Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Pulitzer Prize

Pulitzer Prize Winners

Click on the link to go to the Tribune's site

Today was an incredible day! I was fortunate to be invited back to the East Valley Tribune to celebrate and pay respects to Ryan Gabrielson and Paul Giblin who just won the Pulitzer Price for Local Reporting. This was the first Pulitzer for the East Valley Tribune in its 100-year history. They were awarded the prize for a five-part series called Reasonable Doubt. The project exposed how police protection suffered as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio focused his resources on combating illegal immigration.

It was truly a wonderful occasion but at the same time sadly ironic because so many people who were involved in the project no longer work there. But this was an occasion to celebrate. It was all smiles and hugs and pure celebration for Ryan and Paul winning the highest award in Journalism.

You’ve heard it when something is a success it’s everyone’s baby. Well, I can confirm that was the case at the Tribune Tuesday April 21, 2009. We even heard from an old Publisher Terry Horn on the speakerphone congratulating everyone. He was publisher for a few months early in 2008 before moving on to the troubled Orange County Register. Truthfully I don’t remember him having a presence during this project but he spoke like he was the main man. Honestly the current Publisher Julie Moreno was present and needs to tell alpha male Terry, I got this.

Everyone who had a hand in this project wanted to rub elbows with Ryan and Paul and share in their fantastic moment in the spotlight. Personally I couldn’t be happier for them. For me, I am honored to have worked with such passionate, dedicated professionals. I wish Ryan and Paul a great life and continued success.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Do trends endure the test of time?

More question than answers.

Had a conversation a few days ago that I have been thinking about. I have talked about my lighting techniques in previous posts but this is a slightly different conversation.

Its about lighting! When to use lights and the lighting technique I have used over my career. Like so many things technique can be influenced by trends and the latest gadgets moving the medium forward i.e. the strobist and the on camera speed light flash systems. Amazing work is being done using little off-camera flashes. Yes, they are tied to a system but the flexibility is totally cool.

As a photographer are you influenced by trends? Have you ever lost sight of your identity or vision due to trends? Do you hold on to your ideals, techniques and style at the risk of looking dated?

I started learning lighting techniques in my home studio through trial-and-error. I took what I learned on the road later while working as a photojournalist. In the beginning my decision to use my lighting was predicated on if I found myself in bad light and reproduction. Some photojournalist refuse to use lights because of ethics and the influence on the overall scene. I lit many of my subjects but not all for same reason. As I sit here today I'm glad I did because it prepared me for the commercial work I do today.

I chose to use strobes primarily for reproduction. Since we were printing on newsprint I needed to provide pictures with good light and proper exposures. To this day I still use the same criteria when making the decision to use lights.

I try to keep it simple. One light most of the time. I have been told I use soft light. I guess that is true. As a former photojournalist I wanted my lighting to look natural. I wanted my light to blend in and give the appearance of window light. On my web site go to the portraits section to see examples. Almost all of these pictures are studio lit on location using a one light set-up and my so called "soft light" technique.

As I continue my walk-run through this profession. I see a trend that has been around now for a while. Its the high key over lit look. I appears there maybe up to 3 to 4 lights on a single person. Two very strong back lights rim the subject on both sides with a high key main light. Looks cool but it definitely isn't blending or looking like window light. These lighting techniques are not new just reemerging due to new technologies and the portability of speed lights.

My editorial comment! It seems to me that some of these over lit photographs are more about the photographer then the subject. These are new tools for photographers to use today and they do have a wow factor. They look cool and technically are very sexy witch makes me enter into the self-doubt thought process for myself.

I see it! I can't help but to think, do I need to evolve and change my techniques to stay current. Yes, this is a trend but will it endure the test of time? This is a test for me. Do I change, or do I stay the course?

I certainly don't want to look like everyone else but I can't help to question. Since I'm a creative person in a competitive environment I'm constantly questioning. Have I settle into a grove.

Have you crossed this path in your own work yet? Just a thought! Maybe, I need new lights?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Human Paint Brush

Painting with hair

iphone photos of a human paint brush and artist working

I went to Creative Connect last night in Scottsdale. It was held at the Zischke Studio. Mr Zischke, dipped a woman's hair into a bucket of black paint while she was suspended by her feet. He then swung her over large pieces of art paper while her hair was soaked in paint. He made sweeping shape and splatter on the paper with her wet hair as the paint brush. Interesting way to paint with out a doubt and fascinating to watch.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Keeping it real

A black cat crossed the threshold today

I feel like shit today. I'm between sadness and anger. If I'm not sad, I'm angry. If I'm not angry, I'm sad.

