Friday, January 24, 2014

No, I don't shoot bikini babes!

When you own your own business, you are contantley marketing yourself. I use every opportunity I can to tell people that I am a professional photographer. Then, I am usually asked, "do you shoot bikini babes"? Or worse. I reply that I am an advertising photographer specializing in products. "Bikinis are products" I answer that yes, they are, but I primarily shoot electronics and auto parts. "Auto parts! That sound absolutely boring."

Well, I don't think auto parts are boring. When you are shooting them for advertising it's like shooting large pieces of jewelry.
These are oil rings for pistons. 

Sometimes the part looks like a land cruiser from a space movie.
This is a brake caliper. 

Or a very bad dream about a waterfall from hell. 
Another piston ring with oil pouring over it. This image took an entire day to shoot.

I don't know what this will remind you of. 
This is a coil spring for your car's suspension. 

And sometimes we shoot parts for other moving machines.
The point is, parts can be sexy also. And they don't talk back. And yes, I have and will shoot pretty women in bikinis or wearing anything else they choose. But auto parts are a lot of fun.

Monday, October 7, 2013

This would never happen with film!!!

Having been a film photographer just a little longer than the almost 21 years I have been a digital photographer; I know the good and bad of both mediums. I prefer digital.

Here is a project that came to us from an international corporation headquartered in Sweden. They have a small division here in San Diego. They produce a calendar each year. Each page of the calendar represents a city that  a division is in. There are only two cities from the USA each year. This year they chose San Diego as one of the cities.

The assignment was to photograph a specific employee, picked by the division, in a location that says 'San Diego'. It had to show a lot of people moving about the individual. They had to be blurry and the model in focus.

We chose two locations to give them a choice. My favorite was the San Diego Zoo. Jack liked the Gas Lamp District.

Here are the two finished calendar pages:

Well, this wouldn't be an interesting story if it ended here. Here is how we completed the assignment:
Each guy had to be photographed in our studio. The company did not want to spend the money to pay them overtime to hang out in downtown San Diego at night!

We shot each one facing left and facing right. We shot them with the clothes they brought.

We had checked out the sites before hand, to figure out where to shoot it from and the time of day to shoot. We shot some quick shots to get the 'ok' from the client. We gave them six locations to choose from.

 When we got there we had a few surprises. One, the ticket booths and the San Diego Zoo sign didn't light up at night! That took out the interesting lighting we were counting on.

Secondly, we were not counting on the overcast sky. Coastal Edy. What the heck.

This is our shot for the background:
  The sky looked horrible. And it was cold! We used some sky shots I had in my files that I had shot in Wyoming to give us that beautiful sky. 

Then we spent about 1 1/2 hours shooting people walking around. Those up close were blurred and the one's in the background not as much.

 The real Elephant topiary trees had some problems. The one on the right looked real bad and was kinda out of the picture. So this one was retouched and flipped for the other side. It covered up the dumb three sided sign in the picture.

All in all we shot over 100 shots at the zoo and 65 shots at the San Diego Gas Lamp district. On a Friday night! Parking was awful.

The client could not have been happier. Our local contact received high praises from his Swedish bosses.

We did our job, had fun and made a bunch of money. Good assignment. The 'we' I keep mentioning is my really good digital artists: Jack White and Shelley Jackson. Shelley has worked for me for eight years, Jack three. Together, we are a good team.

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Good Old Days, or Maybe Just The Old Days.

I have been a professional photographer for a lot of years now. Recently, in cleaning out a storage room in our studio, I found some of my older work.

I am glad that I came up in this profession prior to digital. When you had to shoot something complicated, you had to shoot it onto a piece of film. Not several pieces and have the cute girl in the back office put them together in her computer in a hour or so. One piece of film.

This photo was shot by hanging the 4x5 camera upside down on a boom bolted to the sealing. The boom was attached to hand winch. First was an exposure for the overall shot. Shot in a dark room the tops of the reels were lite and the camera cranked a certain distance and an exposure made. More that 15 exposures.

It worked.

Sometimes we had to rely on the skills of another artist to finish the job. A case in point: these pigs:
First we had to find some guys that knew how to hold a guitar. Put pig masks on them. (They brought there own hair!) After processing the black and white film, a large print was made (in our darkroom) and sent to a good air brush artist. He blended the masks into the models own skin. The complete job took five days from start to finish. Yes, days, not hours.

Other times the effect was made by using a filter on the camera and actually moving the back of the 4x5 camera during a long exposure:

The legs were the legs of a manakin. We went to a display company and rented the sleigh and my stylist wrapped a bunch of phoney Christmas presents.

