11.22.2011

Turn around and look in the opposite direction. Life is 360.

We were shooting some lifestyle ads for one of Austin's luxury, high rise condominium projects when I stepped away from the camera to give my eyes and my brain a break.  We were shooting an aspirational ad with an "upscale, west Austin, soccer mom" (model) in her early 30's with a glass of wine in a "fabulous" kitchen, somewhere on the fifth floor.  All the appliances were Miele or nicer.  The wine chiller?  Sub-Zero.  The countertops?  Italian marble.  My attention span? Minimal.  When I stepped away from the camera the highly (over)attentive make-up person rushed in to touch up the model.  When my assistants saw me walk out onto the adjacent patio the smart one walked over to check the camera and the memory card, made sure the tether connection was still good and made eye contact with me to make sure there was nothing I wanted at the moment.  The other assistant grabbed at her cellphone like it was a life raft in the north Atlantic and instantly started texting.....

When I walked out onto the patio I noticed this red chair against the blue sky and the low, rushing clouds.  I walked back in and grabbed another camera out of my bag and snapped a few images.  A retouched version (remove plywood to the right of the chair) ended up in the property brochure.  I stood by the railing and watched the traffic below. 

A famous photographer wrote a series of tips in a 1952 Modern Photography Magazine that I came across in the Fine Arts Library at UT many years later.  His advice?  "Once you've covered what you think is your subject, turn around and look in the opposite direction.  You might find something fun there."  "Always shoot a version for yourself instead of just what the job calls for."  "Only eat steak when the client is paying for dinner."  "Don't let them rush you.  It takes as long as it takes to do it right." "How much light do you need?  Just enough to do it right.  Not a bit more."  And finally, "Tell them it has to be real champagne in the glass because the photo will show the difference...."  I guess the last tip was intended to keep the photo shoots fun.

The only tip I can offer is to make sure to prop the kitchen and dining rooms shots with stuff you and the crew will enjoy eating....  And that red chairs look cool against blue skies.

Practice. Play. Practice. Play.

Anybody who says they get their photographs just right every time they pick up their camera is lying.  I practice my craft as often as possible and nearly every time I photograph there are lots of things I wish I'd done better.  I wish my lighting always looked just right but it doesn't.  I wish I'd nailed the exposure in a different way.  I'm generally convinced that I stopped shooting just seconds before the best frame was about to transpire and I still feel, after 20 years of PhotoShop, that I'm just picking my way on an unmarked path thru post processing.

Poor Ben.  He's up early for cross country and he works hard at school.  Like most teenagers he's looking forward to a little break when he gets home from school.  Maybe a little couch time with a video game, his dog and a snack.  But it doesn't always work that way.  Sometimes when he gets home he gets pulled into the studio to sit in for a "test."  A test generally means one of two things.  Either I have a big shoot coming up and want to rehearse my stuff or I got some new gear and I need a victim to try it out on.  Sometimes it's a mix.

The portrait above wasn't lit right but it was important to me to try out the lighting and see what the result looked like on the same film I was considering shooting for a job.  By doing the test I understood that I wanted a softer main light, a lot less fill and a lower midrange value for my upcoming project.  And I wanted a different film.

While many believe you can save just about anything in post production I can't help but think that you can make images even better if you stick good stuff into PhotoShop to start with.  Silly?  Maybe.  But it's habit.

Fuji Neopan 400 (Switched to Tri-X for the job; liked the grain better....),  Camera: Rollei 6008i,  Lens: 150mm.  Lighting:  28 inch beauty dish on a Profoto Acute B head.

Just because this image wasn't perfect doesn't mean I consider it to be a total loss. As an 8x8 inch print one of the grandparents will love it.......and then ask my why it isn't in color...

Practice. Play. Practice. Play.

Anybody who says they get their photographs just right every time they pick up their camera is lying.  I practice my craft as often as possible and nearly every time I photograph there are lots of things I wish I'd done better.  I wish my lighting always looked just right but it doesn't.  I wish I'd nailed the exposure in a different way.  I'm generally convinced that I stopped shooting just seconds before the best frame was about to transpire and I still feel, after 20 years of PhotoShop, that I'm just picking my way on an unmarked path thru post processing.

Poor Ben.  He's up early for cross country and he works hard at school.  Like most teenagers he's looking forward to a little break when he gets home from school.  Maybe a little couch time with a video game, his dog and a snack.  But it doesn't always work that way.  Sometimes when he gets home he gets pulled into the studio to sit in for a "test."  A test generally means one of two things.  Either I have a big shoot coming up and want to rehearse my stuff or I got some new gear and I need a victim to try it out on.