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!
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.
The rains came dumping in from the west, just like days before out of nowhere only to flood the streets from Gentilly to St. Bernard. I peered out the window to see a group of tightly wound bluish black clouds and I ran for the door with camera in hand. I raced down St. Bernard Highway and noticed a rainbow in the distance, storm clouds to the East and a warm setting sun to the west. Yellow Means Go.
I went to Jazz Fest today and saw some cool stuff…
I saw some furry balled bra pole strung up above the Fais Do Do.
I saw fake mullet tiger shirt dude brah hanging with his bro.
I saw the Chicken and Moose gang with Mom and son
And I was reminded of the song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
I saw fine threaded fellas doing the Second Line
While rosy skinned gents played through to the back Nine
Saw my photo of Goldman and realized I had a blessed life
Cause I got to spend the whole day of Jazz Fest with my wife.
Some Technical Notes: All Images shot today were with my Canon 5DMK3 with a 50mm 1.4 lens at ISO 100. Mostly shot all at an aperture of 1.4 using a Circular Polarizer at all times. It’s very difficult to shoot at 1.4 in the direct light since the aperture is so wide open…you need to add the Polarizer to stop down the light intake (2 stops)
I am honored to have my photograph of Goldman Thibodeaux chosen by Sacha Lecca, Chief Deputy Photo Editor at Rolling Stone, for the “Americana Music Triangle” exhibition. The exhibit is a partnership with The New Orleans Photo Alliance and it will be showing at the Grandstand photo exhibit at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, April 22nd – May 1st.
I am excited for so many reasons, more importantly because of the fact that I will attend Jazz Fest on the day Goldman plays the Fais Do Do Stage and walk with him to the exhibit as a participant at Jazz Fest and not a staff photographer. This marks the first year I will not be shooting Jazz Fest as a staff photographer or for a publication, and it marks a year of gratitude and joy for the opportunities that led me to that decision.
This image has so much to do with that decision in that being able to do the My Louisiana Muse project (which this image is an excerpt from) allowed me to tap into some powerful storytelling momentums I had been missing in life. I was allowed to follow my own inspirations which led me to new relationships, business opportunities, and new directions. For this, I am grateful.
I was overjoyed to be able to walk around in the Scott Edwards Gallery today on a slow New Orleans Sunday. I wanted the Michael P. Smith photography exhibit all to myself in order to soak it up again after last night’s quick visit on opening night. I am a firm believer that the “proof is in the print” and that the quality and artistic merit of all photography is wether or not the image can be printed well and hung on a wall…silver and all. The photographs hanging in the gallery right now are a beauty to behold. Michael’s images are a trip back in time to a simpler New Orleans culture we know all too well now in a different way.
Through his images I was seeing the history of Jazz Fest through the camera’s worn by the crowd, the wood panel stages held together by metal scaffolding, and I was seeing the worn streets of the Wards of our city like they will never, ever be again.
There are no cell phones, Ipads, digital cameras in the way of the street culture as Michael saw it. There is no technology minus the neon signs or pay phones that dot a Treme corner store. There is a naked, old, raw New Orleans. There is a realness to his music photography that exhibits an unashamed bravado of time and place that will never before be witnessed.
As I look back on my 7 years of photographing Jazz Fest as a staff photographer, and the previous 7 before that for publications, I can say I have witnessed the magic of that festival and what it represents. In a different way I have seen what he has seen, but in a more corporate, refined “brand” aspect. In his time as Jazz Fest’s lensman, there is a void of large corporate sponsors, banners of brands and signage dictating who’s money made this cultural gathering possible. You can see at this gallery show, in Michael P. Smith’s time, and in his images, there is only the naked, raw, joyous New Orleans. See it while you can.
Location, Location, Location!” Whether or not it was first said by a British real estate tycoon or local music group The Tin Men, those three words sum up for me what it means to really KNOW New Orleans. For a photographer living in the most visually and culturally unique city in the United States, finding the perfect environment for a portrait is something I take great pride in doing. You can see from my portraits that “environment is everything” when telling the story of someone.
“I was looking to get to know New Orleans better, through the eyes of a local, and I ended up coming across Zack’s photos onInstagram. Then I figured what better way there is to learn more about a place than through the eyes of a photographer? Zack’s work is atmospheric and thoughtful; I love the side of New Orleans that I get to see through his work. Whether you’re local to the area or an out-of-towner, Zack’s insights are just the thing you need to put your finger on the pulse of this city. His comprehensive knowledge of the area, plus his marvelous discerning eye simply makes his work so fun to follow.”
