Monthly Archives January 2010

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Photo by Bill Frakes

I grew up in a family of storytellers.

My grandfather, Bub, could tell a story better than Tom Brokaw.  In fact, he was Tom Brokaw’s first boss at WSB-TV in Atlanta.

My mom was a popular news anchor in Jacksonville, Fl, for 25 years.  She taught me the importance local activism and the difference it can make.

My dad is the quieter type.  He was a news reporter in his younger years but is now a small business owner and avid amateur photographer.  He gave me my first camera and taught me how to use it.

My background is what ultimately drew me to photojournalism in college.  It was the culmination of telling stories and making images.  The big question mark over my future suddenly disappeared.  Professional photography was where I was headed.

While a student at the University of Florida, I was introduced to Bill Frakes’ work when he gave a lecture to a group of photojournalism students.  A couple months later I saw him in the Atlanta airport and introduced myself.

We hit it off immediately.  We are aligned in a way neither of us expected.  Other than our obvious differences in age and gender, we come from opposite backgrounds.  He grew up in the sand hills of Western Nebraska.   I grew up on the beach in Florida.  Yet somehow we ended up in the same place, geographically and mentally.  We both have a work ethic that exhausts and exasperates almost everyone else we know, our humor is identical and our creative tendencies are shockingly similar.

I started working as his assistant about two-and-a-half years ago.  Bill was patient with me.  I didn’t know exactly what being an assistant entailed but learned quickly.

To get a job as an assistant you don’t have to know everything about photography, you just have to be open minded and willing to learn.  You have to listen to instruction and be willing to take chances.  Most of all you have to want to work and be flexible.

You need to be able to work with every camera format from 35 mm digital to 8×10 film.  We work with them all, and if we don’t  have what we need we get someone to build it for us.

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Photo by Bill Frakes

I think that’s what ultimately made Bill decide to hire me.  I was very open to the education process.  Any project he wanted to tackle I was up for, whether I knew how to do it or not.  I never back down from a good challenge and I never quit until the job is done.

I’ve also been very lucky in that Bill has given me a lot of room to learn.  From day one he has sent me web sites, given me books and sat down and really worked with me through an idea or problem.  He has let me grow as a photographer and a person.  Through working with Bill I have not only learned the mechanics of photography, but the thought behind it.

Bill has taught me to take pictures with my heart, my mind and my soul.  The camera is a tool, albeit a very important one.  At the end of the day the photographer takes a photo, not the camera.

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My grandmother riding in the hearse on the way to my grandfather’s funeral in March. (Photo by Laura Heald)

Bill exemplifies this belief in his coverage of the Kentucky Derby.

An average Derby for Bill means about 60 remote cameras, dozens of Manfrotto ballheads, magic arms and super clamps, and hundreds of feet of cable and connection cords.  This equals out to about 25 large cases of gear.

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Photo by Bill Frakes

He puts cameras everywhere he can’t physically be during the race.  His position is head-on from the finish line.  The remotes are under the rail, around the turn, on the roof–anywhere he thinks he can make a photograph the readers will want to see.

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Photo by Bill Frakes

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Photo by Bill Frakes

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Photo by Bill Frakes

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Photo by Bill Frakes

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Photo by Bill Frakes

What he does with the remotes is nothing short of genius.  A lot of photographers set remotes up at races like the Derby.  Very few can do what Bill can.

Bill calculates every possibility.  He pays close attention to what horses are competing and the jockeys riding them.  The under the rail remotes are set at different focal lengths and focus planes.  He has a camera set for every possible outcome, from a win on the rail to one 10 feet off; a jockey celebrating his win 10 feet before the finish line or 10 feet after.  That’s a lot of distance to cover with lenses ranging from a 14-24mm f/2.8 to a 600mm f/4.

That’s just the 30 remotes under the rail.  The rest are set to capture a graphic, something offbeat or beautiful.  He tries to find a different angle every year, and some how, after 20 years of covering the event, he always does.  He always finds a new angle or has a new technique.

