Archive for July, 2016

Most of my work is documentary in nature, whether it's daily life, portrait, sports or news. I'm working quickly and in a wide range of environments and conditions.

So for me there can be no one lighting setup. The gear, and how I use it, is as diverse as the subjects in each photo.

There is always a solution: Elinchrom.

Elinchrom flash systems have been my go-to lights for over a decade because the results are constant. I know exactly what I’m going to get out of each strobe, each light modifier, each power setting.

Over the last couple months I have taken my Elinchrom gear with me on a number of assignments and two stand out for the results and diversity of my subject matter.

The first shoot was a series, portraits and a video Laura Heald and I did on Officer Bobby White of the Gainesville Police Department and the foundation he has set up to build basketball courts for kids in the Gainesville community. 

The story started with a dashboard camera video clip that went viral. Officer White was called in to deal with a noise complaint. Kids were playing basketball in the street at 5 o’clock in the evening. Instead of telling the kids to stop, he picked up a ball and played with them.

My idea for the portrait series was to go back to the spot where this story began and make portraits of the kids in their environment. For that, the Elinchrom Quadra with an Elinchrom Rotalux mini octa was the perfect way to go. The setup is small and mobile, while still offering powerful and beautiful light.

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Bill shooting portraits for the basketball cop story.

 
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Bill shooting portraits for the basketball cop story.

 
Basketball Cop Pictures by Bill Frakes and Laura Heald for ESPN Dennis Darby, 16

Dennis Darby, 16

 
Basketball Cop Pictures by Bill Frakes and Laura Heald for ESPN Tyree Thomas, 16, sitting on the hoop that was in the street. Since the day Officer White arrived on January 15th, the Basketball Cop Foundation has built a court in his backyard so they no longer have to play in the street.

Tyree Thomas, 16

The second shoot was at the Invictus Games in Orlando. I wanted to make a series of elegant yet simple portraits of our country’s most inspiring athletes. 

I wanted the athletes to be separate from the background. It was their faces and bodies that were important, not the environment they were in. To do that, I used my Elinchrom 2400 w/s pack with a 59” Rotalux Octabox and a simple, muslin backdrop. 

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Swimmer Elizabeth Marks with her medals from the games. Marks was wounded in Iraq. Her tattoo is her life story and covers many of the scars she suffered while serving.

 
ORLANDO, FL - MAY 11: Stefan Leroy, 25, and his service dog, Knoxville. Leroy served in the Army and is from Jupiter, Florida. He competed in track and volleyball. Bill Frakes for ESPN

Stefan Leroy and his service dog Knoxville.

One of the best parts of our job is getting random, unsolicited inquiries from future clients and fellow artists.

In May, Jaymie Jones reached out. Jaymie and her daughter Kelli are Belles & Whistles, a country singer/songwriter duo out of Omaha, NE.

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Kelli and Jason paddle through the pond at Katie and Kevin’s farm in O’Neill at sunset.

They had seen the Nebraska Project and wanted to be a part of it. Jaymie offered time and music. She sent over a handful of tracks for us to choose from and we quickly settled on Luna Blue as a good place to start.

We had already made plans to be in Nebraska in early June, so we scheduled some extra days, called some friends for help, and made plans for another music video.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Nebraska over the last year and a half, but a of couple places have stuck out as favorites; places where we know we can make images no matter what. - A wilderness area near Hastings, NE. - and Kevin and Katie Morrow’s farm north of O’Neill, NE.

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Katie holds up a Sunbounce to light Kelli’s face at sunrise in Liberty Cove.

We told Jaymie and Kelli that we’d bring the cameras - a couple fresh-out-of-the-box Nikon D5 bodies and a RED Dragon - if they brought the props and a model, namely a boy and a truck.

They happened to find the boy and the truck in O’Neill, NE. Jason Hahlbeck is a rising senior at O’Neill High School and happens to be good friends with Kevin and Katie’s oldest daughter Emily. Things seem to work that way in Nebraska - everybody helpful, everybody connected.  

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Jason Hahlbeck on set.

This was the first time we’ve had significant time with the D5 in our hands since we shot My Nebraska last September and it felt good to be shooting 4k UHD with the same camera we use for making high quality stills.

For this video, we wanted to employ a lot of motion, so we rigged our EZFX jib and our Movi M10 with a D5, Nikkor lens and Small HD monitor. Katie Klann, the newest edition to the Straw Hat team, is fast becoming an expert at getting the Movi ready to go quickly.

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Kelli stands in a pond for a shot in Luna Blue while the SHV team preps the EZFX jib.

 
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Katie Klann running the Movi-M10 with a Nikon D5 and 14-24mm lens.

We wanted to shoot a majority of the video in low light, which the D5 is perfect for. We shot every day at sunrise and sunset. To make our lives a little easier, we camped every night so we were in place the moment we woke up each morning.

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Our camp site outside Hastings, NE.

For this project, we utilized the newest additions to our equipment case - two light meters from Sekonic. The Litemaster Pro (L-478DR-U-EL) is key when calibrating cameras. The Nikon D5 bodies are amazingly consistent, as are the RED Weapon and Dragon bodies, but they work very differently. When we need to mix files, the Litemaster Pro is our go to meter. The Nikons are extremely accurate when it comes to color balance, zero fluctuation between bodies. The need for calibration comes in multi camera production with the light coming from different directions, and in diverse ways. And then there is post production to consider. For documentary work, we want to present the light temperature and intensity as we saw it. For music videos that's not necessarily the case, and keeping things straight is a different challenge. The Sekonic C-500R Prodigy Color Temperature helps us calculate not only what is, but what we want it to be.

Overall, we spent four days with Jaymie, Kelli and Jason and shot two music videos in that time. Luna Blue is the first of those videos. We invite you to watch it on NebraskaProject.com.


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