Wednesday
Sep
2013
18

It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Bill Wadman!

by Brad Moore  |  8 Comments


Photo by Claude Bauschinger

If you decide to read about portrait photography, you’ll find a lot about cameras, lenses, lighting setups, and tricks. Most of that misses the most important ingredient of all — your relationship with the subject, so frequently overlooked yet just as important as the technical mumbo-jumbo.

I was going to call this post “Why I Use Wide-Angle Lenses and Get Up In People’s Faces,” but thought better of it because there’s so much more involved. For me, meeting and talking to my subjects during a shoot is a big reason why I love taking portraits. The camera settings and technical considerations melt away (or, more often, are left to muscle memory), and it becomes two new friends getting to know each other.

Since taking portraits is an active process, “taking” doesn’t adequately describe what happens. It’s collaborative, and when it’s really going well, I liken it to a dance. You need to allow me to take a good picture as much as I need to want to take it. Read that last sentence again — it’s important.

That said, every subject is different, but that’s what makes it interesting. I’ve had people who trusted me fully upon walking in the door and others who took hours before I got anything that I liked out of them. Sometimes you have to wear them down with kindness. Keep shooting and talking until you get to the point where you’re just talking and one of you happens to have a camera. That’s when things really work.

Preparation is critical, of course, but so is thinking on your feet. Being empathetic toward your subject is a big part of it, especially with people who don’t get their picture taken very often. You have to make it not feel like they’re sitting on the cold crinkly paper of the exam table at their doctor’s office.

Sometimes, good preparation is enough. I was assigned to shoot Charlie Maxwell for BusinessWeek. Charlie’s an oil analyst who has been in the business since the 50s — basically as long as the oil business has been the oil business. So as for most of my editorial assignments, I did extensive research the night before. I learned everything I could about current reserves, recent discoveries, peak oil, and so forth. When I got to his house outside NYC and started to shoot, I wasn’t talking to him about the weather. I was talking to him about a recent find in Kazakhstan and what it meant for Saudi Arabia and the oil sands of Canada. I was talking to him about the one thing he knows more about than almost anyone else, and the fact that I had obviously done my research made him respect me in kind. Things went so well that he invited me and my assistant to the back lawn for lemonade with his wife afterwards and gave us a ride back to the train station when we were done. Memorable.

Other times, it’s not about anything you can prepare for, but just knowing how to turn someone around in the moment. On one my first magazine shoots, my subject was author Jhump Lahiri. I was really nervous already, but then she was late, which ate into the time I had to work. Apparently there were some politics going on, and they weren’t sure if she was going to show up at all — but no one told me any of that until we were in the thick of it.

She arrived 45 minutes late, spent 30 minutes in hair and makeup, put on a pretty dress, and then was ready. She was nice and polite, but not yet invested in what we were doing. I knew I’d have to wear her down a bit if I was going to get the kind of connection I needed. As we began shooting I asked (as I often do) if she liked getting her portrait taken. “Sometimes,” she responded. “It’s the photographers, isn’t it?” I said. She rolled her eyes slightly, and I’d found my way in.

Later I moved us into a corner of the huge studio away from the magazine staff, so we could work more intimately. I was up on a chair shooting down next to a big octabox and said to my assistant on the floor (within obvious earshot of the subject), “You know, Meg, I don’t care what these pictures look like as long as SHE says I was one of the good photographers.” That brought a big smile from Jhumpa and I thought, “Ah ha! Got her!” She immediately loosened up and the rest of the shoot went swimmingly. Afterward, she pulled me aside to shake my hand and assure me that I was one of the good ones.

Every once in a while, you have to look like you’re in complete control even as problems pop up like whack-a-mole. A few years ago, I was hired by TIME magazine to shoot author Malcolm Gladwell in a small studio in their offices in midtown Manhattan. Since the Time-Life building has airport-like security, I put my camera bag down on the x-ray machine, walked through the metal detector, and picked it up on the other side. However, I’d apparently forgotten to secure the flap on the bag and my 50mm prime fell three feet onto the concrete floor. BANG! I cringed, but upon inspection it looked ok and I figured, “hey, that happens — it’ll be fine.”

About 40 minutes later, I’m shooting Malcolm with the only other lens I’d brought — a 28mm prime. I stand up and walk back to the table to switch lenses, chatting as I work (as an aside, I like the break that happens for a few seconds when I change lenses — it’s kind of like the period at the end of a sentence and helps control the tempo of a shoot). I put on the 50, pull it up to my eye, half-press to focus, and the gearing in the lens makes an ugly grinding noise and seizes up. But — never let ‘em see you sweat — so I half-mumbled a comment that the wide-angle suited him better and quickly switched back, shooting the whole thing wide-angle. I’m just glad that the camera I was using had enough pixels that I could crop it in post and still get what I was looking for.