I was talking to a friend earlier today when a cat walked past. I fired off a quick shot. I didn't think anything of it until now. It's a black cat! Now I'm not superstitious but this was ironic considering how I feel today. Hummm!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Now my wife

Our son Jason kisses Lorie after finishing the 2008 Tempe Town Lake Ford Ironman.

Sorry but this post isn't about photography or deep thought.

I just got off the phone with my wife Lorie. She called me to inform me she has been laid off today. If your new to my blog, I got laid off in January. My wife worked for Todd and Wanda McFarlane. Yes the famous comic book artist who is internationally know as movie producer, toy maker and so on.

She was there nanny for 9 years and then worked for their company TMP International for the past 3 1/2 or so years. Lorie would have given her life for the McFarlane family when she cared for their children. She loves them dearly and as do I. They have been very good to us over the years and we wish them good health and prosperity moving forward. We know this had to be a very difficult decision for them personally.

No blame just sadness! It's a shame what is happening to businesses across this country and around the world. So many people are being displaced from their homes and their lives uprooted or destroyed as a result of out of control global greed.

Lorie and I are 55. I thought according to the American Dream we would be secure in our jobs and we would be thinking about retirement in the next 5 to 10 years. We both had long term jobs, worked hard and tried to do everything right. From our experience over the past 3 months that doesn't equal security. Is this fate? There is the proverbial light that is supposed to be good, right? It seems you have to chase it because it isn't stationary.

As we get over the first few humps and (garage sales). This will present new challenges. I'm sure there is opportunity here. I have no doubt Lorie will thrive and people will benefit from her experience, work ethic and personality.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Food for thought

A quote from the book, Photographs by John Szarkowski, "Every photograph is derived from a previous photograph." Szarkowski was the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City form 1962-1991.

If this is the case. Where does creativity come from?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Brad Armstrong Photography . com launched


It has been a long process with out a doubt but it is at a point now that I'm confident to announce the launch. Click on the link and check it. I would love to get some feedback. Feel free to leave your comments here or you can go to my contact page on the site and email me. Either way is good. I would be interested in a constructive critique. I still have some captioning to do and some other house keeping things. I might add a content box about my services as well. Thank you

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thinking on your feet

I did a commercial advertising shoot in Southern Arizona Monday March 30th. This was my first assignment with this client so I really wanted to do a great job. The assignment was to shoot a happy customer with his new car he recently purchased.

Totally excited to do the job and anticipated a great image for the client. With this optimism in mind I am quickly reminded nothing is ever easy. I'm foreever tested. My assistant and I arrive in Sierra Vista for the shoot and the wind is a steady 40 mph.

Thank God, my assistant brought his heavy C-Stands and couple hundred pounds of sandbags. I thought we might encounter some wind but I never imagined the extent of the wind. My Bogan stands would have crumpled.

My original plan was to use soft boxes and the shoot was to be at the subjects home. The location wasn't going to work out so we relocated to a local park.

As in photojournalism sometimes you have to think on your feet and adjust in order to have a successful outcome. It was impossible to shoot with the soft boxes, scrims or large reflectors. I decided to use a beauty dish on a c-stand with about 125 pounds of weight holding it done.

Did I also mention the shoot was at noon. OK, I have out of control wind and the strongest sun light imaginable. I needed to balance my lighting ratio ambient vs strobe. I need f-16 to 22 to over power the harsh sunlight. The subject was totally backlit with car gleaming with speakular highlights in the saturated sun.

I plugged my Comet 2400 watt power supply into the AC outlet in the back of my Toyota Tocoma and prayed. It took 10 seconds for the light to recycle but that was OK with me. I had a controllable light sourse and I didn't blow a fuse. I can handle this. One shot ever 10 seconds.

Fortunately I had a great subject that was a pleasure to work with and had the patients for the circumstance. Bottomline, we came away with great art for the client.

When it was all said and done my assistant and I looked at each other and agreed this was the hardest shoot ever.