23Jan

Photo of the Week

I’m starting a “Photo of the Week” section of my blog, to display an image, describe how I shot it, and what my thought process start to finish – here’s my first:


USA: Nevada: Clark County: Las Vegas: Visitors watch the amazing Bellagio water show at night along Las Vegas Boulevard

This image was part of a week-long assignment to capture Las Vegas for a photo essay for Endless Vacation magazine.  I prepared the job by contacting dozens of casinos and resorts, acquiring permission to photograph on various properties, submitting my million dollar liability insurance (which is required for many different types of photo shoots, especially resorts, casinos, and large corporations), then driving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Las Vegas (just to lug more gear without the airport hassle since I was on my own for the week).

This evening I went out with my Fuji 680 III camera, a bulky medium format beast that I love, with a large tripod and walked along the Strip.  I shot many angles of the Bellagio water show but this one was one of my favorites.  The first thought I had while finding a spot to shoot was incorporating all the elements of the show- the water, the glow at night, Bellagio Hotel and Casino, and the visitors gathering around to watch it.  I backlit the entire scene using the tree to help frame my composition hoping it would be outlined by some of the high shooting water.  I metered the front facade of the building to get a reference, took other meter readings around the scene, and used my best guestimate for the shot (shooting film, I wouldn’t see my results until a week later). The lights on the tree and the nice spacing of the people was a nice small addition.

Once I received my film and picked the top selects, I scanned them in with my Nikon CoolScan 8000 (not available anymore- today Nikon makes the CoolScan 9000, they turned digital in a 300MB file, and a tiny bit more detail was pulled out to stretch the contrast ratio to fit what I saw – for the most part, 99% of what you see is in the film.

My editors thankfully loved the shots I captured that week.  It ran as a cover story and feature spread, and some of the work now rests in my files as well as my stock agency’s files.  I’ll be back in Vegas in March to capture new images of the ever-changing resort city.

When it comes to digital photography, exposure, technical details, and photographer theories, many feel you simply can’t lose your highlights in the shot – you can’t cut them off on your histogram, have ‘blinkies’ (showing you in your digital image where the detail is lost) etc, etc.  I don’t necessarily believe for all instances.  To me, photography is also about capturing mood, a feel, a glow, a moment, the heart of something – that’s when technical aspects are important but throw out a bit- it’s about the final image.

03Oct

My Flomax commercial…not really

Okay- here I was, up in the state of Washington heading over the border to British Columbia, shooting a few editorial magazine jobs in both areas- combining it with a sports / road trip, just happy to be with good friends – something I’ve needed for a long time.  


And as we drove from Seattle to Vancouver by way of Snohomish, I sat in the back seat (a place I’m definitely not use to) with a smile on my face and a slow heartbeat.  We joked about someday renting a convertible and being the guys in the flomax commercial.  As we headed up Interstate 5 towards the US/Canada border, we past a beautiful forested area near Bellingham and Mt Baker where I shot this image.

Although it was an impromptu capture of friends on a road trip, and a nice but not once-in-a-lifetime-photo, it still took all of my photographic exposure experience to meter the outdoor light, use my pop-up fill-flash to add detail in the backlit shaded interior (couldn’t use my strobe flash unit since it was just too large in the Acura TL we were riding in), chose a super wide-angle lens to frame the scene, all the while driving 70 MPH in the small sedan with the sun shining straight into my lens (an aspect I desired since I knew it would add an extra spark to the scene).

My exposure was f/5.6 @ 1/200 second in manual mode, spot metering, using ISO 100, fill-flash, and a 12mm lens…not that this would help a ton to reproduce the image – only the specs of what I chose for the particular situation.

Dope road trip – cool assignments – great sporting events and outdoor activities.  Maybe in 20 years I’ll try the same shot in our convertible, as our grey hair flows in the wind.  🙂