There’s a story behind the shot you see above of one of my all-time favorite actresses, Julia Roberts.
Before I left for New York, I had applied for a permit for RC Concepcion and I to shoot with tripods (gasp!) at Grand Central Station. After doing a little digging on the Grand Central Station Website, I found instructions on where to apply for permission to shoot with a tripod (or other professional gear) inside the station (I found this in their FAQ section).
They did want to know what the purpose of our shoot was, and I told them it was for images to be used in my upcoming book which deals with digital photography, and they approved my request. They wanted specific times, dates, etc. but they were very friendly and helpful, and let us shoot right around dawn on Sunday, which I hoped would give us less foot traffic in our shots.
As RC and I are coming down the escalator into the main concourse, I turned to RC and said, “Doesn’t it seem kind of bright down there for 5:45 in the morning?” and when we reached the bottom of the escalator we were surprised to see it lit up like it was 3:00 pm in the afternoon, with literally hundreds of people all standing around the terminal, talking but not moving. We realized in seconds that we had stumbled right into the middle of an on-location movie shoot.
They spotted our camera gear (and tripods) and an Assistant Director was on us in about 30-seconds. I told him we had a permit to shoot the architecture of the building, but with their flood of lighting, and cameras, and equipment we knew our shoot was toast. He was nice enough to let us hang around during rehearsals, and told us they were shooting a movie called “Duplicity” starring Clive Owen. He was totally cool, and told us when the cameras start rolling, just to duck out of site, but he let us take photos the whole time (which we did, for about three hours of taping).
It was really fascinating watching the process, and seeing how the extras were cued in groups, and each extra on the set had a precise path, starting and ending point for the scene. We were there for so long we starting talking with some extras, and one extra pointed out that the woman posing on the walkway right above us was a stand-in for Julia Roberts, and that Julia Roberts herself would be here later for the actual taping.
After a few hours, and some real takes, they started pulling down the lights on one side of the concourse, so RC and I started heading out, but we noticed that the end where we were previously (and where Julia Roberts stand-in was posed), was still lit, and all the extras were still in place. I turned around and started heading back that way, when I noticed the extra had her wig off, and when I looked about 20 feet to her right, I saw what I thought was Julia Roberts.
I told RC and he said, “Dude, shoot her!” so I stopped and cranked off about 30 high-speed shots (at 1600 ISO), and then we walked across the terminal until I was about 20 feet from her. I zoomed in tight with my 200mm f/2.8 VR lens and sure enough—it was Julia Roberts. I cranked off another 20 or so shots at high speed, until a different assistant director came over and told us we couldn’t shoot. We very politely tried to convince him that we had been shooting in there for hours, but he was pretty adamant, so we let it go (after all—I already had the shots, right?).
We stood there and just watched her talking to whomever it was she was talking to (we don’t know if it was another star, an extra, an agent, the director, etc.) but just from watching her facial expressions and mannerisms, she seems very genuine and friendly. Suddenly, she looked over at RC and I and started screaming, “Tripod! Tripod!” and in seconds two guards had tackled RC and I to the ground. I heard the sound of my f/2.8 VR lens crashing against the concrete floor, and as I looked up a police officer was on us with a can of mace, and… (you’re not buying any of this, are you? Because everything from the word, “Suddenly” on was made up. I had ya there for a second though, didn’t I? Aw come on, admit it, I had you for at least a second or two, right?)
Anyway (back to the real story), she seemed really nice, and we headed out because I had to get back to my hotel, grab my gear, and head over to Lou Manna’s workshop, but although we didn’t get to shoot in Grand Central until the following day (they were kind enough to honor our permit the next day, due to the circumstances), but we did have a ball watching the filming, and coming home with some unexpected shots of Julia Roberts. Ya know, in person she was a very Pretty Woman (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
In other permit news: We applied for, and were granted, a permit to shoot with a tripod and one small light on the streets of New York (Public sidewalks only; no parks—that requires a separate permit from the Parks Dept.). I wanted to shoot Times Square at night, but they wouldn’t approve of that because that weekend there were two movies shooting in different parts of Times Square.
I tried to get a permit to shoot the interior of the Guggenheim museum, and despite having the contact info (found on their site for just such a purpose), and trying to contact them several times, they never responded to our requests. Also, we were turned down to shoot from the observation platform called “Top of the Rock” at 30 Rockefeller Center. They gave their reason as “the photos would be used in a book, and we don’t grant requests for any images to be used commercially in any way.” Hey, it’s their roof, right?
