Category Recent Work

Friday Favorites: Extreme Puppy edition

 

This Friday I’d like to share just a few outtake images from recent projects that were conceptual in nature.   I’ve always enjoyed doing this kind of concept work—it’s extremely creative and if successful, gives the viewer something extra that causes them to linger a bit.     What you end up with is more created than found.    Here are a couple of images that I really liked but that ended up as outtakes.  Enjoy….and happy Friday!

 

The concept was to photograph pets in an incongruous setting--in this case, a professional office environment--which could easily illustrate the perils of Take Your Pet to Work Day.
The concept was to photograph pets in an incongruous setting–in this case, a professional office environment–which could easily illustrate the perils of Take Your Pet to Work Day.

 

 

The concept was to photograph pets in an incongruous setting--in this case, a professional office environment--which could easily illustrate the perils of Take Your Pet to Work Day.
The concept was to photograph pets in an incongruous setting–in this case, a professional office environment–which could easily illustrate the perils of Take Your Pet to Work Day.

 

 

Everyday Heroes

 

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I’m very excited to finally be able to share one of the coolest projects I am grateful to have worked on this year. It’s a project that combined both my interests and my skills and best of all….it benefits a great and worthy cause.

The Cause
The Fight for Air Climb is a fundraising effort that benefits the American Lung Association.    Firefighters and others from around the country participate in these ‘climbs’, in which entrants are timed on their ascent of a skyscraper or other high structure.   The Firefighter Challenge pits teams of firefighters against one another, each vying for the best time, the most money raised (and bragging rights).   Unlike other competitors, firefighters are required to wear their full gear—turnouts, helmets, gloves, boots and oxygen tanks.   In the process, these teams raise big money for ALA research and advocacy.

 

The Project
In 2013, a 12-member team from Auburn, Maine climbed 41 floors (82 flights) during the Boston Fight For Air Climb (each wearing more than 50 pounds of additional weight)  and crushed the other 40 firefighter teams from around New England.   On the heels of their success, this year the team set the goal of raising $10,000 for the charity.  They decided to do a charity calendar, and earlier this year approached me and asked for my help (Hint: I said yes).

 

The Concept
I first met with Team Captain Dan Masselli to discuss several concepts for the project.   I think he was a bit nervous, thinking that I might propose doing a “beefcake” style shoot with half-naked and oiled firefighters.   I’d done some research and found plenty of examples of such calendars done by other departments, that varied from high-production fashion shoots to glorified ‘selfies’ printed on what looked like a mimeograph machine.   What I didn’t see was much in the way of a unified conceptual approach that told a story of the team and showed the kind of personality that I knew would resonate better with the community.
Dan and the team loved my initial ideas, which led to the “Everyday Heroes” concept.    While firefighters are often portrayed as heroes, 90 (maybe even 95) per cent of the time they aren’t actually doing impossibly heroic things like pulling people from mangled cars, manning hoses at  high-rise apartment blazes or giving oxygen to a kitten.   Most of the time, their heroics are of a decidedly mundane nature: changing a baby’s diaper, putting out a smoking BBQ grill or mowing a senior’s lawn.  We’d show that stuff….just in full turn-out gear, of course.

 

The Challenge
As a photographer there were some obvious–and not so obvious–challenges to overcome. One was how to create 12 different conceptual images on location—each requiring lighting and planning, props and ‘models’—and to make it all happen within their tight deadlines.  The other was how to make the scenarios both realistic and over-the-top at the same time, all the while contending with logistical challenges like the weather.
We eventually photographed everything over the course of three jam-packed days in October.   Each shoot was planned down to the detail,  but with plenty of flexibility in the case of last-minute changes to plan.   It was a good thing we did.
The final image we made—of the entire team, standing in front of their firetrucks—is dramatic and one of my favorites from the whole shoot.  It also almost didn’t happen.   We originally planned to photograph the team just after sunset in front of the city’s ”burn building’—a concrete structure behind the Central Fire Station that the firefighters fill with smoke and use for training. When the time came, the burn building wasn’t available. So we ended up at at a different station entirely.   One of the trucks we needed was missing, and when the firefighters went to retrieve it, they were diverted to take an emergency call.    With daylight burning, we were out a second truck and half our firefighters.  Nervously we waited, prepping our gear and going over various other scenarios for how to salvage the shoot.  Three minutes after the sun disappeared, the truck rolled back in, we positioned it, set up our smoke and lights, arranged the group and shot 69 images, including the tests. The one that we used was taken at 6:18 pm.

