Lighting Talk/Demo at SXSW in Austin

I’ve been asked to participate in an exciting event coming up on Saturday, March 13 in Austin, Texas.  Photoshelter, the premier company helping photographers with websites, sales and marketing tools, file delivery and secure image archiving is putting together an exciting photo workshop  in conjunction with the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.

Allen Murabayashi, the CEO of Photoshelter will be presenting a program on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for photography websites.  Allen and his colleague Grover Sanschagrin  have studied photo websites and SEO more than anyone on the planet.  (They are also two of the smartest people I know).  If you haven’t checked out their FREE pdf reports on SEO, social media, and photography websites, then you’re just plain nuts.  This will be a great presentation.

I’ll deliver a talk/slideshow showing a wide-ranging body of work, and talk about transitioning through different phases of a photography career.  I started in newspapers, migrated to a magazine staff job, and then went out on my own as a commercial photographer.  I’ll talk about each phase, the challenges of a changing marketplace, and (of course) show lots of photographs.

After a quick lunch break, there will be a panel discussion with my two of my good friends:  stellar photographer, and BBQ buddy  Darren Carroll (probably the best golf photographer in the world, and a helluva portrait shooter, too), and Taylor Jones (a fellow photographer who has made a name for himself as a super high-end digital tech, who works all over the country for some of the biggest names in the advertising world).  Local photogs (who I don’t know personally – but am looking forward to meeting) Eric Hegwer, and Jack Hollingsworth will also be on hand to complete the panel.  Together we’ll discuss both the art and business of photography.

At the end of the day, we’ll have a live photo shoot/lighting workshop.  I’ll answer some lighting questions, talk about portrait concepts, research and planning.  I’ll show you how to pull off a quick portrait shoot with a variety of looks in one location.  Taylor will be on hand to demonstrate how a great digital tech operates.  It should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited that they’ve asked me to participate.

The event will be from 11-4, at The Long Center for the Performing Arts, 701 West Riverside, Austin, Texas on Saturday, March 13, 2010.

Looking forward to seeing lots of folks there!

Creating a Sports Illustrated Cover shot

The cover shot from inside Kentucky's Memorial Hall

The cover shot from inside Kentucky’s Memorial Hall

I recently had the good fortune of a great assignment in Lexington, Kentucky.  I was sent there a couple of days after Christmas to photograph one of the top college basketball players in the country, John Wall, for Sports Illustrated.

A static portrait of Wall inside Kentucky's Memorial Hall

Portrait of Wall inside Kentucky’s Memorial Hall

My charge was to photograph Wall on the Kentucky campus in an iconic and easily recognizable setting.  Lexington is an absolutely  beautiful area, but the horse farms, race tracks (Bourbon distilleries?…..just kidding.)  and the like were out due to the limited time we had with Wall, and oh yeah….it was about 24 degrees, completely overcast, snowing off and on,  with 20-30 mph winds that day!

We couldn’t use Rupp Arena either, as the team was practicing throughout the day, and the women’s gym (the old coliseum) was being set up for a gymnastics event.  I found a nice expanse of three large glass brick windows (the outside wall of an old swimming pool) on campus, but alas, it had been divided into classrooms/study halls for the athletic department tutoring program.  Ugh!  Most of the buildings with character  on campus were closed for the holidays and we were quickly running out of options.

It’s tough trying to come back with nice pictures, when you have very little to work with in the background department, but it’s also the most common problem most photographers deal with.  When pressed, I can take a 6-10 foot sliver of just about anything and make a passable shot.  I was just about ready to stage the shoot in a practice gym, or a locker room hallway….hell, even a stretch of solid white concrete wall was looking pretty good to us at that point!

Fortunately, with the help of the Sports Information Director, we were able to convince a campus guard to let us access Memorial Hall, a grand old theater/church-like building on the campus.  Anyone who is familiar with Kentucky knows this building, which is a memorial for soldiers killed in WW I, and dates back to 1929.  During our scouting trip the night before, our plans were just to utilize the signature building in the background of some of the shots (although we knew we would have to work fast due to the weather conditions).  When we got inside, it was obvious that the stage, with the cool arched windows in the background, could make a great and very graphic shot.

Black background, with the gridded Wafer 75 right in front of the subject

Black background, with the gridded Wafer 75 high on a boom, right in front of the subject

We had to make the most of our 35 minutes of alloted time, so SI assistant Andrew Loehman and I  quickly went to work inside, setting up lighting gear in a central location around one spot, so that Wall would not need to move much at all.  Since we originally planned to be outside on the campus, we brought Profoto 7B packs and heads for the assignment.

For the black background-tight shot we used a Plume Wafer 75 directly over and in front of the subject’s head on a boom, with a Lighttools 30 degree fabric grid to limit the spill. The rim-light was formed by  two lights with regular reflectors and makeshift snoots from behind the subject on each side..  We intended for the background to go completely black, but since we were working in a white room with no black background, I placed a black reflector disc behind the subject’s head, in the event that background retouching was required (so there would be no issues with selecting hair).

Sepia shot from the middle of the hall

Sepia shot from the middle of the hall

For the full length shot, we used a Plume Wafer 100 with a 30 degree grid, high and to the subject’s right, and a Wafer 75 with 30 degree grid from behind on the left side of the subject…slightly lower.  This formed a simple crosslight effect, and the grids kept the white walls of the room in check.  I would have preferred using a larger light source for both of these, but the smaller boxes with grids were really the only solution to preserve the effect of the dramatic window in the background.  We added a full CTO gel to the strobes so we could shift the overall white balance  cooler, making the subject a normal skin tone color, but the window light slightly blue.  For this shot, we did tight and loose static poses, and then just before moving on, I asked Wall to do a few leaps for me.  He obliged with a few dramatic spring-loaded jumps.  One of these was eventually selected for the cover.

Next, we quickly moved forward in the seats (about 20 rows back) to  create a higher-key portrait from the middle of the hall (which I converted to black and white).  Then we had John change into his warm ups (not for sartorial reasons, but  for warmth), and sprinted outside with one light and a Plume Wafer Hexoval 140 (Plume’s medium hexoval).  There we photographed Wall for 4 minutes or so at two different spots with Memorial Hall, with and without tungsten white balance settings.  On the tungsten shots we added a full + 1/4 CTO gel to bring the strobe back fairly close to daylight on camera.

Wall was a great kid to work with, and I’m hoping to photograph him again someday (probably soon), when he makes his next leap to the NBA.

Wall: outside in the elements with Memorial Hall in the background

Wall: outside in the elements with Memorial Hall in the background

All Photographs in this article are © 2009 Robert Seale.  All Rights Reserved.  Feel free to link to these, but do not otherwise use without permission.  Thanks.

Sports Photography Presentation at ASMP Boston

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be giving a sports photography slide show presentation Tuesday, February 9th for the New England chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).  My good friend and colleague, Damian Strohmeyer, a longtime Sports Illustrated staff photographer, will also be presenting that night, and I’m very proud to be on the same bill with him.

Damian will focus more on his sports action work, and I’ll be showing sports portrait work.

Here’s a link to the event on the official ASMP New England website.

The event will be held at E.P. Levine, 23 Drydock Ave., Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 7:00PM.

Hope to see you there!