Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cover Story for the Times: I've Been Bumped

It’s going to happen, just a little bit later. And it’s all because the war in Iraq...

This is how I feel about the war and the current presidential administration:

So full of rage

If you’ve been reading anything on my blog over the past 2 months, if you've talked to me in person in the past 2 months, or if you’ve stepped foot in CVA (my undergrad school) which has been over-hyping this for promotional purposes, you know that I’ve been doing some work for a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. It was supposed to be printed and on shelves this weekend, 3 days from now.

I just found out (literally minutes ago) that the Gay Fathering story that I made photos for is going to be postponed until December 3rd. The Times is doing something quick about the war in Iraq. Great...yet ANOTHER reason to be against the whole situation over there. So this means I have another 5 weeks to be nervous about how these photos will look (and if it will even run). Crap.

I know things like this can happen, and it's just the way it goes. I've told Sarah all along that I won't believe my photo is on the cover until I SEE my photo on the cover.

So I'll direct all my rage at Bush.

Directing rage....

...directing rage....

Done. Good.

p.s. I'm really not that angry of a guy. I'm pretty laid back and friendly. But please, someone, do something about that guy in the White House.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Anatomy of a New York Times Magazine Cover Photo

The following is a rough timeline of events leading up to the photoshoot for a cover story for The New York Times Magazine. They are just random notes on events that took place that led up to the publication.


• August 16, Wednesday: First Contact: Photo editor leaves me a message, phone tag ensues, e-mails back and forth between editor and myself.

What? You want me to shoot the cover? Well...OK...Are you kidding me?!?...

• August 17, Thursday: Phone tag with the photo editor, many e-mails back and forth.

• August 18, Friday: Set up first shoot with the photo editor for the next day. Many e-mails regarding the details of the shoot.

• August 19, Saturday: First Photoshoot: Left residency to drive to a NW suburb of the Cities to photograph for 5 hours at a BBQ get together. Made many photos and earned the trust of the families involved. Drove back to the residency, downloaded, and evaluated images.

• August 20, Sunday: E-mailed the photo editor and the writer.

• August 24, Thursday: Photo editor wants a CD of the images sent tomorrow. Prepared a CD of images and web photo gallery with a note. Sent the photo editor an e-mail.

• August 25, Friday: Sent a CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor, sent an e-mail.

• August 29, Tuesday: Received an e-mail from the photo editor requesting an EDITED CD, not simply all the images. Spent 4 hours editing images down to a select few, and then prepared another CD with images and web photo gallery.

• August 30, Wednesday: Sent the new CD through Fed-Ex to the photo editor.

• September 4, Monday: Prepared JPEGs to send to the writer so he could have a few visuals to write about.

• September 5, Tuesday: Sent a handful of JPEGs to the writer via e-mail.

• September 19, Tuesday: Spoke on the phone with the photo editor for a long time. She will be flying in for the shoot being the turn-around time is going to be so quick. Received many e-mails from the photo editor of previous cover images from the Times Magazine that had multiple people on them. Wrote her back later in the day.

• September 21, Thursday: Made many phone calls to the members of the family involved in the shoot to try to line up the date for the shoot and a quick scouting shoot. No luck; no calls returned.

• September 22, Friday: Many e-mails between the photo editor and myself regarding contacting everyone. Talked to one person regarding the upcoming shoot that he will be part of.

• September 27, Wednesday: Spoke with the photo editor on the phone to discuss details of the photoshoot. Made contact with everyone by phone involved in the shoot and set up times to scout their homes.

• September 28, Thursday: Scouting Photos: E-mailed the photo editor to keep her up to date. Met at 2 of the homes in the afternoon to take test shots for potential locations for the cover shoot.

• September 29, Friday: More Scouting: Scouted and photographed at the last home in the morning. Made test photos of more possible locations. Edited all test photos and resized them to send via e-mail. Started to look at equipment that is needed to rent for the shoot.

• September 30, Saturday: E-mailed many test shots to the photo editor of the different possible locations. Wrote much about my input and what I thought would and wouldn’t work.

• October 2, Monday: Received a long e-mail from the photo editor with her input on what to shoot and when. Wrote her a long e-mail back with my response and many of my own questions. Lined up a photo assistant for the upcoming shoot. Looked at equipment to rent.

• October 3, Tuesday: Stopped at West Photo to reserve equipment needed for the shoot. E-mailed rough timeline of the upcoming photoshoot to the photo editor.

• October 4, Wednesday: Called everyone involved in the shoot to give them details. Left messages and asked them to get back to me. Talked with everyone by the end of the day. Talked more with the photo assistant.

• October 5, Thursday: Cleaned out car to prepare for photoshoot (I’ll be driving the photo editor to the shoot, and my car is a sty). Shot 2 rolls of film, had them processed, and picked them up - as a test for my camera backs. Played phone tag with the photo editor. Finally talked with her for a few minutes about photoshoot details (what the families should wear, where to eat, what time to pick her up, etc). Complied large list of items needed for the shoot. Met with the photo assistant for an hour and a half to talk about details for the shoot.

