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Archive for the ‘On Location’ Category

It’s Raining Here….

Mar 1

In On Location at 2:43pm

It’s not supposed to be raining here. This is Dubai, that giant mushroom of concrete, glass and steel that erupted out of the sun blasted sand and became a magnet for all things over the top. Put the adjective “tallest,” or “biggest” in front of any number of things, and they be here.

I’m convinced it’s me. Bad weather just follows me. Last year in Las Vegas, in the springtime, fer chrissakes, I lost a day’s shooting to a snow storm. Here, where for a chunk of the year the temperature dial is set at “fricassee,” it just ain’t supposed to rain like this. Wild. I used to think it was because I’m Irish Catholic, and I just kind of tug my own personal set of rain clouds around with me, and the following gloom would create an atmosphere conducive to repentance. But now I think I’m just a weather Jonah. A million years ago, I shot so many football games in the rain that at one point I put my 300 4.5 to my eye and watched what I thought was a massive dust speck inside the barrel of the lens just sprout legs and crawl across one of the interior elements. So much moisture had gotten in that thing it was like I had my own personal Amazon rain forest, right there in my camera bag.


Still, though, even after all these years, I remain undaunted. It was looking bleak the other day, but I still went to the desert, looking for non-existent light in the midst of swirling, pre-storm sand. Worked with Sahar, a beautiful Persian dancer, who fuses elements of traditional Sufi and dervish dance styles with modern hand movents and body language. The uncertain sand prevented her from doing her spinning style of dance, but we managed a few frames before we got the hell out of the desert, thunderheads hard on our heels.

Got back to the hotel just as it cut loose, and it actually rained so hard at the rooftop restaurant here, a good portion of the wait staff was dispatched, armed with mops, to combat the rising tide sliding through the doors and towards the tables. Dubai is known for commerce, industry, and increasingly, photography. It is not known for drainage. It’s like Atlanta in a snowstorm, with people staring blankly at streets that just became canals, wondering what to do and when it will go away.

It could also not be me, I’m relieved to report. It could be the city is just having a tough water week. At the Dubai Mall this week, the giant aquarium sprung a leak. The official mall website read thusly:

“A leakage was noticed at one of the panel joints of the Dubai Aquarium at The Dubai Mall and was immediately fixed by the aquarium’s maintenance team.”

A leakage was noticed? Fellas, they just about had sharks sliding through the Benetton in there.

Here of course for the GPP yearly photo fest. It’s a very cool event. Great faculty, great attendance, nice people. And, it was good to go back to the desert, even briefly. I have pursued dance off and on for years, just a photographic hobby I love and keep returning to. Put a few pix lately on the blog of dancers in strange places, and some folks have asked if it’s a new project. Not really. Been doing it a long time. I convinced my reluctant editors at LIFE to send me to Moscow , ’cause I had a contact at the Bolshoi Ballet. They really didn’t want to do it, and when editors really don’t want to do a story, to a photographer that’s a sign from the heavens that it needs to be done. I hectored them about it, and finally they relented and said I could go, albeit unsupported. So, as a staff photographer at a multi-billion dollar company, I used my frequent flier miles to get over there, and I stayed in my fixer’s tenement. It wasn’t a great apartment, but it was a great location. More tk…..


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….

Heading North

Jan 25

In history, On Location, Seminars & Workshops at 6:32am

Or, as Einar Erlendssen, the originator and caretaker of the Focus on Nature Workshops says, heading up to join the stark raving mad Vikings. I always wanted to go to Iceland. It seems a land of true intensity, color, and personality. It’ll be a small workshop, and thus very hands on. Our merry band of speed lighters will evidently careen around the countryside (the place ain’t that big) looking, lighting, and shooting. At night we will gather over various Nordic intoxicants and commune with the pixel spirits, and discuss the successes and failures of the day. This will be a slightly different workshop for me, in that I will be pushing myself both as a teacher and a shooter. As I said, I have never been there before, and de facto that is fuel for the fire. As a group, together, we will go all week for portfolio images. Here’s the link. My pack will be a bit different, too. Cameras, lenses, SB units, Quadra flash, stands, soft boxes, horned helmet, broadsword.


I have been sent North before. Below is my bud, George Divokey, an ornithologist who lives on Cooper Island part of each summer, studying a bird colony and watching it respond to the effects of warming. Coop, as it is referred to, is a small stretch of earth and ice just a touch north of the northernmost tip of the continental United States, Barrow, Alaska. They have this sign just outside town that you can visit and thus know you have done the truly northern thing. Why you need a sign to tell you that you are standing on icebound nothingness and your travel agent deserves a serious ass kicking, I’m not sure. But it’s there, for those truly compulsive, check the box type folks.


