You have to have sympathy for a photo editor whose first words when given you an assignment are “Let me apologize in advance.” This was how I was given my first assignment for Tuesday morning, and I felt bad for Dave Lucas who seemed more upset by having to give me the assignment then I did getting it. You have to realize that in the newspaper business you are going to get great assignments, and once in a while real a real stinker. We’re of the opinion that we’re all in this together at The Globe and Mail, and we struggle as a department to make the paper as visually strong as we possibly can.
The assignment I’m speaking off showed little promise. The story needed a photograph of a man who was laid off, understands his ex-employer’s decision, now works from home - even for his old employer from time to time - and is fairly happy with how things have turned out. Cripes! What the hell do you do with this? Well, after meeting Bob, I decided to just allow him to go about his business and I’d work around him. I assured him he’d be more comfortable, and I’d find a way to make it work. (You must do this for your subjects.) This plan appealed to him so back to work he went; in the dining room. In a case like this I really prefer to use my 24mm f1.4 wide open. This way the only thing that will be sharp will be my subject, and everything else in the cluttered space will be softened and much less distracting. The shoot was going fine when much to my surprise, and gratitude, Bob’s two house cats showed up. What says working at home better than a house cat? Anyway, for what the assignment was, the result was better than expected.
Following this shoot I had time to look around for an enterprise picture so ZI began a slow meander toward downtown Toronto. I like to take different routes into town when I do this. Taking the same routes day after day really limit you opportunities to discover new things.
As luck would have it nothing jumped out at me during my cruise so I headed to the lakeshore to check on a cit pool that I knew was being renovated. For a variety of reasons this was not going to make a picture today, but I did see something nearby that did.
This just helps to show that covering ground, and keeping your eyes, and our mind, open can prove productive. I’ve seen a lot of photographers sitting around idle in the office when they don’t have an assignment, but I have yet to see a great image made from any newsrooms.
Most days I’ll listen to 680News while I’m in my car. It helps to read/scan the papers in the morning, and stay up to date with the day’s events. One of the recurring stories today was the release of the numbers of new condos indicating record sales. So, the last image I filed today was a generic image of new condo construction in downtown Toronto. It may not get used in the next newspaper, but it will help keep the archive up to date, and it will likely find a place in the paper one day.
Finally, I’d like to clear up some unfinished business from yesterday. My assignment for The Globe’s Decanter column was to photograph a psychologist who had just published a study on wine tasting and consumer preferences. As I explained, the location was very plain, and the shoot needed some lighting to make it work.
There are three strobes used in this image and the most difficult part was getting the light where I wanted it, and keeping it away from everywhere else. The main light is shot into umbrella that is feathered so that it lights her face but doesn’t spill too much onto the background at right. There is also a black board on the side of this flash for the same reason. I also added a white reflector at left to fill some of the shadow since the umbrella feathered this way doesn’t make the light as flattering. The backlight behind is there just to light the shelves, the bottles, and to give some separation between her and the background. The third light is at left, and pointed only at the wine to make the glasses stand out and dominate the image. I included the booths to suggest the psychological study environment but I refused her team’s offer to “pretend” to be participants. This is a pure portrait, and the elements are all there to suggest what the story is, but having people stand in is going to far in my opinion. Finally, a little bit of shutter drag and camera movement diffused the background a little bit more. If I do images with “shutter speedery” as some of my colleagues like to call it, I’ll usually include a standard frame without motion as well. Sometimes the technique suits the story, but other times it may not.