Enya

Enya

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One of the best things about doing what I do is not knowing where I’m gonna be tomorrow, so when Dana Kien at the Wall Street Journal asked if I wanted to shoot Irish singer Enya, there was no hesitation when I said ‘Yes!”. She was going to be in New York to promote her new album and I could get an hour with her at her hotel between interviews and TV gigs. So Robert and I loaded up the van and drove downtown to the St. Regis Hotel…

I didn’t know what kind of suite we would have to work with, but I did know all of the rooms at the St. Regis face North, so we would probably have lots of soft window light to play with. And when we got there, the first thing I did was see how Robert looked with nothing but that available light…

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Well…that was easy…now what else can we do?!! The bedroom was pretty opulent complete with a nice, velvet wallpaper…

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…and I also brought a lavender seamless that I could drop for a variation…

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…that looked like this…

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I think we’re ready to go! And as cute as Robert was, I knew Enya would bring a bit more to the table…

Enya

Enya

And by just pulling the seamless outta the way…and adding a pillow from the bed for her to lean on…this is how things looked…

Enya

Now let’s move onto the windows…

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Enya

You’ll notice that I got rid of those windows across the street…it just makes everything look a lot cleaner and more elegant.

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Enya

And here’s the page from today’s Wall Street Journal

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Thanks to Dana for the great shoot…and thanks to Enya for letting me turn her suite into a studio for an hour!

Enya

Hamilton In ‘Da House!!!

Lin-Manuel Miranda

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OK…let’s get this outta the way right off the bat…

No, I did not get tickets to Hamilton!

Now…on with the show……

My string of extremely cool shoots for Arrive Magazine continued when Rob Smith offered up Lin-Manuel Miranda for a cover feature on the ‘Hamilton’ writer and star. The story was tied to the productions donation of 20,000 $10 tickets to High School students so they see private matinees of ‘Hamilton’ that also includes a Q&A with the cast afterwards. It’s all done with the hope that it will get students to enjoy learning history…and what better way to get teens to enjoy history than to have them rapping the incredibly infectious songs from the musical after they leave the theater?!! And for one of our main photos we would be shooting Lin-Manuel with a group of students!

There were of course the usual difficulties of a shoot like this…very limited shoot time…having to do a union call which besides being crazy expensive, meant we couldn’t even plug in a light or move as much as a clamp without having a Hamilton crew member do it for us…to not even knowing what kind of wardrobe Lin-Manuel would be wearing before he arrived. Then there was the fact that I had a wild chest cold that made me feel like death and took 90% of my voice away! But hammer on we must…

On the location scout we decided on a few locations…

A view from the stage for our shot with Lin-Manuel and the kids…

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The back wall of the stage for a portrait…

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And a corner up in the mezzanine that would work great for our cover…my editor Leigh Flayton was giving her acting chops a workout…

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The ‘Hamilton’ wine being served in the Mezzanine Bar…

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Since we are going to have very little time for our shots, we had to pre-light each shot in advance…that was a lotta light! We had three separate setups on the stage alone, as well as the cover we were doing up in the mezzanine…

Most of these lights were for the opening shot of Lin-Manuel with the kids…

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But you can see the setup against the ‘rope wall’ in the background…

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Rob and I checking out the opening shot…with some of the union crew approving in the back…

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Here’s our first shot with stand ins for the opener…

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…and how things got looking better when the ‘talent’ showed up…

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But once we got the lighting dialed in a bit more, the final shot for the opener dazzled…

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Next was our ‘rope wall’ shot. Since Matt and Lin-Manuel were about the same height, he got to be the stand in…

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Lin-Manuel Miranda

Then we dropped a seamless for a tight portrait. I wanted something a little darker and moodier, so we kept things pretty contrasty…and I tweaked the color way into the blue spectrum which made Matt’s baby-blues even dreamier than normal…

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For Lin-Manuel I backed off a bit cuz I liked the shadow we were getting on the background…

Lin-Manuel Miranda

Finally, we raced upstairs for the cover. It’s pretty hard to describe how tight this location was, and unfortunately we didn’t have the time to do any behind-the-scenes shots, but Lin-Manuel was stuck into the corner and I was no more than four feet away shooting between the railing of a very dark stairway with the widest lens I had!

