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Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Jun 5

In Seminars & Workshops at 9:27pm

Long time, no blog. Actually about a week or so. Been logging a lot of late hours and road time up and down the Jersey Pike, which after all these years, I could probably drive in my sleep, and in fact probably have. You know the old joke, “I wanna die just like ol’ Uncle Elmer, asleep and peaceful. Unlike the passengers in his car, who died awake and screaming.”

Reason for the north south transit of late is that it is time once again for the Department of Defense Worldwide Military Workshop. Held every year at Ft. Meade, a terrific group of young military phojos gather and have their minds bent a bit by the likes of ex-Marine Earnie Grafton, extraordinary newspaper shooter for the San Diego Trib, Preston Keres, a mainstay at the Wash Post, Eli Reed, one of the most gifted of the Magnum shooters, commercial photog Greh Hren, and the list goes on.

The architect of all this craziness is Ken “Make It Their Problem” Hackman, the dean of military photojournalism. He is complemented by Chip Maury (actually, Chip rarely compliments Hackman), former Navy parachutist, underwater demo guy, photographer’s mate, and, as a civilian, DOP of the Indianapolis Star and Providence Journal. They go around dispensing years of photo wisdom, on both the shooting and editing side, coaching and cajoling young shooters, and just in general acting lead roles in their own version of “Grumpy Old Men.” The young’uns are blessed to have these guys to lead the way. Chip gives a talk and a handout he serenely refers to as “Chip’s Tidbits of Bullshit.” Wish somebody had bullshitted me in such a fashion when I was a young shooter. His lessons are signposts to heed when you hit those dangerous, dark curves of life and career.

It usually falls to me to teach a lighting team, with none other than–David Hobby. I tell ya, you can learn a lot from the Strobist. Our team mentor is the Coast Guard’s Tom Sperduto, a terrific shooter who plows through every day at nine frames a second. We have a great team, with lots of energy. The pic below was shot by Stacy Pearsall, who hung with us for a couple of days, and has been Military Photographer of the Year– twice. (Mulitple wins in the Milphog contest is like, you know, Lance Armstrong type stuff.)

Shot with 7 or 8 SB800 units. David and I are VALS up front, either side of the lead, group A. Middle two are group B, and the two guys in the back are group C. We knocked it out, not perfectly, but real well real quick. Speed is often the order of the day for a military shooter. Fast, fast, fast. I just threw the camera at Stacy and said, okay, you run it. Stage it, light it, shoot it. We got 10 minutes.

Later, we headed for the studio.

Now, anybody who can just about cover their ear with their kneecap and calmly look at the camera while balancing on the other foot is, well, extraordinary. Or destined for the Cirque du Soleil. Shelly Guy is friends with one of the guys on our team, and prior to heading for Italy for a performance tour, she helped us out and came into the studio. The light combo here is overhead umbrella with 3 SB units, and a silver fill with one hand held pop off of it. Don’t use silver too often, but seemed appropriate here for the kind of stage quality Shelly has. She has a website, Wonderful person, fun to work with.

And very patient too, cause David put her in a locker. It was slightly bigger than a shoe box. Terrific pic. She handled it with aplomb. Putting me in there would have required a welder’s torch, a sawzall and the base fire department.

Referring to the zoom up top, I went to low one on the D3 to minimize ISO and maximize length of shutter speed. The camera burped out an exposure of 1/5th @ f16 on Aperture Priority. The background is dropped to about minus 2 EV. It was lit with 2 overhead SB800 units through a 3×3 Lastolite panel. The panel is angled overhead pretty steeply, almost table topped, so there is a bit of a brooding feel to the light, given my subject. I call it Goodfellas light. It’s like the light that’s suspended over the table at the back of the restaurant where the Don sits, meting out judgment and punishment. The face is framed in shadow, and the eyes are shaded. You know you better kiss this guy’s ring, pronto. David did me the good turn of reminding me that you need to start your zoom before the exposure, so it will be smooth, and not herky jerky. You get different feels from zooming wide to long and vice versa. Calls for some experimentation.

Up to our usual tricks, makin’ small flashes behave like big ones. More tk.

Andrew Kraker says:

on June 5, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Wow, how do you go about telling someone like that how to pose?

Richard Cave says:

on June 6, 2008 at 1:13 am

Hi Joe,

Military shooters have the hardest job in the world, Imagine turning up and having to make something out of nothing which is 99% of the time. Also there is always someone that is difficult to work with, either because of their rank or time and sometimes not interested.

Having to work fast is another mantra that goes with the job. Sometimes you will be tasked to go somewhere with no clear direction what the story is (if there is a story) and make something of it.

Military photographers are also cursed with being artistic in an environment of people whom do not understand what you are up to. The biggest insult to a mil phot is to ask for a few snaps. Unfortunately officers love saying this phrase. There is scope for good locations, the travel is good but some of the locals are not as friendly as they should be. Have a look at Youtube British Army photographers you will see what I mean.

As for the question about telling someone to pose, well its the military they do as they are told!

The D3 camera is a godsend to military phots as the iso settings enable non flash work, especially in a tactical environment.

Charles Allen says:

on June 6, 2008 at 7:14 am

Where were sessions like this when I was at DINFOS?

Being a military photographer is the best job in the world. Anyone looking to gain some experience, travel, and get money for college all while getting paid for an action packed career should think about enlisting.

Thanks for helping make our military imagery better, Joe!


Ken says:

on June 6, 2008 at 10:01 am

Hello Joe,

I like your story and photos, thanks. I have a ZOOM story myself, of being zoomed with a Pharmacy chain myself, see for the juicy experience

Ken from Ky

Rich Mattingly says:

on June 9, 2008 at 2:12 pm

I’m with Chuck – My wife, Alyssa, and I are both DINFOS grads and shot for years in the Navy and Marine Corps…..the training we got at DINFOS was not very good and certainly didn’t cover off-camera lighting. I never got the chance to make it back to DINFOS for any follow-on camera workshops….I’m very happy to see you and David Hobby and others taking the time to teach there.

Tim Boyles says:

on June 9, 2008 at 7:34 pm

Also a Navy Dinfos Grad, way back in 1985. WE didn’t get training like this either, but I’m not griping.
I’m admiring.
Amazing…thank you for the lessons!!

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