Archive for December, 2009

Simon Gerzina in the Sweet Spot

December 16, 2009

Simon Gerzina shoots film and digital, fashion and beauty, corporate portraiture and a little reportage. No matter the assignment, Sekonic meters are always with him. “Even for events, I carry a light meter for everything. I don’t like relying on in-camera meters or the histogram. I prefer to make lighting decisions based on numbers and not on a guess.” Gerzina carries a Sekonic L-358 meter with the PocketWizard module. “It’s never left the meter since I got them together. It’s been indispensable. I don’t know how I could ever go back to tripping over cables. You don’t have to worry about fragile little PC-synch terminals. It’s a real godsend. The 358 is at an amazing sweet spot. The cost is negligible once you start talking about studio equipment. It’s small—it sits on my hip until I need it. Since using a Sekonic I’ve never wanted to use anything else. I actually bought a second one when out on a shoot because I couldn’t find my original. I later found my first one the next day and was not bummed at all I owned two of them.”

©Simon Gerzina

In the time he’s been shooting professionally, Gerzina has developed some strong feelings about the use of lightmeters. “It bums me out there’s people today getting into serious photography who, as opposed to five or ten years ago, have a new mentality that light meters are unnecessary luxury. These people are often entirely self-taught, or they pick up tips on blogs and tutorials. They don’t recognize how much faster and easier it makes the work. The idea of manufacturing light without a meter is like a carpenter working without a ruler. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

©Simon Gerzina

Gerzina also uses a Mamiya RB67 a Mamiya 645AF, Profoto Acute2 and AcuteB strobe packs, and PocketWizard Plus II’s.

Simon Gerzina Photography

Simon Gerzina’s Twitter feed

Simon Gerzina’s Facebook Fan Group

Fashion Shoot with Ford Models

Simon Gerzina’s Flickr Photostream

Behind-the-Scenes on Flickr

Written by Ron Egatz

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Damaso Reyes on Understanding Fundamentals

December 14, 2009

Raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York by immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, Damaso Reyes has had some of the common experiences many first-generation Americans have had since the Dutch started procreating in the colony they called New Amsterdam. Damaso has grown up with all the common icons and habits of the plurality we call “American,” but he is distinctly aware of diaspora, and the baggage it brings metaphorically, economically, socially, emotionally, and—not least importantly—literally.

©Damaso Reyes

Artistically, Damaso has spent his adulthood as a photojournalist chronicling the dispossessed and asylum-seekers of the world. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Newsday, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Far Eastern Economic Review, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair Germany, Der Spiegel and TIME Asia, among others. Recipient of a J. William Fulbright Scholarship and an Arthur F. Burns Fellowship, Damaso has shot photographs around the globe. His current project, The Europeans, is documenting the changing face of Europe. Sponsored by Kodak, this series of black and white photos documents immigration, identity, economics, and the politics affecting these issues.

©Damaso Reyes

“I don’t like flat pictures,” says Damaso. “I like visually-rich images in all senses of that term. I shoot extensively in black and white, but I love saturation in color, as well. Honestly, part of it is about metering. That addresses how you see light and how you want to render light. I like photos based in reality, but maybe slightly richer. One of the goals of being a photographer, and any artist, for that matter, is to show things about the world we might be familiar with, but in a different way.”

©Damaso Reyes

“It’s a philosophical choice for me about whether to shoot black and white or color for a particular assignment. I made a conscious decision four and a half years ago to shoot The Europeans project in black and white. What’s important for me is shooting differently, depending on which I’m using at the time. If it’s color film, I see the world in a different way, and I’m trying to accentuate things accordingly. The same is true for black and white. It’s important to make choices. I will not shoot certain things if I don’t have the right film with me. I’m a big fan of the new Kodak Ektar 100. It’s got incredible grain. If I’m shooting models in lower light, I’ll use Portra 400. As an artist, you have to make choices about the cameras and film you use. Of course having a good light meter and understanding the light around you is integral to making good choices.”

©Damaso Reyes

Damaso received an excellent technical background in photography by attending New York University. Before that he learned on his own, starting with a subscription to Photographic, from which he followed the exercises, and tried to copy their sample photos. “When you really understand the fundamentals of your craft and are able to manipulate the tools in your repertoire, brings you closer to getting a great picture and not just a good picture,” he says. “The problem with all this great technology photographers now enjoy is people getting into the field feel they don’t need to learn the fundamentals. When I was in college one of the first things I learned was the zone system. To this day I still use it. It informs me and helps me take better pictures. You can’t really execute your vision if you don’t have the technical foundation.”

©Damaso Reyes

Feeling strongly about starting off with a great photograph is imperative for Damaso’s work. “If you want to create images which are visually interesting, complex and different, the light is your fundamental resource to do that. You can play with images in Photoshop and in the darkroom, but if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. You can make a bad photograph good, but you can never make a good photograph great. When I have a properly metered and exposed photo, it means I don’t have to waste a lot of time working on it afterwards. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the more time and care you take up front, the better off you are in the long run.” Even though he constantly runs the numbers of the zone system through his head while working in chaotic environments like street shooting, Damaso says, “there are times I use the spot meter on my Sekonic L-508 Zoom Master. It’s great to have it when I need it, but most of the time I use the incident meter. I like having tools which give me the information to make the right choice for my work. A lot of photographers don’t understand built-in camera meters have serious limitations. They are not incredibly accurate devices. Most people who don’t know the zone system don’t understand how light meters work. Camera meters in the Program mode are always incredibly conservative. They are always trying to get you more light. You need to account for that and the best way is to use a light meter.”

