Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Gregory Heisler Whiteboards Giuliani Time Cover

Any time Gregory Heisler gives one of his iconic photos the BTS treatment we pretty much pre-empt the regular programming and turn the joint over to him. And his photo of NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani for the 2001 Time Magazine Person of the Year cover certainly qualifies.

I love this photo, and actually carry it around on my iPhone in my inspiration folder.

Before you make the jump to the very cool video inside, take a moment to reverse what he did with the lighting. And more important, why he did what he did...
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I love how the environment drives the lighting in this photo. Every full-strength light comes from below, because that is where the ambient is coming from. Every full-strength light (key or otherwise) is green, because that's what color the lights in the buildings were at dusk.

It is only the fill that is soft and comes from up top, and that light gets a warming gel. So there is not a single white light in the bunch, and only the fill is coming from a traditional key light position.

I love the way he deals with problems -- most notably, whether or not his subject will stand on the edge of a skyscraper. He mentioned in the video that it started to rain, but what he didn't say was that he only got off a few frames before it was all over. (I wanna say four, but it has been a long time since I heard him talk about this one and I cannot remember for sure.)

How's that for a pucker factor? Especially with no digital screen on the back of his 8x10.

And speaking of 8x10, there are some unmentioned camera movements involved, too. Check the focus on the Empire State Building as opposed to the background buildings on the right.

Major props to the folks at Profoto USA for doing this series. we'll gladly sit through your soft sell in exchange for this kind of info. Pass the popcorn and keep 'em coming.
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Related:

:: Heisler's Site ::
:: Heisler Whiteboards Bruce Springsteen ::
:: Profoto USA ::


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44 Comments:

Blogger Debbi_in_California said...

Great Post and share!

David the Prophoto D1's are on sale now at Midwest. Could you please to a post soon about your Profotos, what you like and what you don't before their sale ends? Last time you bought yours and most of us didn't know about their anniversary sale. Then post about your purchase after it was over. Uncool!
Love ya anyway!
Debbi

September 01, 2010 2:48 PM  
Blogger David said...

Hey, Debbi-

I do not use D1's -- I use Profoto Acutes. But I have been *very* happy with the quality of the light, which is the main reason I bought them.

I do not write about them too much, 'cause I usually get yelled at for using big lights when I do.

;)

September 01, 2010 2:59 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

Wow, talk about motivated lighting. It's this level of consideration for lighting that keeps me inspired.

Thanks for sharing David.

-Nicholas

September 01, 2010 3:02 PM  
Blogger TheKingInYellow said...

I don't think I noticed this photo when it was taken, but I wasn't interested in photography then either. Thank you for posting it, I'm amazed at the quality of the shot and impressed by the lighting!

September 01, 2010 3:44 PM  
Blogger John Parli Photography said...

Yet again, another was a great post. Always neat to see how others do it.
I thought it was all super imposed. Keep up the good work!

-John

September 01, 2010 5:25 PM  
Blogger Samuel said...

it would be nice to see a large version of the photo, so as to guess the lighting. I found this

September 01, 2010 5:33 PM  
Blogger shawnpix said...

That is an awesome photo. For me, I pretty much got it 100% (aside from knowing what type of light mods he used). Thanks for that link. It was a great video!

September 01, 2010 7:04 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

I find the profoto pieces informative and the soft sell really doesn't seem to be at all. If the photographer used those lights, then I feel he's only telling us how and what he used to accomplish the task and that's a big part of the learning process too.

Thanks for the re-post!

September 01, 2010 7:48 PM  
Blogger johnf said...

I know nothing about 8x10 cameras. Care to expand on how he made some but not all of the buildings blur in-camera ?

September 01, 2010 8:04 PM  
Blogger Tom Legrady said...

Love everything I've seen from Gregory Heisler. His 'whiteboards' are fascinating. I just wish he did workshops :-)

September 01, 2010 10:15 PM  
OpenID Cameron said...

Johnf-
view cameras (8x10, 4x5) have a front standard that holds the lens, a rear standard that takes film holders and a bellows between. The front standard can swing and/or tilt to change the plane of focus (doing so on the rear changes perspective). In this case, the lens was swung so the plane of focus is along a line drawn from the subject to the Empire State Building. Depth of field moves out from that line, which is why the buildings on the right side of the photo are so out of focus.
Hope that helps!
Cameron
http://www.carothersphoto.com

September 02, 2010 1:38 AM  
Blogger Nakean said...

I too am dying know the technique used for focus on both him and single building. Post process? Everything seems to have been before going through the lens.

September 02, 2010 2:25 AM  
Blogger mhk said...

