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Lighting Scenarios

Creating a Swimming Portrait

This one is lit with two Wafer 100's with grids for backlight, and a Hexoval 140 directly over the camera.

I'm really drawn to barren landscapes.  I told a photographer friend of mine once that if I could establish my business at the edge of El Mirage dry lake bed in California and shoot all my photos there, I would be a happy camper.  There's something about the flat textured landscape with distant mountains in the background that makes your work look like you just landed on Mars.

Our assistant Ryan playing the human light boom.

I had heard from friends in Utah that the salt flats often were coated by a thin layer of water during the early summer, and I thought that location would be a fabulous one for a portrait of a competitive swimmer reflected in a mirrored otherworldly landscape.  Things don't always go as planned, and when I arrived to scout the area, I found a lot of mud, but no water.

This is where newspaper experience becomes a handy thing.  I knew from my feature photo hunting days that I could make a cool photo with little more than a puddle to work with.  With the right lens and an extremely low angle, I knew I could make a 2 foot wide puddle look like a lake.  After considering the possibility of building a tray of water using 2 x 4's and a black tarp (it works – ask any car photographer from the early 80's…), we eventually found a puddle right behind a rest stop.  The rest stop had a water hose/shower set up so people touring the area could wash mud/salt from their feet before getting back in their cars.  How convenient.

I tested the look with my Salt Lake City based assistant Ryan Faulkner, and it looked great.  The next morning at sunrise, I photographed our swimmer with our “lake”, using a Plume Wafer 100 mounted to a Manfrotto extension pole so that Ryan could boom the light near her face and still stay out of the frame.  We used a Profoto Acute 600 for this photo.

I had another photo I really wanted to make, and that was a tighter image of our swimmer, backlit from both sides with Wafer 100's and Lighttools 30 degree grids, and a Plume Wafer Hexoval 140 directly above the camera on a boom.  As the sun came up, we made a few other photos with the beautiful early morning natural light.

A "lake" created with about 2 inches of water in a very small area.

An available light photo made with a long lens and gorgeous early morning light.

A Weekend with the Doolittle Raiders


Lt. Col. Richard E. “Dick” Cole with the Panchito B-25

I'm a real military aviation history buff, so it was an incredible honor when I was recently assigned to take portraits of the Doolittle Raiders for Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine.  It was especially gratifying because I was able to pitch the idea to the magazine and then get the green light to take on the assignment.

The Doolittle Raid was America's first major strike back at the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.  On April 18, 1942, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle led an all volunteer group 80 men launched 16 B-25 bombers from the USS Hornet and struck Japan.  Because a Japanese fishing boat detected the carrier group early, the crews launched early, which weakened their already compromised range, and prevented them from landing safely on Chinese airfields as planned.  The crews bailed out or ditched their planes near the coast of China after running out of fuel.  Three men were killed in the raid, and eight more would die in Japanese POW camps.  Miraculously, most of the crews were eventually rescued and safely transferred back to the US by the Chinese.

The crew of aircraft 1. Doolittle is second from left; Cole is second from right. Check out the “Thunderbird” logo on his jacket and compare it to the one in the portrait above. (USAF Photo)

It was an incredible feat for a number of reasons – chief among them, the fact that they used Army bombers, which were not designed to take off or land on an aircraft carrier.  The men on the mission were not told the details of their target until the Hornet was steaming toward Japan.  Even though the common thought was that it would probably be a suicide mission, no one backed down and all volunteered to continue.  Although the raid didn't inflict series damage on the Japanese, it was a huge morale booster for the Americans.  The raid had an additional benefit:  the Japanese islands, once thought to be safely out of range of American attack, were shown to be vulnerable, thus Japan would need to hold back key defense forces to protect their homeland for the rest of the war.

There are five living crewman remaining from the raid:

-Colonel Richard E. Cole, copilot of aircraft #1

-Major Thomas C. Griffin, navigator of aircraft #9

-Lieutenant Colonel Robert L. Hite, copilot of aircraft #16

-Major Edward Joseph Saylor, engineer of aircraft #15

-Staff Sergeant David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft #7  (Thatcher is featured prominently in Ted Lawson's book, Thirty Seconds over Tokyo, which became a movie starring Spencer Tracy in 1944).

