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Posts tagged ‘Photographer’

In the Mo Bro Spotlight

If you have been participating in Movember, good news, there is only nine days that your soup straining, crumb catching porn stache has to reside on that precious real-estate known as your face.

This year I have been reluctant to post picture of the atrocity under my nose, it is just too bad. In 1970 this thing may have got me laid, but in modern days it should most likely get me arrested. Look at every news report of some creepy guy with yellow sunglasses and a predator mustache and I look like his twin. ugh.

Fortunately there is a bright side to this hideous facial hair, it and its cause Movember has led to many conversations this year with friends and strangers alike. From physical to mental health, I have had the good fortune to share stories and talk to people around the world that are going through the same journey.

However, the month is not done yet… Movember has taken notice and published an interview I did with them a few weeks ago. If you have a few minutes, head over to their site and have a read, maybe learn something about your’s truly.

 

Running on Faith

If there is one part of my career that I could say that I have let myself down in, it would be not shooting enough editorial projects.

For many years all I shot was editorial, and I loved it. However the lure of high dollar advertising work was too much and I started turning down work in the editorial world to focus more on ad campaigns. In a sense I had sold my photographic soul to the devil. I will admit it, I made a mistake.

I had forgotten about the fun experiences, incredible opportunities and most importantly, I  had forgotten about the people one meets while on editorial assignments. This is not to say that ad work doesn’t introduce me to some very interesting people, it’s just that the barrier of entry limits the number that you will meet.

Runner Alicia Shay

Fast forward to a couple months back and Shape Magazine called me to see if I would be willing to do a photoshoot of a runner in Flagstaff, AZ. At the time Scottsdale was going through a heat wave, so I thought, “why not?” and drove the 2 hours to Flagstaff with my assistant.

Upon stepping out of the car in Flagstaff we immediately rejoiced in the 20 degree cooler temperature along with the large evergreen trees all around us… it was beautiful.

I rang the doorbell to a cute little house on a hill and was met by our subject, Alicia Shay. After a quick discussion of wardrobe for the shoot, we got in my car and the three of us headed to a nearby mountain preserve where she often does trail running. The location was absolutely stunning, I found myself going for a walk more than looking for the photo opportunities. To tell you how distracted I was by the landscape, we got to a spot that we decided to shoot our first shot at only for me to have forgotten the cables to the strobes in the car (almost a half mile away). Rather than transport all the gear back with us to the car, my assistant said he would run to the car and grab the cables while I set stuff up at the location.

While getting gear out of the cases I began talking to Alicia about her career as a runner and about her life. She told me about how she fell in love with running, and how it was an extension of who she is. It was a very romantic view of a sport that conveyed true passion and dedication. She had gone to college on a running scholarship and was expected to compete for the USA at the Beijing olympics in the 10,000 meter race. Running was her life, so it was only appropriate that it had her heart as well, as she met her husband while competing in college for he was a runner too. They got married only four months before the Olympic trials in New York where he was competing to qualify for the marathon race in Beijing.

Standing on the course, waiting for him to run by, the world as she knew it would disappear. Her husband Ryan collapsed only six miles into the competition. Although taken immediately to the hospital, he did not make it.

I froze as she told me this. I tried to act as if I was completely engaged to the conversation, but the truth is that inside I was heart broken for her. She was calm and continued on about what happened in the months and years that followed. Her passion for running slowly went away as it reminded her too much of him, until one day she stopped running. Injuries forced her out of the Olympic trials, and she was left to only watch them on tv.

As time went by, the idea of returning to running grew and Alicia began to run the trails of the mountains in Flagstaff. At this point in the conversation the clouds broke and the sun hit the mountain we had both been looking at. I made the comment that the trail where we were at was beautiful and extremely peaceful. She said it was a place where she is at peace. I knew that it was a place where he was with her.

It was a day that left me speechless and in admiration of the strength that Alicia has. I knew that the image we got was strong, but truly feel that seeing the will of human spirit that she has will mean more than anything. I left Flagstaff humbled and grateful for taking that assignment.

