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Jacqui Daniels in Downtown 505

 

Albuquerque is the city that I have grown up in and it’s a city that has a personality all its own. When you talk to any of the residence of the 505 you’ll hear a lot of things but the most common statement is about how “diverse we are.” While it’s easy to mistake that statement for talking about racial demographics what we they really mean is that we’re diverse so many different things. Culture, Climate, architecture, personalities attitudes the list goes on and on. If I was asked to describe Albuquerque I’d have to tell them you’d just have to go and experience.

My favorite thing about Albuquerque (aside from the food, go get yourself a green chili pepperoni pizza from Dions and you’ll know what I’m talking about.) is all the creative individuals that populate the area. Muralist, Musicians, Hair stylist, Models, Photographers ect. All can be found in the area and they all bring something unique to their craft while at the same time being very identifiable as that Albuquerque style.

The other day Albuquerque was blessed with one of it’s few overcast days that photographers like myself only dream of and I decided to passive aggressively  post that I wanted to shoot and to my surprise got a response from one of my favorite models Jacqui Daniels. Like many of my impromptu shoots, we put together a very loose meeting plan not really having any big ideas and met at her hair stylist, Martino’s shop so we could coordinate from there. Martino was one of those previously mentioned creative individuals who was as much of an artist as he was an entrepreneur bringing in other creative individuals to try and come up with new crazy ideas that stand out from the ordinary. In his studio his brother also does Tattoo work, there was another individual screen printing t-shits of a skeleton Billy the Kid and a Virgin Marry with the Zia Symbol. While I was there they had the off the wall Idea to Screen Print the Virgin Marry they had onto a white tie. Something so simple being done in such a New Mexican way.

Once Jacqui showed up we decided on having her put one of the freshly screen printed shirts and heading around downtown and shoot in front of some of the local street art. at this point a lot of the glorious overcast had burned off and I was left with some challenging lighting but I managed as best I could. We would later move on to City Plaza where I remembered a location that had very stellar lighting. It was almost a tunnel were at the end was spot where windows from a building was reflecting really soft light down which was nothing short of perfect. there was also a wall that had a reflective surface that called for some creative ideas.

Jacqui of course was nothing short of a perfect model always flowing to different looks responding to adjustments and over all just being good at what she does. The best part about working with someone like Jacqui is being able to bounce ideas off her and her openness to try different things as we go along. That openness to different things really helps the process along and over time can lead to incredible results. Like most shoots all the best shots came toward the end of the shoot being that we both figured out what was working and all that fine tuning eventually paid off.

My favorite thing about this shoot was how it started as just spur of the moment lets meet up and shoot kind of thing and it turned into a larger collaborative endeavor and that sort of highlights what I love best about Albuquerque. When people collaborate with one another amazing things happen.

Gotham Girls in Downtown Albuquerque.

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Concepts are not my strong suite, I primarily focus on shooting. My mind is always focused on what my setting are, is my compositions clean where are my highlights and what do I need to change in a given moment. That’s what I like about photography, that feeling of being in the moment and being able to adapt in any situation to get exactly what you want out of a given situation. Lucky enough for me  I get to work with different people who can come up with concepts for me.AJA_0068

While scrolling through my various social interwebs areas I came across a post by Jenna Lay (scene here as Catwoman) asking if anyone would be interested in shooting a Catwoman and Poison Ivy themed shoot with fellow model Taylor Hayes (Poison Ivy). This being particularly up my alley in terms of things I like to shoot I volunteered. Summer was drawing to a close and I’m never one to turn down and opportunity to shoot.

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I offered up a location in Downtown Albuquerque that I had previously shot with Tara (See those Photos here) that gave the perfect mix of urban concrete and green plant life which was perfect for the characters we would be representing. It allowed us to be relatively in the same space while at the same time we could get a variety of different looks without going too far which for costume based photo shoots in public areas is a good thing. The over all shoot took less than an hour and didn’t require much gear. Really it was just my standard body and lens set up and me just keeping and eye on my exposure the whole time.

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The more and more I shoot the more I can see some of my personal style points becoming drastically prevalent. Especially when I shoot models I want my subject to fill the frame. Props and backdrops should be exactly that back drops. Having the subjects as a the main focus makes it easier for the audience know what they’re supposed to be seeing and not getting distracted by something that draws the eye away. Visually I’m trying to get the sharp areas sharp and the areas that don’t matter soft and bokeh-ee. It’s primarily the reason why I’ve gotten away from using the skin softening brush, I’ve fallen in love with getting a rich level of detail in people’s faces and all that the skin softening tool really does is dull out yours images and make them look like those terrifying dolls your sister had as a kid.

