July 2009
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Month July 2009

Shooting for billboards and an OBIE Award for Nike Running

I just found out that a campaign I photographed for Nike Running was recently recognized by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) with a 2009 OBIE Award. The Nike campaign is the second one I’ve shot for outdoor media. The first was for Ask.com. Both of these campaigns were shot similarly, so I thought I’d write a bit about the process.

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For the Nike ads a company in California made an entire alphabet of green painted letters. The other elements were also made and painted out of wood. The background panels were shipped in pieces.

After experimenting with hard and soft light sources and the direction of the shadows, we locked down the camera and made careful measurements on the distance and size of the light sources relative to the elements. The goal was to document real spatial relationships, real shadows, and to tie in everything uniformly.

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On the Ask.com campaign, where the final goal was to create ten or so billboards, we shopped around for various metallic papers we could use for the background. The headlines were then printed on transparent acetate. Finally, after experimenting with different pieces of laboratory glass, and lighting direction, we settled on a look that gave the headlines and materials a deliberate depth.

The point in describing this approach to working with headline-focused ads is that “making” things often results in work that feels real and crafted. Photography then becomes an important part of the process – allowing you to exploit the nuance of real materials.

So the next time you are tempted to just illustrate or render art for this kind of potentially flat work, think about making and then shooting. You could end up with some pretty cool and unique art.

Portrait of a lonely, sleepy bee

Last night at around midnight I got home from the office and saw a lonely bee seemingly asleep on top of one of the sphere light fixtures outside my building. I quickly grabbed a chair, my point-and-shoot, a white envelope for a backdrop, and set my camera to its macro setting. The bee flinched briefly at first and then didn’t seem to care that I was 1/2″ away. I spent 20 minutes or so shooting with the camera’s built-in flash and without.

At the end of it all, I found some honey in my cupboard and left a small thank you squirt nearby. The bee was gone the next morning.

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1/25 sec, F5.6, 7.4mm, flash

Portrait of my friend Andy in San Francisco

My friend Andy move to San Francisco a few months ago after living in Denver for a while. I stopped by for a visit last month. One stop on my short tour was the SF federal building designed by Thom Mayne. Here’s Andy being superhero.

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Camping images #2: Decisive-y moments

When I’m shooting images that are intended to simply document an event, it helps me to at least consider capturing, as Cartier-Bresson became famous for, decisive moments.  With a laggy point-and-shoot, however, approaching documentary images this way can be a bit of a challenge. Instead of the fraction of a second you need to tell your finger to depress the shutter release with an SLR, you have to give yourself a full second, sometimes two to take a picture. On this camping trip, it took a lot and trial and error to get close to capturing moments where elements in the composition aligned with a certain harmony.

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The images in this post aren’t the strongest examples of what “decisive moment” documentary photography can approach, but I think they lend support to the idea that even with a cheapish point-and-shoot one can make interesting photographs.

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Camping images #1: Exploring lens flare

Ah, summer in Colorado. I went camping this weekend in Steamboat Springs and decided to only take my small Canon G9. My goal was to keep things light and simple and to work within the technical range of a point-and-shoot. I also wanted to explore and experiment a bit. The following two or three posts will focus on this trip and some themes I stumbled on.

I’ve been thinking lots about lens flare. I’ve noticed other photographers have been leveraging lens flare as a viable personal style too. It seems a bit of a trend right now.

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This flaring curiosity might have something to do with the recent Star Trek film where director J.J. Abrams pushes lens flaring to “ridiculous” limits. It was pretty hypnotic in the film. I loved it.

Back to camping. When we set out on our drive around sunset, it seemed like the perfect time to push and pull the sun as far as I could. I played with different F-stop and shutter speed combinations. I also noticed that the look of the flare varied by focal length.

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Obliterating highlight details through flaring can be interesting and has its creative place. When the intensity of light can’t be contained, I think it’s pretty alright to let it burn!

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Why start another photography blog?

Good question, David. I’m not exactly sure I have the best answer at this point. What I’m looking to do is more quickly share new work and some occasional words on photography without distracting too much from my portfolio site. This will hopefully live in the background and be around for folks that are curious to learn a bit more. It will be a secret. Shhh.

But it might take me some time to warm up. Not too long hopefully. For a bit over three years, and up until October 2008, I managed the climbing blog: the diary of a [newbie] rock climber.

Hopefully I can WD-40 into a groove fairly quickly.

This was way too easy.

Now I know why there are so many blogs in the world. In only takes five minutes to set one up. This should really be harder.