A visit to the ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ Command Center filming location

The building called the 'House of the Book' on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
The building called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

The “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” was a childhood favourite of mine. Regardless of how it has aged, the TV show will always be special to me for its nostalgic value.

I have a fascination with seeing firsthand the settings featured in movies and TV shows, and the show’s Command Center has been on my radar for years. During a road trip through western United States, I visited the filming location of the exteriors of the fictional hub on Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014.

The building called the 'House of the Book' on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
The building called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

The building is called the House of the Book. It’s located on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif. This detour was slightly unplanned. When I got there, I found out that the campus was gated. I called the university and asked — ahem, maybe more like pleaded — to be allowed to enter to take a few photos for a short amount of time. The person I spoke with on the phone said tourists ask to visit the building all of the time. Eventually, I was allowed in. I’m not sure if that is usually allowed.

CC3
The building called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

Passed the main gates, the drive up to the building took about four or five minutes. The campus was well-maintained and picturesque. Stepping out of my car and walking up to the building was surreal. The rush of memories flooding back into mental view was a lovely experience.

The building called the 'House of the Book' on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
The building called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

The building was closed at the time of my visit, so I cannot verify if Alpha 5 and Zordon actually exist and were inside.

The building called the 'House of the Book' on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
The building called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

I’m not sure if there is any way to see the building from public land. Hiking a few hills at Sage Ranch Park might provide a view similar to the one pictured below but from the opposite side.

The building, partly masked by trees, called the 'House of the Book' on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
The building, partly masked by trees, called the ‘House of the Book’ on the American Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, Calif., pictured on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

A hill on the north side of the road beside the building offered a lovely view of east Simi Valley.

East Simi Valley, Calif., viewed from the Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)
East Simi Valley, Calif., viewed from the Jewish University’s Brandeis-Bardin Campus on Dec. 4, 2014. (Steve Silva)

How to create levitation photos

steve_morningside

One photo manipulation trick people often ask me about is levitation photography. You know, those photos of people seemingly levitating above ground. I don’t remember how I learned to do it. Most of my photography and photo-editing skills are self-taught, so I probably saw it online first, then figured out how to do it via trial and error. It can be an easy effect to create under the right circumstances. This is my tutorial for it.

What you’ll need

  • Camera (preferably a DSLR or another that has a manual mode)
  • Tripod or a spot where the camera will stay still
  • Chair or something else for you to pose on
  • Adobe Photoshop or other photo-editing software with similar features

I would also recommend getting a remote to trigger the camera.

upsidedownmanip1

Taking the shots

Long story short: Take one photo of the scene without you in it, take another photo of you on the chair (the levitating pose), then merge the two photos together via Photoshop, making sure to edit out out the chair. As long as you follow a few rules when taking the photos, it’s a relatively painless process.

Firstly, focus the camera lens on where you’ll be, then take the shot. I generally shoot solo, so I focused on the street post on the right side of the image (above) because it was in range of where I would be. You need to keep autofocus off to maintain focal continuity in both shots. The photo on the left, which I’ll call the establishing shot, was the first one I took (1/100th shutter speed, 400 ISO). This photo is needed so that when the chair is erased in the next image (right), there’s imagery to fill the void.

Now, bring in the chair and start posing on it. Let’s call this the levitation shot. Take a bunch of photos with you in the pose you want. I used a 10-second timer that would take several shots at a time. It can take some time to set all of this up, so it might help to turn off the camera’s automatic shut-off function.

Keep the camera as steady as possible on the tripod throughout the entire process because even a little bit of wind can adjust the image enough to make editing more difficult than it needs to be. Make sure to use a remote control or a phone app to take the photos on your camera, if possible.

upsidedownmanipex

Try to never have the chair (or whatever you’re using to prop you up) in front of your body from the perspective of the lens. Remember that you have to erase the chair afterwards — if you’re behind it, you’ll have to manage some clever Photoshop-ing to fill that empty space with your body again. When the the chair was removed in the example above, so was part of my back. I was able work my Photoshop magic to create more of my jacket (see the finished product below), but that added some time, and the coat indenting into my back looks a little odd.

steve_morningside

One key to making levitation shots work is properly angling your body. When I laid on the chair for my levitation shot with the lamppost, my legs and my arms naturally wanted to lean toward the ground. If I left my body in that semicircle shape, it would look like only the middle part of my body was going up. So, I had to straighten my body for each shot. After several shots, it became a bit of a workout.

