What To Do When You Don’t Have Lights For Your Scene

I always hear “any camera will look amazing as long as you light your scene well” regarding cinematography. Now, lighting for film is a HUGE topic that cannot be covered in one blog post, but it is extremely important to understand when creating any kind of video. Whether you are new to the video production world, or simply want to learn more about cinematography, this post will share some insight as to what to do when you are in a situation where bringing even one light is not possible.

Let’s jump back to last July. Heidi and I hopped on a plane to Entebbe Airport in Uganda, we had everything with us, our camera, sound mixer and microphones, a laptop…. but no lights. You might be thinking this is crazy for us to even attempt making a film without bringing a single light. In this situation, we were unfortunately unable to bring a light with us due to our flights weight restrictions (it was a struggle to even bring a camera with those weight restrictions). Let’s start here: What do you do when you don’t have a light with you?

The answer, put quite simply, is to pay attention. Your only light source is the sun and now you are forced to think about where you are placing your subjects, and the time of day you are filming. If the sun is directly overhead, you will get some really-harsh shadows on your subject and it just wouldn’t look good in the camera. In this situation it is almost impossible to film outside, and with limited time, you then film inside. There is only so much you can do in-camera to increase its sensitivity to low-light before the footage starts to look super grainy and ugly. This is where you will use windows and doorways to your advantage. Let’s look at a few frames from our documentary:

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Ritah in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

Arthur in “Center of Hope”

This first frame is Ritah. We were filming this about midday, and the sun was incredibly bright. So we moved over to her office where luckily she had a large window letting in a TON of light. This is one of those rare situations where we got really lucky without needing lights. The sun in this scene helped fill in the rest of the room as well as acting like a “key-light” to light our subject.

The second frame features Arthur. The computer lab at H.E.L.P. International Primary School doesn’t have as large of a window as Ritah’s office did.  This room was significantly darker, and we needed a way to create that separation from the subject and the background. Here we used the doorway to let in some light for our subject. This helped separate him from the darkness of the rest of the room. To help with this we also put him in a position where the back windows were creating a “kicker light” to help separate him even further. This nice little touch of light on his shoulders really helped fill out the rest of this interview.

Let’s hope that whenever you have to film something you are able to bring at least one light with you. If not, pay attention to where the sun is and see if there is any windows or doorways to aid in lighting your scene. In my next blog post I will be showing you how just one light can make a difference and make your life during production much easier!

Be on the lookout for the release of our film “Center of Hope” coming out at the end of this month!

Childhood Dreams

Heidi at Southern Connecticut State’s 2017 Graduation

Heidi at Southern Connecticut State’s 2017 Graduation

You know how sometimes a child can have really weird dreams about what they want to be when they grow up? The careers children wish to see themselves in can sometimes be comical. For instance, growing up I had so many different dreams, but the three I always went back to were these: I wanted to be a chef and work with ice-cream, I wanted to work at a candy factory, and I wanted to tell stories. Sounds realistic enough, right?

Sometimes, childhood dreams can be super vague, often odd, and they’re not always practical. Looking at my own I would instantly just assume that these three dreams would relate to me training to be a chef, owning a candy factory, or attempting to be a widely successful author.

 If you noticed, not once do all my assumptions lead to these dreams co-existing together. Once a person finishes their education and enters the real world, it’s easy to forget about those childhood expectations. I know that I did.

But then the other day I had a realization that I may have accomplished those dreams without even knowing it.

For instance, my first job ever was at Popey’s Ice-cream Shoppe in Morris, CT. I spent many years there serving people ice-cream and even ended up cooking in the kitchen. I had a second job in college too, and this job was at a local chocolate factory that produced and sold their own chocolates. And currently, I do tell stories. I write on this blog and I tell other people’s stories through film with Little Tree Farm Productions.

I somehow without even realizing it accomplished my childhood dreams, but why did I not notice this before? Why did I not notice when I actually had those two other jobs? Why didn’t I appreciate it and see it as accomplishing one of the dreams I always had?

