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Month: February 2017

How to Photograph Aliens and Yoda's in Low Light While Marching: A Practical New Orleans Tutorial

February 23, 2017

In my 15 years teaching photography I have been asked alot of questions, and most beginning photographers want to learn the basics: how to shoot manual exposure, how to get that blurry background, and “how do I see like my camera sees?”. But once a year around Mardi Gras in New Orleans photographers want to know how to photograph some of the most difficult types of subject yet: moving objects in low light. In order to best educate those that want to know how to photograph low light moving objects, I try to bring my photography workshop participants on a journey through time and space to a land of Aliens, Chewbaccas, Yoda’s, and fantastic floats in the Bywater. You guessed it: The International Krewe of Chewbaccus Parade.

Each year we are over the moon interstellar-ly excited that the IKOC lets us peer into their amazing world of Wookies, spaceships, and Star Wars revelry. The costumes and floats in this parade are truly one of a kind and “Only in New Orleans”. Each year this workshop is a joy to photograph and be a part of something memorable.

I have been photographing Mardi Gras Parades in New Orleans since 2000 and has marched in more parades than I cares to remember (or can). For this parade we begin at the secret headquarters of the IKOC to document over 100 krewes and sub-krewes as they prepare themselves and their floats for the exciting route. We follow the Krewe as they wind through the crowd filled streets of the city, finding the perfect vantage points to tell the best story of the parade and our great city!

How to photograph a Mardi Gras parade? First; focus on what you know, and go from there.

My suggestion to anyone wanting to get better at photographing Mardi Gras parades, or any marching, dancing, or moving entity, is to first shoot what you know. As a portrait photographer I usually see the faces and emotion before I see the big picture landscape scenes. I will walk up to people and ask if I can photograph them, and either capture a portrait or just a candid of them soon after. This way I can get comfortable approaching single people and then on to larger groups. 

Photograph wide open in the waning day hours, then increase your ISO when the night falls…

When the sun sets, usually fast, on a parade that usually means you are not too far off from beginning your march. If you are marching with the parade, like we were for the Chewbaccus workshop, you can get accustomed to the speed of the crew and get your settings right. After the twilight hour has settled in, you notice that the artificial light has taken over as your dominant light source (or key light) for the rest of the parade. Whereas earlier you had the sunlight to light your portraits, now you have random, blinking, and sometimes glowing light sources. Difficult, yes. Impossible, never. Says Yoda.

Some Tips for Photographing in Low Light:

First of all  you have to assume that all rules apply when trying to capture the sharpest photographs in low light:

1. You and your camera Must be Stable – taking your time to compose each shot and standing still at each exposure will ensure that you are not moving and making your images even softer by adding blur! Stay Still!

2. Turn ON Vibration Reduction and Image Stabilizer – most newer lenses and zoom lenses come equipped with VR/IR to help stabilize the lens when you are moving ever so slightly. This feature does NOT stabilize or help freeze the subject you are shooting. Remember that! 

3. Move at the Speed of your Subject – I find that if you are shooting at shutter speeds of 1/30 – 1/4 it helps if you are moving at the speed of your subject. This will help keep your subject sharp but blur the background which can result in some crazy cool movement!

Enjoy this Gallery from Chewbacchus 2017! SHARE this post with friends in the Krewe!

Was it the Instagram takeover that resulted in a blockbuster NBA trade deal? Or not?

February 20, 2017

 Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover. Baton Rouge model David Dunn Jr. (FiftyTwo45 Agency) wears some Sacramento Kings gear in New Orleans for my NBA All Stars weekend Instagram takeover.

In a  New Orleans NBA All-Star game that wheeled and dealed players, local Instagrammers dealed the Kings some gems

Over this last 2017 NBA All Star weekend, which was held in New Orleans, I had the honor of taking over the Sacramento Kings Instagram account to showcase some NOLA spots for their followers. I had never been asked to do something like this, and I was honored. I met up with their digital team at the Westin Hotel upon their arrival on Friday, grabbed some Demarcus Cousins jerseys, and then proceeded to walk the French Quarter. I had with me one of my favorite models to work with ( and all around great guy) David Dunn Jr, as well as his buddy Nick. 

I thought it very smart that the Kings’ Digital Team did some research and reached out to collaborate with some local photographers – it’s no wonder why their digital team is one of the top creatives in the NBA. The Kings were also the first NBA team to use Facebook LIVE. Smart dudes….

 Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton Nick and David model some Kings gear in front of the Sheraton’s huge NBA wrap on Canal St.

