How I Shot It - Architecture #1

I shot this from secret spot #58, but if you get out a map of San Francisco it wouldn't take you very long to figure out where this is from so I'll just tell you.  It was shot halfway up the road to Coit Tower.  This is one of my favorite areas of the city, just above North Beach, overlooking the entire city and if you're lucky you'll see the legendary parrots of telegraph hill.  They're unmistakably bright green and not quiet about there existence. I've been wanting to photograph San Francisco from here for quite some time and so after finishing another photo shoot that day, in the same area, I decided to hang out and wait for the light (both artificial and natural) to get good.  Watching the city electrify, as the night approaches, is a wonderfully meditative experience.  It happens gradually, individual windows turning on adding single squares of light, slowly filling the foreground with a mixture of tungsten, fluorescent and halogen light.  All the while the sky, depending on conditions, evolves through a color palette unique to that particular day.  On this warm March evening the typical sunset color failed to transpire and instead a rich hue of cyan painted the entire sky, slowly building richness as the natural light faded further.  This image is actually several vertical frames stitched together, and so to take 'multiple exposures' of the overall image you have to retake the entire series each time.  To keep these bracketed frames organized I shoot my hand over the lens at the beginning and end of each 'stitched' series so I know which frames belong together in the final image.  In a city-scape like this there is an exposure intersection when the sky exposure and city exposure (bathed in dim artificial light) match.  It's at this intersection when the best exposures are shot.  If the sky had been a traditional sunset, the best time to capture that color would be before the city was ready, and thus you would need to shoot separate series for the sky and city.  I was lucky in that the sky here was a cool soft cyan, not too bright and thus I could get both exposures in the same series of frames.  I'll sometimes use a split neutral density filter to drop the sky exposure by a few stops, but that wasn't needed either.  On top of this, by switching the color balance to Tungsten, it further extenuates the deep cyan color. 


Photo Book: Arnold Newman

I'm starting a new blog series today and calling it 'Photo Book'.  I'm going to post photography books I've purchased over the years, and what about their work sparked my interest.  My first post is about a photographer I have deep admiration for.  Considered the father of environmental portraiture, he defined a look that has spawned countless contemporaries to follow in his footsteps.  I'm talking about Arnold Newman.  I first fell in love with his work while attending college at the Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara when we all had no real idea of who we were as photographers yet.  I, like my peers, bounced photo genres with an eerie correlation to the kind of assignments we happened to be shooting that week.  Before I fell in love with photographing the landscape, and far before I started shooting architecture I fancied myself a portrait photographer.  Up until I found Newman, portrait photography in my mind was equated with senior portraits and traditional wedding photography (although today, those two genres are venturing deep into the fashion/editorial look breaking all traditional molds and looking great doing it).  I found Arnold Newman buried in the library and instantly recognized the genius.  He told entire stories with single frames and eloquently portrayed his models personality with exquisitely composed images.  Incorporating the individual's environment spoke volumes to each image.  A portrait of painter Willem de Kooning peeking through a split in a paint splattered tarp, showing only half his face and taking up a tenth of the frame tells you all you need to know about the man.  The legendary image of composer Igor Stravinsky leaning on his silhouetted grand piano echoes a single musical note from one of his powerful scores.  The images are not flashy, they are not timely, nor are they meant to fill space in another overpopulated pedestrian publication, destined for the recycle bun.  They are meant for history, to show his subjects as they were, not as they appeared.  My fleeting brush with portrait photography came and went, I was destined to photograph the natural world, but do yourself a favor and browse this book, your creative with forever thank you.

Book: Arnold Newman
By: Philip Brookman
Copyright 2000 Benedikt Taschen Veriag GmbH


The Truffle

In my ever present quest to learn more about architecture and design, to help me be a better architecture photographer, I'm constantly becoming inspired by cool creative that permeates the industry.  This structure is no exception.  I won't detail it here because they did a fantastic job of outlining the project on the website below.  So look, explore and get inspired by a very neat building.  Cheers all!

The Truffle House Link

                                                                    © Roland Halbe


To Call or not to Call...

I'm a freelance photographer and so by association I'm also a designer, business owner, tweeter, data collector, account manager, artist and last but certainly the most important, marketing consultant.  The sheer amount of 'how-to' marketing information is daunting to approach.  Careers are built around this single subject, which can be broken into countless subcategories; market research, data collection, pull and push systems, long term strategies, market share, guerrilla tactics, logos, vision statements, 5 year plans, email promo cards and the most hated of them all, cold calling.  Do a cursory Google search on cold calling and you'll get the full spectrum of it being a waste of time to it being a foundation of marketing systems.  The old adage being it's better for them to come to you then vice versa, which is true.  If that happens they've already made that most advantageous connection of you having the necessary skill set to solve their problem.  But this only happens if they hear about you, and this is an example of what repeat clients are all about.  To get that client in the first place, the first connection, either they need to hear about you passively (through colleagues, work with competitors, articles, blogs, twitter, etc) or directly (which comes down to either email or a phone call).  The first connection is always awkward and uncomfortable, but once that's over with, even if nothing comes from that initial contact, you are no longer a stranger.  Here are my simple tips to make cold calling more fun, that's right I said fun and why shouldn't it be.  Why should any marketing be a bane, a nuisance, especially the uncomfortable parts of it.

-Be yourself, let your personality come through, connect with them as a human, not as a customer.
-If it helps to have a script, have one, but practice it so it doesn't sound like you're reading.
-Understand your potential clients, where their coming from, their needs not yours.
-Ask more than tell.  Listen.
-Keep the 'tell' short and simple; who you are and why you're calling.
-Get to know their particular problem(s) and figure out how to solve them.
-Smile while talking, it comes through in your voice.
-You're not going to make a sale with a cold call, that's not the point.  The main point is making a connection, an introduction, and if all goes well a face-to-face meeting.
-I like to stand when I'm on the phone, it keeps energy up and allows me to get my whole body into it.
-You are a distraction for their day, accept it and move on with your conversation.

This is a first step in the relationship building process, which is how it should be viewed.  A strong relationship with a client will have them coming back for more and referring you to peers and colleagues.

Cheers all!


Oldies but Goodies

It's fun to browse back through the old contact sheets and negative boxes to see what was skipped over during initial edits.  I found these three, shot in 2005 on a most wonderful excursion throughout the Southwest.