As the Director of Photography for the film Black Bayou, I was tasked with several challenging special effects scenes, one of which being underwater. The budget on this production was very low and saving money by not renting extra equipment would mean possibly getting this thing finished. But the scene was pivotal and we had to find some way to do it.

After searching the internet for a few hours I eventually found a great solution at Kipkay has lots of fun videos on hacking every day objects and his underwater rig seemed just the right size for our Canon t2i.

Below is a behind the scenes video of our test. For instructions on how to build a rig like this yourself, scroll down to see Kipkay’s video.

Also, be sure to watch our film Black Bayou if you haven’t seen it already.

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Black Bayou: Prologue

October 18, 2010 | Category: Video, film | 2 Comments

As I’ve stated before, every year I try to embark on some creative journey. Some years it’s music other years it might be a photography project… this year it was film.

I began the year with a short film called “Rewind”, made for the “Beyond the Still” contest by put on by Canon and Vimeo. Soon after I became Director of Photography “Your Casanova” a short written and directed by Jimmie Rogers and Mike Turner. For my final film of the year, I present “Black Bayou”.

Black Bayou was written and directed by Rory Anglin. The film follows a young family on their journey to a new home… a journey that quickly becomes derailed.

Our goal in this project was to create a sales device for the feature film that we’re looking to make next year. “Black Bayou: Prologue” is the back story to a horror film shot for $300 primarily over a 4 day period. I personally feel that the production value to money ratio on this flick is substantial and we’re hoping that investors will see it this was too.

We were joined by a cast of talented actors from in and around Alabama including Brandon Caruthers, Charity Williamson, Kensley Fuller, Dewan Watts, Taylor Northington, Trent Birdsong and Danny Reid.

We also had a great crew who went above and beyond to make this thing happen. I’d like to thank the following people for making this happen:

Co-Producers Jimmie Rogers and Mike Turner for scouting locations and arranging talent as well as gripping and playing a couple of local cops

Our sound guy Travis Taylor

Meg Lewis for locations

Kayleigh Funderbunk for makeup

Paul and Suzy Middlebrooks for allowing us to use their property WAYYY late into the night/morning

Lynn Cox for the use of her pool

Big Bass Bait and Tackle for the location

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Dept. for the Uniforms

Our families for being so understanding about our time away from home

Anyway, this film was a lot of fun to make and I’m pretty proud of the way it looks. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comments below!

Black Bayou: Prologue from Stephen Poff on Vimeo.

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For my film “Songs About Your Girlfriend“, I wrote a song called “Sing Along Song” for the fictional band Minnie Strange to play. The song is about listening to your favorite song on the radio and belting it out in the car and then wanting to write that song that your idols will then want to sing along to.

Well, I’m not sure that any of my musical influences will ever hear it and sing along, but at the very least anyone who owns the FourTrack iPhone app from Sonoma Wireworks can download it and sing, play along with or remix.

In FourTrack’s “Song Tools” menu you’ll find a button for “Promo Tracks” which allows you to browse a selection of artists and download a four track version of one of their songs. Depending on the artist you might find drums on one track and vocals or guitar on another which you can then mix however you like.

Track Listing

For “Sing Along Song” you’ll find the tracks broken out as follows:

Track 1 - Drums, Bass and a Distorted Fill Guitar
Track 2 - Acoustic Guitar (played by Travis Shuler of The Public) and a Distorted Rhythm Guitar. Original track was panned left.
Track 3 - Distorted Rhythm Guitar 2. This track was originally panned right.
Track 4 - Lead Vocals, Harmony Vocals and Lead Guitar Solo.

Sing and Play Along

In the spirit of the songs lyrics, I felt it would be appropriate to give you the lyrics and chords so you could play along. I’m tuned down a half step on my guitar (Eb, Ab, C#, F#, Bb, Eb), but the chords are based on their positions (so you play a B chord in the B position, but it will sound like a Bb chord). If you’d like to hear the original song, scroll down for the audio version and the version from the film.

