Go Huskies! Ok, so I didn’t go to UW, but my wife did if that counts for anything. Over the past several years, I have learned to enjoy Husky athletics because of my strong sense of Seattle pride. I follow the football team a little more closely than the basketball team, but it was still really fun to photograph Lorenzo Romar, the Husky men’s basketball coach. He is one of those people who commands your respect when he walks into a room, but I also found him to be very kind and personable. I think a good gauge of success is when strangers carry around giant cardboard pictures of your face. That’s when you know you have really made it in life. Something I think all of us should strive for.
How was work today honey?
It was great!
Did you get that promotion they promised you?
No, but my manager did hold up a big cardboard picture of my face at lunch.
Oh, that’s wonderful! Congratulations honey.
Yeah, it was awesome!
Many of you have asked about editing commercial work with VSCO Film, and how it looks with images lit by strobe. I busted these images out after I started using VSCO Film, and gave them new life with just a couple of clicks. All three of these images were lit with strobe, so hopefully this gives you an idea of what is possible. I think it works just as well with strobe as it does with natural light images. If you are unfamiliar with VSCO Film, it is a film emulator that plugs into Lightroom or ACR and makes digital images look like film. Not to mention, it is an incredibly fast alternative to Photoshop actions and other Lightroom presets. It really is an amazing tool for photographers. So far I am editing images 10 times faster than I was before, and I am getting better results. Here is the VSCO Film review I wrote last week.
I used Kodak Portra 400, and Orange Skin Fix + on these images. You can see a cool video tutorial and find out more about VSCO Film here.
Why are Bill Gates and Dustin Moskovitz, the richest and youngest billionaires in America, laughing? Let’s just say my joke was so funny, someone bought it, and I no longer have the rights to tell it… I have wanted to photograph Bill Gates for a long time, and my opportunity finally came around a couple of months ago when Forbes called. Dustin, is one of the four co-founders of Facebook, and since he is 8 days younger than Mark Zuckerberg, he is the youngest billionaire in the world. As you would expect, time was extremely limited for this shoot. We were given one and a half hours to set up the studio shot, and then I would have the first 10 minutes of the interview, and the last 10 minutes of the interview to take pictures. Immediately after the interview we had 3 minutes for hair and makeup and 7 minutes to photograph both Dustin and Bill. It was a whirlwind, but I am really happy with how everything turned out, not to mention it was a pretty cool experience to sit in on a conversation with these two. You can read the Forbes article here.
Here are a couple of shots I took after the shoot of the studio lighting setup.
This is the cover of the current Seattle Weekly featuring my portrait of John McKay. We had some difficulties scheduling this one, and it went right down to the wire. Thankfully we were able to get some time with John the night before the issue went to press. I really like this picture. It is a simple portrait, but there is so much about it that makes it fun to look at. His eyes are bright and focused, as if he is looking right at you. One eyebrow is slightly raised giving him a a strong sense of confidence, and maybe even a bit of mischeviousness. The subtle tilt of his head, and parted lips seem like he is either about to say something profound, or even start laughing. I never get tired of photographing people, and I love that I learn something new about expression, emotion, trust, interaction, light, and timing every time I take a picture. As much as I always feel the need to try something different, I don’t think I will ever get tired of photographing faces, because there is always something new to see and learn.
You can read the corresponding story on the Seattle Weekly website here.
While in Liberia last month, I met a wonderful man named Prince Kondoh. He goes by Pastor Kondoh, and he has dedicated his life to serving those who can not help themselves, and teaching the children in his community. During the recent civil war in Liberia, he was basically a prisoner in his own home for 14 years. Not able to go outside without risking his life. Now that peace has returned to Liberia, he works harder than anyone I have ever met with the hope he might be able to make up for lost time. No minute is wasted, and no challenge is too great. He has started multiple schools in Buchanan, one of which is called Chariot Daycare and Elementary School. We were asked to visit the school one morning before we headed out to one of the villages where the wells were being built. Because of the economic situation, there are many children who’s families are not able to pay for school, and I was asked if I would take a few pictures of the students needing sponsorship.
