Category Archives Guest Blogger

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Hi, my name is Peter Treadway but I’m better known (photographically, at least) as Hybrid Peter, a moniker which derives from being the owner and one half of Hybrid Photography here in the UK (the other half being my buddy Hybrid Dave Williams). As Hybrid Photography, Dave and I are destination wedding specialists, traveling worldwide to capture our clients most treasured moments and it’s a job we absolutely love. However…

I’m not here today to talk about Weddings (I can almost hear the collective sigh of relief as I type that!). No, what I wanted to discuss is an issue that has been around for donkey’s years but has really started to become all too common in the photography community and it’s something that I really can’t abide. It’s the idea that only the most expensive pro kit will get you the results you want and that if you aren’t using said kit, then you can never be a ‘proper’ photographer.

And so whilst it’s true that you may need certain specialist lenses or equipment to fully pull off a select few types of shots, the vast majority of images that you’d want to capture can be so caught using the setup you most likely already have, with perhaps just a couple of other bits of very cheaply sourced kit that, once bought, could be used time and time again. Despite this, I’ve heard even seasoned photographers being fed the line by more ‘experienced’ pros that only the best, most expensive gear will do, but even more disappointing than that is that this ‘advice’ is almost always aimed at the younger generation of togs who, at that stage of their photography journey, have little other information to base their understanding on and so have no real choice but to believe what they’re being told. Well, I’m here to tell you it’s all rubbish!

I know this from personal experience, as I picked up my first entry level DSLR, a Nikon D3000, 6 years ago and within 6 months of buying it, shot my first wedding. Yes, I started shooting weddings on an entry level DSLR with only one lens (a Sigma 18-200mm f3.5-6.3), no speedlight and after only 6 months of having ever pressed a shutter release with any purpose! I think I just heard an old school tog have a heart attack!

As you might imagine then, every website, every photography forum and every photographer that I consulted was telling me that there was no way my shots would be any good whilst using such a basic setup and that I couldn’t even call myself a photographer by shooting with a £400 body… and they were right! But only partly so, as whilst I’m still immensely proud of the photos from that first event, it’s also true to say that they are a world away from the polished and professional images I deliver to my couples these days. However, where the nay sayers were wrong is in suggesting that this had anything to do with my kit, as, in reality, it was everything to do with my lack of training and knowledge. Luckily though, being 30 years old at the time, and therefore slightly older than your average first time shooter, I had the confidence to largely ignore what I knew to be inaccurate information and simply carry on.

Knowing that weddings were absolutely what I wanted to shoot though, and that I needed to improve quicksmart, rather than fall in to the trap of believing that I had to buy ever more expensive gear, I buried myself in every training resource I could find (which is also when I discovered Scott’s Digital Photography set of books and which to this day I still refer to as my bibles) and quite simply practiced, practiced, practiced with my trusty D3000.

Dave and I would head down to London’s Southbank, next to the River Thames, or just drive out to the middle of nowhere for whole days, any opportunity we got, and not stop shooting until our memory cards were full. Then we’d go and grab a bite to eat (usually a cheeky Nandos!) and process the images immediately on our laptops, reviewing what we could have done better, before emptying the cards on to the computers and starting over again, now taking different types of shots of city lights, light trails and playing with light orbs as the sun faded. We’d shoot architecture, street photography, cars and bikes and even model for each other to better understand concepts of lighting and posing and how different setups could completely change the feel of a portrait. I just couldn’t get enough of trying new things.

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Look, I was even adding a copyright back in those days… How cute!

And so it was that when the next wedding came around 3 months later, despite the only difference being the addition of a small budget speed light, there was a huge difference in the feel of the images. My composition was better, my understanding of camera settings was better and I had a greater idea of where I should be standing at key moments to fully utilise the light available to me.

Still the comments continued to be made though and they did stick with me but thankfully not in a way that had me brooding over them and worrying that I wasn’t good enough but rather reinforced my resolve never to become one of ‘those’ photographers as I continued my photographic progression. They also made me a firm believer in the notion that the only time you should look down on someone, is when you’re helping them up.

