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Posts from the ‘Photographs that didn’t make the site’ Category

When Nikon took back the Night

Living in Arizona, the idea of walking around during a hot summer’s day to take photos is not what I’d call enjoyable. Between the heat, the insanely harsh light and the heat again, it is hard to find any inspiration to shoot. On the opposite side of the coin, the nights in this desert are beautiful. With little city light to overwhelm the sky you can see what civilizations saw before us, the night.

For so long, I would walk around after the sun went down wanting to photograph the world I saw. However, the casual walk and shoot was impossible, for high ISO’s were an abstract painting at best and even the fastest prime lens would barely let you handhold a sharp image. Enter the Nikon D3.

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By all outward appearances, this camera was like most other pro camera bodies, built strong and incredibly comfortable to use. Heavy? Maybe. However, it is a weight that I have become accustomed to and prefer (it’s still a feather compared to medium format bodies). Aesthetics aside, this camera had a monster inside.

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A sensor that put quality of the pixel above quantity of pixels. I bought the camera as a complete skeptic, wanting to shoot with it a bit so that I could educatedly say that it was not up to par with all the other high megapixel cameras. This was not the case. I quickly found the files were so clear that upresing them to match other camera’s chips left them just as clean, if not better. Pixel structure was film like and turning the ISO dial was no longer dangerous, it was encouraged.

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For too long, history was made at night and documented once the sun rose. Only now in our existence we are starting to find the reality that light had hidden for so long. The idea of ISO’s above 800 was obscure and only used when all other options were exhausted. If you want an example of this just look back at Olympic photography. Our technological achievements in photography become very evident as they now grace every sports magazine or website.

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However, for me, the D3 has an extra significance to my career. It is the camera that got me through the time when work had left. This is an area that no photographer wants to talk about. It is our job to always sound busy, and we fear that not being busy is not being relevant. You as my readers and friends deserve honesty, so…

From January 2009 to January 25th, 2010 I didn’t work. The phone didn’t ring, the emails didn’t show up in my inbox, the economy had collapsed. I was getting emails from some of my best friends in the industry that were clients, telling me that they had been let go and wondering if I had connections to get them a new job. It was the first time that I had to question the notion of being a professional photographer. While I have always said that I chose my college degrees (business and sociology) to be a backup in case the photography thing didn’t work out, when I got to the reality, I didn’t want to do anything else. Every day I would wake up early (5am) just in case I had a new client on the east coast that called early, I wanted to be alert. All for nothing.

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At first it was a vacation, then it turned into boredom, then desperation and finally acceptance. Acceptance that this dream was over. All the while I wasn’t shooting, not for work, not for practice, not for fun. One day, my wife came to me and said, “let’s take the dog for a walk… and why don’t you bring your camera.” When I questioned the idea, she told me that before photography was a job, it was my passion, and just because the job part doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean that the passion shouldn’t.

I picked up the D3 and went for a walk around the neighborhood with her and our dog.

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For all I knew, there would never be another client, and this art would be retired to a hobby. What struck me the most is that when the walk was done I didn’t care that the job aspect was gone, I just wanted to take pictures. So once the sun had set, I would walk around the neighborhood photographing everything from light poles to plants with the D3. It was the camera that let us photograph the darkness, and it was the camera that helped me escape it.

I wanted to write this for photographers, many in this situation and many that will someday face it. I want you to know that when the calls stop, don’t be disheartened. Your images are still strong. When you get to a point that you feel scorned by the industry, do not despair. Your images are still strong. Photography is not over the day the work ceases to exist, it is over the day you lose the passion. Find what inspires you to shoot, and photography will live on.

 

 

How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb

Catchy title, huh?  That’s exactly what I thought when I saw a short review on the book by Peter Kuran titled, wait for it…. “How to Photograph an Atomic Bomb

To understand me, you must first know that I have a lot of free time, whether it be on planes or just sitting around the house, I try and spend at least a day each week reading about random hobbies/interests.  One such interest is nukes… go ahead and say it, “Blair has lost his damn mind.”

I promise I haven’t, but rather find them and how they were created thoroughly interesting.  Then I happened upon Mr. Kuran’s book and the world of nukes and photography collided, I was smitten.

Images such as this one captivated me:

Which brings me to my reason of this post…  I have only one piece of art on my walls where I edit (painting of Michael Schumacher), and need to spruce up the place.  When I saw this print of the men who built the bombs, lit by a nuclear bomb, I decided I must have it!

So with that said, if anyone can help me find where to order a print of this, I will get a print (of one of my photos) out to you…

Go, Cubs, Go

There is something about the Cubs that inspires me. They are a franchise that suffers a polar opposite of fair-weather fanaticism, the concept of which amuses me. Cheered loyally by the masses during the worst of seasons, they are the team that may not win the game, but usually receive more love than the home team.

