipality closed it for a few months and turned it into a pedestrian only area. I parked myself dead center in the street and again told Wowy to do his thing.

Jumping for joy.

Jumping for joy.

We spent about 10 minutes here and fired about 15 frames. After a review with Kendra, our awesome art director, we decided it was a wrap.

But not before Wowy grabbed my camera for a group shot.

It's a wrap!

It’s a wrap!

A few more photos from the session:

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

Wowy portrait for Asia Life

 

Also posted in Strobism, Vietnam Tagged , , , , , , , , |

airbnb property in District 2

I am a huge fan of airbnb. My wife and I constantly use it whenever we head out of Ho Chi Minh City as we love the homely feel of airbnb properties. In all honesty, it comes down to this: I like waking up and drinking my morning coffee without the rigamarole of getting dressed.

The service is also one of my regular clients. I’ve worked as one of their verified photographers in Ho Chi Minh City for the past few months. What that means is that once I take photos of a property, it becomes ‘verified’.

For a guest looking to book a place, it gives them the assurance of what they see is what they get as it is airbnb approved. For the host, it ensures that their property is documented by a vetted professional photographer which, according to airbnb, can mean up to 2.5 times more bookings. And, it’s free to the host.

For me, I get a nice steady gig of a few properties a month along with a chance to check out some places in town I can recommend for friends heading my way. I also enjoy meeting the hosts who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Each property has its own personality and I enjoy the challenge of being able to represent them in photos. For instance, a recent place in District 1 on Tran Quang Khai street. While located in a block style apartment complex, the apartment definitely has a personality of its own.

The living space for Cuongs pad

The living space for Tylers pad

The living space has a couple of repurposed colonial window shutters that serve as the base for the coffee table and work table. I love the cushions that dot the seats.

Old furniture

Old furniture

I also love the old furniture. As a plus, he has given me the address to the warehouse where he bought the stuff!

airbnb property for Tyler

The guest bedroom

airbnb property for Tyler

The master bedroom

Both bedrooms are nice and airy with huge windows bringing in tons of natural light which is great for a photographer. Once again, tons of those lovely cushions that I really love.

What’s also nice about working with airbnb is that they want a natural look to the photos. While I still did some post in photoshop, it’s pretty much what it looked like in camera.

If you are interested in staying at Tylers place, you can click here. You can also stay in each individual bedroom and still use the great living area by clicking here and here.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Photos from past issues

Just wanted to put up some photos from past issues of Asia Life that didn’t manage to make the cut due to space constraints. I have also given some lighting setups to go with the images.
Fencing in Saigon

A side photo of the always fun Noelle Carr-Ellison who I met whilst at my former job at City Pass Guide. She was gracious enough to be my model for the occasion.

Fencing with Noelle

Fencing with Noelle

Lighting: Godox AC360 just behind me in a Paul Buff PLM with diffuser. Godox Ving 850 to the subject right in softbox, Godox Ving 850 to subject left in a softbox but raised higher up to her mask.

The AC360 was just pushed high enough to get Noelle barely lit. The light on her right is pushed a stop higher to give that nice rim light. The light on her left gives a bit of definition to her mask and also manages to touch the saber just a hair. Her face was brought up in post and everything was desaturated a bit to make the image pop.

Platinum Beer in Ho Chi Minh City

The second is of Michael, the man behind Platinum beer. I love shoots like this. Michael was a pleasure to work with and was very comfortable in front of the camera. That and the few beers we ::ahem:: tasted before the shoot made it even more fun!

Two shots, same lighting, different focal lengths.

Beer mustache

Beer mustache

A bit wide

A bit wide

Lighting: Godox AC360 just behind me in a Paul Buff PLM. Godox Ving 850 to the subject left bounced off a white wall, Godox Ving 850  behind subject on the keg in a grid.

I love how the PLM shapes the light and creates just a bit of a hot spot which I found I can kinda control by moving the flash in and out on the PLM. The light on his left just gives him a bit of definition which makes the subject pop.

Well, that’s about it for now. Hope you enjoyed the images and the small lighting notes as well!

Vinh

Also posted in portrait Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

The Wedding Factory

Many local photographers use the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1 as a backdrop to their wedding photos. This busy Saturday morning had at least 7 photographers shooting around the area.

Wedding photography at the Cathedral

Wedding photography at the Cathedral

A hip couple goes for something a bit different

A hip couple goes for something a bit different

Sometimes prime real estate can get a bit busy.

Pick a spot and hold your ground

Pick a spot and hold your ground

Walking to the next spot

Walking to the next spot

In the thick of it all, it’s sometimes hard to forget it’s about two people in love. Then you take the shot below and you remember.

Awwww

Congratulations

 

 

 

 

Also posted in Vietnam Tagged , , , , , , |