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Month: March 2016

How to Location Scout on Another Amazing Louisiana Swamp Photoshoot. Album Artwork for Cajun Music Veteran Bruce Daigrepont

March 28, 2016

I love photographing the Louisiana landscape, and a photo shoot in the swamps of the Atchafalaya Basin with a Cajun musician is by far my favorite!

In this week’s How To Tuesday I will show you first hand how I location scout for portrait shoots. In a perfect situation I will arrive at the location a few days or weeks before the shoot, arriving at the same time we want to shoot so that the light is close to what it will be like when our talent (i.e. client, musician, artist, etc.) is on set. The one thing I never want to do when photographing anyone (especially when they are paying!) is to waste their time looking around for locations, testing lights, and composing backgrounds on shoot day. You not only waste valuable time ( LIGHT! ) but you look to them like you are doing things last minute and have not put their concerns at the forefront of your project.  

This location scout is a bit different. Since the location was 2 hours from my home, and the client was trying to work in a specific budget, I could not put a location scout fee in the proposal. In this case, I went ahead with the job since I knew the area fairly well, and felt that if I communicated with my client that there would be some minimal location scouting we could do it together…as a team. This continued the collaborative spirit we had been accustomed to on this job so far. Good thing this wasn’t just ANY portrait shoot….What more would I want in a situation like this: World Famous Award Winning Cajun musician Bruce Daigrepont playing his accordion in the quiet swamps of Pierre Part, Louisiana on an album cover photo shoot? One answer…MORE CAMERAS! aaaand ROLLING!

 Here I am photographing Bruce with my trusty Hasselblad and Paul C. Buff 60

Here I am photographing Bruce with my trusty Hasselblad and Paul C. Buff 60″ Octabank!

I’ll back up that story just a bit and start from the beginning. Bruce Daigrepont and I have known each other for some time. Years ago when I would teach my popular “New Orleans at Night” photography class at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art, we would have a section of the class where we’d shoot live music in a low lit New Orleans bar. On the last Sunday of each class I would bring 6-8 students and their cameras to invade Bruce’s long running “Tipitina’s Cajun Fais Do Do” concert at Tipitina’s on Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon in New Orleans. This is New Orleans’ longest running regular show dating back to 1986 when Bruce brought the show from the Maple Leaf Bar. Bruce has been a great friend in my photographic journey, always clowning and giving me some great shots as I photograph him every year at the New Orleans Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest as official photographer.

Late in 2015 I met with Bruce as he was wanting to create some conceptual photography for the album cover and artwork for his upcoming release: “Bienvenue Dans La Sud de Louisiane!” (Welcome to South Louisiana!). We came up with a clever approach to build a wooden sign that listed the unique towns of Louisiana that he name checked in the title track. We hired my good friends at Pompadour Productions who make the most incredible art signage you have EVER seen. Wyo and Scott consulted with me and Bruce on the style of the font, the lettering, and even found the old wood to paint it on. 

 Pompadour did an AMAZING JOB on the sign, the lettering, style and feel so that it was authentic!

Pompadour did an AMAZING JOB on the sign, the lettering, style and feel so that it was authentic!

After shooting the My Louisiana Muse project in and around Lake Verrett, I knew the area pretty well and was assured I could get some shots, especially when you name drop a guy like Nick Slie in those parts. We ended up attaining the help and guidance of a local named Billy Zeller, who just happened to be an old family friend of Nick, who showed us to the backyard of a home no one lived in and assured us ” well, their not home, so I think it’s ok” – that was enough for me! Enjoy this photo set of images from our shoot. Some behind the scenes images by Lemar Arceneaux and Sarrah Danziger.

 In Pierre Part we had to scout out locations first, composing different scenes without Bruce.

In Pierre Part we had to scout out locations first, composing different scenes without Bruce.

 This was a VERY interesting background, but we felt it may be to intrusive w/ the NO TRESSPASSING...

This was a VERY interesting background, but we felt it may be to intrusive w/ the NO TRESSPASSING…

 Even when Lemar stood in for Bruce (pretending to hold an accordion) the background of moss and cypress looked so perfect. But that structure in the background was a bit distracting. We kept walking!

Even when Lemar stood in for Bruce (pretending to hold an accordion) the background of moss and cypress looked so perfect. But that structure in the background was a bit distracting. We kept walking!

 There were so many great backgrounds. This particular one was great because of the converging lines, but we had to keep in mind we needed head space to put the type in for the album title. That's always something to consider when location scouting for album or magazine covers. What is the layout?

