Archive for the ‘In The Field’ Category
Busy couple of weeks. Went from KelbyOne in Tampa to LA to shoot for LIFE, then Vancouver to teach. Left Vancouver on a red eye to Washington DC, continued the LIFE job, and then rotated back to Van for our last days at the Vancouver Photo Workshops. Flew from Vancouver to home, did laundry, jumped on a plane to London, where I am right now.
Cali, our very capable first assistant, stayed with me through Tampa, LA, and Vancouver. I left him behind in Vancouver, on his own for three days, a stint of dangerously idle time from which that fair city has perhaps not recovered. Jon was in Tampa, went back to the studio, re-upped a new gear pack, threw it in the truck and rolled it Washington. He met me when I got off the redeye at Reagan National, and we went straightaway to shoot. Worked for three days, and then he dropped me back at Reagan, and I was off to Vancouver, and he headed north. I rejoined Cali in Van, and we finished our stint there for VPW, and then did similarly quick laundry and chores, and came here to the UK.
While in Tampa, we did a couple videos for the Kelby clan, playing the the notion of motion. One thing we showed was an in camera double exposure, during which the subject moves position. When Cali and Jon were working with me to set the lighting, they gave the camera the above expressions. Hmmm.
Now, we are blessed at McNally Photo with the fact that Lynn, our intrepid studio manager is also the accounts payable department, the production department, the client liaison officer, and, well, the list goes on. She is also the human resources department, thankfully, so if they walk into her office with disgruntled expressions such as above, she will smile sweetly at them and crack them in the back of the head and tell them to get back to work. (Think Gibbs in NCIS.)
Kidding, of course, at least most of the time. Lynn, in addition to running the studio, is also an advisor, confidante and overall font of sage wisdom about photography, and the art of life and business for these young men. We are truly blessed at our shop. In addition to Lynn and the guys, we also have Lynda, who helps keep everything glued together. Everybody works incredibly hard at keeping us bobbing along in the turbulent sea of photographic endeavor.
For the KelbyOne videos, we stayed simple a lot of the time, trying to examine how to make one speed light and one hot light work to produce a simple motion result, such as below. We examined the basics of front curtain, rear curtain, color shifts, etc. We also did some more complicated stuff like hang a camera on a bicycle and an ambulance. They will hopefully be fun to watch.
In Vancouver, I was demonstrating a tight, beauty dish attachment for a speed light, and some high speed flash techniques, and got a couple frames that were decent of Aaron, who has a wonderful face for this kind of a light.
So the Super Bowl ball game is done, and has now modified and progressed into the Super Bowl of Trying to Get Home. A wall of snow just fell on NY, heavier and more sustained than a Kam Chancellor hit, and football fans of all descriptions are stuck in the Big Apple. I flew out this past Supe Sunday, and thus escaped before the city got rolled by the weatherman.
I shot one Super Bowl in my day, which was amazing to me, as I suck at sideline photography. This may sound odd, as I did have a contract with Sports Illustrated for a number of years, despite not being adept at shooting moving objects. I would get intrigued by the hoopla, color and obsession of the sport at hand, but was not all that compelled by the grunting and sweating out on the field. So, they would send me to something like a Super Bowl to shoot that which no one else was interested in, in this case, the refs.
The game was the 1987 matchup of the Broncos and the NY Giants, a game won by the Giants, and featured a legendary performance by QB Phil Simms. I don’t really recall seeing any of the game itself, as I had to key in and shoot pix of all nine of the refs. One of the biggest challenges was getting them all together for a group shot, however quick and dirty it had to be. And trust me, it was.
The above was shot less than two minutes before kickoff. I had made arrangements with the refs to meet me in the corner of an end zone that had a last sliver of daylight, with the field as a backdrop. To “fill” this picture, my ever grumbling SI staff assistant had to hoist a 4×6 Chimera soft box onto a monopod, and sling four Norman 200B battery packs on his shoulders and follow me out onto the grass. Phil Jache, the resident techno-wizard at the mag, had adapted a Speedotron Quad to Norman cables and flash tubes, so I had the equivalent of 800ws of portable power blowing through one lamp head. It was truly a Rube Goldberg arrangement, and the two us trundling this Frankenstein of a light out in front of millions of people I’m sure looked perfectly ridiculous.
And of course, there literally dozens of my colleagues on the sidelines, all being helpful. “Hey Joe, the flash isn’t working!” “You’re light’s not goin’ off, dipshit!” Constructive suggestions as to my lighting, staging, composition, overall demeanor, my looks and my ancestry rained down on me. The intimation my light was malfunctioning was a real possibility, as it was pre-Pocket Wizard days, and I was using a Hawk Radio transmitter system, which had all the sophistication and dependability of your basic garage door opener. Shot Kodachrome, no time for testing, or Polaroid.
I got a serviceable group shot, and then spent the rest of the day chasing the zebras during my one and only Super Bowl adventure. Story never ran. More tk….
Last year, when I stood on the railing that supports the aircraft warning lights atop the Burj Khalifa, 2,716 feet over the sidewalk, and I leaned forward slightly, I was cautious, of course. Not that I was going anywhere. I had safety ropes attaching me to the structure. And my cameras were hooked to me, and were quite secure. (Whenever I make a climb over an urban area, I run heavy gauge wire through my camera straps, so the cameras are literally wired to my person.)
