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….

Dylan Earl / The Lemon Trees at Bootleg Theater, LA | Music Photography

The Bootleg Theater was the place to be on 10/10/15 as three very talented groups played to a packed house.  First up was Dylan Earl then the la locals, The Lemon Trees and closing out the night with Daniel Romano and the Trilliums.

Dylan Earl is a cowboy suited fella with roots in Arkansas and friends of the ridiculously amazing Tyrannosaurus Chicken.  I liked his cowboy hat and easy grin immediately and dug his real feeling brand of country, none of that pop shit here, real country, sad songs sung with beauty and power.  His backing band looked remarkably like the members of Daniel Romano and the Trilliums. Remarkably so.

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The Lemon Trees helped me set up a shoot and I ended up loving everything they did that the test became a final and this image was born.

The Lemon Trees

The Lemon Trees

I got to catch a bit of their hysterically funny and smooth beautiful harmonies backstage and look forward to seeing them onstage at another show.

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While they played the band from Dylan Earl were switching off twinsies and getting into character for the main event of the night, Daniel Romano and The Trilliums.

Skye’s Handler records at The Virginia Moonwalker| Music Photography

My existence has alway been about the journey with not a lot of thought into the destination, other than continual learning and practice to be ready for whatever crosses my path.  This night ( 6/1/14) was one of those nights, Fear of Music (check them out right now if you don’t know them) had me over to Sound of Music in Richmond, VA to create some BTS images from their video shoot.  We had wrapped up and I was in the basement experimenting with some light painting, I can’t help myself when I find a completely dark space when down walked Russell Lacy with a long haired, glasses wearing fellow with a contagious smile and giggle.  We all started playing with the lights, which devolved into the need for more creating, so we hopped into cars and headed to The Virginia Moonwalker at some ridiculous time in the early morning to make it happen.
Fast forward to the present and Skye Handler is a performer that I am always ecstatic to see rock, his talents and energy keep me & my camera on our toes when creating music photography.  2nd Band you must go check out right now is his other band Lady God.  Super exciting band that is starting to tour around the east coast (please come west!!) go check them out if you ever have a chance.

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

The Young Dubliners | House of Blues, LA | Music Photography

I was ridiculously excited as I headed to The House of Blues, Sunset Strip the other week. It was going to be my first time making images at the legendary HOB (as well as being one of the last times as their doors are closing.) That thrill was small compared to the joy I felt getting to watch the boys of The Young Dubliners rock in front of my lens again. The last time our paths crossed was back in 2011 at a bar called Mexicali’s in NJ.  It had been ages and I couldn’t wait to hug everyone again.
My excitement was already at the max when I found out Eric Rigler would also be joining them.  Eric Fucking Rigler.  He is the badass of all badass pipers. You know who he is, well, you know his Uilleann pipes anyways. Titanic, Braveheart, etc etc..if there are Uileann pipes being played, it is probably him. I cannot even remember the last time I got to see his magic.
The show was fucking awesome. The guys rocked like they always do and the crowd ate up every moment. I LOVED the venue and I hate money since that is the reason they are closing the amazing space, seriously?!?! why would anyone want to live in condo’s on what used to be the HOB’s??  Isn’t Sunset Strip cool >because< of the landmark spots?  Why people gotta destroy awesome??  but i digress, this night was awesome.  Great music, great crowd, great reunions *Erica n Gretchen*, great space, great guys.
Fantastic night!!!!

Wild the Coyote | The Viper Room, LA | Music Photography

When I edit images from a show, I like to have the band’s music playing, especially if it is a  new to me band!  It is interesting to hear the studio sound right after seeing them live.

The other night I got to catch the last few songs of Wild the Coyote before The Gabrielz took the stage at The Viper Room. I enjoyed their set. It was loud, it was rocking. Energetic drummers are my absolute favorite to create images of and Wild the Coyote’s drummer ecstatically and ferociously pounded away on his drums. The guys delivered a solid set of alternative rock sliding towards the rock side on that seesaw in the live show.

Their studio recordings seesawed in the other direction, heavier on the alternative side. The songs sound like that song, you know the one, the song you find yourself singing along to while listening to the radio on an afternoon drive without knowing how you know the lyrics.  Several, I thought I knew already, maybe I caught that song at the show?  No, but seriously, I feel like I know the song that just started playing in this moment that I am typing…. “Everybody Knows.” (and no, it is not a cover of Leonard Cohen; but I must go listen to that right now).  Wild the Coyote’s studio work has an air of familiarity about it though I prefer the harder sound of their live show.

(what can i say? the dirtier the guitar, the rougher the bass, the harder the drums, the more i like… any wonder that People’s Blues of Richmond is tops for me – their cd has been on permanent repeat in my car for months and their live show is ridiculous, on the edge energy that fuels my desire to make that one image that shows what it sounded like and felt like to be there at that moment, that is always my goal with music photography. PBR, PBR!)

Thanks for the night of music, Wild the Coyote, I’m happy that I was able to catch a bit of your set. Y’all got the energy pumping at The Viper Room and you have made me miss my chain wallet  😛

The Conduit | Uncle Studios, LA | Music Photography

4/25/15 Music Photography

The über talented Jessica Richmond AKA LadyJ AKA Miss Alaynius and her partner the beautiful Lauren Armstrong AKA Lucid Lola let me know that they were going to be performing at Uncle Studios, a hidden art space/rehearsal studio buried in Van Nuys.  The area was complete with crazy people shouting on the street about pissing and let me know that this night was going to be about the art, the music, the dedicated fans who would head so deep in the valley to catch a gander at their creation.

The Conduit.

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Brain Wash Me Video Shoot | PlayLA | Unit Stills

3/21/15

Director, Brandon Nicholas turned Play LA into a visual playground of awesome to create a video for The Conduit’s new song “Brain Wash Me.”  The day was an adventure in reflective insulation blankets, body paint and awesome.  After hearing “Brain Wash Me” over and over and over, I was still into hearing it another time!  The song is catchy and cool.  I cannot wait to see the video once it is finished.  It was a joy to be the still photographer for this talented team.

Anna Copa Cabanna Video Shoot | Big Sky Works, NYC | Unit Stills

3/15/15

Unexpected awesome in NYC helping BA Miale and Anna Copa Cabanna make video magic for Turn to Crime’s video for “Light.”  Anything BA does has magic to it, her projections and creations are beautiful, cool and mesmerizing and this night I found out the same applies to Anna Copa Cabanna.  She is beautiful, cool and mesmerizing and watching her dance in front of BA’s beautiful, cool and mesmerizing projects was almost too much awesome to handle.  BA makes badass music videos and I was tickled pink that she asked me to come lend her a hand at the shoot at Big Sky Works (one of my fave Brooklyn venues.)

 

Had a blast making some stills and shooting some video for BA. She makes everything look so cool.

Skin Deep at the Sagebrush Cantina | Calabasas, CA | Music Photography

2/15/15
It was a beautiful thing to be outside enjoying the sunshine in February.  These west coasters have figured that whole winter thing out!  My west coast fam took me on an adventure to Sagebrush Cantina to watch Skin Deep get the afternoon crowd up and rocking to their mix of just about everything.  They are a cover band that pretty much spans all the decades in their musical library.