I recently had the pleasure of photographing Dwight Witten for a local magazine. Check his story out in the January 2018 issue of Tops Louisville.
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Dani is a local model I've been wanting to work with for some time. Again, it became a game of matching schedules so luckily last month we were able to find a time we were both available. This is also the first time I've used my home studio. There's still work to be done to get it full ready for clients and other work but it's getting there!
Kesley is a local model that I've wanted to work with for some time. She's done a ton of work and always nails the look. The problem, as there always is one, is that my work with models has been few and far between lately. Editorial work has taken up the majority of my time, not a complaint!, so finding time, much less coming up with ideas, has been a difficult task. Luckily one evening I was caught up on edits and had a bit of free time when Kesley invited me out with to shoot with her and another local photographer, Blake Randall, in a local downtown area. Although we did get rained out on the original concept for the shoot we did find an overhang to create the photos below.
The most interesting part of the evening was shooting with another photographer. This was my first time working when another photographer was shooting and it was an enlightening experience. Blake does great work and shoots much differently than I do. While I, for better or worse, nearly always use a flash or strobe of some sort Blake is, I believe, primarily a natural light shooter. I learned a lot watching his approach to model placement and use of available light. It's an entirely different approach than my own and a good reminder that there's an innumerable amount of ways to approach taking a photo that I should keep myself open to.
Getting schedules to align sometimes is more of a waiting game than it is actually planning. Such is the case with working with Brittany. It's not that we didn't try to get things to work out, but our schedules just never really worked. Luckily, a few months after we first met to discuss the shoot our schedules aligned and we were both available on the same day. The up side of this is that I had plenty of time to plan what I wanted to do. Brittany was on board and nailed every look we tried. Below are the results:
I'm not a fan of downtown between jobs so I try to stay as busy as possible. Inevitable there's still times when I'm caught up on everything, all my e-mails and responses have been sent, all photos have been edited and delivered, and there's just nothing business related to do. It's rare, but it happens. I try to fill these times with creative or personal shoots but things come up so that's not always possible. So last week when I had a day of down time I decided to work on product photography.
Although I have no real intentions of getting into product photography, it is good practice on lighting. Light placement, ratios, spill, power, and fall off are just as, if not more so, important on products then they are people. So the considerations made to ensure the product is lit exactly how you want are easily extrapolated to lighting a person. It's also a great way to learn how a new modifier or piece of kit works, how you can apply it to get the results you want, and then having that information to inform shoots later on. There are differences, of course, between the two genres but my approach is not to have a deliverable to a client. Rather, its more of a way to practice with lighting that only takes up my time instead of that of a subjects as well. Plus my Sekonic l-308 complains less than most live subjects even when pulling double duty as a tool and a subject.
Yatta approached me about shooting with her and Shanee for a magazine submission. The idea was a Calvin Klein inspired shoot that highlighted their ink. Below are the results.
I want to start this off with making it clear that this shoot wasn't bad in any part due to the model. It was actually her patience, skill, and enthusiasm that made coming anyway with anything from this shoot possible. The sole originator or source of any and all issues was myself. With that clear, let's begin with the story of my worst shoot ever. The idea for this shoot was simple, use Christmas lights to create an interesting background and foreground to put a model in. Cool bokeh + pretty model = Success! That's about as complex as my thinking was for the shoot and, as far as ideas go, that's really as difficult as I thought it needed to be. Execution on the other hand apparently needed an entire dissertation in order to work.
Christmas lights. If you're used to dealing with these every year than you know where this is headed. There was the usual issue of tangling, strands not fully lite, and just general lack of cooperation on their part. I detangled the strands and ensured they all were working correctly before the shoot which means they still managed to tangle themselves and some of the strands now mysteriously had portions out when I began setting them up. What I didn't count on was not having enough lights as I had well over 100ft of lights which seemed plenty until I began trying to create a background and foreground. After the first couple of attempts I realized I had greatly underestimated the amount of lights I would need. I abandoned having any in the foreground and still felt the lights were too sparse in the background to give me the visual interest I wanted.
