A Video About My Photography

A short video produced by Canon in their Explorers of Light series. I'm proud to be one of the original Explorers of Light, which was formed in 1994.

Jack Reznicki, one of the original Canon Explorers of Light, talking about his career and teaching.

Tuscany Workshop May 2016

Where did this year go? 2015 was a flash. And now I'm thinking about the Spring of 2016 and what better way to spend Spring than a photography workshop in Tuscany? So I'm teaching a workshop. Great food, wonderful wine, and incredible light. We worked to keep the pricing reasonable for this awesome week. Price includes breakfast and dinner (including wine) with the chef in the 12th Century monastery that will be our home base. 

The class, no more than 10 attendees,  will include how to best edit and process your files in Lightroom and Photoshop. The importance of composition in your photographs will be a daily, ongoing discussion to bring your photos from “nice” to “GREAT”.

Some anticipated highlights:

  • Looking at and photographing the ever changing and beautiful Tuscan light.
  • Understanding composition beyond the Rule of Thirds.
  • Post processing with Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for both beginners and advanced users.
  • Camera settings to facilitate capturing different photo situations
  • Instruction on photographing with speedlights, simple scrims, and reflectors when needed.
  • A day trip to Medieval Siena to explore and look beyond the postcard. And of course shop!
  • Excursions to nearby hilltop towns such as the walled town of San Gimignano.
  • Visit to a Chianti winery for a tour and tasting while we shoot. (Thank goodness for auto-focus at that point!)
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Email me if you want more info.


DUMBO Photo Walk

I recently went on a photo walk in Brooklyn's DUMBO area. DUMBO by the way is not a description of the people there or any Disney characters in the wild, but rather an anachronism for "Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass". I love the area because it's so easy to get to by ferry from my apartment on the East Sideof Manhattan. A great ride on the East River, which sets the mood to shoot much better than the two subway trains I'd have to take.  

The photo walk was put on by C. Bay Milin, my former SVA (School of Visual Arts) grad student and presently a full time photographer, who planned and put on for the new graduate class of 2015-2016. As one of the SVA instructors, I tagged along. Photo walks are great in that you are with a group of photographers and you're all on the hunt for images. DUMBO is a great area for inspiration and images, especially on a beautiful end of summer day. A fun morning for all. I regretfully couldn't stay for the full 6+ miles C. Bay mapped out, but below are two of my favorite shots, bit taken at Jane's Carousel in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This merry go round was built in 1899 and housed in a modern glass structure. I found inspiration in both the old and the new. I took this opportunity to test out some new equipment, like my 50 megapixel Canon EOS 5DRS camera (awesome and sweet) and a 11-24mm lens (equally impressive). The detail in these two images beyond the screen resolution here, is splendid and spectacular.

If you've never taken a photo walk, I highly recommend it to get your creative juices flowing and your photo eye engaged. Not to mention the good a walk will do ya.

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Back From Photoshop World

It was a hectic week for me at Photoshop World this year. But a fun one. Did a Canon Pre-Convention workshop, two classes with Ed Greenberg, one class on Canon Speedlites, portfolio reviews, and demos in the Canon booth on the Expo trade show floor. It was tiring just typing that. I also had a wonderful dinner one night with Jay Maisel, Bert Monroy and Dan Steinhardt at Mandalay Bay. Below are some of the images I took, including Jay's after dinner cigar, and some images of me on stage at the opening Keynote taken by Brad Moore. I also got to shoot the Sheriff (Russell Brown of Adobe) and the Deputy (Daniel Presedo of Adobe). Click on any thumbnail below to see the full image.

Back From Alaska

Right on the heels of Indonesia, we went off to Alaska for a long scheduled vacation. In about a week's time, we switched from topical clothes to cool and cold clothes. For me though, it was a busman's holiday, with a different set of camera lenses to consider. For Alaska I took the 200-400mm Canon lens, with a built in 1.4X converter. Big piece of glass. I'm still editing, but here's a few images picked from my first run through edit. The gallery will go up in about a week or two.   

