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Photographer Profile: An Interview with Aaron Muntz

Aaron Muntz discusses the start of his career, and how he continues to grow and create today:

“I became a photographer via the usual route I believe… I got a hold of my father’s camera and went to town, photographing everything. I was into skateboarding and music so I photographed those things a lot. But I was also drawn to photographing these mundane objects as I found them, out in the world, part landscape, part still life. I was encouraged by art teachers and other teachers to continue to explore the medium. At first, I thought I wanted to be a photo journalist. But once I went to University, I quickly realized I liked the control I found in the studio and the challenges of what I came to understand as commercial photography. I studied in the Visual Communications dept at Ohio University, one of the first programs of its kind. After school it was, internship, assisting, shooting, assisting some more, shooting some more. Now, after 15 years in the industry, I’ve translated the years of assisting and working as lighting consultant for still life, interior and beauty photographers into a career as a still life photographer. Now my clients are beginning to seek out motion and still photography projects shot in tandem, so I have found myself learning and mastering new skills as I bring my precision lighting techniques to motion.

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There are a couple stories I love to tell about becoming a photographer.

The first is likely part legend, but when I was a kid, my family went on vacation in the Smokey Mountains. We climbed Chimney Rock. It wasn’t easy, the weather was bad, but we were determined to get to the top. When we finally made it, my parents handed me the Polaroid camera and I took my first picture. Just the usual tourist photo of my parents proud to have made the trip, but for me, watching that Polaroid develop, sparked the beginning of a lifelong interest in image making. That’s how I like to remember it.

The second story is about the beginning of my career. I did an internship with photographer Jaime Biondo in San Francisco. It was an eye opening experience where I learned more about photography, on every level, lighting, composition, image making, retouching, business, etc. than I had in any class. At the end of the summer I was determined to transfer to a school in the bay area to finish my degree and continue working. When I told Jaime about the plan, he was adamant that I finish school at Ohio University and move to NYC for at least a few years. I’ve been here for fifteen years and never looked back.

In NYC I’ve had the pleasure of working as assistant to some of the most genuine and talented photographers as well as shooting for incredible art directors, photo editors and a host of other creative people. I assisted Craig Cutler full time for 5 years and his work ethic and talent has been a huge influence on my business practices and image making. I still look up to him, his lighting skills are second to none and what I learned from him I now refer to as precision lighting. I’ve not worked with another photographer that fit that description.

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I learned so much about technique from working with Craig. I’d be lying if I said otherwise. Of course I didn’t stop learning there, I learned a little something from each of the photographers I’ve assisted over the years and developed some of my own tricks along the way. So much of it is trial and error and trying to think outside of the box. As a photographer, or as a lighting tech, I am handed a problem and it is my job to figure out how to solve that problem. Sometimes I can reach into my existing bag of tricks, I know the exact right answer. Other times I’m finding inspiration from the world around me. Trying to recreate a type of light I find in the real world, or to create something completely surreal that could never happen outside of a controlled studio environment.

Still Life

I also get ideas when I see new fixtures or new lighting packages. Broncolor is great for this since they have such an extensive library of modifiers and fixtures. And they always seem to be coming up with something new. Sometimes I look at a new light and I know exactly how I want to use it, other times I find myself in a pre-pro meeting or on set discussing the lighting and I realize that a fixture I saw would solve a lighting problem that has come up. One of my favorite problem solving fixtures are the Broncolor Striplites and Lightbars. They can be used in so many creative ways. It’s a personal goal to use as many fixtures as I can in ways that were never intended.

Now that photography and motion are intersecting more and more I’m learning new techniques by working with gaffers. I’ve found that we have vastly different techniques for lighting still photography than most gaffers do on motion sets. So I think when I work with the right people, there is a real idea exchange. Most gaffers don’t really understand precision lighting, and as a still photographer, I never understood the demands of lighting for motion. Part of that is the difference between additive and subtractive lighting, but it also has to do with the type of fixtures and how modifiable they are. The new Kobold line offer’s us the ability to cross over some of that precision lighting into the motion world. Most gaffers I’ve worked with have never seen a beauty dish.

