Here’s an image I made last week with Maya. I met her at a party and couldn’t resist asking to take her portrait. So glad she obliged!
A couple weeks ago I went out to continue a series of portraits I’m doing with people I encounter on or around the Venice Boardwalk. I’m still not sure where I’m going with this project, but so far I’m having fun doing it. I do know I’m trying to avoid shooting the typical boardwalk scenes, such as street performers, vagrants and various eccentrics, and am mostly shooting people who are just there to enjoy the scene. For now I’m just going to keep on shooting and we’ll see where this goes. Previous photos from this are posted here.
I recently had a fantastic shoot with my new friend Nana at Sunny Bak Studio in Venice. An artist, actor and model with an amazing fashion sense, Nana’s an incredible subject whom I had been wanting to photograph since I first approached her two years ago outside a local coffee shop. She’s one of the few people I’ve ever encountered whose presence can literally stop you in your tracks. The opportunity never materialized and I moved on to other things until deciding to try again a few weeks ago. Although I had never run into her in person again over that time, by then I had connected with several mutual friends and one of them, Sunny, was nice enough to reach out and vouch for me, which led to the shoot at her studio a few weeks later.
When Nana showed up to the shoot I knew she was a committed subject by the fact that, after getting stranded near the airport, she had hitchhiked to make it to the shoot. I was doubly relieved as I was not only looking forward to a much-anticipated shoot, but had also rented some extra gear and purchased film in order to make some exposures on an antique 4×5 camera I own but have never actually used. These photos are all shot on a Nikon D3, but I hope to be able to share the 4×5′s soon, pending positive results.
But even if they don’t turn out, the results of the D3 are enough to have made the shoot worthwhile. As you’ll see after clicking to the jump, I can hardly edit it down below 10 images made during a fun and fortuitous 90 minutes of shooting. The session was laid back and fun from the get go and only got better over time. Nana knows how to work the camera and we had a great time going through a variety of expressions, both posed an natural. Before shooting we came across a book by Robert Mapplethorpe entitled “Some Women.” I was mostly familiar with his more provocative work focusing on erotic male nudes, which is what most people probably associate him with. I was surprised when thumbing through the book to see this collection of beautifully lit portraits featuring young depictions the likes of Isabella Rossellini, Susan Sarandon and Grace Jones, the latter of which is a personal hero of Nana’s. Although it didn’t affect the way I set up for the shoot, I think the book provided a source of inspiration nonetheless, particularly evident in some of the more stoic images we produced.
A bit of luck came our way too when, not long into the shoot, a shaft of sunlight appeared on the backdrop. At first I saw it as a problem, an unsightly blotch of white light smeared across an otherwise even background. Then Nana – also a photographer I might add – pushed her face forward and into the light. I had been stuck on keeping my lighting the way I’d set it up, but when I saw that I immediately changed my tune. Knowing the rays, which were coming from the setting sun poking through the studio’s front door, were fleeting, I quickly started scrambling to take advantage. I wanted to try two things and managed to get a crack at both of them before the light faded away. First, I started working on balancing out the natural light with the overhead studio light so the effect of the sunlight could be seen without being bleached out by the strobes. I managed to find the right balance, so the strobe maintained the shadow detail while the sun lit her face. Then, I took the opposite approach, cutting the strobes altogether and exposing only for the highlight on her face. The effect was to surround just a portion of her face in total darkness. Right after that the sun disappeared and we resumed shooting with my original setup, which was nothing more than a single, super-diffused beauty dish placed over head, and the occasional use of a reflector below. (I’ve actually posted a couple “behind-the-scenes” shots taken by my wonderful intern Shari at the end of this post.) But it was a good reminder to roll with the unexpected rather than fight it.
My original intent when shooting Nana was to produce a couple good portraits that spoke more to her personality. The first shot posted here is probably the closest to my original vision. It’s a moment that’s loose and natural and powerful, and shows her being herself. I’ve seen a lot of amazing modeling work she’s done recently but wanted to go a different direction with her that I hadn’t yet seen, which is more my style anyway. But posed or natural, she was able to help me produce several great images that I’m happy to be sharing here. Hopefully I’ll have more to share after processing the 4×5′s.