So the question has to be asked: Would I ever throw away my digital cameras and go back to film? The answer of course is no. I was one of the very first studios in San Diego to 'go digital' and have never looked back. But I am glad that I learned how to think through a shot and figure out how to do it with whatever means were needed. I still try to do that with complicated shots in digital. Then the cute girl in the back office makes me look really good.

Actually there isn't a 'cute' girl in the back office at Atkinson Studios. There is an attractive mother of two and Jack. And Jack is not 'cute'.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Judging a Book by it's Cover

We judge constantly in our lives. We look at a car and judge who might own that car and what they may look at. When I grew a beard, people treated me differently. For the most part, strangers were not that friendly.

Here are some people that I know. Judge them. I bet you would be wrong if you just judged them by their looks. In these pictures and not in this order, you are looking at the following:

An Advertising Executive
A Roofer
A former Navy Seal and Swift Boat Commander
A sucessful Home Building/Contrator
A highly creative Digital Artist
An Engineer
A Doctor of Anthropology
A Cancer Survivor
A Guy I don't know
A really good Photographer

I know all these people. They are good folks. I have enjoyed their company. All except one. And he is weird looking, so I don't want to know him.

It would be a loss in my life if I had judged these guys by how they look, and missed out on some good memories and good friends.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dang, I'm good! (with a little help)

As a photographer, you always take credit for your work. Back when we shot film, you never gave the lab credit for your great shot. But without them processing your film, you don't have a great shot. Today is much the same. "Why, yes, I shot that photo. Yes, it is great. Thank you." Meanwhile, here in my studio, Jack and Shelley are laboring away in the Digital Dungeon making me look really good.

Here are some recent examples of things that turned out great, and I said 'why thank you' when complemented. Well, it wasn't just me.

this was shot for a new client, a major museum.  It's a painting, that is 10'x10', it hangs in the stairwell at the Museum. This is how it looked when we first photographed it. Yep, that's the top of a train signpost in the middle of the painting. You can get an idea of the size of the painting by looking at Calieb's hand holding the color checker on the lower left.

It was a challenge, but this is the final image and it is a very accurate copy of the original painting. I moved the camera to the left and did a second image to show Shelley what the sign was blocking. She combined the two images and retouched out the post. Again, I took all the credit!

Same client. This time we photographed two larger than life size sculptures of a horse on location in the Museum. We shot it on a white seamless. Then the client asked me if we could provide a clipping path so, they could put it on different backgrounds. I said, " sure, that's no problem".

This is the raw file. We shot several angles of two different horses. They ended up asking for eight finished images.

This is the final image of one angle. The clipping path on this one horse took over ten hours to complete.

Here is a close-up, so that you can see the intricacies of the clipping path.

Thanks go out to Shelley Jackson and Jack White who spend a bunch of hours making me look really good. 

Not all of our images require this much retouching. The following are some complicated photos that had just a minimum of retouching.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

20 Years of Digital

Hard to believe that it has been 20 years since we purchased our first medium format digital back. I honestly think that we were the first independent photo studio in San Diego to 'go digital'

Our first digital back was a Leaf DCBII. It cost us $60,000.
But for that money we also got an Apple Quadra 840 computer!
The camera back actually had a black and white chip. In order to take a color photo you made three exposures and that big wheel on the front put a Red, Green, then a Blue filter in front of the lens. You always had to do a little tweaking to get the three images perfectly in registration. The chip was 4mp. My I-Phone is now 8mp. By the time you combined the three images you had a 12mp image.

That was a long time ago. Our first paying job with this camera was a small toy Ferrari car for an ad agency. The only reason they let us shoot digital is that they needed an image right away and didn't have time for us to shoot film and process it.

We are now on our 8th medium format digital back. It is a Leaf again, but this time we have ten times the mega pixels of the first camera. We use it mounted to a small view camera in order to have perspective and focus control while shooting products. Products being what we shoot.
You may ask what happened to the previous seven digital backs. Two were used as trade in's for new backs and five were donated to two different college level schools.

So, here is just a few of the shots this latest camera has allowed us to do this past year:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That Old Case

I pulled out a camera case the other day. It's one that I bought used sometime in the late 70's or early 80's. I marveled at all the scratches, dents, dings, dirt, repairs and rust that covered it's surface. It's a good case and I still use it. So I dug out some more of the old bags, all looking about the same for wear. All still in use.

Then it hit me. I am just like these bags. Banged up, scratched, dented, rusty and repaired. But like these bags, I am still in use. Still doing what I like and doing it well.

I have been around the block, under the bus, abused, loved, put in the dumpster then dragged out, cleaned off and used again.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm looking forward to the next assignment. The next new client and always looking forward to those current clients that put some of the dents and dings in these bags and in me.

It's good to love what you do, and have all those great stories to tell. Did I tell you about the time I dropped my Hasselblad down a 50' silo? Another time, maybe.