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Archive for February, 2010

That Kelby Clan…..

Feb 23

In On Location, Videos at 8:10am

Had a blast last week with the gang from Tampa out at PhotoShop 20th anniversary in San Fran. Though a couple folks let me know that no one out there refers to their fair city in those terms. It’s either full blown San Francisco, or just simply, SF. Okay. Nicknames or no, it’s still a great place. We dovetailed with the Kelby Online Training video team, led by the intrepid Scriv, and shot a new video. We had great fun, and great subjects.


How can you not like a bunch of guys who sing nothing but Leonard Cohen songs, acapella, and call themselves a Conspiracy of Beards? When they perform, they are 30 strong, but we were happy that 4 of the guys showed up at the Java on Ocean Coffee Shop.

I just wanted to put the camera down and listen, I tell ya. No instruments, no music, just the power of their voices. Jeff, the guy with the gray beard, smiled and said, “Yeah, load in’s a bitch.” (They just walk into a venue as they are and start singing.) They were great to work with, and Hossam, the owner of the shop, not only makes great coffee and killer deserts, he couldn’t have been nicer about letting us shoot in his store. You know how some people understandably get nervous when they see c-stands, wires, power packs walking in the door? None of that. He was totally cool, and we got good pix without driving too many folks crazy.


Used big light sources for these pix. Shot both with two Elinchrom Quadra heads, each with their own power pack. For the lineup, the lights are in the street, and we stitched together swatches of diffusion for the window. This should make for good video. Window was so big we were taping everything we could think of to block the straight sunlight from pouring in. Used Lastolite one stop diffuser material, tri-grips, bits of the local newspaper, concert posters, you name it. I stopped just short of going into the mens’ room and stealing the toilet paper. For the table pic above, the light source is just over my head, a 3×6 Lastolite panel, rigged horizontal, with the two heads popping through it. Shooting multiple faces close together, soft, wide light sources are the way to go, at least most of the time.

Been having a lot of fun shooting the Kelby videos. I shoot every shot as if it’s for a portfolio piece, and sometimes I fall short, right there on video. But that’s the nature of the location beast. Sometimes you da window, sometimes you da bug. But I keep looking and talking as I go, trying to find solutions that work.


This one worked pretty well, also shot recently for an upcoming training video. Big light in the background, hot shoe flash for the foreground (30″ Ezybox Hotshoe Softbox) on a paint pole. In between…smoke! And another light way camera right, gelled and defining the far wall. When working in a space like this, sometimes your light has to not just light the person, but define the space.

Enjoying doing the tours stops for the NAPP gang as well. Now wait a minute here fella…you’re actually saying you enjoy having every single frame you shoot pop up on screens in front of 800-900 people? Are ya stupid or just plain crazy?

No, I really do enjoy them and feed off the energy of the kindhearted (mostly:-) people in the audience. It’s hectic, and while I have a game plan, I do riff around pretty continuously. I’ll say to Drew, hey, you know, we could do a double exposure in camera right now, don’t you think? Drew will just roll his eyes and adjust admirably.

But we do move fast. In NY, we made our model look these three ways, in, as they say, a NY minute.




The three above were shot mostly small flash, with a bit of big flash for the fashion shot. As I recall, anyway. At the end of those days, I am a wet noodle, and really sometimes ask Drew when we are reviewing frames, “How did I light that again?” Sheesh…

Got some dates and stops coming up for this year already….Philadelphia, 4/7Denver, 4/28 …and Sacramento, 5/7…we’ll be knocking it back with all sorts of flash techniques.

Last week in SF was great. Anytime I can head out there, it’s a good trip. Did some shooting, found a ballerina in the woods, went to the PS20 deal. I had no business being there, but hey, nobody said anything. As I tweeted the night of the fest, they rejected my idea of the Jennifer Aniston slider, which makes everybody beautiful and appealing, at least for a while:-)

Nor did they accept the “Lindsay Lohan Transform Tool,” which puts a dull glaze in everyone’s eyes. Even bounced back my notion of a Tiger Woods plug in, for, I guess, their own reasons.

Gotta go…packing for Dubai….more tk….

Dependable Fog

Feb 18

In In The Field at 4:57pm

There are certainties in the life of a photog, to be sure. Shoot, suffer, die. In my experience though, the arrival of fog has never been one of them. Except here, in San Francisco, which is why this city has become one of my favorite places to work or visit. Joe love fog. Fog make everything look nice.

