Photo of the Day: I Love Lamplight

I am clearly on an Ilana and Paul kick this week. I started thinking of them again when a new client discussed Russian Jewish weddings, and can’t believe I haven’t posted this. What an elegant, wild night it was!

(The lamp here is mostly for ambiance, video light did the heavy lifting).

New Camera!

On advice from my chirpractor and Ken Rockwell, I’m paring down and going smaller and lighter for the new season, taking it back to basics! Introducing my new flagship, the D70s!

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Hey, I heard that vintage cameras are in. Am I doing it right?

Or, the strobist angle: Who needs ISOs higher than 800 when you can sync at 1/1000th of a second?

OK, a paltry April Fool’s entry, but I thought you might want to see what a $2200 lens looks like on a $220 camera.

UPDATE: D70s owners shouldn’t take offense to this … after all, there’s a reason I had one in my studio. The flash sync is an incredible tool, and I shot gallery shows and Nobel prize-winners with one of these. But technology marches on quickly, and there’s a reason I keep re-investing in equipment, since I want the best for my clients. The D3s with a 24mm f/1.4 shoots with about 40 times the light sensitivity as a D70s and the f/2.8 lenses that are the fastest you can use for that frame-of-view on DX. Awfully handy in cavernous NYC venues.

Photo of the Day: Love, Uncloaked

Ilana and Paul‘s dramatic first kiss.

I suppose I should be talking about the secret camera I’m testing that adds the important sense of smell to your digital images, but I think that’s been played out.

Photo of the Day: Panorama Revisited

On a tip, I’ve tried reworking some old “Brenizer method” panoramas with AutoPano Pro. It’s not perfect, but it’s very good, and gets right some panoramas that Photoshop did not. But what I most like is that I can set up a batch to do a bunch of panoramas at once, and then go take a nap or answer e-mails or something. Anything that makes the stitching process easier will make me want to shoot these more and more, and one of my goals for 2010 is to really see what sorts of ways I can push the envelope on this ball I got rolling. Also, I want to mix new and exciting metaphors.

Original shoot here.

Photo of the Day: Sunset Lounging

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Here’s another shot from the Rockhouse Hotel in Jamaica. What’s special about this shot? It was taken with my iPhone and minimally edited in Photoshop. Not a bad little camera on the 3Gs if you get the most you can out of it. More on this soon.

Nikon 24mm f/1.4: Initial impressions and RAW samples

Who loves ya, baby? I was supposed to be one of the first people in the world with the new Nikon 24mm f/1.4, but it came while I was on a work holiday in Jamaica. I’m still one of the first to sample its goodness, but instead of a sunny week in Jamaica, you get a rainy day in New York. Thanks to the people at Adorama for being so great, again and again.

I’m a nice guy, so to anyone who’s really curious about this new lens, I’m including some RAW samples. These are D3s RAW files, so make sure your RAW converter is updated so it can open them.

Initial impressions (full review after this weekend’s wedding): Sharper and more contrasty than it has any right to be. AF is not world-class in speed, like the 24-70 and 70-200, but still speedy and very accurate. If Nikon makes a 35mm like this, there will be nothing left in the Canon camp that makes my skin crawl with envy.

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Nikon has some new, hyper-shock resistant packaging, which I really appreciated given how pricey this darned lens is.

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Sharp, colorful, love it. RAW sample.

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f/1.4 isolation makes the buildings pop through the foreground in this puddle reflection.

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Can you say flare resistant? Heavily backlit statue. Still contrasty. RAW sample.

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Mmmmm isolation. Not generally a tight portrait lens, but this guy doesn’t mind. RAW sample.

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Water droplets in a cab window show the quality of foreground and background bokeh.

Also, you can see those qualities here, in a quick video. Also shows the focus throw and the sound of the manual focus, for video geeks. 720p version here. 1/50th, f/1.4 ISO 1600 on the D3s:

UPDATE: One from night-time:

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Wedding: Karen and Kamil at Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, CA

Well, you knew from their engagement that I was excited to fly out to California to shoot Karen and Kamil’s wedding, but it topped even my lofty expectations. Any way you look at it, it was the epitome of “geek chic” (which is very much up my alley). Sure, you have an attractive couple getting married in the land of sand and sea, but instead of beaches and sandals we had Wall-E as a ring-bearer, XKCD-inspired table settings, and more Super-Mario-inspired details than I could ever imagine. When you start to get into an argument with your brother/assistant about whether one of the masks for the guests was a Mexican wrestler or Storm Shadow from the GI Joe movie, then you know the wedding has reached maximum, fabulous geekiness.

I had a great time at every moment, but the wedding party had even more fun, including singing the “Age of Aquarius” to mark the end of the ceremony (which is why the slideshow is set to it). And, with further thanks to my brother, we got a nearby merry-go-round working for them, and started having so much fun that they had to be reminded that somewhere out there, a reception was waiting for them.

