On the Top of the World for Barron’s

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A few weeks back, Adrian sent me uptown to the GM Building for a feature on Jeff Kolitch, the manager of Baron Capital’s Real Estate Fund. Since the focus of the article was Real Estate, they kinda wanted to see Real Estate, so on the scout, even thought they had a lot of fish tanks that might make for some fun portraits…

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…I still had to make sure to come up with something that might actually relate to why Jeff was being interviewed…

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Adrian really liked the window and its view, so Ben and I figured we could turn it into a ‘frame’ that would hold our photo…

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And the final images…

Jeff Kolitch

Jeff Kolitch

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But we weren’t done yet. When Jeff walked me around the offices on the location scout, I really liked the space-age, floating glass staircase that joined the 48th & 49th floors…

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…and after a bit of lighting…

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Jeff Kolitch

…we ended up with this…

Jeff Kolitch

Sharp eyes will notice that in the final image I cloned the wall on the right side of the photo onto the left side to make things more symmetrical, a technique I used once before on another staircase shot for Businessweek.

R.I.P. Alan Abelson

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Me and Alan at the 2008 Roundtable

Alan Abelson, the veteran financial journalist and longtime writer of the “Up and Down Wall Street” column in Barron’s Magazine, died last Thursday. The former Editor of Barron’s was a regular member of the panel who quizzed the Roundtable members each year about their predictions on the coming years financial markets, and as many of you probably know, I’ve shot that Roundtable issue for the past seven years. Alan was well-known as being a thorn in the side of Wall Street for his fearless style of journalism. Ben Stein, the writer, actor, economist, and humorist who was a longtime friend of Alan’s, wrote in the American Spectator

“…His columns were dour, hilarious, insightful. He never bought into the prevailing “wisdom” of Wall Street. It was all about hucksterism and self-promotion. He realized that from the first day until the last. He could and would deflate any balloon, from the dirigibles of the Fed to the smaller ones of hedge funds. There is no one like him now. The rest of us are just ordinary people. He was Superman.”

Goodbye Superman.

Cooking With Cash For The Barron’s Roundtable

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Here’s a quick follow-up to what we did with that $30 Grand in cash I needed as a prop for the Week Two and Week Three group shots of this years Barron’s Roundtable shoot. Once again, our object was to shoot as many different single images of each Roundtable member playing around the cooking theme so that we could later assemble them into our little stories. Since the theme played on the idea of cooking up a recipe for the perfect economy, cash…lotsa cash…was required as our main ingredient!

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And here’s how the final pages looked…

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Behind The Scenes At The Most Expensive Barron’s Roundtable Yet

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We here at Damn Ugly Photography have done many, many, many Barron’s Roundtable shoots over the years, but this time we came close to breaking the bank…literally! Our cover idea was to have the members of the Roundtable rockin’ Chef Props as they cooked up the perfect economic recipe for the coming year, and for our ‘ingredients’ we needed cash…lots and lots of cash

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Since Photoshop has added high-tech security filters that make it almost impossible to scan money and print it out…and prop money looks way too fake…we decided to hit my bank and just get real cash (that’s about $30 Grand in the bag) to use in our recipes…

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The basic cover setup was a raised plexiglass platform that I could shoot from both a low angle for the cover image, and from slightly above for the inside compositions for the Week Two & Week Three images…

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Hasselblad H1/50mm f4.0 with a Leaf Aptus 33 for the cover and the 5DmkII/24-70mm f2.8 for the higher-angle inside shots…

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As in previous years, we have only two hours to shoot everybody…all separately as they arrive at The Harvard Club for the meeting…on two different sets, and we must come away with two covers (for the January and June Mid-Year issues), two inside openers for those covers, two feature openers for the second and third week follow-up issues and individual shots of each person for the June Mid-Year issue. In those two hours we try to cram in as many different poses and props as possible so we have enough to work with when it comes to assembling the final group shots. Here’s some of the fun…

Marni worked her super-fast makeup magic on everyone before they got on set…

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Oscar Schafer…

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Brian Rogers…

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Fred Hickey…

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Abby Joseph Cohen…

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Scott Black…

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Adrian and I liked the idea of placing everyone on the edge of a mountaintop made from a butcher block cutting board and viewing them from below…

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…so once I shot a bunch of angles on the board, we had all the raw materials in place. Now it was up to me to assembly the individual shots into our cover and feature opening photos…

The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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The 2013 Barron's Roundtable

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This stuff never gets old!

