AOL Shoot for The Hollywood Reporter

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Through a wonderful bit of logrolling, I recently added The Hollywood Reporter as a new client when Alysia Lew of AOL (who I met on my BusinessWeek shoot of AOL executives last Fall) got me to shoot David Eun, the new president of AOL Media and Studios. Here’s a little of what we did…

Kaz sitting in for the main shot…note the hanging cable from the light we clamped up in the ceiling…

…and the resulting final image…..

A new graffiti mural in the reception area…

…and David getting ready to attack the photographer…..

The original test from the ‘Monster Wall’ shot at the top of this post…

And finally, here’s how the magazine opened the story…..

BusinessWeek – Over & Out

I just heard from my friends at BusinessWeek…the entire Photo Department has just been fired and the phones in the Art Department are starting to ring, so they’re probably all gone too….

1:00PM UPDATE: Everybody in the Photo, Art and Graphics departments got fired……

4:10PM UPDATE: I dunno if this has anything to do with the days events, but I just heard that the 43rd Floor is on fire…for real!!!……

Ron Burkle For BusinessWeek

It’s kinda bittersweet to be posting about a job I just did for BusinessWeek on the same day I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop regarding the expected job cuts, but what the heck…it might just be a long time before I have another BusinessWeek story to talk about, right?!!

Last Tuesday, I get a 7:00AM wake-up call from one of my favorite people in the whole World, Sarah Morse…the magazine just got an eleventh-hour OK to shoot Ron Burkle, the supermarket Gazillionaire, and would I be available…like right now…to shoot him?!! I was literally getting ready to head out for a location scout on another gig, but sure…I can call and get Bo’s lazy ass outta bed and the two of us could hang with Mr. Burkle for a bit. And I actually knew a lot about Burkle…he was a huge Democratic fundraiser, a regular on the New York Post’s Page Six, he owns the Pittsburgh Penguins, he hangs out with Bono and Diddy and Leo and various Supermodels…and he recently bought Sky Studio, a triplex photography studio with it’s own swimming pool that I used to rent, as a New York pied-à-terre for about 17 million bucks and that’s where we were gonna do the shoot! Of course, we were told that he would have very little time for the shoot and I wouldn’t get to meet with him until he arrived, but that didn’t matter. Even with a ten-minute shoot window, I figured I should be able to pull something kinda cool off…..

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The backlit, cantilevered staircase gave us a grand entrance focal point and we quickly saw it as the perfect location for our opener. Thank God Burkle showed up wearing a suit and not the jeans and polo shirt his publicist had promised!

After an extremely quick five-minute shoot on the stairs, I asked Ron if we could have a few more minutes to shoot him up on the roof…he graciously obliged and this was the result…..

You can read the article, ‘The Other Ron Burkle’, HERE and y’all stay tuned to see if I have any more BusinessWeek stories to relay in the future!

More Cuts At BusinessWeek???

The sad news racing through the photo community this morning…or at least the small portion I find myself a part of…is that another sweeping round of axings layoffs at BusinessWeek is imminent. I suppose my acting surprised might seem a trifle disingenuous, but since Bloomberg assumed the reins back in December and the initial firings were announced, things seemed to be stabilizing and I was hoping (against hope?) that the friends and colleagues I have known for years would be spared further cuts, but with word that a new design team is in place and both the New York Post and Daily Finance reporting that as many as 30 more people might face the chopping block as early as tomorrow, it’s probably time to face the fact that the magazine I knew is due for some pretty big changes.

Sue Bloom gave me my first assignment back in October of 1988. Roxanne Edwards (then the Photo Director) took a chance and gave me my first cover story a few short months later. It was in 1991 that I began working with the current Photo Director, Ronnie Weil, when she sent me of to shoot the CEO of Pepsi. And Larry Lippman, Kathy Moore, Scott Mlyn, Anne D’Aprix, Sarah Morse, Andrew Popper, Mindy Katzman, Lori Perbeck, Regina Flanagan, Kat Malott, Burte Hughes, Sandra Torres…throughout the years these photo editors and researchers have been like family. This is one of very few magazines I have worked for where I could drop by and feel like an insider and that my opinions and viewpoint actually mattered. I’ve been allowed access into some pretty amazing executive suites over the years…culminating in Ronnie and me getting to spend an afternoon in the Oval Office just a few months ago for our Obama cover story…and I’ve had the opportunity to produce some rather interesting work. I honestly can’t tell you how many covers I’ve shot for them, but it’s gotta be North of thirty by now, and through it all it’s been a wild ride. Now all any of us can do is see how the next act plays out…..

