Category On Location

Neon Dave: Shining Bright in Portland’s East Bayside

Neon Dave
Dave Jacobsen, AKA, “Neon Dave” at his East Bayside studio.  © Brian Fitzgerald

Dave Johansen, known as Neon Dave, pauses and surveys his workspace in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood. Filled with piles of cut glass tubes, a various boxes and hand-drawn designs on paper, the cluttered area is one of three he utilizes in a shared space. “As a self-employed single person, it’s nice to have other people around sometimes,” he says. “Other times, it’s nice to rock out by yourself and get a lot of work done. But having people around makes everything more fun.”

Neon Dave has been a neon artist since 2003. “I was already doing art and painting and was using a lot of reflective, fluorescent colors and metallics,” Johansen explains. “I started thinking about incorporating light into the art, then researched neon, and I just decided to do it.”

© Brian Fitzgerald

He clarifies that while ‘neon’ traditionally refered to the use of neon gas–which produces a distinctive orange light–the name has come to encompass the use of various gasses and chemicals that produce a variety of colors used in glass tube signage and artwork.

Johansen’s studio is divided into sections: administration, assembly and paint, storage, and a glass flash shop, where tubes are heated, shaped, filled with gas, and bombarded with electrons.

Dave likes his studio’s location, amidst other art studios in a now-trendy neighborhood peppered with breweries and coffee shops. “It’s been interesting to have a front-row seat to a changing neighborhood as one of the first wave of artists,” he reflects. “The character has certainly changed. But I like being close to the action. For my local clients, if something goes wrong, like a transformer failure, I can respond quickly without spending the whole day.”

© Brian Fitzgerald



Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

Gael McKeon: Inspired and Unbound


Bass Luthier
Bass Luthier Gael McKeon, Portland, Maine. © Brian Fitzgerald

“As a young (bass) luthier, I thought I was going to make all of these innovative changes. You see people doing it all the time: they change (instruments) sporadically. It doesn’t work. If you’re going to make it different, (the instrument) still has to work,” says Gael McKeon.

© Brian Fitzgerald

McKeon, originally from New York City, has been a double bass luthier since 1998. He’s since worked and studied in New York, North Carolina, San Francisco, and Toulouse, France, before moving to Maine. In his workshop on the third floor of the State Theater building on Congress Street, McKeon repairs and restores traditional instruments while designing his own.

“Humidity and temperature control is essential. I’m ruined without that,” says McKeon of his tidy but cramped space, one wall dominated by views of Congress Street below. McKeon describes his shop as the ‘second best’ space he’s ever had. “I’m here mostly because of the windows,” he says. “It’s just big enough so that I can manage the amount of repairs that I can handle. If I had less space, I would have to tell people to hold on to their instruments while I finished other things. Here, I can juggle a little bit, and I can have adequate machinery.”

McKeon also builds his own instruments. He describes his approach as conventional, using traditional proportions, but with his own departures of design inspired by classic and modern forms. One bass on display in his shop sat broken for 12 years before he restored it with a paper fingerboard and a custom scroll that he first sketched in 1998. “I’ve added some innovations,” says McKeon, “but there are technical reasons for its aesthetics.”


Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery.

© Brian Fitzgerald


© Brian Fitzgerald


© Brian Fitzgerald


Erica Moody: Forging Art in a Maine Barn

Erica Moody with Elio, © Brian Fitzgerald

Erica Moody, a metal fabricator and artist, sits in the late-1800s barn that now serves as her workshop in Waldoboro, Maine.  

Moody has been working with metal for more than three decades. After years working in Boston, she chose to move to Maine to forge a simpler life—and the handcrafted serving utensils she is increasingly known for.  Moody uses traditional metal crafting methods to make spoons, knives and other wares from copper, brass and steel.  Her work has been featured in local and national publications, such as Bon Appétit and Saveur.

After years of working with large pieces of metal, her scaled-down workshop—filled with vintage machining tools—is the perfect place to create her one-of-a-kind spoons, coffee scoops, and knives.  It’s also attached to her home, built in 1854.  “To be close to home, to be able to work right here is everything. It’s why I moved to Maine,” she says.

Creating Spaces is a project that explores the connection between Maine artists and craftsmen and their physical workspaces-—places that are often hallowed grounds of creativity and solitude, far from the public eye or the gallery. 

© Brian Fitzgerald


© Brian Fitzgerald


© Brian Fitzgerald


Metal Artist Erica Moody
© Brian Fitzgerald

Elevate Your Marketing with Aerials This Fall


power plant aerial
Waste-To-Energy Power Generating Facility, ecomaine.  © Brian Fitzgerald

It’s incredible just how a small change in perspective can transform your view of the world.
Since early 2021, Fitzgerald Photo has operated commercial drones, offering aerial photography and video services for our clients. The elevated view shows familiar cities and landscapes in a new light, capturing details and scale often missed at ground level.