Indonesia Images

I once heard, and believe it to be quiet true, that the best time to edit your own work was six months or more after you took the images. That way you're removed from the experiences and really look at the images. Well, not today for me. I'm still editing my Indonesia images, and there's a ton, but thought I'd post a few initial ones, now that they are all registered. Haven't even finished my first edit on what was a fantastic trip. The people I met there were all warm hearts and inviting souls. I'm getting ready for an Alaska trip at the end of the week, so there wouldn't be a full Indonesia gallery up on my website until sometime late July. So I'm going from a steam bath (Indonesia) to a freezer (Alaska) with just a week's break. Looking forward to a quiet summer in the Berkshires afterwards, editing, before the lecture season starts up again on Labor day with Photoshop World.

Back From Indonesia

What a busy and hectic few months. Prepping for the Canon In Action Tour and starting the tour  has eaten up a lot of my time. But that's rolling smoothly now. Just got back from an unexpected trip to Indonesia for their International Photo Week. We started in Jakarta and then traveled to the islands of Buton, Labuan Bajo, and Lombok.

My start in Jakarta would have been smoother if Cathay Pacific didn't cancel my flight because of a rudder problem. I re-booked on another flight, which was good because my original flight was delayed 3 days before it left. I arrived in Jakarta  after 24 hours, NY to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Jakarta, landing a little more than 2 hours before my presentation. And then gave my presentation at the National Museum after a rush through Jakarta traffic. I guess it went well, because it was well received. Let's just say I was a bit numb. I did get to do a lighting demo with my Canon Speedlite and a delegate from Sri Lanka, Bandu Gunaratne, that I "volunteered".

It was a great time meeting and shooting with some wonderful and accomplished photographers from all over the world. Twenty Six different countries were represented, with me being the USA representative and one of the two speakers. The other speaker was Reha Bilir from Turkey. Reha is a fantastic photographer and a wonderful educator. I was already  familiar with his work of the Whirling Dervishes in Turkey. We really hit it off, trading teaching methods. Below is a photo he took of me as we were riding back on a boat from Komodo Island at sunset, after photographing the famous Komodo Dragons. 

It was also fun and a surprise to see my friend Zeng Yi as the delegate from China. This event was an invitation only conference, so only one delegate from each country.

I'll be posting a lot of my Indonesia photos here in the blog and in a new gallery, right after I register the copyright.

BTW, after 25 hours flying back to JFK airport, it took less than a minute to get through immigration using the Global Entry kiosk, as I have Global Entry. It then took almost an hour (the longest hour of the trip) at the carousel waiting for my luggage to pop out.

On the boat coming back after a long day on Komodo Island. Photo ©Reha Bilir

On the boat coming back after a long day on Komodo Island. Photo ©Reha Bilir

What Makes You a Successful Photographer?

I once had someone ask me at what point did I know I was a “successful” photographer? Good question. Actually, a great question. In these days of a hard economy, competition everywhere, new technologies running at us, price pressures, is there a point where you say “Ahh, this is it?” Just where is the goal line?

So the question is: How do you know you've become a successful photographer? Before I give my answer to that question, I have to say that when you do find yourself a “success” as a photographer it’s not an overnight thing, where one job, one photo, one campaign, one event gets you over an imaginary line and- poof! – you’re a success. I’ve said it and I’ve heard it repeated by many other photographers that the road to success is a long road, takes time, and rather than crossing a border marker, you suddenly stop, look around, and say “Hey, this is it.” But be careful, it’s sometimes hard to spot. Some people have been successes and they feel they still have a ways to go. It’s always just around the next corner. They just need to work a little harder. Meanwhile the rest of us are fainting at their sight, because they’re Mr. or Ms. SO SUCCESSFUL.

It’s true that the ride is just as enjoyable as the destination, especially in this field. And the great part, we have photos to document the entire journey. It’s wonderful and magical to be able to see your work, your photos over an extended period of time. It’s the beauty of photography. Some photos are good, some great, some not so good, and a few really bad. And be realistic. If you don’t have bad photos, you’re just not trying hard enough. So how did I answer that question after more than 30 years of slinging a camera for a living? What I said was “When you can say ‘no’ to a job and walk away happy. Then you’re successful.” It’s a word that few photographers can say and I think as a result, we’re an industry that gets taken advantage of by clients. I did get to the point in my career where I did say “no” to bad deals. I was lucky to have a great agent at the time, the late Elyse Weissberg, who never questioned when I did. That’s when you know you have a good agent. When you can both say no to a bad deal and know you did the right thing.

