Mark “Scrapdaddy” Bradford is the Leonardo da Vinci of the Art Car world. Not merely content to cover classic cars with hot glue gun affixed collections of things, Bradford actually is a unique combination of artist, welder, and engineer. His outdoor studio, near the railroad tracks in the Rice Military area, looks like Fred Sanford’s house. His studio may look like a scrapyard, littered with projects past and present, but recycling old metal is the lifeblood of Bradford’s sculptures.
If you’ve lived in Houston for any period of time, you’ve probably seen Bradford’s creations around town: Giant 20 foot armor plated Armadillos, lizards made of airline galley spoons, fire breathing creatures with legs that move, and multi-legged creatures torn from the pages of a 1950′s science fiction movie. His creations, really more moving sculpture than car, not only look fascinating, they have to work.
After photographing several of his creations in the Art Car Museum for the story, I just had to meet him. Reluctantly, he agreed to a short portrait. You get the impression he would much rather be welding his next piece together than stopping to pose for pictures with something from his past.
As the annual Art Car Parade rolls around this weekend, there will be around 200,000 people on hand who can’t wait to see what kind of contraption he’s cooked up this year.
Bradford with “Azaba” at his workshop in Houston.
"Spoonazoid", made up of over 6000 discarded American Airlines spoons.
UH cornerback DJ Hayden, the 12th pick in the NFL draft.
I recently photographed DJ Hayden, a cornerback from the University of Houston, who surprised many by being selected number 12 by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of Thursday night’s 2013 NFL Draft. Hayden survived a freak injury: a November 2012 collision with a teammate in practice that ruptured his inferior vena cava, which is fatal 95% of the time, and normally only seen in serious car injuries. Medical personnel rushed him to the hospital and saved his life, but his stock in the draft dropped with the uncertainty about his condition, with many pundits not even picking him in the first round.
I photographed DJ for a story leading up to the draft in Sports Illustrated, and of course we wanted to make a telling picture that spoke to the seriousness of his injury. Normally, we might have scrubbed the shoot due to the rain and dreary weather, but we decided to press on, as the moody sky sort of went with the tone of the story. DJ posed shirtless, baring a scar that went completely down the center of his abdomen. ( His last words to doctors before they split him open to repair his torn vein were, “Ok, just don’t mess up my abs…”)
We used two Profoto 7B’s on the UH practice field late in the day. We decided to use a Plume Wafer 75 with a Lighttools grid from the right side, to just barely light the edge of DJ’s face, with a little bit of spill highlighting the scar on his wrist from the many needles and transfusions he endured during his hospital stay. We used a regular 7″ reflector with a 3-degree grid with a Cinefoil snoot to highlight the scar on the chest and abdomen. Andres Quintero, my assistant on the shoot, operated the 3-degree grid by hand to make sure it stayed in the optimum position as we shot.
With the under-exposed gray stormy sky, the result was a dramatic portrait that told the story of what DJ Hayden had been through en route to the 2013 draft.
Inspirational bracelets made for DJ during his hospital ordeal.
UH cornerback DJ Hayden, who survived a ruptured vein to be the 12th pick in the NFL draft.
The March cover of Air & Space, with Col Bud Day on the cover.
I’ve had a keen interest in military aviation since childhood…when other kids were reading Curious George and other children’s books, I was reading military biographies and books about World War II and Vietnam. I remember one summer day, when I was in about 3rd or 4th grade, while returning books to our local public library, one of the elderly librarians tried to usher me from the “grown up books” to the “kid’s section” on the other side of the building. One of the other librarians quickly corrected her, “He’s ok, Mabel….he just returned a book titled Guerilla Warfare and Terrorism. ” After that, Mabel left me alone. (I actually can’t remember what her name was…… Mabel just seems like the perfect name for an old lady librarian).
I thought being a fighter pilot would be cool, I even requested info on the Air Force Academy at one point during junior high or early high school. 20/400 vision, however, and projectile vomiting during a simple Cessna 172 plane ride with a friend conspired to keep me out of the ejection seat.