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Stay tuned next week and you’ll see what we did with all that cash once Barron’s runs the Week Two and Week Three images…

Spending A Day In Wine Heaven

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As a wine geek, getting a call from Adrian Delucca asking if I wanted to spend a day photographing Tom Ryder in his World-Class wine cellar, made me extremely happy that I do what I do for a living. Tom has been the President of American Express Publishing, CEO of Readers Digest and was the Chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America, and over the years has amassed a truly amazing wine collection. He was writing a feature for Barron’s that discussed how the bottom has fallen out of the wine collecting (as an investment) market and told his own story of when he auctioned off a small portion of his own cellar. As part of the process, he had the auction house appraise the wines he wanted to sell and was shocked to learn that the 1,000 bottles he was looking to divest would ‘only’ fetch between $70,000 – $100,000…but if he were to sell only three Magnum bottles of his 2005 Romanee-Conti he would get roughly the same $100,000! It was my job to show him with those three bottles of very pricy DRC. Here’s how it went…

Nick and I started by stacking up cases of his very best Grand Cru Burgundies that would be our posing table…

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…and then cleaned up the background a bit…

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Nick enjoying the view from the stacks…

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…but Tom fit the mood a bit more…

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Because of the tight quarters in the cellar, we were kind of limited with what we could do, lighting-wise, but we pulled off a nice, warm and dramatic look with only two lights…an Elinchrom 39″ Mini Octa high and to the right of the camera, and a Ringlight…that’s it!

Our final select, with the three Magnums of DRC valued at $100,000 (and those messy cases behind him cleaned up in post )…

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And here’s how it looked in the magazine…

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In Case You Were Wondering…CEO’s Are VERY Busy!!!

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I logged another CEO Spotlight for Barron’s a few weeks back when Adrian sent us to shoot Bob Benmosche, the CEO of AIG. As usual, the drill is we get told The Boss is extremely busy and I will only be allowed five minutes to get everything I need in the can. I typically take the ‘five minutes’ as shorthand for we hafta be quick, but this time I knew we had no wiggle room. Benmosche was going to shoehorn us in between an earnings statement conference call and a Town Hall Meeting, so his schedule was carved in stone. There was going to be very little time for small talk, but I know how important it is to come away with a portrait that shows the subject’s personality. Obviously, with such little time to shoot we had to have our setups nailed down when he showed up. Here’s how it went.

The CEO Spotlight is formatted as a full-length portrait on white, so on this day we turned the top floor of the AIG building…with it’s 18-foot ceilings and Million Dollar views…into our studio…

That gave us our feature opener…

We also did a second shot where I used my Ghetto-Flos in the hallway area directly behind where we had the seamless set up…

…which gave us this…

…that morphed into this after a wee bit of Photoshoppery…

And we were done…in five minutes.

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The 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Mid-Year Report

First off…I’m gonna thank Timothy Archibald for getting me off my ass and back on the blog! He wondered aloud on his own blog the other day about how facebook might be causing a lotta guys like me to slack off on our blog duties, so thanks T.A.

Now, back to business!

My twice-yearly Barron’s cover story on the meeting of their Round Table participants popped up a couple of weeks back, so just as I did for the Black Board cover back in January, here’s a little behind-the-scenes on how we put together the cover for Part 2…

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Since we only have about two hours to shoot all ten Roundtable members individually for both covers and all the inside photos for the two issues, we have to have our two sets nailed down pretty tight. And because we decided on the very complicated Black Board set for the January cover, the Mid Year cover set had to be somewhat simpler. Barron’s Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca and I came up with the idea to use arrow props that would be held to illustrate the Up and Down market trends and pose everyone on white around a few cubes…

Once we got all ten members shot, now I just had to assemble them into believable groups for both the cover and the inside opening spread…

…the final spread had most of those red arrows changed to blue…

…and for the cover we went without props altogether…

See y’all next January…

Smithsonian Magazine Goes to the Museum of Math

Hot off the press, my portrait of Glen Whitney, the Director of the Museum of Mathematics, is in this month’s edition of Smithsonian Magazine. I went down to DC a while ago and saw Molly Roberts…the Photo Editor at Smithsonian…and she said it would be perfect for a new feature section they were starting that profiled “Big Ideas”.

