Category News

Introducing: Light Matters

Light Matters

 

It’s been a very eventful week for me personally and professionally.  On October 2, I published my first book, Light Matters: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Flash on Location .

Light Matters is more than the realization of a childhood dream to write and publish a book.   It’s my approach to lighting when on assignment, reduced to actionable tips.  Each suggestion is informed by my own experiences and, often, by my missteps and mistakes over 20-odd years as a shooter.

My working title for the book was simple: Move, Light, Shoot.  Purposeful experimentation keeps one from getting stuck and kicks creativity in the behind.   You can’t master flash—or anything else—without taking direct action, assessing the results, and adjusting your approach.

To that end, the guide is full of tips and practice exercises that any serious amateur or natural-light pro would find useful as they stretch their lighting muscles.

I write in the intro that I wish I had a book like  Light Matters in my camera bag when I was coming up.

Most photo book contain endless lighting diagrams, three-point lighting setups and exact recipes allowing readers to duplicate the example photographs.  I’d rather give readers tips that force them to think and tools to help them succeed.  A simple Google search will provide any number of lighting setups.  Few resources give you tips on shaping your shoot, dealing well with your clients and with the many inevitable issues that arise on location.

Above all I hope the guide is useful. That it prompts photographers to think and to stretch themselves. If it saves a photographer just a smidge of the grief that would have otherwise come to them, then I’ll be happy.

I’m so thankful to my group of advance readers–my Dream Team–comprised primarily of photographers I know and trust around the country. Their feedback helped shape the final product and made it shine.

I’m grateful that during its first week of publication, Light Matters reached #1 in two categories in the Kindle store. Mind blown.

As a companion to the book, I’ve created two resources. One is the page on my site, www.lightmattersguide.com, where I’ll be posting additional information about the book, downloadable excerpts and other resources as they come available. The other is a private Facebook group  Light Matters , set up to discuss the exercises and concepts in the book.

Please check out Light Matters on Amazon, and let me know what you think.

2017: A Look Back

As fall morphs into winter and the holidays begin, it’s a good time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close.

It’s been a great year, though I’m getting a little sick of the term “fake news”. Who’s with me?

I’m very thankful for my many clients, both in Maine and elsewhere. Among other thing I had the opportunity this year to photograph:  a luxury high-end yacht company, a major-league bat-maker, an immigrant and former refugee from Egypt; cancer survivors and caregivers, Portland restaurateurs, a bunch of Maine Masons including Bob Crowley of Survivor fame; students in Port Clyde; some really cool structures, and many, many fun and interesting people whose portraits I made both on location and in the studio—200 and counting, to be precise.

The greatest thing about doing what I do is the inspiring and fascinating people that I get to meet.  The images I get to create are kind of the bonus extra, like the chips that come with my Chipotle burrito.

On a personal note, my daughter Maggie is gunning for ‘high honors’ in her fifth grade year and the smart money is definitely riding on her. She’s way smarter than dad. Beth finished her intensive year of training to become a full stack web developer and already has a dozen clients (my plan to buy a limited-edition golden Leica, a photo vest and fedora, and then retire to a life of gentleman photographer is well on track).

Until that happens, though, I’m going to keep on doing what I love and what keeps my clients happy.

So here’s to an eventful year and one that I’m grateful to so many for—my amazing clients, my family, and to the efforts of so many folks besides myself.

 

Bernstein Shur: letting clients help tell the story

Bernstein Shur: letting clients help tell the story

 

One of the largest single projects I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with over the past year was a branding redesign for Maine-based law firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson, P.A.

I was contacted by Thinkso!, a New York creative agency, to produce all of the imagery for a comprehensive rebranding effort. Working with their creative team and with the amazing people at Bernstein Shur, we photographed all of the firm’s attorneys in Portland,  Augusta and New Hampshire. We also spent time with several of the firm’s clients, photographing their operations over the course of several months.  This project was unique not just because of its scope and size, but also because of the opportunity to work with Bernstein Shur’s clients in the course of showing the deep relationships involved.

The rebrand was rolled out at the end of 2015 and looks amazing. I’m grateful to have been a part of such a monumental effort and for the chance to visually tell the story of this proud Maine firm.  See below for examples of the work in action.