 

The Result
As fun (and sometimes nerve-wracking) as the shooting days were, I am very happy with the final results.  I’m most gratified that they capture the personality of the Auburn team, and that they show them as what they are—a bunch of hard-working, good-natured guys who do a lot besides save lives and property.    The calendars are printed and are available for sale—primarily at locations around Auburn, but I’m told that if you email Dan Masselli he can help you to trade $15 for your very own copy, delivered to your home.     It’s a great cause, and certainly worth the price of three coffees.

 

The Video
Charlie Widdis, assistant extraordinairre, put together a short behind-the-scenes video of the project as well—it’s especially impressive knowing that he did that in between helping me set up and shoot my stills.  I hope you like it!

The Oldest State

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As an editorial and commercial photographer, you just never know when an amazing assignment will come your way. It’s a good habit to train yourself to look for opportunities for project work that will stretch you creatively.

2013 has been a great one for interesting visual projects. I was fortunate enough to be involved with the Southern Maine Agency on Aging for a project early in the year, and as a result of that ended up meeting and photographing several senior athletes.

Now, when I think ‘senior athletes’ I usually imagine high school kids runnning around a track–the kind of assignment I routinely had as a newspaper staffer. These seniors are over the age of 50, and are extremely talented athletes. I ended up doing a series of portraits of these Maine athletes who compete at a national level at the National Senior Games in their respective sports.

Maine famously has a population with the highest median age in the entire country. My concept was to photograph senior athletes in the environment they train in, showing their connection to Maine. I ended up photographing each on white seamless as a way of separating them from that environment, illustrating that they are serious, talented athletes independent of their Maine address. I call the project “the Oldest State”, and hope that it shows what’s possible no matter your age.

Thanks to the SMAA and to all of the athletes. I hope I never again have to set up white seamless outside on the Maine coast…but meeting these folks was an amazing experience.

–30–

Smoke and fire in Auburn

I’ve been busy lately, working on a somewhat hush-hush project in the Lewiston-Auburn area.   Last night as we finished the 12th and final shoot, the Lewiston Sun-Journal showed up and so the cat’s partially out of the bag.  Here’s Charlie and me at work in Daryn Slover’s photo from today’s Sun-Journal, ….followed by an outtake from that same shoot, just to show what it looks like in-camera with all of the smoke and lights. Once the everything is complete, I’ll post more images and explain how I approached this complicated (and extremely fun) project.:

 

Photo by Daryn Slover/Sun-Journal
Photo by Daryn Slover/Sun-Journal

 

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Recent work: Down East Magazine

You’ve seen them, plying the narrow streets of the Old Port like some four-wheeled herd, or perhaps spied in a vacant lot or square.  Almost non-existent just one year ago, these vans of plenty are gathering fans and making tastebuds happy all over Portland.   One more missing piece has been added to Portland’s puzzle.    I love the display Down East Magazine gave to this article, published this month.

Fitzgerald_Portland_FoodTrucks

Why photographers ask so many darned questions

A lot of what I do these days is destined for web-only use.   It seems as though print use is getting less and less, but I like to think of it another way…that print is used when it really matters, and thus the quality of what’s printed—and the images needed for those pieces—is comensurately better.   Less, but more.

I like to get involved in these projects early on, or as early as possible.  It can be challenging to come in as a photographer once the design has been set by a web team, and then to have to create images that will safely fit into an ultra-cool horizontal web page slider that is 900 pixels wide and (it seems) 2 pixels deep.   Of course, that’s when you find out the client wants to shoot full-body portraits, too.