The Nikon D750

I never thought I would be writing this blog… We all know I love me some Nikon, but that which is loved is usually of the pro body form. Be it the D3x or D4s, I am a big fan of Nikons with a built in vertical grip. From time to time I do shoot with the D810 and other such bodies, but my preference tend to lean towards camera bodies that look like a square box head on.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got a call from my good friends at Nikon that said, “hey, you should try the D750 out, we really think you’ll like it.” I agreed to give it a shot, but in complete honesty thought it was going to be small for my tastes and wondered what the catch would be.

Three weeks later and I am obsessed with this camera, she’s (yes, my D750 is a female camera, just haven’t named her yet) even gone to her very first photoshoot. While I used some other bodies on the actual production, I found that I am rediscovering my love of photography in this lil camera.

For starters, I don’t shoot it in a conventional way whatsoever. I used my right thumb to fire the shutter and turn off the autofocus on all my lenses that I mount to it. Often letting the camera force me to look at it very reminiscent to how I viewed old Hasselblads. This D750 has changed my view of photography in a way similar to the D3 the first time I saw its dynamic range.

Of all the functions that I dig about it, none are more freeing than the wifi. Yes, I know that there have been other cameras that have built in wifi, but this is my first experience with one. It is for that reason that I have turned the D750 into my dedicated Instagram camera. I couldn’t even tell you if it has a memory card in it right now as I only grab the files with my phone and then post them straight to Instagram. So with that said, enjoy some square pics from this not so square camera and while you’re at it go check one out.

Thunderbirds D750

D750 grass

Riley

D750 me

Thunderbirds loop

Nikon D750

 

 

Giving Back

Of all the gifts and opportunities that we as photographers will experience through our careers, none are more important than the opportunity to help someone else out. From teaching others your craft to using your talent to enrich someone else’s life, there is no downside to giving back.

One such opportunity presented itself about a month ago when I got a phone call from the man that owns the studio I shoot out of, Floyd Bannister. A little background on Floyd… He is one of the most humble men I have ever met. On many occasions I have come to him with clients that were charity based organizations and he has let me shoot without asking for anything in return. When we produced the entire Fstoppers video of the Lamborghini photoshoot, he again told me that he was grateful I chose Loft 19 and that it was on him. I have had shoots where athletes have been in bad moods upon arrival and he sat me down and told me to not worry and that the situation would calm down and then I should shoot. It is for this and many reasons that I see him as a bit of a father figure in this industry.

Back to the phone call… He said that he was sponsoring a very small college’s football team. Many of the players on the team and students at the school were the first members of their family to even attend college. He then asked if there was any chance that we could give them a photoshoot to make the guys feel like rock stars and make their sense of accomplishment even greater. Without hesitation I said “yes.”

I began calling assistants and telling them that we had a shoot for Floyd and every single one of them immediately said they wanted to help. Incredible people, every one of them. I told them all to bring their gear to the set for I also saw this as an opportunity to teach.

The day of the shoot, we all showed up and began producing images and an environment that saw many of the players calling their parents to tell them what was going on. I was able to also start giving the camera over to my assistants and letting them gain experience on a set that isn’t possible in a big time shoot where a campaign is on the line. To say that this was a perfect day for me is an understatement.

We were able to help out a man that we all like, a group of kids feel important from the experience, and my crew gets to take turns shooting while I assist them.

It was a good day.

I want to thank Andrew to doing a behind the scenes on the shoot and all the guys on my crew that made this possible.

Bb: LowePro Ambassador

I will admit right now, every time I write a title like this or the Nikon, or Maurice Lacroix ambassador one, I sit back and think…. “you know, people are going to stop asking me to grab a beer with them if I keep this stuff up.”

Please know that, like the other endorsements, it means the world to me to have a company that I know and trust show such support. I can’t say much, but will say this… there are some VERY exciting things that will come out of this relationship. When LowePro approached me about becoming a LoweProfessional, one aspect that was discussed at length was, “how can we use this partnership to help people out?” From raising money for charities to helping educate photographers on how I go about my work, I wanted to make sure it was a contract that helped me give back to the community above all. Blair_Bunting_Bio_main

It’s an odd reality to be a part of and I find myself honored to experience it, but also missing what things were like before. To be honest, some of my favorite shoots I have ever done were the small editorial gigs where I didn’t make all that much and came home tired. Unfortunately, the calls for those go away when photo editors fear that they are wasting my time calling, and so such sponsorships have an averse affect.

