Oct 022017

Discover Magazine-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

Discover-Editorial Photography

It was great seeing not one, but two, pieces published in the October issue of Discover magazine! The first story was shot at the UCLA Brain Imaging Center to illustrate a first-person narrative by writer Jeff Wheelwright relating his experience getting tested for the Human Connectome Project, a large study creating a baseline map of the brain to better study how it ages. For the story we created a series of images of him going through various cognitive tests, as well as an overhead of him lying in a decommissioned MRI machine. That latter was a challenge, but we pulled it off with the help of my assistant LR, a patient subject and a Camranger remote, which allowed me to shoot live view wirelessly from my laptop to my Nikon, which was carefully positioned overhead on a boom. The second story was a fascinating piece on advancements in stem cell therapies that are allowing people such as Kristin MacDonald, who I shot at home in Beverly Hills, to regain partial vision almost totally lost to Retinitis Pigmentosa, an incurable degenerative eye disease that caused her to start going blind in her twenties. Others have successfully used the therapy to overcome paralysis caused by stroke or injury. The advancements were initially made possible by the passing of California Proposition 71 in 2004, which provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research in the state after the feds cut off funding for embryonic stem cell research in 2001. I did a related story several years ago when scientists were just figuring out how to work around the ban, so it was great to see how far things have come in the last seven or so years. I’m looking forward to seeing the advancements this field is sure to produce in the coming years.



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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Nov 142016

Migros Editorial Portrait Trump Supporter tony-luisoni

Migros Editorial Portrait Clinton Supporter isabelle-meyer

Clinton Anti-Trump Bumper Stickers

A few weeks before the election I visited and photographed two Swiss-born American citizens who were voting for opposing candidates Clinton and Trump. The images were part of a 5-person series profiling Swiss-American expats of various political leanings for Switzerland’s Migros Magazine. My first subject was Isabelle Meyer, 64, a resident of Glendale, Calif., collector of globes and an avid Clinton supporter. We didn’t speak about politics for much of our visit, but both of us were fairly confident that things would work out for team Blue. And we know how that ended. My second subject was Tony Luisoni, a 79-year-old resident of Granada Hills, Calif., structural engineer and Trump supporter. This might surprise those of you not living in a “liberal bubble” as I do, but Luisoni was the first open Trump supporter I had ever met. Sounds crazy I know. But when you live in an extremely diverse city a candidate who inspires racism, xenophobia and misogynism is kind of a deal breaker for most of us, regardless of your political opinions otherwise. So, I was very curious what our interaction was going to be like. Working as a journalist, I would never try to argue politics with a subject. But I wasn’t looking forward to nodding along as I listened to someone inform me of the merits of a Trump presidency, which despite my feelings, would be the only way to handle the situation as a professional. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Dispelling the notion that all Trump supporters are angry white people, he never brought up politics once and was very accommodating throughout the shoot, allowing me to create a nice portrait of him in his living room.

Normally I don’t discuss politics here or outside of my circle of friends and family, and never as a professional. Had a Republican other than Trump won the election, I would likely say nothing here. But I feel that this situation falls outside of mere political opinion and cannot express strongly enough my opposition to what has happened. It’s truly a catastrophe that someone was able to make it to the office of the presidency on a platform based in large part on hateful rhetoric and white nationalism. It speaks poorly of us as a people and is a national embarrassment. Fortunately, I can see that while Trump has won the election, the majority of us are still strongly opposed to him and his ideas. So I am hopeful that although his supporters are laughing, the last laugh will belong to those who believe in equal rights and justice for all.


Nov 012016

Farfetch fashion editorial Wall Street Journal

Farfetch fashion editorial Wall Street Journal

Last month I visited the LA offices of the London-based e-commerce company Farfetch to photograph a behind-the-scenes look at its operation. If you’re not familiar (I wasn’t, but my wife definitely was), the company is an online marketplace that sells on behalf of high-end fashion boutiques around the world. They don’t stock the items themselves, but list them on their site and then take a cut of sales. In order to properly list each item on their site, the boutiques must send in one of each item they want to sell, which the team at Farfetch then catalogues, styles and photographs before sending back to them. On average they list around 1,000 new items each week. If you’ve ever done product photography, you can imagine the amount of time this must take! You can read more about the process by checking out the article here. For more photos from the day continue reading below.

