Lighting Linus

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Snow blows through the air above St. Nicholas Church in East Chicago, Ind., early Monday, February 2, 2015. The image was created by back-lighting the church with a 600 w/s strobe, fired remotely via a PocketWizard unit.

I’m not sure what it is about major snow emergencies that gets my creative juices pumping, but during the bad winter storms we’ve had over the past few years, I’ve repeatedly gotten the urge to gear up and make some unique visuals amidst Mother Nature’s chaos. Some of you might remember my Vapor Chill video from last year, where I lit clouds that formed from tossing boiling water into the frigid air. There was also my Snowpocalypse Voicemail Remix from 2011, where I juxtaposed my friend Jeff Grafton’s message about his power going out with doomsday footage of the blizzard from around my neighborhood.

02_lit_snowWith Winter Storm Linus, which rolled into the Chicago area late Saturday night, I was struck not only with the amount of snow we received in a 24 hour period, but with how the snow was whipped through the air by the bitterly cold north winds. I was in awe as I watched the snow swirl high in the gusty air overhead, sailing downward an instant later to twirl through the streets in tiny vortices. I decided that focusing on the snow’s interaction with the wind and the air aloft specifically would make the best images this time around.

With a nod to one of my favorite photographers, O. Winston Link, I decided to wait until nightfall and use a strobe to backlight the snow in the air, where it would be isolated against the dark sky. With the monochromatic snow dominating my frames, as well as the contrasty lighting technique I’d employ, black and white was the clear choice for my final edits.

I set out with an Elinchrom Style 600 monolight (600 w/s) with a 50 degree sport reflector, mounted to a 24″ c-stand for added stability in the wind. The unit was powered with a Paul C. Buff Vagabond Lithium Extreme unit, and triggered with PocketWizard Plus remotes. I used a combination of Ziploc bags and ClingWrap to protect the electronics from the snow. The images were shot with a Canon 6D body and a Canon 17-40mm ƒ4.0 lens, typically shot wide open and between 1600 and 12,800 ISO. Some images in this series had the strobe placed almost a block from my shooting position. Despite the distance and the terrible weather conditions, the PocketWizards fired fairly consistently.

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Bungalow Row.

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Maple Aerials.

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Eddies.

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Over The Wire.

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Olcott Ride.

08_lit_snowAlley Drifts.

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Edward Valve.

Posted in Experimental, Photography on February 2nd, 2015. 2 Comments.

Goals, Growth, and Gratitude: 2014 Retrospective

01_2014_yearendLightning strikes the Willis Tower following a severe thunderstorm as seen from Solidarity Drive, Monday, June 30, 2014.

“Do you ever wonder how many times your life is gonna end? Like how many people you’re… like how many times your life is gonna totally change and then, like, start all over again? And you’ll feel like what happened before wasn’t real and what’s happening now isn’t actually…”

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Play Like You Work

01_wallenda_110314Nik Wallenda walks on a 3/4″ cable stretched 600 feet above the Chicago River between Marina City and the Leo Burnett Building as seen through a bridge traffic gate on Wabash Ave. in Chicago, Ill., Sunday, November 2, 2014. Wallenda set a world record with this portion of his performance, with it being the steepest tightrope walk (19 degrees) between two buildings.

All across the world, photographers follow many tried-and-true rules to capture the best images. Of course, there’s the “Sunny 16″ rule. There’s also the one about your shutter speed being equal or higher to the focal length of your lens to avoid blur. And, from the Guy Rhodes photo rule book: When a world record attempt is taking place less than an hour from home, assignment or not, you must photograph it.

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Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Pop Culture on November 3rd, 2014. No Comments.

Learning To Swim

03n EXPLORERS 1 092204Munster Police Explorer Bryan Buck (left), 18, of St. John, Ind., works on an activity with Jeff Cook, 21, of Munster, Ind., during the Munster Police Explorers meeting held at the Munster Police Station, Wednesday, September 22, 2004. Cook is the chief of the Munster Police Explorers, and has been with the group for four years.

Before I knew it, I was completely out of breath, chasing a criminal with officers between houses as a police helicopter hovered loudly overhead. I had to hop three chain link fences before I caught up with them, my cameras flailing wildly at my sides. A snarling K9 unit dripped saliva onto the grass just near the criminal as officers pinned him down with their knees and applied the cuffs. Flashlights darted around the yard and flared my lens with beautiful blue and purple hues. As I framed the criminal’s face in my viewfinder, he smiled at me through bloody teeth and muttered, “Your deadline is in a few minutes, make sure to file this one first.”

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Posted in Photography, Photojournalism, Thoughts On Life on September 23rd, 2014. No Comments.