 

Bernstein Shur: letting clients help tell the story

 

Bernstein Shur: letting clients help tell the story

 

Bernstein Shur: letting clients help tell the story

No, I was not attacked in Iraq

[rev_slider iraqslider]

 Note:  the above images are mostly outtakes from my time embedded with troops from the 737th Transportation Company from January-March 2004.  All images © Yakima Herald-Republic.

CORRECTION:  I mentioned “bulletproof” vests in my article.  The troops at the time had fragmentary resistant vests, later upgraded to the type of vest I wore–a ballistic vest with ceramic plates in the front and back.    Also, a soldier with the 737th pointed out that he had never heard a mortar ‘whistle’.  While the sound is clear in my memory, I’d have to describe it more accurately as a loud hissing noise, increasing in intensity to a roar.  In any case, terrifying. 

Like many of my journalist friends I’ve followed with fascination the controversy over NBC anchor Brian Williams’ misrepresentation of his role during an incident in Iraq in 2003.  As someone who spent 16 years as a photojournalist and photo editor, I’m particularly sensitive to the topic. Just a few months after Williams’ incident, I was also an embedded journalist, living with and reporting on troops in Kuwait and Iraq.

Everyone remembers incidents differently over time.  Ask a cop whether eyewitness accounts are reliable.   Williams’ account isn’t the first time that someone with an incidental role in a major event ends up over time recasting themselves closer and closer to the action.   But I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when a professional journalist of such stature—someone paid to bear witness and to tell truth—has so been accused.
It’s not just his dramatic retelling that happened in the years since the episode. For me, it’s interesting that in the report Williams aired immediately after the incident, he reported that the chopper ahead of his had taken fire and was forced to land.  It implied that he witnessed the scene as part of the convoy rather than on a ‘following’ chopper arriving later at the scene.      I suspect that Williams’ error has less to do with some moral failing and a lot to do with the nature of TV news.     The emphasis is for TV journalists to be in the picture, part of the scene, and encourages them to imply an immediacy that may be misleading.    It’s a desire to be part of the story, and is in contrast to the type of journalism practiced by print and photo-journalists whose emphasis is should be on the subject and never on themselves (with some exceptions, I’m sure).
I witnessed both approaches during the time I spent embedded with troops of the 737th Transportation Company back in 2004.   I was one of two journalists from Eastern Washington state given the opportunity to document the lives of some 160 Army Reservists whose unit had been last called to active duty during the Vietnam War.      The goal was to tell the story not of the war, but  of the men and women from my community who put their lives on hold for a year (or more) to go to war far from home.   My sacred mission was to keep the focus on them and not on me.   Looking back, it was easier for me as a newspaper journalist to do that—to stay behind the scenes, watching, reporting, photographing.    For a TV journalist it’s not so simple.   Embedded with me was Patrick Preston, a reporter from KXLY-TV in Spokane, Washington.    Both of us were doing double-duty:  I was photographing and writing stories and he was filing reports on air and handling his video camera and gear.   After looking at his bags of gear, I realized that I had the better end of the bargain.  Even with my RBGAN satellite data phone, my voice satellite phone, two cameras, lenses, laptop and backup drives,  I was 10 times more mobile than Patrick (see his picture, above).    I also could ‘embed’ easier, hanging out the soldiers, photographing them as they went about their business.  Patrick had to do a lot of stand-up interviews, usually at 5 am each morning in time for the Spokane broadcast.  He also had to be in front of the camera, essentially narrating and shaping each broadcast while I had the luxury of letting my photos tell the story with a little help from a caption or two.
This gave me a distinct advantage, and allowed me to grow closer to the troops.  For Patrick, his broadcast time restraints and his heavy gear all made it tougher for him to just be one of the guys.  During a convoy escort mission into Iraq, Patrick and I were given space in separate Humvees.  The reason was simple:  a journalist doesn’t have a weapon, and so you spread them out so that you’re only missing one rifle in each gun truck, rather than two.     The First Sergeant told us in no uncertain terms to stay awake.  His theory was, if a hostile is looking for a weak spot in a line of trucks, they’ll go with the one that has one less rifle–especially if they see a civilian not paying attention.   Because Patrick had to do daily early-morning stand-up reports, he tended to pass out after hours in the Humvee.   Eventually, the First Sergeant got so frustrated that he came to my Humvee, pulled out a solider and traded spots with him.  He was worried that Patrick’s Humvee would be hit, and he didn’t want to tempt fate.
Through it all, I think Patrick did a great job with very little resources or sleep.   I had the easier time.   But having gone through that experience, I can understand some of the context around Brian Williams’ faulty memory.  To me, it’s really not about a faulty memory.  It’s about an emphasis in TV news about being on screen instead of behind it;  about being part of the story instead of simply reporting it.
Patrick and I spent about five weeks with the 737th, living with them at Ft. Lewis, Washington and deploying with them overseas to Kuwait.  We actually feared that we wouldn’t make it to Iraq at all, given the fact that the mission changed, and changed again after our arrival.    The last week of my embed—the very end of February, 2004—we were given the mission to escort a convoy into Iraq.   We were nervous, excited, but happy to be given a chance to show the folks back home what the Iraq experience might be like for their loved ones.
We spent five days in Iraq.   During that time, we ate a lot of dust, saw a lot of destruction and saw the troops perform admirably.   We were subject to two incidents: one in which unknown persons hurled a large rock from an overpass in Baghdad, hitting the windshield of a Humvee (not mine, nor his), and another in which two mortars were lobbed indiscriminately from beyond the perimeter and landed among our lines of trucks at the motor pool at operating base Speicher, near Tikrit, Iraq.    In that incident, we were relaxing and awaiting departure when we heard the whistle of incoming mortars.  We were unprepared.   Many soldiers were missing their Kevlar helmets and others (probably me among them) had taken off our uncomfortable bulletproof vests.   There were casualties with minor injuries, as the rockets landed a hundred yards away between lines of fuel tankers.  It could have been much, much worse.
We were lucky, and neither I nor Patrick ever ‘conflated’ our role in either incident to one of prominence.   After all, it was about the troops and not about us.   Whatever happens to Brian Williams, I hope the incident isn’t cast as a simple failing of an egotistical TV personality.  It should be a reminder for all journalists, TV or otherwise, of something my ASU journalism professor Bruce Itule always told us:  “It ain’t about you.”
–30–

