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

Hair project “Am Scheitel” – Short flash duration

“Am Scheitel” – A hair project by stylist Jeannine Schnetzler

The “Am Scheitel” project was created as a bachelor thesis for the ZHdK (ZürichUniversity of the Arts) by the stylist, Jeannine Schnetzler. She had the great idea of photographing a collection which consisted mainly of hair. Video Hair Project, "Am Scheitel"


In order to ensure that the styling was in the foreground, we decided to reduce the whole image design to a minimum. Thus, we carried out the shooting in the broncolor studio on a white background. To show the hair in the collection to its best advantage, we decided to make the model bald. The objective was not just to simply snap the model in a beautiful light, but to impress with motion, dynamics and a more specific image design, an image which you have to look at twice.

In order to achieve these objectives, it was important for me to be able to perfectly control the light. In addition, a short flash duration was needed so that the movement of every hair would be clearly depicted. No other flash manufacturer is better for such applications than broncolor. The product range offers numerous light formers with which I could specifically set the light, image for image. In the complete shooting, all the following light formers were used: Para 88, Satellite Staro, Beauty Dish with grid and diffuser, Ringflash and the new broncolor Softbox System. The set-up was changed from image to image and adapted accordingly. So that this blog contribution is not too long, I would just like to share the set-up of one image with you.

Set up the light

The Softbox 30×120 cm was used as the main light. This lit the rear half of the model’s face and was, at the same time, directed forward by a reflector screen. A second Softbox 90×120 cm lightened the shadow from the front. In order to get a nice curve in the background, a Beauty Dish with a diffuser was positioned diagonally from top to bottom on a boom stand behind the model.

End results "Am Scheitel"

I worked with the Scoro S Generators for the whole shoot. When the flash duration is changed to ‘min’ on the menu, one can reach a time of up to 1/10000 t0.1 with them.

t0.1= 1/10,000 - Screen on Scoro S
This guarantees that, even with moving images, each hair is sharply depicted. How the model had to move during this shooting can be clearly seen in the following video: (click the photo below)

Video Hair Project, "Am Scheitel"
What can also be seen in this video is that fashion shoots are always teamwork and I would therefore like to say many thanks to everyone who was there.

Image, "Am Scheitel"

Image, "Am Scheitel"


Photographer: Fabio Gloor
Styling: Jeannine Schnetzler
Hair & Make Up: Kathrin Tollas
Video: Thomas Balmer
Model: Martina M. @ Time Agency

The Foba Turna in Action

360 degree animation is up-and-coming in the photography world. For e-commerce photographers, the need to capture the attention of consumers is increasing more important. What they have found is that online stores that feature 360 degree product animations increase consumer conversions. Customers enjoy the ability to “virtually” touch a product, and they feel their attachment to the product is so strong that they often find themselves clicking “check-out” before they even know it.

The Foba Turna is an example of efficient 360 image capturing in that it creates the best quality, web ready (Flash or HTML5) animations. Everything is user-friendly; the software (T-Ctrl for capturing and managing frames, and T-Make for creating the animation) is fully integrated, and the process from start-to-finish is seamless. The Turna reduces or eliminates the time it takes to retouch photos because of fitted accessories and optimal lighting ability with the use of an acrylic plate that is backlit with a ringflash. And if you do need to fix a frame, the software allows you to go back and reshoot that individual frame; this saves time because you do not need to reshoot and process all images as well as refit accessories for each shot. And we all know, time is money.

The Yokohama Experiment

With the FOBA Turna, you can create iPad applications such as the one above. Picture courtesy of Kovel/Fuller advertising

As a real-world, e-commerce example, Yokohama Tire Corporation, a U.S. tire manufacturer and marketer, with the help of Kovel/Fuller Advertising, created an iPad application that features 360 degree animation that can be made with the Foba Turna. The “Yokohama Tire Explorer” iPad application, released in February 2011, features an interactive display of tires and product information. The application recently won a Silver Addy award in the mobile marketing category as well as a Creativity International Award in the category of Apps-business.

