Saturday, August 29, 2009

More From My Session With Kathy and Michelle...

There’s been a fair amount of interest in my photo shoot with Kathy Thomas and Michelle Phillips from late July. I had briefly written about the session in the post of August 11th and put an image up from the work with last week’s entry.

The shoot was done in Kathy’s home on a very warm and sunny afternoon. Kathy lives in an older Savannah home in an older Savannah neighborhood; a home with no central air conditioning. Even with fans on and windows open, even with the nice breeze we had, it was a hot space in which to work. The shoot plan called for using only available window light, which we had plenty of, and it was light of nice quality – when it was consistent. The skies were just cloudy enough to cause real headaches. As clouds passed in front of the sun, the light would change from fully illuminating sun to partial overcast in milliseconds. So while the quality of light was good, metering the light was a constant and challenging endeavor. Even shooting on the aperture priority setting was difficult as the corresponding shutter speeds were all over the place. Another challenge was the space itself. Because Kathy's home is situated on a crowded residential street, and this was a nude session, there were restrictions on which rooms we could and couldn’t use.

My original intent with the shoot concept was to produce a series of B&W images; however, as I wrote in the August 11th entry, the images revealed themselves to work better as works of color. To the purist, this could make the shoot concept and execution a failure, but I don’t see it that way. Looking at the image files that evening, it became quickly apparent the session worked better in color. There was no question about it.

I don’t want to give the impression the shoot wasn’t a success or that it was difficult work. It was a success, and it was also a lot of hard work, more than any of us bargained for. The heat and constant moving around of furniture and equipment added to the load. Nonetheless, our hard work paid off as several good and interesting images were made. Here are a few more of them.

Producing and showing color images has, in years past, been a rare thing for me.

I’d say that 85% of the work I’ve produced in the last 10 years has been monochromatic – black and white. There’s no denying it; I’m an old school shooter. I only emerged from the darkroom sometime in 2004. I’ve been writing about how I’m seeking change; questing for new territories to explore with my cameras. Seeing images in color, particularly images of figurative work, and creating those images is new and exciting adventure.


You’ve probably noticed I don’t stray too much from the topics of art and photography. I may move about quite a bit within those topics, but pretty much, that’s the direction in which I want this blog to go and I try to stay on subjects connected to art and photography. Many of the photography and art oriented blogs, as well as some others that I actively lurk and follow, are also forums for their writer’s political views, etc. That’s fine, but it’s not my style.

Still, with passing of Senator Kennedy this past week, one can’t help but reflect on who we are and how we got here, as a people as a nation. I’m not going to say anything of real substance here, so don’t get your hopes up. I will say my mood of late has been one of deep self-reflection and pondering, on many different levels; a bit of soul-searching if you will. We’ll see where it takes me, and if it’s something I think may interest my readers, perhaps I’ll write about it here.


Lastly, while I don't receive too many comments, the few that I do seem to take their time in showing up. If there's a delay in getting your comments read and published, my apologies. It is something beyond my control and I'm working to figure it out.

I'm also at a loss as to why some images link and others don't. Again, I ask for your patience please. I'm working on it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Space-cially Challenged...

Studio space – a good working space, available at a reasonable price – is somewhat hard to come by in Savannah. There is a rental studio in the area, but nothing compares to having one’s own space. Don’t get me wrong; the rental studio is a nice one; fully furnished, well equipped, fairly priced, and owned and operated by a knowledgeable husband and wife team that happen to be friends of mine. I’ve done good work there in recent years.

In an earlier post, I wrote about how I wanted to take my work out of the studio; to play with natural light and natural environments, or shoot in other indoor environments besides a dedicated studio. Go “off set” in other words. This color image of Kathy and Michelle was shot in Kathy’s home using only window light. I recently shot portraits of a friend’s daughter and her friend in natural light, indoors and out. I’ve always believed window light is the best light for any indoor work. Images created in this light are almost always beautiful. I'm making some progress in that direction.

Still, from time to time, I need a formal studio. While I love to give my friends business when I can, the cost of renting a studio adds up, especially when preparing for a show. The economy being what it is, I needed to find a way to cut – or at least minimize – my production costs. I thought I had hit upon the perfect answer.