I'm always excited to photograph notable pilots, and I knew that Dick Cole, Jimmy Doolittle's co-pilot during the raid, lived in Comfort, Texas, near San Antonio.  I thought that perhaps with the 70th anniversary of the raid coming up next year, that it might be a great opportunity to photograph him with a B-25.  I thought that I could probably arrange to photograph him in Texas with help from the CAF (Commemorative Air Force).  After making some phone calls, I found out to my surprise that three of the remaining five raiders would get together at the Florida International Airshow in Punta Gorda, Florida for an airshow, and that it might be a great opportunity to photograph them together for the magazine.

Col. Cole's steady 95 year old hands on the wheel of the B-25

Upon arrival, I found out that Dick Cole was going to meet up with Larry Kelley, the owner of the “Panchito” B-25, and fly in his airplane from Sarasota to Punta Gorda.  K.T. and Syd Jones, along with Matt Jolley from Warbird Radio were crewing the plane with Larry, and were kind enough to make arrangements for me to make the flight with Col. Cole.  Space was tight inside the plane, but through their generosity, I was able to take one of their seats in the main crew compartment and photograph Col. Cole's experienced hands taking the yoke from the right seat of the B-25.  At 95, he was as smooth as ever, and it was an incredible experience to know that we were being flown around by Doolittle's co-pilot!

Larry Kelley (left), and Col. Cole (right) flying high over the Florida coast in Panchito

With fabulous support from my editor at A&S, and incredible support from this tight-knit warbird community, we were able to pull off a once in a lifetime sunset photo shoot the next day with 3 of the Raiders and a B-25 very similar to the one they flew to Japan in 69 years earlier.

Fellow photographers and good friends Brian Blanco and Chip Litherland assisted me on this dream  assignment.  Chip and I used Lighttrac, an Ipad app, to determine the optimum position of the plane at sunset.  Once we determined our position, Larry graciously provided his airplane as our iconic backdrop and allowed us to tow it into the perfect position for the evening shoot.  The airboss and ground crew at the airport actually shut down an active taxiway to provide us with the perfect angle, far from the other planes on the ramp.  Tom Casey, who runs the Raiders charity organization, and manages their appearances, delivered our hero subjects at the right time, and arranged for us to borrow an authentic copy of Cole's WWII era leather jacket.  K.T. Budde-Jones and Syd Jones, who work with Stallion 51 in Kissimmee, Florida, pitched in and answered a million of my dumb questions.  Matt Jolley helped us out as well, and videotaped the shoot for Warbird Radio, a fabulous internet radio site, with tons of interviews and information  on pilots and planes.

Doolittle Raid

We photographed the group together in their Doolittle insignia blazers, and then photographed each Raider individually.  Col. Cole looked great in his WWII era A-2 leather flight jacket.  We kept the lighting simple, utilizing an easy corner lighting setup with two softboxes. For Griffin, we used a Plume Wafer 100 and some ridiculously low shuter speeds to try to capture what little ambient light we had remaining.  Because we had a cloudless sky, it quickly became very dark, and we photographed SSgt. David Thatcher  in almost complete darkness.  Chip backlit Panchito's nose and canopy with the Wafer 100, and we used a large Hexoval for Thatcher's  face.  We used Profoto 7B's and Profoto Acute 600 battery powered strobes, since we were out on the taxiway far from any sources of AC power.

SSgt. David J. Thatcher, gunner of aircraft 7

One of the highlights for me, was a bit of audio on Matt's video of the shoot.  Dick Cole is a very laid back, humble and classy guy.  If you met him on the street, you would never know that he was a famous pilot or war hero.  Matt asked him on camera – ‘what do you think of all the fuss?'  Cole quickly came back with, “the water-boarding is next?”

The lead time on the story was several months, but they've finally been published and now I can share them here.  It was a real treat to photograph these heroes, and it wouldn't have been successful without the help of my Florida colleagues and good friends in the warbird community.

