DON'T MISS: Italian conceptual portrait photographer Sara Lando is coming to the US to teach in Atlanta (8/16) and Baltimore (8/23). Highly recommended.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Greg Heisler BTS: Bono/Gates for Time



This video marks the last of Profoto's Greg Heisler BTS series.

In today's BTS, Heisler does some pretty cool problem-solving before the fact only to get blind-sided with the bison head on the day of the lightning-paced shoot.

Yeah, I said bison head. No, actually Heisler said that…

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As you know from his previous BTS videos, Heisler is s stickler for detailed pre-prep. But here's some color not included in this video that may add a little perspective.

This was shot in a hotel ballroom in Omaha, as U2 were performing there at the time. Bill and Melinda Gates flew in specifically for the photo. Heisler would have 45 minutes (no pressure there) to shoot a total of SEVEN completely different setups.

(Okay, pressure. Like, a lot.)

So naturally he has this thing pre-planned to the nines (love the tele-tilt-shift solution) and is set to go in the ballroom with seven separate pre-lit mini-studios. As one does.

Pretty cranked already, right? And then the double curve ball of Bono being short and bison-headed. With respect to the bison head, Heisler has commented elsewhere that with Bono in front, it looked like Bill and Melinda were standing in the next room, their heads were so small.

Seriously, can the guy hit a curve or what?




Lighting-wise, this is a typically interesting Heisler setup. The warmed-dish rim light is sort of the key, the soft box in the normal key position is almost more of a fill and the bottom strip light is doing a lot of the heavy lifting on their faces.

It's centered on Bono's face, and creates completely different looks between Bill and Melinda Gates because of their locations relative to the light. The overall effect is both unusual and heroic.
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I hope you guys have enjoyed the Heisler video series. Big ups to Profoto for producing them. And if you are in the US and have not entered to win the double D1 monobloc location kit, time is running out.

And lastly, a scheduling note. I will be away from reliable internet (even mobile phones) for a couple of days. So please excuse the slow comment moderation. Thanks, DH.






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31 Comments:

Blogger Shai Ben-Naphtali said...

Thanks for sharing :)

April 13, 2013 1:12 PM  
Blogger Shai Ben-Naphtali said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 13, 2013 1:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear David, I share your admiration for Greg Heisler's work and his terrific resourcefulness. But this is one case in which I think that there is a certain kind of knee-jerk it's-Heisler-so-it-must-be-great mechanism at work. I admire the inventiveness of his technique, but not the result. Bono looks angry, Melissa Gates looks rather sour, especially in comparison to the genially-smiling Bill Gates, whose face is so shaded compared to the other two faces. And the light on their faces looks splotchy, patchy, very artificial. The over-all effect seems peculiarly inapt for the notion of philanthropy. Not every great worker produces great work all the time; badges and prizes guarantee nothing; and we always need to actually look at what we're seeing and see it for what it is in itself. I wonder if others are seeing what I'm seeing and feeling what I'm feeling in this case, after looking closely.

April 13, 2013 1:19 PM  
Blogger Jan Fredrik Leversund said...

Im scratching my head as to what kind of teleconverter makes a 90mm lens "like having a 180 tilt shift". Any idea what he's talking about?

April 13, 2013 1:33 PM  
Blogger perfectblog said...

Jan Fredrik Leversund - 90 mm tilt/shift with 2x teleconverter?

April 13, 2013 1:46 PM  
Blogger Gary Dates said...

You can certainly dislike the photo, but I wouldn't venture into assuming David was blinded by Heisler's light (haha get it?). Both Gregory's and David's contributions to photography would put them above that sort of thing IMHO. But, sure, you can dislike the photo! :)

April 13, 2013 1:54 PM  
Blogger shuttereye said...

I like the image except for Melissa the shadow from her hair is very distracting to me and she also appears to be thrown in as an after thought (even though I know she wasn't) Bill and Bono are both proportioned about the same with part of both their bodies being visible then Melissas head seems to be peaking over Bonos shoulder.

April 13, 2013 2:27 PM  
Blogger David Hobby said...

@unknown -

I dunno. Maybe there are advantages to having made a name for yourself.

#irony

April 13, 2013 4:27 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm sorry, David, but much as I am grateful for your work, your "ironic" response is no response at all, except insofar as it proves my point. No person who has done great work does great work each time out. And no one gets a pass because they have a high average or a distinguished title. We have to use our own judgment – no passes, no vacations. Otherwise, we will be blinded by badges, confusing past glory with present mistakes, righteous actions with self-serving ploys. The kind of attitude you so glibly express is just what blinds people to cardinals hiding child abuse and presidents authorizing secret torture cells in foreign countries. No title or past awared – not Pope or President or Pultizer – guarantees anything. Is Heisler a terrific editorial protraitist? Yes. Is the lighting in this photo another triumph? No. It just so happens that in this case, while you're pulling the kind of move that William Buckley used to rely on to avoid dealing with a trenchant point, you're only talking about a cover photo of laudable celebs. - L. Russ

April 13, 2013 6:57 PM  
Blogger Matthew said...