This is why, almost from the very beginning, Dave and I have actively tried to impart any knowledge and skills we had acquired to the next wave of eager photographers and have lead a number of educational photowalks and informal training sessions to this end over the years, including being asked to organise and run the Photofocus photowalk earlier this year, as part of The Societies photography convention here in London, where we were joined, amongst others, by Robert Vanelli, Richard Harrington and Eric Renno. On the point of helping people to learn, I’ve also found it to be a fantastic way of picking up tips myself, as strange at that sounds, because in the midst of a giving practical advice to a group of people, there is always some new information that can be picked up during discussion.

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As of now then, I am thankfully at a stage in my career where I have managed to surround myself with fellow creatives that share this belief of recycling knowledge and paying forward what they themselves have been taught, without looking down on people and telling them that they’re no good unless they have the latest and greatest stuff. However, having spoken to a number of newer photographers during various training sessions over the last few years, it’s clear that the same tired old phrases regards having to have the ‘right’ gear are still doing the rounds.

A few weeks ago then, while I was sat at home pondering a new photo project and how I could use it to tie in with this ethos of being able to shoot almost anything, almost anywhere and with almost any camera, I hit upon an idea that saw me shooting something I’d been wanting to capture for a while and something that was very dear to my heart… my car!

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Now, as a caveat to these images, I should point out that I’m clearly no automotive photographer and that these images would probably never grace the pages of any car magazines but that was never my aim (and besides, my Mum has seen them and she loves them, so that has to mean they’re good, right?). But seriously, what was I really trying to achieve here? Well, I wanted some moody, low key shots of my car, which is what I have ended up with and more importantly, they illustrate one major point:

You don’t need a huge studio, banks of lighting and mega expensive camera gear to take these kind of shots. Let me show you why:

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Yep, these were taken on the driveway outside my house and in broad daylight and could easily have been taken in a cramped garage or on the street. So ok, full disclosure (because I know the eagle eyed amongst you will have picked up on this already) I actually took these shots using a full frame Nikon D810, a 14-24 f2.8 lens and a 3 Legged Thing tripod, all of which come in at quite a pretty penny. But, and as Sir Mix-a-lot says, it’s a big but, before you go off espousing that I’m a charlatan of the highest order, let’s consider the settings I used.

All of these images were shot at around f10, ISO100 and using the wide end of the lens, which all means there’s absolutely nothing stopping anyone taking these shots with a baby DSLR, a kit lens, even the cheapest tripod and basic knowledge of your chosen photo editing software (I’ll be posting a full blog on my post processing for these shots over on my website soon, so keep an eye out for that, if you’re interested). As for lighting, I used a Yongnuo speedlight and trigger combo which allowed me to get the flash off my camera hot shoe and cost around £65 ($90) on eBay for the two and a cheap 24” softbox which cost around £25 ($35), again from eBay. So then even when extra bits of kit are needed, it’s clear that they don’t have to be the latest Profotos or Elinchroms to get the job done and it’s likely to be stuff that won’t simply see the light of day for one shoot but that you’ll able to use time and again.

And so with all of that said, I hope that now gives you the confidence to tell the detractors what they can do with their information and gives you the ability to see that the only limit to getting great results from whatever kit you already have, is how creative you’re willing to get with it and that if you think it’s time to upgrade your kit, make sure first that you don’t simply need to upgrade your knowledge!

P.S. I’d just like to say thanks to you all for taking the time to read my idle ramblings and that I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new fellow creatives at Photoshop World later this year (if you haven’t booked your ticket yet, really, what are you waiting for!), so if you’re going and you see me there, feel free to come over and say hello. After all, I’m English, so I’m bound to be polite, right? FInally, I’d also like to say a huge thanks to Scott for allowing me to grace his guest blog spot this week. It’s a genuine honour.

