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Posts tagged ‘Tom Meyer’

Many (different) portraits in a nice (dark) room… quickly, please.

One thing I really enjoy about making portraits for a living, is that I am often asked to go to a place I’ve never been, and photograph people I’ve never met. I know… sounds like it should be trouble. But for me it’s like being told “I don’t look good in pictures”. It kinda makes my day.

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This time, it was especially fun because they were all visually sophisticated and pleasant people, as was my client, Karin Pendley-Koser at KPK and Co.

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While none of these folks were used to being photographed so deliberately, they were not hostile to the process, which is surprisingly common and always adds a Thin Layer of Interesting to the day.

But here, everyone was totally on board, and patient, too.

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Plus, we were at Chip Cheatham’s showroom in Atlanta, which was comfortable, and lush with environmental flavor. The context of deliberate interior space needed to be an important element in these portraits, but it needed to be the second element. Or third.
Finding an appropriate background can be more challenging than connecting with the person being photographed, but this place had the opposite problem. Plenty of opportunity, and often, too much. And then there was that black ceiling. And those black walls.

 

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I didn’t have the time to appreciate the Arnold Newman axiom of Talent<Moving Furniture @ 1/99 ratio.
I had to find existing tableau that lent themselves to the demeanor, palette and structure of each person.

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What could be forward, and what must recede.
Who would stand where. Where do these lights go. Quickly.

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I arranged 13 different set ups resulting in 11 final portraits of 6 different people and 3 groupings, in under two hours.

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Then we went to the next location.

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Corporate portraits, with creative license

You might think engineers… architectural engineers, would want a fairly conventional portrait for their business website. Well I did. Fortunately for me, they didn’t. Well they did, but they also let me do whatever I wanted, as long as I could get it done during the same day as making the group portrait of eight and a formal portrait of each of the other seven partners. And we did, under five hours from first test pop to packing the gear out the door.

Here are the 7 “casual” portraits, made extemporaneously using a couple of SB’s and various modifiers as Russell Kaye assisted me with the gear and critical/helpful/objective commentary.

Working fast and light in a small factory

I have been photographing for this client for so many years, they are now way into the good friend category.This winter they asked me to start making some portraits of a documentary nature, featuring their production staff and customer service.

Here’s what I did a couple of days into the new year of 2012. This is their fabrication crew. They didn’t slow down a bit for me.

I was working two little lights with color correcting gels on them. Sometimes I had the D700 on a tripod, sometimes not… all were made with my old 28-70 2.8 Nikon. The ambient light was pretty typical overhead warehouse lighting, and some high and very yellow translucent panels the length of one wall, about 20 feet off the ground. You can see some of that in a few of these out takes. I like this gritty duotone treatment, but they will probably want color, which is why I use the color correction on the flashes to get them as close as I could to the vague, rambling Kelvin of the insanely mixed temperature light sources.  Plus the sun was in and out all afternoon, pushing EVs, color temperatures and the relative lighting ratios all over the place.

Before and while I worked, no one came in to clean up the shop, no suits from corporate appeared to affect attitude, no art director stopped production to rearrange the work space, no make up was applied.  I moved a few trash cans and a broom, mostly to remove an errant highlight and keep the compositions as I wanted them. I loved it, and worked alone (without an assistant) for about three hours.

Here’s a sample… my quick edit.

Shop Forman

performance art

springs, ready for assembly

at the lathe

the lathe that is older yet more precise than me

sanding the edges of a plywood armature

an anthropomorphic plywood form, glued and clamped, dries overnight in the empty warehouse

assemblyman

drill press

my kind of color palette, in the high window's light, end of day

Serendipity is such a nice word

When working as an “event photographer”, the tendency is to set a high-ish ISO (400 or 800), attach a competent and slightly diffuse flash to the camera and just document the scene as a dispassionate observer with an agenda.

I have no problem keeping such elemental guidelines prominent in my approach, but I also like to look for opportunities to break out of that static mode, turn off the flash and crank the ISO up. Especially when the ambient lighting reveals such surprises as I encountered a couple of days ago…

Last week, I was asked to photograph an event hosted by the management of the building where my studio is located, the Little Five Points Community Center. It’s a non-profit organization in an almost 100 year old building that offers reasonably priced studios to artists and arts organizations. As icing on that cake… it’s in Little Five Points, where there is never a dull moment or a shortage of interesting people.

The old cafeteria is right outside my studio (which is half of the original kitchen), and I use it when I need to build a large set. The ceiling is high, the room is large and the really ugly florescent lighting emanates from fixtures that are recessed into the ceiling (ie: out of the way).

