Karma Builders...

Before I left for Montana and Utah I had just completed a shoot for Karma Builders.  KB is an organization dedicated to the reintegration of formerly incarcerated men and women back into society and transition them from the life they once led to the life they hope to have in the future.  Their mission is to break the cycle of unemployment and re-incarceration.  They hire, train, and pay these individuals to provide a range of services for local sustainable companies.  There is a holistic approach to what they do designed to instill a positive long-term shift in confidence, dignity and mental attitude that will ultimately drive those who work within the program to a much brighter future.

The photography that I had created for them was designed to illustrate this transition.  Setting up a studio on location has been something of a hobby of mine and I've always loved photography where you can clearly see pieces of the set or studio.  Annie Leibovitz would probably be the most notable example of someone who has used this technique extensively.  You can see some of her stuff here...  We set up shop in the space that would later be converted from an abandoned loft into the KB headquarters, but for now it was a simple and huge open space.  When dealing with a lot of space drawing attention to your subject can be a challenge but it's important to bring the focus clearly to that person or group.  There are many ways to accomplish this, you can use depth of field, lighting, and converging lines among many others techniques.  I decided rather to build a set that would simplify the background on which the subjects would stand.  Simple and effective especially when dealing with such a large space.  The two photographs below were created through a fairly simple lighting setup that I'll explain a bit later in the post. 




By setting everything up and having the entire set locked down with either sandbags, clamps or duct tape we were able to have the "models," who in this case were actual Karma Builders employees, change not only their clothes but their mindset as well without disturbing the set.  This aspect of the shoot was very important as the client wanted to have a "before and after" effect and this needed to be conveyed in a very positive manner.  Having previously asked the karma crew revisit a dark time in their life for the first photograph, it was a very tricky process bringing them back out from that for the second shot, as those times can vary from one individual to another.  But a lunch break and some good conversation can do wonders for your subjects.

Below are a couple shots of the lighting set up I used for this project.  Nothing too ground breaking here but a few technical aspects are worth noting.  When photographing a large group of subjects it's pretty important to have a large light, otherwise you can get odd shadows and it's easy to lose people in those shadows.  To the left is my Paul C Buff 86" parabolic reflector hooked up to a X1600 (sorry guys but it's not a Profoto 8a and Giant Reflector) that was softened even further with a diffuser.  Centered in the frame is another X1600 shot through a simple Photoflex softbox that I used to mimic the daylight that was coming in through the windows directly behind the camera.  And the small ground flash is a background light with a simple 7" reflector used to bring up the background behind the seamless.  As usual I shot with my trusty Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II and the 24-70mm f2.8 hanging off of it.






This setup is fantastic for shooting groups or individuals on any number of scales and best of all was that everything fit into the back of our trusty rental car.   My studio manager Erica was a champ in dealing with all the logistics of prepping the gear, renting cars, and coordinating castings, pretty much making me look like a rock star out there on shoot day.  My stylist Kate Powell brought her talents to further help visualize the transition of the Karma Crew from one place to another.   When you take the time to do all the tedious bits of preparation any shoot will go so much smoother and will help you deal with sudden changes or obstacles that may arise. 

I had a blast working with all of these guys and you can see more of the work being done at www.Karmabuilders.org

- JD

As always you guys can check out the WEBSITE here... www.JamesDouglasStudio.com
Follow me on TWITTER here... www.twitter.com/TheJamesDouglas
And LIKE something decent for once...  www.Facebook.com/TheJamesDouglasStudio


 

ESPN Feature... SSL Shootout.

Had a little feature in ESPN a while back when I was shooting the Ski Salt Lake Shootout that I hadn't yet posted up.  I'm sure plenty of you had seen it but for those of you who have been living under a ROCK!!  Here's a couple screen grabs of the action that I shot and the link to the article in ESPN.  And I didn't really think of myself as the "dark horse entry" but I guess the description fit!!  





I would love to drop all the technical jargon on here about each of these individual shots but this is just a quick little post.  I will be writing a much more in depth post about the whole Ski Salt Lake Shootout experience in the coming weeks.  Being gone on assignment for 6 weeks in Montana and then 3 more in the Dominican Republic has put me a little behind on my blog... but it's coming... I promise.

- JD

As always you guys can check out the WEBSITE here... www.JamesDouglasStudio.com
Follow me on TWITTER here... www.twitter.com/TheJamesDouglas
And LIKE something decent for once...  www.Facebook.com/TheJamesDouglasStudio

Quickie: Ashley Granata of Fashism...