You can see more of Peter’s work at HybridPeter.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

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“Lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.” – Hybrid Dave, 2013 (fact). I’m Dave Williams and I’m a photographer from London, England. I shoot travel and people (which I realise is very broad!) I scour the world for photographic opportunities which will inspire, evoke memories, and make money!

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Telling an accomplished, professional photographer that their photographs look good based on the camera they use or the natural beauty of the subject they’re shooting is akin to telling a painter that their canvasses look good based on the skill of their brush. You just wouldn’t. A photographer who is successful puts a lot of work into their images, but what is that work in my mind? What’s my thought process? That’s what I’ve decided to write about for Scott’s blog the week.

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What I see in my minds eye will end up on the screen or the wall in front of you, no two ways about it. It’s those photos on that screen, or those photos in the dusty photo album you’ve pulled out of the attic in 50 years time to blow the dust off and show the grandkids which will evoke the memory of that one moment. Long after the dance has been had, the champagne has been drunk, the glacier has melted, the sun has long since set over the horizon, that memory will come to the forefront of your mind and you’ll be taken back to it in time, along with the sudden recollection of a lost memory of the 2 minutes either side of that photo being taken. The sights, sounds and smells, the emotions, they’ll all come back to life.

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I’ll make it happen over and over again, and you won’t remember it unless I take that photo in such a way that the composition, timing, lighting and all other elements are skillful, creative and artistic enough to capture that moment precisely. You may not remember it unless I take the photo. The snapshots of time I can make happen through skilled consideration of angle, composition, exposure, lighting, aperture, timing, they are memories. My job is to take all those elements, package them up carefully, and then put them into the shot for everyone to see and it’s something that’s been tried and perfected over years.

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Forget composition, that’s been overcooked now. Let’s look at what happens inside us. Why do photos work? How do they release the chemicals in our mind that makes us feel a certain way? I’ve been working on this piece for a while now, and a fair chunk of research has gone into figuring out the link between photographic art and human emotion. Photography is powerful. It captures a real life event, as opposed to an imagined or otherwise represented painting.

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It allows us, as photographers, to put people into our eye and our mind. It allows people to see the world from our perspective. One of my favourite photographic lines is, ‘lend me your eyes and I’ll show you what I see.’ More than this though, we use photography to understand ourselves in relation to everything and everyone around us. We can place ourselves into the perspective of those we see in the image.

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Our ability to identify with someone else’s point of view is deeply ingrained in the architecture of our brain. We can imagine what they are seeing. Photography plays a unique role in triggering the region of the brain that controls empathy. To understand how photographs activate this brain network, it’s first necessary to deconstruct emotional processing into simpler components. One of the most fundamental social skills that humans have, that of imitation, is key here. Imitation is automatic and a basic requirement for developing practical social skills, like empathy.

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When we see the expression of other peoples faces there is an unconscious activation of the same muscles. We’ve all heard of this, it’s been studied time and time again and comes into play daily on conscious and sub-conscious levels and in all our interactions. It’s the key player in the dating game. If you like someone you’ll copy them, and similarly they’ll copy you if they like you back. Imitation is a result of visual information combining with muscle activation, which in turn facilitates empathy.

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Our capacity to imitate is thought to rely upon a specialised network of brain regions called the human mirror neutron system. With a simple photograph our brain will unconsciously processes biological motion, attend to where emotions are being directed, activate muscles of those we are observing, and transmits this information to language processing centres where we can consciously express our own emotional reaction.

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Imitation is a basic social skill that often occurs unconsciously due to the learning we’ve been doing all our life. However, as we age we become much more aware of someone’s emotions not by direct observation by rather by judging their intent. Intent requires us to place ourselves into someone else’s perspective and to hold the belief that other people have minds that are distinct from our own. The mind is something we cannot see and thus we must believe that it exists in theory.

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Photography is important because it can influence our capacity to empathise, it affects our motivation to help others, and help us connect with people through imitation. Seeing children at war, viewing a familiar scene we’ve never actually seen in real life, watching the total destruction of cities undoubtedly appeal to our emotions and our yearning to interact and feel we have an involvement in the image. The very survival of our species has and still relies on understanding how other feel, attending to the needs of those around us, and working with one another to construct a better society.