Sing Along Song

B            Ebm                E       F#

As I’m riding in my car, radio blasting

B                   Ebm                E                              F#

Nothing’s on, just the same ol’ same ol’ same ol’ something

B            Ebm                E                             F#

Singing, shouting, Hoping you will make your presence known

B            Ebm             E                           F#

If I can hear you, I would be content to just hum along

E                 F#                              B        Ebm

No one’s stoping me cause I am all alone

E                 F#                                  B                Ebm                      E        F#

And I’m right there with you helping you to sing this song all night

B            Ebm          E                                 F#

Sing it! shout it! all the words I’ve worked into this song

B            Ebm           E                           F#                           E  F#

I can’t hear you, I could be the one to just hum along

B                            Bb/B     G#      F#      E                              F#

and you could be the one to sing along, or I could sing it with you

B            Ebm                     E                            F#

Now I want to be the star that you’re listening to there

B              Ebm                        E                                         F#

In your car, and you’re strumming with your air guitar and

B                Ebm         E                                 F#

Singing, shouting knowing that you were the one to

B                Ebm         E                                  F#

give me, fire and you will raise your fist into the air

E                F#                                     B              Ebm

No one’s stopping you cause, you are all alone

E                      F#                                   B              Ebm                    E           F#

And you’re right there with me, helping me to sing this song, all night

B            Ebm           E                                F#

Sing it! shout it! all the words I’ve worked into this song

B            Ebm            E                    F#                            E    F#

I can’t hear you, I will be the one to just hum along

B                           Bb/B      G#m     F#     E                              F#

and you could be the one to sing along or I could sing it with you

B  Ebm  E  F#

Oh               I can sing it

B  Ebm  E  F#

Oh                I can shout it now


B            Ebm           E                                 F#

Sing it! shout it! all the words I’ve worked into this song

B            Ebm         E                      F#                           E   F#

I can hear you, I will be the one to just hum along

B                       Bb/B    G#        F#       E   F#

and you will be the one to sing along

Sing Along Song by One Like Son

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City of Montgomery Branding Project

October 13, 2010 | Category: Video | 1 Comment

My day job is as a Photographer/Videographer for the ad agency LWT in Montgomery Alabama. My job allows me all kinds of interesting and fun subjects to aim my camera at, but in the past couple of months I’ve been working on a project that I’m super proud of.

I’m not a native of Montgomery, but I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent here, and to have the opportunity to be a part of the City branding project… well that’s just made me even prouder to live here.

Along with a host of talented folks we’ve put together a commercial spot as a part of the branding campaign that had me all over and even above the city working to highlight what it is we love about Montgomery. I’ll post a little more behind the scenes very soon, but for now, enjoy the video below.


City of Montgomery – Dreams Start Here from LWT Connect on Vimeo.

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iRig+Amplitube for iPhone

October 12, 2010 | Category: Gear, Video | Leave a Comment

My interest in doing a new record on the iPhone has me in search of the perfect way to record my guitar. This search has led me to try a couple of different interfaces… including the iRig.

The video below will walk you through the basics of the program and give you and idea of how it sounds. In short I was impressed with the quality of the unit and it’s companion app Amplitube. It’s a beautiful interface and the amp modeling and effects are top notch. As far as it’s usefulness as a recording input, the iRig leaves a little to be desired. Be sure to stay to the end of the video to hear why.

For more information on the iRig, head over to To purchase the Amplitube app head over to iTunes.

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Well, as you can see from looking over my recent posts… they’re not so recent.

Every year… like everyone else, I make new year’s resolutions. Mine tend to be something creative that I can do for the whole year. Examples would be the years I did 365 or the year I wrote and directed a film… yadda. Sometimes it’s more than one resolution with the rationale that the cream will rise to the top and the resolution with the most potential will win out.

That said, I had 3 this year.

1 – I would begin blogging about my creative endeavors and posting lessons, tutorials, behind the scenes etc. I find that a lot of my audience tends to enjoy this sort of thing and it answers a lot of questions about my work.

2 – I wanted to make a record on the iPhone. In the early years, music had been such a strong part of my life and I’m always looking for some sort of outlet for it and some way to make it interesting.

3 – I wanted to get back into film. In 2004 I began work on what would become my film “Songs About Your Girlfriend”. It was a labor of love and after finishing the film in 2005, I was completely drained and as proud as I was of the work, I wasn’t sure I could do that again. With the advent of the HDSLR, my interest is now piqued and I’m excited about the medium again.