The hallway off the cafeteria is several stops darker and that’s where the best photographic moment of the day presented itself to me.

I had been photographing the Manga African Dance troop in the cafeteria, and moved over to the exit to the hallway for a new point of view. In that hallway was this beautiful young woman. She was watching the same dance performance, and sort of subconsciously spinning an inflatable globe…

I saw her as I crossed the room, but rather than approach with the camera’s presence on her, I turned back to the room to check my point of view on the performance that was in progress. But while watching, I turned off the flash and knocked the shutter speed down by two stops. Then I turned, focused and exposed one frame of the globe spinning woman (she smiled!).

It wasn’t until downloading later that evening that I noticed the orientation of the globe, which was undoubtedly set for me by the rhythms that surrounded us at that moment.

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Young Woman, Spinning Globe. Little Five Points Community Center, Sept 17, 2011

28-70 f2.8 on D700 Nikon, ISO 800, 1/50th @ f2.8

Atmosphere, light and foxes

I recently spent another week at Anna’s Veranda and found some new residents in the Inlet Beach Dune Preserve. They would only appear in the last minutes of sunlight when the weather and atmosphere has its greatest effect on the quality of light.

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Florida Red Fox, August 10, 8:40pm (Vulpes vulpes), © T.W. Meyer 2011

I went to photograph them on 3 evenings, but my longest lens was an 85mm 1.8, and the light was almost non-existent when they would suddenly appear from under the scrub and palmettos. The first two nights I hand held the camera, and worked iso 400 at insanely slow shutter speeds, bracing on the railing of the boardwalk and watching for that still moment to release. iso 400 pretty quickly became 1600, which the D700 handle pretty well. And they are so fast… and then there’s the wind.

But the really magical thing that overlayed my excitement at being so close to these thoroughly wild creatures, was the wonderful shifting qualities of light in late summer on the gulf shore of the Florida panhandle. Every night the coastal sky presented a rapidly shifting range of color, from a deep clear blue to a fiery orange glow to an almost completely neutral silver.

In preparing this images, I tried to remain faithful to the impression of those moments, if not to an empirical reproduction of the twilight’s actual spectrum. Each of these images of the foxes was made on a different evening, and the color they have is my best recollection of the experience. I’ve included some photographs of the sky, just to give you an idea of what the illumination was like, in the surrounding minutes. There was no way for me to empirically identify and record the color temperature without a color meter, and I wouldn’t have used one, had I had it. Well, maybe I would have, but I just set the white balance to “fine weather” which gave me a constant standard to work from, had confidence in the fluidity of the raw files, and kept my attention with the foxes.

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Florida Red Fox, 8:55pm August 8, 2011 © T.W. Meyer 2011

Monday – 2011.08.08 at 8:55pm, iso 1600, f1.8 @ 1/8th second, 85mm f1.8 Nikon AF-D

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Florida Red Fox, 8:20pm, August 10, 2011 © T.W. Meyer 2011

Thursday – 2011.08.10 at 8:20pm, iso 800, f3.5 @ 1/400th second, 85mm f1.8 Nikon AF-D

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The sky above me and the foxes, 8:31pm, August 10, 2011 © T.W. Meyer 2011

Thursday – 2011.08.10 at 8:31pm, iso 400, f4.5 @ 1/250th second, 85mm f1.8 Nikon AF-D

Florida Red Fox, 8:43pm, August 10 2011, © T.W. Meyer

Florida Red Fox, 8:43pm, August 10 2011, © T.W. Meyer

Thursday – 2011.08.10 at 8:43pm, iso 800, f1.8 @ 1/25th second, 85mm f1.8 Nikon AF-D

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The sky above me and the foxes, 8:47pm, August 10, 2011 © T.W. Meyer 2011

Thursday – 2011.08.10 at 8:47pm, iso 800, f2.8 @ 1/10th second, 20mm f2.8 Nikon AF-D

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Florida Red Fox, 8:31pm, August 13, 2011 © T.W. Meyer 2011

Saturday – 2011.08.13 at 8:31pm, iso 400, f2.2 @ 1/30th second, 85mm f1.8 Nikon AF-D on a tripod (finally)

You can see more on my Facebook page from this trip.

Night City

Sometimes a job goes on so long, I think “man, am I glad that’s done”. I pack my gear, walk out the door and into the night.

A couple of hours later I started the car.

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Night City #1

I made these pictures in a parking lot after working for several hours photographing someone else’s work in a hotel.

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Night City #2

At that moment, the sky’s light was in balance with the lights of the world around me.

