Archive for June, 2010
Been shooting like mad lately, experimenting, pushing a bit. Had a great session with Baakari Wilder recently, one of the world’s premier tap dancers. He danced the lead in Broadway’s Bring in Da Noise Bring in Da Funk, and it was simply an honor to photograph him. The above was done with LED’s attached to his fingers and his tap shoes. One exposure with two pops of flash. It is in the realm we’ll experiment with during the coming lighting workshops in Dobbs Ferry in late July. We have altered the sked a bit, due to demand for the limited number of advanced lighting workshops we originally posted. The advanced techniques classes zoomed straight through to wait list status, so hit the link above to see the revised workshop calendar, as we have changed things up a bit.
June is always a busy month, so much so I’ve not been able to get down to teach the lighting class at DINFOS (the Dept. of Defense Information School, otherwise known as The Schoolhouse, at Ft. Meade). The lighting class has been left in the enormously capable hands of Tom Sperduto, recently of the Coast Guard, who is a non-stop force of nature with a camera in his hands. Check out his blog. Tom basically geared up as a dedicated shooter not all that long ago, and the amount of ground he has covered and reach he has now as both a shooter and a teacher is more than a bit amazing. He led this year’s DINFOS military phojo lighting class, and they made a movie of their week together. Check it out here.
They, uh, obviously responded to Tom’s teaching style. I’ve got a long history teaching young photojournalists in the military, and at our lighting workshops this year we’ve come up with an option that will make it easier for them to attend. Good bunch, who take risk a lot to make images in all manner of dicey situations.
The Dobbs space we have is very cool, and this year we have access to the Hudson River, which we have never had before. Working in the studio, and the roof, and on location this past week, experimenting, which is the deal when it comes to lighting.
Shot the lovely Britney Jean Hying on the rooftop at Dobbs last week, doing her best Jean Harlow, in a vintage gown.
And the ever fluid Baakari on stage, with smoke and theater lights. Very simple flash….two SB 900 units up front, off to the sides. Raw light. Minimal gear and approach. It was just wonderful watching him create his own rhythm in response to the music. As he said, for a tapper, “The floor is the instrument.”
Hope to see you up in Dobbs. It’s already been a lot of fun…..more tk…..
My bud Moose Peterson has a book coming out soon, called Captured. (Not to be confused with David Ziser’s new book, Captured by the Light, in which David stalks the wild bridezilla.) No, this one is an account of the Mooster’s stalking of wild and beautiful things for the last 30 years or so, and it’s going to be a corker. I tell ya, I wish I had velcroed myself to Moose’s tripod more often during the last 25 or so DLWS events I’ve taught with him. I’m out there, you know, trying to get into the zen of it, stumbling around repeating the mantra in my head, “Rock, tree, mmmmm…..rock, tree, mmmmm.” But after a couple hours of trying to find sunrise light, I have to admit that little voice in my head starts going, “Rock, tree, pancake……rock, tree, coffee….”
I can’t help it. I’m such a boob out there I once walked up to Moose and said, “Hey, whatcha shootin’?” He just looked at me and said, “You’re standing on it.” He was shooting all these little flower type things that I looked down and couldn’t really see any more ’cause they were under my shoes. It can piss you off, you know. I come back with squat and he comes back with some zinger of a photo that, right in front of the class he then launches into some piece of software that he’s on the beta team for that’s called “I Can’t Talk About This Software Right Now Because I’ll Have to Kill You But You Will Want It, Version 1.2.1.” And in minutes, he’s got this print that could hang in the Smithsonian. As I’ve said before, the guy’s a walking, talking main frame with a soul of an artist and a camera in his hands.
The book’s on pre-order on Amazon……
Syl Arena’s been toting a bag of Canon flashes all over the country, offering lucid explanation and teaching about the mysteries of the Canon flash code. He’s got a book coming that he’s been researching and writing like crazy, and all I can say is that Syl has dived so deep into the arcane symbology of these flashes that he probably feels like he is starring in his own personal version of Angels and Demons, with the Canon engineers cast as the Illuminati. Syl’s hair actually has similarities to Tom Hanks’ do in that movie.
What am I saying? Nobody on the planet has hair like Syl.
Actually, what Syl is doing might be closer to The Book of Eli. So, if you pick up a red haired hitchhiker on some sun blasted highway in the desert, with a shoulder bag spilling out wires and batteries, and he gets into the car, and says simply, “Ratio,” you’ ll know you’ve met Syl.
But the book is coming, and his classes are ongoing. He really does a great job at explaining in day to day language the heretofore unexplainable. After this book comes out, Canon engineers will be begging to simply touch the hem of his cloak.
