The studio shoot with great was awesome… Why? Because the studio was his garage and we had a blast that day.
Here we see New Jersey motocross racer Greg Sampson in a dramatic “game face” portrait.
While I love shooting a fashion/beauty look any day, I really have thrown my heart & soul into shooting a more edgy style lately. I will admit to influences from famed photographer Joel Grimes, but at the same time I give a big hand out to Woody Walters for his extreme talent that he shares with the world. Aside from creating interesting images I get to work with really interesting models. And sometimes the models are not really working models in the sense that it could very well be their first time doing a full blown photo shoot. It is a little weird if you have never done a professional shoot before. I think just about everybody has been in the situation of getting a school photo taken or may have had to get a headshot for a passport and then there are many who have been in a studio for family portraits. However the average person doesn’t know what a softbox is or what a “T” mark is for. Then add in creative lighting and posing and for somebody who has never done it… well they could be overwhelmed to say the least.
So this is where “people skills” (as I like to call it) come into play. Nothing to do at all about camera setting here, it is all about interacting.
I’ll run you through my last personal photography project with a motocross racer whom had never done a photo shoot before.
I had briefly met this young man two years earlier at a motocross track while shooting day long coverage. When I say “briefly” I mean as in just maybe two minutes at the very most. But I did start to follow him on social media (Instagram) because he was local to my state of New Jersey. So when I knew I needed a motocross racer he (Greg) was my “go to” man. I contacted him in a private message and clearly stated who I was and what I would like to do. And he gladly accepted the offer and thought it would be a lot of fun. I will tell you that the answer “yes” can be hard to come by sometimes. After all I could be some creep, but that is where I rely on my body of work (portfolio, website, social media) to back up who I am and what I do and the quality of what I do. Most of all I need to build some kind of relationship with this guy and this can be the hard part. This really is the key to a smooth photo shoot, to have something in common, something that you can talk about in a genuine way, some sort of common ground. This common ground will bring comfort and a little relaxation to the overall feel the model is going to have towards me. Lucky for me I had done a lot of dirt bike riding back in the day and had even ran a few motocross races myself at one time. So in planning out this project we were almost a month away from the shooting date and I spent about an hour talking on the phone one evening. During this conversation we both got to know each other a little better and in concluding that conversation I felt very confident that Greg & I were going to have a great time together. So because I was somewhat familiar with motocross I think made a huge difference in the success of the photoshoot. But it is not always that easy. I have a two part shoot in the coming weeks with a bobsled racer. We are going to do a fashion/beauty look and then change up to a hard edge sports warrior look. And “no” I never raced a bobsled, so it should be interesting to see how I approach this situation. One thing I know for sure is that I will find a common ground.
So while shooting Greg the motocross racer, I can tell you we had a great time and fun was plenty. I had the benefit of shooting Greg at his home, meeting his family and seeing their workshop and all the motocross machines. So upon arrival I did not rush things. I arrived on time, but then I just hung out and talked for a few minutes. We talked about his bikes and then I said “give me a half hour to set up and you go get changed.” Certainly easier than doing a fashion shoot, but nonetheless I have to keep the model at ease and the best way is to show your confidence in the fact you know what you’re doing. I finished my set up and Greg was dressed in race gear and we were ready to shoot. We do some test shots and then move to headshots. I like to do some headshots first because basic headshots are easy, I get the bugs worked out of my lighting, it breaks the ice with the model and everybody can use a fresh headshot. Then I give the model my tablet and let them review the shots. I shoot enough headshots that it will keep them busy reviewing just long enough for me to reposition my lights for the creative lighting and then we move into that part of the shoot. I like to shoot a few shots and review, I keep doing this and then I’ll stop and let the model review. I just like to show them how they are doing and if there is a pose or something they don’t understand I can point it out during this time. All the while we are shooting we are having fun, the mood is happy and flowing. If at any time I have a gear problem that is when I start talking about something that would interest them, all the while I’m working out my technical difficulty, whatever it may be. I find that talking or getting the model to talk keeps the “air” alive and there is no dreaded “dead silence.”
So in conclusion the shoot went fine and the edits are coming, I like to take my time with the edits because just as the lighting is creative so are the editing processes. This project went very well and really the “common ground” was rather easy… this time. Now to find common ground with a female bobsled racer might not be so easy. However I know I will do it.
Thanks everybody for reading and have a great day.
