This is one content barber…hard work pays off at FACTOTUM Barber Shop in the Bywater.
Happiness Is Contagious. Bless You.
There’s something contagious about happiness, the kind of happiness you see on a strangers face when they aren’t looking or the slight buzz you get when you are around someone who has found their place. Happiness is a state of mind brought on by years of hard work and enjoyed in small moments of truth.
Why get a logo by Erik with a K ? Because they’re damn beautiful that’s why…
The truth is, I recently booked a haircut with my friend Jason’s new Barber shop in the Bywater, FACTOTUM. You know when someone’s put in the work and is right where they need to be? That would be Jason and FACTOTUM. As I arrived he was finishing the haircut of a gentleman in a wheelchair, a friend of the neighborhood over there on Piety St. Jason took his time with the fellow, and even wheeled him across the street, where he sat until I was done with mine.
There’s new things happening in the Bywater. New owners of old establishments, new homes being moved into while old friends move out. Change and evolution of any place is inevitable. That’s New Orleans now – changing, growing, expanding, contracting. People moving and building their dreams trying to make things better for themselves and their families. Enjoy this gallery of a place built by hard work, run by a very happy guy, and book your appointment now ya hairy goon.
How to Improve Your Night and Long Exposure Photography
Who doesn’t love great long exposure night photography? I can speak for myself, I love looking at it and I love making it happen. There’s an unexplainable joy that comes from creative night photography. I have been teaching New Orleans longest running Night Photography course called NOLA @ Night since 2002 and each outing reveals something totally different and exciting. Why do you think I still teach it!?
want to join our next night photography workshop? Click below!
This hands-on photography workshop is the only class you will need to learn the ropes shooting the beautiful soft light of a Crescent City summer night! Long time New Orleans photographer and instructor Zack Smith will teach you how to get the most out of your camera wether you are a beginner or are an advanced shooter looking to gain more knowledge.
From the multicolor subtleties that exist in the dying of the light, to the glow of civil twilight I am perplexed and in awe at each sunset. As the city lights fight off the day you can see there’s a new sheriff in town as the hum of the human night sky wins over the glow of twilight.
Tips for Getting the Best Exposure at Night on Your Digital Cameras
Go HERE to learn some initial pointers for shooting at Night in How To Tuesday #8….
1. Location Scouting Beforehand – All of my best night photography is planned. I rarely walk around with all of my gear “hoping” to find a good composition. Over the years I have taken the time to find the best places to shoot at night because there are so many factors that play into a good night photography. Background, light, location of the sunset, location of streetlights and much more. These factors will play into your shots later one when the sun sets, and knowing where they are before can help speed the process of location selections.
+ Pick Your Location/Subject
+ If you want BLUE/dark behind your subject at Twilight, then your back must be to the setting sun. If you want more REDS/yellow, then your subject should be west facing
+ Spot our your street lights and lamp posts. These will NOT be on during the day, but at night they could take over your shot and cause lens flare (SEE HTT#8)
2. Using Speed Lights – I like to think of long exposure photography as making a mini-movie with a still shot. You have thirty seconds to multiple minutes to create, carve, and cast your light and shadows around a single. No matter what you do sometimes, you have compositions with varying degrees of Exposure Values, meaning: there are some areas that receive too much light and some that don’t get enough. You can combat this by using a hand held flash (even battery powered studio strobes!) to illuminate the shadow areas. Try this a few times by setting your camera on it’s self timer to give you time to walk to the shadow area.
3. Bring a Friend and have an Adventure – the best thing about photographing at night is that no two nights are the same. The sun will set differently, the trees and the city will respond in a way you never imagined. This is a good opportunity to bring a fellow photographer with you to be your second shooter, lighting guru, or just to have someone to enjoy the journey. As always, be aware of your surroundings at all times: watch for cars at night and don’t venture off to areas you are not 100% familiar with. When you are constantly behind the camera, your wits aren’t exactly in the right place – bring a friend!