Just say no!

                                  That's not a yes.

                                  That's not a yes.

Now you may say this sounds very simplistic, what’s the big deal? Well, too many photographers try and figure out how to work within a bad deal. What corners can they cut to make this happen? They don’t want to lose an assignment, even if it costs them money. I’ve seen photographers who work for a client, not get paid, and them accept ANOTHER job from that client, because “it’s a good job”. No lie, they get ripped off and then line up again thinking they’ll get paid. It is not in their DNA to say “no”. That chromosome was removed somehow when they became a photographer.

Just say no.

CES On The Canon Stage

Just ended 4 days at CES. What a show. I think I walked around when I was free and saw 1% of CES. But thank goodness for Google Alerts, as I spotted a video of me that was uploaded to YouTube, while I was on stage in the Canon booth. I had two wonderful models to use in my demos, Lorenzo and Ming.

Did the video show me working and doing great things with the models? Of course not. The video is a fairly dull spot where I'm setting up an explanation of hard light and soft light. Didn't even know someone was video taping to put online. But it gives you a sense of the stage and me. You can view the video here.

Below are a few of the images of Lorenzo and Ming shot on stage in the hustle and bustle of CES. All the photos were shot with strobes on the Canon 70D. Great, light camera, with wonderful resolution. No hair and makeup, just the models, assistants, and the lights.

I got to go to a private shoot Thursday night after the show in an airplane hanger that held a private jet and about 25 or more collector cars. There were a bunch of us and some models. I'll post that series in a few days but for now, on to Phoenix and the next convention starting Sunday. Stay tuned.

First Night and Day at CES 2014

A great first night with a sushi dinner at Yama Sushi with Steve Inglima, Ken Sklute, and RIck Sammon. First day at CES went well as I had a model shoot on the Canon stage in the afternoon. Watched Rick, Bruce Dorn and Scott Kelby before my session. My assistant from NY, JJ Ignotz was also in Vegas and watched those Canon presentations with me.

Wednesday will be my day to see some of the show.

 

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Toys R Us Differently Abled Catalog

The new Toys R Us Differently Abled toy catalog came out this past fall. This is I believe the 19th year I photographed this wonderful catalog of fantastic kids. The first one I did, which was the first one produced, was a labor of love for me and my crew, as it still is today.

I always try and get the same crew that I've worked with for many years, as it takes a special team to photograph these special kids. Over the years we've photographed kids with downs syndrome, hearing impaired, spina bifida, autism, brittle bone (Osteogenesis imperfecta), aging (progeria), and so many other issues. In the end, one thing I learned, no matter what the ability, kids are kids, first and foremost. With that in mind, we always make it a fun experience for the kids.

This year's cover was with Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic gold medal winner in all around gymnastics. What a sweetheart. She was just great to work with and was tremendous with the kids.

When I get a chance later this month, I'll make a gallery of the kid photos from the catalogs and will reprint a Peterson's Photographic magazine column I wrote abut this great assignment I've been privileged to shoot for so many years.

The 2013 Toys R Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. All the toys have symbols to show what that toy is good for, such as fine motor skills, hearing, socialization, and much more. Ask for it at your local Toys R Us.

The 2013 Toys R Us Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. All the toys have symbols to show what that toy is good for, such as fine motor skills, hearing, socialization, and much more. Ask for it at your local Toys R Us.


Convention Season Starts

Convention season starts right away in January. I'll be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas from January 7 to 10 in the Canon booth doing my dog and pony show. Well actually it will be my photographing kids and lighting shows.

Then the following week I'll be in Phoenix at PPA's Imaging USA convention, also in the Canon booth. If anyone is at either show, stop by and say "Hey!"

