Behind the roads

I’ve recently gotten the fun assignment of shooting the Annual Report of Flemish road regulator Agentschap Wegen & Verkeer. Consisting of eleven locations, we traveled 1001 kilometres all over Flanders to portrait the people that make sure that the road you drive is ice-free,  the tunnels you drive through are in optimal condition, or control over 300 traffic lights with a single supercomputer. A whole lot of manpower for something that you’ll probably never encounter in person. A view of the people and the projects they work on. And a whole lot of orange High-Viz.

Technical details: a mix of reflectors, speedlights with shoot-through umbrellas and Lastolite Ezyboxes. Shot on the Nikon D5 of course.

And a few behind the scenes photo’s:

Defining a university college

These are the assignments that I love to sink my teeth in. Multi-day shooting a campaign at a high pace. When I got the call from Kenneth, of former Modemuseum fame, to come in for a meeting at the PXL university college in Hasselt, I was intrigued.

Giving me a huge folder of magazines, the briefing was clear:

“We want you to re-shoot these, but with your style, and showing the craziness that is this massive school. You can show that people have fun here, it can be edgy, a tad silly, as long as the feeling is there.

Say no more! In total we shot 28 different study courses, spread over eight departments, in four days. For each course, we shot three campaign images, always using real students, in a school setting.

Before we started shooting, I made some rules to create and maintain a certain style. First of all, no smart- or whiteboards and use as little laptops as possible. Since every course all get lessons on a laptop and use smart boards, there would be nothing that separates a music student from a business student, apart from the style of their clothes perhaps.

I insisted on using as many props as possible in a setting that would look natural. This again wasn’t the easiest of choices, because it’s easy to give a music student a guitar or keyboard, but where is the difference between someone studying fiscal management and someone studying to be a translator?

Another rule was that we would have a consistent feeling of light as well, meaning we would light everything with strobes. In total I used six Nikon SB-700 speed lights. I used a mix of a Walimex 180cm umbrella, two Lastilite 24″ Ezyboxes and small shoot through umbrellas, depending on the shot.

Camera wise, I used my trusted Nikon D5 and a Sigma Art 35mm f/1.4 and the Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4. A few shots were made with the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 G

There are ‘some’ images that I want to talk to about specifically here, so, let’s go!

PXL Healthcare

PXL Healthcare. This doll was creepy! It doesn’t only give out vitals and measures CPR, it even moves, breathes and makes noises. Very Doctor Who like. Lit with the massive umbrella.
PXL Healthcare. This baby was just eight days old!
PXL Healthcare. Nailing the focus on a moving baby’s foot isn’t easy.
PXL Healthcare. The interaction between a disabled person and an assistant can be shown in many ways. Helping her out of the wheelchair wasn’t a strong image, so we opted for this post. The bedight is also lit with a strobe and a warm gel.
PXL Healthcare. Real life pregnancy. Notice the blackboard in the background to show it’s still an educational setting. We flashed from the left, and reflected from the right. The hallway was also lit by a single flash.
PXL Healthcare. I never laughed as much as I did during this ‘delivery’. To get the correct angle I was laying on the ground, with the entire staff and fellow students around me. The ‘baby’ came out with a mixture of laughter and simulated screams. I almost had tears of laughter during this moment. I wish every shoot could be so much fun.

PXL Education

PXL Education. Lit with a massive umbrella on top, a subtle backlight behind the trampoline,  and a strobe all the way in the back lighting up the back wall. I laid on the mat, waiting for the exact moment. Because the flashes were giving full power in the back, I could only shoot one frame per jump. But the students did great!
PXL Education. Sometimes you can look for a shot all you want, but when a real moment happens, you just aim and click. Next shot!
PXL Education. We raided the storage room for anything that would look visually interesting, in this case, these globes.

PXL Business

PXL Business. The inclusion of the headsets indicate that they’re translators.
PXL Business. The briefing for this shot was Jerry Maguire. Followed by blank stares. I should’ve known better than to talk about a movie that came out the same year as they were born. Anyhow, the quote “Show me the money” did ring a bell.
PXL Business. Student interaction for me was the most important thing for me. Meaning that everyone looks like they’re having fun.
PXL Business. The sun shining through the windows is completely fake. A warm gelled flash on a long tripod outside the window, and a big umbrella in the front. Easy.
PXL Business. A scanner, and a red gelled flash.
PXL Business. For once I really did want the beamer to be on, as it gave a nice practical light to add a bit of extra color to the room.

PXL Music

PXL Music. I love pretty lights and vintage hardware. So I put this guy behind the mixing desk. Lit his face with an overhead gridded softbox, and a pink gelled flash left. Drag the shutter, move the camera, and boom.
PXL Music. I love shooting musicians.
PXL Music. They had their own light contraption made from some light bulbs in the mixing room. The light had character, so I kept it there.
PXL Music. Just get the class together, let them talk and have fun, and in the meanwhile just shoot. I attached a flash on a magic arm in one of the cool lighting fixtures.