He uses his tools, whether it be a Nikon D3, a Manfrotto support or a remote cable, and creates beautiful images year after year.  His mind and eye make the image. The camera is simply the vessel that allows him to capture it.

Being Bill’s assistant is an education no amount of money can buy.  Photography is one of those professions you just have to do.  Theory is an important background to have but real world application is how you learn, and learning from one of the world’s best photographers has been a dream experience.

People always ask me what an average day of work is like for me.  I never know how to answer.  There is no average day.  One day may be spent editing and organizing in the office, while the next day we are trekking through the outback of Australia or standing on a cliff over the Panama Canal.

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Photo by Bill Frakes

In the last two years I’ve been with Bill on most of the 400,000 miles he’s flown.  We’ve worked on 5 continents and in at least 30 different US states.  We have fun.  Trust is everything.

Subject matter varies as widely as the locations.

For example, this summer Bill and I spent a month in Australia working on the ad campaign for the Nikon D3s.  Immediately after we finished that project, we had another ad campaign that has yet to be released.  The day after that finished we were on a plane to Berlin, Germany, to cover the World Athletics Championships for Sports Illustrated.  After two weeks of track and field, we rented a car and drove to Rome, Italy, to work on the documentary on Missy Koch that Bill discussed in his guest blog last week.

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Photo by Laura Heald

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Photo by Laura Heald

That was two months of work.  Each assignment was drastically different from the one before it.  Sports photography is what Bill is known for and it is something we do a lot of and enjoy.  But it is not everything we do.

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Photo by Laura Heald

I say we because through the course of our working together, we have evolved from a mentor/student relationship to a business partnership.  Bill and I recently started our own multi media production company, Straw Hat Visuals.  I still work as his assistant on his Sports Illustrated assignments and I don’t think that will ever change.  But we have been actively moving into a broader range of subject matter.  We are currently in production on two ad campaigns, a music video and a long-term documentary project.

We never want to get stuck in one subject or one genre of visual communication.  Multi media has taken us to a new place visually and creatively.

We are constantly evolving, learning new technology and trying new techniques.  We work fast and decisively.  Bill’s mind is constantly in motion.  I not only want to keep up, I want to be ahead.

The new cameras have allowed us to do as two people what it used to take a crew of 30 to accomplish.  Everything we need is now in one camera body, one tool.  We never leave home without a D300s or D3s over our shoulders.

Our individual skills have been extremely important in this evolution.  Bill is really good at conceptualizing an idea and executing it.  I’m good at putting it together in post-production, whether we’re creating videos in Final Cut Pro or still productions in Aperture.

We have access to every imaging and editing tool you can imagine.    Bill’s Aperture library now has over 1.5 million images.   We have  91 terabytes of raided storage.  And well over a million analog images. Fortunately we have an offsite storage location–our office is comfortable but not that big.    It’s a lot to keep up with but without it our production would crash and burn.

Bill has done a significant amount of directing music videos and television spots.  Documentary film is one of the places we are headed

In this world of tight budgets we’re working hard to streamline our operation.  We are learning how to create multiple platform stories from start to finish.

All gear and technology aside, we are ultimately storytellers.  We want to push the creative envelope and create content that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages, beliefs and biases across every platform, traditional and new that you can imagine.

Our latest multi media was posted on SI.COM last week.  It’s on sorority and women’s league flag football at the University of Florida.

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Photo by Laura Heald

The story isn’t complicated or uncommon.  It is just a fun story that is not commonly told.  The key for us is finding an angle or something humorous in the every day.

From Gainesville, FL to Beijing, China, Bill and I have traveled near and far to cover stories across all genres and age groups.  At 23 years old, I am one of the lucky ones.

As our friend Mark Suban from Nikon Professional Services said to me recently, “Bill has had a career most photographers only dream about, but man, I want to be in Laura’s shoes.”

