I know it’s more than a few days into the new year but I still wanted to highlight some of my favorite frames of 2011. Most of this was shot on assignment for one client or another, but many remain unpublished — that’s half the reason I want them here My goal on every assignment, whether it’s for a newspaper, magazine, website or university, is to make a unique picture. I try not to shoot from the pack. I try and make something different, and unexpected — a pictorial moment within a news situation. Of course, I will get the safe shot, but when time allows, I am looking for a me photo. A different vantage point, a unique angle, better access — anything to find something unique, and apart from the pack. Sometimes that works out in my favor. The risk pays off. Every shoot is a teachable moment, and it’s only a mistake if you cannot learn from it. This was a successful year but every year is a learning experience and this one taught me that in a lot of ways. You have to hustle. You have to really want it. Onward and upward in 2012, my friends.
I know it is a few days into 2012 but I wanted to share some of my favorite portraits from the past 12 months. Portraiture is something I really enjoy because it can be such an intimate experience — or, in contrast, something very fleeting. It’s a total dance photographers do with their subjects. We are trying to elucidate a story visually, and make a connection with people. We want that glimpse at soul. Sometimes it is a delicate thing to do — but I love it.
It’s always a thrill to set up my lights (or recognize great natural light and rock that instead!). You’re trying to turn an unknown environment into something storytelling.
I have been fortunate enough this year to work with some fantastic new clients, such as DataSphere, the New York Post, Cityvision Magazine, Financial Advisor Magazine, The U.S. Department of Energy and Northwest Leaf and Seattleite. My assignments represent a huge gamut of subject matter, but I love thinking on my feet and bringing my own photography style to whatever I shoot — that’s part of the wonderful challenge of working with clients.
And to that end, I wanted to share a little bit of the back story behind my favorite portraits this year:
DataSphere, a Bellevue-based internet advertising firm, hired me to make portraits for their website. The client wanted to showcase their fun, unique corporate culture, for recruiting and marketing purposes. Along with my faithful assistant Mark Malijan, I photographed more than a dozen setups in a day all across their expansive three-floor office. It was a rush but a lot of fun to take my style and apply it to the client’s needs. I don’t think I will ever get the chance to set up an employee shot like the guys at the arcade one again. It was such a blast and definitely stands out as a very memorable assignment, this year and in my career as well.
One of my most high-profile shoots of the year came completely out of nowhere: photographing Gennette Cordova for the cover of the New York Post, back in June.
The cover image – I guess I am okay with all the text all over it
My friend Stephen Brashear referred the job to me and over the course of a week, I managed to make contact with Gennette and make her picture. This was my first shoot for the Post and I was totally blown away to see it on the cover. I got an email from the picture editor at midnight the day it was to come out. “Berman cover” was the subject line, and I just about screamed. It was my first national cover.
Cordova, you’ll recall, was sent a lewd photo by former Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY), in a scandal that became known as Weinergate. Ugh. Name aside, this was a really exciting shoot and to see the cover floating around national media sites like Gawker was another experience altogether. The Post hired me a few months later to cover Amanda Knox’s arrival in the U.S. — but more on that in my news photo of the year post coming up.
I have completed eight or nine assignments for Cityvision and it is just so rewarding to be working with them regularly. They run really interesting, informative pieces, that shine line on complicated issues in a relevant way. They do a great job, and my assignments have involved photographing politicians, mayors, and state senators, for stories discussing their governance work. It’s neat to meet people with power and try and make the same kind of connection I would with anyone else, to make a compelling portrait.
This was an interesting shoot because it all hinged on access to water — visually it would be tough to photograph a water story without it — but when I arrived, the fountain was turned off! A quick call from the Mayor’s PR staff to the control room staff for the arena helped get it turned on just in time. Remaining calm was key, and the mayor was a good sport about waiting for a bit to begin the shoot.
I also photographed more stories on water and on cities being inundated with public record’s requests.
My assignment was to photograph Saturna Capital’s Nick Kaiser for Financial Advisor Magazine. Saturna Capital has become renowned for their Amana Mutual Funds, which invests according to Islamamic law — and has done very well from their unassuming offices.
