John Lithgow For The Wall Street Journal

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As time goes by, when it comes to my portrait work, a lot of how I judge success or failure relates to how I can connect with a subject…usually in an extremely limited time frame. Oh sure, I gotta come away with a beautiful portrait or two, but I really want to also learn a little of the people who spend time in front of my lens. So when The Wall Street Journal called and said we were gonna get ‘some time’ to shoot John Lithgow for Weekend Confidential and would I be interested, I knew that meant very little time, but I still immediately screamed “YES!!!”…cuz getting to pick his brain…and take a few photos…was gonna be fun!

Lithgow is epic. He’s an actor’s actor. I’d pay gold to watch him open an envelope! He was doing promotion for his new play, “Hillary And Clinton”, and we would be given a slot on a day that included a matinee performance followed by his appearing on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” followed by the evening performance, so I knew things had to be nailed down. On with the show…

For our first setup, I got to use a couple of new canvasses I recently got from Gravity Backdrops. They’re essentially the same…both a very low texture dark grey…and I layered the smaller of the two on top of the larger to create a bit of depth & shadow. For lighting, it’s pretty simple…just a 5′ parabolic umbrella on a boom jacked up as high as I could get it…

Gotta love one light…

I showed him a few lighting test shots of Richard and he said he understood the direction I was going towards…serious, thoughtful and introspective.

Mr. Lithgow, enter Stage Left…

In between shots, we talked about his new play, his career, his time as a student at Harvard, and a whole lot more. Then we moved on to our feature portrait, where we used two more Gravity drops and a sawhorse tabletop…lit with a 20″ gridded Profoto Beauty dish and filled by another 5-footer…

With just a bit of finesse…mostly just adding a flag camera right to throw a little shadow on the background and the side of John’s face…it looked like this…

It was the exact mood I was aiming at…

Finally, before he left, John insisted on photographing…me!

He grabbed the Hasselblad and immortalized me thusly…

All in all, it was a typically quick session…but extremely satisfying.

You can check out the final results over at The Wall Street Journal

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Armie Hammer…Is Very Tall!!!

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Armie Hammer. The Social Network…The Lone Ranger…Nocturnal Animals…Call Me by Your Name…that guy! And since his new film…On the Basis of Sex…was opening Christmas Day, Ronnie Weil had me photograph all Six-Foot Five of him for a feature profile for Weekend Confidential in the Wall Street Journal…and we had a blast!

Robert was doing the heavy lifting on this shoot and we started with a simple white cyc setup…

So I just let Armie be Armie…

With a few intense closeups…

And with all of those in the bag, it allowed me to assemble a fun multi-image…

Next, we dropped a black velvet off to the side…

…that one big, soft top light gave us a nice skylight effect…

…and it allowed me to quickly move around and try a few different angles…

Here’s how it looks in this weeks ‘Weekend Confidential’

Call me by your name, Armie…

Joe Duran In A Walnut-Paneled Room For InvestmentNews

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Joe Duran is the CEO of United Capital and we met up with him in a sumptuous, expensive looking, walnut-paneled room at the University Club in Midtown Manhattan for a cover shoot for InvestmentNews.

Here we go…..

Lotsa wood paneled walls…

But we had a specific look in mind, and that meant we were gonna drop some seamless…here’s Matt, looking pensive…

Lighting was pretty simple…a gridded 3′ Profoto RFI main light filled with a soft ring light.

When Joe arrived, he tried his best to emulate Matt’s serious look…

…but there was something about his smile that worked better…

On the opposite side of the room, we had dropped a grey seamless…

Obviously, I white-balanced my setup in Capture One rather cool…around 4350 Kelvin…to shift the grey tones from neutral to blue. I did that to better match Joe’s blue suit. The whole thing was lit by a single 47″ Rime Lite Grand Box with only a 7′ pop-up reflector on the right side for fill and I shot everything using a 50mm on the Hasselblad for a bit of wide angle distortion…

Here’s how it looks in this week’s InvestmentNews

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…

Party Time With Marcus Samuelsson

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Marcus SamuelssonAquavitRed RoosterStreet BirdThe Food NetworkNo Passport Required…..that guy! I just love that guy!!! I had photographed him once before…years ago…where I set up a little food fight between him and chefs Tyler Florence and Melissa Kelly…

…so when Laura Baer asked me to shoot him at Marcus B&P…his new restaurant in Newark…for the New Jersey Monthly ‘Where To Eat Now’ cover, I was happy to hang with the Chef for some more fun times. Art Director Andy Ogilvie and I headed down to Newark to check out Marcus B&P…

The first thing that struck us was the bar that filled the entire front of the restaurant…

Yeah…that’ll work. And right next to the bar were these cover-ready booths…

So a few days later, Kaz and I loaded up the van, crossed the Hudson to do what we do…

But it is a restaurant…so let’s see some food…

OK…let’s move on to our cover shot…

Marcus had no reservations about dancing on a rather precarious tabletop…

And it looked good, but I still had to fire up Photoshop and to clean up the wall and get rid of that green stuff on the right side of the shot to make it truly cover-ready…

Now it was ready!

With two shots in the bag, we had just a little bit of time left before the place opened for dinner service and I spotted one more shot I wanted to do…at the Pass looking into the kitchen area…

It was a great place for a portrait of Marcus with chef James Bowen…

Everything is out right now in the August issue of New Jersey Monthly…

Huge thanks to Marcus and James…we had a blast!

Ethan Hawke For The London Sunday Times

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Ethan Hawke has a new movie out…‘First Reformed’…and Adam Hearn from the Times of London offered me the opportunity to hang with him for a bit and hopefully come away with a few portraits for the cover of the Sunday Culture Magazine. Kaz and I headed out to Ruby Bird Studios in Brooklyn and here’s how things went…

I wanted to shoot at Ruby Bird cuz it’s dripping with character…point in just about any direction and you can’t help but have a great background. And besides a cool location, we had Michael Fisher as our stylist for the day. And he killed it with all the amazing clothes he brought!

I decided to start pretty simple…in a corner…..

Ethan worked the Hell outta that corner…

For a second look, we set up against one of the rusty sliding doors…

…and Michael had the perfect retro outfit for the mood…

Michael had a rack full of extremely nice suits just begging to be used, so for our final shots, we went with a simple, dark seamless…

…and I let Ethan just play around…

Here’s the cover that came out yesterday…

Thanks to Adam, Michael, the folks at Ruby Bird..and most of all Ethan…it was a cool hang!

Director Ramin Bahrani For Variety

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Director Ramin Bahrani just remade the classic Ray Bradbury novel, Fahrenheit 451, for HBO…and I got the call from Jennifer Dorn at Variety to shoot him for this weeks issue. Kaz and I packed up the bus and headed downtown to HBO in midtown and here’s how things turned out…

First, we set up my favorite cement wall drop from Gravity Backdrops for kind of a raw look…

Pretty simple lighting setup…just an 8″ fresnel spot with a couple of 5′ umbrellas for a soft wall of fill…

…for a natural sunlight look…

But when Ramin arrived and we saw him dressed all in black, we decided to to crush the shadows and darken things for a more menacing overall appearance…

On the other side of the room we dropped a medium grey seamless…

Once again, a little more contrast and a bit less shadow detail helped a lot…

But the Black & White set the mood…

Here is the finished story in Variety