One Hour Photo - John Keatley
Welcome, everybody, to One Hour Photo. My name is John Greengo. We've got another hour of photography information for you here today. What we're gonna be doing in this one hour is, first off, I have pulled 10 questions from all of you folks out there that I think might relate to more than that just one person. We're gonna go though these 10 questions, and I'll give ya the best answers that I can. After that, we have special guest John Keatley in the studio. Great photographer, editorial, commercial, fine art work. We're gonna take a look at some of his photos, and I'm gonna pepper him with some questions about his work. I think we can hopefully learn a lot from him, so that's gonna be a great section. Then John's gonna stick around and help us critique some of your photos. These are photos that you have submitted into the student work gallery at the Fundamentals of Photography website, excuse me, page on the Creative Live website. We're gonna be looking at 10 of your photos there, offe...
ring up suggestions of what we like or what we don't like, and maybe what suggestions you can follow to help make your photos a little bit better the next time around. Let's go ahead and get started. As I say, we're gonna get started with your questions, so let's roll out some photography questions from you. Our first question is, any advice for shooting out West, Grand Canyon area? I'm bringing a 10 to 18 wide-angle lens, an 18 to 200, polarizer, graduated, I'm assuming a graduated neutral density there, polarizers, and there's the few NDs, and, of course, a tripod. Is this too much? Am I missing anything? Is this too much? Are you kidding me? You should be going out there with a full truckload of gear. Well, that's what I do sometimes, but no. I think you're looking pretty good here. The 10 to 18 is gonna come in really nice because there's a lot of big environments out there for the landscape photography. With the 10 to 18, I'm assuming you're shooting with an APSC crop sensor camera. So 10 millimeters gets you down to that ultra-wide category. That'll be a very useful lens in many cases. The 18 to 200 is one that you can leave on your camera probably most of the time. I don't see needing anything more than 200. There's just not that much that you're gonna be using that big telephoto lens for. There's not a lotta wildlife out there. I think those two lenses are gonna serve you quite well. The polarizer is something that you're gonna use on a regular basis. In fact, you might just leave that on your camera almost the entire time. The graduated neutral density is also gonna be a very useful filter. Anytime you're combining the land with the sky, you'll be able to darken the sky down to get everything within the exposure range of your camera. That's very good. Of course, you'll need that tripod either on the mornings and evening shoots, or if you get into some of those slot canyons, they can be very, very dark in there. You won't need the tripod a lot in the middle of the day if you're out kind of hiking in normal sunshine. There's just so much light out there. No, I don't think that's too much. It depends on who you're going out there with and what the purpose of your trip is and how much photography is a part of that, but I think you're looking pretty good there. I think you're set up for a great trip, and I wish you the best of luck. Next, I was born without a right hand. Every DSLR that I look at has a big grip on the right side, but I would need one on the left. Do you know of any brand that would be kinder to lefties of the world? Well, I've had a number of requests from people who either are left handed or have special needs of this. Nobody, to my knowledge, has made a left-handed camera. I've seen maybe, there might have been some prototypes. The two solutions that I have seen out there. One of 'em's not that common these days, but that was a pistol grip that some people could put on the bottom tripod mount of their camera. You could grab that with either your left hand very easily. If the shutter release was correctly hooked up, you'd have the 1/2 press for the focusing, and then the full press for taking a picture. You might look for a pistol group to see if there's anything being made out there these days. It might need to be something on the order of custom made, but it's possible. The other option is that there's a lotta cameras that have vertical grips designed for holding the camera vertically, but if you want, you can kinda hold those on the left hand. Ya end up holding the camera upside down, and it's a little bit awkward, but at least you can grip the camera with your left hand. Challenging situation. I don't know if they'll ever make a left-handed camera, but take a look at those two options and see if they can help ya out. John, have you ever used the Lensbaby Velvet or other Lensbaby lenses, and what is your opinion of them? For those of you who are not familiar with the Lensbaby lenses, they are inexpensive, for the most part. They're kinda these cheap, fun little lenses that do a number of different unique things. The original Lensbaby was all about focusing in a small central area, and everything else was out of focus. It was a selective focus. If you had a person on one side of the image, you could tilt the lens. They would be in focus, and everything else would be out of focus, but in a way that was much different than a normal lens. It definitely lended a unique look to your images. I haven't used the Velvet 56, but I have had a Lensbaby before. I had one kind of as a loaner item for probably about six to nine months. It's small, it's lightweight, it's not much money. It's pretty good if you just want a different look to something, but I found that it just wasn't me. I brought it out, I took it on a bunch of different trips. I tried it, and I just decided it wasn't me. Some people love 'em 'cause they want that distinctive look. Some people go through phases on them. A funny little story is I used to work in a rental department for gear. There was a very popular group of people that rented Lensbabies. You could almost just see who the person was. You'd say, "Okay, we got another rental "for the Lensbaby. "Who's this gonna be?" For the most part, it tended to be women between the ages of 20 and who were shooting weddings. For some reason, that group of people really got into that look. It allowed them to shoot portraits that had a unique look. It's not completely or it's not that unique in the photography world, but for the clients, it definitely provided a unique look at not too much money. It's something you may wanna play around with to see if that's really your thing or not. I have a Nikon D7000 and want to upgrade. Which is better, Sony a6500 or Sony A7II? This is a tricky question to answer because I don't know what you are trying to do in your photography. I don't know what your budget is. Just on the question as it stands right now, the Sony A7II is a higher resolution. Let see, it has a higher resolution? No, it's the same resolution, but it is a full-frame sensor compared to a crop-frame sensor. It's technically the better camera. Now, is it