There's two routes I could have gone in correcting the lights issue. First, was just bringing more lights. I should have brought double or even quadruple the amount of lights I did but this would also double or quadruple the time spent hanging/fighting these lights (more on that later). Second and the solution I went with, layering multiple shots together in post. This is the approach I should have taken from the very beginning. Sure it requires a bit more time in post but reduces the time and hassle in hanging and dealing with Christmas lights on set.
Christmas lights. Seriously, @*$! these lights. Hanging the lights and structuring them in a way to get an interesting foreground and background is part of the planning I thought I had down. My initial thought was using three light stands in a triangle formation with the model in the middle of the triangle. With the light stand behind the model lower than the front two to fill the entirety of my frame with lights. My folly was thinking the lights would in any way agree to this plan. With light stands in place, sand bagged for support, and spring clamps for days I began stringing the lights along the stands and then restrung the lights along the stands and then again restrung the lights along the stands. Spring clamps be damned the lights would fall, sag indiscriminately, make remarks about my mother, and any tightening or straightening of the lights threatened to topple the sandbagged light stands. It was at this point I moved the lights and stands aside and shot a few portraits of the model to stop from losing my shit.
Don't work with Christmas lights? Honestly, I'm not sure what a solution would be without using 3 massive C Stands and a whole roll of gaffers tape to ensure everything was near permanent in placement. Actually, I suppose that is the solution. C Stands and rolls of gaffers tape.
These two problems, although important, really stem from a lack of proper planning on my part. Yes the Christmas lights were aggravating and weren't cooperating but ultimately I should have tested the setup first and found solutions to these issues long before the shoot. It was unprofessional and, honestly, rude for me to have the model wait while I fought with these lights and there's no excuse for that. Before this I had multiple shots that went spectacularly so hubris got in the way of me considering the plan I had in my head wouldn't hit any hiccups. Finding solutions to problems on set is a great skill to have and one I think I do well with but this should work in conjunction with, and not in place of, proper planning and testing.
I don't often shoot in black and white. Did some portraits to remedy that.
At the end of the year, or beginning in this case, I like to go through and pick out 10 of my favorite photographs from the (previous) year. Getting it down to 10 photos is difficult as these only represent a handful of photos from last year that I really enjoy. But I think overall these best represent a culmination of an idea or technique that I had been working on. Some serve as a sort of token of patience and hard work or even simply a reminder of why I enjoy photography so much. No matter the reason, below are 10 of my favorite photos I made from 2015 in no particular order.
A few extra shots from Week 29.
An interesting thing happens when working to create a themed photograph, freedom becomes oppressive and restrictions offer the greatest opportunities to explore. This seems counterintuitive at first but makes more sense when considering direction. Imagine for a moment you stop to ask for directions to a certain restaurant and you receive the simple answer of "drive east." Vague at best but it would at least get you headed in the right direction. You again stop to ask for directions and although the answer you receive is still vague you are told which streets to take to get to the general vicinity of the restaurant. Neither answer is incorrect as, sooner or later, they would get you to your destination but with the open ended answer of "drive east" you'll spend more time worrying about actually getting to the restaurant then anything else. In contrast, if you had a more direct answer, such as how to get to the general vicinity, you'll be able to explore more around your destination without too much of a worry that you'll actually get there.
To wrangle in this metaphor, my 'restaurant' in this case was a Halloween themed photograph. This, of course, is very open ended and having a general idea of wanting 'something spooky' might have gotten me started in the right direction but it was still too broad to get me where I wanted. I knew there were a few aspects I wanted to incorporate into a photo such as using an 85mm focal length for a tight shot, including a skull or bones in a subtle manner, smoke, and using different blend modes in photoshop to better learn how to use them. To get back to our metaphor, these restrictions directed me to the general vicinity of what I wanted and I was able to play around with what I could get there without worry of not getting anything at all. In the end, I decided on the photograph below: