The Royal Madness – A Personal Christmas Work by Thomas Fähnrich


2 months for preparation. 6 weeks of planning. Then finally the shooting day. For the realisation of this Christmas project, the model agency FAVoriteFaces approached me and Ruth Spiller (Concept & Post production) directly. After defining the final Image idea, Ruth and I started to work and prepare each single detail. Our goal was to tell as many stories as possible in one image.

Everyone knows Christmas as a celebration of love. It all revolves around the family, eating, exchanging presents, telling stories and laughing together.

But not with this family. In a very special location, all of the members are spending time by themselves. There is the girl which is completely mad about her present and decides to cut the hair of the doll. The Grandfather, who would love to go hunting and cleans his rifle. Or the Grandmother who survives the evening by drinking egg liqueur.

As a location we had the chance to shoot in a water castle near Cologne, which was discovered and booked by the FAVoriteFaces agency. For the Styling and Setdesign we engaged a very well-known Stylist from Düsseldorf – Rolf Buck.

Making Ofs






Hair & Makeup artist: Eva Mittmann & Nadine Eckstein – Project Assistant: Antje Peuckmann and Marcel Kamps

Every model and each detail had to be photographed individually to get the required film look. The circumstances on location made it impossible to make a 1:1 shoot. To compose the final image Ruth Spiller combined the 45 single shots into one impressive Christmas picture.

Gear to light up this Project
Power packs:
1x Scoro, 2x Grafit, 1x Move
Lamps: 4 Pulso, 1 MobiLED,1 Ringflash
Light shapers: 1 Para 177, 1 Striplight 30×120, 3xP70 reflectors (with colour filters)

More about Thomas Fähnrich

Gregor Halenda shoots Relentless

A native of Westcliffe, Colorado, Gregor Halenda got his shot at photography stardom at age 12 when he took pictures of rodeo bull riders that hit his local paper’s front page. Although he only earned 25 bucks and local recognition, Halenda turned his budding career into a yearning for something bigger. Eventually, he landed in New York City.

In an interview, Gregor Halenda gave us his life story from the ground up: “My dad handed me his Minolta when I was about 7 and I loved the mechanical feel of it. A friend of his taught me the darkroom and from that point on I always had a camera. It’s really all I’ve ever done if you don’t count a few short stints of carpentry, house cleaning and pizza delivery while I was in school. I started as a photojournalist working on daily papers in Colorado and came to NYC after attending the Eddie Adams Workshop and learning of this thing called ‘lighting.’ Never heard of that before and thought it merited some investigation.”

Working with Gregory Heisler, an award-winning portraitist, helped jumpstart Halenda’s career: “Certainly the biggest break was assisting Gregory Heisler who is just a genius with light. He taught me to really see light and how to control it. He also taught me that a crisp $100 bill could get 20 cases of gear onto a flight with no excess baggage charges. Sadly that doesn’t work anymore.”

Referring to himself as a “fence-rust kid leaving it all behind for the bright lights,” Halenda thrust himself into a career of editorial photography, working with high-profile clients such as Prada, BMW and Oprah.

His technique is spurred, “from wondering. I’m that person that wonders about stuff all the time. I wonder and then I try it out. Digital has been a boon to my short attention span and the amount of wondering I can stuff into a day. I can now wonder about three times as much as when I shot film.”

He attributes his talent and inspiration to none other than Heisler, and also his parents, for “never suggesting that [he] get a real job.”  He stated that the challenging part of his job is cutting paths, and the best is meeting clients and new challenges; he loves to “over-deliver…and experiment.”

And he did just that. In a campaign for Relentless and NOS, he used the broncolor Grafit A4, his favorite pack, for its fast flash duration setting, and was able to capture photos that spoke to the essence of energy drinks: supercharged and quick-motion.

We asked him: how did you learn the techniques in these pictures? He stated, “Well, it depends what part we’re talking about. If it’s the lighting I’m pretty much self taught… If we’re talking about how to make a controlled explosion in the studio then I can say I owe that to a plethora of unsupervised 8-year- olds across the country who are lighting things on fire and then posting the results on YouTube. Who knew that Off insect repellant in a pump and a Bic lighter were all you needed!”

For the Relentless shots, he used three heads with P70 reflectors and wide grids. He stated, “The P70 and the grids are why I switched from Profoto to broncolor. Together they give perfect, smooth fall-off and that allows for soft shaping light. I shoot the light into diffusion and this is what creates the smooth reflections and helps give my shots a distinctive wrapped light. I’m not a fan of traditional softboxes.”

For the NOS pictures, he used the Boxlight for its smooth light output.

