Passion Tells the Story

We’d driven eight hours and gotten in later on Friday night than desired. We needed to be in place for the sunrise shoot the next morning, which with the alarm set for 04:45, we were ready to greet it. We’d been trying to make this shoot happen for a couple of months and had rescheduled it numerous times because of weather and smoke from a number of wildfires. While in theory if we got skunked, which does happen more times than not, we could reschedule the shoot again, but the time had been committed to now. So before turning off the lights for the night, sensors were cleaned, batteries charged and everything triple checked. The forecast for the next day was perfect so sleep came fast and hard. Then the alarm went off and it was time. We stepped out of the lodge with gear and coffee only to be greeted by overcast and a rainy mist. I looked up to see a low, dense coastal fog had rolled in and then I knew we were not going to see a sunrise. Off we went as if everything was going to plan. What other option is there? We were skunked this day, but as it turned out, the next morning the stars lined up, we flew and made the images we needed to tell the story.

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What continues to push and inspire my photography is a passion to tell the story. My greatest joy still comes when a critter is in my viewfinder sharing their world with me, so I can share it with you. I’m very fortunate to indulge in this love nearly every day. Then a number of years back, our photographic world grew when a closet passion for aviation was able to enter my viewfinder. It came at the right time in our photographic lives when we had the time, photographic tool chest and room in the heart to chase it down as we have critters for over three decades. And it’s with that critter and landscape background that we approached aviation.

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The correlations between the disciplines in our photography of critters and aviation are rather spooky. With critters it’s always been the relationship with the biologist as much as the critter that led to eventual success. With aviation, it’s the pilot as much as the aircraft that’s taking us in that same direction. The biologist and the pilot bring to life the story of the subjects who can’t speak for themselves. Because of this, just as our relationships with biologists have been the key to my photographic success with wildlife, it has turned out that our relationships with pilots are the reason for my success with aviation. And without any grand design, this all evolved into a book project, which at this time has no end point.

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The Flying Passion – History Alive in Today’s Aviators actually wasn’t a book project in the beginning. It all started with Chris’ portrait, what was originally just going to be an article. We have been good friends for some time, I’d photographed him in his OY-1 Sentinel air to air long ago (thanks Jake!). Tracking down its history he learned it flew over the beaches of Iwo Jima on landing day in WWII! Chris has a deep passion for flying, aircraft and history, and especially sharing all of that and so much more with others. Well his portrait turned out pretty good and as we all know, when photographers make a photo that works, we attempt to repeat it. The next one went well too, so did number three and four (I’m now up to number 43). The single article morphed into a series and that, well you guessed it, morphed into the book. But Chris’ portrait set the criteria for those included in the book, which is how the name Flying Passion came to be.

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As a visual storyteller sharing life’s events I’m so fortunate to witness, and the verbal stories I’m told, puts a huge load on my shoulders to share with others. It turns out taking the portraits is the easiest part of the book. Doing the interviews and writing up the accounts, now that’s a cranker! I think one pilot in particular really sums up the passion this project brings to my photography.

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Don Rolf’s story in aviation began in Southern California when he was 17, in 1939. Back then he was flying around So Cal in a 1931 Waco delivering airplane parts. He flew out of Monrovia Airport, which is now a shopping mall. Don didn’t realize it but on one of his approaches into Monrovia, his photograph was captured in what turned out to be a very historic image taken by a young photographer, Clancy Hess. Clancy, as fate would have it, also flew that exact same Waco back then and became a famous Naval photographer shooting in the Pacific during WWII. He also became a dear friend of mine. On D Day+1 Don found himself on Omaha Beach, and, as life would have it, he was in a special unit with the Army, not the Air Corp. The unit worked their way across Europe and Don has quite the stories about his adventures. The storytelling turns solemn when Don comes up to the Battle of the Bulge. His unit had to crawl between the Allied and German lines on those dark, cold, snowy days. They were putting orange flagging into place to direct the aerial attack for the P-47 Thunderbolts when the weather cleared. Can you imagine, bullets and shells flying overhead in both directions because no one knew they were there?! He tells the tale all the way up to when the P-47s were directly overhead and making their runs. Here he goes silent. The rest of the story goes untold, so we can only assume it’s too dreadful to be told.

