Madame Secretary…Madeleine Albright

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A few weeks ago…just before the entire World was locked down because of the Corona Virus…I was scheduled to shoot Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State. She would be in New York on the first leg of a book tour and we were supposed to get a few minutes with her in a midtown hotel room for a WSJ ‘Weekend Confidential’ feature. But the day before the shoot, we got the call…

“To be cautious because of the virus, the Secretary will not be traveling to New York…could you shoot her in her office in DC?!!”

I really didn’t wanna give up the chance to shoot Secretary Albright, so at 6:00AM on March 10th, Kaz and I loaded up the van and took off for Washington…

Upon arriving in DC, we were led to a small sitting room next to her office…

Pretty tiny…but after saying goodbye to the furniture, we had just enough room to set up a couple of backdrops…

For our first portrait, we did a simple, classic, two-light setup with a 20″ Beauty Dish main light and a 5′ umbrella for fill…

When Secretary Albright looked at the laptop screen, she said, “Oh, I can do that!”…..

For my second shot, I had brought along a low-texture grey Gravity Backdrop. I had an idea to do a strongly side-lit portrait that would evoke a slightly darker mood. For our main light, we used a single 3′ strip light placed behind and to the left of where she was sitting and another 5′ umbrella for fill…

Here is the progression of how the lighting evolved…

Our first test was fine, but a little too grey and dull…

We added some warming gels to the strip light, which when white-balanced added an overall blue tint…

That helped, but we then added a couple of masks in Capture One Pro to the upper corners to create a sort of ‘reverse’ vignette effect that lightened things up…

I decided to desaturate the blue and add some more shadow detail, but we were ready.

Madame Secretary…please sit on this apple box…..

The story appeared in last weekends Wall Street Journal

9+ hour round-trip drive…25 minute shoot…done!

Tiny Room Portraits Of Mohamed El-Erian For InvestmentNews

So I got an email from Scott Valenzano, the Art Director at InvestmentNews

“Don’t care if you are booked, can you shoot this cover for me…..”

The gig was Mohamed El-Erianrabid New York Jets fan and the BIG brain behind PIMCO…the global investment management firm with about $2 Trillion bucks sewn up in the mattress. As is the case with most billionaires, we weren’t gonna have a lot of time…and we had to shoot him in the InvestmentNews offices, so no big open spaces, no high ceilings, no groovy locations. And Scott wanted a couple of setups…but we’ve done this lotsa times. Let’s roll…

Scott ushered us into a conference room…it was maybe 12′ x 15′ with a lovely 8′ ceiling and a huge table in the middle. It would be perfect…insert sarcasm…more than enough for a couple of setups! Scott mentioned that he wanted a really bright look for one of the shots and mentioned how he liked the orange drops I used in my portraits of Bill O’Reilly and Ricky Gervais…

Here’s how we squeezed ourselves into the room…

Normally I would use a 3′ Octa for a main light, but in that room we were seriously limited with what we could do. We managed to have just enough ceiling height to fly a 20″ Profoto Beauty Dish for a main light, filled with a Profoto Ringlight…

After some color and contrast adjustments, here is the how the final lighting looked…

Onto the second setup. We turned 45 degrees to the left and used a simliar lighting as the first, but since Mohamed would be sitting I had enough space for a 3′ Profoto RFI main light. In place of the ringlight, we used a 6′ Chimera bank placed directly behind me and the camera for fill. We dropped a half roll of Thunder Grey seamless behind him and covered the table with another piece and here’s how Kaz looked…

Partly because of the limited space, but mostly cuz I liked the wide angle perspective, we used a 50mm lens on the Hasselblad for both setups…

Here’s how everything turned out in the magazine…

You can read what Mohamed thinks about whether or not a recession is coming HERE

Josh Silverman of ETSY for the London Sunday Times

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Andrew Mitchell, my editor at the London Sunday Times, sent us out to Brooklyn to the headquarters of Etsy…the online site where all the cool kids go to buy and sell hand-crafted and vintage stuff…to shoot their CEO, Josh Silverman. In less than three years, Silverman has taken a company that had slowing sales growth, climbing expenses and a stock price that had slumped 65 percent from it’s IPO, into a true Juggernaut in the space. Etsy’s investors love the guy and what his ideas have done for the formerly foundering company. It was sorta my job to illustrate those big ideas in a portrait…

Walking around Etsy’s two huge buildings in DUMBO, we passed by this kitchen space…

Now I’m not the kinda guy who lets a good metaphor go unnoticed, and those hanging light bulbs just screamed BIG IDEA…so we quickly threw up some lights and I had Robert jump up on that table…

The lighting was pretty simple…we let the windows bleed in a ton of ambient light to blow out the details from outside, and I added a couple of very bright rim lights on either side, then just dropped in some front fill from a gridded Profoto RFI boomed high above him…

After tweeking the color balance and contrast, this is how things were looking…

It was getting there, but it still needed some more drama…a bit more theatrical lighting oomph…so I added a mask (I was shooting tethered to Capture One Pro) and by using some reverse-clarity and really increasing the contrast, it gave the lightbulbs a wonderful glowing halo effect…

My ‘Light Bulb Over The Head’ metaphor was complete…

Just down the a hallway from our lightbulb shot was the Etsy Lab…sort of a ‘Test Kitchen’ that Esty suppliers can come and play in. It sorta has the feel of the ultimate Elementary School art class, with all the buttons, bows, paints, beads and glue sticks you would ever need to do whatever you might wanna do!

Sarah Marx, our liaison from Etsy, sat in for a quick iPhone test shot…

…and after a good dose of styling and lighting, we turned it into this…

And Josh dug it…

Here is the final page as it appeared in The Times…

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