If your October 2014 issue of Digital Photo Pro hasn’t arrived yet, you might want to pick one up at a newsstand before they all sell out. With this on the cover, it’s likely to become a collector’s edition: Editor Christopher Robinson and writer Mark Edward Harris (also a talented photographer) did a terrific job on the article. I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s an eight-page profile with nine images, and they used their editing witchcraft to make me sound intelligent and substantive. Mark and I spoke so many months ago, he could have written anything, and I would just figure, yeah, I probably said that. You can see the entire piece online here. Their terrific layouts are below and beautifully printed at your local defunct newsstand.
Category Archives: conceptual
Well, hello there. It’s been so long. Perhaps you think the blog’s been quiet because there’s been nothing to report? Quite the contrary, my friend. There’s been too much. Let’s start catching up.
So, I recently did this giant, crazy shoot for Forbes up in the Bay Area. It’s out on the cover of this year’s Midas List issue right now. (aphotoeditor also picked up the shoot for its headline article today. You can read our interview and all the details in their “Weekly Edit” feature.) I’ll try to give you the best tidbits here.
The billionaires that had to be herded, all founders of companies originally backed by Sequoia venture capital
1. Count up the people on the cover. Do you count 12? There were only supposed to be 12 (and figuring out how to arrange 12 people vertically was sort of hell). Imagine my surprise when it was all over and I counted 14. No wonder we ran out of apple boxes to stand people on. I have no idea who the extra two billionaires are.
2. Doug Leone, head of Sequoia Capital and a very interesting and enjoyable guy, refused to stand where we planned. He was supposed to be front and center, the leader of the pack. But he wanted it to be about the founders, not him, which I get. We compromised on second row, just off-center.
3. We had about 35 minutes to do two big setups. And half an hour feels like five minutes on a busy shoot. After a variety of cover shots, we ripped away the background — yes, literally ripped away the gray paper — and shot them with the Tesla Motors factory behind them. An amazing place with shining car bodies and sublimely beautiful, sort of creepy robots.
Billionaires just want to have fun.
4. I wish I could say I got to know them and learn from them. They were all very nice, and short on time, and toward the end a couple of them started grumbling about needing to be somewhere. Of course they all stood around and chit-chatted when it was over. I wondered if anyone would just toss a spare million dollars my way, since a billion is a thousand million, and no one person could spend all that. Didn’t happen.
5. Still, it was a lot of fun. I fielded a surprising number of questions beforehand about what they should wear.
6. Next morning, 4 a.m., we arrived across the Bay to do this:
7. Those are the venture capitalists from Sequoia. They rented that Formula One car, plus a NASCAR car as back-up. These guys do nothing halfway. They even became decent actors for the shoot. Except maybe the guy in the top right corner. He’s not really selling that jack he’s on. These are the things you see in the files afterwards.
Still, he’s trying.
8. Before I make too much fun, this shoot would not have happened without a ton of help from Sequoia. They coordinated the founders for the cover, they helped fund and produce the shots, and they were game for whatever we wanted to do. You can’t ask for much more than that.
4. I ran out of gas on the freeway in the middle of scouting all these locations and producing the project. With all the texts, emails and phone calls coming and going, I forgot the fuel gauge was past E.
I need to thank my very hard-working, talented crew: first assistant Brad Wenner, second assistant Jonah Podbereski, prop stylist Shannon Amos, makeup/hair stylist Dawn Sutti, retouchers Rebecca Bausher and Gretchen Hilmers. Plus Bob Mansfield and Meredith Nicholson at Forbes for bringing me on board and giving everything the green light. Special thanks to Andrew Kovacs at Sequoia for co-producing this odyssey.
I’m immensely proud to present my latest testing / portfolio shoot. It just came out in the semiannual printed Workbook. It’s the kind of conceptual shoot I get deep into — like staging a one-act play. You’ll find more (the great Milo Cawthorne with a dead fish in his mouth) on the website.
Shooting at the beach! What fun, right?
Right. But also sort of hell. Sand gets in everything, no matter how many blankets you lay down and how many lights you clamp up high. Without warning the tide surges up and soaks your stuff. The bathrooms are a hike. Seagulls attack your food. There’s nowhere to plug in. Wind topples anything not weighed down with 50 pounds of sandbags. Whether the tide is rising or falling, you’re constantly moving your actors and carefully placed lights with it. When it’s all over, your lenses and cameras are coated with a fine layer of gear-killing salt. Now go home and try to work the sand out of your 15 rented C-stands.
