Photo Shoot With Shonnita – 7/10/17

This photo shoot was a smaller one than the ones I usually do. This is mostly because I was asked to do this photo shoot. Normally I hire models myself, but a friend had someone who needed headshots and action photos, and wanted me to shoot them.

This other reason this photo shoot was so small was because we decided to shoot around one in the afternoon on what was probably the hottest day of the year so far. It was disgusting. The photos came out great, and Shonnita looked amazing, but boy it was hot. The location we chose was Walney Trails, which has a small stage they use for concerts and performance. We also made use of the stone bridge and water up near the lake.

Shonnita is a dancer, so she has a slender build, but with toned muscle. The goal was to accentuate the muscle using the natural light and the shadows. Alongside the headshots she wanted, we also took a bunch of shots of her dancing. Overall I think the idea was a success!

This was also the first time I worked with a makeup artist as part of the shooting process. So that was fun and I definitely want to keep working with one as my shoots become more “complicated” and involved. They’re a valuable asset.

I just need to make sure I don’t shoot anything at the height of the day in the middle of summer.

Full album can be found here!

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Photo Shoot With Amy – 7/7/17

I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t think to do this in the first place. Why not write about my shoots, what I’ve learned from them, and the concepts behind them? This shoot is my third “official” shoot, and by official I mean I paid to have someone come out with me and take pictures.

Amy, the model, is actually someone who I’ve been messaging back and forth since I joined Model Mayhem (a kind of Facebook/job list for models and photographers). Over the course of two months, we finally found something that worked for both of us. And by both of us, I mean mostly me. Since work got in the way and sometimes I’m just really bad at scheduling.

Anyway, the shoot took place at Prince William State Forest. I’d shot their before with another model, Melanie. While leaving that first shoot, we completed the loop that makes up the basic trail and came across a small waterfall that was full of life. It was absolutely something I had to take advantage of.

So this time, heading out with Amy, we made our way out to the waterfall. Or maybe it’s more of a “rapid”. I’m not really sure what makes one different from the other… except maybe height? Either way it was amazing. The heat was intense, but the water was cool, which made shooting in the water way easier than you’d think.

One thing I’ve never really been afraid of is getting messy in order to get the kind of shots I want. The problem this time was that I didn’t realize how deep the water was and almost sunk my phone while it was in my pocket. I soaked my wallet and everything else in my pockets though. Thankfully the phone made it through in tact. Lesson learned on that one.

In terms of concept, I didn’t have anything super solid going in. For nature shoots, I tend to make it up as I go because I’m never really sure exactly what the landscape will look like when I arrive. Being able to adapt on the fly isn’t the worst skill one can have, but it can definitely make for awkward silences between you and the model while you rack your brain for the next shot.

A few ideas did come to me though. There was a tiny little alcove right near where we set up our “camp”. Part of the stream ran down into this area, creating a tiny pond. It’s one of things you must take advantage of in the moment. Thankfully Amy was super game for whatever I wanted to do and settled into the pond.

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As you can see from the shot above, we were able to create some very natural looking shots. There’s something serene about being bare in a body of water. Especially this one, where Amy was enclosed by the nature around her. It was very cozy in there.

This was also my first time working with someone who was willing to take their clothes off – so to speak. Personally, I don’t find nudity to be offensive. It’s the natural state of being after all. Thankfully Amy felt the same way. She has a long history as an art model, so she’s no stranger to being nude. This helped us create our more unique shots, such as the one above.

The other major idea involved the small waterfall, obviously. We took so many shots in the rushing water, which thankfully wasn’t nearly as powerful as it looked. A lot of my favorite shots had a bit of fun in them. Either they were candids while Amy was setting up, or they were shots of her playing in the water. They added a sense of motion as well and didn’t look super serious. It’s good to alternate tone.

Lastly, I think one of my favorite shots is of Amy lounging in the center of the fall. I just think it looks incredible to see someone just sitting in the center of a waterfall like it’s a comfy chair.

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The editing process is always a tough one. You spend a few hours taking roughly 500+ shots and then whittle them down to about 50 or so. I think during this shoot I took around 250 pictures and by the end I wound up with 58. My thought process in choosing which to keep and which to ditch is really what’s interesting. I try and limit myself to one (two at most) photos per pose. You don’t need seven shots of the same pose from the same angle. Hell, even different zooms don’t really make a photo look that different.