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Photography is more important than ever because we need visual imagery that reflects our connectedness, especially in a world that is as dynamic as ours with a constant daily bombardment of visual stimulus in the digital world. The way we see is unique to each and every one of us, but the common theme is empathy and this can be generated in the capture of a good photograph. Not just through composition, but in content. The capture of the emotion in front of the lens. In terms of my specialist field, travel photography, I want each and every person to feel the love that goes into my photos.

To see more of Dave’s work, check out HybridDave.com, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

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Throughout my journey to impoverished countries all over the world, one trait has reigned true: warmth. No matter what stressful situation or unknown location we find ourselves, there is always good people we meet among the madness. The old saying goes “A few bad apples spoil the bunch” and I find that to be very true, especially in places that have been riddled with war for decades. Good people are everywhere, even in the darkest of corners of the earth. These good people are responsible for uplifting others and guaranteeing awareness of the problems that many face, every day.

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When I was first offered the opportunity to travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia I was really unaware of the problems and issues that plague the city and the country as a whole. On the minimal available information I had been given, it was tough to surround my brain around our mission. There is so little knowledge, I was forced to dive deeper and I only scratched the surface of what I would eventually come to find.

It all started with my friends at Nadus Films and their “Give A Story” grant project. We give a grant to those world-wide foundations that need it most. The grant provides the opportunity to document, capture and provide the right tools, so these initiatives can raise awareness and gain traction for further funding. Our project in Ethiopia focused on a foundation titled “Youth Impact” which provides shelter, food and a solid path for homeless children located in the city of Addis Ababa.

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Due to famine and communist civil war, nearly 60% of Ethiopia, Africa is under the age of 18 and of that demographic nearly 100,000 children are completely homeless and suffer from tremendous injustice. Poverty, addiction, prostitution and disease. Some children, just 6 years of age roaming the streets of the city. There is an extreme lack of leadership, parents and grandparents. It is a country of youth.

I knew the project would involve children who have struggled. Children who have stories and I wanted to tell their story the only way I know how, through imagery. I decided to form a portrait series of homeless street children as well as people that have grown through the Impact program. I wanted to bring the aesthetic of my portrait work blended with a journalistic mood. That style involved creating a custom 3×4 canvas solely designed from the ground up for this series.

Upon arrival at the Youth Impact shelter the initial mood wasn’t shock, but difficulty. The shelter was small, similar to a one floor ranch-style two bedroom home. The front yard was piled with random rusted debris and the back porch was a concrete dorm with open doors and ropes covered in wet clothing. The shelter is completely surrounded by a 10-foot concrete wall which was embedded with shards of glass; an inferior barbwire.

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We didn’t have a system to rig the beautiful 3×4 canvas, so we grabbed what we could from the pile of wreckage on the alley-way next to the Youth Impact shelter, a cracked wooden ladder and trashed twin bed frame. Using a Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp, attached to the backdrop draped over Manfrotto 2983 Adjustable Background Holder Crossbar, we linked the clamp to another Manfrotto 035 Super Clamp and attached it to the debris. Using a combination of Gaff Tape and Zip Ties we secured the bottom of the backdrop to avoid kick up from wind.

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The light setup was simple; a Profoto B2 Location Kit attached to a Manfrotto 026 Swivel Umbrella Adapter which we attached to a Manfrotto 680B Compact Monopod for complete mobility. The Profoto B2 head is modified with a 46” Photo Softlighter II, the softest source of modification I’ve ever used. Luckily, I had two trusted assistants who spoke enough broken English to understand my instructions of feathering the light and keeping the strobe consistently directional opposite the sun.

