Could've Been Bike Shorts...

"You could always make bike shorts if your idea doesn't work out."

To the nice Hobby Lobby lady who sold me a couple yards of Spandex: Thanks for not tripping out when I showed you some weird reference images on Pinterest and then asked me to come back later show what I ended up making.

So yea, this one went super dark and ghostly. Like the way these things normally start off, I'd been sitting on a handful of reference images and used them as a starting point to make something; I'm suuuper interested in selective focus and in-camera effects.

The internet told me I'd need to shoot through some kind of transparent layer so I started experimenting with different types of plastic diffusion and fabrics. I was looking for something translucent and would look interesting on camera when you touched it. A trip to an arts and crafts store had me finding a couple different types of Spandex that were on sale. Figured I'd need a frame to stretch the fabric to keep it taught, so it was off to Home Depot to spend like $3 on two 1" x .5" x 8' pieces of cheap lumber. I used screws to keep the pieces together and attached the Spandex using spring clips.

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Once I got the framed fabric and my camera setup, it took a bit of experimenting before I finally landed on a look. I'd bought both white and black versions of Spandex and tried out each one individually as well as layering them. The white looked more interesting with the lighting and shadows; Having the black layered behind the white kept the setup from being translucent.

Initially I had the lighting setup on camera right with no diffusion and in front of the fabric. That made for some interesting looking long shadows on camera as I touched the Spandex screen, but wasn't the look I wanted. With how I pictured the edit and knowing I'd never be able to reproduce the light to dark gradient across the screen, I moved the light above the frame but still frontlighting the fabric. Most of the reference images I had were backlit, but I wasn't able to reproduce that look with how small a space I was using. Moving the overhead light just behind the fabric worked for the space I had and gave me the look I wanted. I didn't use any of the footage with my hands in front of the backlit fabric, but it still made for some interesting looking imagery as the light interacted with the fabric stretching the other direction.

A monitor tethered to the camera allowed me to see what I was doing as I was interacting with the fabric. The initial imagery I was getting looked super dark and ghostly and reminded me of a Nine Inch Nails track I'd heard from an interview with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross on the Song Exploder podcastI'd highly recommend checking it out if you've not heard it already.

The initial test footage was shot at 48 frames/second, but was still too fast for the look I wanted. 60 frames/second didn't work either, so I lowered my camera resolution from 8k to 6k widescreen so I could get to 99.9 frames/second on my RED Weapon Helium. The movement speed looked right, but I ran into flicker issues with the lighting and my shutter set to 180°. The FLICKERfree iPhone app fixed that by letting me know I needed a 299.7° shutter angle. Thanks internet...

Another unexpected result from the testing was how flexible the look was once I got it into post; Obviously though working with a high-end camera and raw .r3d files doesn't hurt. My reference images were black and white, but after experimenting with different color temperatures I again fell in love with shooting with tungsten lighting on a white background at 4500k. Neither the blacks nor whites were being clipped in the raw .r3d files so there was still all the color information to use in post. I kept the in camera dark and ghostly look for this edit and didn't do any color correction or grading, but can easily imagine other possibilities with this footage.

After 8pm

Anne the Wife and I gots the two kids: one is 5 years old, the other is 11 months. Turns out neither of them can be trusted to cook, bathe, and/or get themselves ready for bed on their own, so we pretty much close up shop after 6pm for family stuff. By the time we get those two tiny humans fed, cleaned up, and to sleep, Anne and I basically collapse from the day only to get up the next morning to start all over.

A couple weeks ago Anne and The Boys were out of town a few days and I made it a point to be out after 8pm. That's a freakin' double rainbow covered in unicorns around here so I lined up a shoot with an absolute BEAST of a dancer I met through Instagram named Emmett Prince. He's a dance student at the University of Central Oklahoma and was up to shoot around downtown Oklahoma City after dark with a couple complete strangers.

Somehow I also wrangled another two filmmaker buddies of mine to help out on our shoot: John Dewberry is a saint and a kick arse AC; Steve Mathis's last real jobs were gaffing Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, so he basically just puts up with me.

