I’ve just started shooting with a new model named Kara. She’s been represented by Wilhelmina and has worked all over the world for clients such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J Crew, Gap, Levis, etc. As one of the most pleasant people that I’ve worked with in a long time, I’m looking forward to some beautiful imagery from this partnership. Check back soon to see new images of Kara posted here.
In preparation for my upcoming multi-month photo trip to Asia, I’ve had to scale back my gear quite a bit for the sake of mobility… no studio lights, no c-stands, no huge modifiers, etc. What I’ve paired it down to is a streamlined set of specific gear with no excess gadgets, with the requirement that each piece be essential to the assignment I’m tasked with.
From top left going clockwise, the padded pockets contain 5 CF cards, cleaning cloths, spare batteries and charger, business cards, a Canon 5D MKII with 24-70mm f/2.8 lens attached, two 1TB hard drives with USB 3.0 cables, a Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens, a Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens, various filters (polarizer, neutral density, and UV), cleaning solution, an old Nikon SB-28 Speedlight, cable for the Elinchrom Quadra Ranger head, Elinchrom speed ring and light stand bracket, Elinchrom Quadra Ranger control pack, Elinchrom Quadra Ranger battery pack, Elinchrom Quadra Ranger “A” head, and in the center pocket… Elinchrom Skyport transmitter and receiver, charger, power adapter, and a mini 3-outlet power strip.
Strapped to the outside of the Lowepro Computrekker photo backpack are an Induro carbon tripod with a Manfrotto video head, a Matthews 3-section mini lightstand, and a Manfrotto mini boom arm. An additional outside pocket contains the rods, baffle, and fabric of a 40” Elinchrom Rotalux Octabox. The whole pack, when completely loaded, weighs approximately 38 lbs., even though it’s quite small. The trick is wearing the pack as a carry-on when approaching an airport ticket counter or boarding gate so that they don’t think to weigh it!! It’s quite close to the weight limit in most parts of the world, so you just have to smile and act like there isn’t nearly 40 lbs. of gear on your back.
I love the ring light!! The fact that it’s a constant light source is incredibly helpful in composing the shots. Seems a bit fragile but it sits on a stand so it’s fairly well protected from damage. I purchased it from my local camera shop, Glazer’s, here in Seattle. www.glazerscamera.com
I just picked up a new toy for the studio, a generic Chinese-made fluorescent ring light. It’s quite nondescript, not even a brand name anywhere on the product. At 18” in diameter, it’s significantly larger than other ring lights I’ve used and I am officially in love with the results! It’s got a beautiful bright glow and a white-lined reflector pan mounted on the end of a flexible metal arm that makes shadows virtually fade away. At such a large diameter, the catchlights it creates in a subjects eyes border on the ethereal. Typically, ring lights have that famous “flat look” so popular in fashion, but used as a side light source, it’s bright enough to serve as a continuous key light, making it perfect for product and food photography as well.
On a trip through the desert Southwest, I met up with my friend and talented model, Jessa, so that we could play around with a few lighting techniques in a truly unique environment. After deciding on a “Barbarella-meets-superhero” concept, we tried to emulate the dynamic poses depicted in the comic books of our youth. I remember reading Spiderman, Batman, and the Fantastic Four and being especially drawn to the artwork… the way the scene was slightly askew in the frame, the agility in the poses of the heroes, the slick and shiny suits, and the sensuality in the fashion of the female heroines. Jessa is a master when it comes to creative poses and after flipping through comics at a local bookstore for inspiration, we set out to capture that essence. One stop at Home Depot for a roll of aluminum tape and a few tension bands is all we needed for wardrobe. After lugging battery packs, light stands, softboxes, and strobes out to the middle of nowhere, we ended up with an incredible series of photographs… just what we had pictured.
Having a few tricks in your bag is always a good thing. Being able to rely on a particular technique in a pinch when things get tight is all part of being well prepared. If you can set it up blind folded and know what result you’ll get even before you shoot it, then you know you’ve got it down. For me, I like to use a Speedlite and a fold-up 43” translucent umbrella attached to the end of a monopod. I trigger it with an Elinchrom Skyport and make sure that the umbrella is as close as I can get it to the subject without appearing in the frame. Sometimes I’ll use a white square of foamcore rested on the floor against my knees as a makeshift bounce light, but I’ve been known to use a tablecloth, a paper plate, a pizza pan, or even a white t-shirt to bounce light from the umbrella (notice the catch lights in the eyes). The point is to be resourceful and to practice it until it’s second nature. Having a go-to technique in your bag of tricks allows you to experiment during a shoot, knowing that if all else fails, you can always use your trick to get the shot.
