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Analog Thoughts on Studio Lighting

The typical expectation of a 'pet photographer' these days is that all your work is done in the studio, on a bright paper seamless background, with a digital camera on auto-expose/multi-shot, and a lot of squeaky toys. Clearly, this method works for a lot of people. But I don't call myself a 'pet photographer,' so I get to do things differently. Part of being an artist for me is truly using my tools, truly taking full advantage of the magic of my medium, and building each image, each frame, from the ground up. Which is why I prefer working with natural light at all times, and working in my client's homes. Because there is endless possibility for error, there are things out of place, there is realness and texture and cushions askew and that is where creation really happens- when you can turn that mess into something beautiful, you have truly embraced the role of photographer. That being said, one time I photographed a very famous dog in the studio for a very special friend.

This dog, named Balthazar, has starred in movies, in Ralph Lauren print ads around the world, been featured in photoshoots since he was a baby, and worked the ring at Westminster under one of the world's most respected Fox Terrier handlers, Bill McFadden. In order to make this studio shoot meet my client's needs (he requested the studio set up) yet also have my signature style, I placed Balthazar on a perfectly clean bright white background and had his dad wipe his paws before he stepped onto the paper. I wanted to exaggerate the sterile feeling of a perfect studio, exaggerate the lack of context that comes with studio work, and purposely push these portraits into a hi-key setting. Hi-key lighting is a technique where you over-use your hi-end tones, and create almost a white-on-white image. When done correctly, it has a post-modern feel to me. And when done correctly, you can create a balance of blown-out highlights on your background while retainging full tonal range and detail in your subject. Here are a few favorite images from this session:


fox terrier black white photo


fox terrier photographfox terrier photographfox terrier black white photo





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My very very secret stash of original Polaroid T-669 film is quickly dissapearing. My cameras keep eating it. In order to make it last longer, I've hidden expired packs of this revered film in easily-forgotten places: the back of my vegetable drawer, under files in my file cabinet, inside boxes in my trunk, sealed in bags in my equipment closet...... but still it dissapears. This weekend I'll be printing reproductions of some of my all-time favorite T-669 prints, done in the studio with my trusty Horseman field camera and instant Polaroid back (the same set-up I used for The Doggie Gaga Project). 669 film is a living, breathing organism- making each pack completely unique. Especially if it is expired. The colors swing, the chemistry swirls, the edges bubble. It's a mystery each time, and a very special joy. After years of using this film, and thousands of images shot, I still get giddy when I peel back the chemistry to reveal the instant print.

Here is the series I will be working on this weekend (both will be enlarged to 11x14inches, printed on fiber-based digital museo paper, and done in a limited series of 2):

polaroid expired

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