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Once again, I chose to shift the color balance towards the blue end of things since I didn’t really like how the dead green/cyan of the wallpaper was looking. I also popped the saturation of the gold quite a bit in CaptureOne which really made those frames stand out…

Lin-Manuel Miranda

And here’s how it all turned out…

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And I wasn’t kidding earlier…I still haven’t seen ‘Hamilton’…..but these kids did!!!

Lin-Manuel Miranda

The Human Face of Big Data – The Book & the Film…

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I got an email this afternoon reminding me that ‘The Human Face of Big Data’Rick Smolan’s look at how the rapid emergence of digital devices is affecting our lives…will be airing tonight at 10:00PM Eastern on PBS (check local listings). And that reminded me that I actually did one of the shots that was featured in the book. Rick had me shoot Josh Koppel, the CEO of ScrollMotion…an App developer that has created mobile content for most of the world’s largest publishers. ScrollMotion basically ‘teaches’ Old Media how to use New Media. The funny thing is that when you enter their offices, it’s like going to a museum of Pre-Digital Technology! Every single inch of the wall space is filled with magazine cover, record albums, movie posters and newspaper clippings…

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…and especially Josh’s office…

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My mission was clear…show what the place was like and the rest would fall in place. We figured that couch with the wall full of Nostalgia behind it was the place to start. Since Josh lives on his iPad, I wanted to play that off the wall of old printed material. But I needed to make the iPad the hero. It kind of had to be the focal point of the photo. It had to shine…and I had just the right thing…my little battery powered Morris Mini Slave units…

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The Mini Slaves are small…really small…and if he held one in his hand at just the right angle it would appear that the iPad was lighting his face while also giving me a nice halo-glow. This is how we set it up…

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I did a lot of cross-filtering with CTO and CTB tells to add to the mood. The Ring Light and Mini Slave were both wrapped in blue, while the beauty dish had a full CTO to warm up his skin and the wall behind him. There was a huge wall of windows on the left side that also let a lot of cool, blue light in. My first test was kind of right on…

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Once we added Josh to the shot, all we had to do was get him to master holding the Mini Slave in the right place…

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Here’s the final image in the book…

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So anyway…you should check out the documentary tonight…watch the trailer here:

Josh Koppel - Chief Creative Officer, ScrollMotion

Turning The Barron’s Roundtable Into ‘The Minority Report’

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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In the last episode of ‘Damn Ugly Photography’, we took a look at the first week of the 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Shoot…but now I’m gonna show you how I convinced our nine financial professionals to act as stand-ins for Tom Cruise in his movie, ‘The Minority Report’. You remember…this one…

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Adrian Delucca and I had been tossing ideas around for months on how to make this work. I had to generate the floating graphs and other graphics that would be ‘moved around’, and we also had to come up with the perfect background images to position the people against…

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…but probably the hardest thing would be how we could quickly get each Roundtable member to understand exactly what the final image would be and how to get them into position. Remember…I have less than ten minutes with each person and I had to shoot two other setups besides this one! I figured the smartest way around this would be to show them a pretty detailed mockup of our cover ideas with one of my assistants standing in, so on our setup day, I had Robert work his magic…

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The lighting was super-simple…just a single Profoto 3′ RFI Octa bank way up high on a boom…and a couple of medium strip skim lights with blue gels to mimic the lighting from the background…

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And the night before the shoot, I quickly Photoshopped this together…

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Showing each person the print before we got started proved to be the exact thing they needed to illustrate what we wanted them to do…

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Now we just had to get them to do their best impression of Marcel Marceau without feeling too self conscious…

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Point up at the graph…uhhhh….hand…..