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Bear Attack of the Day

Ronnie Weil figured that since I’m the only person she knows who has regular contact with bears, this instructional video just might come in handy. And I gotta say, I’m pretty impressed that the claymation Davey & Goliath-like action figure looks remarkably like yours truly…Enjoy!

Charlie Rose for BusinessWeek

As the new era at Bloomberg BusinessWeek begins, so does a new stable of columnists, and one of the first new names added to the masthead is the revered television interviewer and journalist, Charlie Rose. We had the pleasure of photographing him in his TV studio…at the table…for his new column portrait.

A Parade of Guys in Suits…..

It seems like in the past few years the overwhelming majority if the people who have stood before my camera have been businessmen….so much so that I’m beginning to have dreams of long lines of guys in suits! I have a bit of a backlog of recent shoots that I haven’t dropped on the blog, so before the holidays take over I figured I had better clean out the closet and put few of them up…

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Henri de Castries for Barron’s

This weeks cover story on AXA Group CEO, Henri de Castries

AOL Executives for BusinessWeek

With the spinning off of AOL from Time Warner, I was sent to shoot CEO Tim Armstrong and his inner circle at the New AOL for a feature story in the first issue of the new Bloomberg BusinessWeek

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong

Jon Brod – Vice President of AOL Ventures

Jeff Levick – President, Global Advertising and Strategy

Bill Wilson – President, AOL Media

Brad Garlinghouse – President, Internet and Mobile Communications

IndexIQ for BusinessWeek

And finally, one more BusinessWeek story. For this one one, we went down to NYU and shot the principals of IndexIQ, a Westchester-based hedge fund with a former Time Inc publisher at the helm and an NYU finance professor at it’s chief investment strategist.

Seated: Professor Robert Whitelaw. Standing (L-R): Adam Patti, Anthony Davidow, Sal Bruno

CEO Adam Patti

Todd Oldham For BusinessWeek

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I had the opportunity to spend some time with multi-faceted designer Todd Oldham when I shot him for a BusinessWeek story that documented his nasty public breakup with Old Navy. It’s been a long time since I’ve met someone so completely at ease and refreshingly upbeat, especially given the drama he’s been put through for the past couple of years in his dealings with Old Navy.

One thing that came out of this whole mess was that since Old Navy had most of his trademarks tied up in a contract dispute, Todd couldn’t really work on anything besides book projects. The good news is that he just released a fabulous book, Kid Made Modern, that I would whole heartily recommend to anyone with kids! The book has over 50 craft projects inspired by modern design masters such as Alexander Calder, Noguchi, Charles & Ray Eames, George Nelson and on and on and on and I can’t think of a better way to introduce young minds to art & design. Christmas is coming….are you parents listening?!! Check it out at Todd’s Website (where you can get an autographed copy) or over on Amazon

Although the time we had was short, it was truly inspiring to be able to hang out with Todd for a while.

Still Life Of The Day – BusinessWeek Shopping Bag Cover

A couple of weeks ago I got a 5:00PM call from Ronnie Weil, BusinessWeek’s Director of Photography, asking if I was available to shoot a rush-rush cover. The magazine was doing a feature on retailing and wanted to show a shopping bag filled with various products….and they needed shot the next morning….and the finished art that afternoon! Fast forward to the next morning and my stylist Megan Terry swoops into the studio with bags full of props and we get to work on Rich Michiel’s layout…..

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Rich would be adding a houndstooth pattern to the white shopping bag in post, but we had to shoot multiple variations of the bag’s contents for them to decide on the final mix of products. After moving the props around into a hundred or so different arrangements, Bo, Megan and I managed to squeak in before the deadline…..

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…and the cover (without the Teddy Bear) hit the stands that Friday!