My most recent photo shoot with a motocross racer was a success. I was a little nervous going into this project for the simple fact that the racer had never really done a studio style shoot. And given the fact that I was not going to be just doing the standard portrait style of “say cheese and click we’re done.” While I was surely going to do those standard headshots as I always do, after all everybody can use a fresh headshot. This is also a way to break the ice and let the new model get a feel for the whole environment of the all the crazy flashing and softboxes ect. But soon I would move on to the creative lighting that I so crave and must create and get it done in a timely fashion. I don’t want to burn the model out, new or experienced it doesn’t matter; I want the person to go away feeling that working with me was a good experience and a fun time. This then lets me leave the shoot feeling very confident that if I need to reshoot or just work together again in the future that getting a “yes” will be almost a given.
So the little bit of nervousness that I was feeling was that I had high hopes this young man could take direction well. While most people can do what you ask of them, they do feel a little strange when I get into the creative mode and start asking them to do things that don’t really make sense at a standard photo shoot. Or at least it doesn’t really seem to match up with what they envisioned a shoot should be. Example; I ask the model to turn their back towards me and look over their shoulder. See, you must know that part of my creative technique is not really going into detail about what I’m doing. Not because it is a secret, but rather if I sit and try to explain what and why I’m doing something I am wasting both our time. They may not know an f/stop from a focus ring, so why bother. Most times they have seen my work and know it is not run of the mill and therefore I just say “it is creative so it may seem a little weird” and most times they’ll just roll with whatever I tell them to do.
But Greg was an ace, not only did he do as I asked, he pretty much nailed it. I only had to shoot each pose three clicks of the shutter. I always do three clicks because of eye blinks and the like. I got the feeling that he picked up on the vibe of what I was doing because the shoot flowed along rather well. I would shoot a few poses and we would review them together on my tablet and quickly move on to the next set of poses.
Now for the rest of the story… So this shoot was taking place in a garage bay next to the area where the motorcycles are worked on. When we started we were alone, but Scott who is Greg’s father soon arrived and wanted to see what we were doing. Now I have to tell you Scott has a look and presence that would make most nightclub bouncers cringe. He is an amazing guy I could tell, why just in the short time I was there I heard him speaking to other friends and family members and his words of wisdom were being felt and absorbed by everyone whether they knew it or not. I quote “you don’t fight with your friends, if you’re fighting with your friends… well then they are not your friends.” Hey the guy is dead on right as far as I’m concerned. Don’t let the ink fool you, I could damn well tell this man is a good leader, father and most likely that friend that would always be there for you. But with all that said, what are the chances of just getting him to step in front of the camera with his son? I want to do it and really I have to do it. Because I know truly how photography works. This photo is going to mean a lot to somebody. I know it, I feel it and… ah what the heck. So I say “hey Scott what da ya say… I want you to step in here and let me just get one shot with you and Greg and this awesome bike you built.” I had to ask twice and I could tell her really wanted to do it although he played it cool and seemed a little reluctant.
So like I said; the photo is going to mean a lot to somebody, but whom? Will mom like it? It is a nice father & son shot and the bike is a work of art as far as motocross bikes go. Or will it be a shot that will take on meaning as years go by and they look back at the “good ole days? Well the answer came a lot sooner than I had thought. I had sent Greg a few quick edits that were cropped for Instagram as he had requested. The photos made their rounds and then I see this on IG and I knew that this photo was really worth the world to somebody. It made me very happy to know that the photo touched them.
I had a great, crazy, busy and rewarding weekend. Saturday started off with a very last-minute photo shoot with a teen dancer, Morgan that needed headshots and dance poses and then rush back to edit and deliver final edits in less than twenty-four hours because she needed them for an audition Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile Saturday night it was off to the Lehigh Valley to work on a music video project with LaydeeFly (rapper/model) who is working on the video for her latest song. Arriving home at 3:30am Sunday and back at the final edits for the dancer Morgan by 7:00am and by finished by 9:30am. …And then at 11:00am it was off to Berkley Heights for a creative shoot with Jersey motocross racer Greg Sampson. Greg really was a lot of fun and was a great player for the project. I can’t wait to work those composites up in Photoshop. Lots of dramatic lighting mixed with the bright colors of motocross attire. I got to meet Greg’s father Scott who is amazing and really has his heart dedicated motocross racing. Just to walk into the workshop and see all the hot looking machines… wow! Really is nice to see a father & son that have so much in common. Greg was amazing and so calm to work with. I told him going into this project that “we always have fun at a shoot” and we lived up to that rule today. Lots of laughs and joking from his friends as we worked our way through the poses. But it’s all good
Most of all I am looking forward to getting back in the studio with three of my favorite models Kendall, Nicole & Ambré. That will be a lot of fun and great things to come.
