Rose Byrne For The Wall Street Journal

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Rose Byrne is in a new movie…Juliet, Naked…that’s coming out August 17th and Alexandra Wolfe just profiled her for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature in the Wall Street Journal. Coincidentally, we shot Ethan Hawke…her co-star in the film…a few weeks back. Here’s a look at our day with Rose…

Rose and the Glam Squad took over the back end of the studio…

After going over the wardrobe, we really liked a beautiful beaded dress for our first shot…very soft and feminine…and since the studio had a nice wall of windows, we thought of using the natural light…

…but the natural light wasn’t quite enough to rely on, so we had to improvise a bit. I added a 5′ umbrella outside the door for our main light…

…and a second five-footer clamped to the fire escape for the other window…

Those two big umbrellas gave us the consistent soft daylight look we needed…

But a third five-footer was added above the camera for some soft fill and we tweaked the color & contrast corrections in Capture One…it looked a lot better with Rose in place…

For our second shot, we dragged the umbrellas off of the fire escape and quickly positioned them into a ten foot high wall of softness against some whitewashed wood planks…

Let’s go with the white motorcycle jacket and black jeans…

For the final series, I wanted to get a bit darker & moodier, so we set up a boomed 7′ parabolic umbrella against a rough concrete wall…

As much as I like the previous shot with the white MC, the black-on-black version was really the way to go…

And for one final variation, we simply dialed in the shadows a bit…

The Rose Byrne interview is in The Wall Street Journal right now…

Thanks for the great day, Rose…

Mary Higgins Clark For The Wall Street Journal

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I recently got to spend an afternoon overlooking Central Park in the pied-à-terre of iconic author Mary Higgins Clark. She had just published her 37th novel…which, as usual, entered at the Bestsellers List at #1…and Alexandra Wolfe was featuring her for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ column. Here’s how it went…

When I described the apartment as a pied-à-terre, I wasn’t kidding. Her main residence is an estate in New Jersey, but the Central Park apartment is just a small one-bedroom she uses in the city, but it was impeccably designed and offered us a few options. We started with a simple setup in front of a painting her children commissioned of their mother 30 years earlier. And for the lighting, it was equally simple…just a 7′ umbrella with a black Gobo to cut the light on the upper corner…

For a second portrait, we just turned the camera towards the windows facing the park and swung the light…

As nice as Kaz looked, Mary’s ensemble worked a little better…

And that proved to be what the Journal was looking for…

Tony Bennett

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Three years ago I got to hang out with Tony Bennett for an afternoon. Then a few weeks ago, lightening struck twice when Ronnie Weil asked me to shoot him again for Alexandra Wolfe’s Weekend Confidential column in the Wall Street Journal. Just as the first time, we would be meeting Tony at his art studio on Central Park South…

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…but Ronnie had asked men to not concentrate on the studio this time, but instead to go for a classic portrait. Keep it simple. Focus on his personality. So with that as my brief, off we went.

As you can see in the above photo of his studio, there is a lot of natural light to work with. The entire north side of the room is a wall of windows facing the Park, so I decided to use my brand new Canon 5Ds with my equally new Sigma Art lenses with all that light against a black pop-up backdrop. Here is my first test with Kaz…

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But when Tony sat in place, the entire mood changed…

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And as much as we liked the color, I also processed the entire series in black and white as well…and it was kinda awesome…

Tony Bennett

And the Journal agreed. Here’s the final page…

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But I wasn’t done yet. I had set up a couple of lights against a wall for a second portrait…

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Tony Bennett

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Thanks to Ronnie for the opportunity…and thanks to Tony for allowing me to hang out with him one more time!

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Say My Name

Bryan Cranston

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I’m gonna keep this behind-the-scenes look fairly short and sweet…kinda like my time with Bryan Cranston…because I think the portraits will sort of do all the heavy lifting. Ronnie Weil needed Mr. Cranston shot for Alexandra Wolfe’s ‘Weekend Confidential” feature in the Review section of the Wall Street Journal and I was happy enough to oblige. Here’s how we set up our pop-up studio at the London Hotel for what turned out to be a pretty great morning…

Unlike a lot of the hotel shoots I find myself in, the London gave us a pretty nice (and large) space to work with…nice enough that I was able to break out some of my really BIG guns…the 79″ Rime Lites…

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Here’s how things looked with Robert standing in…

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That set would allow me to do everything from full length to tight portraits, but I wanted to also have a more controlled lighting setup for another portrait, so we pulled out the beauty dish…

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Here’s Kaz posing as fast as he can…

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Alright…we’re ready to go. Mr. Cranston, you’re on!

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Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

Next, I broke out my favorite antique posing stool…

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

After a very quick 5 minutes…with his publicist doing the countdown mambo behind me…we moved over to the second set…

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…and played around with the shadow and light on his face, getting progressively darker and moodier as we went along…

Bryan Cranston

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Bryan Cranston

And here is the final story as it appeared in the Wall Street Journal…

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And for you Breaking Bad fans, here’s a little Badfinger to play us out…

BADFINGER: BABY BLUE

Life is good when you love what you do…..