There were so many great backgrounds. This particular one was great because of the converging lines, but we had to keep in mind we needed head space to put the type in for the album title. That’s always something to consider when location scouting for album or magazine covers. What is the layout?

 I find that a good landscape composition can always fit a human somewhere. I always like to let the environment dictate my composition and exposure, and then I add the person and lights later.

I find that a good landscape composition can always fit a human somewhere. I always like to let the environment dictate my composition and exposure, and then I add the person and lights later.

 We arrived early for the shoot so we had time to leisurely scout locations. On a walk, we went up to Lake Verret and looked around there for backgrounds. Again, there were so many!

We arrived early for the shoot so we had time to leisurely scout locations. On a walk, we went up to Lake Verret and looked around there for backgrounds. Again, there were so many!

 Closer to Lake Verret we started to feel a bit more comfortable with selecting a spot. Even Lemar was learning how to hold the 'ghost accordion'. I value the help I get on shoot with Lemar and Sarrah. When you are really ready to take location portraiture to the next level, finding great assistants who see like you do and know your equipment is beyond the most valuable tool in your chest.

Closer to Lake Verret we started to feel a bit more comfortable with selecting a spot. Even Lemar was learning how to hold the ‘ghost accordion’. I value the help I get on shoot with Lemar and Sarrah. When you are really ready to take location portraiture to the next level, finding great assistants who see like you do and know your equipment is beyond the most valuable tool in your chest.

 Getting warmer! The Louisiana Cypress swamp is something so magical that when you are in the right place, you have a feeling of being surrounded by these welcoming arms full of shade and color. Here, we found our location.

Getting warmer! The Louisiana Cypress swamp is something so magical that when you are in the right place, you have a feeling of being surrounded by these welcoming arms full of shade and color. Here, we found our location.

EQUIPMENT on LOCATION

Just a little bit about what equipment you bring on location. Ultimately I am of the “less is more” school, but I used to find that when I was on location I was always at the whim of my creative spirit and would find myself reaching for some lens, or light, or filter that ultimately wasn’t there. So recently I have begun figuring out new ways to creatively pack for location shoots. I visualize our creative direction and try to pack as if I were on the shoot, and reaching for something I needed. This seems to work as I now can be miles away from my studio (and civilization for that fact) and have what I need. These days I may bring too much equipment on a location shoot, but I am never without the tools I need. I have been loving my Paul C. Buff lights and modifiers for location shoots. Not only are they very light and easy to pack, they thrive in environments where I need them to be my Key Light, Background, and Fill Light – all being powered by the Vagabond Battery. This battery can not only power my lights, but charge my cell phone, power a hot light or LED, and provide consistent power if I need it….anyway, back to the swamp!

 After setting up our Paul C. Buff White Alien Bee for a fill and our 60

After setting up our Paul C. Buff White Alien Bee for a fill and our 60″ octabox with a White Lightning 1600, we did a few exposure tests and then we were ready to shoot with Bruce!

 Bruce looks great on this old pier that juts out to Lake Verret in Pierre Part.

Bruce looks great on this old pier that juts out to Lake Verret in Pierre Part.

 Here's a photo of Bruce and myself after a long but creative day! Photo: Sarrah Danziger

Here’s a photo of Bruce and myself after a long but creative day! Photo: Sarrah Danziger

Photographing Louisiana Musicians and Creating Community - Photographing What You Love!

March 25, 2016

“Shoot what you love, shoot what you know ’cause no one loves what you love more than you know…bro”
 

Ain’t that the truth! I have always loved a good story, I love hearing that story from people. I play music, I listen to music all the time! Cajun, Zydeco, Rock n Roll – if the spirit moves then i’ll follow! I have been chasing and photographing this spirit of music, story, and people the day I picked up a camera. I am always looking for more ways to collaborate with the people I photograph whether it’s doing a wild and fun location shoot in a remote swamp, or teaming up with them to promote something we do. As a cultural documentarian through my photography, I can’t help but be drawn to the music. That’s why I created this promo series for my French Quarter Festival Photography Workshop called “Will You Be Ready…” Where I preview a performer I have shot in the past, talk about that shot and give you some tips on shooting festivals! 

 Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers....a FORCE to be reckoned with!

Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers….a FORCE to be reckoned with!

