Archive for January, 2012
I’ve been away from Gulf Photo Plus for a couple years now, but heading back for 2012. Dubai remains fascinating, to be sure, but what really has rocked me, once again, is the gathering of talent in the city of the sands.
I kinda wish I could go and clone myself for a week, and just shuttle around to hear some wisdom. I’m especially psyched for the return of Greg Heisler. I missed him there last year, and he knows light and color like no one else. Also, David Burnett is coming. David and I know each other now for thirty years. He’s simply one of the most intelligent storytellers to ever pick up a camera. No surprise, his classes are already almost booked out. Martin Prihoda literally blasts sunlight into a different form, and Zack Arias teaches how to shoot sublime in the simplest of ways. It goes and goes, from beginner field skills with Chris Hurtt to landscape and PhotoShop mastery with David Nightingale. And, my bud, Louis Pang, the man from Malaysia, is coming to infuse all with the his zeal and joy about shooting weddings. With Bobbi Lane, David Tejada, Claire Rosen, and Steve Simon in attendance, this very rich seminar week covers, literally, all the photographic bases. Hell, Hobby and I are even hitching up a Flash Bus style day in the desert in addition to teaching other classes. I head for the Middle East on March 1st, and the fireworks start on March 5. In between my arrival and the start of things, I’ll probably wander the dunes looking for that flash tree DH and I built the last time we were out there.
Hit this link, and it brings right to the page with all the instructor bios and websites. They’re an amazing bunch, and I’m thrilled, once again, to be in their company.
We’ve got some major thank you’s to offer as we dipped our toe into the waters of video. First off to Nikon who trusted us with this project and their hand built, prototype D4 cameras. (See the video to reference the fact that I broke one–slightly.) And to Gen Umei, from the K&L agency in Tokyo, who is a wonderful friend and a wondrous art director. And as always to his colleague, Aoyagi Toshiaki, who we have known for years simply as Mr. Blue. Marco Tortato of the Manfrotto Corporation provided us with simple, wonderful tools to execute shots. And Victor Ha and Brian Hynes of Cinevate were wise counsel in the background, and additionally, offered us the use of sliders and shoulder rigs. All of this is gear we’re just getting used to, and the fact that there are people in this industry willing to help and teach is one of the truly special things about being any type of shooter, still or video.
Major props go out to Drew Gurian, in our studio, who kept pursuing this behind the scenes stuff, even though he often had a cranky and not particularly photogenic subject (me) and a world of other things to think about. Mike Corrado of Nikon, who was not only our liaison with Nikon, but also our technical advisor in the field, chipped in with a few closeups of Cora, our sweet, 9600 pound star of a pachyderm.
We had fun on the set, as you’ll see. The video is a mix of D7000 and D4.
Thanks for taking a look. More tk….
Little Freddie King is the real deal. He hopped the rails at the age of 14, and went from his family farm in Mississippi down to New Orleans, ’cause that town was swayin’ with sound, and he knew he had to be there. The ever magical Lynn Delmastro in our studio got in touch with him, and his manager, “Wacko” Wade Wright, and we were invited, briefly, into his life, and his music. It was enriching and wonderful to be around Little Freddie. I doubt a nicer man ever picked up a guitar.
We shot this short, sweet and simple,’cause that’s what we know how to do, just a little, right now. We’ve taken first steps into the world of moving, talking pictures. For fully developed, expansive video efforts shot with the D4, please check the sites of my colleagues, Bill Frakes and Corey Rich. (Those guys know what they’re doing.)
In our most recent video effort on 9/11, I was basically an interviewer, while the gang at my studio, Drew Gurian, Mike Grippi, Mike Cali, and Lynda Peckham, at different times for different subjects, ran the D7000 cameras. The questions I asked came naturally to me, as the subjects of the interviews I knew for ten years, and call many of them my friends. This was different. I took a dive into Little Freddie’s music and history, which I didn’t know anything about, and found myself drawn to his lyrics, and sounds. His songs formed the basis for my questions. At one point I said to him, “Little Freddie, you’ve written some of your songs about bad women. Are they real?” He shook his head. “Oh, yeah,” he replied. “I never should have gotten into that cab that night. It was the gin talkin’ to me that made me do it. I got in the taxi with her. She was a bad woman.” He shook his head again, mournfully. “My wife.”
