Eight Years

Empty Chair

 

Eight years ago, I first stepped into the auditorium as a volunteer at the campus of Bergen County Academies, to photograph “Metamorphosis” a show in which my daughter was performing in.

I have completed my last show “Evita”, and it’s been an amazing journey since! I learned so much and made many new friends along the way. I will miss my time at the Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts, and miss those amazing productions, gifted students, generous parents, and the best teachers I have ever met. I owe everyone a debt of gratitude for providing me the opportunity to photograph so many shows, while improving my skills,  and most important, giving back through photography.

It’s been a joy, and I”ll never forget.

Here’s some numbers!

8 Years
23 Productions
71,633 Total Photographs, Including Outtakes, Sets,
Portraits and Behind The Scenes

The shows!

2008 Metamorphosis
2009 Into the Woods
2009 The Cradle Will Rock
2009 An Absolute Turkey
2010 Children of Eden
2010 The Caucasian Chalk Circle
2010 Ghetto
2011 42nd Street
2011 Loves Labours Lost
2011 A Civil War Christmas
2012 The King and I
2012 Madeline J. Small is Getting Smaller
2012 The Madness of King George III
2013 Brigadoon
2013 You Can’t Take it With You
2013 Antigone
2014 Bat Boy, The Musical
2014 Macbeth
2014 Seventh Son
2015 Kiss Me Kate
2015 DoXXED
2015 Our Town
2016 Evita

Cheers to all,
Ivan

Mercedes Benz SLR, Before-After

I was attending a conference in Florida a few years ago and noticed this beautiful car parked under the hotel entrances’ canopy. It was the perfect photo opportunity as the canopy blocked the direct sun and most of the reflections. I took advantage and shot a few quick ones. I had forgotten  about the shots until recently, and decided to process one.

Here’s the before-after. Not too bad for a spontaneous photoshoot, using the existing light!

Ivan

Turning a New Leaf

I’m re-inventing myself, and my career, and moving on as self employed. I’ll still be involved doing design, but my full attention will be devoted to photography.

I have much to prove and I’m driven with newfound energy to make this a success. I anticipate some bumps, but failure will not be allowed.

Gone is working for a corporation, the daily monotony, reporting to many, and meetings on top of meetings. There were even meetings to discuss when to setup other meetings! And, the politics, game playing from a few, was the thing I detested the most.

It wasn’t all bad, the first ten-twelve years were wonderful. So exciting as the company grew, and ultimately went public, and the work was interesting and challenging. I will miss the camaraderie with writers the most, and I will miss them.  After fifteen years  as a designer/manager/creative director, I’m moving on and could not be happier.

With the assistance of my sister Linda, a freelance marketing and small business expert, we are developing a business plan. This will be the structure behind the venture, and so far things are shaping up nicely!

Stay tuned for more entries on how I’m proceeding, and an introduction to the new brand. I won’t tell yet, but it’s going to be HUGE.

Cheers,
Ivan

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BTS Appa the Dog Photoshoot

A behind-the-scenes look at how I photographed and composed the following photograph of our daughters’ wonderful dog, Appa!

07 Photoshop Layers

The studio setup:

  1. Key light – 22″ beauty dish with grid, Einstein 640, mounted to a super boom on a C-stand.
  2. Kicker – Einstein 640, on a back light stand.
  3. The softbox seen on the left side was not used.

01 Appa - Studio Setup

Camer settings:

  1. Canon 5DIII
  2. 1/125 second @ f/18
  3. ISO 100
  4. 24-70 mm f/2.8 L @ 35mm

The Raw file was processed in Photoshop Lightroom CC, and edited in Photoshop CC for the silhouette.

02 Appa-Studio-Shoot

To silhouette, I used the quick selection tool and dragged across Appa to make a rough selection. Since the background was smooth and contrasty, the rough selection was a decent start.

The area that did not work well was her shadow on the floor due to similar tones. Since this area will be covered with a foreground image, I was not concerned about an accurate selection there, so I let it go.

