Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Craning for a view, brewing up new images

Gary Haydon and crew were happy to reposition a
crane to fill the background of this quick portrait.
The Four Peaks crew is adding a brewing
space to the roster to keep the Kilt 

Lifter, Eighth Street Ale, Hop Not and 
other favorites flowing not just into the
restaurants but into stores around
the Valley.
    The last couple months have been gloriously busy, presenting many opportunities to make local businesses, their founders and leaders look good.

     From the man whose people at Haydon Construction build bridges to get us around more efficiently to the guys at Four Peaks Brewery who make that wonderful local brew that lifts your Kilt, the three-generation folks who have given you a place to rest your head  at Arroyo Roble Best Western, Sedona,  and who keep you cool in the heat Chas Roberts Air Conditioning and Plumbing, and numerous others, it's been an incredible way to pump some life into my latest work.

     In many cases these gracious folks have been able to allow the time to light up environments with multiple strobe sets and provide enough time to work in multiple settings to give us a variety of looks for the final ads that would result.

     Notable in the technique department is the Four Peaks shoot where, once again I made use of available "equipment" to accomplish my lighting goals.

How to light large stainless steel tanks
without taking over the brewery? Use
hidden surfaces of the tanks as giant
reflector panels, of course!
   When shooting stainless steel, ideally you want to have a highlight or two that runs top to bottom on the shiny object. Usually the only way to do that is to use a lighting or reflective panel that is as tall as the object. This works great with a wine bottle where it is easy to use a panel or a softbox that fits the dimensional need. Not so much when the object is 20 feet tall!

     Okay it was early, so it took me a few minutes to realize that the solution was the tanks themselves. The solution was to bounce a large strobe off of the tanks out of frame in a couple of locations to produce tall strips of light that would reflected onto the sides of the tanks in the photograph. In the final image you can see the effect of one light reflected in the near tank, at left. Further back, another strobe is causing a reflection on the three tanks on the right.

     What lighting problem?

Phil and Christy and their General Manager
Lonnie keep you comfortable in Sedona.
     Each of these shoots would ultimately come together as a cog in the machine of a print and electronic campaign for the National Bank of Arizona, talking about their partnerships with their clients, leading the businesses to greater success. Each of these is yet another opportunity to meet some great people, solve another, possibly new, lighting problem and produce some images that remind me what I like so much about this job.
Baseball, softball and volleyball venue,
Mike and Kim's Victory Lane.

Heating up the Z-Tejas menu
Steven, keeping the energy high at Z'Tejas
Keeping you cool, Sissy Shank keeps the tradition going at Chas Roberts.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Clawing my way to a busy month

     Last week 28 or more photographers lost their jobs. 

     The Chicago Sun-Times decided they didn't need any of their trained professionals, including a Pulitzer Prize winner, who spend their life training, honing, polishing and maintaining their visual and technical skills. There's sort of a trend of attitude developing in some circles about what it takes to to make a photograph rather than taking a picture, and dismissing the work, skill and talent of an entire spectrum of professionals

     I only bring this up because, it is relevant, sort of, to the blog I was planning to share some of my recent work, while talking about the creative problem-solving that went into some of my new favorite images. 
Final image, with the help of four lights,
two yard workers, a dump truck and a claw.

     Gratefully, things have been very, very busy with one of my regular clients, creating commercial images of business owners in the Phoenix area who have been wonderfully accommodating to the creative process, including Jay Robie, the founder and CEO of Phoenix Group Metals, who provided a couple of interesting creative tools.

     As I arrived to photograph him I noticed immediately the heavy equipment, making a meal of very heavy scrap metal, in the middle of a relatively wide-open space. 

     I looked at the big claw, I wondered how he would feel about climbing on board.

Somehow I forgot to make a picture of the scene with the
whole dump truck, but found this from test-firing the strobes
     "Sure," he said.

     I looked over the beautiful early morning light filling the yard from just the right direction and realized I had a puzzle to solve. 

     How do I make use of the sunlight to light the background and the heavy equipment while preventing the sun from causing Robie to squint?

     I knew the solution would require a chunk of selective shade and some powerful lighting to make it look just right. 

     Looking around the yard, I realized my solutions involved a large truck and some very long extension cords. 

     Again, Robie and his crew, simply said, "no problem". 


     As I directed a long-bed dump truck into position to become a "gobo" to cast a shadow over Robie in order to eliminate the squinting problem, his guys delivered a power source from I don't know where, to the lighting gear I had already positioned. 

Three of four lights, with Robie's workers helping
hold things down in the developing breeze.
     Shoots like this are the most fun because it allows me to use all of my tools to create the best image I can rather than forcing me to abbreviate due to limitations of time, light and power sources. 

     In this case it allowed me to set up an umbrella to cast a softer creamier light on to Robie, it allowed me to cast just a hint of a "rim light," a sliver of flash, to the left edge of his face all the way down to the car's hood to create a bit of separation from the background. It allowed me to add another strobe to fill some shadow and pick up some shine on the claw to highlight its angles and industrial feel. The dump truck/gobo allowed me to do most of this, while preserving the angle of light that lets us see the background mountains of scrap metal that give a sense of setting.

Secondary image in cutting shop, required four lights, one to create the purple skim on the left, an umbrella for creamy soft key light on his face, one to brighten up the plasma-torch operator and another to add glow to both Robie's right side and the right side of the cutter's jeans and shirt.
     It was only the beginning of the shoot that day as we created a number of striking images, taking full advantage of the gear I have available to make exactly the picture I imagined or better than I imagined.

*Don't forget to leave comments if you see something you like.