You get fog here as certainly as you get water when you turn the tap. Early in the week, I was giddy with it, out on a beach, running around shooting stuff, and a bud who lives locally nodded approval. He said, “Yeah, Joe, it’s a rare condition you’re seeing here. Only happens 320 days a year.”

Not that chasing fog with a camera is super easy. It slips and slides, gets thick, prompting you to pull the car over and grab the gear, and by the time you do that, it vanishes. You stand there with your camera and realize those mysterious shapes that looked so compelling in the mist are actually a bunch of porta-potties at a construction site.

I chased fog the other day and failed, making do with half a picture literally at the edge of a mud filled construction area, angling the camera this way and that, trying to avoid the sea of crap both me and my subject were standing in. You know how we do when it’s not going well–angle the camera, tilt it back and forth, and try to find a comfortable, or even plausible crop that makes some picture sense. It worked out okay, but…..this morning, I went back to find the fog. At sunrise. (It’s easy to find here. There are signs everywhere–FOG THIS WAY.)


Ariel Ford, a lovely ballerina, dance teacher, and student, braved the early morning damp to clamber into the forest on pointe shoes. Light was simple. Elinchrom Quadra, strip light, c-stand, Drew. D3X, with 14-24. Made some frames I liked, which made me less grumpy about the other day. Thanked Ariel and she went off to class. Drew and I went off to Lisa’s Diner. You know how hungry you get after a sunrise shoot? Man, it wasn’t pretty.


More tk….

We Just Can’t Help It…..

Feb 15

In Rambling, Stories at 5:00am


Photographers. We’re strange, right? We can’t stop. We run when others walk. We work when others relax. We have no sense of weekends, holidays, time off, time on, or time in general, except as it relates to sunrise or set. When there’s a football game on TV, we aren’t looking always at the action on the field. We’re looking at the sidelines to see if any our buds are covering the game and how much of the long glass out there is black or white. We walk around like addled sumbitches, staring at strange stuff, hovering at the edge of human activity, aching to be accepted, dying for a moment, breathless in anticipation for that which mostly never happens. Curious behavior, at best. That’s putting it nicely. Most folks would just chalk it up to damn strange and tell their youngsters to stay away from us.

Maybe the word is hinky. We shake our heads, punch buttons on expensive cameras, eyeball perfect strangers, ask odd questions, and wait for light. What an odd thing to wait for. We also have restive, restless, roaming eyes. Eyes that don’t shut down. Eyes that often feel hemmed in or framed by a 35mm lens border, eyes that correspond to a 24-70, or a 200-400, depending on what they encounter. Eyes that curse the dumb conglomeration of plastic, brass and glass we place in front of them, asking that mix of pixels and wiring to be surrogate vision, supple as the real thing. Hah! We might as well ask a fucking toaster oven.

I walked out of a Starbucks the other day, in not a particularly good mood, but anticipating that the mix of 3 espressos with milk would marginally improve it. There were two men conversing at an outside table. One of them, just sitting there, was majestic, regal, even. His hands cupped a cigarette, joined loosely at his lap. I passed them. It took all of a half second.

But, when I got to the truck, I started feverishly ripping open my camera bags. Like a man in burning building fumbling for an oxygen mask, I tore open zippers, velcro, caps and covers, desperate to find a lens that might give me half a prayer of representing what I just saw. The hands. Those hands did something important. I knew it in a heartbeat. It was a pair of hands that I needed to photograph, and if I shut off the adrenaline pump, got lazy and slid into the comfort of the rental car and closed my eyes and surrendered to the latte, I would curse myself over and over again for being a feckless, useless photographer. (If you had encountered any of my early career wire service editors, you would be inclined to think it redundant to describe a photographer as useless. It was a descriptor often thrown my way, in between exasperated sighs and abundant profanity.)

So I grabbed a camera with a 70-200, and resolutely walked back to the men. They knew before I got within 10 feet of them I was going to ask. There was no tension, no fear, no clammy feeling in the gut that precedes so many photographic encounters. (Will they say no? Will they ridicule me? Beat me up? Demand money, my social security number and a financial statement?)

No. They accepted me before I opened my mouth. Those powerful hands caught footballs for a living.  Still fit, the gentleman towered over me when he stood. He had a stint with the Cowboys, hence the pinkie ring. He knew Bob Hayes, the man who changed football forever. I photographed Hayes for Sports Illustrated, when they were doing a wrap up of legendary sprinters. He is the only man in history to win an Olympic gold medal, and a Super Bowl ring.