You can check out the story HERE!

Behind the Scenes of the 2012 Barron’s Roundtable Cover Shoot

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I first photographed the annual Barron’s Roundtable cover story back in January of 2007, which makes this the sixth year I’ve had the privilege, and each year the team of Art Director Pamela Budz, Photo Editor Adrian Delucca and myself have stepped up our game to reinvent creative ways to show the gang of financial prognosticators. This year the three of us came up with the idea that centered around the entire group posing in front of a blackboard. I did a quick mockup using shots of the Roundtable members I had taken previously…

So we packed up our usual thousand pounds of lighting gear along with a blackboard and various other set pieces and headed uptown to The Harvard Club to make it work…

Our main prop…a 4’x6′ blackboard…

Now for those of you who haven’t read about some of the previous Roundtable shoot days, I’ll break down the schedule for you. We have roughly two hours to shoot everybody before the meeting begins at 10:00AM. In that two hours we have to come away with two cover shots (one for main January issue and one for the mid-year follow-up in June), three additional situations that will be used for openers in three January issues, an opener for the June issue and individual portraits of all ten Roundtable members that will get dropped into the copy of the June issue.

Ten People. Two Hours.

Oh yeah…we shoot everybody separately as they arrive at the Harvard Club and assemble those shots into the group photos for the cover and inside openers.

Simple.

Here’s what it looked like…

Adrian reminding me we have very little time…

And this is just from the Blackboard set. You can see the second white seamless setup behind me in one of the above photos, but I can’t show you any of that until it publishes in June.

Once we had finished with the people, we now had to shoot the blackboard, out of the rigging we used to suspend it for the portraits and back on its stand…

…and various elements on the blackboard that I could insert into the final compositions. Since Pam can freehand fonts way better than any of us, she got to draw the cover headline on the board…

Adrian was elected to do the ‘Charts & Graphs’…

And with all of the elements photographed, now it was up to me to push everything together in Photoshop and manufacture that group shot for the cover. The individual photos looked like this…

…so first I had to silhouette the images and paste them into a new Photoshop document…

…and then fill in the group with everybody else…

…do a rough mockup with the blackboard inserted behind the group…

…and after Pam and Adrian had approved the final composition, do a whole lotta fine-tuning…like erasing the rough edges around the silhouette, feathering the hair to blend naturally against the blackboard, add shadows in front and behind everybody and finally cook in my own special sauce of color and contrast adjustments…

With the cover outta the way, next up was the week one opener. I started by seriously stretching out that blackboard so that it would run over a two-page spread, then I added both the people and their names that I had them write on the board…

Using the same fine-tuning I did on the cover, this was the final image…

And here’s how it appeared in print…

And using the same basic technique, just on a smaller scale, here is the image that ran as the opener in this weeks issue…

Just like I said…simple!

Gettin’ Smart at the Museum of Math

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Not to get you guys thinking that I’m in a creative rut or anything, but hot on the heels of last weeks post about my Digitalman, here’s the series of photos I did of Glen Whitney…a Harvard-educated mathematician and former hedge fund manager…for a story on philanthropy in Barron’s Penta.

An unapologetic numbers geek, Whitney is pulling together about $30 million and building the Museum of Mathematics in a prime 20,000 square foot raw space on East 26th Street right on Madison Park in Manhattan. Since the construction hasn’t even begun on the museum, Adrian and I thought it might be kinda cool to inject some math into the portraits, and maybe using a projection technique would be one way to to pull it off. But the magazine budget wasn’t quite as lofty as the previous ad shoot, which meant spending the kind of money required to produce the job with the super-spendy toys I used on the Digitalman was not gonna be in the cards…so we went about as low-tech as possible, left the strobes at home and decided to work with the available light and use nothing but a digital projector. And it all ended up being not only a lotta fun, but we got some very cool portraits of Glen in the process.

