Pole Vaulter


Pole Vault

I made this photograph a few years ago to be used on the cover of a local power company’s Annual Report (corporate and commercial photography is my day job).

We were using a local high school pole vaulter for the shot, and it took a lot of on-the-ground coordination to get it set up. We needed permission from his parents and the school, which insisted that we take all kinds of safety precautions, including having paramedics on site — which, by the way, they don’t do during practice or meets!

At one point I thought the client would call it off because of all the added expense, but it turned out fine.

I was a long way away from the action. We set up the shot so the sun was backlighting the vaulter. At the point where I was going to capture the image I set up two Norman 400b flash units hooked to an infrared triggering device that also triggered the camera. When the athlete broke through the beam both flash and camera were triggered. We did seven takes so we could choose the body position and expression we wanted.


Working Out


WEIGHTSI’ve seen plenty of terrific workout pictures, but I’ve always found shooting in a gym to be quite challenging. For this photo, I had to light both the model and the equipment and control the ambient lighting in the gym in order to create a series of pictures to be used in a brochure.

First I met with the client to discuss the areas that she wanted to include; then we had to arrange for models. Because the gym clients were attractive and excited to participate, we were able to enlist their help for a small fee and an 8×10 copy of any photos they appeared in.

For this shot, I used a Nikon D810 with lighting from Balcar 3200 WS Powerpaks. One light covered the model and put the highlight on the floor; two additional lights in medium-sized soft boxes were used to illuminate the equipment.

This one shot took about one and a half hours to set up, test and shoot. The entire shoot took two days.

Healthcare Worker w/Patient


home-heath-care-clientOne of the benefits of making a living as a commercial photographer is the variety of subjects one gets to shoot.

I did this photograph for a local home health care company. The idea was to show how completely relaxed the little girl is with the health care professional, and how the girl’s mother felt happy with the worker’s approach and bedside manner; facial expressions were critical for the success of the image.

The client and his art director were both on the set. My assistant and I set up the shot and tethered the camera to a computer so that the client and his art director (who were both on set) could have instant visual feedback.

Before bringing in the talent (who were an actual patient, her mother and a real home health care worker) we worked through all the lighting and composition variables. By planning out all the shots I want to capture in advanced I can concentrate fully on the expressions of the models once we have them in place.

Three lights were used: one to provide the overall ambience, one for the mother and one for the nurse and patient in the foreground. The shoot took about three hours: two and a half hours of prep and setup and 30 minutes of actual shooting time.


Greg, Shrimp Boat Owner and Volvo Marine Supplier


volvo_800wThis is Greg, he owns 15 shrimp boats and docks them at the shrimp basin in Brownsville, TX. Shrimping is big business here on the Gulf coast of Texas.

I was asked to create a photograph for a magazine that the Marine Division of Volvo puts out. It’s all about the people who use Volvo engines in their boats. Unfortunately, I only had a two day notice before the magazine’s deadline. And, guess what? Yep, it was raining both days so all the shrimp boats were out on the gulf, netting shrimp. What’s good for shrimpers isn’t always great for photographers!

Since Greg also owns a marine supply store there at the basin (where he furnishes supplies and repairs to all the shrimp boats and some recreational boats as well) we decided to do the photograph indoors.

I used two Profoto B1 heads for lighting, one on Greg and one skimming across the photo from left to right in the background with a soft white umbrella. The new TTL metering capability of the B1 for Nikon cameras is so cool — I was able to control each head individually right from the camera which meant that I could make all lighting power and light ratio adjustments without having to run back and forth to each light and adjust it individually. What a blessing, not to mention really speeding things up.

When setting up lighting for a shot where ambient light is going to play a part, it’s a good idea to manually establish the correct exposure for the background first. Set this exposure in your camera on manual, then use the TTL capability of the flash to do the rest. This works beautifully with speedlights, too. If you do this it is much easier to balance the background brightness with the subject lighting by adjusting the shutter speed of your camera and not touching the aperture.

Space, the Final Frontier


Lockheed Nose Cone Assembly

I love everything to do with outer space, so when I was chosen to make a series of photographs for Lockheed’s annual report I was ecstatic!

The buildings that I worked in were ginormous — and talk about clean, you could eat off the floors!

This is one of my favorite shots from the series. It was in the nose-cone assembly area. First, with Lockheed’s help, I repositioned the nose cones in order to produce a dynamic perspective; to show the scale I introduced two engineers.

Lighting was a real challenge. I used studio strobes. There were eight heads strategically placed to light what I wanted to be seen. It took me and my assistant about three hours to set up and test the shot before bringing in the engineers (companies don’t like it much if you tie up their personnel for extended periods of time). I was pretty excited when they chose this image for the cover.

Rocket Booster


rocket-booster-800I do a fair amount of industrial photography for annual reports. This is a photograph of one of the sections of a rocket booster engine. I grabbed a couple of workers and had them stand inside the booster for scale. I love the greenish orbs with red — they look like olives in a martini!

The difficult part of the shot was the lighting. I put a huge 10 x 10 ft. scrim behind the engine and lit it with two strobe heads from behind. I had to balance the light from the front so it wouldn’t burn out the interior. Light from the front was provided by two 6 foot square scrims positioned with a narrow slot between them for the camera.

The whole shot took about an hour and a half to set up, but it was worth it.

You Know You Want It


Hygeia Strawberry

A little while ago I was hired to create photographs of all the ice cream flavors of a local dairy to be used as illustrations on their cartons that went in the grocery store. The project was very large and required a lot of coordination. It took us about two weeks to photograph all 34 different flavors!

For this project, I had to arrange for a food stylist to help with the ice cream. Her job was exhausting. She worked from two freezers. The first one kept the ice cream at below 0 for storage over the entire shooting schedule. Then a second freezer was used to store the ice creams that would be used during each day’s shoot. Believe me, scooping out that ice cream was hard work. Each scoop had to be just perfect. The tricky part for her was creating the “collar,” that is the ring of ice cream that surrounds the scoop.

Aside from the food stylist, we also got some help from a set designer. Her job was to create different sets using the raw ingredients used for each flavor of ice cream.

To avoid the ice cream from melting during the shoot, my assistant had to precisely mark where each piece went on the set. This minimize the time used putting down the ice cream.

As for me, I oversaw the design and creation of each set, lit each set so the product was the hero, and then perfectly framed each shot according to the layout in the template.  We created a template on a clear sheet of plastic that I attached to the back of the camera. This had all the text and the logo in place, so that when the pictures were framed, everything would fit exactly where it had to on the carton.

We chose to shoot on a view camera using film, so that the area of focus and the perspective could be critically controlled. The photos were all shot on a Sinar P2-4X5 view camera using Fuji transparency film and a bracket of 6 shots was done for each flavor. Three shots were sent to the lab for processing at a time, in case there was some kind of problem at the lab.

Oh, yeah, one other thing. If anything went wrong I was ready to take all the blame. Fortunately nothing did. The client was ecstatic and that project led to several other food photography projects.