This remains one of my favorite portraits. Hayes had a tough go after football, and had legal and health problems. He died not too long after I shot this down at his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla. At the Starbucks that day, the gentleman and I chatted  about Bullet Bob. We laughed a bit. The connection was immediate, and sincere. We shook hands. My hand literally disappeared into his.

How wonderful is that? What a gift this camera I curse is! A flying carpet into people’s lives. A certitude that this time, I will be richer for putting my camera to my eye. There’s no money on the line here. Just human encounter. Here, now, the camera becomes an instant learning machine.

The camera’s not a camera, really. It’s an open door we need to walk through.  It’s up to us to keep moving our feet. More tk…

This of Course, Is My Fault….

Feb 12

In Friends at 6:50am


Lemme explain. Nigel was up on the counter by me, staring at birds and squirrels, and wondering, you know, what life would be like on the outside. (Not as cushy as you have it on the inside, my friend.) He looked thirsty. I had a wine glass handy (go figure), and well, the rest is history. Annie insisted that if I did that for Nigel, I would have to do it for his brother, Arie, so he wouldn’t be jealous. Arie’s got tons of issues already, so I went along with it, and now, well, the cats prefer to drink out of a long stemmed wine glass.

Made this with my Iphone (I’m up to 5 or 6 pictures a day) in low light so it’s no corker of a frame. But it is Nigel, and Annie, his mom, has gone missing to the Vancouver Games for a month, so me and the boys are sharing a lot of wine glasses together, just missing her. Tough time of the year. Pitchers and catchers still don’t report for a few days, and skiing, well, the only really indelible image I have of skiing is of that poor dude who splattered himself over and over again, back when ABC was the Olympic network they would play that “thrill of victory, agony of defeat” commercial relentlessly.

I’d ship this off to the Adorama Iphone Contest, but I can do better by Nigel than shooting him at like 4 in morning. They’ve extended the deadline for the contest by two more weeks, by the way, and I’ve seen some stuff being submitted, and it’s terrific. Give it a go….the prizes are very cool.


Facebook…I’ve been slow on my Facebook email, ’cause I’ve been on the road most of 2010. Getting caught up, and at the studio, we are trying to work the whole Facebook thing out a bit better. I’ve got a bunch of requests and stuff stacked up like crazy, and have had some, well, testy, notes sent to me about being current. We will do our best…..anything that goes lagging around here in terms of internet communication and updating is all Drew’s fault anyway, so just wanted to get that out in the open.

All you sinners! All the folks who sent in their most egregious photo moments. Holy cow! There are some downright gaudy, layered, densely intricate, highly nuanced instances of commission and omission with a camera out there. (Some are such whoppers, I wish I had done ’em myself, ’cause the story line is terrific.) We are reading them all, and consulting with Father Bob. We will get back to all of you, presently,

Home…don’t know what time it is, really, but I am home….guess I’ll just watch the squirrels with Nigel….more tk….


Photo by our one and only Lynn Delmastro!

Aperture 3 Was My Idea….

Feb 9

In News at 7:02pm


The truth can finally be told. I’ve been tinkering with the notion of a program like this for years, and well, all I can say is thanks to all those folks at Apple who listened.

Joe make joke.

It’s here. Geez louise, it’s here. After a whole bunch of swirl and anticipation, Aperture 3 is launched. Drew and I have been working with it for months now, and I have to say, I feel like I did when I got a D3 in my hands. I liked the D2X, and enjoyed driving it in the middle lane of the freeway, windows slightly open, enjoying the breeze, listening to Judy Collins on the FM, big slurpie in the cup holder, a veritable picture of moderate contentment. Then the D3 slammed past me in the fast lane and sucked out my headlights. Been hanging onto the throttle of that bad boy ever since. It was a quantum leap in cameras.

Feel the same about this. I liked Aperture 2. Worked out fine. But this thing is a monster. Apple just started a whole new ball game here. It is sleek, elegant, and clean. The complete workability of the full screen mode is terrific. The brushes are sweet. And for me, for whom life is succession of hotel rooms and airports, the slide show feature is what I have been waiting for. Instead of timing, and re-timing, and juggling music and pix endlessly, the slide show feature for Aperture 3 just rocks. You can blend still and video, and make it all sing and dance together really easily.

Check out the full skinny here. While I was sleeping in Malaysia, those fellas in Cupertino have been busy. More tk…..