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Joy at the Beach

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

A couple of days ago, my creative team and I got together for a test shoot with Joy, an up and coming model here in San Diego. Believe it or not, she’s 14! She was a trooper. The water at the beach was damn cold, but she stuck it out. After standing in the water for an hour, I couldn’t feel the bottom of my feet. Poor Joy was freezing. Whatever it takes to get the shot!

Joy wore a Versace dress for this shot. She was at the same time excited to wear it but then felt guilty about promptly rolling around in the sand. It’s a $6,000 dress so it hurt a little seeing her roll around in the sand. Anything for fashion.

John

Key to the Cure

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Last week, I was invited to photograph a charity event held at Saks Fifth Ave in San Diego. About a hundred women came out to support cancer awareness and the Vaughn Parker Charitable Foundation which funds mammogram screening for people who are uninsured or unable to afford it. The idea was to eat, drink and shop with a percentage of everything purchased going to the charity.

My thought was that it would be fun to create portraits of the socialites trying on clothes and having fun. It didn’t work out exactly as I expected, still, I think I got some fun shots. Everyone was in a good mood and enjoyed working it for the camera. The sweet vodka drinks they were serving didn’t hurt my cause.

To achieve the look of these shots, I set up a canvas backdrop (that I had painted at home) and three lights. One in front of the subject and the other two off to the side, slightly over-exposed to give the shots more of a sophisticated, glam look.

John

San Diego Magazine Swimwear Shoot

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

A couple of months ago, I posted about a big shoot that I had coming up. Well, I can now post the photos from the shoot since the magazine has finally been published.

Doing a shoot like this is a lot of work - as you can probably imagine. It all started with a call from the art director a few months ago asking if I wanted to do the magazine’s swimwear fashion. I could have done a typical shoot with models on the beach, but that would’ve been too predictable.

Instead, I put my little thinking cap on. I have a collection of photography books in my house - from Avedon to Salgado. But the work that really stood out was that of Helmut Newton. I love his mix of nudity, fashion, and composition - Helmut Newton became my inspiration.

Next, I decided to go for more of a high-fashion look. I didn’t want to stick with just the swimwear. Instead, I wanted to layer the clothes with dresses and coats. I knew that I couldn’t show nudes in the magazine. Having the bikinis peaking out of the clothes gave the shots some of the voyeuristic feel that inspired me in Newton’s work.

The next thing to decide on was the location. I thought of everything from expensive homes to the desert. The art director told me that there was a chance of getting the cover. The catch is it’s easier to get the cover shot if it has something to do with San Diego. The desert was out if I wanted a hope for the cover shot.

Last year, I’d been condo shopping and checked out some condos near the ballpark in San Diego’s downtown. The salesperson took me to the roof where I was blown away by the view. I knew that I wanted to shoot there at some point. As I was brainstorming for a place to shoot, it came to mind. That in turn gave me the idea to shoot at a variety of rooftops around downtown and make that the unifying theme for the shoot.

Once I had a look and a concept in place, I needed to assemble the right team. I’ve worked with a lot of great stylists, but I needed people who really understood fashion and weren’t afraid to push things. I did some asking around and got a couple of recommendations to the same guy for makeup. Once we met, I knew that he was the perfect fit. The magazine referred us to a new stylist in town. She’d just moved from LA where she’d done styling for celebrities like Sharon Stone.

The final step was casting for talent. That was a lot of work. I did an entire round of casting and didn’t get anyone. I finally ended up bringing in every single girl located in San Diego that was represented by the agency I worked with. I insisted on actually meeting with every girl I was considering because I didn’t want to just go off of their photos. Seeing how the talent works with me and how they look in the final image is super important in making the final decision.

The shoot day was long and tiring. But everything went perfectly. I shot with my camera tethered to my computer so that I could see what I was getting as I was shooting. I had two very experienced assistants (and a volunteer) helping me to set everything up and then take it down. I don’t travel lightly on these shoots so it’s a lot of work.

