As pandemic times dawned, and zooming became the norm, the notion of live gatherings within any community, including photo, sauntered off to the tar pit. Farewell. So it was with a bit of trepidation I agreed to a two day onstage, live, shoot-to-the-screens event for the Dallas PPA. They are wonderful folks, mind you, and I was roundly welcomed. But, I hadn’t kind of, you know, hung it all out there, live, in a long while. No in-person events of late! I was frankly kind of nervous.
Got out of the gate with a simple umbrella. Karen was lovely to work with.
Simple and easy, and with my first frames, I let go of the nerves. Mistakes were gonna happen. Pictures gonna go up on big screens, in color, and some of them gonna suck. But to quote from some mystical book somewhere, the path to a a good photo (finally, sheesh!) is littered with bad photos. Sometimes, extremely bad photos. Some photos I’ve made over my career I should be doing time for. Judge’s gavel. “Flagrant misuse of pixels!”
But, that’s the thing about the photo community. It’s supportive and actually celebrates the struggle which possesses all of us. That alchemy at the lens, the frantic chase for the elusive, slippery mercury of an excellent frame, well, that can be tough. I’ve been in the field, missing stuff like crazy, and realizing a good photo can be tougher to catch than a fart in a bag, as my high school coach used to say.
But with terrific and collaborative photo subjects up there onstage, things went well. Thank you, Christian, for being a patient soul up there with me.
I hit the stage in the company of some wonderful subjects, among them, Chaun Williams. For him as a performer/athlete, I wanted to make him look even more imposing than he is, so I got off the stage with longer glass, and took an angle looking up at him. (Very tried and true practice when you want someone to look bigger than life. Bring your camera angle down.)
With some artful gripping and smoke magic by Don Chamblee and Kenny Richard, and wonderful posing by Chaun, we came up with this.
The big screen display of the shot above drew a crowd, afterwards. A distinctly female crowd, oddly enough.
And, you know, as always in the uncertain world of pictures, things go wrong. I mean, in a fun way. Our snake wrangler, also a photographer, Don Champlin, was calm and determined for this image.
But Mr. Snake decided to take a bit of a trip.
And then I involved the audience, turning them into paparazzi, for a shot with Alison Bartak. Overhead beauty dish, with some gelled raw lights sprinkled into the background. When I started this set, I had no idea where I’d end up, but we had fun doing it. I should have brought the power down on that Profoto dish up top, but there you go. I survived the set, mostly because we were all having so much fun.
And there was Ari Chambers, cool and elegant, and I tried to bring light that emphasized that. Experimented with bokeh, as we all are, seemingly, so shot the below with a Nikon Z 9 coupled to a Nikkor S mount 50mm f/1.2.
And a wonderful cowboy! Bruce Benedict, father to a Dallas PPA member, shot with a Manfrotto portable backdrop, dragging some shutter for a bit of hopefully purposeful camera shake, mixed with flash.
Gotta say something about the tech here. When the pressure is on, there is nothing like the dependability of Profoto strobes, and the new Connect Pro radio trigger. There was no place I went onstage or off, where I didn’t get transmission, and, ultimately, pretty light. And Capture One is rock solid in the tethering realm. And the Nikon Z 9 is a monster camera. These tools give you the confidence to try something completely nonsensical, a type of shot that depends utterly on complete control of the environment. So, you go and give it a crack in an environment where you absolutely have no real control of the environment.
Fun to do, less than successful in terms of a solid photo, but the point of demo is to try stuff. Illuminate, if you will, a concept or a strategy. The goal here is information, gained through immediate observation. (Out in the audience, some observations might have been in the realm of, “Whoah, this guy’s nuts!)
Heartfelt thanks to the Dallas PPA, and the entire crew for all the amazing care in the coordination, particularly Minvi Duncan, who really helped me pull all the details together, and to Hector Reyes, who gathered a great crew of models. And to Edward Holmberg, who shot all the stellar BTS stills you see above.
Though the virtual talks/zooms are all the rage, there’s definitely nothing like teaching and being with photographers. Up close and personal. Chances for real time learning. I’ve missed doing them, frankly. Bring on the next one!