As a staff photographer for French Quarter Festivals, I have many duties and need to be in a few places at once. We have a group of volunteer photographers who have specific stages and work for specific hours. I have certain shows and performances I need to be present for, but the times in between are where I am looking for the magic and ready for anything. It was pouring down rain one day last year and Dwayne Dopsie jumped off stage with his rub board player and continued playing as we walked around the crowd. I was currently away from the Chevron Zydeco/Cajun Stage but I ran through the crowd to get this shot. Since it was so overcast I used my Canon 580EX that was mounted on my 5D Mark III 17-40mm camera/lens. I chose a wide lens so I could capture the moment of music directly in front of me but also the “sea of cell phones” and converging lines of the French Quarter…

SIGN UP FOR HOW TO PHOTOGRAPH FRENCH QUARTER FEST TODAY! Learn these techniques, tips and MORE from me! April 6th, 2016!

Point and Shoot Review: Canon G7x "Looking for Patterns and Reflections on a Walk in the French Quarter of New Orleans"

March 21, 2016

Today I will review the Canon G7x point and shoot and how I use it for my personal and professional documentation

I have started to take my Canon G7x out with me wherever I go. Don’t get me wrong, I like my iPhone 6 because of it’s pocket-ability and quality, but the control I get in exposure, quality, and depth can’t be beat with the G7x. It took me a few outings with the camera before I could manipulate the features and dials without looking, and the quick key FUNCTION/SET button is an easy “go to” access point to many features you’ll be changing such as: White Balance, ISO, bracketing, self-timer, ND Filter, and Resolution.

I love the Touch Screen Auto Focus feature and use it often. I can set up my compositions with one hand, and use my finger to tap on the subject for a quick focus, then shoot. The screen is very sensitive and accurate, and not to mention super bright. In the photo above I was able to frame the composition as I wanted it, and instead of “focus and recompose”, I could just “Touch and Shoot” by touching the sign with one finger, and depressing the shutter with the other.

Another feature I love about this camera, and one of the main reasons I bought this model, is the fast 1.8 aperture lens. At the camera’s widest focal length (8.8cm/24mm) you can access the 1.8 aperture and all it’s soft depth of field glory but as you zoom in, the aperture will stop down all the way to 2.8. NOT BAD THOUGH! I was able to utilize this feature in conjunction with the Touch Point AF on these following images. The camera was having a hard time auto focusing on the reflections in the distance and focusing on the glass pane or the metal panel instead. Here’s where Touch AF comes in handy!

 I could touch my finger on the exact reflection I wanted! With so many lines and contrast, my cameras AF didn't know what to do until I told it!

I could touch my finger on the exact reflection I wanted! With so many lines and contrast, my cameras AF didn’t know what to do until I told it!

 Here's another example of the lovely shallow depth and Touch AF

Here’s another example of the lovely shallow depth and Touch AF

The Canon G7x also has built in WiFi and an app for smartphones which allows me to send my full res (or downsized) image straight over to my phone! I love this feature when I am out on location posting to my Instagram, Facebook, or this very blog! This feature is VERY EASY to use! Take a look at this Gallery from my Walk in the French Quarter on Sunday, Canon G7x at my side…

Aside from being able to manually control Shutter Speed and Aperture, the Canon G7x has some really cool built in features and presets such as: Night Scene, Stars (which is great for Star Trails see my post from Akumal, Mexico!) Macro, Fish-Eye, Miniature, and Toy Effect. Here I show the last three effects on a cool star light we have –

All in all, I love the Canon G7x size, usability for both manual and auto features, and it’s durability was a nice bonus feature. The design and look of the G7x is sleek and fits my hand perfectly. 

I also love how small the camera is, and how it allows me to walk around and be personable with people while I am documenting the world. Lugging around a big camera can be daunting, but also distracting to people you meet. Having this small powerful camera on my allows me to be myself and meet people but at the same time take high quality photos to help other people get the word out! I shot these photos from New Orleans’ Super Sunday 2016 as I walked around meeting the food vendors and getting to know their menus! OH…and the G7x also has a Flip Screen to take your best well composed selfie!

Being a Better Photographer Begins at Home. How To Take Great Photographs of your Home while Learning Your Camera - How To Tuesday #21

March 14, 2016

Photographing where you are most familiar will help you learn photography faster than waiting for the Magic to happen.

