Monthly Archives: December 2012

Confessions of a Histogram Slammer

Where: Venice Beach, CA



Between Meeting: On the Way to the Airport




2Venice Beach is only a few miles from LAX (LA’s main airport) and is one of my favorite places for photography.  I often leave for the airport an hour earlier so I can have that extra hour to photograph the myriad of subjects at this unique location.



I love Black and White.  I’m classically trained in the Zone System.  And with the greatest of respect for my friend John Sexton, who is one of the finest Black and White artists on the planet,  I have evolved into a full-fledged, Histogram Slammer.   With encouragement from Greg Gorman, I now carefully and deliberately clip shadow detail if it will lead to a more impactful photograph.   I did a class recently for Kelby Training on The Art of the Black and White Print with Josh Haftel of Nik Software where we discussed the benefits of a full tonal scale, and when its OK to purposely lose shadow detail.



With a high shutter speed I was able to capture the water beading from the outdoor sand removal shower and by exposing for the highlights, I purposely let the shadows block-up for maximum impact.  A simple conversion with Silver Efex Pro 2 also allowed me to do controlled burning of the highlights in the upper right corner.



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No Color, Color

Where: Signal Hill, CA



Between Meeting: Coffee Break




Tea time in England is 4:00pm. There is interesting data indicating we can drink caffeine at 4:00pm without disrupting circadian rhythms, thus the tradition.  All I know is I’m often dragging around this time.  During the winter, 4:00pm is usually the best light of the day.  So I often take a break, get a coffee and spend 10-15 minutes looking for interesting things to photograph, in the good light.  Then back to the office until 8pm.



A few minutes from Epson’s office in Long Beach, CA is Hilltop Park.  It sits atop a hill with a somewhat industrial view of the Long Beach harbor.  Sculptures in the park tell a story of the area’s past which was focused on drilling for oil.  The light was good, and with a Grande Bold in hand, I drove over to the park.



The light was low in the sky courtesy of the ecliptic in winter, and I saw this girl playing in the overlook area.  She was 180 degrees from the angle in the final image and the light in that direction was dead flat.  Knowing kids move around, I just waited a few minutes and she started to walk the perimeter of the viewing area.   She briefly stopped in a perfect spot where the sun created an edge of light separating her from the background.  By moving my position a couple of feet, I was able to create a somewhat mirror image of her and the coin operated binocular.



I love negative space and knew the composition was strong.  The way she was standing evoked emotions of pride and confidence.  But my favorite aspect of this shot is what Jay Maisel calls: no color, color with only subtle nuances of pastel tones.



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World’s Busiest Train Station

Where: Shinjuku Railway Station, Tokyo Japan



Between Meeting: Traveling to Epson’s Main Office





Epson’s Main office is located in the Japanese Alps.  For the most part, the only way to get there is to take the train from the airport into Central Tokyo and then transfer to another train heading to Matsumoto.  While some of my colleagues prefer to go straight through to Matsumoto, I like to spend the night in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, and take a train in the morning.   By doing this, I can take pictures during the morning rush hour in the Shinjuku Railway Station.   Shinjuku is the busiest station in the world as measured by passenger traffic.  With 3.5 million people a day using the station, it’s a Dano kinda of place!




Many commuters in Tokyo opt for conservative business attire.  So when I saw a woman with bright yellow tights, I knew this could make for an interesting picture.  But very quickly I lost sight of her due to the hundreds of thousands of commuters swarming through the station.  Then a few minutes later I spotted her taking the stairs up to one of the platforms.  I went up the staircase but again those amazing yellow legs disappeared into a sea of people.  I looked and looked and when I turned around there she was standing in front of a yellow line which is the color coding of the train line.  When I saw yellow on yellow and then for the first time saw that the shoe heels were yellow I remember thinking, what amazing luck.  Then a train zoomed across my viewfinder and I thought all was lost because of how it blocked my composition.




It wasn’t until a few minutes later, when I looked at the LCD, that I realized how lucky I really was as a yellow stripe on the train recorded as a blur due to the shutter speed which turned the scene into a real photograph.  So today when I am taking pictures in crowded places and people are getting in the way or there are distracting elements, I always remember Shinjuku as sometimes those distractions can be of great help.





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Just Off The Set

Where: Studio in Carson, CA



Between Meeting: Dinner Break During Video Shoot




Studio-Shadow2It’s been a long day today producing a video on wide format printers.  Because the printers are so large we shot them on a cyc in a studio designed to photograph cars and trucks.  We used a mix of 1Ks & 5Ks to light both the printers and the expansive background.  Due to the large areas we have to light, there are often clusters of tungsten lights and stands just off of camera.



While we were all focused on the lighting (pun intended) I noticed that the lights from one part of the set were casting a shadow on a part of the cyc that was not in the shot.  Then I saw an assistant go to move a flag. While the day was about shooting video, I went to the car, got my camera and during a break captured the shadows of tungsten lights, gear and the assistant on the curve of the cyc.




Below left are the cluster of lights that were casting the shadows on the cyc wall.  And on the right, is yours truly with the Arri Alexa we used to meet our resolution capture requirements for upcoming trade shows.





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Let Them Know You’ll Be Late

Where: Central Park, New York City



Between Meeting: On My Way to Fred Marcus Photography






I had an appointment with Andy and Brian Marcus who are amazing wedding photographers based on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  I was a little early, it was a nice day, so I took a stroll through Central Park.  I was near the Bethesda Fountain when I saw this man in a bright orange shirt making giant soap bubbles.  The first thing I did was reach for my phone and not the camera.  I simply called Andy and let him know I was going to be late.  When something is this good capture the moment, because it might not be there after the meeting.




