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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Announcing The Australian/New Zealand Tour 2012!

Apr 4

In Tours, Travels at 5:13pm

Come May, we are taking a huge leap through the looking glass and going to the magical land of Oz and New Zealand. Many thanks to the great folks at Mentem and Nikon Australia who have been laboring tirelessly to pull this together. Only been down under once before, to shoot the 2000 Olympiad for Time magazine, and it was wonderful, but the whole country was seized by Olympic fever. Visiting now, to multiple cities, during “normal” times, will be vastly different but equally wonderful, I suspect. And, of course, this time, we’ll be teaching and demonstrating all manner of lighting techniques and approaches, doing workshops and seminars. Drew’s coming along from our studio, and we’ll be lugging lots of gear to work and demonstrate with. All told, looking to be an amazing month.

The Olympiad was terrific. Didn’t hear a bad word for the entire games, except from my editors. It was an Olympics of great grandeur and scale….

Of surprising and beautiful runners…

And equally surprising victors…

And elated medal winners.

So, now we go back to this amazing continent. I personally can’t wait. Oz has magic, right? It’s so often the reply you get when you ask someone, “Where in the world would you most like to go?” And New Zealand! Holy smoke, never been, always wanted to go. I’m hoping to meet Gandalf.

We’ll be doing stops in Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast and Auckland. In between, doing some shooting for the Tourism Australia and, very importantly, auctioning prints and attending a ball to raise money for the non-profit Miracle Babies Foundation.

Can’t wait for May. Hit this link for all tour info, location and dates! More tk…

Travels, and, Calling Dr. Brown

Mar 26

In Friends, Travels at 10:22pm

Russell Brown is one of the geniuses and driving forces behind all the innovation over at Adobe. To say he speaks a different language than I do is really putting it mildly. When I’m amongst people speaking in a foreign tongue, I can usually pick up a few words here and there. But Russell uses terminology quite regularly that is from a dialect of tech speak that I can’t even begin to get a handle on.

But, the wonderful thing about Russell is, no matter how manic and formidable his intellect, he is always up for a prank, a laugh or a photo session. He came by my lighting class at this past weekend’s Washington DC PhotoShop World seminars dressed as “Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.” For any explanation of this costume, you’ll simply have to ask Russell. But it was cool and the class was up for it as we tried to go about making Honest Abe look like he was auditioning for True Blood. Many thanks to all at my classes over the last few days, and of course to the Kelby Clan for pulling off a terrific PSW for the first time in our nation’s capitol city.

Then I spied Philip and Alexandra in the audience, and I could tell from a distance they had something special going between the two of them, so I called them up on stage. Turns out, Philip asked Alexandra to marry him the day previous, and and he had worked out a making a snap of his proposal while they were out making pictures with remote flashes. Awesome! I was able to use the new Elinchrom indirect soft box, which has an unbelievably forgiving quality of light, to make an impromptu engagement snap.

My path since PSW has been interesting. Left after my Sunday class, and jumped to Dulles Airport. Flew to NY. Then flew to Prague. And then to Tallinn, Estonia. Landed in Tallinn at 3:10 in the afternoon, of course without my luggage. Had to abandon even doing the lost bag paperwork and get into a car, and by 3:45 I was lecturing with Bill Frakes at Nikon’s week long D4 tour of Scandinavia. (His blog yesterday was titled, basically, “Waiting for Joe McNally.”)

Did not stay in Tallinn. Went back to the airport. Flew to Helsinki. Had a wonderful dinner last night with Peter Brodin and the whole Nikon group, went back to the hotel and passed out. Woke up this morning in Finland.

It’s always an honor to do stuff with Bill. We’ve known each other for 30 years, roughly, and to say we’re no strangers to the road is, well, accurate. He leaves here after this tour, flies back to the States, and walks off the plane to shoot the Final Four. I go back and pick up shooting this Nat Geo story that has been routinely kicking my ass for the last two months. Lots of miles, lots of pictures, laughs and friendship.

More tk….

Beijing Update

Oct 12

In Links, Travels at 10:24am

Been back from Beijing for a bit now, and cranking away, finishing a new book, Sketching Light. I’ll be done writing in a couple of days, which is good, or I’m gonna go blooey. My long suffering editor at Peachpit, Ted Waitt, probably thinks I already have, and I’m holed up like the Unabomber in a shack someplace, with an old Royal typewriter and a kerosene lamp, laboriously typing out a change of heart manifesto titled, “Flash is Bad.”

Had the pleasure of shooting with a bunch of good photogs over there, Trey Ratcliff amongst them. He’s a terrific shooter, with an amazing touch for HDR. He also uses his Ipad as a bit of a flying carpet, zooming around, doing videos, interviews, and BTS stuff with it as he shoots. By contrast, Mongo here just use it to see movie on plane.