Robert Seale Featured in Digital SLR Magazine

The opening spread in the Nov. 2011 issue of Digital SLR

Yep, you guessed it – the second spread…

I'm featured in the November 2011 issue of Digital SLR magazine, a photo magazine published by Dennis Publishing in the UK.  It's available at most camera stores, Barnes and Noble and fine bookstores/magazine shops everywhere.

Daniel Lezano did a great job with the article, and translated a few of my quotes to add Brit-speak (“brilliant, kit, flashgun”), but other than that it's pretty much what I said.  Big thanks to them for asking me to be a part of it.

Here's the text from Daniel's article:

When the leading US sports publications  are looking  for someone to add energy and impact to portraits, it’s the Texas-based photographer Robert Seale that gets the nod.  He explains to Daniel Lezano the  techniques he uses to capture his  Portraits in Action:

“I’ve been actIvely Involved with photography for all of my adult life. Having studied photography and interned on a newspaper as a photojournalist, I later joined The Sporting News, where I worked for ten years as a staff photographer. there were three of us covering the whole country, shooting major professional sporting events, including the World Series, Superbowl and college sports, although around a third of the time was spent shooting portraits for magazine covers.

In 2006, I left to start my own business, working for magazines like Sports Illustrated, as well as ad agencies and design firms, then later shooting for large companies, like oil firms.  “As much as I enjoyed shooting live sports, taking portraits was always more fun. this was especially true after 9/11, when the added security meant it became more difficult travelling into stadiums with the large amounts of camera kit required to shoot major events.  “the two disciplines are very different. With the portrait shoots, I obviously have far more interaction with the subject. I’ll usually have time to prepare in advance for a shoot, being provided with an outline or thesis of the article. often, though, I’ll fly to some city not knowing what the location will look like and what’s needed and I’ll sit on the flight planning out the possibilities. That’s where the newspaper experience comes in, because if you do assignments for a newspaper, you get thrust into situations where you have to think on your feet and come up with ideas that work without much pre-planning. I obviously much prefer knowing a little about what’s needed in advance, as being able to read the story or speak with the reporter lets me add some context to my ideas for the shoot.

“Perhaps the biggest difference to action portraits over live sports is the ability to control how a subject is lit. I learned lighting techniques through a combination of studying – both at university, and on my own – I have bookshelves full of photo books – and practice. When I worked on the newspaper, I would volunteer for various studio assignments, such as one to support a story on wedding dresses, so that I could get better at lighting. It gradually developed from using a small number of flashguns to using studioflash with various types of light modifiers. My current lighting kit consists of a number of mains and battery-operated Profoto heads.  “one of the techniques I enjoy using to add the element of motion to my sports portraits is to set a slow shutter speed with flash to capture a little subject blur. The vast majority of photographers often try to use rear-curtain sync to capture the effect of movement. the problem is, if you use rear-curtain sync, you can’t control what part of the picture is stopped because you never quite know when the shutter is about to close, causing the flash to fire. To get around this problem, I’ve developed a method that allows me to use first-curtain sync. What I do is pre-focus on a spot and have the subject jump in place.  Even if they appear to be running in the image, they’re actually jumping straight up in the air. I coach them on the body position and what their legs should be doing, what facial expression to have and anything else important.  Then what I do is fire the flash at the apex of the jump and as they come up, a silhouetted blur is recorded on the bottom of their feet that makes so it look as if he is leaping.  The key advantage of this method is that I can choose exactly the moment I want the flash to fire.

“The number of heads I use really depends on the type of shoot and the location. Much of my lighting set-ups are relatively simple and use between one and three heads, but I do sometimes use four or six heads when the need arises. If you look closely, you can usually work out the number of heads used, for instance, images where the subject’s outline is highlighted are usually the result of using two back lights and one or two front lights.  “On most of my shoots, I’ll only have one assistant, and then I’m fortunate that if it’s a bigger budget job, we can hire more. Sometimes I have a digital technician and a couple of assistants, but it really depends on the budget. If it’s an editorial shoot for a magazine, then it’s one or two assistants and me, but if it is for advertising, it may well be two assistants, a digital technician and a make-up artist.

