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Archive for the ‘On Location’ Category

Way Down Under

May 18

In On Location, Seminars & Workshops at 8:31pm

Back in Sydney after almost a week in Tasmania, which is as wonderfully out of the way relative to everyplace else as its name might suggest. Lovely land, wonderful people. I was assigned by Tourism Australia to do a somewhat open ended assignment described as the Faces of Tasmania. I fully disclosed to them beforehand that I was a relatively awful rock and tree shooter, and preferred to stick with subject matter that talks back. (There have been location days of course, and people subjects, that have made me dearly wish I was better at the rocks and trees.)

But, I am, resolutely, a people photog, despite (or because of) its unrelenting unpredictability.

By pure chance, and by asking some questions of Sam, our intrepid ATV guide and mentor, we ended up photographing a terrific Tasmanian character nicknamed Muddy. He’s worked the water his whole life, and we asked him to come down to the dock for sunrise, which was a tad earlier than generally required of him. His fee for this was a case of VB beer. Done.

He’s got a wonderful, knowing gaze, the kind that says, in unspoken fashion, something along the lines of, “Get this over with, silly ass photographer and let me get to my work, and my beer.” Which is okay. I’ll gladly ride through any sort of ridicule to photograph a face like Muddy’s. Very brief, but fun, shoot.

Out there on the dock with the Numnuts Ezy box. Really fond of it as a character driven light. The white interior is pretty rich and forgiving, unlike its cousin with the silver interior, which is naturally a touch harder and more splashy. And, even though I only met him for a few minutes, I’ll venture to say that Muddy doesn’t do splashy. Also, for reasons of air travel and price per kilo of baggage, we left behind the c-stands, and used a Manfrotto stacker stand fitted with a extension arm.

Also, it being a portrait, I was able to orchestrate wardrobe, believe it or not. I saw an old pair of yellow slicker pants in the wheelhouse of the boat Muddy was working, and asked him to wear them. The touch of yellow up front resonated well with the blue of the background sky. I didn’t go into color wheel theory with Muddy. I was just happy he was easygoing about putting them on.

We had a another early morning photo session with Rob Pennicott, the Tasmanian of the Year in 2012. An entrepreneur, environmentalist, and sailor extraordinaire, he recently completed the first circumnavigation of Australia in an outboard powered vessel. The feat was accomplished in conjunction with the Bill Gates Foundation in an effort to raise money to eradicate polio.

We got a good portrait here mostly due to Rob’s good graces, and the fact that, pesky photog that I am, I asked him to come down to the dock at 7am, instead of the 2pm slot that the tourist board had originally arranged. Two pm light from a cloudless southern sky is the rock and the hard place, simultaneously, and a portrait shot then could have easily been DOE (dead on exposure). Turned out that Di, our irrepressible guide, knew Rob and made the call. He joked on the phone about whether there would be nudity involved. I answered that, if we headed that direction, it would only be partial nudity, which he was comfortable with. He is, as they say down under, a good bloke.

And, it being a tourism type shoot, I couldn’t leave Tasmania without a portrait session with one of its most amiable and recognizable faces.

Greg Irons and Petra Harris run an animal sanctuary called Bonorong Park, where they take in orphaned or injured animal infants, nurse them back to health and then release them into the wild. With the wombat, such as Petra is holding below, this can be a two or three year process, waiting for the dawn of wombat adolescence, and its naturally rambunctious push for independence.

They are also participating in efforts to discover the cause and cure for a cancer of the mouth that has decimated the Tasmanian Devil population. Called devil facial tumor disease, it can be transmitted from critter to critter, unlike most cancers. The Tasmanian wildlife community is rallying around the devil, trying desperately to contain and eradicate the disease.

Back in Sydney now, preparing for our last Sydney workshop, to be held this Monday. After that, off to Melbourne, where we’ll be for Aussie PMA, and doing another workshop, keynote and seminar. It’ll be a super busy week, and then, home and Annie…..more tk…

Knockin’ Around

Dec 1

In Friends, On Location at 9:03am

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Drew and Grippi in our studio conspired recently to post a youtube video
of me getting wiped out by a fast moving long boarder.

Being the rather massive tribute to inertia that I am, I demonstrate the nimbleness and cat like reflexes of an overloaded garbage truck in attempting the dodge this wheel borne mini-bullet train. Above is the last frame before I bailed. Nobody got hurt, but I decided that wet tarmac and a hairpin turn were just too much excitement, and we sought a different venue.

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The above was done ad hoc, seat of the pants shooting. (What else?) We went out with the guys from Landyachtz boards, who were amazing. I’m hanging out the back of the mini-van, with two Justin clamped SB’s on the support struts of the tailgate, and one flash on camera acting as a commander and a flash. The van is rolling about 45mph or so, and the guys on the boards occasionally outpaced us and just came right up to the bumper and pushed off. Also out there with us were a couple of Vancouver based buds, Syx Langemann and David Cooper, both terrific shooters. The Vancouver photo community is just great, with photogs like Syx and David, and places like the Vancouver Photo Workshops. There’s a very talented pool of people there, and a great spirit of sharing and teaching. It’s why we go back year after year.