– Helen, Borrowed & Blue’s New Orleans Market Specialist
1. Zack! How did you get started as a photographer?
Since an early age I have loved to hear stories, both true and embellished. I love the art of storytelling, and I am forever enamored with the gift of listening. I was a voracious writer all through high school and college, writing for both my high school newspaper and I was the chief staff writer for my college yearbook. One day I saw something that mere words could not describe or encapsulate and felt a photograph could tell the story better.
2. As a storyteller, what draws you to a particular subject?
The subjects that interest me most have a depth and backstory that peek just above the surface. I listen intently and look for interesting stories in the way people explain a situation, or themselves. I feel as though I am a detective or psychologist – always looking to read between the lines, or asking questions someone never sees coming. I am always trying to get to the heart of the matter, earnestly.
3. Tell us more about Environmental Portraiture and why we should love it.
Environmental Portraiture, to me, is to tell the age old story of humans and their connection to a place or to the land in a visually interesting and appealing way. Our connection with the land on which we feel comfortable, creative and safe in, tells a lot about who we are, where we are from, and why we’re here. If I am to photograph anyone to tell their story, I need to know where they’re from and “where they’re at”. You would naturally love it because don’t you want to know more about yourself and the people around you? If you desire, you can make the world smaller and more connected by knowing more about the people around you.
4. What makes or breaks a collaborative session for you, whether it’s a bridal shoot or a commercial project?
Knowledge of your client’s goals and clear communication about your deliverables as a photographer can make or break any photo shoot. I make it a point to have multiple conversations via email or phone, and meet in person if possible so that I understand fully what the client is looking to get out of this shoot. I want them to know that I care about how they look and the message that gives, and that I am not there pushing buttons. To convey to a client that we are actually collaborating by talking out the ideas in their heads gives a “team” aspect to my shoots and I love that. Meeting in person if they are local is an absolute MUST in my book – so much is gained from one’s perspective on their photographic needs from their attitudes, body language, and questions they ask in person as opposed to emails and phone calls.
5. Describe your ideal day in New Orleans.
My ideal day in New Orleans goes like this: My day would start about thirty minutes before sunrise. I would wake up that early to be able to catch the sun rising above the horizon and watch it warm the homes of the city. (some of the best backgrounds!) If there’s a nice fog rolling off the lake in City Park, I will be there. Breakfast would be at Satsuma Uptown, Ethiopian bean coffee at Coast Roast in St. Roch Market. During the day I’d probably work on some client work, editing, location scouting etc. You did say “ideal day” and it feels so good to get some edits off the docket! One hour before the sunset, I would get ready to shoot again – not sure where, maybe in St. Bernard Parish.
6.What are some of your go-to spots in NOLA to photograph?
I have been photographing the same tree at the Chalmette Battlefield for about 5 months every week at sunrise. It’s a fun meditation on being the rockinstead of the stream.I really don’t have any favorite places. Instead, I have favorite “times” so I really always have to have a camera. I like to photograph times of day as they interact with the city, then come back to photograph them with a client, a band, or embellish and toy with some wild ideas.
7. What sets New Orleans apart from other places you’ve lived?
I have not stopped creating unique works of art since I moved here. Since 2000 I have continued to peel back more and more layers of the story that is this City of New Orleans, and I continue to be inspired. I’ve never known or lived anywhere that just kept on giving like this.
I hope you enjoyed my insights on why I love photographing in and with New Orleans. This city is real, it has a pulse and if you take care of her, she takes care of you. Take care, and I hope you check out Borrowed & Blue, a great way to find your next New Orleans wedding photographer – Zack
I can’t say enough about the New Orleans Photo Alliance. I have been a member since Day 1 and I recommend you all do the same if you: love New Orleans, photography, and community. About an hour before sunrise this past Sunday I was sitting in my home studio checking out locations on the computer and rolled out maps of the Lake Borne area. I was not alone. Huddled around hot coffee and Gerald’s Donuts were a small group of Large Format Film photographers, organized through the Alliance by photographer and current President, Thom Bennett. This group has been meeting periodically around New Orleans and this weekend had asked me to take them to some places around St. Bernard Parish. I gratefully accepted. I too this opportunity to make some new contacts down in Hopedale and Shell Beach (more on that story later…) and take a trip to scout some areas suitable for 5 or 6 cars to pull over and assemble gear.
Getting together with this group was a wonderful exercise in getting out the film gear and having an experience. We all got to see places in Louisiana we had never been before, got to experience it as a collective while not only talking about – photographing it in a classic sense. Photography is about telling stories, connecting, and creating community…and that’s just what we did
Tripods are undoubtedly important and are used in every type of photography, no matter if it is professional photography, or photographing scenery. If you’ve never used a tripod before, it may be a great thing to start doing. Many photographers don’t realize the benefits of a tripod and choose to shoot in hand. Here are some of the reasons tripods are important to nailing your shot:
1. Tripods help composition and horizon lines. When you compose a scene while shooting in hand, you compromise your shot each time you lower your camera to give direction or realign your subject. To avoid that, you can use a tripod so you can just step away from the camera and come back to the same frame you started with.