I was thinking I would take a few snapshots and it would be a quick thing. But then I realized I didn’t pack all of these lights half way around the world to take snapshots, even if this wasn’t in the plan. So all of the gear was taken out of the truck and we set up the lights. As I was finessing the lights into place, something caused me to slow down and look around. I wasn’t thrilled with how the portrait was turning out, and then I had a realization. The natural light was near perfect. I struggled with this idea for a few minutes, trying to convince myself it wasn’t possible. Natural light never does exactly what I am looking for, especially in the middle of the day. The picture won’t turn out. But finally after a few tests, I decided to shoot this one with just my Hasselblad and nothing else. It was very freeing to say the least. For some reason, I had it in my head that it wasn’t possible to shoot a picture in my style with only natural light. Natural light never seems to have the pop to it I am looking for, or if it does, the light isn’t at the right angle etc. Most of the time natural light isn’t what I am looking for, but this instance proved to be an exception. It wasn’t until we were back at our house that night, and I loaded the images on my laptop, that I was hit in the face with the detail and clarity of this portrait and the others I shot that day. It was a great lesson for me to be aware of what is going on and to be open to improvising or even deviating from a plan.
But enough about lighting for now. If you can’t tell already, this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. His name is Zachariah and he is a student at Chariot. I could stare at this image for hours and continue to find new things I like about it. Zachariah is one of the students in need of sponsorship, and I figured the very least I could do was provide a link to sponsor him or any of the other children who need support. The cost is $15 a month and that covers clothing and food, as well as education. If you decide you would like to sponsor Zachariah, please write me after you have done so, and I will send you a free print.
The Child Sponsorship Program is run by the Well Done Organization which is the organization building the wells in Liberia that my client MiiR Bottles partnered with. I can personally vouch for the people working for WDO, as well as the organization itself. Some really great things are happening in Liberia with the support of WDO.
It feels good to start posting images from this trip, and as promised there will be more in the days and weeks to come. My developer just showed me round one of the revisions to my website tonight, and once it is finished I will have a new portfolio section with pictures from Liberia.
That’s my portrait of John Keister on the cover of the current Seattle Weekly. John is best known as the “former host of Almost Live, widely regarded as one of the most successful locally produced sketch-comedy shows—or local shows of any kind, perhaps—in the history of modern American television.” – Mike Seely, Seattle Weekly
The show ran for 15 years, and the cast, along with John included Joel McHale, and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The sketches on Almost Live were pretty hilarious as well as short and to the point. Unlike sketch comedy shows these days. Although SNL does seem to be getting a little better again. You can find a bunch of the videos on YouTube if you are interested.
It was a thrill to photograph John, and I am really happy with how the cover image turned out.
*UPDATE* 8/17/2010 – The PDN Faces 2010 Winners Gallery is now online with all of the winning images. There are some great portraits in there, and a nice note about my portrait in the intro on the landing page.
A guy could really get used to this whole book cover portrait thing. It’s exciting to see your work in full bleed on the cover of a book. No “10 Secrets to Sexy Abs” or “How to Keep The Doughnuts and Loose The Weight” tips plastered all over the cover. This is my most recent book cover photo, and as you can see, the subject is John Perkins. I have already written about John on my blog (here), and I have now had the opportunity to work with him on multiple occasions. Love Is The Final Fight does not come out until August 2010, but the marketing is getting under way now. John is a great man with an amazing story, and although I have not read this book yet, I would recommend it solely based on what I know about John.
I hope 2010 is starting out with a bang for everyone!
Clouds I can handle, but it’s the rain that drives me crazy when I am supposed to be shooting outside. Thankfully I was photographing weather experts for this assignment, and it turns out they know a thing or two about predicting the weather.
As I was packing up to head out for what I knew would be a long day at “the office” I began to feel a little nervous about the dark clouds hanging over Seattle. After checking weather.com, my nervousness began to change into a good case of anxiety because they were predicting rain by 9:30am, and that was just two hours away. Maybe I could beat the rain and get in at least one outside portrait. The problem was I had to photograph one subject in the morning, and the second one in the afternoon. At the very best it looked like I would only get one of the subjects outside, but the show must go on. I headed over to the University of Washington where I would meet up with my first subject, Cliff Mass. My assignment was to photograph Cliff and Brad Coleman in studio for the opener, and get an environmental portrait of each of them individually. The thing that made this all really interesting was I could not get them both in studio at the same time or place. I had to set up a studio at UW in the morning, then tear it down, and set it up again, exactly the same at NOAA to photograph Brad. I had been planning this shoot for a couple of weeks including some minor styling and location scouting. This was an assignment I was really looking forward to, and I would have been really bummed if the rain forced us inside for the environmental shots.
To give you a little background on the men in the photographs. Cliff Mass was mentored by Carl Sagan while in undergrad at Cornell University. He is the author of “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest”, he runs a very popular blog, Cliff Mass Weather Blog, he is a weekly guest on KUOW radio, and he is a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington. To quote a UW press release, “He has published dozens of articles on Northwest weather and leads the regional development of advanced weather prediction tools.” Many people in the Pacific Northwest plan their weekends around Cliff’s predictions.