By default I am a Cubs fan. You see, I married a Cubs fan, therefor I am a Cubs fan. Until a recent photoshoot with Anthony Rizzo, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you a single player on the team, but that doesn’t change my support for the Cubs (most of which done in order to make my wife happy).

I think the Cubs represent an era lost on modern sports, one of great escape and timeless appeal. They are the embodiment of going to the ballpark with your friends to enjoy life, to relax and have a beer, to have a good time. The game being played is almost inconsequential to the utility provided to its viewers. It is one of the last romantic aspects that is still alive in pro sports. A win is nice, but not necessary to most Cubs fans at Wrigley. Sure it allows them to fly the “W” flag, but it is indeterminate of consumption of Old Style, hot dogs and peanuts.

On to the photoshoot of Anthony Rizzo.  In all honesty it was another shoot that went well and one in which no drama existed. Rizzo is a player that has beaten cancer, become the face of a franchise, and is only 23 years old. In no way was this his first photoshoot, nor his last. Even with his wall of accomplishments, he is very quite and humble about his success. Tony is the kind of player that I support, for his character shows fame won’t change him. For that reason, and the fact that I managed to have a weekend off in August (coinciding with Rizzo Bobblehead night), my wife and I are heading to Wrigley to have beer, hot dogs, and … well… cheer on the Cubs.

Go, Cubs, Go

Can someone get the Rattlesnake off my back?

Whenever I talk to another photographer the topic of “personal work” always comes up. Usually in the casual form of, “hey, have you shot any personal work lately?”

This standard artistic rendition of the workplace, “how’s the weather” is usually brushed off as soon as the first round of drinks arrives and more enjoyable “which celebrity is a jerk?” conversations quickly replace it. However, for me, it is probably better that my “personal work” remains limited, for doing it usually leeds to bodily harm (or in this case recurring nightmares).

You see, I’ve always had a fascination with dangerous animals, be it sharks, snakes, heck if a bird could kill you, I’d probably think it’s cool…. but they can’t and that’s why birds are boring. Anyways, one day I got the grand idea that I would love to photograph the poisonous snakes of the world. (even writing this has made me realize how bad of an idea this was, but trust me, it gets worse). Somehow in my obsessive compulsive quest for sharpness, many… let’s says safety precautions… were skipped. Actually now that I think of it, I don’t know of any safety precautions we even had other than “don’t get bit”.

Western Diamondback Rattlesnake

This is where it gets dumb….

My first request for sharpness was that we not have anything between the camera and the snake. Every layer of glass that is not needed is only a source of flare (hence, why I don’t use filters on my lenses) and must be done away with. Now you’re probably saying, “oh, that’s fine, you can just use a cable release and stay the hell away from the snake.”

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This is where it gets real dumb…

In wanting to be able to see what I was getting and autofocus when the snake was over my preferred AF point, I decided I would lay behind the camera. My logic was that snakes only see heat and movement, so if I laid still I would look like nothing more than a rock to them.

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The final bit of stupidity…

Snakes, when cold, are very lethargic. So we decided to keep them cold when we brought them to the set and therefor prevent any snake shenanigans. What we failed to account for was how fast two Profoto heads at full power can heat them suckers up. And so, on snake number 3 (a Diamondback Rattlesnake) we found out why I shouldn’t shoot personal work.

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Let me just say that I was kind of correct in that the snake didn’t see me as a threat, as I was looking it eye to eye (notice it has PASSED the camera). It proceeded over me and into the Tenba case that I transported my lights in, which was laying on it’s side. The wrangler then shut the case and we cleared the set, everyone was safe….. the wrangler, the assistant and the crying little girl that was a photographer only minutes before.

Since then I have decided to move on and never return to photographing snakes, especially pissed off poisonous ones. Instead I am pursuing a different avenue of personal work…. sharks… more specifically Great White sharks. So in September we depart for the Guadalupe islands to shoot a portrait of great white, safety precautions and life insurance policies are currently being evaluated.

iPhone 4s: Year 1

To go along with tonight’s speaking engagement for Apple (info located here), I wanted to look back at what one year with the iPhone 4s could do.

Being the tech geek that I am, this is the first time I have ever held onto a phone for a year. However, the argument to why I would change is easily defeated by what it has afforded me… it has given me freedom. Freedom to go about life and capture it if it should present itself.

Just the memory of the day I got the 4s makes for a relaxed state of mind. It was about 80 degrees outside and I went to drinks with my wife a friend, I wore my Bell & Ross, and had a Martini. I know this because I couldn’t stop taking pictures of everything around me. Over the next few weeks I found that I loved photography again, I was relaxed and the need to photograph was gone, replaced by the want to photograph.

