A Day at The Races

Thursday my friend Tim Metcalf and I were treated to a day of photographing race horses at Oaklawn Race Track in Hot Springs. Most surprising to me was the size and scope of Oaklawn's photography department with up to nine photogs on staff. A very well oiled machine, and quite professional. Thanks to Jennifer Hoyt, their staff, and especially Keely, our guide for the afternoon. Keely took us from the rooftop to the infield to the starting gate, and much more. Interesting note, in each position, you have about 10 seconds to get your shots, and then it's 40 minutes until the next race. Better have your settings right and your focus on AI Servo...

Melissa Etheridge Portrait

     In 2012, I was asked to shoot some publicity shots and event coverage of Melissa Etheridge who was rolling out her new radio show on Cumulus Networks. As often is the case with celebrities, your window to shoot is 2-3 minutes so you have to be ready. Melissa, however, was warm and friendly. Standing before me was a woman who had endured many struggles, including a recent breakup, a battle with cancer and new motherhood. You could see it in her eyes, she still had a fire inside her, she was a survivor, a fighter.

     On my first shot, the strobe didn't go off and the image was totally dark. I was mortified! I was afraid she was going to up and leave while I looked stupidly at my flash, but she waited patiently. Once the problem was rectified, we took several pictures until I felt I had "the shot". Afterwards, she went into a reception with a few hundred cell phone selfies waiting for her. I am grateful that I got her first, while she was fresh and in a great mood. Love her.

In recent weeks I have been revisiting some of my earlier works and reimagining them. This was taken with a Canon 5D Mk III w/ 24-70 mm 1/50th @ f 6.3, digitally painted.

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One Light Portrait? HAH! Try Six....

Today we are lighting Jon with a six light array, will cut his image out, composite with a new background, make visual adjustments and then digitally paint the final image.

First, we start with a single 22" beauty dish, upper camera left. The light spills onto the backdrop, which is less than desirable.

The light spill on the white backdrop appears to be grey, thanks to the inverse square law.

The light spill on the white backdrop appears to be grey, thanks to the inverse square law.

When we clip on a grid over the beauty dish, the light is focused on our subject in a narrow beam that does not reach the backdrop.

To give separation from the backdrop a pair of strip lights are added at a 45 degree angle from behind the subject. I used 3' Westcott Flex Kit lights mounted in a Scrim Jim with diffuser to accomplish this.

Next, a 2' Flex Kit light was added in the front, lower camera right to light his shadowed side of face.

We could stop here with just the four lights. But no, we can't leave well enough alone...

Now, to make cutting Jon's image out for a composite background easier, we throw two flashes on the backdrop, one on each side.

Jon is beginning to look a little annoyed.

Now we back out for a long shot, mask this image and prepare to send Jon to London.

Using a photograph of Notting Hill Station in West London I shot last September...

I placed the train station on the layer under the cutout mask of Jon.

Time to add some dodging and burning...

The background and subject now have similar qualities that marries the two together that (hopefully) makes the total picture believable.

The final touch is to digitally paint over the image using different textures and brushes, and render this final product.

A closer look~

Finally, it goes to print. Because, it's not a picture until it's a print. That's what we do.

Till next time!


Mr PhotoShop Know-It-All

Dear Mr PhotoShop Know-It-All,

Sometimes when I take real estate pictures, the interior is okay, but the view outside is too bright. Can you fix this picture for me?

T. M. in Hot Springs

Dear T.M.,

Yes, I certainly can help you. Remember to shoot two pictures, one exposed for outside, and a second exposed for the interior. Be sure to use a tripod to keep the camera steady and at the same angle. Then, stack the two pictures in Photoshop using layers and the erase tool to blend them together. Unfortunately, the exterior color information is no longer present in the photo you sent me, so I had to improvise.

I hope this helps. Next?


Wright Wedding

Recently I was asked to photograph the groom's party while the bride was getting ready 30 minutes away in downtown Hot Springs. We were at the groom's parent's lake house on Lake Hamilton. After getting dressed, beer, light saber battle, more beer,  the group took a speedboat (with beer) to the docks at Garvan Gardens, the wedding venue. I got the better assignment, yes, I won.

If you're not having fun, why bother?

If you're not having fun, why bother?

The Legend of Big Poppa (Fat Louie)

In published photographs of my home recording studio, hanging on a corner wall is a framed gold record. Yes, it is my gold record, not because I earned it, but rather because I purchased it. Originally, it was awarded to someone else. Here's the real story...

In 1965, while attending Western Oaks Elementary (3rd Grade) in Oklahoma City, my teacher Mrs. Byrd attempted to expand our young horizons by assigning us pen pals from another part of the country. She had contact information for some kids who had contributed to Children's Highlights magazine, and distributed names to the class. I drew a pudgy Jewish kid from Flushing, New York named Louis Pearlman. Flushing? What a ridiculous name for a city, and Pearlman, that was odd as well. So my eight year old self drafted a simple letter describing my school and home life, and asked him to describe the same. A few weeks later, a letter arrived postmarked Flushing (snicker) NY and inside was a wallet photo of Louis and a simple one page reply. It turns out that there is quite a delay in printing Highlights as young Mr. Pearlman was three years older than me. We had little in common and that was then end of that.

In 2002 on a flight from Dallas to San Jose I was reading an article in American Way magazine on the great boy band impresario Louis J. Pearlman from Flushing, New York! I couldn't believe my eyes- this guy was the manager of the Backstreet Boys, N'Sync and others including Britney Spears. I thought I would look like a cling-on if I contacted him out of the blue, he probably would not remember me, but how cool we both got in the music industry... Not too many Louis J Pearlmans from Flushing, New York who had Art Garfunkel for a first cousin.

Pearlman with members of US5, but more on that later.

Pearlman with members of US5, but more on that later.

In 2007 I read that Pearlman had been arrested in Indonesia while on the run from the Feds on fraud charges. We're talking Bernie Madoff-style fraud to the tune of $300 million dollars. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was ordered to sell of all of his possessions and property to pay off his victims.

A great deal of his personal property was auctioned off on eBay, including plaques, awards, pen sets and framed pictures, and Gold Records. The Gold Records for N'Sync and Backstreet Boys were getting really high bids on them, but I won an auction for a lesser known group, US5. I also won an auction for a silver private jet replica for Pearlman's desk, inscribed with his name from Lear or Gulfstream, the plane's manufacturer. I gave that away to my friend Gary Reynolds for his birthday because, well, it was unexpected and kinda cool...

August 22nd of this year, the news broke that Louis J Pearlman had passed away in prison of cardiac arrest. I could say any number of philosophical ramblings of a wasted life, or karma or other lessons learned, but I won't. I'm sorry his life turned out so differently than mine. My Forrest Gump series of life coincidences continues.

Chelsea and Matthew

This week we had the opportunity to shoot Chelsea and Matthew's engagement session. After discussing several locations downtown, up on West Mountain or in the studio, we settled on Hot Springs Village. Easy gig for me, because that's where I live, and we had the convenience of my wife bringing out cold drinks to help with the hot afternoon sun. Thanks to my brother Chuck for his role as Voice Activated Lightstand!

Hey guys, I do weddings, too.... Just sayin'.