Halenda’s choice to use broncolor over the competitor’s was simple: “broncolor was the first to allow you to easily adjust the packs in 10th’s of a stop and that allows me to finesse my light in perfectly. The other is the duration. The control of the flash duration with the Grafit is just fantastic to have. Once you have it you can’t live without it. I used Profoto but I was never happy with them. They weren’t reliable for me; the light was inconsistent and the control was awkward at best. I wanted to like them but never did. I knew broncolor was the best from occasions of renting them but I thought I couldn’t afford them. When I finally stepped up I wished I’d done it sooner. They are the single most dependable piece of gear I’ve ever owned and the control is flawless. It’s the best single investment I’ve made in gear.”

Gregor Halenda Photography

Foto Care shares Tips on Renting Photography Equipment

Today, we’re interviewing Fred Blake, Business Partner and Manager of Foto care Rentals. Fred, having been in the photo industry for many years, has a particularly broad knowledge base incorporating both the shooting, manufacturing and retail sides of the photo industry. Fred has been with Foto Care for fifteen years.

First off, why would a photographer consider renting equipment?

Many reasons:

For the professional, if they’re in need of a product they may not currently own, or perhaps a piece may be too expensive for them to purchase at that time; this is where we can help out. Other times, we may have a photographer that’s called to do a very particular type of job where they may only need specific equipment once.

For passionate amateurs, renting allows them to take various gear out for test-drives to see what works for them. While at the same time, it gives them access to a broader range of gear when special occasions like vacations, weddings, births or graduations come up.

Most of the time it’s more economical, technology moves faster than the time it takes some equipment to pay for itself (especially digital and hybrid video cameras)

How do I choose a good Rental Facility?

Honestly, price shouldn’t be the primary consideration. Most rental houses are in the same ballpark. For us, we pride ourselves on working with our customers based on their budget restrictions or working within the specific budget for the project at hand.

Proximity and accessibility should be factored in as well. There may be times where on site training on a product may be the best way to learn.  Most importantly, a facility’s breadth and depth of its equipment is the leading reason as to where one should rent. Can a facility support what it rents? Can a facility suggest the best tools for the job? At Foto Care, this is what we pride ourselves on.

Talk to us about your staff’s knowledge:

Our staff has been with us an average of eight years, with some having been here for decades. The fact that we’re all passionate techies makes this not seem like work. We go out of our way to test drive every piece of equipment. It’s amazing how eager everyone is to get to know the hardware as soon as it comes in.  Plus, part of our job is to be able to troubleshoot with our customers over the phone so we all need to understand the ins and out of each piece of gear we rent.

All of us have our particular areas of expertise but everyone seems to have jumped on the video bandwagon in a big way. We are becoming video hybrid experts. Things have been moving so fast that keeping up is critical. Video is just exploding. We’re adding microphones, special lighting and lenses that we’ve never had before based on demand and interest.

Talk to us more about the depth of equipment you offer?

Having the newest/latest equipment available for our customers is critical. And not just one or two either. Our depth of equipment and inventory (usually having 10 or more of something) is key. For example: We have more then 90 broncolor powerpacks; more than anyone in the country.

Foto Care has built a reputation on Outstanding Customer Service. How does that apply to Rentals?

It’s always been important, I remember one time Avedon Studios called from India with a problem:  They were shooting the Dalai Lhama in 8 x 10 format with very limited time restrictions so every piece of film needed to be usable. With exposures all over the map, they needed to process the film by inspection so we ended up finding them night vision equipment to help them process their film.

These days, some of our newer customers will call to discuss various lighting scenarios they are considering and ask for our recommendations. Helping problem solve with them is one of the highlights of our day. In fact, often we’ll set up lights here at our facility to show them a particular setup. Fortunately, our facility is quite large and allows us to show a variety of setups to our customers. The time investment for us is important because this is their job at stake, and we see ourselves as a trusted partner in their business. And this doesn’t just apply to the working professional. We want all of our customers to be comfortable with the gear they rent from us. That’s why they keep coming back.

What can a customer do to ensure they get the best results?

1. Call orders in advance:

Most errors are made when under pressure. If this is unavoidable, check your equipment before you leave. Ten minuets at the counter can save you two hours in set.

2. Ask questions:

We’re not just handing out a box with no support. We expect our customers to ask us questions. In fact, we encourage it. We’d rather help answer all your questions when you’re placing an order or when you pick it up as opposed to when you are out on location or back in your studio. And b all means, keep asking questions until you are comfortable and satisfied. In photography there is more than one way to achieve most goals.

What do you recommend for customers consistently ordering over the phone?