I went to Heisler's seminar at the PDN PhotoPlus expo this year, and it was amazing; he's such a great speaker, and lighting seems like second nature to him, while still being really creative.

April 13, 2013 10:10 PM  
Blogger Edward Carlile Photography said...

I always enjoy listening to Mr.Heisler break down his images. Considering the brief on this one he did well enough though I have to say I really dislike the position of Melinda Gates in this as she seems to be trying to angle herself into the shot at the back and it would really nicely have gone against convention if she had been either first or dead centre of the image. So, due to her head position in this shot I really dislike this image.
Just my two cents.

April 14, 2013 4:17 AM  
Blogger Edward Carlile Photography said...

I have to say that I agree completely with everything the "unknown" poster has said about this particular image.

April 14, 2013 4:42 AM  
Blogger DonatoGreco said...

even if I subscribe with the "not so charming result" people, I do understand the great work behind putting three people in a vertical frame constraint of the Time cover.
Not so easy.
If you don't believe, try to do it... and with impact.

April 14, 2013 6:35 AM  
Blogger C. Kurt Holter said...

Is this arguably a perfect photograph? No.

But, what part of "seven separate setups in 45 minutes" do some of you commenters fail to understand?

I'm not sure there are a ton of photographers on the planet who could have pulled this off remotely as well, given the timetable.

April 14, 2013 6:39 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

Until you've stood in the presence of even one strong character let alone three of them and are shooting something as illustrious as Time Magazine's Person of the Year cover, any problems you have with the pics is pure armchair quarterbacking.

Imagine have days to prepare only to have everything dashed with the arrival of the subject. To remain calm, think of a solution and implement it all the while chatting with these very same strong personalities, with the faint sound of the clock ticking in the back of your mind,... well it takes a certain personality to handle all that. Heisler IS that kind of person.

I saw him speak in Calgary last year for 2 days. If you don't like this particular shot, he has a career full of them, each their own problems that were solved.

April 14, 2013 2:52 PM  
OpenID lawrenceruss said...

Some people seem to insist on missing the point. What my comments are not about: I am not questioning that Gregory Heisler is a terrific photographer, a generous and engaging educator, a remarkably brilliant photographic problem-solver. I am merely looking at a photograph that's been put in front of me. And let me tell you that Heisler would not be the professional that he is if he were not discriminating in looking at photographs, most particularly his own. And as with any true professional, if you praised his work without being able to tell the difference between his glorious triumphs and his disappointing misses, your praise would mean little or nothing to him. I'll never forget my mother's reaction when my father was eating fried chicken that she had literally burned to gray-white ash in her new oven and he told her that it was really good.
Here is what I am looking at: A photograph intended to hold up philanthrophy and three philanthropists for admiration. Yet one of them looks angry, with narrowed eyes, not compassionate or warm. One looks haughty, almost hostile. One looks warm, friendly. And the light on their faces doesn't "match," either. Bill Gates' face is largely shadowed. The light on Melinda Gates' face, on the other hand, seems to break up into distinct patches, with rather harsh highlit areas. I just don't think that it all works well in the end, particularly not in light of its intended theme. That's all. And I just asked people to look at it carefully and tell me what they thought of it. Which is what we should be doing with any and every photograph -- being prepared and unafraid to find that an image by an "unknown" is, in fact, a great work, or that an image by a great photographer is not particularly good.

April 14, 2013 4:59 PM  
Blogger Lewie221 said...

When I first saw the shot, I assumed it was a composite of three separate photographs.

Now that I've seen it at length, it still looks like a composite!

April 14, 2013 7:57 PM  
Blogger Rick McQuinlan said...

Very bold choice of light for Melinda.
Typical feminine lighting would have the light source hit the side of the face that's facing the camera. In this, he's chosen for the light to hit the side of the face that's not facing the camera. He gets off a bit of a 'rembrandt' look with it, but it makes her far more intimidating and masculine than I'd ever shoot a woman, regardless of power and stature.
Spose that's why he's the international pro and I'm the pro-am enthusiast :)

April 14, 2013 8:52 PM  
Blogger jlmiller said...