In getting all this nonsense together, I had a couple key reference images and videos plus I was listening to a ton of Frank Ocean and Anderson .Paak. There wasn't a proper storyline, but I had the locations in mind and I wanted to work with a black male dancer in his early 20s. If you're up for it, here's the link to download the look book as well as the music playlist we used during the shoot.

All the nervousness kicked in right before our 8pm call time and I was ready to puke in the parking lot just to get it over with. The three guys on the project were donating their time and I made sure to keep the shoot under two-ish hours total with a round of drinks on me afterwards. I'd scouted earlier in the week and lucked out with all of the locations being pretty close to each other. The look at the first location didn't end up working and we only made it to three of the other five locations I had in mind. The footage we were getting felt right and I had no problem nixing the other two spots so we could keep within the promised time frame. Crazy thanks to John the AC for snapping some behind the scenes pics at our last location.

There's always the urge to just throw money at a project and this one was no different. That being said, I didn't have the money to throw at it. And two, I know through personal experience that throwing money at a thing isn't always the best solution. The goal was to shoot this project in a way where I was participating with the talent vs. simply observing them at a distance. This could've been a great situation to break out my Steadicam setup, but I knew I'd need to rent out a wireless follow focus and monitor package for my AC. An EasyRig would've been IDEAL to balance out a handheld look and not straight up kill my back, but again I'd need to rent one of those. "No self-respecting Director/DP would go into creative battle without the proper tools," right?

I'd packed my Steadicam but ended up not using it after only a few minutes – the camera angles just weren't right; Thank goodness I didn't drop the money on a wireless follow focus and monitor kit rental. I'm not going to say an EasyRig wouldn't have been helpful, but not shooting with one actually freed me up to try camera angles and movements that I wouldn't have otherwise.

One key piece of additional gear was a battery powered Bluetooth speaker. I've done shoots with music sputtering out through my iPhone, but the sound quality and volume is passable at best. We used a JBL Flip 4 connected to my phone and it worked like a champ. The burrito sized speaker was loud enough, sounded great, and the setup was dummy-proof. Either John the AC was holding it or I had it clipped to the small messenger bag I had on me throughout the shoot.

For the gear-heads, we shot with my RED Weapon Helium at 8k widescreen and ether 60 or 48 frames/second depending on the light levels. In terms of lensing, my 25mm Zeiss CP.2 emphasized the on-screen talent and his performance, but didn't separate him from the locations like a tighter lens would. I swear if I were forced to choose between a 25mm lens or food and water, I'd still pick food and water but I'd have to think about it for a minute.

We were shooting with existing light at each location so we tested to make sure we weren't getting a flicker fight between shutter speeds and the light fixtures. The first two locations had no beef with a typical 180° shutter, but at one point we had to break out John's FLICKERfree Calculator app and adjust accordingly.

Knowing that we'd be dealing with lower light levels, I evicted the Standard OLPF that's set up camp in my RED for the Low Light version. It’s the first time I'd used it so I made sure to check out test footage online beforehand – which for the most part ended up being a waste of time. There's very few situations where I'd use the Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF, but I feel like the Low Light optimized version helped to give me just a bit more light, especially with my T2.1 lens and shooting around ISO 1600-2000 on the high end. All of this footage is straight out of camera BTW using RED's RedGamma 4 / Dragon Color 2 look – which I absolutely dig. Given the opportunity, I'd love to see what a qualified colorist could do with the raw .r3d files.

DIRECTOR, CAMERA, & EDITOR - me
FEATURING - Emmett Prince
CAMERA ASSISTANT - John Dewberry
GAFFER - Steve Mathis
MUSIC - "White" by tiedy ky

Shooting with Penny Pitchlynn

Meet Penny Pitchlynn. She's a badass. She's the Norman, OK, based musician behind LABRYS plus she's the bass player in the indie rock band BRONCHO. I also remember her Low Litas days awhile back. She reached out a few weeks ago through a buddy of mine and we finally got to work on something together. Have I mentioned I'm always down to make stuff with other creatives? 'Cause I am.

