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Archive for November, 2010


Nov 25

In Uncategorized at 5:25am


My niece Michelle, many years ago…..more tk….


Nov 18

In Rants at 11:42am


I never get happy at airports. Being at an airport deeply, truly engages my Irish Catholic sense of foreboding. I’m very fatalistic about what could go wrong in the air, of course, as I imagine most passengers are on some level. Being a photog, I actually get more stressed about what could happen on the ground.

Like the other day. I had angst right from the get go, mostly ’cause I was flying an airline I never use, had no real idea about their policies, and I had a bunch of excess bags. (Go figure.) But it started real well. The lady at the Air Canada counter couldn’t have been nicer, and took care of things with dispatch. Overage rates were of course paid, but then she went the extra mile and put priority tags on the stuff, even though Drew and I were flying economy. My buddy Bill, who’s my editor at National Geographic, where we fly economy all the time,  gleefully refers to this as flying “chicken and goat class.” He’s very ill. One of these days, I’m gonna take him on location with me. Maybe stuff him an overhead luggage bin. Give him the location work full monty:-)

Went through security, and for some reason, they ran my Ipad twice, and then chemical swabbed it. That’s a first. I speculate it’s because I just loaded Rambo movie on there so it’s now considered potentially dangerous.

Got through security on one concourse and were directed down a long, ominous looking hallway to another. This brought us to a glass walled corral, from which there was no exit. Other passengers were also accumulating there and we were all rattling around like marbles in a jar. I felt like all of us had suddenly joined the marching band in Animal House, and were merrily pumping our knees and sliding our trombones even though we had been led to the end of a brick walled alley.

Through the glass I could see another screening operation. I tapped timidly on the window, seeking an exit, an answer, or an explanation. During the shouted conversation through the thick glass I was told the area would be opened “right quick.” When would that be? The answer, “Right quick!” came again. I was tempted to simplify my question. “At ‘right quick’ where is the big hand and the little hand?”

Instead I breathed deeply. We trudged back down the hall and found another security person presiding over an exit, or “sortie.” He explained that the concourse for our gate was closed. I told him that wasn’t exactly an exclusive piece of news. Then I popped the ultimate question, the one that always befuddles all concerned in these periodic follies life presents. “Why?”

He folded his hands, drew himself up in righteous fashion, and quite literally became twice his normal size, right there in front of me. He said two words, quite simply. “The Americans.”

Well of course. No further explanation required. The root of the problem pointed out in exquisitely precise fashion. Being, as the English would say, a “cheeky bastard,” this line of discussion connected to my long nurtured resentment of authority faster than JPEG basic through a Firewire 800 cord.  “Would that be all Americans? Or just the Republicans?” I inquired. “Or perhaps those of us who prefer baseball to hockey?” I mean, sadly, I guess, there are a lot of us. Could it possibly be that all Americans were over on that concourse? I had no idea the airport was that sizable.

He looked at me hard. His eyes narrowed and grew slit like, and he remained in his fully engorged state.

He went on to attempt an explanation that had something to do with the flights to the US from those gates and the security screening operation at one concourse, and there weren’t enough people, so they had to shut down those gates, and they’ll be open later, when they turn on first one and shut down the one that’s open now, and there’s lots of changes everyday and they don’t tell me diddly.

He concluded by saying, “It’s asinine.”

No argument here!

So we waited in ever growing numbers at his area. Every person, literally, who came there kept proceeding down the hall, oblivious to the fact that their destination was unobtainable. Which meant he had to bellow from his position,  “Gates are closed!” endlessly. I thought about asking if he ever thought of putting up a sign, or was he just enjoying himself too much.

But then I thought that might be construed to be antagonistic, and would elicit from him a series of hoots, clicks and grunts that would undoubtedly reassure us all of his dominance.

A nice Canadian lady, intuiting from my discomfiture that I was yet another impatient, irascible American smiled at me and said, “Pretty weird, huh?” I agreed. Then she said, “Almost as weird as the TSA.”

I had to chuckle. I tried to remember when the last time was that I had encountered a situation quite as futile.  Oh, yeah, Kennedy Airport! No matter where it is, no matter who runs it, there’s nothing like an airport to start your day!

