Elia, Fujiyoshida, Japan 2013 | Photo Credit: Naomi Locardi
Each new year brings with it an opportunity to reflect on days gone by and look forward to the promise of the year ahead. If we’re lucky, life leads us in positive new directions we may not have expected and things unfold in ways we could never anticipate.
Since 2009, with a unique blend of inspiration, passion, caffeine and a touch of insomnia, my wife and I have visited more than 40 countries and flown over 1 million air miles. In March of 2012, we surrendered our apartment in central Florida (and most of our possessions with it) taking to the road full-time and becoming completely “Location Independent.” Our vision for our life is continually changing and evolving as our experiences, and the people we meet along the way, inspire us to visit new places and seek out new and richer experiences.
Sleeping Giants – Mount Bromo, Indonesia 2013
The Evolution of My Photography Style Throughout my career in the post production and visual effects industry I always strived to bring something new and fresh to the table, something that would break the standard mold. I had the opportunity to work on many talented creative teams and bring unique visions for client projects to life. While that experience was invaluable, the accumulative stress of working long hours, under harsh deadlines, drove me to the brink. I knew that I wanted my life to go in a new direction – one fueled by passion and inspiration, focusing more on life experience, so I completely reassessed what was important. With a mix of anxiety and anticipation, I left my job as an Art Director and a decade long career in the industry along with it.
In 2009, when I decided that Professional Travel Photography would be my new career path, I knew that to be successful in such a competitive market I would have to attack the task of creating my portfolio with that same drive to create something new and fresh. I would need to find ways to raise the bar and make my photography stand out.
I was driven (my wife might say obsessed) to create a new look by experimenting with different post-processing techniques. With more than a decade of working experience in Adobe® Photoshop, and a past rooted so heavily in software based production, I was able to completely reverse engineer my photography by implementing this accumulated technical knowledge.
Going Home – London, England 2010
The Future is Now - Dubai, UAE 2012
In the very beginning my photography was 100% experimental. Primarily composed of my joyous exploration of the world around me, as I’d capture and catalogue subjects that I found most interesting and inspiring. Rapidly, I realized that I wanted to transmit my sincere feelings of awe and wonder to the audience viewing my work. Beyond that, I also wanted to create a “wow factor” – a moment of meaningful impact – that I could share with the viewer.
Last week on “The Grid” we were doing our popular “Blind Critiques” episode (where viewers send in their best images for us to critique on-air, but we don’t give the photographer’s name — we just to through and review their images).
Anyway, in this episode we ran across this series of shots sent in by a photographer; they were scenes of some interestingly lit buildings in an office complex/entertainment area, most notably a “Hampton Inn” and the buildings nearby. While the shots were technically correct (exposure, composition, sharpness) they were just find of “nothing” shots. We were actually struggling a bit to describe precisely why these shots were so lackluster, when I viewer (JWPhoto) sent in this very insight comment that I think absolutely nailed what was happening in these photos. He said:
“These are ‘Hunting Shots.” This photographer is hunting for a photo, and these just say “Is this it? How about this?” Nothing that grabs you by the scruff of the neck and says “Here! Look!” –JWPhoto
I knew he was right, because I’ve been there myself so many times when I’ve been standing in front of a scene that looks really great while I’m standing there, but then once you put the camera to your eye, and start taking photos, you’re not seeing images that look as cool as the scene. So your start hunting. You start “working the scene” to find a way to express what you’re standing in front of in a way that people viewing your image will hopefully think, “Wow!” too. That process of working the scene — that’s really good, and it’s what we should be doing — working, hunting, experimenting to uncover that image.
So, where did this photographer fall down then? He never “found” that shot, yet he sent in his “hunting photos” as examples of his best work to be critiqued. He sent in the photos he took before he ever found a really intriguing shot, or a really unusual angle, or composition, or some other unique thing that would make anyone look at his image and think something more than “Well, it’s properly exposed.”