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Lord Julian Fellowes, Rock Star

Julian Fellowes

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Ronnie Weil from the Wall Street Journal recently called me up and asked if I wanted to add Julian Fellowes to my Rogues Gallery. The English actor, novelist, film director, screenwriter and member of the House of Lords…so that actually makes him Lord Julian Fellowes…was in town for the Broadway opening of the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, ‘School Of Rock”. Lord Fellowes wrote the book for the musical. That’s right…the same guy who won an Oscar for ‘Gosford Park’ and got crazy famous for coming up with ‘Downton Abbey’ was now gonna turn the Jack Black goofball comedy into a Larger than Life Andrew Lloyd Webber musical!

So what was I gonna do?!!

He’s English…offer him some Tea!!!

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And it’s a Rock & Roll musical, so I gotta get a guitar. I shot Gabrielle Sterbenz right after she picked up her shiny, white Stratocaster and I knew it would be the perfect prop for a fine English gentleman in a bespoke suit…

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Now I just had to get prepared. Lord Fellowes would have very little time once he got to the studio. He was coming from a morning TV appearance and had an interview immediately afterwards. So Matt and I set up a couple of tastily lit portrait situations…

Julian Fellowes

Julian Fellowes

As good as Matt looked, Julian just added a bit more panache…

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And to my surprise, he took to the guitar idea immediately…

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Next we moved over to the full-length seamless…

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…but now we added the Tea Cup with Gabby’s Strat…

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And our job was complete!

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Thank you, Lord Fellowes…I can hardly wait to see ‘School Of Rock’…and for the final season of Downton!

Julian Fellowes

At Home With Judy Collins

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I had so much fun shooting Judy Collins for the Wall Street Journal earlier this year that they decided to send me uptown to shoot her at home for the ‘House Call’ column in the ‘Mansion’ section. Here’s how the day went…

Judy lives in a fabulous Pre-War apartment that immediately gave us a few locations to choose from…

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I wanted to keep the look and feel of the apartment without relying on too much lighting, so we figured using my DIY Ghetto-Flo Lights was the way to go. This way we could just drop in a bit of accent lighting where we needed it, but use the great available light that poured into the apartment. Here are the results…

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…and the final image used in Mansion

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Thank you, Judy…until our next shoot…

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Bill Nighy Is Way Cooler Than You

Bill Nighy

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Bill Nighy is cool. Throughout the meandering flow of his career he’s played a vampire, a wizard, an aging, sleazy burnout rock star, a nazi, a time traveler and even Davy Jones with an Octopus face! Whatever he’s in, he’s the coolest guy on the screen. And he wears a suit really well, too. When he arrived at the Golden Theater…where he was starring in Skylight with Cary Mulligan…for our Wall Street Journal shoot, he just oozed cool…that bespoke suit, his perfect diction, his silky smooth attitude…I thought to myself…he’s the King of Cool.

And…off we go…

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The mezzanine of the Golden had lotsa space for Julien and Kaz to assemble our pop-up studio…

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And a quick 45 degree turn to the left offered up a wonderful second shot…

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Here’s how everything turned out…

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Bill Nighy

Bill Nighy

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I wanna be cool like Bill…

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Communication Arts Award Of Excellence

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I am quite honored and humbled to announce that my portrait of Willem Dafoe for the Wall Street Journal was included in this years Communication Arts Photo Annual

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Thanks to photo editor Ronnie Weil for thinking of me such a plum assignment, art director Keith Webb for his elegant layout and writer Alexandra Wolfe for her always eloquent words.

Suite Judy Blue Eyes

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Judy Collins…!!!

When Ronnie Weil called and offered me this one, all I could say was, “Wow!”. For five decades…my entire life…she’s been making music…beautiful music. Now Judy is recording a new CD that is tentatively titled “Duets with Guys”, an album that will feature her signing with Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Buffett, Don McLean and Kris Kristofferson, and Alexandra Wolfe was writing a profile on her for the Wall Street Journal. Here is how our day went…

Kaz sitting in for our first shot…

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Ms. Collins in the makeup chair…

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And our shooting day begins…

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We also had a Journal video crew following us around…

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Here are a couple of final images…

Judy Collins

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For the next setup, I wanted to do something dark & dramatic, and more etherial. And while it doesn’t look like much with Kaz in place…

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…once Judy stepped on set, things got dialed in pretty fast…

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Judy Collins

…and our final image…

Judy Collins

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As a little bonus, follow the link below for Ali Wolfe’s interview with Judy…

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…as well as some more behind-the-scenes from our shoot:

Judy Collins Interview & Behind-the-Scenes footage

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And Now For Something Completely Different: John Cleese

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Even considering that I’ve had the good fortune to photograph some pretty impressive people over the years, when Ronnie Weil called from the Wall Street Journal and offered up John Cleese, it really knocked the wind outta me. People toss around the word ‘iconic’ a lot, but John Cleese is a true ICON. What he and the rest of the Pythons did to comedy in the early 70’s forever changed how people laughed. He is a manic genius who…to quote a famous Monty Python sketch…is a true master of sarcasm…dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes and satire!