I spent about 20 minutes shooting the bubbles right before they burst and when the refractive surface colors were at their best.  I used a wide aperture to throw the people in the background out of focus and waited for the right moment when the orange shirt and bubble were in the right position.  In post I added a subtle blur on the left and right with FocalPoint 2 software to knock down some distracting highlights.




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The Best Can Be At Your Feet

Where: San Francisco, CA



Between Meeting: Walking Back From the Moscone Center 




3 2


The analytical left side of my brain understands that light is light.  But the creative right side of my brain is convinced, there is something truly special about the light in San Francisco.  At certain times of the year, about an hour after sunrise and an hour or so before sunset, light rakes straight down the streets illuminating everything in its path (provided you’re at the correct incident angle.)




Its not uncommon to see photographers throughout the City chasing that wonderful light as it pours across the Painted Ladies, the Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge.  But when the light is beautiful, I often look for the mundane and see if I can make IT look beautiful.




By using a wide focal length, getting just on a few inches above the street and circling the subject to find that perfect angle, a lowly street hole cover can turn into a form of folk art.  When I converted the file to BW with Silver Efex Pro 2, it created a more dimensional and dynamic image.



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Remember the 180 and Chop The Head

Where: Los Angeles, Corner of Wilshire and Highland
Between Meeting: Heading to the Office





Got off the plane at LAX today and headed to Samy’s Camera to get gear for a video shoot.  Then off to the Epson office in Long Beach, but thought it would be fun to take a drive down Wilshire Blvd. and see the places I used to visit when I was a kid.  While I live in New York State and most think I’m a native New Yorker, I’m actually one of the rare natives of LA.




So I drove by the La Brea Tar Pits, then LACMA and quickly realized this was a nice part of town e.g. no “Dano” pictures.  With that, I sought the quickest route to the freeway when I heard loud noises and what looked like a demonstration. I found a parking spot, walked toward the activity and encountered a protest by Egyptian Americans who were upset by President Mursi’s recent policies.  The nice but boring part of town became much more interesting!




After about 15 minutes I realized I was not much much of a photojournalist.  I was getting nothing.  So I did the Jay Maisel 180 by turning completely around since that might be the better shot.  And I saw this wonderful kid on a shoulders of a man.  After getting permission from the parent, which is very important when photographing children, I remembered Jack Reznicki’s advise to chop off heads for greater impact and eye contact.  Technically its crop not chop : )




One of the wonderful things about DSLRs is the LCD preview.  Its really breaks the ice and when I showed the family the image of the girl with her hands on the hair of her uncle, I was asked to photograph her sister.  I was delighted to do so because of the subject and the beautiful light.




While I didn’t capture images the wire services would run, in some ways these images do tell a story.  It’s not about politics or the flag painted on the sister’s cheeks, but about a better future for our children and that future is always in their eyes.



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Chicken Men

Where: Portland, Oregon



Between Meeting: Heading to the Airport After a Video Shoot



   Chicken-Peck2           Chicken-Peck2

Knowing there are no pictures to be found on the Interstate, I ignored the GPS and headed for the side streets.  By pure chance, I came upon the Urban Iditerod where teams in the Lower 48, mush bar to bar in themed home-made shopping carts on the same day real sledders start the Iditerod in Alaska.



Jay Maisel taught me that when working with large crowds to look for simple singular elements.  So I befriended the Chicken Team, and by taking a low angle on the pavement with a wide focal length, I was able to create a simple background of sky vs hundreds of distracting party-goers.



I lined up the team for a chicken inspection shot, but the best image was when I asked the Chicken Men to start pecking each other.


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The Ordinary Can Be Extraordinary

Where: Las Vegas, NV



Between Meeting: Walking to Photoshop World





There’s something about Photoshop Word where I seem to get great shots.  The best stuff is often, right around the corner.




The Las Vegas Photoshop World takes takes place at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.   The trade show is located at the end of a walk through the hotel.  On the left side of that walk are large windows with views of the pool.  Early in the morning light streams in through those windows and the yellowish walls opposite the pool view, almost glow.  While on that walk I saw a hotel worker on a scissors lift changing light bulbs.  I watched for a while and when he moved the lift, I saw his silhouette move across the glowing yellow wall.



This shot was captured as the worker stepped down from the lift which was literally, around the corner from the trade show.  Even the mundane task of changing a light bulb can make for an interesting photograph.



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Waiting For The Shot

Where: Cedar Point Amusement Park, Sandusky Ohio



Between Meeting: After an Epson Print Academy Program





For roller coaster enthusiasts, Cedar Point is one of the premier locales in the world.  When my teenagers learned I was headed to Cleveland for an Epson Print Academy program, I was “volunteered” to escort them to this hallowed ground of G forces.  Knowing my inner ear was not up to high-speed inverted drops, I elected to drop the kids off at Millennium Force.  It was a win-win.  They could ride one of the gnarliest coasters in the world, and I could go looking for pictures.



I loved the intense colors throughout the park and honed in on this geometric section at the end of one of the rides.  One of the featured photographers in the Epson Print Academy was National Geographer Photographer Bruce Dale.  Bruce would advise people about patience and sometimes its best to wait for the shot.  Knowing my kids were happy riding Millennium Force over and over, I waited and waited and watched as hundreds exited this one ride.  Each time I would have the zoom, exposure and focus set waiting for the right person to fill the frame.  After about 20 minutes patience paid off and a person with a blue shirt aligned with the blue railing and another person in a red shirt filled the gap between the yellow and orange siding.  But for me what makes this picture work is the gesture of the two girls which visually tells the story without any words.


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