The “Yokohama Tire Explorer” extends the boundaries of what e-commerce can do. Each tire is able to be zoomed-in on, spun around and analyzed, enabling product discovery and “tireology.” With the increasing popularity of the iPad, consumers have been addicted to touching everything and anything on a computer screen, and rich media and 360 degree animation has fed their need for exploration.

With the FOBA Turna, you can create iPad applications such as the one above. Picture courtesy of Kovel/Fuller advertising

Jim Reilly, the Senior Vice President of Kovel/Fuller and the Account Director for the Yokohama iPad project states that the 360 degree animation produced by the Foba Turna is the start of an influential consumer-web relationship: “We believe it is our responsibility to provide our clients with the tools that fulfill the basic needs of today’s consumerism…Technologies that involve consumers in product interaction engage them with the brand, sparking dialog or further investigation. Consumers who tend to reject online purchases often say the reason is they want to be able to touch, and fully inspect products before they buy. While today’s technology does not allow these individuals to actually touch and feel the product as they could in a brick and mortar environment, we can give them the opportunity to inspect items from every angle, giving them a sense of weight, dimension and quality.”

And Reilly states, “The better the experience, the more likely our clients are to generate a positive opinion or preference for their brand moving the target audience ever closer to the purchase end of the cycle.”

Los Angeles Based Photographer Scott Nathan. Whimsical, Comedic and Often Ironic, But Always Memorable.

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

On my eighth birthday, I got a Kodak Instamatic X-15, a starter roll of 126 film and a pack of Magicubes, (which were more fun to stomp than fireflies).

Serendipitously, my father rented some office space at the 325 W. Huron building in Chicago.  The building was home to Helix Camera, which is the big photo outfit there.  Most everyone in the building except my dad was in the photo business. Kodak had offices there. There was a modeling agency and there were a lot of commercial photographers there. I became friends with a few of the photographers, and some would let me sit in and watch them work.

A union elevator operator I became friends with surprised me one day with a Nikon F2AS and a 50mm 1.2 lens.  My mother was sure it fell off a truck and my dad looked the other way, but I couldn’t have been happier.   On my 12th birthday, he built a darkroom in the basement.  It was an amazing gift — a second-hand Nikor enlarger, a brick of Tri-X, and a pinball machine.

I saw a Bruce Davidson book in a dentist’s office and for a year or so, I had a secret life sneaking away on the L train, to Chicago’s mean streets, shooting pictures of families in urban housing projects like Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor homes.  At this point I was probably 13 or 14, with a pair of worn, brassed out SLR’s.  The F2 and an Alpa, which was an obscure but incredible Swiss-made SLR.  I wish I still had it.   As out of place as I was, nobody messed with me and families were nice about sitting for me.  Suffice it to say, Bruce Davidson’s career wasn’t in danger, but I learned a lot about what worked and what didn’t.

Cut to 16.  I had a driver’s license and was free.   I was at a Chicago Bulls game one night and found a press pass on the floor.  It was this metallic gold card with a Bulls head on it.  This was my Willy Wonka golden ticket.  I remember the guy’s name on it: Jack Minnevich- WGN Sports.  I snuck into games that entire season, sitting on the wood with the “real” photographers and shooting greats like Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson in his rookie year.  I was pretty audacious.  I’d ask the magazine guys for their settings and go or it.

In high school, I took my first photography class.  On the first day, the teacher asked “Does anyone here know how one becomes a famous photographer?”  A few hands went up and some guesses were tossed about.  The teacher responded “No, no, no.  You become a famous photographer by taking pictures of famous people.”  At the time, I thought it was a joke, or educator bitterness, but it’s not without some truth.

From there, while in college at Northwestern and University of Colorado at Boulder, I picked up a pawn shop Linhof 4X5 field camera with Schneider glass that I loved.  I shot lots of landscapes and lots of Polaroid portraits of friends. I also learned the discipline to slow down and compose carefully.

Strange as it may seem.  At no point did I ever consider becoming a pro.

o   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?

I love films where there isn’t a frame that you wouldn’t proudly hang on your wall.  Lawrence of Arabia. The first two Godfathers,  Elio Petri’s L’Asassino and everything by Wes Anderson and Federico Fellini.  There are dozens, but those are some examples.

