Category: Portraits

Gargoyles and CTO Gels…

One of the more interesting, albeit understated, parts of being a photographer, are executive portraits.  They can be challenging, and most of the time, they push you both from a technical standpoint, and one of time-management.  In most instances, you will be very limited in the amount of time you have with your subject, and everything should, in a perfect world, go relatively perfectly, in terms of your execution.  Again, in a perfect world…

I had the opportunity to shoot another local attorney, Bill Dillon, that works in the fabulous Candler Building in downtown Atlanta.  It is one of ATL’s oldest buildings, and had a ton of spectacular architecture and character.  I shot in one of the upper floor offices (here) some time back, and I always wanted to shoot in the lobby also.  We were able to work it out this time, and tried not to make a spectacle of ourselves.

The lobby is relatively grand, especially with it’s ornate marble carved starcases, chandeliers, and, who could forget, the marble gargoyles.  I always thought that the staircase would make a striking background for a portrait, so we used it this time. Â

We had shot in one of the offices earlier in the morning, and the lobby shots were going to need to be quick.  We had requested permission from the building management a day or two before, but, as we found out later, the building manager was on vacation in the Caribbean, so permission wasn’t going to happen.  Forgiveness over permission was going to have to be the rule of the day.  Luckily, the ‘stand-in’ for the manager was very nice, and was more curious about the shoot than she was concerned about us shooting there.  We had about 10 minutes to set up, and I needed every second of it.

This was a 4 light setup (all speedlights) with the key being a 28″ Wescott Appolo with a 1/2CTO, a bare speedlight with a grid for a rim, a bare speedlight in the background camera right to open up the shadows on the stairway landing, and a last bare speedlight in the background camera left to open up the shadows from the landing below.  The room was a mix of tungsten light (from the chandelier, and sconces throughout the room, and a ton of daylight coming in from both sides of the lobby.  I gelled the key with the CTO to bring the subject in line with the room, and left the rim and 2 background lights at 5600K for some color contrast.  I wasn’t going to be able to kill the daylight, and I kinda liked the feel of the more blue ambient in the room.

All in all we had a great time, and the subject really liked the final images.  Can’t wait to shoot here again!

 

 

Miss Karen…

While Kim and I were in Kiev, we had the opportunity to photograph a wonderful person named Karen Springs.   She works for an organization called Orphan’s Promise, and they provide assistance to orphanages throughout Ukraine.  She’s awesome.  She is also very knowledgeable about the adoption process there, so she helps families (like us) that are in Kiev to adopt.   Anyway, because there are so many places to shoot in Kiev, we decided to find some rockin’ streets in the Podol district.  It’s older, has a ton of character, and seems to be the area where all of the younger generations tends to haunt.  Here are some images from the shoot.  And gentlemen….she’s single.

India, Ukraine, and a cat named Jeff… (Part Deux)

I was exited to travel to Ukraine.  It was a bit of an adventure.  I tend to be the type of person that plans, executes, and then evaluates afterwards.  This was the kind of trip where the only thing I got to plan was the flight over.  Kim tends to operate this way more easily that I do, but I, occasionally, do enjoy the novelty of it also.  As cultures go, on the surface, Ukrainians are similar to Americans.  But it is just on the surface.  It seems that there is a younger generation there, maybe the generation since the fall of USSR, that is most similar, but those who lived through the Soviet system are seemingly unchanged.  They tended to be generally unfriendly, depressed, and not interested in other people.  They have adapted the conveniences afforded by the Western influence, but mindsets, habits, and outlooks on life seem the same.  This sets the stage for nearly every human interaction we had in our, nearly, 9 weeks there.