When she reached out I immediately knew I didn't want to shoot something with her playing or an interview about her music projects – there's plenty of solid stuff out there already. I did want to try and play with contrasts though. I'm always a fan of the idea of who we are vs. the person we sometimes need to be. In setting up the shoot, I sent Penny some reference images and an idea of a person being in two different worlds; Kinda like how I feel about being on LinkedIn.

This was also a bit of a shotgun blast in the dark with hopes of hitting something. "Hey, let's try a book light." "Oh I know! Let's shoot white on black and black on white!" "Man, that Vaseline on a clear flat would be cool." "What about shooting through a curved piece of glass to distort the image?" If you're up for it, here's a link to download the look book I put together for the shoot.

Penny had an interesting comment while we were shooting and trying out different techniques and ideas. She mentioned it was kinda like her time in the recording studio and recording with different microphones. There's not always one right way to do something and there's creative value in trying different approaches.

CRAZY thanks again to Cynthia Dreier for coming on again to be part of a personal project. Seriously, she's one of my favorite people to work with on set. Obviously she kills it with the hair and makeup, but more than that I trust her and the ideas she brings to keep things looking great on camera.

For wardrobe, I had Penny bring a couple different options but stuck with solid white and black. I knew I was going for a Polished vs. Rough look and wanted contrasting white-on-black and black-on-white, but wasn't set on which was which personality beforehand.

I did the whole "convert-your-bedroom-into-a-simple-studio" thing again with a white paper backdrop for one setup and a black piece of fabric for the other. I knew I wanted to feature Penny and especially her facial expressions, so I didn't try to go all dark and moody" with the lighting. Again, I used my styrofoam bust to rough in the lighting setups before having the talent sit in.

For the black background, I setup a book light to camera left using an ARRI 650 bounced off some white paper I'd taped to the wall and pushed through a roll of diffusion hanging from a C-stand. I also used a small ARRI 150 through diffusion as a backlight on camera right to help separate her from the background.

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For the white background, I'd originally planned to stay with the book light on camera left as the key, but having such a large light source made the white background too bright and distracting. Having the background brighter than Penny's face wasn't working and I didn't have a way – or the space – to cut the background spill from the book light. I swapped the lighting setup so the key light was a smaller source and coming from above. Now that the source was smaller, I was able to use a solid flag to cut even more of the spill from making its way to the white background.

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For the in-camera effects, I used a thin coat of Vaseline on a clear flat in the matte box for some shots as well as shooting through a curved lens. Shooting through the Vaseline made for softer edges and a cloudy image if you use too much. Yes, I know... I used too much of it in some of the shots and it's distracting – fight me. I also used the curved lens of a pair of plastic safety glasses held right in front of the lens to make the double image distortion. I've also tried shooting through curved glass like wine glasses and vases, but keep coming back to the smaller lenses on safety glasses. Shooting through the curved lens changes the path of the light as it gets to the image sensor.

Fashion Films with Tony Li

Have you guys met Tony Li? You should.

"TONY LI is an American Photographer and Creative with an emphasis in fashion, commercial, editorial, and model development. He is a design graduate of The Art Institute of Dallas with an 11+ year background in the apparel industry ranging from management to visual merchandising." - via thetonyliproject.com

I first caught Tony's work something like 15+ years ago while I was still in school. Luckily we've been able to start working together the last few years. This short fashion film for the Kim Dawson Modeling Agency is probably our biggest collaboration at this point.

We'd been looking for something to work on together – i.e., me constantly pestering him about shooting something till he wore down. He does a ton of work for the Kim Dawson Agency and they'd reached out about doing a fashion film featuring Cassius Simpson for their 2017 Model Search; That's where I come in. Tony did the heavy-lifting with the concept, styling, and putting the team together then leaned on me and my narrative storytelling experience. I also shot and cut the piece, but we don't have to get into that.

One thing I will mentioned is how freakin' awesome it is working with on-camera talent who know what they're doing on camera. No disrespect for those I've worked with over the years, but there's an ocean between the talking head pieces with corporate-types running major organizations vs. professional models whose livelihood depends on their look and how they deliver on camera. Good lord just look at these beautiful people...