I posted the episode above, and if you scrub over to around to 1 hr, and 20-seconds mark, you can see the critique of this photographer’s work, and why we were struggling so much to put it into works (which is where JWPHoto can in and really gave it context and meaning).
It’s OK to have “Hunting Shots.” We all do. I have thousands. But it’s our job as photographers to be good editors of our work, and to not add those hunting shots to our portfolios. Every time we go hunting with our camera, we shouldn’t expect to always come away with a prize. It’s unrealistic. But our job and our challenge (and what makes all this so much fun) is to keep hunting until we do capture that prized image. When you get it, you’ll know.
Last year, after my trip to Rome (where I led a local walk as part of my Worldwide Photo Walk), I did a live Webcast about the trip where I shared some of the spreads from the photo book I always create after a trip (here’s a link to that Webast), and while I posted that video here on my blog, I never actually shared the images here.
Well, since then, I’ve fallen in love with the photographic story-telling site Exposure.so which was born for things like this (I first used them for sharing my favorite football shots of this season), and I was looking for another opportunity to use Exposure again, so I used it to tell my Rome story.
Happy Friday everybody! Here’s a few quickies to take you into the weekend:
If Only This Software Actually Existed I shared this wild video on social media yesterday, and was asking the question, “Is this software real?” Apparently, it’s not — it’s a music video with a message, but man do I love the on-screen interface, and what it does (well, theoretically) is amazing. Either way, the video had to be really challenging to make. Give it a quick look — it’ll totally blow your mind.
Dissolve: changing the playing field for stock video clips I predict this is gonna blow up big time: it’s called “Dissolve” and it’s a very clever, super-low cost stock video footage service. They’re licensing HD video clips starting at an average of around $5 a clip, which is a game-changer price. It’s from one of the co-founders of istockphoto, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns into the next big thing. The video above does a clever job of explaining why you might want to license stock video in the first place. Here’s a link to their site, and their blog. Looks really interesting.
Matt’s Long Exposure Online Class is Getting Big Love! I didn’t even do the class, and people are emailing me about how much they love it. Matt (Kloskowski) told me of all the classes he’s done at KelbyOne, this one has really just struck a chord with people on a level he never expected. If you’re a KelbyOne subscriber, you gotta go watch Matt’s class. Here’s the link.
Come spend the day with me in Tampa My first seminar of the season is coming next month as my “Shoot Like a Pro” tour comes to Tampa, Florida. Hope you can come join me for the day. Here’s the link if you wanna come. :)
Count Your Blessings, Folks This has nothing to do with Photography or photography, but if you take just a couple of minutes and watch this video clip, it will astound you (and seriously remind you count your blessings, and remind us to stop complaining about life’s little inconveniences). You’ll truly admire what this amazing man does for his family. I am speechless.
Hope you all have a wonderful weekend; try to stay warm, and we’ll see you back here on Monday.
Photoshop World Atlanta Want to spend some time learning photography and Photoshop from your favorite instructors, networking, and just having a great time with other creatives? Photoshop World Atlanta is where you want to be! Come hang with Joe McNally, Moose Peterson, Jeremy Cowart, Zack Arias, Jerry Ghionis, the Photoshop Guys, and more!
Leave a comment for your chance to win a Photoshop Guys book set!
KelbyOne Live Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowski, or RC Concepcion? Check out these seminar tours!
You can check out the full schedule for seminars through March! And leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!
The Art of Digital Photography: The Inspirational Series with David Bergman Come get inspired with Mia McCormick as she sits down with David Bergman, a music and sports photographer, as they discuss David’s 25 year career as a professional photographer in the latest class from KelbyOne. David and Mia touch on topics ranging from how he got started as a photographer to how he transitioned from a staff photojournalist to a freelancer, and from what it is like working with celebrities and athletes to what goes on behind the scenes, and so much more!
Leave a comment for your chance to check this class out for free!
