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Noire Moment – Michelle

Noire image of a woman lit by venetian blinds
Michelle

Watching movies and Tv throughout my life I always noticed strong light and shadow that emanated from windows. Especially light filtered through venetian blinds. I often thought it was funny on Tv shows that had this kind of splash of light from venetian blinds but no reference to a window. Sometimes they would appear in a room that couldn’t have windows. It must have been a lighting designer’s joke to see if anyone was paying attention.

From the very beginning of my photo career as an independent commercial photographer I gravitated to what I then referred to as Hollywood Style lighting. Not for my corporate work but in my personal approach to portraits. I felt that this style. I am returning to that style of lighting but now I refer to it as Noire.

Hopefully in the future I will be able to create images that evoke hazy, dark rooms with streaks of light that reveal the subject matter in a a mysterious Noire way.

This is Michelle. I met her through a makeup artist, which happened a lot. Michelle had a really cool studio full of vintage stuff. At the time I was often carrying a long set of venetian blinds and a faceable spot light to shine through them. It was hard to get believable light if there wasn’t enough room to work. This time it worked out.

 About this Image

This was shot on daylight Ektachrome. I liked shooting these type of images with tungsten lamps and daylight film to get a certain warm color. Now, in Photoshop, the image can be desaturated and controlled by me, not a lab.

 

 

7th Street Minneapolis Cityscape 1984

7th Street from 1st Ave to Hennepin Ave
7th Street from 1st Ave to Hennepin Ave

As I have mentioned before on this blog, between 1983 and 1986 I had a studio in downtown Minneapolis. I was a stone’s throw from the night club First Avenue. From my window I could see the intersection of 7th street and 1st Ave. I also got great light in my studio from the reflective buildings as the sun would set. It was pretty dramatic sometimes.

This is a view looking South-Eastward down 7th street to Hennepin Ave. –  into the heart of downtown.

On this side of the street there was a liquor store, a Japanese restaurant, the Schubert theater, some other restaurants and an abandoned movie theater. Shinders was on the other end of the block.

The source of most of the light that bounced back into my studio can be seen in the IDS tower.

 About this Image

At the time I had a Nikon F3. This was on Plus-X and I metered for the bright spot of the IDS to get a dramatic shadowy effect.

 

 

Throwback Thursday – 1999, Sabra and the Shubert Theater

Shubert Theater in process of moving

 

Having a studio in downtown Minneapolis during the 90s sure had it’s historic moments. My studio at the time was in the Butler North building, 1/2 block away from the Target Center (it was being built during my first year in that studio). There was a lot of urban development going on between new buildings and remodeled older ones. One of the big changes was a so-called blighted block (Block E) was slated to be razed and re-developed. It took almost a decade to get it even razed. Then development took another good part of a decade. There was an historic theater on that block, The Shubert Theater.

The theater was moved from it’s spot on Block E to the next block north on Hennepin Ave. The story of the theater and how it was moved can be found here.  Another earlier view of the Shubert from my first studio can be found here.

I had moved out of my studio when the Shubert was moved but I was downtown a lot for business and my daughter’s ballet classes at Minnesota Dance Theater. I got to capture this shot of my daughter with the Shubert in the process of being prepared for what turned out to be the first relocation of a building of this size in history.

 

About the Image

Not much to say. Nikon F3, Tri-x film

 

Portrait of Zimmi

 

Zimmi

In 2004 I went to Stockholm, Sweden  for a very short trip. A friend of mine, Mercies May, concocted a way to get me there on the cheap for a weekend. I left on Thanksgiving evening and was there till the following Monday.

I met Zimmi during my short trip through Mercies. Both of these guys were/are performers but Mercies was working with Zimmi (or Simon as Mercies liked to call him) to help him with his career. My contribution was to take some urban images of Zimmi that he could use for promotion.

As I recall, Zimmi had lost his entire family and had to flee Uganda when he was very young. He came to Stockholm and was taken in by an aunt. Uganda is a multi-lingual country. Zimmi could speak his native Ugandan language, Swedish and English very well. In fact everyone I met in Sweden, immigrant or not, could speak multiple languages could speak beautiful English.