Craig Cutler and Sarah Silver are the two photographers that I have worked with who have had the most influence on my career. I guess I consider them to be heros. They are inspirations as image makers and business people.

As a young artist, I was heavily influenced by the pop artists. I was obsessed with Andy Warhol for a long time. Now I find myself less influenced by his work and more by the work ethic, his drive to create and create. Andreas Gursky, Edward Burtynsky and Vincent Laforet, are a few other photographers I’ve followed. But I’m always trying to look at new artists to keep my own work fresh. Not that I want to recreate their work but allow it to inspire. Lately I’ve been looking at Ryan McGinley and Guy Bourdin a lot.”

Still Life

When asked what his least favorite part of his career, Aaron states:

“That’s a loaded question, isn’t it. I guess the worst part about my job is the some times long hours. I love what I do, but I also love spending time with my lovely wife. Luckily she is an understanding woman who also works in this business as a producer. We often find ourselves sending frustrated text messages to each other at the end of the day, apologizing for having to work late. But that’s all part of the package.”

And the best…

“I love my job. I walk into an empty room and work as part of a team to create images from the ground up. That’s a pretty simplified way of putting it, but I love seeing projects through from the beginning to end. I get to work with my brain and my hands and collaborate with creative people from so many disciplines. And I’m doing something a little different each time I walk into the studio.”

Still Life

Finally, Aaron takes a moment to tell us more about the equipment he is currently working with:

“- Pulso G4 Lamp with frosted pyrex

-I’ve found that the frosted pyrex really fills the reflector and takes full advantage of the fixtures shape and focusing ability. For precision beauty photography the frosted pyrex takes a little of the edge off of the fixtures snappy nature. The diffusion options offer even more control over the light quality. I’ve found the combination of the frosted pyrex with the #3 diffuser, at just the right distance, offers a gorgeous glow on the skin, in very compact package.

– Kobold DW 400

-The Kobold 400 in combination with the Para 88 has really changed the way I deal with shooting motion in combination with still images on set. In the past it was a painstaking process to change out fixtures entirely, and to approximate the quality of light from one fixture to the other. Very few parabolic options for continuous light actually exist. For precision beauty especially, the quality of light is so key. The fact that I can pull the Pulso lamp out of the fixture, without changing the focus and replace the head with a Kobold DW 400, ensures that when I strike the light, we are already 99% there as far as light quality is concerned. From there its just a matter of firing up some DW 800s on the background to match the look of the still image.

The fact that the DW 400 can be adapted to so many of the Broncolor fixtures, means that we can easily swap to video no matter what which fixture, look we are trying to accomplish.

Now that the DW 400 is in our arsenal, we find ourselves reaching for it even when shooting stills. I’ve always loved the quality of continuous light for still photography. I’ve used it extensively for still life, and for fashion and beauty, I’ve used it for shutter drag effects as well as for the soft quality that comes from continuous light that you just can’t get with the snap of a strobe.”

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To see more of Aaron’s work, visit his site: aaroncameronmuntz.com

AMBER GRAY + LIGHTPIPE = <3 FOREVER

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Dear Lightpipe,

I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how this past year, since you came into my life…you’ve changed everything.   Sometimes, when I think back, about what I dealt with before you came around..the bland softboxes,  awkward beadboards, and bulky fluorescents …well it breaks my heart.

You are something special, and I just want you to know.

I don’t know if you remember this….but remember that time when we shot Courtney Love, and she was literally running all over the set, and you were there for me…for us…you were the only one, actually.  I can always depend on you…I’ve put you in some tough spots, and you have always come through…and really “shone” for me.

It reminds me of that time when we were shooting that beauty video for Marie Claire, and the model’s skin was..well..you remember. The smooth even glow you gave her saved me a huge amount in post, to say nothing of the exquisite catchlights you added to her eyes.