I worked with two Alien Bee 800s firing into a simple 40 inch umbrella and a bare 7″ reflector, plus some nice afternoon sunlight fill, to make most of the pictures.
Nick was really generous with his time and worked with me to make some pictures the client and I were happy with. More from this shoot in my recent post: Nick Kaiser for Financial Advisor Magazine.
I also did a shoot this year for Seattleite, an online cultura and lifestyle magazine that started in 2011. The assignment came courtesy a friend of mine, Erik Simkins, working as their photo editor at the time. My task was to photograph Jay Friedman for a story about his food lecture series, Sexy Food. He uses humor to make the connection between the things we eat and the stuff we enjoy. I wanted to make a portrait that captured that same fun quality. We shot inside of a beautiful old classroom on the University of Washington campus. No assistant for this one, like on most of my shoots, but atleast I got a workout dragging my lighting cases up three flights of stairs. No elevator. The new client was happy and I made some pictures I am happy with too, and that’s all you can ask for right?
I had an SB-800 firing into Photek Softlighter II up high and above him, with a bare sb800 firing for the rim-light in rear.
This is the one the mag ran online.
Sometimes the best assignments are the ones we take on for ourselves. It’s important to try out new ideas, test new techniques, and cover the events we want to cover — even if no one is footing the bill. Sometimes we are fortunate for a client to license personal work after the fact; but that’s not the goal. I do self-assignments to keep me sharp for when the phone rings. It keeps my portfolio current and lets me push new work out more than waiting for assignment work. It’s fulfilling and a big part of my personal goals for 2012.
The Emerald City Comicon was a self-assignment that ended up being licensed for SeattlePI.com. But before that happened, I bought my own ticket, rolled all my lighting gear through the concourses and hoped to heck nobody was going to ask me to leave. I set up in an empty corner of a well-trafficked area of the main room, and looked around for interesting people to photograph. There was no shortage. In contrast to most portrait shoots where I have between 5 and 50 minutes to photograph someone, I spent only a minute or two with most of these Comiconners. I think it kept them authentic. The hours I put into the shoot paid off because it was a great day.
I also went down to Occupy Seattle and made some simple portraits of some of the protestors. I wish I would have been able to go back down, but other assignments and work kept me away. Even so, the windy, blustery evening I spent down there was informative and useful. I made some pictures I am happy with and can at least say I photographed a little bit of a very important movement, in my own backyard.
I also did a lot of assignments for a Seattle-based publication called Northwest Leaf that deals with medical marijuana patients and the industry. It has been so eye-opening to have the access I do on these shoots, and it pays off, because I am making images that are not being made anywhere else. I am getting a grounds-eye view of this burgeoning movement, and I am excited to see where it takes me next year.
This was such a simple lighting setup. Just a single 45″ Photek Softlighter II off to my left, in close to the subject, on about 1/4 power. No fuss, no muss, just nice soft light that let more attention go to the stuff in his hands…
2011 has been a great learning experience. I really pushed myself, fell some times and grew stronger from those mistakes. It’s only a mistake if you can’t learn from it, I feel. I just want to keep driving towards my goals and keep learning and growing with my photo family, as my buddy Pittsburgh photographer Jared Wickerham said so aptly. 2011 has been a great year, a fulfilling year and probably one of my strongest years. You have to really want it in this business, and I think about that everyday. I am so blessed to be doing what I love and know the amazing people I do these days in Seattle and across the country. The kinship and community in photography is like none other!
Thanks for looking, and if you made it this far, thanks for joining me on this journey.
In December, I had the opportunity to photograph Shoreline Mayor Keith McGlashan for Cityvision Magazine. The former owner of a hair salon has been the mayor of Shoreline for about a year now. He also works part time as a barista at a local Starbucks! Busy fellow! McGlashan was interviewed by the magazine for a story about he is dealing with changes in the city’s demographics and to local infrastructure. I photographed him at Shoreline City Hall, which is an amazing and fairly new facility featuring some pretty cool architecture and art.
The magazine used my editorial portraits of McGlashan throughout the magazine. Here are some tearsheets:
Thanks for looking!