Bert Stephani, who I’ve never met but feel a cosmic connection to via the similar chords of twisted humor we seem to share, has a lighting video out that is very cool. I’ve checked in on him largely through David Hobby’s blog, which periodically features a lighting vignette by Bert. I admit I got hooked after Bert had a segment where he ended up with “Iggy Pop Light,” which to me wins the original award for describing light. Definitely head over to his website.
Michael Clark, is, well, intrepid is the way I would describe him. He goes places with a camera in his hand that I would need to rent a helicopter just to get close to. Now, some folks, once seeing his stuff, might construe “intrepid” to be “really frikkin’ crazy,” but that’s up to them. To me, the fact that he gets out there and gets his cameras in decidedly different places from definitely different angles is way cool. And then he does this terrific book, and talks about it, from the exposures to the kinds of rope you need. (I need to ask him if there is a rope designed for me.) We met a few years back at my class in Santa Fe, and he’s just doing wonderful stuff. Check out his newly launched blog.
And that irrepressible bloke, Drew Gardner, continues to write his passionate blog, and spread his madcap glee about being a shooter all over the place. He recently taught a workshop in South Africa called The Township Project, in which he brought photographic skills and knowledge into a place that certainly isn’t on the map of the photo world. These kids responded like crazy. As he says, small things make a difference. Equipment was left behind to continue to experiment with, and future workshops are planned. Fingers crossed, as he says, the kids may get a crack at a show in London.
Good stuff, by good people…..more tk….
I’ve been friend of the house since 911. Known as the “Miracle House,” they were among the first responders on that day, but lost no men. Miracle, indeed.
Capt. Jay Jonas (now a chief), and firefighters Matty Komorowski, Mike Meldrum, Billy Butler, Sal D’agostino, and Tommy Falco were with Josephine Harris, coaxing her down a stairwell, quickly, but not quickly enough, as all 6, who were aware the first tower had already come down, knew quite well.
They didn’t leave her, or each other. Which meant all of them were in the same space when the North Tower came down on them. Somehow, even though the entire landing rotated 360 degrees during the collapse, it stayed intact, and they all lived. Turned out Josephine’s pace of descent was a lifesaver. Those above and below that blessed piece of stairwell didn’t fare well.
If you want to read an interview account of that day, and those stairs, hit this link. Stone Phillips did a good job, letting the guys just talk about what happened in there, minute by minute.
Capt. Jonas (now chief)
Firefighter Bill Butler (now lieutenant)
Firefighter Sal D’Agostino
Firefighter Matt Komorowski (now lieutenant)
Firefighter Tommy Falco (retired)
Firefighter Mike Meldrum (retired)
They took a leap of faith and came to the Giant Polaroid camera, and are included in the book Faces of Ground Zero. Since then, the house and I have stayed in touch. They’re good people. And they handle a lot of stuff. Fighting fires in Chinatown has unique difficulties. It’s a warren of aging buildings jammed together in one of NY’s oldest and most charismatic neighborhoods, and, as one might imagine, not too much corresponds to building codes and blueprints. Surprise walls, mysterious, makeshift staircases, overloaded circuits, boilers that might have been built in the days of steamships–all this can present in the middle of the night, in the middle of a fire.
There’s been some big fires of late, lots of activity, and a bunch of the guys got medals, which was an occasion to have the whole house come together. Medal day. So, picture day. Call Joe.
I’ve done it before, a few years ago, in a rainstorm. I tell ya, if you gotta do a group shot in pelting rain, make sure it’s a bunch of firefighters. All smiles, not a word of complaint, everybody looking at the camera.
Last week, it was sunny, which was a different photographic problem, for sure. Did it all small flash, eight total, six on high stands. Three camera right, three camera left, master hot shoe unit doubling as a flash, and one up top on high boom, for good measure.
Now, you don’t see this type of light in the ads in Vanity Fair. Lush, it ain’t. But effective, yes. This shot isn’t about the light, or the shooter, or the numbers of pixels. This is about recognition, about every guy here going home and saying to his wife, girlfriend or kids, “There, see, there I am.” Not a time for subtlety, just a time to bring the light, and make sure everybody sees it.
Speaking of pixels, I shot it D3X, going to ISO 400. If I had to go higher, would have switched out to D3S, which handles higher ISO’s well. Had three groups going, all wireless, all manual. Yep, no time to mess with the TTL squirrels on this one. Sent them all a signal to go manual, ½ power and then tapered it to ¼. Which is the reason for multiple lights. Coulda done it with fewer, but would have taxed them pretty hard, and, it being an active house that could have gotten a call at any moment, I didn’t want to wait on recycle. Shot about 25 frames, and we were done. Told all the guys they had to see the camera with both eyes. You forget sometimes, you know, ’cause when you can see the camera you think it’s all cool. But you might be seeing it with just one eye, and that means the other half of your face ain’t in the picture. So I had the guys do the blink thing, back and forth, so I knew I had everybody’s eyeballs.
