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Posts Tagged ‘Profoto’

There’s a new gallery on my website with portraits and action shots of some of my NYC soccer colleagues. A more in depth post will follow shortly. In the meantime a big “thumbs up” to Matt Penrose at Groupstage who helped organize the shoot, posted it on his blog, and runs a terrific league, in case you’re looking for a game.

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As I have mentioned in an earlier post, the Missus and I recently made a trip to the left coast of Amurrrica so I could finally relax from my mediterranean lifestyle. As usual I decided to bring the shabang (2 7bs, 4 heads, and the Mamiya RZ) on our road trip from San Francisco to LA and back.

The project I had in mind originally was to find and photograph motocross riders in the hilly desert of Southern California. It would have worked out great, if only they were there. Even though I found plenty of tracks, I could not rustle up one single rider in the time we were there. Maybe they needed a vacation, too.

So faced with the depressing possibility of schlepping (and paying extra luggage charges for) all my gear without getting anything noteworthy out of it, I sent an SOS call to my good friends Jerry and Laurel in SF. J & L worked already on several other bay area shoots of mine, one of them detailed in great detail in an earlier post here.

Laurel told me about her friend Isabella, who is a passionate mountain biker, though injured at the moment, who could hook me up with other riders. It was very short notice, unpaid, and the shoot was happening on Monday afternoon. Somewhat close to ideal conditions.

After a location scout in different parts of the city, the tourist in me won, and I decided to shoot on the Marin side of the Golden Gate. Obviously it’s one of the mostest oftenest photographed locations ever, but the beauty of the span is just too damn hard to resist. During the scout, we went to some of the military installations in that area and the one closest to the bridge had some interesting structures that provided for good riding and angles without tourists in the background. I tried out different lenses and liked the slightly abstract (safari) look I got from the 250mm tele.

On Monday we started setting up for a one o’clock shoot. We didn’t know how many models would come, but we knew that they wouldn’t have a lot of time. When three riders finally arrived an hour late, the fog rolled in. Initially I was ready to kick something small and innocent, but the fog turned out to be not really solid. Every so often the veil would lift and the bridge would appear in highly attractive half-visibility. Laurel was standing on a little hill, telling us to get ready when a hole in the mist would blow our way. When we got the timing right it looked like this:

…and when we got the timing wrong it looked like that:

The rider in this picture is Remy, who is not just an all around good guy and very skilled rider, but also the owner of the tip-top Mojo Bicycle Cafe in San Francisco. A very nice combo of bike shop and cafe.

We did a quick group portrait (Ralph, Remy, and Isabella),…

…and moved up the hill for a second location. This is how our first spot looked from above:

The second location was on the other side of the hill and had a little patch of spectacular trees. We placed two lights amongst the trees behind the rider, one head pretty much from the front and left of camera and one head from the sharp right aimed at the rider but skimming the gnarly tree next to her. The rider had to start in the background, get some speed, duck under that big branch, get photographed, and roll down a sharp little hill while avoiding the camera. The two guys went first, but then Isabella’s competitive side kicked in and she went for it, too, freshly surgically repaired knee or not, giving me the best image in this spot (and possibly the day).

It was a short little shoot, but more than justified the schlepp.

If you’re into bikes or coffee or both I highly recommend to check out Mojo if you should find yourself (or lose yourself) in San Francisco (with flowers in your hair).

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During a short and sweet road trip with the missus through Wyoming last year I noticed that there were a lot of bikers out and about and after a while it dawned on me that they were on their way to the big yearly meet-up in Sturgis, South Dakota. Most of them have been on their bikes for days and you could see in their faces the effects of the wind and the sun. It seemed like we could do a nice little portrait series.

The first day we wanted to do the shoot was too rainy and we decided to use the time for a thorough location scout. We drove out of Cody and took the Chief Joseph Byway to the Beartooth Highway, which took us all the way up into Montana. One road was more spectacular than the next. We decided to set up shop the next morning at a place called Dead Indian Pass.
The spot overlooked a beautiful valley where Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce faked out a pursuing US Army on their (painfully close but unsuccessful) run towards the Canadian border.

We set up lights at a pull-out and asked the bikers that stopped there if they wanted to sit for a portrait. I think we got a nice collection of Amurrrican (and a few Canadian) archetypes.

To check out the entire series, click here.

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There is a new gallery called “At the Races” on my website.  I spent a day at a messenger track race in Kissena, Queens which has a velodrome (what doesn’t New York have?).  The images were taken last year on the glorious, glorious day when Germany whooped Argentina 4:0 at the World Cup which might explain why it took me so long to post them (I’ve just stopped celebrating).  In any case there will be a longer post about the nuts and bolts of the shoot soon.

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Sometime late 2009 Julie Guidry called me up and asked me if I was interested in applying for a “Getty Grant for Good” to shoot an image library for Upstream Arts.

