Pullin’ Out The Bull & Bear Costumes For Barron’s

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It’s June, and that means I hafta jump back on the Photoshop Horse and put together another cover story using elements from our January shoot of the Barron’s Roundtable members for the Mid-Year Issue. Adrian Delucca and I thought it might be fun to once again make use of those very expensive Bull and Bear costumes we had made for the 2014 cover, but this time the idea would be to have our mascots walking hand-in-hand down Wall Street. Sounds easy. It isn’t. For a whole mess of reasons, shooting ‘live’ down on Wall Street was never gonna happen. Forget about the expense of shooting this type of thing on location, just try to shoot on Wall Street when there aren’t a million people milling around! No…this was gonna be much more manageable shot in pieces…

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First off, we had to shoot a ton of variations of the Bull and Bear in the studio that I could drop into my Wall Street photo. To save a few bucks on models, Adrian and Assistant Photo Editor Jenna Bascom elected to get all sweaty in the mascot suits…

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…how about a ‘selfie’?!!

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Next, I had to shoot our empty Wall Street scene. Shooting on weekdays were out, since Wall Street folks are already filling up lower Manhattan before the Sun rises, so that meant an early morning weekend shoot. Almost every weekend of March and April was either too damned cold or rainy (or on one Saturday when I arrived at 6:00AM, the street was filled with Jodie Foster, George Clooney, Julia Roberts and about 200 grips setting up a film shoot!), but I finally got off a few frames of a relatively empty street and Stock Exchange building…

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Now I had to get rid of any people and other extraneous crap out of the background and stretch it out a bit (and make it square) to fit Barron’s format…

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…then throw the buildings a bit out of focus for perspective…

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But the early morning grey look wasn’t working, so I sparkled things up a bit…

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And it was finally ready for our Bull and Bear…

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Throw in some final color & contrast adjustments, a few shadows and more Photoshop magic…and voila!!!

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For the cover images, besides the portraits we did for the Chess theme, we quickly shot a few individual portraits of each Roundtable member on a neutral seamless…

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…a quick Photo-Bomb…

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The idea was to insert them into Financial District street scenes…here are a few of the results…

Mario Gabelli:

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Marc Faber:

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Bill Gross:

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Bill Gross - Barron's Roundtable

…and the final cover…

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And we’ll do it all again next January!

Adobe & Goldman Sachs – A Match Made In Heaven?!!

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It’s Friday afternoon, and to close out my week-long rant against the proposed Adobe Creative Cloud, just in case there are any of you out there who still don’t believe that what Adobe is doing amounts to a straight-up money grab, I offer you this to chew on…

Quoted from a Goldman Sachs research report on the subject:

With the announced update of Adobe’s flagship content authoring tools Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign the company rebranded them Creative Cloud instead of Creative Suite and stated that the new editions would only be available on a subscription basis. Further, the company stated that going forward all new features for these apps would also only be available with the subscription offering. Adobe will continue to sell and support CS6. While our conversations with Max attendees indicate that most found the timing of the move surprising, we view it as likely accelerating adoption of Adobe’s subscription offering…….We believe the lack of VIABLE ALTERNATIVES to the Creative Cloud apps along with the productivity enhancements in the new editions will drive the majority of CS users that are ready to upgrade to migrate to Creative Cloud despite what will likely be a vocal but small backlash.

That was followed with this little nugget:

In a report published Thursday, Goldman Sachs analyst Heather Bellini upgraded the rating on Adobe Systems from Sell to Neutral, and raised the price target from $34.00 to $48.00.

In the report, Bellini noted, “We upgrade ADBE from Sell to Neutral with a 12-month $48 price target. Since we added ADBE to the Sell List on 7/12/11, the stock is up 47% vs. the S&P up 21% (LTM ADBE is up 37% vs. the S&P up 17%). The stock’s relative outperformance comes as investors have given the stock credit for a more normalized operating model post the transition. At around $44 the stock currently trades on 30X consensus’ NTM EPS forecast vs. the three year historic average of 14X on compressed earnings (consensus is at $1.45 for FY13 vs. $2.36 in FY12).”