During my days as a photographer I’ve managed to meet people from all walks of life, which seems to be pretty standard for those of us living the photographer lifestyle and is also one of my favorite parts of this job.  One of those people was Ashley Granata of Fashism.  I met Ashley a while back though a mutual connection and we have been friends ever since.  She asked me recently if I could shoot her in a dress she had just received from Ralph Lauren to wear out and make the rounds during the holiday party season.  She needed this fast and it was pretty last minute (AKA can I come over at 6pm).  Obviously this wasn’t going to be any national campaign or a huge fashion ad somewhere on 5th avenue… but rather me helping out a good friend in a pinch.  She’s gonna owe me one, or at least a 12er of beer.  She popped into my downtown studio right on time, looking as fabulous as ever and we started shooting. 



Since these photos were to be used on misc blogs and publications we also thought we’d add a bit of atmosphere and had a quick shoot on the couch.



I love Ashley and the work she's been doing, I think Fashism deserves every bit of the success that they're enjoying right now.  Check out what all the fuss is about over at www.Fashism.com



As far as the gear for this shoot is concerned... ended up using my trusty Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II with the 24-70mm f2.8.  Lighting was achieved through my permanent overhead White Lighting X1600 shot through a Chimera Softbox attached to the ceiling of my studio.  Also I used my 8ft parabolic umbrella with soft white diffuser on it as my main light.  For the seated portrait it was my X1600 again shot through a simple 4ft softbox slightly overhead held in place by a Matthew C-Stand with no other light source.  All in all for a unplanned and impromptu shoot, we nailed it and Ralph Lauren was very pleased none the wiser that it was pulled off in under 20min.

 
- JD

As always you guys can check out the WEBSITE here... www.JamesDouglasStudio.com
Follow me on TWITTER here... www.twitter.com/TheJamesDouglas
And LIKE something decent for once...  www.Facebook.com/TheJamesDouglasStudio




Collaborative Film Roadtrip...

Every journey starts with a single step… but here on the Collaborative Film, we tend to do things a bit bigger.  Our first step was a twelve-hour drive from NYC to meet with Eric Kessler and the Kessler Crane team in Indiana.  Leaving New York at 8am, we arrived within two minutes of our sushi dinner reservation with the Kessler crew.  That’s right…  Indiana sushi, and I have to say, it was pretty much as amazing as they had promised.  Go figure.  Spending some time the next morning at the Kessler workshop, we got to know some of the amazing people that make the place tick including Chris Beller and Kessler himself.  Eric, being the great guy he is and with his passion for charity and creativity, decided to donate some of his newest and best equipment to the film as well as sponsor financially, and we can’t thank him enough.  After a guided tour of the facility and a one on one how-to session with Eric, we loaded up all of our new toys and hopped back on the road bound for the Sundance Film Festival/Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.

Knowing that we were on a very tight schedule, we decided to forgo the sleep portion of the trip and push straight through to SLC arriving at my condo in Solitude Mountain Resort early the next day.  We took it upon ourselves to relax for a little while after driving for 22 straight hours and, after we had recuperated, decided it was time to head over to Sundance to meet up with our good friends Vincent Laforet of Laforet Visuals and Blake Whitman and Jeremy Boxer of Vimeo.  Knowing the area quite well, I suggested that we go to one of my favorite restaurants in all of the greater SLC area called St. Bernard’s, where my good friend and head chef, Matt Barrigar, whips up some of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten.  After dinner it was time to crash.  Took the boys back to Park City and called it a night.

