5.23.2011

Performing for a crowd. Shooting tethered and presenting directly.

I gave a series of workshops at three different  colleges last month for the MAC Group, who represent Profoto in the U.S.A.  In each city and at each school I ran thru a portrait set up to show students not "the right way" to light a portrait but "my way" of lighting a portrait.  And those can be two wildly different things.  I shot all of the build up and tests tethered to a MacBook Pro so the students could gather around and see both where to lights were in relation to each other and also what effect the final assemblage created when shot and processed thru to the screen.  Kinda like working without a safety net....

The image above was part of a discussion about depth of field, fill light and shadow as well as the advantages of using continuous light for effects.  To look over the last ten years of photography one would think that portraits can only be captured with flash.  The shot above was done with an older Profoto tungsten fixture in a beauty dish with a Westcott FastFlag as an additional diffuser.  No flashes were triggered in the making of this image.

Since I was only trying to fill a computer screen with each image I chose to use the Canon 1Dmk2N as my shooting camera.  It's eight megabyte files are more easily digested and regurgitated by the tethering software and the firewire connection is faster than the more recent USB2 connections. This image was done with a Zeiss 85mm 1.4 lens nearly wide open.  It's a good example for students of the concept of limited depth of field.

My model is long time friend, Park Street III, who is both a working professional photographer and the professional sales representative at Precision Camera in Austin.  The poor guy sat thru my lecture five times in three days and must have sat in as a test subject for over 1,000 exposures.  My hat is off to Park.  He turned what could have been a few days of "hey look at these products sitting on a table" into a fun series of animated and interactive workshops.  In the end I think he'll sell a few Profoto monolights to faculty and students but, judging on how many questions we got about using modifiers, and Westcott FastFlags in particular, I'm going to bet those are the items that fly off the shelves.

The workshops were a big refresher for me and the students and faculty seemed to really enjoy them.  I just came across the image folder while I was cleaning up my laptop.  I liked this somber image of Park.

Now, I rarely use my blog to sell someone else's services but I'm going to go out on a limb and recommend that you call Park at www.Precision-Camera.com 512-467-7676 and get him to bid on your next lighting or camera purchase, and here's why!!!!!!

You probably noticed prices go up on Canon, Nikon and other top Japanese prices at all your favorite online dealers.  Some by large percentages.  It comes close to profiteering but in most senses new cameras aren't "life and death" purchases like food and heating fuel.  But it's enough to piss people off.  At the same time the staff and owners of Precision decided not to raise prices on their inventory.   As a result they now have prices that are LOWER than nearly every other big time dealer in the country.  And that's something that should be rewarded.

They are great to deal with and they even had some hot Canon products in stock last time I checked.

I am not affiliated with the store but I sometimes teach workshops thru them.  I don't receive any kickbacks or compensation from them.  They are not linked on my site as an affiliate.  I'm just saying that if you've decided to pull the trigger on something fun for the gear inventory you might save yourself some time and money if you give Park a call.  And maybe he'll return the favor by being the test subject for your next workshop.......

Photographing Suzan-Lori Parks at work. Behind the scenes at Zach.

Just like 90% of other humans I like to think I'm pretty smart.  Reality?  Probably right in the middle of the Bell Curve.  Smart enough to know about the Bell Curve but not smart enough to make up my own curve.  But my profession tends to give me reality checks all the time.  Yesterday's reality check came courtesy my friends at Zachary Scott Theatre.  They asked me to photograph Suzan-Lori Parks at work. Don't know who Suzan-Lori Parks is?  See, we're all sitting right in the middle of the big Bell Curve....together. 

Suzan-Lori Parks is the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for playwriting,  is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Award,  won a Guggenheim,  nominated for a Tony award, and so much more.  She's in town to put the finishing touches and polish on her latest work, The Book of Grace.   Here's what the folks at Zach have to say: