bands and artists

Being open to unexpected results

Last week a group of us ventured out to the Salton Sea for a photo shoot. Having been there once before and seen the desolation and decay I was excited to add a touch of beauty to the scene with my models. I had seen images of an abandoned motel near the Salton Sea and knew this would be a great place as it offered a variety of location options. I figured since were were passing by we’d also stop at the dinosaurs in Cabazon for a quick shoot on our way to the Salton Sea. Even though I had allotted plenty of time for hair, makeup, wardrobe and lunch I hadn’t planned on traffic getting out of LA (at 2PM) being so bad. I also didn’t allot for another 20 minutes for hair and makeup final touches when we got to Cabazon.

This loss of about 45 minutes changed my plans for the the rest of the day. By the time we got to the “abandoned motel” we only had about 20 minutes before the sun set behind the mountains. Turns out that this famous abandoned motel had since been turned into a museum and community center.  I had brought my models to the only modern establishment in the area.  The ideas and shots I had planned in my head were now thrown out the window and I had to make-do with the light and location I had available. There was still a free-standing shack that would offer me some of the decay I was looking for and the shore of the lake offered some great options.

When I was shopping for wardrobe I came across two white sun dresses that reminded me of a baptism scene in The Book of Mormon which I had seen the weekend before.  After the sun dipped below the mountains there was about ten minutes of this incredible light. The lake was dead calm and the tones reflected in the water from the sky seamlessly blended together for an ethereal quality. These are the only shots that I had in my head that came to fruition.

The rest of the images from the Salton Sea were nothing like what I had planned but they turned out amazing. I also had lofty goals for a video but when the clock is ticking stills take precedence. I didn’t shoot any video after Cabazon.  A big thanks for out to Sura Radcliffe, Stacey Ellis, Claire Dellamar and Sarah Roberts for their work.

Hair: Sura Radcliffe - Studio VII
Hair & Makeup: Stacey Ellis - Ellis Salon
Model: Claire Dellamar
Model: Sarah Roberts
 

 

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Cabazon Dinosaurs – Sarah Roberts in Forever XXI

Cabazon Dinosaurs

Cabazon Dinosaurs – Claire Dellamar in Forever XXI

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Salton Sea

Sparklers in the dark

Sparklers in the dark

Tourist Trap from Chuck Espinoza on Vimeo.

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Jordan Colton Motion Portraits

I started shooting behind the scenes video during shoots (while the model was in hair and makeup) to give me something to do. On most occasions a model will spend 60-90 minutes in the chair which gives me a lot of free time. The more I shoot and edit this footage, the more I learn. I learn by doing. I’d make a video and get to edit and realize it would have been better if…. Next time I made sure that “if” was taken care of. On this particular occasion it meant getting some more action direct to the camera as opposed to finishing the video with stills from the shoot.

This was shot back in June with Jordan Colton and Stacey Ellis. stacey has recently started a new venture. Be sure to check her out at Ellis Salon

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Working with a photography consultant

Hiring a photography consultant has been on my to-do list for a while. My goal with working with a consultant is to review and update my portfolio as well as get help with marketing.  About a year ago I started the process of finding a consultant but work got so busy that I decided it wasn’t the right time. A few months ago I started the process again and interviewed two different consultants. Because I had never worked with a photography consultant, my goal with the interview was to gather information about what was involved with the process, how long the process would take and how much I should budget for the project. Of the two consultants I spoke with I went with Sherrie Berger. My decision was based partly because she’s local to LA but mostly because we found a good rhythm during our initial conversation that I felt she would be a good fit for my personality and my goals. Sherrie described her “program” as organic, which in the end meant that without starting down the path it would be hard to predict where we would end up.

For our first meeting she came to my office which was hugely beneficial. We started with a review of my website which  led us to discuss and review various shoots in my archive. We spent a couple hours reviewing my work and discussing my business. Having someone else critique my work was a bit uncomfortable. It had been years since I sat down for a portfolio review and although uncomfortable, it also meant that the dread of a stagnant website was coming to an end. Unlike a portfolio review where someone is looking at the 20-30 images I deemed worthy of review, Sherrie was able to look at entire shoots and pull images I had skipped over or didn’t think were right for my portfolio. In addition to reviewing archived shoots she was able to suggest options to consider for my next shoot. Over the course of the next month we worked together to fine tune my portfolio and website. It’s still a work in progress but in that short time period we completely revamped my website by digging up gems in my archive as well as scheduling new shoots. The plan was to work together on a month-to-month basis and as the  month was coming to an end my schedule for the following month wasn’t going to allow time to commit to Sherrie’s assignments so we took a break. Having the flexibility to start and stop the process was invaluable.