Did he use a tilt lens to achieve the partial blurred background? Seems pretty gradient from sharp to out of focus.

September 02, 2010 2:25 AM  
Blogger Desmond said...

Hey Dave great post. By the way I was wondering when you were going to start talking about big lights. Ie profoto bees etc.. I thought that was the direction we were gonna also start to explore. Bring em on. I would also love to know if you kept the e640's and put them to anyuse. small strobes are great but variety and the ability to evole change and grow your equipment is the real spice of life. so put on your ear plugs and lets see some big light post. I know out of 25000+ readers I'm not all alone

September 02, 2010 3:46 AM  
Blogger Desmond said...

Hey Dave great post. By the way I was wondering when you were going to start talking about big lights. Ie profoto bees etc.. I thought that was the direction we were gonna also start to explore. Bring em on. I would also love to know if you kept the e640's and put them to anyuse. small strobes are great but variety and the ability to evole change and grow your equipment is the real spice of life. so put on your ear plugs and lets see some big light post. I know out of 25000+ readers I'm not all alone

September 02, 2010 3:47 AM  
Blogger David Rossberg said...

johnf; He's using a large format bellows camera, with which he can shift the focus by moving the lens in relation to the recording media. You can achieve the same effect with a tilt/shift lens, or to a lesser degree, with a lensbaby lens. The effect can also be somewhat replicated in photoshop but not to a degree where it could replace the tilt/shift lenses.

September 02, 2010 5:58 AM  
Blogger Chip said...

@johnf

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_camera

Basically, the lens plane and film plane are moveable in at least 2, and often 3 axes. For this photograph he in all likelihood applied a swing to the lens axis that caused the buildings on the right side of the image to go out of focus.

September 02, 2010 8:47 AM  
Blogger Chip said...

@johnf

See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_camera

Basically, the lens plane and film plane are moveable in at least 2, and often 3 axes. For this photograph he in all likelihood applied a swing to the lens axis that caused the buildings on the right side of the image to go out of focus.

September 02, 2010 8:48 AM  
Blogger Tony Hall said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome!
Is it just me, but I'd love to know what Heisler's 'Plan B' was if Guiliani wouldn't stand on the parapet:
- Stand on the slightly lower platform in front of the parapet?
- Shoot from a preconceived secondary location?
- Cancel entire shoot and go back to the drawing board?
What I'd give to have a week to plan, prep and shoot an assignment!

Cheers,
Tony

September 02, 2010 9:07 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Brilliant Dave. Thanks for that.
The emotional intensity of that photo at that time said it all.
Thank you Gregory for letting us into your world, even if just for a few minutes.

September 02, 2010 9:56 AM  
Blogger Ted Sabarese said...

What's really amazing about this shot also is the amount of prep and thought that went into it (even though gregory doesn't really get into that). Having strobes 2 stories below? Kudos.

Don't think I would have guessed that one correctly :)
GuessTheLighting.com

September 02, 2010 12:26 PM  
Blogger Strobist Girl said...

LOL - I am SO glad to know that you have an inspiration file :D I just did a shoot that was inspired by your cellist images with a young 13 year old cellist. I thought I was the only one who downloaded images to my iphone.

September 02, 2010 1:19 PM  
Blogger Brian Carey said...

Great to see the work necessary to bring this over the top!

September 02, 2010 1:39 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Wish more people would see this and try to incorporate it into their work. Good light is light that MAKES SENSE, not light that is just 'cool' or a softbox throwing light down onto a model. It's gotta make sense in context, and the biggest issue I have is people just blasting light on their subject in the middle of the field. I struggle with this too, but I'm working at it - and it's what separates the masters from the hacks.

September 02, 2010 1:47 PM  
Blogger Barak said...

Dave, totally off topic, but I wonder if you have any thoughts on the Paul C. Buff Cyber Commander.

http://www.alienbees.com/cc.html

Thanks,

September 02, 2010 6:13 PM  
Blogger Ranger 9 said...

Wow, 2001 seems like such a long time ago... if some mag had wanted to do this image today, I'll bet they would have grabbed a skyline shot off Flickr, had the photog shoot a model in a suit in front of a green screen, gotten the subject's publicist to email over a JPEG headshot, and then spent about 10 Photoshop minutes compositing it all together. And it would have looked good enough to sell mags, but it wouldn't have been iconic. Nice to see the high road taken (no pun intended!)

September 02, 2010 7:58 PM  
Blogger tagecho said...

I like this photo awesome but looks like the photo is dark.

September 02, 2010 11:34 PM  
Blogger fonsico said...

thanks. this is exactly what i like about your site. the details behind it!