I did a location scout, ‘cuz I really needed to get an idea of exactly what we had to work with…a dark, dirty cavern with lots of rough concrete walls and pipes was what I found…

After spending a few days making various Photoshop ‘slides’ using hundreds of real math equations, we rented the biggest digital projector the budget could afford, and Bo and I headed off to MoMath…

Any early test…

…and a couple of the final selects. We used the ambient light from the construction worklights to fill in the background areas, but the shot was essentially lit entirely by the digital projector…

Next, we moved to an area that was a bit cleaner and less cluttered for a cover image…

…and I broke out my home-made Kino-Flo florescent lights and we did this…

The Museum of Math is scheduled to be completed next year…check out the details on their website and make sure to take the kids when it opens!

A Tiny Sofa and a Big Table for Barron’s…

My eclectic tour of the Nation’s boardrooms recently took me to the offices of Riverpark Capital, where I was to photograph Morty Schaja, Mitch Rubin and Conrad van Tienhoven for a Barron’s profile. Lest any of you think that the life of a photographer is all Supermodels and hangin’ with Diddy, I beg you to read on…

Riverpark’s midtown office would never be described using words such as ‘opulent’, ‘palatial’ or ‘ostentatious’. But they are hardly alone in this…most places I find myself having to shoot in are equally utilitarian…but it can rattle my bones when I keep seeing the same furniture, cubicles, lighting and paint used again and again and again. Still, after a quick tour of the space, I decided to begin in the reception area…

…sort of a mini-history of the financial markets as seen through the eyes of Time Magazine. I kinda thought it would be a good place to start, so we dropped Mitch and Morty onto the little couch and went to work…

But we also had to photograph a situation with Conrad, the third partner in the firm, and there was zero chance of him fitting on that couch. That part of the story brings us to this conference room…

The first thing you gotta do when faced with the dreaded White Board/Conference Table scenario is ignore how frightfully normal the situation is and try to envision it instead as a set piece that will only work because of the personality you can bring to it. That first means usually cleaning it up and add some tasty lighting…

Next, stir in the talent…

…but the whole serious/symmetrical thing wasn’t doin’ it for me, so I told the guys to just go about doing what they normally do…let loose and ignore me…and they did…

…and that kind of unguarded moment was exactly what Adrian wanted for the story…

Your 5 Minutes with the CEO of Bayer begins…NOW!!!

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Here’s another from my ongoing series of CEO Spotlights from Barron’s…this time featuring Dr. Marijn Dekkers, the new CEO of Bayer AG. He was up at the Barron’s offices to be interviewed and I was told that because of his tight schedule, I would have precious little time with him for the portrait session. So we set up in the tiny video studio the magazine has tucked away down a back hallway and waited. Precisely on time, Dr. Dekkers and his publicist arrived and yes, they were already looking at their watches. Still, the five minutes was more than enough time to get off a couple of looks…without getting a headache!

Jim Grant For Barron’s

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Jim Grant, the publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, is one of Wall Streets greatest critics, and Adrian Delucca had me head downtown to shoot him for a recent Barron’s feature. Jim’s office was pretty small, but an institutional yellow wall behind a doorway…

…and his wall of books…

…gave me what I needed for a couple of nice portraits…

It’s Summer…Let’s Go Fishing!!!

A few weeks ago, Adrian asked if I wanted to head up the Turnpike to shoot a couple of fund managers…Ed Nicklin and Andy Knuth of the Westport Select Funds…for the Barron’s Mutual Fund Report. We were both hoping to get anything other than the usual office environment portraits and since the Westport offices were kinda on my way up to Damn Ugly’s weekend command center, I swung by to take a look around and right behind their building I found this…

It’s funny how one simple prop can get your juices flowing on a shoot, but as soon as I saw the plastic Adirondack chairs and the river location I knew we had something to play with. And I’m not usually one who tries to cram a metaphor down the reader’s throat, but when we found out that Andy and Ed kept fishing poles in the office and that they were known to ‘fish for good deals’ in the market, I couldn’t turn up the chance to turn these fund managers into sport fishermen!

