Behind The Scenes For American Lawyer

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Maggie Soladay, Photo Editor at American Lawyer, recently had us shoot the cover feature for their annual Associates Survey. The cover image had to convey the rather subtle idea that female associates gave their firms lower marks than the male associates did in many areas on the survey. Here’s a little taste of how it went…

For the cover, I wanted to use a color that immediately grabbed the reader’s attention and Art Director Morris Stubbs was on board, especially after seeing what I did with Bill O’Reilly a few months ago…so we pulled out the orange seamless and went to work.

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As you can see in the lighting diagram, I kept things fairly simple, but I wanted to light our models (Jo Quiles and Johnny Tyrone) with two separate main lights…20″ Profoto Beauty dishes with 25 degree grids…in such a way to add to the drama. The male associate had to be in a hero light…something that would make him more prominent in the photo, while the female associate was lit slightly from below to give off a more menacing vibe. Not exactly ‘monster lighting’, but just enough to not come off as a wash of soft light. Other than the dish reflectors, I added a ringlight with the soft reflector to give a sheen to their suits.

American Lawyer - Associates

Then we backed up the orange set with a similar look on blue…

American Lawyer - Associates

Next, we moved on to the inside look…

American Lawyer - Associates

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To illustrate the idea of a law associate moving out of the shadows and stepping into the spotlight, I literally pulled out my modified Desisti spotlight for the task…

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I positioned the Desisti directly behind and above my camera and cut the light with two cards on either side that gave me a exact slash of light I wanted. A little pop from the ringlight filled in the shadows just enough without throwing a ringlight-effect shadow…

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The resulting image opened the story…

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…and all was right with the World…

American Lawyer - Associates

A Few Minutes With Bill O’Reilly

Bill O'Reilly

When I got the call from Dave Baratz at USAWeekend to shoot Bill O’Reilly, I immediately could tell from his voice that this was probably when was of those quick in-and-out gigs, and I was right. Bill had extremely limited time available and wouldn’t go to a studio, so the only place we could shoot him was on the set of The O’Reilly Factor at Fox News. Oh yeah…we were told we would only have about ten minutes with him…immediately before he taped his show!

I figured I had better go check the place out…

It was small…really small! My wide-angle lenses were gonna get a workout! The only place I could drop a seamless for the cover would be in a back corner behind the cameras…

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For a second shot, the only other possibility seemed around his desk…

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But when I saw the Stage Manager sitting in a nook to the side I had an idea…

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Because of the time constraints and the fact that I was going to shoot him against that backlit set, I made the decision to light Bill with a couple of 1′ x 1′ BiColor Litepanels. The BiColor variator made it super easy to dial in the correct color temperature and the output variator allowed me to match the intensity of the backlit blue wall in seconds. I’ve really come to appreciate the WYSIWYG aspect of shooting the the Litepanel system.

Bill O’Reilly…on set in 3…2…1…

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Bill O'Reilly

That took care of the opener…

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Now, on to the cover.

I took a subjects-eye-view of the cover setup…

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…which sort of shows how tightly backed into that corner we really were…

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Since the story was about volunteerism, Dave and I thought it would be nice to play off the old Uncle Sam, ‘I Want You!’ poster…

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And Bill got into the whole Uncle-Sam-pointing thing which made my work that much easier…

Bill O'Reilly

And here’s the cover that came out yesterday

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Bill and I hope YOU enjoyed todays behind-the-scenes look!

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Blowing Smoke With Iron Chef Bobby Flay!!!

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This past weekend was the unofficial start of Summer and to kick off the season, Dave Baratz at USAWeekend had me shoot Iron Chef Bobby Flay for a Summer Grilling cover. He wanted BBQ…he wanted smoke…he wanted fire…and he wanted it shot in a studio.

So we obliged.

We set up shop at Milk studios for a couple of reasons…first, Studio #3 was wonderfully huge and second, it had tons of windows that we were gonna need to clear out all the smoke I knew we would have. But fake smoke is one thing, fire is something else! Since we couldn’t exactly light a real fire, I called upon Sarah Oliphant for a flame backdrop

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Next came the smoke. I kinda knew the standard Rosco smoke fogger wouldn’t be the way to go because all it does is spew out a huge blast of very hard to control smoke and I really wanted to have very precise, wispy smoke curls. We did tests using Superior smoke pellets

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…but at $7 a pop and only lasting 20-30 seconds each, they weren’t the ideal fit. But then we found something new to me at JMFX out in Brooklyn…the Tiny F07 fogger

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Not only is it small…about the size of a deck of cards…so it’s easy to hide on a set or maneuver in and out of the shot on the fly, but since it has a wireless remote control, it’s extremely easy to control the output. About the only downside is that the damned thing costs $1850.00!!! Thank God for rental houses.