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In editing (where the photos come together) I have also come up with a certain style. If anything it amounts to fine tuning of images in lightroom. Adding contrast, pulling shadows, dropping highlights getting exposure balanced out and doing very little to almost no changes to the physical image. I come from a photojournalist background and I refuse to mess with the physical elements of an image. For portraiture I will make some compromises like healing out obvious blemishes and making some changes on request to color especially when wardrobe doesn’t match. But other than that I try to keep the physical space untouched but that’s just me. Some people may not share my same sentiment when it comes to editing and think that’s okay but that’s not what I want to do to my images and I think they are better off that way.

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Girls of Geek at Geekon: Personality in Portraits.

Photojournalism is my passion. It’s photography in its purest form in that you are capturing moments while you yourself are in the moment. Portraiture, which I also enjoy, doesn’t capture a moment. It’s more or less a staged moment for the sake of creating a photograph. This doesn’t make Portraiture a lesser form of photography it just means that instead of capturing a moment you are trying to capture a personality. My most recent outing of shooting with Girls of Geek is a prime example of this.

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The group had invited me out to a morning of shooting on location with a couple other photographers at the headquarters of Geekon; A locally owned company out in Albuquerque that restores and sells classic arcade and pinball machines right out of their garage. When you have a pitch for that kind of location it’s hard to say no, so I packed up my gear and went out to shoot like any sensible photographer would.

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Once again I was working with many different models all of whom I’ve had the luxury of working with before (most of them at the Gotham Shoot). This at least gave me a level of comfort when it came to shooting with the models and being able to communicate with them. The real challanges came when I changed who I was shooting with.

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One thing I really do love about this group of ladies is that they have such a mixed bag of personalities and characters. There is no shortage of the amount of things you can get out of them. However that means that as a photographer I have to shift the way I interact with my subjects as they change out. Some models I would just give a slight direction to and they would adjust immediately (and just about perfectly,) while some needed almost no direction at all (which is the most desirable feature in a model) and others who I worked with to find what was right for them.

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Normally with One-on-One portrait sessions this process is a lot more streamlined because you can work with that individual as long as you need to and eventually you get into a rhythm where the photos practically take themselves. As challenging as this problem may sound, just adjusting your style to fit the model is easy as long as you try to show their personality instead of trying to make them be somebody that they are not.

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More often than not I see people post portraits where their subject almost look like dolls or props just to show off their knowledge of the technical working of photography or their skills in Photoshop. When it comes to Portraiture it’s important to remember that there is a person who is the centerpiece of your photograph and it’s your best interest to give your audience an idea of who your subject is.

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Photography like any other art form is of course subjective. There a million and one decisions that can be made and each one will change the dynamic one way or another and different photographers are going to make different dicisions. Lighting, toning, posing, ect, all go into the process of portraiture and these decisions dictate heavily what your final product will be.

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This shoot had a lot of physical limitations, the big one being space. There was really only so much room that I had to work with in this shoot which really influenced how I shot the whole thing. For starters most of this shoot was done shooting with my 50mm 1.8g. Normally I’d be shooting with my 85mm 1.8g for portraits but the amount of space I had was keeping me from getting the compositions I wanted on the 85mm. The 28mm made some appearances but mostly for group shots.

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Another big challenge was lighting. Being that it was indoors with not a lot in terms of natural lighting, I brought with me my DIY lighting set up that consisted of a 1K florescent light with a soft box and several different clamp lights. Some of the other photographers had their strobe set ups with them. I haven’t gotten a whole lot of experience with strobes but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to look into, however coming from a video background it has made more since to have a continuous lighting set up as opposed to strobes that really only help in photography and not so much in video.

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Once I got into post production I was upset to find that some of the photos didn’t have perfect focus. In portraiture you always aim for the eyes to be in sharp focus and some just weren’t there. Not all was lost but it’s annoying when you lose a great photo to something that many people will nitpick (which I do a lot).

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In post I never really do anything fancy, just some adjustments in lightroom to the contrast, recovering some shadow and highlight detail and correcting some color and clarity. Editing the full take will take me more or less a couple of hours. Being from a journalism background has conditioned me to try and have fast turnaround times when it comes to editing. Some times I will come back for re-edits to bring fresh eyes to the images, but that mostly comes from boredom. You’ll notice that a lot of my photos ended up in black and whites. This decisions usually just comes down to a decision of feel. Some photos just end up looking better in black and white than they do in color. This is more common when as photo was taken in low light and I had to use a high ISO. The noise looks more like classic grain and then you don’t really have to worry about color detail because there is none. But for this photo it just felt right to have them in black and white. Some might find it annoying but they are my photos so sue me.

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If there is anything that can be said about this set of images and the models of Girls of Geek it’s that they have quite a lot of range. As a photographer I love the different things that I can get of my subjects and when it comes to working with this group I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. Here’s to more working with them in the future.

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