Very graciously, he shot a couple of chats we had and posted them up over on G+. We talked a bit about the picture above–this elegant Chinese musician at the Peony Pavilion opera. It’s an ISO 2000 shot on a D3S, out of camera, with no noise reduction. Not a photo to rattle anybody’s timbers, but I simply enjoyed the serenity and the expertise this young lady demonstrated during the performance. I found myself tuning into the music, honestly, more so than the actual staging of the show. Trey has since posted up a part 2 of the Ipad chat here. Speaking of Google Plus, we’re going to get more active on it shortly. Right now, just about every keystroke is about the book. Sigh….

Beijing was fascinating, as it has always been. Eventually going to post some stuff that dates back to my original visit there in 1987, but for now, thought I ‘d throw some stuff up from the recent trip.

At the Water Cube…..

Science Museum. Amazing the tools we have now. ISO 1600, D3S, 16mm fish, AF. I’m not looking through the camera. I’ve got it extended at arm’s length, over a glass splash board down into the bubble bath these kids are playing with. Try that with a non AF film camera….

More tk….

Shadows on the Concrete….

May 16

In In The Field, Travels, Videos at 1:01am

Hey gang….blog’s been, well, a little light lately. Truth be told, I had a hard book deadline to meet, so I shot 13 portraits (none of which I can show here quite yet) in 17 days, then jumped on a plane and headed out to California for a Digital Landscape Workshop Series stop. Whew!

In between finishing the portrait series and coming out here, I managed to spend a wonderful day with Scott Kelby and a video crew from NAPP. They started in my studio, and my garage, and shot everything about that day in the field from the conceptualization of it, to the lens selection, to the packing of the truck. In between we took a tour of the  studio workroom, and talked about pictures, from the ones we were about to shoot to the ones hanging on the wall. I’ve got some of my own stuff up on the walls, but we are blessed at the studio with lots of work from other shooters I have known for many years. And we talked about it all. And then we talked and filmed some more while driving through traffic into the city. And then some more, walking around, assessing the location. And then some more, while shooting. And wrapping. A whole day in other words, from packing the lights to using them, from shooting the job to going back home.

The above is the kind of stuff I shot, which is to say the kind of stuff I’ve shot in NYC for thirty years. A day in the life of a shooter. It won’t be out right away, as they’ve got a bunch of editing to do, but it should be a fun class to take a look and have a listen to. One Quadra flash, with a honeycomb grid. That’s it. One light, high angle, done deal.

Many thanks to Scott and the gang for hanging in the Big Apple for a day. Nothing like shooting in the city……more tk….

Traveling Light

May 2

In Travels at 9:03pm

Home now. Recently did 10 stops in 14 days for Nikon Europe’s Speed of Light Tour. Been doing this in various shapes and sizes now for 4 years. It’s really Annie’s doing. She’s routinely adored by her colleagues both here in the US and abroad. (Trust me, I understand.)

But she rarely gets to see her mates from Europe and Asia, save at big international events, like what just occurred up Vancouver way. So I think they dreamed this up a few years ago just so they could get to see her over on the continent on a yearly basis. Beyond the likability factor, she also commands enormous respect for her knowledge of all things digital, her ability to communicate and teach well, and her non-stop force of nature work ethic, and, well, you get the idea.

Me? I’m, like, you know, happy baggage.

I bounce into these various locales, halls, conference centers, and theaters sight unseen and try to light ‘em up ad hoc right then and there, and talk through small flash, TTL, hard light, soft light, movie quotes, fast cars, German coffee, Viennese beer, and why the hell isn’t this cord working right now? It’s all off the cuff, and everything I shoot goes right to a screen, which is fun, and has a big gulp factor right there along with it. I also spend all day with a microphone around my neck which makes Annie very nervous.

Been experimenting with getting the most I can out of one light. At the Brabus Motor Works outside Dusseldorf, there was a huge screen essentially made out of strings, so I put up SB900, zoomed to 200mm, with a slight warm gel about 30 or 40 feet away from it. Blogged this last week….


But also managed to move my subject around a little, let the strings drop, and move camera angle to get these two looks. 



Couple of different looks from one light on a stick. The nice thing about trying light like this, and putting it through something, or around the door and down the hall is that it might end up….unpredictable. Umbrella? Cool, looks nice. Soft box? Okay, been there, done that. But through a bunch of strings? Or glass bricks? Or something? Anything? Might be fun. It also might suck. That’s a given. But to light well on any level is to experiment, continuously.

Onto Berlin, and this amazing cave like night club place. I had a notion, always a dangerous thing. Ended up doing this with Christian, a body builder, in front of the bar. Nine flashes. Why do I do this to myself? We tried at first to work it out, and just crashed and burned. It was the kind of setup that needed time and attention, two things I didn’t really have available. The audience was gracious, but they were like, huh? I kinda shrugged.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But then, during dinner hour, the crew said, hey, you know, if you want to get this, we’ll stick with you and get it. So we did. 9 lights, one hour. Everybody came back from dinner, and we walked through it, piece by piece. It was a hoot. There were three lights on Christian, three back on the bar, one up top on the upper level, one for Caligula back there, one bounced for fill, and we got ‘em all triggered TTL with an SU800 held up above camera.