That said, I firmly believe my job as a photographer is to provide solutions—practical, useful and hopefully creatively fulfilling—no matter what stage of the process I’m called in on.   It’s never too late to bring some value to my clients even if the train has not only left the station, but is set to arrive in five minutes.

So when local law firm Perkins Thompson wanted to create a variety of team photos for their already-templated site, it was necessary not only to work with their chosen design (fortunately, not 2 pixels tall), but to understand what uses they might have beyond the site.   That’s why photographers should and do ask clients a lot of questions about potential future uses of images.  I found that they wanted the images for a variety of print ads and other collateral, even though the initial use was for a (very) horizontal web page display.  So, the images needed to be flexible enough, in terms of composition, to work for both.

Add to the mix that they have far-flung attorneys who had to be merged into photos together, and it became a logistic challenge.

Here are a few screenshots from their new site–I’m happy with the interaction and group photos we got.   All were shoot loose enough to work in print pieces and ads, but with heads and head sizes in a relative horizontal line so they could be used for web ads.  Doing so cut down on the chance that my client will have to call me in a year asking for a Photoshop miracle, like turning a head-and-shoulders image into a full-body portrait.

To their credit, Perkins T were great to work with and very patient (candidly, I also love that they were founded by a guy named Widgery “Whisker Bill” Thomas).   I’m happy with the results, which feature their teams in a dynamic way that works for them.
Perkins_Thompson_Web_01 Perkins_Thompson_Web_02 Perkins_Thompson_Web_03

 

It’s the story, stupid

Telling Stories: Jim Twombly

You’ve heard of the acronym, ‘KISS’, right?  It stands for ‘Keep it Simple, Stupid.’   It’s mantra that software engineers, among others, use to keep them on track during development to guard against product bloat.  I keep a similar line in my head when I’m approaching an assignment:  It’s the Story, Stupid.

Now, maybe you’re one of those rare photographers who can always stay focused and zeroed in on your work, but me—I get distracted.  I’ve been known to set up a bunch of lights in a daisy-chain, lighting up God Knows What just because I could. This is a photographer version of tunnel vision, and it makes you a slave to a concept rather than what you should be:  flexible, in the driver’s seat,  and  asking yourself the kinds of questions that lead to images that truly tell the story you’re trying to show.

On an assignment, lots of things are going on:  you’re interacting with clients or subjects, fiddling with your gear (why won’t that PocketWizard remote fire??), keeping an eye on the clock and the shot list, managing your assistant or team.  It doesn’t matter.  You always have to be aware of why you’re there and what story you’re there to tell.

It’s that awareness that leads you from the image you (by necessity) planned for to the one that Serendipity bestowed upon you that works much better.

Recently I photographed Jim Twombly, a retired Portland police officer, at his home for a story featuring patients of a large medical practice group.   Jim was diagnosed a couple of years ago with diabetes and was facing a slew of health issues.  He worked with his doctor to completely change his lifestyle.   As a result of eating healthy and exercising regularly, Jim dropped more than 50 pounds and is stronger and healthier than he’s been in years.     I was there to photograph Jim as he did his morning routine—exercise followed by an oatmeal breakfast.   During my earlier scouting visit, we had decided to move his starionary bike to the more visual solarium he had built onto his home.   Early in the morning, as the sun was coming up, it would make a great visual.

Telling Stories:  Jim Twombly

And it was.  The only problem is that, devoid of the usual clutter, it made the solarium look a little bit sterile.   After photographing Jim in his home, I asked to go photograph him in the workshop above his barn.   Once we stepped into the sawdust-infused atmosphere, stacked with woodworking tools, Jim seemed to relax.   This was his element, clearly.   I set up a couple of lights but wanted to keep the portrait low-key, focused on Jim in his world.    We chatted a little, Jim settled into a comfortable position, and the image at the top of this post was made.   Once I took it, I knew it was my favorite image because it told more of a story about who Jim really is–a hard-working guy, a Mainer, a craftsman.  A guy who is tough enough to stick to a complete revamp of his lifelong eating habits because it just needed to be done.