There’s never enough time on these shoots so knowing my equipment and how to get the looks that I want is the key to making it work. Trying to figure out what you’re doing in the middle of the shoot is just not possible. Before taking on a shoot of this scale, it’s important to test everything out in advance so that there’s no guesswork on the shoot day.

In the end, the art director loved the shots. Unfortunately, they were a bit too much for some of the powers that be. The shots were originally supposed to run in the July issue but got killed instead. I guess, upon further reflection, the magazine decided not just to run the photos, but put one of them on the cover.

Honestly, as long as I was happy, my creative team was happy, and the art director was happy with the shots, the rest of it didn’t matter. Trying to do something different and new necessarily means that some people are going to be uncomfortable with it. That’s actually a good thing.

In the end though, all’s well that ends well.

John

Big Shoot Coming Up

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

I’ve been hired by San Diego Magazine to shoot their summer swimwear editorial. We did the casting a couple of weeks ago and today we did the fitting with the talent. The fitting is were we pull out all of the clothing, match it to the talent and come up with complete outfits that are ready to go on the shoot day. I also used this as an opportunity to get some shots and test out the camera I’ll be using.

This is gonna be a fun shoot.

John

School Photo Day

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

I was recently asked to do the school photos for the graduating class at the La Jolla Children’s School
in, where else, La Jolla. I’m their unofficial artist in residence and go to photographer. At first, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the thought doing the school photography. Visions of crappy backdrops, cheap combs and bored expressions left me inclined to pass on the opportunity.

But then I got to thinking, what if I made this an assignment for the kids in that the photo should tell something about who they are? I stuck with the idea of the backdrop, but decided to take it down to nearby La Jolla Shores beach. Instead of just cropping in on the seamless paper, I captured some of the background to give the shots a sense of place. I used a strobe to provide the soft light on their face.

And finally one with the whole class. I only wish my school photos were this cool.

John

T’was the Night Before A Fashion Shoot - Mission Inn, Riverside

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Tonight’s Easter. I spent the day resting at home playing the guitar, headed over to the in-laws for a home-cooked dinner (thanks Cathy and Jim) and then drove a couple of hours up to Riverside for a magazine shoot that I’ll be doing in the morning. I grew up in LA and Riverside is kind of like the armpit of LA. It gets no respect. So, I can’t say that I was too thrilled to be going to this Mission Inn place to do the bridal fashion shoot for I Do for Brides Magazine.

I pulled up to the valet and, honestly, was blown away. This place is gorgeous. Amazing. A true gem. My room is on the fourth floor and it feels like I’m in a Spanish castle. I’d love to photograph a wedding here. I snapped some photos for folks to check out.My room is on the top floor to the right of the frame - you can see the door open just a crack.

Here’s the view into my room.

Here’s a couple of shots of the walkway outside my room.

This is the outside of a gorgeous chapel right below me. President Richard Nixon was married in a smaller chapel across on the other side of this courtyard. Although I’m not a fan of his, our paths have crossed before. I went to preschool where he graduated from college (Whittier College).

I’ll be photographing a bunch of bridal gowns - much like my Exquisite Weddings shoot that I just posted. We don’t have as many dresses so hopefully it won’t be as long a day.

John

Magazine Photo Shoot - The Movie

Friday, March 21st, 2008

I’ve been getting a lot of great feedback on my Exquisite Magazine photo shoot. I shot some video during the shoot that I thought I’d share. If you’re at all interested in seeing how I create my lighting style, it’s well worth a look. There’s a lot of tips on location lighting.

By the way, for all those who’ve signed up for the Rimrock Workshop, you”ll be working with a lot of this gear in your shots. I’ll also be showing how to take these ideas and make them work for the no-time-for-anything wedding day in my Light and Fast seminar with Jules Bianchi on June 12 in LA.

John

 

Exquisite Weddings Magazine - Bridal Fashion

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

This is a post that I’ve been waiting to do for a couple of months now. I did this shoot back in January but didn’t want to post until the Spring issue of Exquisite Weddings magazine came out.