I often use Plume softboxes, which are made in Colorado, and I regularly use grids from a Canadian firm called Lighttools, which are great for limiting the direction of the light spill.  “When I used to shoot film, I was meticulous with my flash metering and used a handheld flash meter. but after a time, I got good at judging exposures without metering and would only use a flash meter to double-check. I use one now when I’m doing really critical things, like trying to balance two backlights or using a technical white background, but often when it’s outside, we will just go with what we are seeing on the camera or computer screen, which we use as a digital ‘Polaroid’.

“I use a Canon EOS-1dS MkIII for portraits and an EOS-1d MkIv for anything requiring a motordriven sequence and find their lcd monitors to be fairly accurate. I’ve an extensive set of Canon lenses, including the 16-35mm, 24-105mm, 70-200mm f/2.8 and 300mm.  If I need an extreme wide-angle then the 16-35mm is brilliant, but the 24-105mm is my main choice for portraits as it offers such a useful range.”

To see more of Robert Seale’s brilliant portraits, visit: To view his lighting blog, visit:

The cover. Not my photo, but in case you're looking for the issue…

Mike Tirico and Deion Sanders shoot for GMC

There's a strip mall behind that cloud curtain……

As photographers, we are often thrust into bad situations.  Try as we might, it's often not possible to schedule photo shoots during magic hour, or work in wonderful and exotic locations with gorgeous people who have all the time in the world.

In reality, I often deal with very busy people, and things need to get done on their schedule, not mine.  Back in August, I received an assignment to shoot ABC/ESPN television commentators Mike Tirico and Deion Sanders.  The catch?  I was piggybacking on an existing video shoot, and would have a whopping 5 minutes with them.

No problem, I'm thinking….I've done ok with less time than that before.  Then, I heard more details:  high noon shoot, they're wearing dark suits, with a black truck, in a strip mall parking lot, you can't take them anywhere else, you'll have 5 minutes, and, oh yeah….did I mention it was August in Houston?

No problem, I'll arrive early, take every piece of lighting gear I have, and figure something out…..maybe it's a huge parking lot near a school with a football field – I can surely get them to go there.

My assistant, Todd Spoth and I arrived early, and canvassed the neighborhood.  The video shoot was at a small sound stage 30 miles from downtown.  It was literally suburban hell – strip malls, gas stations, light poles, and power lines everywhere…we literally couldn't find a clean location to take our subjects anywhere near the studio.

I found a parking lot next door with a slight slope to it, parked the spanking new GMC Sierra at the edge of the lot, and placed the camera on the ground.  If you can't get your subject in a clean, nice location – go low.

A 12 x 12 shaded the area in front of the truck where Tirico and Sanders were to stand, and some large mirror boards (borrowed from the super nice video guys) gave us a great kick on half of the chrome grill of the pickup.  A Wafer Plume 140 lit the other half of the grill.

Under the 12 x 12, we set up a Plume Wafer Hexoval 180 and a Wafer Hexoval 140, which were set up near each other in a corner lighting arrangement.

Good thing we were there early, because our talent left the studio early and were ready to shoot an hour before we had originally planned.  We shot Tirico and Sanders individually, then together, shook hands, said thanks and they hopped back in their limos before they melted.  We were literally done in 5 1/2 minutes.

The Tirico-Sanders insert

The magazine loved the photos but decided to change the background, dropping out the strip mall on the horizon and replacing it with sky.   I had anticipated the change and had already asked retoucher extraordinaire Pratik Naik to work one of the frames up as an example.  GMC liked that photo so much that they relicensed it for use in their online newsletter e-blast, and in a NFL insert in their magazine, as well as using it in the original “advertorial” feature in their trade magazine.  They used the sky photo in the eblast, and they decided to have their retoucher add grass to the insert photo.

The lesson here?  Keep a good attitude and do your best, even in a rough situation where you feel like there is no good picture to be made.  Light your subjects carefully, even if you are stuck with a less than desirable background.  You never know when a little  shoot could turn into something bigger.

