Workin’ in a Gold Mine

This month saw a challenging and endlessly interesting shoot. The Black Hills of South Dakota were calling, and as spring eased into summer, that’s a great place to be for not one, but two shoots.

Wharf, a gold and silver pit mine near Deadwood, is operated by minerals giant Coeur Mining. This location’s photo library was long depleted and was in dire need of a massive refresh, so we worked 2 1/2 days and delivered nearly 1000 new images … after editing.

When I booked this shoot, strict Covid protocols were still in place which necessitated driving rather than flying. No problem there—Six hours of beautiful countryside and mountains always beats five hours of airports! It also meant I could bring extra equipment: A full portrait setup (Yes, I did headshots wearing muddy steel-toe boots!), personal PPE, studio and battery high-speed strobes, iPads, laptops, CamRangers, etc. Luxury.

No assistants or stylists to credit, but a huge shout-out to Kourtney Peterson, Wharf’s HR genius. Kourtney is a sneaky-brilliant coordinator and producer!

For more industrial photography, click here!

Flexibility is Key

Let’s talk business portraits, AKA headshots. Last month, I had the pleasure of doing a new round of photography for Bachus & Schanker, whose faces you know from TV and billboards.

Kyle Bachus and the creative team are so great to work with, as they’re always miles ahead of their competition. In this case, they decided we should spend extra time with each attorney to capture them on unlit seamless for the designers to cut out and manipulate later, depending on the composition of whatever piece they’re making. The two-shot with them both is a composite. Looks pretty natural, right?

This round of photography is a good reminder to slow down, pre-plan for all kinds of unforseen uses, and to never make a group shot without also shooting its component parts separately.

Finally, we got to do a few exterior shots in the middle of a fresh spring snow. I think those are pretty fun!

Editorial on a Big Day

March 5 with the first day of vaccine availability for agricultural workers, and JBS Foods in Greeley has 3500 of them under their roof! How to handle that many vaccinations? Do them in-house.

With military precision, JBS managed to bring the vaccinations to their employees at work. The plant was closed, they got a paid day off, were given a specific time for their first shot. Reps and nurses from Kaiser, HealthOne, Centura and others were on-hand to administer.

It was great working alongside my old colleague videographer Brook Aitken to capture stills of employees, healthcare workers, and even The Governor all being conducted with such care and precision.

Windy City

Annual report assignments are routinely the best. Small or no crew, but willing and collaborative clients. Also, long shot lists and occasionally challenging conditions.

The 2020 Black Hills Annual was no different. Usually shot in summer or fall, this years’ edition was put off for obvious reasons, but also because our hero location, the Corriedale wind farm in Wyoming, had just come on-line. So…January it is.

A wind farm in January is exactly as cold as you think it’s going to be: 50 mph gusts and just over 20º Fahrenheit. Our engineer Allie and designer Sarah were tough as nails, though, as we all darted out of our individual vehicles for several quick setups as the sun was going down.

But the fun didn’t stop there! Our other setups, out of the wind, were chilly but interesting. Gas tech Carl visits client Laurie in our rented home/studio. Note Carl’s key light, armed in and gridded, so he didn’t get lost in the bright backlight. And lineman Rick, whose weathered gloves proved a perfect symbol of Black Hills’ “Ready” messaging.

See more industrial location work here.

Joey for Forum Financial

The only good part of working during a pandemic is facing interesting challenges. I was contacted by Forum Financial of Chicago recently to shoot a remote portrait for one of their advisors, but without anyone from Forum on-set.

In addition to a portrait, they also wanted to start adding personal branding-type photos to their advisors’ pages, so clients could get to know them a little better. The first subject happened to live in Denver.

The Creative Director had interesting ideas for locations and backgrounds, but we also needed a space to accommodate a portrait setup, so we virtually scouted numerous co-working spaces. The one we settled on was big, included a studio, and had other interesting areas.

But it all had to start with the perfect portrait. I had seen the many existing portraits they already had, and needed to copy the lighting style and direction.

So, our first stop was the “creative studio” where we built a full portrait lighting setup, complete with 5-foot octabank key, fill strobes, seamless, etc.

We shot maybe a hundred variations of the official corporate pose, to be sure the client had several to choose from. Shooting portraits remotely with a new client and trying to anticipate their needs and wants is a lot of fun.

The objective was to shoot the portrait plus two location poses, each framed for full 2×3 cropping, 16×9, and CinemaScope, 3×1. So, we punched all those ratios into our capture software, and made sure we liked how each looked cropped all three ways.