For those of you who are wondering: these images were all done in-camera. No compositing or mixing and matching in post. Great talent, careful coordination and lots of lighting.
Many thanks to the phenomenally talented actors (from right to left in that last shot): Ari Boyland, Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet, Mike Ginn, David Delatour and Fleur Saville. Plus Paul Bennett, who nailed the octopus-head role. And makeup/hair stylist Stephanie Lawrence and always-on-the-ball assistant PJ McMullan.
Well, he may or may not be, but he could. As could anyone with a little know-how using the search engine he created, Shodan. I photographed him for the latest issue of Forbes, whose entertainingly lengthy article title puts it best:
The Terrifying Search Engine That Finds Internet-Connected Cameras, Traffic Lights, Medical Devices, Baby Monitors And Power Plants
With this search engine, you can literally view the feed of closed-circuit cameras. Or turn off remote-controlled lights in homes. Or link into the world’s online devices in other, more nefarious/creepy ways.
Matherly, however, a mild-mannered and intelligent gentleman who lives with his girlfriend outside of San Diego, is likely not spying on you. Still, once we arrived and saw that he runs the search engine from this little suburban condo, I knew I had to do something combining that quiet existence with the voyeurism of the search engine. We set up a lot of lights and had a great time.
It’s awards season in the photography world, when we all congratulate each other on our fine work and resent those who won awards that should have been ours. Reminds me of a (not very funny) joke:
Q: How many photographers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Five. One to screw it in. Four to stand around and say, “I could have done that.”
I’m proud to say that some of last year’s work has won awards:
American Photography 29: Three images (here, here and here) — including two from my Night Cars series — were chosen to be part of the permanent American Photography archive online. Out of 9,000 images submitted, only 185 received this honor.
2013 Applied Arts Photography & Illustration Awards: My Lost Boat image (see the website and blog) is a winner in the self-promotion category. Appearing soon in the May/June 2013 Photography & Illustration Awards issue.
2012 One Eyeland Photography Awards: The Lost Boat image won a silver medal in the self-promotion category. Plus you get this snazzy certificate:
It’s finally on my website — the complete Lost Boat shoot I’ve had in my head for years. The location scouting destroyed my little 35/2 lens, the pre-production drove me slightly insane, the props and rowboat filled my driveway, and then … it came together beautifully. The actors brought their characters to life, the crew made it a smooth day and the boat held five people without collapsing.
A few highlights:
Found this location in the final hour of the final day of scouting. Then my lens fell apart.
Don’t mess with Victorian women.
The beard is real. He shaved it off the next day.
Not the man you want guiding your boat.
Even the lowly oarsman gets his portrait taken.
The always-brilliant Milo Cawthorne.
Sailors just want to have fun.
For some reason I’ve had this image in my head for a few years now. It involves Victorian mariners lost on a boat, stranded perhaps, not going to say where since this is just a teaser. I had to get it out of my head and on to film (so to speak), so I gathered props and wardrobe and brilliant actors and my favorite crew from around the city, and I finally shot the thing. Took five days of scouting just to find the location. My little 35mm f/2 lens literally fell apart after I found the location near dark on the fifth day.
It’s probably my favorite shoot ever. Look for it in the spring 2013 Workbook, out in less than a month. In the meantime, there’s a fragment of it on my website, and I offer you these fine behind-the-scenes shots from my friend, the great photographer Max Gerber:
Even sailors need a little touch-up now and then.
I swear I’m not posing. Didn’t even know Max was shooting.
Wayne “Animal” Lewis. We had to tie him to the boat.
Not sure what YOHA means.
Because every shoot needs a starlet: Rose McIver, the not-dead sister from “The Lovely Bones.”
Milo Cawthorne, another great New Zealand actor and the source of my best jokes.
That one’s perfect. Let’s shoot 140 more.
The talent and crew went way beyond my dreams for this one. My heartfelt thanks to all of you:
Captain: Byron Kavanagh
Navigator #1: Milo Cawthorne
Navigator #2: Wayne Lewis
Oarsman: Eddie Guzelian
Lady of the Sea: Rose McIver
First Assistant: Paul Bennett
Behind-the-scenes photography: Max Gerber
Stylist: Georgie Perrins, puppethorse.com
Hair and Makeup: Veronica Sinclair, veronicasinclair.com
Studio: Helms Daylight Studio
I know, I know … it’s been so long. And I feel guilty, blog, for neglecting you. It’s not that there’s been nothing to say. It’s that there’s been too much. This year ended up extremely busy, and the ride is finally coming to a stop for the the holidays. So let’s start catching up.