Geographic has sent me to Siberia (in more ways than one) on a couple of occasions. For a story called The Power of Light, I of course had to photographically experience the total lack thereof, which is certainly a contradiction of purpose and terms, if not outright stupid. (Journalists are always sent to the extremes of things, so sometimes what looks like a dumb move is exactly what you should be doing for a story.)  Below is noontime on Lake Lavozero on the Murmansk Penninsula, in February. I have never been quite as cold as that day on that frozen stretch of near total whiteout.

The snow and darkness engulf this individual in Lovozero, Russia

The cold didn’t seem to bother these Russian fellas, but then ingesting an entire bottle of rotgut vodka will certainly calm the spirit and deaden the nerve endings. I have to think these guys stay on the ice as long as possible just to avoid the old lady. The women up there were tough, I tell ya. I stayed at this collection of cinder blocks billed as a hotel, and while in my room, I heard this tremendous, repetitive smashing noise just down the hall. I went to look, and there was an enormous Russian female chef with a pry bar, knocking loose chicken parts locked in blocks of ice out of  a large freezer bin. She would then hoist the frozen chunks over her head with both hands, and smash them down onto the ancient linoleum. Legs and breasts would skitter everywhere.  At least I knew ahead of time what was being served that night.


An Arctic ice fisherman in Russia waits a bite.

You know, I accept the fact at this point in my career that the phone call sending me to do a voluptuous spread on the beaches of Tahiti ain’t comin’ in. Hell, at this point, I’d settle for the Jersey shore, but that’s probably not in my future, either. No, historically I’ve been sent to icy backwaters in search of even the faintest glimmer of light. I got so used to this for a bit that I after I got fired from LIFE I gave myself a shooting job in Norilsk, which historically was a gulag old Josef used to send anyone who disagreed with him. When I visited, it was largely an economic gulag, and home to one of the largest nickel mining operations in the world.

Average life expentancy for a male working in this factory is 50, mostly because they breathe carbon dioxide gas all day. Needless to say, they haven’t heard of OSHA up there.



So–I’m looking forward to Iceland, needless to say. There will be light, color and life. Very excited…….more tk….

Numnuts Goes to Space….

Dec 10

In Friends, On Location at 10:28am


A few folks were interested in the a sketch of the light grid for the hyperwall deal of yesterday, so made a quick Iphone pic of the above. Now, when the figures are silhouetted against the screens, the foreground lighting (the 2 units on left) are off, and you get real mood and saturation.


When you need to see what’s going on the in the foreground, the other two units crank up. One is for the face, and one is for the ground, which is important to see, otherwise the guy just….floats….in….space…..


Easy to trigger the whole deal by just bouncing the commander signal off the drop ceiling. Then, just play with the values and power of the lights. Pretty straight forward. Obviously, the Honl grids are on the foreground lights so they don’t spill everywhere and kill the saturation of the screens.


Hey, leave it to Scott Kelby to take Groups and Channels where they have never been before–T-shirts! And hoodies and coffee mugs. Just ordered a bunch. Pretty cool, and what’s even cooler is that all the dough goes to The Springs of Hope Orphanage in Kenya, which Scott has been helping for some time now. Check these out at


My bud Moose Peterson is in someplace called Bosque del Apache, which if you say it quick, sounds just like Santa Monica. Anyway, check out his blog ’cause he’s just shooting some amazing bird stuff. Read his blog today, and he says, “Our third day of Base Camp Bosque was a killer! There’s no doubt the bird count is down but it only takes one bird to make my day!” Gosh Moose, I feel the same way!

I gotta get that boy out more often……..more tk…….

Shoots and Ladders….

Jul 14

In On Location at 6:44am

This guy once said, get your camera in a different place. I tell ya, sometimes when you have a camera in your hands you just feel you want some sort of hovercraft. Something that will let you magically float your camera into a different, unique position. That’s what I wanted down in St. Lucia. Instead, I got a 14′ ladder on an inclined tin roof, with a couple of guys for sandbags. Looks comfy, don’t it? By the end of this shoot, I was definitely numnuts:-)


It enabled me to get this, which is no screamin’ headline of a picture, but gives Karolin Troubetzkoy, the organizational and marketing force of nature who keeps Anse Chastanet/Jade Mountain running, a bit of a different look. Anytime you can offer someone something with a bit of difference, you might be ahead of the game, just a little.


What can you say? The place is pure romance. You don’t just look at the pretty flowers and trees. You are in them. You don’t just listen to the birds. They have breakfast with you. And you don’t just breathe the air in that mechanical, gotta keep gulping to keep living way you do when you are walking the streets of NY. You drink it in. You savor it. It is not just another lungful. It is an infusion of well being.

Good thing to, cause I came back to reality with a thud. Lightning in Atlanta closed the airport for a bit on Sunday, and I didn’t roll into my driveway until 3:30am. Kept moving somehow, blogged, showered, and staggered to the truck for the 6am drive to Philly where I’m shooting some annual report type stuff. Today was a corker. My whole body feels like it’s got some miles on it, just like these old Saint Lucian toes I made a pic of in Soufriere.


More tk…..