Overall it was a great shoot and I look forward to working with her again someday!
Last Sunday we spent a couple hours at the Abbot Kinney Festival in Venice. The annual event is a huge draw to the area and features tent after tent of local vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry to some pretty tasty peanut brittle. There’s also live music and a couple of beer tents, one of which where we spent a sizable portion of our visit. Always a fun event if you don’t mind the crowds.
A moment of guilt passes through my mind as I think that while we were out doing this, the majority of the country’s population was still in the path of, or trying to recover from, Hurricane Irene. But when things are perfect in your neck of the woods you’ve got to take advantage. And we did.
Last Sunday we got an invite from our friend, Roger, to join him and others on a sail out of Marina Del Rey. A heatwave that pushed the mercury over 100 degrees in the Valley coaxed the coastal temperatures into a much more tolerable mid-80s. Couple that with low winds and it was a perfect day for smooth sailing.
And we enjoyed every minute of it; relaxing, swimming and laughing with a great group of new friends made up of an impressive assortment of performers, entrepreneurs, adventurers and even a writer from the Daily Show (!). Normally I hate when those guys go on vacation, but when I get to hang out with them on a boat, I’m happy to make an exception. In the evening, several of us made our way over to Michael and Don’s place on the Venice Canals and kept the party going with some great grilling and beverages. If only every Sunday could be this perfect. As that’s unlikely, I took it upon myself to memorialize this one.
More photos after the jump!
I’ve had a lot of fun shooting street photography on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, but decided this time to try something different. So, with my intern Nanette and a single strobe I set out to make some portraits. Unfortunately, the hour we had to shoot was cut short by a dead battery in one of my Pocket Wizards. So much for spontaneity. But we were lucky to run into a few cool people in our short window of time and I’m really happy with the results. I’ll definitely be heading back for more in the near future.
Forget fireworks. This year the big Fourth of July spectacular in Venice Beach turned out to come in the form of a broken fire hydrant spewing water four stories in the air at the corner of Speedway and Clubhouse Avenues. What else to do but throw off your clothes and dance beneath the downpour until the authorities arrive? Or, if you’re me, take pictures. In many ways it was a welcome relief the disappointment we experienced from the cancellation of major fireworks shows in Santa Monica and Marina Del Rey. We were still able to see distant shows to the north in Malibu and to the south in Manhattan Beach, but nothing that was in-your-face. On our way back from the beach after fireworks we came across this scene and, like everyone else, ran toward it. There, for 15 minutes or so, crowds of people cheered as people took turns dashing into the downpour until the authorities arrived, unwittingly making the show patriotic with flashes of red, white and blue light. After a few minutes they cleared out the scene and got to work capping the geyser. Apparently, the culprit was a car that ran into the hydrant, knocking it off its base. I haven’t heard that anyone was hurt and hopefully no one experienced too much flooding from the 4-inch deep river that formed in the alleys. Definitely a memorable cap to an otherwise great Fourth, despite the meager fireworks displays.
Check out more photos after the jump!
Here’s a favorite from a portrait series I did during a photo exhibit we held at 1320Main Studios during the recent Venice Art Crawl. Many more, and additional photos from the Crawl, are up on Facebook.
Last week I photographed Susan Metros, associate vice provost at the University of Southern California, for a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the increased use of student-produced video projects as homework, sometimes in lieu of traditional written essays. Although I’m not sure about using videos as a replacement for writing, I do agree that it’s a good idea to go beyond passive media literacy to actually having students produce videos and think visually. And it’s become easier than ever, with the majority of students having computers and at least some form of video device in their possession. Unfortunately, the shoot took place after students were done with any relevant projects, so there was nothing actually happening that I could photograph. But we tried to make the most of it with an empty computer lab and some helpful assistants who logged into every computer for me and put them all on the same website. Here’s a link to the article if the topic interests you: http://su.pr/30S4vM