Another thing to look out for is the part of your body resting on the object you’re posing on. I gave my coat some slack on the chair (photo below), so that it flowed a little in front of my stomach. Ideally, your clothing should flow slightly over the tip of the object you’re posing on. If you don’t, the clothing that’s touching the chair will stretch in a straight line, looking unnatural, which happened to a degree in this photo. I had kind of the opposite problem with my pants. I should have put a scarf or something along the right side of my legs inside my pants because in the photo below, it’s obvious that gravity is pulling the pants closer to the sidewalk.

upsidedownmanip2

I shot all of the photos as quickly as possible because lighting can quickly change outdoors. It’s a good idea to take another establishing shot at the end; often, that turns out to be the better establishing shot.

Editing

Several photo-editing programs offer enough of the same features these days that, despite this tutorial being geared toward Photoshop use, you can probably get by with another program.

First, edit the levitation shot’s brightness, contrast, etc. to your liking, and make sure you apply the same edits to the establishing shot. If you’re using the raw photo editor, save the Camera Raw Settings (.xmp) file when you’re finished, then load the file’s settings to your establishing shot so they look the same. Next, place your levitation shot as a new layer on top of your establishing shot, then start erasing the chair from the image.

upsidedownmanip3

As you can see in the image above, the shots did not match up perfectly (thank you very much, wind). Move the levitation shot layer around until it fits correctly. Use the eraser tool (soft round) to blend the two layers together. You might have to erase a lot to match the different lighting and correct the other parts that don’t match.

Now, it’s time to add the shadow. As you can see below, there is a noticeable difference between the levitation shot and the establishing shot. In erasing the chair, you also get rid of the natural shadow. It’s important to reintroduce the shadow because those are the details that make the photo look more realistic.

upsidedownmanip4

Use the burn tool (soft round) with an exposure between 40 and 60 per cent to add in the shadows on the establishing layer. You want to create the shadows that would have been there if you were really floating there.

I would recommend saving a raw copy or two of this version (with the multiple layers) in case you want to edit it differently in the future. Finally, flatten the layers and make any last edits. For this photo, I wanted it to appear as if I was dangling off the post, so I rotated it counter-clockwise by 90 degrees.

In hindsight, I think it would have worked better had the camera been set at a lower angle, and I already mentioned the problems with the pants.

stevesideup2

It takes patience and time, but levitation photography, sometimes also called floating photography, is relatively easy if you’re in an environment without many things moving. Photo editing skills help, too. Remember to keep the camera still for every shot, and position your body and your clothes so that, minus the thing holding you up, it appears that you are levitating.

Examples of other levitation photos

steve_float

steve_throw

Ten different people on 10 different streets in Manhattan

For a grad school assignment in August, I had to produce a photo essay. I chose to photograph one different person I came across on each street from 1st Street to 10th Street in Manhattan. I also included a number of things I had in common with each person based on the street number.

East 1st Street

Noman Tara pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Noman Tara pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Noman Tara said he is currently taking a liberal studies program. His goal is to become a cop because, as he said, “I want to protect people.”

1. Enjoyed the original “Spider-Man” (2002) movie more than this year’s reboot.

 

East 2nd Street

Kirk Sterling pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Kirk Sterling pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Kirk Sterling said he studied acting in school, and he now works as a banker and a writer.

1. Dislike black licorice.
2. Like wearing shirts more than T-shirts.

 

East 3rd Street

Nina Tiari pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Nina Tiari pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Nina Tiari said she studied fashion and is currently working on completing her fashion design collection.

1. Moved to New York City for grad school.
2. Haven’t watched any 2012 Summer Olympics TV coverage.
3. Had or currently have a permanent retainer; she recently took hers off.

 

East 4th Street

Gretchen Vonbrun pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Gretchen Vonbrun pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Gretchen Vonbrun’s said her friends call her “Ms. New York” because of how well she knows the city. The writer and sketcher said she considers herself a punk rocker. Vonbrun said she used to work at the doors of venues that hosted the B-52s, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Clash. She is pictured with Lucy, her dog.

1. Cool.*
2. Approachable.*
3. Well-spoken.*
4. Unable to handle hot peppers well.
*Her words, not mine.

 

East 5th Street

Ancela Nastasi pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Ancela Nastasi pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Ancela Nastasi, a lawyer, was trying to hail a cab when we met. I neglected to ask her why she was holding so many flowers.