Sometimes it’s all about getting your subject on board with a concept, which is ultimately all about trust. I came up with the idea of shooting comedian Dave Hill rocking so hard on stage that sparks were flying out of his guitar. He loved the idea, but since I didn’t have a stage to shoot him on or the budget to get one, I planned to piece the whole thing together in post. The shoot involved him silently mock-rocking on his knees on top of the coffee table in my living room with a roll of gray seamless behind him. That’s trust.

Other times, the trust has to go the other way as well. I was in a hotel room in Austin taking portraits of magician Brian Brushwood, and he was lighting small fires on the room service plate in front on him. But since he literally wrote the book on fire eating, I had to believe that we weren’t going to burn the place down. That’s also trust.

One last example is personal. Last Christmas, we had a table full of friends over for dinner. Before dessert was rolled out, I told the group that I’d like them to be in a photo I had in mind. I’d always loved the Caravaggio painting The Calling of St Matthew and wanted to do a little bit of a homage for fun. To my surprise, instead of sighing and trying to get out of it, everyone started working together to choose their places and throw together props to make it even better. It ended up being one of the best group photographic experiences I’ve ever had. I set up one light, we shot a couple dozen variations, and 20 minutes later we were done.

So, sure, cameras and lenses and lights and business practices are important, but they’re not going to make good pictures of people into great portraits. You and the subject have to do that — together. My two cents.

If you’d like to hear more behind-the-scenes stories and before/after composite comparisons, check out my hour long lecture The Making of Drabbles on Vimeo.

—————

Bill Wadman is an American portrait photographer living in New York City. His editorial portrait work has been featured on the covers and pages of major publications throughout the world. Bill also appears weekly as the co-host of On Taking Pictures, a podcast on the 5by5 network about the art and science of photography and the creative process. See his work at BillWadman.com, read his blog at OnTakingPictures.com, and follow him on Twitter @billwadman.

Tuesday
Sep
2013
17

Watch Part Two of my Travel Photography Online Class FREE Right Now

by Scott Kelby  |  8 Comments

Sorry for the late post this morning — I’m behind on….well….pretty much everything. LOL!! :)

So, last week we started something new for us over at KelbyTraining.com — each week we’re broadcasting one of online classes from Kelby Training Online for free, all-day long, continuously for free. Last week we aired my Travel Photography Class (filmed on location in Paris, France), and this week, we’re airing PART TWO, which is where I do all the post-procesing of the shots taken in Part One using Lightroom and Photoshop, and I go through my entire workflow.

Each week, we’ll be continuously airing a different class, because we’re betting you’re going to watch a couple of classes and you’ll learn so much that you’ll totally want access to the rest of our more than 300 online photography classes (it’s only $199 a year for unlimited access or $24.95 a month). I hope you’ll jump over and check out Part Two of my class right here. Here’s the link. 

OK, I’m off to Detroit & Dallas for my seminars this week. If you read this blog, I hope you’ll stop me and say “hi.” I always get a kick out of meeting my readers in person. Cheers everybody to a great Tuesday!

Monday
Sep
2013
16

A Few Shots From Yesterday’s Bucs/Saints Game

by Scott Kelby  |  24 Comments

Above: One of my favorites from the game. Shot at 6,400 ISO. No noise reduction.

OK, it wasn’t a pretty game, and it didn’t end the way I was hoping, and we had a long rain delay (well, Lightning delay), and I got home hours later than I expected, and I’m still pretty damp from the rain, plus I forgot some important stuff, and just overall….I loved it! :)

Above: Here’s an iPhone shot of my “Office” for game day. Ahhh, the glamour of sports photography. They really spoil us with perks like free power outlets and fold-up metal chairs in the workroom. There’s almost enough for everybody. ;-)

I actually have lots to share about the game, the gear, my new fancy-dancy multiple card reader, and my long list of mistakes off the field and in my post-processing, but unfortunately, it’s pretty darn late at night, and I’ve got a super-busy day tomorrow before I head out to Detroit and Dallas for my seminars there this week. I might have some more details for tomorrow — it just depends on how today goes. :)

Above: This was taken at 10,000 ISO with ZERO noise reduction, in JPEG mode. 10,000 ISO! The 1Dx is seriously insane! Loving it more every time I shoot it. Learned more cool stuff about it too from my buddy Rob Foldy, who was there shooting the game for USA Today Sports Images. He also had some helpful tips for Photo Mechanic. Rob rocks. He’s “Rockin’ Rob.” (sorry, dude). 