First up, one of my favorite shoots of the last few months:
The boss will see you now.
This is Carter Fortunato, in an outtake from a shoot for The Wall Street Journal. He is as dry-witted and intelligent as he looks. Once in a while you get a gift when you shoot editorial, and this was one of those times. So you step up to the plate and make it a much bigger production in terms of lighting, styling and set design. Thanks to the Fortunatos for allowing me to make their son the star.
The Huntington Beach ad agency Innocean recently hired me to do a lifestyle shoot about and for the agency itself. The goal was to portray the agency as a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas. Which wasn’t hard, since it’s a modern, fun, creative place where interesting people work on interesting ideas.
The hard part was shooting eight setups in a single day, which took rigorous pre-production, a ton of lighting, a great crew and an art buyer doubling as a talent wrangler.
You know what this shoot made me realize? People who work in offices have it really good. They take breaks, get an espresso, chit-chat with their colleagues, flip through graphic-design books, maybe even shoot some hoops if the office is that cool.
See what I mean? They don’t even know how good they have it.
Look how psyched he is. Because he works at an office.
That guy in the center really does bring his surfboard to work. Not many freelancers I know work across the street from one of the best breaks in Southern California.
Dusk comes late here in the summer. Everyone’s gone home except me and my lights. I wrap at 9:45 pm and get a huge burger down the street. Life is good.
For the 25 pioneers who subscribed after last week’s blog announcement, here’s a special welcome gift: the world premiere of my latest test. (Note to my parents: a “test” is a shoot I create, produce and finance for my portfolio.)
My 5-year-old nephew, Atticus.
Yes, Atticus. His sister’s name is India.
Take that, Hailey, Aiden and Madison!
The concept was to have Atticus scanning the sky for aliens while life continues unawares in the adult house in the background. We got about 60 shots before dusk and his acting ability vanished. Still, it’s remarkable what candy can do for a kid’s attention span. For a single, nasty Sweet Tart he’d manage five solid shots in a row.
Back at the computer, once I found this expression of amazement and horror, I knew I needed a beam coming down from the sky. When you’re a kid looking for aliens, the last thing you expect is for them to actually show up.
Many thanks to my crew; to Joan for the truck; and to Adam for making the antennae, overseeing the talent and allowing us to take over his entire property.
In late 2011 Los Angeles Magazine commissioned me to shoot Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor, who played the game-show host in “Slumdog Millionaire” and the Indian tycoon in the latest “Mission Impossible.” He’s also starred in 100 or so Indian films, which must be awesome. Anil has a fantastic range and was a joy to work with.
I pulled out all the stops for this shoot, scouting for two days beforehand, gathering props, hammering out concepts. Throughout a long day with six separate portrait setups, Anil was game for everything I could throw at him. The longer we shot, the more he ramped it up. It was one of the best collaborations I’ve ever had on a shoot.
A few things you might like to know:
- While we had makeup artist Veronica Sinclair on hand, Anil seemingly brought his own groomer from India. “Deepak,” he’d call, and this nice Indian man would pop up to do some primping.
- That’s my grandfather’s ancient Colt .38.
- That’s also my banjo.
- I think we scared the publicist out of her wits, having Anil waving a gun and an American flag on camera like a maniac. Like I said, he was game for anything.
Thanks to the talented Amy Feitelberg at LA Mag for the shoot.
Way back during the great Internet bubble of the late ’90s, when people were registering domain names then selling them for wads of cash, I snared this hard-to-type, ironically inconvenient URL. Once it was clear that no one was dying to purchase it, I figured I’d hold on to it anyways. Starting a carpet-cleaning business? Passionate about short-term money loans? You never know when valueandconvenience might come in handy. Well, I’ve had it for about 11 years, and I finally realized — Criminy, what a great place to start a blog.
Thus, welcome to this special place where I’ll be sharing not only what I’ve been up to but what I’ve found share-worthy out in the world. I hope you will comment, debate, complain, subscribe, unsubscribe, read with detachment, rant about kids today, et cetera.
For starters, here’s one of my favorite portraits from 2011.
This is Kevin Beckers, a Westminster High School student who tends the goats on the school’s eight-acre farm. This is the goat at its calmest. You don’t realize it, but he’s got that goat clamped between his legs and in a death-grip at the collar. Unless we were feeding them, the goats stayed as far from my lighting setup as possible.
Thanks for joining me.