2. Tripods keep your camera shot straight. How frustrating is it when you line up a shot, but a slight movement of the wind or your hand causes you to shift you shot. You come out with a photo that is either blurry from motion, or one that is crooked. Sure, you can fix that in editing, but cropping your image almost always results in losing other parts of your shot. Instead, try using a tripod to keep your angle straight on.
3. Tripods reduce motion blur and vibration. This is a strange comparison, but it works just the same. Snippers often hold their breath when taking a shot because even the slightest motion can change where their shot lands. This is similar with cameras, only slight movement can compromise your shot’s clarity. Image stabilizing with tripods is commonplace in the world of photography. It is always better to use a tripod than to return to edit your image to find one or more blurry spots on your shot, making them unusable.
4. Tripods are great for time lapse photography. Are you looking to take a photo of an apple rotting, or maybe a flower blooming. Using an untouched tripod is great for this. If you don’t use this, lining up your shot exactly the same will be impossible.
5. Tripods are perfect for getting angles you can’t otherwise reach naturally. With the aid of a shutter release button, you can use a tripod to get a perspective that can’t normally get. This includes shooting subjects from a height taller than yourself, or macro photography where you can position your camera almost on ground level.
Not all tripods are created equally so how do you find the tripod that is best for you?
Besides getting to handle every tripod known to man, it’s hard to get a grasp on how tripods work and how you can integrate them into your photography. I hope I can shed a little light on the subject by giving you some reasons why you absolutely need a tripod, then share some insight on which ones I like the best.
Why Do I Need a Tripod for Photography?
New Olreans’ French Quarter after a rain, there’s nothing like it!
That’s more like it….read why below!
I probably don’t need to tell you which image above I used a tripod on? You guess it, NOT the image on the left! If you are moving quickly and grabbing shots as you go, you may not be concerned with your composition as much as you are the content. But keep in mind, the more you have to correct your crooked horizon later in post, the more you will lose valuable resolution and “flow” in your image! Take your time and value every detail of your composition so that you are not ‘fixing’ it later!
Tripods Help Composition and Horizon Lines
I know they are bulky, get in the way, and are heavy, but tripods when used properly can help you lock down your composition and let you take it all in. Each time you compose an image without a tripod, you are changing your composition every so slightly when you Review and Playback your image. Why change every shot when you can lock down the background and direct your action?!
Tripods Help Reduce Vibration of your Camera
Tripods are great at helping me keep my camera shake down when shooting slow shutter speeds or very small apertures (f16 on up). It is important to know when we are shooting long exposure night photography we need to lock our backgrounds down so that there is no movement. Doing this allows there to be a fixed point of focus for the viewer, and a reliable background for our “subject” to move around. We will learn alot about how to integrate our tripods into the action in my upcoming “How to Photograph Fireworks” Photography Workshop!
Bogen 3001N legs + head..but get the MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO it’s much better!
a weathered Bogen #3047 w/ quick plate. This one’s for my large format 4×5 Cambo
Keep in mind each head comes with it’s own proprietary quick release plate that attaches to the camera so you can easily snap off the camera and snap it back on. As you can see, there are many different tripod heads to choose from…and this isn’t the half of it! I like these “knob” style heads so that it is easy to adjust without having to look at the head. The 410 Junior is my favorite for making fine tune adjustments to a composition. You only need to spin those knobs ever so slightly and the tripod head begins to pivot, tilt, or pan your camera. This head is great for macro photography as well as landscape photography and any time your subject is not moving. The Manfrotto 804-RC2 and the 3047 are very similar (and I am sure have updated models available) in that each has a quick release plate and large grip handles to pivot, tilt, or pan your camera. I like these models when my subject is moving (portraits) and where I land w/ the composition is not as important as macro or landscape.
THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO BUYING A TRIPOD
Tripods hold a lot of importance to photographer, but sometimes it can be hard to understand how it works and how to include them in your creative process.
The tripod dates back hundreds of years and has been used for cooking vessels, altars, ornaments, and decorative ceramic pottery. Because of the difficulty of choosing and using a tripod, this near-ancient creation is sometimes scarcely used by some photographers.
In this complete guide on how to buy a tripod, you will learn why a tripod is important to include in your photographer’s arsenal, the parts of a tripod and what each one does, and some of the best tripods available and where to buy them. While this guide specifically addresses tripods for DSLR cameras, a lot of this information can be used to find tripods for whatever type of camera you have or are looking to purchase.