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Couple years ago, I made what is one of my favorite couples portraits ever, of Syx and his lovely wife Taryn.

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The beautiful bump in Taryn’s belly has now become the precociously gorgeous Hannah, who, in this follow up portrait, is orbiting mom and dad like, well, an eighteen month old.

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After Vancouver, I rotated through home and ended up in Amsterdam, at the Zoom Experience, held in Utrecht. Again, just a great bunch of folks, and I was very honored to be part of the presenting corps.

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Muddled through in the usual unrehearsed, “let’s see where this goes,” kind of style. We were presenting in this theater in the round type of black box, so just like walking into a photo studio, I pulled out lights and hunted for a photograph. I was blessed to be working with Aad. He is a patient soul who works for Nikon Netherlands, and actually interfaces with photogs who bring in busted or dysfunctional gear, so he gets to see us at our collective best, not to mention most patient. Perhaps that’s why he looks a bit like a mix of Neil Young and Keith Richards. I took my file and ran it through Aperture and de-saturated it a touch. Aperture’s sleek enough, and understandable enough, that even a post processing numnuts like myself can understand it.

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My thanks go out to all the folks at the Zoom theater, and especially the Nikon Netherlands gang, headed up by Berend van Iterson and Roeland Koene, who stitched it all together. The gentleman running the show screens and all the AV wizardry was Pierre Jacobs,  part Photoshop master and part Conan O’Brian. He kept everybody loose, and the shows running. He, too, was struck by Aad’s persona, enough to riff a bit on the current “I am Nikon” campaign.

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It’s been a lively week or so. Hope everybody had a great Turkey Day. Can’t believe it’s December. As my mom used to say, “Oh, you know, 4th of July and the year’s over.” I didn’t really believe her, but you know, she mighta been onto something. More tk….


Shooting the Moon

Aug 27

In On Location at 2:29am

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Hey gang…couple of questions from yesterday. The combo of the 600 plus TC1.7 was, frankly, all about, uh, size. Bigger lens, bigger moon. The above is shot with a straight up six. Below, I’m at about 170 zoom on a 70-200.

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Figured we’re all up here in north country, howlin’ at the moon, so might as well shoot it. Above is lit with an Elinchrom Quadra, running through a Deep Octa soft box. Way up top, same deal as yesterday–line of sight TTL, raw flash, SB 900, hand held, camera right.

You get the moon and the lens big, what suffers? DOF for sure. The shot from yesterday was racked out to f11. Otherwise the moon looks like an out of focus blob in the sky, which it sorta does even at f11.

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Have had notions of doing stuff like mixing flash portraits and the moon for years, and I suspect I’ll just keep after it. One of these days, might just nail it….you never know….more tk….

Big Canyon, Small Flash

May 18

In Lighting, On Location at 2:02am

Been experimenting with seeing how far I can throw a commander signal from a hot shoe mounted flash to a set of remotes. Figured Dead Horse Canyon would be a good place to try. So last week, got up in the middle of the night and went out for sunrise in Moab. Got in touch with our bikers, Beth and Sean, through Poison Spyder Bike Shop in Moab, which, for me, has been the place to call if you want to work with good riders. The folks who either work there or are connected with the shop can really rock it out on a mountain bike.

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Triggered the remotes from an SB900 on my camera. It had the diffuser dome off, and it was zoomed to 200mm, which is a good strategy for squeezing out a few more yards of range. All three remotes are hooked up on a c-stand via Justin Clamps. All have 1/2 cut of CTO warming gel on them, and they in turn are zoomed to 200mm, to get punch and direction along the lines of the rising (hopefully) sun.

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Sean and Beth took turns, and I just kept adjusting at camera for the changing light. I was swinging the camera left and right to maybe do a pano stitch, so I took it out of aperture priority and just slammed it into manual. After experimenting a bit, I decided I needed all the juice I could get outta the lights, so I sent them a signal to fire at manual, 1/1, the max power you can get from the 900.

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They both did great out there on the edge of the canyon. And the lights did okay, too. Consistent fire and recycle, ’cause each 900 was hooked to an SD-9 external battery pack.

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Then there was this tree, which is evidently famous. It’s all bent up, kinda like it was growing one way and then decided to make a u-turn back the other direction. It’s cool looking, as trees go. My buds Kevin Dobler, Moose Peterson and I worked out a lighting combo that had two 900 units warmed up with CTO gel, and at first zoomed to 200mm, firing at the tree from both camera left and right, with each flash being about 20 or so feet from the greenery. Changed up the zoom when it looked like the lights were getting too spotty, and widened them both out to about 85mm. Group A to one side, B to the other, in case we had to ratio them differently. Saturated the sky with underexposure, and powered up the lights.

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And, I became one with the tree. Figures. We’re both a little bent.

Couple schedule things….

Heading to Florida on Friday to teach lighting in Orlando, courtesy of the Orlando Camera Club. Great bunch of folks, and the organizer, Wayne Bennett has been tireless at putting together what looks to be a terrific program. Here’s the link….

More tk….

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.

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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…..

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