Friday, 22 May 2020

Debriefing - Chinatown 2007 – 2020 New Edition

It's taken thirteen years for a complete edit of my Chinatown fashion story, and now I'm on my third edit writing on the behind the scenes, of what went right, and what went wrong. Why the complete story of images took so long to light up screens. Perhaps it's time to admit I just stuffed up? Time to admit I wanted more than I was able to reasonably deliver from the shoot? That the only defence I have is I did not know I was pushing beyond my own limits and the limits of my equipment at the time? This might sound like I was reckless in my ambition, but I was not. And let me tell you why. A week before the shoot I went down to the location, the Haymarket, 'Chinatown' in Sydney. Along with Sunny, one of the two models and we did a technical scout. Walking around with Sunny, I made a series of pictures of scenes we could use, taken at the same time of day as our shoot was to occur a week hence. You can scout locations without the talent, but a stand in always makes a difference to understanding the composition. These pictures turned out really well; for what they were. An overview and look at the location - with model - and the same light I expected on the day. So with the test pictures in hand, I had no reason to worry, the camera worked well, we were scaling up on the day of course, but I had no expectation of anything but success.
Timing is always important.
Two models, hair and make-up at the studio, my assistant, the garments, travel into the city to the location. We all ate a light lunch at an Asian restaurant before we took the first two shots, right out front!
Sunny trying on a Barbarella design maxie dress a week prior to the photoshoot.
If you are new to photography in the last few years; you are very fortunate. High ISO no problem. Speedy and accurate auto focus, no problem; fast playback of images, of course! This was certainly not the case in 2007. I had a Nikon D80, with a very average kit zoom, and as back-up for low light, my Nikon film-camera lenses I had cut my teeth on as a photographer, all manual focus, a 50, a 35, a 28 along with an SB 600 flash unit, and of course reflector and my assistant. I already knew the manual lenses were difficult to focus on digital cameras, but I took them anyway – and then I used them.
Location scouting, a test shot with model Sunny in front of a Chinese grocers with passers by, the Haymarket Sydney
Looking at the picture meta-data from this edit now; I'm actually shocked to see that only three of the fourteen images in this story were shot with the auto-focus kit zoom (18-135 f3.5 ~ f5.6). That means even before we lost light, I was shooting with the old lenses. Why; well I think the zoom just was not focusing accurately enough and I had to try whatever I could to get the shots, that meant risking manual. The afternoon I did my location scout was a lovely bright day; now it was cool and overcast, flat light, not much contrast. The D80 autofocus was arbitrary in it's accuracy with the best of conditions, becoming worse as the light or lack of contrast receded. Now I was shooting in July which is winter in Sydney – you do get beautiful short summer-like days of sunshine, just like I had on the test shoot you see here. But on the day of the actual shoot I've got an overcast sky on a 'summer fashion' shoot and models getting cold right from the get-go. Not good, even though we have coats and I'm keeping an eye on everyone keeping as warm – as possible. When things don't work on a shoot; you must quickly find a solution. Panic is contagious and must be avoided at all costs. I believe it's better to move forward and not to bog down, to keep everyone’s confidence up. This is the approach I took on the day.
Sunny catching last rays of light during a location scout for a planned photoshoot in Sydney 2007.
I shot a lot less on some looks than I would expect. Did I have enough memory cards for the shoot? I did, but then again I did not have a lot of memory to spare. I allowed for 3 rolls per shot 3 x 36 exp 108 frames.. If you started shooting film; you will always know how many rolls and how many frames remaining – to get the shot – I had enough memory for 100 frames per shot; this is still what I tend to shoot, though on this day I should have probably shot more, but slow manual, or inaccurate auto-focusing, and camera processing of each frame it burns through time. Manually balancing flash output with manual lenses.. tricky, time consuming.
No Parking. Location scouting the shot with the garage doors in a back lane, model Sunny running, Sydney 2007
As a freelance assistant in in the 1980s I got to experience how editorial photographers; who were typically budgeted 3 rolls of film per shot worked. 120 film or 35mm film; 12 frames or 36; still three rolls. Australian and European photographers went with that, but  some photographers would, just keep shooting, until they got the shot. This could take a lot more rolls.. 'We' called it the 'American method' 'it will be in there somewhere' Film was a LOT cheaper in the USA. In a way; it's what we can all do now with digital! And I wish I had been thinking more like that, both way back in the day, and on this shoot in particular.
Test shot outside a Chinese BBQ restaurant. Fashion Shoot location scout in Sydney 2007.
Battling with your equipment is the last thing you want to be doing on any photoshoot. It is never good. Results with film – if you knew what you were doing – were repeatable and highly consistent. I wish I could say the same for early digital photography but I can't and though digital in 2020 is great; in 2007 it still had a lot of teething issues. When you are fighting with the camera, the attention that should be being given to the models, the framing of the shot, direction, lighting.. it all suffers, as the day marches on and light eventually disappears.
Model sunny in a lane with brick wall and flaking paint as background. Location test, Sydney 2007
We also lost a lot of time on outfit changes. It's curious, because changes in the studio are usually pretty quick and if they are taking too long, it's easy to go and see what's going on. On this day, once models and changers headed off to a rest room to do a change – as you sometimes do on location – time went out the window. It probably seemed longer to me as I was waiting not doing, but my calculations on this front were clearly out!