Next, I used the “Refine Edge” mode in Photoshop to fine tune the selection edges, so Appa’s fur along the edges, would look realistic when cut out and placed in a new scene.

Here’s a look at the “Refine Edge” screen:

03 Refine-Edge

You’ll notice, it did a pretty good job with “smart radius” selected. I played with the amount and may have increased it slightly, to what you see above.

Next, I searched my collection of background photos, for something interesting and found this shot taken with my Fuji X100s mirrorless camera:

04 DSCF0270-Trees-sharp

The challenge with adding an image into a different background scene is making it look realistic enough to fool the eye into believing it was photographed that way.

The foreground would look odd with Appa floating in the scene, so to make it look realistic, I softened the background using a lens blur filter in OnOne software’s Perfect Effects 8.

See here:

05 DSCF0270-Edit-Trees-Blur

I don’t recall the specific settings for the lens blur effect, but you will need to experiment and adjust as each image is unique. I wanted enough of the trees be recognizable so there would be no mistake it was a forest, yet have them appear blurry, to help solve the difference in camera angles from Appa and the scene behind her.

To solve the difference in colors of lighting, I created a layer in photoshop on top. I sampled an average green color from the background trees, filled the layer. I created a mask and on the mask, I loaded the silhouette of Appa as a selection, then deleted it to reveal only the green color over Appa.

The color cast was too heavy, so I reduced the opacity of the layer to 25%.

06 Color-Overlay

The photo was taking shape but needed a foreground of grasses, to portray the forest ground. I found this shot in my archives taken at the NJ shore:09 Appa-Grassy Forground

All I needed was the grass, so I added the photo to the layer stack at the top, above the silo of Appa, but just below the green overlay layer. I added a layer mask and used a graduated fill to eliminate the sky and fade the grass into the scene. I used a soft paint brush using white to reveal some of the strands of grass, so they didn’t look cut off abruptly, and used black to paint away some of the grasses over Appa, to make it look more realistic.

I lowered the opacity of the foreground grass slightly, to 70%, to blend into the scene.

Here’s the finished image:

10 Appa-FINISH

 

I ordered an 11 x 14  print on metallic paper from Bay Photo, framed with walnut wood and a simple white mat with clear acrylic on top.

The image on metallic paper is stunning and adds a unique 3-dimensional quality to the composition.

It has been well received, and no one knew it was a composition until I spilled the beans!

It was great fun and I hope this inspires others.

Cheers, Ivan

Reasons for hiring a professional photographer

  1. A pro knows his gear, inside and out.
  2. A pro has invested thousands of hours to master his craft.
  3. A pro understands proper exposure and creative exposure.
  4. A pro knows the rules of composition.
  5. A pro has invested thousands of dollars in the best tools to do the best work.
  6. A pro knows how to use the industry’s best software tools.
  7. A pro uses web hosting and safe backup and storage systems.
  8. A pro knows retouching and color correction.
  9. A pro knows how to use and shape light, both natural and artificial.
  10. A pro knows how to pose subjects to get the most natural look.

Why you pay a pro

 

 

Pictured above are the base tools and their approximate costs that a pro photographer needs. Yes, a pro photographer needs two camera bodies, just in case one fails on the job, there’s a backup.

There are much more accessories not pictured such as tripods, monopods, camera straps, camera bags, flash accessories, light stands, reflectors, telephoto lens extenders, lens filters, portable hard drives, ink-jet photo printers, paper, inks, and dozens of software additions that are needed.

And, there’s additional costs for insurance, transportation expenses, assistants, stylists, props, backdrops, seminars and training expenses.

What you get when you hire a professional photographer is all of the above. It’s a valuable investment in his/her time, energy and expense to get to the level of competency that is required to be competitive and excellent.

Next time you think you can shoot it yourself, re-read this blog post!

Time

It slips away fast and before you know it, the face you see in the mirror is not the same.  A few more lines, a little more gray. One thing is guaranteed, nothing stays the same. I always had a tough time with that. I love new experiences, but I like some things to never change. Feeling nostalgic!

