Sunday, October 2, 2011

Get Over Yourself! - Discipline for Photographers

It's been a busy couple of weeks again. There's been the final bit of shooting for the book I'm working on, and a few jobs around town. It would be impossible to say what's been more enjoyable or instructive, but this one was great to do:

  Michael Stedman
That's my old boss, Michael Stedman from NHNZ. Another environmental portrait for my book that I lit to serve the story. In a nutshell, NHNZ is at the cutting edge of TV technology - a leading producer of 3D documentaries. Hence the techie looking background colours on the video bank in the background. I lit Michael with a single flash, up high and snooted to restrict the beam. I have to admit, I had a nervous moment at the start. I had a definite plan for this shot, based on my last visit. At that time though, the place was still being fitted out, and there were a lot more gaps in the bank for beams of light to stream through. Never mind, I got something we liked fairly quickly.

Another fun shoot involved a tour of Dunedin's water pollution control (sewage works) and water treatment plant. Run and gun shooting there, as my bandmate John Mackie was leading me around and when not laying down his powerful grooves in BlueStone, he's a busy city engineer. Just to show I can get portraits in available light, here's one of the lads up at Mt Grand, looking into a drinking water treatment vessel:  

The Brewer and the Chill


There have been a couple more visits to Emerson's Brewery, first to shoot famous Dunedin sound muso David Kilgour lend a hand dry-hopping the new "Tally-Ho" brew. Run and gun again.


And a calendar shot of the brewery's big three, Bob, Richard and Chris.


The lads were lit with a small softbox and filled with my Orbis ringflash adapter, a setup that's quick to do and pretty versatile in terms of the looks it'll give. The Orbis also gives you great speculars in the eyes. Then there were some head shots for local Accountancy firm JW Smeaton, a great bunch of people who all had a good time and made my job easy during the shoot. I used the same setup there. Here's Neil Stevenson:

Neil StevensonA good little spread of shooting styles and conditions. High concept, run and gun, and bread and butter portraits and I loved every assignment. Especially the bread and butter stuff. Funny thing is, lately one or two of the photography students I've been helping to tutor are finding their bread and butter assignments hard to get motivated about. Not enough creative challenge. One of my most talented pupils is disillusioned with being asked to hand in technical exercises and is getting behind in his work. I really hope he gets over this, but despite his talent, he may not make it.

 To make a living at photography (or succeed at anything), you really need discipline. It's not always sunsets, big lights and action. It also takes a bit of experience to know that even shooting heads against a wall, there's enormous scope for creativity and talents beyond composition and exposure. You have to embrace and overcome every challenge, not just the technical and creative but the personal as well.

You think it's easy for busy accountants or CEO's to look relaxed in the middle of a business day while their colleagues are watching?  It isn't, so you have to engage people to help get the best out of them. That wasn't something that came naturally to me. I had to learn it like lighting, and no two situations are the same. I used to dread engaging with subjects. Now I relish it. I hope my students go the distance and learn to bring all they have even into their routine shooting.

A huge part of the creative challenge lies in overcoming yourself.

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