I have always loved the photography of Walker Evans. I am more specifically enamored and the same time perplexed by his very “straight” street photography. You know the ones, very flat, but contrasty straight forward views of homes and businesses. You know, the barbershops, auto repair, and general street life shots? To me they hold a piece of history about the humans who lived, loved, and worked there and they offer our eyes today a sense of place to see how “we” used to live. But the perplexing thing about these historical images is that I have never been inclined to just shoot street view compositions or New Orleans architectural facades…ever. For me there’s got to be a story and I find the human story as it’s told by the human is far more interesting…until now.
It wasn’t until I moved out to St. Bernard Parish that I began driving up and down, up and down the same streets to get into “the city” to do jobs for clients. The City, I mean New Orleans.
From my house, I take St. Bernard Highway, which turns into St. Claude at the Orleans Parish Line, then at Elysian Fields, turns into Rampart St. and on through the French Quarter and beyond. Right around where I live, you got this sign:
Yeah, did you know there was a State Park ‘down the road’?
You can literally walk out of Preservation Hall to Rampart Street, go Right (or East) and for the next 6 miles (5.9 to be exact) see first hand how fast and furious New Orleans is changing. By the time you get to the Chalmette Battlefield (see my most recent Gallery here) you will have seen 6 miles of a landscape that won’t look anything like it does now in 5 years. You already see it changing, growing, expanding, contracting. And for this reason, I started to see where Walker Evans was right. I having been seeing my 6 mile route into the city change so fast over the last 3 years I decided it was time to put my lens to this evolving story and see for myself how fast things change…and how much they do stay the same.
I have seen the streetcar tracks start laying down to now almost being done. I have seen small shops pop up on St. Claude, bars, too many restaurants to name. I have also seen the corner stores shut down and the mom and pop stores close. I have seen Family Dollar’s open up next door to each other and across the street from Dollar Generals as they compete for the lowest price and least healthy options for the people they serve. Vacant lots now hold promise instead of neglect. It’s funny how the glass can go half full in the blink of an eye.
Enjoy my drive from St. Bernard Highway through St. Claude Avenue to Rampart Street
As all photographers know it sometimes takes a lifetime to own just the right gear you can need for any type of shoot. Not only is the best gear usually the most expensive, but there is always some sort of “upgrade” or “v 2.1” right around the corner just teasing your inquisitive nature. As our buying habits are different I can only speak for myself when I say that I usually make do with what I have. But that is changing.
In my early days of shooting strictly film, I was limited to a 24mm, 50mm, an 85 lens for my Nikon n90s (remember those!) when I was shooting alot of low lit night club concerts at Tipitinas and street photography in New Orleans. In these early years, I was regulated to those three lenses, which I then mastered as those focal lengths became synonymous in how I saw the world.
After years of using multiple camera formats and focal lengths, ignorance is definitely bliss since I have TOO many choices. This for me, is a good thing. I really do enjoy diagnosing my client’s visual problems when I have multiple formats, focal lengths and lighting choices to apply to each photoshoot. I am no longer limited to certain focal lengths that I own.
As I write this, I still do not own everything I want and I don’t think I will EVER have every lens or light I’ll ever need or own. So when my vision requires a piece of gear I currently do not own, I often turn to renting gear for the specific shoot.
For my recent shoot with Dirty Coast t-shirts and an upcoming Deftones show at the Saenger Theatre I rented the Canon 35mm f1.4 and the Canon 50mm 1.2 from one of my favorite rental spots – www.lensrentals.com. The prices are fair and the return is made easy by a ready to go UPS return sticker. Oh, and they have EVERYTHING…
35mm 1.4 probably my favorite new lens…
Canon 50 1.2 was so much fun to shoot!
At this point I can’t afford each of these lenses..it’s just not in the short term budget. But renting them for specific shoots suits me just fine. Take a look at a couple of images I shot with these lenses at the Dirty Coast shoot. NOTE: All images shot at each lenses Max Aperture i.e. 35mm @ 1.4 and 50mm @ 1.2. I absolutely love being able shoot at 1.4 and 1.2..but it takes ALOT of practice at nailing the shot! Most importantly, you have to realize that you have such a small focus range/depth and that any slight movement from subject or camera, you risk a soft focus point…or missed all together. But when you nail it…You KNOW IT.
