A review of Fractal Filters

Many years ago, I grabbed a friends beer glass at a show and put it in front of my lens and fell in love with the effect. Creating an added bit of sparkle or interest made a stage come to life. I began experimenting with different shapes of glasses and varying colors of liquids, this lead to me finding a prism at a craft store and I was hooked.

My first goal with music photography is to capture the moments that show how it sounded and felt to experience the music.

My second goal is how to make it look cool.
Adding elements to shoot through added a new dimension to my music photography work and I loved pulling out a few tricks at each show. I never want to over use these elements. Getting a clear rocking image with no tricks is still my first priority.

After using prisms for a few years, I was very excited to see a Kickstarter by Nik Wong for an interesting creation called Fractal Filters.

Fractal Filters are basically a filter with cut glass that you hold in front of your camera lens when making the image. Each filter has a very comfortable handle, this is one of my favorite features. It is really easy to hold and move around.

The Fractal Filters come in 3 design

a) center hole  b) straight edge   c) curved edge

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For my first testing with the Fractal Filters, I had a lovely model shoot and experimented a bit during touchups.

b) straight edge
I made the first image and then walked around AJ and Emilie so the wall was in the background and used the straight edge fractal filter held at an 45 degree angle to the lens.

Canon Mark III, 85mm 1.8

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I then held the straight edge Fractal Filter directly across the entire lens and created this image of the alley.

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The same filter was used on this image and then in photoshop I doubled the image and flipped it to create the mirror effect. The double exposure is from the straight edge Fractal Filter.

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I immediately liked the way the Fractal Filter feels when holding it. The finger grips are comfortable and it is easy to manipulate. I did miss the ease of also holding the lens with that hand. When using my prisms, I’m often holding the end of my lens – had not realized that until trying to incorporate the Fractal Filters into my shooting flow. I love the grips, but I miss being able to use that hand…I’m a little stuck between adoration and annoyance every time I hold it.

 

Next up – a wedding day test

100mm 2.8

The room that the lovely bride was getting ready in was full of all the wedding day festivities and bags and boxes and the usual assortment of stuff that it takes to create your wedding celebration. I decided to pull out my filters because I wanted to make the world about the bride and to bring focus on her as opposed to her surroundings. For the 2nd image, I used the a) center hold Fractal Filter held directly in front of the lens.

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For the next image, I decided to pull out one of my craft store prisms. I really liked the effect in the 2nd image, I just wanted to be more low key about what I was creating. The Fractal Filter is large and eye catching. After I had made a few images with it, it started to be a conversation piece and was distracting to the quiet moment that I wanted to create for the getting ready image, so I put it away and got my very small prism that I can  pretty much hide in the palm of my hand until the I need to use it.

 

 

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Testing at a music show – Daniel Romano and The Trilliums at the Bootleg Theater

This was where the Fractal Filters really shined for me. I love how easy they are to hold on, no slipping grip on prisms when someone bumps into you. The filters felt very secure in my grip. It did make it slightly harder to maintain focus with the 70-200mm lens without the use of my 2nd hand but the images made it worth the added concentration on finding a good stance, breathing out slowly and snapping 3 images.

The images below were shot on either the 70-200 or the 100 Canon Mark III as wide open as possible.

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by holding the center hole filter at different angles to the lens the setting could go from this

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to any number of designs.

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I pulled them out again for the Vinyl Soul show at the Greek Theater.

b) straight edge

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a) center hole

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My prisms from the craft store

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a) center hole

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I’m very interested in seeing how the Fractal Filters develop. I know that the creator, Nikk Wong is working on refining the design and is excited to put out the best possible product. I would like to see a version with thinner glass. The c) curved edge filter was my least favorite as it distorted everything that it covered. It did create neat patterns and designs. I am looking forward to having more time to experiment trying to incorporate recognizable views or people with the curved edge filter.

I will always be drawn to my craft store prisms as I love the irregularities they create in the images. You don’t know exactly what you will get and nothing will be perfect. Those are two reasons that I love playing with them. I also prefer that they are low key and do not draw a lot of attention. The Fractal Filters are large and they are noticed. It can make it a harder to get a candid moment if you are not far away. And even far away, people who see you using them will want to stop to ask you about them and look at images on your camera. That is awesome and I love spreading new tricks and techniques but sometimes when you are there for a purpose it can be harder to create the images when you are holding a very intriguing piece of gear. At the above show of Vinyl Soul, I was questioned about 15 times and when a band only has 1/2 hour to play that starts to cut into the number of images that I can create. I do like the images that they make and need to figure out a way to make it less obvious.

more experimenting to come….