There were a few key milestones. I was invited to a holiday dinner at a friend’s home in Los Angeles. I was using a Contax G2 rangefinder at the time and started snapping photos of the kids at the party.  TMax 3200 stock pushed a stop.  As a thank you for having me as a guest, I sent some sepia-toned prints to the parents and grandparents.  The grandfather, as it turned out was a guy named Sid Sheinberg,  President & COO of Universal Studios and the man, who among his many achievements, gave Steven Spielberg his start. He thought the pictures had a “Schindler’s List” quality to them, which was a huge compliment, since I love Kaminsky’s cinematography.  Mr. Sheinberg referred me to his landscape architect, who hired me to shoot some of his client’s gardens.  We did a lot of celebrity homes, shot mostly with Mamiya RZ67, Fuji 6X9 & Fujichrome Velvia 50 film stock.

From there, a college friend called me and asked if I would go on the road with him.  He was directing a TV show for Playboy and asked me to shoot some key art and unit stuff. We traveled around and had a lot of laughs.  The first city we shot in was Phoenix.  The first person I shot  was Dita Von Teese, who, amazingly, a dozen years later I’m collaborating with on her beauty book for Harper Collins Press.

Right around that time, I picked up golf.  Through a mutual friend, I was introduced to photographer and Smashbox Studios/Cosmetics co-founder, Davis Factor.  We played golf every day we weren’t working.  One day we were playing at Rivera.  Davis and his brother & business partner Dean, more or less told me that they believe in my work & informed me that I was turning pro.  I laughed and told them I was too old to start a new career.  They were supportive and kind, and offered to let me use their studios and equipment to begin testing.  It was there that I proceeded to blow my life savings over the next year taking my first test images.  In exchange, I agreed to teach his crew and studio staff all I knew about high-end medium format digital, which was an emerging technology.  I was working as an I.T. consultant at Disney and Universal, and was a natural digital tech for obvious reasons  The Factor brothers offered me my own digital capture business inside Smashbox.  And while it no doubt would have been lucrative,  I didn’t want to be computer guy anymore — I figured, let’s go for broke here and make photography happen. I ran digital for Davis for eight months or so, until one day he told me, “It’s time for you to turn pro. You’re fired. Go make it happen.”  Life has a lot of twists & turns, but if it weren’t for those guys, I’d still just be an enthusiast making a living one way or another.

o   How do you learn your techniques?

Many ways — first and foremost, taking a lot of bad pictures…  good old fashioned trial-and-error, which of course, over years leads to better work and fewer mistakes.  I constantly continue to learn by dissecting bits and pieces of work that inspire me and painting my own stroke of color over it.  Oftentimes, I find myself figuring out light from paintings & films, as much as magazine & book pages.  I’m constantly impressed by the things my team suggests. Assistants are the unsung heroes of the photo business. Technically, they know it all, but the great ones see it all.  Besides lighting, they have a preternatural understanding of the bones of a photo shoot. They process the timing issues from shot to shot; they make suggestions.  How many shots until lunch.  How we’re going to dissect the shot list. They feel the moods of clients, talent, things I might not necessarily notice.  The first assistant keeps the ship pointing in the right direction & allow us to relax more & create better work.

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

So very many.  It’s all a mosaic, really. The best ones are the masters of connecting with their subject.  This was Richard Avedon’s greatest gift — a near perfect batting average of “old friend” intimacy with his talent.

As far as contemporary photographers go, I think Annie Liebovitz and Steven Meisel are a couple of the greats. It’s amazes me how busy these two are. How many campaigns, stories and covers they shoot.  Every month, day in and day out.  Never a misstep with either.

I love Brassai.  He was so painterly.  So soulful. I love Cartier-Breson. I love Hurrel’s light and how fastidious he was about figure study.  I don’t try to emulate any of them, but appreciate them.

o   What is the worst part about doing what you do?

The not photography part of it.  The bidding, the hustling. The occasional abrasive rejection.   It’s a necessary component  of most careers, particularly in the beginning. To be honest,  I  think we would all just like to be childlike and creative.

o    What is the best part?