We walked around to Canal St. to photograph in front of the Sheraton’s NBA All Star wrap, then ventured into the front gates of Bourbon St. The mood immediately changed, the smells became thick, the language fierce…yeah we were in for a ride.

My job this weekend was to get people wearing Demarcus Cousin’s All Star gear around some New Orleans spots in trade for posting and links on their account. The Kings have 568K followers, so I thought this could be a great experience and might get me some New Orleans followers that live in CA…reminiscent of their home. 

We had a blast. I even brought the shirts to the Krewe of Chewbacchus Parade where I was teaching a Mardi Gras photography workshop. I ran into a few people who were from Sacramento and got to throw the jersey on them for a few photographs.

But the craziest most random thing that happened wasn’t the Jedi Knights and Yoda’s that surrounded the Kings gear. It was that in the late Sunday hours of the All-Star game, Demarcus Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans! In a deal that seemed to be a “make or break” situation for Del Demps and the organization, they waged all their bets including a direct trade for Buddy Hield (damn), Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and two draft picks. So you’re saying I photographed the last Cousin’s All Star jersey as a King in the city of his new team? I am sure there’s a better way to say that…so here’s some more photographs!

All Images ©Zack Smith Photography and it is against the law to extract these these images for personal or commercial use. It ain’t cool either.

New Orleans can be an improvisation both musically and photographically...

February 19, 2017

 Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 - ©Zack Smith Photography Simon Lott AKA Context Killer, HIP FEST 2014 – ©Zack Smith Photography

I have posted these images from HIP FEST in 2014, but I thought it was a good opportunity to relive them again. I was recently contacted by New Orleans musician/drummer/improviser/composer Marcello Bennetti to work on an image I shot of him for his upcoming record. The image in question ( i won’t show it here…) was from a series of backstage portraits I made at HIP FEST at the Blue Nile, where over two nights various sets of improvised music was played by shuffling trio’s and quartets.

My backstage portrait setup was visual improvisation…

Local and out of town improvisors like Aurora Nealand, Brad Walker, and Paul Thibodeaux (REDRAWBLACK), Simon Lott, and organizer Jeff Albert, played out there and right on music downstairs at the club. Upstairs I wanted to do my own improv with lights. I ended up bringing three Paul C. Buff Alien Bee strobes only and bounced a red gel strobe on the background, and fired off two 30º gridded strobes perpendicular to my subject’s faces. I wanted to create harsh side lighting, with a dark center strip on their face. Here are my results photographing Cliff Hines, Rob Mazurek, Nathan Lambertson, Gianluca Petrella, Jeff Albert, Simon Lott, Johnny Vidacovich, and REDRAWBLACK (Nealand, Walker, Thibodeaux)

Check out some more live photography from that event at their website – http://noise-nola.org/category/hip-fest-2014/

PRODUCT REVIEW: VLOG reviews Sleeklens.com Lightroom Presets and Adjustment Brushes!

February 13, 2017

I was recently contacted by the marketing folks over at Sleeklens.com to see if I wanted to try out some of their Lightroom presets and brushes. I have to be honest with you, before Jane contacted me, I had only downloaded and used one Lightroom preset and was very green about the brushes presets. In my business as a freelance photographer in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, I am constantly editing jobs that are VERY different in shooting style, thus are different in the way I edit and deliver. 

I Photograph so that I can edit like my clients see…

I always want my deliverables to have a certain “realness” about them. I want my clients to feel that they saw that same thing I did, but in the end there’s a certain magic about it. I edit sparingly, and try not to let the “hand of photographer” show through my edits. So when I was downloading Sleeklens brush presets, I was skeptical. But real soon after playing around with each adjustment brush that I dialed in, I realized that I could easily dial back, or push further the effect in a way that was creative and comforting. I recently worked on a photograph for New Orleans drummer and improvisator Marcello Bennetti where I used a few Sleeklens presets and brushes. Lucky for you, I recorded that workflow! Enjoy this VLOG of my Lightroom workflow of a portrait of Marcello using a few Sleeklens presets! And by all means…check out their great BLOG at https://sleeklens.com/photography-blog/

The Sleeklens bundle comes as the ultimate solution for anyone looking to edit images in Lightroom and caters for absolutely anything you need for your work. Whether you are editing Portraits, Landscapes, wedding photos, HDR or anything else, the Lightroom Collection consists of everything necessary for all photography styles. The collection is a complete compilation of all of their Lightroom presets and brushes thus giving you massive tools at a great price. As such, you can achieve more with the complete collection without spending much money in the process. 

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