Announcing: Pro Photogs, Beer, Reviews, ASMP

 

Maine ASMP Breakfast Club

 

Join Maine ASMP members as we mix it up during our bimonthly gathering.

This time around, we’re foregoing breakfast in favor of beer.  Peter Dennen,
of Pedro + Jackie Photo Consultants, will be on hand to give ten-minute speed-style portfolio reviews for six selected attendees (Thanks, Peter!).    Professional photographers, students and others are welcome to attend.   This is event is for ASMP and non-ASMP members.  Find out more here.

About the ASMP

The American Society of Media Photographers is the premier trade association for the world’s most respected photographers. ASMP is the leader in promoting photographers’ rights, providing education in better business practices, producing business publications for photographers, and helping to connect purchasers with professional photographers. ASMP, founded in 1944, has nearly 7,000 members and 39 chapters.

About Pedro + Jackie

P+J is the dynamic duo photo consulting team of Peter Dennen and Jackie Ney.  Their mission is to help build the careers of the photographers they engage with through sound advice, strategic initiatives and infusing our creative minds into the business of those they serve.  To learn more, check out http://www.pedroandjackie.com/

 

When

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
5:00pm-7:00pm

Where

Brian Boru Public House
57 Center Street
Portland, ME

Questions? 

Contact Brian Fitzgerald, breakfast coordinator



Looking for assistance, and assistants

Fitzgerald Photo Assistant
Charlie, striking a glamour pose during the ubiquitous light test.
It wasn’t long ago that the thought of hiring someone to schlep my gear, set up lights and help me out on location seemed as strange and unnecessary to me as paying someone to walk my dog.   As a photojournalist, I travelled light–my only lighting provided by my camera’s flashes and whatever ambient light I encountered at my shoot location.   I felt good that I carried my own gear and I imagined that the complication of having another person to manage on a shoot would get in the way of creating good images, of connecting with my subject.

I’ve modified my stance somewhat, in part because of my experience with Charlie Widdis, my current assistant, and Ayla Kelley, my former one.  In my bones, I’ll always be a photojournalist.   But now I understand first-hand that the right application of assistance is critical.     Having an assistant means showing up at a day-long shoot fresh, not worn out already from lugging gear from studio to car to location.   It means having more options in terms of setups during a shoot.  It means looking more professional, and having an extra pair of eyes to spot any of the inevitable myriad issues that come up on location.  In short, consider me converted to the pro-assistant crowd.