Once that was done, Kaz and I set up a nice, relaxing scene next to a waterfront shed where the boys could kick back and enjoy the sunny day…..

…which gave Barron’s the perfect opener for the section…..

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART THREE

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The year is half over and that means The Mid-Year Roundtable issue of Barron’s has hit the stands. I’ve already spilled the beans on some of some of what went down at the Harvard Club that cold day in January in PART ONE and PART TWO, and now comes the final story of how we shot the ten members of the Roundtable separately and put ‘em all together into a cover, an inside opener and individual portraits that would accompany each of their stock picks.

Adrian DeLucca and I figured we would hammer home the Global theme we started in the January issue by shooting each person against a section of a World map and I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to squeeze a few Artificial Portraits in at the same time. I photographed a giant map I picked up from IKEA and then printed it out in ten 40″ x 50″ sections that would serve as a backdrop for each individual portrait…..

Since we had precious little time to waste the day of the shoot, I decided to ‘map out’ who would be in front of which section ahead of time…..

I kept the lighting pretty simple…just a gridded 20″ Profoto beauty dish way up high on a boom and an on-camera ringlight…..

Because we were jumping between the two sets, I gave myself a few cheaters to remind me what my settings should be…..

Oh yeah…just about forgot…I added an over the shoulder fill in the form of an open-face Octalite…..

…all of which gave us ten images that I had to re-assemble into a map of the World…..

…which looked like this on the cover…..

…with a variation for the inside opener…..

But while I was shooting the images for the cover, I also had to come away with some individual portraits that were a bit different and that’s where the Artificial Portraits came in…..

…and these shots were peppered throughout the article…..

And another year of the Roundtable was in the can! So until next January, Photo Editor Adrian DeLucca, Art Director Pam Budz and yours truly wish you well!

Mega-Investor Bill Ackman For Barron’s

$10.3 Billion Dollars. That’s the value of the funds run by Bill Ackman, the founder and CEO of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management. When you’re in charge of that kinda money, even I know you probably don’t wanna spend a lot of time posing for pictures. But I had to shoot a cover for Barron’s and little problems like this weren’t gonna get the job done….

I went up for a location scout, but as is the case with most of the investment companies I’m tasked to photograph, where I can shoot is often extremely controlled. Pershing Square’s offices are very striking…42 floors above Central Park, ultra-modern, with white glass walls and a view most people would kill to shoot…but I didn’t really wanna do a ‘view’ portrait, and besides, I knew that Art Streiber had already done that picture for Portfolio Magazine a couple years back…and a lot of the other areas of their office we strictly off-limits because of SEC rules, so my choices were whittled down to these two spots…..

A possible cover location…

…and a second spot, in their kitchen, that had an repeated Op-Art view of a vintage print of the original Pershing Square…

Of course the two locations were on opposite sides of the floor, and of course we would have maybe ten minutes with Bill to get both photographs done! That meant setting up both shots ahead of time (with the ‘normal’ six tons of lighting gear!) and work fast. We started with the doorway shot…

…which gave Barron’s this for the cover…

And then were off to the kitchen for something a bit more relaxed…

And since we finished both shots so quickly, he even gave us another minute to re-set and blast off a few ringlight portraits, one of which sits at the top of this post.

Do You Have Any Stronger Sawhorses For The Chairman?!!

