Apr 162013

There are good and bad points about location photography. The good is that no two locations are the same, and the bad is that no two locations are the same. When I leave the comfort of the studio, the primary mission is to work with whatever conditions and settings I encounter.

Scouting locations for environmental portraits becomes a matter of trying to visualize and balance many different factors including ultimately how the camera will see the scene based upon variables of different lenses and lighting. It’s often a luxury to have someone stand-in for the subject (assistants are the primary recruits), but there are still always last minute adjustments when the actual person arrives.

Two assignments recently demonstrated opposite extremes in working with available spaces, one in the humongous lobby of the Connecticut Convention Center and the other a tight stairwell between floors at Cigna.

business portrait

For the above business portrait of Mike Freitmuth, Executive Director of the Capital Region Development Authority which oversees the Convention Center, I wanted to place Mr. Freimuth within the context of the building, the lobby being the main feature. But because of the architectural shapes and lines, it was matter of figuring the right perspective which would help emphasize the person. I liked the setting but it all seemed kinda busy, so he was photographed with a longer lens and shallow depth of field to soften the background and make him stand out. Due to being on the edge of a landing, he was lit with a single light on the right while the unpredictable sun coming in and out of clouds filled in the rest.

The second portrait below is of Nicole Jones, Executive VP and General Counsel for Cigna. Whenever possible I try to get away from behind the desk or office and find an interesting setting. I liked the angles and dynamics of a stairwell on the Customer Center, but it proved to be quite a different challenge due to the narrow stairway not allowing much room to place the lighting. There was only couple feet of space on the right and a low ceiling to work with. A second strobe was placed at top of the stairs working as a hair light and adding to the background. Luckily, the light walls offered a nice fill for the shadows.

editorial business portrait

One of the main lessons I learned as a photographer is to be flexible, adaptable and have an open mind since we never know what the situations will be like. I always remember what Bruce Lee once said: “Be water, my friend.”, just go with the flow.

 April 16, 2013  Editorial, People Tagged with: ,  Comments Off
Mar 132013
A Mountain of Blue

It seemed easy enough. The client, a vitamin manufacturer, wanted a picture of one of their organic compounds, a bright blue powder. I thought making a small pile was going to be easy, but it turned out to be more challenging because it was extremely fine and also clumped and splattered easily when it rolled down the sides. So I had to invent some miniature spoon like tools and brushes to very carefully create and shape the mound. And if it splattered, I had to start anew because there was no way to clean the fine powder.

After a few attempts, holding my breath at times and an hour or two later, I had my miniature mountain but it was less than an inch high. This created other challenges like lighting to show the texture and to have the whole image in sharp focus.

A narrow grid spot light was moved around on top and to the back until I had good texture and shadow, and a second light was used as a general fill. The focus was another issue since even with the lens stepped down, only a small area was in focus. The solution was to shoot several images, each one focused on a different progressive spot covering the whole area from front to back. This final product is actually a composite of nine separate images assembled in Photoshop with a technique called photo stacking.

View or bellows cameras always had the ability to tilt the lens to an extent enabling better depth of field on a single shot. Since Photoshop has made it possible to achieve similar capabilities with standard digital cameras and lenses, I often use it as needed with better control and best of all – infinite focus depth.

 March 13, 2013  Product Tagged with:  3 Responses »
Jan 312013

It’s always a nice collaboration to work with performers who know their way in front of a camera and to have the opportunity to shoot with different styles and techniques. A talented actor and singer, Nicole needed some new headshots for a CD cover and other promo uses.  Nicole was looking for a straight forward dark style, so only a couple lights were used, one main light and a rear side fill, with additional color and tone manipulation done in post processing.


 January 31, 2013  Editorial, People Tagged with:  2 Responses »
Dec 162012
Crop Circles

 Whenever I go on location with several cases of equipment depending on the job, clients often wonder why so much equipment is needed. I usually answer that I only need about a third of it, however, I never know which third.

This also applies to the camera case, where I usually have lenses ranging from an 8mm fisheye which sees 180 degrees, to the other end of the spectrum – a 500mm lens which has only a 5 degree angle of view, along with converters which doubles the power.

I seldom used the 500mm lens when I was using DX cameras, due to the smaller sensor which converts this lens to a whopping 750mm. But now that I back to shooting full frame, I’ve rediscovered what I used to love about this lens – not it’s sharpness, which is OK, but I love the way points of lights turns into circles when out of focus.

MumsThis “bokeh” ( how a lens renders out of focus parts of the image ) is the result of it being a “catadioptric” design. Unlike a normal lenses, the image is reflected off a couple of mirrors much like a telescope and that causes the circles or “donuts” as some call it. This also allows it to be light and compact compared to a standard lens design.

The images were part of a series done for Valley Book, a directory for residents and businesses in the Farmington valley. One of the locations to scout for possible covers was the Pickin’ Patch in Avon. I was also instructed that the client was not very fond the usual pumpkin-shots-in-the-field scenics,  so in looking for a different approach on a bright sunny day, I thought the 500 would give a different feel to a common, overdone subject. To get that bokeh, I purposedly shot facing into the sun to get those light sparkles which turn into circles. Sometimes even without the circles,  the lens’ shallow depth of field makes for interesting results often simplifying a busy scene.

It’s been probably several years since the last time I’ve taken a picture with the 500, and had considered selling it,  but I still carry it around faithfully everyday as part of the arsenal. Hey, one never knows when a rarely used lens saves the day, and that’s why we carry all that stuff.

 December 16, 2012  Editorial, Landscapes, Photography Tagged with:  6 Responses »