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Posts Tagged ‘Stock’

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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As the great philosopher and part-time musician George Harrison once said “all things must pass”, and last week was the time of another passing. The great green beast, my Volvo station wagon is no more.

On a trip down to Philly, halfway between New York and the City of lovely brothers, near the end of the NJ Turnpike, Susie and I were cruising along, minding our business when the car emitted a foreboding screech. A little bit later this was followed by a blinking transmission light and a little after that the car started slipping pretty seriously. We pulled over and called my friends at AAA. After their customary “Oh no, not you again” they arranged for a tow truck which got us to the nearest service station in Bordentown, NJ.
The mechanic after a brief diagnosis gave us the bad news, the “tranny” was shot. The tranny is kind of like the reproductive part of a car, and any problem down there is complicated and expensive. That, combined with other problems that needed fixing like a sagging bumper, a dubious timing belt, an exhausted car freshening tree, would have pushed the repair costs way beyond what the car was worth. So we decided to empty the coins out of the ashtray and say fairwell to our four wheeled friend.
I can’t say it was a dependable car, as a matter of fact it was somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit. It’s volvnerability to all sorts of mechanical and electronic failures stranded me in some interesting places like Whitefish, MT, Death Valley, and a Walmart in Wisconsin. But we also traveled the country from New York to San Francisco, from Duluth to Savannah. We climbed the peaks of the Sierra and drove the Road to the Sun. We went to Montreal in -400 degree weather and crawled at 3 mph through a biblical rainstorm in Oregon. We drove the prairies of North Dakota and explored many a pothole in Brooklyn.

Good times, good times.

Rust in peace swede ride.

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Dr. Pfeil, a general practitioner, has been a medical institution in my German hometown for as long as I can think. I never really knew him though since I went with my troubles to Dr. Ertz, the other local medical institution. Like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones or Michael Jackson and Prince, it was one or the other. My mom took me to Dr. Ertz when I was a little boy and that was that.

In one of my early works I photographed Dr. Erzt and the mother of all desks.

A few years ago though I started to get to know Dr. Pfeil, through a common friend. He is a passionate hunter and has a great dog (always a good sign in my book) named Quitte. The Doctor and his family including the dog modeled for me on a few occasions and Quitte (which is the German word for Quince) actually ended up on the cans and boxes of a line of German dog food with this idyllic shot.

In any case I wanted to shoot a somewhat formal portrait of Doc and Quitte and after picking his best looking rifle we walked to the edge of a nearby field. We positioned 2 heads on a Profoto 7b and 2 heads on a Hensel Porty around the two, but made sure we didn’t overpower the lovely evening light. We shot with a Rollei 6003 with an 80 mm lens on Kodak Portra NC 160.

Both were a pleasure to work with and I really enjoyed our time together, but then again I might feel different about them if I was a forrest dwelling quadruped.

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One of my most favorite parts of being a photographer is that I’m allowed to use a smoke machine pretty much whenever I want to. During my cross-country trip a few years ago I even ended up buying (a used) one, since that was cheaper than renting. I’m not sure how many people drive thousands of miles with a smoke machine in their car, but in any case, I’m one of them. So, Mr. Smokey and I went to San Francisco to visit my friends Jerry and Laurel and do a little shooting for stock. We had shot on a boat earlier that day and still had time to squeeze in a few more set-ups at another location. We went back to Jerry and Laurel’s beautiful house and started setting up in the kitchen.

We lit the place with a Porty and a head in the hallway, a 7b and a head behind the camera and a 7b hidden behind the stove with one head pointing at the model from below and the other head stuck in the oven. Also in the oven was my travel companion, kite-high on fog juice, chugging away.

I love disaster pictures. I really enjoy taking photographs of things gone wrong and trouble around the corner. At the same point I want to make money and stock pictures should be commercially viable of course. So here I talked myself into believing that this could be a great ad for a food delivery service or a restaurant business. I mean what better way to send a person to Taco Bell than to show the futility of home cooking. Alas, I can’t claim that I have produced a bestseller that foggy night in San Francisco. I had to learn that unfortunately disaster and commerce don’t always go hand in hand (at least not in stock photography). And yet, deep down inside I feel that smoking up a joint is it’s own reward and the shoot was completely worth it.

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Returned and rested from my extensive (not really) European vacation, I have to ease my way back into the blogging lifestyle, so, here’s a short and easy post as a warm up for next weeks usual wordiness.

These pics were taken as a quick and easy shoot for Getty a few years back. The brothers live near my German hometown and are the neighbors of a friend of mine.  When shooting stock it is important to keep the costs of production down (now more than ever) and besides, it’s always nice to work with people I know.  So we asked the kids if they wanted to model in exchange for prints/files and we asked the mom if she was ok with it, and would sign a model release.  Once that was squared away we went through the kids’ closets to pick the wardrobe.  It wasn’t exactly easy to find outfits without tons of logos, but we got it done in the end.

If I were to ask a New York mother if it’s ok to take her two boys into the woods for a photo shoot, I would be a little afraid of the answer, but these boy’s mom just said I should try to keep ’em busy ’til dinner time.  I love rural Germany.

We shot with a Mamiya RZ67 with a tethered Phase One P25 .  One set of Profoto 7b’s and and set of Hensel Portys (2 heads each).

We started of with the ferile close up portraits….

staged a brotherly fight, which was a big hit (pun alert) with the boys…

and ended up showcasing their soccer skills.

Then dinner was ready and we all had to go home.

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There is a little beach in Brooklyn, between the bridges in Dumbo, that is one of my favorite spots in New York. Whenever I’m there I have this phantasy of going for a quick swim to Manhattan. So, when I was planning an urban sports shoot with my friend and Getty AD Sarah Foster, the image that popped first into my head was of course a swimmer preparing to cross the East River.

We mapped out a few more scenarios at that location and also scouted the beaches at the Far Rockaways in Brooklyn, since they were nice and deserted during a weekday. I didn’t want to pack the day too tightly since this was one of my earliest shoots with my (then) new digital back and we figured we’ll keep it easy all around by just shooting one model.

When it came time to cast I turned to trusty old Craigslist. I’m always amazed about the great talent you can find on this internet standby for apartment shares, used electronics, and sensual spankings. So, I sent the call out and got (amongst the usual fair share of weirdazoids) an email with the picture of a woman with an amazing body and in a pose that clearly shows that she knows how to run much better than the rest of us. I asked for a few more images and they were consistent with the first one. I gave her a call to see if she was available for the shoot and asked her if she was a runner.  The answer was yes.  Then I asked if she was a good runner.  The answer was yes.  Then I asked if she was a competitive runner.  Yes again.  And that kept going until I asked if she ever competed in the Olympics.  And again the answer was yes.  Then I fell off my chair.

The runner’s name was Aliann Pompei and she was an Olympic 400 m runner and a gold medal winner of the Commonwealth Games!!

We did the first shoots at the Dumbo beach and tried to cover certain variations of running, triathelon and swimming.  We worked with two assistants and Alliann provided the running wardrobe, while I brought the swim outfits.

One of the weird things about shooting sports for stock is the need to remove any logos, which in case of Adidas gear means that you have to turn them into the brand with the 2 stripes.  That always brings back childhood memories of anguished shoe store arguments with my mom who insisted that the cheaper sneakers with 2 stripes are as good as the ones with 3, and that no one would ever know the difference.  Yeah, right.

Alliann worked up a sweat in seconds thanks to a spray bottle.

We had 4 heads with regular reflectors on 2 Profoto 7bs that we positioned around the model, or as close to it without putting them in the river and the camera was a Mamiya RZ 67 with a Phase One P25 back.

One of my favs was the jump-the-city set-up.

After the Dumbo beach we drove to the Rockaways.  First was a close-up of Aliann’s legs on the boardwalk, which turned out to be much harder than anticipated.  It took us an uncomfortably long time to get the timing, focus, and lighting all in a row, but in the end we came up with an image that’s been selling surprisingly well, and I’m glad we stuck it out.

On the beach we shot with only 2 heads since the surf made it too dangerous to put the 7bs on the ground.  Each assistant carried a head and a pack and I shot on card instead of tethered.

At the end Aliann gave us a “game face” that I’ve been trying to emulate in every beer league soccer game since.

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When the big (and reluctant) switch to digital came for me, I decided to go with a medium format back instead of 35 mm setup. The price difference was a strong argument for the small format but I really loved working with the larger, slower cameras and the “big occasion” feeling they bring to a shoot. I also like how things just have a slightly different feel with the longer lenses needed to cover the same view. Unfortunately I still think that the medium format sensors are pretty close to not worth it since they’re not even 645. I wish they would finally come out with a 6×6 or 6×7 sensor, real medium format, and it wouldn’t even need a gazillion mega pixels.

But anyway, I bit the bullet and got a Phase One P25 with a Mamiya RZ adapter from Dave Gallagher at Capture Integration (highly recommended).

After I exchanged a very large portion of my bank account for a very small metal cube that I didn’t even really want, I felt an inexplicable feeling of anxiety and decided to calm my nerves (and blow some more money) by visiting a friend in Salt Lake City for a little skiing.

On a heavy legs day I checked out Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of that place. It looked like something out of “Lord of the Rings” and there was one of these great Western storms approaching. I took some pictures and was pretty much all thumbs. I took the back off the camera to change from horizontal to vertical and was immediately hit by a good old dust cloud. Fumbeling like the absolute beginner that I was, it took me forever to get the back back on. Fortunately there was no permanent damage done to the sensor, and things started to go much more smoothly in the P25 department soon after, but retouching approximately 764 dust spots was a pretty special way to start the digital era.

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