really the better camera for you? Maybe, maybe not. The Sony A7II is gonna require more expensive lenses that are much larger in size. If you said that you were doing travel photography, and ya liked to bicycle travel and being lightweight was very important, or ya had a bad back or you didn't like lifting up heavy cameras, then the a6500 would be better. This is a common problem when people are asking questions about equipment. What is better, this or that? It really depends on what you are doing. I have a hard time answering these questions because I wanna get you the best gear for what you're doing, and if I don't know what you're doing, it's kinda hard to recommend something. They're both really good cameras that are very, very capable. The 6500 would be my choice if I was into travel photography. Also, it might be my choice if I was into sports or wildlife photography because of the telephoto capabilities and the advanced focusing system on it. If I was into portrait or landscape photography, probably the Sony A7II. I need to get a new computer, install Lightroom and download my pictures. Well, that's a good start. Could you give me a recommendations on type or specs for a computer to use for my photos? Well, I think almost any computer is gonna do the job these days. Macs and PCs both are running with enough RAM power and processing power that they're gonna handle all these normal files from normal cameras. Now, if you're gonna get into a 50 megapixel camera or greater, then you're gonna need to look in at getting maybe either more memory or faster processing on your computer. But for most cameras, most computers are gonna be able to handle it. Now, one of the key things for anybody getting into photography is that you do not wanna store your photos on your computer. Photos take up a lotta space, in general. They're gonna clog up and slow down any computer you have. You're gonna have to put together some sort of external hard drive system. It can be very, very simple. You can have one external hard drive, which is where your photos are stored. When you wanna access and download and work with them, you plug that in. Now, because all hard drives will fail eventually, you should have a backup. Ideally, you should have a backup to that stored in an offsite location in case something happens right here with your computer. There is a little bit to get set up there. I don't think ya need to be too much worried about your computer. I used Apple Mac. I know people who use PCs. I know there's fanboys of both clubs. Frankly, they're both gonna work just fine these days. But make sure you get yourself set up with some hard drives so that your photos are stored safely in that regard. I travel a lot, and it's very cumbersome to carry my full-frame Nikon system. What is your opinion of switching to the Fuji X-T2? Nikon is too bulky for travel, and I don't see them coming up with mirrorless anytime soon. Yes, Nikon and mirrorless. They do have their little one system. We'll let that be aside for the moment. I don't know if Sony's gonna come up with a mirrorless system or not. I'm sure they've been working on something, and they're just kind of waiting to see when they might want to release something. If you are currently using a Nikon system and the full-frame system is a bit too big to travel, I can understand that. The X-T2 is a smaller camera, and the lenses are smaller. I do have to admit I am a big fan of Fuji. I think they are doing a lotta things right. They're not perfect, trust me, they're not perfect, but the X-T2 has very good image quality, it's got good 4K video on there if you wanna shoot video, as well, when you're traveling. You could travel with a two, three or four-lens package system with Fuji, and reduce the size of your camera bag probably by about 30%. I think it's a great choice. I'm not a big fan of switching just 'cause there's a lotta money in switching, but if you did wanna save bulk and weight, I'm a big fan of that Fuji X-T2. If you had to pick between a 5DS and the Mark IV, which would you choose, and why? Well, I'm glad you asked this because I have been owning a 5DS for almost the last year. I recently purchased the 5D Mark IV. The 5DS is a great camera. It's a nice upgrade in many ways to the 5D Mark III. I originally bought the 5DS because I did a test. I did a test that no one else that I know had done, is I shot the 5DS at its medium resolution of 28 megapixels. I wanted to see if it surpassed the Canon 5D Mark III. In the test that I did, it did surpass it. That was enough for my standard shoots. If I wanted to, I could throw it in the turbo mode, get it up to 50 megapixels, and I would have a 50-megapixel camera, which was nice. But the thing that I didn't like about the 5DS is it's a little bit on the slow side. Those 50-megapixel files are fairly large. It wasn't killing me, but it was just kinda something that was, I didn't really like that much. The 5D Mark IV has got a number of really nice new features on it. It fits more of my style shooting. You ask me which would I choose, and so that's why I'm answering this question for me. Now, for which one's better for you, it really depends on what you're doing, but mostly, the 5DS is gonna be for people who are gonna be printing large. If you're not printing large, the 5D Mark IV is probably gonna make a better camera. One of the things that I noticed about the 5DS is that you do get a fair bit of noise once you start getting above ISO 800, depending on how large you print your images and so forth. The new 5D Mark IV is much, much better at low-light work, much better for action. It's a much better general purpose camera. This does bring up kind of another question, and that is how many megapixels do you need and is there a limit as to where we are going? I have no doubt technology is bringing us into more and more pixels in the future, but there is a point of diminishing returns and there's a point of limitations of everything else. If you have a 5DS, you better make sure that every lens in your arsenal is really the top of the line lens. You're not gonna be able to afford to have any of those cheap lenses in there because then you're not getting that 50 megapixel quality from it. It just, something that you're gonna have to raise your standards on everything you do. You might need to be using a tripod a lot more often because every little bit of movement is gonna be more clearly seen in an image with 50 megapixels. Does one need power converters in Cuba? I'm assuming you're asking me because I go to Cuba on a regular basis. You do not need power converters, so long as the charger for your equipment, whatever that is, the computer, your cameras, can handle the standard worldwide voltage, which I believe is 120 to 240. What you do need is a plug adapter because they will sometimes have this two flat plugs that we use here in the United States, but for the most part, they use the two round plugs, which is very common in Europe. But because it's a developing country and the standards are a little bit loose from one place to another, East Coast to West Coast, you probably wanna get one of those universal adapters that can