Friday, April 20, 2012

Watching an enchanting, slapstick pantomime fairy tale at the Orpheum Theater last night

Is She Mad or Is She Really a Fairy? Only Fiona knows.It was rainy, windy and cold when we went to the Orpheum Theater for our Wisconsin Film Festival screening last night.

Cold, Rainy Thursday Night at the Wisconsin Film FestivalAmong other things, "The Fairy" features this uniquely over-the-top chase sequence. The couple on a scooter -- Dom and Fiona -- are chasing a car driven by a virtually blind driver, trying to retrieve the unsecured baby on the trunk. The excitement comes from rear projection, the art comes from an almost balletic pantomime perfection. "The Fairy" is charming and whimsical, contains several inspired pantomime slapstick sequences -- as well as Dom and Fiona's magical underwater dance, with phosphorescent jellyfish dancing past them in a little chorus line and a giant clam also making an appearance. If you're lucky and there are some no-shows, you might still be able to catch "The Fairy" at its second screening tonight at Sundance.

Disclaimer: Like they used to say in the old TV ads, picture on screen is simulated (promotional still). The Orpheum is real.

Monday, April 16, 2012

I've got my black foamie thing on, thanks to Neil van Niekirk

I've Got My Black Foamie Thing On, Thanks to Neil van Niekirk
I'm an available light shooter by nature, so when I need to use bounce flash I've always found it difficult to get good results, mostly because I pretty much followed the received wisdom of bouncing straight up or even slightly to my rear, resulting in flat, dead looking photos. After all, if the flash unit has a position that tilts back a bit, it must be there for a reason, right? Wrong.

Then I saw Neil van Niekirk's video about his black foamie thing for bounce flash. It changed everything. Neil's approach is to bounce the light off the place on a ceiling or a wall where you can imagine there being a softbox, usually off to one side or another , usually ahead of the camera. This concentrates your light and gives it a nice, diffuse directionality -- one that also creates pleasing catchlights in the eyes. Trouble is, if you aim an unshielded strobe this way, you'll throw some of the direct flash at your subjects, destroying the soft, diffused lighting you're trying to create. That's where the "black foamie thing" (which you can easily make yourself) comes in. Neil made a short video to explain the concept and how to make the black foamie thing.. Take a look. It really works. You may never look at bounce flash the same way.