 

About the Images

Mercies found a really cool looking futuristic subway tunnel which offered some very good reflections, The lighting was challenging so I had to shoot with a tripod and at a high ISO.

Zimmi - B&W
Zimmi Tunnel
Zimmi _ vert
Zimmi

 

 

Dance Photography With Minnesota Dance Theater

Ballet dancer on point
Anna Leghetza

Much of the 1990s for me was taken up with being a ballet parent. My daughter was in Minnesota Dance Theater’s school and was eligible to be in the companies’ wonderful presentation of The Nutcracker. As a volunteer parent I had the opportunity to take photos of the students and professional dancers for press release. That lead to some interesting opportunities for great images as well as other opportunities to work with dancers.

There were a few non-Nutcracker shows that I photographed as well.

I feel honored and lucky to have worked with some really wonderful, talented dancers and to be able to work with MDT’s creative director, Lise Houlton.

 

About the Images

All of my dance shoots were done on film because these were shot before digital was available. This meant anything you shot had to be planned and needed more deliberate intention, including timing. You couldn’t just keep shooting like you can with digital. I used both 35mm and medium format 6×7 to shoot these images.

Bend over ballerina
Bend over Ballerina
Alexa young dancer
Alexa

 

Shadows in My House

Everyday, as the sun lowers at the end of the day, shadows stretch into my house and move around for two or three hours. Since getting an iPad I have been able to be more spontaneous in capturing these furtive light shows. Between the iPad camera and Instagram there have been a lot of great opportunities to capture and share. It seems a lot of my social media followers like these a lot.

Shadow_set-1

When I use the iPad for these images I feel like it’s a lot like the gesture drawings I did in my life drawing classes in college. They are fast, spontaneous and move along very quickly. They are not final works of art. They are quick studies that inform formal works later.

Shadoe_set-2

Sharing over social media has created some interesting interactions. I had a brief throw down of dueling shadow images with one of my Facebook friends. Something fun that combined photography and social sharing.

Shadow_set-3

Throwback Thursday – from Flambeau to Futuramic ..

the history of flash photography

Flambeau633

I love old magazines. Especially old photo magazines and pamphlets. “How to” and “about” pamphlets are interesting to me, even more so if the subject matter is photography. My favorites are from the 50s. Many times the content reminds me that not all that much has changed about the best way of taking good photos. Even digital technology hasn’t changed these best ways very much.

Sometime in college I obtained a lot of old photography publications. They ranged from mens magazines from the late 50s and early 60s to photo annuals and how-to pamphlets. The pamphlet from Flambeau to Futuramic .. the history of flash photography  is one of my favorites in my small collection. Besides telling the history of flash in hokey 50s jargon it also has great retro (to us now) illustrations.

Flambeau628

This publication came from Honeywell, an early maker of the modern flash gun. Honeywell handle flash units were a standard throughout the sixties and can often be seen on the silver screen whenever a photographer was portrayed.

The earliest flash gun was a modified flambeau. The flambeau was a giant wick with a handle and could light up a large space. It was often used to photograph large groups of people. It was very flammable and often caused fires and damage if misused. From the flambeau, the blow gun evolved. It was a handle that contained magnesium powder. Kerosene or alcohol was poured in the pan and lit. The photographer would blow into a tube which propelled the powder through the flame making a brilliant plume-like flash. This also ended up with firetrucks.

Flambeau629

There is more history of the evolution of flash photography, equipment-wise, in this tome which I will cover in future posts. It brings the reader up to date to the modern age of 1959.

It’s pretty amusing.

Portrait of Rachael Olson

Rachael Olson

Rachael Olson

Rachael Olson

Rachael Olson topless

Rachael Olson topless

Rachael Olson topless

 

Sometimes I think I am a very lucky guy. I chose a career, vocation, that probably would not make me rich but would allow me to meet people and go places I would otherwise have not if I had chosen differently. I have been invited into inner corporate sanctums to do portraits of bank presidents. Judges chambers to do portraits. Even farms and industrial sites.

Every one of these opportunities were terrific unique experiences.

Another way I am lucky is in who I get to meet and photograph.