Creating an indelible moment, a whole story in a fraction of a second.  The photograph is the nucleus of every memory.  When I think of Jimi Hendrix, the first thing that pops into my head isn’t the sound of “Purple Haze.”  It’s Jim Marshall’s image of him burning that Stratocaster.  When I think of Nirvana, it isn’t “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” it’s the naked baby, underwater shot.  When I think of Fleetwood Mac, it’s Annie’s photo of Mick in that wedding dress.  It’s our responsibility as photographers to make our subjects look the best and most memorable they ever have in their life.  Having a hand in that is the best part.

When I was shooting actor Carlo Rota, who was a cast member on “24” at the time, I pitched him, my idea that ended up being “The Sledder.”  I told him I had rented this antique snow sled and was going place him on this sand dune, and put him in a suit and so on.  He was apprehensive at first and asked “Mate, how is this image going to benefit anyones career but yours?”  And I said, “I’ll make you a deal.  I’ll shoot two “bread & butter” looks for you: a classical portrait and a lifestyle shot in your home. They’ll be good, but human brains see a lot of those pictures, and they have a limited attention span.  Give me a few minutes for my idea.. When it’s finished, I’ll email it to you and if you don’t love it, nobody, including your publicist, will ever see it.”  It ended up being the only image the magazine used.

As far as process goes, the best part is putting together a fun and incredibly talented group of people.  There’s a rush that comes from everything working right.  When shutter clicks take your breath away and you’re grateful just to be there.

·      Learning from the Pro

o   What are we going to shoot today?

We’re shooting Dita Von Teese here at Milk Studios in Hollywood, California.

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

Photography isn’t unlike music, where there are 8 notes, 12 tones, whatever. The rest is just moving the furniture around the room & making the best use of the tools we have available to us.

I hauled out the basic ammunition, a cart full of Broncolor Scoro A4S packs, heads, reflectors, a Para 220, some flags, C stands, sandbags & a white beauty dish.

From there we begin our pre light.  With every subject and look, the focal point changes.  My focal point in this shot are her lips, since it is for her forthcoming beauty book and the Michael Schmidt designed crystal sunglasses she’ll be wearing.

I knew I had to mix hard and soft light sources and control them in a tight, head and shoulders setup.

o   What tools are you using to make this image?

My key light is the Broncolor white beauty dish with the sock.  This was on a boom, about 18 inches over my head.

To highlight the glasses, I used a Broncolor reflector with the tightest honeycomb grid,  10 degrees and flags above and below to feather that hard light in just so.

I cut out a 2”x5” strip of silver shiny board, which a member of my crew uses to surgically highlight Dita’s lips, to get that nice shimmery highlight.

My fill light, just behind me and off my left shoulder was the Broncolor Para 220FB umbrella with the #3 diffuser, which is super soft.  It was just a kiss of light, & just what I needed as frosting.  It makes everyone’s skin velvety and gives this picture a beautiful overall finish.

I love the Para’s and seem to end up using them on many shoots.  It brought the Katy Perry “One Night Stand” image to life,  & was the only light source on the Lindsay Lohan “Bossy” cover for Universal.

Sometimes Para is just a bit of pop over daylight, sometimes it’s the only lighting source with a group.  It’s versatile.  It can go from super crisp to mushy soft. It’s focusable, you can use it with regular, twin or ring flash heads. You can also use it with Kobold HMI continuous lights.

I lit the background with two reflectors onto grey seamless.

o   Why did you choose these tools?

I generally work backwards.  I knew what I wanted this to look like before I booked the studio.  Getting there is different every time.  I started with the beauty dish.  I brought in the the reflector with grid and it hardened up the glasses, but the image felt more contrasty, and shadowy than I wanted, so we gradually goosed up the Para until it was perfect. After that I pressed the button and got the hell out of her way.  Dita’ is a joy to work with.  She knows her angles.  She works tirelessly and brings it every time.

o   What features of the equipment that you use make it easier to do your job?

The RFS transmitters are life changing because they allows you to quickly make adjustments to all of your light sources from the camera or computer.