fit a number of different plug-ins. But mostly, ya just need the two round plug-ins. If your charger says 120 to 240 on it, it can handle the voltage from that full range coming through any converter. Nope, don't need it, but do need those plug converters. What are the best lenses for portrait photography for a Nikon D50? He's actually getting two questions in here. What would be the best lighting equipment for portrait: continuous lighting or strobes? Let's go for the first part of this, best lenses for portrait photography for a D750. I did a class on lenses, on Nikon lenses. In the class, I wanted to compare all the lenses available for shooting portraits. We shot everything down to a 14 millimeter up to an 800 millimeter. When you say portraits, I'm thinking head and shoulder-type portrait. Using the different lenses really changes the shape of the face, how much of the face you can see. My determination was everything from about 70 millimeters up to looked really good. The 70 to 200 2.8 lens is super popular with a lot of portrait photographers because it gives 'em pretty much everything they need in that range at a pretty fast aperture of f 2.8. Now, some people really get into liking particular focal lengths, or they'll wanna shoot with an even faster aperture. The 85 1.8, the 85 1.4 lenses are kinda the classic favorite of most portrait photographers. Nikon recently introduced the 105 1.4, which is, it's a shot put of a lens. It's pretty big and it's very heavy, but it looks to be a beautiful lens that has beautiful, extreme bouquet. That's the out-of-focus area. The 85 and 105 are gonna be really popular fixed focal length lenses, but the 70 to 200 2.8 is gonna be one of those general purpose, something that a wedding photographer would have. They're gonna choose that over some of the fixed focal lengths, in many cases, because they're dealing with so many different situations. Sometimes they're inside, sometimes they're outside. They don't have control over the environment. Somebody working in a studio or who really knows a lot about their setups is more likely to choose their prime focal lengths. You can go with zoom or prime, but look for any of those lenses that I just mentioned. What would be the best lighting equipment for portrait: the continuous lighting or strobe? I'm not a lighting expert, but there are two different types of lighting: the continuous lighting, like here in the studio. We have continuous lights on right now 'cause we're shooting video. But you also have the option of shooting strobes. One of the big advantages of strobes is that they are much more powerful. Continuous lighting is nice for smaller objects or close in, but the problem is it's not that bright, so you may need to be raising up your ISO, you may need to be using faster lenses. When you have strobe equipment, if you are shooting multiple people or you're working in a larger environment, you can have that, those strobes need to be back further. They need to be 10 or 20 feet back. They're gonna have the power. This is gonna determine what type of shooting you're doing and how big of area you have. If I was doing a lotta portraits, I would probably wanna be shooting with strobes, in most cases, because they're gonna stop the movement. They fire very, very quickly. You're gonna have fast shutter speeds, but the light's gonna be moving, or turning on and off, very, very quickly, so it's gonna stop subtle little movements that might be going on in there. I'm gonna stick with strobe lighting. I do use continuous lighting for some things, and strobe lighting for other things. But I'm gonna say with portraits, I would stick with strobes. It is time for our special guest here in the studio. I'd like to welcome John Keatley. Thanks for being a part of this.
Sure, yeah, thanks for having me.
All righty. Go ahead and have a seat. John's brought some photos that we're gonna get into here in just a moment, but I just wanna talk to you just a little bit because I'm sure we've got some people who aren't familiar with you and your work. I've done some looking at your work. You've got some beautiful editorial and commercial and some fine art work. What sorta work do you like to do, and how do you see that fitting into the world of photography?
Well, I guess if I look over my career as a whole, what I like to do constantly changes and evolves. Sometimes I feel like I'm too finicky, but I think I'm just a curious person. As I grow and learn, my interests, professionally and as a person, change. Right now, I'm focused primarily on advertising and fine art, or just personal work in general, I guess you could say. When I started out, I started doing weddings and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Then as I grew, I guess, dissatisfied with that, I've discovered editorial photography. I loved the mystery and the challenge of breaking into that. Then, as I got more into that, I started learning more about myself and realized that I like to control things. Advertising became kinda the next step because you do get to control. It's more affected. It's more deliberate. Whereas, editorial, which is hard for me because there's so much that it's just a surprise. You show up, and this is the place you have to work. What are you gonna do with it kinda thing. I'm more of a planner, and I like to know what I'm getting into. That's kinda been the quick arc of it. I guess, again, right now, what I like to do is I like to create characters. I like to create, I hate to say stories, but I like to create kind of images that focus on a theme or a topic that gets people thinking in a certain way.
We're gonna be looking at some work here in just a moment. I guess I kinda wanna go to your creative process. When you come up with an idea and you make it real in photographs, how close do you get, or I guess how defined is that idea? Do you just kinda have a I wanna do something in this genre, and you figure it out photographically? Or do you come up with specifics?
I usually come up with very specific ideas of what I'm gonna do, but then what the end result is may or may not be that. Sometimes it's exactly as I planned. I did a shoot a couple weeks ago, and it was not at all how I planned. I got there and just realized it was much better in my head. Visually, it doesn't make any sense. This was a bit of an extreme example. I got there, and it was just like there was no part of this one particular idea that made any sense. But the good news was some new ideas emerged and developed with the people I had and the location that I was at. I ended up getting two pictures out of the shoot. I was only intending to get one. I ended up getting two that I like even better, I would say, but they had noting to do, really, with the original idea. That happens. I think you have to be open to life, even for a control freak like me. In any setting, I think if you're too focused on your ideas, then you have to live and die by the fact that you're not perfect, and a lot of your ideas are not gonna be good. But I do think if you're open, you could potentially always get something great, no matter what the situation is or what your idea was originally.