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Well that exact same ’31 Waco that Don & Clancy and so many others flew in So Cal in the ‘30s still flies! It was restored by its current caretaker (as he prefers to say) and flown by our dear friend Warren. Sharon & I have flown many times in this gorgeous aircraft and have a real love affair with it. Warren being Warren, he seems to have vets gravitate to him and in this case, Don’s son reached out to Warren. Finding out that Warren owned the plane his dad had flown so long ago and that it still flies, he arranged to get his dad back into the Waco. Two months later Don was in Minot, ND with Warren at the stick flying him around. Don had the biggest smile you’d ever seen! Yes, Warren is very much a part of the Flying Passion project, as are Don and Clancy (who passed this last December). One aircraft touched the lives of these three aviators and time brought them all together. And our camera was there to tell their story. That’s what photography is all about!

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And there are SO MANY thousands upon thousands of stories like this out there waiting to be told! We learned this decades ago with critters and it was reinforced when we started working with pilots. The living history they have to share is overwhelming! And any one person can’t do it all! There are some really dedicated individuals and organizations out there working to preserve this history, but as you might imagine that’s still not enough. As you might also imagine, just wanting to take on any personal project no matter what the subject takes more than just the desire. It’s what gets you started and what keeps you going, feeding your passion, but there are some gaps and that’s why we share all that we do. One photograph can change the world!

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I’m very fortunate to have a special relationship with KelbyOne. (Hope you’re catching the drift, relationships are important in this business!) Sharing this story with them got them involved in my personal project and taking it to a new level. It first led to the production of our film, Warbirds and the Men Who Flew Them. The response was huge! From this we learned there is an audience on the edge of their seats (that in large part is you!) wanting to hear these stories and getting involved with it all. We’ve recognized the desire, so now we want to help with the tools to mix with that desire to take on that personal project.

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We literally need an army of photographers / videographers out there to record the story of our living history! Don is 93 this year and like many WWII vets, is creeping up to the end of his storytelling years. With this pressing need and the response to Warbirds, KelbyOne and I have produced two new classes on Pilot Portraits and Air to Air Photography. The first one comes out tomorrow to get you involved in the storytelling process. Both of these classes are based on the assumption you’re new to all of this and take you from the start to the very end, covering the basics to the most advanced. Small flash and small planes, big flash and big planes and everything in between is covered. Yeah, there is that camera gear and technique stuff thrown about in the classes, but it’s also just as much about building that all-important relationship and telling the story. Both projects are from the heart as much as the camera bag.

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Where do you start? Well in Pilot Portraits, you start by first making introductions and the simple portrait. Always working on making the uncommon from the common, we start at the hangar. With nothing more required than a camera and lens, I’ll show you by simply moving a subject back into a hangar you can find dramatic lighting to create that first portrait. That huge door wide open is a great light source and the hangar is a place pilots are very comfortable. Combining the two is how you introduce your skills and passion to the pilot that can lead to so much more, hopefully that air to air photo mission. In our Air to Air class, we also start in the beginning, which means on the ground. Light is what wraps up our visual storytelling and learning that on the ground is essential! How do you do that? You’ll see as we “fly” a model around looking at the light falling on it, the background and then the combo to tell the story. You learn just like the pilots do, in ground school before you take to the air. We’ve laid it all out for you so all you have to do is insert your passion to make it all come to life!

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Photographers come to photography often thinking the f/stop, shutter speed and Photoshop are the biggest challenges to be conquered to be successful. Not to scare you, but that’s the easiest and simplest to master in this craft. It’s not till after you think you understand light that the challenge really becomes personal and the mastery creeps along. Because it is then you must invest the most important ingredient for improvement, time! Personal projects where you invest your heart, time and personality to tell the visual story are the true calling of photography. Stories unfold every second of every day around the world providing us all with an opportunity to explore and invest, to fail and succeed in and what I still feel is the grandest pursuit in life. The ball is now in your court to move forward, just remember, passion tells the story!

http://youtu.be/d1-FEoOqGOc

You can see more of Moose’s work at MoosePeterson.com, and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Keep an eye out for his upcoming KelbyOne classes, Pilot Portraits and The Art of Air to Air!

