Archive for the ‘Seminars & Workshops’ Category
Rattling around the country, and this week, washed up in Orlando for one of my favorite events of the photo calendar–PSW. It’s so loaded with great classes, it’s like a candy store of photo instruction. On Tuesday, I teach a pre-conference class called Photo Safari with my bud Moose Peterson. Fair enough to call it a safari, ’cause what we do is go and hunt for pictures. From what I gather, our game this time around will be airplanes, as we’ll trek to the Fantasy of Flight.
Like any shooter who’s been doing this for awhile, Moose is experimenting, seeking new subject matter, and in short, re-inventing himself. A long time landscape and wildlife guy, he is of late entranced with flying machines, so much so he’s instituted a series of workshops called Air2Air.
It’ll be fun being around the smell of jet fuel again, and once again point my lenses at some cool, sleek planes. I’m not an aviation photog, not by any stretch. Always been a generalist. Give me an assignment, I’ll go get a picture for you. Curious about lots of stuff, so my photo portfolio, should such a thing exist, is a bit like a cluttered general store out in the country somewhere. You know, one of those places you can go into and score milk, butter, eggs, fishing line, bait, DVDs, romance novels, firearms of various caliber and types, and certain lawn tools. To complete the analogy, it’s tended by an aging, somewhat curmudgeonly proprietor who is increasingly forgetful as to where things are. Uh, that would be me.
But I have flown all manner of craft, have hundreds of hours in helicopters, and once, did a major story on aviation. It was a biggie, the first ever all digital coverage in the venerable history of the National Geographic.
Did some fancy flying as well.
Man, I thought I was styling back then, with my D1X and Lexar one gig cards, sitting backseat in an FA-18 with the Blue Angels. Rode the slot position with them twice, and had pretty good luck. (The Blues will routinely dole out “media rides” on certain occasions, which are fun, to be sure. Hop in a fast mover and go flying. But being allowed to ride in formation is a rare treat.)
Those one giggers (about $750!), if I recall properly, held 119 NEFS (Nikon Electronic Files) per card. Cool! Went up with one card in the camera and one in my flight suit. What a blessing. First time I ever rode a tactical aircraft, it was with the Air Force T-birds, and, in the midst of getting violently ill, I switched out 10 rolls of Kodachrome. Dropped one, which is a no no in one of those birds. Any object like that is classified as FOD, or, foreign object debris, and you have to land immediately. But Bert, the pilot, a great guy I’m still in touch with, just turned the plane upside down and the offending roll spilled out onto my canopy. I grabbed it, and we kept flying.
Amazing how far we’ve come in the digital world, which of course is what Photoshop World is a celebration of. Those one giggerlys have been replaced now by Lexar 32 gig screamin’ fast storage lockers you can stash literally thousands of pictures on. Given the fact I now shoot D3S and X type cameras with two card slots, well, changing cards isn’t a major concern anymore. Shoot all day, never have to change.
I’ve quite literally had my ups and downs in flight, and spent a fair bit of time on carriers, working aboard both the Truman and the Lincoln.
Managed to set up a small flash studio in the hangar bay of the Truman, grabbed a swatch of seamless from the carrier photo department, and did some portraits. A carrier is a floating city of 5,000 people, complete with a newspaper and a photo staff.
During the ’93 war, I transited Bahrain, and jumped onto the carrier Lincoln, operating out in the Gulf. Being catapulted off and trapped on a carrier has it’s moments, I tell ya. Members of the press get dumped onto a plane called a COD (cargo onboard delivery), which is a lumbering beast compared to a fighter jet. When I got shot off the Lincoln, the pilot, perhaps because it was an operational area, or perhaps because he was just getting his ya-ya’s out, did some dipsey doodle, evasive type maneuvers. As a passenger, you’re squeezed into rows, tighter than a regular commercial airliner, shoulder to shoulder, facing backwards. As soon as we hit the skies the journalist next to me taps me on the shoulder, and asked me to get the attention of one of the crewmen, who was a couple seats away. I reached over and tapped him on the shoulder. The crew guy was a big dude, most likely from the deep south, judging by his accent, and probably had been shot off aircraft carriers a few hundred times. He had a bunch of air bags stuck in his belt, and the scribe next to me was getting ready for his own version of a catapult. Got him the bag just in time. When he launched, the guy immediately to my right, navy personnel, signals the for a bag as well, and, as they occasionally say, engages in a technicolor yawn.
Now I’ve got stereophonic barfing going on, and I grit my teeth. The crew dude looks at me, looks at them, rolls his eyes, reaches into his kit, rips open a giant bag of cheetohs, and chows down, all the while eyeballing the gastrointestinal acrobatics being performed. He shrugs, and sits. The cabin filled with a wonderful mix of aromas, and other stomachs started giving it up, and all the while, he sat there, contentedly munching cheetohs. Those flyboys.