PXL IT

PXL IT. A bunch of clever geeks, all together in a building. I never felt so much at home. Completely gelling an otherwise boring white room with strobes, I managed to get a very cool shot of this robot.
PXL IT. The computer on the left had red LED’s in it. So why not emulate that with a red gelled light. A pink gelled light gave color the the wall, with a splash of white light coming through a softbox.
PXL IT. It can’t all be technology, so we got another collaboration picture. Lit with a small umbrella as a main light, and a bare flash in the back left to pop some extra light on the board and use is as a bounce.

PXL Media & Tourism

PXL Media & Tourism. This isn’t an outside location, that’s their wallpaper. Crazy.
PXL Media & Tourism. With the massive heat from the day earlier passed, I added splash of gelled sunlight in the back. The practical LED light didn’t gave a lot of light compared to my flashes, but it looks cool.  Extra detail: none of these students ever used this exact gear, so I had to coach them.
PXL Media & Tourism. What a great colourful jacket!

PXL Tech

PXL Tech. It was raining during this shot, but nothing a CTO gelled light can’t fix.
PXL Tech. With a rim light in the back, we isolate our great subject here, and a softbox gives a soft even light, which makes it look like all the light comes from practical sources.
PXL Tech. A green gel gives a splash of color to an otherwise colourless image, plus it really offsets the red part.
PXL Tech. Switching my white balace to incandescent, and slapping a CTO to the main light, turns everything blue, giving it all a very high-tech feeling to an otherwise boring technical installation.
PXL Tech. CTO gel. What else.
PXL Tech. These students weren’t part of the original plan, but when we saw them take samples, they got shanghaied into service. While they were about to re-do their sample taking, we found this tiny frog. Change of plans again. But I love how this came out.
PXL Tech. Shoutout to this girl with a BB-8 tattoo! And to the CTO gelled flashes of course.
PXL Tech. When their professor told me they had a DNA viewer or something that emitted blue and orange light, I immediately used it. And of course added a CTO and CTB gel to some flashes, adding a whole lot of extra drama.
PXL Tech. Just having a lot of fun in the lab.
PXL Tech. Liquid. Nitrogen. 🙌🏻.

Baywatch

Some people stand in the darkness
Afraid to step into the light.

Who doesn’t remember Pamela Anderson who as C.J. Parker kept the Californian beaches safe? Well. Basically that’s all I remember. The red bathing suits and slow-motion video.

But, for the new movie by Paramount Pictures I was hired to capture another creative brand activation by Production Pirates. Involving a high-speed camera, some fans and a treadmill, it gives cinema goers the experience of reliving their nineties nostalgia. And gives their friends a great Instagram Stories moment.

Wrangling a billion pixels

Beginning this year I was photographing a student-party in Diepenbeek. Having spent a few years participating in a student organisation I made a lot of friends and gained a lot of contacts that proved to be important as a photographer. However, these days it’s a rarity to meet friends from back then in the active student-life, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Wim guiding the younger generation of his organisation. These days Wim works at Renotec, one of the countries’ biggest contractors specialising in renovating big and important projects.

One of those projects is Brussels biggest UNESCO world heritage site, the Grand Place. With buildings dating back to the 15th century it is one of the most visited places in Brussels, and perhaps even Belgium.

If you are going to cover up an entire side of the famous square for 190 construction days, you might as well do it in style, so that’s where I came into the picture. The question was simple: did I have the knowhow and gear to accurately reproduce the Grand Place in a way that it could be printed life-size? The answer: Yep.

Since Nikon’s D800 has the amazing 36 megapixel sensor, and I am always up for a challenge, I quickly accepted my mission, and headed down to Brussels. Taking 5 to 15 pictures of each building I made sure I had enough overlap to correctly create a large panorama.

Position wise I chose to stand in front of each building separately. This would give me more distortion on each sides, but would make everything look better once reproduced in print.

After taking a few hundred pictures of all buildings, it was time to enter a gruelling Photoshop batch, only to see it fail horrible. The merging gave really odd results, which gave me an extra challenge to overcome to correctly produce each building in a extremely high resolution picture. After merging each building individually, combined with the technical blueprints of the restoration it was time to create InDesign files with everything in the correct sizes. A week later, all printing was done by Blow-up Media, and the week-long process of putting up the pictures was done by the professional team at Renotec.

In the end, the complete picture was printed at 1050 square meters, and was a 2GB Photoshop file. The final megapixel count was 1200, making it a 1.2 Gigapixel image.

Watch the video of the construction here!

“Farming really is Rock and Roll”

The past few weeks have been crazy, visiting many places and people to photograph for various occasions and clients. On thursday I crossed the city on a 25 meter high Manitou Telescopic Loader. Twelve hours later my feet where firmly rooted in the ground. That’s where this story happens. There are those moments where you have a only a small briefing for a few pictures, but the assignment leads itself to a lot more. 