Now, do you work alone? Do you work with a team? Do you have assistants? I guess that kind of doubles up, as far as your personal work versus your business work.
Yes is the answer to those questions, I guess. My team looks a lot different. If I'm working on my own on a project that I'm funding myself, my team is as small as possible. But if I'm working on an ad campaign, there could be a very large team. But then sometimes there's even ad campaigns that are smaller, too. I'm very much take the approach of I don't ever wanna have lights or people just for the sake of having lights or people. I think I always try to have what we need to do the job well. It's just waste if you're trying to do it for, to impress people or whatever it is. I like to--
Putting on a show.
Right. Yeah, sometimes the crew can be quite large, but in general, there's usually myself, an assistant and probably a hair and makeup artist or a wardrobe stylist.
What are some companies that you've done work for?
Oh, goodness. I've done work for the San Francisco MOMA. I've done work for Mexico Tourism. I've done work for Amazon and Microsoft and lots of companies and things like that.
Now, are these companies coming to you with their idea that they want you to fulfill? Or are they wanting something for you to come up with something?
One big shift that I see in commercial photography is that companies aren't really looking for photographers anymore because there's so many of us. If we're talking professionally here, there's a lot of photographers, so the value on a photographer has gone way down. What I see happening more and more now is companies are looking for art directors, in a sense. Now, sometimes there's an idea and it's pretty specific, this is what we're doing, and they want you to put your own spin on it, whether it's we want you to light this in your way, or elicit the response or reaction or mood that you typically do. That certainly still happens, but there are other times when they present a very loose idea or even a goal. We're trying to use humor to drive more foot traffic through the stores kinda thing. They look to you for ideas along those lines. There's certainly analytics and data and things that you have to look at and stuff like that. But I'm finding that I get pulled into more of those strategy meetings now than I used to. It used to just be, "Take this picture." But that doesn't happen so much anymore.
Interesting. One of the questions that I wanna try to ask everybody that I get to interview, and that is because I got a lotta people who are, they're just doing photography for fun, but so many, almost everybody who picks up a camera and starts shooting starts immediately thinking dollar signs. I can make money shooting. What percent of your work time is actually shooting photos?
Oh, boy. Probably 3%.
3%. (laughs) That's pretty terrible. If somebody wants to just pick up photography and do it on Sunday, they're better off.
I always say, if I meet someone who does photography for fun, I always say that's the best. It should just be for fun. I think we live in a culture today where, and I do this to people all the time, if someone expresses any interest in anything, our first response is, "Oh, you should do that." I really love cooking. People are like, "Oh, you should be a cook." I was like, well, then I wouldn't enjoy it anymore. (John G. laughs) I do it because I like to do it slowly and decompress and just calm down after work. I don't wanna be in a kitchen being yelled at or yelling at people, and having to serve 200 people in a night. Sometimes if you just enjoy photography, I think it's important to understand what it is that you enjoy about it. You may actually derive more joy not having to rely on it for an income. (John G. laughs) That's my cautionary two cents. It's a business. Any business is hard. I could talk about why I think business is even harder today than it has been in the past, but if you wanna maximize your time taking pictures, I would (laughs) caution you before you get into doing it for a living.
Being a control freak, you work in the studio a lot and kind of on sets a lot. If you go on vacation, do you just shoot pictures with your phone? Or do you have a casual camera? Do you kind of like?
I have a casual camera. It gets used probably three or four times a year. I rarely am taking pictures if it's not a specific idea that I've produced for work or for myself kinda thing. If we go on vacation, I'll take, I have a small Fuji that's just. I have other cameras I could take, but I specifically don't take them because I don't want--
You don't wanna be tied down dealing with that.
But lately, I take a lotta pictures with my phone.
With what you do, when are you most excited about what you're doing? Is it in a shoot, or do you like sitting down, planning something? What's the part of the process that you just dig into? Like, today's good, today I get to do this.
I would say, I mean, I enjoy parts of planning. It's also very stressful. A lotta that's probably self-inflicted. Someone with a (men laugh) better demeanor and someone more balanced than myself would probably enjoy it more, but I do enjoy parts of planning. I enjoy the shoot day immensely. That would probably be, off the top of my head, my most enjoyable because you have to trust at that point all of the work that you've put in. You have to trust that it is what it is at this point. There's no changing anything. We've already kind of figured all the details out. You just enjoy the moment, and you finally stop, or at least I finally stop stressing out. I'm just there in the moment. I love that. Then, probably one of my least favorite is going through the images afterwards because then I'm just a ball of nerves and I'm thinking about all the things I did wrong and wish I had done differently. I struggle with the editing process. I struggle with even just forcing myself to sit down and do it. But then, probably the next favorite moment, I'm giving you many 'cause there are many moments that I enjoy.
There's different peaks.
I enjoy, I work with a retoucher, so I don't do my own retouching. I enjoy getting the images back and seeing them finished.
The finalized purchase.
That's exciting. Then more recently, what I've discovered is I love printing. I just did my first solo exhibition and kind of was forced to buy a printer and do it on my own and learn it. I didn't wanna do it, it was a reluctant decision, but I actually, I had no idea how much I would love that process.
What do you love about that?
There's something very tangible, obviously, about making a print. You experience the work in a different way on a different scale. You see things. It sounds funny 'cause you can see anything, obviously, on the monitor, but you really actually do see things that you never would have seen or noticed on a screen. I don't know, there's just something very rewarding about that process. Working with your hands and seeing a physical result.
Good. Well, let's get to some photos. You've got a great collection here. Talk to us, just a little backstory about this, these first few photos that we're gonna see.