Congratulations, you two!

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Photo of the Day: Wind in the Water…

A 30-second exposure of huge surf breaking against the waves at the Rockhouse Hotel in Negril, Jamaica. My season is about to explode, giving me all sorts of fun and excitement but not much rest for seven months, so I figured it would be nice to work casually down in the sun this week, processing a wedding that is the ultimate in geek chic.

I know there might be a number of readers of this blog who are considering, say, a honeymoon, and I can’t recommend the Rockhouse enough. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous at decent prices, but the practices of the ownership are fantastic. So many resorts have no connection to the community beyond their gates, but the Rockhouse has a foundation that invests in local education, opening a school and library. Heck, just the fact that the hotel room mini-bar prices aren’t inflated impresses me.

Engagement: Allie and Vilas

Vilas noted that yes, he waited 363 days since they were engaged to get around to taking the photos, but I think he made a wise choice, since it would be impossible to pick better weather for a jaunt around lower Manhattan than Saturday. We started and ended at the Corner Bistro, where they met and where, that day, I also met the new love of my life — Corner Bistro hamburgers. Unbelievable.

We had a great time strolling past packed crowds, at least two celebrities — Ira Glass of This American Life and some nameless Page Six celeb surrounded by paparazzi — as well as a High Line pulsing with people blinking in their first sunlight of the year. You’ll see them again soon, with a May wedding at the Tribeca Rooftop, and they only hope the weather is as nice!

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Chewed Up By Fine Dining

“My hands are really messed up,” she said, though she used stronger language. “I want you to take pictures of them.”

“Heck yeah!”

Maybe I should back up a bit. When I met my friend Rochelle, she was a promising young writer who was in love with (and often troubled by) food. A Food Network devotee, and rabid consumer of the best food writing around. She was also not just attractive, but self-consciously sexy, the kind of girl who would wear make-up and high heels to a college class instead of the more traditional sweatpants and hair scrunchy.

But she wanted more, and unlike so many, she was willing to suffer for it. She moved to New York, a place entirely devoted to testing yourself in face of misery. She dealt with the crazy landlords and ludicrous NYC prices, but nothing really compared to the challenge of learning to cook in world-class kitchens. She enrolled at the French Culinary Institute, and later started working at Aldea, currently one of the hottest hot spots in the world of NYC cuisine.

And it tested her, every day. Gone were the Manolo Blahniks, replaced by sensible shoes that would grip slippery kitchen floors. Gone was the make-up, which would just melt down her face after 16 hours standing in a steaming kitchen. She got screamed at by some of the best people in the business, constantly beaten-down so that she could be better. She tells these stories much better than I could on her blog.

And it showed, above all, in her hands. Once perfectly kept, they are currently bruised and grimy, scabbed and burned, with fingernails worn down and ragged. Hands of a worker, tempered by a thousand hot pans. These were battle scars, a mark of respect and transition.

So we took photos of them. I was even more excited because it was such an interesting challenge — how do you photograph someone’s messed-up hands and tell an evocative story? One that’s not about abuse, but self-abuse in cause of ambition (something I know a bit about, as my physical trainer will tell you)? I chose to play a lot with shadows and light, and it really helped me to approach a fresh project in new ways, something that I want to do a lot this year as I reach out and experiment.

To me, being a photojournalist merely means you tell stories through photography. I am usually blessed to tell the stories of people’s happiest days, and I love that. But to keep my photography fresh and evolving I need to also be driven in my personal work, and there are lots of other stories to tell. No matter whether I succeeded in making these photos evocative, though, they are photos of injuries, so I’ll keep the more explicit ones behind an HTML cut. (If you came here from a direct link, you won’t be blocked by the cut, so consider this your warning!) But first, let’s show her backstory with photos that I, for some reason, haven’t posted!

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I think this one tells the story of where she came from succinctly. Note the cheeky smile and the dude checking her out.

Here’s one from the hands shoot that doesn’t show any of the burns much. If you’re not squeamish, click through to the link beyond.

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Mmmmm … albums …

The wedding albums for Kristy and Mike’s gorgeous wedding at the Belhurst Castle came in this week, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to show it off. These are from Kiss Wedding Books, one of the three main companies I work with and one that is very popular with my clients, because they do one thing and do it very well. If you like stylish, minimalist leather books with some great accessories, you like them, and I certainly like their great customer service.

I’ve been relaxing a bit to gather myself for the coming season, but I’m really aching to get out, shoot and shoot and shoot and try some new things. So here I asked myself “How have I NOT seen a lot of product photography done?” Well, I haven’t seen a lot of products shot at 1/8000th of a second to take advantage of high-speed sync flash. So I had a bit of fun:

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