You Can’t Make This Up

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

“I hate artist’s statements. They are pretentious, and I am pretentious enough without adding to it. I have read too many statements about artists who are “exploring psycho/sexual boundaries” or artists who are “Concerned with the tension between x and y…” These statements are more for the artists, to convince themselves that they are creating something meaningful and of value. I reality you buy art because it connects with you, or it matches your couch, not because the artist was “depicting the hypocrisy of gender roles in a post modern America”. I am much more interested to hear what you think about my work, then to tell you what I think about it.”

Thann Clark

There are very few things that motivate me to the point of screaming, jumping up and down, or possibly wetting myself. I was introduced to a young man by the name of Thann Clark and I went to his webpage. What you’ve read above is his artist’s statement.  I am totally blessed that most of my friends are artists, whether  they use oil, water, pen, pencil, cameras, blues, jazz, poetry, or ballet; they’re all artists. I strongly recommend to Thann that he should get his statement copyrighted and trademarked, because if he doesn’t, I’m going to steal it. This artists statement could go on from here to infinity. I’m throwing a photo in here just because I want to. Just for people to keep records, the above gorilla photograph was the number one selling greeting card for over two years. Canon EOS, 600 f4, 1/100th at f4, ISO 100, Gitzo monopod.

Tripods When You Need Them You Love Them

Ralph Morse behind camera with Ron Thompson looking on © Joe DiMaggio
A few days ago, I did a blog on tripods. On April 30, my blog was “Tripods: Love them or Hate them”. I started to think about it a little more.  I looked over in the corner of the studio, saw that old Gitzo, and started to run the numbers. That tripod is 37 years old. It doesn’t look new, but it’s always worked perfectly. Pretty impressive. I looked around for a few photos and came up with a photo of the great LIFE magazine photographer Ralph Morse, an amazingly great Nikon tech-rep and good friend of mine Ron Thompson, and a very fine photographer by the name of Al Satterwhite. Ralph is alive and well and lives in Florida,  Ron sadly, went to the great dark room in the sky about 15 years ago. This photo was taken in July of 1975 at the launch of Apollo-Soyuz. For the record, I take this big bad boy out today when I want to mount 2 or 3 cameras at a time and it’s still viable. But please keep in mind I adore my new Manfrotto’s. They’re super light, easy to pack, and work very well with the new DSLRs. Talking about that, imagine if you had a DSLR and was able to shoot HD video in July of 1975! How cool would that be? Ralph was kind enough to take a young photographer by the name of DiMaggio and teach him the ins and outs of how to photograph rocket launches. He came from the old school, and while I’m at it,  he went to DeWitt Clinton High School, which coincidentally was the same school my dad went to! Sometimes it’s just a small world. 

It Ain’t Hollywood It’s Just a Test!

Please click the above link to see the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue filter in action!

One of the most common questions we get in our workshops and lectures – Do we use filters? If so, what filters and what brand? Let’s be clear – yes, we use filters but only Singh-Ray Filters. The two prominent filters are the Gold-N-Blue and the Vari-N-Duo.  Dr. Singh is an amazing designer and engineer and is always thinking outside the box. I’m notdreaming that I can improve on his filters, but what I’ve done is made a modification to a step-up or step-down ring. A great deal of my work today is incorporating video into our repertoire (we’ve always offered our clients video on a professional level.) In the day, it was the big Sony’s. Today, we’re able to maintain a great relationship with Sony, but we also utilize our DSLR’s because of the quality and because of their size, speed and the fact we have more lens selection. A simple raging river that was swollen by torrential rain when photographed with the Gold-N-Blue in the video mode is mesmerizing. You’re looking a normal photograph and over the next minute or so, it turns slightly blue, then, a darker blue, and then a more intense blue. By the time your eyes adjust to the gorgeous blue, it starts turning into a wheat color, then a yellow and then a midas gold color. That’s kind of cool! But, every time you put your hand on the filter, you tend to move the camera or photograph your damn finger! You want a seamless, smooth, Hollywood dissolve. The most simple way for me to do this was to build my little stick (it’s really not a little stick.) You take a 77mm filter, you put a step up-ring on it, put the ring into a vise, pre-punch two starting poles, start your drilling, then attach the nut, finish your drilling and insert extremely small machine screws. Then you thread your eye bolt into this and coat it with 4 or 5 rubber bands, putting the filter together with the ring, put the ring onto the lens, put the lens onto the camera, put the camera and the lens on a tripod.  I only use Manfrotto or Gitzo tri-pods.  You then turn the camera on, compose and by controlling the dissolve in the filter with the rubber band, it becomes seamless, smooth and gorgeous. To change the recipe to the famous “fade to black”, we simply replace the Gold-N-Blue with the Vari-N-Duo, which now allows you to go from one scene to another, or to open up or close down a scene. It’s quite pretty. Yes, you can do it in final cut pro, but I’d rather do it with a camera.

It’s Springtime

© Joe DiMaggio

I had an assignment to photograph a springtime event. I chose to photograph a mother bird feeding her newborn babies. How would I go about doing this? One way would be to walk around find a nest, set up a camera, wait for the mother, and spend 2-3 weeks photographing mother and her chicks.

Possibly this alternative is much simpler… At the end of the cycle of life, mothers and babies abandon their nest. So what I suggest is to go out and collect one or two nests the year before and put them in an elevated position extremely close to your home in a place safe from harm. Why would you do this? Because it allows you a mini studio. The mother discovers the nest, she lays her eggs and you now have a period of 3-5 weeks to make some interesting photos. Your going to want to shoot at least 1-2 times a day over a period of a couple weeks. This is also a great opportunity to utilize your electronic flash. What I used for this photograph was a 300mm f/2.8 lens and a 1.4 extender, at maximum aperture. You want a very shallow depth of field to throw background clutter out of focus. I used a Dyna-lite Uni 400 and a Jack Rabbit power pack on absolute minimum power. We were not looking for a flash photograph but rather a fill light and a catch light. By moving the strobe away and using less power I was able to utilize mixed light successfully. I also used a Gitzo carbon fiber tripod, self timer on-camera, and a Lastolite reflector. You may read this and say to yourself, isn’t that an awful lot of work to get the photo? The answer is no. Preproduction is what its all about. One of the greatest sports photographers in the world was Neil Leifer. Neil had literally hundreds of Sports Illustrated covers and the reason for this was he was a fanatic about research & pre-production so he would get the best possible photographs. He covered all the bases all the time. There were no accidents.