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Youth Impact has blazed a trail for dozens of successful business men, architects, carpenters and artists. Once homeless, now-adults had been saved through the Youth Impact initiative. I wanted to capture not only the current children living through the shelter, but also these blossoming people who had so much to owe to their mentors. It was a humbling experience to photograph this community that has so much to say, but no voice. Hopefully, this series provides that voice that they so yearn to have.

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Behailu Kassanhun – Orphan, joined Youth Impact, he has since graduated with a College degree and teaches Architecture.

 

 

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Amanual Haile – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 12, he has since graduated College.
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Genet Fantanhun – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 14, she has since graduated College and is currently a Elementary School Teacher.

 

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Kidist Tesfaye – Orphan, joined Youth Impact, she has since graduated College and is currently serving at a local hospital as a nurse.

 

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Yemisrach Tesfaye – Orphan, joined Youth Impact at the age of 12, she has since graduated College and is currently serving at a local hospital as a nurse.
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Dawet Daneyl – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his home in Ghana to find work in Addis Ababa.

 

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Mubarek Abedela – Runaway, joined Youth Impact at the age of 16 from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his home to find better work.

 

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Sebesebea Akalu – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his farm in Ghana to find a better life in Addis Ababa, which resulted in homelessness for over 4 years.

 

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Habetamu Fentetahun – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from the streets of Addis Ababa, he left his farm in Dessie to find a work in Addis Ababa, which resulted in homelessness for 2 years.
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Alem Kere Tiehay – Runaway, joined Youth Impact from a tough life on the streets of Addis Ababa. He has been jailed 8 times for alcohol related crimes. He left his farm in Ghana for Addis Ababa.

 

 

 

It was a true honor to hear the stories behind these young adults, who have so much to offer but, nearly had zero foundation to create a life. Fortunately, Youth Impact has provided a reachable dream and given the ladder of victory. Built upon a dark past, they are the future of Ethiopia.

You can see more of Clay’s work at ClayCookPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Photographer Jeff Lombardo photograph's Dubai Marina from the Princess Tower in Dubai, the Tallest Residential Building in the World.
Photographer Jeff Lombardo photographs Dubai Marina from the Princess Tower in Dubai, the Tallest Residential Building in the World.

How did you get your start in photography? Have you always done what you’re doing now, or did you start with one or many genres of work and then gravitate to your current style?
Well, I’m not the photographer that was given a camera at a young age or the photographer that followed in his father’s footsteps. I’m also not the photographer with a darkroom and film background. I actually never had any desire to become a photographer at all. I was a freelance graphic designer for NBC, Universal Studios, MGM, A&E, FOX, Disney, and many others — who one day decided to put everything he owned in a storage unit and follow his dream of world travel.

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A helicopter view of downtown Vancouver.
A view of Brooklyn and Manhattan (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
A view of Brooklyn from Manhattan.

I know it sounds like I had everything figured out but I had no idea how I was going to make it work. I had the confidence that it would work itself out, but a lot of the time it was hope. I decided to come up with a monthly figure that I needed each month to travel and live on, then I divided that number by 3 and pitched my top 3 clients an all you can eat package and suggested a 6 month retainer. Between the 3 clients I reached the figure I needed each month and I was able to lock in paychecks for the next 6 months.

Model on a gondola in Venice, Italy. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Model on a gondola in Venice, Italy.
Jessica Burciaga on a beach in Honolulu. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Jessica Burciaga on a beach in Honolulu.

That idea landed me on 62 flights in 10 months and provided me with 2 ½ years of world travel while living out of a suitcase. I was living a life worth documenting so I documented it just like anyone else would. Photography itself started to become appealing when all the iPhone photo editing apps started to emerge.

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Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia.
People vacationing on holiday in Positano, Italy (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Crowd of people vacationing on holiday in Positano, Italy.

Having a mini Photoshop in my pocket appealed to my graphic design background and when Instagram came out, it was icing on the cake. Photo editing apps and Instagram gave me a greater purpose to share my photos in real time with those I was out of touch with, rather than having them just sit on my phone. That’s when I went from taking point and shoot vacation photos to putting thought, effort and creativity into each photo. I became passionate about it and I wanted to become better. The study and learning process is what got me into photography.

