I began working with Joe a little over two years ago. As you can imagine, the knowledge I’ve gained in that time has been both invaluable and almost made my head explode. But to truly understand just how much I’ve learned from Joe, you have to know what my starting point was.
Assisting Joe was my first job right out of college. I took some photo classes in school (at Union University), and interned at the local daily paper (The Jackson Sun) during my senior year. I was competent enough to use a digital SLR (started out with B&W film in a Nikon FM2, then migrated to D70/D100 territory a year or so later), could throw a flash on the camera and dial it up and down, and knew how to use levels, color balance, and hue/saturation in Photoshop. That was about the extent of my “expertise.”
When I first showed up at Joe’s house/studio, his then-assistant Scott Holstein showed me the garage of gear. He started pulling out case after case of lights and stands and softboxes and you-name-it. I didn’t even know what a freakin’ c-stand was, so I was slightly overwhelmed. Scott assured me that, over time, I would get to know the gear inside and out and find “my way” of packing everything. I kind of scoffed at that statement, but was kind of re-assured by it at the same time.
Over the next couple of months, I was at the studio a lot while Joe was gone teaching at various workshops. I began learning the vast archive of images from Joe’s 30+ year career, both film and digital, and attempting to hone my Photoshop skills and just figure out how things in general worked around the studio.
A month or two into the job, I finally went on my first shoot with Joe. Talk about literally being thrown into the deep end…
We went down to Jersey and shot the U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers off the coast of Atlantic City. That’s me hanging off the side of the boat with an SB-800 on the end of a boom arm trying to shed a little light on the scene without falling overboard (wasn’t too worried about it, though, thanks to our subjects). Before this, I had never used an SB-800 beyond basic on-camera fill flash. Imagine trying to communicate with your boss, who is bouncing around in the water, while a helicopter hovers just above your head, spraying water everywhere, and not knowing what the heck you’re doing… That was me on this shoot. Luckily, we had Coast Guard photographer Tom Sperduto on our boat as well, and he helped with everything and made the shoot a success. At the end of the day, Tom told me that next time we saw each other, I would know the flashes inside and out. He was right. Next time we saw each other, we had a laugh about the job, how clueless I was at the time, and how far I had come in just a few short months.
Before working with Joe, I had flown a total of two times, roundtrip. Now, on Delta alone I have almost 90,000 miles under my belt, including unforgettable trips to Mexico, Istanbul, Berlin, Rome, Vancouver, Spain, and some of the most beautiful places in the United States. I’ve worked on shoots for National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Golf Digest, Nikon, and FedEx. Heck, I’ve even played paparazzi and shot Bruce Willis, Justin Long, and Maggie Q at the Berlin premiere of Die Hard 4!
I met some of the top basketball players in the country, as well as some of the most well-known and respected photographers of our time (such as John Dominis, Jay Maisel, and many others). I’ve been on sets with snakes, toads, birds, toy rat-dogs, and even an elephant named Suzie (and that was just one one shoot, which also included a helicopter ride around Manhattan)!
Suffice it to say, I’ve had a great and eventful two years. But, I’ve decided that it’s now time for me to allow someone else the opportunity to work with and learn from Joe.
Drew Gurian will now be filling my shoes as Joe’s assistant. If you’ve visited the blog, you may have seen him in this header image.
That’s his band, Far From Westfall, and he’s the one in the middle. He plays the drums, which should be fun for Joe when Drew’s downstairs practicing at 2 a.m.! Anyway, Drew’s a good guy, and I have every confidence that he’ll do a great job working with Joe. At least he already knows what a c-stand is:-)
As you may’ve noticed in Joe’s post the other day, Drew was with us this week in Vermont at DLWS. Sadly, this was also my last DLWS event as a staffer.
It’s been a great two years with this crazy bunch of people, and I’ll miss them a whole bunch. I can’t recommend signing up for one of these workshops enough!
But, I have a feeling that this will not be the last you hear of me. Actually, you may start seeing a lot more of me. I’m heading down to Florida to work with Scott Kelby and the rest of the gang at NAPP! To be perfectly honest, I’m not 100% certain what Scott has planned for me, but I do know that he’s going to keep me busy.
Thanks to Joe and Lynn for everything they’ve taught me and allowed me to be a part of during my time with them. You guys will be missed…
So, that’s it from me. It’s been an amazing two years, and I’ll always look back on this time with fond memories. Now it’s time for me to load my car and head home to Tennessee for a little while before heading to sunny Tampa!