I just love that nice shallow depth of filed and bokeh with the 50mm 1.2!
The 50mm 1.2 had great focus lock, and found the subject at any depth.
Especially in low light, the 50mm 1.2 was bright, and it was easy to focus with low nat light
So, probably my “next” lens…(meaning, pennies are being saved as we speak) is the Canon 35mm 1.4. I first rented the lens for this years French Quarter Festival (you can see my gallery here) and I don’t think it left my Mark 3 at all. I guess I am becoming comfortable with the close range and intimate engagement the 35mm focal length gives me. Combine that with the tack sharp focusing, maximum light gathering, and beautiful bokeh at 1.4 – It’s a lens I can’t live without too much longer out of my bag. I am not there yet…so that’s why I rent. Here are a few of my favorite 35mm 1.4 shots from the last few shoots.
I do like the bokeh on the 35mm more than the 50mm 1.2. I find its a bit softer…
Here are some more 35mm @ 1.4 – I can’t get enough!
There you have it. A few of my favorite shots from two of my favorite new lenses. At price tags of $1,349 for the 50mm 1.2 and $1,799 for the 35mm 1.4, I don’t think I’ll be buying soon. For $165 I could rent both of them for a week, shoot a ton of personal and client work while counting and saving those pennies…
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, put together a panel discussion with New Orleans photographers and culture bearers to discuss these topics and more. The video is finally here online. I will preface that the entire video is not online because I felt there was some of the discussion that warranted omitting.
I am grateful to all those who were present. We had a PACKED house of over 80 people who were present to discuss how responsible photographers need to be as documenters of culture and how we can work together with the culture bearers we photograph. As I continue to talk with black masking culture bearers I learn how complicated the relationships and groups tend to be, but hope that we can start a thread that continues through all groups that relies on trust, responsibility and giving back.
I am very excited to get back in the fold at the New Orleans Academy of Fine Art with this wonderful new course. After taking a semester off from teaching at NOAFA, I am once again ready to share some knowledge I have gained over the last few years that could help photographers of all levels with gaining a new focus and passion on their current projects, or help jumpstart a new photographic endeavor.
This course will be based on my philosophy of “Intention in Capture and Purpose in Presentation”. This way of thinking about your work will help you determine the “why” of photography when putting together ideas for a new project. Determining our goals and the “why” of any project will give us a clear direction of how we can tell this new story as well as help us even determine basic settings like aperture and lens choice! The aesthetic philosophy can help guide your technical decisions for any photograph. After we learn the “why” it’s important to learn the “where”…like “where” will these photographs be seen? How will the photographs and the new body of work bee seen?
This class is not geared towards helping you learn how to use your camera. This class is about helping guide you towards telling a better story through identifying your goals, execution, and implementation of a final product. We will view images you have shot for any current projects and there will be live class critiques of your work and weekly assignments.
7 Weeks beginning June 7th from 9a-12p and will run for 6 weeks. You are to bring with you digital files or prints of your current project or projects. You do not need to have a current project to begin this class.
The Intention of our project and the Purpose of our images can guide us to direct a more cohesive and strong visual story. I hope to see you this summer!
If you remember in the last installment of How To Tuesday’s “Anatomy of a Commercial Portrait Shoot” we talked about what kind of set up and logistics went into our recent shoot with New Orleans based St. Charles Vision.
Let’s take a look at what all that hard work gets us, and then i’ll fill in the blanks on how we got there…
Tarriona “Tank” Ball of Tank and the Bangas.
Lu Brow, executive bar chef for the Commander’s Family of Restaurants.
Brent Houzenga, Artist. You’ve seen his art cars EVERYWHERE!
…because i know you’re wondering! f8 for max sharpness from Eye to Ear ya Hear?
T. Cole Newton, owner 12 Mile Limit
As I said in my last HTT post, alot of time was taken in the planning phase of this shoot to test out multiple light schemes, edit them, and get approval from the client. Here is a quick look at the exact lighting and camera setttings I used for each of these portraits.