The client was very happy once everything was retouched and delivered. At this point, Joey may never want to leave Denver. For more location portraits, click here.

Do You See What I See?

Why, why, WHY do we sometimes see different things on our monitors? Occasionally I hear about image brightness or color. Surprisingly though, not too often. When I edit an image, do you see it the same way I did? Depends.

Computer monitors, like almost anything else in the world of tech (thermostats, tire inflators, your Subaru’s speedometer), need to be calibrated to be consistent. What does that mean? Calibration means setting up a device to a specific set of standards. If both our monitors are calibrated, they should match in brightness, color, and contrast.

Note: Out of the box, and adjusted to your visual preference, your monitor is NOT calibrated. Calibration makes it accurate, but not necessarily pretty. How I calibrate my monitors:

Using a specific hardware device and software package (this requires specialized external hardware), I plug this little puck in and stick it to the face of the monitor. I then allow the software to access color settings, and let it rip.

The next few minutes are interesting: The screen goes black, bright white, a hundred shades of gray, and cycles through multiple colors both bright and pastel. The process takes a few minutes. The result? They call it: White Point to 6500K (D65), White level to 120 cd/m2 and Gamma to 2.2 – recommended settings for editing photographs.

If you’re in marketing or communications, or are in the business of reviewing graphics and photography, you need to calibrate your monitors! Ask a photo or graphics vendor what to buy to do it yourself, or ask your IT department to do it for you. Happy editing!

Magazine Work

The Construction Blue Book is a regional (a dozen or so states) professional contractor’s magazine featuring up-to-the-minute stories about best practices, industry news, and at least one spotlight feature on a company or project.

I’ve been lucky enough to be their local photography contractor for several years, even though they seem to need shoots on either the hottest day of the year or the coldest! But it’s a welcome challenge: Tight timelines, a 1-man crew, amateur talent, tricky locations. Basically what I really love.

Inside, each story features a double-truck (requiring super-high resolution capture) spread, and vignettes of the subjects working and collaborating at a job site. Their offices are a always a mess as are real construction sites, so keeping everything looking nice is tough but fun.

And like a “real” newsstand magazine, it’s printed on heavy coated paper, with a fine 220 linescreen, and requires perfect files: Tack-sharp, color-correct, retouched. At 11″ high, those water spots on the truck are going to look horrible, so extensive retouching is required. See you next year! Bring a sweater!

For more location industrial photography, click here.

Komatsu Gives Back

It’s always nice to see your work A. Blown up huge and B. Used for a good cause. 

My friends at Komatsu recently adopted the playroom at the Central Illinois Ronald McDonald House. They fully tricked out the whole place, installing a movie area, several multiple-player game stations, and toys of all kinds including yellow trucks! 

But, just to make it even more fun, they added a giant 15-foot mining truck decal to the wall, a photograph made by me at their proving ground in Arizona. Note that this is shrunk down: The mighty 830E is nearly 30 feet tall and weighs almost a million pounds!

To see more heavy equipment photos, click here.

It’s Been A Year

Being a client of one of the region’s great political strategists gets exciting for just a couple months, every couple years. It’s then that I get to meet wonderful and energetic candidates running for everything from Dog Catcher to State Senate.

But our shoots aren’t overly social. They’re super cram-packed, actually. I receive a “tick-tock” schedule the night before with really well-planned locations and very tight timeframes, and usually bight and early, we’re off.

This year was no exception. We photographed half a dozen Commissioner, House, and Senate hopefuls, and did so at jackrabbit pace. Most of these shoots yielded over a thousand captures in just 2-3 hours! For maximum efficiency, we used a CamRanger (highly recommended) to zap JPEGs to a wireless iPad. Just so you know, a Nikon battery, a CamRanger battery, and an iPad battery all last about 4 hours each. And by then you’re ready for an iced americano.

Perhaps you got one of in your mailbox. I hope you’ll consider supporting these candidates!

See more location photography here.

Is Your Photographer Insured?

You make sure the gardener, cable guy, plumber, and roofer are insured, right? Often trade licensing carries a liability insurance requirement, but photography does not. You should still require it.

Liability means that if the photographer, or any other contractor working on your property, breaks something or hurts someone, they will be responsible for it, not you or your company. Altitude Arts carries $2 million in liability, plus other additional coverage.

Here’s a standard “Acord” certificate. Once you confirm that your photographer is insured, it’s your option to request an insurance certificate, or proof that you (your company is mentioned specifically) are covered. There may be small fee.

Not sure? Ask HR. The answer will be an unequivocal yes! Read a short column by Gordon Rudd, CISSP (a risk expert) here. And call me with questions!