Happy New Year!

Canon 7D with 40mm f2.8 lens

Now that it is 2014, I’m proud to present to you:
A new website!
A new camera!
A new blog template!

How exciting my tech life is these days.

New Website
I created a new website, HaleyMBrown.com, to showcase my photo and video work and provide an official way of contacting me, since now I have a new business email address (haley@haleymbrown.com) through the website. The website has been live since summer, but I haven’t made it known through this blog yet, so I thought now is a great time to share. It’s very visual, very media and I like it. Teal, turquoise and red are my favorite colors and I used an image that incorporated those colors from the background of a teleprompter that I had photographed on a prior shoot. I thought this photo represents what I do professionally very well: photography, video, teleprompting, production, all of that and then some.

New Camera
I have craved a new camera for quite some time now, especially since I’m a videographer and editor at my job. Since I work on high quality equipment at my job, I thought I should also invest and incorporate comparable gear into my freelance/hobby life as well, which will benefit me in the long run anyways. I felt like I pushed my older camera’s functions to many extremes, and it was starting to limit what I wanted to do such as more low-light and night photography, as well as time-lapses and VIDEO! Right before 2013 ended, Lorne, who I work with for Perfect Cut Productions, offered me a great deal on his Canon 7D + 40mm f2.8 pancake lens + accessories and I felt like the deal was too good to pass up, even though it was all of a sudden and right after Christmas. It was time to upgrade my equipment. And fun fact, I’ve actually used this camera many times on set with his crew so I knew it was in good hands prior to me buying it which tends to be a fear when buying (gently) used gear. So the deal worked, and now I’m able to offer photo and video services at an even higher quality than before! Plus, it’s a new toy for me and I’m eager to work on new projects, of course.

New Blog Template
Lastly, to round out my media upgrades, I unveil the new blog template that I just recently changed. To me, this layout feels fresh and bright and coordinates well with my website. Some of the previous blog posts may not be formatted well with the new layout, since I designed the original posts to work well with the former layout, but I’m doing my best to update those. I get to figure out how best to display my images within posts and what works well with my new layout. If you find any bugs with my blog or my website feel free to email me or drop a reply on here; I’m pretty quick about finding the solution.

More Projects
My tech life is always a work in progress, which reflects how much media shifts and evolves over time, but it’s something you can always use to improve your skills, challenge yourself and achieve creative results, which keeps media exciting! My New Year’s Resolution? To take more photos and video!

I know that later this month, I will help out on set of a featurette produced by Tugboat Pictures, and I also have a couple of photo sessions in mind for portraits/headshots. So I look forward to shooting more and in turn posting about my experiences and projects, accompanied with photos from my new camera!

Thanks for keeping up to date with my work.

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Gail Hale’s Art Studio

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Gail Hale’s Art Studio, a set on Flickr.

For Homes & Lifestyles magazine, I interviewed Bloomington visual artist Gail Hale and explored her studio for a story on re-purposing clothing and trash items for the Center for Sustainable Living’s Trashion Refashion Show. The issue’s out now!

Homes & Lifestyles

Semi-Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Homemade Cheesy Gordita Crunch

Update: I started a new “Food Photography” album on Flickr.

It was a limited-time product, but now it is a mainstay on the menu. Taco Bell describes it as a “warm, pillowy flatbread covered in a melted three-cheese blend, wrapped around a crunchy taco and topped with a zesty Pepper Jack sauce.” One of my favorite items to order off the Taco Bell menu is the cheesy gordita crunch. As a recent college graduate, yes, Taco Bell is still a guilty pleasure.

I still live right off campus from Indiana University, and this week is Spring Break but I’m not on vacation. How about serving up cheesy gordita crunches and throwing together a fiesta?! Sand not included.

I was shopping in WalMart recently and came across some shelf products made by Taco Bell. I had no idea that they offered packaged salsas and sauces, so I purchased the Spicy Ranchero Sauce hoping that it’d be a good substitute as a cheesy gordita crunch sauce.

