Over my last few posts I’ve been highlighting some recent changes in my portfolio, but the biggest change is the addition of a gallery devoted entirely to my work with Kids.
As is usually the case with portfolios, a new gallery doesn’t necessarily mean that I just recently started photographing kids; prior to this portfolio update I had various kid-centric images scattered throughout my site. But as of this Fall it seemed like the critical mass was there to call it a legitimate specialty area.
Over the years I’ve photographed kids for Fraser, Midwest Food Connection, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the Seward Co-op and several others. But the tipping point was a book project I did recently with Redleaf Press: a picture book for elementary school-age kids explaining how people come to have different skin colors. It’s called “All the Colors We Are,” and it was a ton of fun to work on. Enough fun to save for its own blog entry, coming soon.
For now, here are a few shots from the new gallery to give you a taste. Photographing kids forces me to move fast, stay flexible, and bring an energy level on par with that of a five year old to a project. It’s a great challenge, and such fun to get in to a goofy space with kids.
This year I’ve done a couple video projects with the Seward Co-op Grocery and Deli in Minneapolis. The first is meant to showcase the work they’ve put in to landscaping and not just fitting in with their neighbors, but sprucing up the place in a way consistent with their values. The piece will loop silently in the meeting spaces in the Co-op’s new location, prior to build out as a way to signal to the new neighborhood the Co-op’s commitment to community integration.
The second was a snapshot of this Spring’s Annual CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Fair to give fans of the Co-op a glimpse of the event’s scale, and to let some of the participating farmers talk about the importance of what has grown to become the largest CSA Fair in Minneapolis.
Yesterday I got my copy of the lastest Seward Coop Sprout! magazine in the mail, which means I can show you some photos that I took not too long ago. Pretty fun stuff – over the fall and winter most of the work I did for the coop was in the store, but they got me out in the neighborhood for some really fun stories. Namely,
The cover story was shot at the Seward Child Care Center. They’ve received a neighborhood grant from the coop to teach their kids about food. One of the teaching tools is a compost bucket, which they keep underneath the fish tank. They feed it their lunch scraps, and leaves, and keep it watered, checking in with the worms and keeping ‘em happy. If there’s one thing you want it’s happy worms. Ask any of these kids, they’ll tell you the same thing.
Next up was a house remodeled to Gold LEED certification a couple years ago – amazing and very personal in the way they used materials that in most remodel projects would’ve been chucked in the dumpster, to make a super livable and beautiful new home. Definitely check out the magazine for the whole story on this staircase and all the other sustainable touches. Pretty inspiring.
Lastly, we’re entering the inaugural year of Growing Lots, a new farm being created right on top of an old parking lot. It will operate on the community supported agriculture (CSA) model, which is a fairly cutting-edge idea for an urban core area not on one of the coasts. I got to photograph the team at Seward Redesign, an incredibly innovative real estate development firm who is sponsoring the project (among the many projects they’ve got going, all enhancing sustainability and livability in the Seward neighborhood).
How great a client is the Seward Coop, sending me to meet all these amazing folks?
For the latest cover of Seward Coop’s Sprout! magazine we did a faux apple harvest. Faux because of the fact that our location – a small apple stand at the Dowling Urban Environmental School – had plenty of apples, they were just rotting under our feet, not actually on the trees. But when you’re trying to illustrate the fall harvest, and you’re about a month too late to harvest (and it’s about 80 degrees, but when the issue comes out it’ll be 50), what are you gonna do? You’re gonna fake it, that’s what.
Photographing kids is always an attempt to organize sheer chaos, but these guys did a pretty great job pretending to be cold and pick pretend apples (they did actually eat the apples – that wasn’t a problem).
For those of you photo lighting aficionados out there, an explanation of the first shot above. As you can see in the first shot, the sun was pretty low in the sky when we did the shoot. I knew that there was going to be some action going on, and that it would need to be frozen for the main shot of the family at least. Given that the natural light was fading, and we were in and out of dappled sunlight, I knew there would be some lighting happening.
I love using the sun as a backlight – even putting the sun in the frame to get the nice rings of color – then pumping something in as a key light in front, so that’s what we did here. I had my assistant TJ climb a tree camera right and direct a Quantum Q-Flash towards the family. When combining ambient and strobe lights the main question is what exposure value do you want to give the background in relation to the subject, being lit by the strobe? I really wanted a bright background to give the scene as much warmth as possible, so I adjusted my exposure to give the trees in the background plenty of detail, and to blow out the highlights. Then I adjusted the Quantum to give a good exposure on our family, and blasted away.
First time I’ve ever asked an assistant to climb a tree for me. . . hopefully it won’t be the last.
One of the better things to happen in the past year for my wife and me has been the relocation of our local grocery store, the Seward Coop. Not only is it only three blocks from us now; it’s also twice as big, with amazing all-Minnesota meat counter (with the best hand made sausages in the city), a great deli, amazing selections of the whole world of organic and sustainable food. Basically it’s everything we want in a place to buy our food.
Which is one of the reasons I’m so excited to be working with them on their imagery – you can see the first newsletter I shot for them in PDF form here. The other reasons to be excited: great people who are fully willing to collaborate on the vision of a story, a mission that I wholeheartedly believe in right in my backyard, and amazing layout and branding provided by Spunk Design Machine.
Our first project was a backyard barbecue to highlight the August Eat Local promotion.
For you photog-types out there, a note on the lighting. I was absolutely excited about the evening sun blaring in from behind, but using only natural light would either have blown out the background and washed out the vivid color on the table, or left everything not the sky way under-exposed. So I set my base exposure to where I wanted the background to be, then I set two speedlights back from the near corners of the table to provide fill. The sweet spot was an exposure that gave highlights from the strong backlighting, with just enough fill to give detail and max color on the table and on peoples’ faces. The two speedlights were set to identical power, providing an even field of light over the table and subjects, giving me the ability to change my angle and not have to worry about resetting the lights. Then I could concentrate on composition and directing the subjects.