Friday, June 24, 2016

Soaring landscape and grain; The Grit Fits

          Re-shooting something when I know there’s another opportunity, to see if I can find a better image than what was made before.

          Four Peaks, snow, saguaros; hot and cold in one. A description of Arizona compressed in one 300mm/2.8, 1000 ISO frame.

          In one frame you see the warmth generated by the colors in the frame. In another there is a sense of puffy softness to the saguaro, like a stuffed animal, maybe, and an otherworldly color to it, with a cold, cobalt sky behind the mountains, suggesting a more accurate coldness of the time of year that the image was made.

          The deep shadows, the distant, tangled, prickly forest makes it an image to linger inside.

          I made the image at dusk, or perhaps even darker than dusk, with a higher ISO that adds a grainy grittiness that usually feels out of place to me in a landscape of beauty, pattern and comfortable light. There’s a smoothness and an uplift that, like with a song filled with major chords, overcomes the grit that, in my mind, suggests an imperfection of execution, some perceived shortcoming of technical practice.

          The grit fits.

          It serves more as an expressive reminder that amid this explosion of visual notes in the higher register of the scale, the warm, glowing, fuzzy leafless giants preside over the hardened, bristling, rocky substrate of the desert. It’s a reminder that this inviting, comfortable colorful fuzz is actually a tough, sharp, perforating defense against forge-like heat that sears its skin against further assault.
It’s also a sort of illustrator of the that these centenarians struggle against every storm and every parched period that seek to contradict and topple their strength in an often unforgiving and unwelcoming environment.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Keeping it simple: learning, photographs and technological health care

Surgical robotics.

          One of the many beauties of photographing for clients, is the constant growth, not just of experience but of knowledge. With nearly every assignment, I'm learning about a new technique, practice or product.
In healthcare many of the advances are subtle or hidden unless you're a patient. The assignments teach me about many things I would have missed.  Sometimes it's a new robot, or a new method of hip replacement or advancements in managing chronic back pain.

          I'm always trying to visually tell this piece of the story while changing up from what I've done in the past.

          Sometimes the most important thing is keeping it simple; doctors and equipment.

         When I'm working on these images I often have a short amount of time to accomplish my final frames for my clients.  Most of the doctors I photograph are specialists and leaders, they are consulted as experts on a particular topic, which also makes them very popular and very busy in their practice. As specialists in the Valley of the Sun, they are at a premium (it seems there's a shortage in many specialties). I'm surprised I don't walk into some of these offices and operating theaters to find docs on roller skates!

          If I'm able to get an hour to work with someone, it's rare, so I try and get to the, um, heart, of the matter, quickly, add some nice indirect light and critical shadow to better define an object, and get as many options into the camera in the time I have, while always looking for something even a little different that that which I've done before.
The heart workshop

Start simple, get a nice image "in the can."
And then try something else if there's time. I've photographed so many
CT scanners over the years, I found something a little different.
Technology and back pain. This one, shot for a possible magazine cover, thus the extra space.

One Hip Surgeon

Monday, June 13, 2016

Light and Granite

Julie, Josh and crew. We added a little light to the forklift driver's face by using a simple
bar clamp, to attach a radio-triggered flash to the forklift's upright.
          Spent some time in Tucson a couple weeks ago doing a couple of business images at A&E Recycled Granite for Local First Arizona.

          Helene and I had a great time working with the owners, Josh and Julie who were patient with the process while being ready to move, clean, adjust or clamp down, anything in order to help make the photograph just a little better.

          These folks take all the leftover granite from other projects and turn it into of a variety of brick, tile and veneer products used all kinds of design projects.

I've never met a ladder I didn't want to climb to change the perspective of my image, or a white wall that I wanted to bounce my White Lightings off of in order to fill a part of the room with soft side-light.
When in doubt, clamp a flash in a hidden space? Why not?

In the small space of their backshop, I wanted to show industrial activity.
I added a small camera strobe on a stand from behind the wet saw to
highlight the dust and water coming off the blade.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Taking the plunge, photographing under water

Underwater play at Hubbard Swim School
           Where will you go to make a different picture?

          Sure this isn't putting on a bee suit to photograph a beekeeper at work or flying halfway around the world to work in a rural environment until recently a war and cholera zone, but it is a little different, shooting a swim article from below as well as above water.

          Sometimes it's about a simple question, what can I do that's a little different?

Whatever it takes for a picture.
          Jumping in at great risk of electronic bodily harm to gear, I trusted an inexpensive camera housing to do something a little different for a cover/feature shoot for Raising Arizona Kids Magazine at Hubbard Swim School in Phoenix. Of course, I tested it at home first, ensuring an absence of leaks. Still nervous about the quality of the what could more accurately be called a waterproof bag for the camera, I held my breath and went under to photograph my first subject.

          (For the record, I used a DiCAPac WP-S10 Waterproof Case purchased from B&H Photo. The material is a thin plastic and it is challenging to manipulate camera controls but it did work and did not leak.)

          In the two minutes or so that I could stay down, I discovered that finding the viewfinder and double-checking focus as the subject moved toward me proved more difficult that one would imagine. You discover just how quickly you're able to retrain yourself when challenged by the shooting environment.

          It became a process, count down with the subject, take deep breath, dive, find the viewfinder, find the subject, shoot, surface, check the bag for leaks, check images and, if necessary, open the now wet bag to change camera settings before carefully resealing the bag for another go. 

Using the fish aquarium method, shooting with
lighting through the side pane of a fish aquarium
          I've only shot underwater a couple times before, the first, long ago, with a disposable, film camera, while swimming the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. The extent of the challenge, then: looking through the scuba mask,  and through the viewfinder while watching for the flash ready-light to light up Nemo and his friends.