Above: Saints Quarterback Drew Brees (or “Breezy Drew” as my wife calls him), threw this one right to me. I jumped up about a foot over the corner to catch it and I tacked-on 11-positive yards after the catch. Either that, or it was a short pass to New Orleans Saints wide receiver (and 5th round pick) Kenny Stills (as seen in the shot taken a moment later below), I can’t remember which. 

Above: Yeah, that’s probably what happened. He caught it though. He didn’t bobble it a bit (like I did). ;-)

Hope you all have a great Monday, and I hope to meet over 1,000 of you this week in person at my “Shoot Like a Pro” tour. Cheers everybody (I’m headin’ to bed. Zzzzzzzzz).

Friday
Sep
2013
13

Direct From Miami, it’s “I’ve Got Nuthin’ Friday”

by Scott Kelby  |  14 Comments

Greetings from beautiful Miami Beach. OK, that’s about all I’ve got today. I had planned to run some videos from Photoshop World in Vegas, but they weren’t ready, so……so….I’ve got nuthin’.

Hope I see you here today in Miami at my seminar today. Hope you have a great weekend (hey, that’s something. Kinda).

Cheers,

-Scott
A guy with nuthin’ on his blog today

Thursday
Sep
2013
12

It’s Free Stuff Thursday!

by Brad Moore  |  22 Comments

Worldwide Photo Walk
Have you signed up for the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photo Walk yet? We’re less than a month away, but there’s still time to find a walk near you and sign up. There are nearly 15,000 already people signed up to take part in this year’s event! New walks are being added every day, so if you don’t see one near you, keep checking back. If you’re already signed up, don’t forget to pick up your official Worldwide Photo Walk shirt (or hoodie). All of the profits from the shirt sales will go to the Springs of Hope Kenya Orphanage, so you’re helping kids in need when you make your purchase.

The Evolution of My Gear with Zack Arias
Have you ever suffered from G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome)? You are not alone! Join Zack Arias at his Atlanta studio in his latest KelbyTraining.com class, The Evolution of My Gear , as he shares the story of his relationship to gear; from where he started to how that relationship has evolved over the years based on his skills, assignments, and needs. It is a story we can all relate to, whether beginner or seasoned pro. In the end, it all boils down to camera, lens, and light.

Leave a comment for your chance to win a free rental of this class!

Kelby Training Live
Want to spend a day with Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, Matt Kloskowski or Ben Willmore? Check out these seminar tours!

Shoot Like A Pro with Scott Kelby
Sep 13 – Miami Beach, FL
Sep 18 – Livonia, MI (Detroit area)
Sep 20 – Arlington, TX (Dallas/Ft. Worth area)
Oct 29 – Boston, MA

One Light, Two Light with Joe McNally
Sep 12 – Kansas City, MO
Oct 9 – Denver, CO
Oct 23 – Des Plaines, IL (Chicago area)
Oct 30 – Orlando, FL

Lightroom 5 Live with Matt Kloskowski
Oct 11 – Portland, OR

Adobe Photoshop Creativity with Ben Willmore
Oct 4 – Tampa, FL
Oct 16 – Atlanta, GA

Lots more dates have been added for the rest of the year, so head over to the Kelby Training Live site to get the full schedule! And leave a comment for your chance to win a ticket to one of these events!

Winners
Bill Fortney Class Rental
- Cecil Thomas

Kelby Training Live Ticket
- Peggy L

If you’re one of the lucky winners, we’ll be in touch soon. Have a great Thursday!

Wednesday
Sep
2013
11

A Special 9/11 Guest Blog from Joe McNally

by Brad Moore  |  87 Comments


Photo by Mike Corrado of Nikon USA

Love and Pictures…

Around this time, during that fateful fall 12 years ago, Mike Wernick came into the Giant Polaroid studio, then on 2nd St., near the Bowery. He had walked over from his firehouse, Ladder Nine-Engine Thirty Three, tattered, dust laden bunker gear in hand. He got up on the stage we had built for subjects to stand in front of the behemoth camera known as Moby C, the 40×80, the world’s only Giant Polaroid.

The camera couldn’t be focused. It was the subject who had to be focused, shuffling, every so slightly, back and forth until their eyes resided within the slimmest of depths of field. The lights would go out. In the darkness, 25,000 watt-seconds of strobe flashed, like the briefest blare of the trumpet section of a mighty orchestra. Then all returned to darkness. The lights came back on.