• October 6, Friday: The Day the Sh*t Hit the Fan: Lined up Sunday morning snacks for the family. Wrote directions for the photo assistant. Received a frantic phone call from the photo editor because one member of the family that we are making photos of needs to leave the shoot WAY too early. Picked up extra photo-related equipment at the College of Visual Arts and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Bought some items at the Art Cellar art store. Picked up rental equipment at West Photo and purchased everything else that I needed there as well. Stressed over if the shoot is going to happen or not. Talked twice more with the photo editor. Called my photo assistant to inform him of a possible early start for the photoshoot in order to accommodate the person who has to leave early. Whatever happens, he’s on board - thank God! The photo editor called again with final details: we’ll be starting an hour and a half earlier than planned, but all is OK. Everyone will be there. Worked out details to pick up the photo editor from her hotel on Sunday morning. Called the photo assistant to let him know of the change. All systems go!

Holy shit, time for some sleep.

• October 7, Saturday: Played with the strobes to familiarize myself with them (they’re Dynalites - super easy), and tested my cameras with the strobes. Inspected all the rental equipment to make sure everything works. Set almost everything up and took everything down. Called to confirm everything with the photo editor and my photo assistant. Double-checked what time the bakery and coffee shop open in the morning in order to get goodies for the family in the shoot. Made goodies list. Loaded my car with everything, saving room for the photo editor. Slept (not well).

• October 8, Sunday: The Cover Shoot: Alarm at 5:45 am. Finished packing the car. Picked up rolls, scones, muffins, juice (apple and orange), bottled water, and napkins at Kowalski’s. Got a large “thing” of coffee at Caribou for everyone. Picked up the photo editor from her hotel around 7:40 am. Drove to the first location. Pulled up to the house, and the photo assistant pulled in right behind us. Got settled and made photos. Fought with the sun, but I won. Moved on to the second location. Set up lights, etc. Made more photos. Packed everything up. Total time on location: 4 hours, 45 minutes - not too shabby. Took the photo editor to the airport. Talked about what she needed me to have on the invoice. Returned some equipment to MCAD. Dropped off film at ProColor. Wrote up invoice to send to the Times.

• October 9, Monday: Returned the C-Stands to CVA. Returned the rental equipment to West. Picked up the processed film at ProColor. Cut and sleeved the negatives. Printed 2 sets of contact sheets (one for me, one for the photo editor). Went to Fed-Ex Kinkos to Fed Ex the contact sheets overnight to New York. E-mailed "thank you’s" to the photo editor and the photo assistant.

• October 10, Tuesday: Finalized invoice for the Times (or so I thought). E-mailed photo assistant again. Received 2 urgent phone calls from the photo editor. She needs high-res scans FTPed to her in the next day. Received instructions via e-mail for what images to scan and how to log in to their server. Found time to start making scans for the photo editor (although not feeling well). Scanned and fixed up 4 files and sent them along. E-mailed and called the photo editor to let her know. She e-mailed me back; everything looks fine. Scanned 7 more files, fixed them up, and FTPed them. E-mailed the photo editor the list of file names and a couple of questions.

• October 11, Wednesday: E-mailed the photo editor a few questions.

• October 12, Thursday: Called the photo editor to talk about when to send the match prints. Copied scanned files to portable hard drive. Received match print order and amounts for invoice. Printed 7 match print at the CVA digital lab. Altered 2 of the files, saved them in order to FTP them again. Got the prints packaged and ready to Fed Ex tomorrow morning.

• October 13, Friday: Fed Ex-ed the prints early in the morning. FTPed the 2 files that I altered for printing. E-mailed the photo editor.

Over the hill - coast down the other side.

• October 19, Thursday: E-mailed a few random questions to the photo editor. Received a reply and was given the final amounts for a few things on the invoice.

• October 21, Saturday: Finished up the invoice. Made copies of receipts and got everything in a mailer to send to the Times.

• October 23, Monday: Mailed the invoice and receipts to the photo editor.

• October 24, Tuesday: E-mailed the photo editor to let her know to expect the invoice.

• October 29, Sunday: Magazine In Print: The cover should be on newsstands (I say “should” because this is in the future, and I won’t believe it until I see it).

I may update this with actual events once it’s printed. We’ll see what will happen now...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Need a Photo Assistant? Here, Take Mine! He’s Super!

I need to thank my photo assistant for the New York Times Magazine photo shoot, Graham Simpson. He was a great assistant and super with the kids involved in the shoot. In fact, when we were all getting ready to go, the littlest boy came running over to Graham for a hug and a kiss. Everyone in the room gave out a hearty “Aawwwww!”

Here’s the man of the hour in an early exposure/lighting test at the second location on Sunday:

Lookin good in your velcro shoes, as usual

Thanks for all your help Graham. The check is in the mail. Seriously, it is.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Who Says Training for Triathlons Take Away From My Photo Career?