By the end though, I’m proud of the work Amy and I were able to do. Though, the style is very similar to my last shoot, which is something I need to work on. I still feel like my work is very basic. Hopefully as time goes on I’ll find a more unique style. I imagine something like that comes with time and practice???

Anyways, those are my rambling thoughts on this shoot at 1 in the morning. Hopefully it made some sort of sense to you and you found it at least vaguely interesting. I’m going to try and do this for all my shoots going forward. I doubt they’ll be as long, but I’ll try and make them as detailed as possible.

The full album can be found here! 🙂

You can find Amy at http://www.modelmayhem.com/AELopez!

You can find all of my work either on Instagram or Facebook!

Redefining Creative Spaces

As writers know, there’s always that place, or spot, that helps the creative energies flow. For some it’s a coffee shop, their clean desk, or their office space. It’s somewhere you can get away from distractions and focus on your writing. Some people need music, some people need white noise, others need complete quiet.

For me, the past six years of writing has been done in college. I hated college. It was boring and very little of it had anything to do with what I wanted out of life. So I escaped to writing. I have notebooks that have been filled over the years with ideas and outlines. Everything that’s given birth to one story or another was written down during a class of some kind.

Now that I’ve graduated, things have gotten odd. I now have to force myself to find time and space to write again. Which, you’d think would be easy. But it’s quite the opposite. At classes, at the very least, I had to be there. There really wasn’t a choice in the matter (I guess there is, technically, but I wanted to graduate after all).

My room is probably the closest thing to another decent creative space. But there are tons of distractions, primarily the internet itself. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. It takes a lot more willpower than you’d think to hunker down and put “pen to paper” when you just do anything else you want.

There isn’t exactly a point to all this, just some musings on space and how it affects creativity. But a goal of mine in 2017 is to write another novel. It’s been years since I have and it’s about time I hop to it. So one way or another I’ll have to find a way to focus.

Suicide Squad Review

Imagine, if you will, two versions of a movie. Each scene is written out on note cards. One side is for the cartoony, colorful version of the movie. The other side is for the darker, grittier version of the movie. Then, for whatever reason, someone decides to put them all in the same box, and shake it violently. A single version of the movie is then made by pulling scenes from this box. One scene is from the cartoony version, while another is from the gritty version. For whatever reason, this is how the movie is made.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how Suicide Squad was made.

There’s no joke about this either. Reports have surfaced since the release of the movie that there were two cuts of the movie. One was dark, the other more cartoony. Both were tested with audiences and for some reason, Warner Bros. decided to take “the best parts” of both and create what it’s in theaters today.

Instead of anything remotely cohesive, we received a tone deaf, inconsistent movie that is fun and colorful one moment, and utterly dramatic and “emotional” the next. It’s confusing, jarring, and makes for a frustrated viewing experience. The worst part is that you can very easily tell which version of the movie each scene belongs to. That’s how different they are from each other and how jarring the shift in tone is.

Let’s start with the basics though. The Suicide Squad is a team of villains from the DC universe pulled into a black ops team by Amanda Waller. She’s afraid – understandably – that the next Superman we get might not be for truth, justice, and the American way. So she wants to build a team of people with abilities in order to combat such threats. Enter Task Force X, aka the Suicide Squad.

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Under the command of Rick Flag – Joel Kinnaman, doing the worst Texas accent since Chris Pratt in Jurassic World – the squad is lead through Midway City in order to combat a swirling ring of magical trash that’s started to tear the city apart. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t get more interesting than that. Nor does it get more complicated. The Suicide Squad is there to do two things: rescue someone, and kill the bad guy. Their rescue target takes about a minute or two to figure out and “twist” of who it is falls flat. The villain on the other hand, is such a non-presence that sometimes you forget there was a character there.

The movie generally lacks drama or consequences. While there is something pushing the team forward through the plot, it’s so thin and uninteresting that you don’t even care. The Enchantress, played by a very bored Cara Delevingne, does so little in the movie that she’s hardly a threat. The “relationship” between her and Rick Flag is almost existent on screen. Instead it’s told to us several times by various characters. Because that’s going to make the audience care, right? The fact that the two share only three scenes together doesn’t do them any favors. Even her brother, whose name I don’t even recall anymore, serves a role as “the big henchmen” only to disappear after a single action sequence.