I'll upload some images later in the month, but until I register the copyrights. Nothing for me ever gets uploaded until I register it. Like seat belts, safety first.

Here I am in the Canon Booth at last year's CES Convention. This year I'll be photographing models on stage along with lecturing. What fun! For me at least. Thanks for this photo Steve. Hard to get selfies on stage.

Here I am in the Canon Booth at last year's CES Convention. This year I'll be photographing models on stage along with lecturing. What fun! For me at least. Thanks for this photo Steve. Hard to get selfies on stage.

Here I am at a charity event at last year's CES, catching up with actor/director Joe Regalbuto, who once took one of my lighting classes at Photoshop World. Let's see what this year brings.

Here I am at a charity event at last year's CES, catching up with actor/director Joe Regalbuto, who once took one of my lighting classes at Photoshop World. Let's see what this year brings.

The Authentic Fake

While I'll be doing a lot of new blog posts here, I realized a lot of writing  I did way back when I wrote the ProVision column in Petersen's Photographic magazine still resonates today, with some minor updating. So here is the first of from my archives, the story behind one of my favorite lighting lessons - the authentic fake:

Way back, about a gazillion years ago, when I was a fresh faced, newly minted photography graduate of RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology), I thought I knew it all. Well, assisting in NY right out of school showed me how much more I needed to learn. All the equipment, the new techniques I learned in those first two months was more than I learned in a whole year in college. Life in a commercial studio was like being educated in dog years, in that every studio month was like a seven school months. After about 6 months into assisting, I finally had the opportunity to shoot something for myself. The photographer I was working for in that first job was kind enough to let me shoot for my own portfolio during the evening or weekend.

Well when the time came that I was able to shoot something for myself, I decided I was going to use all my new knowledge and all the studio’s equipment I could now utilize. Luckily I was smart enough to see how bad that first attempt was after I got the film back (This was in that long ago era, BD, before digital). I tried too many techniques and tried to use too many tools for what should have been a simple photograph. And now years later, I find that the same phenomenon takes over my assistants, when they finally get to steer the ship, known as “the studio”. All those toys! All those gadgets! All those techniques they now know! If they try and do it all at once, their results are the same as my first one. Too much ambition and not enough photo.  They, as I did years ago, forgot the KISS rule (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

What does this have to do with the photo in this blog? Everything. I had an art director call me for this job, to shoot a three-year old catching a fish, to illustrate what you can do with the CanoScan, which at the time was a new film scanner made by Canon. The fish was enlarged, multiplied, and brightly colored in the final ad. The art director wanted to shoot outdoors, in March. With the weather being finicky and three-year-olds being even more finicky in less than ideal weather, and holding a dead fish, I decided that I could do it better in the studio. We built a dock for the set. Used a water and sky painted backdrop. Added in pilings by the dock and some placed buoys and fishing nets on the dock. Terrific.

Now for the most important element of the shot, the thing that will make or break it as far as shooting in the studio. The lighting. Without the right light, this shoot would look as dead as a mackerel. Now while I have lots of lighting equipment and grip equipment, I decided to light this entire set with just one light. One strobe head plugged into a 1000ws power pack.

What better way to copy sunlight, which is basically one light, than with just one light? KISS. The strobe head is in the far back, right side of the set and there is a 4’x8’ white foamcore reflector on the near left side, very close and in front of the model. While the light was coming from the strobe head in the back, I based my exposure on the reflected light from the reflector. Basically I exposed for the open shadow and let the highlight from the light source, that single strobe head, wash out the side of the model. I made sure that my exposure was low enough that I could shoot at a wide aperture, like F/4 or wider on a 200mm f1.8 Canon L lens. The combination of long lens and wide aperture makes the background go way out of focus and makes the in focus model the center of attention. Not to mention it helps minimize the “fakeness” of the background.

Ad for scanner shot in the studio with just one strobe light.

Ad for scanner shot in the studio with just one strobe light.

The final result is a very realistic looking “day light” in the studio.  If I had used all the lights at my disposal, with a main light, a fill light, a hair light this photo would have looked like a faked studio shoot instead of a realistic looking, fake studio shoot.

 

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