More tk….

Air Canada, Part 2

Nov 17

In Lighting at 10:37am


When I wrote yesterday of Melissa leaping into the big Octa, that was what she was doing. I should have been more clear, ’cause there were a couple questions about the light. There is a backlight as well. Didn’t mention it ’cause it wasn’t the main, and I was so tired when I wrote that blog that my head was about to hit the keyboard. That would have been embarrassing. Might have even hit the publish button in that instance and the whole blog would have read…..zzzzzzzppppppppppppwwwwwwwww…


So, to be more precise, the backlight here is the big Rotilux strip light, also an indirect softbox, along the lines of the Octa, just long and skinny. To get more punch out of it, as it is firing from a good distance, we stripped the diffuser off of it, and simply used it undiffused, bouncing off of the interior skin of the box. That brightens the quality of the rear highlight off Mel. So effectively, she is bracketed by these two big light sources.

Also didn’t mean to suggest that the big Octa solves all your problems in the field. If there were a softbox like that, or even a pill like that, I would have taken it long ago. It’s just one of those lights, you know, that is so broad and so beautiful, that well, you put it up and most of the time your subject gets a ticket to dreamland.

Here’s another from the weekend.


We threw this together fairly quickly on stage. Will’s light is a strip light as well, but a small strip, about 1×2 foot, with an egg crate dropped over it, thus corralling the light pretty tightly. Background is an SB900 firing on SU-4 mode, and driving off the pop of the strip, which is has a Quadra head in it. Third light provides the glow on his hands, and that is another SB900 on SU-4 mode, just flicking lightly off a gold Tri-grip reflector laying on the floor to camera right. Wanted to go with gold in this instance to provide a little color vibration with the blue tones of the background.

The light shaper for the background is a wooden cargo pallet we found on the loading dock. We put it up on an angle, zoomed the 900 unit to 200mm (very punchy) and gelled it with a deep theatrical blue gel. Bang, the background gets a touch interesting.

Still in Canada. It was beautiful in Vancouver yesterday, but I’m shooting outside today, so it’s bound to be raining….more tk….

Air Canada

Nov 16

In News at 8:38am


Melissa Boniface of the Alberta Ballet soars over the weekend in Calgary. She is leaping into the venerable, go to, 74″ Octa with a Ranger head in it. The Octa, I tell ya, I agree with Zack Arias. You put up one of these puppies, you don’t gotta know nothin’ about nothin’. Whenever I have been totally bereft of ideas, which is frequently, and I’m on a location, the Octa’s like a big ass life preserver in a turbulent sea. Put it up, everything looks nice. It lights the subject, answers your cell phone, and cooks your breakfast. Done deal. Very nice light.

Melissa and her very accomplished fellow dancer Anthony Pina joined us over the weekend. Wonderful dancers. Mel’s so talented she made me look good with this leap. Only shot 3 frames, and was lucky to be in sync with her for this one. Having a great time in Canada, meeting terrific folks and good shooters……more tk…..

Pocketwizard Update

Nov 12

In Equipment at 6:59am


Lots of stuff in the pipe coming from PocketWizard. If you check out David Hobby’s blog, he’s got a hotlink setup to the PocketWizard blog. They’re showing the AC3 controller, which is a nifty radio controller about the size of a bug that gives you full wireless control of 3 zones of flash. Just pop this onto the hot shoe mini, instead of the flash, and you have the same controls you would if you had the flash on there. Very cool. They did an article on the blog called Last Staffer Standing which was fun to participate in. Ron Egatz, over at MAC group did a great job pulling it all together.

They’ve been featuring the above shot, which is a Pocketwizard driven (forgive me) solution, that is pre-FlexMini technology. I’m sitting behind Richie Kane as he drives Ladder 4 through Times Square. Three TTL flashes, with the camera firing off a PW trigger. The dependability of radio triggers, and now, the coming control of TTL radio is going to bust the door open on small flash wireless control. At a recent meeting, I told them many, many Nikon flash users are out there waiting, kinda like Iphone users waiting for Verizon. Working this week with newly updated units, and will have another blog up with results shortly. More tk…..