These are a handful of my favorite portraits of attendees and exhibitors at Bellingham ComicCon 2010.
This was a self-assigned project — in the same vein as my Seahawk fan portraits last year.
I arrived about 20 minutes to doors and was let in a little early to get my quasi-studio setup, well, set up. I found a wall near the back of the exhibition area and got three Nikon speedlights into position.
Before long, dozens of costumed comic enthusiasts swarmed the floor, and the place got crowded quickly. I scanned the room and sought out people with interesting or strange costumes for the series. When I saw wolverine, I knew he had to be in it; same for Spiderman and the girl dressed in the kimono.
Click more to view the rest of the photographs. (more…)
Late last month I received a call from art director Samantha Gardner at City Vision Magazine, asking if I was available to make a portrait of Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike. Available? Yes. Excited to get started? Definitely. As a Bellingham photographer, I am always interested in getting to know people in my community. What better way than getting to photograph the chief of the city?
The most challenging part of the assignment was figuring out how to connote the transportation angle the story discussed. In Bellingham, transportation, specifically public transit, are key issues for local government. My assistant and I had a half-hour with the mayor, which is an enormous amount of time to be able to spend with a high-profile subject.
The shoot was to begin at 2:30, and by 1:00pm we were on-location scouting shooting areas and setting up lighting. We also choreographed how we would move Mayor Dan Pike through our three separate lighting set-ups. Since we were limited to shooting near and around Bellingham City Hall, I decided to photograph him on the beautiful lawn just out front and across the street at an abandoned bus stop — an apt metaphor for the public transit issues Bellingham faces today.
The Mayor was a great sport and everything moved smoothly. My assistant called out the remaining time left at 20, 10, 5 and 1 minute remaining, and we had the mayor back in his office exactly 29 minutes after the first photo. Scouting out a location ahead of time, pre-planning shoots, angles and lighting setups ensure that the experience goes as smooth as possible. And that, is more key than a lot of things to a successful portrait assignment.
Check out the September/October issue of City Vision Magazine at http://www.awcnet.org/cityvision/0910/Cityvision_0910.pdf
My portraits of the Mayor are on Page 2 (Table of Contents) and on pages 11 and 12 of the article. I really like their layouts and design!
Thanks for looking!
I photographed a neat assignment for The WF last week to make group portraits of the newly-elected student government at Western. The newspaper was hoping for something with drama and punch, and yet still approachable. My assignment called for photographing headshots of each official, and as I got done with those I could see it was rainy and dark out – in other words, a standard Bellingham day. Luckily for everyone, the soggy weather turned sunny long enough to execute the shoot, though it was pretty chilly that evening. Everyone was really into the shoot and a real trouper, and for that I couldn’t be more appreciative.
For lighting, I used two Nikon SB-800 speedlights without modifiers and connected to Pocket Wizards to make the first portrait. I added a third speedlight to provide a bit of backlight in the second image. The lights were at 1/2 power and set-up a few feet away in a cross-light pattern.
Thanks for looking!
I made this portrait of Vivian Luu at a local Seattle Flickr meet-up. It is surreal to see dozens of photographers set up portable studios in the middle of a parking garage after-hours at the University of Washington. I just might have to return for another meet-up: they are a fun bunch!
Lighting was done with a SB-800 fired into a large softbox on a boom camera left.
Before the start of the Seattle Seahawks game against the Detroit Lions at Qwest Field, I made portraits of some of the Seahawks’ most dedicated and passionate fans. I have really been enjoying making portraits of people at different events recently (like the Seattle Tattoo Expo and the Bellingham ComicCon) and wanted to try a similar style with the Seahawks fans.
I want to return for another game; these superfans are as fun to meet as they are to photograph!
On a whim I decided to check out the Bellingham Comic Con, in its first year under new ownership, this past Saturday. Met some very nice people and had fun making portraits of a unique subculture: the comic book collector.
Joel Smith hopes to become an Eagle Scout after cleaning up the steps leading from the tennis courts at Shoreview Park to the new Shoreline Dog Park.
I used two Nikon SB800 speedlights w/o modifiers as my main and fill, with the sun over his right shoulder providing the rimlight.
Thanks for looking!