Like most I enjoyed the series that was done here on Gregory Heisler, and like most this last image I would say wasn't his best. However, the thought behind what he was trying to achieve is quite interesting to me. To use a BD from the direction he did as his key light will only produce a semi strong shadow on the subjects face on the camera left side, using the softbox at it's position to fill I think could or should have gone a little more to the left of the camera. The under the face use of a stripbox, just imo introduced more shadow, depending on the power setting. It would have to be set so low that it would be barely noticeable. So what is the point and what is the light suppose to be doing. This confused me.
I would like to see this redone using 3 models and showing each light separaretly (I'll be trying it to see what my results will be).
However, for a Time cover, I think this one may have missed the mark a little. Sometimes folks get blinded by the name of the artists and may allow some leverage for those artists. When you look at the entire body of work, it's forgiveable to allow one to slip through the cracks.

April 14, 2013 10:17 PM  
Blogger Gary Dates said...

@lawrenceruss
Dude, you don't like the photo. That's OK! Not sure what other point you're trying to make, except that maybe you are saying anyone who says they LIKE the photo is blinded by Heisler's stature? Look, it isn't easy working with 3 people within a limited time-frame, under pressure and get good results. You can't separate this photo from the context in which it was shot. I believe that was the point of this article to begin with. Just sayin....

April 15, 2013 10:27 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Heisler has a million great photos. This aint one of them.

However, this did give me some thoughts about the value of a tilt-shift...

April 15, 2013 10:49 AM  
Blogger jim@jimmages.com said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

April 15, 2013 10:56 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Another thought: the fact that Heisler had to shoot 7 setups in 45 minutes and that there were technical challenges involved in making this short, should not factor into anyone's opinion on this particular photo.

When you go to a restaurant and eat, you don't judge a meal on the complexity of the cooking process, do you? It tastes good or it doesn't.

I really don't know why some people think we are putting Heisler down. We all appreciate his technical skill and aesthetic sensibilities. He's brilliant. No one is denying it.

April 15, 2013 10:57 AM  
Blogger Steven said...

Joe McNally constantly says that no one cares how hard it was to get the photograph, they (clients, art directers, audiences) just want a good photograph.

I agree with L. Russ that this just isn't that great of a photo. I think the light is unflattering and I'm not getting the "heroic"ness that it is suppose to be sporting. I haven't messed around with lighting too much, and I'm really just looking at it as if I'm an average Joe who bought the magazine, and I just don't like it.

Just because it is a Heisler photo doesn't automatically make it good.

April 15, 2013 8:49 PM  
Blogger ajay dang said...

You can certainly dislike the photo, but I wouldn't venture into assuming David was blinded by Heisler's light (haha get it?). Both Gregory's and David's contributions to photography would put them above that sort of thing IMHO. But, sure, you can dislike the photo! :)

http://www.indianinstituteofphotography.com/articles/latest-articles

April 16, 2013 3:53 AM  
Blogger Richard M Kaplan said...

Don't know much about Gregory Heisler's work but this is a really nice shot. Bono looks determined, not angry. Melinda Gates really holds her own, especially as the only female & kind of in the back row. Overall crop is strong & graceful. Time Mag is a place where people go for a pre-digested & slightly overlit view of the world. The Mt Rushmore concept is definitely at home on this cover & have to give GH his props for realizing it.

April 16, 2013 6:09 PM  
Blogger Richard M Kaplan said...

Don't know much about Gregory Heisler's work but this is a really nice shot. Bono looks determined, not angry. Melinda Gates really holds her own, especially as the only female & kind of in the back row. Overall crop is strong & graceful. Time Mag is a place where people go for a pre-digested & slightly overlit view of the world. The Mt Rushmore concept is definitely at home on this cover & have to give GH his props for realizing it.

April 16, 2013 6:11 PM  
Blogger dave moser said...

I, too, agree with "unknown" and find David's response a bit defensive and, dare I say it, snarky. But it's his blog and his brand and he can say whatever he wants to, ain't arguing that.
But perhaps, Mr Hobby, your argument only advances the thought process behind The Emperor's New Clothes???

Dealing with one strong personality is tough enough, but 3 giants is way way harder. Greg pulled off a cover, TIME liked it enough to hire him again.

Is it his best? Lighting-wise, not close. Is it cool to see his thought process and professionalism? I think so, and I thank David for bringing it to our attention.

I mean, whaddaya want for free?

April 16, 2013 6:12 PM  
Blogger Anthony C said...

Did Gregory actually call the U2 frontman "Bone-oh" like Sonny Bono? Oops.

Thanks for posting this. Very interesting.

April 16, 2013 7:31 PM  
Blogger PaulaG said...

I'm getting to the discussion kind of late....but could we please get back to figuring out whether GH started with a 90mm tilt-shift, and added the teleconverter? Was he always planning to use the tilt-shift for the focus issue, but added the tele to avoid distortion? (I guess either could be for either, right...)

April 17, 2013 12:57 AM  
Blogger ThePixelMerch©nt said...

Didn't Bono discover America?

April 17, 2013 5:33 AM  

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