Sure. This project or series I titled Con Man. I really enjoy coming up with ideas or kind of I often say "what if" moments, like thinking about what would it look like if this had happened? Or even something as simple as if I was in a restaurant. Sometimes people are talking to me, and I'm not there anymore because I'm imagining what if the waiter came over and said this socially inappropriate thing or whatever it is. (John G. laughs) In this particular point, thought, I was thinking a lot about identity. This project was a very kind of superficial visual question or exploration on identity, in terms of how we view others.
Let's bring up the second photo. People can start seeing the similarities here.
If you haven't figured it out, this is a series where it's the same person in every single picture. There's seven or eight final images in this project. Basically, we used wardrobe, hair and makeup and some just very light prosthetics, if you will, like moles and wrinkles and things, for aging. I wanted to see what was the range of one human face, and how do we respond or judge or view that person simply by what they're wearing and how they look, despite the fact that it's actually the same human being underneath. That's the backstory on this. This would be one, going back to a question you asked earlier, where this turned out exactly how I had planned. I think usually a lot of my close-up portraits, they tend to go exactly how I'm planning. When you start to pull back and you see more and show more in a photograph, that's when things don't always end up exactly 'cause there's just so many more moving pieces and things to consider.
This is a personal project, correct?
What is the status? What are you doing with this project at this point?
Well, at this point, ultimately, I'd love to show this at a gallery, show the prints in a gallery. I think this particular series, at least three, if not all of 'em, need to be shown together.
How many do you have in the series?
There's seven or eight. There's seven, and then there's an eighth one that's kind of a spin-off, but it could go with it. Basically, that's where I'm at right now. I just mentioned I did my first show in January. It was a different project, but it's going back to how much do you shoot? It's just a lot of work of putting your work out there, showing it to people, talking to galleries. Finding, hopefully, eventually, a gallery or a curator that connects with that work and sees a fit. Right now, it's just showing it and talking about it and doing this kinda thing, and hoping to find people who connect with it, or it's something that resonates with them.
With this actor-model, was this done in one day or was this done over weeks?
This was done in one day, yeah.
That must have been a heck of a day 'cause I know you're working with makeup artists and a number, a team to get this done. It would seem like it would take quite a bit of time to get from one to the next.
Well, and this goes back to, again, you asking about crew size. This was a personal project, so would I have liked to have done it over two or three days? Yes. Could I afford to do that? No. You kinda have to just work with your constraints in reality.
Well, I think fantastic photos. Just individually, they're very nice photos, excellent, but as a group, it's really fun.
Especially, I mean, I love hiding the fact of what it is at first because you actually did a show here and had the photos up. I wandered in and I looked. It took me, I'm not gonna say how long it took me, it took me a period of time to figure out, okay, I got it, I got it. That revelation is a lotta fun. We have some other different work here. This is looking like Death Valley to me.
It is Death Valley, at Bad Water Basin.
The photographer in me just wants to jump and say, "How did you get the water "out there?" (laughs)
Well, there actually is, it was there at least when I went, there was some water out there, right around the parking lot at Bad Water.
I've been there a couple of times, there was no water. I was just wondering if you said, "Okay, we're gonna need water," and so you had to bring out (men laugh) water tanks and put that out there. How do you legally get around all that? But this was just naturally there?
That was naturally there.
Did you get lucky or did you plan for that or did you scout it out?
Well, I scouted it out online. I had never been before, but I knew that I wanted to do something like this. It was just a lot of looking around online and trying to figure out where. There's the Salt Flats in Utah and Bad Water Basin, and there was some places. I can't remember all the different places I looked at, but this was one that I was really drawn to. I planned a road trip out. I think was there for maybe two nights and three days. Was up every day before sunrise, and out every day till sunset, just driving around. We spent the first couple days just kinda scouting while we were there. Then on the last day, shot this. It was actually more mid-day that this image was shot, but it's so flat and barren and just bright that it didn't really (men laugh) matter.
Nice. Let's go onto the next one. I need a little explanation here.
This is really just right place, right time. (John G. laughs) Actually, I should mention the last shot was a composite, as well. The diver was shot on a separate time from the location, and the same with this. Currently, I'm working on I call these conceptual landscapes. This was one of the first ones that I did. I was collaborating with a retoucher and just kind of exploring the opportunities of this new world to me as I discovered retouching and kind of telling these ideas that are bigger or outside of what's possible in reality. This picture actually was taken just randomly, like a snapshot. I think we were on a whale watching tour, (John G. laughs) my wife and I. Then later on, as I had this idea of exploring, there's three images in this series called Falling Bodies. This was one of the images. I shot the other images for this, but this was one image that I had in my archive already.
We got one more that's part of the series here. Now, did you photograph the people or is that a painting?
That was probably the hardest part of the whole shoot was finding a woman who was willing to jump naked on a trampoline. (men laugh) 99% of the time, if someone asks you to do that--
Was that a Craigslist thing? (men laugh)
It sounds like a Craigslist ad. Most people turned me down, for good reason, but I found someone who eventually was willing to do it. What I learned in hindsight was, fortunately, she was a personal trainer and incredibly fit. I rented a professional gym where I think some athletes would train and things like that. They had an Olympic trampoline. We rented it after hours when it was closed down. I had no idea how, I was just thinking I'd get someone jumping and take some pictures. I realized very quickly, well, when they're jumping up, their hair is flowing down. That doesn't look natural. If you catch 'em at the peak, when they're moving the least, and so there's less blur, I was thinking that would be ideal because then I don't have to worry about the body blurring. Well, then everything's kinda suspended, so that doesn't. Then I realized I actually have to catch them falling down. Then the problem became, even on a trampoline, a human is not gonna just let themself fall because you're gonna brace yourself. You just can't let yourself trust that you're. It became really difficult to get these images to actually work and feel like they were falling and feel like they had really kind of given up, in a sense. Then the other thing I realized was how painful and difficult it was to actually jump and land on this trampoline 'cause these large trampolines we're using were thick strips of cloth. Her back was just like a waffle at the end.