Enough of negatives & the cautionary tale. What actually went right?

Well a lot more went right than I gave myself credit for at the time. So one last criticism would have to be that I was not being personally flexible enough with the pictures I took, and with the concept as I shot it. I was looking more for what wasn't there, than discovering and working with what I actually photographed.
I had wanted an edgy shoot but not so edgy and gritty. I wanted images to be more in-focus than many were, at a time when out-of-focus seemed to have become a new industry standard. I was not being pragmatic with the images I had. I was thinking about filling gaps in my portfolio not maximising the use of the work I had in front of me.
Two mdels stepping across the pavement at night outside a jewellers in Chinatown Sydney, 2007 fashion photoshoot.
I did not understand post processing like I do now. Not even close! This was also a major factor in my disappointment. I'm pretty sure I spent a couple of weeks, not days, trying to get the most out of my files and basically, failing. Whereas the new edit was done in less than a day and ticks all my boxes for good pictures with emotion. Same image files, now with over 12 years more experience, and some new tricks too, I am always continuing to develop my post processing skills, it's learning that never ends. One of the major post processing issues I had was converting the RAW files from the Nikon in Adobe Photoshop RAW converter. This was a bad idea (though I did not know it) as the Adobe converter did not understand, or read accurately the Nikon propriety white balance embedded in the RAW files. This meant I could not improve on my JPEG files! Instead of believing my eyes; I struggled on making lack lustre 'correctly RAW converted images' with flat reds, muddied saturation and lack of vibrancy.. in Photoshop.
Test shot of the red restaurant wall used for an early shot on the day of our Chinatown photoshoot .
The best lesson I learnt from this shoot was that the NIKON software does the best job of converting Nikon RAW files, and that seems as true today is it was then; it's just it took me a few more months, months to work that out. The new series were all converted from the original 2007 Nikon RAW  files then post processed in Photoshop, and have never looked better! A lesson I will never forget.

Another lesson, perhaps the main lesson I’ve learnt from this shoot is pragmatic perfectionism, work with what you've got not what you have not. I would have thought I was already good at that, even at the time, though to be honest, that's a lesson that is always a work in progress.

Let the images speak. It's enough to have set things in motion, go with the story don't try to force it where it does not want to go. Now that does not mean tossing plans out the window at the first sign of something not going quite as expected. It means being flexible, turning lemons into lemonade, setbacks into triumphs! This is how I try to function today, listening to the pictures speak to me as I make them. And I have quite a few stories of how this really does work. I've experienced this most recently during travel location shoots, no coming back next week; public works, a crowd ruining your shot? I don't think so, go with it for that unique point of view, and say thank you to the mysterious gods of photography for the gift. They know more than you and I, trust them and the pictures will only improve.