Spicy Ranchero Sauce, Ortega taco shells, cheese, and On The Border hot salsa. Not pictured: taco seasoning, ground chuck, water, lettuce, and Taco Bell Mild Sauce

You could definitely make your own sauces, salsas and tortillas and get really creative with it, but my idea came about quickly and I went for the faster, packaged selections instead. It’s actually a simple taco recipe, just with craftily constructed shells. I put the Spicy Ranchero Sauce on the side, and turns out I didn’t really like it anyways. Maybe just melting pepper jack cheese would have been more suitable. I can try that next time.

Start with:

1 box of Ortega Grande Taco Shells, Hard and Soft Tacos. It comes with 8 hard shell tacos and 8 soft tacos and is perfect for “cheesy gordita crunch”-making.

1 lb. ground chuck. This is enough to make six, depending how much fills the shells.

1 cup water.

1 pkg. taco seasoning mix.  I had Kroger’s on hand.

Lettuce. I had bags of romaine salad on hand that I sliced up.

Taco sauce. Of course, I used mild sauce packets from Taco Bell.

1 package of blended Mexican cheeses. The Great Value brand I bought at WalMart had Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Queso and Asadero cheeses.

Salsa. I typically have four different salsas in my fridge because I’m picky, but now my favorite is On The Border Hot Salsa.

Shells on top of cheese-covered tortillas. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

Ortega directions I followed but improved on:

Taco-seasoned ground chuck. Photo credit: Isaiah Ashba

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove hard shells from container and arrange on baking sheet.
  2. While waiting for the oven to preheat, brown the beef in a pan on the stove and drain the fat. Stir in 1 cup water and packet of seasoning mix, then heat until thickened while stirring mixture often.
  3. Place baking sheet with hard shells in the oven and bake for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Using a hot pad, remove sheet from oven, then take out soft tortillas from container. Shells will be hot, but gently move them to the side of pan or on another clean surface. Place soft tortillas on the baking sheet and sprinkle cheese on tortillas, covering the surface but still leaving space around the edges for cheese to melt. Place shells directly on the tortillas. Make an even amount of shells and tortillas. Bake for roughly 20 seconds, depending on oven. The cheese needs to be softened and melted but not completely.
  5. Remove baking sheet. Quickly but gently fold tortillas around shells and press together firmly around sides and bottom. Be careful because shells are fragile.
  6.  Fill newly made gordita crunch shells with beef, taco sauce, salsa, lettuce, cheese and enjoy!

Isaiah takes a bite.

Lights, Camera, Exercise.

Shooting a music video on the roof overlooking Rose-Hulman's football field.

Video production.

Although I was in media-related majors, I didn’t have production classes in college; I had basic shooting/editing projects in an Intro to Journalism class. This past weekend, I got to see and learn how Perfect Cut Productions produced a music video for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Sports and Recreation Center. I felt completely useless because I didn’t know how to assemble anything on set and would have hindered the crew further behind schedule, but that’s not what my job was anyways. Instead, I spent each day photographing behind scenes. I shot the crew at work and of their candid moments, images they could use for marketing/advertising purposes.

The whole crew: Nick Maudlin, Evan Richardson, Lorne Golman, Steve Mech, Michael Bennett and Alex Guevara.

Music, Red Bull and a blurry haze of exhaustion

Key elements needed for production sets that I learned: Red Bull, iPod/stereo, candy and chips. These provisions fueled the team for the 15-hour workdays and were much appreciated by everyone. Shout-out to Perfect Cut for the transportation, snacks and meals such as dinner at the local Mexican restaurant.

Sure, a music system of some sort is obvious for the set of a music video, but an upbeat, energetic and comical playlist helps heighten the crew’s work ethic and overall mood throughout the day especially when the days drag on and the tensions through exhaustion begin. If I could create a playlist for this post that would match what we rocked out to, I would. However, WordPress doesn’t have that sort of technology, I don’t think, so instead I’m going to include turquoise, italicized links for you to check out as you read to get an idea of what we used as motivation and inspiration.