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BusinessWeek Sold To Bloomberg

As I was in the studio shooting this week’s cover for BusinessWeek, the news finally came down that Bloomberg LP was the ‘winner’ in a long, drawn out bidding process for the magazine. For me this was extremely emotional…BusinessWeek is one of my best clients…certainly the one I have worked for the longest. I checked the files and saw that it was back in 1988 when photo editor Sue Bloom took what must have been a huge risk and gave me my first job to shoot the CEO of the ad agency J. Walter Thompson. A few months later, I shot my first cover for them. Throughout the years I’ve worked with the magazine as it’s evolved and changed and I hope to continue working with them as this latest chapter unfolds…..

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Who Is This Guy On My Floor & Why Is He Showing Me His Crotch ?!!

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Between all the boardrooms I’ve been in lately and my trip to the Oval Office, I worked on a project about how small businesses can ‘Go Green” for BusinessWeek SmallBiz magazine. We started on a boiling hot rooftop in the Bronx and ended up in a very cool brownstone in Washington DC. The Bronx shoot was of Lew Gold, owner of New York Beverage

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Lew had installed an array of solar panels on his roof as the main method to both be greener and save a bundle of overhead. My art director, Michael Scowden, like the roof shots so much he put it on the cover…

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Lew also switched over to more fuel efficient delivery vans and forklifts as well as installing more energy efficient freezers and ice makers. To show off his greener ‘fleet’, I set up a shot that showed off not only his vehicles, but his uniquely designed location…..

Me outside of Bronx Auto Body, ummmm…I mean New York Beverage!

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And Lew in the final shot…..

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Finally, we got outta the sun and did a shot of Lew and his fancy freezer…..

Kaz, color checking…..

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And Lew…hamming it up for the camera…..

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For the second part of the story, we headed down to D.C. to shoot Tomas Snorek of Ripe Design…..

Green wall…green ball…green story…God, the metaphors are endless!!!

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Tomas remodeled Ripe’s offices using low-emission, fume-free paint and sustainable materials such as bamboo flooring and has also installed compact fluorescent bulbs, only prints on recycled paper and bought one of his employees a bike so she can commute without burning any gas…

Obviously, Ian, Maryam and Tomas found something I said to be simply hilarious…..

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I did this amazing shot of Tomas with a tree growing directly outta his brain…..

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…but the one that made the Table of Contents page was a bit different…..

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And we wrapped up the shoot with some portraits of the Ripe Team…..

Tomas…

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Maryam…

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And Ian…

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BusinessWeek SmallBiz is on the stands right now, but I’m still feeling the effects from all that heat on that day in the Bronx!

Me and Michael Scowden cooking our asses off!

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Azim Premji for BusinessWeek

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Azim Premji owns over 80% of Wipro, the third-largest Indian IT company, which by default makes him one of India’s richest business people. He was actually the richest person in India from 1999 through 2005, but I guess the recession has taken a chunk outta his wallet, ‘cuz now he’s only the fifth richest Indian! He was in the States a few months ago and I photographed him for BusinessWeek for a story on how the global recession has affected India’s vast outsourcing industry…….

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That’s right…outsourcers. Wipro is one of those companies that you get to talk to when you call customer service after your computer breaks, or the software you installed doesn’t work the way you thought it would, or any one of a thousand other reasons the call to customer service that used to take to you to a guy named ‘Bob’ at the Home Office is more often than not routed to a call center in Bangalore…..just like in Slumdog Millionaire

He was at Wesleyan University getting an honorary degree and I had all of five minutes between appointments to get off my two shots. The first was a kind of dark & scary number where I sandwiched him between a stone wall and a gnarly tree trunk, but then I had a thought from the mosaic side of my brain that told me to shoot him in a way that would metaphorically illustrate the over-reaching effect outsourcing has on the World…and I came up with this Vishnu-like, multi-armed photo that made me smile…

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And I also knocked off a test shot of me showing off my new, modified-mullet haircut!

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Van Toffler for BusinessWeek

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In one week I went from photographing the President of the United States to photographing the President of MTV…..how damn cool is that?!!

Van Toffler is is president of MTV Networks Music/Films/Logo Group and is responsible for all of the MTV Networks music services including MTV, MTV2, VH1, CMT and all their affiliated digital services. I was shooting him for BusinessWeek because MTV is releasing The Beatles: Rock Band, a video game that allows players to use plastic instruments to jam as their favorite Beatle. The Beatles: Rock Band comes out September 9th.