Tony killed it with the location and wardrobe. Seeing as how I wear a limited rotation of hiking pants, t-shirts, and running shoes, there's no need for my fashion input. We'd planned to shoot a few hours in Tulsa and then head out the the Tall Prairie Reserve outside Pawhuska, OK. The shoot somewhat felt cursed seeing as how our main talent's flight got pushed three times and cut our crazy long day in half. We had to nix the Tulsa part of the shoot and just make it up as we went outside civilization in Pawhuska.

When I can, I try to be crazy intentional in the gear and creative choices made. We shot with my RED Weapon Helium and Zeiss CP.2 lens set (25/35/50/85) – mostly at 8k widescreen at 60 frames/second. Widescreen was a good fit visually for the flat, wide-open location vs. a narrower frame. Going handheld (with a rented EasyRig/Serene Arm setup) let me move quickly from shot to shot and setup to setup vs. the time it would've taken to shuffle around with a tripod and/or dolly setup. Shooting at 60 frames per second gave me the grace to fake smooth-ish looking camera moves too. We had a couple PAs on set, but anything camera related was on me. Shoutout to PA Hans for making sweet haze love by stirring up gravel road dust via gas powered leaf blower. It made everything look like heaven, but I'm still cleaning that nonsense out of my camera innards.

I will say I beefed it with the polarized filter I was using. I knew we’d be out with big skies filling a good deal of the frame and I was primarily focused on using a polarizer to help deepen the blues. They're basically useless if you're shooting into the sun, but we did get a few shots where it was helpful. The problem though is that I ended up needing to direct a good part of the shoot and move quick to make sure we got what we needed before we lost our light. That being said, making sure my polarizer was in the correct position for each shot was honestly the first ball to drop in the additional responsibilities I was juggling. In some of the pre-dusk frame grabs you can see the darker blues in one corner of the frame thanks to the polarizer not being set properly vs. the more consistent sky color once I stoped using it closer to dusk. My bad…

Post-wise, those freakin' 8k files at a 12:1 compression were monsters. In total, we shot just over a terabyte of footage during the 2-3 hours on set and this back before my "oh hey, lets edit with proxy files" days. Thank goodness I've started cutting with proxies so the full-resolution files aren't bogging down my computer as bad. I hate not being able to edit as fast as I can think because I'm waiting on my computer to catch up. Plus I'm not having to pray my shots are in focus because proxies let me watch the clips at a higher playback resolution on my editing timeline. I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize again to my MacPro and Premiere setup; Glad I've matured and seen the light.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR & PRODUCER - Tony Li
DP & EDITOR - me
MODELS - Cassius Simpson & Marisa Harbert
HAIR & MAKEUP - LB Rosser
STYLIST - Tony Li
STYLIST ASSISTANT - Sarah Eliza Roberts
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT - Hans Kleinschmidt
MUSIC - "Longing" Max LL

SPECIAL THANKS - Kim Dawson Agency, Musicbed, East + West Tulsa, My Mod Mess

A Lighting Test

So this was a different thing. By far the most moody and stylized projects I’ve done to date verses what normally fills up my hard drives. I’ve been sitting on a couple reference images for a long time that I absolutely wanted to use but for one reason or another hadn't gotten around to shooting. The whole idea was wrapped around lighting, body structure, and direction. Well, that and my thing of always wanting to do stuff and a goal to post to my blog at least once a week this year.

In putting a treatment together – or at least a look book – I dug through a ton of references I’d already had stored away. I’ve also been listening to a TON of Anderson .Paak so I knew his music would be playing a major part. By the way, I'm awful at coming up with titles, so ignore the "Graceful Strength" part if you download the look book. This whole thing was more about a lighting test than anything proper.

There were also the self-imposed restrictions of a simple background, using my own equipment (short a couple c-stands and apple boxes), and keeping the talent either seated or lying down. I’d love to talk about my incredible studio space with all its incredible amenities, nice leather couches, and cases of LaCroix Sparkling Water, but instead I’ll show you my bedroom where I pushed everything up against the walls before the shoot and then reset before Anne the Wife got home.