Brad Colman is the meteorologist-in-charge of the Seattle Weather Forecast Office. “A meteorologist-in-charge is the front line officer carrying out the National Weather Service’s mission of serving the American public by helping protect lives and property,” said Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, U.S. Air Force (Ret.), director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “NOAA’s National Weather Service is the official source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast systems in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.”
Back at UW, it seemed like it would start raining any minute, so I asked Cliff if we could change the schedule a little and shoot the environmental portrait right away because I was nervous about the rain. Embarrassed as I am to admit, it never occurred to me that I was working with one of the top experts in weather. When I told Cliff we should try to shoot outside while it is still dry, he promptly responded, “It’s not going to rain.” “It’s not?” I asked. “No. The cloud cover will begin to burn off at 10:30, and by 11:30 we will have clear skies.” And he was right. Take that weather.com! Once we finished at UW with Cliff, it was off to NOAA to photograph Brad. By the time we got there, the skies were opening up, and it looked quite different than just a few hours before, as you can tell in the pictures.
From this point on, I will include a weatherman on all of my bids. First assistant, second assistant, makeup artist, stylist, and a weatherman. Oh, and a falconer. I recently learned about the benefits of having a falconer on set. If nothing else it can be very entertaining, but that’s a story for another time.
A fun fact I learned on this assignment is Houston, New York, Miami and Boston all get more average annual rainfall than Seattle. We win the prize for most cloudy days though… Bummer.
Special thanks goes out to Robyn and Seattle North Face for the clothes. And also to Mandy for painting some amazing clouds which were not used in the final.
This is a video of Cliff explaining some weather basics. I like how he explains things in terms anyone can understand. Plus he has soothing voice.
Bus and Ida May are good family friends of ours, and they live on a farm near Seattle. Their farm used to be even larger than it is now, but there is now a major highway, several off ramps, businesses and condos where the cows used to graze. Every summer for the past several years, my wife Nichelle and I have enjoyed homemade desserts with them on their back porch made from ingredients picked just several yards away. After spending time with them one evening, I felt compelled to photograph them. To make things as comfortable as possible, I set up in their back yard, while friends and family came over for dinner. A good amount of my studio work is actually done on location like this. Not necessarily on a farm, but in a place that my subject feels most comfortable. In this case, it was a farm. Not to mention, I would choose to work outside on a warm summer evening instead of in a studio any time given the choice.
I have a photography show opening in a few weeks, and the headshots of Bus and Ida May will be two of the 12 or so images on display. I will have more information about the show shortly, and after I wrap up a few large projects, I will be able to get back to a more regular blog schedule. Thanks for taking a look, and I hope you are enjoying what is left of summer.
Many people think the animal on the dock with Jake is a husky because that is the UW mascot, but it is not a husky. It’s a coyote.
When Jake Locker first started playing football for UW, I heard a story that sounded too wild to be true. It was the kind of story that someone makes up, and as time goes on it becomes wilder and wilder, yet more and more true to the people who tell it. The story goes like this. While Jake was a junior at Ferndale High, a crazed coyote wandered onto campus. Some students thought it was a dog from the neighborhood and tried to pet it. As they approached the animal they realized something was wrong, but it was too late. The coyote attacked the students and began a rampage throughout campus. The entire school was frantic and people were scrambling to hide in the nearest classroom. There were 5 students who were not lucky enough to find shelter in a classroom. They were walking through the quad and walked right into the coyote. They were trapped, with nowhere to go. Several teachers were watching through the office window, and all they could do was scream. The students slowly backed up until they were against a wall. The coyote inched closer and closer, snarling and showing its teeth.
This is where the story gets a little confusing because I have heard several versions of what happened next, but I will stick to the version I heard from Jake. Jake was in the gym during the attack, but he heard the screams of the students who were trapped in the quad. Without hesitating, he took off his football pads, and ran out of the gym toward the sounds of the screaming. As he entered the quad he walked directly up to the coyote with his arm held out in front of him holding his palm up as if motioning to stop. He said a single word, although no one remembers what he said, and instantly the coyote relaxed and allowed Jake to pick it up. He tucked the animal under his arm and walked out of the quad. Since that day, the coyote has never left Jake’s side.
I wasn’t quite sure if I believed this story when I first heard it, but I decided to bring it up on the phone with Jake before our shoot. I asked him if the story was true, and if he would bring the coyote with him for a few pictures. He said that wouldn’t be a problem, and I was able to shoot a few frames with Jake and his coyote.
College football starts this weekend. Go Huskies!!! And go Jake Locker!!! I’m a big fan.
I also posted a number of outtakes from this shoot on my Facebook page if you would like to see more.