It’s a part of this career that I never saw coming. I used to sit on the internet looking at who was with what company and think, “damn it would be awesome to be in his or her place.” However, it was impossible to see that said achievement would make people hesitate to reach out and ask for advice like, how I lit a specific photo or what gear I used.

To have fun and try to pay it back to you (my readers/friends) I have started calling random Twitter and Facebook followers every week to say “hi” and ask if they had any questions… (on a side note, the calls have been freaking awesome and I plan to keep on doing them when I have breaks in my schedule).

You guys are the reason great companies like LowePro have reached out to me, and I want to say not only thank you, but please don’t ever feel that I am in a different league and therefore am inaccessible… I am one of you and always will be. So whether it be Facebook, Twitter or Smoke Signal (the OG social media), please feel free to ask advice on cameras, watches, bags… heck, ask what I had for dinner, I really don’t mind.

The iPhone is NOT for Photographers

Part of understanding is the ability to admit when one is wrong. Here and now I need to admit that I was wrong.

I have always been a big fan of Apple. It began as a child when I was brainwashed into loving the company by my parents. You see, my Mom and Dad were both teachers. In the early 80’s my father taught computers at a community college. He loved how Apple as a company supported educators so much that he wanted to give back to them. So when they became publicly available, he would use his bonuses to purchase stock in the company… not to make money, but to support education. By now some of you have added things up, and yes, the stock purchased over the years is worth a bit more. However, when you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a pound. As a family we have made the decision that the money will always be with Apple, as they supported and continue to support education.

I hope that this gives you an idea to my relationship with Apple.

In October 2011, I purchased the iPhone 4s for two reasons. The first was in memory of Steve Jobs, who I believe to be one of the greatest inventors of our time (I called it my iPhone 4Steve). The second reason was to see if this phone was a legit shooter for photographers.

If you have followed the blog long enough, you know that I was smitten by the phone and its ease of use / always in your pocket aspect. I would walk around taking photos every day with it and then would sit there on Camera+ or Snapseed editing away. It was at this time that Apple reached out to me, and I had the privilege of speaking for them about the greatness of their products, one of those being the iPhone.

As time went on the I replaced my 4s with a 5s. While I enjoy the phone, the blinded love affair with it has passed, and reality has set in. I am not saying that I don’t like the phone anymore, but rather the pedestal that I once held it on has changed.

The iPhone is a great camera for a phone, but it is NOT a great camera.

We as a society have become giddy with the idea that we are carrying around a professional camera in our pockets, after all, Apple shot the iPhone commercial with it. Never had this disillusion been more evident than in a recent meeting with a client. When faced with estimates that lay before them, a large company’s marketing director looked at the agency’s creative director and me and said, “Why do we need to pay for all this expensive camera gear? Can’t we just shoot it with an iPhone? I mean, that’s what Apple does.” I was at a loss for words (as was every creative and art director in the room).

After thinking long and hard about it, I believe that we have be disillusioned by our very own disillusions.

So what is the iPhone? In my opinion is it our generation’s Polaroid. Shooting and posting pictures to our modern refrigerator door… Facebook. Does this mean that it is a bad camera? No. It is just not a professional camera.

Like the Polaroid, approach to an iPhone rests in the quantitative at the cost of quality. Can you print a large print from an iPhone, not really. Will it ever fight the quality of even the 4/3rd sensors… again no. It is simply the camera you always have… but in situations of great importance, it is not the camera you want. If your end use is showing the world through social media, the iPhones will handle the job, but shall you ever need to print look to a proper camera.

There are workarounds to making prints with an iPhone, whether it be adding textures or imperfections to hide artifacting. However, if you are really going to shoot something and use Photoshop to edit it, perhaps using a camera to photograph it would lend more dignity to the piece as a whole.

