CEO's can be fun, patient and satisfying to shoot. Sometimes.

This is Yeurgin Bertels. When I took this photograph he was the CEO of the Westin Hotels and Resorts. We did the image for Private Clubs Magazine which is a very nicely produced publication that goes out to American Express Platinum cardholders.

At the time the Westin people were about to break ground on a resort on the west side of San Antonio. They wanted a piece of the business that the Hyatt was getting with their Hyatt Hill Country Resort. Afterall, both properties were only a stone's throw from Fiesta Texas and Sea World.

But when you are just breaking ground you really don't have a unique venue in which to shoot. So I guess it just makes sense to stay in the closest nice hotel you can find. Which for our purposes was the Hyatt. After I checked in I walked through the whole property looking for somewhere good to shoot a portait of their biggest competitor's CEO.

Of all the nooks and crannies and golf course and winding river pools I thought this generic ballroom had the most promise. My next task was to meet with the GM of the property and get his permission to shoot. I couldn't tell him who was being profiled but I could name drop the magazine and that was enough to grease the wheels of progress.

Unlike many of my peers I don't always see an assistant as a necessary or even positive accessory on many photo shoots. I mean, we were doing one portrait in one location with hours of time open for set up. And I like that one on one rapport I can get in a private conversation instead of the overblown "team" approach. Call me an extroverted loner. Whatever. The fewer people involved the easier some projects become. At least there's no one there to second guess me.....

I set up on big soft light and a passive reflector to the opposite side. I like dark shadows so I move the reflector way, way out to the side. I took a Polaroid and decided that the room would be perfect at a certain exposure but the ambient was too high on the subject. I put a black panel over his head and another one right behind the camera. I am a big believer in subtractive lighting. And I love to drop the existing light on my subject so I can provide light with direction and character instead of trying to mix unwelcome extremes.

When I thought everything was perfect I pulled the darkslide on the Polaroid back and had a passing bus boy release the shutter while I stood in. A few minutes later Mr. Bertels walked up and introduced himself. This was a time when a CEO from a multi national could actually walk alone to a photo shoot, unencumbered by entourage.

We chatted for a few minutes. I showed him the Polaroid and he loved the idea and the composition. (Later the Westin bought a rights package for two years of international usage).
We shot three quick, twelve exposure rolls, shook hands and went our separate ways.

I've always liked this photo but I think it's because I have a hard time separating the pranksterism of shooting the CEO of one's rival in the rival's own house. I do like his smile as well.


  1. THIS shot I really like. Although the bokeh is a pretty odd shape.

  2. I love the way out of focus background, and the story of shooting a top executive in a competitors home court. How sneaky you must of felt. Great job as always.

  3. This photo is very nice...but the sneaky way you went about it makes me have that same smile on my face as Mr. Bertels. Great job!

  4. I like the back story here. Mr. Bertels' smile seems to be saying "I know this is kind of funny, but I love it" about having his portrait taken in his competitor's home court.


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