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Archive for July, 2008

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

A Portrait of a Family

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

John

It’s the Fourth of July

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

There’s nothing like the Fourth of July down at Pacific Beach in San Diego. It’s one huge party and I make it my job to document it. Yeah, it’s tough, but someone’s got to do it.

One thing I love about shooting the Fourth is that everyone so quintessentially embodies California beach culture. It helps me with my fashion and lifestyle work to stay connected with what’s going on out there. This girl (Ashley?) is practically straight out of casting central. (I’m sorry if I don’t't get your names right. My notes weren’t too good.)

I saw this little scene as I walked past. I stopped, lined up my shot and dialed in my exposure and got everything ready so I could get in close and get out of there. I snapped two photos and started to walk away. People started laughing and shouting out, “Look, he’s taking a picture of that guy’s underwear.” I’d already melted away into the crowd by that point, even though I did feel a little bad for the guy.

San Diego recently outlawed alcohol on the beaches so the bars have become more crowded than ever. Can you say binge drinking?

I usually ask people if it’s okay that I photograph them. I like my images to be right there in the moment so shooting anonymously from across the street with a long lens doesn’t work for me. People aren’t used to being photographed though so it’s often awkward for them. They think they’re supposed to do something. This was the first shot that I took, afterwards, they started with the hands in the air and the moment was lost. To do this type of street work, you have to nail it from the beginning because the very act of photographing the moment often destroys it.

Shane, doing the grilling, is the proprietor of the boutique off to the left.

This was the first shot of the day and I think it’s my favorite. I was riding by on my bike and just managed to get off this one shot. There’s a lot of flaws with this shot, but at the same time it’s perfect. There’s a timelessness to the shot while still being of this moment. This the kind of shot that you can look at in 30 years and just get lost in.

It’s illegal to drink or smoke at the beaches now. Good thing there’s no shortage of bars in PB. Or people who want to drink and smoke. Mandy and Megan were kind enough to show me how it’s done. These two sisters may look mild-mannered, but I suspect they’re trouble.

I saw this guy and was struck by the tattoos and the shape of his body. I didn’t want to destroy the scene by bringing out my camera, so I just left it at my side and shot upward without looking through it.

I crashed a party at one of the houses that sit right on the beach. This guy was gracious enough to offer me a shot of Jaeger. I passed.

I love going up to strangers and getting them to pose. What’s fun is that there’s usually some guy talking to a girl but they don’t know each other. Yet. But I have them play around together. It’s awkward but fun. For them. For me it’s just fun. John Mireles, bringing drunk people together since 1998.

Two young kids who one day will get to partake in all of this debauchery one day. Who says the outlook for the future is bleak?

I saw Dre, in the foreground, walking in the crowd and had to photograph him. I got a few portraits of him and then had his posse stand on a wall. Who knows, maybe I’ll photograph them all as groomsmen one day.

How could I not stop to photograph these two? I was riding my bike past the house where they were partying. I spotted them in the back and just rode my bike over. I think they were a little startled when this complete stranger appeared and asked if he could take their picture. I don’t think they minded though.

The beach was packed. You could hardly find room for a postage stamp.

Around here, people don’t just wear their patriotism on their sleeves. They wear it on their heads too.

The day was sunny, but around 6:00, the low clouds rolled in. It sort of killed the energy of the place so I pedaled my bike on back to the car. Another tough day at the office…

John