You are always so bright and versatile….you amaze me. Even when  you are not the star, and you are just providing “fill” you always manage to make things better.

You are flattering, and lightweight….you are quick to assemble and smartly packaged. I can’t think of one bad thing to say about you.

XOXO

Amber

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10 Things You Should Know About the broncolor Move 1200L Outdoor Para Kit

 

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1. Everything is included:

The Move Outdoor Para Kit is one of the most comprehensive mobile power pack kits for the outdoor photographer. Included is:

– 1 Move 1200 L power pack
– 1 MobiLED lamp
– 1 Para 88 reflector
– 1 Para 88 adapter P
– 1 RFS 2 transmitter set
– 1 MobiLED continuous light adapter
– 1 weatherproof power pack protecting soft case
– 1 Outdoor trolley backpack

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2. One pack for all your needs:

1200 ws of power, a range of up to 9 f-stops, absolute color stability and consistency across the entire power range due to the broncolor ECTC technology, speed mode, RFS2 flash triggering, and flash times down to 1/20,000s makes the Move 1200L a powerful system for any photographic application – indoors and outdoors, and wherever life takes you. With the Move pack you get the fastest flash duration from 4.7watts to 65watts, so you have much more latitude to adjust your settings to your situation.  The pack is also completely asymmetrical over two lamp connections, which means that you can have one head at the absolute lowest power setting and the other at the top of the power range.

3. Lithium Power:

The Move is equipped with broncolor’s proven Lithium system LiFEPo4 with integrated battery status, which ensures long periods of use, low weight, and up to 4,000 recharging cycles. The battery is designed so that after a day it cuts off its own connection to stop discharging, so you can leave the pack unattended for a year, come back to it and push the battery indication button (which gives you a visual read out of the total charge of the unit without having to turn the pack on), and the battery will read the same charge as it did a year ago when you left it.

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4. Para 88: A true parabolic:

The broncolor Para 88 joins the family of parabolic reflectors that include: the Para 170 FB, 220 FB and 330 FB. At 88 cm wide, the Para 88 is perfect for outdoor shootings and smaller studios where you don’t want to sacrifice light quality but need a smaller reflector to do the job.

5. Light and compact:

Weighing in at an incredible 13.7 lbs, the Move 1200 L is the ultimate indoor/outdoor power pack. The Para weighs in at 6.2 lbs, which makes it easier than ever to travel with all your essentials.

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6. Para 88: Reflector with focusing system:

Despite its compact dimensions, the Para 88 can fulfill the need for a myriad of individual lighting scenarios. Similar to its Para family, the 88 can be used with a focusing system from front. However, what makes the new 88 distinctive is that it can also be used from behind with the broncolor bayonet; subsequently, the light may be mounted either facing outward toward the subject or reverse mounted to take full advantage of the parabolic shape of the reflector. This permits the mounting of a Pulso mount strobe head, Kobold DW 200, DW 400 head), or, with “adapter D” it can be fitted to broncolor continuous lights F200 and F400.

7. Para 88 – an independent reflector:

A unique feature of the Para 88 is that it can be used as an individual reflector. It can be used with both strobes and continuous lighting as a diffused light source or a directional light source. The inwardly directed light produced gives shadows, extra sharpness and the fraction of scatter can be increased to reduce contrast. Additionally, it can be used with an array of diffusers or light grids. The Para 88, therefore, becomes a creative, light shaping tool.

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8. Outdoor Trolley Backpack:

This new backpack is an essential tool for the photographer on-the-run. It fits all necessary items from the kit and resembles a luggage with wheels and a collapsible handlebar. A soft protecting case is also included solely for protecting the power pack.

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9. MobiLED – innovation:

This daylight balanced 30 W LED modeling lamp gives you even more flexibility. It’s compact, lightweight and energy efficient. Because of the bayonet locking device, the MobiLED is compatible with the entire range of broncolor light shapers and accessories.