And now that he’s hooked me on having an assistant, Charlie is moving on.   Charlie is a talented landscape photographer just beginning his professional career.  He’s also got a huge interest in video, and has spent a lot of time this past year doing Haunt ME, a ghost-hunting video series.  It’s good.  Good enough that Charlie got hired to be the video production guy for, get this–a treasure hunting expedition.  You know, the guys who spend millions locating and then diving on shipwrecks on the ocean floor in search of valuable loot.  How cool is that?   I’m happy and proud of Charlie, but I gotta face facts.  I need a Charlie, or a Charleen, II.

Honesty time:  this isn’t a gig that will make you rich.  Rates range from hourly to day-rates depending on the job and client.   The pay is pretty good, but it isn’t scheduled daily work.   For that reason the ideal person will A) have another job that is very flexible or B) have a trust fund that enables them to assist and hang out at coffee shops all day.  Don’t worry; I’ll still pay you.  The good news is that I don’t believe in making you work for free.  I don’t do free tryouts or anything like that.  If I use you, even if you break some gear, I’m going to pay you (even if I don’t want to call you back the next time).   The other good news is that you’ll learn a tremendous amount from a working, busy commercial and editorial photographer who does a lot of location work and loves to use strobes.

What I’m looking for is one or hopefully more people that I can tap from time to time to be my photo assistant.  The work is pretty straightforward—pack and unpack photo gear, prep cameras and gear for location shoots, keep releases organized,  lug said gear, and function as a VALS, or Voice -Activated Light Stand.  Stuff like that.   Any candidate would need to have the following going for them:  The ability to carry heavy bags, lift heavy objects over their heads, and they need to have…hustle.   That means you need to have more than one gear and the ability to smoothly transfer into and out of that higher gear as the situation dictates.   I’m not a get-set-up-and-shoot-in-one-single-spot kind of photographer. I like to move.  I change my mind (too much, I know Charlie is thinking).   So the ability to roll with it and be flexible is always good.  I need someone who can be a chameleon and fit in to whatever environment we’re shooting in.   This means you can dress up for the corporate stuff and dress down when we’re shooting from a moving car.   I’m not looking specifically for a photographer, though a passion for visuals and an understanding of exposure, artificial lighting and professional camera gear is a huge, huge plus.  I don’t care what lights you may or may not be familiar with; that I can teach.   In fact, you’d learn a lot on the job, so a teachable attitude is necessary too.

Oh, and…one more thing.  You need to have good social skills.  You need to have a sense of humor.  This should really be at the top of the list.   It’s not necessary, but a bonus if you like music like Johnny Cash, the Pogues and Flogging Molly.  I’m just sayin’.   However, Charlie likes techno and Queen, so obviously I won’t get hung up on that last one.

If you’re interested, email me at brian@fitzgeraldphoto.com, please, by the end of December.   Feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested.   No calls, please.   In your mail, tell me what your work situation is, ideally what you’re looking for in an assistant position and any limitations you have (can’t work on Mondays, can’t do overnight travel, etc).   Tell me a little about yourself.   I’ll take a look at what you send me and will do interviews after that point.

Thanks!

New campaign for Poland Spring hits the road, literally.

One of the hardest things to do as a commercial and editorial photographer is to have to wait—sometimes months, sometimes longer—for your work to be used by a client before you can show some of the results of your work.

Ever since working with Maine-based Poland Spring this past summer, I’ve been patiently waiting until I could show the work, um….published, in a way.  Now that time has come, and you can see some of my images on a state route near you.

This is part of an advertising campaign called, “Poland Spring Works for Maine”.  It features portraits and scenarios that illustrate the various ways in which the Maine bottler supports its community and state.   It took a lot of planning, but the shoot was on a single busy day in late summer, in Poland Spring.   The idea was to photograph five scenarios, but we trimmed that to four by the day of the shoot.   Thanks to a great team effort, we were able to get some fabulous images in a variety of locations.  Definitely a case where being a photojournalist, with the ability to move and adjust quickly, paid off.

The images were destined for huge wraps that would be adhered to the back of Poland Spring water trucks.   Some bright person realized that there is a huge amount of real estate on the back of these tanker trucks that could be better used to promote what they do.   And speaking as someone who’s been stuck on Route 1 behind one of these guys in the midst of the summer tourist season,  having something visual and interesting to look at while you’re crawling in traffic is probably a good thing.     Brilliant.

These are a few shots the company sent me showing the fruit of our mutual labor.   The trucks are on the road now, so if you see Poland Spring in your rear-view mirror, maybe give the driver a break, let him pass you, and take a look for yourself.