So, friday morning. In assignment for De Nette Krant / Limburg.net by communication firm RCA I was to photograph CSA Hoeve Het Blokhuis. For the city-folks among you, that’s Community-supported agriculture. The first real spring day of the year, surrounded by nature and fields, I really was glad to be a photographer and be out there when I could. The location and the people really gave meaning to the word ‘hospitality’, as they gladly helped, posed and told about their passion.

The quote of the day: “Farming really is Rock and Roll”. 

Here are some of my favourites of the day. All of these are shot on a D800 with 70-200. 

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(7 Shot vertical Brenizer, Softboxed flash on left).

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And to finish, some Behind The Scenes snaps! 

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Photographing ‘The Voice’

‘The Voice van Vlaanderen’ (#TVVV) has been my fiancé’s TV date for friday-evenings for the past three seasons now. Funny enough I have photographed every judge so far for the Flemish edition, so it was time to dive into the archives and post some pictures! 

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Also Season 2 Finalist Bert has been photographed by me. 

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The Voice Of Holland coach Marco Borsato has also been before my lens.

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Also I’ve been present at The Voice UK judge Tom Jones’s concert at Suikerrock, but strict limitations forbid photography except a lucky few. Alas. To close this blog post, a picture of The Voice In The Sky event in Hasselt.

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10 years of capturing memories

By the time I’m writing this, it’s already past midnight. So technically yesterday, I celebrated my tenth anniversary of photography. It was that day when I first deliberately took a camera somewhere and photograph something.

The day was a sunny school day in Februari 2004. It was exactly one day and two months since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was released in theatres. Just like any self-respected geek I was looking to do a creative project inspired by Tolkien’s masterpiece. The tiny town my school was located, Herk-de-Stad, had great potential. We had a park that could double as Hobbiton, the paths around it looked like Bree. The forest next to the park could double as a freaky Fangorn Forest. The grassy field next my school had potential for The Dead Marshes. I could go on and on, but it looked great. It went so far that my buddy from school ordered a working hobbit pipe to smoke in the breaks. In the end, the project was canned after a crazy idea to shoot fireworks in the park at night to see if Gandalf’s party in Herk-de-Stad would look as cool as it was shot by Peter Jackson. It didn’t. 

The only thing remaining from that period are a lot of pictures from school and the surrounding nature. 

They are my oldest pictures in my archive of over 120.000 images and I thought it would be fun to head back to the place I first took those snapshots with my dad’s Minolta DiMAGE S414 and capture what I wanted to shoot then now. So today I grabbed my bag with a D800, 14-24 and 85 1.8. Also, an iPad with the pictures of Day One. Some are exact revisions, some are things I encountered. Enjoy this rare bit of nostalgia!

PS: I’m sure you can see which pictures are the old ones and new ones. ;)

PPS: Here’s to at least 70 years more!  

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To the bottom of the glass.

A few months ago I shared a train-ride with Caroline, my contact at the awesome Edelman PR Agency. Keen-eyed readers might remember Edelman as the agency that gave me the opportunity to travel to Shanghai, but they also gave me other assignments like covering the 140 years of Jeans celebration by eBay. Back then she told me they where looking for a kick-ass food blogger who made killer shots. As you can imagine, most bloggers aren’t camera-savvy, and most photographers are not the ones you’d imagine to write about food. To the most of us food is that thing that gets in between getting a shot, or traveling.

Fast forward to a month later where I got ‘the call’. If I want to take the pictures of a food-related event, so a blogger can do his thing. “Sure can do, just give me the date and address and everything will work out”. A few weeks of trying to sync ever-changing calendars between the blogger, the client, the agency and me, it is decided due a pressing deadline to split up the dates, and I’m sent in first. A few documents and thorough briefings  later I’m walking through the door of Cocktails At Nine to photograph Carl van Droogenbroeck, Belgian’s best bartender. The event? The Global World Class Finals.

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Under complete secrecy I was to photograph him mixing one of his own cocktails, the ‘Last Call’. It became even more interesting as they wanted to have a natural feeling to the pictures. Nothing staged, and nothing lit. With a lot of optimism and a pelicase full of gear I entered the world of cocktails. An introductory cocktail and a some historic information later I was ready to start shooting!

 

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What nobody could foresee however was that after a few weeks of cold summer weather, we suddenly got a massive September heatwave, combined with the date gave the lowest turn-up for the cocktail bar in years. Not exactly the massive crowded bar we where hoping  to capture. A bit of creative framing and happy volunteers I managed to create some compelling images that made the agency and client happy!

In the end I used the D800 with the 85 1.8 for absolute sharpness wide open combined with decent auto-focus, and of course the ‘trinity’, the 14-24, 24-70 and 70-200. I lit a few beauty shots of the glass with a single SB-700, but for the large shots I used the light of my iPhone flashlight to ad some punch to some longer-exposures. I also shot on a lower shutter speed than I normally would, to create bit of added motion blur.

For the editing I used Lightroom 5 and VSCO Film 03 with the Fuji FP-100c ++.

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