The team itself is comprised of eight members. If that sounds like too many to you, then you’d be correct. Many of them don’t do anything of note in the whole movie. Slipknot – spoilers – gets murdered in his second scene in the whole movie. He’s so pointless he doesn’t get a special intro like most of the other characters. Katana has a total of four lines in the movie and doesn’t affect the plot in anyway. It’s referenced, kind of, that she might be friends with Rick Flag, but no backstory is given into that relationship whatsoever. Therefore, she’s a pointless entity within the movie. Other members worth mentioning in the pointless category are: Killer Croc and Captain Boomerang.

Less pointless are some of the main headliners. Will Smith shines in the movie as the hitman Deadshot, and even Margot Robbie manages to be bearable as Harley Quinn (even if her accent fades in and out throughout the movie). The two have really good chemistry and actually develop something of a friendship over the course of the movie. Their scenes together are easily the most interesting in the movie and it’s a shame that one of the more unpleasant elements in the movie distracted from this.

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Before getting into that though, it’s worth noting that alongside Smith and Robbie, Viola Davis is perfect as Amanda Waller. She’s exactly as you’d imagine the character to be: cold, ruthless, and calculated. She’s even scarier than some of the Suicide Squad members. My hope is that, if this movie doesn’t get a sequel, she will continue to appear in other DC universe movies.

The flashbacks in the movie are an odd element. Because not all the characters get one, and not all of them are necessary. Harley Quinn receives the most attention in this department and most of them are unnecessary. Of all the characters in the movie, she’s the most well-known and needed the least amount of explaining to audiences. Instead we got three flashbacks, all that involve Joker, that don’t really add much to her character. It felt like an excuse to add more Joker into the movie, which it really didn’t need.

The Joker is by far the worst element of the movie. Jared Leto plays some kind of gangster version of the Joker that’s extremely unappealing. More offensive than that is the fact that he doesn’t do anything in the movie. If he were to be removed from the story completely, it would not affect the main plot whatsoever. There was potential there for something interesting to happen, but instead it does the exact opposite.

The action in the movie is fairly rote. It’s basically your standard fare, not making any special use of the character’s abilities or what makes them interested. Most of them are against fodder anyways, and it seems like most of the scenes were put in the movie in order to fill time. This and the flashbacks for certain characters, could easily have been cut in order to make a tighter film.

The most frustrating thing about Suicide Squad is that when it works, it works really well. There’s a good movie in there somewhere. The first thirty minutes of the movie are awesome. It’s colorful, cartoony, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. The character intros that the members get are well done and fit the tone they’re going for in that moment. Unfortunately, it’s once the mission gets going that things bounce back and forth every other scene. It’s maddening that movie like this was made.

The film also includes a few cameos from other characters, mostly Batman, since most of the Suicide Squad members are Batman villains. One of the more interesting scenes in the movie is Deadshots flashback, where Batman comes to arrest him. If nothing else, this movie’s biggest crime is making me want a Batman movie where Will Smith is the villain.

Overall Suicide Squad is a mess. It’s a poorly made movie that’s made even more frustrating by the fact that there is potential there. This could have been a fun movie. But it’s a movie that symptomatic of Warner Bros. current position, and it’s unfortunate that it got swept up in all this. If you’re looking for a reason to see Suicide Squad, you won’t find one here. In fact, you should just wait until the movie is on TV some time, and you catch it accidentally.

Ghostbusters (2016) Review

I’ll just come out and say it right here in the very beginning of the review: the new Ghostbusters movie is totally worth seeing. Despite what you may have heard from angry man-children about the movie being a rip off of the original, the all female cast, or any other random “concern” they could pull out of their hats, Ghostbusters is a funny and well made film.

So there you have it. That could be the whole review. You should definitely go see this movie. But if you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the film, read on below. The film does a lot that’s worth talking about and I feel like I would be doing the movie a disservice if I didn’t dive into what made the film tick.

The movie opens with one of the fastest first acts I’ve seen in my life, with Kristin Wiig’s character Erin being up for tenure review at her university. She’s currently a big name physicist, but she had an “unfortunate” past with the paranormal and is now doing everything she can to hide that from her current employers. Unfortunately for her, her former best friend Abby (Melissa McCarthy) has put the paranormal science book they wrote up on Amazon for all to see. It’s the first thing you see when you Google Erin’s name.