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I know that a lot of you already are on Instagram, but almost daily I have somebody ask why they should be on Instagram if they’re already on Facebook or on Twitter. But it wasn’t really until two things happened recently, that I really got excited about Instagram and started to post there regularly.

The first happened during an episode of “The Grid” where we were talking about social media for photographers, where that same “Why should I be on Instagram” question came up, and when I heard my answer out loud, it even upped my usage of Instagram (I was really, really late to the Instagram thing – I started an account years ago but only used it a couple of times because I really didn’t “get it” but there were other reasons. So today, I’m giving you 7 reasons, including my first one, from that Grid episode:

  1. It’s the only big social media platform based on photography
    Twitter is about text (and not much of it at that). They just started embracing photos recently, but they still penalize you for using a photo by taking away from your 140 character count. Facebook only started really caring in the last couple of years, and that’s only because when Google+ was getting big, it did care about a photo. A lot. That’s why it resonated with the photo crowd. So, that was what I said on “The Grid” that day in answer to that guy’s question — it’s the only big social media platform based on photography – how can you not be there?
  2. They fixed the whole “your image has to be cropped square” thing
    Now you have the choice, and it’s built right into the app. This is a brand new development and it changed everything for me personally (this is the 2nd thing I mentioned above). I used to use a separate app called SquareReady which kept my image’s original wide orientation intact by adding black bars on the top and bottom (kind of like letterbox widescreen in movies), but now that’s it added right in, it doesn’t take me twice as long, and two different apps, just to post one photo. This is a HUGE thing for serious photographers because the original crop is how we saw the scene. It’s our composition. Having to make your image square (or use a separate app with a letterbox effect), wasn’t cutting it. Thank you Instagram for making your app serious photography friendly.
  3. You don’t have to write a lot.
    Unlike the other social media, here your image counts more than your words, so you can say very little, or nothing at all, and its totally OK. Sometimes, I just can’t write another post, but I still want to share an image. Instagram is perfect for that.
  4. Tons of photographers are already there
    All the big name photographers. All the big brands. The whole world is on Instagram, so you’ll be in good company and lots of it. It took off back in 2010 and it’s just exploded since then. I wish I had embraced it a long time ago.
  5. It’s a wonderful place for inspiration
    Just like other social media platforms, you follow the photographers you want to follow and you’ll see the images they post daily (I hope you’ll follow me there – I’m posting lots of travel, portraits/fashion and sports images there each day now. I’m on there under ‘scottkelby‘ on Instagram). There’s tons of inspirational images that keep your creative juices flowing. I see a lot of really wonderful, beautiful, compelling images there every day. You can tap a heart to send a like. You can comment. Or you can just sit back and scroll through a stream of inspiration and fun.
  6. The Instagram App is really good
    It’s simple and clean and that’s a good thing. It’s the least complicated app on earth – you just scroll down through images. If you want to post an image, you can tap the bottom center icon; either upload a photo from your camera roll or take one with the built-in camera. It has built-in filters (it was Instagram that made all those retro looks so popular) and you can apply them with one tap (you get a preview), and that’s pretty much it. Simple is good.
  7. There are photographers you’ll only find there
    Just like you have people who are famous ‘Youtubers,’ you have photographers who have gained their fame from being ‘Instagrammers’ and this is where they showcase their work. They’re getting working from Instagram. Lots of people are. People can get noticed here. Maybe you’ll be next.