So here I am 8 months in to the year and I’m here to tell you that I’ve been really busy working on at least 2 and 3, but number 1… not so much. I’d like to change that. I have some reviews and articles in the works that relate to my current projects and I’m looking forward to catching up and writing about all of the things I’ve been doing and what I’ve learned along the way.

I’ll leave you with this for today… a short film that I did in February for a contest called “Beyond the Still”. More about this later.

Chapter 2 – Rewind from Stephen Poff on Vimeo.

Chapter 2 of the Canon/Vimeo Film Contest
Check out Vincent Laforet’s Chapter 1 here:

A terrorist suspect has leaked information that leads two government agents to believe that someone or something is arriving at their airport.

Shot with the Canon 5DmkII and a Canon 7D.

Written and Directed by Stephen Poff

Music (used with permission):
“The Open Road” as performed by The Jack Quartet ( )

Doctor – Stephen Poff
Businessman – Trent Birdsong
Agent 1 – Heath Dutton
Agent 2 – Nick St. Julien
Man With Gun – Sayed Alamy Jr.
Lady in Terminal – Amanda Deaton

Special Thanks To:
Meg for helping with props
Travis for operating the boom and creating the glowing green vial
All the extras who came out just to walk past the camera tens of times… it really made a difference!

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I’ve been shooting video for a local chamber music program called Clefworks for the past 3 years and have recently had the honor of becoming a contributing member of their artistic committee. Clefworks not only hosts a series of chamber music concerts, but also tries to tie it together with some visual art form in some way.

Being a filmmaker I’m constantly wanting to link music to film. The two mediums seem to support one another in a way that I feel is unparalleled. To that point, I’ve heard pieces played over the years that brought to mind particular movies or more specifically scenes from movies.

This year we got the Jack Quartet to come perform and when I heard the songs that they were going to play, I knew that this was the year to do it. They are playing two songs, one of which was in many Looney Tunes cartoons, and another that was inspired by Tex Avery who was a major contributor to the Merry Melodies series. So we’re pairing those pieces with some classic Looney Tunes pieces. Other songs were very cinematic… lots of suspense and mystery, so we’ve paired them with scenes from 3 much loved films. This will all take place at an old movie theater with the Jack Quartet silhouetted in front of the screen.

The second concert will features a piece of music from an architect turned composer who has written a work based on architecture. We’ve again paired this with a visual. We’ll have a well known artist creating a piece of work live on camera… with only the artwork and his hands visible… all while the music is played. At the end we’ll reveal the artist and his final work. We’ll also have student photography from Booker T Washington Magnet here in Montgomery.

I think this promises to be a very creative festival and I’m really honored to be a part of it all. Below is a video of Elmore Demott talking about the concert and Jack themselves. If you’d like more info, go to

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When a client calls and asks me to do a portrait these days, usually the first thing that I ask them is “You have seen the kind of work I do right?”, because some people just assume that most photographers are alike… we just point the camera, snap the photo and make you pretty.

Now, I can do that… and still do occasionally, but more of the work that I do these days… and the work that I would like to be known for tends to be a bit more on the dramatic side. They tend to be carefully lit and sometimes processed to more resemble a work of art than your average portrait. I feel my portfolio reflects this. I don’t display the more standard photography because I want people to hire me for the work that I’m more passionate doing.

So last week I got a call from a Mother of a High School senior who is the Section Leader from the Wetumpka, Alabama band. When I asked her whether she knew what I did or not, she said that she did and that she was most definitely not looking for the Olen Mills shot. She said that she wanted something that she could blow up and hang on her wall, something that would make her son proud of the uniform that he’d worn for the past 4 years.

My immediate thought was that we had to get this guy on the field. This was before I realized that… d’uh… it’s winter, High School football is over, the fields are dead and the lines are all gone. What was I going to do? I really felt that we needed the field as an element in these shots.

The day before the shoot I was scrambling to figure out something. My last resort would be that I’d shoot against a green screen and then find some stock or something that I could composite in afterwards. Suddenly I realized that the Prattville High football team had a beautiful artificial turf field and it was only a short drive from Montgomery. As luck would have it the Mother had a contact that got us access to the field.