Talk about a long day. We did 25 setups over 10 hours. That’s a lot no matter what, but everyone of those shots required setting up multiple studio lights to get the look that I wanted. My crew was running around with a truck load of gear, hustling to set up each shot. I do a seminar for photographers called Light and Fast… well, this was more like Heavy and Fast.

At the end of the day, we were all cooked. But we did it!

We did this wedding shoot at The Grand Del Mar resort which is located just north of San Diego. The recently opened resort was done in the style of an Italian villa. There’s really nothing like it in Southern California. The attention to detail is fantastic. Doug “Pappa Doug” Manchester is the developer - I photographed him at his home last summer. The Grand Del Mar is a lot like his home - just on a grander scale.

I did the men’s fashion shoot last fall. Photographing the guys is a lot easier. With women, there’s a lot more hair and makeup - which takes forever - and then there’s the dress. On my crew, I had two hair stylists, one woman for makeup and another just for the dress.

My concept for this shoot was to treat the women kind of like sculptures. Italian villas always have lots of female sculptures so I put the talent up high standing on chairs, sofas, walls, and even a wall sconce.

The jewelry was provided by Tiffany’s in San Diego. They not only supplied the diamonds and silver, but also had someone doing all the styling for the jewelry. Some of the rings that they brought sell for over $100,000 so they also supplied several rather stocky guards who never let the models out of their sight.

The staircase is fantastic. No doubt there will be more than a few wedding day shots taken here. I’m photographing a wedding at the Grand Del Mar in July so don’t be surprised if you see some shots from here.

Not your garden variety pergola…

The only thing better than one bride is two!


This was the last shot of the day. Actually, night. I had my assistant outside with a giant umbrella outside making sure the strobe would fire. It was cold outside and we were dead tired. It’s at times like this that I really rely on my crew to keep it together, stay focused and be committed to producing great work.

For the next issue of Exquisite Weddings, I’ll be shooting the cover. I’m looking forward to focusing on one shot. Should be fun!

John

Look Ma, I’m in Rangefinder Magazine!

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

I just wanted to share with everyone an article that I wrote for Rangefinder Magazine that came out in the February issue. Rangefinder is one of the largest circulation photography magazines in the country and is also the sponsor of the WPPI professional photographer’s convention (where I’ll be speaking).

I’ve posted jpg’s of the article below, but you can read a complete PDF of the article here.

This is the issue to look for:

When most photographers have their images published, they pick a bunch of their favorites from different photo shoots. I figured that since I was talking about working with real people, I’d show a variety of shots from one shoot. I’d just done an engagement shoot with Jerry and Sarah so I figured I showcase their images. It’s much easier to put together a strong body of work from multiple shoots than stick with one shoot. My idea was to demonstrate how to create a variety shots from one shoot and come away with (hopefully) great stuff.

We actually started in my studio with a quick series against a painted backdrop. Then we headed into the Gaslamp district in downtown San Diego. The groom was the ham of the two. I hadn’t written the article when I shot this, but the photos seemed to go pretty well along with what I wrote.

I find that most of the magazine articles I read are mostly fluff. I tried to write something that would actually give photographers some new ideas and insight into getting the cool shots. If you read the article, let me know how I did.

This was the first magazine article I’d written in a long time. I had fun with it - I’d like to do more. I just need to find the time!

John

A Little Surprise

Monday, February 11th, 2008

Jen and I were on the long pretty much boring plane ride to New York, when she shows me the magazine she’s been reading. It’s the US Air inflight magazine. She points to an ad and comments, “Isn’t this the company you did a photo shoot for last year?” I check it out and not only was the it the same company, but the ad had my photo. I’d never seen any ads from the shoot so it was kind of cool seeing one of the photos in print.

I did this shoot as part of a week long campaign for the Verrado housing development just outside of Phoenix. This particular shot was a tough one. I knew the shot that I wanted, but the art director saw it a little differently and the little boy wasn’t really cooperating. I think there was one shot from the series where the composition and expression was just right. Anyhow, I liked the shot and I’m glad they ended up going with it.

John