 

 

 

 

A move, and an upgrade for Fitzgerald Photo

Fall is generally my busiest time of year—lots of clients needing to close out projects before year’s end—and so this year, I thought:  “Why not make it even busier?”  So, I moved out of the super-awesome downtown Portland studio I’ve shared with my lovely wife and talented photographer Beth Fitzgerald (of the Maine Wedding Company and Blush Imagery) for the past four years and….moved into a new, super-awesome downtown Portland studio.

Why?

Beth and I are known for doing crazy things when we probably shouldn’t—like ripping out our kitchen in the middle of winter just because we were bored that weekend.   This time around, though, we planned a bit better.   This fall marked the start of kindergarten for our daughter Maggie, and in anticipation, Beth transitioned to working out of our home office while I hit the bricks in a search for a new studio space just for me.

It wasn’t easy, and my broker definitely did not get paid enough.   The pressure was on to get something on par with our last studio, which Beth found and decorated for us.   Nailed it.  As cool as our old studio was, my new Pearl Street studio has many advantages.   It’s not just the high, 14-foot-high ceilings, the 8-foot-high windows or the exposed brick wall.  Nah.  What really sold me was something not even in my studio, but down the hall:  the elevator.  As a photographer who does a lot of work on location, that’s a feature that just makes my life…better.    To top it off, I have parking right outside my door and the location (although I’ll miss the Portland Pie Company, I ate WAY too much of their pizza) is closer to many of my clients.   Not to mention, coffee.  And the police station, just in case.

I’m all moved in now, and have had a number of shoots here already.  I’m still figuring out the angles, but it’s fun doing so.   I’ll host an open house after the first of the new year.   Until then, enjoy the photos and if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by the Fitzgerald Photo Studio!   If I’m not here, at least you can enjoy the elevator.

Portland Maine Commercial Photo Studio
High ceilings mean….happiness.

 

Maine Commercial Photo Studio

 

Portland Maine Commercial Photo Studio

 

Portland Maine Commercial Photo Studio

 

 

A man named Corky

My former next-door-neighbor Mike worked for a very mysterious-sounding tech company named Kepware Technologies.  Every so often, Mike would disappear to for a week or so and come back with tales of travels to Germany, Portugal or Eastern Europe for his job.   I recall a night at his place involving a couple of Russian business partners and some vodka.   He explained what they made—software drivers—leaving me as confused as before.

I thought again of Kepware when I started Inspire Portland after reading some articles about Kepware’s successes–and founder Corson “Corky” Ellis’ involvement in the promotion of entrepreneurship in Maine through ventures like the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun program    I thought, I’ve got to meet this guy.   At a minimum, he might be able to explain what Kepware does in a way that my feeble brain can understand.

Two days after he agreed to the shoot, I found myself in the headquarters of Corky’s operation, above the Post Office in downtown Portland.   He looks a little like my good friend and photographer Brad Armstrong.   We had a good conversation, and Corky emphasized two things repeatedly:  one, the success of Kepware is entirely due to the efforts of many talented people besides himself; and two, that he is very concerned about the state of technology education among secondary school students.  From his perspective, the best way to keep and attract high-paying tech jobs here in Maine is to get our kids more interested in science and math.    He sees technology education as the key to creating a technology economy here in Maine.

The shoot went well and I had the run of their amazing space across from City Hall.   Corky is one of those talented entrepreneurs who actively chose to live in Portland and now, some 15 years later, is employing more than 60 people in highly-skilled jobs.    Almost as important, he finally explained to me what Kepware actually does in terms I can understand, comparing it to the printer drivers you download to allow your computer and printer to talk…just on a much bigger scale.

Read his interview and see the photos at Inspire Portland.   I chose the lead image because it seemed the least contrived, and the most revealing in terms of his expression.   You ask questions about what people carry in their pockets, and it tends to get people to drop their guard a bit.   See the outtakes and lighting scene shot in the gallery below (sorry, iUsers, you’ll need Flash).

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Do you Biba?

Drink Biba!

I love this….one of my clients is making it big.  Biba, a health “smart drink” startup based in Boston, is now in full production after a couple years of very hard work.  I just noticed them in the local grocery store, too.  Biba is hands-down the best energy-type drink I’ve ever had—light, full of vitamins rather than sugar, and darned tasty.  Go Biba!