The next day we pulled up to the stadium and began to unpack all of our gear. I had 3 AB800′s and was ready to light this thing up right. Unfortunately the power that looked so readily available could only be accessed when the stadium lights were on… and they weren’t coming on without permission from the City Council.

Luckily the day was overcast and we weren’t having to compete with broad daylight. So we pulled out the speedflahes and went to work. The following photos were lit with a Vivitar 285hv through an umbrella as the key and a bare Canon 430 ex as a backlight. Before the afternoon was over we lost the Vivitar to a gust of wind which picked up the umbrella, flash and C-stand and sent it crashing to the ground.

I turned the lights on in post and darkened the sky to appear to be twilight.

Anyway, hope you enjoy the photos, the model’s name is Corey Bacon and I think he looks like a rock star in these photos… don’t you agree?

I liked seeing Corey’s snare drum as the “0″ in the 50

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It’s been a little over a week since I’ve made any posts not about the 365 Days Project photo contest. But the good news is that me not making a post means that I’ve been extremely busy shooting… and that’s the point of all of this right? That’s what I thought.

On that note, last Saturday I was at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Theater here in Montgomery shooting advanced photography for their upcoming production of “Hamlet”.

This session was a little different since the set was already built and I was going to get the rare opportunity to shoot the advanced photos on the actual set. The challenge of course was that even thought he set was built, the lighting was not in place, so I had to pull out the big boy lights and try to do it justice.

My key light was an AB800 through a large softbox high and to the right. Because of the size of the set this created a little vignette on our actors… which was what I was looking for… but this left the rest of the set needing some contrast, so I used the rest of my lights to sculpt the set. I gelled two AB800′s blue and placed one to the far left to add a rim light to the columns in the front and a slight backlight on Hamlet himself and then put the other AB800 at the top of the stairs facing down to light up that section. The last light was a Vivitar 285hv gelled blue which was on the top floor on the right facing back towards the little windows  to give them some definition. All the lights were fired via Pocket Wizards.

The backgrounds for the set were not finished so I added the night sky and the moon. These shots are for the advertising and are not intended to look like the performance so much as maybe a movie poster.

While we were there we explored a couple of other options. Such as Hamlet with his head in Ophelia’s lap:

And of course the obligitory skull photo for a possible magazine cover (hence the negative space at the top).

Had another cool shoot this weekend and will share that with you soon.

Now back to the grind…

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Shooting Interiors

January 8, 2010 | Category: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I recently shot some interiors for Distinctive Homes, a builder here in town. This is not something that I do often enough to call myself an expert on, but the photos turned out nice and I thought I’d share a few things.

The first thing we shot was the bathroom. The challenge was that we were shooting it during the day and there were to very nice windows above the tub that they wanted to shoot. To have the tub properly exposed meant that the sky in the windows would blow out to white. So we had to add light.

The first thing I did was to expose for the ambient outside. I set my shutter at the highest sync speed (which is usually about 160 for the 5DmkII), then set my ISO 160 and my aperture at f16. The reason for this is that usually on a sunny day you can follow the “Sunny 16″ rule. Which means that if you set your aperture at f16, then you can set your shutter speed at the same value as your ISO and be properly exposed. In this case though, after checking a few shots, I decided I wanted my sky to be a little lighter and opted for f11.

So now we had a black room and a nice window.

In the diagram above you’ll see that we added 3 lights. I mounted on on the shower stall and bounced it off the ceiling to flood the room with soft light. I wanted the appearance of a little light from the window, so we leaned of an adjacent window and fired a strobe with an orange gel through the bathroom window. We also had one strobe on the floor to light up the divider between the bath and the shower (you can see this more in detail in the video at the end of the post).

One of the other challenges was the kitchen. There was a lot of light coming through all of the windows that were providing some nice ambient light, but not enough to make it pop. So I set my camera to expose the ambient light as fill and then added an AB800 Through a large softbox at camera left and hid an AB800 in an adjacent room at as a little bit of a back light.

I have a lot of respect for the geniuses that do interior photography on a daily basis. You’re trying to show an entire room and light it at the same time. Hiding the lights and making the light look natural is an art form.

Below is a raw behind the scenes look at our day. Enjoy!

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