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A few weeks ago, Mr. DeLucca asked if I would like to take a trip up to Herald Square to shoot Terry Lundgren, the President, Chairman of the Board, Director and CEO of Macy’s. “Yeah”, I said, “but only if I don’t hafta do some lame picture of him on the retail floor!”. Thus began our journey…

I went up to Macy’s for a quick location scout and was of course shown every square inch of the million square feet of retail space in the World’s Largest Department Store…none of which really interested me. What I really wanted to see was their display department…I had a kind of cool idea that required mannequins and such, but I got shot down on that one. I was then offered a look around their ‘Executive Offices’, which is normally the kiss of death, but in this case it proved damned inspiring. The floor dates back to the 1902 origin of the building and was stunning, but what really got me going was the Executive Dining Room. The walls were covered in frescos painted in the 1940’s that show views of the building as it looked back then…

But using the P/R guy as a stand in, I saw immediately that just dropping him in front of the wall was gonna be flat-footed and boring…..

I needed to raise him up and get him into the scene, and that was gonna take a lot of gear! (And since this was a Barron’s gig, I only had one assistant) So Kaz and I showed up early…we got to Macy’s three hours before the shoot…and proceeded to turn the dining room into a photo studio for real. Besides my usual two tons of lighting gear, we hauled in apple boxes, saw horses, a sheet of plywood and a 4 x 8 piece of white plexiglass and went about rigging a platform that would raise him up to the right height…

But we still had one final hurdle to get over…the P/R guy walked in while we were setting up and had concerns about our plastic saw horses….”Do you have any stronger sawhorses for the Chairman?!!”. I had to get up on the platform and dance a jig to convince him we were safe. And it was worth it…here’s the resulting page in Barron’s…

But I wasn’t done. My favorite image was actually like that set-up shot I sat in for. The much more dramatic, pulled-back view of Lundgren is now sitting at the front of my portfolio…

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART TWO

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I could have subtitled this post “How To Make 10 People Appear Out Of Thin Air” cuz that’s kinda what we had to do with the inside shots for this years Barron’s Roundtable issue. It took a little arm-twisting, but I convinced Adrian that after all these years of assembling individual portraits of the Roundtable members into our fanciful group shots, this would be a perfect time to pull away the curtain…up to a point…and show a bit of the behind-the-scenes magic and Photoshoppery that is involved in making ten people look like they were actually in the same room at the same time. My idea was to do a pulled-back view of the cover image showing the lights, assistants and set dressing, as well as having some fun with the MacBeth color-checker while we were at it, much like what I do in the Light Test galleries on my website. But the truth was that we would still be tricking the viewer into thinking they were seeing a real look at the set, when in fact the entire shot was created in Photoshop!

You’ll remember from Part One that we shot everybody separately on the black velvet set…..

…but those shots weren’t wide enough for me to insert all ten people, so we cleared the set, widened the black velvet and shot a blank canvas for me to assemble the group shot with…

Unfortunately, even that area wasn’t wide enough, so I had to stretch it even further in Photoshop into this…

You’ll notice that besides making the velvet area wider, I also corrected the lens distortion by straightening the verticals and I also added a few A-Clamps to the crossbar holding the velvet. Now I could get to work filling in the lighting. I added a second hairlight boom, and three beauty dishes on the bottom of the frame…

…and then cloned in the posing table and some sandbags, four times…..

…which got us to the point where I could start adding bodies!

…and then get the whole gang together…

Now by this time, I had worked up a pretty complex file with more than 30 layers…

There were more than 25 image layers alone, with things like hands, shadows, tabletops, light booms, and various body parts overlapping and blending into one another…trust me, it’s a lot to keep track of!

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But after all the cloning and cropping and positioning and blending and color-correcting, this was the final image…..

…and here is how it looked in Barron’s…

Now I figure after all that, y’all should have the basics down for how to fake a big group, so I won’t bore you with another step-by-step breakdown of the two additional shots I put together for the following two shots, but here’s what we did for week two and week three of the Roundtable Reports…

Week Two:

Week Three:

So there you have it…for now! Remember, I still have the two situations we did for the Mid-Year cover to talk about, but not until June when it gets published!

OK…OK…there is this…….