Here is our exact lighting setup for the St. Charles Vision shoot. See Susan Spaid at work!
KEY LIGHT – Paul C. Buff White Lightning 1600 + 60″ Octabank + 45º angle directly in front.
BACK LIGHT – PCB – Alien Bee 800 + 35″ Softbox + directly at Background
FILL – 5 in 1 Reflector on Silver as Bounce Back Light + 4’x4′ diffusion flag underneath chin
In order to get the background to be perfectly uniform and exactly the same in each shot, I decided not to trust my roll paper and light setup. I had it back there mostly as a guide and not the final background. If you notice here, this is what my portraits looked like straight out of the camera with NO edits:
You will notice that our lighting is pretty much right on where we need to be. With some minor retouching left to do in Lightroom, all there is to fix is the background. For shoots like this where I am photographing more than 1 person and I need consistency in color for my backgrounds, I will photograph a full frame capture of the background and use that as my final background template which I will drop in later.
A full screen capture of my roll background. I will use this later when placing the final portraits
Once I have cut out each portrait I can place that layer on the same background so there is consistency throughout the entire shoot. I will experiment with a filter on the background to try some new things. I am confident at this point that the lighting ratios are good for my portraits and I can try some creative options on my background.
As you see, there are so many layers to producing, shooting, and delivering a high quality commercial portrait that is ready for print or web. Open communication with the client is so important so that you can hear out their goals and vision. They are coming to you with a vision in their hearts and a budget in their head…and it’s up to you to make those two meet your vision and creative bottom line.
Believe it or not, over the years I have enjoyed the bidding process and early creative client meetings more than the shoot itself. In the early stages of planning for a commercial portrait shoot there is so much abstract talk and logistics about how the deliverables should feel…how the people should look…what kind of lighting I can use…what new way I can create to help me communicate my clients vision, that when the shoot is finally here – it feels as if the work is already done. But again…it’s not.
SHOOT DAY MAGIC
Even though the heavy lifting of pre planning, schedule coordinations, and crew organization have taken place there is always the Day Of Shoot to look forward to. What day will we have?Will we be coaxing raw emotion and feeling out of someone who’s had a long day already at 10am? Will our star show up with a black eye? (It’s happened) Will there be malfunctioning gear (happens too often) or did we forget Gaffe tape and only bring Gorilla Tape? The more experiences I have the more ready and comfortable I become with anything life throws at me. Each day and moment is a lesson waiting to be learned…hope I taught you something here…
My most creative spirit comes alive when photographing a portrait. When I make portraits, everything I have learned about language, communication, light, lenses, and life come together in the click of a shutter. I feel it is with portrait photography that my storytelling talents come out and my true purpose on this earth for my time on it, is realized. I love what I do, make no apologies for the results, and learn about myself both bad and good in those moments of truth.
I hope you enjoy this series of portraits, and I would like to note that since moving out to St. Bernard Parish I have been using it’s wonderful locations for most of these portraits. Enjoy my new inspiring surroundings!
Please enjoy some new portraits from the last few months of 2016.
Check the before and after! The final layout for the album just came in and shows the beautiful bar at Los Islenos in all it’s withered glory…This is the second photo shoot I have done for musician Seth Walker. I enjoy working with Seth because he always has a different vibe in mind for each record we are producing images for. I often find it a challenge because he looks to me to help with the locations and help with the vibe – but I love challenges. I really dig Seth’s passion for music and the craft of songwriting. His laid back nature makes him easy to work with and he’s not afraid to smile for the camera. We did this shoot at my home studio and the wonderful Los Islenos Cultural Center in St. Bernard, Louisiana.
I have been working with musician Luke Winslow King for quite a few years now. I have always respected the vision he has for what he does. Luke has always been very specific about the look and feel of our shoots and I respect him for that as well. I have enjoyed being able to realize my client’s vision with the new landscapes that surround me in St. Bernard Parish. There are so many and I feel I am only scratching the surface.