Sunset in Brooklyn, New York overlooking Manhattan (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Sunset in Brooklyn, New York overlooking Manhattan.
Horseshoe bend in Page, Arizona (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Horseshoe bend in Page, Arizona.

As time went on and I felt like I was getting to a place that I was comfortable with in my photography. I knew I had another talent to offer my network of friends so I began putting the word out and swinging for the fences when looking for new opportunities.

The Empire State Building through the legs of the Manhatttan Bridge (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
The Empire State Building through the legs of the Manhattan Bridge.

Prior to photography I worked on some big projects as a graphic designer and I definitely had to pay my my dues. I went from being a starving artist all the way to working on the Dark Knight, Twilight, New Moon, WATCHMEN and countless other great projects. But once I decided to take the leap into becoming a professional photographer I realized I was a starving artist all over again — and I hated it.

Yachting through the Mediterranean Sea with a view of an active volcano in Stromboli. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Yachting through the Mediterranean Sea with a view of an active volcano in Stromboli.
Overlooking Positano from a balcony in the mountainside (Photo by Jeff Lombardo
Overlooking Positano from a balcony in the mountainside.

I hit the reset button on my career at midlife. I went from the peak of my design career and having 15+ years experience under my belt to being an amateur without any experience under my belt and a world full of competition all over again. I did my best to leverage both backgrounds in my pitches while I continued to aim for gigs out of my ballpark. I had nothing to lose.

On the roof of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, Italy (Photo by Jeff Lombardo
On the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in Rome, Italy.
Emirates plane flyover. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Emirates plane flyover.

Because I was traveling, I had a lot of travel photos. I decided to make a website with my photo work and it was all travel work and I labeled myself a Travel Photographer. Once I had some decent landscape and cityscape shots, my friends in the music industry started to notice and opportunities in music started to land. I used each one as a launchpad to get me to the next level.

Ne-Yo being interviewed at his "Forever Now" music video shoot. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Ne-Yo being interviewed at his “Forever Now” music video shoot.
Ne-Yo in the studio writing a song. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Ne-Yo in the studio writing a song.
Ne-Yo Performs in Manchester on the 2013 UK R.E.D. Tour. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Ne-Yo performs in Manchester on the 2013 UK R.E.D. Tour.

I ended up going on tour with Ne-Yo, shooting the top 5 EDM DJs on 5 different continents and winning a photography award all in my first 2 years. A lot of you may ask how? Hustle and persistence is all I can say to that. I believe you have to align yourself with the opportunities you want and you have to be strategic and persistent. Find the gatekeepers that hold the power to what you want and beat down doors until someone lets you in. Everyone has something they need and something they can offer; it’s up to you to connect those dots.

Sebastian Ingrosso performs under fire at Stereosonic 2013 in Sydney, Australia (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Sebastian Ingrosso performs under fire at Stereosonic 2013 in Sydney, Australia
Hardwell spinning at EDC London 2013 at Queen Elizabeth Park (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Hardwell spinning at EDC London 2013 at Queen Elizabeth Park
Carl Cox spinning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during EDC Las Vegas 2013 (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
Carl Cox spinning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during EDC Las Vegas 2013

Being a great photographer in 2016 isn’t enough. You have to be a great marketer. An ‘ok’ photographer who is great at marketing can make it further than a great photographer who is terrible at marketing. I don’t think that’s fair but that’s the game and sometimes you can’t change the game, all you can do is play it.

In the studio with Kendrick Lamar as he records To Pimp a Butterfly in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jeff Lombardo)
In the studio with Kendrick Lamar as he records To Pimp A Butterfly in Los Angeles.

What led to you getting such intimate access with Kendrick Lamar?
I believe it’s a combination of trust, respect for my work and knowing the right people. Growing up we all used to hear the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” — but I disagree. It’s definitely both.