So after mulling through all of the better photos I captured in 2013 I wanted to choose some of my favorites to share with you. As I had stated in an earlier post I always have one photo of my wife that will really stand out and be my favorite of the year. I also wanted to include some additional photos as well.
So I really feel that of all the photos I captured of my wife in 2013 this one is my favorite. A little story about the photo; this photo was shot at 5:49pm on July 29th. As you can see the sun in July is still very high in the sky. I had to shoot a wedding in five days and not being a wedding photographer by trade I was doing my homework and preparing for the big day. I wanted everything to be right. I spent a lot of time reviewing video material by Cliff Mautner. Mr. Mautner is one of the best wedding photographers of our time. I say this because part Cliff’s style is to just go and shoot using mostly available light and minimal flash. His style and approach is very organic and not over the top with a “Broadway” like production to shoot a wedding. Also Cliff is a Nikon Ambassador. If company like Nikon is going to trust him with talking about their products… well I think Cliff might know a thing or two or ten about photography.
One of Cliff’s prize techniques is shooting brides in the middle of the day with high sun and no fill flash. So I had to try this technique out for myself. In short the; put your subject between the camera & the sun and use a dark background. That is it that is all you need to do. Then meter with the camera off the subject’s face. Look at the photo and the front lighting is even across my wife’s face with this wonderful rim lighting. If she had been wearing a darker color shirt would have been even nice for the rim light on the shoulders, not to mention that if this was a bridal shot with the veil, the veil would be very nicely back lit with a glow like effect. So to conclude; I walked out the door and captured this shot in about 5 minutes. The color, lighting and smile all come together to make it a very nice photo. I love it and I will print and frame it.
My favorite photo of Pixel (aka Pixie) was shot at 11:17am of May 27th at a roadside rest area along route I-78 in Pennsylvania. I had received Pixie for the first time the day before. I had lost my previous Bichon Poo to liver cancer and a mere 20 days later Pixie had come to fill the void and ease the pain of Snuggs rapid departure. So on the second day of having Pixie my wife and I had a road trip planned to visit my father and we just couldn’t leave this little creature home. We stopped to stretch our legs and to let Pixie have some fun. It was our first chance to let here run and be free in the wonderful green grass of the springtime. Using my trusty (you’ll pry it from my cold dead hands) Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM lens I shot this wonderful candid shot. She had been running and moving so fast to & fro it was nearly impossible to get a great shot of her. I made a squeaking sound and she stopped for just a few seconds and looked right at me. I love the photo and after posting to Facebook a friend had commented on the light & dark green background as an adding quality to the photo. She was so right it just gives the photo a “good” feel.
My favorite Photoshop image of 2013 would be “Shattered” a composite of a motocross rider that I had captured in the springtime at our local motocross track. His name was Harlan Hoose and he hails from New York State. Harlan and two friends had made the long trek down to Raceway Park in Old Bridge Township just to practice. I happened to be there and Harlan Had asked me if I would capture some images of him. This was one of the first of many photos. In the original photo Harlan was just sitting on his bike waiting to go onto the track and I captured a close up focusing on his eyes. So several months later I used the photo as the main element in a Photoshop composite that I call Shattered. With time I grew to like the image even more. Thank you Harlan it was nice meeting you, Anthony & Jordan that day.
My favorite nature shot would be this photo of the Wild Foxtail Grass. Captured at 4:57pm on October 14th right here on the farm where I live. The contrast in color between the background and subject is what I love most about it. Also it didn’t hurt that it received so much affection on 500px.
My favorite Long Exposure photo is this image of one of the “Sunken Forests” at Merrill Creek reservoir located in Warren County New Jersey on top of Montana Mountain. It was cold and very windy that day, but in the end it paid off because I came home with some really nice images.
My most favorite wildlife shot of 2013 would have to be, hands down the one of the images I captured of an American Bald Eagle. It was amazing to see this beautiful bird right here in the town where I work, a rare sight for sure. The photos are not Nat Geo quality but still my favorite nonetheless.
My most favorite candid shot of the year was taken at the Flemington train station. I was first trying to capture the expression on the little boy’s face and then in the background a young lady and a child stepped from the train. I re-focused at captured a wonderful candid photo.
Lastly my most favorite selfie would have to be of me in a jail cell. I would rather have a selfies of me punching Kim Kardashian in the face but I’ll settle for the jail cell shot.