And I was getting 15 minutes with him…

Mr. Fawlty was in New York as part of a tour to promote his new book, “So Anyway”, and we met him in a midtown hotel where we set up two situations in a room slightly smaller than an average walk-in closet…

For our first shot, I wanted to do a tight portrait…just his face…to capture a range of expressions…

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We started with just a gridded Profoto beauty dish on the grey seamless…

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…then added a 4′ x 6′ Chimera over my shoulder for fill and a small strip light on the background for separation…

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But something didn’t look right…the 80mm lens perspective was a bit uninteresting…so we swapped it for the 150mm…

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Much better…now just add one Python…

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…and let the rat-faced fun begin!

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I began calling out various characters of his and sketches he was known for and he immediately knew where to take it…

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

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And because we had a wealth of great expressions, I made the suggestion that we do a montage of them. Here is how it ran in the Journal…

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Then we turned 45 degrees to the left and played around with some 3/4 shots…

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It was like shooting fish in a barrel…

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

Then he started doin’ this…

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John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

…and like that, our 15 minutes were up. But I had a fantastic time with an honest-to-God ICONand checked off one more Bucket List item!

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

John Cleese - November 4th, 2014 New York City

Rick Masters + Jesus + Sgt. Elias = Willem Dafoe

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As a young photographer, I had this very dreamy, romanticized idea of what it must be like to shoot celebrities. One of my early photography idols was Bert Stern, and I just figured every shoot with a celebrity might end up like his famous session with Marilyn Monroe where they locked themselves in a suite at the Bel-Air Hotel for three days with a case of ’53 Dom Perignon, a couple of cameras and a few props, and emerged totally spent but with a collection of amazing photographs. But I moved to New York a couple of decades later…just about the time when shoots like that were becoming increasingly controlled by managers, publicists, agents and the studio P/R machine. Ideas had to be pre-approved and even then it didn’t mean you would get to do them. And three days? More like five minutes after your writer got to ask his five questions, thank you very much! But if you’re smart you learn how to work the angles, you keep a few tricks up your sleeve when you don’t have the cooperation you had hoped for, and occasionally, you get lucky…

Ronnie Weil called me at 5:00PM on a Thursday and asked if I would be available the next morning to shoot Willem Dafoe for the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Weekend Confidential’ section. His new film, “A Most Wanted Man”, was coming out in a week and they were given a last-minute opportunity interview him. Now I don’t know about you, but there are very few actors that I can remember from the first moment I saw them on screen, and Willem Dafoe is one of them. His performance as the slick criminal Rick Masters in “To Live and Die in L.A.” burned into my brain. I immediately knew this was a seriously great actor. So yes…of course…just tell me where and when and I’ll be there with a big grin on my face…

The Journal likes the portraits for the ‘Weekend Confidential’ section to be all about the personality, and not prop or location-driven, and so we typically keep things very simple…seamless backdrops or locations that don’t distract from the subject. And it’s not a fashion show, either. What you bring with you is what we shoot. Willem arrived…early, I might add…alone and ready to go. He was wearing black jeans, a black t-shirt and a wonderfully disarming smile. After a few minutes of me heaping gobs of fanboy praise on him and a little light grooming, we were ready to go…

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(Groomer Amy Komorowski)

Willem Dafoe was made to be photographed. He has one of the most expressive faces in the business…whether he’s playing a silent film Vampire (Max Schreck in “Shadow of the Vampire”), a Viet Nam-era Marine (Sergeant Elias in “Platoon”), a cartoon character arch-villain (the Green Goblin in “Spider-Man”) or Jesus Christ himself (“The Last Temptation of Christ”)…and I wanted my portraits of him had to capture the depth he conveys through the characters he portrays. I had a few ideas I wanted to try…and we were told Willem would give us about an hour…so here is how it went…

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I started this first setup as a 3/4 body shot, but allowed myself to move in and out as his poses and mood changed…

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William Dafoe

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Then we sat down and came in for a tight series of darker, more intimate portraits…

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William Dafoe

Now, I was already thrilled with what we had done and that Willem had given us so much time, but I kind of liked the white brick wall in the studio, so I asked him for a few more minutes to put up a fresnel spotlight and play around with the shadows…

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William Dafoe

William Dafoe

In the end, the Journal chose one of my favorites for the article…

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…and once again, I find myself surprised at how lucky I am to be able to do what I do…

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