After photographing the Doolittle Raiders a few years ago, one of my friends from the assignment, Matt Jolley, of Warbird Radio recommended me to some of the nice folks at Wings over Houston, the annual airshow here in the Houston area. I had mentioned to him an idea about a personal project, trying to photograph environmental portraits of notable pilots. The people with the autograph tent at WoH were nice enough to let me set up in their area and shoot simple, white background portraits of the pilots who were there signing autographs. I was able to photograph Col. Bud Anderson (a triple ace in the P-51 during WWII), Col. Dick Cole (Doolitle’s co-pilot on the WWII Doolittle Raid on Tokyo), Gen. Boots Blesse (a famous Sabre jet ace from the Korean war) and several others during my weekend there. I was also lucky enough to meet and photograph former POW and Medal of Honor recipient Col. Bud Day.
The photos were interesting facial studies, but I lamented the limitations of the white background. I would have loved to have captured each of them with their respective airplanes, but during mid-day sun at a packed airshow, it was just not in the cards.
The first shot we took, before sunrise on the field at Ellington.
Several months later, John Simmons, one of my buddies from the WoH event sent me an incredible video of Bud Day, eagerly climbing into the cockpit of an F-100 Super Sabre just like the one he had flown in Vietnam and going up for a flight! The video was from the Collings Foundation, a non-profit foundation that owns and maintains not just World War II era prop planes, but also several Vietnam era jets, at….get this…..Ellington Field in Houston, Texas. The F-100, painted just like Bud’s Misty 1 Vietnam bird is one of two in the world in flying condition.
John went to work, getting us permission from Rick Harris of the Collings Foundation to use the airplane. We made arrangements to photograph Bud, who lives in Florida, during a visit to see his son George, a former F-16 pilot, who now works as a SWA captain in Houston.
A few months later, there we were before sunrise on a warm summer morning in Houston, pulling the F-100 out of the hangar and towing it to the proper spot on the taxiway. We had scouted a few days before, using the iphone app LightTrac to position the plane.
Bud showed up in his flight suit, with his boots and Nomex gloves on – he was definitely ready to fly the plane if necessary! His son George also wore his flight suit. Part of my plan was to do a nice group shot of the father and son fighter pilots together.
We started shooting before dawn – long exposures on a tripod with battery powered strobes. Nathan Lindstrom assisted on the shoot and did a great job. We used a Profoto 7B with a Plume Wafer Hexoval 180 on the side, and a Wafer 100 on another 7B boomed in front of the face as a fill.
The second shot, with a Wafer Hexoval 180 and a Wafer 100 as the sun rises in the background.
We next moved onto the backlit side of the plane, and photographed the Col.’s Day together and also the elder Col. Day alone, again using the same lighting setup. Fortunately, the sun came out for a few minutes before going back under a layer of clouds. The sunrise was beautiful!
Col. Day with Col. Day…two generations of fighter pilots.
We next moved to a shot with a long lens looking at the signature angle of the F-100 – straight up the open nose air intake. We carefully framed Col. Day in the foreground and backlit him from each side with a Profoto 7B and a Wafer 100 on each side. We then boomed in a Chimera small strip bank powered by an Acute 600. Although 87 years old, and with his body ravaged by years of torture and POW abuse, in this pose, with this light, in front of the F-100, Bud Day looked like he could still kick some serious ass.
The shot that made the cover, Col. Day still formidable at 87.
We finished with a 3/4 side lit portrait, with his glasses off, which showed off the MISTY patch on his flight suit.
The 3/4 lit portrait with “The Hun” front view in the background.
We did some group shots with the Collings Foundation folks who had so generously donated their time and effort to showcase the plane, and some USAF U-2 pilots, who had gathered during the shoot. All USAF pilots go through survival training at the AF Survival School at Fairchild AFB, named in Col. Day’s honor. It was like watching a bunch of NBA rookies meeting Michael Jordan for the first time.
After packing up, the whole crew adjourned to a nearby Ihop for a truly memorable breakfast. I could literally sit and listen to George and his dad tell flying stories for hours. It was a fantastic experience.
After the shoot, I sent a few of the photos to my editor at Air & Space magazine, just on the off chance that they might be working on a story related to Col. Day, MISTY, or the F-100. Several months later, as it turns out, there was a story on the MISTY program in the works. They eventually decided to use one of the photographs of Col. Day on the cover of the issue, with another one running inside.
I didn’t want to jinx anything, so I didn’t mention it to Bud or George until the cover was posted online. I’ve worked for many magazines, and covers often get pulled or changed at the 11th hour.