Possible scene from "Silent Hill"

On the first day we drove up there, Friday the 17th, the entire drive seemed like we were in the movie, “Silent Hill,” because of the dense fog we tunneled through along the highway. Eerie.

The first day had scenes that included cool hand scanners, a faculty basketball game, Rose-Hulman’s elephant tusks circa 1959, the Vince Lombardi Trophy won by Super Bowl XLI Champions the Indianapolis Colts, elephant mascots and “Gators,” the men’s varsity locker room and finally a night-time jib shot of the building’s entrance at night complete with hyped students and Steve Mech, our talent for the video.

Night shot in front of the SRC.

The GoPro camera makes an underwater debut.

For Saturday morning, we started off with high dives at the pool. Lorne, the director, changed into his SCUBA equipment and shot Steve underwater. Steve, who was wearing weights, said, “I’ve always wanted to do this after seeing Pirates of the Caribbean,” and began walking underwater from a five-foot depth downwards to about eight feet.

“This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow, pirate so brave on the seven seas.” –Michael Bolton/The Lonely Island

Next came shooting a pick-up football game, the catwalk above a conference championship track meet, a fluid mechanical engineering lecture, cheerleader stunts and we finished on the roof overlooking the football field at night. I hope Steve conquered his fear of heights by this point. Before this night, I don’t recall ever seeing a silent and reflective group of guys. The roof, the football field, cold weather, a clear night sky and “Paradise” by Coldplay on blast makes for a humbling, thoughtful moment we got to experience both individually yet together.

Sunday was our final day of shooting—a frigid wind chill morning where we had to shoot outside in front of the SRC. Later we shot the weight room which included lifting weights and running on treadmills.

“I-I-I work out.” –LMFAO

We proceeded with shooting racquetball, karate, swing dancing and dance aerobics. Even with the usual down-time here and there, I feel like it was quite an active day.

Rose-Hulman's dance aerobics club dances to "Jai Ho."

Group critique.

Now to wrap up, I really enjoyed being on set and watching video magic happen, making new friends with the Perfect Cut team, and having access to basically wherever we wanted at Rose-Hulman’s SRC because it gave us really cool location/shot opportunities that I know will make this music video interesting and quite frankly AWESOME. Also, much thanks to Michael, Nick and Alex, the guys in the background who continuously assembled and disassembled the lights and hauled the equipment. Without them, we literally wouldn’t have gotten around, and I wouldn’t have such sweet lighting in my set photos.

Once Perfect Cut edits and completes the video, I’ll post it in another blog entry, so please be on the lookout for that.

And as always, go to my > Flickr < account for extra pictures, because you won’t want to miss them.

Side view of Rose-Hulman's Sports and Recreation Center.

. . . Pt. 2

Rose on stage

[Dot Dot Dot Part Two]

Dot Dot Dot was already at The Bluebird setting up their show on the back room stage as I walked in, while other people were decorating for a wedding party in the front. It was a little windy outside as the sun poured into the clear and stained glass windows of the bar, creating a strange brightness in the otherwise dark interior. (Cringe. Vampire-esque.)

I was at The Bluebird in the afternoon to discuss the details of the night’s events: what would be the backdrop for photos, where it would be, when to get there later, etc. It was “Winter WonDOTland” on January 28, 2012, and it was a winter formal themed show complete with a portrait area, paper snowflakes and blue-and-white lights hanging from the ceiling.

Winter WonDOTland

. . .

That night I arrived before 9 p.m. and let the guy at the front know who I was, then went over to my place where the backdrop would be in front of the blue doors to the back room. The wedding party guests were still socializing and drinking and wanted their pictures taken. Fans of Dot Dot Dot hadn’t arrived yet. For a few moments I felt like I was a—gasp—wedding crasher.

