Thursday, December 30, 2010

Snowboarding with the Nikon D700

My son William has a T-shirt business called Wolves VS Lions. It seems to be doing well.
As I do photography for his company, I am stretched beyond what the studio work I normally do and it helps to broaden my experience and test Nikon's D700 as well.
We did these shots at Mountain Creek in New Jersey. Two young ladies offered to be models and for light on this night shoot, I bought a Brinkmann flood light at Wal*Mart as I drove to the mountain. My son (since he was the client) was in charge of keeping the light on the snowboarders and I set the Nikon to ISO 6400, and continuous high shooting with a 28-300mm auto focus lens. I just focused at the end of the tube and hit the trigger when one of the girls got there and followed them along the very slippery tube.
I was amazed at this little camera. Out of 6GB of images (around 200) I missed focus on only one image! The Nikon followed and continually focused as the camera shot image after image. At ISO 6400 the noise looked like grain (I love grain) and was easily modified in Camera Raw. The battery only went from 100% to 85% even in the very cold weather. I have the MB-10 attached so I think I could have shot for over 4 hours but I got too cold out there.
Well, this photo thing is still fun and I am still learning. I think I prefer the warmth and control of the studio though.....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Photo assistants

I worked as a photo assistant for about 4 years before I set out on my own in NYC back in the late 70's. I always loved working as an assistant because I was good at it and the final responsibility always rested on the photographer, not me. It gave me tremendous freedom to think out of the box and focus on getting the job done. I have striven to continue in that mindset now that I am the one with all of the responsibility.
So it was fun to be an assistant once again. This time it was for my son William, a junior at William Paterson University. He has been doing a series of odd images involving inside scenes outside in the woods. In this one he was doing his own version of Norman Rockwell's "freedom from want" painting. William did all of the work, he held all of the responsibility and I just pushed the shutter at the appropriate time. I got to be the assistant and once again, I had a ball, just like the old days.
A note about who creates an image. I have never felt that it mattered who pushed the shutter on the camera. The creator of the image is the one who composes and lights the shot. Here is a shot I did for Milkbone. The Grinch arm is mine. My art director pushed the shutter. I consider it my image because I set it up and I lit it.
Now go out there and be the creator!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Making money with a camera

I am a commercial photographer. That means that I trade images for checks. The only thing better about a client sending you money in exchange for an image is the client calling you back time after time for a new image and a new check. Wow.
I was asked by a client to shoot a three day conference a few years ago. I never really do that kind of photography. I am primarily a studio shooter and for my first 30 years in business never used an on-camera flash. I am now onto my 4th or 5th job like this and am finding them to be lots of fun. This image is of the 2010 Breast Cancer Walk in NYC. I was hired by the Sensible Portions company (I usually shoot food packaging for them) and got to spend the day in the sun, in Central Park and just look for interesting images that told the story of how Sensible Portions was helping the walkers.
This Thursday I will be driving for about an hour to get to a winery where I will be photographing people from the Post Foods company as they get to know each other better. I will be bringing a very nice Nikon SB900 flash with a Quantum battery (that I borrowed from my good friend Bernard) and will try to visually tell the story that is happening there. Wow again. Money with a camera and a new option for me. This is too much fun!

Keeping busy during a downtime

I keep on being blessed in this business. Things have definitely been slower this year as the recession moves on but I have spent the last 2 months shooting high-end jewelry and products for a great catalog house and printer. The day rate is low but they pay at the end of each week and I am able to keep on shooting for my own clients in the evening and on weekends. The printer owners are orthodox Jews as well, so I have been able to schedule most of my jobs on the many Thursdays and Fridays that they have been closed. It gets crazy but it's money with a camera and I love it. This image is of a set of Etienne Aigner bags that I shot for this company. They came to me at just the right time and now the work has ended for a while. I usually slow down as my clients take summer vacation but this year I worked right through. Welcome to the freelance life of an independent commercial photographer. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fun with the folks at Nestle

This was a full, fun day. I was hired by someone new at Nestle to cover a meeting with nurses and the company. It was a lively day with a lot of discussion and I captured some images of the individual speakers and the group as a whole. I was asked to capture some portraits while I was there for the day, so I set up a portrait set up in a conference room and shot these at different times during the day. The people are wonderful and the day was tiring but tons of fun. What could be better than that?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Photoshop CS5

I was excited to get Photoshop's CS5 Design Premium. Imagine my disappointment when the installed software didn't work. After a few tries I got Photoshop and Dreamweaver to launch but Illustrator and InDesign would just quit. The Adobe web site showed me that others had the problem as well. Why would CS4 work, but not all of CS5? I was anxious to experience Adobe in 64 bit finally. Maybe my older dual core MacBook Pro was too old for this software? Why would some parts work and some parts not? I didn't want to play around in terminal as some suggested. I even made a new admin account but to no avail. Finally I thought... what does Illustrator and InDesign have that Photoshop doesn't depend upon? Why maybe type! I took all of my type except for Arial and put it into the trash for safe keeping. Then I launched InDesign. Wow! It launched! So type was the problem! I slowly moved the type back into the font folder first the A's then the B's. InDesign kept opening until I put the H's back. I just slowly removed each H font until it started again and then I had my culprit. One lousy type font I have never before seen or used hiding amongst the H's! Now everything is working like clockwork. What fun!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Mark Ensslin

