Jun 282017

Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - George Fischer - Paintball

Action - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

Portrait - Editorial Corporate Magazine Photography - Paintball

I didn’t need a reminder that I made the right choice early on not to pursue a career in combat photography, but after feeling the sting of a paintball against my skin for the third time in only a couple minutes, despite several layers of protective clothing,  I remembered that it was indeed the right call.

Earlier this year I found myself out in the middle of a field seventy miles east of Los Angeles following around paintball enthusiast Justin Sorenson for Georg Fischer’s Globe magazine. Justin is a field service engineer by weekday, avid competitive paintball player by weekend and a really nice guy to work with. They were featuring him as part of a regular series they publish highlighting employees’ passions and pastimes outside the workplace. I had only played paintball once in my life, with some friends as a teenager. Being the new guy, they put me out front. I was quickly shot and went back to the house to hang out until they were through. So given my limited experience it probably goes without saying that I was unprepared when I suddenly found myself on the edge a battlefield where ten guys were raining hellfire upon one another with paint-filled balls of gelatin.

Justin and I had shot some portraits before things started and, when it was his team’s turn to play, made our way onto the field. He told me more or less where to shoot from to avoid being shot, but once play begins it all happens very fast. Starting at their home base on opposite ends of the field, upon the referee’s signal each of the five members of each team sprint in different directions, simultaneously scrambling for cover behind large bunkers while also shooting rapidly at anything they see moving on the other side of the field. The goal is to eliminate everyone on the opposing team by “marking” them with a splat of colored paint. You’re hit, you’re out. Last team standing wins.

Standing in the mud along the sidelines with nothing but a camera it feels a bit chaotic at first. The bunkers, inflated vinyl balloons, make loud thwaps each time they’re hit. I see Justin take off and immediately move so I can get a clear view of him in action. What I don’t see is one of his teammates crossing in front of me, which immediately draws fire from their opponents. Any shots that miss him, which was more than a few, have a good chance of hitting me.

The first one hits me right in the keister and stings like hell. I try to move along the edge toward the middle of the field where another team is watching. His teammate heads in the same direction and leaps behind a bunker. Paintballs whoosh by my ear. As I turn sideways one hits the side of my camera, ripping through the bag I’ve secured around it for protection as if it was Kleenex. Fortunately it hits a solid part of the camera body causing no harm. But I realize I should have brought a water housing. A moment later the referee yells to stop play and I let down my guard. Another paintball smacks me in the foot, stinging my toe even through the leather cleats I’m wearing for traction. What the &#*@!? The teams exit the field so the next teams can take a turn and, a little frustrated, I assess what I’ve shot. Not much. Besides spending most of the round trying not to get myself shot, Justin had taken a route up the middle of the field keeping him out of view, so I’d essentially taken all that fire for nothing.

Fortunately round two is better. I quickly learn to watch not only my subject but also to look out for anyone else running anywhere near my direction and to not get behind them. This time Justin runs an outside route toward my corner and I’m able to get a clear shot of him while also staying out of the line of fire. I’m shot only once more over the course of the afternoon and am able to get numerous images of him running, firing and diving for cover. Knowing I have what I need I decide to get myself, and more importantly my gear, out of harms way and call it a day. As for Justin, he intends to play for several more hours. Having watched them play I could see why. It’s a strategic, fast-paced and adrenaline pumping game that I’m sure is addictive once you get started.

As crazy as I may have made it sound, it was actually a great time and a really fun assignment. There are a lot worse ways to spend a Saturday. Even if most of them are less painful.

Here’s a video showing my POV from an iPhone I mounted to my camera. See below for more photos from the shoot!

Paintball Photography POV from David Zentz on Vimeo.

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Dec 082016

Editorial Portrait Los Angeles KTM

Biz Tech Published spread tear sheet

Biz Tech KTM published clip


Editorial Portrait Los Angeles KTM

In October I visited the offices of KTM motorcycles to photograph their in-house IT specialist, Joe Truebe, for the winter issue of Biz Tech Magazine. Fortunately, the editors requested that I not show him working with the innovative backend networking system he’s set up and we got to spend some time shooting with the flashy bikes in their Murrieta, Calif., showroom. Truebe was easy to work with and generous with his time and we were able to make some pretty good pictures for a story that’s basically about iPads and routers. Here are a couple of images that ran in the print and online version, plus an outtake I liked. You can read the full piece here.

Feb 022015

Corporate executive portrait composite  Georg Fischer

Corporate magazine photography Los Angeles Georg Fischer

Corporate Magazine Tearsheet

Corporate Magazine Tearsheet


Problem: You’ve been assigned to photograph the presidents of two neighboring divisions of a major corporation, but neither of them will be in town at the same time prior to your deadline.

Solution: Composite!

