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Recently I had some time to process some of my personal landscapes I’ve shot in the past few years. I love landscapes and they are actually what got me “into” photography in the first place. The particular images I was working on were from a business trip to San Francisco a couple years back. My rep at the time had gathered up all her stable of photographers from around the country for a few days of portfolio meetings at SF agencies. Here are some happy snaps from the trip…
This last shot was a promo we had done for Clorox while up in San Francisco. From the left: Me, Lenlee Jenckes, Rhea Anna, Darryl Bernstein, Wendi Nordeck and James Quantz. Man, that was a fun trip, but that’s ancient history and is nowhere near where I wanted to go with this post.
Anywaaaaaay, recently, I started thinking about how shooting landscapes and scenics had been what initially ignited my love for photography. As a kid, I’d poured over the beautiful scenics in my dad’s Arizona Highways and wanted to make beautiful photgraphs like Joseph and David Muench did for the magazine.
Not long thereafter, my family was taking a trip to Europe and my dad entrusted me with the family 35mm film camera, an Argus-Cosina. I was only 10. That was a big commitment on my dad’s part. I took good care of it and managed to take some pretty nice photographs as well. Not just happy snaps but compelling images. Whenever I was taking photographs I had this wonderful feeling. The joy of creating. I was a photographer.
I thought more about my love of photography. Was it really a love of photography? Or something else? I think what I actually love is the entire process of creating visual art, not just the photography part. Don’t get me wrong. I love the shoot and the energy that comes with that whether it be the frenetic energy of a car shoot with talent to the calm energy of a sunrise landscape shoot. Photography is really only part of the process. These days so much of the creative process happens after the “shutter is pressed.” Personally, I love to experiment after the fact in Photoshop and see if I can come up with ways to improve the feeling I am trying to convey in my images. I’ll often sit there on the computer for many hours playing with images, late into the night with a steady IV-drip of Diet Coke with Lime, until the call for sleep is stronger than that to play, I mean create.
But, all too often digital post production processing and image manipulation is frowned upon as being fake and a shortcut or crutch of some kind. Far from it in my opinion. Of course the iPhone-photographic-effects-du jour can be easily overdone, and often are. Capture One, Lightroom, Photoshop or whatever software you choose is simply another tool in the arsenal of the modern-day photographic artist. Know how to use your tools and they can be very powerful, but just like any tool they are often misused.
Anyway, as I recently toiled away on the computer with these files… Wait, “toiled” is not the right word because it implies I was working or at least, not enjoying what I was doing. Quite the contrary. I was really enjoying myself. That feeling had crept back in. The feeling of losing all time and space when you are doing something that you love. That creative passion that drives you to make something beautiful was there, propelling me. The feeling was there. The joy of creating. I was an artist.
I recently wrapped a very rewarding, albeit technically-challenging shoot for the new Nissan Altima. Critical Mass out of Calgary asked me to shoot a 360-degree flyaround at 6th & Hope in downtown Los Angeles and a matching interior panorama. For the flyaround they wanted 72 frames. Shooting 72 frames in a short period of time (before light changes too much) while dealing with downtown LA ITC (intermittent traffic control) and pedestrians was no easy feat. I think I got two bites of my working lunch. Oh well. Some days are like that. The results were well worth it!
It was a different shoot than usual right from the start. The agency had pre-selected their location and had done extensive previz for the shoot. While it was refreshing to have this level of detail and input from the agency before the shoot, it also meant I was going to be held to their exacting standards. Oh well. That’s what I do and I suppose that’s why I got the call.
It was also a bit different since the job was being run through local ad agency Chiat Day and Ridley Scott’s production company RSA Films. That meant more layers of communication, approval, etc. but as it turned out all the people involved were very professional, and a pleasure to work with.
To get the shot on location I teamed up with previous collaborator Tom Barron of ImageG. Tom is a motion control wizard and customized a rig to make the shoot a possibility. He modified his Bulldog rig to get the reach and moves that were required.
There were quite a lot of computers, electronics and cabling on this shoot. The shot above shows the digital “command post” where we fired the camera from and could review takes. We maxed out USB 2.0 shooting with three repeaters connecting four 15′ cables.
I recently finished up a photo shoot for Toyo Tires. Toyo Tires was new client for me and I was very excited to be called upon to work for them. I got to work with a wonderful group of creative people from The Garrigan Lyman Groupon the project. The crew was extra solid, which made the shoot a breeze!
The shoot entailed producing photo assets for the Toyo Tires website re-design GLG was working on. We got to shoot nine different vehicles, each one representing a different segment of types of tires Toyo sells. That was the coolest part of the shoot because on most car shoots we are working with just one car or model. Another unique part of the Toyo shoot was that we got to shoot some privately-owned, highly-customized vehicles.
For example, we shot this tricked-out BMW M3 for the high-end sports car tire segment.
For the ultra-premium sports car/racing tire segment we shot this custom Nissan Skyline GTR. This car had a flat off-white paint job. This was the first time I had ever shot anything like that!
For the off-road segment we got to shoot this really cool Jeep:
It was very important to maintain attention to the tires in the shot by use of lighting. You can almost feel how sticky the tires are!
When a new car comes in, the floor gets a fresh coat of paint so tire tracks don’t reflect in the paint.
As the photo team was at work inside the studio, the next vehicle on deck got prepped and cleaned outside by the car prep team. On deck here is a cherry Ford Mustang.
It always amazes me how messy a studio can get in the process of a shoot, especially a car shoot, yet the camera’s frame remains clean, uncluttered and pristine. Here are some shots of some of my camera and lighting set-ups. I can’t show the final shots yet as they have not been published.
Here’s a typical interior set-up.The camera is sitting on a solid block of aluminum, locked down by triangulating so it’s rock-solid. Why do we need such a set-up one might ask? I do lots of exposures and bracketing so I don’t want ANY camera movement. In fact once placed, whether it’s a camera, light, flag, or whatever – I don’t want it moving. So, I insist on the crew using alot of sandbags even in the studio. We almost always shoot irreplaceable prototype vehicles so we don’t need to be having things falling or getting knocked into the car. We often will drape the car in black cloth (where not visible to the camera) to further protect it.
We are using a medium format Hasselblad H2 with 35mm lens and a PhaseOne digital back for this shot.
Notice that piece of tape on the c-stand arm? Anyone know why that’s there? It’s there just an extra visual cue that there is a stand sticking out there and to avoid it. It’s for safety of the crew mainly, but also so no one bumps that, which is connected to the camera.
I like to use a lot of smaller lights. My favorite is the Dedolight 150. When one uses alot of lights, this kind of spaghetti mess of wires is a common sight in the studio. This was a security code red vehicle – thus the wheel covers to mask the car’s identity. Yes, even in the studio.To reach the center of the car, we had to remove the two front seats, the rear seat and make a double-plate rig to mount the camera. For this shot we used the Canon 5DMk2 with the 24-70mmL lens. I still use that lens to find shot angles most of the time, but will often swap out for Zeiss prime glass for the final shot. Yes, I am somewhat of a perfectionist.