That aviation coverage was a labor, indeed. But worth it. A point of pride for the studio is that after it was published, it was acquired by the Library of Congress, who felt that in addition to being the first digital coverage for the yellow magazine, it was also an important piece of a visual continuum they maintain from the Wright Brothers forward. Sorta means that 100 years from now, when my hard drives are toast, and most of my pictures are properly and blessedly forgotten, these will linger, and maybe a researcher will find them useful, or even a great great grandchild might take a look, prompted by fuzzy tales of a lunatic in their blood line.
It’ll be fun to take a look again at some planes. Might even light a few up. Photoshop world, here we go again! More tk….
I really gotta hand it to the gang from Tampa, Scott Kelby’s NAPP organization. They really knock it back when it comes to educational stuff, offering information and putting out useful content on a regular basis. It’s pretty cool. When they came knocking a while back and asked me to do a lighting seminar, I was like, “Sure!” Then I was like–Gulp!
Okay, remember, if something scares you, go shoot it. So I said yes, and I’m super glad I did, ’cause I’ve met a ton of great folks, and just had a ball doing these big lighting classes. And now I’ve got a whole category of pix I kinda call, “Pictures Done Fast.” (Drew has another name for it. He calls it, “Wish you had worked that harder!”) It’s cool. When I’m up teaching, my job is not to push across portfolio material, it’s really to tackle as many things as I can, as quickly as I can.
In Atlanta, we had great models, one of whom, Tyrell, was just an amazing presence. He could be a recording star, an athlete, an executive, or a detective on a cop show on TV, he had so many looks. Last part of the day, we got this look in just a few frames.
The above is an Elinchrom Deep Octa, camera left, with a Quadra flash popping through it. Added a kicker light off an SB900 firing on SU-4 mode into a silvery Tri-grip reflector. Interesting the color shift in the flash temperatures, huh? The big diffuser for the Quadra imparts a certain warmth, whereas the 900 into the neutral silver comes off as decidedly on the cool side.
Here’s the very first shot of this setup, with just a Deep Octa to camera left:
…and a black and white rendition of the same…Which do you guys like more?
We stayed on and had a fun evening at Zack Arias‘ studio. Zack and his crew just threw their doors open, and once again, as I always feel, we became part of the photo community, which is a powerful and supportive group.
We drank, and talked, and drank some more. Had a great time. Then the assistant crew, Dan Depew, Erik Dixon, and Drew, gang of three that they are, went out and drank some more, evidently….at a legendary local establishment:-)
Many thanks to NAPP, Zack, and the Atlanta photo gang….more tk…..
Had a great time in Hartford yesterday, doing a Kelby Lighting Seminar. It’s fun, and a challenge, and a bit daunting, at least occasionally, to keep the ball bouncing and think up stuff to do when you’re shooting live in front of hundreds of folks. But, I lose myself in the process, and just try to have fun. On a big commercial shoot, there are often many people on the set with you, observing what you do, so I just figure on these outings, I’ve got a few hundred art directors in the audience, so it’s cool by me.
I make mistakes like crazy up there, but that doesn’t really faze me. For 25 years, at National Geographic, my editors there have seen every single frame I’ve shot, good, bad or indifferent. Every frame. It was true with film and is true now with digital. I don’t edit in the camera, I don’t tweak in post. Raw files out of the camera. Every picture, whether it’s a gem, or a giant steaming turd that might have just dropped out of a tall cow’s ass, goes to the building with the yellow border around it.
So at these seminars, every frame I shoot goes immediately to the screen. That’s one way to get naked really quick, but again, I enjoy the process of building a picture, and the audience tends to be right there with me, involved in the process. Yesterday, the folks in Hartford were great. Very patient and kind, even when I completely lost all sense of where I was and fell off the stage. Yep, that was a first. I was at the edge of the risers, pursuing a picture, and I just stepped out there on the air, which wasn’t smart. I felt like David Copperfield, minus the good looks and hot babes, doing one of those tricks where he just drops through a trap door. Oh, well, once a numnuts, always a numnuts.
The saving grace of yesterday, apart from my distracted antics, was working with two of the gentlest, most beautiful people I have ever worked with–Elex and Bleu.
They are a married couple who are wonderful in front of the camera, either singly, or together. (As I said onstage, I suspect their children are beautiful. Just a hunch.)
We experimented with decidedly big flash, up above, for the couples portraits. Those two images were made with the Elinchrom 74″ Octa, a truly wondrous light source. When you gotta go with one light, this is a good one to go with:-)
Elex, alone, is shot small flash. The main light is a Flashpoint beauty dish, and in the background are two raw SB900s. All TTL, hi speed sync at 1/4000 @f2. 200mm lens.