Last week I lost one of my best friends.
Mark Ensslin has been in a wheelchair for the last 12 years after a skiing accident. Before that he was a police sergeant in New Jersey. I never really knew Mark out of the chair. Despite this seeming dilemma Mark lived his life as a good husband to Peg, great and awesome photographer who communicated well through his art and an educator who cared more about his students success than his own. Mark's death took me by surprise because he was active and vital until the day he left us. God's speed Mark. We'll all join you sooner or later... See his work on his website.

Carolina Wren VS the D700

We have a friendly little wren family who built a kind-of cave nest in one of our hanging plants. It gave me a chance to test out yet another talent of the D700. I set the Interval Timer Shooting schedule to 2 shots/min, said okay and walked away. After 15 minutes I would swap CF cards and do it again. What you see is a little of what I caught. Too much fun!

Monday, July 5, 2010


This one was fun. It is for the company Parse3.
My sons borrowed my Taurus wagon to drive to Illinois for a big concert with 3 additional friends. That meant I had to use William's Escort to go to this shoot. No gurney this time just a car filled with heavy equipment. Thank God my friend Dave (second from the right) had many young interns to help bring all the equipment up the 1 1/2 flights. Anyway, I shot the principles against a white seamless, shot the wall, the table and the pictures. Once home I extracted the people from the seamless and built a 60" file of background and table. Finally I added the people in the proper order, gave them a little shadow and made it exactly the size Dave requested. Soon, it will be a wrap around for the web site. Great fun with great people and now my wagon is back and ready for Wednesday.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Another reason to love digital

This is an image of a Traulson refrigerator. I was helping out a friend at a firehouse when I saw it. We used to have one just like it at Nabisco. We had to fill it with around $90,000 worth of film and polaroid twice a year. $180,000 - $200,000 was just for the film. On top of that we had to have it processed.
Now realize that to capture the same amount of shots with todays digital cameras would cost about $200.00 for camera cards and DVD's. Why on earth would anyone ever look back at film shooting as the "good ole days"?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Guitar

Wow, I'll try not to repeat myself from the last time I wrote about shooting for this company but while it is always fun to shoot, it is awesome to shoot such beautiful works of art. B&G Kaufmann is the company and I met the creator yesterday. What an artist, what a sculptor. To take wood that comes to him as some exotic tree and then cut and scrape and rub until it looks like these. I am truly in awe. Oh, and it helps that he is just a great guy. Always remember: photography is even more fun when you get to shoot something that is this perfect. It almost lights itself! (almost).

Monday, June 7, 2010

One amazing Nikon

My wife called me outside on Saturday to see a tiny deer that was bedding down next to our front steps. Naturally I grabbed my new Nikon D700. I set my ISO to 400 with a Tamron 28-300 lens. Well, I didn't need the long lens because the fawn was sitting right there just 4 feet below me. I quickly shot two images but the camera's monitor was black. I looked around for the problem and discovered that I had the camera still set on Manual from a commercial shoot the day before (125th @ f/22). I quickly switched the camera to Program mode but the deer had taken off. I did use the long lens to get some shots of the fawn dancing around like a little lamb. It was really cute but I was bothered that I had missed the sweet close-up shots. I always shoot in raw. Now you will see why: I opened this image in Camera Raw and there was almost nothing there. I swung the exposure slider to the right four (yes 4!) stops and added some fill light. My final move was to desaturate the greens a little. That was it. That is the image you see above.
Let me run over this one more time. It is a 400 ISO image shot with a Nikon D700. It was 4 stops underexposed and pushed in Camera Raw. After all of that there is NO noise in this image. If I want the kind of huge chunky grain that I used to create by pushing Ectachrome 3 stops I'll just have to use Lightroom 3 to get it after the fact. This Nikon does one splendid job of shooting with little or no noise. Yea Nikon!