PARTS AND FUNCTIONS OF A TRIPOD
Just like people, tripods have parts from their heads to their toes. Here is a list of the top to bottom parts of a tripod and what each of those parts do:
1. Head: This is the piece of the tripod that your camera directly rests on. In most cases, this part comes with a removable plate. You would remove the plate, screw it onto your camera, and then return it to the rest of the head. There are two main types of heads: the ball head and the three-way head. The ball head uses a ball assembly that comes with a button that allows users to quickly lock or release the head. The three-way head allows for more movement and gives you the option to control and level the camera.
Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear Head. I used this for table top macro and my bayou scenes.
Manfrotto 804-RC2 – my workhorse, been with me for many years!
2. Center column and twist lock: Pretty much every tripod has these. The center column generally includes an attachment that connects the three legs of the tripod. The center column twist lock locks the center column in place to keep the tripod nice and balanced. Many center columns also have a leveler built in so you can be sure that your camera is as level as possible before you go to shoot your scene or subject.
These were similar legs to my first tripod..I’ll NEVER get this kind again!
3. Legs: This is the part that puts the tri in tripod. Tripods have three legs that are height adjustable, allowing you to set your camera up to your custom height. Leg locks help with this as well, locking your tripod’s legs in the place you want them. Many tripods now have features that allow them to fold the legs to convert the tripod to a monopod which can be useful to photograph things you don’t necessarily need stability for.
...get legs and know how to use them!
The most frustrating thing about learning my tripod was getting used to the release mechanism on the legs. All tripods have legs that release to shorten, or lengthen each leg. When I given my first tripod I was reluctant to use it just because the legs were so hard to release…it was those “spin and tighten” kind…
I soon found out there were more ways to let your legs down. I found out there were many ways to spin, click, and flip my way to longer legs and locked down shots. Being drawn into the world of Manfrotto, (check out their great FB page!) I was blown away by how many choices they have for locking your next award winning composition down. You can spend some serious money (worth it) on a Carbon Fiber Tripod or save some dough on a more beginner model that is a bit heavier and not as indestructible. Either way…with a tripod you are on your way to being a better photographer. I would highly recommend getting the best on your first go-round – go for the Carbon Fiber and match it with the right head for what you do. You want solid excellence in stability under your camera.
Im a big fan of the “quick power lock”
Knobs that spin….
Love that simplicity….
4. Feet: If you’ve ever had the foot of your tripod brake off, you know how essential the feet are. Your tripod’s feet keep it stable and level. The feet of a tripod can sometimes be converted into spikes that can stick into the ground.
TRIPODS ON THE MARKET
Now that you know the parts of the tripod, you are probably wondering what tripods are on the market. Be sure to figure out what you want in your tripod and what you are using it for. To give you a starting point, you can check out some highly-rated tripods available for purchase on out on the internet. I have listed a few of my favorite!
1. BONFOTO Aluminum Camera Tripod: This compact and sturdy tripod comes with a ball head assembly and is perfect for travelers who need to pack up the camera a lot. Available for about $68 on Amazon, the tripod comes with a carrying bag, an Allen key, a head bag, and a backup quick release plate.
2. Vanguard VEP Aluminum Travel Tripod: This tripod is great for balance with its strong stainless-steel flip leg logs and adjustable tension technology. For around $120, this tripod includes feet that can be converted from rubber to spikes to keep it firmly rooted in your scene’s rough terrain.
3. MeFOTO Classic Carbon Fiber Globetrotter Travel Tripod: On the pricier end, this tripod costs more than $340. What makes this unique is the 360-degree panning features. In addition, the tripod legs can be folded to make it small enough to carry just anywhere. The price includes a carrying case and a five-year warranty.
4. Vanguard Alta Pro: This tripod costs about $170 and includes magnesium die-cast canopy, non-slip, spiked rubber feet, removable hook for camera accessories, and quick-flip leg locks. This comes with a carrying case and has a max height of 70 inches.
Many purchasers commented that this tripod is great for studio work, or for those who don’t travel often as it is substantially heavier than most traveling tripods.
5. Albott DSLR Portable Tripod: For about $45, you can have this tripod along with a carry handle, foam grips, and a center column hook for hanging additional accessories to add weight to the tripod. The tripod also converts to a 5-section monopod.
So, no matter if you’re looking for a tripod to take with you on trips around the world, or just looking for an additional tripod for your studio work, I hope this guide has helped you. Just as a helpful tip: be sure to read the reviews posted by fellow photographers. Odds are, if they weren’t happy with the tripod, you won’t be either. Don’t be afraid to look in store as well, and consult blogs by photographers who have tested out these tripods.
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