Below, we experimented lighting two surfaces, the subject and the background, with one small flash. The light is about 20′ away, camera left, and it is hitting the white background, ungoverned. In between the light and Bleu up front is a large Tri-grip diffuser, which steals some of the intensity of the flash and smooths it for a portrait. Hence the background snaps white and the foreground is lit nicely. One light, TTL. Fun to do.
Heading north. Following the, uh, light:-) Actually, it’s great weather up there now in Iceland, and heading for my first visit to a country that has been on the bucket list for a long time. You can check out the specifics here.
It’ll be fun. I’m always jazzed by a new place, and will be pushing hard to find some crazy stuff to shoot. Another cool wrinkle–I’m on the beta team for the new Pocket Wizard Mini’s and Flexes for the Nikon CLS system. This is an interesting door to open, for sure. Line of sight issues can bedevil TTL shooters, and if we can push the envelope with TTL radio, well, that envelope just got a helluva lot larger.
So we make the great Northern trek. Drew and I have our sturdy skiff loaded, have said our prayers to Odin, donned horned helmets, buckled on broadswords, and, with following winds and fair seas, we should be pulling into Reykjavik in time for Friday night’s lecture.
If things don’t go well, and we are engulfed by the seas, I figure it’s okay, cause we got TTL radio. Instead of Mayday! Mayday! we’ll be signalling, “Minus Three! Minus Three!” I’m sure the Coast Guard will be intrigued enough to figure it out.
I’ve got a bunch of them, so figure the class will help me sort it out as well. I’ll be doing demos and see where this new signal takes us. As always, experimenting.
We’ve certainly come a long ways since Nikon introduced on board slave eyes back in the SB-26.
Finished for the year with workshops at my favorite aging hulk of a building down by the Hudson. Had a studio there for about six or seven years, and for a while, during a very turbulent time in my life, I actually lived there. With the trains, there was no need for an alarm clock. There are long time tenants there, characters all, to be sure. One of the most wonderful is Charlie Kron, a master bagpipe maker and player. You can hear Charlie tuning up and playing the pipes, with the distinctive drone and melody drifting up through the hallways, inducing march or melancholy, depending on Charlie’s mood.
Charlie’s shop is a chock-a-block wonder. I brought the class in there, and he was his usual, accommodating self, always ready to talk about the arcane intricacies of bagpipe playing. He’s in the process of moving to a smaller space, so for me, this picture immediately loomed as much more important than a lighting snap or demo. (This is done with two SB900s, one camera left with a Ezybox Hotshoe softbox, and one camera right with a Flashpoint snoot aimed down at the spare pipes. Auto white balance, letting the place just be what it is. As I said to the class, it’s not pretty light. It’s light that might already be there.)
Reason for it’s importance, I thought, was that this shop, which I speculate is just a mirror image of the interior of Charlie’s head, will now be gone, and will no longer reverberate with stirring wind blown notes, and be cluttered with tools and machines that really only Charlie knows how to run. Bagpipe repair. Talk about a niche industry.
I was glad we caught up with him before he closes the doors on this messy little piece of heaven. I asked him to play while I shot. I damn near cried….
Maggie came back, and her presence on the set pushed us to craft light that was really just for her. This is a combo of real big flash, and real small flash. The Elinchrom Octa is right at my back at camera, and the Deep Octa is overhead, just to key her face. And there are two SB900s below her, bouncing off the floor, with a silver Skylite Panel reflector. Very even, very frontal, very much a pale wash of light, just enough, just for her.
Then of course, we once again couldn’t resist blowing her amazing mane of hair around.
Turned on the wind machine (aka the eyeball dryer) and blended ambient, steady light. (Light that doesn’t flash, who knew?) The main light is small flash V flat lighting, where I just put up two V-flats, and pound 4 SB units into them. The V-flats then backwash them onto a wall or big white surface, which then just pours light over your subject. (Think of it as playing ping pong with the light.) I’ll have a sketch of this light up in couple days.
Same light here, for a decidedly different mood. I really had to speak to Kristina about her energy level in front of the camera:-)
We constructed a bit of a quieter, more classical beauty combination for Katherine.
And finally, we went to the roof, and, as I said to the class, we tried the high speed sync technique, in a big way. Six flashes, all firing the same direction.
Our subject is the nearly legendary Maria Arce, who is a martial artist, specializing in knife and sword play. Yikes!
All different subjects, all beautiful in different ways. Kinda cool. I’ll try to post some tech stuff on these soon. We had quite a year at Dobbs. Flying right now….more tk….