So she marches down to Abby’s workplace to demand that she take the book down. But after some exposition and an introduction to Ghostbuster’s highlight character (Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann), we’re off to the races. Erin is back tracking ghosts and her estranged relationship with Abby is instantly repaired.

It’s then the movie moves into your more familiar origin story. They find their base of operations, get better equipment, and so on and so forth. Nothing about the story of Ghostbusters is necessarily breaking new ground in the story department, but it does so with heart and humor. That more than can be said for most movies these days.

The movie is funnier than the trailers give it credit for. Characters like Leslie Jones Patty and Chris Hemsworth Kevin are standouts in the film, providing a lot of the movie’s funnier moments. Hemsworth especially is adorably funny as the beefcake who thinks that covering his eyes means he can’t hear anything.

Special mention has to be given – again – to Kate McKinnon’s Holtzmann. The character is easily the most “out there” of the four, but she owns that weirdness in a way that makes her incredibly endearing. The other characters don’t berate her, or get annoyed her antics. They accept her quirks and embrace them. It’s a celebration of weirdness.

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It’s worth noting though, that of the main characters, Holtzmann’s back story is pretty much unexplored. All the other characters have time dedicated to where they came from and who they were before ghost hunting was their thing. But for Holtzmann, part of her character involved being gay. Paul Fieg has confirmed as much, but said they had to cut all mentions of it due to “studio pressure”. It kind of explains a touching moment at the end of the film, that may seem out of place to many who don’t know this ahead of time. It’s unfortunate that her character got a chop job because of close-minded pressures, but at the same time it’s a testament to McKinnon’s performance that the character stands out despite that.

Moving along, if the first act was too short, the third act is a tad too long. The final battle takes on many forms and seems a bit over drawn, like maybe a segment could have been cut. But it’s fun spectacle of colors and action in way that brings Ghostbusters into the modern action genre. It’s also capped off by a few great jokes involving our very own Kevin.

If Ghostbuster has a glaring flaw, it’s its need to reference the original movie. As a reboot of a “beloved” franchise, there’s a reasoning behind bringing back those who came before you. To that effect, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, and Sigourney Weaver all have cameos in the movie. Some of them are better than others, like Hudson’s cameo. Others such as Dan Aykroyd’s feel out of place and are given way more screen time than they deserve. The only glaring omissions are Rick Moranis and Harold Ramis. Ramis, who died before the release of the movie, has a dedication to his name at the very end.

Other than that, Ghostbusters is a fun film that celebrates smart, weird, and kick-ass women. It’s funny and has a charm to it that’s unique to something like Ghostbusters. It keeps the spirit of the original film while pushing it forward to the modern age. As stated above, Ghostbusters is a well made movie that absolutely deserves your attention, if nothing else for some standout performances from characters you may not expect them from.

 

Let’s Talk About Food

Before I begin, I should note that I’m writing this while eating an entire box of Chips Ahoy! cookies and a glass of milk. This will be important for later.

I’m going to write about food and body image for a bit, so if that bothers you, this is your warning to leave.

In short, I hate my weight. I absolutely despise it. For those unaware, I’m 24, male, and roughly 5 foot, 9 inches. I also weigh 210 pounds. The average for my height is around 170-175, so that’s quite a difference.

I’ve also been trying to get down to that weight for longer than I can remember. I think that I started around 2009? I honestly cannot remember. Either way, it’s been a long time. I’ve tried several different methods, from calorie counting, to “dieting” in the sense of portion control, to constant exercise, and some combination of those.

Nothing has worked. I lose a few pounds, then go back up and few pounds. One step forward, two steps back. Story of my life.

Reading this, you no doubt have a few questions. The first is why? Why is it so hard? There are multiple answers to this.

Food is a very important part of my family. My mother and I joke that the family motto is “We don’t eat to live, we live to eat.” This of course means we enjoy food for its taste much more than it’s ability to sustain life. We enjoy lots of different foods, but primarily sweet, savory, and salty.

In other words, we eat a lot of junk. Not as much as some people, but enough in my opinion.