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Website Update News

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Not much of a surprise, but I updated the website to include some of the images from my recent shoot with The President. Head on over to www.bradtrent.com and check it out!

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President Barack Obama for BusinessWeek

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There are assignments…and then there are assignments. Last Friday afternoon I had just finished a location scout and was heading up to my place in Connecticut when I got a phone call from BusinessWeek…..Director of Photography Ronnie Weil, Art Director Andrew Horton and Photo Editor Sarah Morse were on the speaker phone and they obviously had something big to tell me. All at once, they practically screamed, “We’ve got ten minutes with the President on Monday…do you wanna do the shoot?!!”. I think I paused for a fraction of a second and thought I was getting punked…then I said “OF COURSE!!!”.

The next few hours took us all on a bit of a roller coaster ride…..first we went from half the editorial staff of the magazine wanting to come along, while I would bring two assistants and a few tons of gear for the intense, overly complex formal cover situation. Then, as we learned more details of what kind of access the White House would allow, it appeared that I might have to go in paparazzi style…just me and a single camera bag going into the Oval Office to document the Q & A, with no time to do an extra set up. But in the end I was able to get Bo to assist me and Ronnie was coming to produce, run defense and feed me Klonopin to calm my nerves. Steve Adler, the Editor in Chief and Washington Bureau Chief Jane Sasseen would be asking the questions and it was up to me to come up with not only a killer cover image, but additional portraits of the President to illustrate the story. We had hopes to still get that second cover shot, but the main focus had to be to photograph the interview in such a way that we could walk away with exceptional cover art.

Bo and Ronnie waiting it out in the White House Pressroom
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Even though this would be my fourth time in the White House, you can never foresee how things will come together on the day of a shoot like this. In fact, the same day we were shooting, one of my old assistants, Charlie Samuels, was supposed to get his own session with the President a few hours before us…but his shoot was cancelled at the last minute. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, when he texted me that his shoot was nuked all I could think was, “Please God, let things work out for us!”.

So with a couple of hours to go before our ten minutes, we got to horse around in the Pressroom…..

Your New White House Press Director!
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And we even got to sit in on a press briefing (click on image for full-size)…..
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Ronnie looking extremely professional…..
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But eventually we were ushered into the West Wing through the rabbit warren-like maze that surrounds the Oval Office. After a brief introduction, Steve and Jane immediately began the interview and I got started by shoving Bo right in the middle of things for a white-balance test shot…..

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And then a funny thing happened…our ‘ten minutes’ somehow got stretched to more than half an hour! I still didn’t get a chance to do a set-up portrait, but the extra time really allowed me to focus on getting some truly amazing and expressive shots while the interview went on.

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…and here are a few pages from today’s BusinessWeek…..

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But of course, the fun had to end. The press handlers gave the President the high sign and our big adventure came to an end…but not before we got our grip & grin photos with the Most Powerful Man in the Free World!!!

First, he grabbed Ronnie and pulled her close…
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…while I got the more traditional smile and a handshake…..
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Don’t let anyone tell ya photographing the President ain’t all it’s cracked up to be!

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Lew Frankfort for BusinessWeek

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For the second week in a row, I have a feature in BusinessWeek, a story on the new marketing strategy at Coach, featuring Lew Frankfort, the CEO, and Jerry Stritzke, the COO. The story looks great and the best thing was that I got to break out the mosaic-tiling technique I’ve been doing lately…..

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Jeff Gomez for BusinessWeek

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Last week we had a pretty good time making something outta nothing with Jeff Gomez, the CEO of Starlight Runner Entertainment, for BusinessWeek. Who is Jeff and what is Starlight Runner? Well, after asking both my editors and the people who work at Starlight Runner, I still don’t really know, but as best as I can explain, he cooks up back stories and alternate realities for existing products in order to push the brand further with pretty huge clients like the Disney and Coca-Cola! Yeah…I know, it doesn’t make much sense to me either, but since their offices didn’t offer much in the way of ambience and I figured that with all the monster posters around the place he might be a bit of a comic-book aficionado, we decided to get creative and conjure up an alternate reality of our own. The main shot is simply Jeff standing behind a back-lit glass partition and for the second, I liked the grid pattern on their freight elevator door so we slapped him up against it…and as happens a lot, I backed up as far as I could in the cramped space and left my lights in the shot.