So, in my last installment, we left off with a ridiculous trip from Kiev to Sevastopol to meet our boys.  They were staying there for the summer in an attempt by the orphanage director to give them a bit of a respite from orphanage life.  It was a mix between a camp, and a resort, about 2 blocks from the Black Sea (which isn’t actually black).  Even though they were right there on the water, we don’t think that the directors ever let the kids in the water.  Not sure why, seems a bit torturous, but such is life.   Our boys (Samuel, Caleb, and Reese – American names), had been in the orphanage for about a year.  They were happy, energetic, and talkative.  I don’t think you can be a child in an orphanage, and not know what the deal is when a (relatively) young couple from another country comes to meet you.  They knew what was up.  We weren’t allowed to stay long.  Since our trip to Crimea was not ‘official’, we needed to stay under the radar.  We were scared, though.  I mean, we leave our comfortable life in the US to go adopt 3 children that don’t speak English, may not like us, and are probably really pissed about their lot in life (up to that point).  So, when we left Crimea, we wanted God to say to us (in a big Godly voice…) “ADAM AND KIM!  THIS IS MY PLAN FOR YOU!  ADOPT THESE BOYS!”  Well, it didn’t happen that way (surprisingly).  Here are some photos of the boys at that time.

 

Reese and Caleb

Samuel

Reese and Caleb

Samuel (uninterested), Caleb and Reese

 

Once back in Kiev, we had a choice to make….Decide to pursue these boys, or roll the dice and press our luck.  Well, our abounding trust in the Ukrainian government being what it was, we decided to pursue our boys.  (we really liked them, anyway).  This meant that there was more waiting, more paperwork, and, yes, there were more bribes.  Again, the bribes were just to get the government workers to simply do their jobs.  They weren’t to circumvent the process or the law.  This next bit took about 3 weeks.  Doesn’t sound like a lot, I know, but when you have explored the crap out of Kiev, and are stuck to a pretty tight budget for food, lodging, and transportation, options for passing the time get pretty bleak.  So, we started taking photo jobs.  Gotta do something, ya know.  I’ll do some blog posts on those shoots later.

I did promise to tell you about Ukrainian lines.  In the US, we have lines.  They are usually single-file, and you wait your turn to where ever the line is leading.  We are used to them.  No one really likes them, but there is a certain expectation that, if you wait in the line, you will eventually get to the front where it will be your turn.  Well, the Ukrainians must have missed that lesson in grade school.  Kim and I were at a 4th of July celebration (held on the 7th) put on by, what we thought was, the US embassy.  There was no admission charge, but, if you wanted food, you had to buy tickets.  We bought ours and got in one of 4 lines leading to what was supposed to be American food.

Now, up to this point, we had been good Americans.  We were louder than most people, but we kept our boisterousness to a minimum, and tried to stay off the radar.  On this evening, we were introduced to Ukrainian lines, or ‘living lines’.  People come into the lines as they wish, and have absolutely no shame about that fact.  They would use very loose ‘associations’ with someone they claim to know, say hello while in line, then never leave.  Also, the line doesn’t just just grow from the back, it grows from all sides.  People add from the back, the sides, and, if you can believe it, from the front.  There was a period of about 20 minutes where the line didn’t move because people kept moving to the front.  Eventually, our efforts to subdue our American-ness wore off.  Adam and Kim got mouthy.  We physically blocked people from getting in front of us and used some serious stink-eye for those who tried.  The line moved pretty quickly for us from that point on.  But I digress…

So about 3 weeks pass, and we paid to bring the boys up to Kiev.  They took a train which takes about 18 hours.  They were brought to the orphanage, and the next day we went out to see them, with our facilitator and the case worker assigned by the court.  This was to be our ‘official’ visit.  As we pulled up to the orphanage and walked to the front door, we could hear the boys inside yelling (we didn’t understand them) and Sasha told us that they were yelling “our parents are here, our parents are here!”  That was nice.   I believe that there was supposed to be some type of ‘observation’ of us on the visit, but once we were ‘introduced’ to them, we pretty much left the office with them and took them outside to play.  On this visit, we really only got about an hour before we were shuffled off to the director’s office to answer a few questions; one of those being whether we wanted to proceed ‘officially’ and move to adopt them.  We said ‘da’.


From that point on, we saw them just about every day, and all day.  Our court date was within that week, and our petition to adopt them was granted by the judge. Only one of the boys, Sam, went with us to the court appearance.  He was old enough to be able to answer questions posed by the judge.  Here are a few images from that day after we left court.