Just returned from a month long photography road trip down to the Gulf Coast. On the way back up to Seattle, I stopped through Jackson, WY to see my friend, pro skier Lynsey Dyer. We had about half a day to shoot a few photos so out came the camera and Lynsey turned on the million-dollar smile as usual.
…that is the question. I recently answered that one for myself and placed my order for the new 3G 64GB iPad. The 3G part allows it to connect to the internet from anywhere, regardless of WiFi access. Initially I thought that it was just an oversized iPod Touch that lacked the functionality of a full laptop. But on second consideration, I realized the potential for displaying thousands of photographs in a “digital portfolio” without the bulk of a whole computer or the weight of lugging around a printed portfolio. No more sleeves, no more remounting portfolio pages, no more printing printing printing… Now I can have access to my entire photographic archive and load any number of portfolios with a simple click, allowing me to customize my presentation to specific clients. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feel and texture of a well done print or the experience of flipping through an actual magazine, but with the digital tsunami that has occurred over the last 15 years, I fear that those may become charming antiques sooner than later.
If you love the still and quiet of a winter morning with a fresh blanket of snow, moving through open meadows and aspen trees, all while being six inches off the ground and feeling like you’re in a vintage race car, you’ll love dog sledding. I was fortunate enough to meet Dagny McKinley, a “musher” at Grizzle T Dog & Sled Works just outside Steamboat Springs, Colorado. When I explained that I wanted to go sledding in order to photograph the experience, she took me on an amazing ride through some beautiful country, pointing out vantage points and photo ops along the way. She’s a talented photographer in her own right having published a beautiful photography book on dog sledding. It must be an amazing life to get to spend every morning with eight of your best furry friends deep in the grandeur of the Rockies, feeling the crunch of snow beneath you and the wind in your face.
I thought I’d share a few ideas describing some of my post-production technique. Nearly every photo printed nowadays has some sort of alteration done to it. It’s just the world we live in… a world of hyper-reality where what we actually see is just the starting point. Some love it, some hate it, but like it or not, it’s here to stay.
Using a photo of my friend Paul as an example, you can see that the original was shot slightly underexposed with just a bit of fill flash off to the right side of the frame. I typically use a Speedlite with a shoot-through umbrella on the end of a monopod triggered with a PocketWizard. I can balance this rig on my hip with one hand and shoot with the other.
Once the photo has been shot in RAW format, I import it into the computer and do a bit of enhancing in Adobe Lightroom… usually a little exposure correction, sharpening, clarity enhancement, etc. Then I import the image into Photoshop where I execute a series of actions. First, I create a Channel Mixer layer set to monotone. I adjust the sliders to create what I find to be an acceptable black and white image, then I change the Blend Mode of the layer to Overlay, creating a higher contrast desaturated look. You have to be careful not to over do it here. You’ll find that adjusting the sliders only slightly yields dramatic changes in the image. Experiment and find what looks good to you.
After a bit of tweaking with Brightness, Contrast, and Levels in separate layers, it’s back to Lightroom for final adjustments. I tend to prefer refining the images in the Develop Mode of Lightroom because the Adjustment Brush is infinitely fine-tunable, even after you’ve painted your effects. You can see that spending as little at 5 or 10 minutes on an images yields a much richer product in the end making both me and the client happier with the results.
Original photo straight from the camera.
Final image after a bit of post-production. A much darker, moodier feel.
A photograph of Lynsey Dyer that I shot on our recent trip to Fiji ran in Outside Magazine’s 2010 Adventure Issue. It was lots of hard work and long hours on the beach in a tropical paradise, but hey… someone’s gotta do it!
I was just about to board a plane in Bangkok heading to Borneo when I got a call from Chris Tauber at ISLANDS Magazine informing me that I had just won the grand prize in their 20th Annual Photo Contest. The call was scratchy and full of static so I had to ask him to repeat the news. What an honor to be recognized by such a cool magazine! I was also named one of ISLANDS Magazine’s Top Contributors.
Vietnamese sailing vessel, shot in Ha Long Bay near Hanoi, Vietnam.
The Grand Prize Winner, shot in Palawan, Philippines
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a place where catching fireflies at dusk and listening to a symphony of cicadas each evening was just a part of everyday life. The music, the food, the “Laissez Le Bon Ton Roulet” spirit (literally “Let the good times roll”)… it’s all part of the Deep South. And while it is changing rapidly and dramatically, there are still qualities that will remain timeless. On a journey through parts of south Texas and Louisiana, I was able to photograph some of the scenes that I believe capture the essence of what the Old and New South are all about. These photographs are featured in Traveller Magazine this month.