The answer to this is simple and direct. I didn’t notice this before because the previous jobs I had were jobs that society deemed to be minimum wage positions that are unable to produce a realistic income. Those jobs are also positions that do not require a college degree, which we all know just screams “not successful” for some reason.

This one realization made me see my dreams completely different. Dreaming big is important and it is often what gives people drive. However, dreaming big does not have to mean you’re making large amounts of money. Obtaining success does not mean you need to be making large amounts of money. In fact, the only way money should be seen as is really just a tool that is needed for survival not success.

So, the next day you’re feeling a little down that you may not have followed your childhood dreams… reflect back in a different way.

Maybe you did achieve those dreams without even realizing it?

Perhaps it happened in a way that you didn’t foresee?

Overcoming Instant Gratification

We live in a world in which we are constantly receiving instant gratification. Everything that we want or need is at our finger tips. Need to buy something? Order it online, and it’ll come within a few days. Need a new TV show or a movie to watch? There are so many different internet streaming services that are available, the entertainment options are endless. Need research information? The internet is literally accessible on smartphones. All of these options above don’t even require you to leave your house.

 Isn’t that crazy? We live in a day of age in which you can literally get prepared meals and groceries delivered to your house. When I was a kid, I never would’ve thought that this would be possible!

Now to be clear, I am not saying that this is a bad thing. Things are supposed to change overtime, and the fact that so much information and tools are easily accessible is beyond amazing and it helps a lot of people. However, the downside to this is it’s changing our mindset on other things that cannot happen instantly.

For instance, losing weight doesn’t happen immediately. That takes time, patience, and a lot of hard work. People may try diet fads or nutrition supplements to “speed” up the process, but that process alone is not instant what-so-ever. So what does that do to a person’s mindset that is used to instant gratification in almost all aspects of their lives? It puts them down, and might make them feel like they’re doing something wrong.

The same goes to success in any field or profession. Success does not happen overnight, and neither does building a business. One of the biggest struggles Jesse and I have had to overcome is to remind ourselves that it does not happen overnight. Having a widely successful business does not happen in the blink of an eye, it can sometimes take years.

On set with Ratatouille & Co. - August 2018

On set with Ratatouille & Co. - August 2018

Jesse and I started Little Tree Farm Productions in the December of 2017, and we’ve been steadily growing since the beginning. When we started we were scared because we were jumping into the unknown. All we knew for sure is that we just had to work hard and to never give up.

For instance, we didn’t have clients right away. In fact, our first big production day took two months to happen, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t try. Landing a first client is so difficult, and you have to get used to hearing the word “no”. Yes, we had experience working for someone else. We had the resume, but as a company what did we have as proof?

Any professional goal you set for yourself does not happen overnight, but we live in an age in which people receive instant gratification in almost all aspects of our lives. How did that make us feel? Terrible. There’s nothing worse than hearing a thousand “no’s” before landing the first client. Is that normal?

Abso-freakin-lutely.

When we landed our first client, it was the best feeling in the world. The whole project itself was a huge success. Then after that, we had more clients, and all of those projects were successful. In the summer of 2018, just seven months after starting the business, Jesse and I went to Uganda to film a documentary.

Heidi & Jesse in Uganda - July 2018

Heidi & Jesse in Uganda - July 2018

Jesse Manning at an event in Scarsdale, NY - May 2019

Jesse Manning at an event in Scarsdale, NY - May 2019

Now? We have numerous clients, we were mentioned on the news, we have a studio space, we’re teaming up with other professionals in our field, and we’re finishing editing our first full feature documentary. If someone told me these facts when we first started that this is where we would be now, I would say they’re crazy.

It’s not that I didn’t expect for us to grow, but the way we have grown in the past two years is completely unpredictable. In the beginning, all we heard was the word “no”, but we kept pushing forward and kept learning. Instant gratification doesn’t exist with everything in your life. Many things still require hard work, perseverance, and drive. Sometimes, I still remind myself this fact.