10. Continuous Lighting:  And now, with the Move’s continuous lighting capability, and 5500K color temperature, the MobiLED and Move can be used for film sequences, and does so continuously for more than two hours!

 

The Jane Hotel: Franklin Thompson

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We featured NYC-based fashion and beauty photographer Franklin Thompson back in 2010, and in the past three years he has taken the photo world by storm. Inspiration and ideas for Franklin’s photography has always come from many sources: “Movies, other photos, travelling in foreign places, strange and unsual people, the way light falls on objects and the shadows it creates, new experiences, old memories, 1920’s, 60’s & 70’s, ancient cultures, broken and abandonned objects, music, childhood fantasies…. I could go on and on forever.” His editorials have been featured in magazines such as:  Highlights, Noi.se, And+Men, Vogue Italia (Photo Vogue), Style Mode Magazine, W25 and UCE.   He has also shot for most of the top NYC modeling agencies including Ford, IMG, Marilyn, Muse, Q, Supreme, Trump, and Wilhelmina. And now, he’s shooting high fashion at the Jane Hotel.

I’d always been inspired by fashion and thought I’d be a designer.  I became serious about fashion and beauty photography after taking an internship with beauty photographer Sarah Silver in 2003. Since then, I’ve practiced, tested and shot editorials for magazines and shot for clients such as Conde Nast and TREsemmé. I’ve also recently signed with an agent, Farimah Milani & Associates.

There have been lots of ‘moments’ that helped move me to the next level. The most significant was probably taking the internship with Sarah Silver. Not only did I learn about studio lighting, but also about the ‘unwritten rules’ of photography and the industry like: how to produce a shoot, how to talk to clients, how to direct models, digital workflow.

I learned my techniques by watching and observing the photographers I’ve worked for, and practice, practice, PRACTICE. There’s nothing like just getting out there and doing it! You can have everything explained to you by the best in the world. But until you put it to practice you’ll never truly know it.  In the beginning, even though I knew what I needed to light beautiful images, I didn’t have the kind of gear or money to get what I wanted. I had 2 umbrellas, a beauty dish, some reflectors and black cinefoil.  I had to improvise to try to get the results that I wanted.

Also, I ask… other photographers, assistants, directors, friends. Use your resources.

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[My dad is] the one who originally inspired me. He would always take pictures of us when my sister and I were kids. He loved taking pictures of flowers, also. If you look him up you won’t find a single one of his images. There all probably still in boxes of negatives somewhere in the house. But my dad is the original photographer (to me).

Of course I’ve also been inspired by Sarah Silver. She has had a huge influence on the way I see and shoot women. I also love Paolo Roversi, Henri Cartier Bresson, Camilla Akrans, Steven Meisel, Solve Sundsbo, Annie Leibovitz and Craig McDean.

The worst part about what I do is competition. There are so many photographers and so-called photographers with high end cameras looking to get into the industry. Anyone with a little bit of money can pick up the latest gear and start calling themselves ‘photographers.’ But there’s so much more to it than just taking pretty pictures. The best part is that I love what I do! I love people, taking pictures, lighting, creating, and combining art and technology – and getting paid for it too!

 

Learning from the Pro

 

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Just did a fashion editorial at the Jane Hotel in NYC’s meatpacking district. This time I decided I wanted to shoot video as well as stills so I had to choose a lighting setup that would work for both. I wanted something that would give me a similar look and feel across both mediums without having to light them separately. Our hotel room, while comfy, was not very big at all.

Since forever ago, I’ve been shooting with strobes but this situation called for continuous lighting. So I decided to use broncolor’s HMI units, KOBOLD! This was my first time using them and it won’t be my last. I used 2 Kobold 400’s. One with their Litepipe accessory and the other with barn doors. broncolor Kobold 200 and 400 models accept most (if not all) of broncolor’s light shaping tools. I’d grown to know and love broncolor’s strobes and accessories so this was a perfect job to test out broncolor’s Kobold 400’s.  The Kobolds could be used for video and just enough power for stills to get a nice cinematic look and feel.