The next morning it was allllll business… headed down to OR and began the process of chatting up some companies that we hope would be interested in sponsoring this little project of ours. OR was an immense show and, with all the companies and reps in attendance, it was a perfect place for us to talk face to face with potential sponsors, a lost art in the world of social media and emails if you ask me.  Making the rounds, we spoke with dozens of companies and people, most of whom seemed pretty excited to work with us and were willing to support us in whatever way they could.
After a successful harvest of business cards and contacts, it was time to cut loose a little… SUNDANCE STYLE!!  Vincent decided that he wanted us to come back and party like the rockstar he is.  So he put us on the list at the Paramount Pictures event, and we did just that.  The DJ decided that those of us inside didn’t need to be having conversations so the music could be heard from blocks away.  The vibe in the place was interesting to say the least.  It felt as though someone had dropped a little piece of LA in the middle of this tiny mountain town and covered it in expensive furs.  But rubbing elbows with actresses, directors, and ad agency execs is a powerful motivator to make a successful and beautiful film so that maybe next year the party will be thrown in our honor!
With Sundance behind us, but having left its mark, and a few more companies to talk to down at OR, it was going to be a slower day than the day before.  Splitting up, Carson headed down to close out a couple more sponsors, and I stayed up the canyon to re-coup a bit of my strength.  Later that night, per usual, we were pressed for time to make it to the premiere of the finished Beyond the Lens short film directed by Vincent Laforet.  After finally seeing the whole thing put together, I was still in awe that all of the chapters were shot on the Canon HDSLRs!!
The Canon cocktail party was next and in attendance were all of the directors who contributed to the film, a few stars who were involved, and many of us who had simply been lucky enough to attend to hear the cast and crew talk about their experiences.  Then we had the opportunity to head to dinner with most of the directors and crew immediately following the cocktail hour and, in the much less professional atmosphere, it was much easier to get to know them and just talk candidly… a necessity when building relationships in this industry.  But alas we would have to be on the move again shortly and make our way to breezy and freezing cold Montana.  Which is where we are right now, working tirelessly on smoothing out production wrinkles and shaking hands with everyone who will be on the ground helping us make this film a reality.


If you had any questions that I couldn't answer on here please feel free to email me... James@JamesDouglasStudio.com and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  


- JD



As always you guys can check out the WEBSITE here... www.JamesDouglasStudio.com
Follow me on TWITTER here... www.twitter.com/TheJamesDouglas
And LIKE something decent for once...  www.Facebook.com/TheJamesDouglasStudio

The Motorcycle Shoot...

Motorcycles have always been a passion of mine… so much so that when I was 19 I may or may not have lied to my parents about getting one.  When they found out, to say that they were less than pleased is a severe understatement.  So when an opportunity came up to shoot 35 unique and customized motorcycles for Ryders Alley United, I was, needless to say, very excited.  Since my studio is at the top of a narrow five-story walk-up, getting the bikes up here wasn’t really a possibility.  So if the bikes can’t come to the studio, we have to bring the studio to the bikes.  Knowing that the studio was going to have to be brought to the garage, I took it upon myself to have a little “test-shoot,” which, if you have the time to do, is essential.  Realizing that we needed a few pieces of equipment and working out some lighting issues a week before the scheduled shoot day allowed us to be 100% prepared, and there were no surprises.  This is the test-shot below.   


 

It took a little while but since a good studio is a mobile studio, we were able to pack everything up and fit it into a pickup truck (almost everything).  Having been to the location before I arrived on shoot day, the lighting already sketched out and pre-shoot done, all we had to do was set up and bring in the models… oh those talented models!!  From a Ducati Desmosedici to a pure one-off Honda-ish “frankenbike” (#3), these things were beautiful. Here’s a couple from the day.


Kawasaki ZX-6R
Frankenbike...ish??
Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Evo Sp
Ducati 848

KTM 990 Super Duke
Ducati 999s

Ducati Desmosedici



As far as the equipment I used… here’s a list of the gear.  As always I used my trusty Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II with my 24-70mm F/2.8 lens. During the test shoot we realized the lights were going to be a lot closer than we had thought so using less powerful strobes was a must.  Shooting with more powerful strobes at that distance would have washed the bikes out completely; sometimes less really is more.  So I ended up using two White Lightning X800 strobes set on top of the bikes shooting through two Photoflex strip banks to keep the light tight. The White Lightning X1600 provided fill light at a greater distance with just a simple 7” reflector.  Lights were mounted on Matthews C-stands and the Lightgear USA stands held up a Savage Ultrawhite Seamless.  When broken down these all fit into just a few Pelican cases and backpacks, although the seamless can be a bit unruly when squeezing into a backpack. 

In addition to the shoot itself we also produced a little BTS video for you guys so you can see a little bit of what it takes to make something like this happen. 

video


If you had any questions about the shoot that I couldn't answer on here please feel free to email me... James@JamesDouglasStudio.com and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.  


- JD


As always you guys can check out the WEBSITE here... www.JamesDouglasStudio.com
Follow me on TWITTER here... www.twitter.com/TheJamesDouglas
And LIKE something decent for once...  www.Facebook.com/TheJamesDouglasStudio

Super cool way to see all your twitter followers...

This is a really kick ass way to check out all your twitter followers at a glance... sorta.  So here's a quick view of who's checking up on me... Click on any photo to see their profile and follow @TheJamesDouglas to get added to the wall!!


Get your twitter mosaic here.


And thanks to all of you who have been so supportive and involved with the studio over the years!!  It's been a fun ride and it's far from over.

- JD