In retrospect, would you have chosen a different way to shoot the falling body?
No, I don't think there's any other way to do it that I'm aware of, but it was more difficult--
I was just thinking, it's a one-time thing, but you could have someone jump off a high dive and just fall backwards. But background is hard. It's one time, and then your hair is wet.
That's like a belly flop on your back. I don't know that that would be any.
If ya do it on the three meter dive or the two, the one meter dive. I don't know. Yeah, but that's a tough one. What else we got here?
This was a shot I did. This was for an ad campaign for Mexico Tourism. This was last, a little over a year ago. This is Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond. I can't remember the new show she's in. Basically, I was contacted by an ad agency who was working on a campaign, and they had a series of commercials for this campaign, too, but this was right after Hurricane Patricia. People didn't wanna travel to Mexico 'cause they heard this hurricane and things were terrible, so they did a campaign called Patricias Welcome. They had a contest where anyone named Patricia could enter and win a free trip to Mexico. The idea around the campaign was to show everyone that it's fine. There's nothing to worry about. It wasn't that big a deal. That's where this came from.
A little geek talk. Lighting. She's really well lit here. It almost looks like a composite.
It is a composite.
Is it? (laughs) 'Cause I was wondering how did you light that up on the beach so well. It is a composite.
It's the kinda thing when you're working with celebrities, especially in conjunction with film sets. We had about five to 10 minutes with her. It was on a break from filming. We went out and scouted several beaches a couple days in advance, and shot hundreds of plates of beaches and things like that. Then once we decided on the plate, we lit her to match. I have assistants standing in, and you try to get an idea of the angle of the light on them and that sort of thing. Then you mimic that and enhance it in studio when you light it so that, ideally, when you put her in, it will look as natural as possible.
Right, right, excellent.
This was a shot that I did for another ad campaign for Seattle Humane. They were creating an ad campaign to raise money for a new facility that they were gonna build. The concept behind this one was called Animal People Can. It was showing people from all walks of life, and how animals are just part of their life, good and bad. This one was something along the lines of you don't need an alarm clock kinda thing. They were trying to show that animals make life better. It doesn't mean that life's gonna not be messy at times. (John G. laughs) Some of the images were a little more wild, but that's where this image came from.
I can see how they would contact you for doing these types of images. Now, this one is the one image of the group that you submitted that just seems different than the rest. Tell me about this one.
Well, I'd be curious to hear from your perspective why, but.
Well, I am a big fan of something that you have in a lot of yours. I love symmetry. Everything's very, very, for the most part, extremely clean. Here we just have a little bit more lifestyle. It's a little bit more of a loose shot. That's why I'm curious about this one and the wig on the dog.
No, I appreciate that. This is, again, the same campaign. It's kind of, again, showing how animals become part of your life. Here we see this individual. You get a sense of their lifestyle, what they're into, and it kinda shows, again, how the dog is a part of that lifestyle. It's a companion. It's deeply connected to who you are. We were trying to show that bond and that connection between the person and the animal. It's interesting. I think this shot was taken in a home that we did another shoot for. I picked, I think, probably what, the first location we shot, which was a family, was probably the most balanced and symmetrical and clean environment in the room, in the house that we were in. Then it was like how do we take another shot not in the same place that doesn't. We were trying to differentiate everything. I think my options, in that sense, were a bit limited. This just made the most sense to me, but it is much looser than what I typically do. I think sometimes I have to try to force myself to do that because sometimes when you're so focused and so narrowly holding onto this one certain thing, you can lose--
Gotta change things up a little bit. Now, did you have to wait till evening to shoot this 'cause I see the purple light just seeping through.
No, this was shot mid-day, but going back to kinda what you were talking about earlier, with strobe and continuous lighting, strobe is so powerful you can black out daylight, essentially. The sun was, I think, on, there was a fence right outside the window. If I remember, some of that we did just do in post, but we did use light to knock everything down quite a bit. Even though there was daylight coming in from the window, you're only seeing strobe. We put a gel light outside the window.
Nice. We got your final series of photos here, which I think are great. Tell us, we don't have too much time, but kinda the background on this.
This series is called Uniform. This is kind of a continuation of the con man images that we talked about earlier, where I'm exploring a little more than simply visual identity, but it was, in a nutshell, trying to figure out how something like war and the military became this plastic toy that (John Gr.laughs) marches, in Toy Story. There's no context, there's nothing controversial about it, but if you start talking about real human life and war, it's very controversial. For me, it was an exploration of humanity. There's these toys that are clearly human, but we don't have much regard for them in the sense of the humanity of 'em. What I wanted to do was create this iconic graphic image that we all recognize, but with humans. Especially when they're printed large and you can kind of experience them like we were talking about in physical form, the humanity really kind of jumps out at you. That was the idea and the exploration behind this.
Well, I think they're fascinating. It just really bridges two very different worlds, toys and war. It draws a connection that I haven't seen before.