It was really an honor and a highlight to finally be able to make the call to Col. Day and let him know that not only was there a story on MISTY in the current issue of Air & Space, but that he had made the cover! This was truly one of the coolest things I’ve been able to work on, and I’m grateful to A&S, the Day family, Rick Harris and John Simmons for making this happen.
Col. Day and Col. Day reviewing some of the photos with the me.
A little background on Col. George “Bud” Day: He joined the Marines and fought in World War II just after high school. He came back to the US and earned a law degree, then continued in the Air Force flying fighter jets in Korea and eventually Vietnam. He miraculously survived a no-chute ejection the 1950′s. At an age and mission count when other pilots were retiring, he volunteered for another tour and came up with the MISTY Fast Forward Air Control (Fast FAC) program, of which he was the commander. MISTY pilots flew low and fast over North Vietnam, marking targets including SAM missile sites for other aircraft to attack. It was so dangerous that it was an all volunteer squadron.
During one of these MISTY missions in 1967, Col. Day was shot down and captured. Badly hurt and barefoot, he escaped after a few days and evaded the enemy for 12-15 days, subsisting on frogs and berries, traversing miles of enemy territory and crossing the river into South Vietnam. He was within a mile or two of an American base when he was shot twice and recaptured. He spent the next 5 years 7 months in the “Hanoi Hilton” being tortured along with other notable POW pilots like Sen. John McCain and Admiral James Stockdale. For his valor, he was awarded the Air Force Cross and the Congressional Medal of Honor. Today he is the most decorated living service member. After returning from Vietnam, he received 13 medical waivers and continued flying. He eventually amassed over 8000 hours – nearly 5000 of those in fighter aircraft. As if that weren’t enough, he retired and went to work as an attorney, eventually suing the US Government on behalf of veterans who were not getting promised medical benefits and won. As a result, millions of veterans (my late mother-in-law among them), have benefitted from the program, called Tri-Care for Life.
Here’s a cool behind the scenes video my friend John Simmons put together of the shoot:
I recently photographed a series of advertisements for ExxonMobil Chemical at one of their technology centers. We worked with a fantastic team from McCann Erickson in New York, and they did a great job of conceptualizing the final ads. The comp we were presented with showed a black and white image of an ExxonMobil scientist working in a lab environment with a detail breakout photo of a macro subject from their lab.
The labs were very tight and cluttered spaces – lots of scientific equipment everywhere, lots of hoses and pipes, and very few clean simple backgrounds. We decided to shoot several different lab techs and scientists working with their respective equipment on white. This was a serious challenge, as there was not ample room to do a normally lit white background. We settled on placing a 6 x 6 scrim jim behind the subjects, just to de-clutter the room, and give the retoucher clean images of the subject and foreground equipment to work with. This worked well, but it was a very tight squeeze all day. To look good in B&W, the light needed to be fairly dramatic and contrast-y. We used gridded softboxes, a Wafer 100 and a Wafer 75 in some cases, both with Lighttools 30 degree grids.
We also had great fun creating the macro images. Kelly Clark, our art director, would work with us to pick out various interesting pieces of scientific equipment, and we would then set up lighting and photograph details, often with the Canon 100mm macro, which is just an incredibly sharp piece of glass. It was interesting to create tight abstract views of everyday science equipment.
One of the cool shots we did, came about during the scouting trip. We noticed that several of the scientists would write in wax pencil on the plexiglas cover of their lab enclosures….math formulas, notes, etc. We decided it looked pretty interesting, and ran out to Home Depot to get a clean new piece of plexi to recreate the same look on white in the lab. (Apologies to Neil Leifer and his iconic Bear Bryant portrait. )
Andrew Loehman did a great job digital teching for the day, and Nathan Lindstrom assisted. Juan Guadiana, a stellar Houston-based retoucher did a masterful job of cutting out our subjects with their equipment for the final ads. These were not easy to do. Andrea Kaye, the art buyer at McCann Erickson, Valerie Sena, the account manager, and Kelly Clark, the art director were wonderful to work with, and we were able to enjoy a fantastic Tex-Mex meal with our ExxonMobil client at El Real, a cool new restaurant in the former Tower Theater during their brief visit to Houston.
The shot that ran in the magazine: “Johnny Football” centered on the 50 yard line at Kyle Field.
