October in the Dakotas is a particularly dry time of year, and it’s not uncommon to see smoke from the many controlled burns used to keep the grass lands of the Ogallala region in check from natural or man made fire starters.This fire was a mixture of both smoke and dust from the eroded prairies that was being carried by a strong wind storm. I was out in the Dakotas-Nebraska area checking out some off beat locations with my recently acquired D700 when I spotted this while leaving Crazy Horse. As I was heading south towards Alliance, NE. I saw this cloud of smoke and went up a hill to check it out. The road I had come up was smoggy as heck from the smoke/dust being blow all over and there was a grit that you could taste in the air. I found a forrest service truck with a Ranger monitoring the fire and inquired what was going on. He mentioned that they had a controlled burn that ran wild on them from the wind that morning, but it was under control now. I notice how the smoke and wind together made a eye shape that was kinda cool. who could resist shooting this? and even better, the only people seeing this perspective were myself and the Ranger.
I got busy snapping a few test shots and realized that the best way to get this would be to shoot a series of verticals and stitch them together since I lacked a real wide angle lens. Being that it was 5pm, and I was looking S-SE, the natural light was on my side. I set up a tripod and did two passes with about 7-9 images per series. In all, I was on the scene for maybe 10-15 minutes then on the road again looking for the next shot. Photo road trips are an inexpensive & awesome way to spend your time off. They allow you see things that put life in perspective, because were all small in the eyes of the universe.
I-94 is the only interstate image to be a part of my Miles Between collection. The Interstate & this place in particular recall many childhood memories. Movies at Vali-Hi drive in, vacations to our cabin or heading to my dads car dealership every Saturday to name just a few. Before there was a bridge here to safely make a photo from, the road just T’d up with the major Interstate. You’d have to play a game of “Frogger” to cross it because it was so busy. As you’d expect a major interstate to be. But this was the 80’s and the highways were still in-between the Eisenhower era designs & Reagan era updates, so there were a lot of whacked out intersections like this. I grew up on the road that T’d up there. Neal Ave.
My parents would drive us thru this crazy intersection often as kids. It was the most direct way to get to Stillwater, and all the other cities north-east of our home. It was also notorious for bad car accidents, many fatal. There was-still is, a 1800’s era cemetery off the westbound lane. The highway department just built around it. When I was a kid, my mom would take us out there often to “help” cut the grass & tidy up the monuments to keep them from disappearing in the over-growth. We’d do more exploring than helping, but my mom didn’t seem to mind. I’d get to play like a young “Indiana Jones” creating rubbing impressions on tracing paper of the weathered headstone’s while my mom ran the “clacky” sounding 2 tone John Deer push mower. I notice today that someone still keeps up the cemetery, not sure who? Wonder if their kids do the crayon rubbings?
My idea for this image centered around the idea of “taking off” and “exploring the unknown” like a rocket launching an astronaut into space. A lot of my life journeys have started here on this path, many were steps into the unknown or leaps of faith, like joining the Army at 18 or getting married.
I decided using a long exposure from the bridge would be the best way to play this idea off and get what I was looking for. Fortunately, the bridge is really wide and had a side area for bike traffic that works well for setting up a tripod. After several exposures with varying degrees of success, I spotted a large convoy of semi’s approaching, lit up like airplanes. I opened the shutter while the road was empty in the view finder, about 10 seconds before the first truck in the center lane came thru followed by 5 more in various lanes. Less than 10 minutes and I had my shot, and a little piece of history as I see it.
HEAD SHOTS- I was recently commissioned by a local Minneapolis company to shoot 75 head shots in one day for the folks at S&T Office Supply. A great group of people, their company has recently been acquired by another client of ours who wanted to create some clean, simple images for their new web presence and marketing materials. 75 heads is no easy feat in one day. To achieve a nice, consistent look in a small space on location, I used a 36inch white seamless background with a Profoto 600R for the key light in an octobank set to F11. The background light was a Profoto 600R set about 1ft behind the subject and about 2-3 from the seamless at F16. I also built a few “apple boxes” to hold a large, white fill card underneath the subject and we set a 4×8 white flat opposite the key light. For an alternative look to the high-key setup, I also set up a key light just above the subject in a Beauty Dish and a kicker light with an orange gel in a grid at camera right, both set to F11. We rigged up a black velvet fabric on a dowling rod that could be easily tossed over the seamless background to make it a low key set. Once the lighting was all dialed in, I set up my Nikon D3 and tethered it to my Macbook pro using Adobe Lightroom and Capture One to handle incoming files. With the set all dialed in, it was easy to spend the day focusing on bringing out some great personality and having fun with the subjects. we shot 79 heads in total over 7.5 hours. No sweat=)
Enjoy the preview above and stay tuned for the next adventure=)
Time again to gear up for what has become an annual trip to Las Vegas for our portrait shoot with the champion bowlers of the PBA for the 2014 ESPN World Series of Bowling. This is one of my favorite shoots and I feel so lucky to be a part of this event. The images we create are used thru out the year in many formats to promote all the PBA events worldwide. It has been such a gift to be welcomed into this family and to be able to create such fun portraits-WIN-WIN=)
This year I’m hoping to not only shoot for the clients, but also take the next step and fully complete these images with my retouching and deliver the best work to date. Here’s a couple looks at our past work with before and afters.
I will be in the Las Vegas, Moab and Denver areas November 1-3rd, available for short assignments-by estimate only. Contact us thru the website if you’d like to inquire about availability while we’re in town.
This spring, I decided that it was time I reviewed my strengths & weaknesses in Photoshop after using the program for over 12 years. A lot has changed over that time to say the least. It has been incredibly fun, albeit frustrating at times to learn, then master many of the techniques needed to step up a level or two. My main focus was on retouching people as well as compositing and blending techniques. Along the way I’ve mastered, like a ninja, more than I set out to, including the ability to make perfectly transparent liquid, smoke & fire outlines. These skills are huge for me, not for the show off factor-but for the ability to really get into a shot and create a vision in the minimal amount of time with maximum effect for myself and my clients. I was happy to share these skills on my latest branding project with IOS.
This year we had the great fortune to work with a really terrific local business that sets the bar high in every way. Innovative OS is a leader in it’s industry and it’s my honor to shoot their branding images for 2015. Here’s a little in progress sample. I will share the finals very soon and they will ROCK!
See more at the website and thanks for stopping by.