See the 2020 Edit of this photoshoot Here
Opening title shot for Chinatown 2007-2020. Fashion model in front of Chinese BBQ  shop with BBQ ducks hanging in the window at night. Photography by Kent Johnson.

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Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown"

Mid 2007 in Sydney I decided I wanted to make an edgy location story for my portfolio; I worked with two new models and a friend who was an up and coming Hair &Make-Up artist and I 'styled' the shoot myself, with retro inspired dresses from Barbarella Vintage. Here it is, all the shots thirteen years later - the story behind the shoot and it's delay will be up very soon too. In the meantime please enjoy Chinatown 2007 New Edition.
Title image, Ashlee-Anne Chinese BBQ shop at night - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Sunny in Pucci print maxi dress in front of Chinese grocery - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Sunny, black dress with red band and loops - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Fashion Photographed by Kent Johnson
 Sunny, Polaroid style fashion photograph, out of focus - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Sunny wearing orange and black geometric pattern dress, seated against a white marble wall  - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Ashlee, navy blue halter neck maxi dress with orange and white swirls  - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Fashion photography by Kent Johnson
Ashlee standing on Hay Street after rain - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Ashlee and Sunny running across a lane in vintage maxi dresses, black and white photograph  - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Fashion photography by Kent Johnson
Sunny in Camo style retro maxi dress in a back lane - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Ashlee and Sunny walking together at night, gold jewellery shop window, vintage maxi dresses, black and white photograph  - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Fashion photography by Kent Johnson
Fashion portrait mid shot, Sunny - chinese gift shop - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Chinese gift shop at night, red lanterns, full length fashion portrait, Sunny - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Two models late night, neon signs in Dixon Street Sydney - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
Credits image, Ashlee-Anne Chinese BBQ shop at night - Chinatown 2007 New Edition, Photographed by Kent Johnson
The story behind this photoshoot and just why it took 13 years to appear in full - https://fashionphotographysydney.blogspot.com/2020/05/debriefing-chinatown-2007-2020-new.html

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Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863

Thursday, 26 December 2019

The Art of Collaboration with Sage G Actor & Model

I had already photographed Sage formally twice before being commissioned for this portfolio shoot. The first time was a portrait 'test' shoot of Sage the actor at the studio I was shooting out of in Balmain at the time. A creative photographers dream studio in fact, but that's another story.. And later Theatre publicity & promotional shots of Sage and her cast 'Art for Arts Sake' which Sage also wrote by the way. Actually there is another photo, this time informal. It's a portrait I took after the performance of one of her plays (Sage the writer) in the foyer of a small independent theatre. All of these photoshoots are quite different to a portfolio shoot. So having also watched Sage's parallel work as a fashion model from the side lines; I was quite please to be asked to photograph a portfolio for her too - of course being the hyper creative personality she is, this was always going to be a modelling portfolio shoot with a different perspective.
Reclining portrait of Sage on a table surrounded by law books. Portfolio photoshoot by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
The first difference was Sage wanted to shoot on location, not my usual beach location, an office location, a work share space. We were headed into full-on Magazine Editorial territory from the get-go and I knew this was going to be a different and enjoyable project. Now because I like to be as prepared as possible; I headed down to the location a few days before hand and got enough of a look at the place to realise I would probably need my location light kit, not just a couple of speed lights.
Images from my 'work' folder of Sage's shoot - shot one - Law Library location. Photography by Kent Johnson.
Images from my 'work' folder of Sage's shoot - shot one - Law Library
The day of our photoshoot was the one day a week the space is closed so we had full run of the place. Our first set up was in an area best described as a law library or reading room. That's the series immediately above.. and I was glad to have both scouted the location and to have brought my lighting kit with three heads. For fashion photography the 'law library' was dark, too dark and with overhead lights that would not flatter my model - I did need my own light!