1. Ivy Leaguers.
2. Have astrological fire signs.
3. Dog people.
4. Of European ancestry.
5. Enjoy Italian food.

 

East 6th Street

Mona (last name not provided) pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Mona (last name not provided) pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Mona, who did not want her last name included, said she had a stroke six years ago. It paralyzed the right side of her body, requiring her to use a wheelchair. Still, that hasn’t stopped her from going on walks, which she said she does often with the help of a cane. Mona said that the apartment she lives in does not have an elevator, and she has to climb down four flights of stairs, which can be tricky. Opening her front door is the hardest part, and that prevents her from true independence, she said, though she has friends to help her with that.

1. Visited Spain.
2. Enjoy country music.
3. Able to speak “un peu” of French.
4. The youngest sibling.
5. Other than Manhattan, consider Brooklyn to be our favourite borough.
6. Enjoy Quentin Tarantino movies.

 

East 7th Street

Alex Poindexter pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Alex Poindexter pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Alex Poindexter said he works at a pet foods store. That may no longer be the case by the beginning of 2016. He said he plans to attach a trailer to his bicycle, then ride it to his native San Francisco. Is it to increase awareness of a cause? Raise money for something important? No. The man said he just wants to do it.

1. Put our cellphone volume low enough on the subway so others don’t know what music we’re listening to.
2. Owned a pet frog at some point. His was “a big bullfrog named Kermit.”
3. Had at least two family cats.
4. Failed at least one high school course.
5. Lost a Game Boy and never got it back. He said he lent his to a friend who never returned it. My Game Boy Advance was most likely lost on a school bus during a field trip in Grade 6 to Centre Island in Toronto on the last day of school that year.
6. Became licensed drivers at age 16.
7. Consider Pokemon had the better video game while Digimon had the better TV show.

 

East 8th Street/St. Mark’s Place

Keith Larick pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Keith Larick pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Tourists love to get pictures taken with an NYPD officer or their cruiser. Keith Larick said he knows that quite well, having been a New York City cop for decades and, subsequently, the star of many tourists’ photos. In his spare time, he enjoys watching sci-fi movies and probably doing many other things I neglected to ask about. He is also a big Spider-Man fan. Did you know that Spider-Man’s actions may have, technically, resulted in Gwen Stacy’s death? I didn’t, but Larick did. And he said he has the original comic to show it.

1. Didn’t enjoy “Alien: Resurrection” (1997) as much as the other entries in the movie series.
2. Dislike eating mushrooms.
3. Have O+ blood.
4. Attended high school summer school at least once (English was his tricky subject, mine was math).
5. Have no tattoos.
6. Don’t wear leather unless absolutely necessary (he said he has to wear his leather utility belt for work).
7. Been a vegetarian for at least three months and then stopped (I went one and a half years).
8. Not superstitious about numbers.

 

East 9th Street

Joyce Wadler pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Joyce Wadler pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Joyce Wadler has been with The New York Times since before I finished elementary school. She said, at times, she wishes she became a TV news writer. Wadler said she was two minutes from being late to a meeting when I asked her if she would like to be part of this project. Her involvement lasted well over three minutes.

1. Saw “Mamma Mia” on stage.
2. Prefer window seats.
3. Wearing green at the time (I think mine was more of a teal colour, to be fair).
4. Have an iPhone.
5. Wearing soft-soled shoes at the time.
6. Enjoyed “Some Like It Hot” (1959).
7. Don’t pay much attention to astrology.
8. Experience deadline nerves.
9. Like rain.

 

East 10th Street

Helen Luchars pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)
Helen Luchars pictured in New York, N.Y., on Aug. 11, 2012. (Steve Silva)

Helen Luchars said she has had two bouts with cancer, and she doesn’t have a bucket list. “I enjoy the things I have and experience things as they come,” she said. Luchars said she embraces the fact that life plans never work out the way originally envisioned. Her cancer is in remission, she said.

1. Had friends warn against cutting off a dramatic amount of hair. After cutting it, the same friends said they liked the look.
2. Watch “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” if time warrants.
3. Visited Mississippi but didn’t go on the Graceland tour.
4. Love celery.
5. Have one sister.
6. Save seeds from avocados to plant them.
7. Never broke a bone.
8. Return carts to the front of grocery stores when done with them.
9. Haven’t walked the George Washington bridge.
10. Never experienced acupuncture.