This was the situation on a recent shoot for Globe magazine, the in-house publication of the multinational Georg Fischer corporation who wanted to highlight how two of their divisions were now working under one roof at their new facilities in Irvine, Calif. In order to deliver the shot they needed, we decided to shoot both executives individually in the chosen location — in front of a large aquarium that serves as a centerpiece to their office showroom — and later merge the portraits together. In this case, the company has its own in-house capabilities for post-production, so with the actual Photoshop work taken care of, my main concern was to shoot nearly identical frames taken a week apart. For prior composite work, such as the Macklemore tour poster I photographed a couple years ago, the task was made easier because everything was shot the same day and the camera never moved. In this situation, however, leaving the camera mounted on a tripod in the middle of their offices for a week was not an option! So, I had to set the lighting and camera up again and, with the help of a reference photo on my laptop and using my assistant as a stand-in, find the exact framing. I wanted not only to make the task of compositing easier, but assure that the result was believable, so it was important that the subjects be shot at identical angles. In the end, the images blended together seamlessly and the client went away happy. Hooray! The rest of the spread, as you can see, consisted of documentary-style shots showing employees working in various departments, as well as tighter portraits of some of the featured employees who play important roles in the two departments. While there, we also shot a group portrait for the company’s annual report, which has yet to publish. Once it does I will be sure to share it here.


For bookings visit www.davidzentz.com or contact us at dz@davidzentz.com or 310.745.9854.

Jan 132015

Hayward Nishioka portrait - judo

Last year I had the unique opportunity of trailing judo legend Hayward Nishioka for a piece on the declining role of physical education at colleges and universities for the Chronicle of Higher Education. At 72, Hayward, a 7th degree black belt, has long since retired from professional competition and has been teaching judo at Los Angeles City College since the 1970s. Among his numerous accomplishments in the ’60s are being a 3-time U.S. judo champion and a gold medalist in the 1967 Pan-American games. He is widely considered to be one of the best ever in the sport. While this is impressive and rather intimidating, in person Nishioka is a soft-spoken, gentle man with a good sense of humor, and was a pleasure to spend the day with. And a full day it was, starting with me knocking at the door of his San Pedro home, just steps from the Pacific, at 6 a.m. and ending around 8 or 9 at night at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Garden Grove in order to create a day-in-the-life style profile piece that could accompany the story. The day consisted of a wide range of activities, starting with a stop at the neighborhood market near his home in San Pedro for coffee and danishes, followed by a 45 minute drive in his blue Prius to teach introductory judo classes at LACC, lunch with his girlfriend, a stop for ice cream, a visit to East LA’s Abell auction house — not far from the rough neighborhood where he grew up and where the staff know him by name — a kendo demonstration (another martial art, in addition to karate, that he excels in) on a homemade dummy in his backyard, takeout dinner on a San Pedro bluff a short walk from his home and finally to Garden Grove for yet another judo session. Along the way we had great discussions, ranging from his recalling his heyday as a champion to his earliest days where he and his family were interned at Camp Manzanar during WWII to how one can determine the authenticity of a lithograph. His time in Manzanar, as you can imagine, has greatly influenced his opinions on today’s wars and the public’s common misperceptions of muslims. He also let me give it a go with his kendo sword, which he swings 1,500 times a day. Typically a fairly light, wooden sword, he fills his with lead to increase his strength and control, the object of his training being to stop the sword as close as possible to the dummy without actually hitting it. After about 20 swings my forearms were on fire and I maybe stopped the sword from touching the dummy once. Maybe I’ll be better by the time I’m 72. All in all, a fascinating and humbling day!

The article just ran in the chronicle and can be seen here: http://chronicle.com/article/When-Colleges-Abandon-Phys-Ed/151109/

Hayward Nishioka photo essay

Hayward Nishioka San Pedro

Hayward Nishioka Los Angeles

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka teaching judo

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka lunch

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka

Hayward Nishioka practicing kendo

Hayward Nishioka practicing kendo


Hayward Nishioka Editorial photography

Hayward Nishioka broken fingers


Hayward Nishioka portrait



May 222014

Editorial portrait photographer Los Angeles

Editorial Portrait Photographer Venice Beach

Not long ago I made a short trip to the Getty Museum to photograph the museum’s general counsel, Steven Clark, for the Fordham Lawyer, the alumni magazine of Fordham Law School. If you’ve never been, the Getty campus is gorgeous, and I had fun using Richard Meier’s amazing architecture to frame the subject and background. Didn’t hurt that it was a beautiful day!

For bookings visit www.davidzentz.com or contact us at dz@davidzentz.com or 310.745.9854.

Jan 032012

Chiara Daraio for STYLE magazine

Chiara Daraio for STYLE magazine

In November I photographed Chiara Daraio for the Italian magazine STYLE. Daraio, a professor of aeronautics and applied physics at California Institute of Technology, was being profiled for being a leader in her field, which in layman’s terms is the study of how stress waves travel through solid materials, which they will then use to develop new technologies. The shoot was fun and relaxed, using a combination of natural and strobe lighting in a variety of settings in her building at Caltech. Whenever possible, particularly with portraits, I try to research the subject I’m photographing to see what’s been shot of them before and also what’s other photographers have done with similar subjects. In doing so, I found that she had been photographed in the lab before for Popular Science, so I made that shot my lowest priority, not wanting to copy what had been done before. The editors had only asked that it be a photo that shows her as an intellect and a leader in her field, but I was pretty free to take it from there. While I did shoot her in the lab, in a fashion different than what had been done before, I was happy they chose to run this shot which just shows her relaxing in her office, where notes indecipherable by me, but pertaining to her research, were already on the chalkboard. On a technical level, the shot was pretty simple, using only a reflector to bounce a little window light back into the scene, but the results were good.