Initially another model was lined up but reached out to someone else due to scheduling conflicts. Madison Bready is an OU student I met years ago and worked with a few times recently. Turns out Madi was absolutely the right person for the shoot. Cynthia Dreier is a makeup artist I’ve worked with on quite a few projects and she killed it in making sure Madi looked her best and kept us on track during the shoot. Did I mention Madi is an OU student, because we only had like 90 minutes to do makeup and shoot everything in between her classes that afternoon. Oh, and did I mention I was super happy with what we got? Because dang…

Gear-wise, we shot with my RED Weapon Helium at 8k, 60 fps, 2:1 aspect ratio, and 15:1 compression through my Zeiss CP.2 len set (25, 35, & 50). I'd also set my white balance to 4500k to warm up the tungsten light and white backdrop – along with her skin tones and haircolor. That being said, all the footage in the edit is straight out of camera; I didn't do any additional color work to the footage (or still frames). I also tried a step printing technique shooting at 8 fps and a 360° shutter angle, but it was at the last couple minutes of the shoot and I wasn’t really happy with the footage; I should’ve shot closer to 4 fps. For lighting, I setup an Arri 650 head through a couple scrims and two layers of diffusion. A bunch of black fabric hung on camera right helped control the spill. I’d roughed in the lighting setup using a styrofoam head on a light stand before the talent got there.

Post-wise, I knew the 8k files were going to be a monster. We shot about 325 GB of footage which isn’t nuts with my camera package, but honestly it’s a pain to edit such large files. Adobe Premiere on my Mac Pro setup will handle it like a champ, but having to lower the playback resolution to 1/8 or 1/16 just to just slog through the .R3D files is like tying that champ’s arm behind his back before going into a fight. I’d worked with offline edits WAY the hell back in the days of SD footage and tape decks, but this simple YouTube tutorial pretty much changed my workflow and is keeping me from looking so longingly at those fancy Alexa Minis and their blissful 4k sensor sizes.

Music is always the hardest part for me during an edit. I promise, I’m all about supporting other creatives and paying to license music, but after a genuinely solid effort I couldn’t find or afford something that fit as well – in my opinion – as this Anderson .Paak track. 99% of my edits start with a music track – especially with personal projects; It's got to feel right or else it's not worth the effort.

After I'd gotten somewhat through a rough edit (and several glasses of whiskey) I reached out to a few other creatives for feedback. Crazy thanks to those guys for the insanely solid ideas, helping me step back from how close I was to the work, and look at what I was missing.

Good grief I hope to do more of this soon.

ESPN's Draft Academy 2018

I always trip out seeing something I shot end up seeing the light of day. Back in February I was contacted by Evolve Studio about filming with one of the players featured in ESPN's Draft Academy 2018 season while he was in Oklahoma City.

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Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick was in town to accept the Jim Thorpe Award for the 2017 season and we ended up filming with him for two and a half days. I honestly couldn't say enough nice things about Minkah, the ESPN producer on-site for the shoot, and Evolve Studio. There were some pretty strict "no social media" guidelines and Evolve owned all the footage so I don't have any fancy framegrabs to show minus what is shown in the episode.

The ESPN series Draft Academy follows six of the top NFL prospects as they prepare for Draft Day and is exclusively on ESPN+. I've not seen all the episodes at this point, but it looks like the footage from my time with Minkah is in Episode 2: Body & Mind.

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The Best Emails...

"I saw your reel and site through some digging for a local OKC DP and your stuff looks really nice. I wanted to gauge your interest, availability, and rate for this project (we would like to see your rate include your camera package as well - Red Weapon correct?)."

I'm pretty sure these are the best kinds of emails – the ones out of the blue from someone I've never met wanting to work together after seeing other things I've already done.

Producer/Director Josh Guffey reached out about an upcoming shoot with an Oklahoma City based client. Pre-production was pretty straight forward through emails and phone calls before he and his team from Vidzu Media got to Oklahoma City. He'd seen another project I'd shot where we did a ton of setups in a short period of time with no additional lighting. It was a good reference of what this shoot was going to be like but with a little more resources (tools, crew, and budget). We had a quick scout the day before the shoot and then two days hustling around Oklahoma City cranking out what he already had scripted and storyboarded.