For the interview, I asked the questions and ran a static D4 on sticks, which was no big deal in terms of camerawork. Drew Gurian and Mike Grippi both did the heavy lifting for the moving and sliding views. It was strange for me, I have to admit, having my eye glued to a monitor instead of an eyepiece while we, as a team, walked along here and there with Freddie. My whole career, I’ve told stories by stopping things. Now, in addition to seeing a frame, I found myself thinking about where that frame could move. But, here’s the thing I do know, being a photographer. When a shooter comes to you, impassioned about making a shot, you say yes. Drew and Mike would conjure a camera slide, or a pan, and describe it, and we’d shoot it. It makes sense to allow visually talented eyes to roam, and do what they will do.
Drew then did a rough cut, and organized the footage, and we worked with Russell Peckham of Peckham Productions, a long standing video operation on the East Coast. Russell has taught us the meaning and importance of having a good, experienced video editor on our various projects. His post skills shape the look, and the logic of the story.
During the two days we shot this, besides working the video, I also had still responsibilities, and I was not going to pass up the opportunity to do portraits of a truly unique subject like Little Freddie. In the old kitchen of the plantation we worked at, I made one of my favorite portraits of late. Shot with a D4, ISO 100, 19mm lens, f5, 1/10th.
We also went across the river from New Orleans, right at the cusp of darkness, and shot this CLS portrait, using a Lastolite 8 in 1 umbrella. I love this thing. You can shoot scattered soft light when you use it as an umbrella, but then pull a velcro port off the backside of it, pump a light through that small area of diffusion, and it behaves like a soft box. Shot with a D4, ISO 400, 24mm lens, f4, 1/2.5.
Little Freddie, showman that he is, was a natural in front of the camera, of course. He made for a wonderful subject for stills. But, his is a story that has heart, soul, history, legs and music. Shooting the video let us see him, and let us listen, too.
One of the cool things about shooting for Nikon a bit of late has been hanging with my Italian and Jewish brothers, Mike Corrado and Lindsay Silverman. Among the three of us, we must have about eighty years of camera experience. (They would immediately assure you right now that they each have ten of those and the remaining sixty belong to me.) We collectively survived the acetate era, and arrived intact in the age of digital. Intact physically, anyway. Mentally, the three of us are a few pixels short of a full frame chip, if you know what I mean.
I love going on location with Corrado. His presence insures that virtually every activity will be in some measure inappropriate, yet somehow productive. He’s also a good stand in for, uh, the talent, while you’re testing, what with all of his roguish good looks and magnetic personality.
Lindsay, as I always say, has forgotten more about flash than I’ll ever know. He’s the conduit for information back to the engineer dudes about what is happening out in the field, and what we need to happen with future flash technology. My emails to him always start with, “Dear Obi-Wan…” And I report back as a not-so-young Jedi about my misadventures and lunatic impulses regarding light. He is a wise and knowing counselor, which is why I did his portrait thusly.
The above is cropped to a square, because Lindsay showed up at the studio wearing a perfectly ridiculous pair of shorts. I recall asking him if he always showed up to have his picture taken while still wearing his pajamas. I wanted to put a backlight into the above frame, but we were laughing too hard to continue to work. Plus, if I used a backlight for Lindsay it might once and for all prove that he’s actually a computer generated hologram, and indeed, not of this earth.
The two of them together are trouble. I was teaching once, and standing in front of a class (that happened to include the former managing editor of the National Geographic) when Lindsay, who was helping out with the instruction, got a call from Corrado, who promised to pay him $20 to immediately go up behind me and grab my ass. Which he did. While I was lecturing. The class was somewhat nonplussed, but, as I recall, I gamely just continued to teach as if nothing ever happened. I think they just wrote it off as a some sort of welcoming gesture culturally unique to the photographic industry. Sure enough, by the end of the workshop, all the participants were greeting each other in this fashion.
I do know this, however. I have learned much from both of them, both as a shooter and a person. They are enormously talented, and dedicated to helping photographers climb the ever steepening mountain we face every day. (The both are terrific shooters in their own right.) They push themselves at the office and in the field, and work crazy hours to make sure numnuts shooters like myself can figure out which way to point the pixels.
And, they’re family. We’re like three crazy siblings mom just gave up watching a long time ago. It’s a good thing all of us found photography to funnel our antic energy into, or all three of us would have ended up as wards of the state. What can I say? When my photo instructor told me in 1973 to buy a Nikkormat camera with a fifty mil lens (“a poor man’s F2,” is how he described it) little did I know that shooting these cameras would lead me to find a couple of brothers I never had.