I was recently assigned to photograph figure skater Becky Bereswill. Becky is 19, and won the gold in the 2008-2009 ISU Junior Grand Prix in Goyang, South Korea. In addition to being an incredible figure skater, Becky was also a record setting track athlete in high school, and she has an identical twin who also competes in figure skating! She normally practices at a suburban Houston ice rink. Most ice rinks are tough to light, and usually have all the drama of a high school gym, with fluorescent or sodium vapor lighting. We are fortunate to have a great ice rink here in Houston in the Galleria mall. The Galleria is one of the first multi-level malls in the country, and the ice rink on the bottom level was the centerpiece of the design when it was originally built in 1970. I thought that the skylights in the roof, and the elevated positions on the second and third levels might make for some interesting pictures…..certainly better than a fluorescent lit metal building. We arranged access for early morning, before the mall opened to shoppers. Becky was in expert hands with makeup artist Wendy Martin, while assistant Nathan Lindstrom and I set up the lighting for the shoot. Unfortunately, we knew it was going to be a cloudy day, so in order to get something similar to the skylight effect I was hoping for, we brought a 2000 watt-second optical spot called a Dramalight (made by the Flash Clinic in New York). I’ve mentioned this unit before, and even though I rarely use it, it comes in handy in a situation like this. The Dramalight was set up (and chained to the railing for safety) on the second level of the mall, and pointed down onto the ice. We used a variety of Rosco gobo patterns to create different window light effects on the surface of the ice. To light Becky, we set up a Profoto 7B on the ice with a Plume Wafer 100 and a Lighttools 30 degree grid. This provided a soft yet dramatic effect, and minimized the amount of spill from the Wafer onto our window pattern background. Becky was tireless throughout the shoot, and showed us a wide variety of poses and jumps. Not only did she execute perfectly, but she also hit her marks so well so that we were able to line her up exactly where we wanted in the various window pattern compositions.
After several weeks of design, editing, and caption writing, I finally went live with my new website this week. I added some new categories to better represent the diversity of the work I’m doing now. My primary focus is on lighting and portrait oriented work, but that often takes different forms depending on the goals of the client for whom I’m working. There’s a category called “Sports/Celebrity Portraits” which features mostly static portraiture of sports stars, musicians, and other notables. I still shoot a lot of athletes, and I’m fortunate that sports apparel companies, and editorial clients like sports magazines, and health/fitness publications call on me for sports portraits. I’ve added a new section called “Motion” which features some of the more active and athletic sports portraits in my portfolio. Recent feedback from ad agency art buyers, and sports apparel reps pushed the decision to create another category and separate this work from the other sports portraits in my portfolio. I’ve also added a “CEO/Executive Portraits” section. I’ve had a lot of experience with shooting powerful executives, and I still get a lot of calls for this type of work. I’m convinced the experience I have shooting famous athletes has really prepared me well for this work. The shoots are actually very similar: they are always carefully choreographed and pre-lit with test subjects. When the executive arrives, we’re on the clock, and we often shoot multiple set-ups in less time than it takes most photographers to take a meter reading. If there are multiple lighting set-ups, we bring more equipment. I never want a CEO standing around tapping his foot while we’re moving strobes and stands. The last gallery is the “Annual Report/Corporate Photography” portfolio. Working for corporations sometimes calls for a diverse skill set. I get to draw on my newspaper photojournalism background, my lighting skills, and even aerial photography in many cases to help corporations present their photographic message in corporate collateral materials, annual reports, and advertising. I’ve added lots of new work in all the categories, and I hope to update on a much more regular basis than the last site. I hope you’ll check it out. Houston Photographer Robert Seale