Penny's Pastries. Getting the feeling right.

We were doing an article for Inc. Magazine when I met Penny. She'd opened a baking business and had been pushed into bankruptcy because a big customer pushed her to grow too quickly and then moved on to a different product from a different supplier.  She learned a lot from the experience and set out to start over. That was the story.  It was a cold and gray day outside and we were still working with film.  Medium format transparency film.  Probably 100 speed Fujichrome by the look of this frame.

I knew I wanted  to light Penny with a big soft light and I knew I needed to light the ovens in the background to give the image a sense of dimensionality and place.  But the biggest thing that was needed was to make some sort of connection with Penny that would make the image genuine.  We talked about baking and food.  We talked about the challenges of business.  Once the lighting was set I didn't monkey with it for the rest of the shoot.  I figured that if there wasn't some sort of rapport all the lighting in world wouldn't make a difference.

We all hit it off.  Penny got a nice profile in the magazine.  We got a bag of great cookies.

It's nice when everyone is on the same page.  Makes me happy to think about it even now.  I guess that's why photography is so cool.

The Goat Man of South Austin

I wrote an earlier blog about the goat man of south Austin but I think the post got lost when I shifted everything to blogger.  So I thought I'd do a quick one.  Back in 2005 the artistic director of Zachary Scott Theater, David Steakley, wrote a play called, Keeping Austin Weird.  The play showcased many of the characters around Austin that make it such a blue spot in such a red state.  Steakley interviewed several hundred people, both famous and not,  over the course of his investigation into the eccentric side of the city.  There was the family that used latex paint to create a giant Twister game in their front yard.  The entire front yard.  There was Gov. Ann Richards and also the lady with the pink pig car.

I shoot the season brochure for the theater each years and we decided, since this would be our "anchor" play, to include the wild personalities as the art in the brochure.  I was given a list of people that the marketing department thought would be most visible.  I was also given a board member who would act as a producer, getting in touch and scheduling our shoots.  We needed to go on location because in most cases the practical location was in some way part of the thing that made these people less ordinary.

I traveled around with a car filled up with lighting gear that ran the gamut from big electronic strobes, powered by inverters and car batteries, to tiny strobes and little florescent lamp tubes.  Some times we used a few lights.  Some times we used them all.

But when I got to the Goat Man's house in South Austin the light was perfect.  No light necessary.  Not even reflector.  Gotta watch yourself.  There is some truth to the idea that "when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail".  Sometimes you have to step back and really assess why you're dragging the gear out of the trunk.  And then you have to have the good sense (or heightened laziness) to leave it all in the car and use the light nature gives you.

The Goat was crazy aggressive but his best friend couldn't have been nicer.  Offered me a cold beer after we finished but there were other interesting people who needed documented so I pushed off.  A hot day and a job well done.

One more thing.  For some reason I decided to shoot this with my old Kodak DCS 760.  I'd bought a Nikon D2x but still preferred the colors and the tonalities of the Kodak.  I still have it in the studio and use it when I want a different look for people.  It's wicked sharp though.  You have to make sure you need sharpness if you go to pick up this camera.  With the AA filter removed it's almost illegally sharp.

If you have the chance to photograph a man and his pet goat you should do it.  It's an interested way to spend an hour on a hot, dusty friday afternoon.  Be sure to follow up with a man who has his own doll garden (fun fact:  All the dolls' eyes light up at night.  When new neighbors move in next door he turns the hundreds of doll heads in the garden to face the new arrival's house!).

Never a dull moment as a photographer.