September 03, 2010 2:30 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

Saw this before/after example of the shot by retoucher Leo Chapman - so maybe there was some post done on the bg (as opposed to view camera movements).

September 03, 2010 7:18 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

"I like this photo awesome but looks like the photo is dark."

I think that's the exposure he was going for ... since it was night time and all.

September 03, 2010 12:35 PM  
OpenID chandlertracey said...

Interesting notes that you make about the lighting in this photograph. Makes a lot of sense now. Thanks

September 03, 2010 2:28 PM  
Blogger eric said...

Not to keen on the green rim, looks to much like bounce from a chroma green background imho

Still great series, hadn't hoticed them before. Thanks for sharing.

... Like you mentioned, would be pretty scary shooting this kind of time/environment sensitive thing large format.

September 03, 2010 7:37 PM  
Blogger John said...

The TIME cover photo was indeed awesome. It is also a tribute to seeing, composing and planning.

But, there's always a But. It's also a tribute to celebrity and resources. How many of the working photographers have a week to scout out a site, the time/money/equipment to prepare for difficulties and a subject willing to do what you ask. While I find this type of photo informative, I also find it out of reach of the VAST majority of us working in editorial.

While inspirational, it might have been more informative explaining how the concept was presented to the photographer, how he decided the image, then just its execution. That would be more informative.

September 04, 2010 1:21 PM  
Blogger David said...

@John-

Wow.

Given your mindset, I don't think you ever have to worry about getting that kind of an opportunity. So it is probably a moot point.

September 04, 2010 6:44 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

September 05, 2010 9:41 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Thanks for pointing this image out Dave. The image from just last week's Time cover was also pretty awesome. It was a portrait of writer Jonathan Franzen by Dan Winters. Winters did a great job highlighting (literally) the subject's emotional state by a combo of snooting and diffusing. The result was a superbly subtle portrait that might've been a standard cross-lit, HDR'ed image in any lesser photog's hands. I'm learning to appreciate lighting from this blog and also just appreciating the art of other photographers more and more. Thanks!

September 05, 2010 9:48 PM  
Blogger Balakumar said...

First off, this is a fine post and thanks for sharing it.
Please pardon me if I'm being silly with this question. Or probably such questions have been covered before. David, could you kindly throw your thoughts on the downsides if the same image was to be created with photoshop composite (i.e. subject shot in studio with very similar lighting + background shot separately) ?

September 06, 2010 7:04 AM  
Blogger Michael Plaxico said...

As always, thanks for taking the time to post this, David.

Gregory Heisler is awesome. Gotta get him to lose the bow tie, though. ;D

September 06, 2010 1:05 PM  
Blogger Tom Meyer said...

Like the Derek Jeeter portrait of Heisler's you posted a while ago, I am struck by his ability to hide complicated lighting in an ambient setting, yet amplify all that's cool about a good location. It stands as an elegant and classic counterpoint to the modern tendency to light a portrait with a setup that is totally nonsensical. Every decision he makes regarding lighting works toward making his presence and contributions almost invisible. He is among the rare (and great) portrait photographers who treat their subject as the most important person in the photographic process, and keep their own ego in check and out of the image. Thanks again, David... t

September 06, 2010 9:14 PM  
Blogger kenrchoat said...

Thought you might be interested in this BTS with Andrew Zuckerman for his "Birds" project...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eI8AnndGmQ0&feature=player_embedded

September 07, 2010 10:00 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

One of these days I aspire to be an amateur photographer (just a disclosure to let y'all know where I'm coming from)...

Seemed to me that the lighting from the rear/below was a little hot, but I can't say that I minded. Seemed to underscore the fact that it was nothing but city lights making the image.

Before watching the video, I kept envisioning some lights, aimed upwards, mounted on horizontal poles extending from a window down below Rudy. Nice to know there was a ledge, and that he didn't have ~60 floors of nada below him ;)

Good video! Tell Gregory to keep up the good work, and definitely keep the tie ;)

TIM

September 07, 2010 4:53 PM  
Blogger Harry Haller said...

Spot the error:

"Gregory Heisler Whiteboards Guiliani Time Cover"

GUILIANI? I understand it's a foreign name, but it's one name that has become fairly famous in the last twenty years...

September 08, 2010 7:43 AM  
Blogger David said...

Ouch. When I screw up, I do it big, huh?

Many thanks.

September 08, 2010 9:36 AM  
Blogger Jeannemarie said...

amazing image. and yes, Greg Heisler captures all that he says. Rudy was our pillar of strength that day!

September 08, 2010 1:25 PM  

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