Paris. Late October. Contax S2. 135mm Sonnar 2.8. Tri-X film.
It's turned colder in Austin. The city is bustling with holiday shopping and the frantic last minute attempts to finish out business and bill it before the calendar comes to a close. I've been working on a wonderful job shooting books as three dimensional products and then shooting the same books in lifestyle situations. Books with gardeners. Books in coffee shops. Books in art galleries. Books in your new home.
I've been working with one camera and one lens for the lifestyle images. That would be the the Canon 1ds mk2 combined with the Zeiss 85mm 1.4. We shoot all of it at ISO 160 and if there's not very much light we go "old school." We use a tripod. Amazing, the quality you can get if you do your techniques correctly. The client was looking for narrow depth of field so we spent two days shooting at f2.5 to f3.5. Occasionally we'd get all nutty and shoot at f4. I've spent most of the day working with the files. The client chose 38 for their national campaign. The images are amazing. A core central area of extreme sharpness that slides smoothing to totally ambiguous and romantic areas of soft focus in the backgrounds. The side of an iPad in razor sharp relief and three feet away the arm and hand of a beautiful woman almost abstractly out of focus.
In the studio we were aiming for absolute sharpness. I used a Canon 5Dmk2 on a sandbagged tripod and shot the books with big LED panels. You could see every nuance of light and reflection. Making corrections to optimize the light was child's play compared to the same set ups using flash. (Believe me, I spent two years and shot thousands of books for a national bookseller, using flash and large format film back in the late 1980's).
I used the camera's live view settings to set up the shots and to counter any mirror slap. My lens of choice was the 90mm Tamron 2.8 SP macro. Amazingly sharp. And it doesn't fall apart at f16 like other optics. I used a remote trigger to make it all go without ever having touch the camera. The hard part was determining the correct distribution of focus over the book.
After I shot all the books I went into Photoshop and carefully, using the pen tool, created clipping paths for the art director. We did 70 books over the weekend. We clipped and retouched irregularities in the book's surface and did stringent color corrections. In fact, I had the books right next to my work station just to compare color.
The client is happy and I'm happy. It was the last job of the year. I'll deliver the final images on DVD's tomorrow. The year is wrapping up. It's been so much better, business-wise, that the three that proceeded it. Billings are up. The quality of jobs is up and my satisfaction with the jobs is commensurately higher.
On a personal note it's been a good year. I'm swimming with people like Lance Armstrong and Olympians, Shaun Jordan and Aaron Peirsol. I can't keep up with them but I'm doing the same workouts. I've finished all the work on my best book yet, the one on LED lights. The more I use the LEDs the more convinced I am that they WILL become the dominant light source for working photographers and videographers. My book will (hopefully) be the very first one to market with in depth information about using the lights to their highest value. Belinda is busy working on many design projects for the Lance Armstrong Foundation and Ben is excelling in academics and holding his own in cross country. In fact, his school swept all categories in their district this year for all levels of cross country.
I could complain about things that are not perfect but it would be churlish and silly. Life is wonderful and I hope it's the same for you as well.
My plans for the rest of the year are to shoot as many fun images as I can and to write about photography here on the blog. I hope you'll come along for the ride. Can't promise it will all be sweetness and light but if you've been here for a while I don't think you'd expect that....