Being even a semi-competent photographer allows one to ask or be asked to take portraits of a wide variety of people. It also provides a pretext for asking interesting people to sit for a portrait.

I met Rachael Olson when I was asked by City Pages to do a picture of her band – The Blue Up?, with whom she often performed shirtless. She was pretty fearless.

After that shoot we ran into each other, kept in touch and developed a friendship. At some point I asked her to sit for a portrait. She was game.

I don’t remember too much about the session except it was just her and me. She did her own make up, which was preferable because she knew her look better than anyone I would hire. I didn’t know this at the time, but in talking to her recently, this was one of her first professional photo shoots. True to her character she was fearless and generous, giving me signature Rachael Olson experience.

Rachael is now known as Ana Voog, an internet celeb and artist. From wkipedia: On 22 August 1997, Voog began a webcam project named anacam. Besides a view into Ana Voog’s personal life, anacam also incorporated performance art and visual experimentation. Daily activities such as cooking dinner, vacuuming, and hosting visitors fill out the non-interactive periods on anacam. Other activities on the webcam range from chatting with cam-watchers, playing music, and ornate performance pieces involving household items.

About the Images

There isn’t much to say about these photos except that they were shot on film and I used a black background and a medium softbox on the light coming from camera left. This simple set up allows me to not have to think about light technicalities and concentrate on my subject.

The Noire City

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1645_#5

I spent a lot of my youth watching Tv. Sometime when I was really young I must have come into contact with some noire films over the tube. I seemed to have a very strong affinity for this genre of film without knowing what they were called. These films felt different to me. There were also a fair amount television programs that fell into that category like Perry Mason and The Untouchables. Another show that I watched had moments of noire – 77 Sunset Strip.

Throughout my life I have enjoyed seeing photos and films that have a noire feel. I liked the strong, deep shadows and how the actors revealed themselves by emerging from or hiding in darkness. I never intentionally tried to mimic this in my own photography until recently. In the last two years I have been trying to see city scenes through a noire point of view. It’s not always an easy thing to do, living in a fairly new-looking city like Minneapolis. But I have managed to find some subject matter and times of day (even seasons) to make noire type images that conjure a “sleepless city” and an air of mystery and intrigue. I do my best to make the place I photograph not readily recognizable so that the mood of the moment is the more dominant.

 About These Images

There are two main types of noire type images I try to capture – so far. Street scenes and small, intimate spaces with deep shadows. (I plan to do a third type which will include actors).

The first photo is a street scene around dusk. The image is intentionally blurred for effect. It’s like the bustling background into which the protagonist enters. Noire films are normally B&W but I felt the color in this case made the image more interesting.

The second image was made when the sun was low and cast long shadows into the entrance of an historic old building. I put my shadow in the photo to add some mystery and tension. Being at the right place at the right time is key to getting these images when working without lighting equipment and a crew.

I just recently started shooting this way. It will be interesting to see what happens when I put more time and resources into these images.

Everyone Likes Cloud Photos

Orange billowing clouds

They are coming back. Those dramatic clouds of Spring and Summer. The ones before and after torrential weather. The ones that billow around the edges of storms.

Clouds have been a popular subject matter for as long as artists painted and since photography began. Social media has also given cloud photos a viral platform. I follow Clouds 365 Project on Facebook.

Clouds as a subject caught my interest from the time when I bought my first 35mm SLR. Sunsets, moon-lit clouds, stormy clouds were the first obvious attractions. But they were always the background to something else in my images. Rarely a subject by themselves.

It wasn’t till I bought my first digital camera that I started to look at cloud formations alone as a subject. I started to see the formations as a form of landscape photography – with no land.

Photoshop was available to me long before I got my first digital camera but now the combination of the two tools opened new doors for creativity and ability to work with cloud images.

The great thing about photographing clouds is you don’t have to travel anywhere exotic to find interesting opportunities. Anyone can photograph clouds from their back yard.

About this Image

This formation happened where I live and was on the periphery of a storm happening North of my location. The sun was setting and hit the atmosphere and clouds with a brilliant orange. This image required very little photoshop work.