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Here are a few of the raw images…

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And now comes the fun part…editing through the 1000 images I took to find the few I can use that will actually look like everyone was in the same place at the same time. Then, floating all the graphs in place while remembering I had to save lotsa room for cover headlines. Here’s how the Week Two cover came together…

First, the background image…made a bit fuzzier for perspective…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now, add the people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Then, the basic graphs…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I had to add in some shadows, haloes and color shifts to the graphs so they looked like the were actually floating in space…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next I pasted in a few techie-looking graphics and charts…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

I decided to tone down the blue of the background cuz it as taking away from the overall dark mood I was aiming for…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

And finally I increased the contrast, desaturated the skin tones and added a glow around the fingertips…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Our final cover…

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Using the same steps, I worked up another image for the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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The Week Three images came together pretty much the same…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

For the final steps, I messed with the focus on the background cuz it was drawing attention away from the foreground and shifted the overall blue cast more towards cyan/green…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Here’s the Week Three cover…

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…and the opener…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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Now if all that Photoshop geek talk hasn’t put you to sleep and you’re hankerin’ for more, you can watch the layers progressions on both cover images in these two YouTube videos…and then I promise, no more Roundtable talk for a while…..

Week Two Cover Layers:

Week Three Cover Layers:

The 2016 Barron’s Roundtable Extravaganza – Part One

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

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As anyone who has visited Damn Ugly Photography on a regular basis knows, the first week of January is when we decamp for the warm embrace of the Harvard Club to shoot the annual Barron’s Roundtable. This year was no different, and apart from there being a few familiar Roundtable members missing and replaced with a couple of new guys, the formula remains the same. We have two hours to shoot each of the nine Roundtable members…separately since they all arrive at staggered times…with the objective being that we need enough varied poses to fabricate four individual covers (three in January and one more for the mid-year report in June) as well as four feature photos to open the story with each week. We start at around 8:00AM and have to be totally done by the time the meeting begins at 10:00. If the thought of shooting nine people for four covers and four openers in two hours isn’t daunting enough, we also have to get each Roundtable member to wrap their head our concepts for the covers immediately…and remember…these aren’t models. They’re financial professionals. Trying to get them to understand the varied poses I need so that I can manufacture a cover where they all look like they’re relating to each other is harder than any of the technical tricks we work on!

So here is how the shoot for the first week’s cover went…

Our Week One cover and opener revolved around this image of a World Map…

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Using some old images of the Roundtable members from a previous shoot, I put together this comp…

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…so when people arrived, I could quickly show them a visual representation of what we were going to do…

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As usual, we have to set up multiple lighting sets for our different poses in a very small room…this time we had three individual sets…

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…everything is in the same place…hair & makeup, three sets and a very small area where people can hang out until we get them on set…

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For the cover, we wanted everyone to react to the people around them…people who weren’t there when we did the shoot…so Robert got to carry on imaginary conversations to get each persons attention aimed in the right direction…

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We did luck out once when Bill Priest and Brian Rogers overlapped, so we shot them together…

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…but for the most part, they had to wave their hands around like a weatherman in front of a green screen…

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So my raw materials from this part looked like this…

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Now I just had to pick the appropriate images where everyone looked like they were all together at the same time. Here’s how the cover got pieced together…

First, the base background image…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Next, the base image is flipped to make the floor, and I also de-focussed it so it looked more like a real reflection…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

Now I could mess with the color & contrast for the combined background…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and add a few people…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and the rest follow…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and finally, I added shadows and more color & contrast tweaks…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…which gave us our cover for Week One…

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Now I could move on to the inside feature image. I stated with the same base image layer, but I destaurated the blue cast a bit and lightened the upper area so that we could overlay type onto it easier…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The inside poses needed to be a bit more serious, due to the recent instability of the markets…

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The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

The ‘assembled’ group…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…the final image with shadows & color alterations…

The 2016 Barron's Roundtable

…and our opening feature image…

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So that was Week One. Tune in again next week to see how Adrian Delucca, Pam Budz and I put together Week Two & Week Three!

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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…

Gabrielle Sterbenz

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…

Julian Fellowes

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

Julian Fellowes

Next we moved over to the full-length seamless…

Julian Fellowes

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

Julian Fellowes

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