If you start an order over the phone, get the name of the rental technician. This way, if you call to follow up with questions, there is continuity by dealing with the same person. We also except orders via email. Really, its whatever works best for you as a customer.

When picking up an order, what should customers know and do?

Go through your equipment. Look at it. We try to pack orders as accurately as possible but there can be misunderstandings. Sometimes funny ones:  Someone the other day asked for a “Gary Coleman” C-Stand. Huh? Hadn’t heard that one before. What they wanted was a short 20” C-stand versus a 40” stand. With all the slang in our industry, it’s easy to misunderstand what folks are sometimes looking for.

What are some of the things to keep an eye out for?

Clean, maintained equipment, especially clean sensors. It’s a matter of pride with us. You can tell a lot about a rental facility by how clean and well maintained their inventory is.

Anything else people need to know?

All rental houses in NYC require deposits, valid identification, and, in some cases, proof of insurance. It’s a very good idea for photographers to have insurance. This not only protects the photographer but the rental department can take a reduced security deposit for the value of the deductible.

Is there anything else you want customers to know?

Foto Care constantly offers seminars and lectures for continuing education of our customers so check our website and sign-up for the Foto Care Newsletter which comes out twice  month.  And get out and shoot.

An Interview with broncolor Featured Photographer Saria Atiye

Visual Artist and Photographer Saria Atiye generously gives us an insight into her process and inspiration.

CK: How did you become a photographer? Describe your career development?

SA: Having studied at several Academies of Art all over Germany, it took me quite a while to find the passion for photography. I started with graphic design, I studied psychology of perception and art history.
After an internship in a design agency in Hamburg, where I had to take pictures of a bus company for advertisement, I realized that there was a lot of depth to photography. I found myself during this job being very creative and having a lot of fun with what could have been a very boring assignment. After this experience I was inspired to study photography on my own while studying other interests at college.

I have always been a dreamer exhisting in reality. I was raised in Germany by my mother and father both Syrian natives. Their tradition was always omnipresent and inevitably formed my creative process.

From a young age I remember feeling the need to rebel against their tradition. I just wanted to be free but I so often felt boxed into a small keeping with all of the boundaires their tradition placed around me.

(why is explained in answer2)

CK: More specifically, was there one or more life changing moments that helped you move to the next level and become the photographer that you are now? Perhaps a big break, a perfect mentor, a movie, a mystical moment?

SA: My first camera was a gift from my father. Upon giving it to me he looked into my eyes and said, “but, don’t take those kind of pictures…you know…with naked skin”. After a while I realized that my pictures were unconciously showing “naked skin”. I was subconsciously rebeling against my fathers authority. Everytime I was able to take a picture of “naked skin” after that realization, I would laugh to myself as I did it, at the thought of shock on his face if he were to ever see what I was doing. Every time it felt like a victory! But only in my imagination. Still to this day he has not seen one of my photographs. He would not be really pleased. From my own perspective I don’t see the models as naked. I see them simply natural with an aura spiritually unique. My photographs are a personal contribution to femininty – a fusion of sexuality, innocense, power and surrealism, that blur the line between art and fashion, fantasy and reality.

I grew up with the experience and awareness through my parents that people are trapped by the necessity of traditon. In Syria people are not allowed to show true feelings, thoughts, and visions freely. For both men and women, especially for women, it isn’t accepted to say and think whatever you want like it is in a democratic world. They are not able to express individuality and freedom, and are held back by restrictments.

As a 6 year old child I discovered the art of Picasso, Miro, Klee, Vasarely and Matisse in our city library in Rastatt my hometown. But also at the same time I was fascinated by the arabic calligraphy – over a long time the only medium for people in the orient to express their creativity without getting into trouble with the law – which was for me full of beauty and softness, strenght and sobriety, and respect for regal asthetic.

My photographs hold both souls – oriental and occidental. My muse is freedom.

CK: How do you learn your techniques?

SA: I learn my techniques by just shooting. I shoot with the knowledge I have, I learn from my mistakes, and sometimes my mistakes are a new technique. I grow and accumulate new ideas and inspirations with each new experience. My vision becomes wider and more generous as I keep moving forward. I remember when I first used a computer, I was a bit scared of this alien, but somebody said to just press every button cause that nothing bad can happen. Until now I follow this idea to just play around to learn things.

CK: Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

SA: There are a lot of great photographers out there, Of course you look at their pictures, and at this point you are already somehow influenced by their work. No matter in what way. I never really take care who this and that photo shot; it is more the image which is sticking in my head. My inspiration has always come from an emotion. Travels, friends, family, ordinary life. Everything. My muse is freedom.

CK: What is the worst part about doing what you do?

