I borrowed a medium format digital camera but it was really just an excuse to photograph my friends.....

Last year I reviewed three different medium format digital cameras. They all had their strengths and they all had their weaknesses. But I enjoyed the process of reviewing them not because I knew I'd get better images but because it gave me a new excuse to photograph my old friends.

One of the portraits I took was of my friend Paul Bardagjy, who may be the best architectural photographers in North America. Had I proposed pointing a Nikon or Olympus camera at him I'm not sure there would have been enough of a lure to drag him into my studio. But we're all curious about new stuff and I think that did the trick.

Photographers are interesting friends. Most people have boring jobs that are repetitive and linear. Everyone knows what to expect. Everyone knows that they have to be at their desks at a certain time. They know the rules are proscribed and rigid. Unwilling to disrupt their income, most people are loathe to make drama at work so they save it for their personal lives. If you are the friend, spouse or relation of a person with a "real" job you know that they can sometimes go out of their way to introduce the drama missing from their job into their personal lives. Something personal is always flying out of control. Relationships, finances, health or weird hobbies.

Photographers, as a rule, don't do this because our work lives are filled with constant uncertainty and drama. Work that doesn't come. Checks that don't come when the work finally does. Psycho clients and crazed assistants. Weird demands and even weirder plans.

I think that's why I like hanging out with photographers like Paul. They've seen it all before. They've lived through client drama and they've been out on the edge of the business cycle but survived to shoot another day.

Paul is like that. Very few things stump him. He's an artist and a business genius. That's why architects like to have him on their projects. He gets to the root of the project and spins it visually in a manner poetic. And he does it without any drama. That's for people in lesser occupations.

About the photo: Can't remember which big, fat medium format digital camera from 2008. Almost certain that the light was a big flash in a big umbrella aimed through a big diffuser from one side. One light. One subject. One smile. All done.

Friends like that you keep around.

Have you ever experienced a job that left you feeling elated?

I did. It was several years ago. Freescale Semiconductor had just been spun off from Motorola and the people who tend to their garden of marketing content wanted to make the statement that everything good about the corporation was driven by the people who worked there. I was asked to create a light look and a compositional feel to show off their most valuable assets.

One big light from the left of the frame. A small amount of fill from the right. And a soft wash across the background. Once the lights are set I could spend the rest of the two days meeting my subjects. Talking to them about their jobs, their kids, their amazing work and even their favorite cars. Whatever it took to develop some mutual touch points so we could connect and serve this common purpose for just a few minutes.

The next time I walked into the building the posters were everywhere. 24 by 36 inches. Beautiful colors. And warm smiles.

When I looked at the posters I could remember the exact moment of each exposure. I knew it was time to click the shutter because, in that one moment, there was a real connection that I could feel. And I hope my subjects could feel it too because it was genuine.

True feelings that drive a collaboration can't be faked, or contrived. In work like this you really have to live the emotion to create the energy that needs to be part of the process.

I've been thinking about what parameters must exist in order for jobs like this to be so successful and what I've come to understand (after subduing my incredible ego) is that it is the unsung heros of the business that really provide the agar that grows the right culture.

In this case I was lucky to work with two creative heads who understood that it would work best to apply the reins gently. Heather Grant laid out the assignment to me and then stepped back to let me do the work. But I could feel her guidance at every step I took. And I think I felt it because she trusted me and I needed to show her that the trust was not misplaced.

Whatever the reason it is work I'm proud to have been part of. And when I walked away on the final day of the shoot I realized that it's never the talent of the photographer alone but the willing complicity and collaboration of people who are willing to be part of a process instead of needing to ride roughshod over the whole thing.

I'm thankful that those people are out there. And I know that a healthy dose of humility breaks down a lot of barriers........

If you are reading this, thank you!


Fun with outdoor light. Control freak central.

I did some fun outdoor images with Emily a week ago at the lake. Most of the images featured the lake in the background but I wanted to play around with a little spike of sunlight as a hairlight so we turned around 180 degrees and played to the other side. I took a break from my usual Minimalist self and dragged out a Profoto 600b (and a back up unit) to make the shot. When I shoot outside I generally light to put a diffuser up over my model to control the quality of the light. If I want harsh and angular I can add that while keeping my model from squinting.

Beth assisted me and kept a hand on the panel so we didn't have any wind+gravity accidents. I was shooting with my Olympus e30 and the 35-100mm (weight lifting) lens. With the spike of sunlight carefully aligned at the edge of the diffusion panel I added the main light of the image using a 60 inch softlighter2 umbrella with the diffusion cover in place. The light is approximately five and half feet from Emily. She is being a trooper and holding her triathlete bike over her shoulder for way too many exposures. The basic exposure is 1/250th @ f 11, ISO 200.

I like having the option of throwing around a bunch of light outdoors. It's fun. More to come from this light hearted weekend exercise.

Best, Kirk