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Tag : Tracy Martin

04 Mar 2019

Combining Tools

I know there are a ton of online sites that show specific lights/cameras/etc. along with their specs and such. I wanted to write this post about combining all of the tools we all have at our disposal to create an image. FIRST AND FOREMOST the paramount factor in my shooting is NOT the gear, but the concept. Of course the right gear makes my job easier, but without a solid concept and how to execute that concept, no amount of cool gear matters in my world. My clients come to me looking for several solid concepts to create for a final image. Most have ‘some‘ ideas, but they are depending on me to flesh out their ideas. The two most valuable assets I can provide to them are the final concepts and the talent’s expressions. Authentic expressions can’t be created in post processing.

Testing all six strobes prior to the actual shoot along with the smoke machine. Smoke is great, but just like all things organic, you CANNOT control where the wind blows! LOL

I wanted to share the video my partner created as I was shooting the promotional materials for a small theatre company’s production of “Heathers.” This video shows in detail how the shoot was created for the client. BTW I always shoot wirelessly tethered to my iPad using the Canon WFT-E6A (replaced by the WFT-E8A) through Shuttersnitch. Both the client and I then know when the shot has been achieved and we can then move onto the next shot. Much more efficient for me than taking a break to show the talent and client things on the back of my camera. I still do that when needed, but it is much more the exception rather than the rule.

In the video the constant key light modifier was a Glow EZ Lock Quick Octa powered by a Westcott SKYLUX 1000 Watt LED Light.

Here are the items I used AFTER scouting a location for the shoot and conveying my concepts to the client:

Using battery powered equipment is key to my on location shoots. Wireless everything has been a godsend in the last 12 years. No more cords which were replaced with remote triggers, remote control over strobes…wow. The only reason I used a generator was to power the smoke machine. In those instances where gas generators are not allowed I use a Goal Zero Yeti 1000 solar generator for my smoke machine when called for in a shoot.

I selected the Ego Power leaf blower because it has variable power, not stepped power. During those times when I need to have a wind machine I need the ability for my assistants to either subtlely or forcefully use wind. As of this posting I cannot show the actual publicity shots the client will use, but can display shots they have opted not to use for the promotion.

What will be of interest is the video my partner Tracy Martin created for the client which has been released. My point of this post is to help others in displaying how combining all of the tools now available to photographers is only limited by your imagination.

Four strobes in various positions including to illuminate the smoke. Key light using the PCB Omni reflector. It’s great in wind and produces the quality of light I wanted.

Six strobe shot.

Six strobe shot.

If you can’t have fun in an on location shoot, what fun is that?!

02 Dec 2011


I cannot recall any photographer who entered the profession before enjoying the craft as a hobby. I am certainly no different. But as a commercial photographer I’ve come to realize how important personal work is in order to maintain one’s perspective in the world of imagery.

I am fortunate to have clients who allow my views to season the concepts for which they hire me to shoot. Yet in order to maintain my own creativity personal work is vital. This musing is not just about the photographic process, but about how life plays an important role in how I arrive at the personal projects I undertake.

The imagery I present in this musing were taken today, December 1, 2011 yet my journey to this moment started years ago. And for those of you who like to ‘jump ahead’ I am NOT referring to the years it took me to make an image. No, instead I wanted to give an abbreviated summary of how I arrived at today.

Back in 2005 I met the parent of one of my daughter’s friends, Leigh Toldi – a fine art painter. Over time we forged a friendship sharing a mutual bond of raising teenage children. As the years passed and our children became adults we maintained our friendship which transitioned from parenting to art. Leigh taught me much about texture and keeping an open mind as I began my focused journey in photography. As I moved into the world of commercial photography I still maintained my personal blog, yet have a limited amount of time to capture personal work. Leigh continues to visit my personal site, yet only comments on my personal work, even though I find myself posting some commercial stuff there simply to have new content. I always appreciate her private notes to me when one of those pieces strike her fancy.

Last year during a dinner party she held at her home I was introduced to Rob Browne, the sculptor who appears in this musing. Rob and I began talking about sculpture, photography and art in general. Later he contacted me about a potential joint project. After he had visited a local performance gym he was motivated to sculpt an aerialist, but wanted to know if I would be interested in photographing the art form so that he could have reference materials from which to work. I agreed, but due to scheduling conflicts we were never able to make a connection with the performing artist.

Then during a commercial assignment I was hired to photograph a performance by a silk aerialist, Bianca Sapetto. After capturing her performance I knew immediately that the subject Rob and I had discussed had appeared before me, completely by chance.  Through my partner Tracy we contacted Bianca and asked if we could meet her for tea to discuss a project. On a sunny San Francisco afternoon, we met at the Ferry Building and presented our idea. During our discussion we learned that Bianca had begun her journey to her art form in an old grove of oak trees in Topanga Canyon. Once her performance schedule was completed, we agreed to meet her in Los Angeles and do an on location shoot of her in Topanga Canyon where she began her aerial art. The form you see Rob sculpting is one of the images taken of Bianca in Topanga Canyon.  Our plan is to chronicle the creation of Rob’s sculpture of her until completion.

What is most important about this musing is not the sculpture or the photography, but the journey which led me here. I am blessed to lead a life where I am surrounded by creative individuals from many different art forms, music, performance, dance and fine art. Having had a lifetime of experience in the corporate world, it’s cathartic to now travel through a world where contrived hierarchy is replaced by authentic collaboration, where profit is replaced by the pursuit of expression. Certainly there are the realities of mortgages, utilities and food, but when profit is not the ‘end game’ the fabric of my life has changed. Today three statements stay with me each day – 1. “Mark a whole world happens out there while we sit in our offices that we’ll never be a part of.” – Ron a former boss 2. “People don’t get into the arts to make money, they are there because they love the expression.” – Melissa WolfKlain  3.“Son, no one will give you anything, so do what you love. I’m just hoping it’s engineering!” – My father

So what I’ve found late in life is this, by letting go serendipity found me. I sincerely hope that it finds you.

To be continued….

Progress on the project as of December 9 2011. Rob adds detail and depth to the sculpture by working by a single light at night. In this manner he is able to easily see the texture he adds layer by layer.

Working by a single light source

A juxtapose of concentration and freedom.

And the form begins to take shape