Monday, August 22, 2011

Camping on the wrong island

Join me for a dip, won't you?

Recently took another trip over to the Kerama island chain to camp on Zamami island again. Its a beautiful little island with some of the clearest ocean waters in the world and quite famous for snorkeling and diving. However our trip saw us not on Zamami island but on its neighbour island Tokashiki. Why I hear you ask? Well while I was waiting in the car someone said they would go get the tickets for the boat. So we got on the boat and arrived at Tokashiki. We just waited as everyone else disembarked from the large ferry until eventually one of the boats staff asked us "why aren't you getting off?" I replied " No we are going to the next island, Zamami. He looked at me puzzled and said "No this boat only goes to this island, Tokashiki! And so we ended up camping there for the night.

A nice place to chill

Tokashiki Island belongs to the Kerama Island group which are known for the world's most transparent emerald green waters (50-60m transparency). Those islands are also known as one of the world's best diving destinations, having a number of coral species and marine lives as large as those in the Great Barrier Reef. (Over 400 types of corals, 5 types of sea turtles, manta rays, whale sharks and all kinds of tropical fish species all live around Okinawa.)

We found a pretty nice camping area by the beach and made our camp there before making a bee line straight for the beach and snorkeling. The beaches here make even the beautiful beaches of Okinawa main island look like mud. They are just on another level altogether. 

I had fun playing around with the Canon S95 and Canon underwater housing for it. Although I was experiencing difficulty with the lens section of the housing continuously fogging up due to the extreme changes in temperature I expect. 
yours truly swimming with the fish.

As night fell there was not a cloud to be seen in the sky which made for a beautiful star filled sky with the Milky Way also perfectly visible. So I set off to some various locations on the beach to try some star trail photography. 
Clear Night
Made from about 100 or so 30 second exposures then combined using the free
StarTrails software availible from

I was shooting with both the Canon 7D and 5DmkII so as I could capture different angles and also experiment to see which is a better technique for capturing the stars, one single long exposure or many 30 second exposures combined in software afterwards.

Tokashiki sky

It turned out that the single exposures were too prone to noise issues. The 30 second stacks had almost zero noise but still suffered from some "hot pixels", a phenomenon that causes certain pixel sites on the cameras sensor to heat up creating little red dots in the image.

My beach is nicer than yours!

I was then up early to shoot sunrise photos the next day before doing some more snorkeling at a different beach with turtles, a better variety of fish and crystal clear waters. 
One of my favorite kind of underwater images is the half above half below shot. But this is quite tricky unless you have a nice big front element on the front of the underwater housing. I found this pretty difficult though with the smaller front elements on the housings designed for small compact cameras like the S95. I did manage to pull off a few I was pretty happy with though so I was happy. Here are a few more images and a short video I made with the Canon S95 while snorkeling. 

Welcome to Paradise
At the entrance to one of the beaches. Inviting isn't it?

From Within
I made this image from within a hidden cave I happened across. 

Hurry up with the stars already!
As the sun sets

Jenna just enjoying bobbing around in the calm clear waters. 

This is a single exposure star trail. The exposure time was probably close to 1 hour. But even with the built in auto noise reduction the image still suffers from sever noise issues before using noise reduction in Lightroom. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My trusty assistants

I have a couple of internship girls (Chinami & Mina) coming along with me on wedding shoots for the next couple of weeks. They study design and photography at a local school wanted to see what its like to shoot and assist for a wedding photographer.

Actually I didn't make them carry all my heavy stuff the whole time. This was just at the end of a hot location shoot at the famous Manzamo Cliffs and I asked them to hold everything just for a funny shot. Thanks girls!

Always so much easier to get the job done with assistants!

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Zombie Killa shoot

Zombie Killa 101
Recently did a really fun shoot at one of my favorite "haikyo" (Urban exploring) places on the island. It's an old abandoned hotel that was never finished and is now left in ruin. You can find more images of the hotel itself in an earlier blog post. For more info on the hotels history do read on...

Basically the story of the place is that when they were building this hotel the workers were warned continually buy the nearby temple that there were bad spirits in the area and that they should not build on this sacred site.
The owner ignored the warnings however and several workers died during the construction. As workers continued to die off the owner eventually ran out of money and ended up in a mental institution, where he still resides to this day.

