Suits and ties. I often photograph people who wear them for assignments. Sometimes it’s for corporate portraits and head shots of executives in the Bay Area. Other times it could be a sharp fellow like Andrew Spokes (above) for the cover of a NY investment magazine. Later this week I’ll be working on a lifestyle apparel shoot for a sock company. The day after that, a few more suits and ties. The day after that I’m skating.
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Finished portrait. Made up of 35 individual captures. Portrait of Bay Area artist Kevin Kearney for an editorial magazine photo shoot.
This image is made up of 35 individual images stitched together. Yes 35! It is a panorama portrait of Bay Area artist Kevin Kearney photographed at his home in Sebastopol, CA. Kevin is writer, successful entrepreneur, painter, business executive, wine aficionado, and probably more. The assignment was an editorial feature for Maryland Institute College of Art. Once the 35 captures were assembled, the new high res master version of the scene was retouched, color adjusted, and perspective corrected in Photoshop (final image above).
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Proof image. Stitched panorama portrait of executive Kevin Kearney at his home in Sebastopol, CA.
Why 35 images?
There are technical and creative reasons for shooting a panorama portrait for this assignment. Shooting with a wide angle lens in this massive space would put too much of the scene in focus and draw attention away from the subject. Enter Ryan Brenizer. He developed a method of capturing multiple individual images with a long lens, and then stitching them together in Photoshop . The results are portraits with a shallower depth of field that could not be created otherwise. It’s genius! However instead of using the technique to create hyper bokeh, I use it to construct a wider angle of view for certain scenes. Wider scenes now have less perspective distortion, and extreme detail. Panning the den photo above, required (35) captures with a 70mm lens on a full frame sensor. That is a lot of pixels! (2-3 gigabytes before sizing it down).
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Full frame capture. Image 1 of 35 for panorama portrait of Bay Area executive Kevin Kearney at his home in Sebastopol, CA.
Kevin Kearney is a Renaissance man who knows how to live the good life. Conceptually his life is much bigger than one single image. The massive upstairs den filled with books, guns, swords, and artwork was the location winner. It’s a room where “the world’s most interesting man” would keep company, and that is the room I want to be in as well. A single image portrait in this space wouldn’t have carried the weight.
Tearsheet | Editorial portrait of hip hop artist A.B.S in XXL Magazine.
The hip hop music and entertainment magazine XXL Mag got in touch for a piece on Philly born rapper Chris “A.B.S.” Schaefer in San Francisco. He was the winner of a rap battle sponsored by Corona, so XXL assigned me to photograph A.B.S for a full page feature. Ahh….. the full page editorial portrait. This is the holy grail of editorial photography and a highly coveted space for any portrait photographer. God bless print.
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Portrait of A.B.S. | XXL Magazine. My version of the final image.
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A.B.S. on location in San Francisco, CA. Not knowing if the feature would be a single page or a double page spread, we shot the location options in both landscape and portrait formats.
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BTS. A behind the scenes shot of the location set up. Yeah we were working right next to a live train line, and we were trespassing. So what. It’s for hip hop.
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BTS. A behind the scenes shot of the “studio” set up.
There is no smoke and mirrors here. The photo editor asked for a location scene plus a studio shot. Taking the studio to the location was done for one reason only. It saved time. Some of the best things about this shoot included getting kicked off the train tracks by the transit police, and getting to meet Chris “A.B.S.” Schaefer. He’s solid. We share an East Coast connection, respect for old school rhymes, and love for Allen Iverson. Plus I dig his music.
One of the best things about skateboarding is that it doesn’t discriminate against age. This was proven at the X Games this year in the Skateboard Big Air competition in Los Angeles. First place and second place winners on the mega ramp were separated by 20 years in age! That’s a decent chunk of time. Think how different the world was 20 years ago. Computers, cameras, sports – everything was different.
This isn’t an “old guys rule” or “look out for the groms” post. It’s just a high five to skaters Bob Burnquist (age 35) and Mitchie Brusco (age 15) for showing everyone that skills are more important than age when it comes to clearing a 70 foot gap and getting 45 feet of air off the ground. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter at that height when all you have are 4 wheels and a piece of wood under your feet? Check out ALL of the links below. What do you think?