The “advertorial” spread featuring Tirico

Robert Seale shoots Eadward Muybridge homage

Trevor Bauer's pitching motion, in an Eadward Muybridge style grid.

Trevor Bauer, a pitching prodigy from UCLA, recently drafted third in the 2011 MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, is known for his unconventional pitching motion and training philosophy.  He's been compared to another wildly successful, yet undersized pitcher: Tim Lincecum of the SF Giants, who generates torque by rotating his hips, arms and legs in a whip-like motion, allowing him to pitch as fast as some of his taller, more muscle-bound counterparts in the major leagues.

When I originally got the call to shoot Bauer for Sports Illustrated, the photo editor, Nate Gordon and I discussed shooting a stroboscopic sequence on a black background, much like the work of Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili.   I had done this type of shot before, in fact my first cover for the Sporting News was a stroboscopic photo of Mets pitcher Pete Harnisch.

My first Sporting News cover: circa 1996.

I first learned about Mili and his work during college.  I took about 27 hours of art history classes  (is that enough for a third major?).   The most memorable one was my mentor, Dr. Michael Roach‘s “History of Photography” class.  Presented chronologically, each class featured a wonderful slide show and biographical talk about pioneering photographers.  Each day we would tackle the work of two-three new photographers, and it was really great to go out and shoot later in the day, channeling the styles you had absorbed by osmosis that morning and trying to emulate that photographer's look in your own photographs.

It's great to formulate and grow your own style, but I think it's equally important to know the history of our craft, learn all those techniques, and have them in your toolbox for when you're called upon to provide a specific look.

In addition to Mili, one of those early photographers that Dr. Roach introduced us to was the pioneering motion sequence photographer Eadward Muybridge.  Muybridge, using a series of cameras triggered in sequence, put together grids of individual photographs featuring motion studies of humans, horses, and other animals.  There's not an animator or artist who doesn't own a dog eared copy of Muybridge's “The Human Figure in Motion”, first published in 1907.

Anyway, I mentioned I had also been wanting to try a Muybridge homage, and perhaps Bauer's motion was a good chance to explore the idea.  Nate liked the idea, and after pitching it to Director of Photography Steve Fine, gave me the go ahead to put the shoot together.  One wrinkle in this was that Bauer had not yet been signed to a contract by the diamondbacks at the time of our shoot.  That meant that we had to literally scour the country to piece together a Diamondbacks uniform from several different vendors for him on short notice.

Bauer's pitching coach Ron Wolforth, helped us find a nearby high school gym to set up the sets for both shots.  Assistant Nathan Lindstrom morphed into a master set builder for this one, designing and erecting a huge plywood wall, that we painted a neutral gray.  We used white tape for the larger grids and chalk pencils for the smaller lines between the grids, and set up the wall in the gym.

Next to that, we erected essentially a cube of black 20 x 20 overheads.  For the Mili shot, it was important that Bauer be rim lit from behind in a pitch black environment.  We used two Plume Wafer 100's with Lighttools grids to accomplish this, and then added a third light to put a little more light on Bauer's profile.

For the Muybridge shot, we took off the grids, and lit the set essentially from the front with the lights at 45 degree angles to the wall.  Muybridge's shots were lit with sunlight, and there were often imperfections and shadows on the walls of his photos, so we didn't want to make the lighting too slick or neat.  We were going for authenticity.  Both setups were lit with Profoto 8A‘s.

The Bauer pitching sequence shot in our black 20 x 20 “cube.”

We monitored the shoot with a tethered Mac laptop, so we could keep track of sequences and make sure we had all the different body positions needed to put together the Muybridge grid.  With stroboscopic photos of a baseball pitch, you can't fire the strobe more than 3-4 times, or the picture turns into a big busy mess.  for this reason, we actually shot the photo as a stroboscopic sequence, and also separately with individual photos, which could then be pieced together into a panoramic sequence by a retoucher.

Although the Muybridge homage photo ran in color in the magazine, I actually prefer it in sepia tone, which I think better evokes the mood of his pioneering work in photography.