About 2 years ago I was feeling somewhat stagnant. I remembered this feeling as it hits me every couple of years. I’d been doing some good jobs and was busy which meant that I was doing stuff to make a living but not necessarily stuff I was completely in control of and happy with.
At that point in my career I had been slowly moving from Advertising and Editorial work to Entertainment and Celebrity work. It wasn’t easy to break into shooting celebrities as you were always up against people who were already proven in the industry. The resounding comment would be, ‘You haven’t shot enough celebrities to do this job sorry,’ and with that the door of the exclusive club would shut in my face.
I slowly made some headway and had a few celebrities in my book and noticed that there was a good handful of funny people in it, like Eddie Murphy, Ben Stiller, John Oliver, John Hodgman, Steve Carell and a few others. And so I decided to roll with that momentum to do a book on funny people; Comic Genius: Portraits of Funny People
I had no idea how large it would be as I didn’t know who would say yes. I started off thinking I’d do 20 to 30 portraits. I ended up shooting over 90 which turned out to be one of the largest books of the biggest names in comedy that had ever been done. 130 portraits shot from Hollywood to Edinburgh Scotland in over a year and a half!
Even today when I look at the list I don’t know how I did it. How so many said yes and how my team logistically produced each shoot flawlessly. There were of course people who said no. In fact, if you can think of someone who is your favorite who isn’t in here, chances are we asked them but for whatever reason, scheduling or otherwise, they couldn’t do it. But here’s who could:
MEL BROOKS, STEVE MARTIN, TINA FEY, CARL REINER, BILLY CRYSTAL, EDDIE MURPHY, JONATHAN WINTERS, ROBIN WILLIAMS, ZACH GALIFIANAKIS, ADAM SANDLER, DICK VAN DYKE, CAROL BURNETT, STEVE CARELL, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, BETTE MIDLER,RICKY GERVAIS, LILY TOMLIN, JASON BATEMAN, JIM CARREY, JANE LYNCH, JON STEWART, PAUL REUBENS, JOAN RIVERS, MARTIN SHORT, JAY LENO, DAVID CROSS, KATHY GRIFFIN, SARAH SILVERMAN, MARTIN LAWRENCE, ANDY SAMBERG, MIKE MYERS,NICK OFFERMAN, TOMMY SMOTHERS, DON RICKLES, MICHAEL IAN BLACK, ED HELMS, JON LOVITZ, CLORIS LEACHMAN, MICHAEL RICHARDS, JACKIE MASON, CONAN O’ BRIEN, CATHERINE O’ HARA, ERIC STONESTREET, BOB BALABAN, KRISTEN WIIG, JEFFREY TAMBOR, JANEANE GAROFALO, KRISTEN SCHAAL, BOB NEWHART,WEIRD AL YANKOVIC, CHEVY CHASE, TRACY MORGAN, GEORGE LOPEZ, DAVID STEINBERG, BILLY CONNOLLY, JAY ROACH, EUGENE LEVY, DAVID KOECHNER,TIM HEIDECKER AND ERIC WAREHEIM,JOHN OLIVER, JOHN HODGMAN, STEPHEN MERCHANT, RAINN WILSON, JERRY STILLER, EUGENE MIRMAN, MICHAEL SHOWALTER, ADAM MCKAY, DENIS LEARY, PATTON OSWALT, B.J. NOVAK, BOB ODENKIRK, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT, FRED WILLARD, JENNIFER COOLIDGE, MARC MARON, MORT SAHL, ANDREW DICE CLAY, RHYS DARBY TOM GREEN, JOHN CLEESE, MATT LUCAS, MICHAEL PALIN, JOANNA LUMLEY, JENNIFER SAUNDERS, TIM MINCHIN, TIM ALLEN, DAME EDNA AND KERMIT THE FROG
It started by making a wish list. That list would be my team’s checklist. Every day we’d search through contacts and locate celebrities. If they were a comic touring or a comedic actor shooting a film we’d go where we needed to get a “YES” from our subjects.