To make it work this first shot needed all three heads to balance the exposure of the room and to make Sage the central focus of the shot while keeping a moody library feel. It did take a little while for my assistant and I to get the lights set up and then balanced, each lights output the right brightness in the right place. With Sage now on set and the key light right; it was time to start shooting; and this is where our photographer - model collaboration really begins. Sage is what I would describe as a high energy, fast tempo model, she moves quickly and often, which is fine. I however needed a bit of time to focus my compositions and for my vintage location flash pack to recycle it's power. To be on the safe side that's one shot, every couple of seconds. So we had to slow down and work together within the framework of composition (the pose) and timing - keeping Sage in the main light, and me and the cameras ability to focus accurately in harmony with the flash recycle. This is collaboration; Sage's location and concept, working with a photographer she trusts; both of us listening to one another, Sages concept, my direction, a creative fusion that brings something more to the final result.. It didn't take long for us to fall into the right tempo, to hit the pose, the look, the feeling for the shot; to shoot a sequence of variations and then start on the next series.
Model throws the racing form guide into the air. Modelling portfolio photoshoot by Kent Johnson.
To finish off the first look, Sage had a tricky shot in mind on top of the shots we had in the bag by now. Tossing the newspaper in the air. You've got to like the humour in this shot; an unusually attired - for a law library - a quite sexy woman, bum planted on the table and the newspaper flying through the air; but which paper? It's a horse racing form guide! Whatever the gamble.. I'm betting on Sage to win.

Sage did the styling herself on this shoot and her own make-up. I always pay attention to the fashion and usually have an opinion too, which is essential if the shots are to really work. The second Look is more a 1.5 than a complete change of outfit. We did of course choose a new office location. I loved the view out the window, wanted to keep it interesting but not to dominate, the additional flash lighting was just enough to bring up detail on Sage and prevent the background blowing out, the reflections add a little something too. (Click Horizontal shots to view larger..)
Black and white full length fashion shot of Sage reclining on the window bench of an open plan office. Model portfolio photography by Kent Johnson.
Next was a complete new outfit and a move to a meeting room with a long timber table. We returned to the law theme using books off the shelves of shot one as props on the table. I always find it interesting how a narrative evolves during a photoshoot. Sage had shown me a mood board but that was more about the garments than the location as such; so the fashion and location and Sage of course evolved into a narrative that ties the whole shoot together. Part of it is there from the start, the rest falls into place as you go - at least if you are looking for it - and I always am.