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I could shoot video and stills without having to switch lights, power or fixtures. The hotel was old and the rooms were tiny so power was a concern. The Kobolds were low enough in power to plug in two 400’s and still light enough for still and video. The room was extremely small with our entire crew in it. Normally, hot lights would make it unbearable due to heat, but the Kobolds didn’t generate much extra heat. The best thing I like about the 400’s is that they are fully compatible with all of the broncolor modifiers that I use for stills. They’re also water resistant, for those of you that like to shoot in the rain! Before broncolor I’d used Profoto and Alien Bees. When it comes to professional lighting, flash duration, modifiers, consistency and quality, there’s no question… broncolor is it.

I learned [these techniques] through practice. Shoot, shoot, shoot is the name of the game! When I first began shooting I didn’t get the concept of strobes. I wanted to light everything with continuous light. It seemed so much more natural to me. So here we are back at square one almost.

 

Franklin Thompson Photography

Photographer’s Profile: David Perkins

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

I truly started getting into photography a couple of years after High School.  In school I was always the “artsy guy” and was pretty well known for my work around the school and town.  But there was no photography in school, and it wasn’t until I started working on cars for a living in Indianapolis that I bought a digital camera and started focusing on photography.  About a year after that I applied for Savannah College of Art and Design for photography.

Once I graduated from SCAD, I immediately moved to NYC to begin an internship with Sarah Silver, a prominent fashion and beauty photographer in the city.  SCAD managed to teach me a lot about my own personal style and how to define myself as a photographer, but it was really my internship with Sarah that launched me into the industry guns blazing.  There are certain things that you simply cannot learn in a school; you must get real world experience, and working with Sarah really taught me a lot and set me up to succeed.David1

How do you learn your techniques?

Most of what I learned about technique and lighting I had originally taught myself.  Before SCAD and before my internship I would read a lot of books and forums about how things were done.  And a lot of it was simply screwing around and playing with what I had.  Any time I ran across something I didn’t understand, or wanted to know how it was done, I looked it up and I figured out how to do it myself.  So my first teacher in photography was Google.

Again, even at SCAD, most of my knowledge about lighting and technique came from asking questions and finding answers.  I taught myself most of it.  The courses were all starting points, of course, but they weren’t able to go in depth about all I wanted to know, so it was always really up to myself to learn it.

Now, when I started my internship, I was introduced to a couple of assistants and photographers who were nothing short of Rain Men of lighting and technique.  They were truly masters of the art, and they were all willing to share with me.  So I took full advantage of it and I asked them questions about everything.  Any time I didn’t understand something I asked them to explain it.  And then I tried to apply it to my own work.  The only way to truly learn something is to apply it.

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I still ask these guys questions all the time.  Just the other night I was out with one of them for a few drinks and found myself in awe as he explained several lighting ideas I had been curious about for some time.  I never stop learning, I never stop asking questions, and I never stop trying to figure out new ways of achieving things.  So to answer the question of how I learn?   I ask questions.

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

In the beginning, I think like most (at least male) photographers, I was blown away by the glitzy, glamorous fashion and beauty photos in magazines, with all of the amazingly beautiful models, and I wanted to do that.  I have always loved women (when I was younger I drew and painted them); now I was going to photograph them.  So my early idols were all the big amazing fashion photographers: Craig McDean, Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, David LaChapelle.  All of the big, flashy, sexy stuff.

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As I got more into photography, I stumbled into photographing dancers in college.  Almost overnight my interests changed from fashion and beauty to dance and movement.  Looking back it makes total sense.  My work, be it photographic or otherwise, has always been full of energy and movement.  I took an advertising course once and a friend mentioned that my graphic drawings were just as energetic and moving as my dance photographs.