Cheers,
Ivan

Automotive Details – Jeep Liberty

This is my first in a series, featuring detailed automotive photography.

Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot
Behind the scenes of the Jeep Liberty shoot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used a Jeep for my first shoot because I own it. Owning your own car for a shoot makes it a heck of lot easier to work into your schedule.

There were several challenges, but most of them were in the prep work.

First of which, my car is not new. It’s a 2010 Jeep Liberty with approximately 30,000 miles.

It has it’s share of wear, with dings and scratches, and worn tires.

I needed to clean the car thoroughly with a good car wash, and detailing. Yeesh! That was hard work! The dark metallic gray color took a lot of hours to wax and polish. Getting all the streaks out was a challenge, and I was not completely successful.

I knew if I didn’t do a careful job, all the wax and spots would show up in my shots, so I did my best to do a good job.

All of this work was done during a heat wave, so you can imagine how uncomfortable it was in the garage. I used a fan to help take the edge off, and planned the shoot to take place in the evening, when it was a little cooler.

In preparing the space in the garage, the floor was too dirty for the shoot. So, I decided to give the floor a fresh coat of paint!

Ugh, more work!

I spent the next few hours power-washing the floor and when it dried, I gave it a fresh coat of paint. Not the entire floor, for that would have involved moving everything out, which I didn’t have time for. So, I pushed all the stuff we’ve accumulated as far to the side as possible.

So far, that’s two days of prep invested in this project!

Finally, time to shoot the car!

I setup a single Einstein 640 strobe with a 10″ x 26″ strip box. In addition to the small strip, I used a huge Fotodiox 12″ x 80″ strip box for the wide shots of the car’s front end, and side of the car, but I much preferred the small strip box for most of the detailed shots.

I sandbagged an Avenger stand with a boom arm, to be sure it wouldn’t tip over.

It took the usual trial an error to see where the light fell, but eventually I figured it out.

Here’s the shots (click photo to enlarge):

This was a tough shoot, but fun to do, despite the challenges and the heat and humidity!

Camera
Canon 5DIII
24-105mm L f/4.5
85mm, f/22 @ 1/200

Strobes
(1) Einstein E640 @ 3/4 power,  w/sync cord
10″ x 28″ PCB strip box
12″ x 80″ Fotodiox strip box

Grip
Avenger A5043 stand with extension boom and grip head
Giottos sand bags

Cheers, Ivan

Bike Details

It’s been a long while since I posted so I thought I’d start off with a quick behind the scenes photoshoot. Inspired by Scott Kelby and Tim Wallace’s photography of exotic and expensive sports cars, so I decided to give it a try myself. To begin with, I don’t own an exotic car, nor do I have access to one. And, I certainly can’t afford one myself. However, I knew I could use their lighting principles on any shiny object. So, I decided to shoot my daughters bike!

Click images to see larger.

I purchased the bike for my daughter as a gift many years ago. I don’t know how old she was, but I found the bike at a Toys Are Us  nearby.

As things go, my daughter never got into mountain biking, and the bike sat in the garage for years, hardly used.

After being inspired by Scott Kelby’s detailed photographs of an Acura sports car, and Tim Wallace’s amazing work and tutorials, I thought I’d try shooting the bike!

First, I had to clean the bike. It was filthy and it took several hours to scrub it clean.

I don’t own a studio, and my basement is tiny, but that’s where I setup the shoot because I wanted to control the ambient light and get it as dark as possible. My home is an old stone colonial, built in 1780, and is on the historic registry in New Jersey, so you can imagine how limited the space is in my basement.

The last photo above shows the strip bank in relationship to the bike. The modeling light helped me figure out the lighting, and  I moved the front wheel many times, to get the angle just right. I switched from a prime 24mm lens to a 24-70mm zoom and found it much better for getting in tight and composing.