 

Of course, there are some things I wish were different on Instagram. For example:

  1. It doesn’t allow you to embed links into your posts.
    You can put a web URL in your post, but if viewers click on it, it doesn’t take them to your link. It does nothing. Ugh. It’s about the only place left on the entire internet where posting a URL doesn’t create a live link.
  2. It gives you very little analytics other than likes and comments 
    I use a Web app – Iconosquare.com (which is excellent by the way) to give me all the stats you should be getting from Instagram.
  3. You can’t post images from the desktop
    You can see them on your computer, but you can’t post images or comment, etc.  without subscribing to an expensive third-party service – you have to do it from the phone app itself. Ack! This is a pain for sure. Plus, there’s no iPad app — you just download the iPhone app and then it runs at 2x size, but the images don’t look nearly as good. Instagram just recently upped it resolution, so I’m hoping that an iPad/Tablet app is behind that move.

Those three things aside (things that I imagine will all be addressed at some time in the near future), I have to say I’m loving my Instagram experience (and it’s now my wife’s favorite social media. You can follow her at kalebrakelby – she posts some really wonderful stuff, and her stories and commentary and either quite touching or really hilarious).

If you’re not already on Instagram, I hope this post at least has you giving Instagram a try. The app is free. The account is free. The free is free. It’s free! Give it a try for a few weeks – I’ll bet you fall in love – after all – it was made for you!

Hope you all have an awesome Tuesday!

Best,

-Scott 

P.S. I’ll be up in NYC all week this week at the big Canon Expo. I’m speaking on Thursday afternoon doing a class “How to Present Like a Pro!” (the class is sold out, so if you’re already signed up – I’ll see you there! I’m really excited about this session – I’ve put a ton of time into making it really valuable for anyone who attends). 

Today is Labor Day in the United States, and our offices are closed, so we’re taking today off here at the blog but I’ll be back on here tomorrow.

By the way: I looked up Labor Day in WikiPedia, and here are a few interesting tidbits about this American Holiday:

Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties.

The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City.

In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and College football seasons.

(NOTE: My football shooting season has already started, as I shot the Bucs vs. Bengals and the Bucs vs. Browns NFL Preseason games already. Here’s some thumbnails from the Browns game, below).

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Have a great Labor Day today. Don’t forget to rest and party! :-)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. We have right around 650 Photo Walks organized around the world as part of my Worldwide Photo Walk. If you’re relaxing this Labor Day, why not click this link; type in the name of your city, and see if there’s a walk near you that you can join on Saturday, Oct. 3rd?

OK, you’ve gotta try this one, even if you don’t do type effects a lot, because it unlocks a little known Photoshop CC feature that is just awesome! Here goes:

STEP ONE: Start by choosing an Open Type font (here I’m using the Open Type font Bickham Script Pro, but you can use other Open Type fonts (look for the “O” symbol in front of the font’s name in the Font pop-down menu). So why the Open type fonts? Because they have really cool hidden stuff (more on that in the next stuff). For now, just type Pizzeria

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STEP TWO: To find the cool hidden stuff, go under the Type menu, under Panels, and choose Glyphs Panel (as shown here).

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Above: Here’s what the panel looks like — it shows you all the font’s symbols, special characters, and specially-designed beautiful extra versions of your capital letters and lower case letters, and you can use these to create instant logos that really have a unique look.

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Above: At the top of the panel is a list of all the different sets of characters that come with this particular font (and you can see there’s a bunch of ’em, like a whole set for Currency symbols, like the British Pound, The Euro, The Japanese Zen, etc.). But we’re going to use a special set of capital letters.

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STEP THREE: Highlight the “P” in Pizzeria (as shown here) and then choose Swash from the pop-up list of characters in the Glyphs panel (as seen here). You can see a preview of the some of the beautifully-designed alternate capital letters you can use. Now, take a look at the capital “P” that is the default “P”. It’s “OK” but it could be fantastic by choosing some of these Swash version (TIP: there’s a slider at the bottom of the panel that lets you choose the size of the thumbnail previews).

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STEP FOUR: Scroll down alphabetically to the letter “P” and double-click on the preview and it replaces your boring old capital P with the much fancier P you see here. Admittedly, I’m not crazy about this particular fancy “P” but luckily, it’s not are only choice.