Last week, in preparation for the upcoming Heisman Trophy announcement, Sports Illustrated sent four photographers out to shoot portraits of the four leading Heisman candidates. My sports portrait photographer colleagues all made great images, and SI published a multi-page story on the Heisman frontrunners just three days before the announcement. Peter Read Miller photographed USC WR Marqise Lee, Darren Carroll photographed Kansas State QB Collin Klein, and Todd Rosenberg photographed Notre Dame LB Manti Te’o, while I got the call to shoot Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, known more commonly here in Texas by his nickname: ”Johnny Football.”
Manziel, a redshirt freshman sensation, was sequestered from the press by his coaches until the week before the big announcement. When he finally spoke, the country heard from a charming, positive young kid who was enthusiastic and enjoying every minute of his journey. I’ve shot a ton of athletes, and normally we do a few “tough guy” or heroic poses, and we tried a few with Johnny, but he literally couldn’t stop laughing and smiling. The best shots were the ones where he was grinning from ear to ear. That’s truly him – just a bubbly kid who’s happy to be here – overflowing with excitement that he gets to wake up each day and play QB for the Aggies…..and that was BEFORE he won!
For the shoot, due to newfound demands on his time and a TON of media interest, we had a shoot time of 2pm, which is not the most flattering light to photograph in. Actually, we were overjoyed to have any time with him at all, and Texas A&M SID Alan Cannon, who’s a really great guy I’ve known for many years, made it all happen. We had a 30 minute slot (really only 25 minutes, because SI was also doing a quick video interview for the website in the last 5 minutes). We had to really plan all our shots in advance and have everything tested and set up ahead of time in order to maximize our time with him.
We really wanted a dramatic stadium tunnel look, with Johnny lit from above and the background blown out. I had done a similar shot of Jason White at Oklahoma years earlier, and the editor had mentioned using a tunnel if possible. We scouted the stadium for a couple of hours before the shoot, and didn’t find any suitable tunnels. At A&M, many of the tunnels were narrow with chain link gates/fences in them, and it wasn’t clean enough in my opinion to pull off the shot we had in mind.
I also knew that the photo was probably running as a square in the magazine so I shot most of the shots loose enough so that they could be cropped in that shape. There was also some discussion of converting all four players to sepia (which they decided not to do) so I tried to shoot with contrast in mind.
The sun was high and blistering, there was no shade to work with, so for the first shot, we planned to place the sun behind him and use it to our advantage. By placing the sun behind his head and underexposing the scene, we silhouetted the stadium (and Johnny). We added a Hexoval 180 from the left and made a dramatic portrait with a darkened Kyle Field behind him.
For the next setup, I wanted to emphasize the large “Home of the 12th Man” sign on the student side of the stadium. We were able to find a small tunnel entrance on the 50 yard line, where I shot from, and then we backlit Johnny from each side with Wafer 100′s. Assistant Nathan Lindstrom then used a long boom to place a Hexoval 140 directly in front of Johnny’s face, centered right over the camera, while Butch Ireland ( a longtime and very talented photographer colleague from College Station) manned an 8 x 8 Westcott ScrimJim to keep the harsh sun out of the scene. We also ditched the backlights and did a few dramatic shots with the Hexoval boomed to the right side.
We then walked Johnny over to a corner tunnel, which had a really interesting pattern in the poured concrete wall. It almost looked like a hand painted muslin fabric. We set up two other lighting setups there. The first one was a raw reflector head, which cast a shadow of Johnny on the wall. The idea was to replicate the look that stadium lights would have in the tunnel if you were about to take the field at night. The other setup was just a Wafer Hexoval 180, which we used to do some classic 3/4 shots of Johnny from the waist up and tight on his face. I wanted some simple shots with a big light source that would capture his ebullient personality.
When we stopped, I looked down at my watch – we had done 6 different setups in three locations around the field in 21 minutes! Johnny sat down for his interview – and then…oh Lord, the video shooter, Dan Blust, a talented videographer from Houston, interviewed me about the shoot. SI did this at each location and put together a nice behind the scenes video which you can see here.
Darrell Royal was the University of Texas football coach from 1957-1976 and was responsible for Texas winning three national championships. He passed away Nov. 7 at the age of 88 after a long battle with Alzheimers.