SA: Some people don’t appreciate and don’t really see all the work that photographers do. It is more than pushing the button and saying “Nice!”.
As Thomas Edison said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. You have to organize so many things. The fun part is over so quickly, you better enjoy it as much as you can.

CK: What is the best part?

SA: To finally start shooting. The entire process is a lot of organisation and requires team work. It is important to be surrounded with people you can trust and be able to work hand in hand together. After getting organised, it feels great to start realizing the idea and the vision.
During a shoot the whole world comes to a stand still for a moment. With every single flash showing so much diversity and intensity.

Learning from the Pro

CK: What tools?

SA: Canon EOS Mark III with lenses from 25mm to 80mm, broncolor Para Fb 220, Ringflash P, Softlight Reflector, Pulsoflex 80×80, Grafit A4, beauty light.

CK: Why did you choose these tools?

SA: You are really able to build up so beautiful light. It is always an utter satisfaction and you are flexible witb it at the same time. I was able to precise my work with the Grafit A4 Power Pack, to have sharp results. So fast. And crispy. I was shooting in the studio using the Para 220 as a main soft light and with the beauty light I could set highlights.

CK: What are we going to shoot today?

SA: This personal contribution of photographs called “Nova” took place inside the intimacy of the universe. The woman I reveal is an intellectual, sensual and mysterious spirit. These photographs show dreamy sequences, female grace, poetic pauses and tranquility. They capture freedom, the universal “religion”. The universe represents endless opportunities while at the same time representing a metaphore of illusion and utopia. The title, “Nova” represents exactly what it is: A stellar explosion that is setting free incredible energies from its body, the star. And as it releases this energy it becomes much brighter and more luminous in the process.

CK: Did you use competing products in the past? What made you change?

SA: I started with daylight and film. Still, I really like to shoot with natural light. It is quiet a challenge to shoot with daylight, you never know for sure what is going on, clouds or sun, rain or wind…but what you get is so wonderful with a lack of pretense. Mostly, I like to combine the power of nature with light setups.
Of course I used other equipment as well. But I really feel comfortable with Broncolor. You always know what you get. The light is precise and the equipment is fast. And at the same time, it looks so good too. I like aesthetics, always tempting.


An Interview with broncolor Featured Photographer Elias Wessel

We caught up with Elias Wessel on a shoot this week.  Here’s what he had to say:

CK: How did you become a photographer?  Describe your career development?

EW: I would have to say that graffiti was the catalyst for my love of art. At the age of 16 meeting Sigmar Polke at his huge retrospective in Bonn, Germany made me even more interested in fine arts. Following that, I started to draw and then  had paintings exhibited about 2 years later.   Also during that time, my best friend, who I had a crush on, moved to London.    Our only source of communication was through mail. I wanted my mails to look good and make her feel special on top of what I wrote to her.   I created my own envelopes by cutting out my favorite pictures out of hundreds of magazines.   I collected thousands of tearsheets and still remember vividly pictures by David La Chapelle,  Guy Bourdin,  Jeff Koons and others who caught my breath.   Since then I have always wanted to be able to re-create these wonderful feelings that those pictures gave me and started to draw pictures and take photographs of everything I loved.

CK:  More specifically, was there one or more life changing moments that helped you move to the next level and become the photographer that you are now?  Perhaps a big break, a perfect mentor, a movie, a mystical moment?

EW:  What incredibly changed me and my work was the break up after 8 years with my former personal and professional friend and partner in 2008.   I had to start all over and ask myself what makes me unique as a photographer.   I figured the only possible answer can be:  Myself!   Beginning with my “Falling Up” story my work tells so much about me and that what makes it special.   However I am very often asked how I consider myself as a photographer and my style. There’s no straight answer which feels totally adequate to me.   You can say it is the way I play with time and freeze a moment or a motion.   V magazine recently published a selection of my work and wrote “When time stops, your pose had better be fierce”.   You can mention the saturated colors or the sort of magical realism.   It can be cheeky happiness,  subliminal concepts,  beauty or sensitiveness.   It always depends on the content of the story I am working on.   Those who know me can say it may be my personal experiences which are always somehow reflected in my photographs. I would say as everything changes and develops in life all this can change and develop from picture to picture as well.   There are moments every day which make me and my work more and more sophisticated.   You just have to be aware of them.

CK: How do you learn your techniques?