Settings
Canon 5DIII
24-70mm f/2.8 L
24mm f/1.4 L
f/20 @ 1/100
Some shots were @ f/22
ISO 100, and auto white balance

Lighting
Einstein 640 @ approx. 1/3 power
10 x 26 Strip bank
Triggered with sync cord
Avenger A5043 Stand with extension boom

I hope to get the opportunity to do this again on an exotic car, or motorcycle. I love what some people have done to customize their Harley Davidson motorcycles, and I’d love to shoot one someday. It’s always fun using big studio strobes, and learning. I feel I can do better, but I’m pleased with these shots as start. I hope to do many more. 😉

Cheers,
Ivan

Russian Self Portraits

 

 

Remembering David Attie

When I was thirteen, my father thought I might enjoy spending part of my summer, working as an intern for David Attie, a commercial photographer. Dad was an art director for IBM, and hired David many times for his projects. He loved David’s creativity, both behind the lens and in the dark room and David and his wife Dotty, became close friends of our family.

My father wanted me to experience working in a photo studio, and to work with someone he considered one of the best would be great and perhaps the beginning of a career for me.

As a thirteen year old, I had not formulated what I wanted to do. I liked the arts, and enjoyed sketching, and photography, but I was young and uncertain like many my age.

I remember my time at the Attie’s brownstone, in Chelsea, New York City. Coming from the suburbs of New Jersey, I had trouble sleeping. I was not used to the loud sirens and horns throughout the night. I woke up each morning groggy, and struggled to make it through the days.

During the day, I helped David in the studio. Unfortunately for me, it was a slow period and there was little going on in the studio. I spent most of my time organizing files of slides, contact sheets, and model tear sheets. The studio was not the neatest, with stuff everywhere. I did deliveries to a few nearby clients, then back to the studio. After a long day, we had dinner then to bed, with no TV.

Some work came in, and we did a shoot. Nothing memorable, and all the films were developed in the studio by David. I remember the distinct smell of dektol and photographic paper, always in the air. I worked in the dark room, did some developing, but mostly clean up work.

Work slowed again, and so my time at the studio ended only after about a week.

Little did I realize how much of an impression that brief time spent would have on me today. David had passed away from cancer a dozen-plus years ago and how I wish I could speak with him today. I admired his work in those early days, and over time realized how great his work really was. If he were alive today, I’m convinced without question, his name would be up there with all of the greats. I know there are still people who knew of him that will attest to his genius.

A Legacy
David Attie, along with his corporate, commercial stuff, did work for many major publications of the time, including Vogue, and Esquire. He was published several times in interviews and produced a few books. Most notably, Russian Self Portraits, and Portrait Theory.

Russian self portraits was produced as a cultural exchange program with the Soviet Union. We were at the height of the cold war with Russia, and to go there, I’m sure, must have been dangerous. David traveled to the city of Kiev, no in the Ukraine, for the shoot.

The book was simple. David setup his view camera equipment and invited ordinary Russians to come in snap their own picture. He wanted them to play an active role in their portrait.

They were given an instant Polaroid print, and David retained the negatives. The interesting thing is, he was not permitted to keep the negatives per agreement with the authorities. Perhaps due to disorganization or confusion, he was able to retain the negatives. The book was produced and published in the U.S. in 1977. It’s filled with wonderful, full-length self-portraits by each subject, and a wonderful account of the experience by David.

A snapshot of time in the lives of individual, now indelible in print. The expressions, most of them melancholy, one or two dared to smile, some playful, one or two flirtatious. And my favorite (and David’s), the little girl on the cover who dared to curtsey.

It’s a wonderful, must-have rare book for photographers, long out of publication. But you can find it used on Alibris, or click here

A second book, confirms David’s talent as amongst the best in photography, is a series of essays and photographs on Portrait Theory. Contributing writers/photographers include: David Attie, Chuck Close, Robert Maplethorpe, Jan Groover, Evelyn Hofer, Lottie Jacobi, James Van Der Zee, and Gerard Malanga. The essays and photographs are fascinating and must have for any serious photographer.

Portrait Theory – Click Here

I have fond memories of David Attie, and appreciate his work now more than ever. I wish he were still with us today.

Ivan