As many of you know, I’m an owning partner in a local art gallery, a little place called The Gallery. Our space features a marvelous main floor with beautiful tall windows and very inviting lighting. It’s absolutely gorgeous in daylight and at night. We also have a unique lower level gallery, where mostly large and original pieces of work hang. So I thought: why not use the lower level gallery as a shooting space, after hours, when the business is closed? It can’t be seen from the street level, and the floor space is plenty big.

Perfect – right?

Not exactly. I knew the space would have challenges, but it turned out to be more than I had bargained for. The ceiling was the issue, and while the height of it was a problem, the ceiling color revealed itself to be the bigger problem. The entire ceiling – every square inch of it - is white. Not just white, it is a very bright white.
In other words, the ceiling is a very efficient, not to mention gigantic, reflector. No matter what I did, no matter what ingenious ideas me or my assistants came up with to block or redirect the light from the flash heads, the ceiling scattered light far and wide. Since the vast majority of my work done in studio is done on dark or black backgrounds, this is a disaster of moderate proportions for the way I shoot. As evidenced by this image of model Sarah H., it works beautifully as a high-key location. However, I’m not a high-key kind of guy. Well, not much of one, anyway.

The only workable solution was to drape the ceiling in a dark, light absorbing fabric. This proved to be more difficult than it sounds. There are no real attachment points in place and I promised my partners I wouldn’t modify the spaces. Second, having to drape the ceiling each time before a session adds to the costs of the session, if not in dollars, in time spent. Once again, things were becoming too complicated – and complicated is not in keeping with my efforts to simplify and streamline my shooting work flow.

So, I’ll continue scouting new locations; I’ll keep hunting for beautiful, natural light to use as often as possible. Fortunately, my planning is taking me in this direction anyway. And when I need a good, workable studio to use, I know where to find it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Same as it ever was…

Or so it seems; I’ve been afflicted with a bad case of not-enough-hours-in-the-day syndrome. Basically, I’ve been busy.

The busy has been good though, as a large portion of it came from spending significant time in a villa on Hilton Head Island in South Carolina with life-long friends. We’re scattered far and wide over the country now and it had been 30 years since I had last laid eyes on some of them. Those few days spent together were quite wonderful. Work of course, has made up the rest of being busy.

While on Hilton Head, I had the pleasure of photographing one of my friend’s daughters and her friend that joined the family for the trip. These young ladies are both dancers of ballet; they’re both 13; and they’re both tall, graceful and drop dead gorgeous. My make-up artist and stylist came to the villa and together, we spent an afternoon with these talented girls shooting fashion and artistic portraits, as well as some ballet on the beach. I’ll not likely post any of the images here. The two primary reasons for doing this session were for the girls to have fun, and for them to create something unique as a gift for themselves and their families. It was a great time and quite exhausting for all involved. I honestly don’t recall the last time I intentionally spent an afternoon with two 13 year olds. I'd guess it was when I was 13.

Now it’s back to the work at hand. I’ve got two figure sessions scheduled for this week; one is for the evening on the 12th and the other, the evening of the 13th. Both are models I’ve photographed before. After looking through my available inventory of images, I decided to go ahead with these two sessions and cross my fingers they will complete what I need for my November show and opening. Time is quickly running out.

I’m also behind in my film developing, with several rolls from a recent outing with the Holga, plus commissions to develop for friends. I’ll also be getting out and shooting more documentary and editorial work for my general gallery inventories and I’ve got a figure session planned for an outdoor location once the heat and bugs become more manageable. Lastly, and perhaps most critically with a show deadline hanging over me, I’ve got a printing dilemma to resolve. There'll be more on that in future posts, I'm sure.

The figure session shot week before last with Michelle Phillips and Kathy Thomas at Kathy’s home went well. In my initial edits of the images, it’s becoming apparent that this project may work better as color than monotone, something that has surprised me. The lighting was a challenge as the sun darted in and out of the clouds, sometimes with exceptional speed, and because of the location, we were restricted in our usage of certain rooms. Plus, the colors of the rooms are quite neutral and with the mix of soft and hard light, the contrast is all over the place. There are good images in the mix, but another session is in order.

The images accompanying this post are from a July figure session; I couldn’t stand the thought of posting without including at least some photography. I’ll have new images to show when the two upcoming sessions are completed and I promise the next update will include some of the new work.