It is June 15th, 1999. The box office is being dominated by the release of the first new Star Wars in 16 years, even though it is tainted by one Jar Jar Binks. Until this day, photography was largely dominated by a technology that had existed for over a hundred years. It was a technology pioneered by George Eastman in his invention called, the Kodak. Over the many years from 1885 onward, it became known to the photographic community and to the world as “film.”
With the release of Nikon’s new mirrorless camera and the impending release of Canon’s competitor, we are seeing the future of photography as we know it. However, in the response of some we are also seeing the demise of the community as a whole. Where passion and creativity once dominated the perceived agility of a camera, now spec sheets and internet comment sections threaten to destroy the art as we know it. People have started refusing the words of true artists and now mindlessly worship the words of talking heads that make edgy YouTube videos.
As a community and as a family, we can do better.
A few days ago, I awoke to a text message from a friend who lives halfway around the world telling me that he had unexpectedly seen one of my images on a Fox News story. The image was from a photoshoot that I had done of Richard “Old Man” Harrison from the television show Pawn Stars which airs on the History Channel. However, after looking it up and seeing what photo he was talking about, I was surprised. The photo I was met with wasn’t even one I remembered taking.
The soul of an image is not always visible in what the viewer sees, but lives in what the photographer experienced.Uneducated eyes are often all too quick to criticize a black and white image by Henri Cartier-Bresson, without taking into account what he had to create with, and the cutting edge that his work represented in the early 1900’s. In a way, the arts have led technology and often the two support one another in modernization. For me, the realization of this has grown stronger when I began using the new Surface Pro from Microsoft.
I’m going to break with tradition a bit, for I usually am not one to talk about celebrities that I keep in touch with from photoshoots. Some of this comes out of professional courtesy, and another part of it is that I am a bit of a private person However, a current project and fun day in the studio has made for some new images and behind the scenes video that I think you will all enjoy. So with that, allow me to talk about the shenanigans that take place when I share the studio with my photographer friend (that plays football), Larry Fitzgerald.
I was sitting in my dorm room at Arizona State University. To my left I had my Xbox on (as it was pretty much 24/7) with some racing game on pause. In front of me I had my future, for I was entering a photography competitionthat I believed would make me famous and rich beyond my wildest dreams. To this day, I can’t remember if I won any prize in that specific competition, but I remember that was the genesis of the idea that photo competitions were how you become successful in this career.
As I grew in my career, I paid less attention to trying to win competitions and focused more on learning my craft and developing a style that would serve my clients well. In the same way that I worried schooling for photography would train my eye to be generic, I worried that results (be it good or bad) in a photography competition would jade the direction of my style. So for that, and many other reasons, I decided to save the money that I would spend entering them and put it towards camera gear.
There is a progression that takes place in the journey that is our lighting knowledge. At first it is learning the ways of ambient light (read: I don’t want to buy a flash). As our career progresses we decide to buy our first flash and throw that sucker straight on the camera, only to question why the shadows on faces are gone… along with the artistic merit. Soon after that we discover a site like Strobist and point the flash at the ceiling and realize our first “Eureka” moment as a photographer. From there we buy our first off camera strobes and it is all downhill…
A career in commercial photography is a progression in learning. One that wains when complacency creeps in and thrives when pursuit of knowledge lives at its heart. Having a broad mind in both approach and equipment is the key to clearing your mind to be creative. Ironically, passion for technology and a yearning for nostalgia also contribute to the motivation to discover a new way to see the world around us. I have been through many technological breakthroughs in my short career, and some merit a milestone while others come off as gimmicks, only to be forgotten with the next camera release.
For anybody who’s seen the legendary movie Top Gun, there’s one scene often sticks out in the mind. In it, a fictional MiG-28 is cruising through the air. Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Goose (Anthony Edwards) fly above it, inverted, in an F-14 Tomcat. Goose then proceeds to photograph the pilot of the MiG with a polaroid camera.
Advertising photographer Blair Bunting wanted to try to recreate this. Firstly, to see if it was even possible, and also to see what the shot might have looked like. So, he teamed up with the Patriots Jet Team, as well as fellow photographer filmmakers Jaron Schneider and Toby Harriman of Planet Unicorn Productions. Then, they set to work.
Blair Bunting had all of three days to play around with his new Profoto B1 lights before he set out to photograph that awesome parallax Superbowl commercial for National Bank of Arizona. In case you missed it, you can watch it at the bottom of the post, but first, you can take a look at how he captured the ultra high definition moving photos in the 12-minute long behind the scenes clip he just posted over on Vimeo.
Bunting calls the gorgeous technique parallax, a term he borrowed and explains like this:
“What is parallax? Think of when you were in grade school and you had to do one of those cheesy plays…there is always a part in that play where some kid is on a boat made of a tricycle and cardboard, and they are in the rough ocean. In order to create this imaginary ocean in the elementary school cafeteria, they use whats called parallax. This is where they have on set of blue waves on a stick in front of the kid and one behind. The movement of these waves back and forth creates in your mind the idea of the ocean.”