Yesterday, I had no free time. I was running like a madman. I went straight from my first class, to West Photo, to ProColor, to MCAD so I could cut, sleeve, and print contact sheets, then to the U of M for class, and finally to Fed Ex so I could ship the contact sheets to NY. Between each stop, I was literally running from location to location. I had heavy items in tow (laptop, neg boxes, Chipotle burritos), but I could easily sprint to and from all of my stops without breaking into a heavy sweat.

Hooray triathlons - making me a better photographer!

Monday, October 09, 2006

New York Time Magazine Cover Shoot

Yesterday was the big day. I woke up at 5:45 am after not falling asleep until about 3:30 am (a GREAT nights sleep before such a big shoot). My mind was racing all night with lighting possibilities, troubleshooting things that could go wrong before they went wrong, and random nervous tics. I had breakfast, packed the car, and drove to Kowalski’s to get morning snacks for the family in the shoot. After a quick stop at Caribou to pick up coffee for the family, I drove to downtown St. Paul to pick up the photo editor from the St. Paul Hotel. It was great to finally put a face to the voice and the e-mails. She was personable and easy to talk with. I thought someone in her position could be a bit pretentious, but she was super.

We arrived at the first location, and my photo assistant pulled up right behind us. We all introduced ourselves to the family with breakfast goodies in tow. I had met everyone before, but the assistant didn’t know anyone, and the photo editor had just talked to everyone on the phone and had never met them in person. Everyone seemed in good spirits, so we got set to take the first photos in the backyard.

Everything went OK at the first shoot. We had some issues with the littlest guy (a cute three year old) who didn’t want to always be in front of the camera, but we were all patient and worked at his speed. The photo editor helped keep everyone happy during the whole day, which was very helpful. We fought with the sun in every other shot, but everything came out.

I burned through 6 or 7 rolls, and we were ready to more on. We had the cover shot. It was in those few rolls. I was thinking about this later, and I realized that it should have been more of a turning point - knowing that I had the photo for the cover in the bag. But I just kept pluggin along. I knew that if I banked on the thought that I knew I had to cover photo, that would be my excuse for anything else that happened later in the day:

Oh, that light doesn’t look perfect? Well, that’s OK - I’ve already got the cover shot.

The kids won’t cooperate? That’s fine. We can stop. I have the cover shot already.

I didn’t want to say those words. I didn’t want to fall into that trap.

The photo editor and I hopped in my car and drove to the second location. The photo assistant and I set up lights, ran some tests with my digital camera, and got ready for the second run. We started making photos with the new "TV trick" (see previous post) and all seemed to be going well.

Then my heart jumped into my throat, and I actually choked.

My camera back was set in the horizontal position - the position that I always use in my work, but NOT the position that I was supposed to be using for the vertical cover of the magazine. This was one of the potential issues that kept me up the night before the shoot. I was always used to using that horizontal position. So when we started shooting at the second location, my camera was set back to its standard horizontal position, and I didn’t even give it a second thought. I reshot the last roll that I had just shot incorrectly. I thought I had covered my tracks, but shortly after, I was questioning how long the back had been set like that.

It kept me awake yet another night.

Well, today I picked up the film and I think everything is going to be OK. No one’s head was chopped off by the horizontal back, although it’s tighter than I’d like it to be at the top of the frame. We’ll see what the photo editor tells me tomorrow. I sent her contact sheets today, and I hope to hear from her shortly.

Time for bed. More later...

Photoshoot for the NY Times: How to Keep a Toddler Happy

There will be more coming shortly about the photographs that I shot for the New York Times, but for now, I need to share a BRILLIANT idea with all of you. I’m sure this has been done before, but I’m just pretty excited (and proud) about it right now. Yesterday at the photoshoot, one of the boys in the family that I was photographing was 3 years old. He didn’t care to cooperate in front of the camera. The parents were great and very patient, but he was usually quite fussy.

When we moved to the second location, the 2 boys (the toddler and his 7 year old brother) started watching The Lion King in the other room. That kept both of the boys very content while my photo assistant and I were setting up the lights, making test shots, etc. I told the parents, "You know, if there was a TV under the camera, I bet we could hold his attention for a LONG time." I was mostly joking, but someone jumped in: "Well, there’s an extra TV in the basement, and I have another VCR somewhere..."

So we made it happen. This is what the family saw when they were sitting on the couch looking into the camera:

Yes, that’s Scar and young Simba on TV

When everyone was set and I was ready to snap the shutter, my photo assistant would shake a jar of Skittles (right next to my ear, unfortunately) in order to get the little guy to glace upward.


Gotcha. Next shot.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Upcoming Trip to PhotoPlus in NY

Just over 2 weeks ago, I booked a room, bought my plane tickets, and registered for my trip to the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City. It’s spendy, but I just found out that a faculty support grant that I wrote at CVA is going to help me out with about 70% of my costs! I was VERY happy to learn that!

So I’ll be out in NY from November 2 through 5. I’ll be staying in midtown Manhattan and walking to the convention each day. It should be a good (and productive) time.

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