Summer is a great time to capture aerials, and we’ve been busy capturing imagery for many of our clients.  Autumn offers unique opportunities for aerial imagery as well.   Between the dramatic light and the fall foliage, it’s my favorite time of year to be photographing with a drone.

Safety and professionalism underpin all our operations.  As an FAA certified pilot, I ensure our flights meet all regulatory standards.  Our FAA certification has allowed us to secure permission to operate even in highly restricted zones, including near busy urban airports. We’re also commercially insured to further protect our clients.

If your business is considering commercial drone photography this fall, let us know how we can help create a plan that works for your specific needs and budget. 


Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, South Portland, ME.  © Brian Fitzgerald

A Tradition Forged in Iron


The artists and craftsmen who call Maine home share a cultural heritage with those who have gone before them.  This link to the past is epitomized by Sam Smith, an aptly-named blacksmith who operates several forges across the state as guildmaster of the  Maine Blacksmith’s Guild.

Smith and the guild use and teach 19th-century techniques and practices and have an active apprenticeship program. Smith also teaches and works his trade in Germany and Brazil for months each year.

“Preserving the skill set of working iron by hand and not allowing machines to do the work is my mission,” says Smith.

I spent time with Smith last year as part of a larger project on Maine craftsmen and artists and am happy to be able to show it here.  Smith was crafting a Brazilian Churrasco BBQ knife with a handle made from Peroba wood reclaimed from a 120-year-old home.  


Brazilian Churrasco Knife, © Sam Smith

Rituals That Preserve Energy and Creativity

Photo Shoot Gear LIst
Gear Checklist © Brian Fitzgerald


With years of commercial and editorial photography under my belt, I’ve learned that the devil is truly in the details. Never mind the big stuff, like bustling locations or fickle weather. It’s the little things that make or break a shoot. Like the old proverb goes, “for want of a nail, the kingdom was lost”, small errors can lead to big problems.

Photographers and videographers juggle a lot. From equipment to location details, timing to names—keeping track of it all is a Herculean task. That’s why experienced pros systemize their workflows to preempt surprises and minimize errors.

My pre- and post-shoot rituals are a must. Sure, they’re mundane and time-consuming, but not skipping them is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. I always kick-off each location shoot with a gear checklist. Once packed, I tick off each item once more lest I wind up forgetting a digital card or battery. Post-shoot, the list doubles up to check off used items and note gear needing servicing.

My other post-shoot ritual is a comprehensive review—think of a military-style After-Action Review. This step is vital to noting both wins and areas for improvement. Only then can I truly learn and progress. This entire process adds about an hour, but it’s saved me ample headaches and led to constant refinement of my processes.

Over the years, I’ve used everything from journals and paper checklists to Evernote templates and now, Notion. The tech isn’t important—consistency is.

Challenge yourself to identify places in your workflow where you can add checklists and simple procedures that will free you up to focus on your creative (and more valuable) work.


Shoot Post Mortem
Shoot Post-Mortem by Brian Fitzgerald



Dirty Jobs, Good Pay: Photographing Blue Collar Workers

Female Welder
© Brian Fitzgerald

It’s hard to miss the rising star of blue-collar work in this world reshaped by a pandemic and advancements in artificial intelligence (A.I.). Anyone struggling to hire a plumber, a carpenter or other tradesman since 2020 has seen the effects of this first-hand. Previously overlooked as somehow ‘less than’ white-collar jobs, blue-collar work has become a beacon of resilience and growth, sustaining the economy amidst major layoffs in the tech industry, as reported by Business Insider.

The reason for this is clear: blue-collar roles, which are often hands-on, technical, and require plenty of problem-solving skills, resist replacement by automation or outsourcing. They are firmly rooted in the physical world, characterized by their tangibility and practicality.

This sense of authenticity and grit is what continually draws me to photograph people who work with their hands. There’s a strong sense of narrative within these images, both of resilience and tenacity. I am inspired by their skill, focus, and commitment to doing the job right.

My goal is not merely to capture an image, but to pay tribute to the meticulous nature of blue collar work and its practical impact on our daily lives. Whether it’s the skilled hands of a carpenter shaping a piece of furniture, or the attentive gaze of a mechanic resurrecting an old car, each image tells a story of profound usefulness and necessity.

In our post-pandemic world, tradespeople are more than just workers. They are keepers of a time-honored tradition of skilled American labor. Their work stands as a testament to our collective ability to adapt, persevere, and endure.