Backstage Portrait of “The Women” a recent play performed in Gretna, LA 2016
I was recently hired by the magazine CHANCE, to document a recent play and performance staged out in Gretna called “The Women”. My job was not to shoot the performance itself, but the women, moments, and energy around it. The print publication will showcase more of these images but I wanted to share some more informal, and staged versions of what I consider portraits as well.
I recently worked with John “Papa” Gros on promotional photography for his upcoming solo record. I have always been a big fan of Papa Gros music and kind natured sensibilities. John is one of the nicest and most welcoming people I know, and I was especially honored a few years back to photograph his wedding. John had clear ideas on wardrobe, vibe, and what energy to bring to the shoot. I was happy that he decided on a location I found in Arabi, LA.
Brian Haas, New Orleans 2016.
Brian Haas, New Orleans 2016
Pianist Brian Hass and I have been friends since the day we met back in 2000. I had just moved to New Orleans and at the urging of my cousin, I went to photograph a band I had never heard of: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. From that moment on, a relationship of mutual respect was formed and I have been photographing Brian in some way, shape, or form ever since. Being able to hang out with Brian during this years Jazz Fest was a welcomed respite from the alternative of shooting the festival itself. I was able to create unique collaborative images with an old friend.
A Bass player for the Tulane Marching Band is silhouetted at the WWII Museum.
German B3 player, Matthias Bublath on location in New Orleans, LA. 2016
I particularly like when stories begin with the bold word, the phonetics and then the multiple definitions. You know you are about to get “learned”. Over the past few years I have been jotting down my own photography related philosophies as they come to me in random moments of insight. Some I can apply to my own work and life, and others I can apply to my teachings.
In today’s “How To Tuesday” instead of tips on shooting, editing, and the whole “work” aspect of photography I wanted to take a departure and talk about the “why”. I feel that the WHY aspect of photography is often the culprit of why photographers (novice and pro) often hit a snag in their careers. For the novice, finding out “why” they are making photographs and what the hell to do with them rarely comes to their minds because they are so preoccupied with the “what” – as in – what does this button do? what do i press to get that “shallow depth of field”, what lens gives me wide angle? Professionals often struggle with the “why” when after years of being truly inside the business side of the craft, they lose site on the creative and wonder “why” the work isn’t inspiring them anymore.
My upcoming 6 week course that is being offered at The New Orleans Academy of Fine Art is a mentorship journey to help you find the “why” in your work. Why do we tell stories, why do we photograph? When the why is then answered, what then do we do with them? These questions and more will be tackled in June and July of 2016. Call 504-899-8111 to sign up or visit to find out more.
Maybe some of these Photo Philosophies will jog some creative impulses in you to figure out your “why”. Oh, and the inspirational poster rip offs are totally NOT coincidental.
I shot New Breed Brass Band for LYFT and Trombone Shorty Present: Jazz on Demand 2016
Ok, so picture this: You are looking for a ride from the Fairgrounds or to the Fairgrounds for the 1st day of Jazz Fest 2016. You open your LYFT app and type in your destination. Ten minutes later, you get picked up a LYFT SUV(you know it’s LYFT by the pink mustache on the dash, really) with tinted windows, sit down, and music starts playing. The music is not on the radio or a CD player – it’s a LIVE BAND rocking in the backseat complete with a photo booth to mark the occasion. A genius marketing ploy if you ask me.
Trombone Shorty for LYFT and Trombone Shorty Present: Jazz on Demand , photo Zack Smith
But before all that jazz got to happen, we did a super fun and quick photo shoot with non other than the man himself, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. A little backstory: Troy and I rehearsed and recorded in the same studio a while back and passed each other in the halls many times over the course of a few years. Always a super nice guy, always saying hi and a bringing you in for a slap and embrace. We had always wanted to work together on something and I can’t tell you how many times we talked about it… “shoot soon?” “let’s do a cool photo shoot” ” yes, soon!” was always how we parted ways. So I was over the moon when I got the call from LYFT to photograph this campaign and heard he was going to be available for the early part of the session.
The folks at LYFT were a young, energetic, and organized group. I really enjoyed working with Lauren and the crew from LYFT, as well as the New Breed Brass Band which featured Troy’s nephew on snare and leading the band. I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story…
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