Earlier this year I traveled to Bucharest, Romania, for about 10 days to shoot the print campaign for the Discovery Channel show, “Harley and the Davidsons.”
The shoot was a lot of fun and also pretty challenging. We shot on location as well as on set and for a series of studio portraits we converted an old Church set into a full-on stage.
The cast was super cool, the location interesting (I saw Vlad the impaler’s castle) and the local crew great. We also had what we all agreed was the best breakfast buffet in the world (yes, that’s right) at the Bucharest Radisson Blu.
The campaign turned out great and was used pretty widely in an international campaign which helped in the end (I believe) in getting the best ratings for a cable miniseries in the last 4 years.
My local grip Florin working wonders with a rig.
A test shot on stage.
Me on stage.
A test shot in our converted church using the Romanian craft service crew.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a Commercial Photography podcast in Australia called “Hack the Creative”.
The interviewer was a very interesting guy named Clarke Scott, a photographer who also spent time as a Buddhist monk in India. Our interview was wide-ranging and got fairly deep into both photography and the motivation behind it. My interview focused on not chasing trends in photography and paying attention to what deeply moves you creatively.
I really liked his interview style and have found his interviews with other photographers super interesting. So if you have a chance and want a deeper look into the commercial photography world, take a listen as most of the episodes are well worth the time.
We live in a time of disruption and every industry you can think of is changing, in the midst of some sort of upheaval where things are no longer done the way have been for a long, long time. The advertising industry is not immune with the way we see and watch ads shifting in a way where no one really knows where it is headed.
That means the commercial photography business is changing as well and it is becoming very common for photographers to book print campaigns and after the booking have the client ask if they can also shoot motion.
Business card printers have had a small boom as photographers hastily add titles like “Stills/Motion” or “Photographer+Director” (that’s the one I use) to their cards. Some are even letting go of the photographer title all together and just calling themselves “Director”.
Luckily this particular disruption has put me in a pretty good place. Unlike many photographers, I startedÂin the film business and spent years on film sets before jumping over into stills. So I feel just as comfortable with either a video or stills camera in my hand
As a case in point, last year I was hired to shoot the national launch campaign of a foldable bike company called Durban Bikes. They had been big in South America but were looking to move into the North American market in a big way. As part of that, they were also looking for a video they could show as part of a full in-store display.
Durban wanted a lifestyle shoot that highlighted how their bikes appealed to a young, urban generation. They also wanted to show how the bikes were for all riders, whether they folded them to get on the subway or tore up trailsÂ in the Southern California mountains.
So I took my wife out for some test shots and showed them my ideas. They loved them and we headed out for three days of shooting, both stills and motion.
Eventually they used the images across a number of platforms. But the highlight might have been when The Ellen Show gave a Durban Bike to every audience member and they showed the spot I had directed.
It was also great to start creating unified campaigns, being given the creative freedom to do some work I was proud of. Its rare, especially when you are hired to shoot, that you are given the chance to followÂ your inspiration wherever it leads.
So I had a lot of fun on this one and I think it shows.
Just before the holidays two years ago I was called by my friend at American Heroes Channel, Kyle Russell. They were looking for someone to do a small piece for Black History Month and they wanted to do based around a scheduled unveiling of a stature of Ruby Bridges, one of the first African-American children to integrate public schools in New Orleans. Not long after, Ruby had been immortalized in a Norman Rockwell painting showing her as a small girl walking to school surrounded by Federal Marshals.
All the key players were going to be at the ceremony, including one of the four Federal Marshals who guarded Ruby that first year, the teacher who taught Ruby for a year in a class of one, plus Ruby herself.
Kyle was not sure what the Network needed story-wise but asked if I would be willing to head to New Orleans, interview everyone, and see if we could craft a short piece for airing during Black History Month. So I headed down south with Producer Jaycen Armstrong, iconoclast Richie Trimble and our client Kyle for a few long days of shooting, early morning beignets, and late night cocktails.
New Orleans is one my favorite places and I have always harbored a secret dream of moving there someday. So that made the job fun right off the bat.
But Ruby herself was a pretty amazing woman and it was special to get to know her over the next couple of days. What was most interesting after interviewing Ruby, her marshal and her teacher was once again that so often our world is shaped by those who are not looking for the responsibility of history, and perhaps may not even want it.
But in their simple decision to do what they thought was right, to them a small momentary choice, those actions ended up having large historical repercussions for our nation.
So that was the story we found, and what I cut into the piece. I was told the network liked what we did enough to change the music and replace with stills they had the rights to, but to air the cut we did.
Well only 15 years late but I finally have a blog. In contrast to my website, here I’ll share a bit more of all the work I have been doingÂ whether Stills or Directing. I’ll also share more ofÂ the ideas I hadÂ going intoÂ shoots and maybe how they did (or didn’t) work, behind-the-scenes storiesÂ and images, technical discussionsÂ of how we did it, and even what it was that inspired the work.
AsÂ my first posting I decided to go back to a few years to job I did for a short-lived show on Discovery Channel called â€œBig BrainÂ Theoryâ€ on Discovery Channel. This jobÂ was maybe a year or two into my breakthrough into the world of shooting commercially.
Typically I am given free reign when shooting network shows, crafting my own shots and set-ups separate fromÂ what the show is doing. Â But here I spent two days shooting portraitsÂ of the show talent, grabbing what I could alongside theÂ film crew. I was brutallyÂ sick but strangelyÂ Â enough I think that helped the work. Being so out of it I came in and was forced toÂ operate solely on on instinct, shooting directly fromÂ my experience. And in some ways tat helped me see things a bit differently, more directly. I found myself moving away fromÂ theÂ standard lighting the show was forced to do with their limited schedule and instead started looking forÂ alternate angles, different shots.
I think its a good example of how often you hear the “rules”, such as three pointÂ lighting, or nothing completely blown whiteÂ or pitch-black. Â Instead, by moving to a 90 degree angleÂ fromÂ the film crew shotÂ I was able to break those rules, shooting directly into lights or areas they had not lit. And in the end I think we got some good stuff that I still show in my portfolio today.
Ok, enough for now. PleaseÂ follow along and subscribe to my feed. And if you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear from you and will try to answer back (if I am working, please give me a few days). Â Â Ok thanks. More soon!