When they did, we’d arrange to have either a phone conversation with them or chat via email. I remember the first time it hit me that it was happening, when Steve Martin called me. “Hi Matt, Steve Martin here”…. I had to just take that in for a moment. I proceeded to tell him my concepts which included the cover shot of him in white suit with his flower/boutonniere growing from a flower pot in his hand.
I had read that he was an art collector and liked surrealist work, so I thought that would be a surreal enough idea for him. It turns out he liked it so that was great!
I found myself like a kid in a candy shop working with my comedy heroes and so I went for broke and half jokingly asked my producer to get me Kermit the Frog so we could shoot a video of him & Steve Martin playing Dueling Banjos. She did. And so I nervously asked Steve if he’d do it.
He said, “If Kermit is into it then I guess I could do it.” And so one of my most memorable days of shooting happened. I walked into Siren Studio in Hollywood and the swamp set was already being built. Real logs, reeds, greenery and a painted backdrop that completed the picture. Kermit had arrived and was getting set up on the log just right; he’s very particular. Steve then arrived with his banjo and offered to play Kermit’s part for him for playback. So a sound recordist and Steve were playing Dueling Banjos in the green room and Kermit was talking to me and my crew in the main soundstage and I was in heaven.
Other memorable shoots include Robin Williams, who came to the studio very quiet and soft-spoken. I was a little concerned that he’d not be into the shoot, but that all ended when he walked out of wardrobe as a marionette pulling his own strings (which is the way I sort of see him being in control of his character so well). It was awesome and we got a mini show of him riffing on being a puppet and the sort of suggestive moves you could make if you were so inclined. He was.
One day I was sitting in my office. The phone rang and it went something like this: “Matt? Hi this is Mel Brooks. So we’re doing a photo shoot. Ok. So I got all your ideas.”
At this stage I was excited that at the end of the conversation, one of the true kings of comedy Mel Brooks would have chosen one of my comedy concepts to shoot and I’d forever have that up my sleeve for bragging rights. ‘Yeah I wrote a comedy bit for Mel Brooks.’
Mel continued. “Yeah here they are, looking at them, they all stink. So here’s what I’m going to do. Get me a comb from a drug store. Can you do that? And I’ll put it to my nose and be Hitler. It’ll be great.”
And it was. Mel also did the intro for my book so I’m eternally grateful to have had my ideas rejected by the great man.
In London I photographed John Cleese. He called me in my hotel room the night before the shoot. He had not approved any of the concepts I presented to him yet and I was beginning to get worried. He said no to a shot of him doing his funny walk (he was over the whole funny walk thing since a day doesn’t go by that I’m sure someone doesn’t ask him to do it), but yes to my concept of him playing a large fish with a bow like a musician. He said he quite liked that. Which made me happy since we could then rush out and find a large fish in time for the shoot. But my favorite shot of him is one where I was shooting some close up portraits of his expressions and he stopped and said “Wait, I have something!” and put his hat on sideways and gave me that John Cleese stare. Love it!
I was looking forward to shooting Ricky Gervais as I am a fan of his biting humor. I had this concept of him doing his big teethy laugh that is so infectious and then accompanying it with a bowl of alphabet soup with the words ha ha in it. He asked what was the cover of the book and I said Steve Martin. He said, ‘Who’s he?’ Which was the perfect comment from him.
Michael Richards was someone who had made me laugh so much during Seinfeld’s reign and even his reruns, so I was happy when he said yes. Even with his recent public incident, he was happy to bring his character to life and I wanted to capture that silliness shyly coming out from the curtain.
Shooting the book was draining, costly and put a lot of my commercial work on hold, yet it was an amazing journey that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It ended up making ‘Best Photography Book of the Year’ lists including American Photography and becoming a best seller on Amazon which is a nice bonus. But one of the most satisfying results is that all net proceeds are going to Save the Children. I just had a child myself who I dedicated the book to so it’s a fitting way to honor him and do something worthwhile.