In my 15 years of teaching photography, the #1 best piece of advice that I can give to any newcomer to photography is to SHOOT EVERY DAY. At first it sounds like a daunting task, but in the early stages of getting to know your camera and finding your vision, repetition is crucial to creative muscle memory! You want to be ready BEFORE the moment happens! In this week’s How to Tuesday, Photography Techniques and Tips we’ll show you what a few hours shooting around the house can achieve!

Many photographers make the big mistake in only taking their camera out to record life’s magic moments : a birthday, vacation, sunrises/sunsets, Mardi Gras or a 2nd Line in the streets of New Orleans. But these magic moments will only be blurry memories and fuzzy photos if you don’t have your skills at full power when the magic happens, and my whole “SHOOT EVERY DAY” motto can seem so far away. Well, not anymore. Here is a gallery of photographs I’ve taken around my house in Chalmette (the HEART of St. Bernard!) and some helpful guidance to get you sharpening your skills at home before you hit the streets chasing the Magic…

1. Photographing Patterns, Motifs, and Repeating Subjects: head out to the backyard and find lines, patterns and objects that are repetitive. Line them up in your viewfinder and always FILL THE FRAME with that pattern

2. Photographing Sunrises and Sunsets from your backyard : It’s easy, you just gotta wakeup for the first one…and then stick around for the Sunset! Make sure you expose for the COLOR and get that silhouette!

3. Macro Photography at Home: Don’t be afraid to get closer! This can be the key to help you overcome your fears of personal space in the real world! 

4. Explore the Colors of Nature Photography from your front yard! Need I say more? Get out there and shoot today and i’ll see you next week!

How To Show All of Your Blog Post History in Squarespace

March 13, 2016

I have been blogging actively since May 2006 and I recently was only able to see my last 20 posts!

Since I picked up a camera and started taking it seriously in 1997, I have always been about sharing. Whether my photos were hanging on a wall, in book, or online, I have felt that the story is not completed until it’s told. In the summer of 2006 I started a Google Blogger profile and started documenting my life through photographs, words, and links to various things I was interested in. 

Today blogging for me is not only about sharing my stories, it is an ongoing study in how to tell my story the right way. Blogging the “right way” for me today means: researching keywords, trending topics, and creating somewhat of a learning experience for the reader. My blog is my voice. My blog has everything to do with my brand and for the last 4 months in a row I have been posting helpful photography techniques and tips in my weekly segment “How To Tuesday”.

So last week when I noticed I could only see my last 20 posts on my blog, I was taken aback! Holy Shit all that hard work and it’s not easy to find??! Now, if you do some research you can find older posts by scrolling down the page and clicking the link: Older Posts—> but c’mon!

I couldn’t rest easy thinking about anyone that wanted to see my older posts had to really search for it. So, I did what any professional seeking advice would do….I GOOGLED it.

I found a few different links at the top of the thread and while most were helpful, having to scroll through the threads to find the answer took too long so I did the next best thing…I contacted Squarespace Chat and found my answers and it was so easy….

How To Set Up Your Squarespace Blog Archive and See Your Entire Post History!

Sorry for screaming but it’s really easy…

1.  Login to your Squarespace Account

2. Click EDIT on your Sidebar Content

3. Select a Content Block, and go to “Archive”

4. Select Your BLOG and Select How you Want It to be displayed!

There are a few ways that you can select your Blog to fall into that side column and I would just say to experiment with a few options and see which one you like

Photographing the Landscapes of St. Bernard Parish with the 4x5 group from the New Orleans Photo Alliance

March 10, 2016

As a resident of Chalmette and St. Bernard Parish for the last 2 years, I have enjoyed exploring the land and people out here. As you may know I have been documenting The Battlefield Oak at the National Park here for about 4 months, but there are so many other amazing locations to photograph.

Right now there is a not-so-secret group of Large Format Film photographers that have been training their lenses on the lush landscapes of New Orleans, and recently asked if I would pick out some locations for them for their next shoot. I am honored and have already started scheming on some super secret select spots for the April 3rd early morning outing. If you are interested in coming along – send me an email at 

zack@zacksmith.com

and I’ll update you on our spots. You MUST have a 4×5 camera or larger and film ready to go!

How Your Documentary Photographs can be turned into Editorial Gold! How To Tuesday #20

March 7, 2016

Today we will show how one photograph and it’s contents can be repurposed to tell a larger story while showing you another reason why it is so important to Own Your Photo and Shoot RAW!