L-R: Rep. from the orphanage, Kim, Me, our case worker, Samuel. Notice the amazingly tacky pink 'court' house.

Kim and Sam in the clothes that the orphanage picked out for him. Really?

 

They have a built in 10 day waiting period that is really a “speak now or forever hold your peace” kind of a thing that we had to wait through before we could take them from the orphanage permanently.  Shortly after the court date, and before the 10 day period was up, it was time for Adam to get back to the US.  Kim took over, visiting the boys at the orphanage each day until they could leave.  She would help feed them, teach them how to bathe (apparently, no one else thought this was important) and teach them what a real bear hug was.  I know that some only know the uber-agressive, assertive, whirlwind that is Kim, but very few get to see the side that I see every day.  This is the gentle, warm, and maternal side of her.  I knew when were dating that this side was in there, it just took a bit to find it.  When I did, it was an easy decision.  Well, the boys now got to see it too.  They are just as hooked as I am.

My Kimee...

 

Kim had a few more bumps in the road before she could bring them home.  Mostly dealing with travel documents, but also with some relatively significant dental work that all of the boys needed.  All told, they needed about a dozen teeth pulled, drilled, filled, and root-canal(ed).  We thought we were going to need to take out a second mortgage to pay for all of it, but in Ukraine, the dental work is dirt cheap.  If we were to have had the work done in the US, we would probably have paid between $5k and $10k.  If you need this amount of work done, it is actually cheaper to book a round-trip flight, go to Kiev, get the work done, stay for a week, and fly back.  No joke.  But we got it done.  The kids were very proud of their ‘American teeth’.

One annoyance after another, we got them home.  They are happy, the eat like horses, and they are very exited to go to school.  We are so grateful for all of the prayers, notes of encouragement, and assistance we have received along this journey.  Kim and I are not really people that easily accept help…we tend to like to do things ourselves.  In this process, I can’t tell you how much of a blessing our family and friends have been.  Of course, God calls us to love Him and love others, but we tend to ignore the part where He places upon each of us the duty to accept help from others, because it blesses them to do it.  I didn’t really understand this part very well.  I do now.  It was wonderful.

Now comes the next chapter.  We are exited to introduce our new family to you…

 


Stand Up for Kids

Stand Up For Kids is a US-based, volunteer orginization that has as it’s mission to “end the cycle of youth homelessness across America”.  The orginazition works to provide desperately needed services for homeless children.  Some of the services provided are GED programs, assistance in mentoring mothers with young children, assistance with job searches, laundry services, showers, health screening, and access to computers.

I had the opportunity to work with the local Atlanta chapter of Stand-Up during their annual ’48 Hours’ program where the center is opened for 48 hours straight for kids in the area to have a place to come and hang-out, and have access to the services provided.  We decided to create an event modeled after Help Portrait where we partner with hair stylists and make-up artists, and bring in studio equipment to create portraits for each of the kids.  Once completed, we print an 8×10 glossy print of the image for the kids to take with them.   The kids are fantastic, and were an absolute riot to photograph.

If you would like to find out more about the good that Stand Up For Kids is doing, visit http://www.standupforkids.org/atlanta/

 




 

 

 

 

 

Peachtree Street and a great view…

I was lucky enough to shoot Warren Sams, a local attorney, recently in his office, which has a ridiculous view looking down Peachtree Street downtown.  I had seen the view in his office before, and had always thought that it would make a great environmental portrait.  It took some finagling (yes, it’s a word) to get it done, and it also helped to have an inside person to ‘grease the wheels’ (thanks mom).  The setup is relatively simple:  Exposed for the  amount of ambient that I wanted, and settled on the aperture. (That ended up being f/29 to see a good bit of the street below)   The key is an AB1600 with a 22″ beauty dish from about 3 feet up camera right on a boom, and the fill was an AB1600 bare bulb from camera left.

Thanks so much to Warren for being a good sport.  He’s a great attorney, and a pleasure to work with.  Check him out at www.samslaw.net