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STEP FIVE: There’s another set of beautiful capital letters that take things up a notch. Highlight that capital P again; then from the pop-up menu at the top of the Glyphs panel, choose Stylistic Alternates; scroll down alphabetically to the letter “P” and double-click on the “P” there to get the gorgeous “P” you see here. How about that bad boy? Beautiful, right? Oh, but there’s more — let’s make the last letter in Pizzeria — the boring “a” into a more interesting “a.”

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STEP SIX: Highlight that ‘a’ at the end, and then scroll up to the Stylistic Alternate “a” and double-click on it. Look at that nice a now! (stop snickering). ;-)

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STEP SEVEN: We’re not done (still more cool stuff we haven’t uncovered), but let’s add a 2nd line of text; change your font to Trajan Pro (this font comes with Photoshop, too!) and type in the word Italiano. Change the color of Italiano to red; change the color of Pizzeria to green (highlight the text and choose the new color from the color swatch up in the Option bar at the top of the screen). OK, time for more fun stuff.

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STEP EIGHT: One of my favorite features of Open Type fonts is that many of them has a set of decorative ornaments, and Bickham Script Pro is no exception — choose Ornaments from the Glyphs panel’s pop-up menu; click the Type tool somewhere away from where your other text is located; then double-click on any one of the ornaments and it appears on screen. Here I clicked on a nice ornamental “swooshy thing” and then I dragged it up under the letter “P” like you see here. I clicked on a few different ones until I came up with this one that I thought fit pretty well, but there were LOTS of choices of different styles and shapes. OK, we’re almost done.

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STEP NINE: You’re about to learn a very handy selection trick, but to make a selection of just part of a Type layer, you have to convert it from a Type layer to a regular ol’ pixel layer. You do that by Right-clicking on the layer in the  Layers panel and from the pop-up menu that appears, choose Rasterize Type (as shown here). Now, you could grab the Eraser tool and just start erasing any part of that word Pizzeria you’d like (but don’t do that, because you’d miss the really handy selection tip I’m about to share.

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STEP 10: We’re going to make the dots in the dotted “i’s” red. Get the Rectangular Marquee tool; drag a selection around the dot over one of the eyes (as shown here).

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STEP 11: Switch to the Move tool; then press the Up Arrow key on your keyboard once, and then press the Down Arrow key once. This snaps the selection to the dot (as seen here). This is such a handy tip because it picks up every pixel (it does a much better job than the magic wand would have done. In fact, this technique will even pick up stuff like soft drop shadows behind layers, and basically anything and everything in that area. It works like a charm!) Now; set Red as your Foreground color then press Option-Delete (Windows: Alt-Backspace) to fill the dot with red like you see above.

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STEP 12: Here’s the finished logo with the red-dotted “i’s”

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Hope you found that helpful. :)

-Scott

P.S. OK, this is a little off-topic, but if you’re into Landscape photography, make sure you check out the new online class from landscape photographer Richard Bernabe — his class on landscape composition is getting rave reviews from KelbyOne members. Here’s the trailer (it’ll make you really want to watch the class, so here’s the direct link to the class itself. You can watch it for $20, then watch all the rest of our classes for a full 30-days. Can’t beat it). 

 

 

 

Retouching Brides with Scott Kelby
Learn new ways to retouch brides with Scott Kelby! In this class Scott demonstrates techniques targeted at helping photographers who have to do their own retouching to make the job quicker, easier, and more efficient. Dealing with skin tends to be the most important and most time consuming aspect of retouching brides, so Scott takes you step-by-step through a series of techniques that you can apply to a variety of situations, and he even shows you how to automate the techniques using Photoshop actions. It’s not all about skin though, Scott has techniques for color corrections, enhancing eyes, reducing noses, performing all kinds of repairs, and even conversions to black and white. There’s even a technique for giving grooms a cleaner shave. If you’re a wedding photographer who has to retouch your own photos, then this class is for you.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free 1-month KelbyOne membership to watch this class (and any others you want) for free!