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Feb 022016

Publicity Portrait Photography Los Angeles - Made in LA

The right amount of wind in a photoshoot can have a nice affect. Too much and it just makes a mess of things. On an otherwise beautiful afternoon, in an otherwise calm week, I recently found myself in the latter situation while trying to create some striking publicity photos for Michelle Eskin, co-owner and managing director of editing house Cut + Run. For the entirety of the shoot there seemed to be no escaping the incessant blasts of cold air shooting down Melrose Avenue in all directions, threatening to knock over light stands and worse, for the purposes of the photos at least, attempting to make a mess of our subject’s beautifully styled hair. We attempted to hide from it by shooting in a narrow, walled off walkway, but even there it found us. Perhaps it was an early appearance by El Niño – it was late October – or perhaps just a fluke, but there we were and we had to make it work. Fortunately we had a great team and patient subject and managed to overcome this obstacle and make some great portraits for her. There was really no trick to it other than waiting for the brief lulls between gusts and then shooting like crazy for two or three seconds before the wind returned. This week has been gusty everyday, this time certainly thanks to El Niño. Perhaps that’s what reminded me to post this shoot. I don’t mind the wind and rain. It’s nice to have some weather around here from time to time. However I’m feeling quite fortunate that none of my shoots this week are outdoors! Not that we couldn’t handle it if we were of course. 🙂


Hollywood Publicity Portrait Los Angeles

Los Angeles Hollywood Publicity Portrait Photography

Jun 152015

Bangkok China Town

Bangkok Silom red light district

The Tiger Balm burned my skin and eyes, mirroring the burning sensation in my mouth still lingering from the chili pepper I’d bitten into moments earlier while eating breakfast in Lumphini Park in 90-degree, muggy weather. It was only 9 a.m. on the first day of our visit, and so far Thailand could be summed up best in just one word. Hot. Only 24-hours earlier I would have probably passed on all three of these circumstances — receiving a massage from a stranger in a park, eating spicy street food for breakfast and willingly sitting outdoors where the temperature and percentage humidity seemed to compete to be the first to reach triple digits. But as the saying goes, “When in Bangkok … sure, I’ll try that.”

It was late April and we’d arrived in Thailand the night before to kick off a 17-day trip around the country. It was the first time for both of us visiting Southeast Asia, and we were excited to see as much as possible, heat be damned. We’d chosen late April through early May because it was the shoulder period between the high-tourist season and rainy season. The tradeoff is heat, but we thought it was still the best option and had the added incentive of lower travel prices. The trip started in Bangkok and from there we went to Chiang Mai and Pang Mapha in the north, followed by Krabi and Ko Jum in the south and back to Bangkok to fly home. While the travel itinerary was pretty tight, we only had a few major objectives. See as much as we could, eat as much local food as possible and, last, but certainly not least, get married.

Mission accomplished on all counts! Though the last objective turned out to be more complicated than anticipated, I am happy to announce that on April 29th we officially tied the knot! I’ll get to that story later though, as too much happened to include it all in one post.

Bangkok is a bustling, dirty metropolis. In some ways, it was my favorite leg of the trip. A visual smorgasbord of signs, power lines, vehicles, people and markets teeming with things to buy, it’s a street photographer’s paradise. It also doesn’t hurt that the king himself, whose visage is plastered on numerous walls and billboards throughout the country, is known as a hobbiest photographer to the point that he is pictured on the 1,000 Baht note holding a camera. I was a little disappointed that it was overcast much of the time we were in Bangkok, but there would be plenty of color to be found later in the trip. We covered much of the city on foot, managing to wind our way through a number of areas including Chinatown, Bo Bae, Wat Pho, Silom, Khao San Road and places in between. Each had their own flavor, and often, the places in between turned out to be more interesting than the intended destinations.

When we weren’t walking, we found relief for our aching feet on the modern BTS train system or by taking an incredibly affordable water taxi up the Chao Phraya River. The air was surprisingly cool on the water and offered a unique view of the city.

While the food was amazing through most of the trip, Bangkok gave us some of our best experiences. While we stopped for meals, it was often just to take advantage of the restaurant’s air conditioning and to rest our legs over a water or ice cold Singha. The abundance of great street food allowed us to snack our way through the days. Khanom khrok, kuay tod, khanom bueang and moo ping, (to name a few foods whose names I’ll never remember) followed by copious amounts of water and iced coffee, kept us going through the afternoon. Dinners would often be something along the lines of tom kha kai soup or a noodle bowl and a Chang. One night we splurged at a high-end restaurant, and while it was amazing, were were often just as happy with the quality of the street food we found at a fraction of the price.

After a few days in the city, it was time to head north to Chiang Mai and to the caves of Pang Mapha. I’ll pick it up from there on the next post. Lot’s of photos after the jump!

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