Good on you, Jim. For more about Jim’s story, check out his feature on InterMed’s website.

Published this week: Traders Magazine

Spinnaker_Trader_Magazine

It’s always cool to get my work published in a new place (new for me, that is). Traders Magazine just went to press with a feature about Rob Felvinci, a NYC financial trader who decided to trade the big-city lifestyle for the slower (and more family-friendly) pace of Maine. We ideally would have been somewhere out on the docks with him and his kids, fishing, but due to time constraints had to stay in and around his Congress Street offices. I liked the setting of this portrait…empty office, waiting to be filled, with Congress Street pictured through the windows.

Might & Main: how a brand feels

Might-Main_02

 

Might & Main is a branding firm based here in Portland–they do fantastic work and cast big shadows on the local creative scene.  They’re the team that you call in to do a rebranding, or to handle the look and feel of a product or campaign.  They’ve also got a great sense of style that infuses their work–take a look at this award-winning work for the Portland Museum of Art’s Homer Winslow exhibition (I want that bobblehead, Sean).

More than that, Kevin, Sean and Arielle (the principals behind M&M) are great people who always seem to be up to something interesting.   The trio,  along with team members Graeme and Morgan, moved to a new downtown Portland location in January and wanted a photo that showed them off in their new environment.  They didn’t dictate the look of the photo, but we discussed what the image should do for them:  it should give a sense of each individual person (all three principals had successful solo businesses before partnering, and all three bring different skills to the table), but show them as a team as well.  It should be interesting and striking, incorporating key elements of their new space and their quirky retro decor (Boris the Boar has made one other appearance, in an Inspire Portland feature on Sean from last year).  These guys are young, very hip and are extremely creative, so I knew I wanted to show these attributes as well.

Might-Main_03
When you strip away all the fluff–the globe, the -um- shotgun, even the lights–it’s all about the people.   Might & Main is comprised of interesting people, and I wanted to give a sense that they bring a strong point of view, a certain touch of humor and, yes, a little attitude.   To that end, I think the shoot was successful.   The final frame we all liked shows plenty of attitude.  If you look at each person’s face there’s something interesting going on.  Someone once told me that successful photos don’t give you all the answers, but make you wonder a bit, too.  Add on the lighting, the props and the “look” of the final image and you get an image that tells a story…and captures the “feel” of a brand.

There’s always room for serendipity, too.  Although I gave a few pointers on dress, I could have hugged Arielle when she showed up in that bright red dress.   How could I not get a great final image?

Might & Main: Behind the brand

Case Study – Financial Services firm portraits

When a company decides to embark upon a rebranding initiative they often hire an agency, a designer or a photographer to help them.   There are a lot of ‘triggers’ for when a company decides to do take this critical step forward.  It often happens when the company is in transition, whether physical or something more existential—a move to a new location, a major renovation, a period of great growth.

Spinnaker Trust is a Portland-based company providing wealth and finance management services.  Recently they grew with the merger with another firm, and moved into a really knock-out new space downtown.  To showcase their dynamic new space and their growth, they needed environmental portraits of their team members within their amazing offices—lots of frosted glass, hardwood flooring and deep blue walls.

I spoke with the team about their needs, and decided to go with a more dramatic approach to lighting.  With lighting you can go one of two ways.  Light ‘big’, and just create a wall of light so that everything’s bright, well-lit and very commercial-looking (see any national-level  advertisement) or light ‘small’, or selectively, throwing light just where you need it to create dimensionality, mood, and highlight aspects of the environment. Spinnaker was perfect for the latter.

I used three to four lights for most of the portraits—with all of the glass around, the lighting was tightly controlled to avoid reflections.  We did multiple scenarios with each person in a relatively limited period of time—in my shoots, I tend to move fast:  15 minutes being a long time to spend on any one portrait.

I was happy with the results:  professional but dramatic, with the environment a key feature of each image.   A big shout-out to the team at iBec Creative, who designed this clean and beautiful website.

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