I could just shoot myself….

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photo by Peggy Krist

I was recently contacted by Bucks Life magazine, the large-format swanky lifestyle magazine that covers all things interesting in Bucks County, our little artsy, funky corner of Pennsylvania. They were doing an article highlighting some local art luminaries, and they wanted to include me?

Well, I didn’t argue, but they said they’d send a photographer and I said, “wait, I’m a photographer, let me shoot some luminaries for you.”  (I can hear you now, marveling at my marketing acumen and self-promotion chutzpah). We negotiated and I walked away with an assignment to shoot 4 luminaries and 1 dimbulb, me.

So I duded up in my best Joe Photog outfit, and invited my old buddy and super people-shooter Pete Byron for lunch (we’re both May birthday boys and always have lunch around our natal days). I was going to shoot the thing myself with Pocket Wizards, but why waste 25 years of friendship and a great eye behind the camera, especially if you can get him for a chicken salad ?

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Bonjour, y’all!

My wife Peggy and I were supposed to spend a week in Paris, France visiting friends later this month. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to cancel the trip:-(

We did manage, however, to make it to her family reunion in early May, held this year in Texas. On the drive to the dude ranch where the reunion took place, I noticed on the map that there was also a Paris in Texas. And, doggone it, I was going to get to Paris (any Paris!) in May come hell or haute d’eau.

So, after the reunion, I slipped off for a couple of days to shoot the other Paris. For a rundown on what I found, how it’s inspired a new project, and how I lit my new friend Ray in front of the Texas version of the Eiffel Tower using only my emergency “family reunion group shot lighting kit,” hit the jump.

photo © Bob Krist
photo © Bob Krist

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When the “best” camera may not be best for you…

Here’s a phenomenon I’m encountering more and more often these days on photo trips and workshops.

A well-heeled photo enthusiast (usually a middle-aged guy, not unlike myself—except, um, for the “well-heeled” part) shows up with tip top photo gear (i.e. two D3’s, 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm zooms, all the big f/2.8s, maybe a macro or fast prime or two, possibly a flash).

Before every stop on the tour or venture out of the workshop, he asks me, “what gear will I need today?”

When I gently point out that “clairvoyancy” does not appear anywhere in my resume, and stress the need to be prepared for anything, I get the lament “that’s too bad because I don’t want to carry the (fill in the blanks) if we’re not going to need them.” And something always gets left behind, and whatever you leave behind is what you’re gonna need. Yes, folks, it’s a drag to carry your whole kit if you’re not going to need it.

It also stinks not to know when the stock market will spike or tumble, which tollbooth line will move the fastest, or whether or not the Knicks will cover the spread in tomorrow’s game (well, okay, that last one is pretty much a slam dunk “nope”).

The point is, you can’t know in advance what you’ll see in most travel situations. So the question you have to ask yourself is this: which photo gear is better? The heavy “pro” outfit, half of which you tend to leave behind, or the smaller “amateur” outfit that is light enough to take with you and have ready at all times?

This photo below, for instance, would never have been made if I had a D3 instead of a D90 with me on Ibo Island in Mozambique. For the reason why, hit the jump.

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Photo © Bob Krist

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Portable soft light solution

Here are some subjects I’ve never been assigned to photograph: a chiseled, oiled, body builder; a chiseled, sweaty, mean-looking linebacker or killer ninja; a chiseled, oiled, bikini-clad supermodel. You know, those subjects that you see sometimes in the location portrait lighting books and blogs.

No, McNally and Hobby get all those jobs. Jobs that require lots of small specular light sources over which you can exercise total control, and are shot in abandoned warehouses, desert sand dunes, and gigantic college gymnasiums, with enough space and time to not only to place your lights, but for a video crew to immortalize the shoot as well!

No, the jobs that I, and most travel photographers, get are lighting the locations themselves as well as the people in them, and those locations are almost always dark: nightclubs, shop interiors, bars, pubs. They are always crowded with the general public, run by managers who are more concerned with you not annoying their patrons with your popping flashes than helping you make art, and require you to get in and out in minutes.

(Where did my karma go wrong, I sometimes wonder? I mean, I can live without the linebackers, weight lifters, and ninjas, but don’t I deserve just one bikini-clad supermodel shoot? ) No, I can’t worry about how best to sculpt the tricep of a flamenco dancer with a snooted kicker light,

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Photo © Bob Krist

I just have to make a broadly and softly lit publishable picture in less than 10 minutes, and get moving before I get thrown out (and I have been thrown out of better, and far worse, places than this…sometimes even for using a flash!). Fortunately, though, I’ve worked up a pretty good portable one-light set up to help me do it… (more…)

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