Which I think is really fun, I think, very fascinating. Well, thank you so much for answering all my questions and sharing these photos with everybody. I hope everybody was able to pick something up from this. With our remaining time, if you don't mind sticking around, we're gonna take a look at some photos from everybody else. I'm gonna go ahead and just take a moment and switch over to our Lightroom catalog. First up, from Erica Greene. I'm just looking at this, thinking, I thought that this was submitted upside down. I wasn't sure if she did that on purpose or if my computer just flipped it around, but I'm pretty sure that she had it listed, or posted upside down, which is actually what caught my attention on this. I guess we could review it either way. I was actually more fascinated with it upside down, just because it changed my perspective on things. Normally, I wouldn't post a photo upside down, but this is one of those ones that, I think, I don't know, it makes ya look at it a little bit differently. I'm actually just shocked 'cause I think Lightroom and my catalog flipped it around for some reason on its own. Now I don't know what to say about it. But I think it was an interesting take, just because every once in a while, there are photographs that you can flip upside down. I don't know if you've ever done that.
Well, I do it for different reasons, but I think sometimes when I'm editing, turning an image upside down, sometimes I can't see color unless I do that because I'm focused on expression and things like that. Sometimes when I'm editing, I'll actually do it upside down because it allows you to see things. It's kind of like, I think, if you learn to draw, I think in basic drawing, they talk about drawing something upside down because your brain isn't focused on--
The details. You're able to just think clearly about line and perspective and that sort of thing.
If you work with a view camera, a four by five or an eight-by-10 camera, you see the image on the ground glass upside down.
I don't know how people do that. I could not (mumbles).
I've turned images upside down for compositional reasons, just to kinda look at the edges a little differently and the proportions of size things. That's, I think, those two good tips. One for composition, but one for color. I think that works out well. Let's go to the next image. We're looking at a beach image with a little bit of snow. I'm trying to see if I recognize this place. I love the clouds in the sky. I'm not sure if there's a spot on your sensor or if that's a bird. Do you shoot much landscape stuff?
Only when I'm doing conceptual landscapes, but typically it's not part of my--
Not part of your norm. One of the things, and I don't know if this is controversial or not, I will clone out a bird if it's so small that it just seems awkward and distracting. I know that it was naturally there. You get into the whole Photoshop.
You're asking the wrong guy. I'll do anything. I don't have any problem (John G. laughs) with anything. But if you're working for a newspaper, you probably need to leave that bird in there.
You definitely would. Journalism ethics kinda fit into their own special category in photography. Everyone else is kinda up to their own. With what you're doing, it's really, it seems like it's all about the final image, what's in the final image. Everyone gets to draw their own little line in the sand, as far as how far they wanna take things.
I think, just personal opinion, I think, again, like you said, it depends on what your personal preference is, but I think oftentimes we limit ourselves by thinking of photography as this documentary tool, which it can be, but if you think about if you're interested in just creating, photography should be thought of no differently than painting. You could paint something that makes no visual sense to others, without understanding where it came from, but no one's gonna question it. But I think for photographers, we get so caught up in those details. I think you're right. It just depends on what you're interested in, what you're trying to achieve with it.
This is what happens when you talk about photos. You get, kinda get sent off on tangents. Back on the photo here. One of the first things I look for in a photograph is a subject, and I'm not getting a strong subject here. I'm seeing a lifeguard stand. I guess I would like a little bit more tangible. There's some nice elements. You got a nice sky. The snow on the sand, I think, has potential, and maybe there's some neat patterns in it. I think the scene needs to be worked a little bit more. On it's own, it's not bad, but it's not catching me with anything.
I think this, the horizon on the water seems to be, it's like--
Is it a little off?
Unbalanced to me.
One of the things I'd love to be able to do is go into Lightroom and see if we can just kind of fix that because the human eye can be very, very sensitive to the horizon. There ya go, there. A couple percent better.
Feels a little better, yeah.
Don't wanna have those horizon lines off. Excellent. Let's go to the next one. This feels like Europe to me. I'm gonna drop off this bottom just to get it a little bit bigger. This is Marcello Maselli. One of the things, and we talked just about this and about symmetry. It looks like you kind of embrace that in a lotta your photographs. This type of photo bugs me because it's like they're not quite in the center of the sidewalk. It's kinda like ya want to be, when ya got everything else so symmetrical in that. Any thoughts?
Yeah, I would agree. I think if you were gonna do it, it could be over a little bit. For me, I get, when I look at this photo, and this is personal preference, but I get the feeling of walking into a, which doesn't happen to me all the time, but I get the feeling of walking into a room where the ceiling is too low and I have to duck down. I feel kind of restricted by the lack of headroom, so to speak. For me, I'd prefer to see more sky and maybe less pathway. But it's a beautiful image.
Yeah, it's a beautiful place. The other thing I would maybe try is I feel like we're a little too close with the wide angle lens 'cause that roof is kind of fading away. I wouldn't mind seeing this backed up. If you have the lawn to give you the space, backing up a little bit further with a more normal, or maybe even a telephoto lens, unless there's something in the foreground, but it's just kind of a plain sidewalk. That's why I might try a longer lens on that one. Let's go to this next one here. We got a black and white from Anthony Kriz. I love black and whites. I'm starting to shoot more black and whites myself. I'd like to do a black and white class here at Creative Live at some point, but I think it's years down the road. I think it's an excellent image for turning black and white. I think you've got some good elements in there. I love the repeating pattern, of course.
I like the toning and the contrast in it.
There's a whole science to that in black and white, getting it right. I'm still working on that. I'm not totally sure about the big angle in the bottom right-hand corner. I do like that it mimics the girders that are kind of right above it. That part is pretty good. There's kind of a nice angle where it's cutting the railroad lines. I would like to visit this environment myself because I think there's many different other angles that could be exploited. Lets move on. Is this a pre-shoot for a wedding? I'm not sure. Chosen a good time of year in this location, with the fall foliage there. They got a long lens, getting the shallow depth of field. I think it's a nice shot of the couple. It's clean, it's colorful. I think the framing on it is pretty nice. Any suggestions?