(Assistants Nathan Lindstrom and Todd Spoth really busted their tails on this, and Todd put together a great Go-Pro time lapse of the shoot.)

Fan Portrait Campaign for Houston Texans Tickets


Last spring, I received a call to photograph stylized portraits of  Houston Texans fans.  The campaign concept was to honor the Texans season ticket holders by featuring a different season ticket holder on each 2011 game ticket.  The Texans held a contest called “Your Story-Your Glory” in which season ticket holders wrote in about their fan experiences.  The winning entrants were each featured on one of the tickets.  The winners ranged from the super rabid passionate face-painting guys, to a nurse who works her shift in Texans scrubs, a champion tailgater, to a soldier who watched every Texans game he could while stationed overseas, to a couple who were married in the Reliant Stadium parking lot.

I thought it was an excellent idea, particularly with NFL teams emerging from a post-lockout /strike situation.  I met with Laura Heidbreder, Creative Manager for the Texans, Jennifer Davenport, Director of Marketing, Designer Julio Guidi and several other members of their team and they outlined the concept and art direction behind the shoot.

On the shoot day, we actually set up on the floor of Reliant Stadium (sans grass), and set up a large grey studio backdrop.  We kept the background neutral, because Laura and her team were going to drop out the photos and use a variety of different colors/type treatments behind the portraits.  We used grey instead of a plain white, to allow for the rim-lighting effect, which would have been hard to select on a white backdrop.  We lit the set with two Wafer 100 softboxes with Lighttools grids to create the rim-light effect.  A large Wafer Hexoval 180 was boomed over the center of the set to light the fan's faces.  A video crew was also on hand to interview each fan for possible TV spots.

With the help of assistants Nathan Lindstrom, Travis Robertson, and stellar Houston makeup artist Wendy Martin, we set up for the shoot and welcomed each fan, at approximately 45 minute intervals throughout the day.  It was a lot of fun trying to elicit crazy screaming reactions from the fans, basically recreating their passion from an actual game, in an empty stadium.  It was really a blast, and made for a very fun work day:  lots of laughing, lots of great expressions and great pictures.

Laura and her creative team then went to work, selecting the final images, and designing a fabulous set of tickets.  The Texans held an unveiling on July 19th, once the lockout had officially ended.  They also unveiled a TV commercial with each fan, based on video interviews with each fan on the same day as our still shoot.  I think she did a great job, don't you?

[caption id="attachment_763" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Here's all 10 tickets"][/caption]

Robert Seale featured in PhotoPlus UK Magazine


My photo of Evan Longoria, originally taken for Sports Illustrated, was recently featured in PhotoPlus UK magazine on their back page feature “My Favourite Shot.”  The photo and a technical description of the shoot, originally detailed here on the blog, are featured in the July 2011 issue.

Adobe Photoshop Presentation in San Francisco

I feel very humble and fortunate to have been asked to speak at the Adobe “Photoshop and You” Experience last week in San Francisco.  Adobe set up a “pop-up store” at 550 Sutter St., adjacent to Union Square, and filled it with all sorts of interactive programs.  Participants could walk in, free of charge and have their photos retouched by Adobe experts, get lessons in Photoshop and Lightroom, and have dog-tags and t-shirts printed featuring their own photos. Although I've been featured on the Adobe website before in their Customer Showcase/Adobe Success Story section, this is the first time I had spoken at an Adobe event in person.  I gave a slide show and presentation of my sports portrait photography on Monday, July 25.  The event is ongoing through August 6, and will feature many other presentations by awesome photographers and educators like Corey Rich, Brad Mangin, Seth Resnick, Peter KroghScott Kelby, and Glen Wexler.  You can also meet photoshop developer gurus like (Dr.) Russell Brown, Russell WilliamsSeetharaman Narayanan, and Winston Hendrickson.  It was a bit intimidating showing my work and talking about my experience with Lightroom and Photoshop in front of the actual developers.  After the show, I was showing some Lightroom tips to a friend of mine who attended the presentation, and I turned around to see Seetharaman watching us.  I told him, “Wow, this is like Picasso watching a kindergarten kid finger-paint, right?”