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My name is Brian Podnos and my wife Donna and I run an architectural and interiors photography company based in NYC called Donna Dotan Photography. I wanted to share the interesting process by which we recently created a 60 foot photo for a client.

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(Click here for a MUCH higher resolution view)

Before I get into the making of this photo, here is a bit of context surrounding the job:

  • While doing a photoshoot of model units for a new development, the client asked Donna and I to photograph the view from on top of the construction site for a print. We happily obliged and got a great shot at sunset. The view was NYC with Citi Field in the foreground.
  • For the shot, we used a Canon 5D Mark III with a 24-70 zoom lens.
  • After delivering the image, the client told us the resolution wasn’t high enough. They wanted the image to be printed as wallpaper to cover their sales gallery wall of 60 ft by 9 ft.
  • They asked us to redo the shot. However, in order for everything to be ready for an upcoming event in the sales gallery the following week, we only had three days to deliver the image.

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Okay, so lots of pressure, not a lot of time to figure out the best way to approach the project. One thing we knew was that we wanted a medium format camera system in order to get that kind of image quality. People were going to be looking at this photo from less than a foot away, so we wanted to make sure we had the best resolution possible. Going medium format would be a risk because we only had one opportunity to do it right, it’s a very expensive system to rent, and it was something we had never done before! However, Donna and I felt that the reward outweighed the risk, and this way we would ensure that the resolution was the best it could possibly be.

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The Phase One IQ3 100MP system had just been released, and we really wanted to utilize the latest and greatest sensor on the market (100MP!). After some adversity (you’ll see in the video) we were able to rent the camera. At this point we were left with only one day to get the shot, edit the file and deliver it to the printers!

Everything had to go according to plan. The weather had to cooperate, we had to learn the mechanics behind the camera system the day of the project, and we had to figure out exactly by what method we would create the photo. Since the wall was 60 feet wide, we figured we would have to shoot multiple panels and stitch them together in post (even with a medium format system and 100MP sensor, a single shot wouldn’t be sufficient), but we weren’t sure if we should use a rail or a tripod. We also didn’t know if we should photograph in the horizontal or vertical orientation, or if we should capture the panels top-down or left-right (or both!). Lastly, we weren’t sure which lens would be most appropriate. Lots of questions, not a lot of time to spare.

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After much deliberation, we decided to take multiple lenses and figure the rest out on site. Thankfully, the weather was on our side that day. We rented the camera from Digital Transitions in NYC and they were amazing in teaching us how to operate it. They also assured us they would always be around should something arise on site. That comforted us to say the least.

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Sunset was around 5:15, so we arrived at 4 and made our way up the construction site to the 15th floor. It was already so beautiful as the sun was setting behind the Manhattan skyline. Quickly, we were able to eliminate the rail system we had brought. Our photo subject was so far away that we could easily photograph the needed panels using our Arca-Swiss D4 tripod head. Next, we decided that the Schneider 150mm was the lens to use. It gave us exactly the frame we were hoping to get with minimal cropping needed in post. We elected to orient the camera vertically and shoot 7 panels from left to right.

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One additional element we worried over was the fear that the construction site would be too active. Any camera shake would cause our long exposure capture to be blurry. Luckily we were able to select a floor where no construction workers were working and thus were free to begin.

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Once the camera was set up, we ran a test by tethering to a computer and taking a look at how the panels stacked up next to each other. The raw files looked really good. We were zooming in and able to read traffic signs that were miles away!

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Finally, we were confident that we would be able to create the image the way we wanted to. Now we just had to wait for the buildings to light up during twilight…

The next day we imported all the files to our office computers and spent the rest of the day editing the shot. It literally took all day to stitch the panels seamlessly, get the color correction on point, and pull out all the details we wanted to showcase. Each shot was a 15 second exposure, and since the sky gets dark so quickly there was a noticeable gradient in color with each panel. Smoothing out the sky was quite a challenge!