Looking though the glass partition into the meeting room, I just loved what was happening and decided to start shooting through the glass. Again I began by supplementing the light in the room with some flash which worked, but added to issues with reflections. I then decided to go with just the room lighting which gave a heavier shadow and a strong mood but looked great!
Bookwork lying down.. Sage, model portfolio photoshoot by Kent Johnson.
Bookwork lying down, moody lighting.. Sage, model portfolio photoshoot by Kent Johnson.
It looked like a bit of a late night study in seduction! Which I suppose it kind of was.. I finished off this look by simply jumping up on the table and shooting straight down. If it works, go with it.
Bookwork on the table lying down. Sage, model portfolio photoshoot by Kent Johnson.
Well that's three shots down and two to go. We now move to an elevated central corridor and a Boho Chic outfit. There's light but it's mostly in the background. I need one head up as high as I can get it and a second in alignment to make sure we have a good spread of illumination. On this shot I'm listening to Sage's vision for the image and working with her to deliver the shot. Sage is happy with the bag swinging shot edited below. For me, I think I would stay moody with one of the two (unedited proof) shots working off the railing. But everyones picture serves a different purpose, it's important to get the shots your client needs.
Boho chic office girl look, unedited model portfolio proofs by photographer Kent Johnson.
Final edited version, Boho chic office look. Sydney modelling portfolio by Kent Johnson.
Styling wise, shot five is variation on four; stocking and leopard boots are gone, the dress is retained a long camel coat and high heels are added, and we keep the hat. I've noticed a really cool shaft of light cutting through another part of the share space complex; it's getting on in the day and the light is moving fast. We have a narrow window of opportunity and work as quickly as we can to take advantage of the natural light. There's a few of these shots, Sage sitting in the chair direct light softened by the tinted plate glass window. The 'good problem', which ones to choose. Yes there's a few but I'm completely onboard with the choice made here and I delivered the edits in both colour and black and white - they work well both ways!
Black and white portrait of a seated model in a long coat with beautiful long legs for a modelling portfolio. Photographed by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
Smiling portrait of a seated model in a long coat with beautiful long legs in direct light for a modelling portfolio. Photographed by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
Although we knew we had nailed that 'final' shot, we decided to follow the light and do a few more variations, we lost the coat and Sage jumped up on the desks - in retrospect that seems to have been quite a part of the theme that day. We did however also end up with some shots that were a little more innocent looking.. a least as far as ladies on desks go.
Full length shot of model sitting across a desk with beautiful long legs in direct light for a modelling portfolio. Photographed by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
Tight shot of a model sitting across a desk with beautiful long legs in direct light for a modelling portfolio. Photographed by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
So that was it, we had our shots, we had our variations on each shot, we had our office story and it was like no office story I'd ever seen! But I had the strange feeling there was still one more shot to get. The direct light was gone but there was something in the space, the room the air; I honestly don't know what it was but I asked Sage if she would try one more pose, I had a hunch there was one more shot! She ended up in an uncomfortable position perched in a corner window. That same interesting background from shot two, a different angle, a beautiful mood and an image unique to our afternoon photoshoot, a fitting shot to end the day on.
Long shot of a model in a corner window with beautiful long legs for a modelling portfolio. Photographed by Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.

Follow Sage on Instagram here : https://www.instagram.com/seemoresage/

Need shots?  kent@artcommunication.com.au or call Kent on 0433 796 863

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Studio Modelling Portfolio

Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Dreams of Modelling Do Come True

Many young people dream of being a model. The excitement and thrill of fashion, all those clothes, of photoshoots, special places and meeting new people. I does seem very glamorous and it really can be. Of course like many things, the reality is possibly, not always quite what one expects. I can however say that nearly every portfolio photoshoot I have done, and certainly those in recent years; that everyone enjoys themselves. The relaxed atmosphere, the fun of dressing up, the location and the theatre of a photoshoot. Even if you turn up worrying about what it will be like, how to pose.. You need not worry! Before you know it you will be modelling just like you always knew you could.  Yes I'm there helping out by giving you directions but I work with you, your personality, your mood, the you I see there in front of my camera and I get on with  capturing those wonderful moments.
Teen modelling portfolio on location, seated pose, white dress, panama hat and boots. Photography by Kent Johnson
Natalie's photoshoot was just like that. Exciting, but pretty laid back. Just Natalie's mum, and myself, on location; well and the other people enjoying the beautiful park. (if you are very nervous.. I recommend a studio photoshoot). Nat's an early teen so we dispensed with a make-up artist and went with the true beauty of youth. Yes you are beautiful! Well mum did apply a little lip balm. That was it, a brush and a comb. A pretty white dress, some active wear, a blue dress, a blue one piece swim-club style swimsuit and a pink cap. Oh, and a hat to go with those boots, I do love that shot! I help with the styling form the clothes you bring along, and we normally have a talk about outfits by phone a couple of days beforehand to be sure we are ready on the day. Well I love all these pictures and Natalie and her Mum did too. Once you have the edited pictures – which I send you in two sizes, print size + email/web sharing size that you can send to modelling agency  of your dreams. And dreams do come true. It starts with a simple modelling portfolio shoot like Natalie’s here. If you like what you see, just contact me to organise your very own photoshoot. More details here http://www.kentjohnsonphotography.com.au/09Modelling/ModellingPortfolios.htm 
Natural portrait for teen model portfolio, red hair, denim jacket - Photography by Kent Johnson
Stretched out on the green grass - Modelling portfolio Sydney - Photography by Kent Johnson
Portrait in dappled light, white confirmation dress - Photography by Kent JohnsonWalking on the beach, activewear portfolio shot. Photography by Kent JohnsonBlack and white mid shot portrait for modelling portfolio, Sydney location. Photography by Kent Johnson
Mid portrait for modelling portfolio, Sydney location. Photography by Kent Johnson
Androgynous seated portrait Sydney location, Modelling Portfolio -  Photography by Kent Johnson
Black and white modelling portfolio head shot at the beach for a teen model - Photography by Kent Johnson