Skater Mitchie Brusco, at age 15 won silver at the X Games Big Air contest on the mega ramp in LA. After I photographed Mitchie someone nudges me and says,”Hey that kid does 900s on mega ramps.” My reaction – “You’re kidding me. He’s not much bigger than his skateboard. How does he get the speed?”
Well he rips, and this is how: (video of Brusco 2012 x-games).
Bob Burnquist, a skateboarding veteran of big air still raises the bar at age 35. Naturally I was thrilled to finally meet him in person and he didn’t disappoint. Bob is wearing knee high rubber boots in this photo and the only skateboard with him this day was bolted to a surfboard. Here’s Bob in action with some backwards fakie business that won him first place in the big air comp (video Burnquist gold 2012 X Games).
Long live the Scorpion King!
In print this month for the French magazine Science et vie is my editorial portrait of Dr. Jay Lalezari (Dr. Jacob P. Lalezari) of Quest Clinical Research in San Francisco, CA. Dr. Lalezari is working on a very promising HIV treatment that involves genetically engineered human cells that are resistant to the invasion of the virus that causes AIDS. He’s blazing some trails indeed.
A lesson learned from this shoot: The window of opportunity to shoot Dr. Lalezari was very narrow. We had less than an hour before he had to catch a flight at SFO and within that window he was busy. Shooting inside his office was a good start (obvious choice), but it didn’t yield a heroic portrait and it wasted a little bit of time. The roof top was our second option. The images from that set up were decent and very usable, but they still didn’t grab the attention that I felt Dr. Lalezari deserved. Time was running out. But wait! On the way back inside, I noticed the stairwell leading to the roof had some interesting architectural lines. Four minutes later with 1 light, 1 shoot through umbrella, a few test shots, and enough time for only 10 real frames – we get it.
The cool part is that Dr. Lalezari would have been fine with the portraits from the office, yet he saw how those few extra minutes had paid off without making him late. There was never any stress. It worked out and I didn’t cave in on myself just because of the time. That’s a good lesson for all photographers. I love photography, but it’s not rocket science. Getting to photograph people who are able to change the world help make my efforts feel more worth while.
The April issue of The Skateboard Mag ran a double page spread with 16 of my portraits in their editorial section called “Exposed.” They even asked me to write a few words about this ongoing series that includes portraits of both pro and amateur skateboarders. It is short and to the point, but I forgot to mention the obvious. It is with a ridiculous amount of pleasure that I get to do this type of work! The 14 year old kid from Baltimore inside is extremely stoked to have these opportunities and to meet some of these friends. This is not just “photography.” It’s part of my life. These images were photographed in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Encinitas over the course of 6 different photo sessions. They are a small slice from what I have already shot, and I will try to share more when I can.
Ironically there has been some internal pressure building inside over these portraits. I feel like I owe it to everyone who has been photographed to turn this project into something worthwhile. A book? A gallery show? I am not sure. For now I just want to skate and keep shooting, then figure out what to do later. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
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It’s hard to photograph skaters when I’d rather be skating myself, so shooting portrait set ups instead of action has been my way around the problem. This series began with the idea to document skateboarding friends in Nor Cal, but the project unexpectedly evolved into a collection of something bigger. It’s about roots, history, and concrete. Groms and legends. I’m stoked that everyone has been so willing to participate which I attribute to skateboarding’s brotherhood and for the shared love of a grind. People appreciate the admiration that comes with spending even just a few minutes to be photographed. I just want that respect to come out in the photos, or at the very least show a glimpse of what each person’s skating style is like through their portrait.
- Jay Watson
Included in this gallery: Grant Brittain, Bob Burnquist, Steve Caballero, Eddie Elguera, Bennett Harada, Christian Hosoi, Daren Jenkins, Jason Jessee, Bucky Lasek, Keith Meek, Darren Navarrette, Pat Ngoho, Zach Miller, Duane Peters, Dave Swift, Sergie Ventura,
Three facts about these skaters:
1) Duane Peters would make an excellent boy scout leader.
2) The first time I saw Bucky Lasek skate was at a street skate contest at Patterson Park in Baltimore, MD roughly 25 years ago. He won first place. I was disqualified for jumping off the judges table.
3) This is one of the last photos taken of Dave Swift (in the gallery) before he got his front tooth fixed.