Gear-wise, we shot with my RED Weapon Helium & Zeiss CP.2 setup shooting 4k ProRes files. Additionally, we rented out a Movi/EasyRig setup, Teradek Bolt wireless kits, SmallHD AC/Director and Client monitors, and the DJI wireless follow focus system (not a fan BTW). Crazy thanks to ACs John Dewberry (day 1) and Britni Harris (day 2) for being wizards in camera land and keeping my nonsense together.

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Paper Backdrops

A client came up wanting to do a spot for a small clothing line they're working with. They sent over a couple other spots they liked that were shot against multiple solid color backgrounds. We didn't have the budget to paint and re-paint a studio cyc wall, so we went with solid colored paper backdrops.

I've shot a ton of "talking head" projects in client's offices over the years and just recently started using paper backdrops on some projects to try and up the production value vs. looking simply like "Oh hey, this room is big enough and we've got a window on that side."

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Talking heads are pretty simple: typically a locked off shot(s) and a person who's usually sitting down. For this shoot though the client wanted a mix of footage from close ups to full body shots and the on-camera talent would be moving around.

We had the budget to rent out a studio space here in the Oklahoma City area - Producer's Playhouse. The large space gave us the room needed to roll out enough paper as well as the space for the larger lighting footprint and power needs. The goal was to keep the shadows super soft so for the key we made a book light using one of the studio's 5k fixtures bounced into a 6x6 ultrabounce and through a 6x6 silk. For the backlight we pushed a 4' Fourbank Kinoflo through a 48" diffusion frame. The larger light source gave the talent plenty of room to move around and the lighting stay pretty consistent. We also used a large black solid opposite the key and a double net at times to help sculp the lighting. We shot another look the first half of the day using the studio's large white cyc wall, but we can talk about that some other time. Sidenote – my life is forever changed after using wheeled combo stands for the first time. Those things are magic.

We used Savage Seamless Paper rolls that were 107” wide and the clint picked out four different colors: blue, yellow, pink, and red. The spot's final delivery would be 16x9 so with the wide roll of paper the close up and medium shots weren't really an issue. The full body shots though would need a bit of work in post. They'd need to extend the edges of the paper or a handful of other options depending on the edit. As long as the on-camera talent didn't go past the edge of the paper they'd be fine.

In the end we were pretty happy with the footage. The client didn't want to deal with a ton of post-work so we shot the full sensor 4k ProRes on my RED Weapon and baked in the the RedGamma 4 / Dragon Color 2 look. You're a bit limited with the framerates with 4k ProRes on the RED Weapon, but we were able to get what we needed vs. the client dealing with the much larger raw 8k .R3D files.

Carnivale 2018 Photo Shoot

If your website is something like bestpartyintown.org you’d better not disappoint.

Carnivale is a black tie event in Tulsa raising money for the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma (MHAOK). The organization works to combat homelessness and the stigmas associated with mental illness.

Tulsa based TPC Studios is the creative force behind the Carnivale event and responsible for making sure the fundraiser lives up to its URL. This year’s Stars and Stripes themed event is inspired by the World War II era. TPC put together a team to recreate the set of a celebrity USO Tour Press Conference featuring the MHAOK Chairs and Committee Members.

TL;DR – Basically it’s a big photoshoot for the main promotion imagery for a HUGE fundraiser/kick-arse party.

I’ve been on a couple of the Carnivale sets over the years filming BTS footage and interviews (2015 & 2016). This year I was able to join the team shooting “moving portrait” style footage that they’ll project on screens during the event. Cue the RED Weapon Helium shooting 99fps at 6k widescreen.

What I absolutely love about the Carnivale shoot is the creative team behind it. I’d highly encourage checking out and following this stew of creatives. Crazy thanks to Todd Pyland and Tony Li for letting me crash the party.