We finally submitted the panoramic photo and shortly after heard from the printer that the file was going to work. We all breathed a sigh of relief.

https://youtu.be/NzqbEx53mNY

Donna and I got to see the photo in person a week later, and it was incredible. Inspecting the wall up close we really got to see how sharp every detail was. Considering this was our first time using a medium format system, and considering all the external pressures to get the job done right, I feel like we really succeeded in what we set out to do.

Reflecting on the experience, the whole process was pretty wild. There were so many question marks in the air, but it all worked out in the end. We created an amazing final product and made an important client very happy.

-Brian Podnos
Donna Dotan Photography

Special thanks to Onex Real Estate Partners, Modern Spaces, Digital Transitions, Ken Jones, and Pitra Media!

You can see more of Donna and Brian’s work at DonnaDotan.com, and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Brad pulls up a photo on his phone from the previous night’s secret show to show Chris Dudley during tech rehearsal. Photo by Chris Dudley

The Rebirth of Underoath
A few years ago, the band Underoath played what was then to be their final tour ever as a band. They did their farewell tour, made a documentary about the whole thing, and then each of the members moved on to the next phase in their lives, but they all remained friends after this.

Christopher Dudley, Timothy McTague, Spencer Chamberlain, Grant Brandell, and James Smith of Underoath perform their final show on January 26, 2013 at Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, Florida

Fast forward to late last year, and they’re all on a group text joking about what it would be like to tour again. Then the joking turned serious and, after much discussion and figuring out logistics, they decided to reunite to tour once again and play their two most popular albums, They’re Only Chasing Safety and Define The Great Line, back to back on the Underoath Rebirth Tour.

The first official show of the tour is tonight in St. Petersburg, Florida at Jannus Live, the same venue where they played the final show of their last tour. And the band has allowed me to document some behind the scenes images of the events leading up to this show.

Last week, they invited me to come out to their practice space and document one of their final practices before taking the stage once again. The space is a storage unit, lit solely by one fluorescent light inside, and some typical parking lot lights outside. Thankfully, I had two Canon 1DX bodies at my side, coupled with the 70-200mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/2.8 lenses, to handle the high ISO situation.

perform on at in

perform on at in

perform on at in

perform on at in

perform on at in

As the band practiced, I tried to cover them from every angle I could think of while staying out of their way as best as possible. During this time, they’re focused on making sure they remember how to play the songs and are all on the same page with everything rather than performing. So while they’re into it, it’s definitely a lower energy situation than a live performance.

perform on at in

perform on at in

perform on at in

perform on at in

For post processing, I prefer converting behind the scenes/documentary images to black and white. I just think it gives them a more timeless feel, and helps differentiate the images from my live concert work. In this particular case, I used Macphun’s Tonality Pro plug-in to do the black and white conversions. I started with the software’s Bold Contrast preset, then tweaked it to best fit these images and created my own preset. Once I had that in place, I did a batch process of the images and ran my preset at 50% so the images didn’t look over-processed. This gave the shots a nice but gritty look that almost made them feel like they were shot on film.

perform on at in

perform on at in

While many of the band’s shows on the tour are already sold out, including their first show tonight at an approximately 2,000-person capacity venue, they announced a “secret show” at a 400-person capacity venue in Tampa on Sunday night. This show was $10 at the door on a first come, first serve basis; and once it was full, it was full.

The venues they normally play at have big stages and a barricade/photo pit between the crowd and the band. Not so at this one, as you can see in the video below:

This crowd is INSANE!! No fans like @underoathband fans! #underoath #uorebirth #UØ

A video posted by Brad Moore (@bmoorevisuals) on

This time I was armed with the same Canon 1DX bodies and 70-200mm f/2.8, but this time I had the 11-24mm f/4 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses as well. The latter two ended up being the only ones I used during Underoath’s set since it was such a small venue. I started off right in front of the stage in the crowd during the opening bands and was fine. But once Underoath took the stage, I only lasted for two songs before I escaped the flying bodies and pummeling from the fans to try to catch my breath and make my torso cease feeling pain.

(more…)

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