So the moral of all this? If you have a dream, do not give up. I know you might hear this from so many people, but really… never give up. Whether it’s landing a new job, starting a business, or reaching that personal goal of yours, hearing the word “no” is preparing you for the moments in which you’ll hear “yes”.

Dalian, China

Heidi Reinprecht at the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Heidi Reinprecht at the Forbidden City in Beijing.

This April I was fortunate enough to be able to tag a long on a business trip with my friends’ company to China. On this trip I was able to travel to six different cities over the span of 10 days. Even though a lot of my time was spent traveling between cities, business meetings, and watching presentations, I was able to explore and see a little bit of each city I went to (some more than others). The two cities that I spent the most time in was Beijing and Dalian.

The Forbidden City in Beijing was spectacular and definitely a once in a life-time opportunity, but Dalian was still my favorite part of the trip. Why? I’m not quite sure, but this city felt different than the others I visited.

Dalian, China

Dalian, China

Dalian is a port city located on the Liaodong Peninsula, at the southern tip of China’s Liaoning Province. There’s ocean views, sea-breeze, and the weather was beautiful when I arrived.

One fun fact about Dalian is that it was actually founded by the Russians in 1898, and you can see some Russian style architecture on “Russian Street” aka Eluosi Fengqing Jie. Which, unfortunately I do not have any pictures of the actual street, but it was cool to see.

I stayed right near Zhongshan Square, and this part of the city is lined with colonial buildings that have Renaissance architecture and other styles.

Zhongshan Square - Dalian, China

Zhongshan Square - Dalian, China

Zhongshan Square

 Sometimes, when exploring a new city in a completely different country, it’s easy to not notice the names of all the restaurants and cafe’s that you visit. For instance, the food I had in Dalian was amazing, and each restaurant I visited was one of a kind. During my stay, the two places that stuck out the most was a hipster style cafe and a unique Cat Cafe. Ironically, both of these cafes were in the same building.

The hipster style café was a coffee bar that overlooked the sea port. The view was amazing, and the décor to this coffee bar was unique and magical. For instance, one thing I noticed during my stay in China was that there are pin-wheel decorations everywhere… and I couldn’t find out why.

Coffee Cafe - Dalian, China

Coffee Cafe - Dalian, China

Cake & Local Coffee

Cake & Local Coffee

We shared a delicious moose cake, that had a hint of rose flavor, and we all ordered our preferred drinks. The local coffee style I had was very similar to a Cappuccino, but it was not one.

On top of my drink, there was burnt sugar and a touch of caramel. It had a very distinct flavor that I’m sure I won’t be able to find again.

It was delicious and I wish I could order the drink I had at a local Starbucks.

Cat Cafe - Dalian, China

Cat Cafe - Dalian, China

The next cool spot we explored was a cat cafe. Unfortunately, when we showed up the place was actually closed, but the owners were nice enough to let us come in and meet all the cats.

This grey cat was my favorite cat to meet, and the owners referred to him as the “king” of the cafe. One thing I find interesting is that they really weren’t kidding about this cat being the king because he even had his own portrait.

Above is the “King of the Cats” at the Cat Cafe To the right is the Kings’ Portrait.

Above is the “King of the Cats” at the Cat Cafe
To the right is the Kings’ Portrait.

The King's Portrait

The night that I was there, we walked around Xinghai Square. This square is a section of the city that is located right on the water, and it has carnival rides and games. It’s also an area that has unique statues and artwork in designated areas. My favorite view was a field of glowing red roses.

Red Roses at Xinghai Square - Dalian, China

Red Roses at Xinghai Square - Dalian, China

 Xinghai Square is also located right near The Castle Hotel, which is a luxury hotel with architecture that reminds me of Hogwarts. From the outside, it looks like a castle on top of a hill, overlooking its’ kingdom. Unfortunately because it was night, I was unable to capture a picture of the exterior that would do this castle justice. Luckily, I was able to go inside!

The Castle Hotel, lounge near the front Lobby.

The Castle Hotel, lounge near the front Lobby.

If I ever go back to Dalian, China this is where you’ll find me staying at the Castle Hotel!