There are also some mental factors. I suffer from major depression and anxiety. I take medication for these things and it works wonders. It keeps my moods mostly regular and pretty much destroys my anxiety.

It also makes it incredibly difficult to lose weight. Most anti-depressants you’ll see out there have “weight gain” or “difficulty losing weight” as side effects. And boy, they are not kidding. I’ve had to fight tooth and nail to lose any of the pounds I have. I’m talking cutting my calories down to 1200 a day, while also walking several miles on the treadmill.

But in the end it’s all for nothing because I have awful impulse control. That’s the nasty secret. I literally cannot control myself around food. If it’s there, and it tastes good to me, I’ll eat it. Even if I’ve already eaten my meals for the day, I’ll eat it. Even if I’m full, I’ll eat it. It’s just really a fact at this point. It doesn’t really help that I work at a restaurant where free food is always a possibility.

I have no clear idea why I do this. It’s probably a coping mechanism of some kind. But I haven’t been to therapy for it yet. Haven’t really had the ability to afford it.

And then there are nights like this, where I do really well for most of the day, and then slip up drastically. I hit rock bottom and just keep on digging. So even after stuff my face with pizza, I sit before you with a glass of milk and box of cookies. This happens more often than you think and I tend to eat until I get sick.

I’ve never vomited, because the one thing I hate more than everything is the feeling of vomiting. I avoid it whenever possible. But I’ve gotten to the point where I actually can’t move because my stomach is so upset, in case you were wondering.

The second question you have is – probably – why? Why do you want to lose all that weight?

I’ll be honest, I don’t have to. I could probably roll on through life like this and be perfectly fine. I don’t necessarily look my weight and most people don’t really care. I’ve had romantic partners that have theoretically found me attractive, so, you know, whatever.

But it isn’t about them, or “society”, or whatever. It’s simply what I want. It’s always been about what I want. Which is probably why it’s been so frustrating to constantly fail, over and over again.

So I’ve decided to just give up. All this is has done is create a circle of exhaustion and misery over never making any progress. The whole one step forward, two steps back thing feels like some kind of sick joke and frankly, I’m tired of it.

Maybe when (if) I finish college, I can afford a dietician and personal trainer so I’m more responsible to someone other than myself. Then maybe I can get myself onto a cleaner diet and a job where I’m not surrounded by food all the time.

~~~

 

Word Vomit: Person of Interest

It’s always weird when a television show, book series, movie series, or even video game series, comes to an end. Despite not being real in the sense that those events “happened” or that those characters are “real people”, there’s still a sense of loss that fills me when a long running series reaches its end.

Today I feel that way because 6/22/16 was the day the last episode of Person of Interest aired. The show ran for five years, starting in the fall of 2011. In that time it had grown from a police procedural with a sci-fi twist to something of a prequel to Terminator. That might not make much sense to those who don’t watch the show, but Person of Interest grew and evolved as a television show more in five years than most other shows.

It was a show of quality. It wasn’t perfect (what show is?), but it had great characters, a wonderfully sinister score, and told a great story. But that’s all over now. So part of me mourns the show. Those characters will never be heard from again. They’re no longer a part of my life.

It’s a strange feeling, mourning the loss of the nonexistent. These people weren’t real. They weren’t my friends, and we didn’t have any kind of relationship. But yet here I am, typing of this post as a way to process the end of this show I enjoyed for five years. I felt the same way when the Harry Potter movies ended, or when shows like Smallville ended, which had been around for ten years. That’s a long time to devote and invest to a set of places, characters, and events.

And perhaps the word “invest” is the key here? We put so much of ourselves into the entertainment we watch that when it ends we feel like a part of ourselves is gone. It’s why we’re sad when a favorite character dies, or yell at the screen when a pairing we enjoy isn’t working out. It can get extreme at times, but I think it also holds true for the end of a show. It’s done, and it’s never coming back. In that way it’s a weird representation of death, I suppose.

Sure we can go back and rewatch or reread or replay that which we miss, but it isn’t the same. The feeling of experiencing it as its happening for the first time, not knowing what’s going to happen, that’s part of the investment, and going back is a hollow attempt at recreating that experience.

Anyways, that’s my piece. This happens every time something ends and I feel this way. I guess this time I decided to word vomit in an attempt to process it. Thanks for “listening”. 🙂