So, to finish up; some quick suggestions on getting permits:
- Start early. Don’t wait until the week before your trip; you’ll have a better chance of success
- Know exactly when you want to shoot (they’ll want a specific time). Not “on Saturday.” More like; “From 2:30 pm to 3:45 pm”
- Know exactly where you want to shoot. They want you to be very specific here as well. Don’t just say “The inside.”
- They will want to know exactly why you want to shoot there, and what you’ll do with the photos.
- It really helps to have a “Kathy Siler.” Kathy is my executive assistant, the reigning queen of permits and permissions, and is amazing at pulling all sorts of things off like this. Given enough time she could probably “McGiver” me into the situation room at the Pentagon, or “the room with all the big plasmas” out in Langley. She once got me a pass to shoot out at Area 51, and when our handler had to take a call, we ducked into this one room that was supposed to be totally off limits, and as soon as we opened the door, our jaws just dropped…..(OK, I know you’re not falling for this twice, so I’ll get back to the permit stuff).
So, that’s the scoop. Start at the Web site of the facility, city, etc. where you want to shoot; do a little digging around, ask for the PR dept., and be really, really nice. It goes a long way (not just in getting permits, in life in general). Hope this helps a bit.
I’m off to Hartford, Connecticut today to teach my Photoshop CS3 Power Tour tomorrow, but until then, here’s some tasty Monday News Nuggets (now with more antioxidants and fiber):
- I came up with a great idea for a t-shirt that’s a play on the popular bumper stickers and shirts worn by skateboaders, which reads “Skateboading is not a crime.” You can find these online all over, so I just had to mock-up one for us tripod-using photographers just for fun (UPDATE: I mentioned this morning that had thought of setting up a CafePress.com site where you could actually buy the real shirt, but then I thought….ya know, I should probably get back to writing my book. Luckily, one of my readers, Rob Jones, took the challenge and created the shirt design, and it’s now available at CafePress.com [here’s the direct link]. He priced it at Cafe’s base price, so he’s not making any money off the deal [though Cafe is making a killing]. Anyway, I just ordered mine! Thanks Rob for making this available to tripod terrorists everywhere!).
- Also, I can see from some of the reader comments posted last week to my Tripod Terror Alert, that some folks may have thought I was actually upset by the encounter, but I totally was not. Surprised? Yes. Perplexed? Absolutely. Mad? Not at all. I didn’t complain to the hotel, or get rude with the guard, ask for his supervisor, etc.., I just thought it was an interesting commentary on our times (and people’s reaction to those menacing tripods), and I just wanted to share it with you guys. In fact, once the elevator doors closed, the first thing I said to Matt and RC was, “This is SO going on my blog.”
- One of my readers posted a comment with a plug for his blog, ProPhotoLife.com, so I went and checked it out, and it’s pretty darn good. Lots of good teaching, tutorials, and other stuff worth checking out (so, why dontcha check it out). Here’s the link.
- I finagled my kids into going to our studio this past week for a secret photo shoot as a surprise for my wife for Mother’s Day. Getting a toddler and a preteen to pose for portrait shoot is…well…it was tricky (to say the least), and I knew I would only get this one shot at it. That’s when I had a “Moment of truth.” It hit when I was reaching in my camera bag to choose a memory card. I opened my card case where I saw three different brands of high-speed cards to choose from, but at that moment Lou Schmidt’s phrase from last Thursday, “zero in-field failures” starting going through my head, and I grabbed a Hoodman RAW card. There was no way I could take a chance of losing these shots, and in the past I’ve been right there when friends, other pro photographers, and even one of my Santa Fe Workshop students saw one of their memory cards go bad, and they lost all their shots forever. Knowing that the RAWs have never failed, I immediately grabbed a RAW card. Now I get it. (By the way, my wife absolutely loved the shots, but I’m not sure she even noticed the lighting, or composition, or background, or anything else, but just for this once—I didn’t care). :)
- Digital Photography School did a piece called “9 Hot Photoshop Books” where the author was asked by a friend to recommend some Photoshop books, and so he asked 10 of his photography buddies which books they’d recommend. I was honored to learn that three of my books made their list. Thank you guys! (Check out their full list of recommendations right here.)
That’s it for today, folks. I hope to meet some of you in person up in Hartford tomorrow at my seminar—make sure you come up and say “hi” if you read the blog. Here’s wishing you the kind of Monday that feels like a Friday! :)
Hi everybody. Here’s what’s going on:
- First, the photos above (taken by RC Concepcion) are from NAPP week at B&H Photo’s store in New York City earlier this week (the class shot is during Matt’s Lightroom class). During the lunch break between sessions the gang at B&H took me to the Katz Deli (made famous by the movie When Harry Met Sally), and I had the best Corned Beef Rubuen of my life. Thanks to everyone who came out to see my class, and to the folks at B&H for being such gracious hosts to Me, Matt, and RC during the week. You guys are the best. (P.S. Hi Mordy).