Despite Sherrie leaving me with assignments to work on I found that not having her to coach, encourage and motivate me made it easy to put off my homework. It’s incredibly similar to working with a personal trainer at the gym. Sherrie kept me motivated and more importantly she kept me accountable.

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Stephen Bray for Attitude UK Magazine

The broadway play The Color Purple is heading to London and Attitude Magazine needed help with portraits for their article featuring producer and songwriter Stephen Bray.  In addition to his early work and collaborations with Madonna, Stephen helped create the music for the play.

As with any editorial portrait I never know what I am walking into. Will there be light, interesting settings, room to work? Lucky for us Stephen’s home and studio had all of the above.  After introductions I asked if I could look around the house for places to shoot. We knew going in that the studio would be one option, but I was immediately drawn to Stephen’s wall-display of records and knew his front porch would be a great option for a simple portrait.

I had Deney Tuazon assist me with the shoot.  Having an assistant around for these types of shoots is a huge help. In addition to help with the gear and set up I find having someone stand in while I test my lighting set-ups invaluable. For all three looks we set-up and tested the lights while Stephen got ready. In the end the magazine went with the studio and indoor portrait for use in the story.

 

Stephen Bray at work in the studio

 

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Developing a photographic style

My commercial portrait work has a definite vibe. It’s typically well lit;  there a sense of emotion and I always want my subject to look beautiful. It’s a style I’ve fallen into over the years. When I first started out in photography I heard about the need to have a style, but didn’t know how to get one. Without knowing it, my style found me.  In most cases when I am shooting portraits I want emotion over everything else.  I want sexy and sultry yet still commercial.

Every once in a while I look at other photography and ask why cant mine look like that?  I’m drawn to moody,  uncontrived photos; very spur of the moment, filled with life or mystery. Sometimes I go out and deliberately try to shoot in a style that’s not my own. But there’s this force-field that pulls me back.  My experience, knowledge and what I know resonates with the people I have photographed pulls me back to my comfort zone – well-lit and pretty.

This happened on my shoot with Taylor. I’ve known and been working with Taylor since 2006 . Unlike our previous shoots where I was driving the shoot, she called me with a concept that suited her needs as an artist and musician and the direction was out of my norm.  When  a client approaches me with a job that is a different style from what I do I always ask for reference photos.  When I saw her reference images I thought quirky, edgy, snap-shots.  Even though that’s not my style she felt comfortable enough to come to me with her concept knowing that I could take her input and produce photos that matched her goals.

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2012 A Look Back

A few years ago I made a slideshow using  photos from every assignment I shot during the year. The idea stuck and has become a great way for me to reflect on what I did right and what I did wrong during the year. 2012 was both challenging and incredibly rewarding. All of those experiences brought one theme to the forefront – Family is Everything. And by family I’m not limiting myself to the family I was born into or married into. It’s the people that I have chosen to surround myself with. This year we have had the warm blanket of family wrapped around us when we needed it and we were able to be that same blanket of warmth and strength for others when they needed it. This year was life-changing for so many of our friends and loved ones.

Over the past couple years I’ve skipped using photos of my family in the slideshow, after all they weren’t paid assignments and so many were just snapshots. This year I’ve included them because my wife and kids are my world and are definitely the most photographed subject in my life. I also opted to include more than one image from the assignments. Limiting myself  to one single image per shoot didn’t represent the scope and the fruits of my labor.

As with every slide show I always struggle with music. Each year I want to use a song that I fell in love with during the year. This year there were a couple of contenders.

Mumford & Sons – I will wait
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop I dare you to not bounce your head while listening to this song. I was bouncing  my head for a couple weeks before I even listened to the words.
Ryan Adams – From The Ashes   In January NPR streamed a pre-lease of this entire album. I listened to it over and over until the day it was released. Go buy it directly from his label/website. 
Walk the Moon – Anna Sun  
This is probably my favorite song on the album but I opted for Tightrope becaue it matched the tempo I wanted for the slideshow.

 

For those of you that supported me and helped me create this year I owe you a world of thanks. Without you I’d be stuck behind some desk.

Year End Review Slide Show 2012 from Chuck Espinoza on Vimeo.

 

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