Portfolio shoots also make for great portrait shoot and lasting memories, young people change so fast, it's important to take the time out to make the pictures that save the memories forever.

Talk to me about your photoshoot today- kent@artcommunication.com.au or call Kent on 0433 796 863!

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Studio Modelling Portfolio

Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Travel : Photographing Sydney's Iconic Ocean Pools in 360VR

While showing my Sydney travel photographs to the marketing manager of a boutique hotel in Italy; the show stopping picture in my portfolio was a 360 image of the Andrew (Boy) Charleton pool. Nestled on the edge of the Domain Parkland in the heart of Sydney, a liminal space between land, water and desire.. Well what was actually said to me was along the lines of  '(gasp) is that a swimming pool on Sydney harbour, OMG it is so beautiful, I really want to visit Sydney.' And there I was in Venice thinking 'this is the most beautiful and exotic place in the world!'
Bronte ocean pool, headland and beach in full 360VR photography by Kent Johnson Travel photographer, Sydney, Australia.
Back home in Sydney wondering what I might photograph - as a portfolio showcase in 360VR Panoramas - that would compliment the travel imagery that I had created in Italy... Sydney Opera House, Ferries at Circular Quay and the Harbour Bridge; I've heard it said, that is all there is to see, to photograph in Sydney! Well I personally don't think that is true; but then.. you don't have an architectural Renaissance masterpiece on every block - as you do in parts of Italy. Aside from those previously mentioned local Icons; I had that useful clue from Venice as to what I could travel-photograph at home in Sydney.
North Cronulla ocean pool in 360VR photography by Kent Johnson Travel photographer, Sydney, Australia.
When I started to think hard about what is most special, most unique, most distinctive, even the most architecturally exclusive aspect of visiting Sydney. Memories of the reaction to my image of the pool on the edge of the harbour came back to me. So I decided I should bring my photographic vision to bear on Sydney's ocean pools and the harbour pools too. Beaches with nets, swimming pontoons, or a boardwalk over the water qualify as pools (or baths), and are usually referred to as such. So the project has begun and I think it is really quite different to other ocean pool projects I have seen. So far I have avoided the dawn and sunset approach (maybe later..) and focused on sparsely populated pools, blue sky, blue and aqua green water, ochre rocks, white sand - or concrete and timbers.. as a unifying approach to the imagery. You can view all of the 360VR panorama Ocean Pool Portfolio on the device of your choice (large screens recommended) HERE.
Domain and Boy Charlton Pool  in 360VR photography by Kent Johnson Travel photographer, Sydney, Australia.
Thus far I have photographed 18 ocean pools producing over 50 full 360VR panoramas of which 22 are currently included in the portfolio. All of the images are available for licensing, just drop me a line here kent@artcommunication.com.au or should you require high quality custom 360 images to promote your destination, tourist attraction, hotel or resort, please feel free to contact me for a consultation. In the meantime, please enjoy the Ocean Pool 360 project and my Hotels and Views of Venice here!
Collaroy ocean pool, headland and beach in full 360VR photography by Kent Johnson Travel photographer, Sydney, Australia.

Locations photographed - Andrew (Boy) Charleton (Domain), Bronte, Camp Cove, Clovelly, Collaroy, Coogee, Cronulla, Dee WhyMaroubrahMurray Rose (Point Piper), Parsley Bay, Nielsen ParkNorth Narrabeen Rockpool, Watsons Bay, and more to come.

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Kent Johnson, Sydney, Australia.
0433 796 863