Friday, October 30, 2009

Sarah's ZOO Field Trip

"Shooting for fun"?!! I haven't heard that offer for a while.! At first, I had visions of tramping around the zoo in the rain and snow, but luckily, we were spared the weather drama and it stayed cold and windy instead. The class quickly split into groups as we wound our way through all the paths and back "alleys" in the park. Every so often we would come across a building that we could go into, get warmed up, AND shoot! What a treat!

Without having a specific list of subjects to catch, we were free to shoot whatever caught our attention, including animals. We were sharing ideas with each other, and that just fed the creativity amongst the group. It would be interesting to see a collective slideshow where everyone got to contribute their best 5 or 6 shots for the whole class to enjoy. (hint, hint).

Everyone seemed to enjoy their "time out" and the freedom that the assignment outlined. It was also a chance to try to utilize some of the tricks and lessons learned over the past few weeks in a more casual atmosphere. Thanks, Sarah, for this special field trip! Hope you're resting up this weekend!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Analogue Technique 6.2: Photographic Hero

My photographic hero is Sandro Miller, or just Sandro. Born in Chicago in 1958, Sandro was given his first camera when he was 17. After finishing high school, he began working for photography studios in and around suburban Chicago. Being self-taught, Sandro learned his trade through reading books on photography and dissecting the various lighting techniques used by the photographers in capturing the moods and themes of their images. His greatest influences came from Irving Penn and Richard Avedon.
His big break came when he worked under David Deahl, whose tabletop photography taught Sandro the importance of details in the setup and the lighting used in his clients' shots. Over his career of 30 + years, Sandro has worked all over the world for such clients as Nike, Pepsi, Microsoft, BMW, Amex, Gatorade and the US Army. His photos have been published in many countries for GQ, Esquire, Newsweek, New Yorker, Communication Arts and Graphis, to name a few. Equipment-wise, Sandro shoots mainly with Nikon cameras, including the F5 35mm film camera as well as the D2X digital cameras.
Sandro has also published a number of books of his work. The accompanying photos were taken from these books and have been chosen for my investigations.

"American Bikers" - A collection of portraits taken at the Sturgis Bike Rallly, this work is a culmination of months spent with biker gangs and clubs, getting to know and understand their culture. This photo was selected for the cover, and is representative of the photographic style Sandro uses to present his subjects. Tightly cropped and brightly lit, in a slightly harsh way, his technique is quite revealing of his subjects. In this case, most of the bikers looked directly into the camera, revealing a vulnerable or intimate side of their persona that the public does not often observe. His lighting seems very basic; one main light, a reflector to fill in shadows, and a back light to help separate his subjects from the background. Tonal range is high, with deep blacks, clean whites but not overly harsh. It seems to suit his subjects. Grain structure for this publication is fairly rough, again, to suit his subjects. I love the range of lighting used in this book. The setup seems intimate, and the lighting is "revealing". For the type of subjects being photographed, the lighting is what catches your eye right away. It's a kinder quality of light, reminiscent of older "parlor" style setting ups. It's clean, yet it's rough around the edges, just like his subjects.

"I Can't Accept Not Trying" - This book is one of two collaborations with Michael Jordon that began with Sandro's work on the Nike account. An intimate look into the comeback plans of Michael Jordon, Sandro was able to capture an insider's look into Michael Jordon's personal goals and challenges. The photos in the book reveala a side of Michael that runs the gamat of emotions with powerful lighting techniques mixed with a softer style that blends in well with the vulnerability that these images portray.

"Verona Figure E Ritratti" - A collection of images of dancers, nudes, and cancer survivors, this publication is a strange brew of various styles and techniques. The image of one of the dancers is included here. The style is very different, more of an action shot than a studio setup. Lighting is high contrast and the subjects are shot against a white background, giving them a sense of flight. I was impressed with how the lighting scalloped the dancers bodies and showed off their sinewy limbs. In some cases, you have to look at the photo for a few seconds to let the pose sink in, and then recognize it as a person. This style almost loses the personal attachment to these dancers, and the images take on a look of shape and motion instead of an individual's portrait. But in this case, Sandro is presenting what this person is all about, not who they are as a personality. In this series, he gives his subjects room to fly through the frame, rather than be "trapped" inside the tight confines of the regular studio setup. Contrast is high again, but manages to contain all the tonal range required across the subject.

In general, Sandro has a style of showing his subject within a high contrast tonal range that keeps the images crisp and bright. He seems to be able to move right up inside the very fabric of who his subjects really are, in an intimate way, but treats this closeness with respect. In photos where the subject is looking directly into the camera, their eyes are riveting, and hold the viewer's attention til they feel that they are looking deep into the soul of the subject. A tough goal to achieve, but one that has made Sandro one of the top photographers in the world.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Composition at Home

This assignment seemed familiar as Sarah handed out the Assignment sheets. We have shot for these design elements before, and I expected that it would easy to shoot again, but . . . this time we had to shoot inside our own homes. That made it a whole different game.

There were a few shots that came to mind right away, but I found that I had to really think of additional subjects and locations inside my house to shoot. The problem that I had was not leaving them where I found them but, setting them up in a way that showed their best qualities under the several headings that we were working on.

New ideas came in spurts, and sometimes it was quite difficult to come up with something fresh. But that's what keeps us growing. It's probably just a photographer's growing pain. Ouch.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Unit 1 - Practical Quiz - Jill Brown's Street Portraits

This was my first portrait assignment.
Jill was as nervous as I was regarding how we should pose, but after a few shots we both seemed to feel easier with the idea. After a while, it actually became a bit of a game and the more we goofed around the easier it became. The overcast sky also helped provide a softer light to work with.
All in all, it turned out pretty good. Now if I can just raise enough cash to buy back the memory card out of Jill's camera, no one else will ever see these off-the-wall shots. :)