More people started to arrive; I lured them over to the photo area. Dot Dot Dot pre-arranged a party bus to leave from Indianapolis and arrive in Bloomington at The Bluebird to bring more out-of-town people to and from the show safely. Before 11 p.m., we moved the photos to the back room as it started to fill up, and people began having fun posing for their prom-styled portraits.

This is what the band and I had expected.

There were coordinated couples complete with formal attire, boutonnieres and corsages, and then there were the people who happened to hear of the show last-minute; costumes were encouraged but not required. I talked to some people who didn’t go to their high school prom and this was their only chance to experience it. As their portraitist, I was touched to be a part of such an occasion for them.

It was fun to take pictures of old friends, new friends, the band and a bunch of drunken strangers.

Group photo for The Bluebird and Dot Dot Dot.

Enjoy this Flickr gallery of portraits and other photos.

Side note: It was so hot in the back half of The Bluebird, that the band was passing out bottled water to the audience. Going outside was so refreshing but coming back in would steam up the camera lens. Not good!

Adam and colorful lights.

Marty stays refreshed.

. . . Pt. 1

[Dot Dot Dot Part One]

It was the fourth of December and I was with some friends at a bar, The Bluebird, for Dot Dot Dot’s concert; I think I have seen about five of their shows on various occasions. Chicago-based Dot Dot Dot plays a set that includes original songs such as “All Be Alright,” “Smile” and “Stay,” and covers current and past hit songs like “Poker Face,” “Yellow,” “Footloose” and even Nintendo ditties; their punky stage style balances out their charming pop songs and personalities. Dot Dot Dot performed a great show, which paired nicely with a couple of blue Dirty Birds down the throat and a couple of good friends dancing along by my side.

During the concert, one of my friends had tweeted Dot Dot Dot and tagged me in the tweet as well. When Dot Dot Dot read it later, they approached me on Twitter for an opportunity to photograph their “winter formal”-themed show at The Bluebird on January 28, a show planned and pulled together since. [Plog coming soon]

Friends enjoying 15 cent beers at The Bluebird.

In preparation for that show, although I will mainly be taking fan portraits, I went to The Bluebird to see Dot Dot Dot again to basically practice photographing inside the venue and check how my Sony DSLR works with the rapid, colorful changes of stage lighting. Luckily they had a show January 11 before the winter formal, and it fell on a day of two friends’ 21st birthdays and they both wanted to go to the concert. Also, it was on a Wednesday and no one can beat 15 cent domestic beers!

And so I went to the show and chatted with my friends and photographed the band. I always feel like I have a “warming up” period of shooting where I am adjusting to the environmental conditions and testing out various methods of shooting such as longer exposures, fast-action speeds, etc. For me, this shoot was experimental and new.

Little Lisa.

Concerts are difficult to photograph because of many factors: the stage, the lights, the fog machines, the crowd and the angles of everything. The Bluebird is dark and dimly lit but has overpowering, bright, saturated stage lights. In order to switch it up I took photos at various spots surrounding the stage, including from the room that looks onto the stage, the middle, elevated platform, and atop benches against the walls. I was not going to barge my way and intrude upon anyone that drunkenly claimed their territories by mounting themselves front and center of the stage. But for the second set that Dot Dot Dot played, one kind person moved and offered me his spot at the front brink of the stage, where I was able to capture photographs directly under Little Lisa as she kicked in her knee-high boots.

It takes as much preparation to plan to get shots or it is just luck. When I say preparation, I mean everything from charging batteries ahead of time and bringing extra memory cards, knowing how the lights will move and change at certain parts of certain songs, to seconds-before-the-action-knowing what apertures and shutter speeds to set for predicting a performer’s physical movements. Since I am mainly photojournalistic in how I shoot, it works to my advantage in this case because I know I do not have control over the elements of the scene, much like in photojournalism, and that is where I am beginning to see the difference between photojournalism and photography. Concerts are tricky to shoot, but working around variables adds to the challenge and the fun of shooting performances.

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> More DOT DOT DOT photos on Flickr <