Zombie Killa 4

This was my first time shooting with the lovely Kim Denman. She was such a brave girl the whole time. Enduring endless amounts of fake blood and Ikasumi (real black squid ink) all over her clothes and body.

Good mate Adam Lewis also came along for the shoot to help out, study a bit and to shoot some of his own images.

For lighting I used max 3 speedlites triggered wireless via cheap radio triggers from Hong Kong. They were either fired into umbrellas or directly for a more harsh look which I think kind of suited this shoot. We also used reflectors and smoke bombs to give a nice eerie mood to the already fitting backdrops of the hotel.

Zombie Killa 14

Post processing was mostly done in Lightroom with a trip to Photoshop here and there for added effects such as the textures etc..

Zombie Killa 12

Zombie Killa 9

Zombie Killa 8

Zombie Killa 7

Zombie Killa 5

Zombie Killa 3
Had a ton of fun on this one and can't wait to do some more like it.

I even bought some white contact lenses and an old military gas mask to try out as props for next time.

Thanks for dropping by!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Typhoon studio shenanigans

What better way to kill time during a 3 day typhoon than to get together with photographer buddies in a studio to play around shooting each other. Michael Taylor and I went over to Chris Willson's place to try out a bit of a boxing theme just for a laugh. For all the shots we used the wobbly head technique which involves one shaking their head vigorously from side to side to create a punched in the face look when captured as a still image.

We all took turns shooting and being the boxer and the "boxee". Here's one of my favorite shots of Chris taking a very powerful looking right jab to the head by Michael. I used Lightroom 3, a preset called 300 and some personal adjustments to achieve this look.
Photographer vs Photographer KO
To give the effect of sweat flying off we used a water spray bottle before each shoot to allow it to splatter off when we shook out heads.

Michael Taylor one the other side of the glass, totally looking the part. 

We found it to be super tricky to get the timing right and have the face looking as though it was being punched in the correct direction. There were so many great facial expressions but most of them were not in the right orientation from the punch. 

Here's a couple Michael shot of me that I think are pretty funny. 

These were lit with 3 studio lights, 2 strip boxes and a gridded beauty dish. 

Just goes to show, being stuck indoors for extended periods with nothing to do can really force you to bring out some creativity. 

The Boxographer

Thanks for dropping by!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stuck in the house during Typhoon Muifa

Typhoon Muifa has finally passed over the island after keeping everyone stuck in there houses for the last 3 days. A lot of the time without electricity. So with my weddings and work canceled there is not a lot to do so I decided to try shooting some water drops again.

Here's one of the results.
Endless Typhoon

In the past I have tried with some coloured backgrounds and various lighting setups but this time I thought I would try something different.
This time I only used an old DVD with the purple metallic surface as  background to bounce light into.
I also remembered a trick from years back we used to do to create funky colours with clear plastic things. The trick is to use only  polarized light and then a polarizer on the lens also.

The Drop
Another variation. Only adjustments in post were a curves adjustment, 
saturation slightly bumped up and cropping. 

I did it by duct taping a PL filter to my Canon 580exII flash and putting another PL filter on my 100mm macro. It took a fair bit of trial and error to get the polarizers rotated in an orientation that produced good colors. But the hardest part is getting the tiny drop in sharp focus.

I have my Canon 5D mkII with 100mm macro lens aimed at a baking tray full of water. 580exII on the side with a Rouge flash bender and PL filter attached to it. The light hitting the DVD in the back bounces on the water creating all those crazy colors.
A Ziploc back was taped to the top of the step ladder so it could drip water down into the tray.

Here's how the flash looks like with the polarizer attached.

If anyone has any questions on the set up feel free to hit me up via the comments or at petesphotography @ gmail . com

First WHCC canvas gallery wrap

With so many thousands of images and zero prints on my wall, I figured it was time to fork out and get a big canvas done. I had hear about WHCC from Scott Borne on his PhotoFocus podcast and tried out their 5 free prints a couple of years back. Great print quality and tons of various paper types to choose from. They also offer free shipping even to here in Japan. They are not super cheap at $170US for this size but they look pretty damn amazing I think. Will be getting more in the not too distant future for sure!

Heres the original image

Be still