Someone once told me, to seize every opportunity when it comes my way. So, if you ever have a chance to go to China, go to China! Even if it’s just for a work trip, there’s still so much that you can see!

The Key to New Adventures

“Taking a risk, living life to the fullest, no plans, ‘don't think just do’. To be spontaneous is to be the most relaxed go with the flow and have fun person; you would never get mad if plans changed, you would get excited because then it would become spontaneous.” – Urban Dictionary

In my life I find it important to remain spontaneous. Which can be difficult sometimes because life can get a little repetitive and that’s when it can get boring. We’ve all been there! For me, it usually happens when things get too planned out or if I’ve remained in the same place for a long period of time. For example, I don’t travel much in the winter, and sometimes driving down the same street to work can really get boring. How do I spice it up?

Random Highway somewhere in Texas 2017 - Heidi Reinprecht

Random Highway somewhere in Texas 2017 - Heidi Reinprecht

I take a different road.
I don’t think too much on it, I just act and find another way.

And honestly, that can be a weird metaphor for life. When life gets a little boring, just take a different road. You can use this concept anywhere in your daily life.

When a job gets repetitive and dry, switch up your commute and look at your work through a different lens. This can help you branch out from the pack and make you think in a creative way. Act on those initial ideas and thoughts; don’t think too much into it! In writing, we call this concept “word vomit”. Scared it’s not a good idea? No first draft is perfect, but what happens after the first draft can be amazing. By acting on your ideas without fear, this can lead you to coming up with concepts that you may have overlooked before or make you discover something about yourself that you didn’t know existed. You may even conquer a hidden fear you may have had.

If you exercise often and that gets boring, switch up your workout routine. See what happens and push yourself. You may discover a new technique that benefits you or you may even overcome a fear you had and surprise yourself.  

Bored in the kitchen? Branch away from your comfort zone and just try different kinds of foods, recipes, and cultural styles. Don’t think too much into this, just do it and see what happens! This is honestly how I became such a fan of Indian and Lebanese cuisine, which I used to be afraid of trying because I was scared I wouldn’t like it.

Why did I choose these three examples?

Most people need to work to survive in this modern world; to provide for ourselves and our loved ones.
According to healthcare professionals, exercising is essential to a healthy way of life and diet.
And… we need some form of nutrition to survive, which in most cases come from eating food.

In all these examples, one common outcome from being spontaneous is overcoming fear. Being spontaneous is about not overthinking the situation, it’s just acting on natural impulse. Feeling bored? Just change it. Do it. Do not think too much into, just try a different route.  When you don’t live life to the “plan” amazing things can happen.

In my life, there are plans and then there are the actual outcomes. For me, I often just use plans as an outline. If everything happens according to the plan and nothing else but the plan happens… then that was a boring day for me. So, when I plan, I just make goals, and I leave room for the spontaneous adventure that I hope happens.

On one of my most recent trips, an amazing adventure happened. In my previous post, I talked about how Jesse and I went to New Mexico to train for our work trip to Africa. While in New Mexico, we did an insane amount of hiking and tried to see some natural wonders on the way. One of those natural wonders was the Chimney Rock at Ghost Ranch. We didn’t research the area beforehand, we just knew that this area had some amazing trails and some beautiful sites. To our amazement, just outside of Ghost Ranch was this beautiful lake, Abiquiu Lake.

Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico

Abiquiu Lake, New Mexico

We ended up spending a lot of time there and it was gorgeous. It was everything that we didn’t know we needed. It made us take time to relax, de-stress, and spend some time at the lake to go swimming and have lunch. When you truly be spontaneous, life gives you things that you didn’t know you needed, and you overcome some sort of fear.

What was our fear in that situation? Overworking ourselves and over stressing about being fit for our upcoming work trip. Abiquiu Lake was our opportunity to sit back and to reflect; to realize we were as prepared as we could be for our trip to Africa.

So, when life gets boring or when you plan every second… let yourself be spontaneous. You never know what fear you can overcome, what adventure you’ll find, or the people you could meet along the way.