We are all motivated by a myriad of passions – likes, dislikes, and history. The list is infinite. When I made a decision to call my Editor and tell him I wanted to photograph the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in Austin Texas he thought I was out of my mind. From a business standpoint his concerns were valid. So exactly why did I find it necessary to invest a week of my life into that specific race? A few reasons were I never photographed Vettel, Hamilton, or Alonso and last but not least, Michael Schumacher and I knew this would be one of his last races. When he decided to return to Formula One I called a friend, Lewis Franck a great race car writer in the U.S. and we both agreed this was not a good idea for Michael to make a comeback. We were both genuinely concerned about his well-being after his retirement from Formula One, as it’s very hard to make a come back. Both Lewis and I were extremely happy that Michael’s second retirement from Formula One left him healthy and happy. Anyone who lived on the ragged edge of F1 and the inherent dangers of open-wheel racing at upwards of 200 mph for him to leave the sport healthy and happy with seven world championships – it just doesn’t get better than that. The minute I heard the word of Michael’s skiing accident my heart stopped and I immediately called Lewis. Race Car fans, let us say a prayer for Michael that he comes out of this okay.
On a lighter moment… at pit stop practice, Michael’s F1 tub very gingerly touched my shooting vest at 55mph it did get my attention (we were both on the proper side of each other’s line.)
Keisher McLeod- Wells aka “Fire”, is one of my dear friends. She is one of the most beautiful, lovely, talented, hard-working people I know. Unfortunately, Fire has had a major tragedy in her family. What she’s done, is taken all of the responsibility and done the absolute right thing. I wish her nothing but great luck and God speed.
Over the years I’ve had two major printers. One was Par Excellence in Shreveport Louisiana, the other was Ken Leiberman in New York. There is no doubt Ken was and still is a great printer. If you’re going to have a show at MOMA, or a San Francisco gallery, he may be your choice. Par Excellence is unfortunately out of business. My partner and best friend JoAnne Kalish is a master printer “and one hell of a great photographer,” she produces some impeccable “Giclee” prints to die for. As great as they are they just are not a photographic process per se. Without telling JoAnne, I made 60-20×30’s, and 12-16×20’s. They are awesome and if you would like to come by our Learning Center to look at them, make an appointment and I will gladly show them to you. The key is – the blacks are black, the white are white, and the skin tone is dead on, it does not get any better then that. Info on this photo is, Shutter Speed-1/10 second, Lens-100 mm macro, ISO speed-50 and it was taken on the new Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod 190cxpro3.
Every time the Holidays come around I tend to get melancholy. You think of old friends, old times, and of singing Auld Lang Syne. I think of the good old days. A psychologist friend of mine tells me it’s normal. I was working with a new intern today and noticed he was removing some digital dust from a photograph of a dear friend of mine, who passed away. My friend’s name was Gary Nicamin. He lived in Hollywood, Los Angeles While I’m feeling in the mood, let me tell you about Gary. He was one hell of an amazing artist. I met Gary in 1970 and he was the photographer for Chicago, The Beach Boys, Blood Sweat and Tears, and The Turtles. He photographed all of the great sixties and seventies bands. He was also a full blown art director and master of cut and paste. When I had an artistic technical problem I always went to Gary. He also could answer any rock and roll trivia question you could think of. Gary wore a long Raccoon coat, drove a car that was originally a taxi, and had a penchant for colorful bowling shoes (he had a closet full) which he wore all the time. At a time when everybody seemed to be stoned on something, Gary NEVER drank or did any type of recreational or prescription drugs. His only drug of choice was Pepsi Cola. When he wanted to get really high he would eat a chocolate chip cookie. I could spend a long time telling you stories about Gary. So for purposes of this blog we’ll call this Gary Episode One.
Here’s the story behind the photo; It was approximately a little after 5 AM in the morning. Gary was in his bedroom and I was sleeping on the couch in his studio. I always stayed with Gary whenever I was on assignment in L.A., and in those days it was at least several times a year – usually more. Anyway, I heard sirens screaming, so I got up looked out the window and it seemed like the building next door was on fire. I ran into Gary’s bedroom – he was sitting there reading the LA times and watching the local news. I said “Gary I think the building next door is on fire.” He said”calm down it’s an abandoned building that is being used as a crack house.” He non-chalently, mentioned that it caught on fire frequently. He led me to the window and we climbed through to get a better view. I obviously took the opportunity to make this environmental portrait of Gary. Notice the bowling shoes, one of his trade marks. I loved Gary and I sure as hell miss him. A true renaissance man.
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. Pre–production 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.