© Brian Fitzgerald


Automotive Technicians
© Brian Fitzgerald


Industrial Worker
© Brian Fitzgerald

Five Tips For Better Outdoor Portraits


well-dressed motorcycle rider © Brian Fitzgerald

Outdoor environmental portraits offer a blend of human emotion and natural beauty and can elevate a simple portrait into a compelling visual story. Whether you’re a pro photographer looking to refine your craft—or you’re in a position to hire one—understanding the dynamics of outdoor portrait photography is key. Here are five things I try to keep in mind:


1. Don’t Fight the Sun (Unless You Know You Can Win)

There’s no way around it: photographing outside in full sun is a big challenge, especially for natural-light photographers. Harsh direct sunlight can cause unflattering shadows, squinting, and overexposure. A classic solution is shooting during the ‘golden hour’ – the time just after sunrise or just before sunset when the light is softer and warmer, which can help to create a magical mood.

Choosing the time of day isn’t always an option, so if you’re planning on doing battle under the blazing noon sun, you’ll have to bring plenty of backup in the form of off-camera flash and reflectors. For example, you might position your subject with their back to the sun, using it as a hair light, and fill in their face with a reflector or flash. You’ll need a firm grasp on balancing ambient and artificial light, but if done correctly, you can create dramatic portraits with impact. 


2. Show The Environment

The outdoors provides background options that can complement your subject and tell a deeper story. Storytelling details might also help tell the story of your subject. 

Watch out for distracting elements in the frame that may draw attention away from your subject. Use depth of field to your advantage, blurring out the background to keep focus on your subject when necessary.


3. Use Motivated Lighting

Just like in filmmaking, motivated lighting plays a crucial role in photography. The concept refers to lighting that appears to come from a natural source within the scene, like the sun, a lamp, or a fire. This kind of lighting not only looks more natural, but it also helps to tell a story and create a certain mood or atmosphere.


4. Create Rapport

Creating a genuine connection with your subject is vital in any kind of portrait photography, but it’s even more crucial outdoors where there are more variables at play. It’s easy to get caught up in your gear, or dealing with changing light and variables like wind, and to forget about connecting with your subject. Good rapport can help your subject feel comfortable and relaxed, leading to more authentic expressions and poses.


5. Mix It Up

Finally, add variety to your outdoor portraits by mixing up poses, locations, angles, and focal lengths. You might start with wide, non-portrait lens and then work up to a tight headshot with a portrait-length lens. Have your subject look away from the camera as well as towards it. You’re not just after a well-composed portrait; you’re looking to create a mood.

The key to a successful outdoor portrait shoot is adaptability. The natural environment is ever-changing, and so should your approach. The sun might not always cooperate, and your environment will present unexpected challenges or distractions. But with these five tips in mind you’ll be better prepared to capture stunning outdoor portraits that truly tell a story. 

The Art of Location Portraits: Conquering Constraints

Female Portrait
© Brian Fitzgerald

Throughout my career as a photographer, from my earliest days as a newspaper stringer to the present, one thing has always been necessary:   the capacity to create impactful, engaging portraits on location, quickly (if not sooner). 

Epic and breathtaking locations lead to epic, breathtaking portraits that incorporate background elements to tell a compelling story.   Typically, I’m faced with a problem:  how to minimize a busy background and transform it into something less distracting and more aesthetically pleasing.  It’s the ability to make cinematic, impactful portraits—often strapped for time and without the ability to see or choose the location—that has served me and my clients best year after year.

The adage goes that if you want more interesting images, shoot more interesting things or places.  That’s true. What’s also true is that being a professional photographer means delivering consistent results despite constraints imposed by less-than-interesting locations.

When there is no background, or when it’s too busy or distracting, I try to create more cinematic, shallow-focus images that pop from the background and put the focus where it belongs: on the subject. Knowing how to light creatively and on the go is key, but also so is how to use the advantages of any environment (and there are always some) to the subject’s benefit. 


Male College instructor
© Brian Fitzgerald


Male attorney
© Brian Fitzgerald

Showcase: York County Community College


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald

Over the past few years, I’ve worked with the Maine Community College System (MCCS) to highlight the workforce training programs at their seven campuses across Maine. These programs are designed and targeted to the needs of employers in Maine and are often a pipeline directly to well-paying professional jobs immediately upon graduation. Programs are diverse, ranging from nursing and culinary arts to project management and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The list is endless and always changing to adapt to the needs of the state’s employers.

We highlighted a few of the workforce development programs at York County Community College last year and tried to also capture some of the sense of community and connection between students and their faculty. It was a great opportunity to tell a story about a Maine institution that offers such incredible value to the community.


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald


York County Community College, © Brian Fitzgerald