Upstream Arts is a Minneapolis based non-profit whose mission is to “enhance the lives of adults and youth with disabilities by fostering creative communication and social independence through the power of arts education”. The classes are taught by working artists including painters, sculptors, actors and dancers, who help their young clients explore different ways of expressing themselves. A pretty big deal for the participants, as it turns out.

Well, we didn’t get the grant, but filing the application started a thought process about how to portray people with disabilities. Most of the images we found out there were of sporty triumphs or happy-happy family moments, but almost nothing showed the complex human beings behind the disabilities. There was a need for straight-on portraiture. The more we talked about the project, the more interested I became, and eventually we decided to go ahead with the shoot. Grant money be damned.

So in the summer of 2010 the Misses and I loaded up our late Volvo with a large amount of gear

and headed to the Twin cities on the mighty Mississippi (4s, 4i, 2p, 1m).

On the way we stopped in Cleveland, since we’ve never been there. After we unloaded at the hotel, we went straight to Jacobs Field where we watched the Indians beat the Red Sox in convincing fashion. A very good omen for the trip. In my function as a semi-professional travel adviser, I’d like to recommend:  If you ever find yourself in Cleveland in the summer, try to go to a baseball game there. It’s really what baseball should be like in my opinion. A nice, smallish stadium, relaxed atmosphere, borderline affordable beers and sausages, and no $1500 seat in sight (and I’m saying this as a Yankee fan)

.

We made another stop in Chicago and then it was onwards to Minneapolis with only a few hours lost due to a little automotive health issue.

Once in Minneapolis we started working at the shoot which was going to happen at the Jewish Community Center in St. Paul (which is the Twin in the Twin Cities). We went there for a quick location scout and requested one of their rooms large enough to set up our studio and provide space for models and their caretakers to hang out. The library fit the bill.

Julie Guidry did a great job finding our models and arranging the time table for the shoot.

I needed a few more pieces of equipment like c-stands and sandbags and we borrowed them from Jeff Cords, a local photographer at 8th Street Studio. Jeff beside being a great still life shooter, is a regular supporter of Upstream Arts and an all around good guy.

For the lighting we used Profotos Acutes and 7bs (plugged in).  There was a head with a beauty dish to the right of the camera and a head with a grid on the left.  There were also one head with a grid on each side behind and above the model.

The camera was a Mamiya RZ 67 (which really shines during close up portraiture) with a Phase One P25 back.

The entire shoot happened in one afternoon.  Our first model was Caleb, Julie’s stepson. He was also our toughest customer, since he was a bit under the weather and in a bad mood. He had a hard time sitting still in front of the camera. We took our time, showed him the entire set up from the camera to the lights, and how everything worked. Whenever we did that Caleb gave us between 45 seconds to a minute in front of the camera. The images turned out pretty well though and Caleb wound up on the cover of our Magcloud Magazine and the postcard of our exhibition.

Caleb

After that the other models and their caretakers started showing up and to my relief the other shoots were easier than the first one. Most of the participants were really into the shoot.  Since I was shooting digitally, I was able to immediately show them the images on a monitor, which helped a lot with the collaboration.  The models had a wide range of disabilities and our interactions reflected that.  Quite a bit of the communication between the models and me happened non-verbally and many creative decisions were based on gut feelings.  There was a pretty high energy on the set, but most of the models managed only about ten minutes in front of the camera before they were exhausted.

Every good portrait is a collaboration between the photographer and the model. It takes a bit of courage to really look hard at somebody but it takes quite a bit more courage to show yourself when somebody is staring at you through a lens. Looking now at the finished images I feel fortunate about the openness and sense of generosity with which these young people approached the shoot.

Julie Guidry organized a show of this portrait series at Intermedia Arts Gallery  in Minneapolis and tonight is the closing reception (and Upstream Arts fundraiser).  It’ll be interesting to see the reactions and hear the opinions of the models first hand.

On a last (and own horn tooting) note:  I just found out that four of the images made it into American Photography 27.

Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
612.871.4444

http://www.intermediaarts.org/

April 5th through April 18th, 2011
Monday-Friday 10AM to 6PM, Saturdays 12PM to 5PM

Closing Reception and Upstream Arts Benefit:
Monday, April 18th, 6:30-8:30 PM



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The Bonneville salt flats near the Utah/Nevada border are so eerily beautiful and spectacular that I’ve wanted to shoot there for years.  Me and 10 million other shutterbugs.

The salt flats are one of the most used locations in the US.  Everything gets shot on the white flat surface from cars to cellphones to pantyhose.  It makes sense of course, you can add immediate natural grandeur to even the boringest of products and it’s practically not possible to make anything look bad out there no matter how large the lack of talent might be in the creative team. And that’s just the bad stuff. There is also a lot of really good photography going on in that spot. Kind of intimidating, really.

So, for quite a while I was mulling over what project I could do here and what my approach would be. I checked out Bonneville the Winter before (during another ski trip) and it had an inch or two of water on it. It looked great and different from most of the pictures I’d seen before. I kept that in mind and when the possibility of shooting BMX riders came up I started wondering what they could do with this place.