Daniel Romano at Bootleg Theater, LA | Music Photography

lil RVA in the LA  <3 <3

Guitar Works

Matt ‘Roddy’ Kuester is living the dream all because he reached out and asked for what he wanted. Thanks to a lot of talent (from years of practice), being a great person and asking for his dream job, he is now on a tour around the country and  the first RVA’er that I’ve gotten to see play on my adventures on the west coast.  Forever first and always one of my favorites. Fantastic player and seriously one of the best people.  The Kuester clan breeds them well.

I was psyched for the lucky band that had added him to their lineup. He told me they were a country band from Canada and sent me some links. Good stuff. Sounded like a great music family for him to join. Perfect amount of drawl, interesting voice, beautiful harmonies, some great pickin’  and a genuine sense of the golden area of country cool. And some kickass suits.

So he was off around the country with a show in LA on the books, hell yes!

With a new gee-tar and a suitcase, adventure abounds.

The show was at the Bootleg Theater, which turned out to be a groovy little spot. It is pretty non descript from the outside and the area I drove through to get there looked a little hmmm but the inside was great. Huge stage with high ceilings and a lot of standing room. You could fit a lot of people in there. There is a smaller theater off the main room where a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire was currently taking place.
The only possible improvement that I would make would be a foosball table, because foos always makes everything better.

Bootleg Theater Pingpong Championship Games

Bootleg Theater

The Players.

The Champion, Kenny Meehan – One sound guy to rule them all.
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This is what a band that brings IT, looks like.  thank you.  bands like this make me ecstatic about music photography.

& the show – yes!  The Bootleg Theater was packed, I love how many country music lovers there are in LA.  Great crowd of smiles and friendly music loving people.  & music to love they were given. The LemonTrees and Dylan Earl hooked the crowd early (another blog) and then Daniel Romano and The Trilliums took the stage and delivering a crooning melody of country, weaving stories and enchanting the crowd, who were swaying their hips, heads thrown back and eyes closed lost in a memory painted by the music.

 

photography stuffs.
I’ve been rocking prisms and bottles or glass, whatever is handy, in images (a fave for my music photography)for a long time. Most of my prisms come from a craft store or some random holiday store. My favorite one has a big beautiful scar and is missing a chunk and I often freeze in white hot fear when don’t instantly feel it in my Shootsac. It is my imperfect masterpiece worn from rough use.

But the question I’ve been getting is what is this new magic prism, the one that creates such a unified evenness to the image? It is one of the Fractal Filters!!!  I’ve been experimenting with the new Fractal Filters created by Nikk Wong.  Nikk came up with this handy dandy piece of gear for prism photography and I’ve been playing with them for a few months.   There are 3 different versions, the one that I used a bit at this show is the version with the center cut out. It gives a pretty cool effect.

I will be writing up a really long and detailed review with images of the Fractal Filters and photo examples from all three filters at a later date.  I’m still testing (oh, time, time, time) and taking notes.  I’m pleased with what I’m seeing so far (LOVE the handle) and also remain excited about their future evolution as Nikk rarely takes his head up from fine tuning the design.

1/160 at 1.8 85mm Canon Mark III – Fractal Filter (center hole)

Fractal Filters prism photography

Moon over Agoura

 

I love the hours between dusk and dawn.  Sunsets, Sunrises.  Those mysterious colors that happen before in the hour leading up to the explosions of colors.  And the dark.  The dark when the only light is from the moon or a sliver of the moon.  Stars.  The hours between dusk and dawn are some of my favorite for my personal photography.
The other night there was a half moon peeking through a cloudy dark night.
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Rock and Roll International Exhibition at MPLS Photo Center

Thanks so much to Kim of Kim Turner Photography  for sending me a message back in November letting me know about an exhibition for Rock & Roll photography happening at MPLS Photo Center .  The deadline for submission was THAT NIGHT!  But I figured why not, and pulled out a few images to send in for consideration!  A few months went by and then I got the email letting me know that TWO of my images had been selected to hang in the show.  Very excited to announce the opening of the exhibition in Minneapolis.  If you find yourself there between now and March 1st, stop by and check out all the rocking images.  Keep an eye out for my images of Bob Miller of Fear of Music and Moby outside his NYC apt!