©Damaso Reyes

“I just came back from overseas for months and I was using my Sekonic meter every day. It worked perfectly, and you have that peace of mind your exposures aren’t going to be wildly off.” This is important for Damaso, who “hasn’t used a strobe in a few years, now.” A big advocate of shooting with available light only, accurate meter readings are critical to his process. “If you want to increase, say, depth of field, you can’t adjust that in Photoshop. You need a meter while you’re shooting to make those kind of things happen.”

©Damaso Reyes

With a great passion for social justice on both national and small community levels, Damaso chronicles all he can on his seemingly constant travels. Exposing the plight of those forced to flee their homelands to capturing exotic flowers, Damaso continues to calculate light values in his head, checking them when he needs to with his “essential tool,” his Sekonic L-508.

Damaso Reyes Photography

Damaso Reyes’ blog

The Europeans

The Europeans blog

Written by Ron Egatz

Bobbi Lane: Thirty Years of Freelance Photography

December 10, 2009

Thirty years isn’t much in plate tectonics, evolution, or changes in the Earth’s magnetic field. In the world of freelance professional photography, thirty years is a significant achievement. Bobbi Lane has been involved with serious photographic pursuits since her undergraduate days at Emerson College and New England School of Photography. After graduation, she started an apprenticeship with Bill Sumner in Boston. In 1979 she became a freelance photographer and has been self-employed ever since.

©Bobbi Lane

Being an assignment photographer is not her only accomplishment for the past three decades. She is almost as equally well-known as a photographic educator, teaching seminars and workshops around the world in places such as Dubai and Costa Rica. In the United States, she’s often lecturing or teaching in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New York City, Boston, Chicago and Rockport, Maine. Five books, two DVDs, over a dozen exhibits, and many industry awards are a testament to her talent as a photographer and her instructional abilities.

©Bobbi Lane

No stranger to preproduction, Bobbi often sketches her lighting design ideas before shoots. Arriving prepared is key to her methodology. This was employed in her most recent shoot: guitarist Will Hanza on a Manhattan rooftop. The objective in this shoot was to get that magic time of sunset when interior lights of buildings come on, but the sky still naturally lit. To help accomplish this, she used a Sekonic L-758DR meter. “There were several reasons why I needed to have a light meter during this shoot,” says Bobbi. “First, I was using two light sources—two strobes: a beauty dish and a strip light for the edge effect. I had to get the right balance between the two. I used the Incident mode to measure the main light. I placed the strip light in relation to the main light. In most circumstances I would put the background light about a full-stop less than the main light. In this case, I did it about one half-stop less. I wanted it to be a little stronger because I wanted more drama and edge-feel. We used the spot meter to read the sky in the background. You can’t take an incident reading of the sky because an incident meter measures the light falling on a subject. The sky is a light source. You have to have a reflective meter to take the reading off the sky. That worked perfectly.”

©Bobbi Lane

The L-758DR came through on all fronts for Bobbi. “The meter was so good. I always look at my histograms to double check everything and make sure I’m getting the amount of light I need—not losing shadow detail or not blowing out highlight detail. This meter was so absolutely right on. I didn’t have to adjust or compensate for anything.”

©Bobbi Lane

A contributor to stock photography agencies for twenty-five years, she recently left Getty Images for a small agency which was bought by Corbis. Although she describes the state of stock photography business “dismal,” There are still a few bright spots. “Most of what I sell from stock agencies is Travel, and most of that is American cities. No one is really interested in buying stock photos unless you have full model releases on all the people in the photo. Because of the royalty-free stock and these micro-stock sites, the value of rights-managed stock has really come down quite a bit.” The news is not all dismal, though. “I still think there’s room for photographers making high-quality images in rights-managed stock, but no one’s making the money they used to. I know several photographers who shot stock exclusively, and their income is half of what it was ten years ago. That said, I don’t think stock photography is going away. No matter how many people put their images on the Web for free, if someone needs a high-quality image, they’ll pay for it.”

©Bobbi Lane

Client-direct assignments for corporate photography, particularly on a local level, has become the majority of her jobs these days. Small advertising agencies and design firms fill out her work week, with environmental portraits, formal portraits, and related work for companies’ Web sites. “It’s very similar to corporate annual report photography,” Bobbi explains. “You’re doing people, facilities, and products. Every client is different, so I try to create a different look for each company I work for.”

©Bobbi Lane

Editorial work for local magazines like Ridgefield Magazine and Bedford Magazine keep her busy, as does national magazines. Trade publications like Brandweek Magazine call her for interpretive portrait work.

©Bobbi Lane

The clients have come and gone and come again. The face of the stock photography business has changed radically with the advent of the Internet. Digital technology steadily replaces film. Through it all, Bobbi Lane continues to earn a living on her own terms as a freelance photographer, an educator, and through stock photo sales. Photographers everywhere can learn much from this talented pro shooter.

©Bobbi Lane

Calumet Photographic at 22 West 22nd Street, New York City, hosted Bobbi Lane’s Metering Video Premiere Event on Wednesday, December 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. Educator and photographer Bobbi Lane premiered of her new video for Sekonic on metering techniques. The video features guitarist Will Pino on a rooftop in Manhattan during an incredible sunset. Lane will be in attendance to talk about her insights on the creation of these dynamic images using Sekonic meters and Calumet Travelites.

Bobbi Lane Photography

Bobbi Lane at Photofolio

Portrait Lighting Techniques and Portraits Unplugged, produced and sold by Calumet

“Portraits Unplugged,” an online class for the Perfect Picture School of Photography

Written by Ron Egatz