Saturday, August 30, 2008

Environmental Portraits

Many times during my career, I have been sent to photograph someone for a story. I went to homes, hotels, restaurant, empty fields, offices, construction sites you name it and I have done the environmental portrait (EP) a thousand times.

I want to illustrate two ways of doing something. By putting forth the effort you will get professional results and your portraits will endure the test of time.

The first set is with Hugh Downs and former Chandler Mayor Coy Payne (verticals). With both assignments they were expecting me and I was without a reporter. Downs was photographed in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton Phoenix and Payne was at his home. In both cases, I decided to set up one light.

I used a Norman 200 B with a small soft box 32" X 24". The reason I chose to use my light was the available light was terrible in 3 of the 4 locations. Sometimes you have to think how is this going to reproduce in print. I elected to use my lights. With Hugh Downs the Ritz Carlton management objected to me photographing in a common area so I had to work fast before they kicked me out. Downs is a TV pro and very good in front of the camera so he gave me several poses that were excellent and the shoot went very fast.

With Coy Payne, we talked to for quit a while. I was hoping to get a moment of reflection since the story was about his personal history. I asked him questions that would force him to think back and bingo I eventually got the contemplative moment. In both images the tonal quality is excellent and they reproduced well.

The second set (horizontals) is with Rev. Howard Rice Interim President of Cook College Theological School Tempe, Arizona on the left and a former retired admiral on the right (sorry his caption did not stick to the original file). With both of these assignments, I was with a reporter. The portraits are taken during the interview process. The Reverend is window light and the admiral is light with my single Norman 200 B and soft box.

In both of these images I worked with a good reporter who asked questions that revealed deep thought from these intellectuals. What they all have in common is the classic pose one by practiced TV celebrity and the others by virtue of thoughtful story telling.

In all of the photos the environment was not important to the story. It was totally about the men not the place. If the environment was important to the story, I would have approached the portrait from a different mind set.

I hope this information is helpful to those who read this blog and could use a little help with portraits.

Tip: The closer the light is the softer it is. The farther away it is the harsher it is.

Tip: Off camera strobe photography 101 / if the light meter says your strobe output is f-11. It remains f-11 if your shooting at a 15th of a second or 500th of a second. The f-11 reading is a constant and it does not change. The only way to change it, is to physically move the light closer or farther away, or increase or decrease the power output.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Monsoon Storms

I saw lightning last night to the North and South of the Valley. It has been a while since I've photographed a decent storm. The cell to the North dissipated quickly, so I headed south also to find storms moving away from me. Since the lightning sucked, I tried to make a couple of frames anyway. In an attempt to make the shot a little more interesting I decided to jump into the frame. I think it helped the overall image but what I realized, is that I'm balder than I thought.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Photo by Tom Boggan

Tribune staff photographer Paul O'Neill and I walked to Subway today when we began a conversation that lead to a LOL Quote of the Day.

I said, Paul I know enough to have opinions about a lot of things. I also don't know shit about a lot of things. I guess that makes me full-of-shit half the time.

Paul said, Brad, I think that makes you an expert.

Six inch meatball please!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Just my opinion.

At newspapers today it’s about revenue and finding the bottom line. Generally, I think the people on the top are great with numbers but that's all they can wrap their head around. For the most part, I don't think they are conceptual thinkers. You know, see the forest through the tree if you will.

I read a blog by a former LA Times reporter William Lobdell, Scroll down to "42 things I know". He made 42 points about his views of the newspaper business and it wows. He made a point about Google and Yahoo that I agree with and I would like to take it a step further. One person’s comment proves my point. He said, he was a small business owner who spends his advertising money with Google for key wording and it has tripled his business.

Lobdell said papers should team up with Yahoo or Google.

If I were Google, I would be thinking what could you offer me? News content? News content is readily available and free.

If a giant like Google made a concerted effort to take over and dominate Internet advertising, I believe they could, without to much effort. The revenue loses for newspapers would continue to decline much as they are with classified advertising going to craigslist.

Imagine newspapers having to pay Google for advertising. Similar to what they already do with wire services.

Newspapers put advertising on their home pages. Jumping, giggling annoying ads that people hate and avoid like the plague. It doesn’t work folks. Gee, maybe a new way would be refreshing. Remember the old day's when mom would say; I buy the paper for the coupons. Direct people to an interactive individual page where there are printable coupons and other bonus advertising campaigns where people can "save money". Get the crap that does not work off the home page!

Like Lobdell said the people on top are slow to respond to the changing times. I don't know what goes on in the big guys office but I would agree from where I sit. It seems things move at a snail's pace. I hope they wake up before its to late. It seems print media companies are desperately trying to save the print product while innovative thinkers are thinking of ways to grow their business on the Internet. Two years ago we had the "web first" initiative at our paper. That lasted 8 months. Due to sinking revenue and declining circulation we're back to the print first initiative. OMG!

If advertisers go to Google and classifieds continue to go to Greg's List where does that leave newspapers revenue growth? Subscribers? Ops! We let them go when we decided to give the paper away for free in hopes of generating new print advertisers.

I know this sounds crazy but it could happen. Lobdell's commenter who is an advertiser is already giving his money to a system that works.