The iPhone has made photography more popular and accessible than ever, but really hasn’t advanced it. Time will tell if it can convert the masses into proper camera carrying photographers. However, one thing is for sure. The iPhone has given us eyes into private experiences that might never have been seen. Be it a celebrity’s private life, or a battle in a war, a beautiful sunset or a once in a lifetime experience… it is the camera that we will always have.

One Eyeland: Best Photographers of 2014

If you recall a blog from earlier this year, I mentioned my joy and surprise at being selected into the Comm Arts Photo Annual, a collection of images that I always wanted to have my work be worthy of joining.

Another such organization who regularly keeps tabs on the best of the best in this competitive industry is One Eyeland. I was initially turned on to the organization through some friends who work internationally. Last March they put out a call for submissions, and I answered. I never expected much from it, but sent along 20 of my images for consideration.

Fast forward to yesterday when I received quite a package in the mail. Heavy for its size, I was uncertain of what it was. I didn’t recall ordering anything. When I opened it, I was greeted with this:

One Eyeland Book 2 blog

One Eyeland’s limited edition book is a sight to behold. It’s a gorgeous gold bound, heavy tome with the title “Best of the Best Photographers 2014.” Now I never would consider myself that as I am striving to improve my work every day, but nevertheless it is a huge honor to be included in the book.

The judging staff accepted all 20 of the images I sent, and asked for four images of my choosing to represent my body of work. I selected the promotional image for Animal Planet’s River Monsters, a photo of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds F16, the shot of the University of Maryland’s wide receiver, and an image that is very personal to me, the photo of Schumacher’s F1.

One Eyeland F16 blog

It’s a massive honor to be among these other outstanding photographers, not even considering their ranking. My sincerest thanks goes to the judges for One Eyeland and for everyone who helped me make my images possible. It’s one thing to be honored for an image that a client has asked for, it’s quite another to be recognized for a photo that simply meant a lot to me. As I’ve said before, Schumacher is a personal hero and just being in the presence of that car would have been enough.

One Eyeland Ferrari blog

My work comes from standing on the shoulders of many other amazing people. To all who have assisted on the sets of the images I’ve made, I’m in this book and am a part of this esteemed list because of you.

One Eyeland book 3 blog

How to Light a Football Player

Firstly, I want to thank those that sent over emails or messaged me on FB and Twitter about the new ASU campaign. It was a ton of fun to produce, and when my readers enjoy the shots, it is icing on the cake.

As happens a lot, many of the emails had the age old question, “how did you light it?” buried in there somewhere (often thinly veiled as an “oh, BTW”). So today I thought I would take a bit of time to talk about that, some lighting theory and show some RAW files from that and other shoots because I think this sort of thing needs to happen more often.

To be honest, this idea has been in the making for some time now. I have had the good fortune of meeting with quite a few agencies lately and have begun to see two very distinct approaches to photography emerging. The first approach contains a lot of lighting and a technical appreciation of what a purist would consider painting with light. The second one concerns me, it is an approach that more or less says flat light everything and …. (my most despised line) “fix it in post.”

I enjoy the approach of fixing things in post as much as I love listening to heavily auto-tuned music. Then again, for me auto-tune might make my singing voice a bit more angelic, but I digress…

Today I want to talk about a return to lighting because our clients deserve it, our medium deserves it, and we deserve it. Now there will always be things that can’t be done in camera, perhaps due to a location that makes it impossible to travel the subject to, or an action that endangers the subject or crew, and for this there will always be comping, and for those reasons there is nothing wrong with that approach.

So let’s talk about lighting, specifically for mood.

The first place that I went to develop my approach towards lighting theory was not a photo book, but rather my psychology courses in college. It was a common theme that as humans we feel comfortable when we know what is around or in front of us. A quick Shark Week analogy… I went for a swim last Saturday during the day. It was at my neighbor’s house, the pool was clear, I knew what existed because I could see it. Now put me in that same pool at night and we have a different situation. Even though all logic tells me, “Blair, you are in a pool,” I still am 99% sure that Megalodon has come back from extinction and will be remaking the beginning of Jaws with me any second.