CREATIVE DIRECTOR – Todd Pyland
ART DIRECTOR/PRODUCER - Tony Li
PHOTOGRAPHER - Jeremy Charles
CINEMATOGRAPHER - me
CINEMATOGRAPHER (BTS & Interviews) - Grant Sweetwood
SET DECORATOR & STYLIST - Stacy Suvino
WARDROBE STYLIST - Shannon Schroeder
HAIR & MAKEUP  - Jordan Best
PHOTO ASSISTANTS - Sarah Eliza Roberts & Clay Flores

Have Gear, Will Travel

The travel side of what I get to do is honestly worth the uncertainties and stress that are also part of the work.

A couple months ago a client hit me up about a shoot in south Florida scheduled for mid-January. When possible, I’ll head out a day earlier on my own dime to take in being in a new place or city. I’ve already been to Florida, but I’m not about to say “No” to a beach and a chance to find another decent coffeeshop; Thank goodness West Palm Beach didn’t let me down.

It’s still slow season this time of year and every dollar counts, so I booked a CHEAP room for the night, got a rental car for less than it would have cost to pay for a ride share or taxi, and saved money by eating dinner at the United Club durning a layover.

I’m a huge fan of sticking to one airline and taking advantage of the perks. Years ago a buddy of mine introduced me to the idea and I’ve not looked back. As much as possible, I fly with United Airlines. I don’t typically fly enough to get club membership via elite status so I pay roughly $450/year in membership fees for a United MileagePlus Club Visa card. It gets me Premiere status with easier check-ins, earlier boarding, and two free checked bags each flight, as well as United Club access. The money I save with the two free checked bags perk alone saves me and my clients crazy money and more than covers the yearly membership fee. There are other perks too, but those are the main ones keeping me a loyal United customer.

Yelp found me a solid coffee shop in downtown West Palm Beach and after breakfast I walked up and down the beach till my parking meter ran out. Before meeting the rest of the crew, I picked up some gear I’d rented and had shipped to a local FedEx branch. Again, I’m all about saving money with membership and loyalty programs – thx lensrentals.com.

We scouted the first location that afternoon before heading back to the hotel for the night. I’ll typically have my Canon 5Dmk3 with me on scouts along with my iPhone. For sure I’d rather scout the location during the same time of day before the scheduled shoot, but that wasn’t an option. The Sun Seeker app let me know when and where the sun would be during our shoot and Artemis helped me make some shot choices by being able to plug in my camera, resolution, and lens choices.

The shoot itself went well the next day. The creative agency, Signal Factory, hired me out with my RED Weapon Helium package and CP.2 lens set. We used their Oconnor 1030Ds fluid head and sticks plus their Dana Dolly. For the Dana Dolly, Signal flew out with their setup and we bought two 10’ pipes from Home Depot near the location. They’d also rented some additional grip & electric but we didn’t end up using it – pretty bummed we didn’t even turn on the ARRI Sky Panels.

Signal had also hired a couple local photogs to shoot stills and drone footage so we had to coordinate on set as necessary. The client actually nixed the second location and we were able to get all we needed at the first.

We dumped footage back at the hotel, cleaned up, and went out for dinner. Our flights were stupid early the next morning so it wasn’t going to be much of a late night.

One thing I plan to look into this year to try and make my life in airports life easier is TSA PreCheck. In addition to my checked bags, I travel with two carry-ons: a larger backpack (personal items, 13" MacBook Pro, and iPad) and a roller bag for my "must-have" camera gear (camera bodies and lenses). I always carry on my main camera gear just in case a checked bag gets lost. Clients are paying me and my travel expenses so it does them no good for me to show up to a shoot without my camera – it's happened before. I typically run into issues with TSA because they freak out having to check all my gear during screenings. There have been more security measure updates recently and when I was leaving Oklahoma City the TSA agents took out all my camera gear, batteries, and iPad to X-ray again without giving me a heads up. I understand their goal is to protect our safety, but experience has taught me they seem to have more to think about than how to properly handle camera equipment. TSA PreCheck is something like $85, lasts five years, and because the TSA has already done a background check it helps get you through security much quicker. Their website mentions that “In December 2017, 93% of TSA PreCheck passengers waited less than 5 min.”