I know how this stuff goes. The first thing that comes to mind is it'd be cool if there was a umbrella of a color, a solid color or something like that, but I know if ya did that, it would change the lighting on their face, which is maybe why they did clear. For me, the clear umbrella kinda takes all of my focus away from--
It's a very artificial element in a very natural world. I would agree. If you can choose the umbrella choice, there might have been a better choice with that. It's good for lighting reasons. Let's try a little closeup here. Closeups, this one's from Renee Song. Closeups, in my mind, are kind of an easy gimme if you get in close enough 'cause there's just beautiful little colors and textures and things like that. I don't know flowers well enough to know what this is. This one, to me, just screams color. It's got some really nice color. It's nice on its own. It's not totally sharp, and I don't know if it's supposed to be. There are elements that are sharp, but they're kind of in odd places.
I actually kind of like that about this, though. I think if it was sharp where you expect it to be sharp, it would look like any other closeup. I don't know. That's the one thing that I probably find most interesting about it is that it's--
It does mimic a bit more of a painting. When I say I think it should be sharper, if I was shooting this, what would probably happen is I would shoot the next picture sharper, and then I would say, "Oh, I may not like that." (laughs) Then I'd go back to the first one. It's second guessing at this point. It's hard to tell 'cause we don't have that mythical photograph to compare it to. Next up, this is from Mia. Me pronouncing names is just gonna be hard. Ariana. I really like the shot of this. This is just a good moment of light, choosing light on the subject. I think you could have shot this at any time of day, but I think this is one of the best times of day to shoot this. Then another black and white photograph here. Do you shoot much in black and white?
No, I actually just did a portrait series in black and white a couple weeks ago, but outside of that, rarely do I shoot black and white.
'Cause that's how I got started 'cause I was back in the film days. That's really all ya had. But there is a whole special look to the toning and the development of it. It's something I encourage everyone to play around with a little bit because now days, you can shoot raw, you can process it later into black and white, so you can do amazing things with it. Yeah, definitely get out there and shoot some black and white. Ever do sports photography, action photography?
I did once, and then I never did it again. (John G. laughs)
Going down the motorcycle track. We got a slow shutter speed shot, which I love action and slow shutter speeds 'cause that shows us where the action is, it shows us what's moving. I do a lotta panning stuff. The thing on this shot is I just wanna move to the right. If there's another spot to shoot a little bit to the right or shooting this cyclist just a little bit before 'cause we're starting to get onto the backside of them. It's harder to get good shots on the backside of them. Generally, you wanna shoot kind of as they're coming up perpendicular to you. Then, generally speaking, you can stop shooting once they get straight in front of you. I kinda feel like they're riding away, and not in a great way. But I think it's a good choice of shutter speed because when you're shooting action and you're doing these slow shutter speeds, finding that right mix where there's a little bit of sharpness, but some fun blur in there. I think they nailed it on the shutter speed. Ya just gotta keep shooting. Watch those backgrounds. It's a little bit messy, little bit bright in the upper parts of the background. Couple more to choose from here. Ndine Wittkamp. You're our portrait expert here. What are your thoughts on this?
The lighting is nice. They have a good handle on light and control. For me personally, I guess I don't know what it says or what I'm supposed to be feeling about it. It seems like she's kind of, I'm not sure about the expression. I'm not really sure if it was a portrait for the person or if it was about them for a story or something. Certainly, I like that they're exploring with environment, and their lighting seems to be coming from a good place. The post, they certainly, if that was, it looks like it was maybe some post involved. But I would just say keep shooting. I would say really think about expression and subject, and how that is meant to relate to the overall image, but it's a nice, well-lit portrait.
That's good insight. Now, for me, it feels like this, she's sitting behind a store window that's reflecting out, but you can't see the photographer in the reflection, or it's a composite. I'm not sure which.
To me, I assumed it was a composite, not because they did anything wrong, but it just seemed like it would be a composite. If they actually lit that up on location, I think they did a great job of balancing the light and that sort of thing.
Now I'm starting to see it on location, but at first, it felt like the lights were a reflection in the window that was in front of her. It was like she was sitting in a storefront. Part of the thing that threw me off, I think, is the person's logo 'cause they have Imagine Photography there.
You thought it was the store window.
It almost felt like that was the story window. I know that was a logo, but it felt like it was the store window. But, yeah, if that was all out on location, that's a lotta work to get all the props and get everything set up out there. A little bit of a fun one for our last one here. John, what was your original statement?
This can't be real. Maybe it was jumping and it just happened to do this, but I just can't believe that that's real.
Geert Weggen. A good moment here.
I don't wanna take away from it. I love it, I think it's hilarious, so I don't wanna take away from. I don't wanna be thinking about whether it's real or not, even though I said that.
I'm going with it's real. I think it's real. Planet Earth II is coming out, and they have this little video of a mouse on one strand of grass that's kind of falling around. They might crawl up a piece of grass. I don't know if he's eating some of the flowers or something there. The one thing that is just throwing me off a little bit is the aspect ratio of the image. I don't know if this is exactly one by one. It is, it is. I guess I wasn't used to the square. I was gonna say I prefer squares to something a little bit longer. It felt a little bit taller. Obviously, they're cropping this, I think, just to get in tighter and maybe get rid of some distracting elements there. But this is a good moment. We don't have full resolution here, so I can't tell on sharpness, but definitely, they got a great moment. They definitely got a great moment. That concludes our image review. John, thanks a lot for sitting in on me with this and helping out. I hope all of you were able to pick up something from that. Thanks a lot for tuning in. We'll catch you next time around.