Royal was revered all over the state. As the son of a coach in Texas, I grew up on a steady diet of Darrell Royal sayings and stories. It felt like I was going to see the wizard when I pulled up in front of his house in 2005 for a brief portrait session. He seemed a bit frail and unsteady, and it was only later that I found out he had Alzheimer’s. I wish I could have taken my dad on the assignment, but alas, it wasn’t feasible. Although I’ve never bothered any of my sports subjects for autographs, I did break with tradition on this one…..I had him sign a copy of his book to my dad….I’m pretty sure it said, “To Coach Seale-”
Photography consultant Jasmine DeFoore has recently started a great website called Ilovetexasphoto.com featuring photographers and production resources from Texas. Jasmine was a photo editor and marketing guru for the Redux agency in NYC before moving to Austin to start her consulting business. She’s done a great job organizing events and helping the Texas photo community, and the new ilovetexasphoto website is an awesome resource for photo editors, advertising art buyers and anyone else producing visuals in Texas.
Austin photographer and ilovetexasphoto contributor Destry Jaimes interviewed me recently for a photographer feature on the site, asking me about my work, education, and influences, and featuring some of my favorite photos. If you’re a photographer or photo enthusiast in Texas, or a photo editor producing jobs in our state, this site needs to be in your bookmarks toolbar.
I recently had the opportunity to photograph seven time Tour de France champ and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong in Austin, Texas for an editorial client.
Lance was preparing for his Tour de France comeback, so he was only in Austin for one or two days in the time period that would make our deadline, so there was a very narrow window to schedule the shoot.
Celebrities have lots of demands on their time, and are often dealing with tons of requests for interviews, photo shoots, etc. Lance preparing for the Tour was no exception. On the day we were shooting him, he had a charity event scheduled, two or three television interviews, a live radio broadcast, and our shoot….all crammed between 7:30 and 9am, so that he could train the rest of the day.
3/4 length with the broad Hexoval 180 source.
Lance owns a really cool bike shop in downtown Austin called Mellow Johnny’s, and the shoot (as well as the other events) was scheduled for the bike shop location. We scouted the shop the day before, and determined that the best location would be in the basement area of the shop, where we could essentially set up a studio shoot, away from the charity event crowd and his other interviews. For the shots of Lance, we knew ahead of time, that we were only going to get a portrait of him in a Livestrong t-shirt. He was not going to pose in a jersey and bike helmet, he wasn’t going to pose on a bike….it wasn’t going to happen, so, in a way, it simplified things. The question then became, how many looks can we get out of a black t-shirt portrait in 4 minutes?
With limited time and no props, and no environment, I decided to try to get as many different looks as possible in the short time frame available. If you try to move a celebrity around to multiple locations, or move lighting equipment during the shoot, you are wasting their time, and you risk the shoot being over even quicker. The best way to photograph them and get multiple looks, is through careful planning, and essentially encircling them with all the lighting equipment you’re going to use.
I decided on three shots: The first would be a double rimlit tight portrait, with a small stripbank over camera; the second shot would be a broad softbox source –a large Plume Hexoval 180 slightly from the side; the third shot, would be a dramatic profile, lit with a Plume Wafer 100 with a Lighttools 30 degree fabric grid, with a projection of a bike wheel centered behind his head.
Another broad lit hexoval portrait, with different toning.
We started with a grey seamless backdrop, because we knew in the limited space that we had, we could use it as a grey/tan backdrop, we could make it go black, or if necessary, the art director could make a clip path and turn the background white….it gave us a range of options.
We arrived early, near 5:30am and began our setup. Each lighting setup was plugged in to a different set of power packs, so that we could switch between setups simply by turning power packs on and off. This kept things organized and simple, and allowed us to get multiple looks without fumbling around, switching heads, packs, stands, etc.
Andrew Loehman, the assistant on the shoot, actually hung a real bike wheel from a piece of fishing line, and held it at the proper distance between the background and the light to create the shadow of the wheel on the wall. A custom Dynalite projection spot provided the light. With more time, we could have created a custom bike wheel “cookie” for the spot, but with limited prep time, an actual wheel was used to provide the signature bike wheel shape.
Lance was in and out of our setup in about 4 minutes. Other than turning his body 90 degrees for the profile shot, he never moved, and even with that limited amount of time, without changing his wardrobe, and without a bike, we were able to give the art director several looks to choose from for the story.