Also got the lights way high. Reason being, you want to fly the flash literally over the front rows to the back rows. Light from eye level the gang up front gets nuked before you can get anything to guys in the way back. So get the lights high up, and the downward spill will take care of the front rows.
Group shots are tough, right? Don’t know a single shooter who really likes to do them. About 1000 ways to screw it up, and only one or two to do it “right.” But it’s cool stuff, ’cause these are some of the most important pictures of life. This is the stuff of memory. These get passed on. These hang on walls.
Maybe, someday, when my pixels have long since turned to dust, one of the young guys in this picture, somebody with a girlfriend now, will return to the house with his grandchildren. He can point to this shot, hanging on the wall, and say, “That was me, a long time ago.” And they’ll look, and he’ll be there, face filled with light, looking at the camera with both eyes.
Keith Johnson (seated, 2nd from right) is a good guy, and the walking, talking definition of the word “gregarious.” He called out to me at camera and told me to make sure I made him look good. Told him no problem, I had a sub-menu of custom functions buried deep in my X that I’ve come to call the “Keith Johnson Function.” Just makes everybody look good. I’m thinking about talking to Nikon about it. More tk….
I don’t use a ring flash too often, perhaps because I don’t get calls from the downtown “scene” magazines like Dirt, Slide, Raw and Did You Get Yours’ Today? too often. I have to face facts here. I’m in bed well before a whole bunch of people I wouldn’t recognize anyway start the nightly publicity prowl on the streets of New York.
(Always knew I wasn’t made for the celebrity grab shot scene. I was on assignment for People magazine to photograph entrepreneur Christopher Whittle at his home by Georgica Pond, which is just about the fanciest address in the Hamptons. We were gliding along in a small sailboat, when I heard a voice with a decidedly familiar English accent call “hullo” from a passing craft. I turned just as Paul McCartney eased on by. My jaw was down where my camera was, i.e., my lap.)
As a fill, the ring-a-ding works real well. Love it, and use it all the time around minus two. Used like this, it’s just a wink, a muted little alarm clock of a light, back there at the lens. It wakes the portrait up, gently. Use it as the only light, best give your subject a bomb suit. This isn’t the Brahms of light sources. More like Twisted Sister at full volume.
But, I’ve been doing a few Kelby tour stops of late, so at the one in Sacramento not too long ago, we changed things up a bit, and for subjects, invited the Battle Born Derby Demons of Reno, Nevada to join us. These ladies are not the type for a window lit portrait in the reading room, the one with the chintz curtains, and the Lladro figurines on every shelf. Time for a ring light!
Some background is perhaps in order. A few years ago, at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, I had a great, and memorable class. In the class were none other than Syl Arena of Pixsylated.com blogspot, and MD Welch, the Reno Kid, a photographer absolutely suited to photographing, well, roller derby ladies.
Meet Pistol Whip, Eden Brains, and Vanastee. They will kick your ass and be happy to leave roller wheel skid marks on your face. Thing is, behind the camera, you have a ton of fun while they are doing it.
Here they are with their beloved team photog, MD. He’s the one with the helmet, which, given the run of his general behavior, is appropriate attire. The ladies are, uh, having their way with him, I believe.
My thanks go out to the BBDD’s for making the trek from Reno to Sacramento, and livening up our tour stop there. Had some fun trying out a couple lighting configurations (like the above, which is a low light with a green rim….yikes) while the gracious and patient crowd had a laugh or two. The ladies even let me live……
Which is a good thing….writing this as I fly to Europe. We’ve been over the top of late with back to back to back commercial jobs. Heading off for another, with a great group of folks, and a super art director, whose patience and vision over a few location jobs together has made me a better shooter. Good work with good people. There is a God….even for photogs….more tk….
Once again, we’re going down to the Hudson, to that old, ramshackle building, filled with photo possibilities. Back to an 8000 square foot room, with high ceilings, western light, white walls, decrepit hallways, and the Harlem-Hudson line running by, on a sort of semi-regular basis. We’ll be running them again in mid-July. This year, we’re trying something new, in that we do a series of “regular” lighting workshops, soup to nuts, small flash, big flash, but then at the end, we do 3 straight days of advanced one-day lighting workshops. Hi speed flash, double exposure, flash and blur, and the like.
Lots of lights, all day long. More tk….