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Night City #3

At certain times of the day, in certain seasons of the year, the moon sits near the horizon as the sky holds the sun’s radiant influence… and their brilliance and tonal range matches the ambient lighting we have created here on earth.
It’s a good time for a photographer to have a tripod handy.

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Night City #4

Since these were made with multiple and/or long exposures up to 1.3 seconds each, and I was moving the camera within those intervals, the tripod’s main function was to assure the composition and to enable a degree of repeatability.

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Night City #5

It was a good time to have a nice camera at hand. And a tripod.

portrait of a young man as a Young Man

I really can’t think of anything to say that this photograph doesn’t say better, all by itself

© TWMeyer 2011

ring bearer

Ring Bearer

Why I always carry a camera (#1): Palette vs non-sequiter

behind Mobley Tire, Decatur, Georgia, USA

behind Mobley Tire, Decatur, Georgia, USA

Whenever I take my car to Mobley Tire for repair (or anywhere for that matter), I wander through the mini-wasteland next door. It sort of borders on a strip club and a pet crematory (I can’t find a good joke in that… make up your own). Some of the stuff has been there for years, some looks like it was dropped off yesterday.

This image has all the right stuff to make it susceptible to good artspeak descriptors, so here goes:

Within this image, there is a  disassociative juxtaposition within the repetitive seduction of a seemingly chaotic yet structured and textural fugue. Built with a constrained and harmonious palette and dynamic tonal range, it’s objective content is interlaced with just the right amount of visual jangle and droll humor.

This entry has been quite satisfying to my artist remnants.

portrait of a working artist in a really small room

Christina Kober is an enterprising jeweler who understands the value of self promotion and is working it from many angles. She asked me to make portraits of her at work.

Her studio is small, but quite efficiently laid out and easy for one person to use. Adding a photographer (even a thin one) and a light stand with a diffusing modifier (even a small one) quickly shrinks it to the point where everything is a bumping hazard. And some of her stuff, you don’t want to bump.

Christina Kober: Window light for main, strobe for back light

Christina Kober: Window light for main, strobe for back light

In the above image, a window is the main light on camera right. I used a favorite old 30 inch Westcott Halo for a back light. Unfortunately, the 30 inch Halo is now out of production and there’s nothing that replaces it. I love it because it’s small, provides a directional yet soft and shape revealing light, works really well with speedlights and it’s convex front diffusion panel can be placed very close to a subject. I prefer the enclosed construction of the Halo because it doesn’t create the contrast lowering spill that is a problem when a comparable shoot-through umbrella is used in a small room.The Halo kept the wall behind her a deeper blue, in contrast with the warm window light on her skin, hair and scarf.

Christina Kober: Bounced main light and daylight rim

Christina Kober: Bounced main light and daylight rim

This image shows the intensity of Christina’s concentration when she’s working with the torch on a very small piece. I wanted to light her from my left, where there was only room for an undiffused, small and flamable light source, all of which were just not good ideas.  I dodged those issues by putting my Lumedyne on a stand above and behind her (to the right), with a 5 degree grid on it. That light was pointed over her head toward the closed white blinds on the window to my left so that it bounced from those blinds onto her face as a softer light, while the window light from across the room created an edge lighting on her right hand and the tools she was using. Grids do collimate the light somewhat, but not as tightly as a snoot or fresnel head would. This grid is held on with velcro… not exactly a light tight seal so maybe some of that rim light was leakage from the grid.  I’ve learned to exploit such weaknesses  idiosyncracies in my archaic vintage equipment… t

seeing the air, feeling the light

The window seat bedroom at Anna's Veranda, Inlet Beach Florida

The window seat bedroom at Anna’s Veranda, Inlet Beach Florida

This room has a dream-like ambiance. The smell of the ocean, the brilliant yet completely soft light, even on a cloudless day. The well controlled yet expansive palette of the room and a deep visual range that reaches from the silk coverlet to the window seat, beyond the second story veranda, over the dunes and white sand beach and into the gradient blue of ocean/sky all the way to the invisibly blended or crisp curved horizon of the Gulf of Mexico… it’s a room you can just stand in, for days. Waking up there is hard to describe in words. Any collection of superlatives falls short.

I’m going back in August and it’s something I think about with great anticipation and an experience I remember with such complex clarity; the arrhythmic mantra of the distant surf and sea birds, the occasional drone of the beach patrol’s fixed wing aircraft… the sound of the shower down the hall.

It’s one of several bedrooms at Anna’s Veranda, a 100 year old restored Victorian home in in Inlet Beach on the Redneck Riviera, just west of Panama City Beach and East of Rosemary Beach, Florida.

Quiet. Beautiful.