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

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

Ray Dalio for the London Sunday Times

It’s no exaggeration saying Ray Dalio is a fabulously successful fund manager. His investment firm, Bridgewater Associates, is among the largest hedge funds in the World and he’s personally worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 Billion. I had been offered the chance to shoot him three separate times, but was always booked and had to pass. Then Andrew Mitchell at the London Sunday Times called, and I figured this might be my final opportunity. He had been making the rounds pushing his book, Principles: Life and Work and we were promised ‘a few minutes’ with Ray while he was at a meeting in Manhattan…off we went…

Ever since seeing the Irving Penn show at the Met, I’ve found myself channelling the Master…I’m pulling out the backdrops and firing up the really soft lights more than usual…so Kaz and I set up a little North Light studio off in an area that was under construction of the floor where he had his meeting…

Super simple…just a big, soft 5′ umbrella and a couple of canvas drops…

Ray arrived wearing monochromatic greys and everything just meshed…

Nice, but the Black & White was even more dramatic…

After a few minutes, we quickly switched to another location about 15 feet from the first. It was a painted wall that was due to be demolished shortly, but would be perfect as a backdrop for a second portrait…

A little color and contrast tweaking, and we were ready to go…

Here’s how things looked in the Times of London…

Going Downtown With Petula Clark

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Petula Clark…an 85 year-old, still touring, Honest-to-God, 100% Legend…and Kat Malott at the Wall Street Journal asked me to shoot her! As a kid, I remember my Mom playing Pet Clark records until they were almost worn out. When she was on Ed Sullivan or the Dean Martin show, the whole family would be locked in front of the TV. This shoot brought back so many memories from when I was young. It was just great…

Kaz an I walked into the studio and were met with a wall of windows throwing all kinds of cool shadows…

Sure…why not?!!

Next, I pulled out a dark blue canvas drop…

…which let me get a little more dramatic and played off nicely with the blue top she wore to the studio…

And finally, I kinda wanted to do an homage to a very famous portrait of Christine Keeler shot by David Bailey Lewis Morely from the 60’s…

…only brighter…

Maybe not that bright…

When Petula saw what we had set up, she remarked, “This is just like that famous photo of Christine Keeler by David Bailey!”

Here’s how it looked in the Wall Street Journal

Thanks for the memories, Pet…

THE PICNIC TABLE STUDIO

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I’ve just finished a run of three back-to-back portrait gigs, all shot in the same empty, end-of-the-hall location at Barron’s. We’re calling it the Picnic Table Studio because at some point in the past few months somebody decided what that empty hallway needed was a fancy Picnic Table. For all three shoots we would have very little time. Each person was either going into or coming out of an interview and we would have five minutes…or less. Here we go…

The space itself ain’t nuthin’ you would gravitate towards as a location. There was the table…

…and a hallway…

But the low ceilings and tight surroundings didn’t make it an ideal place for lighting. So for the first two of our three shoots, we decided to just go with the bank of windows for our main light and add accents as needed with my continuous DIY ‘Ghetto-Flo’ lights.

Our first subject was Alan Colberg, the CEO of the Assurant Insurance Company. I liked how Kaz looked at the Picnic table, but it needed a bit of help. First thing, we had to cool down the color temperature…

The windows threw in a lot of light, but it still needed something. So we added one Ghetto-Flo on either side of him for a bit of separating rim light, and we were ready to go…

Since that only took us about two minutes to shoot, we quickly reset for a look down that hallway. Again we relied on the windows for our main light and then popped in one skim light on the right side…

Here’s the final page…

The next day we were back for Round 2. Jamie Dimon, the Chairman, President and CEO of JPMorgan Chase. Now I have shot Jamie a lot over the past twenty years and I knew he wants the photo shoot to be over before it begins, so this had to be super-quick. Adrian said he wanted something very simple and matter-of-fact…just Jamie looking back at the viewer. Something like this…

And again, we decided to work with the available light and just add one skim light off camera on the right side…

Jamie’s simple black jacket gave just the right amount of negative space to the overall bright scene…

For a second shot, we wouldn’t have time to relight, so without changing our lighting I threw on a 200mm lens to come in tight…

…but his black jacket gave me another idea. Why not go black?!! So I had Kaz hold a black scrim behind Jamie and we instantly went from a high-key setup to a much darker, more dramatic look. We were able to get off three frames before he bolted…

The final shoot was less than five minutes long and gave us two separate features…

A few weeks later, we were back again…this time to shoot Henry Ellenbogen, a Portfolio Manager at T. Rowe Price. Like the others, he was there for an interview and we would get him for a few minutes. But this time I wanted to bit more control that the bank of window light would give me. So I brought along one of my Gravity Backdrops and a small Profoto kit for a nice, simple portrait setup…

Do you get the feeling Kaz is getting sick of setting up in the same place?!!

As you can see, the ceiling height really prevents us from an optimal setup…

…but even still, the light was kinda great…

With a little contrast control and desaturation, here’s how things looked when Henry sat down…

And the final image in Barron’s…