But after firing up a couple of the Tiny F07’s, this was literally our first test with the smoke..

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Not bad at all…all we had to do now was add an Iron Chef…

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay

…and the cover…

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With the cover in the bag, we moved on to a second shot with another Olpihant backdrop

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After slapping a couple of steaks on the grill and both mini-smoke machines hidden inside, Bobby went to work…

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay

So that was our day with the Iron Chef…and the best part is that now all of us at Damn Ugly Photography are certified special effects technicians!!!

Kaz, Brad & Ben

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…

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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.

Soccer by the Pool with Olympian Megan Rapinoe

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Stacey Pleasant offered me a fun gig a few weeks ago. She produces a series of advertorials for McDonald’s that runs in Sports Illustrated and they wanted me to shoot Megan Rapinoe, a mid-fielder on the United States women’s national soccer team that’s going to London for the Olympics. Megan was gonna be in town doing some P/R and had very little time available for a shoot, so Stacey arranged to do everything at her hotel, the Dream Downtown. The advertorials are single-page interviews with the athletes and formatted in such a way that there has to be a lot of clean space around the person in order to run the type over the background. For our purposes, the options for locations at the hotel were limited, but we were offered the swimming pool area. Both Stacey and I figured using the pool as a clean backdrop would work perfectly for the type…but we didn’t know about one of the main design features of the Dream’s pool…

Portholes!!! Hundreds of little (and a few BIG) portholes at the bottom of the pool! Well…we were locked into the location, so I was just gonna hafta deal with that later…right now we had to start shooting!

While Marni worked on Megan…

Ben stood in so we could pick an angle on that pool, but without the sun things were looking kinda flat…

Megan’s a pro…she immediately understood the Damn Ugly Photography aesthetic…

And as if by magic…a few frames into the shoot the Sun came out…and all was right with the World. We decided to still keep the full-CTO filtered bare head we set up for a Sun-like skim camera left, ‘cuz it added a nice warmth to the highlight created by the real Sun…

But as good as that looked, I still had to deal with all those portholes…a few hours and a lotta mouse-clicks later, and the shot was now ready for type…

The final page…

With the pool shot in the can, I pressed for a couple of minutes more to do a second shot. Immediately to the left of the pool was a wall clad in Stainless-Steel that could be kinda nice. The natural light was a little flat, so we threw on the ringlight which gave us a hot highlight that ran vertically through the middle of the shot…

That looked like Hell, but once we got the available/strobe balance down, we had a little fun…

The final image…and that ringlight added a nice, smoky highlight rising off of her…

The issue hit the stands this week. Good luck in London, Megan!

SEC Commissioner Mary Schapiro for Bloomberg Markets

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I’ve been shooting a lot lately for Eric Godwin at Bloomberg Markets, and a month ago he had us make a couple of trips down to D.C. to shoot Mary Schapiro, the head of the Securities & Exchange Commission, and her Chief Enforcement investigator, Robert Khuzami. Between the time they spend testifying in front of congress and chasing down the bankers who caused the current financial crisis, these two are so busy that I was warned I was going to be getting very little time to shoot. For Mary, I had to come away with at least two situations, one of them a cover try. After scouring a building filled with official looking seals and crests on the walls, we settled on the SEC hearing room for the cover….

Kaz and Ben knock off a few test frames…

Kaz and the MacBeth chart…

Try to look like you mean business…!!!

…and the final result…..

With the first shot in the bag (taking all of about 5 minutes!) we raced over to the slightly bizarre press conference area that was in the hallway outside. It had a wonderfully blank look about it, so we lit it with a very direct, blank light…

Lighting was just an open-faced Octalight for an overall fill and a bare head to throw a direct, hard shadow…

Total time with Mary…maybe 15 minutes…and then it was back to New York……but the very next day Eric called and said we had to go back! He just found out that they needed Robert Khuzami shot as well. OK…pack up the van and off we go again…..

Now I actually knew quite a bit about Khuzami before we got back down to D.C. He is probably best-known as the Federal Prosecutor in the trial of the “Blind Sheikh”, Omar Abdel-Rahman, and he’s equally respected for the convictions he’s gotten in numerous insider trading, fraud and organized crime cases. But I was immediately struck by was a nice, normal guy he was…and he had his kids art up on his office wall right next to his law enforcement mementoes and courtroom drawings of him in action. So that’s where we shot him, using the same kind of lighting we used on the second shot of Mary…

One final shot of me with the Commissioner…