In Hamburg, got a chance to work with an amazing couple, Mr. Olympia Oliver Reinhardt and his wife, Iris. Two tri-grips, each to the side. Gave up on this way too soon. Shoulda really stuck with it and worked it out, ’cause they are stunning together. But the mandate of these days is to move fast, and present as many issues and as much information as possible, so kept moving.


At Munich, we worked in a great studio with a cyc wall. You woulda thought I could leave well enough alone, but I went out to the dumpster and pulled in two broken wooden pallets, and put 3 SB900 units on the floor and let ‘em rip, creating a, well, irregular shadow pattern.


Into which we dropped Tobias, a body builder whose arms and chest had a life of their own. Put him here.


And here.


Then moved him out of the hard shadow light, and lit him with a couple flashes. The wider he flexed, the wider his smile got. (If I had arms like this, I would smile a lot, too.)


Then thoroughly bronzed Tobias (no need for cloudy white balance here, folks) posed in front of the NPS loaner delivery car. Yep, in Europe, you need a lens from NPS, it shows up hours later, transported by this Lamborghini:-) Ever try lighting a car with speedlights? In less than a half an hour? Yikes, we moved fast. It was fun even though it was the type of shot you could work on for, oh, about 3 days.


In Switzerland, we had another great studio setting. When we walked in, we found Alexa, hanging from the ceiling and decided to light her, right then and there. Pascal Richard, of NPS Switzerland, sorted out a terrific combo of setting and talent for two days of smaller, group workshops, where everybody milled about and stayed close to the action and the lights.


This is 4 SB900 units outside the building. The three in the back are gelled blue, and the key light for our silk flyer is gelled warm. All are zoomed to 200mm, with no diffusion or light shapers of any kind. I loved this location. Ground floor, great windows. Used Win as a subject, too. A terrific shooter who just happens to have, like, 5 Harleys, he’s definitely got the kind of face that has been pointing into the wind and peering over a set of handlebars for a long time. (He’s also a card carrying member of the “Too Much Fun Club,” and has partied hard with the likes of Peter Fonda, so this is also a face that lives life, and well. This is two lights, one outside, and one into a small ezybox hot shoe soft box.



In Frankfurt, another great location, and surprisingly there was a body builder and a ballerina already there! :-)  Ground floor, huge windows, and after I rummaged a bit, a 30′ ladder. Justin clamped a single SB900 to the ladder, trundled it outside and across an alleyway, and leaned it against another building. No one seemed to mind. White light, no diffusion. 200mm zoom.


That light, a white wall, and Marco produced this. Also could look like this from the side, with Daria.


All hard, daylight looking light. Until you put a table cloth in the flashed window. Then you get this.


In Slovenia, everybody was incredibly gracious, and man, Nikon’s  Tomas Puh and Rok Gasparic really rallied the troops. Almost 300 people showed up. I faced the typical photog challenge. What to do with four walls?  Did have a pair of lovely gymnasts to work with, who were great kids. Washed three flashes off the projector screen to get this, which was a lot of fun.


Then I told them they could freelance a move, and boy did they.


This was shot from the audience by the terrific Ljubljana based shooter, Borut Peterlin, whose imagination is about as wide as his lens. On his site he’s got a terrific set of quirky, provocative (definitely provocative), fascinating portraits of numerous cultural icons of Slovenia. He snapped this just as the two young ladies went into the stratosphere and totally overwhelmed my 14-24. I just put the camera down and lost it. Leaping ladies!

Last stop, Vienna, and a movie theater. The darkness of the place was daunting, but also gave me a measure of control. Was able to try a couple lighting scenarios with the lovely Miss Austria, Valentina Schlager.Worked out a nice combo of light for her up front, assisted by two SB900 units in the back of the room.


Then got the audience involved.


Lots of pix today on the blog, mostly ’cause I have lots of thank you’s to offer. The NPS gang over in Europe was terrific. Yasuo Baba, the architect of the whole deal, just spins ideas and creates possibilities like crazy. His team of Michael Ramroth, Nicola Best, and the tireless Nils Pajenkamp and Stephanie Doll were there for Annie and I every step of the way, even down to staying ahead of the volcano ash and jumping on trains loaded with German soccer fans.

Here’s the team, with the NPS delivery vehicle, which Annie got to drive. (Since she’s been back, I’ve noticed she’s driving her Honda a lot more aggressively:-)


I show Marco how it’s done. ms3_9253

The helpful crowd puts a tablecloth in the window. ms3_9387

Setting up a commander to fire the lights outside. You can translate TTL through as many as three SC-28 or 29 cords.


Annie working out a light.


Smoke and silk flyers in Switzerland. _par3282_003



Annie on a train. Saved my biggest thank you for last…..more tk