Behind The Scenes At The 2011 Barron’s Roundtable PART ONE

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For the fifth year in a row, I got to photograph the ten investment professionals who make up the Barron’s Roundtable to illustrate the two cover stories the magazine runs on their predictions for the World financial markets. And just as we do every year, photo editor Adrian DeLucca and I brainstormed over fine wines and French food to come up with the best way to use the extremely limited time we are given to shoot everybody for the minimum of four separate uses the magazine has. In the roughly two hours we’re alloted (we have to shoot everybody before their day-long meeting begins) we have to come up with two covers…one for January and one for the mid-year June issue…as well as double-page opening shots for both issues, and still try to get individual photos of each person that can be used in stand-alone stories. That’s ten people…two hours……four different shots!

Since I can’t talk about anything we shot for the June Mid-Year cover until it is published, you’ll all just hafta make due with half of the story until then, but here’s the story on how the January cover went down…..

Since the Roundtable members generally talk about Global financial markets, Adrian and I thought to shoot a cover image where the Roundtable members would be sitting…somewhat God-like…at a round table that was actually the Earth, but because the focus of their discussions typically center on how things will effect the North American markets, we decided it was best to concentrate on the North American continent. The first thing I had to do was come up with a globe map that was both graphic and a quick read and something I could easily morph into a table top. A bit of Googling came up with this…

…and with a bit of Photoshoppery I was able to turn it into this…

That gave me the basic shape I needed to determine the camera height & angle so that I could make a cover mockup…

Because each person was to be shot separately and combined in post into the final group shot around the table, I needed a posing table that would give me the proper curve for them to lean into so that when I positioned each person, they would be sitting or standing at the correct angle and my Photoshop blending at our gigantic Earth Table wouldn’t look fake. For the posing stand, I simply cut a curved piece of plywood, painted it blue to match the color of the globe image and screwed it into some apple boxes. Once the basic physics of what angle and height to shoot the cover was planned out, we were ready to get down to business. Since we were scheduled to begin at 8:00AM Monday morning, we spent a leisurely Sunday afternoon setting up…

Just as last year, The Roundtable meeting was taking place at The Harvard Club, so our ‘studio’ was a room with walls covered in portraits of dead, rich white guys staring down at us. They were apparently ex-Presidents of Harvard, which is probably why they called it the Presidents Room. We quickly set up out cover set…a black velvet backdrop, the blue plywood posing table, and a pretty simple lighting setup of a 20″ Profoto White Beauty Dish main light, a second Profoto Beauty Dish as a blue moon-glowy hairlight (but this one is a Silver dish with a 20 degree grid and 2 Full Blue (CTB) filters attached) and a 4′ x 6′ Chimera for an overall fill behind the camera position…

Here’s the subject’s-eye view…

…and you can see we added a fourth light…that head to the right of the camera with a 7″ reflector and a 10 degree grid…it threw a bit more light onto the subjects face, ‘cuz that beauty dish aimed from the ground-up was just a wee bit too monster-lighty. Here are the first tests…

With our basic lighting nailed down and our mockup cover taped to the tripod…

…we were ready for the parade of people that would show up the next morning. Well…as ready as you can possibly be when you have to keep four separate shots in your head where you have to composite ten people into believable groups for the final image! In that two hour shoot window! Anyway…it all came together rather nicely…..

…I’m not kidding…Oscar’s watch is worth $1 million bucks!

Making sure to cover all manner of goofy expressions ‘cuz You never know what you’re gonna hafta do when putting the group shots together…

And in no time…we were done! Now came the assembly. This was the first simple comp I did with people added around our Global Table…

After moving a few people around and swapping in a different pose for Archie MacAllaster on the far left, I erased the plywood posing tables from under their hands and this was the result…

Next came a bit of color and contrast retouching, some tweeking of the levels and curves and dodging the highlights on everyones shoulders so they separated from the background a bit better…

And finally, we added a field of stars…..

…and here is the final cover, complete with the moon that replaced the usual ‘O’ in Barron’s (I can’t remember if that was Adrian’s idea or mine, but it was a nice touch)…..

Next up in Part Two…I’ll break down the assembly and retouching of the Behind-The-Scenes two-page opener for the Roundtable story, including how I managed to convince Adrian that this was a perfect situation to pull out my Artificial Portrait technique, as well and two additional shots we put together for the subsequent two editions of Barron’s.