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The Photoshop Discussion…Take Two!

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I tend not to see things like most people. I’m not taking anything away from how most folks see, but I typically look at a scene and try to find ‘the shot’, even when I’m not working. I think I got this way when I assisted Enrico Ferorelli back in the early 80’s. He was always about finding the one perfect shot…and in a lot of ways I’ve been looking for that perfect shot ever since. But in the past tens years or so…a time frame that just also happens to coincide with how long we here at Damn Ugly Photography have been Photoshop-compliant…the way I look at just about everything is in some way based on how I know it will look after I’ve finished working on it in post. Before Photoshop I could, of course, alter reality in subtle ways with film choice or by employing some nifty darkroom tricks & techniques, but my style and the way I shoot has changed as my proficiency with Photoshop has improved. Choosing Kodachrome over Velvia over Ektachrome 100 is fine, but you don’t know color control until you’ve fully mastered the Selective Color tool in Photoshop! And while I’ve never crossed over to the dark side and become one of those guys who has to shoot 20 or 30 elements in order to make one final image, very early on I recognized the amazing potential and the options that were now open to me as long as I was able to reconcile what I believed was possible. I now scout locations and very easily see what can fall away or what can be modified. And while cosmetic changes are an obvious first step, I can alter the reality of a scene in extremely subtle ways to make it better…more appealing…while still keeping the ‘integrity’ of the portrait intact. But I can say this because I maintain that my ‘vision’ as a photographer isn’t held up to the same journalistic yardstick that others find themselves judged by. I’m chosen for an assignment by clients who know up front that my interpretation will not be based on a real color palate or a literal translation of a scene. This has been on my mind since I posted that link last week about the disqualified entries to the Pictures of the Year competition. And even today another discussion started up on The Huffington Post about how the Washingtonian Magazine altered a shot of President Obama for it’s recent cover…the Ethics of Photoshop is becoming a real hot-button issue.

But since a bunch of you wrote to me over the weekend (and why some of you still don’t get how easy it is to post a comment on the blog instead of e-mailing me is makin’ me shake my head!) because you know the amount of post work I have done on some of my images…or at least you think you do…I thought I would pull away the curtain on a few of my shots so you can see exactly what sort of thing goes on after hours at Damn Ugly Photography…..

*Click on any image for the full-size preview*

Here is the RAW file of Jon Bon Jovi…

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…and the final, retouched version…

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This is probably the simplest example I’m showing. Aside from some color-shifting and contrast work, there is just a bit of cosmetic ‘fixing’ to get rid of a few wrinkles and bulges better left unseen.

A much more involved photo was this one of Cornelia Guest. Here is the RAW file…

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…and the final image…

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With this one I removed the lights over the paintings, the unfortunate wall-socket and the heating duct…then brightened the entire image. Next I shifted the color palate from green to blue and highlighted some areas (the window, gave the dog a bath!) and darkened others (the floor, the corners). But the real heavy lifting came with the cosmetic retouching on the subject…I built a contrast layer that allowed me to highlight her arms and face by putting them in kind of a glowy light. Then I cleaned up any wrinkles and slimmed down the line of the front and back of the dress.

Joe Rosenberg, RAW…

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…and retouched…

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This is just one of the ‘Less is More’ situations…by simply getting rid of the ceiling lights and the heavy black bars in the windows, the shot takes on a completely different feel. And while the color shift looks extreme, this is one of those cases where the RAW file isn’t really showing ‘reality’ either…the original scene wasn’t nearly as muted and murky as the unretouched image leads you to believe. I find that often a RAW file is so much lower in contrast that without a good dose of tweaking in Photoshop you’d be left with a pretty unappetizing image!