Thanks Scott and Brad for creating a place for photographers to visit and learn.  I’m incredibly flattered that you asked me to contribute.

strawhatvisuals.com

elrc

Hi Gang: We had so many questions yesterday about my new Flash-based portfolio that RC Concepcion put together for me, that we thought he might be helpful if he did a Q&A for you guys, and RC being RC, he was more than happy to. Here’s a quick Q&A from RC himself:

Q. Great Job with Scott’s Portfolio! I love it!
A. That’s not really a question, but an awesome statement. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!

Q. I’m having a hard time figuring out the navigation. It took me a little bit to figure out how to advance the pictures/see the arrows/move around
A. In the portfolio, all you really need to do is move the mouse slightly and you can see the navigation icons. From there, I would think the next impulse you’d have would be to click.. it’s what I do.

Q. I miss the Thumbnails
A. This is one version of a component that doesn’t include thumbnails, and I have to say – I really prefer it over having them online. The best way that I can equate it is like this: When someone handed you a physical portfolio, how anti-climactic would it have been to see all of the pictures on a small contact sheet before you even began. Part of the portfolio process (hard cover) was to turn that page and “Ahhhh..” See the next image in the series. If you really spent time looking at the portfolio, you used those images to carry a theme along and move the ‘energy’ of your work up, up, up. All of that just becomes “Photo Collecting” when its on a thumbnail list. Does this mean that this is wrong? Not at all.. there are components that -have- thumbnails. Just means that this one is different.

Q. Did you design this component?
A. Absolutely not! That honor goes to Tomuta Tiberiu from Flash Web Design in Romania. Tibi just knocked it out of the park on this one by providing something that is modular, engaging, AND cheap! All of that code cost 50 bucks to use. Think of that next time a web design service wants to charge you 2 grand for a site! When my class comes online – I’ll show you how to take pieces like this and put it together with a strategy.

Q. Hey, no fair! You didn’t even build this!
A. Hey! Not a question! But I will address it this way. I had a conversation with Scott in NY some time ago that set me on this course.. so I invariably owe it to him. As a photographer, your job is to develop the best Pictures. The website is a means to an end. You’re not trying to win a website design award with your site, but you want it to look clean, sharp, engaging, and stylish. I’d argue you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing so AND you don’t want to go back to college to do this. In this, components can help.

If I design a site to sell pocketbooks.. would it be cheating if I bought a shopping cart solution and didn’t hand program one from scratch? Nope. I don’t write my email program from scratch either – I use Outlook. Look at these components as what they are – Tools- and you’ll realize you can be better spending your time taking pictures than sweating the technology.

(more…)

zackariassmI am just totally psyched to announced that we’ve added a brilliant new instructor to the upcoming Photoshop World Conference & Expo in Orlando; the one, the only, Zack Arias!!!!

The whole NAPP crew is buzzing about having Zack on board, as he is just a fantastic instructor, super-talented photographer, and he brings a whole new perspective and teaching style to Photoshop World and we just couldn’t be more excited!

He’s teaching two sessions during the conference:

(1) Many Uses of a White Seamless Background
“Live” demo of shooting and post production. You’ll learn how to get the most out of one simple background. Zack will be showing students how to properly light a white seamless background to achieve looks from pure white to pure black and any shade in between.

After a “live” shooting demo, he will walk you through simple steps in post-production to further enhance images shot on a roll of white seamless. This workshop is based on his very popular blog series of the same name.

(2) Stuff You Need to Know to Be a Photographer
So you want to be a photographer? Here’s some stuff you HAVE to know: technique, light, and marketing. With all of the information on the Web today about how to be a better photographer, Zack hits on areas that aren’t being discussed as much as they need to be. Are these the cards that pro photographers are still keeping tight to their chest? Possibly. It may also be due to the fact that many who share are also busy shooting and don’t have the time to help.