What wasn’t connected, or tethered in any way, was my Iphone. I took that slippery son of a bitch in my hands, with great and grave care, looked down, and saw my feet. Made a snap, pushed a few buttons, and it became an Instagram. I had a sense of standing at a window clutching a bird I was about to release into the wild. I flung it outwards and up into the sky, and I knew it would go many places, and I wouldn’t have a shred of say in the matter. Which, for this pic, was okay. (If anyone out there had similar childhood reading habits, you might remember the last page of Sterling North’s Rascal, one of my favorite books as a kid.)
This little picture did in fact cover a lot of ground, and was retweeted, screen grabbed, printed, and chatted up all over the internet. It easily, and quite rapidly, became the most seen picture I have ever shot, and I have shot lots of pictures. And it certainly became an education for me about the life of a digital image, as it’s still being retweeted on a regular basis, even now, almost a year after shooting it.
I have to admit, when it started hitting lots of screens and the retweets piled on and on, I sort of stared at my own computer screen somewhat slack jawed, a look of bovine wonder on my face. ” I mean, at the risk of sounding stupid, or old, or both, I knew the internet was big, and fast and linked, but the speed of dissemination and numbers of eyeballs glancing at my battered shoes was definitely bracing.
Here’s an upside, speaking of my shoes. I’ve been buying the same model Ecco Track II, for at least twenty years, maybe more. A pair of those shoes has been with me to the top of the Empire State Building, up some bridges, onto power line towers, in and out of helicopters, and trod ground in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Siberia, South America, and coast to coast back home. I guess the Ecco folks were pleased to see their shoes atop the tallest man-made structure on earth, but also mildly embarrassed by their disrepair. So, they sent me a new pair. They reached out on Facebook, and next thing you know, I had a new pair of size 11′s. Haven’t used them yet, as there’s still life in my old ones, but it’s nice to have brand new shoes in the wings.
The other cool thing about the marriage of the internet and the camera is that the resultant, instantaneous, widespread migration of your images can make someone like myself, who started looking through a camera way before it was also a phone and a tweet machine and all the rest, appear somewhat with it, even to my kids. The pic, as I mentioned, still gets rerouted and retweeted, though it has all died down to a comparative simmer. But with one recent mention, my daughter picked up on it again, and shouted out the below.
So, that’s kind of cool…..what an amazing world we live in….more tk….
Thankfully, without too much travel, at least right away. Have a local job over the weekend, and next week, down in DC for the annual National Geographic Seminar. Photographers don’t have too much of an opportunity anymore to gather as a group, so it will be fun to see friends, long time shooters and colleagues. In between, on Tuesday, 1/7, I’ll be at Adorama in NYC. Starting off the year with an irreverent, impromptu, seat of the pants (is there any other way?) floor of the store small flash demo in the Adorama pro department. It’ll be a hoot. I’m giving away about a dozen books, pocket guides, a few t-shirts in response to important, impertinent, rash, insightful, goofy or otherwise interesting questions. Here’s the link.
Speaking of Adorama, while in Mexico, in December, I did a shot at a tailor’s shop for Ado TV. Here’s the link to that episode. As you might see in the video, it’s a simple pic, done with one Elinchrom Ranger from across the street, firing through a bed sheet hanging in a door way, and minimally tweaked with a bounced light inside the store.
I was in Guanajuato, working with my dear friend, Hector Segovia, with PhotoXperience Mexico, which is rapidly becoming the go to learning center for photography in all of Mexico. I kept passing this tailor shop, with the whir of ancient sewing machines and feel of long time family ownership, and I asked Hector if we could go in. And, it being Guanajuato, we were warmly received, and made arrangements to do a photo session in there.
The Adorama TV segments, by necessity, go very quickly. After finishing up, I decided to pull the camera angle a touch to the right, to pick up a weird/interesting store mannequin, off by the doorway to the back of the shop.
Now, I really liked the mannequin guy, with his studious glasses and ascot, but the big black hole of the doorway was bothersome. And, rightly or wrongly, I do believe in lighting through a shot, however minimally, to create interest and detail for the viewer’s eye all the way through the three zones of a photo–foreground, middle ground and background. So we stashed another Elinchrom back there, sporting a full CTO gel to simulate the bare incandescent bulb that was already existing in the room.
On a shot like this, radio triggers are required gear, pretty much. The two power packs don’t really see each other, and neither see the camera, so a radio is the way to go. We’ve been using both the PocketWizard Plus III units, and the PlusX units with a good deal of success for simple stuff like this. Not too much in the way of interference or range issues. We do use the Multi-max units, but they have much more capability than is needed for a shot like this, which, from the get go, is aimed at making it look like no lighting was applied at all.
Looking forward to going to the city on the 7th. My wife Annie runs the Adorama Pro Department, and of course Daniel and Efraim will be there, so it will be like family. Maybe we won’t do any flash demo, and we’ll just get together and sing some songs. Uh, no….I’ll stick with flash stuff.
All best for 2014! More tk….
Anytime Nikon puts an “F” in the name of a camera, photographers who have been around for a while (and that would be me) take notice. My first motor driven camera was an F, which of course was a tank with a lens. I forget if it had treads. But the F was an undisputed classic of design and toughness. It was simple, as its name suggests. A rugged bunch of shutter speeds looking for a set of f-stops. The DF harks back to that simplicity. It’s a classic blend of old style film camera bundled with new fangled digitally fancy footwork.