Singing the Blues with Ernie Santella

Many of you know Ernie as one of Denver’s great videographers. Well-traveled, talented and wise, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. But he has a dark side: He’s a bluesman. Unlike me, he did something useful during the pandemic: He wrote and recorded an entire album. He had bandmate Mary Johanson (Wasted on the Young) come and give voice to his cool, witty lyrics.

And he was nice enough to have me come around a do a few photos. Give the album a spin on any streamer or here. Enjoy!

The Candidate

My friend and colleague, newly-minted attorney Johnnie Nguyen, is running for office. He’s going to surely be elected his district’s next CU Regent. In order to get the word out, I was asked to do a morning of photos with him and several CU students.

We might call this lifestyle photography—Creating a believable vignette, arranging the talent, giving them direction, and capturing a series of emotive yet technically-proficient photos.

After Johnnie wins Regent, watch out. The sky’s the limit with this guy.

Ringing the Bell

“That sounds so cool!” I said to the events coordinator at Jackson, my Financial Services client in Nashville. He had just invited me to photograph their big day in New York: Ringing the opening bell on the floor of the Stock Exchange. This is the seat of the world’s economy, where it all happens, and a place you can’t even take a tour of anymore!

We also went up to Times Square to see their digital signage. Their extremely tall digital signage!

Between travel, traffic, and COVID, this was a shoot that had to be planned to the minute. Strict security protocols at NYSE, complicated logistics for getting people around, and a deep shot list with multiple midday uploads required a deep skill position bench on the planning side, and they nailed it.

For more corporate event photos, click here.

Annual Report – Midwest Edition

Last month saw another challenging but fun multi-day shoot for Black Hills Energy. Their focus for this years’ Annual Report is their gas service in the Omaha area, and all the safety improvements being made there.

From a 100-year-old downtown basement to suburban side-yards to rural pipe upgrades, the scope of service improvements kept growing. Nebraska is beautiful in late summer, and literally 90º warmer than last years cover shot: Dusk in Wyoming in January.

The key to a productive couple days like this is, al always, preparation. The crew at Black Hills lined up each of our shoots and subjects beautifully, so as long as I could keep my batteries functioning in 95º, we were in business. I’ll save hot batteries for another post.

For more location photos, click here.

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.

Coeur Wharf, a gold mine that’s been in production for more than 30 years near Deadwood, is operated by 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!

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.

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.

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!