A big thanks to Grant Brittain, Steve Potwin, Bucky Lasek, Judi Oyama, and Pineappleluv for the support.
Board Rescue is a non-profit corporation. They partner with companies within the skateboard industry to supply decks, trucks, wheels and safety equipment to organizations that work with children while targeting low-income and at risk youth. A fund raiser art show to benefit Board Rescue was held at The Santa Cruz Boardroom Skate Shop and turned out to be an incredible event. It not only helped raise money for the organization, but it was a gathering of many Northern California legends, pros, artists, skaters, parents, and groms from within the sport.
Below is a gallery of portraits I photographed of those who were in attendance. I built a fake 8′X8′ background wall inside the space with wood paneling, some heavy duty light stands, and about 10 pony clamps. The wood background was a last minute decision to play off the Board Rescue name. It was well worth the effort. I photographed some friends who I normally skate with, made some new friends, ate Sushi from one of my favorite places, and had a blast while working.
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Included in this gallery: Camillo Arana, Eli Atkins, Rick Blackhart, Don Bostick, Danielle Bostick, Steve Caballero, Terry Campion, Michael Chantry, Chasen Christensen, Mikey Donnelly, Joe Fong, Scott Foss, Joel Gomez, Gary Holl, Andrew Huberman, Jake Jeffers, Jason Jessee, Gary Myall, Keith Meek, Richard Novak, Judi Oyama, Jimbo Philips, Eli Roe, Ray Stevens, Kori Thompson, Ryan Wade, Jay Watson, Cameron Weaver, Mark Whiteley
Thanks to Judi Oyama of Maximum Impact Design and TC of The Santa Cruz Boardroom Skate Shop for inviting me to be part of the event. An extra special thanks to everyone who stepped in front of the camera for a visit. You rule! For more info on Board Rescue or to make a donation visit: www.boardrescue.org
Note: There are too many images to include everyone in the gallery. If you were in attendance send me an email if you don’t see your photo. Also, please help me caption the missing names by leaving a comment if you see someone you know. I missed a few.
Below are portraits of two time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon (2005, 2011) shot at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. Mr. Wheldon is an INDYCAR race driver from England who is currently living in Florida, and driving for the team of Bryan Herta Autosport (owned by former driver Bryan Herta). These images were shot for Simraceway which is an online simulation racing game. It’s available for free in beta, but a kick ass game controller is right around the corner! I am not a gamer, but after seeing a demo of Simraceway this past weekend I can see why a race fan might get addicted to this one.
The second image is from a studio set up we built inside a garage bay not far from the racetrack. The coolest thing about shooting the 2x Indy winner was seeing his professionalism on set. He was all business! However once the shoot was wrapped up he was personable, humble, and incredibly thankful. I dig that.
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Northern California skater Roger Mihalko has one of the most unique styles of anyone I’ve ever seen. He truly brings creativity and soul to the sport and rides as if he is making a piece of art in the process. Here is a video of Roger getting nice with ripper Bob Lake, and a barefoot adventure of Roger at the skatepark in Pacifica, CA (one of my favorite digs). A former rider for Gravity Skateboards, Roger now rides planks for Solitary Arts.
The toughest commercial assignments are when I’ve had to shoot a corporate portrait of an executive in a bland office environment. How do you make an interesting portrait of someone in front of a computer, on the phone, or sitting at their desk? Uhhh… It’s hard. Actually most of the business magazines I have worked for request their photographers to avoid shooting those types of images. HP knows what is up, which is why they have a corporate media floor dedicated to video and photo shoots at their Cupertino office near San Jose. It even includes an area propped like a modern living room. Cool, but if everyone else who shoots at HP is also using the same backgrounds how do you make your images different? Uhhhh… Avoid those areas and look for something less obvious.
These images were shot in the hallway. After the shoot, HP’s vice president of corporate marketing said, “we have a lot of shoots here and this is the first time anyone has ever used that wall as a background.” ANA Mag chose a few shots of Gary smiling for their editorial piece, but I preferred the outtakes below.
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4 light set up
• Overhead main light on a boom – small softbox
• Camera right – large softbox
• Camera left – large white reflector for fill
• Background – (2) lights. No diffusion.