A few things to remember 1st:

1. Always keep Ownership of your Images

2. Always Shoot RAW!

As we slide into festival season in New Orleans, I am being called on to provide images I have shot for festivals to be used for commercial and editorial purposes. In How To Tuesday #18 we learned how to photograph a silhouette, and I showed an example of the image I shot of accordion player Anthony Dopsie at Jazz Fest. In that situation I was able to provide my initial client (Jazz Fest) with the image they needed to document his set at the Fais Do Do stage, but then eventually use that same image for the recent Louisiana Office of Tourism campaign. In the first instance I did not need a model release since I was shooting documentary for the festival, but in the second instance I absolutely needed a model release since his image would be used for an advertising campaign to promote Louisiana. 

As a photographer you should always try to retain ownership of your photography so that when situations arise like this, you are in a position to have some bargaining power!

Recently, New Orleans’ Gambit Weekly contacted me and wanted to use this photo for their upcoming cover story on Fairs and Festivals:

I love the shot and remembered the day I took it. I think everyone that was outside that Jazz Fest day remembers the skywriter and the messages they were posting up for the city to see. This image for me just came together and I was happy to be at the Fais Do Do Stage again! I positioned myself to get the entire stage in the shot and waited a few minutes for the heart to be in the best part of the composition. 

When Gambit approached me they mentioned wanting to crop the photo to make it work with their layout. After seeing what they wanted to do I was fine with it, but I had to go back and edit the photo to make the editing flow a little smoother. If you notice in the image above I over-dodged the stage and band (props to Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole!). I did this because I wanted the viewers eyes to float back and forth to the other eye-leading element: the sky heart. In this new Gambit crop, I did not have the sky heart and feared that the over-dodging of the stage would be distracting to the new layout. I ended up going back to the RAW file and making the “Gambit-crop” (as i called it), then I desaturated the stage and didn’t dodge it as much with the selective adjustment tool in Lightroom. Here is the final version:

As you notice your eye doesn’t sit on the stage as long as it did in the uncropped version. I ended up liking what Gambit did in adding their masthead as if it were written by the sky writer, nice touch guys.

Photographing "the Battlefield Oak" at the Chalmette Battlefield in St. Bernard Parish in the March Fog

March 7, 2016

March 2nd, 2016 the fog was well and thick at The Battlefield Oak at the Chalmette Battlefield. By 6:30 when the sun is usually just about to peek it’s head on the horizon, on this day it was well above the horizon and shooting through the thick fog. I have learned so much about “being the rock in the stream” as I witness the seasons from this singular tree. I can’t tell you enough how much photographing this tree has helped me with my own direction, peace of mind, and sanity! Is there something out there you feel could be “yours” if you photographed it, told it’s story to the world?

New Orleans Panel Discussion: The Culture of Capture and Collaboration. A community Converstation with New Orleans photographers and Culture Bearers

March 7, 2016

This event is FREE and OPEN to the Public.

938 Lafayette St at the Corner of O’Keefe in the New Orleans Central Business District.

VISIT the Facebook page and Attend the Event! – CLICK HERE

As a photographer living in the greatest city in the world, there is no place I would rather be. I have been documenting the unique music and culture of New Orleans since I permanently moved here in the fall of 2000. Originally from Lafayette, I am no stranger to unique cultures and the power they bring to the storyline of a unique city. As a photographer in New Orleans I feel a strong sense of responsibility with the images I make and the relationships I make. I need to make sure I show the music, the street, the Indians and the clubs in the best light and make sure I give back in any way I can.

In this age of a rapidly evolving technology  that allows us to document every moment and minute of our lives I feel it is the photographers and culture bearers of this great city to form stronger relationships so that we can BOTH tell the story of this great city in a way that fosters trust, respect, and responsibility. That is why I, along with Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities and Louisiana Cultural Vistas Magazine, have put together a panel discussion with New Orleans photographers and culture bearers to discuss these topics and more. I am asking YOU the informed and passionate public to discuss how we as a community of artists and documenters can move forward, in a way unprecedented, to work as a team united to foster new relationships in creating a trusted dialogue so that photographers can share images, and artists can use these images without any misunderstanding.

I have invited photographers Eric Waters and Erika Goldring, along with Big Chief Juan Pardo and musician and producer Voice Monet to begin the discussion with me…and you the public to help us bring some action to the ideas. This discussion will be moderated by Vice President of Content at the LEH, Brian Boyles.

We are very excited to have Louisiana Pizza Kitchen providing some eats!

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