My gratefulness to this phone can be tied to one event alone, one that I don’t talk about much. My grandma.

It was Grandma’s birthday, and I wanted to stop by and say Happy Birthday. I don’t take cameras to these sort of events, but I had my iPhone. The light was nice, she was so happy, so I decided I would shoot a couple portraits. As fate would have it, this would be the last time I would ever see my grandma. It felt good to not be “Blair, the big shot photographer” and be “Blair, her grandson.”

So if 5 minutes make an iPhone worth it, what can a year do?  Enjoy…

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photographed by Blair Bunting

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Also, if you’re in AZ, feel free to join me at the Apple Store in Scottsdale Quarter tonight at 7pm. I will be speaking on how I use Apple products to do location shoots, advertise, and of course talk about the iPhone.

If you’re not in AZ, you can still join us as we live tweet the event on my Twitter account and will be answering questions, just remember to #BbApple

Ford GT40: The $11,000,000 Car

Value in function and design has a limit, value in history does not.

Perhaps there is no car that better personifies this than the Ford GT40. Not the road versions or the modern versions, I am talking about the car that gave them all heritage. Raced in Le Mans with the Gulf livery that graces everything from watches to cell phones, this car is an icon. It represents a time when cars were driven to the track and raced, when danger was ever apparent and the pilots of the cars were gods amongst men.

I can still remember when one of my friends told me that he had that car and how far fetched I thought it was. Imagine walking into a dark room and the lights turning on to reveal this car. It sat there all alone, it was like I was in my own private museum of racing history, I was awestruck. In all honesty I didn’t even think of photographing it, but rather just enjoyed looking at it and wondering the time and experience this car had seen. One night, while enjoying a glass of wine, my friend and I decided it would be fun to photograph the car; not for money nor advertising, but for history’s sake.

As for the photo itself, it serves as a testament to Nikon’s D3. When we shot the image, we had a camera, a tripod and a strip light.  We knew that it was going to be a dark image and planned how I would walk the light to paint the lines, but the rest of the image’s quality relied on my faith to Nikon. With the D3, as well as the D3X, I have always had the confidence to throw any lighting situation at the subject and let the sensor work it out, and the cameras have always delivered.

Congratulations King Felix

Originally I wasn’t going to blog about the ad campaign I shot of Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners.  The shots were good, but the shoot was overall pretty straight forward…. Photographer, crew and client show up, wait for an hour, then wait for another hour, wait a couple more, athlete shows up and asks how long the shoot should take.

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However, after turning on ESPN this weekend I have had a change of heart. The reason for this is that King Felix pitched his first perfect game last week, making him one of 23 pitchers to have ever accomplished such a feat. Funny enough, such a performance will most likely secure that I will photograph him again for next year’s campaign, however this time I will bring a book.

Felix Hernandez photographed by Blair Bunting

Congrats King Felix.

F-16: The Ride of a Lifetime

The truest appreciation for science and art lives only in the experience. While my professional respect and novice understanding of physics tells me that I would know what G-Forces entail, the fact of the matter is that I had no idea…

For many, including myself, just the call to do a photoshoot of an F-16 fighter jet would make for a great day, but being offered a ride in one, well that makes for a great honor. I can still remember the call telling me that I needed to clear my schedule and see my doctor for flight approval, my ride had been approved. Now to measure said impact we need a constant…. in this case I hate going to the doctor’s office. Whether I am in need of help or just dropping off medical records, I do not like to be there. However, give me a paper that has a checklist for whether or not I would survive an ejection seat and I will gladly get a physical (or in this case two).

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I would normally say something to the extent of “fast forward a week”, but the truth is knowing what lied ahead, time went by so damn slow. Even while on vacation with my wife, sitting on the beach in Kauai the flight was always in the back of my mind.  I had tried to convince myself that I had an idea of what it was going to be like and how I was going to react, but in reality I hadn’t a clue. The ability to sleep at night ended with one week left until the flight, even though I had been on a very rigorous workout schedule in the attempt to stay conscious through the G’s.

The day before takeoff I had to report to the base and go through another physical combined with breathing training and then it was off to egress. For those of you that don’t know what egress is (like me), it is a short way of saying, “the plane is going down and this is how to stay alive.” During the class I can distinctly remember the hypothetic world of “can you imagine” transforming into the reality of “if you have to.” Example being, “If you have to eject, here is how to check out the parachute and call for search and rescue.” Yeah, things got real. From there I got fitted for my G-suit and then retired for a night of futile attempts of getting any sleep.

The morning briefing was short and before I knew it I found myself sitting in the backseat of an F-16 shaking my head wondering how the hell I ever ended up in this place. I still could not believe what had transpired to make this happen and all I could think about was the many men and women that have served this country and deserved this flight more than me.