EW: Working at advertising agencies, design bureaus as well as assistant, production and studio manager made me understand the different parties who are involved in the process of creating photographs.   I know about their expectations, their thinking, their needs, their fears and about the whole process from the point of view of all participating sides.   Studying with a huge focus on theory helped me to achieve a general idea about any field of the arts, a basic knowledge about anything which deals with art, visual communication and its reception.   It can be a deep source for new ideas. Schooling didn’t really teach me about the technical side of photography or lighting.   That is something I learned by assisting and working in the fields of photography but even more by realizing one personal project after another.   It taught me how to create, communicate and realize ideas. And it can give you the time to experiment and to develop.   A while ago I met David La Chapelle here in New York and I remember how he reminded me how fortunate I can be of being able to do my own thing.   Even if it is not without a struggle.   Studying also taught me to get up and motivate myself every single day to work on my ideas because nobody really cared about what I did.   It can be dangerous depending of what kind of character you are but it also can teach you confidence in what you do and that you are the only one who is responsible for anything you do.

CK:  Who are your photo heroes? Or who has inspired your career?

EW:  There are so many.   It wouldn’t make sense to drop names.   Most of all I´m inspired by the reason why I´m doing this. I want to experience a feeling, that goes into bowels.   But I also want to create a transcendency so that this feeling reaches the viewer.   I also find very interesting the intersection between fashion and fine art photography and how to merge those genres. Typical fashion images focus on beauty and clothing as their central elements.   To me it is not fashion itself but the image that suppose to fascinate the viewer.   I believe that this is what appeals to clients who really care about being exclusive. At the end it all comes to the feeling you get from the picture you are looking at, not just the picture of the product.

CK: What is the worst part about doing what you do?

EW: If I could I would be out there taking pictures everyday. A huge part of photography deals with everything else than creating and taking pictures.

CK: What is the best part?

EW: All my works you see in this story have given me the most satisfaction because there are a lot of photographs that don’t make it. Every picture I’ve taken is from the past but it is the ones in the future that I’m looking forward to taking most.

Learning from the Pro

EW:  What are we going to shoot today?

“Falling Up”. A personal project which will be exhibited in New York and also be published as editorial. Falling is something involuntarily. Something threatening you get forced to.   In contrast “Up” is a synonym for success.   This aporia results out of the two contrary moving directions: Down = falling and Up = Up.   A conflict which was indissoluble at that current period of my life.   “Falling” as well as “Up” relate to my very private and professional areas of life which were strongly linked over 9 years.   “Falling Up” is based on personal experiences, thoughts, symbols and metaphors. Analogies to “Mary Poppins”, “Rumpelstiltskin” and the “Shock Headed Peter” finally allow to express my emotions as well as making a statement about the current art and fashion industry.  “Falling Up” is a modern fairy tale out of my personal past, present and future.

CK: How did you learn how to do what you are about to show us?

EW: It’s probably the same answer I gave when asking me how I learned my techniques. To sum it up in one word I would have to say it’s experience.

CK: What tools are you using to make this image?

EW:  503 CW Hasselblad with a Leaf Aptus II – 7 with lenses from 25mm to 150mm. SBI ParaFb 170, Pulsoflex 80×80, Verso A4 and A2, beauty dish and P70 reflector, 2 Pulso heads, Ringflash P, the sun, clouds as well as my heart and my brain.

CK: Why did you choose these tools?

EW: “Falling Up” was shot on location in Long Island City, New York with a great mix out of different set ups including day and night shots. So being flexible without sacrificing quality and to be able to control every situation on set
was my first priority.   I took advantage of the para 170 using it as a soft filling light. With the heads and reflectors I was able to adapt to every single situation, setting highlights, focus on different parts of the scene. The Verso allowed me to add crunch and a little magic at the best possible speed.

CK: Did you use competing products in the past? What made you change?

EW: I worked with pretty much all available lighting and camera equipment and used everything from 35mm to large format cameras – film and digital.   I’m in the lucky position that I got into photography by using film and digital equipment at the same time. The experience of working in the dark room, processing my own films, making my own contact sheets and prints help me to understand what happens in digital photography and post production. Same with the lighting gear.   I always like to test all equipment which might be of any interest.   Currently I prefer working with the 503CW Hasselblad and the Leaf Aptus II always in combination with broncolor lights.   It just works for me and gives me the consistency and flexibility I need. The decision of the equipment I use as well as the decision of shooting in studio or on location depends on the pictures I have in mind. Not the other way around. The cooperation with Bron Imaging Group is based on how I use my lighting which plays a big role in my work and gives it it’s consistency.   No matter if I have a huge set up of lights or just a bare bulb in combination with available light. It always defines the look of my pictures and bron recognizes this.   But this cooperation is more than that.   The guys from bron are part of my team, part of my photo-family and they care about my work and about photography just as much as I do.   That is what really matters to me.