Lighting Workshop at the UPAA Symposium

A modern dancer from BYU, photographed with a Plume Wafer Hexoval 180.

Back in June, I had the good fortune to be invited to speak at the 50th annual University Photographers Association of America (UPAA) Symposium in Utah.  The UPAA is comprised of photographers who work on staff for universities.  I get a little more nervous when speaking to seasoned professionals rather than college students.

Brigham Young University was the host for this years' event, and two of my favorite photographers, Canon Explorer of Light Art Wolfe and Donald Miralle were also on the bill this year.  Not bad company!

My portion began with a morning lecture on the BYU campus in Provo.  After lunch, the convention moved three hours south, to Bryce Canyon National Park.  Once there, my old Sporting News colleague August Miller, (who is now a Salt Lake City commercial photographer), and I scouted quickly for suitable locations for an evening lighting demonstration.  We had to find locations that were attractive, but that could also accomodate 80 or so photographers.  We chose to stay around Red Canyon, adjacent to Bryce Canyon because of the crowd.

Our hosts, BYU photographers Mark Philbrick and Jaren Wilkey arranged for a wonderful modern dancer to help us out by posing for our sunset demo.

I really enjoyed teaching at the workshop and meeting all the professional university photographers from all over the country and from as far away as Australia and Israel.  Mark and Jaren put on a first class event.

A long exposure, mixed with strobe in a running stream creates a ghostly effect.

Joel Osteen Portraits for USA Weekend

Osteen, lit from overhead with a Wafer Hexoval 140.

I recently photographed Joel Osteen, a popular televangelist and the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas for the cover of USA Weekend. Lakewood Church is the largest congregation in the country, with over 43,000 worshippers attending every week. Osteen also writes books, including his New York Times Bestseller, Your Best Life Now.

Joel's wife, Victoria, is a co-pastor of the church. I photographed her previously for a health magazine cover story. I met Joel briefly during that shoot, when I asked them to join their kids on a trampoline at their home. They were really great sports. Both are both super nice people and great photographic subjects.

Lakewood renovated the 16,000 seat Compaq Center, the Houston Rockets former arena (known earlier as The Summit), and holds several church services there each week.

The cover shot.

As part of the assignment, I was also assigned to shoot an actual church service at Lakewood, and this made for a great scouting trip. It was great being able to witness the service, watch Joel and Victoria's mannerisms, and study the lighting looks and locations available in the building for our portrait shoot later that week.

For the cover shot, we scouted an area in the church with a plain, warm wall (no need for a seamless this time), and set up one background light to create a gradient “glow” behind Osteen. We then lit him with two lights set up in a corner lighting pattern. Our warm background was changed to a bright purple in post (the story was running Easter weekend…). Before we finished, I turned off half of the corner setup and just used a boom light over his head. It made a dramatic photo that turned out to be my favorite frame from the shoot.

I should tell you about the (minimal) side effects of Propecia: in the first week of treatment, I had a headache, and my hair started to fall out a bit more often; but within the second week, everything improved, and my hair stopped to fall out. Within a month of treatment the new hair started to grow. After 8 months of treatment, my hair restored completely, but I decided to extend the course for another two months to strengthen the effect.

Though I knew it might not be simple enough for the cover, I knew it was important to try to capture the size of the church in some of the photos. We set up another very simple setup on the stage inside the auditorium of the church: a Plume Wafer 100 with a 30 degree Lighttools grid. I had the lighting guys from the church bring up the lights over the audience and turn on a follow spot for us, high in the catwalks. At first the spots weren't showing well, so we asked the lighting director to fog the room for about an hour before the shoot, so that the smoky haze would make the spotlight beams show up in the background.

The stage setup, photographed with one Wafer 100 with a 30 degree grid.

It was interesting to be in the building again where I photographed so many Rockets games, including both their championship runs in 94 and 95. I spent many an hour hanging remote cameras and strobe packs on those same catwalks we were now using to light up a portrait of a preacher.