Zack will cover his favorite parts from his Photo 101 workshop: understanding your meter, knowing which lens to use, finding light, modifying light, and finally marketing yourself.

If you haven’t had a chance to learn from Zack, (who coincidentally still holds the #1 most-commented guest post, or any post for that matter, here on my blog), he really cuts through the bull and just tells it like it is (ask anybody who has taken one of his classes, or bought his “One Light Workshop” DVDs—this guy is the real deal!

Here’s a link to Zack excellent blog, and I hope you’ll be there at Photoshop World in Orlando this March 24-26th (link) when he takes the stage.

newport

My buddy, and photography Web wizard, RC Concepcion set me up with a totally new online portfolio layout, and what I really like about it is that is kind of takes up the full size of your Browser, giving you a much larger view of each image (which was the most common complaint about my old online portfolio). You can click the Portfolio link on the left side of this page, or what the heck–-just click here.

The way I wound up with having RC do this in the first place is, he’s working on an online class on how to find inexpensive Flash components and use them for things like custom portfolios which you can easily maintain yourself without having to know Flash at all. They’re all XML-based, and even though his class isn’t up live yet, he was kind enough to let me try it out, and once I saw it—I was hooked.

At this point, I haven’t really updated enough images, and I only have three categories (I probably want to split Travel into two categories: Travel and Landscapes), but you will be happy to know that I kept it to around 20 images per category.

Anyway, I think it’s a step in the right direction, and hope you guys like the new look. Also, a big thanks to RC for hooking me up with this new layout (RC has really taken on the role of the photographer leading other photographers to the Web), and I’ll be sure to let you guys know when it goes live. Anyway, Thanks RC. I love it! :)

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Well, it’s time to take the new show on the road! :-) Today I’m officially announcing the kick off of my Lightroom 3 Live! Tour, and two more cities: Here’s the kick-off leg:

  • Monday, July 12th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Friday, July 16th Matt Kloskowski will take the tour to Boston, MA
  • Monday, July 19th I’m back with the tour in New York City

We’ve totally updated the tour to take advantage of Lightroom 3’s new features, and we’ve tweaked the whole tour to make your Lightroom workflow faster, easier and more fun than than ever.

I absolutely love teaching Lightroom live, because as an instructor you can literally see the light bulb going on with photographers who’ve been doing things the hard way, and once they see Lightroom live, they realize that not only is this the future, but they can see firsthand how it’s going to change and improve their workflow. It seriously is just a blast to teach.

Plus, Lightroom 3 fixes so many things that used to drive me (you, us, we) crazy, that I can’t wait to get out there and show off all the enhancements, fixes, and just smart stuff they added.

Here’s the link to sign up for one of those three cities (a bunch more cities to be announced real soon as Matt and I take the tour on the road).

You can also buy tickets directly from the Kelby Training site

lr3tourlogo

Well, it’s time to take the new show on the road! :-) Today I’m officially announcing the kick off of my Lightroom 3 Live! Tour, and two more cities: Here’s the kick-off leg:

  • Monday, July 12th in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
  • Friday, July 16th Matt Kloskowski will take the tour to Boston, MA
  • Monday, July 19th I’m back with the tour in New York City

We’ve totally updated the tour to take advantage of Lightroom 3’s new features, and we’ve tweaked the whole tour to make your Lightroom workflow faster, easier and more fun than than ever.

I absolutely love teaching Lightroom live, because as an instructor you can literally see the light bulb going on with photographers who’ve been doing things the hard way, and once they see Lightroom live, they realize that not only is this the future, but they can see firsthand how it’s going to change and improve their workflow. It seriously is just a blast to teach.

Plus, Lightroom 3 fixes so many things that used to drive me (you, us, we) crazy, that I can’t wait to get out there and show off all the enhancements, fixes, and just smart stuff they added.

Here’s the link to sign up for one of those three cities (a bunch more cities to be announced real soon as Matt and I take the tour on the road).

You can also buy tickets directly from the Kelby Training site

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