Adobe Systems closed on Wednesday at $44.70.

So…knowing they have the creative community by the balls because of the lack of “viable alternatives” to their applications, Adobe moves forward with the subscription only pricing scheme…and the biggest investment bank in the game upgrades their stock outlook by more than 40% on the news. And yet there are still those who think Adobe has OUR best interests at heart. If this isn’t a wakeup call, then what is?!!

Jim Grant For Barron’s

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Jim Grant, the publisher of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, is one of Wall Streets greatest critics, and Adrian Delucca had me head downtown to shoot him for a recent Barron’s feature. Jim’s office was pretty small, but an institutional yellow wall behind a doorway…

…and his wall of books…

…gave me what I needed for a couple of nice portraits…

Tom O’Halloran & John Castle for Barron’s

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I’ve been spending a lotta time in boardrooms lately, but despite what a lotta people think, most corporate offices in America aren’t designed like the ones you see in the movies. For example, when I close my eyes, I can still see Gordon Gekko’s beautifully art-directed office in Oliver Stones ‘Wall Street’ with it’s sleek, sexy Italian furniture, floor-to-ceiling windows and made-for-photography views, but it’s very rare when I walk into a office location to shoot a CEO and have that warm & fuzzy feeling when an obvious shot jumps out at me (although my shoot at MTV last week was an exception!). I usually get the tour with the corporate communications director highlighting a series of sterile conference rooms, painted industrial beige, telling me, “We’ve done a lot of photo shoots in here…”. Or I get taken to a corner office that has nothing to do with the guy I’m shooting and shown the ‘amazing sweeping view’ that will make for a great portrait. OK…I’m just thinkin’ out loud now, but really…if I’m there to shoot your boss, why do you think having the Chrysler Building growing outta his head is gonna be what either of us wants?!!

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Which brings us to a couple of recent portraits I did for Barron’s. The locations for both Tom O’Halloran of Lord, Abbett & Co. and John Castle of Castle Harlan, Inc. can’t be described as Spartan by any means…in fact, they were both classic, old-school investment bank offices…full of the requisite walnut wood panelling, plush leather chairs, opulent design details with lavish antiques & art, complete with portraits of their dead ex-presidents on the walls and yes, that corporate communications director telling me about the great views. But they come with their own set of ‘issues’…that dark wood can be deadly in a photograph and the Hall of Ex-Presidents might be impressive to look at, but if I was a the current guy in charge, I’d find it a little creepy to to be put in that situation while I’m still vertical. And l generally pass on ‘the view’…it never (OK, rarely) works…but for the shot of O’Halloran I thought that maybe I could work with those big windows and kinda blow out all of the detail and wrap him in a cool, wrap-around light…..

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Hmmmmm…that kinda sucked….how ’bout we head in the opposite direction and go for the drama by knocking down the ambient light about five stops…..

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That’s much more like it!

Now let’s move on and see what we can do with Mr. Castle…..

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This one was actually a lot harder to do than I thought it would be and is kinda of those shots that doesn’t exist in ‘real life’. First, to even see this angle you would hafta jump up into the window well at the end of the room, press your body against the window to get as far back as possible, make sure not to fall through the air conditioning duct (that always freaks out the guy from corporate communications!) and then use the widest lens you have because you’re only about four feet from where the guy is gonna stand. Next, there was that wall of windows that ran the entire right side of the room. They didn’t have blinds on them and there was just way too much light pouring into the room. I had to reduce he ambient light from those windows just the right amount to keep things interesting, while still retaining enough from the chandelier and lamps in the background so that they would still show up. Then we aimed a hard spotlight from the table directly behind him so that it picked up the ceiling (which also gave us a cool shadow) and added some tasty highlights on the boardroom chairs that were fading into the dark. But the first couple of tests we did were really boring, so I cross-filtered the beauty dish I was using as his key light with a full blue CT filter, then set the gray-balance off of that light…this resulted in my other lights and the ambient window light having an overall blue cast that turned the sedate beige boardroom into something a bit more dramatic…and a bit more ‘Wall Streety’…..

And one last thing…..here is John Castle…with his Corporate Communications guy!

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