Comedy in San Francisco: Will Franken

The photos are from last night’s performance by San Francisco comedian Will Franken at the Stage Werx Theater. Going way beyond traditional standup comedy, Will Franken’s theater performances include rapid character changes where he interacts with wild sound and lighting cues. If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, keep an eye on Will’s website for future shows. And if you have an appreciation for the wild and absurd side of comedy, don’t miss Will’s podcasts: Things We Did Before Reality.

Hi-Fructose Magazine #18: Billboard Liberation Front

Second generation operatives of the BLF ponder their next mission in an outtake from Hi-Fructose Magazine #18 -- by Joe Reifer

Second generation operatives of the BLF ponder their next mission in an outtake from Hi-Fructose Magazine #18 — by Joe Reifer

Issue 18 of contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose hit the streets recently, and features a 6-page piece on the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF). I’ve been a huge fan of the BLF’s advertising improvements for a long time, so it was a big thrill to photograph 3 generations of BLF operatives for Hi-Fructose. BLF honcho Jack Napier found this amazing empty warehouse location, which I scouted a few days before the shoot. I was really fortunate to have friend and talented photographer Riki Feldmann on this assignment to help with the lighting.

We used the huge 86″ Alienbees PLM with a diffuser on the key light, and then kicked a bare-bulb fill light off the floor from the other side. A Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-70/2.8L was tripod mounted for the group shots, and a second 5D II with a 70-200/2.8L was used for the individual portraits. PocketWizards were used to trigger the strobes, and everything worked without a hitch. The shooting time was about 2 hours for 25 portraits and 4 group shots.

As expected, the BLF was a rowdy and hilarious group to photograph. Riki and I were about to mark where to stand for the portraits with tape on the floor, and then someone spilled some whiskey. When people asked where to stand for their portrait, we told them “between the puddle of water, and the puddle of whiskey.” In the large group shot in the magazine, there is a dead bird on the floor. One of the BLF members made an amazing disguise out of a bucket and a cardboard box while he was waiting to be photographed.

In addition to the piece on the BLF, issue 18 of Hi-Fructose features some really amazing art — I was particularly blown away by the eerie, futuristic ruins of Jean-Pierre Roy. The interview with Mr. Roy is superb — he speaks very eloquently about his work, and I found some interesting artistic parallels to abandoned places night photography (more on that later). Attaboy and Annie Owens put out a really fine publication — look for Hi-Fructose at a bookstore, gallery, or museum near you.

Mars-1 on FecalFace

Back in February I did a portrait shoot at painter/sculptor Mars-1‘s San Francisco studio for Hi-Fructose Magazine. John from Fecal Face showed up that day for a studio visit — and there’s a short video where I ramble with Mars about interlibrary loan, awkward surnames, and the identity of Buckethead.

And have a look at Mars-1′s latest paintings from a recent show at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York.

Mars-1 Portrait


Mars-1 (#42) — by Joe Reifer

I photographed painter and sculptor Mars-1 yesterday afternoon in his San Francisco studio. These images were shot for Hi-Fructose Magazine. I made some images of Mars-1′s latest paintings, and then began to do some detail shots around the studio. Painting details, palettes, paintbrushes, etc. — I noticed my reflection when walking by this space age looking television sitting on a shelf.

Lighting Setup

I asked Mars if we could pull down the TV. We placed the TV on a ladder in front of his latest paintings. The overhead fluorescent lighting was turned off. A Canon 580EX was placed on a stand behind the TV to light Mars, and a second 580EX was used to light the paintings. The second flash was attached to a lower ladder rung with a Bogen 175F Justin Clamp. Both flashes were placed on E-TTL Slave mode. A Canon ST-E2 wireless transmitter was used in the hotshoe to control the flash output — the subject light on group A, background on group B.

A small lamp was left on to act as a kicker on the TV. Exposure time for this image was 4 seconds at f/8, ISO 400. I considered gelling the 580EX ‘s with 3/4 CTOs to balance to the room lamp, but decided to go for a warm/cool lighting mix to add complexity.

Color Temperature

The color temperature for the lamp was about 3500. I set the color temperature in the RAW converter at about 4500, which resulted in:

  • The light on the TV is about 1000 degrees warmer than neutral – very warm, emphasizes orange/yellow tones.
  • The light on the paintings in the background is about 1000 degrees cooler than neutral, which brings out blue tones in the background that play against the orange of the TV.
  • The light on the subject is mostly flash, but the room lamp also shone on him during the long exposure. This mix gave reasonably neutral skin tones in the 4500 degree range.

More complex color temperature adjustments could be made by making multiple RAW conversions at different color temperatures, and using layer masks to blend the TV with the reflected image. Of course it’s best to get things as close as possible in the camera.

Compositional Notes

The double reflection was a happy accident discovered when taking a few test shots. The camera was positioned on a tripod in front of the TV in an area that was kept dark. The camera was triggered with a cable release while standing outside of the TV reflection area. The dust on the top of the TV was left to give extra shape and texture. Slight variations in position were shot in order to help control where the scratches on the TV fell in the subject’s reflection.

The first images contained a lot of ceiling in the background — luckily there was a big piece of black material in the studio, which was secured to the ceiling with pony clamps. Using a black background really improved the shot. It’s a good idea to keep a piece of non-reflective black material, some clamps, and a roll of gaffer’s tape in your car. I also keep a white sheet in the back of my car, which can act as a diffuser, or as a ghost costume for night photography.

Rapport

I wanted to make sure I was respecting Mars’ time, as he’s busy getting ready for a solo show at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York. I continued to check in with him during the shoot to make sure he was having fun. Mars was very patient and enthusiastic about taking the time to help make an unusual location portrait. Thanks to Mars for the hospitality, and Atta for the fun assignment.

Photography News: Cameras, Erwin, Fructose

  • Leica expert and controversial reviewer Erwin Puts has recently published an article on the rumored new camera bodies from Canon, including a 22 megapixel 1DS successor, and an updated Canon 5D in a weather sealed body more like an EOS 1V. Erwin has also written extensively on the Leica M8.
  • Hi Fructose Magazine #4 is out and it looks great! Issues #2 and #3 are sold out. Get on down to Kid Robot or Borders and get issue #4 before it’s too late. What is Hi Fructose you may sheepishly ask? The best art magazine around, that’s what! The latest issue features Ray Caesar, Fawn Gehweiler, Ragnar, Gary Taxali, Brian McCarty, and two photos by some guy named Joe Reifer.
  • There’s a lot of great articles in the archives over at Rob Galbraith DPI, including photographer Joey Terrill’s story about choosing the Canon 1DS over medium format digital.
  • Somebody please stop me from looking at large format specialist Glenn Evan’s http://www.glennview.com