I’m fortunate enough to have a great team, but it saves a ton of time to not have everyone running around from pack to pack making micronic adjustments, like the old days (last year).

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

I wanted a greater level of control over my details.

When I was getting ready to invest, I did an in studio, side by side tests of 3 brands.

First and foremost, the flash duration comparison was no contest.  I don’t go by numbers, I’ve actually never even read them.  These were real world tests.  Liquids flying, fan blades at full speed and hair blowing.  The Scoro froze motion best,  had the fastest recycle time and the most consistent color.  They were also a few bucks less expensive than their closest rival.

Dialing in color temperatures in mixed color environments is a real luxury.  If I’m mixing with daylight, I can match it or contrast it.  It saved my butt on a studio shoot last year.  We were in a remote city, and I wanted more light sources than we had on hand.  All this studio had were 20-year-old Speedotron packs. I figured that we’d be close enough, being “daylight” and all.  The Speedo’s lights looked like they were covered in pink gel.  We color metered it, dialed up the Broncolor’s,  matched the Speedo packs, re-balanced everything and life was beautiful.

In the end, the Broncolor Scoro A4S was the victor.  They had the most power at 3200 watt seconds. They had the shortest flash duration and fastest recycling time. They also have 3 output channels, which is a big bonus.

My “Desert Island” rig is my Broncolor Verso A2. It does it all.  It’s a totally capable, no compromise, 3 channel studio pack.  It produces that classic  Broncolor light.   It’s also the best battery powered pack I’ve ever used.  I used to have to get my old portable packs modified to keep the modeling lamp on during pre light or to use in dark places or where I needed it to focus.  It’s built into the Verso.  It may seem like a minor distinction, but when you have 15 minutes with a celebrity in a dark, setting,  and have to have an intern shining a flashlight in their face to focus… well… you only need to have that happen once to realize you need more.

On the continuous light front, I’m loving the Kobold HMI’s.  Continuous light was the beginning of studio photography.  I think in many respects, it’s the future.  More and more clients want us to shoot video on our shoots. The Kobold’s aren’t the big, hot and heavy ordeal that they used to be.  You don’t need a movie business grip truck and a diesel generator anymore.  These aren’t your daddy’s HMI’s.

The Kobold’s have this gorgeous pearlescent specularity.  They come with every type of lens you could want, and have available, all the modifiers you will ever need.  I’ve been using the fresnel lens for the beauty spots I’ve been directing for Urban Decay Cosmetics.

The Kobold uses very little power and come in 200/400 & 800 watt configurations.   I can run 2 800’s off household current.  They are dead silent, with no fans and somehow stay cool.  Best of all, they’re waterproof.  You can shoot all day in the rain with them and hose the mud off them when you wrap.

Scott Nathan

Scott Nathan Photography

Scott Nathan Photography Facebook Page

Elias Wessel Creates A Wonderland for Lydia Hearst

I was lucky enough to steal a couple minutes of Elias Wessel’s time this past week over a cup of coffee in Midtown.  It had been a couple weeks and I wanted to see the images from his recent project.

“We just created a color exploding dreamy rainbow-like eye candy of grandiose surrealism with supermodel Lydia Hearst. A cover story for Norway’s most glamorous art- music- and fashion magazine Vixen. The story was shot in a penthouse of the breathtaking Ansonia building on the upper west side in New York. It was a perfect fairytale atmosphere in one of the towers of the building. Cherry blossoms, huge rounded windows facing Broadway and we had 10 super-excited black cats and a lot of gear all over the place. My shoots are all about creating a mood I want to breathe into my photographs and that only works when everyone on set absolutely feels what we do. We all felt as if we were on a rainbow in a modern Hansel and Gretel witch house surrounded by pink cotton candy clouds after a never-ending party-night where nobody came. So obviously we created a very twisted story inspired by the glamor of the movie “Stepford Wifes”, combined this with a lot of personal and religious elements and let the absolutely adorable Lydia come alive in this wonderland.”

Elias Wessel-Vixen Cover-Motion-RETV Spring 2010-Behind the scenes from RETV from Resource Magazine on Vimeo.