 

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Mark Ingraham’s new project | Band Promo | Covington Portraits

Mark Ingraham gave me a last minute call when he realized that he could get all the people from his new project in the same place at the same time this past friday for a promo shot.  It can be hard to get a band together outside of a gig or rehearsal, so I knew we would had to make it work even with a forecast for rain & cold weather.  We met up in my favorite parking garage and rocked it out in about 20 minutes.  It was cold, we just needed to gitterdun before we all froze!   & now it is beautiful out.  I want it to stay beautiful.  May this awesome shoot be the last freezing shoot for a while!!    🙂

 

<3 what you do.

Pure Harmony Soaps | a Still Life Story

Pure Harmony Soaps
Seriously.  This Stuff RIGHT HERE is amazing.  I’m addicted and I keep turning people into addicts, Each kind that I try becomes my new favorite.

You should check it out.  Go here and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.  They are still working on having an online order form but as it is right now you just message them and place your order that way.   This soap will take you to your bath happy place.

 

<3 what you do.

Natalia | Headshots | Covington Portraits

The lovely Natalia came over on a beautifully windy afternoon to update her headshots.  We braved the winds for a few shots and then headed indoors to create some more beauty/studio type of shots.  Variety is the key to a great portfolio when bringing images to a new agent or casting directors.  I feel it is important to always get different looks from a headshot session.
The only look we didn’t have time to capture was a Wonder Woman shot!   Natalia looks is a Lynda Carter Ringer!  Am I right??  Stunning.

The Evolution of an Idea |a Hershey Syrup Story | Covington Portraits

I believe in challenging myself.  Sometimes a little bit too much.  I tend to take on too many projects and work around the clock because I love what I call ‘work.’  I love creating and trying out new things with my camera.  So I enrolled in an online class called project 52  with Don Giannatti.  I enrolled in the paid Pro workshop and set about it faithfully…for the first 12 weeks.  I’ll admit publicly that I have fallen off the horse due to all the things that get in the way of doing a fun extra project.   ha ha.    But I am still plugging along, in my own Taurus way, on the assignments.

The project for this particular week was ‘red balloons.’  We could do anything we wanted as long as it had red balloons as a feature in the image.   I had just gotten off a red eye flight from California when I realized the assignment was due that evening.  I actually had not even had time with my work schedule to check what the assignment was.   I read the part about red balloons and immediately went and combed the area for red balloons.  There were none in any of the drug stores that were within walking distance of where I was staying.   hmmmm.    I was also tired and feeling a bit lazy while also needing to unpack so I grabbed some pipe cleaners at one of the stores and created the first image.

Photo © Ashly Covington, CovingtonPortraits.com

Um.  No.  Even though I was tired, I couldn’t turn in something like that.  No.  I’ll admit to being somewhat of a perfectionist and the above photo was sloppy work based on sloppy inspiration.  It was lame.   And I had been on top of my assignments every week for the journey and wasn’t going to submit subpar work.  (oh back in those glory days of being current with my homework, ha ha)

Hmmm.  What else did I have handy but more importantly what was my vision.  Red Balloons.  I looked at the above photo on the back of my camera and envisioned it with a girl dangling off.  But how to create the vision and make it engaging and interesting and with what I had and in a time crunch.  Hmmm.  Just at that moment, there was a knock at my door and the incredible artist Zlata Kolomoyskaya  stopped by to do a quick sketch of my hands for a project she is working on.  She saw all my materials laid out and asked what I was doing.  We brainstormed for a few minutes and then ran to the corner deli.  There we found the tools to make a worthy image.  Cherries and Hershey Syrup.  I wanted fresh cherries but there were none to be found so we settled for the kind in the syrup.

I described to her what I wanted the girl to look like and in about 6 minutes drew exactly what I wanted with Hershey Syrup with a piece of spaghetti!!  Zlata is so incredibly talented it blows me away.

Zlata doing her thing.

The Homework Assignment

Photo © Ashly Covington, CovingtonPortraits.com