Sharks aside, lighting is much the same way. The eye finds discomfort and intimidation in the unknown, and the unknown is where the light is not. The approach to making a subject intimidating should not be a mass of lights cranked to 11, but a single focus of direction where one light dominates and the remaining support the fear. An example of this that I shot a while back is this portrait of a football player.

bigpic

As I promised in the beginning, here is the RAW image from the shot to show where we take it on set before it goes into good ole Photoshop.

HerringRAW

And the lighting scheme: (notice that the powers of the support lights never go above the singular direction of the key, if we broke that rule, the eye would become comfortable)

topview

On the most recent shoot we approached things with the same idea, but incorporated action, so the singular direction source had to be broadened, but still contained. There are many people that approach lighting or even teach the one light approach, which I enjoy for it’s simplicity. However, if I may add an addendum; I think that it should be more of a single direction source approach (doesn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly). Remember, as photographers, we are telling a story, not just telling our viewer that our subject exists.

The final with smoke and plate:

ASU TRY2

The RAW test before smoke. This shot is actually a prep shot for the main image that involved smoke from a machine (camera left), but shows lining of subject and a disregard for any details that I don’t want my viewers to see:

pre smoke RAW

Believe it or not, one of the most important parts of lighting is the camera, and your knowledge of it. To best light a subject where you want to play dangersouly with shadows, you have to know and trust the sensor that lies at the heart of your camera. I was shooting on a Nikon D3x which lets me shoot more contrast out of camera with the safety that my shadows will exist when I open the file. I only know how far I can stretch the contrast ratio with my camera from practice. There will always be those that measure the heck out of a camera and it’s sensor, but to push one on set with a job on the line is an act of trust in the equipment you are using.

As with the need for consistent sensor performance is the need for consistent lights. For campaigns, I trust Profoto 8’s with my livelihood. The power is always sufficient to close down and delivery is quick enough to avoid blur. From there the rest comes down to build, reliability and standards that make it easy for me to tell an assistant what is needed, even when they speak a different language.

With an approach to technical lighting, and equipment that can deliver you will actually become more financially efficient. In what might take you five minutes on set to put up a light, you will save yourself hours if not days in post trying to create a texture that doesn’t exist because the photo wasn’t lit correctly. As photographers, we should crave perfection and do everything in our ability to create it. These are details that your clients deserve, and that will make you proud of your work.

ASU Football : 2014 Photoshoot

Photoshoots are not made by a photographer alone, they are a result of everyone that set foot in the studio that day and sat on the endless preproduction phone calls the weeks prior. When the campaign is released, it will carry the name of the photographer, but I would give anything for it to carry the names of everyone that stood behind and alongside us as we create.

Today’s blog will be a bit different that others as I want to talk about what others did to make a shoot possible, rather than ramble on about how I did this or that to make an image…

ASU TRY2

For the ASU campaign, the images start at the beginning of our working relationship when I was just a teenager. An ASU new hire named Becky trusted me to create imagery of athletes when I definitely had not earned such trust. Over the years she rose to the position of director of marketing and I am grateful to continue producing campaigns together, often with the simple direction of, “make something awesome.”

ASU TRY1

The next person on the set is the Creative Director, Chris. He usually stands on my right side and tosses out ideas for images and it is between us that the imagery forms. Periodically we will take a couple moments to step into a side room and discuss if we want to steer the emotion of the athletes in a different direction or continue on the given path. I trust his opinion and he trusts mine, it is a relationship that must exist between the AD/CD and photographer that makes a campaign successful.

ASU Runner

My assistants Rob, Brian and Ramsey worked to make the vision exist in camera. Not that they don’t always work hard, but on this shoot they did their job, and so much more. The first day on set was actually the day that I was announced as an Ambassador to Nikon and I was trying my hardest to respond to emails, texts and phone requests, all while prepping lighting and shooting. I can’t tell you how impressed I am watching how hard they work, and am grateful to have them on the team.