Friday, May 28, 2010

A new Nikon for the studio

My second camera when I was still in high school was a Nikon F with a 58mm 1.4 lens. That was far enough back that it was before they could get an aperture that wide in a 50mm lens. Since then I had moved through different Nikon film cameras (ending with a Nikon F3) and different lenses. My first DSLR back in 2006 was a Fuji S3 which used Nikon lenses. It still takes beautiful pictures, but had a DX chip and couldn't take my old lenses. Well despite the terrible economy, I broke down and bought the company a Nikon D700. I really did my homework on this one but this camera has more benefits than I had ever expected.
Before I took delivery of the camera, I sent three of my lenses out to John White to be "AI'd". These were the same lenses I had had back in the film days and had the forks that used to catch the meter pin of the old Nikon F (I just couldn't give them up). He converted them for a super reasonable price and did it super quickly. The D700 allows me to enter up to 6 non-CPU lenses in the menu and when you select one of those, the camera can "see" the proper f/stops and meter through the lens. For an old guy like me who spent the first 30 years focusing SLR's and view cameras manually this is fun! I have 3 zoom lenses that I used with the Fuji S3. These went from 15mm - 450mm and did a great job for my clients. Now however, I have an additional 4 prime lenses of 28mm, 50mm, 55mm micro and 105mm. They are sharper than the zooms and working perfectly on the full-frame D700. I am enjoying walking around with a digital camera and a 50mm 1.4 lens so much that I am considering shopping for two more of the older, sharper pre-AI lenses. I'll have John White convert them for that reasonable price, and then have a total of 9 lenses. Wow!
Oh did I forget mention that I bought the MB D10 battery grip and that the camera can shoot 8 full size raw files per second? I think I am sounding like a geek now but this is just too much fun!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Annual Reports

It's not always what you know.
It's not always who you know.
It is always who knows you!
That's a good thing to remember and helps to explain how I got a full day's job shooting for this annual report for the Endo Pharmaceutical company. My friend is Clint Morgan of Morgan Designs. Because he knows me he called me and offered me this job. While it has nothing to do with the food I normally shoot (see my food photo blog), because Clint knows me and some of my work he knew I could do this job well and offered it to me. My client is happy, his client is happy and I am happy too! Isn't that a great way to do business? So remember, be a friend to your clients, let them see what you can do and take good care of them always. That way, since they know you, they will give you fun work so you can make money. It's a wonderful way to live your life.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photoshop fun

I've had some time to play lately. There seems to be more time time between jobs than the last few years. This is typical during recessions (this is my third since opening my own business). This time around I have some things to fill my time. This time I am fully digital and have a nice computer and Photoshop to play with. To that end I have been playing with different images from my databank and layering them with different curves and layer blending modes. I think I'm getting close to a nice super contrasty look. It almost looks normal but it's a long way from the start. Photoshop. It helps fill the time with fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is one beautiful bass guitar.
It was created by B&G Kaufmann.
The shots I did were for a new web site. My friend Manny Rhinesmith is doing the site so he asked me to do some images of the guitar. Manny is a guy you just have to love, so we spent the afternoon shooting pictures and having fun! One of the great things about photography is having a subject that is just plain beautiful (be it a guitar or a human) and meeting the challenge of lighting it so that it's beauty shows through. I love this shot. Now I wish I could play the bass.....

Monday, March 22, 2010


What is this?

Is it an illustration or a photograph?

The answer to those questions is: Yes!
Each piece has been individually photographed with the same light. The shadows have been duplicated in Photoshop with paths and each part is indiviually controlled on it’s own layer; even the paperclips. Now the art director can tweek the file to his heart’s content. This kind of digital work can look real when the photographer knows the end result and all of the light matches.

This was a job I did on spec for a friend who has his own design firm. I'll have to wait and see if the company chooses this direction or one of the the others he has presented. Still, it was nothing but fun to make. If they go another way, maybe I'll put it up on Alamy. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why I love Digital

I didn't shoot this image. Actually, my wife did. What you see here is my own back, covered in 140 little cups of allergens.
This all began in late fall when my entire body broke out in tiny itchy red spots. I rarely go to the doctor and I am nicely healthy but when the spots began to move up to my face, I was convinced to get checked out. Here is what we discovered after spending three days covered by these tiny cups: I am super sensitive to formaldehyde. I figured that was a good thing to be allergic to until the doctor handed me a 100 page list of all products that contain formaldehyde. Just about everything. I have now had to modify my very comfortable life. I found some products that don't contain formaldehyde, things like soap and shampoo (harder than it sounds), and pretty quickly my itchy spots went away. So why do I love digital photography? Why because the doctor tells me that 25 years of B&W darkroom work has led to my sensitivity to formaldehyde.
The good news is that all of you young photographers who have discovered photography since the digital age will most likely never have to modify their lives to avoid formaldehyde like I have to. Just one more reason to love digital!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pharmaceutical Still-life

Why would a food photographer find himself shooting still-lifes for a pharmaceutical company? In this case there were a number of good reasons.
1) They agreed to my price so I could be a happy shooter.
2) The art director was a friend.
3) Food photographers can shoot everything very well and
4) No one else wanted to book me that day.
We drove out to Pennsylvania in the Taurus with the gurney full of studio equipment. We stayed over night so that we could get an early start the next day and shoot all day in a corporate conference room. We ate well. I have known Clint, my friend from Morgan Design, for many years. We were able to be totally comfortable for the two days that we were together. So there it is: One day + shooting, one day retouching, a happy client and money with a camera. What could be better than that?