So, once I found dance, I found dance photographers.  I think my earliest inspiration was Howard Schatz.  His work still blows my mind, but his work with dancers underwater fascinated me.  From there I found Andrew Eccles, who photographs for Alvin Ailey.  Lois Greenfield’s work…  pretty much anyone I could find that had ever shot a dancer I took in.  But I’d say Howard Schatz may have been the single biggest influence in my early dance work.

Nowadays it’s not so much “who” as it is “what.”  I don’t really pay too much attention to what other photographers are doing.   There are a few people I’ve discovered whose work intrigues me: Guy Aroch, Damian Loble, Richard Phibbs’ work is pretty amazing.   Also, Sarah Silver, the woman who I interned with – her work is constantly evolving and pushing limits which in turn always teaches me new things and constantly gives me new ideas for my own work.

But more importantly is the “what.”  I’m constantly seeing things around me that influence ideas for shoots and projects.  Everything from a plume of steam coming from the street to the way light is filling my apartment in the morning.  Things like that influence me much more than other photographers.  And my dancers are always inspiring me as well.

 

Learning from the Pro

www.davidperkinsphotography.com

What are we shooting today?

Today we are going to be doing a shoot involving mixed lighting sources.  I’ll be using both continuous and strobe to achieve a unique light trail effect.  This effect is really an amazing and fun thing to do with dancers.

How did you learn this technique?

This technique is actually a very fundamental manipulation of camera controls and lighting.  Essentially all I am doing is “dragging” my shutter speed (slowing it down) to allow ambient light in, and then using a strobe – the broncolor Scoro S – to freeze movement.  The fun thing about this idea is learning how to control and manipulate all three elements: hot lights, strobe, and camera, to achieve an interesting and unique feel to the imagery.

The real key to making this work is to keep your lights locked in place and move your camera while taking the shot.  This is what makes the HMI, in this instance the Kobold Lite Pipe, to blur and turn in to light trails, while the strobe will freeze any movement and give you a nice, clearly exposed shot. That last part is something I learned while interning with Sarah Silver, who uses this technique to great effect in both fashion and beauty, as well as dance and movement.

To do all of this I used broncolor Kobold 400s.  What I really love about the Kobolds is how small and easy to use they are.  When you are on location, unless you have a large budget, you will usually be using whatever power supply is running through the building.  That typically means your standard home power outlet.  Most continuous lighting sources often require large amounts of power to run.  They are big, heavy, get extremely hot, and need a very specific power supply.  The Kobolds are none of that.  They are super small and lightweight which allowed me to put them in very tight spaces, plug them straight into the wall, and not break into a nasty sweat while sitting underneath them for a few hours on end.  On top of that you can use the standard light modifier attachments on them, which for me is great, because I already own an arsenal of umbrellas, and umbrellas are fantastic for location shooting.  Small, lightweight, portable, and can deliver huge amounts of light.

Put all of that together and you have a very small, very powerful, and extremely versatile set of lights.  Absolutely perfect for location shooting.

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How do you do it?

The key to pulling this technique off successfully is to make sure that your strobe exposure is correct.  The only thing that controls the exposure of a flash via the camera is your aperture.   Strobe fires so quickly that the shutter speed has no effect on it.  So once you have your proper ƒ stop to get your overall exposure, you can begin to adjust your continuous lighting.www.davidperkinsphotography.com

Slowing down your shutter speed will allow the light to enter the camera.  What you want to do is position your lights on to a certain part of the subject’s body.  It’s important that the body be somewhat reflective.  Bare skin, or something shiny on an outfit works great. (Essentially the “light trails” are the reflection of the light off the object)  You can move and adjust the light how ever you see fit, and even modify the light, shape it, flag it, what ever you want to make it hit the subject the way you want it to.  How and where this light hits the subject will determine what your light trails will look like.

At this point it is simply a matter of adjusting the shutter speed to get the intensity of light blurring you are after.

 

David Perkins Photography