Last Week’s Winner
Lightroom CC Power Tour Ticket
– Randy Bosman

If that’s you, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

Teaching a class here at KelbyOne is always an awesome experience. And my most recent project – DSLR Filmmaking: shooting a music video for the band Jule Vera – was certainly nothing short of just that.

There were a lot of differences with this project versus my past music videos –specifically the budget. For the first time I was able to buy sets, props, wardrobe, special lighting, and a smoke machine.

If you find yourself getting into a project like this, you must pay people. Pay them something, even if it’s $100. Paid people work better for you and it shows in the end. When hiring talent… DO NOT USE YOUR GIRLFRIEND! The lead singer always wants to put his favorite groupie as the lead. A month later, they break up, she’s now dating a lawyer, and your video never gets finished cause you get served papers. If you spend money on anything, spend money on a model or actor. You are going to spend so many hours editing this thing, that spending some money, even if it’s out of your own pocket to help out, will give you fuel for your portfolio and lead to bigger opportunities.

I knew the The Van’s Warped Tour of about 70 bands was coming into town, and there I could find the perfect up and coming band, looking for a free music video. I came across Jule Vera from Alabama, who had members that grew up here in Tampa. I was sent their not yet released album, and was told to pick any song I wanted. Die Trying! Holy cow, what a cinematic and epic piece! I think the word epic is highly overused and I’m never one to say it about bike rides or desserts, but this song was freaking epic.

A basic formula for a concept story telling video is twofold. You shoot the band telling the story, and then you shoot the actual story. The band is the storyteller, and the short film depicts the story the song is telling. You edit them together – and voila!

My concept was simple: A man is stuck in a leveled, unrecognizably burnt down town. A girl trapped in an altered reality full of peace and sunshine, but alone. Man finds girl. Girl is ripped from her reality. And the two go off into the future and have like 10 babies. The band, meanwhile, is telling the story while floating above the wreckage of rooftops, tops of trees and fog.

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To take my inspiration further, I studied the portfolio of my favorite artist who is a master of creating altered realities – Brooke Shaden. I pinned all her work that matched my theme to my desk wall, along with other ideas for pieces of the set, and lighting ideas. I listened to the song, over and over, as ideas came to me.

My friend Lindsay Adler came to the rescue, renting me two dresses for the price of one, from her online rental store www.dreamshootrentals.com. My singer would have a dress made out of a parachute with a bullet holster and all! My model would don an octopus-like dress. Both women flowing beautifully above this town burnt to hell. It was perfect. The story was all coming together.

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My producer, Jen Coffin, strolls up to my desk says “building a set with demolished rooftops and charred trees is just a tad way over budget.” I had no choice but to rethink my approach, but still keep within my theme. The dresses were on the way and the band now had serious expectations.

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With a little bit of creativity, resourceful budgeting, and a team of talented people, we came up with the idea of a burnt down house. Incorporate some key props and materials – creepy teddy bears, grand pianos, busted pallets, mulch – and now it was finally coming together.

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A fun idea the guys came up with was to set up 3 drum kits, and pile ashes on top of the heads. They played the song at twice the speed, so that when I would slow it back down in post to normal speed, the ashes would be in slow motion and rise from the drum heads. We had time at the end of the day so we gave it a shot, and it ended up being one of the most powerful parts of the video.

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Making this video was such an amazing experience and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable. Having talented people working for you like Daniel Bryant, who did all the compositing and effects, really took this video to the next level and I can’t thank him enough for all his hard work. I had a fun supportive crew, and it was a blast.

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The rewarding part for me was being able to go see them play live at 2 different cites. They got me a photo pass and I was able to shoot one of my other favorite artists, Bebe Rexha! What a fun experience overall.

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I hope you’ll enjoy my vision unfold and maybe take away a thing or two that can help you in your next project.

http://youtu.be/GpL0pFcdjIc

You can see more of Adam’s work at AdamShotIt.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Plus, see his class DSLR Filmmaking: Shooting a Music Video when it’s added to the KelbyOne library tomorrow!

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