Mike got down off the stage, and signed a release. In the comment section, he wrote, “Responded 1993 WTC, 2001 WTC, 2002 Retired.” He walked out of the studio. I had shot one frame. I wasn’t sure I would ever see him again.

He was a reluctant subject. He came over to the studio alone, having been deeply involved in the events of that day, and thus deeply affected, to the point of largely keeping his feelings to himself. He was unsure of the idea of a photo being taken. He wasn’t interested in describing what happened, and how he survived those aching, interminable moments when two of the world’s soaring structures tumbled to dust, and took nearly 3,000 souls with them.

Thus his image could not stand on the floor at Grand Central Station when the show called the Faces of Ground Zero opened. The stories out on that floor consisted of words and pictures. Without his description, his feelings, his thoughts, the searing photo I made of him that fall day would stay in a warehouse, rolled up in a dark tube.

Nuri, his wife, friend, and fierce defender, kept calling. She knew, as wives do, that being a part of this project would be a good thing for Mike, and, just perhaps, the beginnings of much needed healing. “Can you wait?” she would ask. “Can your writer call again?” Production deadlines were looming quickly. I told her that if Mike could offer some thoughts, I would guarantee he would be in the show.

She called back at the last wisp of time left. “He’s ready to talk. Please have the writer call him.” Melissa Stanton, one of my editors at LIFE, and the one responsible for interviewing all of the subjects in the show, talked with Mike. His story, his “caption,” was the longest of anyone’s.

“We were on the 27th floor of the north tower when the building shook—the south tower collapsing. When terrorists attack, they often do something after rescuers arrive, so we thought another plane had hit. In ’93, you always felt more (bombs) were going to go off. The fear of what will happen next is a tremendous fear. We didn’t run from the 27th floor, we just filtered down. Seconds after I got to the street the tower fell and I was blown off my feet. I was choking. Some guys picked me up. I went to the hospital. My lungs were filled with all that stuff. Three guys in our company did not make it out.”

It was a step.

Mike’s firehouse was the first of many to come by the Giant Polaroid. A grievously wounded house, having lost 10 of the 14 men who responded, they rolled the truck around to a photo studio of all places, rapped on the steel door with a Halligan tool, and asked, “Is this where you’re taking the pictures?”

My response to that astonishing leap of faith, an act of trust, has been to be at the house on Great Jones Street every 9/11 morning since that blue sky day 12 years ago. I stand to the side, and pay respects. And I see Mike and Nuri, every year. And, every year, being the family documentarian, she makes a photo of the two of us.

On the tenth anniversary, at the house, Nuri gave me a package. Inside a cube, she placed a Polaroid camera, and a couple thoughts.

And, she gave me a book of the photos—the snaps of Mike and I throughout the last decade. At the end of the book were pictures of Mike down at Ground Zero. He had not gone there for ten years.

She said simply, “Thank you. The pictures have been important. They helped him heal. I have my Mike back.”

I’ve been a photographer for many years, and in the natural course of a long career, have won the occasional award. Every once in a great while, I’ve even been asked to stand at a podium and accept a glass block, or a piece of brass carved into an eye, or some such thing. Nice enough, and, like a quick visit to the chiropractor, it makes you feel better. That feeling is quite temporary, and by and large, unimportant.

What is important, and lasting, through all this frenetic clicking and flashing, for all these years, are the feelings, and the power of memory, contained, or prompted, by a picture.

Photography, as has been said, can be a mirror, or a window. In this case, for me, it has been the latter, opened just a bit, onto the lives of two truly special, heroic people. My camera has just occasionally stood in service to their amazing love of each other, and their powerfully meaningful lives. The occasionally awkward, uncertain walk one takes with a camera in hand can, at improbably important, tough, or even desperate moments, intersect with such people.

The book of snaps Nuri gave me means more to me than any photo award ever could. In that single flash of light 12 years ago, there was trust offered, and hopefully, returned. They gave me a gift I can never really repay. I happened on them at the worst of moments, and the simple nature of my picture taking over the years has seemed a small thing to give back, by comparison.

I’m proud to know them, and to be witness to their deep and abiding love. I’m grateful the carrying of a camera made that happen. I remain proud to be a photographer. If we walk the world with open eyes and an open heart, the telling of such wonderful stories remains possible. The thought of that is enough, really, to take the cameras and put them on my shoulders every day.

Mike officially retired from FDNY. He and Nuri together run Rising Wolf Motorcycle Parking Garage, on the lower east side of NYC. It’s an amazing facility, filled with fancy, fast, two wheeled dream machines.

More, as they say, tk…..

-30-

You can see more of Joe’s work at JoeMcNally.com, and more on this project at FacesOfGroundZero.com, and follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Instagram.

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