Sheila Nevins, RAW…

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…retouched…

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There are a few of you out there who know the story behind this shot of Sheila Nevins, the president of HBO’s Documentary Division…how I only shot this one single frame when she bolted off the set because the bright explosion of light from the ring light I was using destroyed her eyesight and gave her an ‘ocular migraine’…! I hoped her eyesight was back to normal by the time she was back in her office, but after I checked to make sure my one image was intact, I still had to remove the ugly stainless steel power strip and microphones that ran the length of the boardroom table, as well as brightening the whites and desaturating the pinkish-red skin tones. Oh yeah, then I had to regenerate a reflection of her in the glass table top…

Toxic House, before…

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…and after…

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This BusinessWeek shoot about a family who bought a house sitting on a toxic waste site was definitely made infinitely better by pulling out the Photoshops tricks. To get a feeling of ominous doom, I dialed up the contrast a ton, even for me, and went heavy on the Hi Pass and Multiply layers, so much that it left a glowing halo around the edges…almost like the house was vibrating. Then I highlighted their faces in the masks with sort of a spotlight effect to pull detail out of their faces. I also oversharpened the living daylights outta the thing to make it look even edgier, and finally darkened the sky to further add to the sense of peril.

Steven Spielberg and the scary tree, before…

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…and after I made the tree bigger and scarier…

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I shot Steven Spielberg just before his remake of ‘War of the Worlds’ came out, and for one of my three set-ups I placed him in front of a huge tree in front of the Amblin offices on the Universal backlot. The way the tree looked with it creepy shedding bark, reminded me of the scene in the original 50’s film where the aliens crawled outta the crater that was caused when they crashed, so I lit him with a monster-light from down below and finished it off in my computer. As big as the tree was, I still wanted to dwarf him a bit more, so I cloned the trunk on the top and left of the frame, then I shifted his baby-blue shirt to grey and went about desaturating and increasing the contrast overall. Finally, I darkened the whole shot overall and brightened the light on his face to separate him and give the appearance of something glowing off-camera….in a crater…..with the aliens!

I Was On The ‘Today’ Show This Morning…..

So I’m just sitting here this morning, eating my flakes, reading The Times, with the ‘Today’ show on in the background…suddenly Suzy Welch is on to promote her new book, 10-10-10, and what do ya know…my shot of Jack & Suzy pops up with my credit and everything!

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Now, my pictures of Jack & Suzy have been published all over the place…in BusinessWeek, on the cover of their books…

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…and the photo used by the Today Show was from the last shoot we did for their website, The Welch Way, but it’s still kinda cool to have it splashed up on the screen before you’re even fully awake!

You Wanna Shoot Where?!!

Note: Click on any image to blow it up REAL big!

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Often, getting a corporate mind to put aside the literal and think like I do isn’t always that hard…sometimes you just have to ask…..

In today’s BusinessWeek is the story on David Johnson and Conmed that I went up to Utica to shoot a couple of weeks back. It was one of those jobs where BW photo editor Sarah Morse and I talked about what might make a cool shot, but neither of us had any real idea what was possible or if there were any eye-grabbing visuals strong enough to anchor the story. Conmed manufactures medical and surgical equipment and the story was about in order to streamline production, they went from long assembly lines that cranked out warehouses of product to compact U-shaped workstations that filled orders as-needed. We knew that showing the workstations was a must, but production lines are rarely as groovy as they appear in the movies…still, after getting the tour, Bo and I slapped on our hairnets & bunnysuits and went to work on this…

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Now, the workstations were OK and they got us this shot…

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…and Dave loved it ‘cuz it showed off their new production facilities and how they used new ideas to solve a manufacturing problem, but for me it was more of a ‘point picture’ and I knew there was more we could do to sell the idea of individual, hand-assembled production. I suggested to Dave that we look at a couple of other locations I had briefly seen on my walk-through that didn’t involve the production facility. I convinced him that we could use one of the production teams showing the final product in a more graphic location and still convey the idea of the story. One location was a bank of ‘windows’ just off the reception area in their plant…

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…and that was nice, but still a bit too sterile and corporate. The real winner was down a hallway that linked two parts of the building…an circular elevator bank that was covered is shimmering white tiles surrounded by acid-green walls!

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And here is the final spread…..

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The combination of the sterile white tiles and scorching green walls just screams medical and the nice balance of the workers blue smocks and Dave’s blue shirt made for a perfect image.

And as usual, to finish things off, I gotta get into the fun!

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