Confident that I would not remember the whole flight we had cameras installed on the HUD so that if I were to pass out from the G’s or get sick all over the place, you the viewers would get a good laugh at the expense of some of my pride. So without any further adieu, I present the video from that day, made by my good friends Mike and Charles.

I just want to thank all the men and women that made this opportunity happen. I am humbled by your kindness and truly grateful to have met every one of you along the way. More amazing than any of the jets our country has are those who pilot them and keep them in the sky.

Thank you.

 

 

Goodwill Bunting

So first let me explain the title to this one as it has a bit of historical significance.  When I was in high school, the most unfortunate thing happened…. the movie Blair Witch Project came out in theaters.  Be it high school mentalities or just plain destruction of the word unique, it seemed that there was a kid in every class that wanted to call me Blair Witch.  Sadly I wasn’t even into the goth scene and didn’t much care for the movie either (was there even a plot?).  Come senior year I had a teacher that gave nicknames to his students.  Expecting nothing more than the same fate that so many non-creative kids had afforded me, I was delightfully surprised when the words, “Goodwill Bunting” were spoken.  Now I know that it’s another pop movie title play on words, but it was a nice escape, so here’s a hat tip to you Mr. Riff.

So On with the applicable aspect of the blog….

I was contacted by an ad agency to shoot the campaign for Goodwill.  For those of you that may not be familiar with Goodwill, it is a storefront where people can bring in items they wish to donate and they will then sell the items and donate the money to charities.  It is a foundation that I avidly support and a mission statement that truly is about helping those in need.  It should also be mentioned that when the winter comes around again there is no better place to find an ugly Christmas sweater.

As for the shoot, it was a clean concept simple to shoot and straight forward to produce.  The best part was the honest approach that Goodwill wanted in that every piece of clothing, every accessory (from sports to grilling to cameras) had to be purchased from a Goodwill.  In effect we were showing the different types of people you could find and that you could be with the help of Goodwill.

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As always these shots would be nothing without the help from those on set, Shawn, Tarah, Paul, Floyd, Loft 19, Park & Co., Rainbow Doughnuts and of course Goodwill, a very sincere thank you.

When f/1.0 just isn’t fast enough

The progression that is the discovery and appreciation of photography is a journey unique to the voyager. Whether the path is walked through a textbook, an online forum, or alone, there is not two that are alike.

Being self taught I found myself obsessing with the technical to a degree that the artistic side of photography was an afterthought. At first it was just grasping the concept of 18% grey, then it was learning the stop reach of my sensor, then it was getting rid of depth of field only to bring it back in later years. It serves a little ironic that I craved bokeh so much when young and now I cringe whenever someone uses that word in a conversation.

Back in 2003, I found myself with a lens line up that from 24 to 200, all faster than f/1.8, so to say I enjoyed dof isolation was an understatement. However, there was a part of me that thought the 85mm f/1.2 just wasn’t shallow enough. I had tubed the thing beyond its nodal point reach to where the min focus point was behind the front element. However, a part of me still felt there was less depth to be achieved.

photographed by Blair Bunting

This quest impacted my grades as I would often sit in Italian classes trying to calculate the angle of light conversion for a lens instead of paying attention (2 years of Italian and all I know is how to say my name is cheese). Being a true photo geek at heart, I listed lenses by absolute aperture size in mm rather than stop (this is before I learned the factoring of min foc distance, but that is a function or mid to rear elements, so we can address it at a later time).

Fortunate for me during this time, there was an industrial factory that did X-ray analysis that had gone under and surplussed it’s equipment. I called them up and offered to buy all their lenses for cheap as I intended to mount them to a Canon 1D.

photographed by Blair Bunting

The lenses that came in the box ranged from 110mm to 50mm and had aperture values of 1.1 to 0.50. Unfortunately, they were made for industrial X-ray machines, so mounting them would not be easy.  Some had nodal points that wouldn’t work with a mirror and others had rear elements that would support the lens. None of them had focus rings and would be strictly DTS pulled, not to mention no chips meant that the truest form of manual exposure would be required as most cameras aren’t set for f/.50.

I eventually mounted some with cut body caps and others with plumbing tubing with a CD case. Min focus distance was very min, often only a couple inches, but dof is a function of distance as it is a derivative of iris, so this was a plus. There was not a practical use for the lenses, but there was learning to be had in their use.

I taught myself lights change and dof relevance on it. Texture was important and the quality of the images that came from the lenses was often determined by the progression from focus to out of focus rather than the quality of the blur itself. At the end of the day, I never really showed the images all that much and sold off most of the lenses I had made.  Like so many other aspects of photography, I was merely looking to show myself I could do it.