ASU TRY 3

Last but not least the athletes. Awesome, just awesome. One thing to note is that they are not models, and for many this was their first photoshoot ever. It is easy to take being on set for granted, but for some of them (the rookies especially) it can be insanely intimidating. While it is my responsibility to give them direction in a way that gets the shot that my client and I want, it is still on their shoulders to deliver the level of intensity that I need, and they did.

I am very proud of this year’s campaign, and want to thank those that made it, and hope that you all enjoy the 2014 ASU Football campaign.

GO DEVILS!!!

River Monsters

:   With all the recognition that this image has received lately, between the CA Photo Annual and Archive’s Top 200 Ad Photographers, I figured I would re-share the story that was the River Monster’s shoot   :

Lighting as a thought process is fundamentally easy to apply to schemata, water is not. Sure there are the physics that govern the drops via gravity and pull them back to Earth properly, but the abstract way that this is done is a logistical nightmare when combined with good ole electrons. Sure water makes for dynamic imagery when lit well, but what doesn’t get seen is the grey hair that the photographer grows as a result of the set.

When the call came from Discovery to shoot the ad campaign for their show River Monsters, I was thrilled. The concept was strong and the comps that we were to key off made visualizing the final image easy. However, creative potential and potentially dangerous walked hand in hand on this campaign. The idea was to have the show’s host Jeremy Wade wrestling a giant fish in the shallow waters near South Beach, Florida. Now by giant, I mean the kind fish that hangs out with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the weekends… probably having a glass of wine with its flippers and talking about the delicacies of krill. Where things get complicated is that we wanted to have Jeremy and mega fish in the water thrashing around…. lit. Obviously we didn’t want a bathtub with a toaster situation, so safety would come first, creativity second, after all electrocuting an actor is not a good way to land another job (the industry tends to look down on this).

River Monsters photographed by Blair Bunting

 

Knowing that this set would be determined by the quality and work ethic of the people on it, I flew assistants in that I had worked with on previous shoots. We approached the lighting situation with Photoflex Tritons, for their safety, weight, and flash duration (we would be freezing splashing water). We had a scout look for beaches with long gradations to the shore line and went to multiple locals just to walk into the water to his waste level. Background would not be important, as we would fade to black behind the subject. For cameras, I brought both the Nikon D3x and D3s to back it up.  Never on a shoot had I expected to destroy a camera more than this, so redundancy would play key to making sure I came home with the shot, even if the camera was a paperweight.

With lighting, safety and concept behind us, it was up to Jeremy to make the action, and he did it masterfully. Often he would bring advice and reality to the table that we could not have thought of in our wildest dreams… mostly because I have yet to catch a 350 lbs. grouper, and also because I don’t fish. However, one comment amongst all the others stood out to me… All of us (7 people, 1 fish) were waist deep in the water at night in the Florida ocean and Jeremy looked up at me and said, “you know, these are perfect conditions for a Bull Shark….” to which I replied, “haha, and when’s the last time you caught a Bull Shark?!?!”…. he replied, “I caught one here….. last night”. At that point, without any direction from me, the entire set moved about 10 feet closer to shore.

We shot for only a couple hours, not due to a time crunch, but because Jeremy, the creative director, and rest of the crew worked so well together that in two hours we had a solid 30 images that would work for the ad. Since we were in the ocean, laptop previewing would be impossible, but seeing the shots out of the back of the D3x, the CD was able to see that we had the shot directly out of the camera. Although this image was not the final one chosen because of the main subject’s address to the fish, it shows the strength of a RAW file, and gives an idea to the situation around us:

Jeremy Wade

Also, here is a short video to show how the prep work went. We had originally wanted to have a complete behind the scenes of the shoot, but with the dangers at hand (be it lights, sharks, groupies, sea turtles) we decided that everyone would contribute to make the shot. My assistant Matthew Coughlin made this video of the prep, and may I warn you, once you have seen this skinny, pale photographer without his shirt on, you might wish you had never watched it…

[UPDATE: Unfortunately the video offended some animal rights groups and out of respect has been removed]

I wish I could take 100% credit for this shoot, but, as in every shot, it is the quality of the people around you that make the image. So, Jeremy, Mike, Linas, Bryan, Matt, Grant, Paul and Lisa, here is your shot and thank you.