          The second time, in a freezing backyard pool, (summer covers are shot in the early spring, after all), using a partially submerged fish aquarium to create an underwater window pane through which I could shoot with a dry camera.

           The hardest parts that day, holding the camera at odd angles and aiming it without the benefit of the viewfinder, while two moms held the aquarium, fighting the buoyant force of the aquarium, pushing up against the glass.

          For this latest shoot, I wondered whether there might be a better method, and looked for options and talked to colleagues. I came upon this plastic bag idea which was suggested by two colleagues, one of whom works in the ocean frequently, so I figured it was worth a try.

          When working with uncertainly, never put all your eggs in one basket when your client needs a nice choice of images for the cover of their May magazine. Try multiple methods for multiple results. I kept the aquarium method in my back pocket as a "plan B".

          The bag system did expose a technical wrinkle after I'd spent the first 45 minutes setting up my studio-style strobes in a scheme designed to turn the pool wall that would be behind me, into a wall of soft light for my subjects.  Apparently radio slave triggers don't work very well under even a very shallow amount of water.

          So after experimenting for a while with the bag using available light, I switched to partially submerging the fish tank so that the radio slaves would be able to fire a flash signal through the air space.

In all a fun day at work, breaking from routine, confronting technical challenges and working with a fun group of kids and grown-ups.

Of course, a complete assignment is shot below and Above the water level... Bob Hubbard, at left, the owner of the school and tireless assistant and young-person wrangler.
The hardest job on the shoot, young subjects having a good time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Alzheimer's Grace and love

Ron and Pat Carmichael
          Last fall, my assignments included spending some time with two couples who were confronting Alzheimer's disease. Ron and Pat Carmichael and Harry and Marianne Mitchell.

Harry and Marianne Mitchell
          When covering this there always seems to be a certain level of profundity to the experience, largely based on the way that a spouse is handling the illness of their beloved mate, while making a statement about lifetime love through their actions. 

           Ron spends time helping his wife, Pat with tasks at home that she sometimes needs a bit of extra dexterity, lovingly brushing her hair or engaging in a favorite activity, assembling a puzzle, which also gives Pat's mind a workout.

          With the Mitchells it's a bit different as Marianne now lives in an assisted care center.

          Just after completing my time with the couple on their Saturday routine I posted this to my friends on Facebook, careful not to include names as the piece hadn't been published yet.

          "Just spent time with a couple where the wife has Alzheimer's and they were spending the day out away from the care center. Even though the wife' conversation doesn't make sense anymore, I witnessed amazing perspective into the wisdom of how he handles it in happily engaging her, not dwelling on the sad part of the situation, but asking questions, responding positively regardless.
         "He said for her it is not so much about what is said, but the engagement that creates a "feeling" about exchange. As a result his high school sweetheart takes that visit, that FEELING, into the week and is happy."
Getting ready to go out.
Ron organizes his and his wife Pat's medications for the week.
Pat works on her memory, studying family faces in preparation for a family reunion.
Exercising the mind, working on a puzzle.

The Mitchells', a day out.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Shaken Stirred and Chilled, Apache Helicopter Live Fire

Heading out to the firing range for live fire.
          Not sure what it is about flying machines, but given the opportunity to go flying with the AZ National Guard to photograph an Apache helicopter pilot competition, it was a no-brainer. 

          In spite of several long hops to the firing range aboard a the powerful, vibrating, platform of a Black Hawk multi-purpose helicopter that left my insides shaken like a maraca (it's a military helicopter, troops don't have to be comfortable, I guess), and the chill of being windowless for a clear view, it was of those days that reminds me just how great this job can be. 

          As our Black Hawk pilot flew an observation pattern keeping the camera side of the bird facing the firing range, I twisted in my five-point seat belt, trying to keep the swarming Apaches in view trying to anticipate when the combat helicopters fired their weapons at targets on the ground. Not having a headset to hear communications, this was no small task. The bottom line, be ready at any hint of smoke. 

          I knew from the beginning that higher-than-normal shutter speeds and shooting many extra frames formed the foundation of my plan for overcome the combination of helicopter vibration (not to mention shivering from flight temperatures at 3,000 feet) and high speed of the combat helicopters.

          Even on a fun day, physical and environmental challenges demand a level of focus that leaves you exhausted but satisfied when the bird touches back down on the pad in Phoenix.

Colorful start to operations.
Desert training
Flying in formation over the West Valley
Loading the rocket pod.

Live fire.

Always wanted to take a ride in a Blackhawk helicopter.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Families, Faces and Fun

Firefighter Moms
Chef at Gio Oso
          It's all about faces. It's expressions, eyes, movement and activity. Whether doing portraits for a Raising Arizona Kids Magazine cover, a feature for Simon Med's magazine,  Banner Health's Go Kid, or showing of businesses for Local First Arizona, the goal is to find a way to get past the basic portrait.

           At every assignment I search for a way to make the image into something more, find that little extra something to make a it a more engaging, attention-grabbing image. Sometimes it's a look, or a movement, sometimes it's something someone says as a joke, or in a moment of kids being kids that inspires a different approach.

           In a time when we are all inundated with images, finding the moment that adds to the delight is the primary goal of every assignment.

          So, let me share some favorite moments that I've been privileged to capture in the last few months.

Firefighter moms from Phoenix and Glendale Fire Depts.
Crudo Chef
Ladies Lacrosse
Active families
Changing role of grandparents
Changing role of grandparents
Simon Med, a happy ending
Changing role of grandparents, RAK
Simon Med, a happy ending
Simon Med
Simon Med
Go Kid, Active families
Go Kid, Active families
Go Kid, Active families