- Speaking of that class; the SelectedPixels blog did “live blog coverage” during my B&H Photo class on my Photoshop Seven-Point System; you can check it out, and their photos, right here.
- This is too cool: the Pixsylated blog did a very slick, step-by-step tutorial on how to “pimp” Joe McNally’s “The Moment It Clicks” and turn it into a spiral bound version. It’s surprisingly well done, and if you have the book, you’ve got to check this out (here’s that link).
- Just a reminder; I’ll be in Hartford, CT next week (Tuesday, May 13th), as we bring the Photoshop CS3 Power Tour to town for the first time ever. If you haven’t signed up yet, here’s the link. Hope to see you there.
- Photoshop World instructor and DV and Photoshop guru Richard Harrington has just released a new book on Apple’s Aperture 2. It’s coming out any day; here’s the link to preorder it from Barnes & Noble.com or Amazon.com. Also I’m sending a big congrats to Rich on posting the 100th episode of his Understanding Adobe Photoshop podcast (here’s the link to it).
That’s it for today. I’ve got some cool stuff coming up next week, including some photos from my day with Jay Maisel, details of my Grand Central Station photo shoot (including a surprise subject), and with any luck at all, a video I did on how to use the Westcott Spiderlites for a portrait shoot. Should be a fun week, with little or no sleep.
Have a great weekend everybody, and Happy Mother’s Day!!! :)
The most eagerly awaited (OK, even I couldn’t do that one with a straight face, so let me start again). The most overdue online class of the year, my “Professional Portrait Retouching Online Class” for KelbyTraining.com finally goes live tomorrow. After incorporating your ideas and input for other techniques that should be added to the class, it turned out to be a retouching love-fest that was nearly four and half hours long, so I wound up breaking it into two separate classes; a part 1 and part 2, and both parts go live Friday.
Check out the video below to learn more about the class, what it covers, and how it all works, then tomorrow afternoon check out the class itself on KelbyTraining.com.
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Last week I posted a field report review of Hoodman’s RAW UDMA high-speed memory cards, and in my report I mentioned that while the cards performed flawlessly for me, and were fast as blazes, I couldn’t find a reason to justify their higher cost vs. similar size and speed Lexar and SanDisk cards (the Hoodman RAW cards run $70 to $80 more per card).
Yesterday, I heard from Lou Schmidt, VP of Marketing over at Hoodman Corporation, who sent this response to my review. I’m publishing his comments in their entirety below, but to cut to the chase, I called out in red why they’re more expensive, which told me exactly why they’re worth every extra penny. Here’s what Lou had to say:
“Thanks for the fine review of our Hoodman RAW CF cardsâ¦ Thanks too for giving us the opportunity to explain why our customers are willing to pay more for Hoodman RAW memory cards. The RAW line has been in the marketplace for 18 months world wide and we have had ZERO in-field failures. Hoodman RAW is manufactured in Silicon Valley and is the only CF card built in the USA.
Both Sandisk and Lexar memory cards are built in ASIA in huge quantities to support the mass merchant marketâ¦ Huge production will give you economies of scale which will allow you to lower your price, but there is a significant draw back to huge production runsâ¦ FAILURE RATES â¦which are tracking between 3 to 5% for mass merchant card makers. .
Professional photographers will not see mass merchant card makers supporting educational functions like Photoshop World or regional or national PPA shows because they are mass merchant card makers who can live with a 3 to 5 % failure rate. Which Pro will want to be the 3 -5% failure guy??? Hoodman has just completed exhibiting at 10 shows since January. Hoodman is pleased to give back by supporting educational programs in photography at the national, regional and dealer levels.
â¦ Mass merchant card makers have always played the price game and continue to dump their cards in the marketplace because they are no longer selling well in the Photo Dealer Channel.
Hoodman customer service is manned from 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday with live, helpful peopleâ¦ our competitors service systems will send you into endless voicemail loupes and make you wait 2 to 5 days for an offshore call center to get back to you; which is not much help when a customer needs answers now.
Yes, Hoodman RAW does cost moreâ¦ Pros who can afford US built reliability and do not see memory as a commodity will continue to buy Hoodman RAW because they know us and see us doing our best to make the products that make their jobs easier.
Thanks for your time and efforts to understand the value a RAW memory card offers to the purchaser” –Lou Schmidt, Hoodman Corporation