I went for a location scout and found (to my relief) that the water was back. The salt underneath was surprisingly firm. I asked Jordan Utley, our local fixer and BMX videographer extraordinaire, if his friends would be willing to ride their bikes in the shallow saltwater and he assured me that they would be up for anything.  Nice.

On the first day of our Giddy Up project Jordan brought along his friends Matt Beringer, Cameron Wood, and Tate Roskelley.  Fine riders, one and all.  We also booked a female model from Craigslist to go lifestyle-y in case the bike pics fell flat.  Her day would turn out to be pretty uneventful.

We met up at our hotel in SLC and started the two hour drive West. The location was incredibly easy. There is a rest stop on Interstate 80 that’s architecturally cool and just steps from where the water started. We parked, walked 15 yards, and set up the lights. By the time we were ready the guys were already in the lake hopping around like frogs on payday.

For the next image we moved to the picnic area (another 15 steps) and set up the Profoto 7b’s in a 3/4 circle.  We had to rehearse this shoot a bit since the timing was crucial to everybody’s health.  First Cameron made a run and hopped on the table with his front wheel up (that’s called a “manual” or “Manuel” if you’re from Mexico), then Matt rode in and jumped on the bench with another Manuel and then Tate came screeching around the corner with his bike dipped low.  Everything had to happen right on time and at a fairly high speed.  It was amazing how quickly the three guys figured it out and how consistently they could repeat it.

After that shot we moved along to use the striking architecture of the rest stop.  The first two pictures I shot with a 250 mm lens on the Mamya RZ from across the parking lot.  I liked the look but every communication with the riders involved a 30 yard sprint, then jog, then walk to and fro.

The image with the 3 of them was basically them improvising on their marks.  It was amazing how high Cam could pop his bike of the ground.

Here’s a little aside:  a while ago a German BMX’er crashed pretty badly during a shoot of mine, breaking his hand and a bunch of bike parts in the process.  When I bought him replacements parts he requested pieces from S & M Bikes that had names like “Beringer fork” or the “Beringer stem”.  So it was funny to meet the “Beringer” himself on this shoot.

The last set up of the shoot was at the end of a little road that led out into the middle of the flats.  While we shot some portraits by the edge of the water the unoccupied talent rode way out into the middle of the lake.  In the fading evening light it had all the creamy dreamy quality that I had hoped for from Bonneville.

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First things first before it’s too late: Happy new year to all you faithful readers (and of course to the faithless ones, too).

The Heavy Light is getting a slightly tardy start into 2011 partly because I’m still a little comatose from eating a ton of Janet and Joe’s christmas cookies (mmmh) but even more importantly because The Sultans are getting their own show at the Deutsche Haus at NYU.

Visitors can admire the glorious geezers in spectacular printed matter and in majestic sizes up to 30×40 inches; jaws will drop, i-phone affected minds might get blown!!!(!)

This will be my first solo show and as I’m writing my own hyperbole (any PR person looking for an internship?) I’m also a wee bit nervous about figuring out the whole process, especially about recouping the costs of the show or (dream big alert) turning a profit with it.

Over the years I’ve purchased a nice little collection of art but my continuing problems with buying other peoples’ work are that I have limited real estate for it, that it’s hard to come up with the money for something striking, and that I’m not sure what to do with it in the long run.  I have some paintings, drawings and photographs on my walls that I dearly love (the art, not the walls) but after looking at them for years and years I wouldn’t mind a change.   It’s pretty much impossible to sell the pieces since most of them are not collectables from big name artists, throwing them away would make me a bad person, and storing them (which is what I do) is a drag in New York.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:  Renting art work.  I know it’s done on a corporate level, so maybe it could work on a private level as well.  Instead of selling a framed and mounted print for let’s say $1200 you could rent it for the first year at $400.  If you really like it you rent it for another year ($350), if you really really like it you extend the rental ($325) and after 4 years and $1400 it’s yours.  It’s a little more than buying outright but this way you can be sure it really goes well with the sofa.  For the same price as purchasing one image you could also exchange it after one year for another Sultan and then for another.  After that you could hang up a picture of a naked lady and look at that for a while.

So, now my question to you dear reader is:

Does renting art sound like a good idea to you, or more to the point, would you (yes, you) personally ever rent a piece of art for your home or as a gift?

Please respond via the comments on this site or if you’re the shy and private type I would love to get an email, a call , a letter or a visit, too.

Thanks for helping me out with this.

Mark your calendars.  Remember:  Jaws will drop.

The Sultans-recent photographs

Deutsches Haus at NYU
42 Washington Mews
New York, NY 10003

Opening Reception: Friday, January 28th, 2011, 6 to 8 PM

on view:
January 28th, 2011 – February, 25th 2011

Hours of operation:
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm
Fri: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sat: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

The Sultans-Part 1
The Sultans-Part 2
The Sultans-Part 3
Coda: The Sultans get their Name

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